updated 12/15/2010 11:45:01 AM ET 2010-12-15T16:45:01

Guests: Chris Hayes, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Matt Taibbi, Howard Dean, Frank Conniff

           

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KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over):  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

The great sellout nears.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  The motion is agreed to.

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OLBERMANN:  Today‘s first test vote in the Senate, your cosponsors Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, is a slam dunk.

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I do think that this package required me to take some things I didn‘t like.  It requires them to take some things they don‘t like.  And that‘s part of the compromise.

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OLBERMANN:  Or—

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SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT:  Do we really need to give tax breaks to the rich in order to drive up the national debt so that our kids and grandchildren will pay higher taxes in order to pay off that national debt caused by tax breaks for the rich?

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OLBERMANN:  Our special guest tonight: Senator Bernie Sanders.

Nine old men: the revelation that nine bankers control and manipulate the derivatives market—with Matt Taibbi.

A Virginia federal judge rules the mandated health care reform is unconstitutional.  A Virginia federal judge who owns part of a Republican strategy company that worked against health care reform.  And the judge‘s company was paid $9,000 this year by the Virginia attorney general who filed the lawsuit.  Howard Dean joins me.

The new chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Spencer Bachus: “In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated.  And my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.”

You know what this is to Glenn Beck?  This is proof there‘s no climate exchange.

And the Catholic League attacks the Young Men‘s Christian Association for emphasizing Frosty the Snowman instead of Santa at a Christmas party.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That‘s what they call a sanity clause.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You can‘t fool me, there ain‘t no sanity clause.

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OLBERMANN:  All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘ll all be very, very sorry.

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OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.  This is Monday, December 13th, 694 days until the 2012 presidential election.

And today, the non-triumph of bipartisanship as misguided would-be champions of the middle class joined the eternally phony deficit hawks.

In our fifth story: they agreed to extend all the Bush tax cuts, including those for the richest of the rich for two years, at which point most will have been in place for 12 years and become virtually immovable objects.

The Senate today overwhelming voting for cloture on the tax cut deal between the president and Republican leaders, 83 “yes” votes, that procedural vote a clear forerunner of support for the actual bill.  The middle class tax relief act cosponsored by Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

After the vote, President Obama touted the bill‘s strong bipartisan support and said he shared some of the concerns of the bill‘s critics.

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OBAMA:  But that‘s the nature of compromise—sacrificing something that each of us cares about to move forward on what matters to all of us.  Right now, that‘s growing the economy and creating jobs.  So, I urge the House of Representatives to act quickly on this important matter.

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OLBERMANN:  The $858 billion tax package includes, of course, only a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits, as well as a truckload of so-called tax extenders and tax credit goodies.

Senator ethanol subsidy himself, Chuck Grassley, defending his pet subsidy by citing some of the other ones in the bill.

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SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY ®, IOWA:  Well, let me tell you about some of the subsidies that are in this bill, because you might think that ethanol is the only one them.  Think about the Indian employment tax credit, the subsidy for new market tax credits, the subsidy for railroad track maintenance credit. the subsidy for the seven-year recovery for motorsports entertainment complexes.

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OLBERMANN:  In the meantime, the lead negotiator for House Democrats, Chris Van Hollen, says that the bill will not ultimately be held up.

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REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND:  Most of us understand we‘ve got to make some tough compromises.  Most of us agree with almost all of what the president negotiated.  There is one thing that just was the choking point and that deals with the estate tax break.  I am confident that when we get to January, there will be no tax increases on the middle income Americans and certainly also that portion in the president‘s deal with respect to the top rate earners.

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OLBERMANN:  But let us not forget how this will be different two years from now, especially for Republicans.  White House economic adviser Austin Goolsbee—

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AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER:  In 2012, that‘s not going to be the circumstance.  In 2012, I believe they will have to stand up and defend on their own merits that they think these high income tax cuts work.  And they will not be able to do that, because they don‘t.

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OLBERMANN:  So, what about them not working now?

And from the president, newfound confidence over what he will do.  Quoting, “I can confidently say that—and I haven‘t made an announcement, but if I ran for re-election, I could confidently say I would not extend the Bush tax cuts for the well-to-do beyond this two-year deal.  I can confidently say that.”

Meantime, the latest phony crop of so-called deficit hawks, the Tea Partiers, either endorsing or disingenuously opposing this deal.  From Dick Armey‘s astroturfing FreedomWorks, it supports the $858 billion bill because it represents, quote, “an opportunity avert the coming tax disaster,” end quote.  You know, the disaster in which the taxes of millionaires and billionaires might be taxed.

But the Tea Party Patriots cite conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, saying that the bill, quote, “spends billions and billions of dollars that the country doesn‘t have in order to prevent a tax hike the country voted against.”  Translation, they like the Bush tax cuts but not the Obama tax cuts and they hate unemployment insurance extension.

And, by the way, the country did not vote against tax hikes for millionaires.

