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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Rep. Loretta Sanchez, Chris Hayes, Ezra Klein, Elon James White





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

Arizona enacts racism.


GOV. JAN BREWER ®, ARIZONA:  Though many people disagree, I firmly believe it represents what‘s best for Arizona.


OLBERMANN:  Governor Jan Brewer signs into law police powers to pull over anybody for no reason, and like a Hollywood World War II film, ask to see their papers.


BREWER:  It protects all of us, every Arizona citizen and everyone here in our state lawfully.


OLBERMANN:  Provided you‘re not Hispanic or you don‘t look Hispanic or you don‘t have a tan, or you don‘t run into a policeman who just feels like hassling you.

The blowback had already begun.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The recent efforts in Arizona which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.

BREWER:  We in Arizona have been more than patient waiting for Washington to act.


OLBERMANN:  Governor, you ain‘t seeing nothing yet.

How the anti-Hispanic laws of Arizona might cripple Arizona while galvanizing support for diversity.  Reaction from Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of California and Chris Hayes from “The Nation.”

Watching porn, not watching the store: New e-mails confirming nobody at the SEC in 2007 was watching the credit industry, as Moody‘s, Standard & Poor‘s lied to us, said risky investments like derivatives and bonds were safe, and got big fees from the derivatives and bonds companies.

Yes, that‘s right.  I paid for my hospital stay in chickens.


SUE LOWDEN ®, NEVADA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE:  In the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor.


OLBERMANN:  The GOP finally comes up with a health care plan and it‘s bartering for your health with poultry.

“Worsts”: The day Dick Cheney told Senator Leahy to go F-himself.


DICK CHENEY, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT:  You‘d be surprised how many people liked that.  That‘s sort of the best thing I ever did.


OLBERMANN:  Sort of?

And “Friday‘s with Thurber.”  Tonight, “The Topaz Cufflinks Mystery.”

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.



OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

Just hours ago, the governor of Arizona signed into law an immigration bill that may in practical terms mandate racial profiling.  And only hours before that, President Obama had criticized the proposed law and used it as an example of why federal level immigration reform is so necessary and urgent.

In our fifth story tonight: Will this new law do for immigration reform what outrageous insurance rate hikes did for health care reform?

Governor Brewer today signed into law and then defended a law that allows Arizona police to stop anyone on-site and ask them to produce papers, proving that they are in the country legally if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the person may be in the country illegally.  The law would take effect 90 days after the state legislative session ends, meaning by August of this year—unless it is enjoined.  The latitude the new measure gives police is a crucial component, one that has been vigorously criticized by the bill‘s opponents.

Governor Brewer, who will be facing a primary challenge from a handful of Republicans this August, framed her decision as a security and law enforcement.  The governor said her state had waited patiently for Washington to act amid a dangerous and an unacceptable situation, and she claimed that no one else‘s civil rights would be violated.


BREWER:  My signature today represents my steadfast support for enforcing the law, both against illegal immigration and against racial profiling.  This legislation mirrors federal laws regarding immigration enforcement.

I will not tolerate racial discrimination or racial profiling in Arizona.  Today, I am issuing an executive order directing the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, AZPOST, to develop training to appropriately implement Senate Bill 1070.  Importantly, this training will include what does and does not constitute reasonable suspicion that a person is not legally present in the United States.


OLBERMANN:  Earlier today, at a naturalization ceremony for 24 active duty service members, the president called for comprehensive immigration reform and took the opportunity to critique the Arizona bill.


OBAMA:  Indeed, our failure to act responsibly at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others.  That includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona which threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.  In fact, I‘ve instructed members of my administration to closely monitor the situation and examine the civil rights and other implications of this legislation.  But if we continue to fail to act as a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country.


OLBERMANN:  Opponents of that misguided Arizona immigration measure include Arizona‘s attorney general, Terry Goddard, and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.  Catholic bishops opposed the law.  Reverend Jim Wallis of the progressive Christian group Sojourners has said in a statement that churches will not comply with it for moral reasons.

Governor Raul Grijalva who had called for an economic boycott of his own state if the bill became law—he called for it on this newscast on Tuesday—which today reiterated that position to COUNTDOWN through his office.

The primary focus of the boycott would be the state‘s convention centers.  Senator John McCain of Arizona who, like Governor Brewer, is in his own primary battle for re-election has supported the measure.  And while McCain said it would be regrettable if the legislation led to racial profiling, he also said that the law was written to protect, quote, “people whose homes and property are being violated, drivers of cars with illegals in them that are intentionally causing accidents on the freeways.”

Protesters who camped out at the Arizona state capitol for days in opposition to this bill reacted to the governor‘s act, the signing today, with boos and chants of “Shame on you.”

Joining me now: Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of California‘s 47th district.

Great thanks for coming in.

REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA:  Thanks for having me tonight.

