Guests: Jonathan Alter, Kevin Davis, Wendell Potter, Amanda Terkel
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Day 116, parish presidents around New Orleans told to stand down. Recovery resources being reallocated since the crisis is, quote, “over,” unquote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL ®, LOUISIANA: It is way too early for anybody to declare mission accomplished.
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OLBERMANN: On the eve of Elizabeth Warren seen leaving the White House, is she the administration‘s new Wall Street cop?
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ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have said that she is among those being looked at for a role in that new bureau.
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OLBERMANN: Guess who‘s against net neutrality? The Tea Party, naturally. Joining the tools of the corporations who insist regulation to ensure free speech is actually—well, let one of the tools explain.
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REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA: This is the Obama administration advocating censorship of the Internet. Why? They want to silence the voices that are opposing them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The real outrage you missed as Laura Schlessinger let the N-words fly.
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DR. LAURA SCHLESSINGER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I really thought that once we had a black president, the attempt to demonize whites hating blacks would stop.
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OLBERMANN: And Sharron Angle defines her plan to strap Social Security: privatize it—like another nation did.
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SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I‘ve since been studying, and Chile does it.
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OLBERMANN: Chile, under this murdering, torturing dictator.
And, “Fridays with Thurber”: one of the classics, perhaps his best—
“The Night the Ghost Got In.”
All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
The U.S. Coast Guard today, behind closed doors, told local Louisiana officials about their intention to remove barges and skimmers from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Parish presidents said no way. One of them who has said he will be arrested rather than lift his order barring the removal of cleanup equipment from Lake Pontchartrain.
That standoff—our fifth story tonight, we‘ll talk in just a moment with the man who made the Coast Guard blink.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal emerged from the meeting, announcing that the Coast Guard will keep its barges and skimmers in place. The agreement, however—only in place for another seven days, a far cry from the demand of local officials that the equipments stay put through hurricane season.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFEID MALE: I guess I have seven days reprieve of being arrested. So that at least that was good news as I called home.
BILLY NUNGESSER, PRES., PLAQUEMINES PARISH: We‘re glad that they agreed to leave everything in place until we get our local plan invested into their long-term plan. Without that, we‘re not going to be successful. And as you always say, I‘m cautiously optimistic that they will hear our cries to leave these assets through hurricane season and give us a chance to keep this oil that keeps resurfacing in the bays out of our marshes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: President Obama will visit New Orleans on the 29th, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. And along with the first lady, will visit the Gulf tomorrow, in Panama City, Florida, to help promote tourism by showing some beaches are clean—although the “Huffington Post” quotes a Florida geology professor monitoring the shoreline who says that if the Obamas dig in the sand at all, they will find oil underneath.
Response Commander Thad Allen today—responding to pushback on last week‘s government report that only 26 percent of the oil remains in the water as oil—said he will create a task force unifying all of the oil search efforts.
Less certain what BP will do with the well itself—Allen is saying the well is not yet plugged for good. He said BP must move ahead with the relief well drilling, allowing them to pump mud and cement into the well beneath the floor of the Gulf.
BP today is refusing to comment about a new lawsuit against it, which seeks money damages and punitive damages, a lawsuit filed by the entire state of Alabama. Attorney General Troy King filing it last night over the objections of Governor Bob Riley.
On the other hand, BP is commenting to anybody who will listen about its agreement to pay a record $50 million fine for the 2005 disaster, the explosion at its refinery in Texas City, Texas—one of the nation‘s largest refineries in which 15 workers were killed. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration told “The New York Times” BP‘s agreement to pay the penalties amounts to an admission of wrongdoing in failing to fix violations found even after the blast.
Not so fast, BP responds, it points out the agreement to pay specifically includes a clause denying all the allegations against BP.
Turning back now to the Gulf Coast, let‘s turn to St. Tammany Parish president, Kevin Davis.
Sir, thank you for your time tonight.
KEVIN DAVIS, ST. TAMMANY PARISH PRESIDENT: Certainly. Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Can you explain a little about your remark about being arrested? Why would you face arrest?
DAVIS: Certainly, what would happen was, under Louisiana law, as we declare a disaster or state of emergency, parish presidents have the authority to commandeer or do what is necessary to protect the people. So, I issued an executive order that stated no asset that was fighting the oil spill could be taken out of our parish.
Evidently, that made them pretty nervous. And this past Monday, I received a letter that said I was interfering with federal authorities. So, I responded with that, saying that I would not back down and would keep that executive order in place to protect my residents.
OLBERMANN: Sounds like it worked to some degree. But what‘s—what‘s the counterargument here? I mean, why not just leave the equipment in place through the end of the hurricane season?
