Guests: Mitch Weiss, Ira Leifer, Richard Wolffe, Harry Shearer
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Day 79 -- and the minefield of future disasters in the Gulf: 27,000 abandoned wells, at least 1,000 unattended for more than a decade.
BP is still banning independent scientists from inspecting the disaster, even if those inspections could still lead to containment.
And next, the insurance disaster. The deadline for some pollution claims in the Gulf is tomorrow.
The Battle of Berwick. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services without a permanent director since 2006 gets Dr. Donald Berwick in a recess appointment. So? President Bush‘s director said, Berwick is “universally regarded and thoughtful guy who is not partisan.”
But Miss Bendy Straws criticizes more things she doesn‘t understand. Berwick is about, quote, “socialized healthcare and rationing based on quality of life.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We need somebody on the job now. We have had more nominees waiting longer than any administration in recent history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: GOP is still killing jobless benefits in the Senate. Robert Byrd‘s successor from West Virginia is holding the balance against the Republican filibuster. The governor of West Virginia pushes not to just appoint a successor now but maybe hold a special election, later—in which maybe he could run?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I would highly consider that. I truly would.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: “Worsts”: they cut off her COBRA benefits because she paid less than the minimum, 1/100 of a penny less than the minimum.
And the LeBron-a-thon. LeBron James, not just the biggest free agent in basketball history, not just maybe the biggest free agent in sports history, he‘s got to announce which team he‘s going to play for during a live, televised hour long special—a new meaning to the phrase, pay-per-view.
All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
This is day 79 since the Deepwater Horizon well blew up in the Gulf of Mexico. There was news today about how day 80 could make or break untold numbers of people on the Gulf Coast.
But, first, the disturbing findings of an investigation by the “Associated Press.” Our fifth story: Thousands of abandoned oil wells on the floor of the Gulf, wells could be leaking now or might leak in the future but no one will ever know it because neither big oil nor big government ever bother looking.
An “A.P.” analysis of government data showed that drillers have temporarily abandoned more than 3,500 wells in the Gulf. Meaning: when the wells proved problematic, or company has decided to wait until gas prices went up, they put temporary—meaning less good—caps on them. The exact same kind of cement caps that failed to cap the Deepwater Horizon well. Some temporarily are abandoned for more than 50 years now; 1,000 of them for more than a decade.
Not only is Interior Secretary Salazar is not inspecting any of these wells, his department would not even tell “A.P.” why it‘s not expecting them, even though the Bush Interior Department concluded in 2001 that some of them might have been leaking then. Nor has the government responded, so far, to a coalition of hydrocarbon scientists—one of whom joins us shortly. That it‘s asking for permission and funding, $8.5 million, to examine the well which we know is gushing, the gauge accurately the flow rate to assess where it‘s going and how its toxic components are reacting under water.
And though “McClatchy” newspapers reported back in May that BP had a financial incentive, namely lawsuits based on the spill rate, to not get accurate estimates, “McClatchy” now reports that BP wasted little time preparing for those lawsuits by retaining the very environmental experts and labs who might otherwise be able to work for plaintiffs.
And last week, COUNTDOWN confirmed today, several insurance companies notified the Marsh Insurance Brokerage that they will, quote, “enforce time limits strictly on their policies.” Meaning: Gulf Coast business that is are or will be hurt can only get their insurance claims for it filled if they file by the deadline.
What deadline? For some policies, the deadline is 5:00 p.m. tomorrow.
“The National Law Journal” reporting that in many cases, policyholders must file claims within 80 days of the event, the explosion, even if the oil does not reach your beach or fishing ground until day 81. This as the oil is still making new ground reaching Lake Pontchartrain and Texas, as we told you.
And spill chief, Thad Allen, told NBC News today it will be another two to four days until BP can hook up a third collection vessel, the Helix, that will double its collection capacity at the spill site.
We‘re joined now by Mitch Wise, part of the “Associated Press” investigative team covering the spill and one of the correspondents who broke that story about the Gulf‘s abandoned wells.
Mr. Weiss, thanks for your time tonight.
MITCH WEISS, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Thank you for inviting me, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Can you quantify this problem? How many inactive wells in the Gulf? How many only temporarily capped? How many do we really need to worry about?
WEISS: Well, we were able to crunch MMS data and we found that there are 27,000 abandoned wells. Well, within that, there‘s a subset of 3,500 temporary wells. And those are wells that basically don‘t have the same kind of protection that the permanently abandoned wells have.
So, of those 3, 500, they were temporarily abandoned for a number of reasons. They may not be economically feasible. Some of the oil companies may be waiting for the price of gas to go up, or those wells may have been temporarily abandoned while the oil and gas company is trying to gain control of these wells. Sometimes they can be out of control wells.
