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'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, December 1st, 2012

December 1, 2012

Guests: Dan Dicker, Laura Flanders, Joy Reid, Ari Melber, Lee Fang, Trymaine Lee, Zoe Bedell, Anu Bhagwati, Marvelyn Brown, Sonia Rastogi, Susan Balls, Sheryl Lee Ralph

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris
Perry. It is December 1st, just one month until the deadline for the so-
called fiscal cliff. And the drama is building. Just check out what House
speaker, John Boehner, had to say at the end of this week.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: The White House spends three
weeks trying to develop a proposal and they sent one up here that calls for
$1.6 trillion in new taxes, calls for a little, not even $400 billion in
cuts and they want to have this extra spending that`s actually greater than
the amount they are willing to cut. I mean it`s -- it was not a serious
proposal. And - and so, right now, we are almost nowhere.


HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, M. Boehner, you have got it all wrong. It is a serious
proposal, really serious. Godfather serious.

Watching the D.C drama this week convinced those of us in Nerdland that
President Obama must be a fan of the Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece.
Because he seems to be channeling the Godfather. No, I`m not suggesting
that Speaker Boehner is about to wake up next to a severed horse`s head.
But remove the lethal components and there are valuable negotiating lessons
that the president seems to be picking up on, like this one.


AL PACINO, ACTOR: My father taught me many things here. He taught me in
this room. He taught me keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.


HARRIS-PERRY: Well, President Obama has definitely been keeping his
opponents close in hand. Lunch with Mitt Romney. A mid-week summit with
the business leaders who supported Romney including millionaire Republican
backers, the CEOs of Marriott, AT&T and State Farm. And, of course,
meeting, after meeting, after meeting with Speaker John Boehner and
Republican leaders. With this strategy, President Obama keeps his
opponents from being able to claim that he is unreasonable or stone
walling. Heck, I have y`all over every day, he can claim. But it also
ensures that they know where he stands, in the Oval Office, return there
for another four years by the American people. Which is why the president
has been reminding his coalition of this.


PACINO: Don`t ever take sides with anyone against the family again.


HARRIS-PERRY: You see, President Obama is letting his electoral coalition
or his family know that now it`s the time to hang together tightly, rather
than allow Republicans to pick off vulnerable, nervous or personally
ambitious members of the Democratic coalition, he is getting the family in
line. He reached out to voters to do their part and continuing the
campaign. Calling on all Americans to raise awareness about the fiscal
cliff, to get in touch with their congressmen, to tweet # my2k. Letting
lawmakers know how you want them to vote. But here he was doing exactly
this in small businessville, Pennsylvania just yesterday.


acceptable to me. And I don`t think it is acceptable to you for just a
handful of Republicans in Congress to hold middle class tax cuts hostage
simply because they don`t want tax rates on upper income folks to go up.
And that doesn`t make sense.



HARRIS-PERRY: So, in addition to rounding up the voters, he deployed Tim
Geithner to the Hill. He`s kind of like the Don`s consigliere, Tom Hagan,
the messenger. And you just know that Leader Pelosi is letting the House
Democrats know they better not pull a Fredo during negotiations. Like
Michael Corleone laying down his terms, the president`s offer was this --
$1.6 trillion in tax increases, a hefty $50 billion in mortgage relief,
infrastructure investments. And an extension of the unemployment insurance
and a deferral of cuts to Medicare payments to physicians. And oh, yeah,
no more debt ceiling fights. Because he should go to take that one off of
Congress` plate all together. And yeah, there is a claim of about $400
billion in entitlement savings. But those carry no guarantee and are
pushed off another year. Right about the time those members of Congress
will need to start their re-election bids. Not such a good time to cut
Medicare. Once these details were made public, it was clear that the
president is indeed a student of the Don.


PACINO: Senator, you can have my answer now if you like. My offer is
this, nothing, not even a fee for the gaming license, which I would
appreciate if you would put up personally.


HARRIS-PERRY: See, the consequences of the fiscal cliff are real. But
from a political perspective, President Obama is holding all the cards
here. If he does nothing, the Bush era tax cuts expire, raising revenue.
Spending cuts will bring down the debt and possibly help secure Social
Security and Medicare. And apparently, the president thinks that he is
making an offer Republicans can`t refuse. Joining me at the table today is
MSNBC contributor, Joy Reid. She is also managing editor of the
CNBC contributor, Dan Dicker, he is a principal partner at Mercbloc and
Laura Flanders is the host and founder of Hi, thanks to all of
you for being here.

So, is this, in fact, a new President Obama, Laura? Is this - is the kind
of negotiating tactics that we are seeing now something that wasn`t
happening in the first term?

severed head. I think I`m really looking forward to that. And I love this
whole Don Corleone thing.

HARRIS-PERRY: Can I just tell you the severed head?

FLANDERS: Plus, a real horse`s head?

HARRIS-PERRY: I know this was one of those things that we - apparently,
they got in touch with a dog food factory. OK, I will put that one aside.
But yes ...

FLANDERS: Well, I don`t think anything that the administration is doing
this time is going to get PETA on that case.


FLANDERS: But I do think that there`s a repetition here of a sort.
Remember, after the last election in the first term, there was this idea
that you were going to go to the country, keep the grassroots momentum that
had brought Obama to office going after the election. Two things happened.
One, people kind of felt that fizzled out. A lot of people said, wait a
minute. We were good enough to invite to the dance, but not good enough to
dance with. Others felt, way we are being brought in not organizing for
America, but organizing for Obama. Do we really have a voice, for example,
in the health care debate? And so, I think this time, they are trying to
do it differently. The question is, what will the administration find as
it goes out into the country. Are its priorities in this discussion about
the deficit, the people`s priorities that brought the administration to
office and what will they do at some of those meetings as people say, well,
we also want to talk about raising the minimum wage. We also want to talk
about Wal-Mart workers ...


FLANDERS: ... and the condition of work in this country. And that
stimulus spending, maybe it is not big enough. So, I think that there is
definitely an effort to redo some of the mistakes of the last term. But I
think they are in the same perilous situation in a sense.

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, so. It`s interesting when you ask me are this the
same priority? So, we are looking at the 1.6 trillion in tax increases.
The 50 billion in stimulus spending and control of the debt ceiling. I
think those are - those are like the big power moves. Does that jive with
what people want here?

DAN DICKER, CNBC: These aren`t new numbers.


DICKER: By the way, Melissa. These are the numbers that the president
originally talked about. The original time two years ago and then a year
before that in terms of bringing down the deficit. His plan for bringing
down the deficit, which got nothing from Boehner. I like the way that you
are putting this, because, in the first term, it seemed to me that Obama
was very conciliatory towards Republicans.


DICKER: He wanted to create a grand coalition and he learned something in
his first term. That just doesn`t work out, so in fact, you know, it may
be a little start to put it in Godfather terms ...


DICKER: But you are right, he is offering them for right now, he is
offering them nothing. See how you like it. This (ph) -- we tried it the
other way for four years. And I`ve gotten nothing back in return but
blockage. So, let`s try it this way and see how it goes.

HARRIS-PERRY: You know, it`s just a possibility of political cover, that
he makes the big offer, right? If this is -- if this is not the Godfather,
this is like a used car negotiation, right, that he is low-balling but
giving them plenty of cover. So even they get to say 1 trillion in taxes
as the increase. Then the Republicans can say that they talked him down.
Is it really an offer for nothing or is it that more sort of political
cover that he is offering?

JOY-ANN REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: No, I think it is the latter. I think it
is more political cover. And I think if you look at the contrast with
2010, they were in a different situation, right? In 2010, there were
things that Obama needed. He had a re-election coming up. So, there -- it
was in his interest in a sense to continue the Bush tax cuts and do
anything that would halt the recovery, right? He also wanted that big
payroll tax cut, which was essentially stimulus.


REID: He wanted -- he wanted the debt ceiling increase, he wanted the
start treaty, he wanted to do don`t ask, don`t tell. So they crammed a lot
of stuff into that lame duck session. And remember, Republicans had just
cleaned up in that mid-term.


REID: So, Republicans had the leverage. Obama had the needs. Well, the
situation now is entirely reversed.


REID: Obama does not face another re-election.


REID: It is Republicans that have needs. Because they have got Grover
Norquist and these people on the right nipping at their heels. Saying do
not raise rich people taxes. And so they have a need. And now it`s Obama
that`s got the leverage. So, I think we are seeing a reversal. And look,
Democrats, the base, are not in the -- are not used to being winners.

HARRIS-PERRY: I know, right!

REID: Looser mentality.


REID: Wait. We are the boss?


REID: We can do what we want. And I think Democrats are feeling excited
because they actually have it over the Republicans.

HARRIS-PERRY: But this exactly is the danger. I mean I agree. I actually
think that in a certain way progressives tend to have a preference for
being on outside.

REID: Right.