DAVIS: Well, we don‘t understand that. But, you know, today, we had a meeting with all of them, as you had had heard earlier. We have a seven-day reprieve. What they told us is, OK, we‘re going to develop a plan with the parishes.
Each parish is different. We all have different needs. So, there‘s -
we are going to develop our plan on Monday, and then we‘ll submit that.
And we‘ll hope, and we‘re optimistic, that they will accept that plan.
OLBERMANN: With the spill apparently capped, although Commander Allen has some questions with that definition, and the government reporting only a little over a quarter of the oil is left in the water as oil—are we basically in the end game here? Or is that a complete sort of magician‘s misdirection?
DAVIS: Well, I think that‘s a misdirection. Number one, the capping is the serious part that has to be done. And, certainly, we want that. And it looks like that‘s going to be successful. The 26 percent is still missing.
As early as Sunday of this week, we had oil almost into our area on the West Pearl, which is real close to Lake Pontchartrain. And my colleagues have had oil at the same time. So it is in the water column. We just don‘t know where and how we‘re going to fight that. So, that‘s why we‘re pushing so hard to protect each one of our areas.
OLBERMANN: The president will be promoting the clean beaches in the Gulf this weekend. That‘s a fine line to walk, I‘m sure, for you let alone for him—between wanting to promote the clean beaches, the safe seafood, and so on. But at the same time, you don‘t want anybody giving the impression that there are no problems left.
How do you—how do you walk that fine line?
DAVIS: Yes, and that‘s going to be the difficult part of this.
Certainly, as he‘s here, hopefully, he‘ll be able to speak with some of us. I have never had had that opportunity to talk to him about the complications and issues that we‘re having. Certainly, with our seafood, what I‘m hearing from the industry is those around the country don‘t want to buy it.
So, they‘ve asked for the testing. It needs to be long term so we can create confidence in our products that we have in Louisiana. And it‘s going to be interesting to see, after this week, if their commitment to us is true.
OLBERMANN: Are you, at this moment, at this hour, given all that you‘ve been through and what you might be through with the hurricane season ahead, is the thing that scares you the most, the prospect that people are, in fact, going to sign off on this and say, well, at least that spill—that spill thing is over. We don‘t have to pay attention to that now.
DAVIS: Well, hopefully not. I mean, you know, as we said, that the capping is the most important. So, it‘s not continuing. And we think we‘re there.
But there‘s a lot of oil out there. It‘s in the water column. It is showing up. These storms are tropical storms that also push it in on us. That‘s why you can‘t take the defenses out of here or the assets.
And, hopefully, with our conversation today—I mean, we were pretty pointed. All of us are together. We are not going to stand for taking these assets out. Work with us. We can develop the plans. And I think we‘ll be able to save BP millions of dollars.
OLBERMANN: You know, you‘re going to stick to your plan a week from now. Are you still going to refuse to have these assets removed?
DAVIS: Yes, we‘re going to stand by that, and we‘ll continue to do that. We were elected to do our job here on the ground to protect our citizens.
OLBERMANN: St. Tammany Parish president, Kevin Davis, great thanks for your time tonight. Good luck with it.
DAVIS: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Of course, BP is not the only company trying to keep its actions out of the limelight. As we speak, the nation‘s state insurance commissioners are meeting in Seattle, and a horde of lobbyists from the insurance companies is descending on them. Their goal: to game the system, as the state commissioners deciding exactly how to define the rules which will determine whether health care reform works, for us or for the insurance companies.
According to a study by the advocacy group Healthcare for America Now, since 2007, insurance companies and HMOs have spent a staggering $769 million on lobbying Washington over health care. In the crosshairs now, something we told you about during the health care reform debate - the medical loss ratio, namely, the percentage of their money—well, your money—that insurance companies spend on actual medical costs.
The new health care law says that insurance companies must put 80 percent of premiums from individuals and small businesses towards medical costs -- 85 percent of big company premiums toward medical costs.
So, when state commissioners decide what counts as a medical cost, it could mean hundreds of millions of dollars for you—or from you.
According to Healthcare for America Now, the health insurance lobbyist in Seattle at this moment, 1,000 of them, are going to argue that the following should count as medical costs: administration and executive pay, profits, and lobbying.
That‘s right. They‘re lobbying to shift a chunk of what they have to spend on you to what they spend on lobbying for the ability to spend more on lobbying. This while the insurance companies are doing three things simultaneously: spending lower percentages of that medical loss ratio on actual health care, meaning for all you hear about rising health care costs, insurance companies are paying less for medical costs, but still seeking double digit increases in your premiums, which might explain why this year they are also seeing double digit increases in their profits.
Joining us tonight from Seattle, Wendell Potter, former communications director and vice president of Cigna, now a senior fellow at the Center for Media and Democracy, and a consumer representative at that very conference.
