updated 1/7/2011 12:17:02 PM ET 2011-01-07T17:17:02

Guests: Eugene Robinson, Matt Taibbi, Mikey Winstein, Robert Reich, Dave Weigel

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

The first full day of the Republican House—they forget to swear in two members.  They and the Democrats read the Constitution, except for the three-fifths and prohibition amendment and stuff.  And there‘s a nutjob in their gallery.

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REP. FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW JERSEY:  No person, except a natural-born citizen or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to be the office of president.  Neither shall—

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Except Obama!  Except Obama!  Help us, Jesus!

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OLBERMANN:  You know Jesus wasn‘t born here, right?

Tonight, the weeper of the House will make you tear up.

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REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  I don‘t think anybody in this town believes that repealing Obamacare is going to increase the deficit.

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OLBERMANN:  Except the Congressional Budget Office which just pegged it its estimate of how much repeal will increase the deficit at $230 billion.

And Boehner‘s put Michele Bachmann on the House Intelligence Committee.  Oxymorons for a thousand, Alex.

Walk orangely and carry a big, prop gavel stick you—with Gene Robinson, the author of “Rolling Stone‘s” upcoming profile of Boehner, Matt Taibbi, and of his live blogging of the Constitution reading, Dave Weigel.

Tomorrow, we‘ll hear “Horton Hears a Who!”

The military administering a religious test to our soldiers?  And this was the idea of one of the guys who dreamed up the torture rules for Bush?

Why are we taxpayers helping Goldman Sachs buy part of Facebook—at no risk to Goldman Sachs and all the risk to us?

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A million dollars isn‘t cool.  You know what‘s cool?  A billion dollars.

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OLBERMANN:  And the dumbest thing he has ever said.

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BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS:  Tide goes in, tide goes out, never a miscommunication.  You can‘t explain that.  You can explain why the tide goes in?

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OLBERMANN:  You do know what that thing is, right?

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.

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O‘REILLY:  I know I‘m not the smartest guy in town.

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OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.  This is Thursday, January 6th, 670 days until the 2012 presidential election.

And on their first full day in power, House Republicans read the Constitution aloud and took less than one day to violate it.

Our fifth story tonight: New House Speaker Boehner holds his first news conference since taking the gavel and in just minutes, manages to:

“A,” defend increasing the deficit, “B,” dismiss as opinion the deficit estimates coming from the same nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office his party swears by when it benefits them, and “C,” speaking of swearing, promises that the days of ignoring the Constitution are gone—right before his own party commits a historic, apparently unprecedented violation of the Constitution.

Here‘s the speaker, facilitator of the Bush administration‘s legislative fancy footwork and congressional missteps so grievous they were reined in by a Republican Supreme Court—vowing that the Constitution is back, baby!

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BOEHNER:  Gone are the days when the bills will be written in the speaker‘s office and rushed to the floor in a matter of hours.  And gone are the days when the Constitution will be ignored.

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OLBERMANN:  Gone also is—Republican Congressman Pete Sessions, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, who made the motion today to begin discussing the rules for debate on repealing health care reform.  One problem: that discussion was tabled when it was discovered that both Sessions and another Republican congressman, Mike Fitzpatrick, had not been sworn in.  They skipped out on yesterday‘s swearing-in oath, the oath to uphold the Constitution.

This apparently a totally brand-new way of violating the

Constitution, reportedly unprecedented.  The reason for it: so they could attend Fitzpatrick‘s swearing-in celebration, a fundraising event.

“The Huffington Post” reporting that the two men saw the swearing-in on TV and raised their hands along with it.  The two congressmen who apparently never shook that interactive Soupy Sales episode they must have seen when they were kids took their oath in person today, sending Republicans scrambling to see whether they can somehow make it retroactive.

Other highlights from the speaker‘s full day: dismissing the entire Congressional Budget Office after the CBO raised its estimate of how much repealing health care reform would add to the deficit to $230 billion.

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BOEHNER:  I do not believe that repealing the job-killing health care law will increase the deficit.  CBO is entitled to their opinion.

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OLBERMANN:  He has a calculator, you see.

Mr. Boehner also promised new rules that will make the House more open, except when it comes to opening his repeal of health care reform to amendments from Democrats.

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BOEHNER:  We believe that to fix our economy, we need to fix our Congress.  A more open Congress will be forced to listen to the people and act on their priorities, instead of Washington‘s.  Listen, I promised a more open process.  I didn‘t promise that every single bill was going to be an open bill.

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OLBERMANN:  Let‘s turn to MSNBC political analyst, Eugene Robinson, associated editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist of “Washington Post,” author of “Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America.”

Good evening, Gene.

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith, on this the first day of the rest of our lives.  Where do we begin?

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  I‘m seeing the same gleam in our eye that I‘m having in mind.  I‘m beginning to like this speaker.  In the great Republican repeal of health care reform literally has begun with a violation of the U.S. Constitution unheard apparently in congressional history.  How is that for act one, scene one?

ROBINSON:  It‘s a bottle opening, I would say.