And, so, really, there are 3,500, you know, the temporarily abandoned wells. And then, of those, more than 1,000 of those have been temporarily abandoned for more than a year. Some of those abandoned for 20, 30, 40 years. And those are the ones that I think that are most at risk.
OLBERMANN: And just so we‘re clear this, there‘s no inspection of them and there‘s no regulators on site to see if they have been capped or follow up by anybody at any point afterwards, to look for leaks on any of these?
WEISS: Basically, Keith, it‘s an honor system. As long as the oil and gas companies fill out the appropriate paperwork and they submit it to MMS, then MMS, you know, basically takes their word that it was done right. And MMS does have guidelines about what they have to do to permanently abandon a well or temporarily abandon a well. But basically, it‘s an honor system.
The only time MMS inspectors are out there is if they happen to be doing a field inspection of a rig at the same time one of the wells is being either permanently abandoned or temporarily abandoned.
OLBERMANN: Is there a reason that the Interior Department might have to abandon the idea that the honor system works when it comes to deepwater drilling or drilling in the Gulf, particularly?
WEISS: Well, I mean, that‘s a good question for MMS. Of course, we pose that question to them and they refused to talk to us. We went two weeks, you know, trying to get somebody to talk to us for an interview. And all they did was, say submit your questions via e-mail. And then they got back with us once, and they didn‘t get back to us for any follow-up questions.
But I‘m not sure exactly why. I mean, there was a GAO report back in 1994 that recommended they take a more active role in inspecting plugged and abandoned wells. And—because it was a concern at the time by the GAO that some of these wells could leak. And if they did, it could present a real environmental disaster. But those recommendations were ignored and they never put an inspection policy in place.
OLBERMANN: Based on the “Associated Press” investigation, do you know
are the quantities in any way significant or is the real issue that just one of those leaks by itself could develop into a full-on blow out just because of negligence?
WEISS: Well, there are a couple concern, Keith. One is, you know, the temporarily abandoned wells and even the permanent abandoned wells, the ones that were abandons 20, 30 years ago, were abandoned using a different technology than we have in place today. They didn‘t use the same kind of cement or the same kind of plugs. A lot of those temporarily abandoned wells, for example, could be capped by metal and sea water eats away at the metal.
And, of course, we know from the Deepwater Horizon blow out, that, you know, cement can be blamed for a lot of the problem that you see.
So, I mean, is there a concern or is there a worry? Knowing what we know now, yes. But is anybody looking into the problem, has anybody addressing it? No. It‘s kind of a policy I think MMS has that: it‘s out of sight, out of mind. We trust the companies to do the right thing. and, you know, hopefully, nothing will happen.
But there‘s always the potential that one of these abandoned wells could blow or could be leaking seriously. But nobody is watching, nobody inspecting. So, we just don‘t know the extent of the problem.
OLBERMANN: The honor system, what could possibly go wrong?
Mitch Weiss, correspondent for the “Associated Press”—great reporting and great thanks for your time tonight.
WEISS: Thank you very much, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s turn now, as promised, to Ira Leifer, oceanographer at the U.C.-Santa Barbara Marine Science Institute, member of the flow rate group, leading the group of scientists who developed a plan to study the gusher at its source.
Thanks for your time.
IRA LEIFER, OCEANOGRAPHER: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What exactly are you proposing to do here? And do you know why they don‘t want you to do it?
LEIFER: What we are proposing to do is understand where the oil goes but also, very importantly, why and what. So, why does it go into the deep sea, into the middle? And what parts of the oil are going? Some oil is toxic and some oil is less.
And we really want to understand the why that is going into the different parts of the ocean that it does. So, therefore, we can actually use the best intelligence to try to address where it‘s at the greatest threat and the greatest danger.
OLBERMANN: There seems to be a divergence of opinion here, both the president and British Petroleum told us, immediately after this thing blew 79 days ago, that it didn‘t matter how much is coming out, that all resources are being deployed one way or the other. You‘re saying that flow rate is vitally important to knowing what to do next.
Is that implied there? Are you saying that they were wrong about their assessment of that flow rate?
LEIFER: Well, I mean, I agree with the president in that as far as I can see, all the resources that could be available, all the booms are actually deployed. But what I‘m trying to reshape the debate in this experiment is, it‘s not from my point of view so much how much oil is coming out, but where it‘s going and what it‘s doing when it gets there. So, the different parts of the environment are being influenced by this oil and what‘s most important is the oil that is damaging and destroying aspects of the ecosystem.
And so, really—but, we also, obviously, need to know the total amount of flow because that sets, but what it‘s doing is an extremely important question.
OLBERMANN: How—how has the government, how has BP responded particularly to your proposal? Did they—to refer back to Mr. Weiss‘ reporting on these abandoned wells throughout the Gulf—did say everything is all right because the honor system is in place and it‘s worked well so far?
LEIFER: Personally, I‘d actually be happy if they said anything.