Wendell, good to talk to you again. Thanks for your time.
WENDELL POTTER, CENTER FOR MEDIA AND DEMOCRACY: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I want to make sure we explain clearly what‘s going on here with the medical loss ratios. Can you explain, first, again, what they are and then tell us what the insurance company lobbyists are trying to do with them?
POTTER: Yes. The insurance companies consider what they spend on our medical care to be a loss. And over the past several years, they‘ve been trying, and they‘ve been very successful, of spending less and less of what we pay in premiums on our medical care. That‘s because these companies are now, most of them, are traded on the New York Stock Exchange, and their shareholders want them to keep pushing that down.
Congress, aware of this, as part of the health care reform law, is saying that they have to—beginning next year—spend at least 80 percent of what they take in on medical care. One of the things that Congress also did, though, was say that they can reclassify certain activities as improving the quality of care. So, that‘s—they didn‘t define that, though, which is why the insurance commissioners have such a big responsibility. They have to define that.
And, consequently, the insurance companies are saying, everything that they do, just about, improves quality, which, of course, it doesn‘t.
OLBERMANN: So, the practical impact of this, if they succeed, it may not be that they spend less on our health care, but that they can charge us more for it. Is that about right?
POTTER: Well, they want to do both. They want to spend less on care and they want to be able to take a larger portion of what we pay them for profits. That‘s their end game.
OLBERMANN: You‘re on the ground there, and as a former insurance executive—are you seeing lots of your former colleagues there, and do you have the appropriate security?
POTTER: I‘m seeing them. They‘re here by the hundreds, more than a
thousand of them. I guess I should have security considering that kind of
those kinds of odds. More or less, it‘s been my year of living dangerously, last year and this year.
OLBERMANN: Explain again why you‘re there and what your role for us is actually.
POTTER: Well, I‘m a consumer representative. The NAIC, which is the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, every year, selects a number of people to be representing the—representing consumers, knowing that they‘ve always had many people who represent the interests of the special interests and the insurance companies. I‘m one of about 20 people who are representing the interests of consumers.
So, we are—we‘re very heavily outnumbered, but at least, we are—
I think the insurance commissioners are listening to us.
OLBERMANN: As somebody who would qualify as a formerly part of the special interest but now recovering from that, what—give me your assessment. What is going to happen? Are they going to get away with what they want to do and game the system yet again?
POTTER: Not as much as they hoped that they would be. I don‘t think they will. I think that the insurance commissioners realize the spotlight is on them and they have an obligation to do what they are supposed to be doing, which is to protect the interests of consumers, not the insurance companies.
OLBERMANN: How has the entire insurance industry reacted—from your point of view, knowing them as well as you do—to the changes in health care we saw earlier in the year?
POTTER: They will be continuing to try to game the system. They will be trying to thwart the implementation. And implement—this will be implemented at the state level. So, they will be working at the state level from here on out to try to make sure that it‘s not implemented the way Congress wanted it to.
OLBERMANN: Senior fellow at the Center for Media and Democracy, Wendell Potter, at the commissioners meeting in Seattle—great thanks and good luck out there.
POTTER: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: A reminder, that there is something you can do for those without health insurance. A two-day free health care clinic, this dovetails back to the Gulf, it‘s in New Orleans, the fifth anniversary of Katrina. The 31st of this month and September 1st. Go to www.freeclinics.us to contribute what you can. It will make a huge difference in the lives of people that you might as well know and will get to know as a result of it.
Will Elizabeth Warren make a difference as the top cop on Wall Street? The latest on the long rumored job change—the longest rumored job changed since LeBron James, and the first comments by the president on the inaptly described ground zero mosque—coming up.
OLBERMANN: Bottom of the hour, the president will make his first comments on what‘s wrongly called the ground zero mosque. We‘ll have them for you as he speaks them.
Is the long wait over for a top cop on Wall Street? Why has her story played out so long, so publicly?
She admits she wants to gut Social Security but not just privatize it
privatize it the way a South American dictator privatize it 30 years ago.
The good news? One of the classics on “Fridays with Thurber”: “The Night the Ghost Got In.
OLBERMANN: It‘s a job Elizabeth Warren helped to create, the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Financial bureau. She supported for it by members of the Congress, beloved by the left—professional and otherwise. Even the White House calls her a champion for middle class families and consumers.
So, in our fourth story, why hasn‘t President Obama nominated her to that post yet?
Just ask her critics in the banking industry: “We fear what she might come up with.”
Ms. Warren is meeting with senior White House advisers Thursday. A White House official telling ABC News, the possibility of Warren heading the agency was discussed but not decided.
