updated 4/14/2010 10:26:19 AM ET 2010-04-14T14:26:19

Guest: Paul Krugman, Arianna Huffington, Eugene Robinson

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC)

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you

be talking about tomorrow?

Russia will dispose 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium. 

Mexico will convert the fuel in its research reactor to safer material. 

China might join in pressing for sanctions for Iran‘s nukes.  South Korea

will host the next nuclear summit two years hence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I am very pleased

that all the nations represented here have endorsed the goal that I

outlined in Prague one year ago—to secure all vulnerable nuclear

materials around the world in four year‘s time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And what about making this country safe from militias? 

The Oklahoma Tea Party with conservative members of the Oklahoma

legislature meet to formulate their own armed militia the week before the

15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.  Who is the alarmist now?

Financial reforms: Suddenly, the same Republicans who insisted on

surrendering billions to save the banks too-big-to-fail are saying—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER:  We won‘t solve this

problem until the biggest banks are allowed to fail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBRMANN:  Our special guests, Professor Paul Krugman of Princeton

and “The New York Times.”

The Wall Street meltdown and Upper Big Branch mine disaster in West

Virginia.  The same root cause, “a broken regulatory system,” says Arianna

Huffington.  She connects the dots.

Martha Stewart fixes a wardrobe malfunction for a Major League

Baseball player?

Al Gore out-stalks the Billo‘s stalker producer—

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And while we have you here, what‘s your reaction

to the fact that—

AL GORE, FMR. U.S. VICE PRESIDENT:  You don‘t have me here.  I‘m not

doing an interview.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  -- what‘s your reaction to the fact that—

GORE:  I‘m not doing an interview right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And Sarah Palin‘s inconvenient taxable income.  How much

has she made since she walked out as governor of Alaska?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  We are not retreating.  We

are advancing in another direction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The direction of $12 million.  How is that selly outy

thing working for you?

That woman is an idiot.

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

PALIN:  You are naive if you don‘t see a full-court press—

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

In dozens of nations around the world, there is enough nuclear

material—the professionals estimate—to construct more than 120,000

nuclear weapons.  Al Qaeda only needs enough to make one.

In our fourth—fifth story tonight: President Obama today

concluded the biggest summit of world leaders, conveyed—convened,

rather, by an American president since the end of World War II, announcing

unanimous agreement among all 47 of the nations attending to secure all

their nuclear materials, military, academic, civilian, and otherwise over

the next four years.

Among the agreements to come out of the summit over the past two

days: Mexico agreeing to convert uranium for its—from its research

reactor from weapons-grade to less highly-enriched, enabling the

elimination of that nation‘s highly-enriched uranium.  Canada spending its

sending rather its spent nuclear fuel to the U.S.  Chile confirming it

already gave up its last 40 pounds of highly-enriched uranium.  Malaysia is

adopting stricter controls on transport of nuclear materials.  Ukraine

agreeing to let the U.S. and Russia secure its stockpiles, hundreds of

pounds of highly-enriched uranium.

      

Russia is agreeing to shut down its last plutonium factory after

more than half century producing weapons-grade plutonium.  The Russian

foreign minister is also signing with Secretary of State Clinton an

agreement under which both nations will each dispose of 34 metric tons of

weapon-grade plutonium, enough to make 17,000 nuclear weapons.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  We recognize that while different countries face different

challenges, we have a mutual interest in securing these dangerous

materials.  So, today is a testament to what is possible when nations come

together in the spirit of partnership to embrace our shared responsibility

and confront a shared challenge.  This is how we will solve problems and

advance the security of our people in the 21st century.  And this is

reflected in the communique that we have unanimously agreed to today.

First, we agreed on the urgency and seriousness of the threat. 

Coming into the summit, there were a range of views on this danger.  But at

our dinner last night and throughout the day, we developed a shared

understanding of the risk.

Today, we are declaring that nuclear terrorism is one of the most

challenging threats to international security.  We also agreed that the

most effective way to prevent terrorists and criminals from acquiring

nuclear materials is through strong nuclear security—protecting nuclear

materials, and preventing nuclear smuggling.

Second, I am very pleased that all the nations represented here have

endorsed the goal that I outlined in Prague one year ago—to secure all

vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four year‘s time.  This is

an ambitious goal, and we are under no illusions that it will be easy.  But

the urgency of the threat and the catastrophic consequences of even a

single act of nuclear terrorism demand an effort that is at once bold and

pragmatic.  And this is a goal that can be achieved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And while China is sending representatives to negotiate

with the U.S. over possible sanctions against Iran, China has not gone as

far as Mr. Obama did in suggesting sanctions will result.  Like Iran, North

Korea not in attendance today, having pulled out of the Nuclear Non-

Proliferation Treaty in 2003, but clearly in mind as Mr. Obama announced

the follow-up summit to take place in 2012 in South Korea.

“The New York Times” reporting, the French president, Nicolas

Sarkozy, is proposing an international court for any national leader who

transfers material to terrorists.