So, who did actually vote against this mess?  The nays included Republican Senators John Ensign, Tim Coburn, George Voinovich and Jim DeMint.  Democrats who stood against the bill included Senator Russ Feingold, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Patrick Leahy, Senator Mark Udall, Senator Brown and the independent, Senator Bernie Sanders, who in the greatest of ironies will after his 8 ½-hour virtual filibuster last Friday now join me for a 4-minute interview.

Thank you for your time tonight, Senator.

SANDERS:  Good to be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  More or less, every one of my viewers asked me to extend their thanks and congratulations to you for what you did for this country on Friday.

SANDERS:  Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN:  But the caveat—the caveat to that is, why were you the only one speaking that way?

SANDERS:  Well, I was joined by a couple of others very briefly, but I think we have a problem.  And the problem is the Democrats are going to have to show more courage.  The president is going to have to show some courage in rallying the American people and changing the narrative.

Keith, it‘s not just that this is a bad bill in terms of what it does to the middle class and the benefits it provides to the very wealthy.  We are developing a narrative right now which says that despite the fact that the Democrats control the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Democrats are on the defensive and the Republicans are on the offensive.

And two years from now, after the debate begins and we talk about extending these tax breaks for the rich even more, when we talk about another payroll tax holiday, which means that billions more will not be coming in to Social Security, you‘re going to talk about more compromises which says, hey, we didn‘t cut Social Security by 20 percent.  We only cut it by 10 percent.  Aren‘t we doing well?

I think we have to change that dynamic.

OLBERMANN:  Right now, practically speaking with these tax cuts for the middle class connected at the hip to tax cuts for the wealthy—what other options are there right now?  Are there any—is there anyway to kill the tax cuts for the rich, without killing them for the middle class?

SANDERS:  At this particular moment?

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

SANDERS:  Well, unless the Democrats and the House pull off some kind of miracle, I don‘t see that that is likely.  And my fear is, just what you said earlier in the show, two years from now, I can‘t conceive that these tax breaks will not be extended.  And furthermore, as this deficit goes up, and as the national debt goes up, trust me, Republicans will come back and say, we want cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, environmental protection.

And we‘re going to consistently be on the defensive unless we take the case to the American people, we get them to stand up and put pressure on Republicans rather than us always being on the receiving end of this.

OLBERMANN:  The next time unemployment insurance benefits come up for extension in 13 months, Democrats will have to give up what, do you suppose?

SANDERS:  Well, I‘ll tell you what the Republicans (INAUDIBLE).  These concessions, Keith, took place right now—

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

SANDERS:  -- with the Democrats controlling three branches.  What do you think happens next time?  The Republicans apparently do not see the word “concession” within their lexicon.  That‘s not what they do.

So, I think unless the American people begin to stand up, and really demand that the Congress protect ordinary people rather than the very wealthy, we‘re going to continue to be on the defensive.

OLBERMANN:  Why was there this rush, ultimately, to call all this that was done today—not only a middle class protection bill, but a bipartisan effort?  What was that all about?  You know the political theater about it better than the rest of us.

SANDERS:  Well, I mean, I think what the president is moving forward towards is more, quote/unquote, “bipartisan activity.”  If you look at that deficit reduction commission, Alan Simpson—that was—there‘s a lot of bad stuff in there, and I am very nervous that unless we really get moving aggressively, raising the retirement age of Social Security, cutting Social Security benefits, cutting back on education, et cetera, that is going to be the mantra for deficit reduction rather than progressive taxation, doing away with corporate tax loopholes, going after excessive military spending.

I‘m afraid we‘re going to be on the defensive, and that is what concerns me about this bill.  Not only was it not a good bill, it sets the tone for more and more retreat in the coming two years.  Our job and the president‘s job go out to the American people, rally them, ask them—how many people want to see substantial cuts in Social Security?  How many people want to see more tax breaks for the rich and cutbacks in education?

That‘s the approach that we‘ve got to take, I think.

OLBERMANN:  And unless that‘s done, everybody will see those things and then say, we don‘t want them, and it will be too late to do anything about it.  Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, again, great thanks for your time tonight.  And it was an extraordinary thing to watch on Friday.  Thank you for upholding democracy.

SANDERS:  Thank you, very much, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn now to the Washington editor of “The Nation” and MSNBC contributor, Chris Hayes.

Good evening, Chris.

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  A fact to follow.  Tax cuts now and forever, I guess is the mantra?

HAYES:  Yes, I mean, that‘s what‘s so interesting when you think about this as a bipartisan compromise, right?  I mean, it is—tax cuts are the central core, existential constitutive feature of the modern Republican Party.  It‘s the one thing that everyone in the Republican Party agrees on all the time.  Grover Norquist anti-tax pledge is the kind of manifesto at the central plank at the founding document of post-Reagan Republicanism.

So, it‘s not surprising that Republicans are getting behind a plan that involves a lot of tax cuts.  That‘s exactly what they are—that‘s exactly what they do.