Today, the press secretary, Mr. Gibbs, telling reporters the administration is still considering other candidates, but he hinted that an announcement may be coming soon. If nominated, Warren would be on track to become the most powerful new financial regulator in decades, part Wall Street cop/part consumer advocate.
The new agency would have expansive role-making and enforcement power, and an annual budget of $400 million. All but guaranteeing a grueling and partisan confirmation process with many Republicans and business groups already saying they would oppose the Warren nomination if it happens. Warren‘s current post as watchdog over the government‘s $700 billion bank bailout has drawn the ire of Wall Street—as everything draws the ire of Wall Street.
Meanwhile, more support from the Democratic side, Senators Kerry of Massachusetts and Udall of Colorado, pledging to confirm Ms. Warren if she is indeed appointed by the president.
Joining me now: MSNBC political analyst, the national affairs columnist at “Newsweek” magazine, Jonathan Alter.
Jon, good evening.
JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: It‘s maybe a silly process question. But why has the Warren story dragged out so long, so publicly, to the point of her being seen going in and out of the White House yesterday?
ALTER: Well, I just think it‘s a really big mistake on the part of the White House. They should have just nominated her. She is the slam-dunk choice for this. It‘s the right thing to do on the merits, and it‘s also the right thing to do politically.
And this is what I‘m having a hard time figuring out what the White House doesn‘t get. Those who say that one of the other candidates would be easier to confirm are 100 percent wrong.
The other candidates are—they‘re both good men. They‘re big consumer advocates. They‘re every bit as liberal as Elizabeth Warren. But because they have no public profile, they would be easily stalled and even possibly defeated.
Whereas, she has—not only a lot of people on the left behind her but a lot of Democrats in the Senate were very enthusiastic, and it would be much more embarrassing for the Republicans to oppose her than it would be for them to just squelch a less well-known nominations.
So, the politics of this argue for her being the most confirmable of any of the possible choices.
OLBERMANN: Is there a chance that they did that—the build-up was done to sort of reinforce your point. In other words, get her out there, get the name out there, keep it up there, make it into a—give her even more political heft than she already has going into the confirmation process? I‘m being kind, aren‘t I?
ALTER: I think you‘re giving the White House little too much credit.
Look, there‘s a little struggle going on here. She is not Tim Geithner‘s choice. He wants Michael Barr, who comes out of the Treasury Department. If they nominate Michael Barr, he will be destroyed as Tim Geithner‘s lackey once he‘s nominated.
So there are others who say, you know, who read the politics differently and say there‘s some problems with some Democrats in the Senate. Independent reporting suggests that‘s not true, that Democrats would all have problems in their states from the liberal base if they were to go against Elizabeth Warren. So, she will get those Democrats, and they just need Snowe, Collins, you know, one or two others—and Snowe and Collins both like Elizabeth Warren.
Remember, she was working for the Congress overseeing TARP, and she got a lot of praise from a lot of people, including Republicans, for doing an excellent job as part of that Congressional Oversight Panel that she has chaired in the last year and a half. But she‘s not controllable. And, in part of that job, she criticized the White House and the Treasury Department for some particulars in the way TARP was handled.
So, anybody in the administration wants somebody that they can
control, and this White House maybe more than some, wants somebody it can
control. So, it‘s not that they‘re afraid of Wall Street. It‘s they‘re,
on some level, or some of them—and she has some very big supporters
inside the White House, by the way—but some of her critics, they would
like her to be more, you know, malleable and reliable and less independent
and her independence is part of what makes her so great.
OLBERMANN: Who—name a name here. Who is—who is opposed to her?
Who wants that? Is it Geithner?
ALTER: Well, my sense is that Geithner, he‘s not, you know, trying to destroy Elizabeth Warren. And he‘s said publicly that she‘s confirmable and that, you know, he likes her, but he prefers Michael Barr or one of the other candidates. And so, you know, if you‘re president and your treasury secretary wants somebody else, that person is going to at least get a hearing.
And then people like Chris Dodd, you know, they‘ve been very lukewarm about her. So, there are some folks on the Hill. He‘s a lame duck.
ALTER: Chris Dodd is.
But there are some folks on the Hill who whisper a little bit about her because—remember, she was also critical of the early draft of the financial re-regulation bill, which did not contain a consumer bureau. So, then she had to go public and say, hey, what use is this bill if it doesn‘t contain a consumer bureau—which made Chris Dodd look a little bad.
So, this—the thing that all of us really respect about her and the reason she will be a major figure in our politics and I think a major historical figure, is the very thing that people are afraid of in Washington.
ALTER: Her great independence.
OLBERMANN: She‘s going to do the job, in other words.