Let‘s turn now to MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman, also, of

course, senior Washington correspondent and political columnist of

“Newsweek” magazine.

Howard, good evening.

HOWARD FINEMAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What successes ultimately did the president get out of

this summit?

FINEMAN:  Well, aside from the specifics that you mentioned, I think

more and more important than those are the sense of momentum and attention. 

I think Barack Obama clearly views this, and rightly so, as a grave threat

that needs to be viewed in the 21st century way.  He brought attention to

it by bringing those 47 leaders from 47 countries here.  There were some

specifics.

Beyond that, it also allows him to say that whatever limitations the

United Nations may have as a supervisory body, as an enforcement body, he‘s

going to get these countries together on his own to try to oversee this

problem.

And I think he also wants to put a focus on building momentum to

confront Iran in the long-term.  And to show that in the 21st century that

security is about links.  It‘s a different paradigm from the Cold War. 

It‘s almost like the Internet in which you prosper, you profit by the links

you make to the other people on the net.  He‘s trying to do that in terms

of diplomacy globally.

OLBERMANN:  The downside—I know momentum is essential, and as the

old saw goes, we have time so that everything doesn‘t happen at once.  But

the president acknowledged that essentially none of these agreements have

any enforcement mechanisms.  And does that take any of the wind out of the

sails of the momentum?

FINEMAN:  Well, I think it does to some extent.  If you read the

document, it says voluntary in several key places there.  That‘s true.  And

as the president said, there are no magic wands in this business and no

automatic enforcement mechanisms.

But I think the fact that nations are voluntarily doing things can

in turn create a sense of shared responsibility.  After all, Keith, no

nation I can think of, or almost no nation on the planet, wants on its

collective conscience the idea that its sloppiness and lack of care in

controlling these materials led to a global human catastrophe.

And so, I think there is a moral sense even though you don‘t think

there‘s morality in diplomacy, most people don‘t, that that can weigh on

the conscience of countries.  And I think that‘s what Obama is appealing

to.

OLBERMANN:  Was there anything in here though—I guess what I‘m

asking is: was there anything in the summit that was not low-lying fruit? 

I mean, you had good guys agreeing to be good guys.  Was it—was there

more to it than that?

FINEMAN:  Well, Russia is a former bad guy.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

FINEMAN:  Now behaving as a good guy.

And I think it‘s important to note that the Chinese were here, the

Russians were here, the Pakistanis were here, the Indians, the Israelis, et

cetera—people who have a lot of deep and conflicting interests in terms

of nuclear policy generally.

The president is operating on several levels at once.  Yes, this is

voluntary.  Yes, this is low-hanging fruit.  But he‘s also got the new

START treaty with the Russians that he wants to implement.  There‘s going

to be a big meeting at the United Nations on comprehensive test bans and on

enforcing control of research and nuclear power.  And he‘s serious.

And I think, politically, most of the country and most of the world

they may view this effort as naive to some extent.  But they certainly

view it as necessary.  I think even Republicans you talk to here, you know,

they‘re not going to come out and criticize this effort at this summit

because they know it‘s something that most people in this country and the

world are in favor of.

      

OLBERMANN:  Plus, they also have the arms reduction treaty with the

Russians to push back on, correct?  Where does that stand?

FINEMAN:  Exactly.  And I think they‘re going to do that.  Although

talking to them today, even they understand that the world has changed and

that Russia has changed.  As one of the Republicans I talked to this

afternoon said, you know, we understand, the Russians can‘t afford this

stuff anymore—which is true.

What the Republicans are going to do is over the course of the

summer—and it‘s going to take a while for this to be considered—is to

make three points.  They‘re going to say, do we know this is verifiable? 

This new deal with the Russians.  Are we going to spend a lot of money to

update our own nuclear arsenal?  Which is allowed to a limited extent under

the treaty?

People like John McCain are going to demand a lot of money for the

nuclear power establishment or what‘s left of it.  And they‘re going to

say, we can‘t give up entirely on nuclear weapons as a possible option.

Whether that means the Republicans as a whole will oppose this, I

seriously doubt that, Keith.  Because in talking to them today, both about

this summit and about the START treaty, they have other things they want to

be the “party of no” on.  I‘m not sure that, in the end, this is going to

be one of those things.  And when I was down at the Southern Republican

Conference over the weekend, I heard absolutely nothing about nuclear power

whatsoever.

OLBERMANN:  I hope you‘re right.  MSNBC political analyst Howard

Fineman, also of “Newsweek”—great thanks as always for your time,

Howard.

FINEMAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Foreign threats however, nuclear or otherwise, are

hardly the only dangers facing the U.S.  Anti-American groups are making

inroads both online and in one state now with the help of elected

representatives.

And we start in Oklahoma.  One week before next Monday‘s 15th

anniversary of the Murrah Building bombing that killed 168 people,

sacrificed them to somehow spread the anti-government sentiments of the

right wing domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh and just two weeks after the

FBI charged members of the Hutaree militia with planning attacks on the

American law enforcement officers, Oklahoma Republican Representative

Charles Key has thrown his support behind a Tea Party effort to create a

state militia in Oklahoma for the explicit purpose of fighting the U.S. 

government.