You know, remember Inauguration Day, President Obama‘s inauguration.  And he and Chief Justice Roberts kind of flubbed the oath.  And then later, he, in the Oval Office, he took the oath again.  I mean, this has to be done seriously.  This is the Constitution.  You have to take this oath.

I think it is just—if I were British, I would say, I were gob-smacked.

OLBERMANN:  What does it say that the Tea Party bankroller, Mr.  Koch, David Koch, was in for Boehner‘s swearing-in, according to “Think Progress”?  But these two Republicans skipped the swearing to uphold the Constitution so they could instead uphold their campaign coffers and they thought they could swear in by TV like they were the home contestants on “Jeopardy” or something?

ROBINSON:  Really.  You know, I think it says something about priorities, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  OK.

ROBINSON:  I think it says something about what they really care about and I hope all those loyal Tea Party followers out there are paying attention to this and watching this and seeing just how seriously the Constitution is being taken by the new constitutionalist Republican majority.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Let‘s take that as an embarrassing gaffe that doesn‘t have any long-term implication.  They can straighten it out.  It doesn‘t make anymore—it‘s no more of the problem that the Roberts-Obama gaffe was that you mentioned earlier.

What about Mr. Boehner coming out, dismissing the Congressional Budget Office and its estimate of $230 billion added to the deficit if they repeal the health care reform and just saying, that‘s an opinion, while supposedly leading had this crew of deficit reducers?

ROBINSON:  Right.  You can‘t do that.  I mean, he did it, but you can‘t do it.

But, look, the CBO giveth and the CBO taketh away.  But everybody agrees to respect what the CBO says.  And the fact that he could just say, well, that‘s their opinion.  Well—so, the next time he and Republicans want to do something with the budget and the CBO clears it, why wouldn‘t Democrats say, well, that‘s just the CBO‘s opinion?

It‘s an astonishing way to begin and not perhaps the most sure-footed, let us say.

OLBERMANN:  And lastly, and I shudder to raise this topic.  Mr.

Boehner has put Michele Bachmann on the intelligence committee?  Your turn.

ROBINSON:  Yes.  OK.  Look, here are the two basic problems with this.  Number one, Michele Bachmann has a history of saying crazy things, crazy-ass things, let me just say it.

And so, people may be inclined to take the crazy things she says about foreign policy more seriously because they‘ll say, well, gee, is this something she learned, a secret from the intelligence committee?  So, that is troublesome if—you know, if world leaders, even Kim Jong-il is listening to what she has to say about North Korea and thinking, gee, maybe that‘s from the intelligence committee.  Now, that‘s one problem.

The other problem is, you know, they actually learned secrets on the intelligence committee.  You want Michele Bachmann as a guardian of our nation‘s most precious secrets?  I don‘t.

OLBERMANN:  I‘ll pay you $100 if you can convince the headline writers at “The Post” to title the next one of your columns, “Michele Bachmann has a history of saying crazy-ass things.”  It‘s got to be in the headline.

ROBINSON:  A hundred bucks?

OLBERMANN:  Hundred bucks.

ROBINSON:  OK.  I don‘t know if it‘ll be in the next column, but we‘ll see—give me a month.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Or 100 bucks to you or $1,000 to charity, your choice.

ROBINSON:  There you go.

OLBERMANN:  Gene Robinson of “The Washington Post” and MSNBC—as always, great thanks.

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ROBINSON:  Good to talk to you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  In his first one-on-one interview since becoming speaker, Mr. Boehner sat down you with Brian Williams, offering some insights into his governing policy and his personal life.  The man described by Republicans who know him as one of the laziest people in Congress was asked where he gets the strength to do what he does.

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BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS:  When you go home next, is there a sidewalk, a place, a person that‘s kind of a talisman to grab onto?  Again, talking about strength in the new you job.

BOEHNER:  Well, I get strength every day just by going to my Facebook site.

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OLBERMANN:  Mr. Boehner was also asked about his philosophy of governing, what the government should do for people.  He said he believes in the social safety belt.  But he gave a stunningly clear outline of who it is he thinks need the social safety net, despite figure showing more people are forced into bankruptcy by catastrophic medical costs, and then by anything else, Mr. Boehner thinks it‘s people who are unable to compete in the job market and suggest that there are some Americans, he didn‘t identify whom, who will not compete.

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BOEHNER:  I believe in a safety net.  You know, we live in a competitive society.  We live in a capitalist society.  For those who can compete and do well, fine.  Some Americans can‘t compete.

I think we have a responsibility as a people to help those who can‘t compete.  But do we have a responsibility to help those who won‘t compete?  I would have serious doubts about that.

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OLBERMANN:  A new “Rolling Stone” profile of Mr. Boehner chronicles his life living on the dime of rich patrons, spending almost $83,000 on golfing in 2009, renting an apartment for years from a health insurance lobbyist, running up the $67,000 tab at the Ritz-Carlton golf resort in Naples, Florida.

With us now, the author of that profile, “Rolling Stone” contributing editor, Matt Taibbi, the author most recently of “Griftopia:

Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids and the Long Con That is Breaking America.”

Good to see you, Matt.

