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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, December 16, 2011

Guests: Kristen Welker, Wayne Slater, Max Rameau

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you, my friend. Have a great weekend.

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: You bet. You, too.

MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us.

We have breaking news out of Washington, where congressional
negotiators faced a midnight deadline to keep the lights on in the federal
government. Without a spending agreement today, at least a temporary one,
we once against faced the prospect of a government shutdown. It`s the
third time we`ve come to the last-minute government shut down precipice
since Republicans won control of the House of Representatives and installed
Ohio Republican Congressman John Boehner as House speaker.

Late tonight, a deal appears to have been reached. The multipart deal
includes the overall spending bill for the government as well as a short-
term extension of a cut in payroll taxes, a cut in payroll taxes that
Americans have enjoyed for the last year. Had that not been extended,
every American who gets paid by paycheck would have seen a pretty
substantial increase in your taxes come January 1st.

The deal today also reportedly includes a short-term extension of
unemployment insurance benefits for Americans who are out of work. Each of
those policies has major economic implications for the whole country.

Unemployment benefits are thought to be among the most stimulative
dollars that the government can spend through any policy. And even just on
the payroll tax, itself, had that been allowed to expire, estimates of the
ding that would have caused to the economy ranged as high as 1.5 percent of
the entire GDP.

Barclays at one point earlier this year said if the payroll tax were
not extended, they would revise their quarterly statement for the country`s
economic growth next quarter for the whole country. They would revise it
from 2.5 percent economic growth down to 1 percent simply because of the
payroll tax.

But again, the breaking news tonight out of Washington, is that a deal
has been reached in Congress to keep funding the federal government. To
stop unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut from expiring.

But we`re also told, we`re also told, that in terms of the payroll tax
cut and unemployment benefits thing, it is only a very short, temporary
extension. It is not a full year. It is not even half a year. In fact,
it is only two months.

Further, because Republicans in Congress have been disinclined toward
keeping that payroll tax cut going, because Republicans were sort of meh on
that idea, even though they want to be known as the lower taxes party,
Republicans insisted on adding other things that they wanted to this
agreement in exchange for the terrible, awful, horrible vote they would
have to take to keep middle class Americans` taxes from going up in two

Among the things they added was a provision related to the Keystone XL
pipeline. That`s a pipeline that runs through the Ogallala aquifer in the
high plains.

The idea of a tar sands oil pipeline running from Canada right down
through that crucial source of fresh water in that part of the country has
just unnerved all sorts of people in that part of the country, including
farmers, including the very Republican Nebraska state legislature, and that
state`s very Republican governor. As well as lots of protesters from all
over the country who made their concerns about that pipeline known at the
White House and elsewhere over the course of this year.

Now, the White House last month decided that pipeline decision needed
more time -- needed more time for environmental review and other reasons.
The White House declared last month the decision on the pipeline would be
put off until after the 2012 election.

Now, when congressional Republicans threatened to force the Keystone
pipeline decision into the payroll tax negotiations somehow, the White
House responded by saying, that would not be acceptable. The White House
responded by saying they would veto any such extraneous thing being tacked
on to the payroll tax question.

Well tonight, word that included in the deal passed is language to get
rid of the pipeline delay, language that would force the president to make
a decision on the Keystone pipeline permit within 60 days.

Since the White House already said that isn`t enough time to properly
review this pipeline idea, presumably what has just been agreed to in
Congress just means that President Obama will decide on the permit and
he`ll decide no. It`s not enough time. We`re not going to go ahead with

That said, the word "presumably" is a dangerous place to be hanging
out in. When you`re in a breaking news reported deal situation like we are
in tonight on this news from Congress.

So, for clarification and help, we go now to Kristen Welker, NBC News
White House correspondent.

Kristen, thanks for joining us on late notice tonight. Appreciate
your help on this.

Thanks for having me, Rachel.

MADDOW: Let me ask you first if I got anything wrong there in
explaining what we know what`s been arrived at tonight. I fully expect
that I got something wrong there.

WELKER: No, you got everything right. The one thing I would just
add, I`ve been speaking to my sources over at the House. They say, look,
they`re not saying there is a deal yet for them. They want to introduce
this to their members before they sign off on this. We expect the Senate
to vote on this on Saturday.

If the House does approve this, Rachel, it could be voted on as early
as Monday. So the house, the White House -- or the Senate, I should say,
and the White House right now, saying there is a deal and they`re ready to
move forward. But members of the House saying we need to show it to the
folks here before we`re ready to sign off on it -- Rachel.

MADDOW: What exactly is the provision that is related to the Keystone
pipeline? Obviously, that`s transactionally important here because the
White House had threatened to veto if that had been tacked on to the
payroll tax extension.

What kind of constraint is implied by this language we know that`s
been agreed to so far?

