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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, August 20th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Michael Eric Dyson, John Dean





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

Why did he say it?  And why did a news organization give him the unedited platform to say it on?

Religious rivalry run amok, courtesy Billy Graham‘s son.


REV. FRANKLIN GRAHAM, SAMARITAN‘S PURSE:  I think the president‘s problem is that he was born a Muslim.  His father was a Muslim.  The seed of Islam is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother.


OLBERMANN:  Michael Eric Dyson on that.

Plus, our exclusive investigation: how much of a secret Islamisist, Islamist, Muslim, Moslem is he secretly?

Bush for the defense of the Constitution.  The man who claimed the Constitution didn‘t really require habeas corpus now leading a pack of ex-Bushies fighting GOP attacks on the 14th Amendment and other components—with John Dean.

Gulf cleanup.  More holes in the claim that 75 percent of the oil is gone.

Speaking of holes, Harry and whistleblower—Harry Shearer‘s new documentary, “The Big Uneasy,” and the engineer who says, if you thought the levees that gave way during Katrina were bad, wait until you see the pumps on the new levees.


MARIA GARZINO, ENGINEER:  The more we ran these pumps, the more they failed.


OLBERMANN:  Our guests Harry Shearer and Maria Garzino.

The computer-generated genius of Hong Kong‘s “Apple Daily” does the Blago trial.

“Fridays with Thurber” and the conclusion of “The Night the Ghost Got In.”

And—the epic return of this COUNTDOWN Hall of Famer now fully rehabilitated and living—oh, boy.

All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.



OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.

The national reaction to new polls showing that the number of Americans unsure of President Obama‘s religion or sure that he is Muslim is growing, it‘s offered a textbook demonstration of why both confusion and mistaken certitude have been growing.

Our fifth story tonight: CNN, the most trusted name in news, decided to book a man on this question whose religious views on Islam are so toxic he was disinvited from the Pentagon‘s National Day of Prayer.  And then they asked him whether he believes Obama is a Christian.

The man was Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelist and presidential confidante Billy Graham—Franklin disinvited from the Pentagon after uproar over his remarks over Islam in which he called it, quote, “very evil and wicked.”  And unlike his father who apologized not when he made anti-Semitic remarks in secret phone calls with President Nixon, but when the tapes were revealed, Franklin Graham is standing by his views on Islam.

And so, when new polls from Pew and “TIME” magazine indicated a rising number of Americans doubt or disbelieve Obama‘s Christian faith, CNN last night turned not to a moderate mainstream Christian but to Franklin Graham.  CNN admitting, as you will hear uncertainty about the propriety of questioning Obama‘s faith—but, nevertheless, deeming national news whether Graham personally doubts Obama‘s Christianity.


GRAHAM:  First of all, I think the president‘s problem is that he was born a Muslim.  His father was a Muslim.  The seed of Islam is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother.  He was born a Muslim.  His father gave him an Islamic name.

Now, it‘s obvious that the president has renounced the Prophet Mohammed and he has renounced Islam and he has accepted Jesus Christ.  That‘s what he says he has done.  I cannot say that he hasn‘t.  So, I just have to believe the president in what he has said.

But he—the confusion is, is because his father was a Muslim, he was born a Muslim.  The Islamic world sees the president as one of theirs.  That‘s why Gaddafi calls him “my son.”  They see him as a Muslim.

But, of course, the president says he is a Christian and we just have to accept it as that.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST:  Well, how do you see him, as someone who has shared a room with him in an intimate setting with your father had exchanged prayer with him—do you see him—do you believe him?  I guess, I‘m not sure I should be asking that question—but do you believe him?

GRAHAM:  Well, you know, you can be born a Muslim.  You can be born a Jew.  But you can‘t be born a Christian.

The only way you can become a Christian is by confessing your sins to God, asking his forgiveness and by receiving Jesus Christ by faith into your heart—that Christ died for our sins, shed his blood on Calvary‘s cross, and that God raised him to life.  If you are willing to accept that and believe that and let Jesus Christ be the Lord of your life, God will forgive your sins.  He‘ll heal your heart.  And that‘s the only way you can become a Christian.

And so, if the president has done that, then I would say he‘s a Christian, if that‘s what—if that‘s what he has done.


OLBERMANN:  Start with the seed business.  As Judaism is matrilineal, Islam is patrilineal faith, meaning the two religions treat children of Jewish mothers and Muslim fathers as Jewish and Muslim respectively.

But just because the religions do so, doesn‘t mean anybody else has to.  There is no actual seed.  Sons of Jewish mothers and Muslim fathers get to choose their own faith.  And, in fact, Obama‘s father did exactly that.  He rejected Islam even before the president was born.