MATT TAIBBI, ROLLING STONE:  Good to see you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  As I said before, I‘m really beginning to like this guy.

TAIBBI:  He‘s going to be a lot of fun.

OLBERMANN:  Who are the Americans who can‘t compete versus the ones who won‘t compete?  Do you have any insight into that?

TAIBBI:  Yes.  I mean, it‘s amazing that he would say it so openly.  But I know when I go to cover Tea Party events, I almost inevitably end up talking to people who are on Medicare or collecting unemployment insurance or government pensions.  And what they‘re railing against government welfare and I say, do you see any contradiction there?  No, I deserve this.  I work hard.  It‘s those other people.

And we know who they mean when they say other people.  It‘s Mexican

immigrants and nonwhite, inner city, Democratic-leaning voters.  So, that‘s

it‘s coded language when they used that kind of language.

      

But in Boehner‘s case, what‘s so funny about it, the people who can‘t compete I think in his eyes are—if you go by his TARP vote, it‘s JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs and Bank of America.  I mean, those are the people he‘s talking about when he talks about a safety net, I think.

OLBERMANN:  Right.  Yes, to preserve the banks for America.

TAIBBI:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  Our corporate citizens.

TAIBBI:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  You also in the piece describe him as an arc type of a Washington insider.  What makes him so?

TAIBBI:  Well, when you think about what exactly is it that people in Congress do these days.  The people who do the job best in Beltway terms are the people who play a lot of golf, raise tens of millions of dollars for their campaign contributors and then when the time comes that the people pay them that money need a favor, they deliver enormous expensive giveaways and subsidies in programs like Medicare Part D, which John Boehner helped author, No Child Left Behind and the bailouts, TARP, all those things.  That‘s what they do, they‘re essentially bagmen.  They take money and then deliver for the people who gave them the money.

And John Boehner does that job better than anybody in Washington and that‘s why he‘s in the speakership.

OLBERMANN:  You also describe him as sort of the last stand of Bush Republicanism against this growing tide of public anger.  Does that mean inevitably there‘s a clash with the Tea Party ahead?  Would they turn on him?

TAIBBI:  Absolutely.  And, you know, unless he has a complete—it‘s going to be fun—unless he has a complete political conversion.  You know, I talked to people like Chris Littleton (ph) at the Ohio Liberty Council which, you know, heads of the Tea Party group in his own state.  And they‘re very, very impatient with this current group of Republicans.

And if they don‘t get serious about cracking down on spending soon, and I‘m talking like within the next couple of months, they‘re going to start raising hell, whether it‘s John Boehner or somebody else in that crew, they‘re going to start demanding that these people leave office.

OLBERMANN:  So, the question in your piece that you post is: clown or tyrant?  So, answer it for us, precisely.

TAIBBI:  See, I think a tyrant has to have real political power.  And I just don‘t see that John Boehner really represents any actual people anymore, except for the people in Washington and these political patrons, the money guys.  The actual people out there in the population, he doesn‘t have a base anymore.  So, I think he‘s more of a figure of fun and he‘s going to be a lot of fun for the pundits for this country for as long as he‘s crying on television and saying dumb things.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Yes, he is.  He does have all the gavel collectors though, the giant souvenir, yes.

Matt Taibbi, contributing editor at “Rolling Stone” and the author of the upcoming piece out this week on speaker/weeper Boehner.  Thank you, Matt.

TAIBBI:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Reality check, by the way.  The White House confirms if the president were presented with HR-2, he would veto it.  HR-2 is the House‘s intended repeal of health care reform.

Unreality check, the screaming Birther who interrupted the Constitution reading, her day job is screaming Birther.

And if you have not heard the big news around here about that unfortunate ex-radio announcer we introduced to you to on Tuesday, Ted Williams is now a fortunate TV announcer.  Details in a moment.

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OLBERMANN:  Why is the military asking five test faith questions of our soldiers?  And why are they having wrong answers to them and saying that that would lead to a recommendation that the test-taker seeks counseling?

He says there‘s proof of a God.  It is the fact that nobody can explain why the tides go in and the tides go out.  Do you want to break it to him or should I?

And you and I are part of this social network being bought for Goldman Sachs.  That‘s how the bailout was supposed to work?

This quick personal announcement about this last gentleman who was asking for money on a street corner in Columbus, Ohio, before we were the first to show the tape of his plight, nationally anyway.  MSNBC tonight announced that Mr. Ted Williams had been hired to record the narration for some of our “Lean Forward” promotional announcements which you will see here beginning tonight.

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OLBERMANN:  The ink is barely drive on the repeal of “don‘t ask, don‘t tell” and now, the U.S. military is under fire for institutionalized discrimination against a group much larger than gays and lesbians, atheists, agnostics and other non-believers and believers who just want to keep to themselves.

Our fourth story tonight: The U.S. Army forcing at least 8,000 uniformed soldiers to take test of their spirituality, telling those who failed that they need counseling.  It‘s part of what‘s called the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program according to the Web site, Truth Out, a $125 million program to combat suicide and posttraumatic stress disorder.  Worth goals indeed.

