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Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Dave Weigel, David Cay Johnston, Bruce Schneier




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

Con jobs of the rich and famous: the startling new report tonight of presumed lavish spending by the wealthy.

But give them their tax cuts and they won‘t spend it on themselves.  They‘ll hire everybody.  Just stop the uncertainty.  What about the uncertainty?  Won‘t somebody think about the uncertainty?


REP. JOHN BOEHNER ®, OHIO:  Until the uncertainty begins to clear—

STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS:  People say the uncertainty is just killing people.


BOEHNER:  And one of those big uncertain activities is taxes.

GRETCHEN CARLSON, FOX NEWS:  I mean, everyone is living in this cloud of unknown.


OLBERMANN:  Yes, it‘s unknown how many limited edition $75,000 Camarros they‘re going to be able to buy with that tax break.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Private dining for the business world is returning.


OLBERMANN:  The rich want the tax cuts so they can get richer.  Screw creating new jobs.  They don‘t care.  When is that going to be the Democratic argument?

Mr. Kyl and the earmarks—he excoriates senators who take earmarks and then he takes a $200 million earmark.

Opting out of the opt-out.  There were bikinis and Speedos and kilts. 

There were no delays.

There might be a DeLay in the Texas prison for the rest of his life. 


A terrorism drill where the imaginary terrorists are violent pot growers?  Uh-huh!

And just when we were ready to compile the “year in comedy news” stuff, guess which turkey showed up for Thanksgiving?


SARAH PALIN ®, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR:  But obviously, we‘ve got to stand with our North Korean allies.


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


PALIN:  Oh, I don‘t know.




OLBERMANN:  Good evening from New York.  This is Wednesday, November 24th, 713 days until the 2012 presidential election.

And news today that could, that should drive the debate over renewing Bush tax cuts when Congress returns to its Thanksgiving break—news about Wall Street investment bankers.

Our fifth story: as American Dream goes up in smoke for the man on the street and man on Main Street, Wall Street is back to smoking expensive cigars and driving luxury sports cars and throwing stupid parties.

The theory all along has been that once Wall Street started making money again, trickle down economics would send that money down toward the little people.  Well, the little people are getting some of the money all right—but literally, the little people.  Lil‘ Kim getting work, “The New York Times” reports, to perform while dress up as a black cat for a Halloween party for more than 1,000 people thrown by a Goldman Sachs investment analyst.

Lil‘ Kim, not the only little person benefiting from Wall Street‘s renewed excess.  “The Times” also reporting that a Morgan Stanley trader tried to hire a vertically challenged entertainer for a bachelor party, in order to handcuff him to the bachelor.

You may recall that especially before the November elections, Republicans argued that Democratic refusal to renew the Bush tax cuts for the rich was creating economic uncertainty.  That uncertainty, they said, was keeping capital on the sidelines, freezing hiring.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The Democrats have failed to lead on this.  They‘re going to want to leave the House without dealing with it.  That uncertainty itself is keeping capital on the sidelines and stopping jobs from being created in America.

BOEHNER:  Chris, the American people are asking the question, where are the jobs?  And if we leave here this week and adjourn for the election, without preventing these tax increases on the American people, it will be the most irresponsible thing that I have seen since I‘ve been in Washington, D.C.  And I‘ve been here a while.

The speaker ought to promise a fair and open debate on making sure that we extend all of the current tax rates and the uncertainty, and get our economy going again.


BOEHNER:  So, if only Democrats would extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich, the rich would get our economy going again.

It turns out uncertainty has totally failed to keep the wallets of the rich in their pockets.  While Main Street economy languishes, several new indicators show luxury economy, even after Democrats declined to renew the Bush tax cuts for the rich, is booming.  It‘s not just yesterday‘s news that corporate profits hit a new American record, reaching an annual pace of $1.6 trillion.

Neiman Marcus reports it sold 100 limited edition Camarros as $75,000 per in three minutes, reports “Crain‘s.”  Christie‘s Auction House tells “The Times,” bidders are, quote, “pouring in.”  At Goldman Sachs, Chief Lloyd Blankfein‘s favorite restaurant, business up 10 percent over last year.

And while sales are down at mid-market retailers like JC Penney and Kohl‘s, Tiffany just reported third quarter profits of $55 million today, according to “The Wall Street Journal,” up 27 percent, even though sales of items under $500 are down.  The fattened profit, robust sales for fine jewelry and other luxury pieces.

Neiman Marcus, October sales up nearly 10 percent.  Saks just over 8 percent.  Nordstrom, nearly 3.5 percent.

All this while unemployment remains will above 9 percent—while one out of five Americans has to use food stamps to pay for the groceries, after a year, 2009, in which one out of in 34 workers, 4.5 million Americans, could not get paid for one single day.