Key is telling the “Associated Press,” he thinks there‘s a good

chance of introducing legislation for the militia next year, presumably to

be funded with a tax increase.  This as an active duty member of the

military, Marine Sergeant Gary stein, is beating a hasty retreat from

remarks about his group, Armed Forces Tea Patriot Patriots, after first

saying the group would, quote, “defend our Constitution that is threatened

by a tyrannical government”; now issuing a statement saying his group,

quote, “in no way supports a military uprising.  Furthermore, we recognize

Barack Obama as the commander-in-chief and we do not support disobeying

orders that are lawful.”

The group, actually a Facebook page, claimed almost 500 fans earlier

today and had disappeared entirely by this afternoon.

Let‘s turn now to MSNBC contributor, Melissa Harris-Lacewell,

associate professor of politics and American studies at Princeton, and a

columnist for “The Nation” magazine.

Good to see you.

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Good to see you.

OLBERMANN:  Can it be a coincidence that we only get these proposed

Constitution-lovers during Democratic presidencies?

HARRIS:  I think none of this is a coincidence.  I mean, there are

two very troubling things going on here.  In the first, you can hardly

understate the importance to a stable democracy of having a civilian-led

military.  I mean, this is really the key to making it a democratic system

that will peacefully move from one political party to another in terms of

leadership transition.

And so, this moment where we hear the possibility of soldiers

suggesting that their orders might not be legitimate because they have to

protect America by rising up against their commander-in-chief, rather than

following the orders of their commander-in-chief, should produce great

anxiety for us.

On the other hand, you know, as progressives, we have to care about

the question of conscience.  And so, we have to be worried about wanting

soldiers to also be human beings.  And so, I think we have to be really

careful about what elements of this particular piece within the military we

denounce.

OLBERMANN:  Right.  But now—are we to be more encouraged by—

more discouraged by the fact that their, you know, Representative Key, an

elected representative in that state, is connected into this?  Or this

military officer was connected into this?  Is that more discouraging than

it is encouraging that there was such a—as we said before—hasty

retreat from this, such a blowback to this that the military officer had to

bend over backwards to indicate he‘s not, you know, going to get himself

shot for treason?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Yes, absolutely.  I mean, it‘s always a good thing

to see the retreat.  But I am deeply concerned about the fact that elected

leaders are encouraging movements against the federal government.

Listen, you know, secession is real in this country.  This is the

history of our nation.  It‘s a bloody Civil War, the whole nation of—you

know, concept of brother against brother.  These things are not just sort

of concepts or possible, you know, theories or images.  These are the

realities of our nation.

And so, particularly in the powder keg that is Oklahoma, and at the

moment that is IRS tax-filing time, elected leaders have a responsibility

to be much more careful in the ways in which they are describing their

anxiety about the out-party being the in-party.

OLBERMANN:  To what degree does an—does an elected—I mean, I

would stand here forever and defend those tea parties and whatever they say

in a broad context, I think specifically, they are inaccurate and dangerous

in many ways.  But as a concept, I would defend them.

When a congressman says, we‘re going to set up a state militia to

defend ourselves against the federal government—is there—is there not

something prosecutable about that?  Is it not something—I mean, the

movie “Seven Days in May” was supposed to be fiction, this is a sort of

miniature “Seven Days in May” that it just obtains in Oklahoma.

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Well, and they‘re defending themselves,

apparently, against the fact that about 90 percent of American households

received a tax cut.  They‘re defending themselves against the extension of

health care benefits to Americans who don‘t have it through a private

system.  They‘re defending themselves against a democratically-elected

president.  And they‘re defending themselves against a country which—if

it‘s unhappy, can even put a Republican in the seat that was Ted Kennedy‘s.

What exactly is it that they‘re afraid of?  I mean, I think we

should be as concerned about the content as we are about the form here.

OLBERMANN:  And what is the—what is the America that they claim

to represent if it doesn‘t—if it ignores majority rule, tries to

invalidate democratic non-contested elections, and believes in guns over

discussion?

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  Yes.  See, here‘s the thing.  I mean, we really do

have a system of accountability.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  And it‘s called elections, right?  So, every two

years, you get to vote.  The whole House of Representatives are out.  And

every four years, you get to make a choice on the U.S. presidency.  Every

six even on your senator.

I mean, I sort of feel like we need a “there are three branches of

government” conversation about how the system works.  Maybe we can have it

on Twitter, you and I.

OLBERMANN:  Melissa Harris-Lacewell of Princeton and MSNBC—many

thanks for coming in and my regards to Pierre.

HARRIS-LACEWELL:  That‘s right.

OLBERMANN:  Another Twitter joke, taking over the show.

It was the fundament of the last six weeks of the 2008 Republican

campaign: we have to bail out Wall Street because the banks are too-big-to-

fail.  Now, says the Republican leader in the Senate, he must oppose

Democratic financial reform because it doesn‘t kill off those banks that

are too-big-to-fail.  Seriously.