I think if you look at—if you compare this, which people are calling stimulus 2.0 to the first stimulus, the Recovery Act, that first Recovery Act really was a kind of consensus, bipartisan-type approach.  It was half spending and half tax cuts.  It got—what do they got—three total Republican votes in both houses, right?  That‘s the problem, is the asymmetry there is you can‘t find a bargaining partner on the other end for things like public investment.  You could only find a bargaining partner on their ideological terms, which is tax cuts.

OLBERMANN:  And the Democrats are doing this, going along with this and dressing this up as middle class tax relief, et cetera, in order, what, simply to try to buy the votes of people who don‘t realize what they‘re actually selling is worth much more than what they‘re going to get?

HAYES:  Well, no, I mean, I think the reason that Democrats are going along with it in the Senate and the House I think is because the White House has led them into this, and they don‘t quite have it in them to buck the White House.  I mean, I think there are some of them who lost who think it‘s a good deal substantively.

The White House‘s thinking is basically, they want to get as much money flowing out into the economy as possible.  And this was the way they‘re able to do it, and if it has bad distributional effects, if it ends up being, you know, essentially a Boone, it‘s what it is, $115 billion to the wealthiest 2 percent over two years, you know, that‘s the price they‘re going to pay, in order to get all the other things they want.  And two years from now, they‘ll refight this fight.

But as you said in the opening, it‘s hard to have a lot of confidence that they‘re going to do that.

OLBERMANN:  And how does—and Austan Goolsbee‘s remark, and the overall attitude here, we‘ll get them in 2012 because by then, it will prove that the Bush tax cuts for the rich don‘t work.  They don‘t work now.

How can you possibly sell something—sell a battle plan that you have just abandoned.  No, we‘re going to do it in two years.  We‘re not going to do it now.  We‘re going to screw all of you now, but in two years, we‘re going to do it then.

HAYES:  It‘s totally disingenuous and completely disingenuous on its face.  First of all, they didn‘t work.  We have them for 10 years, we have zero net job growth.  So, on the merits, it‘s very hard to make an argument that they really helped job growth.

Number two, think of two situations.  In one situation, the economy does really well in the next two years and every Republican will say, look, the recovery was caused by the extension of this tax cut regime, we have to keep them in place.  OK, fine.  Let‘s say the economy doesn‘t do well, and recovery is anemic and unemployment is very high, the Republicans are going to use the same argument, which is that you cannot raise taxes in the midst of a recession, right?

So, either way, they‘re going to be arguing for more tax cuts.  If you can‘t make the argument now, it‘s unclear why you can make the argument in two years.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Parse this for me, this is the statement to the local station interview from the president.  “I can confidently say that—and I haven‘t made an announcement, but if I ran for re-election, I can confidently say that I would not extend the Bush tax cuts for the well-to-do beyond this two-year deal.  I can confidently say that.”

Your turn.

HAYES:  Well, look, this is exactly why I think the kind of hostage metaphor is sort of useful, in so far as the problem with the hostage situation, the reason that you—you know, they don‘t negotiate with hostage as a rule—with hostage takers—is because you need a credible denial threat, right?  You don‘t want to incentivize future actions.  If you give in once, then you incentivize future give-ins.

And this is exactly from a game theorists‘ (ph) perspective, this is the problem the problem has.  What credible threat is there that he will now, having blinked here, that he will stare them down again, because remember, it‘s going to be the same ticking time bomb.  That was the thing that set this all up to begin with, this completely preposterous, disingenuous policy 10 years ago, with sunset of all the tax cuts to make them look artificially smaller, knowing full well it would be very hard to raise them back—to restore the rates after 10 years.  It‘s the same time-bomb that has been put in place here.

So, if you were unable to sort of stand your ground and let it blow up this time, then you have very little credibility going to the next negotiation.  You could do it next time.

OLBERMANN:  During a presidential election campaign.

HAYES:  Yes, exactly.

OLBERMANN:  The Washington editor of “The Nation,” Chris Hayes—thank you, Chris.

HAYES:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The judge, who just ruled against health care reform, owns part of a Republican strategy firm that worked against health care reform.  So, this is now the banana republic states of America?

And if that doesn‘t prove it, nine bankers control and manipulate the multitrillion dollar derivatives market, just nine guys.  Matt Taibbi joins me next.

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OLBERMANN:  My view is, says the incoming Republican chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks—which explains the revelation that nine guys have cornered the derivatives market or explains that it‘s actually the year 1895.  Matt Taibbi next.

The Virginia judge who rules against health care reform has a conflict of interest so big, it would get him laughed out of the room in the corruption nation of Burundi.  Howard Dean joins us.

He celebrates 10 years since Bush v. Gore by getting which one of them went to court first wrong.  And the war on Christmas turns into the war on Santa Claus.  Our correspondent, TV‘s Frank Conniff joins us from the battlefield.

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OLBERMANN:  While Congress and the White House collude to ensure that the rich will have to contribute less in taxes next year, Wall Street is hard at work ensuring that the rich will have more money on which to pay their lower taxes.