While Republicans continue today to claim that the economy cannot get moving again, while the rich languish in uncertainty over whether they will not just get tax cuts Democrats want to extend for everyone on the first quarter a million of income, but also the tax cuts Republicans want to give them on income above that—“The New York Times” found that the rich are, in fact, spending on everything else.


VIRGILIO GARZA, CHRISTIE‘S LATIN AMERICAN DEPARTMENT:  There was a desire for many clients who had a little more discreet the year before, to come back and to actually look and, you know, consider things for sale.


OLBERMANN:  From buying old masters to buying the right to make themselves look newer—cosmetic surgery in bulk.


DR, FRANCESCA FUSCO, MANHATTAN DERMATOLOGIST:  Around early spring of 2010, I definitely began to notice a change where patients were coming back at their usual frequency, getting the same—same number of areas treated as they were getting treated before, and now even focusing on other non0face areas like the rejuvenation of their hands.


OLBERMANN:  Let‘s bring in Pulitzer Prize-winning tax reporter, David Cay Johnston, a columnist at “Tax Notes” and professor at Syracuse University College of Law.

Good evening to you, sir.


OLBERMANN:  The Republican argument was that uncertainty—there‘s that word again—about the fate of tax cuts for the top earners in our economy would paralyze their spending.  What did today‘s indicators, statistical, anecdotal, what do they tell us about that claim?

JOHNSTON:  Oh, it‘s complete nonsense.  The certainty is the millions of people out there who don‘t know how they‘re going to feed their children, because of all the disappearing jobs, all the jobs that are being destroyed by the machinations on Wall Street.  You know, we talk about Goldman Sachs as an investment house, 90 percent of its revenue comes from non-investment house activities, principally trading derivatives and actions that are making the people at Goldman Sachs and the other Wall Street firms incredibly wealthy by destroying wealth and by destroying jobs and people‘s lives.

OLBERMANN:  So, aside from the temp work for Lil‘ Kim and this unnamed little person, where are the jobs that should be coming from all the retched excess of luxury spending if anything about tax—the Bush tax cut theory is correct?

JOHNSTON:  Well, you know, 100 years ago when people worked mostly in factories, there was a man named Taylor, he had a little stop watch.  And there was something called the speed up to get more work out of people.

What they‘ve done now is persuaded people that you better work a lot of unpaid overtime and come in on Saturday or your job will disappear.  And in effect, they are stealing an enormous amount of labor from people without paying for it.

OLBERMANN:  So, do companies really care about these tax cuts or base new hiring on them?  Or is the reality now with speed ups and the like that it is, in fact, the rich individuals who control those companies who just want the additional money that they get with these tax cuts?  And that‘s not exactly an evil premise, but when you dress it up as something that‘s going to lead to jobs that are never going to happen it becomes that.

JOHNSTON:  Well, first of all, there is no proposal on the table to change the corporate tax rate.  This is all about high income individuals wanting to pay less in taxes so they can buy more souped up Camarros.  Seventy-five thousand dollars for a Camarro?  It‘s astonishing.

And, fundamentally, that‘s the issue here.  It has nothing to do with some tax issue.  Companies are going to be sitting on, when we get the next report, about $2 trillion of cash.  They aren‘t putting it to work because people don‘t have the money to buy their goods and services.

OLBERMANN:  You wrote a column advising the president what to do about the tax cuts, the whole spectrum of this thing.  Summarize what you wrote in that column.

JOHNSTON:  Call their bluff, Mr. President.  I don‘t believe the Republicans are so stupid that they would allow all the Bush tax cuts to expire.

If they do, this is a fight the president can win, because it would mean that the Republicans have revealed themselves as saying, if the billionaires can‘t have their tax cuts, you can‘t have a tax cut.  In addition, the Republicans don‘t want to continue the $400 making work pay tax credit that President Obama got put in place temporarily.

So, I think it‘s very clear here that sound tax policy in a period of time when unemployment, debt and fear are stalking our land, says call their bluff, Mr. President.  And we‘re going to find out very quickly whether President Obama is a profile in courage, or he‘s a man of disappointment we can count on.

OLBERMANN:  David Cay Johnston of “Tax Notes” and Syracuse University College of Law—thanks for your time tonight.  I hope it‘s a good holiday.

JOHNSTON:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For the politics of this, or at least the potential politics of this, let‘s turn to MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, also the author of “Revival: The Struggle for Survival Inside the Obama White House.”

Richard, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  The revelation that, you know, the rich are, in fact, spending money but not to hire other people—does that change the mainstream media and political narratives of America‘s wealthy paralyzing the economy over uncertainty about tax cuts?