Professor Paul Krugman next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  This Nobel Prize-winning economist on the Republicans‘

flip-flop on bank bailouts while they try to reassure the banks that the

GOP is the only friend the banks have.

She ties the financial panic of ‘08 and the mining disaster in West

Virginia last week into one neat deregulatory disaster.

She ties up the fatigued Velcro in the batting glove of the new

centerfielder of the New York Yankees.

And this professional public speaker, who you may not remember once

made a cameo as governor of Alaska, has made $12 million since she left the

voters high and dry.  If you‘ve got the changy to pay her, she‘s got the

hopey.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It may be the most counterintuitive anti-populist

position since President Obama took office.  But today, Republicans opened

another front in their battle against financial reform.

And among their arguments—in our fourth story tonight—

government takeover.  But, GOP leaders also continue to meet regularly with

Wall Street executives to ask for campaign contributions to elect more

Republicans, to keep the markets, you know, free.

Paul Krugman joins me in a moment.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, today, is unveiling a piece

of the GOP‘s opposition to the financial reform bill, saying that it fails

to end the phenomenon of banks too-big-to-fail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCONNELL:  This bill not only allows for taxpayer-funded bailout to

Wall Street banks, it institutionalizes them.  The bill gives the Federal

Reserve enhanced emergency lending authority that is far too open to abuse. 

It also gives the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the treasury

broad authority over troubled financial institutions without requiring them

to assume real responsibility for their mistakes.  In other words, it gives

the government a backdoor mechanism for propping up failing or failed

institutions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Just last week, Senator McConnell met with some of these

financial monoliths he claims to show concern about.  He and Senator

Cornyn, the chair of the GOP senatorial committee, met with about 25 Wall

Street executives, many of them hedge fund managers.  McConnell and Cornyn

made clear that they need Wall Street‘s help to elect more Republicans. 

This is according to FOX Business.

Likewise, House Republican Conference chair, Mike Pence, met with

hedge fund managers this morning—according to Politico.com—telling

them the Democrats‘ solution for financial reform consists of two words:

“government control.”

House Minority Leader John Boehner met with an executive from

JPMorgan back in February and you may also recall that Boehner recently

told financial lobbyists not to let, quote, “punk staffers,” unquote, take

advantage of them.

But Democrats have also cultivated corporate interests, and part of

their challenge is to not allow the further weakening of financial reform. 

To that end, tomorrow, the president will meet with leaders of both parties

to discuss financial reform.  An unnamed White House official telling

“Reuters” news service that the president will not allow a race to the

bottom on regulations.

Meantime, the DNC is airing a new TV ad that blasts Wall Street,

calling for financial reform, framing the issue as a common sense approach

that still allows banks to succeed while protecting the interests of

families and consumers.

Let‘s bring in as promised, “The New York Times” Nobel Prize-winning

columnist and Princeton University professor, Paul Krugman, also author of

“Conscience of a Liberal.”

Good evening to you, sir.

PAUL KRUGMAN, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Good evening.

OLBERMANN:  Is any part of Senator McConnell‘s criticism valid?

KRUGMAN:  No, it‘s wonderful.  It‘s Orwellian.  You know, the system

what the Democrats are proposing—we can talk about how good it is—

is, look, last time we had to step in and prevent the collapse of these

financial institutions, and because we had no ground work, because we had

no prevailing regulations and so on, it was a very badly-handled, maybe—

anyway—badly-handled rescue which let the bank executive, the

stockholders get away with a lot.  It didn‘t, it wasn‘t a clean, you know,

protection of the interest of the economy.

      

So, the objective of financial reform is to set things up so that

next time—first of all, we try to make it less likely this will happen

again—and next time when it happens, we have the mechanisms in place. 

We have the authority to seize these institutions, you know, protect the

assets that need to be protected.  But otherwise shut down the profits of

the stockholders.

And what the Republicans are doing is turning around and saying, oh,

well, to do that—even to think about how we‘re going to handle it next

time is admitting that you‘re going to do a bailout.  And what we have to

do is swear up and down, cross my heart, we will never bail out these

institutions again.  And then, of course, when the crisis comes, they‘ll do

it.

OLBERMANN:  If the Democrats want both the good bill to pass and to

keep the potential populism of this issue on their side in the midterms,

what do they have to do in this scenario they face right now?

KRUGMAN:  Well, they have to keep on hammering.  I think it‘s

helpful that we actually have documented—the documented fact that

Republicans are there meeting with the bankers.  So they‘re claiming to be

against the big banks.  But in that case, why are they raising money from

them, right?  That makes it easier to explain.

And then you try to go after the specifics.  Unfortunately, it‘s

looking like the real place where the fight is going to be is over

derivatives, over complicated financial instruments, which the White House

wants to be traded in an open transparent fashion.  The banking industry

wants to keep on, you know, making the public doesn‘t understand.  And it‘s

going to be hard to explain that one.

But you just keep it up and try and make sure that you get the

message.  Look, these people—these people are campaigning against the

bankers, but they‘re actually the friends of the bankers.