LEIFER: Congressman Markey had requested that they contact me. And I really wish they‘d just pick up a phone so we could discuss what it is we‘re trying to do. The various people within the administration that are involved in the science have been very supportive of the need for understanding what‘s happening so that—not just so that we can respond effectively now, but also, so that we can respond effectively, in the future.
If there‘s another oil spill, we shouldn‘t be asking the question, where is the oil? We don‘t know where the oil is. We should have the science so we can say we know where it is and we‘re going to go and we‘re going to stop it. We‘re going to contain it. We have methods of monitoring this oil and figuring out how much it is to get the right containment system on it from the beginning, from day one, to protect the environment.
OLBERMANN: Did we—to some degree, to reverse-engineer this story -
didn‘t you already know what was going to happen here because the plan that you‘re talking about now is sort of a sequel to an infield test in 2000 and the participants in the 2000 test included the government, included BP—didn‘t they both already have a pretty good idea of what risks they face with a deep water spill?
LEIFER: Unfortunately, during the deep water spill experiment back in 2000, there were technical problems, weather problems, and we did not learn as much as we need to know at that time. The experiment was not repeated. As I was developing with my colleagues and this A-team of scientists, the plan on how to understand where the oil is going in the environment, I suddenly realized that I was treating the design of this original spill. So, I had a template to move forward with.
And so, in sense, the rationale that the government had as to why that was important in 2000 is even more critical today because today, we actually have the real thing, a spill, and we‘re not learning from it what we need to know so that we can address spills like this in the future.
OLBERMANN: Possibly the only silver lining in it and they won‘t let you look at it for $8.5 million.
Dr. Ira Leifer, oceanographer, researcher, with the Science Institute at U.C.-Santa Barbara, who hopes to lead this team of scientists investigating the impact of this oil disaster—great thanks and good luck with it.
LEIFER: Thank you very much, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The president uses his resource appointment power, a new head of Medicare and Medicaid, a man endorsed by the guy who ran the program of Bush 43. And the lunatic fringe starring Sarah Palin promptly screams—socialism. Next.
OLBERMANN: A new head of Medicare and Medicaid so uncontroversial, he‘s been assessed as universally regarded and not partisan by a man appointed to the same job by Bush 43. So why is the far-right screaming socialism and rationing? Take a guess.
The Democrats need Robert Byrd‘s successor in the Senate. That vote could restore benefits to the long-term jobless. So, why did the Democratic governor of West Virginia just take a step that might delay the seating of the successor until November or later?
They cut off her health care because she underpaid her bill. The amount of her underpayment: 1/100 of a penny.
And it‘s not enough the team he chooses to join might give him a $129 million contract. It‘s not enough that his decision will get live TV coverage. He has turned it into a live 60-minute primetime special. What, he‘s going to say the team name very slowly?
OLBERMANN: When it comes to lies about health care reform, half-Governor Sarah Palin can‘t top her death panel stinker. But she has managed to smear a key Obama appointment with something similar, that he‘s been on rationing health care based on quality of life.
And in our fourth story: if the GOP were not bent on drawing political blood, it might find out that the new head of Medicare and Medicaid is actually a choice they should like, just as he is liked by a man Bush 43 appointed to the same job.
President Obama made a recess appointment today of Dr. Donald Berwick to serve as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. CMS has not had a confirmed administrator since 2006. White House communications director, Dan Pfeiffer, explained the recess appointment, quote, “Many Republicans in Congress have made it clear in recent weeks that they were going to stall the nomination as long as they could solely to score political points.”
Last night, a Republican not in Congress or employed, Sarah Palin offered this tweet of hyperbole, “Press corps, please do your job as Obama sneaks in Berwick appointment, please cover his mission, socialized health care and rationing based on quality of life.”
I thought Americans were supposed to ignore the press corps? That woman is an idiot.
That left Senate Minority Leader McConnell to lead the chorus of Republican officeholders, quoting, “Apparently, the Obama administration intends to arrogantly circumvent the American people yet again by recess appointing one of the most prominent advocates of rationed health care to implement their national plan.”
The supposedly grievous intentions of Dr. Berwick deriving from this comment, quote, “The decision is not whether or we will ration care, the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open. And right now, we are doing it blindly.”
But as health care experts know, that was a statement of fact about an already broken health care system. And who echoed Dr. Berwick? Quoting, “Rationing happens today. The question is who will do it?”
Is that President Obama? House Speaker “evil” Pelosi? No.
Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
But the CMS director under President Bush, Tom Scully, said this about Dr. Berwick, quote, “He‘s universally regarded and a thoughtful guy who is not partisan. I think it‘s more about the health care bill. You could nominate Gandhi to be the head of CMS and that would be controversial right now.”
Let‘s bring in MSNBC contributor and Gandhi expert, Dave Weigel.
Dave, good evening.