WOLFFE:  Well, it should be because these are the kinds of stories, these conspicuous consumption stories, that breakthrough.  They hit the mainstream audience in a way that, you know, any amount of debate about tax policy or unemployment rates doesn‘t.  But beyond that, there are a number of data points here that need to come into play.  The giant corporate profits that we‘re seeing in the last quarter, the biggest on record, you have to factor that kind of situation in with the stock market picking up, all of it‘s since the financial crash and up more than 60 percent since its low in March of ‘09.

You put all that that stuff together and this idea that Republicans have successfully propagated, that businesses are being squelched by big government, by excessive big regulation, has to be debated by Democrats.  It‘s not just about tax cuts.  It‘s a broader story about where economies are, where businesses are, because unless Democrats win that battle, they cannot really fight about tax cuts.

OLBERMANN:  But who—who‘s going to make that argument, particularly the one about—the nonsense about tax cuts for the rich equaling jobs for everybody else, which is clearly untrue?  Who is going to do it?  I mean, it‘s nice to say Democrats should, but are there any of them who you‘ve discussed doing this?

WOLFFE:  Well, the White House needs to principally tell a story about the economy.  You know, we saw the president in a much more of a campaigning mode about the auto industry.  They feel they‘ve got a story to tell there.  But they also got a story to tell about how businesses have thrived under this administration.

And that might sound weird to people who are expecting a different result from—on the progressive side.  It will certainly seem weird for people who‘ve lost their jobs.

But if you‘re going to fight against the Chamber of Commerce, you‘ve to take them on on their own turf, to finding justice tax cuts for everyone.  And having that debate purely on that issue is really playing into Republicans‘ hand.  There is a bigger economic story this administration has got to get their grips with.

OLBERMANN:  All of this is also taking place in the context of this being the time before huge bonuses hit.  What are the politics of an industry bailed out, or several industries bailed out by taxpayers, getting obscene bonuses and using them not to create jobs but to buy themselves, you know, 100 custom-made $75,000 Camarros in three minutes?

WOLFFE:  This is the political opening for Democrats because Wall Street is as unpopular with progressives as it is with the Tea Party folks.  If you‘re going to do that jujitsu move and take the drive for reform and change and pull it back to where it was in 2008, you‘ve got to go after Wall Street.

A year or two ago, Wall Street was saying, cut conspicuous consumption, don‘t do these bachelor parties, keep your head down.  This is an industry that feels liberated.  It doesn‘t feel the threat.

And to the extent the Republicans are cozied up to Wall Street lobbyists, that‘s the opportunity Democrats have right now because, again, these are the stories that break through.  It doesn‘t matter what goes on CNBC.  This is the kind of story that makes it to the “Today” show and has everyone talking.  The same thing happened in the early ‘90s.

OLBERMANN:  These are the real Americans behind me, those brokers who all make six figures.

WOLFFE:  Exactly.

OLBERMANN:  This was the central driving point of the president‘s campaign, as candidate, to reduce this obviously growing income disparity in America.  How does he campaign four more years if two years we‘re talking yet again about unemployment at 8 percent, 9 percent, but the boffo sales in the Neiman Marcus catalog and oh, by the way, maybe he reached out to talk and have with the U.S. chamber of commerce again?

WOLFFE:  Yes.  I—look, for a start, he can schmooze with the Chamber of Commerce all he likes.  These people are still going to hide behind the anonymous spending and the anonymous advertising.  I don‘t know that he ever campaigned against economic disparity.  What he should be talking about is what‘s the most efficient use of government, most efficient use of tax dollars here—it‘s got to be to help people who cannot help themselves and who need that extra help up.  Not to help these guys who can buy the fancy cars.

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe—great thanks for your time.  Have a good weekend.

WOLFFE:  Happy Thanksgiving, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, sir.

It‘s not all fur sinks (ph) and edible gold for the rich and famous.  Remember House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, convicted tonight by an Austin jury for his part in a money laundering scheme between local politicos and the national GOP.  He now faces life in prison or five years.  It‘s Texas.

Among not yet indicted leaders, how long did the senator wait after his lofty condemnation of earmarks to grab an earmark?  Two days.  Next.


OLBERMANN:  Great statement about how you‘re against earmarks and Democrats better learn to hate earmarks and how earmarks started the First World War.  It would have helped if you hadn‘t turned around and grabbed your own $200 million earmark.

How to fly out of LAX in the age of the feel-up.  He‘s got a bikini on under that.  Stand by to hear chatter about new bikini wax bombers.

And don‘t choke off input in to the year in comedy news review just yet, the ex-part-time governor is back and for a moment, at least, not really clear if she‘s liking the Kim Jong-il or she‘s not liking the Kim Jong-il.