HARRIS-PERRY: We are really used to losing, we almost prefer the sniping
from the outside mentality of position. And part of the danger of that is
when you finally find yourself in the position of power, you`ve got to be
careful not to Fredo out. Right? Not this sort of go for the individual
peace that then brings down the whole house of cards? On the other hand,
we do have this question about what do the people want and how, in fact,
President Obama holds his coalition together? So, we`ll talk a lot more on
exactly this after the break and what happens when the president goes to
the mattresses, you know. Bring the cannoli.


HARRIS-PERRY: If the White House and congressional Republicans cannot come
to an agreement on the budget, then a package of automatic, across the
board spending cuts known as sequestration, it goes into effect one month
from today. And you know how you always start the new year with a diet?
Well, without a deal, we are not only going to see a much slimmer federal
government, but possibly much leaner household budgets as well. More than
2 million Americans may lose their unemployment benefits. The average
American household could see a tax increase of about $3500 and child
nutrition programs could lose more than 500 million in funding. Democrats
may benefit politically if we go off the cliff. But can ordinary Americans
afford the cost of this round of negotiations? Dan, what is the case for
nothing, for doing the full -- just going off the cliff?

DICKER: Look, I think there is a great case for nothing. I mean at a
station where I contribute, they are absolutely apoplectic about the
economic impact. I`m not sure that there really is going to be an enormous
economic impact. One of the reasons that I know this is because, you know,
I follow markets. The stock market hasn`t reacted at all ...


DICKER: Even despite the fact that things have gotten pretty clear that we
are going to go over the cliff. Or even if they get a deal, it`s going to
be the most superficial six months can kick, that`s going to happen. And
it`s not going to really have an effect. But yet, the markets are pretty
strong. Economic people seem to think that we are going to go over the
cliff. And maybe it is not as bad as people think. Let me tell you some
of the things that are going to happen. That we should welcome as
liberals. $600 billion in military spending cuts.


DICKER: Even the Democrats don`t want to touch this one. This happens
automatically. You get a reversal of all the Bush tax cuts, which, in
fact, you can put back most if not all of them after the start of the new
year. You can bring a new bill back. You get an increase in the AMT,
which hits, you know, higher-income people. And maybe you can reverse some
of that for people who are making less than $100,000. There is a lot of
things to like about this from a liberal point of view. And the things
that are bad, you can sort of work around to a certain degree after the new
year and after this happens. That`s why I think, economically, and Joy
will tell you about politically, but economically the Democrats are holding
all the cards.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, and this is what deal is to me, I mean, if we are
going to continue with our "Godfather" metaphor, like this is -- the Don
wouldn`t do, it but Michael Corleone would, right? Because it`s that
moment where you take the drink, the hard drink, and you go ahead and shoot
the police officer or you go -- I mean -- but the problem is, you literally
are shooting the police officer in the sense that we are killing public
jobs, right? There is a way, in which if this goes into effect. And if --
if it is not just a short game of chicken, if it is not 20 days from
January 1 until the new inauguration, right, if it is two months or three
months, those kinds of cuts in education, in child nutrition, those are
real, right? So maybe the markets don`t mind. But it does feel like
American households mind.

REID: Right. I mean but you have to remember that those costs are over
the course of the year, right? And I totally agree with Dan. I mean the
markets have priced in the fact that there is going to be at least a post-
January solution. That it is not going to happen before the end of the
year. But, I think, even from a political standpoint, I couldn`t believe
when they did the sequester -- that they exempted Medicare, Medicaid and
Social Security ...


REID: ... that the Republicans agreed to this, that they agreed to a deal
whereby a Congress that can never get anything done ...


REID: Right, would have to get something done by a date certain ...


REID: ... or you were going to have these tremendous defense cuts. I
can`t believe they agreed to it. It is a great deal for Democrats. But
even on the case for the cuts that would really hurt middle class people,
there is an argument that Republicans would then be under such pressure,
political pressure to redo the tax cuts that they would also be able to get
in putting back some of that spending into social programs.

FLANDERS: I mean I think one of the thing that we are running into is the
problem of rhetoric here and the problem of the metaphor of the cliff.
Because it suggests that sort of the nation`s families have been high on
the hill.



FLANDERS: -- cliff, if we hit the edge of the road, then they will be
done. It hasn`t been like that for now years, there`s been a ...


FLANDERS: Slippery slope. So, I think in one sense, to kind of ride out
this fiscal cliff discussion, and say it`s not a cliff, it`s not going to
happen on that day one, it`s going to be some kind of resolution. But it
is not as if everything is OK. Even if this cliff is averted with respect
to unemployment, education, everything that you have mentioned, I think
that`s an important point. And frankly, on the conversation we had before,
if Barack Obama cannot take a hard line now, when is he going to do it?

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, but this is ...


FLANDERS: And I think people are waiting for him not just to fight this
hard around this deal, which is a political deal, as you both mentioned,
but around the fate of the future of people in this country.

HARRIS-PERRY: And Laura, I want to make exactly that point. Because this
ad is running on cable and local TV stations in D.C It was organized by
the Alliance for Savings and Investment. And it is about the discourse
around the cliff and ordinary families. Let`s look at that real briefly


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our taxes are about to go up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But not the taxes on our dividends, though, right?
That`s a big part of our retirement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no, it is dividends too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We worked hard to save.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president and Congress have got to work together to
stop this dividend tax hike ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... before it is too late.


HARRIS-PERRY: Right, so, this is the kitchen table. Oh, our dividends.
And that`s imaginary.

FLANDERS: Your average retiree is not suffering from earning $250,000 or
more ...


FLANDERS: ... such as the dividend investment value is going to be really


FLANDERS: And really take the hit in this -- in this deal. This is
complete manipulation once again ...


FLANDERS: ... and ignoring the fact that we have a wealth gap here.


FLANDERS: And what we are talking about is changing taxes and dividends
that will affect only the portion of this country that are earning 250 --
$250,000 or more.

HARRIS-PERRY: As soon as we come back, we are going to talk about exactly
that. I am going to bring -- I`m going to bring Ari Melber in, because
it`s exactly this point about the big family that is President Obama and
the fact that he said we gotta stay in the conversation. He is keeping
everyone together. That`s the Don`s challenge, how he will do it, next.



citizen in our democracy does not end with your vote. America has never
been about what can be done for us. It is about what can be done by us
together through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-
government. That`s the principle we were founded on.


HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama in Chicago on the night he was
reelected. Calling on the American people to stay involved. And he meant
it. This week, he has been taking his case directly to the American
people. I t is making some folks lose their minds.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait a minute. When is the next election, Becky? When
is the next election?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. So, why does he need to pump up his base and go on
the road? He won. What is this for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s reprehend ...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go to Charlotte and say, fairness and then they run to
try to beat the tax man, which is ...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he is doing his job. He is doing his job as a
corporate executive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shame on them. No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is doing his job.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can`t even talk about it anymore.



Joining our panel is MSNBC contributor, Ari Melber, who is a correspondent
for "The Nation" magazine. And an author of a report about how the OFA
campaign tried to turn its grassroots network into a governing force in the
president`s first term. Ari, nice to have you with us.

ARI MELBER: Thank you.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, despite the drama that it is causing, the president is
going directly to the folks. Now, this is something they were criticized
on between `08 and 2012. What`s it going to look like now? Is the
president going to be able to use their base?

MELBER: I think it depends on what they ask them to do. The report that I
wrote interviewed dozens of OFA activists, talked to campaign staff and
people on Capitol Hill in both parties. And what I found was that they
became basically a single issue group around health care, which was both
exciting to many people, because this was a promise that the president was
looking to deliver on ...


MELBER: ... but also didn`t give them a lot of meaningful asks when we
talk about when you are doing a campaign, it`s what the ask, and early on,
it might be getting supporter cards or signing up people to events and
later it is GOTV. It is very clear.


MELBER: And I don`t think it`s any fault of the White House to know that
it gets a lot less clear when you talk about health care negotiations or
even the fiscal cliff. So, the first thing they did, to your questions, I
spoke to some people at the White House about it this week, is they tried
to get the base activists here involved in the persuasion campaign around
the fiscal cliff. They have an infogram, they have information that shares
on Facebook. Teddy Goff who was one of the digital directors of the
campaign has noted that when they want to talk to people on Facebook, they
reach 10 million with any content that they consider pretty good.


MELBER: That`s how big the footprint is. So, that`s the first thing they
are doing, Melissa. The harder question comes next, which is, if you don`t
have the things work out in the fiscal cliff, or if Joe Biden gavels in the
Senate and you don`t get a deal on the filibusters ...


MELBER: ... to actually stop the obstruction, do you bring them in to do
something more confrontational?

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, this is -- let`s just take a look. Now, I also want
to bring Laura on this. She was anticipating some of these -- exactly
these arguments, particularly around progressives. So, if you look at the
chart that you generated here of national OFA e-mails, this is one -- it
goes from Obama for America to Organizing for America, and we see it that
it is primarily about, you know, about health care. You get this big
spike. There is some work going on here about Sotomayor, about economy in
the budget. Some around the community, but it is clear that kind of the
big blue spike -- an HP (ph) blue spike there, is really around health
care. If that`s what those e-mails were about. This week, we saw the e-
mails, Laura, were -- send out your -- # my2k tweet. But that will be
watched that -- immediately hijacked. So, Speaker Boehner tweeting on my
2k, and tweets, right, "The House GOP voted to stop my 2k tax rate hikes,
and defend small businesses. What spending will Dems cut to stop the
fiscal cliff? With all, you know, attendant hashtags.