DAVE WEIGEL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Palin first. She seems to be relishing her roles as the pro-wrestler of tweeting. This health care-related stuff come as manna from heaven for her?
WEIGEL: I think so. Although, do we pay too much attention to what people say on Twitter? I think we should wait until you have an hour long special about the subject before we start quoting you.
No, this was—this for her was the return of the curse of the death panel. This was a chance for her to get back into the argument that Republicans are happy having, that thanks to Obamacare, people are going to start having their health care cut off. They can‘t see it happening yet. I mean, and honestly, I mean, as you pointed out, as health care experts point out, unpleasant decisions happen to health care before this law will kick in.
But this is a debate Republicans want to have before the election. She was going to help them because she has a very loud megaphone. And this is what the White House did. They cut—they cut it off because—you know, they didn‘t want to have a hearing on this, which I think is unfortunate for them because they didn‘t those hearings to develop into more weeks of editorials and more weeks of FOX News broadcasts on rationing and death panels.
OLBERMANN: The White House may have avoided a proxy fight over health care reform in a confirmation hearing. But, instead, you get pre-formed, factless tweeting by Palin and the house of righteous anger from Republicans who completely supported the idea of the recess appointment under President Bush. Is that technically a good swap?
WEIGEL: I don‘t think so anyone is satisfied with this. The fact that Berwick can‘t get a clean hearing, a clean appointment that the White House is so exasperated before the election, that it would just kick this to the side (INAUDIBLE) Enron. This is distressing for people who want to have a debate on the Republican side and for Democrats who think this is a perfect nominee.
I mean, one thing Ezra Klein argued I think pretty well, is that if you are a patient‘s rights advocate, if you‘re Rick Scott, you know, the chairman of the Conservatives for Patients‘ Rights, this guy should be one of your heroes because he said some nice things about Britain in some interviews.
But he—the principles of his career and private sector have been to put patients first in hospitals, to make sure there‘s minimization of pain, to make sure things work better, that we think of the patients before we think of profit. And I mean, it‘s not the way the Republicans were talking about it but that‘s what they were talking about through the health care debate. Let‘s not lose sight about that. I mean, it might a bit of a stretch to say he‘ll be their best ally in this job, but the principles he supports are not socialist principles. They are the principles of good health care.
And it‘s sad that neither side wants to have a debate on this.
OLBERMANN: And to one of the quotes pertaining to that, Dr. Berwick has said, I suggest that we should, without equivocation, make patient-centeredness a primary quality to mention on its own even when it does not contribute to the technical safety and effectiveness of care.
And let‘s emphasize this, that is—you could hear that coming out of Mitch McConnell‘s mouth with a little dumbing down, correct?
WEIGEL: Right. And that‘s what Paul Ryan said. I think that was in an interview with Rick Klein. And that‘s what, if you push John Barrasso or anyone who put out a statement on this would say, they were using this extremely molasses slowdown way the Senate works to have a debate via press release, via press conference, with maybe people who didn‘t quite understand all the issues and have a—you know, in the month of July and August when we need some stuff to write about, another pitch battle on rationing. The White House denied them that, but the White House also, you know, dodged a fight on the merits of its health care bill. And it continues to do this.
It‘s strategy sometimes with nominees is Leopold Bloom strategy with managing a play. If we‘re going to—we‘re going to get really into the fight, and then we‘re going to take a dive and no one is going to be happy, neither liberals or conservatives.
OLBERMANN: Where did I go right?
Dave Weigel of MSNBC and obviously, the producers—many thanks, Dave.
WEIGEL: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: The other mysterious desire of the far-right cutting off benefits for 200,000 long term jobless every week, unexpectedly aided today perhaps by a ruminations of a Democratic governor—ahead.
First, the sanity break and we begin with the Tweet of the Day from Political Wild on courses at Beck U. “How to be afraid of the black president under the guise of patriotism for advanced credit.” Well played, sir.
Let‘s play “Oddball.”
OLBERMANN: We begin with the running of the annual bulls or the annual running of the bulls, or the running of the bulls annually. Every year, thousands travel to Pamplona to experience the fun and excitement that can only be had by having a 1,000-pound animal charge you at the crowded street. The objective? Well, they haven‘t figured that out. It‘s only going 500 years.
If you are smart, jump to the side because the other option is not very pleasant. The whole run takes three minutes. The chiropractors“ bill will be with you for months.
Paris, France, bon jour! Where these lovely ladies are showing off creations by designer Elie Saab. Wouldn‘t you know that the 8-inch heels are proving a tad problematic? This is one model in the back take as tumble. There goes another one in the front. It‘s like race horses, down goes Freda. And the meaning of fall fashion is finally understood.
Time for the “Oddball” twin update. Reps for singer Justin Bieber are denying reports that he will be taking his “My World” tour across the 38 parallel into Korea. It‘s all started when the Web site Faxo.com asked Bieber fans to vote for a country that should be part of the tour, an Internet prank group joined, electing North Korea.