OLBERMANN:  Governor Brewer says racial profiling is illegal and will not be tolerated.  And yet, on almost anybody who would be guilty under this law will almost necessarily be Hispanic.  It would seem to me that these statements are mutually exclusive.

SANCHEZ:  Well, more importantly, I believe the governor has tolerated it.  We‘ve seen they have Maricopa County sheriff there who‘s under investigation by our Justice Department and our FBI because while they‘re allowed, 287(g), it‘s a provision in federal law that says if we train you and you are a law enforcement officer and you agree with a memorandum of understanding to act as immigration officials.  And if you do it right, you can, in fact, get these people, get them to ICE and we can work on deporting them.

But what we‘ve seen is that they haven‘t been trained.  They haven‘t -

they—they‘re almost like vigilantes out there getting people.  And so, it‘s happening in her own state.  And that‘s why we have an investigation against that.


So, for her to say she won‘t tolerate it—well—


SANCHEZ:  -- I would say, Madam Governor, it‘s happening.  It‘s happening.  And now you‘ve signed a law that if you really read it says someone like Loretta Sanchez, a Hispanic, goes into Arizona—now, what type of credentials am I supposed to carry with me?  What—you know?

And the other night, last night, I had one of my colleagues say, “We can tell they‘re just different.”


SANCHEZ:  What do you mean?  Well, they dress differently.  They even wear different shoes.  You know—I don‘t think so.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, it‘s madness.

SANCHEZ:  It‘s—it really is a crazy thing to see.

OLBERMANN:  Now, let me ask you the devil‘s advocate question.  There is a serious problem—specifically in Arizona, there are people being kidnapped in Phoenix by Mexican drug cartels, people just driving straight across the border and pulling people out of homes and taking them back to Mexico and holding them for money.  These are not imaginary problems.  They may not be a million per two million cases, but they are happening.

So, what is the solution if this so clearly is not the solution?

SANCHEZ:  Well, the first thing that is a solution is that we need to handle the immigration issue.  What does that mean?  We believe it‘s three-prong.  I believe it‘s a three-prong solution.

First, understand who‘s to come into our country and who‘s not.  We have the sovereign right to decide that.

Make the borders—you can‘t have 100 percent complete tightness on the border.  But you can do a pretty good job.  And we‘ve been trying to do that.  We‘ve been allocating the resources.  I have more than twice as many border patrol agents as I had just two years ago in our federal service.

So, we‘re working very hard to get the security.

But remember, there‘s a lot of people passing and there‘s a reason why they‘re coming to the United States.  It‘s an economic reason.

So, I would say, let‘s make visas that allow people to come if we have jobs available for them to come so that they‘re not being—sneaking into our country or running across our country or giving money to those people who would profit from a smuggling trade.  Because where there‘s smuggling, there‘s forging of documents, there‘s laundering of money, there‘s possible terrorists who could be smuggled (ph) in in the same lines; there‘s definitely drug dealing going on.

So, bad people are profiting because we as a government have not stood up and said, let‘s make a good program where people who need to work can come because we need workers.

And lastly, let‘s just say that the third piece of enforcement of visas for the future and what do we do about the people who are already here.  We need to do something about that because when we take care of that, then we have—we‘ve taken the big haystack away and we‘re really just dealing with the criminal element we‘re talking about.

OLBERMANN:  This effort in Arizona right now that was pushed through the Senate and the statehouse there and was signed by the governor today—do you think this is a sincere but misguided effort to address the problem, or is this some politicians, like Governor Brewer or Senator McCain, who are being challenged from their own right side, people more conservative even than they are conservative, and they‘re just making political hay out of this?  Which do you think it is?

SANCHEZ:  Well, I personally don‘t know the governor so I can‘t attest to her.  I do know I believe John McCain much—very well.  I‘ve been 14 years in the Congress while he‘s been a senator.  He understands there needs to be a comprehensive immigration reform done.

You know, the guy who‘s running against him, J.D. Hayworth, I served with.  I don‘t want to see J.D. Hayworth in that position, and I understand that people are angry in Arizona, some of the—especially people who vote, because they do get scared.  They are scared about this.

They are worried about so many people coming—coyotes as we call them, bringing people in.  They‘re worried about terrorists.  They‘re worried—they‘re just worried.  And they see it infringing their lifestyle.

I understand that.  We can handle that.  But as I said, we have to have a comprehensive package.

So, I would just hope that Senator McCain gets through that primary and then, you know, gets back to the business of really governing.  And that means we need to pass an immigration reform.

Let me just add one other thing that really worries me, and this comes from my law enforcement.  Now, some people say, oh, the cops want this, law enforcement want this, the police chiefs of my area do not want to have an immigrant community—the Hispanic community or the Arab-American community or the Russian-American community or the Vietnamese community—they want to have good relationships with these immigrant communities.