WELKER: Well, Rachel, as you point out, this has been a huge
lightning rod, this issue. So, basically, the language says that under
this bill, it would basically tell the administration to grant a permit to
move forward with the Keystone pipeline within 60 days.

Now, here`s the catch. The White House is saying it doesn`t mandate
that the Keystone pipeline get built. The language basically says, if the
president decides that this is not in the national interest of the country,
that he can say, I`m not going to move forward with this. The Republicans
essentially trying to make the buck stop with the president.

As you point out, the State Department is going to say, we don`t have
enough time to review this, so our answer is no.

But the White House tonight is saying that -- their language has
softened on this a bit for that reason -- because it doesn`t mandate that
the Keystone pipeline gets built -- Rachel.

MADDOW: So, it sort of seems like -- I mean, I don`t want to put
words in the White House`s mouth here -- but it seems to me like if
somebody forced me to make a decision, and the only thing they can force me
to is make a decision on something I already said, I need more time to look
into to make sure it`s safe, that`s a very easy decision to make. You sign
this bill they agree to and immediately say, and I`m saying no to Keystone,
thanks for forcing me to do it.

WELKER: Right.

MADDOW: I don`t know. Is the White House signaling what they will do
if they`re forced into this decision?

WELKER: Well, again, they`re basically saying the State Department
will come to the conclusion that 60 days is not enough time to review the
Keystone pipeline. What`s interesting, though, as you point out, Rachel,
White House -- the president about two weeks ago was pretty adamant in
saying he would reject a bill that included this.

White House officials saying this is pure ideology. It doesn`t belong
in the extension of the payroll tax cut. But today, we were in the
briefing. Their language softened a bit during the briefing.

And tonight, apparently, the argument is that because this bill
doesn`t mandate, doesn`t actually require the Keystone pipeline to be
built, that the White House is saying OK. They`re basically saying, this
is a fight we`re willing to have. We in two months will just say, we`re
not going to move forward with this because there`s not enough time to
review it.

But interestingly, Rachel, environmentalists are already coming
forward and saying that the White House has backtracked, they`re
disappointed. So, we`re already seeing some of that ire come to the

MADDOW: Kristen Welker, NBC White House correspondent -- thank you
for helping us figure this out tonight. It`s been a hard one to watch. We
appreciate your time. Thanks.

WELKER: Thanks.

MADDOW: I will say that if there is a decision made on this, if the
president does decide to sign this with the Keystone language in there,
environmentalists may be angry that the veto didn`t happen that he was
promising, but if the result of this whole process is that the president
just says no to that pipeline instead of saying I`ll decide on it in 2013,
I can`t imagine that people are still going to stay angry about that
outcome from an environmental perspective.

I will also say that Democrats are probably not all that bummed out to
have the opportunity to keep fighting about the payroll tax extension which
they believe is great politics. And to have the opportunity to force
Republicans to vote on that again; to say yes to a president Barack Obama
endorsed lower tax rate for middle class people again in two months -- I
would imagine that Democrats are excited about that outcome.

But at this point, it`s still a deal in progress. We`re going have to
watch to see what happens.

All right. Still to come, the return as everyone`s favorite mad as H-
E double hockey sticks, lose the election by 30 points, Republican
bombshell candidate. Now, he`s getting involved in the presidential race.
Oh, goody. That`s next.


MADDOW: Happy Friday. There will be a cocktail moment tonight right
at the end of this very show. Practice makes perfect.


MADDOW: America, meet Mitt Romney. I mean, Rick Lazio. Rick Lazio
was a Republican member of Congress representing the great state of New
York from 1993 to 2001. Rick Lazio was not really a high profile member of
Congress, but he served in various leadership positions. He was the
assistant majority leader for a time, as well as the deputy majority whip.

Even though Rick Lazio was never exactly Mr. Excitement, he did manage
to put together a solid resume for himself in the House, which he then
tried to parlay into a run for the United States Senate in the year 2000.
And that`s where little Rick Lazio ran into the political juggernaut that
was the former first lady, Hillary Clinton.

And Rick Lazio just kind of blew it in that race. There was nothing,
I mean, technically wrong with him as a candidate, at least on paper. He
was a boilerplate establishment Republican with a reasonable record. But
it really just didn`t work at all. At times, it was even awkward or

And in the end, he got just absolutely crushed. Hillary Clinton beat
him by 12 points on Election Day in the year 2000.

There`s one thing you might remember about that race. It`s probably
this famously off-putting moment where Mr. Lazio awkwardly, creepily
invaded the personal space of Hillary Clinton during a nationally televised
debate broadcast here on MSNBC.


RICK LAZIO (R), THEN-U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Let`s get this deal done right
now. Right here. Here it is. Let`s sign it.

It`s a New York freedom from soft money pact. I signed it. We can
both sit down together, we can get all the media in here, we will make sure
it`s an ironclad deal, and I`m happy to abide by anything we all agree on.
Let`s get it done now. Let`s not give anymore wiggle room.