And since Faxo has no affiliation with the Biebs or his record company, the pop sensations camp has rejected the idea, prompting a diplomatic crisis with Pyongyang because of the preparations made for the hypothetical visit. Dear leader has Bieber fever.
How a Democratic governor from one of the poorest states in the nation has inadvertently helped the Republicans again throttle the extension of unemployment benefits to hundreds of thousands of unemployed Americans—next.
OLBERMANN: Democratic governor has the authority to appoint a Democratic replacement for the deceased Democratic Senator Robert Byrd, but that governor is delaying his decision. In our third story tonight, by doing that, he is, perhaps inadvertently, helping Republicans in the Senate block the extension of unemployment benefits, as well as final passage of financial reform. The Democratic Governor of West Virginia Joe Manchin is entitled to appoint a successor to the late senator immediately. That is not in doubt. West Virginia‘s top election official, the secretary of state, said so.
But there is some confusion under West Virginia law as to whether a special election to fill that seat might be held this November, instead of waiting until November of 2012. In other words, Senator Byrd‘s replacement could be appointment made now, or, under one interpretation, might be chosen instead by special election this coming November.
Today, Governor Manchin said that he has asked the attorney general of West Virginia to render a formal opinion on the matter. The governor said that he would speak with state legislators about holding a special election this November, depending on the attorney general‘s opinion. Governor Manchin has also expressed a clear interest in running for the seat. The governor did rule out appointing himself, but sounded instead very much like a candidate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: We have to put everything in proper perspective. And sometime we have lost sight of that. We really have. We get so embattled and we get so competitive that we lose sight of what the objective of changing and transforming and creating a better country and a better union, if you will, and a better state for our children in generations to come.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Until the governor chooses Senator Byrd‘s replacement, Senate Republicans can continue to filibustering the extension of unemployment benefits, and may be able to stop the broadest financial regulation reform since the Great Depression. The Senate returns from recess next Monday, the 12th. Governor Manchin has said he hopes the West Virginia attorney general will render an opinion on the special election issue by early next week.
Let‘s turn to MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe, also the author of “Renegade, the Making of a President.” Richard, good evening.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Explain the dynamics of this. If Collins and Snowe vote with the Democrats again, as they have previously on killing the filibuster, don‘t all the Dems need to pass jobless benefits is a new senator from West Virginia?
WOLFFE: Yes, that would help, wouldn‘t it? It is tempting to blame West Virginia here. This governor does have the ability to break this impasse as quickly as he wants to. He also has the awesome responsibility of trying to maneuver himself into this job, which is where you get this delay.
Now, you know, this is the real delay here. It is not that the lawyers are saying it is not clear. He wants to have some kind of options for his own career. There is speculation in West Virginia that he could reach all the way over the other side of his bed and nominate his wife to take this special place as senator for a temporary period.
The question, who would want it, knowing that Manchin is coming up, apart from obviously his wife. And what kind of real world impact does it have? Yes, there is his career. But on any normal piece of legislation, a week or two might not make a difference. But when you are talking about unemployment benefits for people who are so deeply in trouble in this recession, it is frankly irresponsible.
OLBERMANN: The governor is aware of the impact of not having a second senator from West Virginia, particularly the Republicans continuing to kill the extension of jobless benefits for people who have been unemployed for long periods of time? This isn‘t something that hasn‘t gotten through to him? Or the cable is out or something like that in West Virginia?
WOLFFE: Manchin is a smart politician. He is about to become the chair of the National Governor‘s Association. He has a close relationship with the White House. He was smart enough not to back either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama when everyone was campaigning in the West Virginia primary. He is not a simple politician. Whatever you think about West Virginia, this man knows about his career and where he‘s headed.
By the way, you know, if not Joe Manchin, you could also say there is another solution to this impasse. That is the senator from Nebraska. Why Ben Nelson is blocking unemployment benefits when you have two Republicans who have voted for it is another mystery. But Ben Nelson, you know, doesn‘t seem to mind spending money when it is a sweetheart deal for his own state.
OLBERMANN: Is there any expectation that if Governor Manchin gets the ruling he wants on this, that he could have a special election in 2010, that he would actually leave the seat open until then?
WOLFFE: I don‘t think so. You know, the question is whether he feels that he should put himself in that position, if all the tea leaves are correct here and he thinks the seat is for the taking. Look, it is not easy getting a Democrat elected in West Virginia. He has very high approval rating, somewhere around 70 percent. It is not an unreasonable thought that he is actually the best person for this job, but he has to resolve it quickly. If it means appointing someone else, if it means appointing himself for two and a half years, so be it, because there are more important things than Manchin‘s career.