OLBERMANN:  Particularly in terms of these—of these casino

measures that have come to take over the investment industry in this

country in the last 10 years.  In your essay—

KRUGMAN:  Yes, we—

OLBERMANN:  -- in your essay from “The Times” magazine this past

weekend, you wrote about the need for market incentives that would

encourage people and businesses to do the right thing relative to polluting

the environment.  That same argument market incentive, can that be applied

in regard to financial regulation?  Is particularly this—

KRUGMAN:  Not really, because the whole point, the financial crisis

is a moment when the markets break down.  It‘s a moment when everything

goes wrong.  So, you can‘t—you know, who is going to be given an

incentive to behave well in the event of a financial crisis.  There‘s

nobody in control.  So, it‘s very different.

We had a system—you know, for 35 years after the Great

Depression, we had a system that worked quite well, which was one of fairly

highly regulated banks—regulated in terms of capital, liquidity.  There

was deposit insurance to protect depositors.  As long as those regulations

were in place, we were free from major crises.  What we need to do now is

to recreate something like that system, but scaled up for the 21st century

world.

OLBERMANN:  Paul Krugman, columnist of “The New York Times,” also,

of course, at Princeton—and as always, we thank you kindly for your

time.

KRUGMAN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  One part of the economy is looking up, earnings by ex-

half-governors.  Sarah Palin‘s take since she took her walk and the perks

she demands be written into the contracts for her speaking engagements:

bendable straws at the lectern.  I don‘t know, maybe the unbendable ones

are too dangerous for her or something.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The mortgage meltdown and the West Virginia mining

disaster with Arianna Huffington.  First, Twitter, day six, number of

followers 38,000.  Number of photos I Tweeted to myself today, only two,

but one had two different pictures of me, so that‘s a 50-point fine.  Tweet

of the day, from @MarthaStewart: “Curtis Granderson just asked me to fix

the Velcro his batting gloves and then he hit a very, very long fly ball to

the end of center field.” 

It‘s true, Granderson of the Yankees approached her at Yankee Stadium,

bottom of the seventh, opening day today.  She also showed him how to turn

a chew of tobacco into a decorative Mother‘s Day bouquet.  She Tweeted all

day from the ballpark.  Back to non-celebrity Tweets tomorrow.

Let‘s play Oddball. 

To Tulsa, where a burglar broke through the roof of a drugstore

overnight, then tried to escape the same way, but after an intense struggle

with the ceiling, an effort worthy of the Three Stooges.  Wait.  Down goes

burglar.  Unphased, he tried and tried again.  Meanwhile, he set off the

security alarm.  They took their time getting to him because they were

enjoying it so much.  He seemed to be extra frustrated, but he eventually

got out.  And police are on the hunt.  He‘s considered armed and bruised.

To the International Space Station in space, where two Japanese

astronauts offered a musical performance for those of us down here. 

It wasn‘t their hair.  It was the sound of a miniature Koto (ph), a

traditional Japanese harp.  After being tuned by one of those special

astronaut wrenches, the astronauts played a Japanese folk song.  And

because they were worried they had not yet earned a standing O, they

finished with some cool weightless tumbling.  Always a crowd-pleaser.  Wee.

What does the West Virginia mine disaster have to do with the Wall

Street bailout?  Arianna Huffington connects the dots, next on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It may be too soon to explain the exact cause of the worst

mining disaster in four decades.  But a closer look at the government

watchdog charged with enforcing mine safety provides insight to the root of

the problem.  As the “New York Times” reported, the Mine Safety and Health

Administration suffers from political cronyism, corporate lobbying, and,

quote, “remains fundamentally weak in several areas.” 

Add in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, as Arianna Huffington points

out, those same broken regulatory conditions describe what preceded 2008‘s

economic meltdown.  She joins me in a moment. 

Early this morning, the last nine bodies were recovered from the Upper

Big Branch Mine in West Virginia.  Massey Energy has defended its safety

record despite being cited for hundreds of violations and millions in fines

over just the past few years.  Steeper federal fines implemented after the

Sago Mine tragedy, as the “Charleston Gazette” reported, didn‘t stop

various coal firms from using high-priced corporate lawyers to dispute two

thirds of new fines, and, to continue to quote, “Massey exceeded the

industry average by appealing three fourths of them,” the fines. 

The Associated Press reporting, “by tying the violations up in legal

proceedings for months or years, Massey was able to delay the Mine Safety

and Health Administration from using them in determining whether the mine

showed a potential pattern of violations.” 

West Virginia‘s Governor Joe Manchin announcing an independent panel

will conduct its own investigation there.  Meanwhile, the chair of the

Senate Labor Committee, Tom Harkin of Iowa, says it will meet at the end of

this month to look at the, current “weaknesses in our laws that provide

incentives for employers to skimp and cut back on health and safety

measures.” 

No witness list yet, but the AP reporting it could be the first time

Massey Energy‘s chief, its CEO Don Blankenship, is called to testify.  Mr. 