OLBERMANN:  It was widely considered the first official win for the Tea Party in Congress.  Before last week‘s vote on a Republican Senate earmark moratorium, the cofounder of the Tea Party Patriots threatened well-funded primary challengers to run against Republican senators who are not on board.

In our fourth story: last Tuesday, the Republican senators approved the self-imposed two-year earmark moratorium.

We‘re finding out now that it only took three days for one Republican senator to break the no earmark promise.

Let‘s go backwards first to 2007 when the entire Senate unanimously approved Jim DeMint‘s language, defining an earmark as speeding items inserted, quote, “primarily at the request of a senator,” that go to an entity or is targeted to a specific state.

Last Friday was get away day on the Hill with most senators gone.  Those who remained voted on and passed the Claims Resolution Act of 2010, a bill that would pay out more than $5 billion in settlements to African-American farmers and to Native Americans who were discriminated against by the federal government.

Tucked into that bill were earmarks, three of them.  Two requested by Democrats, the other requested by a Republican who three days earlier was trumpeting his own vote for the earmark moratorium.  Which Republican to press his electric, breaking his promise in inviting a potential Tea Party challenger—it‘s someone in the leadership, currently Republican minority whip—no whammies, no whammies, stop—on Arizona Senator Jon Kyl and $200 million to settle an Arizona tribe‘s water rights claim against the government.

The “Associated Press” writing of Kyl‘s earmark, “Typically, Congress authorizes big water projects in policy-setting bills that promise funding in future legislation.  Kyl‘s measures started out that way but it morphed behind closed doors into a bill that actually provides the money.”

Smelling hypocrisy here, just the touch of it, Democrats were the first to pounce but not the last.  Vermont Senator Leahy: “I do know an earmark when I see it.  And this, my friends, is an earmark.”  He added that the money will help the Apaches, quote, “make snow at their ski resort, improve water flow to their casino and build fish hatcheries to improve local fish production.”

In addition to issuing a news release touting his support of the earmark moratorium, three days before requesting this $200 million work of earmark, on Monday, three days after breaking the moratorium, Mr. Kyl doubled down with another press release, reading in part, “Of course, an earmark ban is not a single solution to our country‘s fiscal problems, and not all earmarks are wasteful.  But, if legislators can‘t muster the will to eliminate a small portion of spending, how will they be able to make the bigger, more difficult decisions?”

That‘s the type of question that usually gets asked during a primary.

Let‘s turn to Dave Weigel, “Slate” political reporter and MSNBC contributor.

David, good evening.


OLBERMANN:  Senator Kyl declined to comment to the “Associated Press” on this, but I gather that the Tea Partiers for whom this is such an integral issue are not declining to comment.

WEIGEL:  Well, no.  Certainly, the Tea Party activists I talked to today read the story—read the “A.P.” story and immediately smelled a rat.  Everyone else, though, in the conservative movement was sort of defending Kyl today.

Citizens Against Government Waste is a group that produces a pig book of all the wackiest earmarks every year.  Actually said, well, we don‘t consider this an earmark.  This is fine.

You saw a bit of a gap between the conservative establishment, between Republicans, certainly.  I mean Jeff Flake, who‘s a Tea Party hero and congressman from Arizona, said that this was not an earmark.  You saw a gap between them and Tea Partiers who say, wait a minute, we meant no earmarks.  What part of that don‘t you understand?

OLBERMANN:  There were a couple of anti-earmarks groups and one of them conservative.  One of them wasn‘t, though, that said, this may not be an earmark.  That there are shades of gray that may to some degree Kyl is right that the government owed the tribe the money one way or the other.  Is there merit to that or is that way too subtle for what we‘re talking about?

WEIGEL:  Well, if you‘re just going to approach this as an issue the government should work on, which is the way Kyl is doing it, then, yes, this is the kind of thing government should do.  I mean, we have actually a very long, proud history of having to hand over money to Native Americans after we have wronged them somehow.  And this is one of them.

Kyl kind of carried the ball here.  The administration—previous administrations, actually, this settlement going on for years, put together this deal, everyone thought it was a good deal.  Kyl actually introduced legislation, a Democrat introduced it in the House, to make this happen back in 2009.

So, you know, is this better than the average piece of pork?  I mean, that‘s actually an argument some Republicans are starting to have.  Remember, it was a couple of weeks ago when Michele Bachmann said that transportation funding shouldn‘t really be called an earmark because that‘s not pork.

You‘re starting—you‘re seeing a couple Republicans say, OK, it‘s very fun to ban earmarks but when we get down to the serious work of governing, once in a while, we have to make an exception.  And that‘s kind of what, you know, Democrats have been saying, or everyone else has been saying for a long time.