SANCHEZ:  When you begin to shut down a community because they may not

their people may not have the status, therefore they don‘t want to interact with the police, then criminals can hide within those communities.



SANCHEZ:  Even criminals who are not part of that community.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, that becomes a new self-feeding problem that can replace the problem they think they‘re fixing here.

SANCHEZ:  And then there‘s more crime.

OLBERMANN:  Exactly.

SANCHEZ:  So my police officials actually are against these types of situations.

OLBERMANN:  Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of the California 47th—again, thanks for coming in.

SANCHEZ:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  And thanks for your opinions on this.

Let‘s turn to Chris Hayes, the Washington editor of “The Nation” magazine, to look at what the political impact of this is going to be.

Chris, good evening.

CHRIS HAYES, THE NATION:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  So, Michael Steele had just copped to this southern strategy, the new Republican southern strategy.  Are we seeing now a southwestern strategy on the party‘s part?

HAYES:  Well, if it‘s a southwestern strategy, I think it‘s idiotic.  I mean, they reaped a lot of gains from the southern strategy back in the ‘60s and the ‘70s, and the problem is they can win regionally in short term ways in, you know, a state like Arizona.  They can make some sort of political hay out of this.

In the long-term, it‘s suicide.  It‘s political suicide because of the demographic trends of the country.  And every smart Republican from a strategic‘s perspective understands that.  And yet, I think they‘re so sort of captured by the angriest part of the base that this is the sort of thing you see.

OLBERMANN:  But as you suggest, could this wind up being the best thing to ever happen to opponents of bills like this?

HAYES:  I do think it has the potential for two reasons.  One is, I think it could be a really Terri Schiavo moment.  I mean, you know, we‘ve been seeing the snake flag with “don‘t tread on me,” right?

This is, you know, “we are sure as hell going to tread on you.  We‘re going to tread all over you.”  This is an unbelievable ratcheting up of state power.  In fact, it‘s almost certainly unconstitutional.  That will be resolved by the courts.

And second of all, back in 2006, the largest mass mobilization that had happened since the Iraq war were the rallies in support of immigration reform.  And what triggered those was a bill in the House sponsored by Sensenbrenner that basically would have made it a crime to be illegal, or to be out of status.  And that really galvanized the movement that sort of coalesced then, and this may be a similar triggering point.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  When you get to the point, and Congresswoman Sanchez, who was just here, or anybody—any partially somewhat tanned person of Caucasian origin—

HAYES:  Right.

OLBERMANN:  -- who‘s not from Arizona, needs to have their passport with them in another state of this country.  It is mindboggling.

HAYES:  Yes, right.  No, I mean, it‘s—it‘s just so beyond the pale.  I think once—and people have to understand, the other thing that has to happen is it has to be made into a national issue.

I mean, every single Republican needs to be asked whether they support this bill.  Every single one serving in Congress and the Senate, this has to be made into a national issue because this is an indefensible piece of legislation and they have to be put on the defensive to either repudiate it or just to endorse it.

OLBERMANN:  Just to—I mean, think of John Boehner.  I don‘t want to

make too much light of this, but just for a second think of John Boehner

getting pulled over in Phoenix because he‘s orange.  Congressman Grijalva

was here, to get back to the serious part of this, Tuesday night, proposing

with obvious regret and pain in his voice, saying this about his home state

an economic boycott of Arizona, conventions.  That would be the principle idea.


But about—how quickly could something like that kick in businesswise because their awarded Super Bowl, Major League Baseball, the spring training in Arizona, the baseball spring training, the Cactus League is growing or had been growing.  Manny Ramirez is going to go train in Glendale, Arizona, when some cop might pull him over for driving while Hispanic.

How fast could this all unravel economically?

HAYES:  I think it could.  I mean, I think that‘s a real pressure point.  We‘ve actually been here before in 1990 when the citizens of Arizona refused to recognize Martin Luther King Day as a national—as a federal holiday.  You know, there was—there was a boycott effort.  There‘s, of course, the great public enemy song, by the time I get to Arizona.

So, and that—and I think both the economic input, the pressure of the boycott and just the kind of national moral opprobrium that was directed at the state had some influence.  And I think that hopefully you‘re going to see a kind of movement like that now.  And I think it will start to kind of recalculate the incentives for both the citizens of Arizona and the politicians there.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, watch the sports angle.  I think there may be some baseball teams pressured by their own citizens or by their own ownership not to go to Arizona for 2011.

HAYES:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  Chris Hayes of “The Nation”—great thanks.  Have a great weekend.

HAYES:  You too, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The companies that were supposed to tell us whether the investments other companies were offering were risky or safe were bought off by the companies offering those investments.  And George Bush‘s SEC could legally do nothing about it.  Financial reform?  Next.