ALTER: She‘s going to do the job. But it‘s treacherous to oppose her because she is now identified as a great consumer advocate. So, do even the Republicans want to be out there arguing against somebody who is siding with, you know, 200 million credit cardholders who just want a little bit of clarity in lending? Do those folks—do the Republicans want to be on the side of predatory lenders?
The politics of this, Keith, argue for them nominating her and daring people to oppose her. It would be a great issue going into the midterms. If they don‘t nominate her, the left will be so depressed that whoever gets nominated instead will have a very tough time.
OLBERMANN: Although I‘m not sure Republicans are worried about not being associated with predatory lenders.
ALTER: That‘s true.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Alter of “Newsweek”—great to see you as always. Have a great weekend.
ALTER: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The president of the United States moments away from making his first comments on plans to build a community center, including a mosque, two blocks away from one corner of ground zero. We‘ll have that breaking news for you, immediate after this commercial break.
OLBERMANN: We usually do “Oddball” at this point in our program, but not tonight. The White House put an 8:30 embargo on this story, and we thought you should know what happened.
President Obama is hosting an Iftar tonight at the White House. That is a traditional evening meal, breaking the fast in a communal kind of setting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. That‘s not the story.
Mr. Obama‘s first public remarks about the proposed mosque a few blocks from ground zero in New York City—that would be the story.
In prepared remarks released earlier this evening prior to their scheduled delivery at tonight‘s dinner, tonight‘s Iftar, President Obama briefly recounts the American tradition of religious liberty, including previous presidential Iftars. And then he addresses, for the first time, the controversy over the mosque, which the White House previously described as a local issue.
To quote the president and the remarks he‘s giving during this Iftar tonight, quote, “Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes a right to build a place of worship in a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan. Past eras have seen controversies about the construction of synagogues or Catholic churches. But time and again, the American people have demonstrated that we can work through these issues, stay true to our core values, and emerge stronger for it. So it must be and will be today,” unquote.
The president‘s remarks this evening at the Iftar about the Muslim Center in New York City.
If you didn‘t have net neutrality, you might have to pay extra to see mindless anti-mosque protests on the Internet. So naturally the Tea Party would defend net neutrality to the death, right. Nuh-uh. Turns out they‘re in the pocket of the corporations too.
OLBERMANN: Net neutrality is so vital to a free and open Internet, it is, in practical applications, so popular to anyone who uses the Internet, that it would be hard to see why it would be opposed by anyone other than corporations or their minions. But in our third story, it‘s happened. Corporate minions, Tea Party, reservation for 35. From the same crowd who, through one of their heroes, Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul criticized President Obama for his so-called un-American treatment of BP, now comes this.
A coalition that includes 35 Tea Party groups writing a letter to the FCC. Quoting, “we the undersigned, representing millions of American citizens, write in strong opposition to the Federal Communications Commission‘s effort to regulate the Internet.”
Might as well pause right there, because if ever there were an instance in which so-called government regulation maximized access to information, net neutrality is it. And yet, to the Tea Party crowd, all government regulation is wrong all the time. Quoting the chairman of the Virginia Tea Party, “there are so many assaults on individual liberties—the EPA”—come on—“the EPA, net neutrality, cap and trade, card check. The list goes on that sometimes the Tea Party doesn‘t know where to start its battles.”
Yes, the rest of us have figured that out already. The other popular meme from the Bachmann-Beck-Fox News crowd is that the Obama administration is trying to control the Internet and worse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA: This is the Obama administration advocating censorship of the Internet. Why? They want to silence the voices that are opposing them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Net neutrality has become a major issue, you will recall, because Google and Verizon have proposed a framework whereby the FCC would not regulate the wireless Internet, which would allow big companies like Google and Verizon to play favorites as to who and what gets the fastest, easiest pipeline.
But the FCC could, under at least one reading of its authority, ensure that net neutrality extends to the wireless Internet, as well as to the wired Internet. Let‘s call in the managing editor of ThinkProgress.com, Amanda Terkel. Amanda, good evening.
AMANDA TERKEL, THINKPROGRESS.COM: Hi. Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: These 35 Tea Party groups write a letter against net neutrality. But wouldn‘t, if you explained this fairly carefully to actual Tea Partiers, whoever they might be—wouldn‘t they want net neutrality, if only as protection against getting their own websites bypassed or priced out?
TERKEL: So I couldn‘t believe when I read this letter. I thought it was opposite day on the Internet or something. I mean, net neutrality is so good for the Tea Parties. It‘s largely how the Tea Parties came about, because you can access their site just as quickly and get information from it as quickly as you can from CNN and “the New York Times.” So they‘re completely shooting themselves in the foot. Net neutrality is something the Tea Party should be fighting for.