And you would not know this from watching this CNN interview, but when Franklin Graham says Obama has renounced the Prophet Mohammad and Islam, Franklin Graham is lying.  Obama has done no such thing because he had never been raised as Muslim, because there is no seed.

And as to the claim that the Muslim world sees Obama as one of them, this may be the first time Franklin Graham has asked Americans to put stock in what Muammar Gaddafi has to say, let alone 1 billion Muslims around the world.

Still, do they really see Obama as one of them just because he spent a couple years at a Muslim school in Indonesia?  Muslims protested him in Indonesia this March when his trip there was announced.

The spokesman for a radical Muslim group telling the Agence France-Presse, quote, “He might be of a different skin color from George Bush, but he still oppressed the Muslims.”

Let‘s turn now to Georgetown sociology professor, Michael Eric Dyson, also the author of “Can You Hear Me Now?” and host of his own radio show.

Thanks for your time tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN:  The last comment, he might be of a different skin color, is that the one factor that makes this whole crap possible?  I mean, could we possibly be having this discussion about some blonde white guy?

DYSON:  No, we couldn‘t.  Keith, this is ridiculous.  You‘ve already deconstructed and demythologized the repugnant and vicious mythology that Mr. Graham has put forth.

I mean, first of all, you‘re absolutely right.  He didn‘t renounce what he never embraced.  He embraces Islam, he embraces Judaism, he embraces Christianity and all religions as expressions of people‘s will to believe in a higher power.  So he affirms them in that sense.  But there‘s no renunciation going on even if he disagrees with their ultimate faith project or if he happens not to be part of their community.

He happens to be a Christian.  I was a member of the same church that Mr. Obama was a member of.  President Obama, I saw him in church.  He went to Trinity United Church of Christ.  He is a Christian.

And it‘s an insult to Muslims to even have to make that distinction because we acknowledge the beauty of their faith, and Christianity and Judaism and Islam share Abraham and a few other profits, including Jesus.

So, the point is, they‘re all in the same family.  This sounds like interesting (ph) squabbles among bigoted religious people.

I think Mr. Graham is on horrible ground here.  If we‘re looking at people‘s Christianity, the Bible tells us, and I happen to be an ordained Baptist minister as well, to judge them by their fruit.  Judge not lest you be judged.

And so, he‘s judging Mr. Obama.  And then on the other hand, the Bible tells us not to judge but inspect people‘s fruit.  If you look at the fruit of Obama, he‘s engaged in every form of manifestation of Christianity that his father did.  Mister—that is Mr. Billy Graham, Reverend Billy Graham went to South Africa and refused to speak out against apartheid, saying he only wanted to speak to the souls of men and not their bodies.

A lot of us who are prophetic and left-leaning Christians could say, you‘re not a Christian at all because you failed to challenge the economic and social structure of the world.  So, we don‘t want to get into slinging accusations about who‘s Christian and who‘s not Christian.

I think this game of innuendo and inference, asserting Mr. Obama to be Christian, in scare quotes, “If he says he is, he is,” is one of the most un-Christian, uncharitable things that could be done.

OLBERMANN:  What is this seed stuff?  I mean, does this get at the notion that there is something intrinsically, unchangeably other for everybody to be afraid of in the president?

DYSON:  Absolutely right, Keith.  I mean, when you began the question about the racial factor, because if he was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed man, we wouldn‘t be talking about this.

Karl Rove would not be challenging whether or not he‘s a citizen of the United States of America or the birthers or the Tea Party Movement.  For that matter, can Karl Rove give us—if Obama is not from America, is Mr. Rove from this earth?

So, the reality is, that we are challenging the authenticity and legitimacy of a man whose bona fides have been well-established.  But, again, I think the racial subtext here cannot be ignored.  And we‘re trying to otherize him—we‘re trying to make him something essentially different than what we are.

First, they tried to say he was un-American.  Then they said he was communist.

How can he be an un-American communist Muslim?  Because Dr. King said, Christianity and other great religions have an essential contradiction between themselves and communism, and now, but he‘s a communist—but then -- now, he‘s a believing communist.  Well, he is a Muslim and communist and un-American.  Which one is it?

The jumble of epithets that are being hurled with lethal insensitivity against Mr. Obama are nothing but the made-over bigotry of people trying to find newfangled ways to dress up old oldfangled bigotry.

OLBERMANN:  And you even left out Reverend Wright in that confused equation there.

DYSON:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  What‘s the answer to this?  I mean, so much of the media is eagerly willing to put on non-credible people on the air and when—when they say, “You know, I don‘t know if I should ask this question,” common sense says, write it down and send the guy an e-mail later and ask it anyway.  And then they don‘t even establish what the facts might be.