OLBERMANN:  This senator thinks he has a campaign winner—porn in Obama‘s Securities and Exchange Commission.  Except the porn apparently dates back to Bush‘s Securities and Exchange Commission.

You‘ll need a colonoscopy.  Your co-pay is 365 chickens.  A would-be senator who is sticking to the idea of bartering for health care.

This man shamed his nation a thousand times, turns out he thinks the best thing he ever did was to shame his office by swearing in a senator.

And Friday nights with Thurber—a thrilling story of a guy explaining to a cop why he‘s by the side of the road at night on all fours.  “The Topaz Cufflinks Mystery.”

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  Under President Bush, the SEC could do nothing while companies that were supposed to rate the safety of bond and derivative investments offered by other companies, instead cut deals to falsely inflate those ratings.

Our fourth story tonight: New e-mail trails suggesting the people supposed to provide oversight of the people who were supposed to provide oversight were by law unable to stop the second group from being paid off.  This is a separate probe of the Bush era Securities and Exchange Commission shows some of its key people did spend their taxpayer-funded days watching pornography.

In a hearing room on Capitol Hill, former executives from Moody‘s and Standard & Poor‘s are testifying today that they pushed their analysts to award safe ratings to investments even when those investments were, in fact, risky—management having placed that pressure in order to keep earning the fees paid by the investment banks.  Analysts saying they felt they faced a choice: continue to give falsely inflated ratings, or quit their jobs.

Senator Levin of Michigan, chairman of the committee that held the hearing, is calling the entire system an inside job.


SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN:  The credit rating agencies were operating with an inherent conflict of interest because the revenues they pocketed came from the companies whose securities they rated.  It‘s like one of the parties in court paying the judge‘s salary, or one of the teams in a competition paying the salary of the referee.


OLBERMANN:  The SEC‘s oversight of the credit ratings agencies now unlimited—the agencies having escaped legal liability by claiming they are protected by the First Amendment right to free speech.

Republicans in Congress, meanwhile, are using their First Amendment right to free speech to push for something, anything, with which to discredit the SEC—and by extension the Obama administration.  Yesterday afternoon, Senator Grassley is making a request of Inspector General David Kotz‘s office.

Quoting from Iowa Republican‘s letter in which grandma is not mentioned once: “In your semi annual reports to Congress, you have indicated that your office has investigated several instances of SEC employees inappropriately accessing pornographic materials from their government computers.  In order to help determine whether there could be a systemic problem at SEC, could you provide a comprehensive summary over these types of cases over the last five years?”

The inspector general replying almost immediately—and he could because the documents that have been available have been available on his Web site all along.  He said that his investigations had netted nearly three dozen instances in which SEC employees had used government computers to access and download pornography when they should have been, you know, keeping the economy from the brink of collapse.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning “ProPublica” pointing out that it first had reported on some of the inspector general‘s findings in 2008, two years ago, during the Bush administration.  Nevertheless, the release Grassley made public and trumpeted as an entirely new revelation about the Obama era group.

Congressman Issa of California, widely deriding the findings as, quote, “Nothing short of disturbing”—the same California Republican who earlier this week wrote a letter to the SEC chairwoman saying that the Goldman Sachs lawsuit neatly coincided with the White House‘s push for financial reform.

Let‘s call in Ezra Klein who blogs about economic and domestic policy for “The Washington Post.”

Ezra, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  All right.  A system in which analysts are paid for their reviews by the companies they are reviewing.  Does it take a genius to figure out that was a system waiting to be abused and spectacularly so?

KLEIN:  No, it doesn‘t.  And I actually thought Senator Levin underplayed the situation.  It isn‘t just as if they are paying off the people who are rating them, they can also choose another grader.  I mean, it would be like in high school, if you wrote your own test, filled in the answers yourself, and then gave the teacher $100 to grade it, and if you didn‘t like it, you gave another teacher another $100 to grade it.  And that‘s how teachers made their money.

So, one thing that should be clear, we haven‘t dealt with this in the bills, for reasons that I think a lot of people confused by.  We have not fixed this fundamental conflict of interest in the bills.  And this is really important, because of the way these investment banks work, they outsource their thinking to these ratings agencies.  They all look, there‘s AAA on the bond, and they went with it.

So, getting these ratings right is really important.

OLBERMANN:  So, AAA is a brand name when it comes to bonding.

KLEIN:  AAA is in the good housekeeping seal of approval.  It means that it as riskless as a treasury security.  And they are putting AAA—


KLEIN:  -- on all those subprime securities.  They were saying the subprime thing that blew up the economy—they had virtually no risk to them.  That‘s how bad it got.

OLBERMANN:  The Republicans who spent most of the week questioning the timing of the Goldman Sachs investigation and lawsuit—is the timing of Mr. Grassley‘s request about pornography suspect as well?