OLBERMANN: In fact, without net neutrality—the Tea Party, as an example, is one thing and a practicality is one thing. But as a precursor, doesn‘t the Internet become far less hospitable to any kind of grass roots movement in the future if there is no net neutrality, if there is, in fact, different lanes, speeds, prices?
TERKEL: Absolutely. Without net neutrality, what can happen is that a Tea Party—a small Tea Party group in some state in the country will decide to start a website, but it may be slower because they don‘t have the money to pay the Internet Service Providers to make their site go faster. So you won‘t be able to go to their site as quickly, and you‘ll probably get frustrated and won‘t go. And you will go to one of the large corporations that are able to pay to make their site go quicker.
So net neutrality is all about preserving free speech. And net neutrality is really good for the Tea Parties. Without net neutrality, the Tea Party would not have been able to get its message out as quickly.
OLBERMANN: How are they selling this to their own members, that this is—what is the benefit to them? Since it‘s about them, what is the benefit to somebody in a Tea Party to eliminate net neutrality, other than some sort of symbolic us versus them victory that they don‘t really understand? Is there any pitch to their own membership?
TERKEL: They‘re all out of pitches that are completely wrong. Glenn Beck is saying it‘s a Marxist plot to take over the Internet. They‘re saying it‘s a big government intrusion. But, honestly, government has always had to step in to protect Americans‘ rights. I‘m sure if someone was trying to take away guns of Tea Party members, they would want the government to step in and say you can‘t do that. Or if some private citizen was saying the Tea Partiers can‘t protest and speak out against the government, the Tea Party would want the police, which is part of the government, to step in and say that you can.
So government has always had to step in and protect free speech and Americans‘ rights.
OLBERMANN: By the way, for the Marxists, Marx is dead, and he was a lousy thinker. The—this argument against net neutrality lumps this issue into the aversion of big government. It frames it as another instance of supposed overreach from Obama, and it claims that it‘s infringement of free speech. Which of those arguments could be the most potent politically, do you think?
TERKEL: I‘m going to choose none of the above, Keith, because I just think all of these are completely ridiculous. If you sit down with any Tea Party member and say, look, do you like the Internet the way it is? Well, then you should go for net neutrality. Do you want to be able to access your Tea Party websites for free or do you want to have them go slower because you don‘t have the money to pay an Internet Service Provider to make them go faster?
I think this is very clear-cut that we need the government to step in and make sure that these corporations who want to line their pockets can‘t just step in and mess with what the Internet has been like for Americans so far.
OLBERMANN: Lastly and quickly, Amanda, is this going to fit into the midterms in some way, classic left-right, or is it more complicated than that?
TERKEL: It shouldn‘t fit into the midterms. It‘s a completely bipartisan issue. We MoveOn.org and SEIU on the left supporting net neutrality. And we also have the Gun Owners of America and the Christian Coalition on the right supporting it. It‘s completely bipartisan.
OLBERMANN: Except for the Tea Party. Amanda Terkel, managing editor of ThinkProgress.org, good to see you. Thanks for your time.
More Tea Party madness in worsts, as the Mad Hatter of Nevada invokes a murderous South American dictator as a role model for economic reform in this country. That‘s good PR.
Nothing so heavy on Fridays with Thurber, just the classic “The Night the Ghost Got In.”
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, privatizing prisons in Arizona. It works so well, three prisoners just walked out the door. Worked so well, the state wants to privatize more prisons. Good thinking.
OLBERMANN: One of Thurber‘s classics, “The Night the Ghost Got In,” That is next. But look what‘s here. It‘s the uncorrected proofs of my new book “Pitchforks and Torches,” due out in October but available now for preorder. Ha-ha-ha.
But first, get out your pitchforks and torches, time for tonight‘s Worst Persons in the World. That‘s why we called it that.
The bronze to Google Maps. Let‘s take a look at a typical street in a typical British town, Middle Road, Worcester, UK. Go in front of 28. That looks like a dead body. Looks like a little girl‘s dead body face down in the gutter. Ah, the miracles of technology.
Obviously, it‘s not a dead body, but Google still hasn‘t changed the picture, and people are hearing about it from the Internet, and they‘re being horrified. That would, in fact, be 10-year-old Asra Bibigan (ph) engaging in her hobby, playing dead in the gutter. Here she is alive and well, same outfit, insisting she didn‘t know they were photographing that day. She‘d just fallen over while playing with her friend, and she stayed down for a while. Punch line is from Asra‘s mother. This sounds like the real story here. “I understand how some people might have thought the picture looked like a dead body. I just wish she was that quiet all the time.”