OLBERMANN: We have—you mentioned Mr. Nelson of Nebraska and we know, obviously, the implications of West Virginia in the whole foot dragging. We know what the Republicans are doing. This isn‘t grand standing. This is, oh, we‘re not spending. This is screw you, we‘ve got ours. What is—the democrats seem unbelievably silent on this issue of trying to restore these benefits as another 200,000 people fall off every week.
WOLFFE: Well, I think they have been trying here, but I just don‘t understand. I hate to come back. We can criticize West Virginia. Obviously, no one can predict when someone is going to pass away. But Ben Nelson here, I mean, really, if you are a Democrat and you‘re voting against unemployment benefits because of some long-term concern about the deficit, which may be legitimate—but there are people who the Democrats are supposed to stand with, the people at the bottom of the heap here. I just find it inexplicable.
OLBERMANN: Richard Wolffe of MSNBC and author of “Renegade,” and completely correct on this point, certainly. Thank you, Richard.
WOLFFE: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The Lebron-a-on, turning basketball‘s biggest signing into a live, hour long TV special. What is he going to do, receive all the suitors and let them plight their trough live? Hoops fan Harry Shearer joins us.
The governor who vetoes a bill while saying it would be a mistake to allow a decision of this magnitude to made by one individual, while she allows her one individual self to make a decision of this magnitude. Worsts ahead. Breaking worst news about Armando Galarraga.
When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, she will talk with U.S. troops stationed near Kandahar about their mission to defeat the insurgents there.
OLBERMANN: Lebron James announcing where he will play in a live 60-minute special. I‘m going to blank does not take 60 minutes. Hoops addict Harry Shearer joins me for the Lebron-a-thon preview. First, no this isn‘t the rest of you water coming to a boil. It‘s our nightly check up of the something for nothing crowd. It is Tea Time.
A quick Sharron Angle update. We told you yesterday she threatened to sue Harry Reid‘s campaign because it resurrected the crazy stuff she had scrubbed from her website after the primary, stuff about phasing out Social Security and get out of Medicare. Chris Hayes and I made the inarguable point that it was politically moronic, in so much as it drew attention to the fact that she was now running away from her own positions and trying to hide them. The Angle campaign said it would not be suing. This morning, however, the candidate herself she would be pursuing Senator Reid for violating her intellectual property rights. Also, there is a new Sharron Angle TV ad out in Nevada in which her name is misspelled. Intellectual this.
Then there is Washington, D.C. Tea Partier Virginia “Ginny” Thomas. She has the usual stuff, a blind hatred of the president, paranoid use of the word tyranny, endorsing knee jerk candidates, her own little group of Neanderthals called Liberty Central. It‘s more financially successful than most. “Politico” now reports she has only two donors, one for 50 grand and one for a whopping 500 grand. But otherwise, Mrs. Thomas‘ story is the usual reactionary tripe.
It is her right to be wrong and we must protect it. Virginia “Ginny” Thomas is the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. This probably is really, really obvious. The wife of a Supreme Court justice is soliciting donations to a political organization. The donors are anonymous and one paid her half a million bucks. Even if she tried not to, she cannot help but stand out from a crowd of yelping Tea Partiers because of her husband‘s name and position. She is a living, breathing, appearance of a conflict of interest.
The remedies are just as obvious. Either she must reveal the names of her donors and everyone employed by, affiliated with or donating to or donated to by Liberty Central, or Justice Thomas must resign from the Supreme Court. Otherwise, every verdict he renders will have to be assumed to be the result of influence rendering, and whatever effectiveness he has on the court will be reduced to a pathetic joke.
OLBERMANN: There is a new word tonight, Lebron-ify, defined as to choose your next employer during an hour long special on television, just like basketball‘s Lebron James. That‘s next, but first get out your pitchforks and torches, time for tonight‘s Worst Persons in the World, brought to you by—
Club FEMA, the last resort of the totalitarian state, and the official resort of Glenn Beck‘s I Have a Scheme Speech. Need a break from fighting evil, socialists, fascists, communists, metallurgists, dentists? Go to Club FEMA. What? You don‘t know where they are? They are everywhere, dude. Everywhere. (INAUDIBLE)
The bronze, in breaking worst news, to the Detroit Tigers today, because they will only need four starting pitchers for the next two weeks. They sent their expendable guy down to the minor leagues, to the bushes, to the Toledo Mudhens. The name of that guy, Armando Galarraga. He should sound familiar. He was the Tiger pitcher who pitches a perfect game a month ago, except umpire Jim Joyce blew the call on the 27th and final out at first base. That Armando Galarraga. Now he has to go to the minor leagues. By the way, when they do need that fifth starting pitcher on the 20th, no guarantee it is going to be him.