KLEIN:  There‘s certainly an effort being made by some folks here to discredit the SEC in retaliation for the Goldman suit, which I think brings up two interesting points.  One is that—why do Republicans feel the need to be on the side of Goldman Sachs in this particular question?

And number two—it isn‘t clear exactly what they‘re getting at.  Even if you did prove the SEC timed its release, which they say they didn‘t, even if you did prove it, it isn‘t material to what people are concerned about.  The reason the issue is a very big deal is because it shows what these Wall Street banks were doing.  It shows how they were playing the game and it shows how much they were rigging it, or at least it appears to do so, based on the SEC‘s case.

So, even if the SEC is trying to hype their findings here, that‘s really, really getting a little bit off track when what the country is worried about is looking at these guy who crashed the economy, and we were letting them do this sort of thing.  This is how it was working.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  And the effort to finally start to fix that is

begins Monday night.  The senators are finally supposed to vote on whether to move forward on the Wall Street reform bill.  This past week, it looked like a deal was inevitable because the Republicans said—realized they need to be on the winning side of the issue.


And today, now, suddenly, the deal is looking precarious.  Democrats have to make concessions.  What‘s happening with the bill?

KLEIN:  One thing I learned during health care reform—


KLEIN:  -- is I don‘t speculate on meetings that are ongoing.

What we‘ll probably know on Monday—I‘ll just say one side thing that is concerning me a little bit here.  We moved so quickly on this bill from when it was introduced.  It went through committee with no debate, got down to the floor.  And now, we‘re talking about deals we don‘t know going on with it.  I‘m not necessarily one who thinks that you need 10 months, 12 months, 18 months in front of a—you know, on the headlines to do these things.

But we really haven‘t even debated the fundamental Dodd bill.  This is moving through a deal a lot quicker than I think the public or the legislators are understanding the bill or getting a chance to really say: is this the right theory for how we want to regulate this industry?

I‘m not saying it‘s a bad bill or good deal but, you know, we‘re talking deals, and I don‘t think people even know what‘s in this thing yet.  Even the people who need to vote on it.  And I do think that‘s a problem when we‘re dealing with something as big and as important as financial regulation.

OLBERMANN:  Just terrific.

Ezra Klein of “The Washington Post” and “Newsweek”—as always, great thanks.  Have a good weekend.

KLEIN:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  The price for your visit to see “Dr. Kill Patient” is 12 chickens.  All right.  Do you have change for two Rhode Island Reds?


OLBERMANN:  The Republicans finally have a health care plan.  As Tweeted at 42BKDodger, in our second runner up Tweet of the day, “I assume CPAS will report items received under Lowden‘s payment system at fowl market value.”  The Twitter report 16 followers, 49,000, then unfollowing, refollowing in a quixotic bid to become the epic 50,000th follower.  Number photos of self Tweeted today, none.  But Luke Russert said he was going to send out one of both of us.  He hasn‘t done it so far. 

Runner up Tweet of the day, from @BrazenlyLiberal, “my doctor is a vegetarian.  So am I.  In lieu of a chicken, can I pay for services with a block of spicy tofu?”  Not if you‘re with WellPoint, Signa, or Colonel Sanders Insurance.

Tweet of the day, from my friend @WillBunch, “the leader of rogue failed state Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer, is now massing more forces on her southern border.” 

How I wish he was joking.  Don‘t forget, boycott baseball‘s Cactus League.  Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin on the sun.  Is it occupied?  With all of the focus on Mars and asteroids lately, the sun had to do something to get noticed.  These pictures from NASA‘s Solard Dynamics Observatory, captured by four telescopes.  This fiery ring here, that‘s 30 times the size of the Earth.  It‘s called a solar eruption, possibly a reminder to Earth on Earth Day of just who revolves around whom. 

To Beijing, where residents are fed up with a stench emanating from area garbage dumps.  So city officials are fighting back by deploying over 100 cannons of deodorant.  Strong enough for a landfill, but PH balanced enough for a sensitive nasal cavity.  A sweet smelling mist covers up the stink.  After the garbage is sufficiently febreezed, odor-eating sheets are brought in for reinforcement.  That‘s a tough sentence to say.  I love the smell of Old Spice in the morning. 

This is all the brain child of workers at the Guanuntong (ph) landfill.  The good news is they‘re already developing their next big idea, urinal cakes for the state house of Arizona. 

Finally to Lima in Peru, with folks doing hard time at the high security Castro Prison are given the alternative to the usual lunchtime homage to “Thriller.”  Inmates are staging their own World Cup tournament, complete with an elaborate opening ceremony, acrobatics, and colorful flags.  Hello, flag.  The first match, Russia versus South Africa, resulting in a win for the latter.  Two hundred sixteen prisoners, representing over 16 countries, will eventually play.  This gives new meaning to the instructions, go directly to jail, do not pass—goal. 