Blankenship previously called federal regulations nonsensical.  Noting just

last year, quote, “a lot of the politicians, they get emotional, as does

the public, about the most recent accident.  And it‘s easy to get laws on

the books that are not truly helping the health or safety of coal miners,”

29 of whom died on Mr. Blankenship‘s watch last Monday. 

Joining me now here in New York, as promised, the co-founder, editor

in chief of the “Huffington Post,” Arianna Huffington.  It‘s good to see

you. 

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, “THE HUFFINGTON POST”:  Good to see you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Connect those dots here.  Is this the pattern with how

regulations are not enforced, but how they are made or not made? 

HUFFINGTON:  Well, yes, that‘s the problem.  Even when regulations are

made after a disaster, like after the Sago disaster, what happens is that

there are so many loopholes put in the regulations that, in the end,

they‘re not really enforced.  Here we have a classic example of how that

works.  The mine had 515 violations in 2009, and already 124 in 2010.  But

by abusing due process and challenging them, this could not be held against

them to create what is called a pattern of violations, and therefore close

down the mine. 

And then there are all of these fines that they are charged.  But

again, they challenge them and they end up paying an infinitesimal amount. 

It‘s probably like in the third world, where they consider it part of the

cost of doing business. 

OLBERMANN:  Proponents of less argue that regulation is bad for jobs. 

How is that argument at all relevant after a disaster such as this? 

HUFFINGTON:  This is really the classic argument.  It‘s bad for jobs. 

He had the chutzpah to say that it‘s bad for the health and well being of

the health of the miners.  And the other thing that it creates a punitive

environment.  Last February, Congressman George Miller tried to have a

hearing and the ranking Republican, Congressman Glenn Thompson, said this

would be a punitive environment.  He said we need to use more collaboration

and less conflict. 

And this is the kind of code words that are really being used to

undermine any effort at regulation. 

OLBERMANN:  And yet these were some of the same congressmen who were

ready to fricassee (ph) the car industry because that wasn‘t largely their

territory that they represented?  Your writing on this subject includes a

lot about the political cronyism with mine safety and how it goes back to

the regulations—cronyism and the regulation go back to the Bush

administration.  Mr. Blankenship, not surprisingly, a huge Republican

donor.  We are a year in.  Where is the Obama administration on correcting

those atrocities of the Bush administration and cronyism? 

HUFFINGTON:  Well, what is missing, both in how we‘re dealing with the

impacts of the financial meltdown on Main Street and how we‘re dealing with

what‘s happening in the mining industry is the sense of urgency.  Remember

the sense of urgency when we had to save Wall Street? 

OLBERMANN:  Yes. 

HUFFINGTON:  We somehow managed to do it over a weekend.  And where is

that sense of urgency now?  The new head of the Mining Administration was

not nominated until July, confirmed in October.  And everything is moving

slowly while 29 miners are dead.  And, Keith, the reason why we at the

“Huffington Post” intend to stay on the story—and I‘m so happy you‘re

putting the spotlight on it—is because when 29 people die, there‘s a

sense of drama about the impact of what is happening.  I mean, you would

have thought that when there‘s millions of people out of work, millions of

stores closed, there would be the same sense of drama and urgency. 

But dead people does that to us.  So if we can keep this spotlight on

this, we perhaps avoid what happens after each disaster, whether financial

or in the mining industry, which is we‘ll do something; it‘s full of

loopholes; we don‘t know how bad it is until the next tragedy. 

OLBERMANN:  Or until somebody else beats us to it, in terms of

repairing.  “Consumer Reports” gave this Lexus,the GX 460 SUV, a don‘t buy

warning.  Toyota stopped selling it.  Officially it meets or exceeds all

federal government testing requirements.  So we need a third party to serve

as the watchdog of our supposed watchdogs?  Should we just turn the

government enforcement over to “Consumer Reports?” 

HUFFINGTON:  Maybe we should.  While the lobbyists are running

Washington, maybe that‘s what we should do.  After all, even in the

financial industry—remember, there were regulators within Lehman

Brothers.  There were regulators overseeing Fannie and Freddie.  There were

regulators there.  But if they don‘t do their job, if they don‘t actually

use everything in their power, if there are that many loopholes, we are not

protected. 

OLBERMANN:  Arianna Huffington of “the Huffington Post,” as you said,

you‘ll be staying on this.  Good for you for doing so.  Thanks you.  Thanks

for being here. 

There‘s nothing wrong with making 12 million dollars, but don‘t claim

you walked out on elected office to serve the people when you were really

just serving your real God, Mammon.  Gene Robinson on Sarah Palin. 

The real culprits at Upper Big Branch.  Limbaugh says it‘s the union. 

Except these mine owners kept these union out, even out of the rescue and

recovery operation.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, never before heard

tapes of the Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh explaining why he chose

the Morrow Federal Building as a target, completely apropos from today‘s

news from Oklahoma, and the supposed militia supported by a state

representative.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The 12 million reasons Sister Sarah really walked out on

her job as governor of Alaska.  First, tonight‘s comment, which I‘ll be

devoting to the reality of Tea Parties for as long as and as often

necessary as possible.  The Springboro (ph), Ohio Tea Party—that‘s near

Dayton—is in turmoil tonight after more details about the despicable

Tweet sent out late last month by the group‘s founder, Sonny Thomas. 