Runner-up, Governor Linda Lingle of Hawaii. She has vetoed legislation by the state legislature, passed in April—she waited until now—that would permitted same sex civil unions in Hawaii. “It would be a mistake to allow a decision of this magnitude to be made by one individual or a small group of elected officials.” What did you just do, governor? A decision of this magnitude was made by one individual. At least the legislature is a group. By the way, we do elect you idiots to act. Are you suggesting we should have a referendum on everything more important than designated January 11th as Hawaiian Pineapple Day. If you‘re opposed, have the courage to say you‘re opposed. Don‘t be hide behind measly sophistry. “It would be a mistake to allow a decision of this magnitude to be made by one individual,” except me.
But our winner, John Bywer (ph), president of Discovery Benefits, a workplace health insurance administration company that is based in North Dakota. A Colorado woman named Larosa Carrington (ph) sent payment for her Cobra insurance. They didn‘t bill her. She figured it out herself. Discovery Benefits refused then to pay her benefits. She had done the math, 165 dollars and 15 cents. Sorry, said Discovery Benefits, you owed 165 dollars and 16 cents. They froze her benefits because she was off by a penny. Ms. Carrington has leukemia. She gets chemo five days a month, lost her job two months ago, is the single mother of two teenage daughters, and they cut her off for a penny.
The agent she spoke to and her supervisor both demanded a check for one cent, preferably a money order. She said she couldn‘t get them a money order just then. She was getting chemo. She then said she could call the media. Then suddenly the supervisor called back and said she had just done the math herself, too, and the correct figure wasn‘t 165.15 or 165.16. It was 165 dollars and 15.45 cents. The company had rounded up and Ms. Carrington had rounded down. Now they are going to give her the benefit of the doubt. It had nothing to do with her saying she would talk to the media. Three hours this took her.
John Bywer, president of Discovery Benefits, the work place health insurance administration company based in North Dakota—Discovery Benefits, they will let you die for one one hundredth of a penny—today‘s Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: Within an hour, Twitter was alive with parody. “What am I doing for lunch today,” Steven McDevitt asked rhetorically. “Local 12 will do a one hour special soon.” Paul Poteet, “Lindsay Lohan gets an hour long special to announce which prison she is going to.” Liz‘s Locker Room, “my church is having an hour long special Sunday about where I am going if I don‘t pray.” Mike Tersey, “breaking news, ESPN to have an hour long special before Stephen Strasburg next start. In it, he will announce the first pitch he‘ll throw.”
All this and a lot more after the most important free agent in basketball history, and one of the most important in sports history, announced he will decide with which team he will sign on an hour long special tomorrow night on ESPN. Our number one story, Lebron James, Cleveland, Chicago, New York, Miami and ESPN overwhelmed by massive howls of laughter at the premise. What, an hour of a guy going, not sure, maybe, I like the restaurants in New York. Cold in Chicago in May. Um—
The newly relaunched LebronJames.com confirming today “Lebron James will firmly announce where he will play next season and beyond on ‘The Decision,‘” which will air live on Thursday, July 8th, at 9:00 p.m. ET, on ESPN. Not on the NBA‘s television network. Oops.
Unprecedented attention and interest cited as the reason for the spectacle. ESPN‘s vice president of production, Norby Swinger Williamson, producer of “Sportscenter” my first two years there, telling the Associated Press that Jim Gray, another old friend, hand picked by the James team, will handle the show‘s introduction, announcement and questions.
James is expected to reveal his choice within the first ten minutes of the decision, which begs the question, what is he going to do for the next 50 minutes? A strip tease? Proceeds from commercials aired during the hour long broadcast will go to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. A person familiar with the plans for the show telling the AP James and Gray will conduct their interview at the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich, Connecticut, leading to speculation that the nearby New York Knicks are serious contenders, of maybe James will announce he‘s finally going to go college, and he‘s joining the U-Conn Huskies.
Actor, author, satirist, musician, radio host and basketball fan Harry Shearer joins us now from New Orleans. His documentary “The Big Uneasy” will be in theaters nationwide on August 30th, the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. His New Orleans Hornets are not believed to be in on the Lebron James bidding.
HARRY SHEARER, COMEDIAN: Rub it in.
OLBERMANN: OK. It‘s good to talk to you.
SHEARER: Good to talk to you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I have a strong sense of something jumping some kind of really big shark here, but I can‘t put my finger on what is wrong with this picture.
SHEARER: Don‘t try putting your finger on it. It will get bitten off. I just think let‘s be fair. Sports television doesn‘t really have serious problems in filling hours. This show could be produced by the producer of the Super Bowl pregame show, with half his time slot tied behind his back. That is not the problem.
Clearly, Lebron James is being cast in the role of—a familiar role, I believe—the decider. And, you know, it‘s just a disappointment to me that they have chosen an interview format. I thought the idea was dancing girls would come out. They‘d eat up the first eight minutes. He‘d come out and do a monologue, yeah, Cleveland, that is Phoenix with potholes. Then they‘d be in the first commercial break before you know it.
Apparently not, but so be it.