How do you get the United States of America to believe that the president is what he says he is when there‘s a media environment where it‘s like, well, OK, we get an extra 200,000 viewers if we put Franklin Graham on and let him say whatever the hell he wants.

DYSON:  Yes.  It‘s really unfortunate.  I think, the reality is, is that, look, he‘s fighting an uphill battle.  He‘s got racial issues.  He‘s got religious issues.  He‘s got issues of American citizenship.

So, I think what Mr. Obama has to do, President Obama, during the campaign, they put out, you know, a Web site that try to fight some of this.  That‘s one way.

But another way is for not only Mr. Obama but members of religious communities—of Christian communities—to step out on their faith and say, look, let‘s stop haranguing this man, let‘s stop berating him.  He is a Christian by any other measurement that we measure anybody else.  We judge anybody else.

He says he is.  We believe he is.  He‘s been accepted into the faith. 

Then let‘s perform it.  Let‘s not talk about it.

Jesus said a lot of people who call my name will not ultimately be in the kingdom with me.  So, it‘s not what you say out of your mouth.  It‘s what you perform in your heart.

I‘m an ordained Baptism minister for more than 30 years.  I‘d rather be with an atheist who claims never to believe in God but who does good works than side with people like Franklin Graham who say they know the same God I know, yet I can‘t discern any credible connection between the God I worship who is about justice and mercy and truth and love—and the judgmental, harshly indifferent to the plight of the poor God Mr. Graham seems to worship.  I‘d rather be with those who perform the reality of the faith than who claim it out of their mouths.

OLBERMANN:  Only one word for that.  Amen.

Michael Eric Dyson, sociology professor at Georgetown, the author of “Can You Hear Me Now?”—great thanks for your time.  Have a good weekend.

DYSON:  Thank you, Keith.  All right.

OLBERMANN:  Unlike too much of the mainstream media, we here at COUNTDOWN are committed to putting these factual questions to rest as soon as they rise.  In response to Mr. Graham‘s uncertainty, COUNTDOWN launched a special investigation—revealing not only proof of Obama‘s secret true religion but also how he has executed an ingenious, long term plan to conceal that faith.  A plan he first put into motion when he was just 2 years old.


OLBERMANN (voice-over):  The Muslim seeded toddler engineered the divorce of his own parents to prevent people from learning that his father was Muslim.  In his book, Obama claims that by then his father was no longer Muslim, instead portraying him as something much more popular with Americans, an atheist.

Obama still claims not to know whether his grandfather was Sunni or Shiite.  But he sure looks Sunni.

To keep up appearances Obama cleverly violated his Islamic faith whenever he could, fooling everyone by never going to mecca, breaking the fast of Ramadan, eating pork, and drinking alcohol, having a Christian wedding, baptizing his children, worshiping at Christian churches for decades.

He only faces mecca from way downtown.

He even sent his daughters to a school, a fancy Washington school that was really a madrasa, a fancy Washington madrasa.  He never had a beard except for the Jewish people he cleverly picked out to carry out his secret Muslim agenda as White House chief of staff and Supreme Court justice.

The plan was working perfectly.  But there were clues for those willing to do the incredibly hard work of seeing.  As a radical Muslim youth, he ran an Islamic journal whose Arabic name translates as “Harvard Law Review.”

Islam permits men to take a number of wives and that‘s exactly what Barack Obama did.  The number he picked was one.  And a woman with an Arabic name—Michelle Robinson, who insists on wearing a burqa.

His favorite team, the Chicago Bulls, who just happen to play in the same division as the Milwaukee Bucks whose arena just happened to be known as “The Mecca.”  Coincidence?

Then what about his legislative agenda?  He openly practices Chicago style politics—just like the Taliban does—extending benefits for the unemployed, including Muslims; expanding health care for all, including every single Muslim in the country—unless already covered by employer health care plan.

To this day, President Obama continues to refuse to bomb not just one but many Muslim countries.  He even refuses to close his secret tropical paradise safe haven for Muslims, just 90 miles from America‘s shores.

Obama nearly let the cat out of the bag on several occasions, openly attacking a long-time Christian leader, thanking his co-conspirators for keeping his secret secret.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You are absolutely right that John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith.

OLBERMANN:  Outlining his dream of an Islamic America.

OBAMA:  You know, we‘d be one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.

OLBERMANN:  And bragging about how much he has done already.

OBAMA:  We are no longer a Christian nation.  There is a mosque in every state in our union.

OLBERMANN:  If few seem to care that Obama is America‘s first secret Muslim president, it might be due to the popularity of America‘s first openly Muslim president who won America‘s heart by turning the White House into a virtual mosque.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: This is the fifth year in a row that it‘s been my honor to host an Iftar in the state dining room.