OLBERMANN:  Well, but, surely, and the Bachmann point about transportation projects is important.


OLBERMANN:  And I would guess that Kyl must have thought he wasn‘t going to get busted on this, at least sufficiently to make any dent in him when it comes time for a primary, but will the Tea Party activists see this as the entire earmark thing as pure pandering, or are the Republicans just suddenly surprised that they were taken literally and not—well, 90 percent of the time or 50 percent of the time or 30 percent of the time.  Is there genuine surprise here on either end of this equation?

WEIGEL:  Well, I think both of those things are true.  You know, Kyl was up in 2012.  So, the possibility exists for a Tea Party activist to give him a challenge.  He‘s always been more popular with conservatives than John McCain was.  McCain survived, but we‘ll see.

If Republicans are surprised, they‘ve got to get used to this because, again, it‘s really easy to make a blanket promise, a blanket statement of what you stand for and then watch yourself be called a hypocrite every time you make a compromise one inch toward a solution.  I mean, actually, this whole thing happens in the context of the Senate passing that—you know, the big settlement you were talking about.

In sites like “Big Government,” Andrew Breitbart‘s Web sites, other conservative sites, conservative magazines, Michele Bachmann again, there are a number of conservatives who‘s saying they shouldn‘t pass this settlement at all.  There might be fraud in here.  They haven‘t come up with evidence for it.  There isn‘t actually the case, but there are conservatives who say we really shouldn‘t deal with anything that the status quo thinks is normal or the government has already agreed upon.  And every time one of these issues comes up, there‘s going to be a little fight about it.

Now, Kyl is heading into a nice little holiday weekend.  And he‘s going to endear this fine.  You know, his staff is not talking about it.

But when you make a big promise like this, you‘re going to have to

defend it every single time.  And it‘s going to get tiresome if they don‘t

you know, well, it‘s going to lead to a lot of backpedaling which what we‘ve already seen so far.  It‘s unsustainable really if the party is serious about—I keep using the word governing.  Maybe that‘s the word that Tea Partiers are uncomfortable with.


OLBERMANN:  Yes.  They thought they were going to get governing and, in fact, they got sold another bill of goods.

Dave Weigel, “Slate” political reporter and MSNBC contributor—thanks as always, Dave.  Happy Thanksgiving to you.

WEIGEL:  You, too.  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  There were airport protests today.  There just were not many delays.  The round up, including video of the bikini lady of LAX—ahead.


OLBERMANN:  Was there no protest or just not the usual number of people flying?  Opt-out day—next.

First, the sanity break and the tweet of the day following up on the rich not hiring—it‘s from Anders Russell.  “Everyone knows that you can‘t risk hiring until unemployment drops.  It‘s just dangerous, liberal, and bad.”  You realize you have to explain to some people that you‘re being satirical, because otherwise, what you wrote here is the Republican Party economic platform.

Let‘s play “Oddball.”


OLBERMANN:  Oh, to the Internets, where this guy is trying to recreate his favorite scene from the classic film “Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift.”  And boom goes the dynamite.  Those of you not familiar with the film, drifting is the art of taking turns by not turning your wheel, instead skidding your tires to force your car into the turn, but most people preferred to do it with the tires still attached.  The good news is he may have a part in the sequel “Slow and the Mellow, American Drip.”

This next story is brought to you by the let the record show S, N and L.  Cookie monster has decided that if Paris Hilton can host “Saturday Night Live,” why can‘t he?  So he started a campaign to bring his cookieness to late night television.  To help move things along, he sent in an audition tape featuring a monologue Weekend Update and a surprise musical guest. 


COOKIE MONSTER, “SESAME STREET”:  Me think that the time to branch out beyond me cookie-eating career.  Yes.  Me ready for next logical step, hosting “Saturday Night Live.”

Oh, yeah.  It‘s great to be here hosting “Saturday Night Live.”  Blah, blah, blah, cookie joke, cookie joke, cookie joke.  We got great show, so stick around.  We‘ll be right back. 

Macaroon—there are macaroon cookie trapped in that quickie bake oven and it‘s about to blow.  Don‘t worry, me on it.  Hand me that paper clip.  Shoe thing macaroon.  Yum, yum, yum.  Yum, oh, yum, yum, yum.  Me knew we could diffuse the—

This just in, world famous dough guy stayed out in sun too long and got baked.  When reached for comment, all he say is, me feel crummy. 

Ladies and gentlemen, Monster Gaga.  Me me me, cookie tasty, me cookie



OLBERMANN:  And he also does a 32-minute sketch impersonating me, not shown in your picture.  Me love Cookie Monster SNL. 

Time on marches. 