OLBERMANN: There are precedents, I mean, athletes committing to colleges live on TV. They do that all the time. “The Bachelor.” But how do you fill the remaining 50 minutes? There is only—they are going to have a wrap up show? Are there going to blintzes served. What are they going to do?
SHEARER: I think, first of all, there will be a slow mo replay of “I will be going to”—and that‘s four minutes right there. They will read Twitter comments. But I think they will fill the show the way a lot of broadcasts do. I have had sources tell me he will be using a blackboard and demonstrating, with the logos of the teams that he does not select, the hidden Marxist meanings behind the symbols in their logos. That will take some time.
And then he will be doing, toward the end of the hour, a Worst Persons in the World segment. Now, that will have only two people, one of whom is his mom and you know who the other one is.
OLBERMANN: This will mean that the Nets are out of it, because Woodrow Wilson was the president of Princeton, and so New Jersey is right off the list.
SHEARER: That‘s correct. They‘re gone. Forget Jersey.
OLBERMANN: One thing here that strikes me—you know prime time TV pretty well. Lebron James is going to crush the hoop dreams, no matter what he does, of tens of millions of Americans tomorrow. Is it a good idea to build a live TV show around that? And is it possible, if he doesn‘t say I‘m staying in Cleveland, that that is what the last 50 minutes are for, to bring you live coverage of the rioting?
SHEARER: The rioting and the burning of Cleveland, yeah. I was impressed also by the idea that Jim Gray, your old buddy, had gotten the assignment. This has got to be the easiest interview in the history of the world. There is one question, you know. All you have to do to really prep for it is memorize the names of the number of teams in the NBA. Larry King could do this interview, as long as he remembers which sport Lebron plays. Did you think about the Nets at all? The Mets? Did you think about the Mets? Did you think about the Cubs.
OLBERMANN: Syracuse Nationals? How close did you go to going to the Philadelphia Warriors and the Fort Wayne --
SHEARER: The Fort Wayne—yeah, look, it is going to be some silences, some pensive looks, some—you know, Jim, I thought about that. That will take some time. I would bet that he‘s rehearsing as we speak.
OLBERMANN: Do you think Jim could use some help? Would you think Vin Scully would be a good addition to the broadcast, if we could free him up from the Dodgers for a minute?
SHEARER: Well, Vinny could tell some stories. That would certainly help. You know, I remember way back when Orel Hershiser was trying to decide whether to resign with the Dodgers. But that is another story. We‘ll be right back. Sure.
OLBERMANN: After this message from Farmer John. One thing about the charity aspect here --
OLBERMANN: Supposedly that is there to offset backlash. I was just thinking about this. That is 9:00 to 10:00 eastern. Charity, ESPN doesn‘t make any money off that. What about the hour beforehand? There could be 20 million people tuning in at 9:00. Let me tell you about television. That means there could be 10 million at 8:45. You could make a lot of money in 15 minutes if you just put commercials on.
SHEARER: You‘re talking adjacencies, mister.
OLBERMANN: Exactly. Is the money going to go to the fund for ex-“Sportscenter” anchors, maybe?
SHEARER: You are hoping.
OLBERMANN: I‘m hoping.
SHEARER: This is so weird. It reminds me of nothing so much as the week after 9/11 when the NFL announced they were—the week after the week after 9/11. The NFL announced they were going to resume football, but, out of respect, they were going to do it without the sound effects. Out of respect. We are supposed to feel better about Lebron James because he is giving away ESPN‘s money? He doesn‘t get the money from the ads. It‘s a little—who are we supposed to feel warmth about at this point in time, besides ourselves?
OLBERMANN: Of course. And the ex-“Sportscenter” anchors fund, PO Box 13.
The White House reiterated the president wants him to go to Chicago. After the Olympics, shouldn‘t the president not say anything at all about sports?
SHEARER: He has become the walking, talking “Sports Illustrated” cover curse of this century.
OLBERMANN: You have a prediction on this. Does the fact that it is Greenwich, Connecticut, which we all know is actually a New York suburb, mean it is the Knicks or the Nets, or he is founding his own team in Hartford?
SHEARER: I was sort of convinced by the rumor that I read this afternoon that the Cavs were trying to trade Delonte West. That said to me maybe they think he is going to stay in Cleveland and they got to move somebody.
OLBERMANN: Harry Shearer, fan of the New Orleans Hornets—who needs Lebron James if you have Cole Aldridge, unless they trade him.
SHEARER: We got Chris Paul, baby, I think. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Thanks, Harry, good luck. Maybe he will sign with New Orleans. That is COUNTDOWN for July 7th. It‘s the 2,624th day since President Bush declared mission accomplished in Iraq, the 2,213th day since he declared victory in Afghanistan, and the 79th day of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf.
I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
Now with boots on the ground, with the troops on the ground at Kandahar, Afghanistan, ladies and gentlemen, here is Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Copyright 2010 Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>