It`s -- this respective organizing (ph) you tweet it, email it.

FLANDERS: Well, I mean it depends on what you want to do. Executives
already said, tweeting and Facebooking and all of that stuff is great to
activate people to do things. But first, but the question is, what things
and what happens to (inaudible) on the grass organizing. What we`ve seen,
time after time, is that on the ground organizing has to do with having an
effect locally, on a local issue, being able to influence your local media,
your local politicians. That is one of the things that I think those who
are freaking out about why Obama continuing the campaign fail to
understand. It is not as if decisions that are -- that we focus on in
Washington, are not affected by what is happening locally. The right has
known this forever.


FLANDERS: So, to organize people at the base, to influence their local
media and their local officials, and local opinion is important. But
again, I want to go back to the health debate where a lot of those local
activists wanted single payer.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, they want something more.

FLANDERS: They wanted health care with the profit motive take out. In
this case, same thing. What have we seen this week, massive organizing
among retail workers, massive organizing over the Thanksgiving period by
Wal-Mart. A big emphasis on unemployment, but also minimum wages. The
Obama administration may get more than they bargained for.

MELBER: Briefly, though, just briefly.

DICKER: Yeah, sure.

MELBER: I want to second what you say, because you showed the clip of Mr.
Santelli ...


MELBER: ... That was the same Mr. Santelli who took to the floor and gave
a big speech that was part of the genesis of the Tea Party outrage. The
best thing about the Tea Party was that they were working on governance.


MELBER: There was an issue on the Hill that they wanted to speak to. I
don`t agree with all of their tactics.

HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.

MELBER: But it is very good when we have people come up and say let`s get
involved in policy. And it`s harder than the campaigns, because campaigns
are just more fun to most people.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, that`s right.

MELBER: And you have debates, and you`re built in our media.

HARRIS-PERRY: And you have a clear outcome, you have an election day and
you have an outcome down ...

DICKER: As interesting as it is to energize the base, and I think that`s
important. What`s also important, at least to me, considering after the
election we got from Boehner, for example. He wanted to bring the ACA back
into the negotiations for some ...


DICKER: A wild reason. And you still see the same kind of intransigence
is to go out and say, hey, wait a minute, who won this election?


DICKER: You know what? And just stand there and say, wait, this mandate
is mine. I earned it. Three percent, I won a national vote by three
percent, which in modern times is a landslide. (ph) landslide. We won
seats in the Senate. We took seats in the House in spite of

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, OK, and the House -- in the House, if there were no
part in the gerrymandering, there`d also be a Democratic -- yeah ...

DICKER: I am. And that`s -- that`s -- I think that`s as important as
energizing the base and getting to move for you in social media and so

REID: But I mean at the same time, they have got to actually get a number
of votes. What they need 218 votes in the House. And part of the art of
Washington politics is giving your opponents something to run against you
on in the next election, right?

So what they have got to give House Republicans is something they can take
back to these very conservative gerrymander districts. I mean we forget
that, you know, it is not as if most people are running in swing districts.
Most of these folks are running in really hard right districts where they
can still get a primary challenge. So, the reason you are hearing Boehner
constantly ask what are you going to cut? They want the president to put
some unpopular ideas publicly out on the table, too.


REID: Because right now, all of the blame, all of the negativity, all of
the bad ideas, the ideas of voucherizing Medicare, the ideas of raising the


REID: They are all coming from the Republican Party. So, they are
espousing all the ideas that people hate. They want the president to put
some unpopular ideas.

And there`s no incentives ....

HARRIS-PERRY: We are going to come right back, because there is a
character here, a Luca Brasi character of the anti-tax campaign. No
official leadership role, but a brutal character. Yes, Grover Norquist.
Is his clout finally starting to sleep with the fishes? That`s next.


HARRIS-PERRY: I suppose Republicans in Congress didn`t learn their lesson
about Grover Norquist when he was embroiled in the dirty dealings of Jack
Abramoff. But they are certainly getting wise now. Perhaps, they finally
realized that he is not a voting member of the body. Because now,
Republican Senators, Graham, Chambliss, Corker and Congressman Peter King
have all said that they no longer feel obligated to the Norquist tax
pledge. What has kept Norquist relevant all this time? His war chest,
money coming specifically from the powerful special interest groups that
are lobbying to keep taxes low. Joining us from San Francisco is Lee Fang,
contributing writer for "The Nation" magazine who has been following the
money trail that leads directly to Norquist. Hi, Lee. Nice to see you.


HARRIS-PERRY: So, explain to me. You know, I think we have the sense of
Norquist as an independent actor. But he is actually embedded in the Web.
And that`s -- that`s your story. Talk to me a little bit about what this
web is?

FANG: Yes. So, I took a look at the donors to Grover Norquist`s
foundation and found some pretty unsurprising results. Over 66 percent of
his more than two-thirds of his budget came from just two billionaire-
backed non-profits. So, if you peel back the layers, the people giving
money and propping up Norquist are folks like Steve Schwarzman, Steve
Bechtel, Paul Singer, these are investors and billionaires who have a lot
to gain from not cutting -- from not cutting taxes. They already pay a
shockingly low rate. They don`t want to pay a penny more. So, when
Norquist says he is going to retaliate against some of the folks who are
deviating from the pledge, what he means is that his donor network will go
after these folks with attack ads, with money for primary challenges.
That`s where his real power base comes from.

HARRIS-PERRY: Earlier this week, my colleague Chris Hayes tweeted that,
you know, "Let`s be clear. It is not Grover Norquist who is the reason that
Republicans are against these tax increases. It is rich people." And so,
Grover just becomes the rich person or the person who is a representative
of these rich folks. Do we need to stay focused on where the real pressure
is coming from?

FANG: Oh, yeah, absolutely. You know, when Norquist goes out and says,
you know, we need to cut government, cut subsidies, but don`t touch any of
those tax credits, well, here is what he is really saying. What`s the
difference between a $1 million oil tax credit and a $1 million oil tax
subsidy, nothing. They are economically equivalent. But in Norquist world,
a tax cut can`t be touched. If you do that, you are raising taxes. And he
is known for going around Capitol Hill threatening anyone who tries to cut
these billion of dollars in wasteful tax credits to oil companies. So, he
is basically providing an ideological cover for corporate lobbying.
Because in addition to these billionaires, the oil and natural gas industry
provides significant funding to his foundation.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, Lee, I want to bring in my guest here, Dan Dicker on
exactly this question. Dan?

DICKER: Yeah, this has been a very important point that I hope that the
president will get to in a second term of real consolidated energy
proposal. Where he does cut these subsidies to big oil, and uses them for
alternative energy. It is a direction I think he has been going, I think
he`s been moving, unfortunately, a little bit in the direction of clean
coal. I think that`s the wrong direction to go. But this -- I have to
say, if we are talking on the bigger picture, there has been nothing -- if
you have to point to one thing, I`m always talking about this, if you have
to point to one thing that talked about the disparity, the wealth disparity
that we are looking at, if you have to point to just one thing, it has been
this downward slope in the upper bracket, marginal tax rates that have
caused that. And this president, that`s why it is so important for us to
hold our ground on this.


DICKER: Because this president is not moving things back to the `50s or
the `60s. He`s moving things back ...

HARRIS-PERRY: What about the `90s.

DICKER: He is moving things back ten years, that`s exactly right. He is
moving things back just ten years to a place where it wasn`t -- even just
turning the boat around a little bit at this point would be great. That`s
where we get all these crazy figures about 93 percent of the wealth that
was created over the last four years went to two percent -- 91 percent of
the people.


DICKER: And the other nine percent was left for the other seven percent of
the people.

HARRIS-PERRY: For everybody else?

DICKER: That`s right. And that`s because of marginal tax rates. And
Boehner doesn`t have the votes on a marginal tax rate.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And this is -- this is where the huge support for
the president is when we look at the public opinion polling, we see that
more than 60 percent of Americans support raising taxes on incomes over

DICKER: Eight of the ten wealthiest counties in the nation voted for
Obama. Rich people are in favor, surprisingly, a lot of them, in raising
taxes. They know it is unfair.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, how do we then sort of put together what Lee is talking
about here, the incentive structure that`s crafted by Norquist, with -- an
incentive structure that`s crafted by that 60 percent?

MELBER: Well, Lee made such an important point, that bears repeating,
which is Grover is this flashy mascot that actually gets in the way of the
transactional politics at play.