MODERATOR: Mrs. Clinton, you want to respond?

You know, I -- I admire that. That was a wonderful performance.

LAZIO: I want you to sign it.

CLINTON: And you did it very well.

LAZIO: I`m not asking you to admire it. I`m asking you to sign it.

CLINTON: Well, I would be happy to when you give me the sign letters

LAZIO: Right here, sign it right now.

CLINTON: We`ll shake on this.

LAZIO: I want your signature, because I think that everybody wants to
see you signing something you said you were for. I`m for it. I haven`t
done it.

You`ve been violating it. Why don`t you stand up and do something
important for America? While America is looking at New York, why don`t you
show some leadership? But it goes to trust and character.


MADDOW: That was basically it for Rick Lazio in that campaign. Good-
bye creepy in my space Congressman Lazio, hello Senator Clinton.

But Rick Lazio, God bless him, he wouldn`t go away. He had put in his
time in the Republican Party. He was seen as a generally respectable
middle-of-the-road, sober choice as a politician. He was always the guy in
the Republican Party in New York state who you thought was -- maybe his
time was about to come. He`s the next guy in line. Maybe he ought to get
the next job.

And in 2009, when that next job came up, Rick Lazio gave it another
shot in New York. This time, he ran for governor of New York.

Again, he was seen as the obvious candidate for the Republican Party.
He was the next in line. He was the mainstream guy. He was kind of
supposed to be the Republican nominee.

I mean, he`s not exactly exciting but he`s Rick Lazio, he`s a known
quantity. And best of all, he was up against this guy, crazy Carl
Paladino, a candidate who was very energizing to at least parts of the
Republican base, but who absolutely horrified the Republican Party
establishment, and for good reason.

Carl Paladino brought with him into that campaign a raft of personal
baggage that brought up all sorts of ethics issues for us even trying to
cover it. Like, for example, the racist and crude e-mails that he liked to
forward around to his buddies. Pornographic, bestiality, racist -- yes,
policy positions like sending welfare recipients to live in prisons where
they would receive personal hygiene training from Carl.

But what was the result of that election between Carl and Rick,
between Carl Paladino and Rick Lazio? The result of that was that Newt
Gingrich -- I mean, Carl Paladino won and he won by a lot. Carl Paladino
beat Rick Lazio in the Republican primary by a 24-point margin.

When Carl Paladino came out today, from wherever he lives now, and he
offered his endorsement of Newt Gingrich for president, when Carl Paladino
said, quote, "I`m a Newt Gingrich guy," it rang true it more than a direct
way, because even more than Newt Gingrich and all his baggage and the put
the poor kids to work cleaning toilets stuff, more than Mr. Gingrich might
be like Mr. Paladino.

It has to be noted that in this analogy, Mitt Romney is a lot like
Rick Lazio, a guy who has built a solid resume in the Republican Party as
an elected official. He ran for senate and didn`t win. He`s sort of a
perennial candidate for office. He looks the part of the mainstream

There`s nothing wrong with him and yet he does not inspire enthusiasm.
There`s a sort of awkwardness about him at times, a general failure to
thrive about him as a politician.

But he`s the guy seen as being next in line. He`s the guy who seems
like he ought to have worked his way up to whatever the next political job
is. But getting into a Republican primary in this era, sometimes means
that guys like Rick Lazio and Mitt Romney sort of I`m next in line guys,
they run up against forces of nature like Carl Paladino and Newt Gingrich.

And the way Republican voters have been inclined to American politics
for the last few years, what were the results again of the Carl
Paladino/Rick Lazio primary? Oh, yes, Carl Paladino 62 to Rick Lazio`s 38.

And that wasn`t the end of the story, though. The important point
here is that Carl Paladino did steamroll Rick Lazio. What that earned him
was the privilege of running in the general election against a Democrat.

And in that general election against the Democrat, Carl Paladino got
steamrolled himself, worse. Paladino lost to Andrew Cuomo, the Democrat,
by 30 full points. He lost in the general election by a bigger margin than
the huge margin in which he crushed Lazio in the primary, which is why
Democrats are so excited about the prospect of Carl Paladino -- I mean Newt
Gingrich, winning the Republican presidential nomination this year.

As Newt Gingrich`s poll numbers seem to be stalling a bit, there has
not seemed to have been a game-changing performance of any kind at last
night`s Republican debate in Iowa, the hopes of Gingrich files and frankly
liberals everywhere that he might be able to sustain his seemingly now
fading surge against Mitt Romney, those hopes were bolstered yesterday by
news from that a zillionaire casino magnate named Sheldon
Adelson might be about to give Newt Gingrich`s side $20 million to play
with -- $20 million. That`s roughly triple the amount of money Newt
Gingrich raised in his entire campaign so far. He`s going to get it in one
check from one guy.