OLBERMANN:  Revealing how he came to embrace Allah.

BUSH:  The revelation of God‘s word to the Prophet Mohammad in the form of the Quran.

OLBERMANN:  Using the English word for Allah, God, he talked about the Bush family holidays.

BUSH:  Ramadan is a time of heartfelt prayer and togetherness.

OLBERMANN:  Explained how Islam helps America through tough times.

BUSH:  It‘s a national and Islamic obligation to assist one‘s neighbors when they are in need.

OLBERMANN:  And outlined his master plan to make America more Islamic.

BUSH:  And I‘ve encouraged American families to host exchange students from the Muslim world.  I‘ve asked young Americans to study the language and customs of the broader Middle East.

OLBERMANN:  After getting rid of all the White House Bibles, he proudly announced their replacement.

BUSH:  For the first time in our nation‘s history, we‘ve added a Quran to the White House library.

OLBERMANN:  So, the big mystery is not President Obama‘s secret Islamic faith—but that he is the second Islam commander-in-chief of the United States of mecca.

OBAMA:  Assalamu Alaikum.



OLBERMANN:  One of George W. Bush—I‘m sorry—one of George W.  Bush‘s attorney generals, the one who didn‘t believe the Constitution necessarily demanded habeas corpus , is now chiding Republicans for their anti-immigration pushback against the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

“The Big Uneasy”—this man‘s documentary on New Orleans and the new levees and the whistleblower who thinks they may not be improvements.

News of over-racism travels slowly out of Dubuque, Iowa, especially if the perpetrator is a washed up rock ‘n roller.

And the ghosts might be gone, but the cops are still there and grandfather has yet to make his appearance as we finish up “The Night the Ghost Got In” on “Fridays with Thurber”—ahead on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  Imagine an attorney general of the United States claiming before Congress that the Constitution does not guarantee the right of habeas corpus, only one does not have to imagine it because during the previous administration, Attorney General Gonzales said exactly that.

Now, picture the same attorney general, someone who, you will remember, ignored the Bill of Rights basically any time it suited his need.  Picture that guy warning fellow Republicans that what they are planning to do to the Constitution, specifically to the 14th Amendment, goes too far.

Our fourth story: no need to imagine that either because Mr. Gonzales has just done that as well.

The former attorney general whose grandparents were Mexican immigrants speaking out against Republican proposals to change the 14th Amendment in order to prevent automatic citizenship for all children born in the U.S.  regardless of their parents‘ immigration status.

In an op-ed commentary for “The Washington Post,” Mr. Gonzales opposing plans to revise the 14th for the very simple reason that doing so won‘t work, “Because most undocumented workers come here to provide for themselves and their families, a constitutional amendment will not solve our immigration crisis.  People will certainly continue to cross our borders to find a better life irrespective of the possibilities of U.S.  citizenship.”  Mr. Gonzales also adding that “constitutional amendment should be reserved for extraordinary circumstances.”

The former attorney general joins the list of Bush administration aides and officials who defended the Constitution against current Republican attack.  The former domestic policy adviser to Vice President Cheney, Cesar Conda, calling the end to birth right citizenship an incredibly offensive proposal, writing at, that, quote, “As a life-long Republican and movement conservative, I am concerned that this proposal not only validates the left‘s worst lies about our party not being inclusive, but prevents us from selling our message of freedom, limited government, free enterprise, and a strong national defense to Latino, Asian, and ethnic voters.”

Did I mention he worked for Dick Cheney?

In addition, Bush‘s chief White House speechwriter, Michael Gerson, and Mark McKinnon, media adviser to both Bush/Cheney presidential campaigns, both recently emphasizing that the people behind the Islamic community center have a right to build their project there.

Then there is the president‘s former solicitor general, Ted Olson, now one-half of the legal team working to repeal Prop 8, Californians‘ law banning same sex marriage.  Neither this month—or earlier this month, rather, U.S. district Judge Walker having ruled that law unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

I‘m joined once again by John Dean, White House counsel under President Nixon, now columnist, as well as the author of the books, “Conservatives Without Conscience” and “Broken Government.”

John, thanks again for your time tonight.

JOHN DEAN, FINDLAW.COM:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  When Alberto Gonzales says he‘s got a problem with somebody‘s plans to trash the Constitution, does his track record give him less or more credibility on this issue?