MELBER: So when you drive that wedge, for example, Bill Crystal is not a
billionaire. He has often aligned himself with billionaire policies, but
he is not doing that right now. So you need to -- and he is on Fox News
and he is basically saying we`ve got to get off this billionaire giveaway,
Republicans, and do something else. And that`s a guy who`s worked very
closely with the establishment of the Republican Party. There are other
Bill Crystals out there. I mean one of the things you can do with the
power and the lists that Obama has, he hasn`t done yet, maybe he will, is
try to drive those activists towards targeted campaigns against groups,
companies ...


MELBER: ... even pundits and other sort of establishment figures and try
to build a new coalition. You have to create some space there, but I am
not of the opinion that every Republican wants to go off the political

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, Lee let me give you the last question here. The other
obviously big issue with Grover Norquist is he`s not elected. No one voted
for him. Why do we keep asking him what he will accept in these fiscal
cliff debates?

FANG: Well, that`s a great question. You know, I think, in addition to
the pledge, one of the great Norquist tricks is a mass amnesia spell over
Washington. People have forgotten that, as you mentioned, he laundered
money for Jack Abramoff. He helped Tom DeLay with a K Street Project. He
was a registered lobbyist for Fannie Mae. And there was a clear paper
trail that shows that he was a tobacco industry hack throughout the `90s.
But folks have forgotten that. And they take him pretty seriously.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, well, we actually used a stuffed Grover doll on this
set at one point. We are trying to take him as not seriously as possible.
But I appreciate so much, Lee, the work that you have done to help us see
sort of what Grover Norquist really is. So, thank you to Lee Fang in San
Francisco ...


HARRIS-PERRY: Also, thank you to Dan Dicker here at the table in Nerdland
and the rest are back for more.

Up next, the similarities are undeniable. An African-American teen shot
dead. An older white man arrested. And again, it happened in Florida. Is
there no presumption of innocence for young black men. My letter is next.


HARRIS-PERRY: The police acted the very next day. A man was arrested,
charged and is in custody, being held without bond. So this, the alleged
shooting of Jordan Russell Davis by Michael David Dunn is not that, the
shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. But in so many other
aspects of this case the parallels are undeniable. Another 17-year-old
African-American boy shot and killed. The alleged assailant, an older
white man, say he felt threatened. Although the boy he`s accused of
shooting was reportedly unarmed. Another claim of self-defense to justify
the killing. Another pair of grieving parents losing a child and seeking
justice. And again, that since for those of us who know them and love them
that this is no country for young black men, which is why this week I am
addressing my open letter to whom it may concern. It is me, Melissa. And
if you are like me, this latest news has got you concerned, indeed.

Because here we are again. It`s been barely a year since the killing of
Trayvon Martin resurrected that old angst, long buried, but always there
just below the surface, you know, that feeling. It`s the one that makes us
hear about Trayvon, now Jordan Davis, and reach back across decades into
our history for the name of another boy named Emmett Till. Then, it was a
whistle at a white woman. Now, it`s a hooded sweatshirt or music being
played loudly from a car, but always this. One thing has been the same. No
presumption of innocence for young black men, no benefit of the doubt,
guilt, not determined by what they did or said, but presumed to be inherent
in their very being. They need not wield the weapon to pose a threat,
because if you are a young black man, you are threat enough. And in yet
another case, it seems that perceived threat is justification enough for
someone who would play judge, and jury and executioner.

Jordan Russell Davis will be laid to rest today. His father described his
son as a typical teenager who was looking forward to starting his first
job working at McDonald`s, who was saving up to buy his first car. The day
before he died, his mother says, he gave the Thanksgiving dinner prayer
where he gave thanks for his family. But before Jordan could be eulogized
at his funeral, the defense team for the man who was accused of killing him
was already telling a different story about this young man and who he was.
According to police, Jordan and his three friends were sitting in an SUV at
a Jacksonville gas station. When Dunn pulled up next to them and asked
them to turn down their music. Words were exchanged and this story, Dunn`s
attorney, Robin, tells us, about why her client felt threatened. "He sees
that much of a shotgun coming up over the rim of the SUV and all he sees
are heavily tinted front windows that are up and the back windows are down.
And the car has at least four black men in it, and he doesn`t know how old
anyone is. And he doesn`t know anything, but he knows a shotgun when he
sees one. And he`s got his first gun as a gift from his grandparents when
he was a kid in the third grade. And ..."

Police have no evidence that Jordan and his friends had any weapon in their
car. But Michael David Dunn, a registered gun owner did have one. He used
his gun to fire eight rounds into the boys` vehicle. Two of those bullets
struck and killed Jordan Davis, who was sitting in the back seat. Dunn
fled the scene. These are the facts as we know them today. As the
investigation continues, details will no doubt continue to emerge. But as
we watch the case unfold, let us be sure while we are watching that we
continue to see in Jordan Davis what Michael Dunn did not, a human being,
not a threat. Sincerely, Melissa.



LUCIA MCBATH: You shot him over some music and he was in the car. And
there is no logical reason. There is nothing logical that you can say that
would make me believe that you were threatened.


HARRIS-PERRY: That was Lucia McBath, the mother of Jordan Davis, the
teenage boy who was shot while unarmed at a gas station in Jacksonville,
Florida last week. Back with me are "The Grio"`s Joy Reid and "The
Nation`s" Ari Melber. Joining me is also, Trymaine Lee, national reporter
for Nice to see you, Trymaine.


HARRIS-PERRY: So you are -- you`ve been in Florida and you talked with the
lawyer representing the family. And I know that they have as a family some
angst about this turning into a Trayvon Martin parallel.

LEE: Right.

HARRIS-PERRY: Talk to me about what you know.

LEE: In talking to the lawyer, he said that the Trayvon Martin case was a
great blueprint of what not to do. By exposing the family, opening them up
to, you know, attacks and being targeted, we saw that in Trayvon Martin
case not long after the family was ubiquitous on cable news and the
newspapers, the white supremacists came out hacking Facebook pages. And
then you saw this kind of vitriol bubbling up, and that`s what they don`t
want in this case, because there are the similarities in this case, but it
is completely different.

HARRIS-PERRY: And so, this is actually our challenge as we were, you know,
sitting in Nerdland. We always make a decision about, you know, what we
are going to talk about, what we are not going to talk about. And after
having read your piece, I thought this is a family that is grieving, that
is asking in a certain way for a shield. But on the other hand, the story
itself feels to me like we can`t just allow it to happen in the darkness,
that we need the public light of scrutiny, because Joy, you were saying
earlier that at least based on what you understand of how Florida`s laws
work, there is some possibility that this may be a defense that works for
this assailant.

REID: Right.

I mean Florida, first of all, I mean it is one of the highest incarcerating
states, it is a death penalty state. And they use it more than anyone but
Texas, but up until the point of conviction, and this is a defense friendly
state in the sense they have extensive sunshine laws.


REID: And the stay your ground law, what is essentially did, is it
migrated the use of force matrix that`s normally used for police to
civilians. And it gave tremendous latitude to a shooter so long as the
person they shoot dies. And it`s a horrible way to put it, but that`s the
truth, because as long as no one can, you know, truly prove beyond a shadow
of a doubt that you didn`t feel threatened the burden of proof really is on
the defense and almost on the decedent to show that somehow they were not
threatening. So, that this guy has the opportunity to use a stand your
ground defense before they even get to a full trial. And it is starting to
look like that`s where it is going to go. Unfortunately.

HARRIS-PERRY: No, obviously, we don`t know whether or not these young men
had a weapon in the car. It certainly is possible. Obviously, the
assailant had a weapon in his car. And I think that was part of what made
me pause here was wow, folks are driving around the state of Florida with
weapons in their cars. Is the problem stand your ground or is the problem
before that? Is it about how we think about how armed everyone should be?

MELBER: I think it is the intersection. Because the weapons raise the
incident rate of the use of weapons and laws that afford a greater latitude
for their use. Also, do -- and that goes back -- I mean as a lawyer, I
look at it and say, what is the law for? The law is for justice. And the
law is for conduct. Justice, because no matter what happens, we expect a
just system to afford some modicum of balance in our system, no matter what
abuse takes place. And conduct, because ultimately if we fashion our laws
correctly, they impact conduct and can prevent bad things and incentivize
good things. These stand your ground laws as Joy so rightly put it, take
some of the extra powers that we give to police, because of what we ask
them to do and transfer them to civilians who don`t have the training and
aren`t required under the law to get it.


MELBER: So that, yes, it is hard in a situation where you might genuinely
feel fear to identify what is a real threat and what is not, what is a
weapon and what is something that looks like a weapon. But when the police
make those decisions, and sometimes make errors, they at least operating
within a set of training. And what we`ve done with these laws in these
states is, basically, I believe and I don`t know the facts of this case yet


MELBER: ... because we don`t have all the facts. But what I do know is,
at the aggregate level, when you give people more incentive to shoot first
and ask questions later, they shoot first.

HARRIS-PERRY: And ask questions later.

MELBER: And they ask questions later. And we are living with that.

LEE: All right. And I think what this is psychologically, it kind of
reinforces the war between the us and them.


LEE: And unfortunately, the them tend to play loud music, wear hoodies, be
of a certain color or live in a certain neighborhood.