The runner-up, Sharron Angle. I know. I know. But after months of insisting she wasn‘t pushing to eliminate Social Security, she has now confirmed she is, with two extra twists. Let me read the Associated Press account. “Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Sharron Angle says the nation‘s Social Security system needs to be privatized, and she says it was done before in Chile.” Here she is on KLAS-TV in Las Vegas, in her own words.
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SHARRON ANGLE ®, CANDIDATE FOR U.S. SENATE: So when I said privatized, that‘s what I meant, that I thought we would have to go just to the private sector for a template on how this is supposed to be done. However, I‘ve since been studying, and Chile has done this.
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OLBERMANN: Chile did indeed go to a kind of privatized Social Security system in 1981, under the orders of its murderous dictator, General Augusto Pinochet. Sharron Angle is using a South American despot as a financial role model for the American Social Security system, for privatizing it. Does she get to wear the general‘s hat too? Holy crap.
But our winner, Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Not for this:
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DR. LAURA SCHLESSINGER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO, listen to a black comic, and all you hear is (EXPLETIVE DELETED), (EXPLETIVE DELETED), (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
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OLBERMANN: I‘m not defending her using it 11 times in five minutes. Her show‘s crap. We know that. But if you didn‘t read her apology—she apologized, I mean the full stab yourself in the head mea culpa, admitted she was wrong, that she hurt people, that she failed at her job. The reason she‘s on the list, the reason I‘m also ticked off at people who covered this and stopped at the 11 N‘s is that they missed what she did not apologize for or even address, which was what followed the fireworks, the genuine, blind, ignorant racism.
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SCHLESSINGER: We have to be able to discuss these things. We‘re people. Goodness gracious me. Ah, hyper-sensitivity. OK, which is being bred by black activists. I really thought that once we had a black president, the attempt to demonize whites hating blacks would stop, but it seems to have grown. And I don‘t get it. Yes, I do. It‘s all about power.
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OLBERMANN: Translation, we elected one of you president, so stop claiming there‘s any racism left in this country. It is virtually the same thing said after the Civil Rights Acts of the ‘60s. Haven‘t we done enough for you people? It is the same thing said after Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Haven‘t we done enough for you people? It is the same thing said after emancipation. Haven‘t we done enough for you people?
Any buffoon can get on the radio and shot the “N” word 11 times. That doesn‘t make them racist. The other part, “I really thought that once we had a black president, this would stop.” that makes them racist.
Dr. Laura Schlessinger—the doctorate is in physiology—today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Fridays with Thurber continues tonight with one of the classics. He wrote for more than 40 years, and nothing was ever better than one collection—recollection really—that came out in 1933. Sometimes exaggerated, but rooted, terrifyingly, in reality. “My Life in Hard Times” told of his life in Columbus, Ohio, through his days at Ohio State University. And what days they were.
I‘m reading from the Library of America, “Thurber, Writings and Drawings,” just reprinted largely because of your interest in reading him. I had intended to edit this one down for time, but it is just perfect as it is. Not one word is out of place. My compliments to the chef. So tonight the first half of “The Night the Ghost Got In” by James Thurber.
“The ghost that got into the house on the night of November 17th, 1915, raised such a hullabaloo of misunderstandings that I am sorry I didn‘t just let it keep on walking and go to bed. Its advent caused my mother to throw a shoe through a window of the house next door, and ended up with my grandfather shooting a patrolman.
I am sorry, therefore, as I have said, that I ever paid any attention to the footsteps. They began about a quarter past 1:00 in the morning, a rhythmic, quick cadenced walking around the dining room table. My mother was asleep in one room upstairs. My brother Herman in another. Grandfather was in the attic, in the old walnut bed, which, as you will remember, once fell on my father.
I had just stepped out of the bathtub and was busily rubbing myself with a towel when I heard the steps. They were the steps of a man walking rapidly around the dining room table downstairs. The light from the bathroom shown down the back steps, which dropped directly into the dining room. I could see the faint shine of plates on the plate rail. I couldn‘t see the table. The steps kept going round and round the table at regular intervals. A board creaked when it was trod upon.
I supposed at first that it was my father or my brother Roy, who had gone to Indianapolis, but were expected home at any time. I expected next that it was a burglar. It did not enter my mind until later that it was a ghost.
After the walking had gone on for perhaps three minutes, I tiptoed to Herman‘s room. “Psst,” I hissed in the dark, shaking him. “Aww,” he said in the low hopeless tone of a despondent beagle. He also half suspected that something would get him in the night. I told him who I was.
“There‘s something downstairs,” I said. He got up and followed me to the head of the back staircase. We listened together. There was no sound. The steps had ceased. Herman looked at me in some alarm. I had only the bath towel around my waist. He wanted to go back to bed, but I gripped his arm.