A chicken in every podiatrist‘s office?  Comedian Elon James White on the funny stupid thing proposed by western Republicans this week.


OLBERMANN:  Why did the chicken cross the Nevada road?  To pay for its owner‘s hemorrhoid removal.  In our third story, Nevada Republican Senate hopeful Sue Lowden said she thought people should be able to pay for health care with chickens.  Now she‘s mad at Senator Harry Reid, against whom she‘s running, for calling attention to these thoughtful remarks.  To paraphrase our newscaster friend, keep plugging that chicken. 

On April 6th, at a candidate forum in Mesquite, Nevada—Mesquite chicken—it was in Mesquite that Lowden first suggested bartering with doctors.  Monday, on this show, Nevada lose-makers—Dr. Freud—Lowden was asked about the remarks and dropped bucket on her hosts.


SUE LOWDEN, ARIZONA GOP SENATE CANDIDATE:  Let‘s change the system and talk about what the possibilities are.  I‘m telling you that this works.  You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor.  They would say, I‘ll paint your house.  They would do—that‘s the old days of what people would do to get health care with doctors.  Doctors are very sympathetic people.  I‘m not backing down from that. 


OLBERMANN:  Proving whatever‘s wrong with Sarah Palin, it‘s not just the cold.  Lowden, who is polling ahead of Harry Reid, is upset that the Democratic senator is highlighting her chicken bartering comments, while reemphasizing them herself.  She‘s crying foul, telling a Nevada newspaper, quote, “Harry Reid is trying to change the subject from his 2,700 pages of government run health care.  I think that bartering is really good.  Those doctors who you pay cash, you can barter.  And that would get prices down in a hurry.” 

“Talking Point Memo” ran the numbers.  They calculate it would take a total of 459 billion chickens to cover all of American‘s health care costs.  Sadly, there are only 16 billion chickens in the world, but I bet you could stretch that out with some celery and mayonnaise. 

For chicken to medical procedure cost specifics, a group called Liberal Art has designed a website  They say a regular checkup would run you 24 chickens.  A colonoscopy set you back 514 birds.  Don‘t get a brain aneurysm unless you own several coops.  That would cost 1,553 clucks., however, does offer the following caveat: “your doctor may require more chickens than specified.  Do not mail you medical chickens as payment.  Chickens should not drive you to the doctor.  The chicken calculator cannot convert medical procedures to sheep, goats, pigs, ducks, cows, llamas, ostriches, et cetera. 

Comedian Elon James White is the creator and host of “This Week in Blackness.”  His website is  Thanks for your time tonight. 

ELON JAMES WHITE, COMEDIAN:  Thank you for having me, sir. 

OLBERMANN:  The chicken cost calculator is obviously a satirical website.  But do they not, to some degree, get to the core of the issue here; your chicken just doesn‘t go as far as it used to? 

WHITE:  I would thick so.  On the way here, I went just to check.  And an entire chicken, fully cooked, I got for 6.99.  Like how much chickens would I have to get for like a root canal.  Like, seriously? 

OLBERMANN:  Also, what about—say you were able to find a doctor who was going to take chickens for your root canal—a dentist—would you want, for sanitary reasons, to go to a dentist who is accepting livestock at the front desk, and the chickens go past you while you‘re in the dental chair? 

WHITE:  Listen, at this point, we‘re not really thinking about clean hospitals.  Do you want clean hospitals or do you want a black guy in charge?  I mean, socialism.  Which one do you want? 

OLBERMANN:  So there‘s been a few doctors, but otherwise not a whole lot of support for bartering coming from the medical community.  Any reason to speculate as to why doctors haven‘t just signed up in droves for this plan just yet? 

WHITE:  I‘m assuming that they‘re waiting for better bartering deals.  Like drug dealers in 1988 Brooklyn had a better bartering deal.  Like if you wanted crack, you‘d have to get your big screen TV in the room or something or your car.  Like how many chickens is it going to take for a triple bypass.  That‘s ridiculous. 

OLBERMANN:  This Lowden person, her comment was “in the old days, doctors used to take chickens in exchange for saving your life.”  But also, in the old days, if you were sick and you went down to your neighborhood barber who preceded the doctor for a bleeding to get out the evil humors, and maybe he‘d give you some leaches to go—when we talk about medicine and the old days, do we want to go to the old days—I‘m sorry, no anesthesia, just lie there until it stops hurting. 

WHITE:  I‘m assuming that in the old days, we did a lot of things that we might not want to do now.  You know, like in the old days, when we wanted to get rid of undesirables, we gave them blankets with Small Pox on it.  Are we going to go to the old days to solve problems, like to get rid of illegals?  Forget immigration reform, let‘s just give them disease riddled blankets.  What about that? 