Sheldon Adelson has since walked that back, not saying that he won`t
do it, not saying he won`t necessarily give Gingrich $20 million, but he is
saying that he hasn`t come to a decision to specifically do it for that
specific amount yet.

That walk-back was probably heartening news for the Romney campaign
today. Romney campaign was also excited today to announce the endorsement
of the Republican governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley.


GOV. NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Today is the day I`m throwing
all of my support behind Mitt Romney for president.


MADDOW: That endorsement is particularly important because a self-
proclaimed moderate Mormon, former Massachusetts governor, is exactly the
kind of candidate who is thought of as having no chance in a Republican
primary in South Carolina.

Newt Gingrich, himself, said that he`s not banking on doing well in
Iowa or New Hampshire. He says his firewall is South Carolina. So, for
Mitt Romney to lock up the South Carolina governor, the South Carolina
Republican governor`s endorsements, on the surface, that is a great thing
for Mr. Romney.

But because nothing is simple or conclusive in this most awesome of
all Republican primaries this year, it should also be noted that Nikki
Haley`s approval rating in her home state of South Carolina right now is 34
percent. She is down there with Rick Snyder and Rick Scott and all of
these other super, super unpopular Republican governors. South Carolinians
do not seem to like her very much.

Plus, she`s in the middle of a scandal right now over not turning over
really damning e-mails about a million dollar federal grant in her state.
E-mails that have been made public but for which she has yet had no
explanation. Plus, her endorsement of Mitt Romney today led to a huge
backlash among South Carolina conservative Republican Tea Party types.

So, Mitt Romney got her endorsement. That will be awesome if she
isn`t impeached over the e-mail thing by the time of the South Carolina
primary or she isn`t forced to change her mind by the Tea Partiers getting
so mad at her about the endorsement.

But it is hard to escape the fact Mitt Romney is the Rick Lazio of
2012. On paper, he ought to have this thing wrapped up. And maybe he
does. Maybe he`s inevitable.

But there`s something beyond what a candidate is like on paper.
There`s something about a candidate`s intangibles that can sometimes defeat
every other rational on paper tangible thing about them. Here`s one.


Medicaid is. Those that are not into all this government stuff. I -- you
know, I have to admit, I didn`t know the differences between these things
before I got into government. And then I got into it and understood
Medicaid is the health care program for the poor by and large.


MADDOW: That`s Mitt Romney trying to be folksy. This darn government
stuff, I don`t get it. I`m not a government guy.

Medicaid? I didn`t even learn about what that was until just
recently. I don`t know anything about this dumb government health care.

That may be folksy, it is not at all true. Mitt Romney brags now
about spending the 1970s as a consultant to a health care company. In
1983, Romney described himself as having done a top to bottom intensive Q
tip by Q tip cost analysis of all the income and outlays at a hospital in
Morristown, New Jersey. In 1989, Mitt Romney led his company, Bain
Capital, through the purchase of a $300 million hospital company that
derived half of its income from Medicare and Medicaid. We`re supposed to
believe he never looked into what they were?

But now he is telling this folksy story that he`s to seem authentic
about how he doesn`t understand this darned health care stuff until a bunch
of years later when he had to learn about it because he was running for
Senate and it was bad government-y types who made him pay attention to it.

He would have just preferred to stay on the porch, picking his banjo
and eating cracklings, you know, shooting varmints.

When Mitt Romney told that Iowa audience that he had not never really
understood all that Medicaid stuff until after he worked as a professional
health care consultant and did multimillion dollar deals on companies that
involve Medicaid, that`s sort of thing is not a cardinal political sin.
That isn`t, you know, him saying he`d been brainwashed in Asia, like his
dad said when he was running for president. It wasn`t something that cut
and dry.

But something like this and the repeated incidents of things like this
from Mitt Romney may be just as damning and just as finite.

When Mitt Romney talks, people don`t believe him. Everything works on
paper but the parts don`t add up to the sum of anything. You don`t believe
he believes what he`s saying. You believe he`s telling you what you want
to hear.

And in a normal Republican electorate, a Rick Lazio, Bob Dole-type guy
like Mitt Romney can win. You`re next in line, you get to win. In a
normal year with a normal electorate, Republicans do that.

But this year, this is not a normal Republican electorate.


anything tonight is that New Yorkers are as mad as hell. And we`re not
going to take it anymore.



MADDOW: Joining us now is Wayne Slater. He`s a senior political
writer for "The Dallas Morning News." Mr. Slater has traveled around Iowa
these past few weeks following the Republican candidates on the campaign
trail. He`s headed back to Iowa in just a couple days.

Wayne, it`s good to have you with us here tonight. Thanks for being

WAYNE SLATER, THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Great to be with you, Rachel.

MADDOW: I wanted to check in with you because I know you have been
out there and you were sort of in touch with the internal dynamics between
the candidates. Do you think that Mitt Romney is earning any new converts
at this point? No, not at all?