But the online test especially claims that, quote, “the spiritual dimension questions on the Global Assessment Tool, GAT, pertain to the domain of the human spirit, they are not religious in nature.”  The hell they‘re not.

The Military Association of Atheists and Free Thinkers posted a screen capture of the test.  The spiritual questions asking soldiers to rate how the following statements apply to them.

I am a spiritual person.  My life has a lasting meaning.  I believe that in some way my life is closely connected to all humanity and all the world.  The job I am doing in the military has a lasting meaning.  I believe there is a purpose for my life.

Innocent enough?  Not to one poster identifying himself as a lieutenant, who wrote on the DOD Web site, quote, “The GAT asks rather intrusive questions about soldiers‘ spirituality—coming perilously close to violating the First Amendment.  There was option to avoid the questions, leaving our atheists soldiers to wonder if their beliefs are tolerated in today‘s increasingly religious Army.”

You probably weren‘t wondering once they got their results. 

Sergeant Griffith posting what the GAT told him after he took the test.  Quote, “You lack a sense of meaning and purpose in your life.  At times, it is hard for you to make sense of what is happening to you and those around you.  You may not feel connected to something larger than yourself.”  Griffith who was then advised to speak with a counselor.

Brigadier General Rhonda Cornum who runs the program told one blog, quote, “Every time you say the S-P-I-R word, you‘re going to get sued.  So that part is not mandatory.”

If you do seek help with spirituality deficit, suggested solutions probably seal the deal here.  They‘re explicit religious.  Church, prayer and a higher power.  Maybe sometime at the Fort Hood spiritual fitness center.

The program was started by two chaplains but a psychological underpinnings, a theory that positive thinking can help soldiers overcome even captivity and torture, it turns out were developed by that man, Martin Seligman, whose theories were also used by the military in creating the Bush administration regime of torturing captive suspects.

As of tonight, the Army has not yet cleared Sergeant Justin Griffith has not been cleared to speak with us.

Joining us is Mikey Winstein, the president and founder of the military Religious Freedom Foundation, who‘s representing Sergeant Griffith and some 200 other soldiers in the matter.

Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

MIKEY WINSTEIN, MILITARY RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOUNDATION:  Glad to be here, Keith.  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  There is no God or no Jesus in those questions.  So, explain why asking soldiers about spirituality and meaning and connectedness is religious in nature, sort of apart from the fact that if you get the answers wrong, they suggest you go to church.

WINSTEIN:   Well, there‘s two answers.  The first thing, of course, is that if you go to Clause III, Article VI of the body of our Constitution, which has been around since December of 1779, it clearly states we will never have a religious test for any position in the federal government, like being in the military.  It doesn‘t say you have to say Jesus.

In today‘s military, that‘s what we do with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, those are code words.  This is all we do here, Keith.  When someone says spirituality, they‘re trying to talk about religion, and specifically, not just Christianity but a particular brand of Christianity, fundamentalist Christianity.

Which is why we have—after the truthout.org story by Jason Leopold (ph) got out, everywhere, it‘s a great story, we have—we have 220 soldiers we‘re representing now, of whom 183 are practicing Protestant and Catholics.  And I might add that our strongest ally is the California Council of Churches, an impact group, which is millions of California Protestants, 5,500 congregations.  There is outraged as anybody because we‘ve seen through this over and over again.

It‘s unconstitutional.  It‘s unlawful.  And that one brigadier general is correct.  They are going to be sued and we‘re going to sue them.

OLBERMANN:  And those practicing religionists that you mentioned there—is the argument that it‘s nobody‘s business or is the argument that their religions are being in some way deemed insufficient because of this fundamentalism that seems to be creeping into the military as you said?

WINSTEIN:  And, again, it‘s not even a creeping.  It‘s at a tsunami rate.  Absolutely it‘s a fact that the Christians are being told you‘re not Christian enough.  It‘s not the right type of religion.

Look, it was 5 ½ years ago in the front of the newspaper most despised by the Pentagon, “The New York Times,” that the United States Air Force announced that it had a new policy.  The U.S. Air Force was now going to reserve its right to evangelize anyone, Keith, that it determined to be unchurched.

Well, how do you determine that?  Well, a soldier fitness tracking Global Assessment Tool is a great way to do that.  So, soldiers understand this.

You talked about—Boehner was talking about people that don‘t want to compete.  If you‘re a junior enlisted person in today‘s U.S. military, try—if you‘re being gently evangelized are asked these questions by your superiors, get the hell out of my face, sir or ma‘am, is not an option for you.  So, they come to our foundation and we do it.

They can‘t compete.  They‘re subordinates.  If you compete, it‘s insubordination.  It‘s a felony under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  That‘s how serious this is.

OLBERMANN:  Has that old cliche, there are no atheists in fox holes ever been proved or even proved relevant?  I mean, is there any indication that atheist soldiers are less fit for battle, or the aftermath than their theistic comrades?

WINSTEIN:  Yes, it‘s been proven to be as correct as Paul Bunyan or the Lochness Monster.  It‘s a completely ridiculous.