“There‘s something down there,” I said. Instantly, the steps began again, circled the dining room table like a man running and started up the stairs toward us heavily, two at a time. The light still shone perily down the stairs. We saw nothing coming. We only heard the steps.
Herman rushed to his room and slammed the door. I slammed shut the door at the stairs top and held my knee against it. After a long minute, I slowly opened it again. There was nothing there. There was no sound. None of us ever heard the ghost again.
The slamming of the doors had aroused mother. She peered out of her room. “What on Earth are you boys doing,” She demanded. Herman ventured out of his room. “Nothing,” he said gruffly, but he was in color a light green.
“What was all that running around downstairs, “said mother. So she had heard the steps too. We just looked at her. “Burglars,” she shouted, intuitively.
I tried to quiet her by starting lightly downstairs. “Come on, Herman,” I said. “I‘ll stay with mother,” he said. “She‘s all excited.”
I stepped back onto the landing. “Don‘t either you go a step,” she said. “We‘ll call the police.” Since the phone was downstairs, I didn‘t see how we were going to call the police, nor did I want the police. But mother made one of her quick, incomparable decisions.
She flung up a window of her bedroom, which faced the bedroom windows of the house of the neighbor, picked up a shoe, and whammed it through a pane of glass across the narrow space that separated the two houses. Glass tinkled into the bedroom occupied by a retired engineer named Bodwell and his wife.
Bodwell had been for some years in a rather bad way and was subject to mild attacks. Most everybody we knew or lived near had some kind of attacks. It was now about 2:00 of a moonless night. Clouds hung black and low. Bodwell was at the window in a moment shouting, frothing a little, shaking his fist.
“We‘ll sell the house and go back to Peoria,” we could hear Mrs.
Bodwell saying. It was some time before mother got through to Bodwell. “Burglars,” she shouted. “Burglars in the house.” Herman and I hadn‘t dared to tell her that it was not burglars but ghosts, for she was even more afraid of ghosts than of burglars.
Bodwell at first thought she meant there were burglars in his house. Finally, he quieted down and called the police for us over an extension phone by his bed. After he had disappeared from the window, mother suddenly made as if to throw another shoe, not because there was further need of it, but as she later explained, because the thrill of heaving a shoe through a window glass had enormously taken her fancy.
I prevented her. The police were on hand in a commendably short time. A Ford sedan full of them, two on motorcycles, and a patrol wagon with about eight in it, and a few reporters. They began banging at our front door. Flashlights shot streaks of gleam up and down the walls, across the yard, down the walk between our house and Bodwells.
“Open up,” cried a hoarse voice. “We‘re men from headquarters.” I wanted to go down and let them in, since they were, but mother wouldn‘t hear of it. “You haven‘t a stitch on,” she pointed out. “You‘ll catch your death.”
I wound the towel around me again. Finally, the cops put their shoulders to our big heavy front door with its thick beveled glass and broke it in. I could hear a rending of wood and a splash of glass on the floor of the hall. Their lights played all over the living room and crisscrossed nervously in the dining room and stabbed into hallways and shot up the front stairs and finally up the back.
They caught me standing in my towel at the top. A heavy policeman bounded up the steps. “Who are you,” he demanded. “I live here,” I said. “What‘s the matter? You hot?” He asked.
It was, as a matter of fact, cold. I went to my room and pulled on some trousers. On my way out, another cop stuck a gun into my ribs. “What are you doing here,” He demanded. “I live here,” I said.
The officer in charge reported to mother, “no sign of nobody, lady,” he said. “Must have got away. What did he look like?”
“There were two or three of them,” mother said, “whooping and carrying on, and slamming doors.”
“Funny,” said the cop. “All your windows and doors was locked on the inside, tight as a tick.”
Downstairs, we could hear the tromping of the other police. Police were all over the place. Doors were yanked open. Drawers were yanked open. Windows were shot up and pulled down. Furniture fell with dull thumps. A half dozen policemen emerged out of the darkness of the front hallway upstairs. They began to ransack the floor, pulled beds away from walls, tore clothes off hooks in the closets, pulled suitcases and boxes off shelves.
One of them found an old zither that Roy had won in a pool tournament. “Looky here, Joe,” he said strumming it with a big paw. The cop named Joe took it and turned it over. “What is it,” he asked me. “It‘s an old zither our guinea pig used to sleep on,” I said.
And that is where we will leave, until next week and its conclusion, “The Night The Ghost Got In” by James Thurber.
That‘s COUNTDOWN for August 13th. It‘s 2,661st day since President Bush declared mission accomplished in Iraq, the 2,250th day since he declared victory in Afghanistan, and the 116th day of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf.
I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
Now after the three prisoners just walked out of a privatized Arizona prison, with news of Arizona‘s plan to privatize more prisons, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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Copyright 2010 Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>