SLATER: Not many.


SLATER: He basically is, from what I`ve learned talking to folks,
he`s staying pretty much where he is. That`s where he`s been the whole
time. There is this surge now for Newt Gingrich, one part of the party.

I don`t think that Romney is really doing much. There`s an
interesting dynamic out there.

And unlike four years ago and two years ago with the rise of the Tea
Party, where people were kind of excited and interested, I have a sense
that people don`t like anybody. They don`t like Obama, but they don`t like
Mitt. They don`t like Rick. They don`t particularly like Rick Santorum.
They don`t like anybody out there.

It`s as if the Tea Party has produced a group of folks -- none of whom
are acceptable -- and folks I talk to in places like western Iowa wonder,
is this what all our effort was about?

MADDOW: Do you think that the electorate is in its dissatisfaction
that you were describing there, do you think the electorate is angry in the
same way that we saw Republican electorate in New York state in 2010 that
picked Carl Paladino to be the Republican nominee for governor? He wasn`t
much qualified and he horrified a lot of the establishment. But he did
channel people`s anger.

SLATER: That`s a wonderful comparison you you`ve drawn, you know,
with Lazio and Paladino. I think the difference this year is that two
years ago with the rise of the Tea Party, there was not only -- there was a
certain dark element to it. But there`s also an exuberance. There`s
novelty to it. It was almost like Mickey and Judy were going to the barn
to put on a show.

This year, I think there is kind of more dyspeptic quality among the
voters looking at the field. They don`t want to put on a show in the barn.
They don`t want to build something. They want to burn the barn down.

I get a sense that like two years ago, people didn`t like Obama, and
early on. They want to beat Obama on the Republican side. But it`s more
than that now. They don`t want to just beat Obama. They want to beat up

There is a kind of really dyspeptic mood there that I think is a
product of sort of the continued economic distress in the country, but also
the fact that this is the field that the Republican Party has come up after
all that sweat and equity.

MADDOW: Do you think that that emotional content in the electorate
that you`re describing is something that is consistent between Iowa and the
rest of the country? I mean, in previous years, we have seen Iowa pick
people like Mike Huckabee which is an interesting thing about Iowa but has
absolutely no effect on the presidential race at all. The real race gets
started after the Huckabee thing is done with.

Do you think that Iowa is going to be representational this year or do
you think they sort of stand alone?

SLATER: So far, it`s not been representational. Look at who won the
straw poll -- Michele Bachmann. Look who`s in the lead right now in Iowa.
It appears, Newt Gingrich.

Is this really -- I mean, who`s going to do very well in Iowa this
year? Ron Paul. If Ron Paul beats Newt Gingrich, then Iowa doesn`t really
represent anything in terms of really the direction of the Republican Party
I think.

I don`t think we`re going to know much until South Carolina. And
frankly by the time we get to Florida, I think you`re going to see the more
complex electorates, groups within the Republican Party. At that point,
the teavangelicals -- the evangelicals and Tea Party types -- may have
understood Gingrich is not their guy and will coalesce around Romney. But
we`ll see.

MADDOW: Wayne Slater, senior political writer for "The Dallas Morning
News" -- good luck in Iowa. Tell them I said hi. We`ll see you again
soon, Wayne. Thank you.

SLATER: See you soon.

MADDOW: All right. It is Friday. We have not done a cocktail moment
in a couple Fridays, but we will do one tonight. It will cure what ails
you because I know what it is. It`s a folk medicine thing I designed
specifically for Congress tonight, but I think it might be of help to you,
too. Cocktail moment coming up right at the end of the show tonight.



GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSINS: This is Madison, you know, full of
the `60s liberals. Let them protest. It`s not going to affect us.

And as long as we go back to our homes and the majority of people are
telling you the right thing, let them protest all they want.

That`s my gut reaction. I think it`s actually good if they`re
constant, they`re noisy, but they`re quite, nothing happens, because sooner
or later, the media stops finding them interesting.

GUY PRENTENDIGN TO BE KOCH: Well, not the liberal bastards on MSNBC.

WALKER: Oh, yes, but who watches that?


MADDOW: Welcome, everyone, who watches the liberal bastards on MSNBC.

That was Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin speaking with
someone he thought was conservative billionaire David Koch.

Governor Walker looked out at giant crowds marching against him in the
streets in Madison and the Capitol Building and he said, what the heck,
what the heck. It`s Madison, let them protest all they want. Protest,
everyone, you can even protest me, Scott Walker.

Governor Walker changed his mind about the protest. Changed it
quickly, in fact.

The Web site Buffalo Beast posted a reporting of the prank fake David
Koch call on February 23rd. By the middle of March, this was the scene as
police cleared the capitol.

Meanwhile, efforts started to coalesce to recall Governor Walker later
this year. The governor started to codify his new position on protesting.,
which is that maybe protesting should not happen nearly so much after all.

