'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, November 19th, 2010
Video via MSNBC: Twitter Report, Oddball, Worst Persons
Video via YouTube: Jan Brewer's death panel part 1, part 2
Fridays with Thurber:
A Friend Of The Earth, part 2
via YouTube, h/t fferkleheimer
Guests: Chris Hayes, Flor Felix, Francisco Felix, Randy Shepherd, Tiffany Shepherd, Marc
Rotenberg, Jonathan Turley
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Governor Jan Brewer's death panel. Arizona cuts state Medicaid, won't pay for transplants for low-income patients - transplants that have already been approved.
Francisco Felix was in the hospital getting prepped for his liver transplant. His wife Flor:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FLOR FELIX, WIFE OF MAN DENIED TRANSPLANT: The liver is gone, because we don't have the money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Randy Shepherd had been approved by the state for his transplant until they yanked the prospect of his new heart out from under him.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RANDY SHEPHERD, STATE DENYING HIM HEART TRANSPLANT: Well, as of October 1st, due to the budget cuts, AHCCCS has said they're unable to pay for the transplant.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The cuts save Arizona $4.5 million. Governor Jan brewer and Arizona's Republican legislators could kill 98 of their citizens for $4.5 million. Our guests: Randy and Tiffany Shepherd and Francisco and Flor Felix.
TSA, TNA. A New York councilman introduces a bill to ban the porno scanners at the local airports.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GREENFIELD, NEW YORK CITY COUNCILMAN: They want to force you to go through a machine that literally has the technology to show your naked body to a TSA employee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Better keep that book tour domestic, Mr. Bush. Boris Johnson, mayor of London, England, writes that the former president is at genuine risk of being arrested for war crimes even in the town of Hay-on-Wye in Wales.
"The next moment, click, some embarrassed member of the Welsh constabulary could walk on stage, place some handcuffs on the former leader of the free world, and take him away to be charged."
Here, counterterrorism authorities are too busy arresting a Florida step dance team, dressed in camo, hoofing it through the Lincoln Tunnel because their van was stuck in traffic and they were late for a TV show! Thank God they didn't try to fly.
All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Friday, November 19th, 718 days until the 2012 presidential elections.
Yes, Mrs. Palin, there is a government death panel. It is in Jan brewer's Arizona - government action which will actually condemn some low-income Americans to death was passed this March by Republican state legislature and signed into law by a Republican governor. It took effect the 1st of October. You will presently meet two men and their families who have been condemned to die by this de facto death panel.
First the background: Approximately 1,300,000 Arizona residents are covered by Arizona's version of Medicaid, a program known as AHCCCS. Faced with a massive deficit, Arizona lawmakers asked AHCCCS to identify possible spending cuts.
AHCCCS got advice on these cuts from two companies, one of them owned by the same subsidiary of United Health Care, that provided insurance companies with data that helped them push costs onto patients and that was used by Republicans as a supposedly nonbiased source of information in the health care debate.
The other company run by a Republican donor gave AHCCCS false information about transplants, specifically that bone marrow transplants never work, liver transplants rarely work.
So the Republican-controlled legislature saved just under $5 million by no longer paying for them. No more transplants for pancreas, lungs, some heart transplants, livers for hepatitis C, bone marrow.
It did not matter that Arizona would give up $15 million in matching federal funds by cutting that $5 million. It did not matter that the head of Arizona's largest adult bone marrow transplant program could have told them his bone marrow patients have a 42 percent survival rate. It did not matter that a 2007 memo from AHCCS itself warned that without the transplants, quote, "the number of hospitalizations and other expensive very intentions will increase, along with the potential fatality rate."
An AHCCCS spokesperson explained that the cuts did not really affect that many people because even though 98 Arizona residents covered by AHCCCS need exactly these kinds of transplants, quote, "Only about 15 percent of individuals would be able to get a match."
One of them was Mark Price, a dad diagnosed with leukemia. He found a bone marrow match the same day AHCCCS ended transplant coverage. An anonymous donor came forward instead for him.
But that was not an option for Francisco Felix, the 34-year-old father of four needs a liver transplant or he will die. And unlike bone marrow which living donors can give, livers must be transplanted within 24 hours of the donor's death. He has waited for a donor since April. This Monday, a friend of the Felix family died. She donated her liver to him.
Francisco Felix was prepped for a 10:00 a.m. surgery the next day. Ten a.m. came and went. He and his family failed to raise the money in time, $200,000. So, they took the liver away and gave it to someone else. Doctors say he has no more than two years in which to find the money and another liver and the average wait time for livers is 756 days.
Two months ago, a transplant coordinator told 36-year-old Randy Shepherd, who has cardiomyopathy, that he is next on the list for a heart transplant. But October 1st came and went without a heart. So, even if he gets a heart now, he still has to come up with about $1 million to pay for his transplant.
A Republican state legislator promises to revisit this issue when that legislature meets again in January.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer refuses to call special session for the purpose of shutting down her state's death panel. Quoting her, "We have a responsibility as policymakers to make hard decisions, and those decisions have to be made for the citizens of Arizona, tough decisions, not an easy job for the legislature or me."