No evidence of the pat down protest delaying pre-thanksgiving air travel.  Also, no evidence of Sarah Palin passing the minimum not stupid test.  Wait, now there‘s a North Korea?


OLBERMANN:  The headline on the “New York Times” home page this morning read, “Pat Down Dispute Shows Mistrust of Government.”  But in our third story tonight, look for tomorrow‘s headline, “Lack of Pat Down Dispute Showed Trust of Government.” 

Today was, of course, national opt out day for one of the busiest travel days of the year, the day before Thanksgiving.  Yes, a handful of full-scale protests at the airports today.  There was also the guy in the Speedo and the dude in the kilt.  Two dudes in kilts. 

No word on how many people usually travel in Speedos and kilts.  Despite this being national opt out day, one woman traveling predawn out of LAX said she was not taking part.  She just doesn‘t like the security measures. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I feel like the TSA is making travelers uncomfortable.  And I think we can have security measures that don‘t make people feel uncomfortable. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What have you decided to do?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I‘m wearing my bikini.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I know it‘s cold.  But are you willing to show us? 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s going to look weird. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I know.  It‘s like I‘m flashing you. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And the whole reason for this, though, is that you

you don‘t—you want to show them you don‘t have anything. 



OLBERMANN:  No jokes.  The number of people opting out of the screenings today, which meant opting in for a pat down, was said by authorities to be less than one percent, just as usual.  Air travel was up from last year.  Here‘s a sampling of how many people participated, intentionally or otherwise, in national opt out day.  Per the TSA Boston, 300 out of 56,000 passengers, less than usual, less than one percent.  LA, 113 opt outs out of 50,000.  Detroit, 57 opt outs of 25,000.  Atlanta, 39 out of 47,000.  Charlotte, one  out of 18,000.  Cincinnati 15.  St. Louis, seven.  New Orleans, six.  Memphis, Five.  Dallas/Ft. Worth one.  Out of 1.6 million Americans flying today.

Joining us for national opt-out day, Bruce Schneier, security technologists, and author of “Beyond Fear, Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World,” among other books.  Great thanks for your time tonight, sir. 


OLBERMANN:  Why did the nation seem to opt out of national opt-out day today, or were there other factors we don‘t know about? 

SCHNEIER:  It‘s hard.  You go to the airport and you want to go someplace.  You want to get there as quickly as possible.  So, you know, both options are kind of offensive.  You pick the that‘s faster.  Or maybe you pick the one that has less groping.  You‘re opting out of one or the other, whichever you think is worse. 

Generally, you can‘t really negotiate.  You want to get through security.  You know they‘re going to be nasty to you if you say anything, so you just put up with it.  And we‘re stuck doing it. 

OLBERMANN:  I love that the actual gesture there for the scanner—I keep seeing this and say why does that look so familiar.  That‘s the party membership gesture from “1984,” from the book, “1984.”  You‘ve called these measures—perhaps you were the first to use this phrase—security theater.  Explain what you mean by that term, because it‘s thrown around a lot.  I think there are different meanings to it. 

SCHNEIER:  Security theater is security that looks good but doesn‘t do anything.  So, like some of these—taking off your shoes at airports is a good example or some of the I.D. checks you see at buildings, where a guard looks at your I.D., doesn‘t actually do anything.  He is checking if you have one, like having an I.D. means somehow you‘re a good citizen.  Or some of the random bag screenings in subways that you can always decided to opt out of and not go through the Subway. 

These are measures that look good.  They don‘t actually make us any safer.  That‘s security theater. 

OLBERMANN:  But you have argued that airplane security has been a success because the underwear bomber failed and that he failed because security forced him to rely on unreliable tools, the unreliable bomb.  Does the same logic apply to these new measures in some way?  Do they not force the next underwear bomber or whatever to go to something even less reliable? 

SCHNEIER:  Well, we‘ve already got them down to so unreliable it‘s not working.  So we could make it even more unreliable.  But we‘re probably better off putting the security money elsewhere.  The thing is, pre-9/11 security works against the random crazies, like the Ft. Hood shooter or the guy who flew a plane into the IRS building in Texas.  I mean, those sorts of people will be caught by pretty much any security measure. 

And it also forces the professionals to use more unreliable mechanisms.  That‘s good.  Now the question is what do we do with the rest of our security?  We could add more and more security, preventing more and more different tactics.  Or we could realize the bad guys are just picking tactics that we‘re not looking for and take that money and make it more general. 

I like investigation intelligence, stuff that doesn‘t require us to guess the plot correctly.  Right now, we‘re banning printer cartridges over 16 ounces. 