Under a new set of rules that took effect in Wisconsin today, the
state will require protesters in groups of four or more to get a permit
three days ahead of time before showing up in a state building. If the
state decides the event requires extra security, whatever that means, the
state will now charge protesters $50 per hour per police officer.

The Walker administration unveiled a few exceptions to this new law.
They say families and lobbyist will not need a permit under the new
revisions to the new rules to turn up at a state building. So, families
and lobbyists are exempt. Mom, dad and the kids, if they are more than
four people and even if they oppose Governor Walker`s policies, they will
not need a permit to show up in the capitol and say so.

Also lobbyists. Lobbyists don`t need a permit. Lobbyists in a group
larger than four don`t need a permit to show up when everybody else does.

A group -- what do you call a group of lobbyists? A herd of cattle,
an Abramoff of lobbyists? A snuffle of pugs, a Haley Barbour of lobbyists?
A gaggle of geese, a grovel of lobbyists? I don`t know.

Another funny exception to Governor Walker`s new rules. These guys,
this solidarity singers show up in the capitol in Wisconsin every day at
noon and sing. They sing for union rights and for economic justice.

The singers announced that they would not seek this new permit that
the governor said they had to be required to get -- and Governor Walker
caved. His administration said today that it will work with the solidarity
singers and will not arrest them. That`s mighty nice of them.

Three hundred of these solidarity singers showed up today. Governor
Walker apparently decided that he will not endorse the law for these
people, or for anybody else. He`d be too embarrassed to haul away for
peaceably assembling, or for lobbyists.

But Wisconsin is still stuck with new regulations on protests. And
the protests notably continue. And that`s because protests work.

Look, I have been to street protests in my day. I know everybody
derides street protests, right? They laugh at demonstrations and at
demonstrators and people chanting in groups. Three-word chants! Three-
word chants!

But if protests did not do anything, you would not see politicians
like Scott Walker tying themselves into pretzels trying to stop protests.
You would not see them passing rules against protests that they`ve been
inclined to force when it comes to any enforcement they might find too
embarrassing to carry out.

If protests did not work, you`d not see this. This is from Nevada
County, California. It`s about an hour`s drive from Sacramento, which
means it`s kind of out in the middle of nowhere, no offense.

This is Occupy Nevada County marching for economic justice really in
the middle of nowhere. Occupy Nevada County is a lot like the Occupy
movement everywhere, with the gloriously and insistently vague demands that
make the movement so hard to pin down and frankly so hard to stop. Rise up
against the corruption. How about this one? Support fellow Americans.

They also sometimes, though, get specific. Occupy Nevada held a
protest outside the courthouse a week or so ago when they learned that a
dozen homes were being auctioned off in a single day.

Funny thing happens when you start calling for everybody to support
fellow Americans. Those fellow Americans start calling you on the phone
when they need help.

On Wednesday night this week, around 10:00 at night, a man named
Steven Merryweather called Occupy Nevada County and said he was about to
get kicked out of his home. Mr. Merryweather told them the sheriff was
coming to kick him out the next day at 6:00 in the morning.

Before dawn the next day, five occupiers arrived at Mr. Merryweather`s
house. It was dark, it was cold, and it was snowing a little. Mr.
Merryweather has a tenant, single mom with four kids. The youngest of them
is a baby 4 months old, and sick. Mom had been up all night packing. She
seemed to have nowhere to go.

The locksmith had already began changing locks when the occupiers
began trying to negotiate with the sheriff and with the man who was there
from the bank.

The woman in purple here, the Reverend Sharon Delgado told us that she
started talking with the sheriff who told her to talk to the real estate
broker. She told us today that she, quote, "appealed to him on the basis
of his humanity."

In the end, the occupiers got the eviction delayed until after the
holidays, which gives everybody more time to get ready. Mr. Merryweather
is in guy in the middle with the bright white Santa Claus beard who looks
happy to be there. He told us, quote, "It was so cool, the people didn`t
know me and it came to help me. It was such a neighborly thing."

It was also I think kind of radical.

Joining us now is Max Rameau. He`s a veteran of many foreclosure
defenses and he`s co-founder of a movement called Take Back the Land.

Max, thank you so much for joining us. It`s nice to have you here
with us.


MADDOW: Can you explain the strategic idea of physically showing up
to stop an individual foreclosure? Is it an act of direct intervention to
buy people more time? Is it a political statement? Is it both?

RAMEAU: I think it is both. It, of course, the immediate thing it
does is buys people more time because we`re able to physically prevent the
eviction from happening in many instances. And at least we`re forcing the
police and the city to consider whether or not they want to use resources
to create another vacant home in their community, while people are actively
opposing that. So that`s on the one hand.

On the other side, however, in a real way, we`re reimagining our
society and world and saying that we could organize a society in a way
where human beings are protected rather than banks being protected. And in
a real way, we`re implementing our own public policy, the public policy
people think the government should be implementing, but it`s not because
it`s at the control of corporations.