LEE: And that`s the scary part.

HARRIS-PERRY: I think that for me is the piece that just made it worth
talking about at least briefly this morning, even before we know all of the
legal questions. Because beyond adjudicating this case, there is a
question of just -- I mean this is my core fear, right? Like for all of us
who parent children and have black husbands and have black fathers, this is
the core fear for all of us who love black men in this country. That they
can just be -- I mean it is what Michelle Obama said about Barack Obama in
2008. She said he could be killed at a gas station.

LEE: And it is not just that everyday indignities of being followed round
or even being denied a job. We see it in stop and frisk, we see it in
racial profiling. And so often, we are seeing it -- and we`re seeing it --
it seems more now. Justifiable homicides are up. And so, psychologically,
whether people go into these situations saying I`m going to use my stand my
ground law rights. How does that reinforce what they already think in the
biases and the confluence of that?

HARRIS-PERRY: And I also don`t want to miss that. Part of this is also
related to violence. That, I mean so when young black boys and men die, it
tends to be at the hands of other young black men and boys. But that --
that also even in those -- in our failure to stem that violence, we also
then provide more opportunities for thinking of black men and boys in this
way. And then in an interracial context, that interracial violence becomes
part of what --


LEE: And we forget that, black men are the most victimized group in
America, not just the perpetrators, but the victims.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Thank you to Trymaine Lee and to Joy and Ari who are going to come back
for more. Coming up, women are suing for the right to fight for all of us:
in the military, then who want to fight in combat? At the table next. As
we go to break, I`m going to leave you with this -- a salute from
Jacksonville fire and rescue department to Jordan Davis, as the plane
carrying his body departed for Atlanta.


MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, HOST: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.

(INAUDIBLE) from the 1980s, what we call the ad campaign and
marketing slogan for the Marines: "We are looking for a few good men." The
one with sword being forged out of raw steel into a beautiful instrument
just like the manly marine who ends up possessing it. Message received,
"We are looking for a few, good, tough men" -- just men.

Well, in April of this year, we learned that the United States Marine
Corps school that produces infantry combat officers will enroll its first-
ever female students this year -- women that had previously been limited to
logistics, citizens engagement and maintenance. The change was partly
because as "Wired`s" Spencer Ackerman at the time, "The idea that logistics
doesn`t have a combat role doesn`t survive first contact with reality
anymore." That`s the truth despite the Pentagon`s ban on women serving in
most combat units.

Women have been in combat already, especially in Afghanistan, not
just because of what the Marines did in April, nor because of what the
Pentagon did in February when it opened up about 1,400 combat-related
positions unavailable to female troops. That easing and bending sounds
like progress. But glass ceilings only ease and bend so far.

More than 238,000 other military positions, mostly in the Army and
Marine Corps remain off limits to women. This week, new action was taken
to change that. With the help of the ACLU and the Service Women`s Action
Network, four service women, one of whom is my guest today, filed a federal
lawsuit against Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, arguing that any Pentagon
ban against women in combat roles is unconstitutional.

Pentagon statistics indicates that more than 1,000 women have been
either killed or injured in the line of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many
of them lacked combat training, having to learn on the fly -- which leaves
us with the question: why can`t we have a few good women too?

At the table are two people who are asking the very question. One of
them is one of the plaintiffs, Captain Zoe Bedell of the United States
Marine Corps Reserve. And Anu Bhagwati, the executive director of the
Service Women`s Action Network.

Thanks so much to both of you for being here.

So, Zoe, why this case and why now?

serving for four years. I did two tours in Afghanistan and I led a program
called the Female Engagement Team where I had a team of female Marines that
supported the infantry units. They lived with them, they worked with them,
they patrolled with them every day. And when they came into contact with
the enemy, so did my Marines.

I took care of my Marines. I would assume the organization would
take care of us. But after 10 years at war, these rules haven`t changed.
They`re not reflecting the reality on the ground. And I think it`s time we
changed that.

HARRIS-PERRY: I think that`s not a small point. You know, I think,
women started having this conversation about women in combat often the
first thing that will happen is the same kind of conversation that happened
around women in police units and in firefighting units. They say, well,
you just physically are incapable of these things. And so, this is a
protective measure to keep you from them.

But the fact is you actually are for all intents and purposes already
in combat.

BEDELL: Yes, that`s absolutely right -- and have been for 10 years.
So, I think the evidence shows that women are doing this and they are
succeeding at the jobs.

You know, we certainly want to see a fair policy where we are not
trying to lower standards. But if we want to have a chance to compete, to
achieve the same standards, the men are currently the only ones able to
compete for it right now.

HARRIS-PERRY: So this feels at this point that no one is asking for
a change in standards but just that, the very basis of your identity should
not keep you from being able to have a job, and that feels like
discrimination 101, right? Like one`s identity should never be more
important than one`s capacity.

classic case of sex discrimination in the military. It`s the last place
where you can legally discriminate against women, simply because they are
women. And there is absolutely no proof that women cannot do the jobs that
they want to do.

We are talking about qualified women. We are not talking about
anyone who does not pass the requirements of a school or training facility.

BEDELL: Right.


HARRIS-PERRY: So there is no efforts to change or modify what the
military thinks are the relevant characteristics for combat.

BHAGWATI: Absolutely. And, you know, those 238,000 positions that
you are talking about, if the exclusion policy were to go away tomorrow,
probably, 238,000 women volunteers would not volunteer for those positions.
But there would be many that did and do want to try for these roles and
joined the Marine Corps and the Army specifically so they can serve their
country in combat. They are being denied that opportunity.

HARRIS-PERRY: I think, you know, one of the truth about this sort of
long set of wars that we have been in over the course of the past decade is
that, you know, this is a different 1 percent, right? Very few Americans
are handling all of the -- bearing all the costs of the war for the 99
percent who know and experience very little of military life. So, I think
that many of my viewers may not understand that when you don`t have the
ability to go into combat officially, there are certain professional
aspects that you are shut out of.

Just walk us through that a little bit. What is the professional
track, the part of being a soldier or being a Marine that you are shut out
of if you can`t officially be in combat?

BEDELL: Yes, absolutely. There are a couple different areas. First
of all, it`s sort of the recognition of what you are doing. You know, it`s
a unit, it`s an organization that`s job is to fight. Everything else is
there to support that.

If you were serving in positions that were closer to that fighting or
closer to the units that do that fighting, you are going to be closer to
the unit`s mission and closer to the organization`s mission and therefore
more competitive and better qualified to serve at the top levels.

Women are currently denied those positions. Additionally, it`s a
question of training, right? Because we are already there. We are already
doing it. But my Marines, we did a three-month pre-deployment training
package. We certainly spent some of that time learning how to patrol,
refreshing our shooting kills, that sort of thing.

The units we were supporting had done their entire careers focused on
these skills. They are going to be better prepared. That`s a question of
safety as well.

BHAGWATI: And there are consequences on the veterans` side as well.
So, women who have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan who are not sort of
believed to have been attached to these infantry or combat arms units
aren`t getting the health care and benefits that they need. And so, you
know, we`re really seeing -- when women are reintegrating back into
society, that they are not getting the support, the mental health support,
the health care or they have the compensation.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, because the assumption is they haven`t seen

BHAGWATI: Right, because maybe they were communication specialists
or a member of a female engagement team attached to an infantry unit while
they haven`t been permanently assigned to those units, so they are not
getting the same credit or recognition. And the brass ceiling -- we call
it the brass ceiling in the military world, as opposed to the gas ceiling,
but it prevents women from accessing more assignments later on in their
careers. The most prestigious assignments in the Marine Corps and the Army
are tied to combat arms. There`s no question about it.

HARRIS-PERRY: Because the military is a fighting force, as you point

Let me ask you this. Does "don`t ask, don`t tell" make any room for
this? Does ending "don`t ask, don`t tell" and recognizing that on the
question of gay identity this is no longer relevant for fighting -- does
this also help women who can say, OK, listen, if we`re going to get rid of
"don`t ask, don`t tell," this is also a time to get rid of gender
discrimination in combat?

BHAGWATI: I would say that it`s the first step. It does not
automatically lead to a more welcoming environment for women in the
military. So, gay men are definitely benefiting from repeal of "don`t ask,
don`t tell" more than lesbians who want to be again in direct round combat.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, that`s a great point. Let`s -- we are going to
stay right here. We`re going to bring a couple more voices into the
conversation because this struggle for women in the military goes all the
way back to the Continental Army. Just who was Robert Shurtliff? I`ll
tell you when we come back.


HARRIS-PERRY: One of the first American women known to serve as a
soldier did so as a man. Deborah Sampson of Massachusetts was Robert
Shurtliff, disguised so she could join the Continental Army. Wounded in
battle, she once used a knife to remove a musket ball she had been shot
with so as to avoid anyone discovering her gender. Anyone who says that
women aren`t tough enough to be in combat can stuff it.