You‘ve seen the thing and the demeaning term for Hispanics, the threat

of violence.  I‘m not even going to read it out loud.  The “Dayton daily

news” reporting that last September, Mr. Thomas lost the visitation rights

to his own son in a domestic dispute with the boy‘s mother.  Alana Turner,

who is the mother of the child, may have explained everything when she told

the paper that the boy she had with Thomas is part Hispanic. 

While Thomas then made a ridiculous excuse about quoting a Bee-gees

song, the truth here may be contained in a common psychological phenomenon. 

It is why the most fire and brimstone of televangelists can turn out to be

gay, how the loudest of family value conservatives can be found e-mailing

porn and perversion to friends.  They so desperately want to deny something

about themselves that publicly they act in the opposition direction, as if

to prove the something about themselves is not true.  Couldn‘t be because

they lean so far the other way. 

And so a man with a xenophobic mistrust of others turns out to have a

Hispanic son.  And his hatred spills out around the edges, amplified by

fantasies of violence.  And the hypocrisy, the self-contradiction and the

pure hate, which is fuel for the Tea Parties, is fed once more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Why was Palin bailing as her Alaska governorship was

failing?  Because she‘s made 12 million bucks since she walked out, and her

speakers contract mandates bendable straws, because the ordinary ones are

too complicated.  That‘s next, but first time for tonight‘s worsts.

Award the bronze to Bill-O, again hiding behind his anchor desk.  He

has sent his stalker producer out on a mission that‘s a new low for Fixed

Noise, the stalking of former Vice President Al Gore. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESSE WATERS, FOX NEWS PRODUCER:  Mr. Vice president, Jesse Waters,

Fox News, how are you? 

AL GORE, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNTIED STATES:  How are you, fine. 

WATERS:  Why won‘t you come on “The O‘Reilly Factor,” Mr. vice

president?  You know Bill‘s not a big anti-global warming guy.  Mr. Vice

president—

GORE:  I don‘t like ambush journalism. 

WATERS:  Why won‘t you come on the show?  Come on, it‘ll be fun. 

There‘s two sides to this story. 

GORE:  Well, I‘ll consider it. 

WATERS:  You will consider it? 

GORE:  Sure. 

WATERS:  All right.  Great.  So while we have you here, what‘s your

reaction to the fact that—what‘s your reaction to the fact that the

Arctic Ice is actually increasing. 

GORE:  I‘m not doing an interview right now. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  You don‘t have me here.  However, I must completely

disagree with the vice president, that term ambush journalism is incorrect,

because O‘Reilly does not practice any kind of journalism. 

The runner-up, Virginia Attorney Ken Cuccinelli, rapidly ascending to

Michele Bachmann levels of the crazy.  He‘s already spoken to a Tea Party

or more than one.  Next he‘s going to hang out with a faith healer.  Now

he‘s making Virginia embarrass itself again, joining a climate change

denial lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency.  Mr. Cuccinelli

mocked the idea that too much CO2 could possibly affect the environment,

and mocked the professionals at the EPA.  Quote, “now let‘s make them all

happy just for a moment and everybody just hold your breath.”

Good idea, Mr. Cuccinelli.  we‘ll let you know when you should stop

holding your breath.  I would think sometime in 2014. 

But the winner, Orly Taitz Limbaugh.  Who does he blame for the Upper

Big Branch Mine disaster?  “Was there no union responsibility for improving

mine safety?  Where was the union here?  Where was the union?  Unions

generally holding these companies up demanding all kinds of safety.  Why

were these miners continuing to work what apparently was an unsafe

atmosphere?” 

Are there no prisons?  Are there no work houses?  The union wasn‘t

allowed to stand up for worker safety in the Upper Big Branch Mine because

the mine‘s owner would not allow it.  The CEO of Massey Energy, Don

Blankenship, busted three different attempts over the years to unionize

that mine.  Seventy percent of his employees showed support for a union, 70

percent.  Blankenship told them if they voted for a union, he would shut

the mine down. 

Just how deep is union distrust at Massey Energy?  Union rescue

workers, rescue workers offered to provide help during the tragedy last

week, and they were turned away.  Those rescue workers could now obviously

provide humanitarian assistance by trying to pull Rush Limbaugh‘s head out

of his ass.  Orly Taitz Limbaugh, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  According to ABC News, in the nine months since Sarah

Palin quit as governor of Alaska, she‘s earned at least 12 million dollars

from book money, TV deals, and speaking fees.  That‘s about 100 times more

than she earned in a year as governor, and about 30 times what the

president of the United States makes. 