Our fourth story tonight, a game-changing report of sources of “The New York Times” about the mysterious derivatives market of the nine ultra-rich bankers who control it behind closed doors, accountable to no one.

Derivatives are basically financial bets about the future.  They affect you more than you know.  Heating oil companies, as “Times” explains it, can purchase derivatives on the future price of heating oil to hedge against big fluctuations in price.  That gives customers, you, a chance to avoid massive spikes.

But at what cost?  Nobody knows the cost.  Derivatives on commodities ranging from jet fuel factoring into your airline ticket price to this year‘s harvest factoring into the cost of your food are bought and sold in secret, trillions of dollars worth.

But only the biggest Wall Street financial firms know how much you pay for them.  Why?  Because when two parties make these bets on, for instance, weak prices, neither one knows how much the other is getting or paying.  Only the middleman, Wall Street, knows that.  Which means no one knows how much Wall Street skims off the top for itself, which means no one knows how much this skimming adds to the price you eventually pay for the bread made from that wheat they‘re betting on.

Quoting two anonymous sources familiar with one of Wall Street‘s most powerful derivative committees, the Intercontinental Exchange.  “The Times” revealed its nine members, all of them from the world‘s biggest financial firms, not really keeping the prices and profit secret, but blocking the creation of open clearinghouses and even the addition other banks who might add some actual competition to this equation.

Last week, chairman of the government commission that overseas or at least theoretically oversees derivatives, Gary Gensler, cancelled the vote on making derivative prices more transparent.  Mr. Gensler appointed to the post despite having refused to recant his role in deregulating the banks under President Clinton.  But “The Times” is reporting speculation that the vote was cancelled because Gensler lacked the votes from fellow commissioners.

This coming amid a flurry of headlines related at least in the olfactory sense.  Former Obama director of the Office of Management and Budget, Peter Orszag, taking a senior position with Citigroup.  He‘s expected to make millions of dollars in the role after funneling billions from taxpayers to keep this company afloat, Citigroup.

And then there‘s Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown.  He helped water-down this summer‘s Wall Street reform bill, shifting $19 billion in cost from the banks to the taxpayers, keeping the door open for banks to keep betting their own money in risky bets, like derivatives.  “The Boston Globe” now revealing that in three week, when his vote emerged as the pivotal swing vote for reform, Brown received $140,000 in donations from financial firms and their executives while other Republicans received an average of just $28,000.

Brown spokesperson telling “The Globe,” there is absolutely zero connection between policy and fundraising.  To insinuate otherwise is just plain wrong.

With us tonight to insinuate otherwise, “Rolling Stone” contributing editor, Matt Taibbi, the author of “Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids and the Long Con That is Breaking America.”

Matt, thanks for coming in.

MATT TAIBBI, ROLLING STONE:  Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN:  Can you put any more meat on the bones of this Wall Street, “The Times” story about the Wall Street committees?

TAIBBI:  Yes, this is straight up price-fixing, oligopoly.  You know, just to put it—it‘s kind of like bookies in Las Vegas.  Imagine if all the casinos in Las Vegas got together and conspired to make the football lines non-published so that when you went to go to bet on a game, nobody knew what the spread was on the game.

That‘s exactly what we‘re dealing with derivatives.  Nobody knows what the prices are of credit default swaps and interest rate swaps.  So, when these clients go on in the market to buy this stuff, one side is buying too high, the other side is buying too low, and then they take all the fat in between.

OLBERMANN:  So, if most banking tricks are impenetrable to the public, this is even more impenetrable because of the ways that money get sucked out of Main Street into Wall Street, this is one we have virtually no information about?

TAIBBI:  Well, first of all, derivatives are just unbelievably complicated.

OLBERMANN:  Right.

TAIBBI:  Even the people who do this stuff for a living have a hard time explaining to each other.  So, derivatives are basically impenetrable to the ordinary public.  And this particularly whole issue of clearing and putting things on open exchanges, this was hotly debated all summer in Congress and it got virtually no press because nobody understands it.

But it‘s a very, very important issue.  It‘s sort of like the stock exchange.  Everybody knows what the price of IBM is, so when you go on the stock exchange to buy a share of IBM, it‘s completely clear.  You‘re not getting shafted by anybody.

But when you go to buy a credit default swap, on jet fuel, or, you know, on IBM, or a municipal bond, or interest rate swap, nobody knows.  You have to go to one of these big banks, Goldman, Bank of America, and they just kind of tell you the price and you have to kind of take their word for it.

OLBERMANN:  After you paid it.

TAIBBI:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  Just to add a little element of surprise.  It‘s a game of chance, and all the rules are made up as you go along, basically?

TAIBBI:  Right, right.

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Gensler, who chairs this Commodities Future Trading Commission, was supposed has oversight over this.  Why is he not doing anything?

TAIBBI:  Well, you know, Gensler is an alum of Goldman Sachs.  When he was named the head of the commission, there was a lot of controversy about it.  But he‘s actually sort of turned out to be one of the good guys a lot of these issues.