We have a large number of atheists that actually refer to themselves as fox hole atheists like Sergeant Justin Griffith, who‘s our client and many, many others.  They‘re wonderful soldiers.

As I want to say, again, most of our clients—we have 21,000 and hundreds more each month with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, 96 percent of Protestants and Catholics.  It seems most of the time, we have in rare occurrences, we have atheists or agnostics that are willing to stand up.

But in this country, we do not determine, you know, your viability as an American citizen, particularly if you‘re wearing that uniform by whether or not, you know, you have a particular view of religion.

OLBERMANN:  Well, it‘s the only word appropriate, “amen.”

Mikey Winstein, the president and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which will be suing on this—great thanks for your time.

WINSTEIN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Funny doggone thing happened at the Constitution reading.  By the end, there were almost no Republican congressmen left.  But there was a Birther, not named Rose of Valerie, screaming from the gallery.

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OLBERMANN:  You and I are helping Goldman Sachs buy part of Facebook and we‘re assuming nearly all the risk.  Great.

First, the sanity breakdown on COUNTDOWN book report.  And Santa brought Sarah a lump of coal.  The Christmas book-buying season did nothing to reverse the disastrous sales of her second book.

The Nielsen book scan totals through last Sunday, 239,000 copies in its first six weeks.  It‘s not bad except that her first book, “Going Rogue,” sold 1,255,000 copies in its first six weeks, a million-plus fewer in the same time span.  And it only sold 7,000 copies last week.  Ouch!

The sales statistics also showed the paperback of “Going Rogue” has vanished. Nationally, it fell below sales of “The Zagat‘s Guide to Restaurants in New York City.”

Let‘s play Oddball.

Rega, Latvia, hello.  We meet Funtix (ph), the hippo.  The Rega Zoo purchased Funtix in an effort to get him to mate with their resident female hippo, Augustine.  But recently, zoo officials discovered a hitch in their plan to make baby hippos.  Funtix was not a he hippo but a she hippo.  That explains it. 

Not wanting to offend the animal further, they decided to change the name from Funtix to the much more feminine Funtay (ph).  Dr. Tobia Funtay (ph).  Rega Officials blame the mix-up on the Ukrainian Zoo from which they purchased Funtix just 20 years ago.  We never checked. 

We travel to the Capitol.  Yesterday at the swearing-in ceremony, the vice president encountered more obstructionist in the Senate.  Three-year-old William Wyden refused to pose for the picture.  Biden, using his vast diplomatic experience, coaxed the child into the picture with his script card.  The bribe worked.  But then retrieving the card from the son of Senator Wyden proved difficult. 

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JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I you need to borrow that back.  You‘ve got to give it to me.  Nope.  William won‘t give that back to me.  William, you see this.  If you can tell me which hand it‘s in, you can have it.  Which hand? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Look at that. 

WILLIAM WYDEN, SON OF SENATOR RON WYDEN:  This.  This. 

BIDEN:  You got it.  It‘s a mint. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Oddball‘s resident magic expert claims that Biden used the classic French drop coin trick, which I believe he was also talking to the president about during the health care bill signing. 

Time marches on. 

Why on Earth are we guaranteeing Goldman Sachs‘ 450 million dollar investment and gamble buying Facebook, when the deal was they Goldman Sachs could not operate as an investment bank? 

And then Boehner the Birther?  The Constitution stunt had two bonus elements, including the speaker saying he‘s satisfied the president was born here.  But he won‘t tell his members that they should think that way.  Ahead.

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OLBERMANN:  In her first act after being sworn in for a third term yesterday, Congressman Michele Bachmann introduced a bill to destroy Wall Street reform, raising the question: why bother?  Our number three story tonight, proof that financial reform is not all it‘s cracked up to be, thanks to the new Goldman Sachs/Facebook deal.  Goldman Sachs announcing earlier this week it‘s investing 450 million dollars in the social networking site, with a promise of as much as one billion more.

The money that the bank plans to raise from wealthy investors.  Seems like something investment banks do, right?  However, under the Volcker Rule of the Financial Reform Act, investment banks are allowed to make speculative investments, but a regulated bank would not be, regulated banks like Goldman Sachs. 

As a bank deemed to big to fail, Goldman Sachs was designated a bank holding company in 2008.  That means it can borrow low interest loans from Federal Reserve funds at a cost close to zero, and pocket the profits from its investments.  But as economist Simon Johnson explains in today‘s “New York Times,” not only are American taxpayers subsidizing the Facebook deal thanks to the borrowed money, they‘re potentially fueling a new bubble. 

If the Facebook deal is reliant on Federal Reserve loans, if investors inflate the bubble as they did with the dot com boom, if that bubble turns into a financial crisis, it will be a crisis bought and paid for by the taxpayer. 

Quoting Mr. Johnson, “if you think that sophisticated investors at the heart of our financial system can‘t get carried away and lose money on Internet-related investments, remember WebVan.  During the dot com bubble, Goldman invested about 100 million dollars in Web Van, the online grocer that never got off the ground and eventually collapsed in bankruptcy.” 