But tough isn`t enough in the United States Armed Forces. Well over
200 years since Deborah Sampson was digging a musket ball out of her thigh,
we are still working to have women have the full right of being in combat.

Back with me is Captain Zoe Bedell of the United States Marine Corps
Reserve, one of the veterans of fighting for women`s rights to participate
in combat, and Anu Bhagwati of the Service Women`s Action Network.

Also at the table, Laura Flanders, host and founder of and
MSNBC`s Ari Melber of "The Nation".

So what is the position of Panetta and of defense on this? I mean, I
just want to understand what the -- what is the pushback against doing

BHAGWATI: The Defense Department has recently opened up 14,000 jobs,
which you just referred, to women. But it`s sort of scratching the
surface. I call them bread crumbs really -- that they have offered to
women that have already served in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are not
opening up any additional MOS, as what we call them, military occupational
specialties -- any career field.

So, women still cannot be infantrymen. They can`t be in Special
Forces. They can`t be in armored units and so on.

Fourteen thousand is really a minority of those 238,000 positions we
have been talking about.

HARRIS-PERRY: But, I mean, look -- we`re at 10 years into war, more
than 10 years into war. With an all volunteer force, you would think at
this moment, I mean, this is part of the argument around "don`t ask, don`t
tell," at this moment when people want to serve, you want to make as many
opportunities for service as possible, wouldn`t you?

administration has done that. You know, a couple of administrations have
done it now -- opening up criteria for people to be able to join. It`s
outrageous that this continues to exist.

I mean, I just need to say, because you`ve mentioned the length of
these wars a couple of times -- I would like to see fewer women in combat,
I`d like to see fewer men in combat, I`d like see fewer civilians in
combat. Let`s stop with the combat.

But this question of gender as a criteria of advancement in the
military, I mean, I love that you shared that story about the Confederate
Army and it reveals --

HARRIS-PERRY: Of Continental Army.

FLANDERS: The Continental Army.

HARRIS-PERRY: Although even if she was in the Confederate Army,
she`d be totally great.

FLANDERS: But the idea of -- I went to the "Lincoln" film. It`s on
my mind.

But the idea of vulnerability also comes into this.


FLANDERS: So, the idea that women would be serving with increased
vulnerability, meaning, they are lower status, they know they are lower
status, they are treated as lower status. They don`t have as many women
representing them in the highest positions in the military, has a direct
effect on their experience of violence in the military from other members
of the military.


FLANDERS: So, just in the same way that Robert Shurtliff had to --
didn`t dare go for medical service, so too a lot of women who are doing
their work for us aren`t able to avail themselves of the protections and
the helps they need because they feel they are a marginalized group.

HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting you say that. I want to listen for a
moment, I can`t believe I`m about to say. We want to listen to Rick
Santorum for a moment, only because he said something about this notion of
vulnerability and protection that seems to play into this narrative. Let`s
listen just a moment for that.


and women together in combat, I think there is -- men have emotions when
you see a woman in harm`s way. I think it is something that`s natural and
very much in our culture to be protective. And that`s -- that was my


HARRIS-PERRY: So he is saying his concern about combat is that men
will have this overwhelming desire to protect their fellow soldiers that
are women. It`s this natural thing that comes out of men. And yet, what
we`ve been covering on this show has a lot to do with violence against
women in the military by other members of the military that we don`t
actually get the sort of protective impulse.

I`m wondering if sort of that equality -- gender equality -- would
help to manage some of the negativity that we currently see.

BEDELL: Well, regarding the protection instinct, I think we`ve seen
-- I mean, we`ve had women in these combat zones for 10 years as we keep
saying. And that hasn`t been a factor. It hasn`t been a case.

Everyone performs as they have been trained to perform. They respond
as they are trained to perform. They respect the Marines knowing that they
have the skills and training necessary to fight back with them.

And that`s been the dominant reaction, not some sort of outdated
notion of protectionism. So, I think that`s evidence of what we`re
actually seeing the ground. It`s probably the best counter to what,
frankly, a pretty outdated notion.

BHAGWATI: And the larger issue here, which is that the military
today is not a meritocracy. I think that we assume that the most qualified
people are serving in these roles. But there`s no proof of that.

In fact, you know, in my experience as a Marine Corps serving with
infantrymen for two years, many of the most qualified people were women,
for a variety of assignments, but less qualified men were assigned to
various positions because they were men. And that was a problem for
commanders. For me as a company commander, I couldn`t assign the most
qualified women in my unit to positions because they did not have the MOS
of an infantryman.

HARRIS-PERRY: This is -- I mean, that insight is so important that
gender discrimination means that the military is not a meritocracy, in part
because the military has been the space that we`ve looked -- so, I`m with

FLANDERS: But every other institution -- when you have
discrimination, you don`t get the best talent rising to the top or being
able to get at the top.


FLANDERS: One thing that we need to talk, just at least mention in
the context of all this, is 114 women have died, whether they were being
protected in the back line, or not combat or not, they have died in the
deployments to Iraq an Afghanistan. And I think that this conversation
needs to take place within that context.

It`s not as if the policies we are doing here are helping the
military or frankly helping those women.


Ari, do you want to weigh in here?

ARI MELBER, THE NATION: Well, being here with veterans, it`s hard to
be in the conversation, because I feel an emotional desire to protect you.


MELBER: I look at you. You`re military-trained. I`m a civilian but
I`m also a man. So, it`s hard for me.


MELBER: You can understand what I`m going through. I`m sure if we
did anything, pushups, sit-ups, boxing or any competition, I would lose.

HARRIS-PERRY: You would lose.

MELBER: I would lose -- how much time do we have? Do we have some

The reason I would lose is because you are trained and I`m not. If
we both went through training, then what you would want, as you said, is
metrics to figure out who then excels.

And Jackie Robinson was a great baseball player. But nobody knew
that when he wasn`t allowed to compete against everybody else. So, I think
that`s the substantive part. And I would echo that, you said it better
than I could.

I think on the legal part, you know, the best precedent that exists
for this case going up to the Supreme Court is the Virginia case regarding
the military academy where it was an overwhelming victory. The only person
who dissented and tried to protect an outmoded and sexist model was Justice
Scalia. It was a seven to one decision.

This case is different because it cuts not to education, which the
military itself. But I think there is good precedent there. And I think
the court at this moment in history will be hard pressed to completely duck
the issue entirely, although the court has all sorts of ways of trying to
split the difference and say, basically, what we`ve seen I think to the
example you made earlier in some of the areas around discrimination based
on sexual orientation. The court can say, give it another look or the
military can lead, but you`ve got to do something.


MELBER: That`s where I would expect this to go in the courts. I do
not expect this court that has that precedent to do a re-endorsement of
sexism in the military.

FLANDERS: Justices who have cut their teeth on these issues of


BHAGWATI: After that point, to be very clear, it`s still -- it`s a
hostile workplace for many women in the military. The military is not a
perfect environment.

And the problem is there are fewer options for redress legally for
women in the military and for service members broadly. So, if you are the
victim of sexual harassment, discrimination on the basis of race, or sex,
or sexual orientation, you have fewer options than civilians.

HARRIS-PERRY: Because you have to go through a chain of command and
it could be that chain of command that`s perpetrating it.

BHAGWATI: And it`s not just that. It`s not just the chain of
command. You don`t have access to civil courts, right?

So, I mean, I remember, when Isiah Thomas was sexually harassing an
NBA employee, and she had the option to sue and she won that case for over
$1 million, I believe. And that`s the classic example of an option that`s
available to victims of discrimination or crimes in the civilian work place
that`s just off limits to service members. That has got to change.

And Justice Scalia, interestingly enough, is one of those justices
who believes that the so-called Fairest Doctrine needs to go, that service
members should have access to civil courts.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, maybe we will see additional victories. But let
me just also say, thank you so much, because, you know, our military I
think -- you know, both of us are probably a little more hawkish than you
are. But as long as we have a military, it is consistently been a central
space where we have looked to for meritocracy. And therefore, if it is a
space where meritocracy is not occurring, it`s just critical that these
voices are heard.

So, thank you so much for all of you work. Thank you to Zoe Bedell
and Anu Bhagwati.

And also to Laura Flanders.

Ari is going to stick around a little bit, because up next, on this
25th anniversary of World AIDS Day, Nerdland spends time with a young woman
who says she doesn`t live with HIV. HIV just has to tag along with her.
More on that when we come back.


HARRIS-PERRY: Today is World AIDS Day. And it`s a day that`s more
important than ever. Why? Because more than 25 million people worldwide
have died of the disease over the last three decades and more than 34
million people were living in HIV last year.

HIV and AIDS do not discriminate. They can affect anyone at any

Here is the story of Marvelyn Brown, a brave young woman, author,
activist and motivational speaker who deals with this disease daily, but
will not let it define her.


MARVELYN BROWN, AIDS ACTIVIST: My name is Marvelyn Brown. I was
involved with a guy who I always call prince charming because I grew up
watching (ph) Disney princess movies and he was it. You know, when he told
me he loved me, it meant I loved myself that much more. You know, I wanted
to make him happy.