But what everyone‘s saying now is that he no longer has the votes to dominate the commission.  You need three votes on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to get anything done.  There are only two Republicans but there‘s been way roadblock in the last couple weeks, he‘s been unable to get some things past.  And the rumor is that he no longer has the wherewithal to dominate the committee—the commission.

OLBERMANN:  The last point about Scott Brown‘s assertion that there‘s no connection to his work on behalf of Wall Street, and then having him give $143,000 in three weeks when his vote was—

TAIBBI:  Yes, right.

OLBERMANN:  -- concerned.  Your thoughts.

TAIBBI:  Well, I mean—I was covering that whole business when the entire Dodd-Frank bill was being held up by Scott Brown this summer.  And if this revelation is true that he was getting $140,000 at the time that he was, for instance, wiping out the $19 billion fee that was going to be assessed is on Wall Street to pay for the cost of this bill—I mean, that‘s a classic Washington pay-for-play situation.  And for him to deny that is just—is comic.

OLBERMANN:  It‘s lovely to see an outsider coming in and learning the ways of Washington so quickly.

TAIBBI:  Instantaneously, yes.

OLBERMANN:  Matt Taibbi, contributing editor at “Rolling Stone”—always a pleasure, sir.  Thank you.

TAIBBI:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  If you liked that, wait until you hear the incoming chairman of the House Financial Services Committee about Washington and bank regulators, are there to serve banks.  Ahead.

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OLBERMANN:  After 14 consecutive losses in court, the forces opposed to health care reform finally find a friendly judge.  Of course he‘s friendly.  The attorney general who filed the suite paid the company the judge owns a piece of 9,000 dollars last year. 

First, the sanity break and the Tweet of the day.  This from Chris Jarrett (ph).  “Hey Keith Olbermann, how about Jets strength coach Sal Alosi for Worst Persons tonight.”  This is what he‘s talking about, Mr.  Alosi tripping Miami quarterback Nolan Carroll as he ran back a punt yesterday.  Alosi has apologized and.  He been suspended for the rest of the season.  Make him the Worst Person?  He was the first guy on the Jets to slow down an opponent in two weeks?  Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin on the Internets with a friendly seasonal reminders about the dangers of snow.  Here we see a man trying to avoid a roof collapse by knocking snow off his roof, using a very advanced tool, a big long stick.  Although unsuccessful in hitting the snow, he does manage to break his own gutter. 

Persistence is the key to success and he keeps whacking away.  And boom goes the dynamite.  Probably not the avalanche he anticipated, but at least the snow is off the roof.  Though a similar method did not end up as well when he attempted to clean his chimney. 

St. Petersburg, Russia, hello.  Over the weekend, a charity auction received surprise performances by notorious Gollum look alike Vladimir Putin.  Responding to the cheers of the crowd, the prime minister in chief climbed on stage and sang the hard rock anthem “Blueberry Hill.”  But the performance did not end there.  After what I can only assume was a request for an encore, he jumped to the piano and played the Russian classic “From Where the Motherland Begins.”

I, for one, am skeptical about the timing of the whole event, since his CD “Putin, My Heart on the Line” drops this weekend.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Finally, to West Palm Beach, where we peak in at a rehearsal of the First Baptist Church Christmas Pageant.  Trying to be as realistic as possible, the show includes live animals.  Here we see a camel bringing one of the wise men down the aisle.  I think this one is Curly.  The camel pauses for a second, attempts to kneel down, staggers, regains his footing, but only for an instance.  Down goes Joe. 

No one was hurt by the fall, except the camel‘s acting career, as he has been cut from the show.  They said simply pew.  Thankfully for the crowd, the church followed the version of the story with camels and not the version featuring the elephant. 

Time marches on. 

The judge who ruled against health care reform worked owns part of a Republican consulting firm that worked against health care reform.  Where are we living?  Somalia?  Afghanistan?  Myanmar?

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OLBERMANN:  Finally, the right finds someone willing to take its side on health care reform.  After two judges ruled to uphold it, and 14 dismissed challenges to it, a district judge out of Virginia rules part of the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.  In our third story, he just happens to own part of a Republican strategy firm that advocated against health care reform.  The company, which took 9,000 dollars this year from one of its clients, the attorney general who filed the case on which this judge just ruled. 

U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, a George W. Bush appointee, ruling against the individual mandate, arguing that requiring citizens to either buy health insurance or pay a fine, quote, “exceeds the constitutional boundary of Congressional power.” 

“At its core,” he continued, “this dispute is not simply about regulating the business of insurance, or crafting a scheme of universal health insurance coverage; it‘s about an individual‘s right to choose to participate.” 

It‘s the first time a judge has ruled against the law since the president signed it in March.  Mr. Obama dismissing the ruling as par for the course.

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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  That‘s the nature of these things.  You know, when Social Security was passed, there were all kinds of lawsuits.  When the Civil Rights Act was passed and the Voting Rights Act was passed, there were all kinds of lawsuits. 