Conceivably, this is why the authors of the Financial Reform Act wanted a rule to prevent speculative trading with government-provided funds.  Maybe even a rule proposed by former Fed Chairman, and the head of the president‘s Economic Advisory Board, Paul Volcker.  Perhaps a Volcker Rule. 

The only problem is the Volcker Rule is not being enforced.  Despite a version of Paul Volcker‘s proposal appearing in the Wall Street Reform Bill, the rule‘s implementation has been held up amidst objections from financial firms, including Goldman Sachs, and obstruction by Republican lawmakers, paving the way for deals like Goldman/Facebook to violate the very spirit of the Volcker Rule. 

Incidentally, Mr. Volcker is expected to step down as a key economic adviser to President Obama, according to sources at the White House. 

On that note, we welcome Robert Reich, the former U.S. labor secretary under President Clinton, currently professor of public policy at UC Berkeley‘s Goldman School of Public Policy.  He blogs at RobertReich.org, and he is the author of “Aftershock, the Next Economy and America‘s Future.”

Good evening, sir.

ROBERT REICH, FORMER COMMERCE SECRETARY:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  In short, are you and me and the viewer buying part of Facebook for Goldman Sachs?  And we‘re assuming the lion‘s share of the risk?  Or does it just look like that? 

REICH:  Well, it could be more than looking like that, because every

time you have the possibility of a joint bank like Goldman Sachs getting

essentially free money from the Federal Reserve—and that‘s exactly what

it does because it‘s in that privileged position as a bank holding company

and then taking that money and investing in some hot new property that the public really doesn‘t know very much about, because it‘s all secret, well, who is going to get left holding the bag if the whole thing explodes? 

           

We‘ve been through this before.  We had a dot com bubble.  We had a housing bubble.  You remember what happened when the housing bubble burst.  We bailed out the banks. 

Well, if there‘s a social network bubble that is financed, essentially, by low interest loans from the Fed, we get left holding the bag again. 

OLBERMANN:  What about the bug that this seems to show in Wall Street Reform.  If it can‘t prevent regulated banks from speculative trading, what good was the whole reform package? 

REICH:  Exactly, Keith.  There are a lot of people who said Glass-Steagall.  Remember, the Glass-Steagall Act?  That was put in after the great crash of 1929.  That said separate investment banking from commercial banking.  Don‘t allow it to be intermingled. 

Then Paul Volcker tried to institute his rule.  But Goldman Sachs has found a way around all of this.  And the regulators are really not on top of it. 

OLBERMANN:  Is that end-around a precedent?  Are the other companies in this situation looking at Goldman and saying, ah ha, we found it? 

REICH:  You bet.  Every big bank in Washington—I said in Washington

they‘re in Washington as well.  Every big bank on Wall Street is salivating over this, because there‘s so much money involved. 

           

You know, there‘s another feature of this that‘s troubling.  That is that an old rule from 1934 says that if you got more than 500 investors, you‘ve got to be completely transparent.  You‘ve got to be a public company.  You‘ve got to be regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

But what Goldman has done is it‘s created—it says, oh no, there‘s only one investor here.  We, Goldman, we‘re going to sell shares of our one share—our one big share in Facebook.  We‘re going to sell shares in that one share to all of our privileged customers. 

Well, that‘s a way around this old law about transparency.  So the whole thing is in secret.  Nobody knows anything about what Facebook is valued at.  We‘re back to the days of pre-1934, absolute secret, closed door banking. 

OLBERMANN:  Of course, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the stuff that should be secret but may not be secret.  Do you have a privacy concern with this?  Here‘s Goldman Sachs presumably with the access—at least they get to look at the machinery.  Maybe they get to look at what‘s inside the machinery?  There‘s a wealth of worldwide personal information inside Facebook. 

REICH:  It‘s possible, Keith.  Again, the whole thing is in secret.  Nobody knows what‘s going on.  Nobody regulators.  Nobody has the slightest idea of the relationship between Goldman and Facebook.  That‘s the great irony.  Goldman could have access to private information, theoretically, but the public and the investing public and everybody else has no idea about the secrecy of this deal. 

OLBERMANN:  Robert Reich, former labor secretary, the author of “Aftershock,” as always, great thanks, sir. 

REICH:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Not Tide Detergent.  Not the Tides Foundation.  Not the Forfolk Tides of Baseball‘s Minor League.  The Tides.  Bill-O does not think anybody can explain why they happen. 

And this is the woman who turned the Republican reading of the Constitution into a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.  Dave Weigel on the farce.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, a look at the angry from the left to the president‘s pick for chief of staff.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  He doesn‘t believe the Birther garbage, but it‘s not up to him to tell his Republican members to stop.  Mr. Boehner tries to cut it both ways next. 

First, get out your pitchforks and torches, time for today‘s nominees for the worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to this unidentified suspect whom Arizona authorities are calling the 60 bill bandit.  He is accused of four bank robberies in four cities since October, The most recent, two days before Christmas in Gilbert, Arizona. 

Why do they call him the 60 dollar bill bandit?  Because during one of the stickups, he asked the teller for all the 20s, 40s and 60s.  He is considered armed, dangerous and stupid.