MADDOW: By going out and doing that bodily, by showing up and doing
it in person, is it dangerous? I mean, you are in many cases dealing with
a sheriff or somebody else from law enforcement who is charged with
carrying this sort of thing out.

In many cases, you`re in the middle of people who are in a very
emotional situation on both sides of it. And it`s confrontational. Is it

RAMEAU: Well, I think anyone who watched the Occupy Wall Street
protests, anyone who watched what happened in Madison in May of this year,
knows there`s some inherent danger. However, you really can`t gain
anything significant particularly in this time, and with the forces who
want to keep things the way they are without coming under some level of

So people are going to get arrested. In the civil rights movement,
people were arrested. And there are people who are not going to get
arrested, people who should not get arrested and stay out of harm`s way.

But if we bring enough people and we do it frequently enough, and if
the media does its job, then I think it`s significantly reduces the amount
of danger as it were. And even if people were to face arrests, they would
not face physical harm, hopefully.

MADDOW: My sense for a perspective of somebody who`s an observer of
these events, somebody who reports on it, there is a lot of increased
interest in doing the kind of thing you have been doing for a long time. A
lot of people`s attention who have been intrigued by or involved in or
inspired by the Occupy movement are starting to think about doing
foreclosure defense.

Does that -- I imagine you think that`s a good thing because it`s
something you`ve been working on for a long time. But I wonder if you
sense you`re going to get an influx of people who have never done it before
who are going to start doing it. Do you wonder about people doing it
right, about jeopardizing the work you`ve done already?

RAMEAU: Well, I`m not so much worried about jeopardizing the work.
We do think that it has to be done right. So, I think there are several
issues which inside of the movement we need to properly delineate.

So, for example, taking over a home, vacant home or doing an eviction
defense, that`s primarily for public space use. Like if you want to have
meetings there, you want to have open space meetings there. It`s different
than like happened in many occupies, for example, whether it`s in an open
field or whether it`s at a home, is different than protecting someone`s
home -- protecting human beings and their right to live somewhere.

So there is a difference between the two. We just need to understand
the difference and move accordingly.

MADDOW: Max Rameau, the co-founder of Take Back the Land -- I want to
have a longer conversation with you about this with more time to spread out
because I have more questions for you. Would you mind coming back on the
show sometime soon?

RAMEAU: I would love to do that. Thank you.

MADDOW: Thanks very much. Thanks for being with us tonight.

All right. Just ahead on the cocktail moment, there`s a cocktail
moment. That`s coming up.


MADDOW: Let`s say you are a felon. Let`s just say, for example,
you`ve killed people. You`ve killed people, you went to prison, you served
your time and now you`re out.

Federal law in this country says you may not legally buy a gun.
Without getting into the nitty-gritty, our federal laws are supposed to
keep felons like you or people with a history of severe mental illness from
purchasing guns. Those laws don`t always work, but that`s what they`re
supposed to do.

If a felon tries to buy a gun anyway, from a federally licensed
firearms dealer like a gun shop, that dealer has to run a background check
on you. And if you are a felon, you will fail that background check.

However, if you`re buying a gun not from a federally licensed dealer
but just from a guy, just from somebody who took out an ad on a site like or or on Craigslist, the private person you`re
buying your gun on Craigslist isn`t responsible for background checking
you. They can sell you a gun but don`t have to check your background, you

However, if that private person has reason to believe that you would
fail a background check, it becomes illegal for them to sell you the gun.
So, you can think of it as an honor system. An honor system for convicted

If we as a country have agreed that felons give up their right to
purchase a gun, do we agree that this is a reasonable way to enforce that
law? The honor system for felons and people with severe mental illness?

If you ask the gun rights people about this honor system for felons,
if you ask the NRA for example about closing this loophole, actually making
private sellers have to check to see if they are selling it to a felon,
actually making them run the background check, the NRA says, that is a
solution in search of a problem. There`s no problem of people selling guns
to people who couldn`t pass background checks.

This week, New York City`s Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a report
from a New York City undercover investigation into how people buy their
guns online. City investigators posed as people looking to buy guns from
online Web sites, right?

And in the course of negotiating the purchase, the investigators
openly admitted that they couldn`t pass a background check. And they taped
what happened in response. This is amazing.

Remember, the law here is if you, the seller, has reason to believe
that the customer couldn`t pass a background check, it`s illegal for you to
make the sale. Listen to how this goes.


INVESTIGATOR: So, no paperwork or anything?

SELLER: No, no, no, no. Just as long as like you`re like a Kentucky
resident, I don`t care.

INVESTIGATOR: OK, yes. So, no background checks, right?

SELLER: Right, right.

INVESTIGATOR: That`s good, because I probably couldn`t pass one.


INVESTIGATOR: Yes, $400 cash?