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OLBERMANN:  While the GOP is now calling for the Supreme Court to get involved as soon as possible.  Democratic chair of the House HELP Subcommittee Pete Stark noting, “apparently Republicans are now for judicial activism after they were against it.” 

To that point, Judge Hudson‘s financial disclosure firm shows he owns a hefty chunk of a Republican consulting firm, Campaign Solutions Inc.  The firm has helped work against health care reform.  The Associate Press reporting that the firm‘s head, Rebecca Donatelli (ph), characterize Hudson as a passive investor who has owned stock for the past 13 years.  Ms.  Donatelli says Judge Hudson had no knowledge of the firm‘s day to day operations. 

Meanwhile, the website “Gawker” reporting that the firm‘s clients are some of the health care reform‘s biggest critics, Speaker Designate John Boehner, Senator John McCain, Congresswoman Bachmann.  Campaign Solutions also key in launching the PAC of Alaska‘s half term governor, although the two have since parted ways. 

Another client, Ken Cuccinelli of Virginia, paid Campaign Solutions 9,000 dollars for, quote, services rendered this year.  Mr. Cuccinelli also happens to be the attorney general of Virginia.  That‘s the man who would file the lawsuit that Judge Hudson happened to rule in favor of today. 

Time now to call in the former chairman of the DNC, now a CNBC contributor and a consultant to McKenna, Long and Aldridge (ph), as well as Democracy for America, former Governor of Vermont Howard Dean.  Good evening, sir. 

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF VERMONT:  Thank you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  So one judge says part of this law is unconstitutional. 

What are the implications? 

DEAN:  Well, first of all, I have to note that Attorney General Cuccinelli also sent out a fund-raiser about two hours after the decision. 

OLBERMANN:  Of course. 

DEAN:  This is kind of embarrassing for Virginia.  You know, you have a judge that‘s investing in an election thing, and the attorney general is clearly using this for fund-raising.  It‘s kind of unfortunate for the state. 

So what does this mean?  Nothing.  First of all, the judge—the suspect judge is in the minority.  There will be other suits and other decisions.  And it will wind its way to the appeals court, despite the fact that the Republicans want to take it to the Supreme Court and all that stuff. 

Secondly, it doesn‘t matter, because the truth is you don‘t need the individual mandate to make this work.  We‘ve had universal health insurance for kids for almost 20 years in Vermont, kids under 18.  There‘s no individual mandate; 96 percent of them have health insurance, one percent‘s not legible for the program, and three percent don‘t get it.  Even if we had a mandate, they wouldn‘t get it. 

About 96 percent of al the people in Massachusetts under Mitt Romney‘s plan have insurance.  They do have an individual mandate.  So four percent don‘t abide by it.  So the individual mandate—I get into arguments with people in the administration about this, but the fact is you can make this program work with or without the individual mandate. 

Now, you know, I understand the administration wants this to succeed, and wants no part of it to be overturned.  This is probably the weakest part of attacking health care, because it really doesn‘t matter how the outcome is at the end of the day. 

OLBERMANN:  The other argument is that without the mandate, without healthy people being forced to pay in, that this is going to be far more expensive, and all the cost savings of health care reform goes out the window? 

DEAN:  That‘s complete nonsense.  People who really like the individual mandate are the insurance companies, because it forces them to get—it forces 30 million more people into their clutches.  But the fact of the matter is most Americans are responsible.  If you‘re—and the most irresponsible group are the young folks, who are under 26, and they‘re taken care of, because they can now be on their parents‘ policy. 

You don‘t get a lot of people with kids, houses and mortgages saying, we‘re not going to buy health insurance.  They know that it could make them bankrupt.  There are ways around the individual mandate.  All you have to do is have a sign up period, and say, if you don‘t sign up when you‘re supposed to, then you don‘t get health insurance, and then you‘re fully liable for all the costs. 

Even young people, who don‘t have other responsibilities, are not going to want to have their car, or their Harley-Davidson repossessed because they get into trouble because they didn‘t get health insurance.  So there‘s other ways of doing this without the mandate. 

You know, I think that the president—the mandate is a little more perfect, but it‘s not absolutely necessary at all.  And what we‘ve done in Vermont and what they‘ve done in Massachusetts has shown that. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there a chance that if this were to go all the way to the Supreme Court, and—on a conservative five to four vote, it was—

Judge Hudson‘s decision was upheld, that this could knock down the entire reform bill, because of severability, this issue that most legislation includes sort of carve-outs—if the courts throw this part of it out, the rest of the bill is still in tact, but apparently that‘s not the case with health care reform? 

DEAN:  Well, even Judge Hudson didn‘t rule that, at least not in the reports that I saw.  He ruled that it was, in fact, severable.  And it did not invalidate the whole health care thing.  Now this court is incredibly activist.  They‘ve been known to make up the law before.  I have not yet to find anywhere in the Constitution where a corporation is a person. 