Speaking of which, there is tonight‘s runner up, Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana, better known as George W. Bush‘s first budget director.  He is the latest to pick up the drum beat about postponing your retirement age.  But his rationalization to the “New York Times” is the dumbest one yet: “younger people, who, by the way I think, barring disasters, are going to live to possibly old ages, as we have always thought of it—they will live to be more than 100, because again, barring accidents, or something, or war, well over.  They should.  They‘ll be replacing body parts like we do tires.” 

Daniels added most young people today think they‘ll be working at age 72 anyway.  So why not raise retirement, since they‘ll all have all new body parts and, you know, white wall knees and a spare inflatable brain you keep in the trunk. 

Problem is that the actuarial table show that only upper income Americans workers are actually living much longer than they used to.  Between 1972 and 2001, the average life span of the lower half of this country‘s wage earners went up two years.  But the average life span of the upper half of this country‘s wage earners went up nearly seven years. 

But our winner, in a triumphant return, Bill-O the Clown.  He has never deserved that epithet more than he does now, after a disastrous interview with Dave Silverman of the group American Atheists.  I would say Silverman cleaned O‘Reilly‘s clock, but that‘s not really fair.  O‘Reilly did it for him.

This is about Mr. Silverman‘s claim that religion is a scam.  Please be seated and keep your hands inside the vehicle while the ride is still in progress. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  I‘ll tell you why it‘s not a scam in my opinion.  Right?  Tide goes in, tide goes out.  Never a miscommunication.  You can‘t explain that.  You can explain why the tide goes in. 

DAVE SILVERMAN, AMERICAN ATHEIST:  Tide goes in, tide goes out. 

O‘REILLY:  The water, the tide, comes in and it goes out, Mr.

Silverman.  Always comes in. 

SILVERMAN:  Maybe it‘s Thor on top of Mt. Olympus making the tides go in and out. 

O‘REILLY:  No, you can‘t explain that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Moon.  Tide, moon, make.  Moon make tide.  It was in all the papers.  Can we see that key section again? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O‘REILLY:  Tide goes in, tide goes out.  Never a miscommunication. 

You can‘t explain that.  You can explain why the tide goes in? 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yes, yes, I can.  So can Sir Isaac Newton and so can

everybody in Mr. McNaughton‘s (ph) eighth grade science class can—class

--  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O‘REILLY:  Tide goes in, tide goes out.  Never a miscommunication. 

You can‘t explain that.  You can explain why the tide goes in. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  What does the first part even mean.  “Tide goes in, tide goes out.  Never a miscommunication.”  What, you‘re expecting one day, tide goes in, stays in.  Or it‘s tide goes out, tide goes out again?  Bill-O, “tide goes in, tide goes out,” O‘Reilly, today‘s Worst Person in the World.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Oh, and Bill-O, modified Tweet of the day, Steve Weinstein: “what‘s a tsunami then?  A typo?” 

This morning, during the reading of the Constitution on the floor of the House, a screaming Birther interrupted from the gallery, shouting that the president was not qualified for office.  You could dismiss the woman as a loan wingnut if not for the fact that several of the 12 Republican co-sponsors of a House resolution requiring presidential candidates to produce birth certificates were also in the chamber reading the Constitution. 

In our number one story, we learned a lot about our founding document today, like there was never a three-fifths compromise, and prohibition never existed, but it was repealed.  And after reading his lines, Speaker Boehner bailed out to go hold his own news conference. 

It was billed as the first ever reading of the U.S. Constitution on

the floor of the House.  Dems and Repubs would take turns.  But before

starting, Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois asked whether the

reference to the Three-Fifths Compromise in Article I, Section II would be

read. 

Bob Goodlatte, the Virginia Republican who organized this reading, informed him that portions of the Constitution superseded by amendments would not be read, but that Representative John Lewis of Georgia would be asked to read the 13th amendment abolishing slavery and Three Fifths. 

The show began with the speaker reading the preamble without a single tear.  He then handed off to the Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, for Article I, Section I.  By Article I, Section IX, Mr. Boehner had ditched the proceedings, leaving the floor to set up a competing news story next door.  Have fun reading the Constitution. 

Then it was on to Article II, executive branch, and here come the Birthers. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW JERSEY:  No person except a natural born citizen or a citizen of the United States at the time of the adoption of this Constitution shall be eligible to be the office of president.  Neither shall—

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Except Obama!  Except Obama!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Congressman Joe Wilson, your voice has changed.  No, Capitol Police say the woman yelling, Teresa Chow (ph), was arrested and charged with unlawful conduct and disruption of Congress.  Apparently a well known Birther, Ms. Chow was profiled last March by the Birther conspiracy home website WorldNet—Wacko—Daily. 

On two amendments.  Representative Goodlatte, whose name is not—unfortunately is not pronounced good latte, who is a Tea Partier and a states rights tenther, took the Tenth Amendment for himself. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. BOB GOODLATTE ®, VIRGINIA:  The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the people respectively—are reserved to the states respectively or to the people. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And a mighty roar goes up from the crowd.  All right, a smattering of applause.  By the end of the reading, there were hardly any legislators left in the chamber.  Ninety minutes after it began, the show was over. 