SCHNEIER:  It‘s sort of a magical thinking because they did that last month, and they might do it again.  But really they‘re going to pick a different object to hide their bomb in.  So, why are we guessing? 

OLBERMANN:  Well, that raises this question about the urgency of putting these scanners in, and in response to the underwear bomber.  The aggressive pat downs, which are the alternative—or feel-ups, which are the alternative to the screener, were not put into effect immediately after the apprehension of the underwear bomber.  So, all this time, we‘ve just sort of been hoping that another underwear bomber wouldn‘t show up? 

I mean, it is—to be reactive rather than proactive is pretty obvious in our security system.  But this is sort of reactive 11 months later, isn‘t it? 

SCHNEIER:  Yeah, I mean, there‘s a lot of weird stuff going on.  This was rolled out without any real announcement, which is a surprise.  We‘re reading stuff about lobbying and conflicts of interest.  I mean, the pat downs are obviously a way around the scanners.  I think they‘re literally made onerous so people with go through the scanners. 

But yes.  Here we are a year after the underwear bomber, several years after Richard Reid.  We know that the scanners would not have caught the underwear bomber.  The manufacturer said that in the first days after that attack.  You know, it‘s real kind of a surprise to see what we‘re seeing here.  I‘m not quite sure of the reason. 

OLBERMANN:  Bruce Schneier, a security technologist and author, great thanks for your perspective tonight.  We appreciate it. 

SCHNEIER:  Thanks. 

OLBERMANN:  If the theory over at Fox is you have to fire and condemn all the Truthers, do they not now have to fire and condemn this man after he admitted to being a Truther? 

And does America‘s scold like the Kim Jong-il or does she not like the Kim Jong-il?


OLBERMANN:  A little Thanksgiving turkey from Sarah Palin and South Korea—or is it North Korea?  Next. 

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

The bronze to Eric K. Young of Charleston, South Carolina, who took a curve too hard on highway 27 in Rudd, Iowa and tipped over his semi.  Nobody hurt, but the trailer roof ripped open, spilling the contents on the road, pudding and Jello, 52 pallets of pudding and Jello expelled upon an Iowa road. 

The real problem?  Sheriff‘s officers say it took three hours to pick up and remove the pudding so it could be salvaged.  Salvaged pudding. 

Runner up, Roger Ailes of Fixed News.  His employee Andrew Napolitano went on the radio yesterday to declare 9/11, quote, “couldn‘t possibly have been done the way the government told us.”  OK, Napolitano is a Truther.  I don‘t have to agree who him.  You don‘t have to disagree with him.  But according to his employer‘s code of smear, they have to fire him. 

Televangelist Glenn Beck hunted Van Jones on the flimsier complaint that Jones had unknowingly signed a Truther petition.  Sean Hannity said Jones should be fired immediately.  O‘Reilly attacked Faisal Abdul Rauf of the Park51 Center in New York because, even though Rauf believes the 9/11 attacks were committed by extremist Muslims, one of his former associates is a Truther.  So Ailes he has to fire Napolitano.  If he doesn‘t, Beck, Hannity and O‘Reilly need to condemn Ailes and Fox, and call them un-American for not firing them.  Go ahead, put your outrage where your money is.

But our winners, the Bureau of Reclamation, Critical Infrastructure Crisis Response Exercise Program.  It staged the a couterterrorism at the Shasta Damn in California.  Twenty state, local and federal law agencies participated.  The scenario, imaginary terrorists had bombed a car and a bus and taken over the dam.  They‘re now demanding the release of an imprisoned member of their group or they will open the dam and flood the Sacramento River.  Who were the imaginary terrorists, al Qaeda or some right wing racist group or even—I don‘t know—eco-terrorists?  No, northern California marijuana growers, enraged pot farmers blow up a car and a bus, and take over a dam, threatening to inundate the communities below. 

Yeah, the characters on “Weeds” are going to get it together long enough to reenact a “Die Hard” movie.  And for further comment, Worst Persons meets, from 1991, the Bill Hicks is still ahead of his time clip of the week.


BILL HICKS, COMEDIAN:  If you‘re at a ball game or a concert and someone‘s really violent and aggressive and obnoxious, are they drunk or are they smoking pot?  Drunk would be the one and only correct answer.  Thank you very much.  Drunk would be the one and only correct answer. 

I have never seen people on pot get in a fight because it is

(EXPLETIVE DELETED) impossible.  Hey, buddy.  Hey, what?  End of argument. 


OLBERMANN:  The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Critical Infrastructure Crisis Response Exercise Program—and if there was an organization name that really sounded like the front for an imaginary terror group, that‘s the name—today‘s Worst Persons in the World.