So anything could happen in this Supreme Court, whether it‘s constitutional or not.  But the fact is, even this judge, with all these conflicts and so forth and so on, found that it was severable. 

OLBERMANN:  To get back for a moment to this—the appearance of this judge owning part of a consulting firm that lobbied against reform, and that consulting firm being—having as a client the attorney general who was appearing in front of him.  Whether or not there is some legal explanation for why that shouldn‘t cause everybody involved in the process to go to prison for a few hours, how bad does that look?  Why is that not considered sort of a de facto—an automatic, an immediate appearance of conflict of interest? 

DEAN:  It‘s interesting.  About two weeks ago, I, along with a number of Democrats and Republicans, sat down to meet with the leadership of the Chinese communist party.  I find it very hard to lecture the Chinese on the rule of law when this kind of stuff is going on in our country.  It‘s not just this guy who has a piece of the action fighting the health care bill, and then decides against it from the bench. 

What about all the elected judges that are taking money from the Chamber of Commerce and then hearing their cases and finding in their favor?  I mean, we have a lot of problems with the rule of law right here in America.  And you just outlined one. 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, we‘re doing a tremendous job of re-creating the year 1895 in this country.  Governor Howard Dean, always a pleasure, thanks for your time tonight. 

DEAN:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Washington is there to serve the banks.  The Republican philosophy is summarized by the party‘s new chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. 

And the latest from the lunatic right; there‘s a war on Santa.  See, he‘s armed.  Goal, replace him with Frosty the Snowman, a known communist.  We‘ll have a report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The war on Christmas turns into the war on Santa.  Our combat correspondent, TV‘s Frank Conniff, has a live report next from war torn Santa‘s Village. 

First, get out your pitchforks and torches, time for today‘s nominees for the Worst Persons in the World. 

The bronze to televangelist Lonesome Rhodes Beck.  He today noted the collapse of the roof of the Metrodome in Minneapolis Saturday night, and sarcastically said it was, quote, “proof that global warming is happening.”  This is what happens when you let stupid people out of their homes.  Weather is different than the climate.  NASA just reported that 2010 will register as the hottest climate year on record.

The good news here, we have obtained exclusive video of this MRI of Mr. Beck‘s head.  And, thus, what his brain looks like in action. 

A lot of empty spot—space, and two thoughts going through them. 

The runner up, George Will.  As the “Washington Post” continues to slouch toward right wing nut jobbery, it continues to print him without fact checking him.  He celebrated the tenth anniversary of Bush v. Gore by getting Bush v. Gore wrong.  “Once Gore initiated the intervention of courts, the U.S. Constitution was implicated . Once Gore summoned judicial intervention and Florida‘s Supreme Court began to revise state election laws, it probably was inevitable that possession of the nation‘s highest political office was going to be determined by a state‘s highest court or nation‘s.” 

Great, Gore lost because he sued first.  Except, he didn‘t sue first.  Bush sued first.  After four days in which the Republicans bashed the Democrats for even talking about legal action, Mr. Bush went to federal court to try to stop the manual recount in several Florida counties.  That was on November 11th of 2000.  Bush was first.  Trust me, these historical revisionists like George Will, eventually they will be claiming Bush won the popular vote. 

But our winner, Congressman Spencer Bachus of Alabama.  He celebrated his selection as the new Republican chairman of the House Financial Services Committee by telling the “Birmingham News” that when it comes to the money changers, he has a main street view, not a Wall Street view.  Quote, “now is the time to get government out of the way so businesses can create jobs and grow the economy.  In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated.  And my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.” 

To serve the banks?  Mr. and Mrs. America, don‘t get on that ship.  The rest of the book to serve the banks, it‘s a cook book.  And we‘re the banks‘ lunch.  Incoming House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer “Main Street, if all the banks are located on Main Strake,” Bachus, today‘s Worst Person in the World.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The very first war on Christmas was first waged by Christians.  Before the American Revolution, Christmas was against the law in some of the colonies, because Puritans considered Christmas a day of secular celebration and alcoholic revelry.  Eventually, Christmas was mixed with Teutonic Pagan elements, like Sinterclaus, who got himself commercialized, along with the entire holiday, as a way to sell stuff.

These days, the war on Christmas is fought by the Christian right, as a way to scare those sellers of stuff out of any multi-faith suggestion that Christmas is just another holiday, and therefore Jesus Christ is just another deity, and therefore Christianity just another religion.  In our number one story tonight, the war on Christmas has taken a strange and disturbing turn this year. 

William Donahue and Rupert Murdoch‘s “New York Post,” traditional combatants in the war on Christmas, have trained their Yuletide guns on someone not for failing to put the Christ back in Christmas, but for failing to worship Santa Claus. 

It all started at a New York City branch of the Young Men‘s Christian Association.  Definitely a dubious organization, from a Christian point of view.  There, some non-Christian young men associated the Santa Claus of the wise annual party with Christianity, and assumed the party was, therefore, not for them.  So the Y decided to make the centerpiece of the party Frosty the Snowman.  Frosty, it should be noted, was not one of the disciples and is not even mentioned in the Bible. 