Except it wasn‘t.  Turns out a few pages stuck together.  Article IV, Section IV and Article V, Section I were skipped.  Congressman Goodlatte would have to return to the floor to read them into the record.  He still may not be done. 

As Slate‘s Dave Weigel points out, Congress Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, who one those Republicans we mentioned who missed yesterday‘s swearing in ceremony and tried to do it by TV—so not only did they vote on House rules as a non-sworn in members of Congress, but Fitzpatrick‘s reading of part of the 25th Amendment today may be itself null and void. 

Joining me now is “Slate” political reporter, MSNBC contributor Dave Weigel.  Good evening, David. 

DAVE WEIGEL, SLATE.COM:  Good evening, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  The Birther crashed the party, but she was just the only on Birther who couldn‘t restrain herself.  Representative Poe, Representative Franks, Gohmert, Goodlatte, they‘re co-sponsors of this Birther bill.  And they were all reading the Constitution today.  How bad is the Republican Birther problem, if you will? 

WEIGEL:  Theresa kind of showed up as the ghost of pandering Birther past.  Because Goodlatte I spoke to afterwards, other Republicans—first of all, there is a visible tensing when this happened.  Second, I remember Goodlatte referring to this in the sense that he was glad no one else had interrupted. 

Blithely unaware, maybe trying to make everybody else forget that he had co-sponsored this Birther bill in 2009.  And he actually made public his birth certificate to help promote it when he was asked for it. 

I‘m giving the benefit of the doubt here.  Maybe they will drop this.  Maybe this is something they answer to their constituents for and they‘re going to drop.  Because that is going to happen to a lot of their initiatives. 

But for now, I was in there wondering, this is a little bit of their fault.  If they had let this die out in 2009, maybe she wouldn‘t have got the gumption to show up. 

OLBERMANN:  Yes, kind of.  But this interview today, Speaker Boehner admitted that the president is a citizen.  Then he was asked if he should be trying to persuade his members, you know, to drop the Birther crap.  And his response was, the quote, “it‘s not up to me to tell them what to think.” 

If he‘s that hands-off with the Birther crowd, A, what are the two years going to be looking like in general?  And B, how is it all going to go away? 

WEIGEL:  I guess the hope for them would be that they introduce—another bill gets introduced.  Last time it was introduced in March, in the last Congress, and it doesn‘t pick up enough co-sponsors to go anywhere.  They get embarrassed again, but it goes away. 

The thing I keep waiting for, though—and hopefully this won‘t become a major issue.  There are lots of states that gained a number of Republicans this year, are run by Republican governors.  Two years ago, Republicans had had less power and they introduced legislation to demand birth certificates from presidential candidates. 

This will come up again.  Again, this was the argument against Republicans doing this in 2009.  One of them actually—we talked about members of Congress.  One is now the governor of Georgia, Nathan Deale, who asked the president for his birth certificate, got promoted.  It looked as though they were just giving these guys what they wanted, spooling out some red meat and hoping it would go away. 

Sorry for mixing those metaphors, though, handing out red meat.  But this has an impact.  It convinced them that this is possible.  And, yeah, we saw the ugly side of it today.  That embarrassed everyone in that room. 

OLBERMANN:  More importantly, from their perspective, it took over what the point of this was.  You can argue whether the point of it was a farce to begin with.  But there‘s no argument now that the thing was turned into a farce by this woman yelling from the crowd. 

WEIGEL:  Yes.  About half of the news stories about this ended up leading with this story, instead of leading with whatever—if the point of this was they‘re going to be faithful to the Constitution.  The big side bar that overwhelmed the story was that a Birther interrupted them.  There‘s a little bit of self-reflection they could do if they want to make sure this doesn‘t happen again. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh, yes.  I‘m counting on that first thing in the morning, self-reflection.  Give me your overall assessment of the reading and what it meant in about 45 seconds.

WEIGEL:  I was most interested in the way Democrats were angry.  You pointed this out in the beginning.  Annoyed, maybe angry is too strong, that this didn‘t go through the entire history of the Constitution, because they keep trying to fight this argument and say, look, you can‘t pretend that the founders are right about everything.  This country has evolved.  We have debates. 

As you try to undo everything we‘ve passed in two years, it‘s not really sophisticated or true to say that because the founders were against it, we have to get rid it.  And they were—I think they made their point today.  They actually showed a little bit of fight for something that was supposed to be a complete—not a complete photo-op. 

Let‘s give them some credit.  This is the first time Congress has done it.  Perhaps somebody who didn‘t realize the income tax is in the Constitution will have learned that important lesson today.  But I think it tees up lots and lots of Constitutional arguments they‘re going to have.  And hopefully makes them realize how they should stop introducing Birther bills.  It would be a really good idea to stop doing that. 

OLBERMANN:  For their benefit.  We‘re not even talking about for the country‘s.  Dave Weigel of Slate.com, thank you, Dave.

WEIGEL:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s January 6th, 31 days since the Republicans got their deal for the taxes for the rich.

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