DEAN:  Well, not a lot of credibility.  In fact, reading his op-ed piece in its full, it‘s rattled with problems.  For example, he at one point says that Obama should be pressing his full capital against this issue of immigration reform, noting that Bush tried to but failed to, not mentioning the fact that he didn‘t do very much to help the cause either.  I mean, it was—his arguments are so thin and weak that they are rather pathetic actually, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  As they pertain to the 14th Amendment, is that true?  He says it simply won‘t solve the right wing‘s perceived problem with birth right citizenship.  Is that—to some degree, however weak the details might be—is that larger point of some significance that even if they do something to the 14th amendment, it‘s not going to address the problem they‘re supposedly trying to fix?

DEAN:  Yes.  I think he‘s—I think that is a correct observation.  First of all, as I understand the way the process works, a so-called “anchor baby,” if you will, not until that baby becomes 21 years of age can they potentially help their parents.  So, this leaves several decades in abeyance when nothing really happens.

The 14th—the changing the 14th Amendment itself and is such a protracted process, it‘s not likely to happen.  But even if it did, that‘s not going to stop people who are hungry and need jobs from coming here.  That‘s Gonzales‘ point.

OLBERMANN:  This would be my first opportunity to discuss the so-called mosque controversy, the Park 51 project in New York with you.

The federal law that would prevent New York City from changing the zoning requirements—a sort of side route around this that was proposed by some of the people opposed to this center—was passed by a Republican House and a Republican Senate in 2000.  A, is there something of an irony to that?  And, B, does it prove that this is not an issue of law but it‘s an issue of fearmongering?

DEAN:  Well, that is ironic.  I was not aware of that fact.  I‘m certainly aware of the fact that this is nothing but fearmongering going on.  It‘s rather sad.  It‘s rather pathetic.

It‘s—I‘m wondering if it‘s not being done by the Republicans who are pushing it to change the agenda to get them off the issues they should be talking about which are jobs and the economy.  And it‘s done that very effectively.  It‘s taken that story off the headlines and given them something to talk about that is really not highly relevant to anything else that‘s going on in this country.

OLBERMANN:  Meanwhile, closer to your home, Proposition 8.  The part of the judge‘s ruling, Judge Walker, where he said the law was unconstitutional under equal protection in the 14th Amendment, ironically enough, not to mention that decision in Massachusetts which had ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act violated the 10th Amendment—and the tenthers are out there, too, they like to wrap themselves up in the 10th Amendment of the Constitution—as that California case makes its way to the Supreme Court, based on what Judge Walker wrote, does there appear to be a sound legal argument for banning same sex marriage?

DEAN:  Well, there certainly does, Keith.  We all know, anybody who is a student of the court knows very much that that court follows public opinion.  There have been times in the past when certainly segregation was not an appropriate approach and they just waited until they thought the time was right and pushed it a little bit when everybody wasn‘t ready to deal with that, but they did it.  So, that‘s really the question.

And what Walker has done—I think it‘s brilliant.  He is the fact-finding entity.

The Supreme Court and even the appellate courts are not fact-finding entities.  He has presented a set of facts that are powerful.  They are well-reasoned in his analysis, showing that the evidence presented in his courtroom by the proponents or those who are pushing Prop 8, was not sound, and he‘s given a factual record that the Supreme Court would have great difficulty overturning his decision.  They might try to play with it but they can‘t get around the facts he‘s presented.

So, I‘m—you know, I think, if the case does get that far—indeed, it‘s very likely that it could be upheld.  My question is really whether it‘ll get that far.  I think that the circuit out here might well go off on a jurisdictional basis and not even take it up to the next court.

OLBERMANN:  How extraordinary that would be.

Author, columnist and former White House counsel, John Dean—as always, John, it‘s a pleasure.  Thank you kindly.

DEAN:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  After Katrina, wiped out the flawed levees of New Orleans, the thought never probably crossed anybody‘s mind what if the new levees were more flawed still?

Harry Shearer on that—ahead.


OLBERMANN:  The new levees in New Orleans might be worse than the old levees in New Orleans?  Harry Shearer, his documentary and his whistle blower, next. 

First, the sanity break.  Our thanks, first off, to some unlikely viewers.  The video of Monday‘s Special Comment about the Park 51 Community Center has reached number four on‘s list of the top viral videos in the United Kingdom. 

The Tweet of the day from repeat winner Steve Weinstein, “Sharron Angle won‘t watch Glenn Beck because he uses a blackboard.  She says black is evil, especially when bored.”  God told Steve to Tweet that.  Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin at the BBC with what had been the UK‘s second leading viral video.  News anchor Simon McCoy is tossing to weatherman Thomas Shaffernacker (ph).  And he gets little hello for his troubles.  I guess the forecast for today‘s cloudy with a chance of shame.  Yeah, nice try with the chin rub thing in an effort to cover it up.  Seamless.  Mr.  Shaffernacker later apologized for his gesture.  But for a weatherman, he sure created a storm of controversy.  As Meryl Walinsky (ph) said, we‘re number one.