“New York Post” quoting Donahue, self styled president of the Catholic League, wishing goodwill to all; quote, “if they can‘t celebrate Christmas, then they should check out.  What a bunch of cowards?”

This in defense of Santa Claus, who was not one of the disciples and is not even mentioned in the Bible.  Santa Claus descended from the German Sinterclaus, descended from the Norse god Oden, whose horse would fly through the night and eat carrots and straw left by children in their stockings by the fire place. 

That‘s right, Bill Donahue and the “New York Post” have turned their back on Jesus and taken up arms in defense of a Pagan symbol.  And, of course, we all know who‘s behind Pagan symbols. 

Never thought of that, did you?  For more on this stunning betrayal in the war on Christmas, we go to the front lines of the war on Christmas, and COUNTDOWN‘s war on Christmas correspondent, TV‘s Frank, Frank Conniff, who, of course, moonlights over at CinematicTitanic.com. 

Frank, thanks for taking a break from the action to file this dispatch tonight.  Are you keeping safe out there? 

FRANK CONNIFF, COMEDIAN:  Well, Keith, I‘m in fairly good shape with these guys.  As you know, I did a tour here embedded with a division of the Salvation Army, 82nd Airborne Reindeer.  Then I went off the grid, deep into secular occupied territory, in the Galleria Shopping Mall.  And I‘ve got to tell you, I‘ve seen some sights here that will traumatize me for the rest of my life. 

Damn, this war.  Sorry, we just lost too many good men in this fight, Keith.  But just like in America‘s past wars, the troops come from every background you can imagine.  This rag tag fighting battalion in the war against Christmas is an ethnically diverse mix of white male Christians from the south, combined with white male Christians from the northern part of the south, as while as white male Catholic Christians from the southern part of the north. 

It‘s just amazing that a diverse bunch of guys, who all come from different parts of the same mega-church, can learn to get along.  I might add that this is one Army division where the Don‘t Ask Don‘t Tell policy is working just fine.  No one in this battalion would ever think of revealing the dark secret closeted homosexuality that is very deep within their tortured souls.  That‘s how patriotic they are.

OLBERMANN:  Well said, sir. 

CONNIFF:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  The fact that Frosty the Snowman has entered hostilities, this took a lot of the seasoned war analysts, the armchair quarterbacks here by surprise, correct? 

CONNIFF:  Well, Keith, Frosty has opened up a whole new front in the war on Christmas.  In fact, you might say a cold front. 

The people fighting back against this war on Christmas feel that there‘s a lot of sympathy in the liberal media towards Frosty the Snowman, because global warming has made his existence all the more precarious.  They also consider the Frosty the Snowman song blasphemous.  At the end of the songs, he says, don‘t cry, I‘ll come back again one day.  Oh, so now you‘re the one being resurrected from the dead in three days?  I don‘t think so. 

They feel his annual special is nothing more than a wartime propaganda for climate change.  There‘s a feeling that there‘s also a war against—don‘t forget traditional Christmas songs like “Silent Night,” “The First Noel,” and of course “YMCA” by the Village People.  Beautiful, beautiful song.

OLBERMANN:  The YMCA in the center of this, an extraordinary turnabout.  What about this stunning development here, the right turning its back on Jesus, Frank, and forming a new alliance with Santa Claus at its head?  It‘s extraordinary. 

CONNIFF:  Well, yes.  I mean, Santa Claus must be defended at all costs, from a strategic point of view, because, after all, he died for our sins.  Of high cholesterol, but still the more we sin, the more he eats.  Liberals are attacking Santa because he makes over 250,000 dollars a year, and they resent that he‘s going to get his tax cuts extended. 

And as far as Bill Donahue is concerned, Santa Claus is just Jesus after he‘s put on a few pounds.  Besides, for years, Santa‘s image has been associated with a very holy sacrament, Coca-Cola.  While the body of Christ is sacred, the body of Santa is even better because it‘s so often made from chocolate. 

Keep in mind, Bill Donahue‘s defense of Santa Claus is not all that surprising.  Donahue is known for defending grown men who like to have children sit on their knee.  I‘m just saying. 

OLBERMANN:  Wow, It‘s some battle out there.  Mel Gibson computer generated—

CONNIFF:  Yeah, yeah. 

OLBERMANN:  And I think the Death Star just blew up behind you.  TV‘s Frank Conniff. 

CONNIFF:  Yes, there‘s a lot of very tragic incidents.  I‘m in a war zone.  What can I tell you?

OLBERMANN:  The Three Stooges have taken over part of the battle.  I‘m not a bit surprised at all.  They run the show, first of all. 

CONNIFF:  I speak for everyone when I say, nyuk, nyuk, nyuk. 

OLBERMANN:  Frank Conniff from war torn Santa‘s Village, good luck out there.  And God speed. 

CONNIFF:  God bless you, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, sir. 

That‘s December 13th.  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.

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