He told me one night he didn`t have a condom. I`m thinking, OK,
we`re going to have a baby. And it took me two weeks to be sick in the
hospital with pneumonia and then, about 2 1/2 additional extra weeks to be
told I was HIV positive.

I`m very fortunate that I was tested when I was, because I never
would have voluntarily went in to get one. I had too many shoes to get
HIV, right? I didn`t look like HIV, right? So I always thought HIV was
somebody else`s issue and not mine. I didn`t care about HIV until it
happened to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have a pill box at home? Maybe we can
work on getting you a weekly pill box. I think they have two weeks in a

BROWN: Before I was diagnosed, I felt HIV looked like a helpless kid
in African or a skinny, frail white man as Tom Hanks was in "Philadelphia."
That was my HIV education. Not me. Not me.

I even heard I.V. drug users and prostitutes. Not me.

Sometimes it`s hard to tell them apart. That`s the daily dosage.

Now, I had to be responsible, like I had to grow up. I have no

I have a certain order I have always taken them in. It`s weird but
got to do it.

I take seven horse pills each and every day of my life to combat the
HIV that is living in my body. I experience side effects from nausea,
diarrhea, upset stomach, probably why I`m single, because mood swings. I
mean, the list goes on and on.

Sometimes side effects from those medications and I have to take
medication for the side effects. So I would say the most pills I`ve taken
in one day have been about 36.

Twenty-four more hours. Then, I`ve got to take it again. You never
get used to taking that medication.

Like every single night at 10:00 p.m. is a reminder of the girl at 19
years old who was scared to stand up for herself.

People have turned their back on me. They think HIV is contagious.
They think they are different than me.

We all had sex. I had friends that had sex -- had sex and got
pregnant, friends that had sex and got STDs, the one (INAUDIBLE). I just
don`t happen to have sex and contract HIV. We all in the same bag, boo.
You ain`t no different than me.

HIV is a hard disease to live with. However, I`m not going to let it
hinder me. Once I contracted it, I said, I`m going to live my life. And
I`ve done just that. I live every day to the fullest.

I refuse to let HIV control me. I control it. I control my life and
my future and HIV just along for the ride.


HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, the dangers and the possibilities
are young people are facing today.


HARRIS-PERRY: Today is World AIDS Day. By definition, it`s a time
people across the world take time to remember those who we`ve lost to a
disease that we have fought against for more than 30 years. When we talk
about who is living with HIV and AIDS in today`s world and who is most
likely to be affected, the answer is not easy, because there are policy and
public health consequences to that question.

HIV and AIDS are not just gay men`s health crisis -- although, there
is that. And it`s not just a rising trend among African-American women --
although it is that. It is a disease affecting us all.

The reason why we need comprehensive prevention, education and care
is because it impacts all of us. Those factors and more affect the rates
of infection, especially among young people.

According to a new CDC report, 6.7 percent of the estimated 1.1
million people in the United States living with HIV in 2009 were young
people ages 13-24; 59.5 percent of those youth were unaware that they were
even infected.

In 2010, those same young people were 25.7 percent of new HIV

But let`s be clear -- this is not because young people are just
ignorant or they don`t care as evidenced by the seven young AIDS activists
arrested on Tuesday in House Speaker John Boehner`s office after protesting
in the buff against proposed AIDS cuts.

What we need in addition to more funding is more knowledge and more
resources so that our young people are better equipped to protect

At the table, Sonia Ragostosi (ph) --


HARRIS-PERRY: Rastogi. Sonia Rastogi, an advocacy coordinator for
the Positive Women`s Network, who is HIV positive.

Dr. Susan Ball, director of the HIV Care Center at New York
Presbyterian-Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Joy Reid, managing editor of

And MSNBC contributor Ari Melber.

Sonia, I want to start with you first, because your work as an
activist is to have these conversations with young people. What do they
need to know about HIV and AIDS?

RASTOGI: Well, you know, I think what young people need to know, as
you said, is that HIV is not a disease that`s about ignorance. It`s not --
I mean, there is ignorance and there is stigma. But it`s not about oh,
well, my behavior was so irresponsible, my behavior was so fill in your
negative or judgmental comment. Our lives are more complex than that.

And it is about structural issues such as prevention. So, let`s talk
about prevention. For women, we do not have prevention tools in our tool
box that enable us to control prevention of HIV in our own bodies, for
example. So, I think that is a huge issue for youth.

HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, I think, you know, I want to pause here for
just a second, because when we look at 13 to 24-year-olds having these kind
of infection rates, particularly the vulnerability of women to infection
when they have sex with a HIV positive partner, I think we have to lay on
top of that the statistics that women in that age group -- particularly
teenagers -- are often having sex with men much older than them. And the
coercive nature of those relationships is sometimes something that we`re I
think less willing to have very clear conversations about when we are
talking about this.

RASTOGI: Absolutely. And I`m really glad that you brought that up,
because, you know, one of the focuses that we have been working on and
heard from women all around the country is this issue of violence against
women and trauma. And the fact that violence against women, it doesn`t
just increase a woman`s vulnerability to HIV, but after she becomes
positive, it has huge implications for how she will do, how her health will

HARRIS-PERRY: Susan, it feels to me like part of the reason that we
end up with these rates is because the idea of just getting tested is not
really part of our sort of annual checkup. I mean, first of all, the idea
that Americans are just running in having annual checkups is already naive.
But even within that context, it`s not as if we think to ourselves, OK,
I`ll got get, you know, my blood pressure check, and, you know, my annual
pap smear, oh, yes, and, of course, my annual HIV test.


HARRIS-PERRY: Is there a way to start moving young people towards
testing as a routine part of medical care?

BALL: Well, the CDC recommends that all people getting -- who are
sexually active and people going to their doctors get tested. And it`s
really a push for general internists and family practice doctors to test
every patient between the ages of 13 and 65. I`d argue that you shouldn`t
stop at age 65.

But, certainly, people who are sexually active at any time really
should have an annual test, because among those more than 1 million people
that are living with HIV in our country, more than 20 percent of them don`t
know their diagnosis. And as you pointed out, so many of them are young

HARRIS-PERRY: So, it feels more like there`s a bit of a different
political valence in this moment than there was in the early 1980s. So,
you know, I`m a part -- I still think of myself as a young person, but
increasingly less so, because I remember a world in which there was no HIV
and then I remember the introduction of HIV into our political
consciousness. And I remember that sense that it`s a gay man`s disease.
And it`s -- or, you know, we should be afraid to touch or talk or go to

And, now, we have the White House with the beautiful red ribbon in
context of World AIDS Day -- and yet there is still the discussion that has
over it -- a kind of pol -- of politics that is not like cancer or diabetes
or diabetes or some other medical condition.

JOY REID, THEGRIO.COM: Yes. It still doesn`t feel mainstream. I
mean, the irony is that among the gay community, particularly among white
gay men, the spread of the disease has actually declined enough to where
the activism isn`t so much there, and where it has moved in to are these
communities of color.

You know, I lived in Florida for a long time. You look at a
community like Liberty City in Miami which still has epidemic levels of HIV
infection, particularly among young people. You just see this convergence
of forces. You see poverty, you see high rates of post-incarcerated people
moving back into the community, many of whom are infected and don`t know
it. You see a lot of what you guys are talking about, coercive
relationships. There`s actually new studies that are showing, you know,
even things like dating violence and, you know, date rape starting to play
into these increasing incidences among young women.

So, you see that HIV and AIDS is being concentrated more and more in
the most politically disconnected community -- the communities that have
the lowest rates of voting, that have the lowest rates of activism. They
don`t get the attention of politicians.

So, I think there is a sense in which HIV/AIDS has become less of a
flashy political issue. It`s become more of a poverty issue.

HARRIS-PERRY: And so, what -- let me pause right there, because I
think that that feels to me like part of what`s happening is that this --
obviously, poverty does not cause HIV infection but the interrelationship
between poverty and new infection, as well as once one is managing the
disease and then the questions of poverty that emerge. Talk to me a little
bit about that connection between poverty and HIV.

RASTOGI: Yes, absolutely. Poverty can be a driver of HIV for all
the reasons that we were talking about, where poverty can put people into
situations that they might not want to be in, whether it`s coercive
relationships or whether other types of things.

But our current health care system incentivizes people to stay sick.
It incentivizes people to stay on benefits and to be disabled in order to
get services, in order to take your medication, in order to be able to have
a healthy life. And that perpetuates this cycle.

HARRIS-PERRY: I do not want to miss that. Can you explain the
Medicaid link and how this -- how this creates this incentive in a certain

BALL: Well, in terms of accessing care, Medicaid -- we were
mentioning during the break, just -- we have in New York state, for
example, Medicaid, we say, is the best insurance money can`t buy. With
Medicaid benefits, people get access to all their medications, their doctor
visits, their hospitalizations, as well a ride to and from the clinic with
visiting nurses care.