Three people got that joke.

To the Internets, where Next Media Animation, better known as Apple

Daily people, have brought us another gem.  This time they took on the

entire Rod Blagojevich fiasco.  This was funny enough as its own, but this

takes it to a new level.  >




OLBERMANN:  As Meryl Walinsky said, we‘re number two. 

Finally back to England, good old Ashford.  It is my sad duty to report the death of Two Toned the Carp, named for the amount of tones.  Two Tone or Toot, as his friends called him, gained notoriety for both size and age.  He is believed to be nearly 45 years old and at his death, he weighed 67 pounds.  Funeral service will be held on Sunday, followed immediately by an all you can eat fish fry. 

That‘s the way—Harry Shearer and “The Big Uneasy” next on



OLBERMANN:  Another day, another scientific report that disputes the government‘s sunny estimate of just how much of the oil in the Gulf has disappeared.  And now even a government scientist is questioning the government‘s assessment.  But in our third story, what about the last mammoth disaster in the region, the failure of levees after Hurricane Katrina.  That couldn‘t happen again, right? 

Wrong.  A whistle blower from the Army Corps of Engineers along with documentarian Harry Shearer joins me in a moment.  First, scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution have mapped out a plume of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.  It‘s 22 miles long, more than a mile wide, and it‘s 3,000 feet below the surface. 

Scientists describe the plume as diluted.  But they say it is degrading slowly in the cold depths.  This constitutes the third scientific study to contradict at least part of a government report from earlier this month in which scientists estimated that only 25 percent of the spill remained in significant portion. 

That report from the government now questioned by one of its own in Congressional testimony.  Before a House panel yesterday, the senior scientist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that about three quarters of the oil spill is probably still in the Gulf and environs. 

Bill Lehrer characterized his estimate as an educated guess, but he said that only about 10 percent of the oil spill had been skimmed or burned.  As yet, he could provide no estimate on how much of the oil had been recovered from the coast line.  The Congressional hearing prompted the wrath of its chairman, Congressman Ed Markey, who said that NOAA should not have released the rosy conclusions of that report without providing the scientific findings.  Quote, “you shouldn‘t have released it until you knew it was right, because so much is going to depend upon that release.  It basically sent the signal in regard to how much of the problem remains.” 

And problems may very well remain with something that should certainly have been fixed by now, as we approach the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina: the levees.  Joining me now as promised, humorist and New Orleans resident Harry Shearer, whose new documentary “The Big Uneasy” will debut in theaters on the 30th of this month.  He‘s joined by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers whistle blower Maria Garzino. 

Harry, welcome back.  Maria, thanks for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN:  Let me start with you, Maria.  The levee system in New Orleans, including these hydraulic pumps, is it ready for another Katrina-like event?  And if not, why not? 

GARZINO:  Well, I can comment on the hydraulic pumps.  They are an integral component of the levee system itself.  If they fail, the levee system will subsequently also fail.  Those—the hydraulic pumps, as they stand today, will not make it through a Katrina-like event if they are needed.  So, no.  They won‘t make. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there an investigation into this?  Is there anybody who is looking into this rather alarming realization? 

GARZINO:  Well, that is the conclusion of the investigation.  It‘s been a five-year process, a three-year process with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.  Last year—in June of last year, they sent forward their final findings on the allegations that I sent forward to them for investigation.  These went to the president and both chairmen of the Armed Services Committee.  But the findings substantiated all of my allegations that—

Basically it showed that these pumps, the design deficiencies integral to these hydraulic pumps are so massive that we can say with engineering certainty they are not going to make it through a Katrina-like event. 

OLBERMANN:  Is there a way you can assess broadly whether because of these problems with the pumps, these levees are better or worse than the ones that were there when Katrina hit? 

GARZINO:  Well, that‘s an interesting question.  Essentially you would have to look at it from the standpoint of you would not have pumps.  And if that‘s the case, I would—you would definitely be worse off. 

HARRY SHEARER, DOCUMENTARIAN:  If the pumps don‘t work, Keith, these canals—these three canals, which—two of which breached and one of which failed, causing much of the flooding in New Orleans, they‘d fill up with rain water if the hurricane coming, as is usual, has a rain event associated with it.  The purpose of the canals is to get rainwater out of the city. 

If the pumps fail and the canals fill up above what the Corps has called the new safe water level, the flood walls, which were not repaired, will breach again and the city will flood again. 