SELLER: Yes, I`ll take $400 cash.

INVESTIGATOR: You`re not like a licensed guy, are you?


INVESTIGATOR: OK. So no background checks anything like that?

SELLER: No. I`m just a private person.

INVESTIGATOR: Oh, that`s good because I probably couldn`t pass one.
So --

SELLER: Yes, I probably couldn`t either.


INVESTIGATOR: You know, you`re talking my language there, Fred. I
like that.

SELLER: Yesiree.

INVESTIGATOR: So there ain`t going to be no background checks or
nothing like that then?

SELLER: It`s your problem if it`s not legal for you to buy it.
That`s how that works here in Tennessee.

INVESTIGATOR: OK, because I probably couldn`t pass one, background.

SELLER: Well, you shouldn`t tell me that, though.


SELLER: That`s OKI. I don`t know all the letters of the law, but I`m
pretty sure if someone said I can`t pass a background check, you`re not
supposed to give it to them, but it`s OK, I would.


MADDOW: These New York City investigators tried to buy guns from 125
sellers in 14 states, 62 percent of the time, these private sellers agreed
to sell a gun to somebody who said he probably couldn`t pass a background
check. Again, according to New York City, this is the air tight legal
process by which 40 percent of guns are sold in this country -- 40 percent
of guns are sold through private sellers.

How good a job do you feel the background check system is doing making
sure that felons don`t buy guns? If it`s all on the honor system 40
percent of the time?

Same goes for people who have a history of severe mental illness. We
count on them to hold up their end of the honor system.

But remember, the NRA says there`s no problem here. Among the many
things the gun rights lobby is out of touch with, you can count the views
of their own members on this.

When a Republican pollster Frank Luntz asked NRA members if they
favored closing the other big background check loophole, when he asked them
if they favored requiring background checks for people buying guns at gun
shows, 69 percent of NRA members said, yes, we should do that. The NRA
says we shouldn`t do that.

The gun rights lobby, the NRA, is surrounded by a force field, a force
field that is impenetrable. It`s a force field that even their members are
not inside with them.

If you think convicted felons, convicted murders, mentally ill people
should be allowed to buy guns, we should debate that. But if you think the
laws we`ve got now are keeping those people from buying guns, you are high.
Or you work for the NRA. And that`s who dominates the discussion of gun
rights in this country -- which is why that discussion usually makes no


MADDOW: Cocktail moment. `Tis the season for a whole lot of stuff we
don`t usually do. Holiday parties, decorating, travel, doing extra work to
cover for your co-workers who are traveling, hosting family, buying gifts -
- which means spending money you don`t usually have to spend. There`s a
lot of stuff we do around the holidays we don`t usually do and that can be
awesome but it can also be stressful. Particularly when you don`t get
enough time off of work to do all the extra holiday stuff you have to do.

Consider for example our Congress. They all thought they`d be home by
now. Nevertheless, Republican senators held a post-6:00 p.m. Friday night
news conference tonight to talk about the deals they are working on and
more work we`re told is expected to come this weekend.

The holiday season is nice. It`s also a lot of extra work. And that
does mean stress. If you are like me, that stress sometimes means not

And so, tonight`s cocktail moment is a holiday appropriate cocktail I
like to think of as the poor man`s Ambien or the drunk man`s Ambien. It`s
called a whiskey skin.

It`s a hot drink. A variation -- I`m turning on the kettle because
it`s a hot drink. There`s something going on. It`s a variation on the
drink called the hot toddy.

There`s something going wrong in America right now. And everybody
this holiday season is trying to make hot buttered rum.

Don`t do that. Hot buttered rum is disgusting even when you do it
properly. Don`t do that. Do a hot toddy or do this instead, which is even

This is from David Wondrich`s book called "Imbibe!" A spectacular

We start by setting the water to boil. You want a heat-proof mug.
David Wondrich calls for about a teaspoon of sugar. I like a little less
than that. You can use either white sugar, or like sugar in the raw or
something, depending on what you like.

Then you want a long, thin piece of lemon peel. If you are following
the recipe properly, you want it to be sort of as long as you can.
Following the recipe properly, you just drop the lemon peel in there. Nice
and thin. You don`t want too much on there.

The recipe says just drop it in there. But if you`re like me, my
variation on this is that you actually want as much of the lemon oil. Use
the sugar as an abrasive with the muddler to try to get the lemon peel and
the sugar all ground up there, lots of lemon oil.

And then the -- oops. Sorry. Two ounces of good scotch. You want a
nice single malt, a nice petey one if you can, like an Islay, this is an
Ardbeg. Scotch, two ounces. Scotchy, scotchy, scotch. And then boiling

You pour the boiling water in on top of the scotch and the lemon peel
and the sugar and you drink it and then you fall asleep and you wake up in
January and you are much less stressed.

Recipe is at Prison is next. Have a good weekend.


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