And sometimes, patients are afraid to get a job because they might
lose that benefit. That`s terrible to think that someone would get out of
their care if -- and lose their benefits if they were really working.
That`s a big problem.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Just so, we`ll go to break and we`ll come back
on this. But this was sort of one of those aha moments for me, recognizing
that -- not all states are as generous on Medicaid.

BALL: Right.

HARRIS-PERRY: If you have, before ACA passes, right, if you have an
HIV positive diagnosis, you then cannot access new health care, because you
had a pre-existing condition, which meant if you were in the circumstance
of -- it was actually better to have to live below -- better -- to have to
live below the poverty line in order to be able to access Medicaid, because
in order to pay out of pocket for these, you`d have to be making $250,000.
So, every other normal job` world in the middle actually meant that you
didn`t have access to care.

RASTOGI: Right. And just to add to that, just think about the
message that that sends to people. It`s better to be below the poverty
line in order to have a healthier life. What does that say about my self-
worth and my values as a person?

HARRIS-PERRY: And what does that say about who we are? And the one
thing that ACA, for all of its shortcomings, the fact that it addresses
that pre-existing condition really matters. But I want to stay on this a

When we come back, we are also going to talk to an actress, an
author, and AIDS activist, Sheryl Lee Ralph. She`s joining me up next.
She is a fabulous actor and an amazing activist.


HARRIS-PERRY: We`re back with our panel, talking about the rate of
HIV infections among young people. I want to go now to a woman who through
her Diva Foundation has been raising money and awareness for HIV and AIDS
for more than two decades. She is joining us before she has to get ready
for the "Divas Simply Singing" benefit concert tonight.

And I`m happy to welcome from Los Angeles, actor, author, and
activist, Sheryl Lee Ralph.

I`m so excited to have you. Thanks for being on the show.

Melissa. It is great to be here with you. Love you, love your show.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you.

So, Sheryl, explain to me, what is diva? What does it stand for?

RALPH: Diva stands for divinely inspired, victoriously AIDS aware on
this World AIDS Day. That`s what it means. It`s an acronym.

HARRIS-PERRY: I understand that part of your interest in an
engagement with HIV and AIDS activism that it touched you personally, that
you`ve lost friends and it has touched the community that you are a part

RALPH: You know, as an original company member of "Dreamgirls" on
Broadway, I lost so many friends to AIDS, not HIV -- AIDS. I mean, we are
talking the early `80s here.


RALPH: And I stood witness to such an ugly time in America when men
and women were just dropping dead of a mysterious disease and people found
it easy to turn their backs and say nothing. It was horrible. It forever
changed me.

HARRIS-PERRY: That moment, right, that moment when -- and in fact, I
remember also when it began to shift from that when people like Magic
Johnson and others went public with their HIV diagnosis and their status
and, all of the sudden, we started to see a shift. But I don`t think we
can forget just how ugly, how brutal and how stigmatizing those early days
were, because they have, it continues to have an impact now.

RALPH: Absolutely. I mean, I was just reading the newspaper
yesterday. In places like South Carolina, in prison systems, they still
segregate HIV positive prisoners. They still make them wear those white
arm bans.

They still send them far away from their family, which we all know is
one of the greatest things you can have is your family connection. And
when you send people away, you really break down their will to do better.
So, we still see things like that.

Earlier in the year, the Hershey School wanted to refuse admission to
a young HIV man to this great school for a wonderful education, simply
because he was HIV positive and they thought that this child was going to
be a threat to the overall population of the school. So we still stigma
playing a great part in this disease, and why and how it gross.

HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. Let me back up a little bit and also
bring in the panel here, because I want to show a couple of stats that
folks just may not be aware of. Let`s look at the CDC stats on ethnicity
and HIV infection. As you see from the 2010 report, in terms of new
infections, African-Americans are up over 50 percent of those infections,
Latinos at nearly 20 percent.

So this is increasingly a black and brown disease in this country.
We know also if we take a look at HIV and sex education in the country, I
don`t want to miss this, that in this country, fewer than half of our
states have a mandated sex education, only 33 states having mandated HIV

Doctor, you and I were talking about on the break, education is part
of this. We are looking at those kind of stats for our young people, for
people of color, and we`re not even bothering to talk about this in the

BALL: Yes, this is a big problem, because education is really the
foundation of how people are going to prevent transmission. We talked
about it, that it`s got a very tight link to this issue of poverty as well.
And so, when people don`t know they are infected and don`t know how it`s
transmitted, this creates a big problem for ongoing infection.


RALPH: And communication is important.


RALPH: Communication, communication.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, Sheryl, talk to me a little bit. If you are an
ordinary -- you know, I live in the city of New Orleans. Our HIV and AIDS
infection rates, as well as people living with the disease, is really quite
extraordinary in our city. We have some incredible activists trying to do
work there.

But if you are an ordinary citizen, how do you push back on this and
be of service on World AIDS Day?

RALPH: First of all, I always tell people -- get involved, get
informed, get the proper information and talk about it. As I cross this
country, talking about AIDS, sexual health and well-being -- Melissa, I`m
shocked as how many people cannot talk about sex, how many parents in this
new millennium cannot figure out how to have a sex conversation in an age
appropriate way with their children.

People continue to act like it doesn`t happen. And I`m shocked.
We`ve got to figure out how to talk about this. Why is it parents don`t
want schools to talk about sex if they`re not going to talk about sex in
their own home? If you give young people the proper information, you would
be shocked at the much better choices they would make for themselves and
their sexual well-being.

HARRIS-PERRY: Sonia, is that your experience as an activist going
around and meeting young folks?

RASTOGI: Yes, I would have to say that really resonated with me,
because when we talk -- when we talk about prevention, you know, it`s just
really interesting to see how our own discomforts, how our own stigmas end
up filtering up to this institutional level -- and in this case, we`re
talking about sex education in the schools.

And so, you know, it`s really like I`m going to go back to that
metaphor that I used of the tools in the prevention tool box. And we need
to have sex education that is not only, OK, here is how HIV is transmitted.
But also, what does a healthy relationship look like? What does -- how
does that negotiation really happen?

RALPH: Right.

RASTOGI: In addition to that, what are the tools that people, men
and women, can use in order to protect themselves?

RALPH: That`s right.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to everyone. There is so much still to talk
about. But this is a day where all of us remember -- and, Sheryl Lee Ralph
in Los Angeles, I am again -- really anytime you want to come and talk
about anything, but especially thank you for your work on this question.

RALPH: Thank you. Thank you, Melissa.

HARRIS-PERRY: After the break, what a Jersey girl is doing changing
lives in the African nation of Liberia. Our foot soldier is next.


HARRIS-PERRY: This week, our foot soldier takes us halfway around
the world, to the west coast of Africa, in the country of Liberia.
According to a study by UNICEF, only 37 percent of girls in that country
attend primary school. And that already low number drops dramatically when
it comes to secondary school, down to 14 percent. Studies also show that
the longer a girl stays in school, the less likely she is to engage in
sexually exploitive work for money, which is a problem in the slums in
Liberia, where girls as young as 10 enter into prostitution so they can
afford basic necessities like clean, drinking water.

In response to these conditions, New Jersey native Katie Meyler
stepped up.


KATIE MEYLER, MORETHANME.ORG: My name is Katie. And I founded an
organization called More Than Me. And we help little girls who are
vulnerable of child prostitution get off the street and into school, from
one of the most notoriously dangerous slums on the planet in Liberia, West


HARRIS-PERRY: Currently, More Than Me partners with local schools
and provides tuition, supplies, school lunches and even medical care for
the 108 Liberian girls who are part of the program. Girls like Abigail.


MEYLER: Abigail was 10 years old. She was about to be sucked into
child prostitution. You know, I find out now that the reasons for that was
because she`s an orphan, she doesn`t even have free drinking water. So
even to get a glass of water, she needs money. And she doesn`t have
parents to pay for it. So she got sucked into it by her friends who told
her that if she was with a man, she would get a dollar.


HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks to More Than Me, Abigail is back in school.
And she`s in her class first. She has big dreams of one day becoming a
senator so that she can fight for girls in similar situations.

For her part, Katie is hoping to help even more Abigails.

And there is good news on the horizon. The Liberian government
recently donated a building to More Than Me. Now, though, the structure
needs a lot of work, but in January, Katie will open the doors to the More
Than Me Academy in the center of the city. And it will cater specifically
to girls from preschool through eighth grade.


MEYLER: More than me is about living for something bigger than just
yourself every day. No matter where you are. With just a little bit of
help, we would be able to do this for thousands of young, vulnerable girls.

I want to shake the earth in a way that says, what are we living for?
Who are we? Are we living for something bigger than ourselves? And that
normal people can do really big things.


HARRIS-PERRY: For showing us that determination and passion can make
a difference in lives an ocean away, Katie Meyler is our foot soldier of
the week. To read our interview with Katie and learn more about her
organization, check out our blog at

And that is our show for today. Thank you to Sonia, Susan, Joy and

And thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going to see you
tomorrow, 10:00 a.m. Eastern, when we are going to break down the GOP herd
gathering in the wings.



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