OLBERMANN:  So the last ones, Harry, we know that some of the flood wall was stuffed with actual copies of the Sunday edition of the “New Orleans Times Picayune” newspaper.  I wish I were making that up.  It sounds like a sketch.  It‘s not.  It‘s literally true.  Is the situation, in your overall assessment and as you snow in the documentary, is it worse with these new levees?  Worse than mere incompetence?  Has somebody cut corners and made money off this? 

SHEARER:  Well, I think the “Times Picayune” sold some extra copies of the Sunday edition at that point.  Fortunately, they are moving online.  So if you‘re going to stuff the flood walls with the “Times Picayune,” you have to put a computer monitor in there or an iPad. 

Seriously, you know, the question goes I think to the—what kind of agency this is, what they think their job is, how they view the mission.  And I hope that people who see the documentary will not just think oh, bad old Corps of Engineers.  I hope they see that the Corps of Engineers is the way it is today because that‘s the way Congress likes it.  And that‘s I think the core—no pun intended—of the problem. 

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, Harry, when you hear government assessments about the oil spill, do you find yourself more skeptical than ever because of what you know about the government and the levees? 

SHEARER:  Yeah, I think what Maria just told me makes me even more skeptical off air.  What Bob Bee (ph), who is also in the documentary and now is heading the Deepwater Horizon Study Group, has told me has made me more skeptical.  I think skeptical or skepticable (ph); either one is good equipment to have. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘m the skepticable one.  Maria Garzino of the Army Corps of Engineers, satirist and filmmaker Harry Shearer, as always, great thanks and good luck with the project. 

SHEARER:  Thank you, Keith. 

GARZINO:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The second part of my two part reading of his epic “The Night the Ghost Got In” on Fridays with Thurber.  It is not fair to make fun of those fighting addiction, but when you give us ten mug shots with spray paint on your face, all in different colors, you‘ve made yourself eligible. 

When Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, she‘ll have a closer look at how the troops saying in Iraq are training Iraqi forces.  “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” from Baghdad coming up.


OLBERMANN:  The conclusion of James Thurber‘s masterpiece “The Night the Ghost Got In” is next.  First, get out your pitchforks and torches, time for tonight‘s worst persons in the world. 

The bronze to Alan D. Avillas (ph), president and chief executive officer of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation.  Hard times have hit and layoffs come with them.  But nobody at the corporation‘s Coney Island Hospital expected this.  Dr. Coomer Amarudin (ph), now 68-year-old, was a cancer surgeon there.  He began his medical career as an intern there when he was 30, 1972. 

As soon as he finished an operation at the hospital two weeks ago, he was called in and fired.  They stripped the bar code off his hospital ID like he was on “Branded” or something.  More than 300 doctors and nurses at Coney Island have signed a petition urging his reinstatement.  So far the CEO, Avillas, has done nothing. 

The runner-up, Patrick Tribit (ph) of Wheeling, West Virginia.  This is Mr. Tribit‘s was his mug shot from the Wetzel County Sheriff‘s Department.  They say he was huffing paint.  Perhaps this rings a vague and distant bell for you.  Here he is in February of this year, and a year ago this month, and in March of ‘09, July, 2008, three years ago, October, July of ‘07.  July of ‘06, and most famously, July 2005. 

Well, he looks good.  Is this story on “The Huffington Post” yet?  I‘m sorry. 

But our winner, Ted Nugent, former musician.  He doesn‘t have a call in phony advice show and he was never on anything as big as “Seinfeld,” so it has taken nearly two weeks for this to get out.  At the Mississippi Moon Bar in Dubuque, Iowa, August 5th, Mr. Nugent looked out over his audience and, according to the “Dubuque Telegraph Herald” said, quote, “there is a lot of white people in this crowd.  I like that.  This is a white town.”

Witnesses say he then pointed to at least one member of the audience and questioned that man‘s race.  Why would overt racism from a prominent right wing nut job and gun freak take two weeks to get national attention?  Because Ted Nugent hasn‘t been famous since about 1977.  But here‘s the punch line: one of the speakers at the Beck-apocalypse August 28th, the anniversary of Martin Luther King‘s “I Have a Dream Speech” near the Lincoln Memorial?  Ted Nugent.  I know.  I know.  You thought he was dead, today‘s worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN:  To conclude our weekly visit with the works of the master, tonight we complete one of his absolute classics “The Night the Ghost Got In.”

In the first half of this last week, James Thurber told of how shortly after 1:00 in the morning on November 17th, 1915, he and his brother and his mother all heard frantic pounding foot steps walking, running around the dining room table, and up the stairs of their home in Columbus, Ohio.  Thurber‘s brother has awakened to the scene with built in apprehension.  He always half suspected that something would get him in the night. 