OLBERMANN:  They sprang, seemingly fully grown, from the fertile ground that is Hong Kong.  Well, the newspapers in Hong Kong.  The Computers are in Taiwan.  In our number one story, just as we were going to begin to wrap up the years in news comedy with a tribute to the creative CG geniuses at Apple Daily Motion News, real life non-animated news comedy came to us, like an unexpected Thanksgiving turkey, from Sarah Palin and the ever complicated issue of which Korea this country supports. 

First, Apple Daily and the man who made them famous, Eldrik Taunt Woods.




OLBERMANN:  That one was called “Woods Broken Windows at Fight to Save His Wife Crash, Shady Husband.”  There was more animated delight as each mistress/exotic dancer/waitress/nightclub hostess came forward.  This one comes forward with a voiceover in English. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Tiger Woods is facing the biggest thought of his life.  Tabloid has disclosed a third alleged Woods lover, Vegas club executive Kalika Muqueen (ph).  She was a very influential person of the city.  The relationship happened when Elin was pregnant. 

They met regularly and were seen publicly.  Woods was also seen in the VIP room of a bar with girls on either side and hands up their skirts.  Reports say lover number two, Jaimee Grubbs, not only bragged to friends about her relationship but also played voice mail. 

TIGER WOODS, GOLFER:  Can you please take your name off the phone.  My wife went through my phone. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And received an anonymous phone call. 



OLBERMANN:  But it wasn‘t all fodder for “US Weekly.”  You don‘t really to know much about this “New York Times” versus “Wall Street Journal” story, except Rupert Murdoch appears in his natural form. 




OLBERMANN:  And then there‘s former Jetblue flight attendant Steven Slater.  After 20 years on the job, Mr. Slater snapped and slid his way right into Apple Daily immortality.  Excerpts are here, here and grab a beer. 




OLBERMANN:  Wee.  The only thing missing from this Apple Daily treatment of Brett Favre‘s well documented cell phone seduction, crocs.



OLBERMANN:  The Jets theme song, Polly Wally Doodle. 

Well, research documentation of what happened to GOP moderates this year, they got run over by the Tea Party with a gun-toting half governor at the wheel.  Highlight include a Karl Rove gone berserk and Christine O‘Donnell advising one man, you keep doing that, you‘re going to go blind, kid. 


OLBERMANN:  Notice train is empty. 

And a choked chicken leads us fittingly as Thanksgiving looms to a fully functioning turkey.  Bad things happen when you try to get in your everything is Obama‘s fault talking points in all at one once. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How would you handle a situation like just developed in North Korea? 

SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA:  Well, North Korea—this is stemming from, I think, a greater problem when we‘re all sitting around asking, oh, no, what are we going to do and we‘re not having a lot of faith that the White House is going to come out with a strong enough policy to sanction what is it that North Korea is going to do.  So, this speaks to a bigger picture here that certainly scares me in terms of our national security policies. 

But, obviously, got to stand with our North Korean allies.  We‘re bound to by—


OLBERMANN:  Uh-huh.  Wait, what? 


PALIN:  But, obviously, got to stand with our north Korean allies. 

We‘re bound to by treaty. 


PALIN:  We‘re also bound by—yeah.  And we‘re also bound by prudence to stand with our South Korean allies, yes. 


OLBERMANN:  Just a slip of the tongue, right?  We take you to the book “Game Change,” page 397: “on September 10th, she was preparing to fly back to Alaska to tape her first network interview with ABC‘s Charlie Gibson.  Before the flight to Anchorage, Schmidt, Wallace and other members of her traveling party met Palin at the Ritz Carlton near Reagan Airport in Pentagon City, Virginia, and found her that although she had made some progress with her memorization and studies, her grasp of rudimentary facts and concepts was minimal.  Palin couldn‘t explain why North and South Korea were separate nations.” 

But to get back to the creativity of Apple Daily, last Saturday was the second anniversary of turkey day, also known as pay attention to what‘s going on behind you day.  You remember.  But do you remember the background mash up of how this grim visit to the avatar could have been much, much worse? 


PALIN:  Every day was just a blast out there on the trail.  I don‘t think it‘s changed me at all.  I have the same values and convictions and positions and policies.  Just a greater appreciation, I think, for what other candidates go through.  You know, it‘s pretty brutal. 

Oh, well, this was neat.  I was happy to get to be invited to participate in this.  And, you know, for one, you need a little levity in this job, especially with so much that has gone on in the last couple of months that has been so political, obviously, that it‘s nice to get out and do something to promote a local business and to just participate in something that isn‘t so heavy-handed politics that invites criticism. 

Certainly we‘ll probably invite criticism for even doing this, too, but at least this was fun. 


OLBERMANN:  As god is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.  That‘s November 24th.  A very happy Thanksgiving.  I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.



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