OLBERMANN:  Or authorize the cops pull them over and ask them—oh no, that‘s right.  They‘re going to do that.  That‘s the new days.  One other thing about Ms. Lowden, she currently works as a casino executive.  To your knowledge, do they take chickens in lieu of cash in Vegas at the slot machines, tables and such? 

WHITE:  I don‘t think so, but it would be awesome if they did at her casino.  It looks like a barnyard there, like someone loses a hand at Blackjack and they‘re handing over a horse.  That would be amazing. 

OLBERMANN:  You‘ve tapped out. 

WHTIE:  Yeah.  Exactly. 

OLBERMANN:  Comedian Elon James White, great thanks for your time tonight. 

WHITE:  Thank you for having me, sir. 

OLBERMANN:  Friday nights with James Thurber; tonight one of his best known short stories, “The Topaz Cufflinks Mystery.” 

Like father like son; Rupert Murdoch‘s little pirate James makes worsts for the first time.  Arrggh, maty.

And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, her special guest on the abuse scandal in the Catholic church, Sinead O‘Connor.


OLBERMANN:  If it‘s Friday, it‘s James Thurber.  That‘s next, but first a correction to Tuesday‘s worst persons.  The Associated Press now says it had the wrong data in how, during a fiscal blood-letting in New Jersey, the staff of the new governor, Chris Christie, was earning two million dollars a year more than the staff of his predecessor, Jon Corzine.  The correct figure, Christie‘s staff is taking home 440,000 dollars more. 

Like that‘s OK.  The Associated Press regrets the error. 

As to tonight‘s worsts; the bronze to James Murdoch, Aussie pirate Jr.., chairman and CEO of Newscorp Europe and Asia, and the heir apparent to his father, Rupert.  The “London Independent” ran an ad promoting its coverage of the wild and wooly British elections: “Rupert Murdoch won‘t decide this election, you will.”

Murdoch, the younger, and the publisher of all of British papers, stormed into the office of the “Independent,” demanded to see the editor in chief and yelled at him over the ad for 20 minutes.  “They strode in like a scene out of Dodge City,” said one witness.  “What are you F-ing playing at,” Murdoch the younger reportedly began.  Later, according to “The Guardian Newspaper,” “James Murdoch accused the rival editor of breaking the unwritten code that proprietors do not attack each other.” 

Oh, jimmy, you‘re new here.  Rules?  There are no rules. 

Our runner up, Congressman Brian Bilbray of California, with one of the dumbest things ever said in the increasingly desperate effort to disguise Arizona‘s official state endorsed racism as anything else.  Chris Matthews asked Bilbray what, when they go looking for possible immigrants, Arizona police will look for besides the color of their skin.  Bilbray‘s answer?  Their shoes. 


REP. BRIAN BILBRAY ®, COALIFORNIA:  They will look at the kind of dress they wear.  There‘s different type of attire.  There‘s different type of—right down to the shoes, right down to the clothes, but mostly by behavior. 


OLBERMANN:  Different type of attire.  OK, so you can judge people‘s illegally by how they dress.  Let‘s see how this works.  White shirts, gray suits, a little purple in the tie, Caucasians, in their 50s.  Yet one of us has a job in which we succeeded a fellow named Duke Cunningham.  Guess it doesn‘t work. 

But our winner, former Vice President Dick Cheney.  He was on the Internet show of former comedian Dennis Miller, who brought up the day in 2004 on the Senate floor when Cheney told Senator Pat Leahy to go blank himself. 


DENNIS MILLER, COMEDIAN:  By the way, I also want to thank you.  On the list of things to thank you for, almost kicking Patrick Leahy‘s ass.  Thank you very much.  I love that move.  One of my favorite stories, muttering that. 

DICK CHENEY, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You‘d be surprised how many people liked that.  That‘s sort of the best thing I ever did. 


OLBERMANN:  Lied us into a war resulting in the death of thousands of Americans, ruined our standing abroad, funneled billions of taxpayer dollars into the company you used to be chairman of, instituted torture, shredded the constitution.  You know what, Dick?  I agree with you.  That was the best thing you ever did.  How God damned pathetic is that? 

And, Dick, on a personal note, what Jon Stewart said.  Dick Cheney, today‘s worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN:  Time again to close a weekend—a week of COUNTDOWN with a reading from the works of the great James Thurber.  I‘ve been doing this for four weeks now, reading Thurber.  But if have you not seen it, I read these in the hospital to my dad.  He said I should read them to you.  And the Thurber family agreed.  I‘m happy to report sales of Thurber‘s books have zoomed. 

One quick thank you to the great actor William Windham, who portrayed James Thurber in two one man shows in the ‘70s, plus a sitcom, whose mastery of the texts was my original inspiration for daring to try this. 

Tonight, one of Thurber‘s stranger, weirder short stories.  I‘m reading, as usual, from the Library of America edition “Thurber, Writings and Drawings” 1996.  But this was originally published in 1935, in Thurber‘s “The Middle-aged Man on the Flying Trapeze”.”