His mother has jumped to the conclusion that it must be burglars and they didn‘t tell her otherwise because she was even more afraid of ghosts than of burglars.  So she has summoned the police, along with several newspaper reporters by throwing a shoe through the window of the neighbor‘s house to get them to telephone the cops. 

Originally published in “My Life and Hard Times” in 1934, I‘m reading as usual from the Library of America‘s new edition “Thurber Writings and Drawings.” 

The ghost is gone.  The cops are not.  And young Thurber, dressed only in a towel, is explaining to them that the zither (ph) that they‘ve just found is where their pet hamster used to sleep, but grandfather has yet to make his entrance, as we hear the conclusion of “The Night The Ghost Got In.” by James Thurber. 

“One of them found an old zither that Roy had won in a pool tournament.  “Looky here, Joe,” he said, strumming it with a big paw.  The cop named Joe took it and turned it over. 

“What is it,” he asked me? 

“It‘s an old zither or guinea pig used to sleep on,” I said.  It was true that a pet guinea pig we once had would never sleep anywhere except on the zither.  But I should never have said so.  Joe and the other cop looked at me a long time. 

They put the zither back on a shelf. 

“No sign of nothing,” said the cop who had first spoken to mother. 

“This guy,” he explained to the others, jerking a thumb at me, “was naked. 

The lady seems hysterical.” 

They all nodded but said nothing.  They just looked at me.  In the small silence, we all heard a creaking in the attic.  Grandfather was turning over in bed. 

“What‘s that,” snapped Joe?  Five or six cops sprang for the attic door before I could intervene or explain.  I realized that it would be bad if they burst in on grandfather unannounced or even announced.  He was going through a phase in which he believed that General Meade‘s men, under steady hammering by Stonewall Jackson, were beginning to retreat and even dessert. 

When I got to the attic things were pretty confused.  Grandfather had evidently jumped to the conclusion that the police were deserters from Meade‘s army, trying to hide in his attic.  He bounded out of bed wearing a long, flannel night gown over long, woolen underwear, a night cap, and a leather jacket around his chest.  The cops must have realized at once that the indignant, white-haired old man belonged in the house, but they had no chance to say so. 

“Back, you cowardly dogs,” roared grandfather.  “Back to the lines you god damned lily livered cattle.”  With that he fetched the officer who found the zither a flat headed smack alongside his s head that sent him sprawling. 

The others beat a retreat but not fast enough.  Grandfather grabbed Zither‘s gun from its holster and let fly.  The report seemed to crack the rafters.  Smoke filled the attic.  A cop cursed and shot his hand to his shoulder. 

Somehow we all finally got downstairs again and locked the door against the old gentleman.  He fired once or twice more in the darkness and then went back to bed. 

“That was grandfather,” I explained to Joe out of breath.  “He thinks you are deserters.” 

“I‘ll say he does,” said Joe.  The cops were reluctant to leave without getting their hands on somebody besides grandfather.  The night had been distinctly a defeat for them.  Furthermore, they obviously didn‘t like the layout.  Something looked—and I can see their viewpoint—phony. 

They began to poke into things again.  A reporter, a thin-faced wispy man, came up to me.  I had put on one of mother‘s blouses, not being able to find anything else.  The reporter just looked at me with mingled suspicion and interest. 

“Just what the hell is the real lowdown here, bud,” he asked.  I decided to be frank with him.  “We had ghosts,” I said. 

He gazed at me a long time, as if I were a slot machine into which he had, without results, dropped a nickel.  Then he walked away.  The cops followed him.  The one grandfather shot holding his now bandaged arm, cursing and blaspheming.  “I‘m going to get my gun back from that old bird” said the Zither cop.  “Yeah,” said Joe.  “You and who else?” 

I told them I would bring it to the station house the next day.  “What was the matter with that one policeman,” mother asked after they had gone.  “Grandfather shot him,” I said.  “What for,” she demanded.  I told her he was a deserter. 

“Of all the things,” said mother.  “He was such a nice looking young man.”  Grandfather was fresh as a daisy and full of jokes at breakfast next morning.  We thought at first he had forgotten all about what had happened.  But he hadn‘t. 

Over his third cup of coffee, he glared at Herman and me.  “What was the idea of all them cops terry-hooting around the house last night,” he demanded.  He had us there.” 

The night the bed fell—excuse me, “The Night the Ghost Got In.” 

That‘s COUNTDOWN, portions written by James Thurber, who would have advised me never to take my glasses off.  That is another one of his short stories I‘ll read you one night.  It‘s the 2,668th day since President Bush declared mission accomplished in Iraq, the 2,257th day since he declared victory in Afghanistan, and the 123rd day of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf. 

“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” from Baghdad is next.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck. 



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