In our number one story, Palin in ‘12 or Palin makes 12?  Which did

you think she would choose?  And that‘s the conservative estimate, no pun

intended.  The ABC News figure came from public documents.  The biggest

chunk of Palin‘s post governor income came from her book deal, seven

million dollars.  “The Daily Beast” previously reported that Palin‘s

upcoming Learning Channel show will earn the governor 250,000 per episode,

eight scheduled.  That‘s another two million, or just 250,000 if it gets

canceled after the first show. 

Nobody really knows what Fox News pays Palin to do fake interviews

with LL Cool J and Toby Keith.  So that‘s a question mark right there. 

Then there are her speaking fees.  “Politico” reported earlier this year

the Washington Speakers Bureau books Palin for 100 grand per appearance, a

little less for the West Coast.  And that‘s without the contract writers. 

Palin is scheduled for an upcoming speech at Cal State Santaslaus

(ph), which this week students discovered six pages of the Palin contract

in the trash, no pun intended, in which she requires, quote, “bendable

straws waiting upon a wooden lectern upon her arrival at an event.”

So?  When you say Palin sucks, you‘re not being gratuitously

insulting.  It‘s right there in the contract.  ABC notes that Palin will

sometimes wave her speaking fee for charity, or Michele Bachmann  The

appearance in Minnesota last week was reportedly on the house.  When ABC

asked the Palin camp for a response to its reporting, a spokesperson said

Sarah Palin is now a private citizen.  As a result, her fees and earnings

are private. 

Plus, she‘s busy swimming around in the gold coins she bought from

Glenn Beck and G. Gordon Liddy.  Time to turn to Gene Robinson, associate

editor, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist of the “Washington Post,” also

MSNBC political analyst.  Good evening, Gene. 

GENE ROBINSON, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  How does the striking it rich affect effect Sarah Palin‘s

choice about whether or not to run for president in 2012?  Like I don‘t

know the answer to this question. 

ROBINSON:  Right.  The less likely possible effect is that she would

say somebody had to provide for this family.  Now I‘ve done it.  I can

afford to take the massive pay cut that would be involved in actually being

president of the United States.  That‘s much less likely.  I think more

likely is 12 million bucks in nine months, this is great. 

And this—remember, this is a woman for whom serving a full term as

governor of Alaska was way too much of a hassle, and just, you know, too

many papers to sign and commissions to, you know, nag her.  And so it‘s

kind of hard to imagine that she‘s going to take it as a sign to go for it. 

OLBERMANN:  And think of the savings in bendy straws.  This is at

least 11 dollars a month in bendy straws.  The CNN poll that was released

today said if there were a vote today for president, the Republican

candidate, Sarah Palin, would lose by double digits, 55 to 42.  Huckabee,

Romney would also lose, but would fair slightly better.  Are the

Republicans making Sarah Palin‘s mind up for her these two choices?  A,

Money, B, humiliating defeat? 

ROBINSON:  Well, you know, I think there‘s actually fairly good

reason, if you extrapolate to think that she wouldn‘t do even that well in

the presidential contest.  If you look at a graph that plots her approval

ratings and disapproval ratings, it‘s linear.  Her approval has gone from a

peak in the high 50s down to the low 30s.  Her disapproval has gone from

the low 30s up to the high 50s.  And the lines seem to want to continue in

that direction. 

It seems fairly clear, or a fair inference to draw that the longer she

stays in the public eye, the less people see her as a potential president. 

And indeed, more than half of Americans do not believe she‘s qualified to

be president, period. 

OLBERMANN:  There‘s nothing wrong with making 12 million dollars. 

Nothing wrong with making 32 million dollars, like Glenn Beck did,

reportedly, last year selling socialist conspiracy theories.  Con men of

all sorts have been able to do this, from late night real estate

investments folks to, you know, any simple person.  They‘ve been able to do

this as long as there‘s been a country here. 

But Sarah Palin has now joined this, you know, industry of providing

misinformation.  Does this—does this give us some sort of societal gauge

about our appetites for an alternate right-wing reality?  And should it

make the non-believers nervous? 

ROBINSON:  It‘s intriguing.  You know, a quick theory on why this is

happening is that we are, indeed, beset by a whole lot of complicated

forces, and we have a lot of extremely complex problems to deal with.  And

nothing is simple.  But in Glenn Beck World and in Sarah Palin World and in

Rush Limbaugh World, everything is simple.  Unions bad, Obama bad, you

know, conservatives good, real Americans good. 

It‘s all simplified.  It‘s all in black and white.  And I think

there‘s a certain attraction—attractiveness, to some people, in that

sort of simple dialectic that she puts out there.  Dialectic is not what

she would call it. 

OLBERMANN:  No, of course not. 

ROBINSON:  She would call it the way a real American talks. 

OLBERMANN:  And don‘t forget bendy straws good, non-bendy straws, you

could poke your eye out.  Gene Robinson of the “Washington Post” and MSNBC. 

Always a pleasure, Gene.  Thank you. 

ROBINSON:  Great to be here, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this the 2,539th day since the

previous president declared mission accomplished in Iraq.  I‘m Keith

Olbermann, good night and good luck.  

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY

BE UPDATED.

END   

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