“The Topaz Cufflinks Mystery” by James Thurber. 

“When the motorcycle cop came roaring up unexpectedly out of Never Neverland, the way motorcycle cops do, the man was on his hands and knees in the long grass beside the road barking like a dog.  The woman was driving slowly along in a car that stopped about 80 feet away.  Its headlines shown on the man, middle-aged, bewildered, sedentary. 

He got to his feet.  “What‘s going on here,” asked the cop.  The woman giggled.  Cock-eyed, thought the cop.  He did not glance at her.  “I guess it‘s gone,” said the man.  “I could not find it.” 

“What was it?” 

“What I lost?”  The man squinted unhappily.  “Some—some cuff links. 

Topazes set in gold.” 

He hesitated.  The cop didn‘t seem to believe him.  ‘

“They were the color of a fine mosel (ph),” said the man.  He put on a pair of spectacles, which he had been holding in his hand.  The woman giggled. 

“Aren‘t things better with your glasses off,” asked the cop.  He pulled his motorcycle to the side to let a car pass.  Better pull over off the concrete, lady, he said.  She drove the car off the roadway. 

I‘m near-sighted, said the man.  I can hunt things at a distance with my glasses object, but I do better with them off if I‘m close to something. 

The cop kicked his heavy boots through the grass where the man had been crouching. 

He was barking, ventured the lady in the car, so that I could see where he was. 

The cop pulled his machine up on its standard.  He and the man walked over to the automobile. 

What I don‘t get, said the officer, is how you lose cufflinks 100 feet in front of where your car is.  A person usually stops his car past the place he loses something, not 100 feet before he gets too the place. 

The lady laughed again.  Her husband got slowly into the car as if he were afraid the officer would stop him any moment.  The officer studied them. 

Been to a party, he asked.  It was after midnight. 

We‘re not drunk, if that‘s what you mean, said the woman smiling.  The cop tapped his fingers on the door of the car. 

You people didn‘t lose no topazes, he said. 

Is it against the law for a man to be down on all fours beside a road barking in a perfectly civil manner, demanded the lady? 

No, ma‘am, said the cop.  He made no move to get on his motorcycle, however, and go on about his business.  It was just the quiet chugging of the cycle engine and auto engine for a time. 

I‘ll tell you how it was, officer, said the man in a crisp new tone. 

We were settling a bet, OK?  OK, said the cop.  Who win? 

There was another pulsing silence.  The lady bet, said her husband with dignity, as though he was explaining some important phase of industry to a newly hired clerk.  The lady bet that my eyes would shine like a cat‘s do at night if she came upon me suddenly close to the ground alongside the road.  We passed a cat whose eyes gleamed.  We passed several persons whose eyes did not gleam. 

Simply because they were above the light and not under it, said the lady.  A man‘s eyes would gleam like a cat‘s if people were ordinarily caught at the same angle by headlights as cats are. 

The cop walked over to where he had left his motorcycle, picked it up, kicked the standard out and wheeled it back.  A cat‘s eyes, he said, are different than yours and mine.  Dogs, cats, skunks, it‘s all the same.  They can see in a dark room. 

Not in a totally dark room, said the lady. 

Yes they can, said the cop. 

No, they can‘t.  Not if there‘s no light at all in the room.  Not if it‘s absolutely black, said the lady.  The question came up the other night.  There was a professor there and he said there must be at least a ray of light no matter how faint. 

That may be, said the cop, after a solemn pause, pulling at his gloves.  But people‘s eyes don‘t shine.  I go along these roads every night and pass hundreds of cats and hundreds of people. 

The people are never close to the ground, said the lady. 

I was close to the ground, said her husband. 

Look altogether it this way, said the cop.  I‘ve seen wildcats in trees at night, and their eyes shine. 

There you are, said the lady‘s husband.  That proves it. 

I don‘t see how, said the lady. 

There was another silence.  Because a wild cat in a tree‘s eyes are higher than the level of a man‘s, said her husband.  The cop may possibly have followed it, the lady obviously did not.  Neither one said anything.  The cop got on his machine, raced his engine, seemed to be thinking about something and throttled down. 

He turned to the man, took your glasses off so the lights wouldn‘t make your glasses shine, huh, he asked. 

That‘s right, said the man. 

The cop waved his hand triumphantly and roared away.  Smart guy, said the man to his wife irritably. 

I still don‘t see where the wild cat proves anything, said his wife. 

He drove off slowly.  Look, he said.  You claim that the whole thing depends on how low a cat‘s eyes are.  I—

I didn‘t say that.  I said it all depends on how high a man‘s eyes—

“The Topaz Cufflinks Mystery.  That‘s COUNTDOWN, portions written by James Thurber.  “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” is next.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck. 



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