Governor Brewer has, in fact, blamed Obama health care reform, even though her budget took effect before Obama health care reform did. And Republicans tried to pass these very same cuts last year's budget, too. She has refused the request from transplant centers to call that special session unless someone can suggest how to cover the AHCCCS program's total $1 billion shortfall.
Arizona Democrats, meanwhile, have suggested she use federal stimulus money to fill the transplant gap. Brewer has refused, even though she was willing to use $1.7 billion in stimulus money just last year to repair the roof of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
As promised now, we're joined by Francisco Felix and his wife, Flor, and their daughters, Carla and Jennifer and Jessica and Carmen.
We're also joined by Randy Shepherd, his wife, Tiffany, and their children, Nathan and Kelsey and Krista (ph).
I'll say good evening to all of you at the same time.
Krista, happy birthday.
And thanks to everybody for all of your time tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks.
OLBERMANN: All right.
SHEPHERD: Thank you. It's good to be on with you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Thank you all.
Flor, let me start with you.
OLBERMANN: I know your husband does not speak English. We'll direct most of our questions to you. But I'd like to start by asking you to thank him for being with us. And ask him how he's feeling tonight.
FELIX: You want me to ask him?
OLBERMANN: Yes, please.
FELIX: He feels better than the last days.
FELIX: Last night he was given some medicine because of what was happening.
OLBERMANN: Tell us, Flor, what happened on Monday night and then Tuesday morning at the hospital. Tell us what that was like.
FELIX: OK. Well, what happened Monday night, I got a phone call from my friend.
I got a phone call from my friend and suddenly my friend passed away. And he wants to donate the organs. And he called me and told me his liver matched my husband.
So, then we went to the hospital and we find out when I spoke with the liver coordinator, we find out that the liver matched to my husband. So, I was making some - a lot of phone calls. And the time was very important. We didn't have much time.
So, they decided to send my husband to Good Samaritan and receive him over there. So, they completed a physical exam. And Tuesday in the morning, the doctor came and told me, Flor, your husband will receive the result. Your husband is ready to go to surgery. But AHCCCS didn't respond.
FELIX: We just had two hours to find any organization or to have cash, $200,000. So by that time, it was impossible to us.
OLBERMANN: Yes. All right. Flor, stand by a second, I want to talk to Randy Shepherd for a moment.
Mr. Shepherd, first off, thanks for your time as well. Give us the overview. How are you feeling tonight?
SHEPHERD: Thank you, Keith. I feel pretty good. I'm still at a somewhat high functioning level for somebody in my condition, I'm told. And I have my family with me. So things are pretty good. Thanks.
OLBERMANN: What would happen if you got a call tonight telling you that there was a heart available?
SHEPHERD: Well, because of the funding falling through, I'm not -
I'm not active on the list right now. I'm on the inactive part of the list until alternative funding financing is available.
OLBERMANN: Can you explain with this platform available to you, Randy, explain to Governor Brewer why it's so important to fix and to not wait until January when some of the legislators want to bring it up again?
SHEPHERD: Well, it would be great if that was the case. If somebody could sign something, do whatever, so that the funding would be there for me to get my heart. If - as I understand it, the state's out of money. I understand that. And I'm not looking for somebody to invent money for me or money where there's not available.
But I would love it see if some of the wasted money out there in government. I mean, you see it every day. I'd love to see some of that redirected into a program like this.
OLBERMANN: Do I have this right, Randy, that next year you, qualify for federal assistance in this? Would that solve these financial problems?
SHEPHERD: Well, I'm currently on the long-term disability. Doctors have told me I'm unable to work in my plumbing business because of my condition. And after two years on the disability, I'll be eligible for Medicaid which that comes in January.
So, from what I've been told, January, I'll qualify for that. That will cover approximately 80 percent of my medical bills, which leaves about $100,000 to $120,000 that we'll have to raise, and we've got a fund set up right now through the national - there's a national organ transplant fund that we have set up in my name that people can make donations.
OLBERMANN: Do I also understand this correct, that you had to join this AHCCCS instead of get insurance elsewhere? Why would that have been the case?
SHEPHERD: Well, I've had - my heart issues have been ongoing since I was about 12. I had rheumatic fever when I was 12. And, luckily, I had a diligent, loving mother who persisted and got me diagnosed and taken care of in spite of numerous doctors who couldn't figure out what was wrong with me.
But - and I had a relapse when I was 17. I had another case. And at that point, I had two artificial valves placed in my heart.
So, having had open-heart surgery as a teenager, there just had no insurance companies that are willing to take on my case. You know, understandably so. I'm a high-expense person medically.
OLBERMANN: I understand that you understand. But I don't think the rest of America understands any of this. We're obviously limited in our time. Before we go, I want to mention that the National Transplant Assistance Fund, NTAFund.org and we'll give you that again in a minute -
SHEPHERD: Yes, that's correct.
OLBERMANN: - is raising money for both of your transplants. Anyone can go online, donate to the Francisco Felix or Randy Shepherd fund or both of them, the address is NTAFund.org. My thanks to all of you tonight, and obviously, we hope for the best for all of you. And we'll keep you in our thoughts. Thank you.
SHEPHERD: Thank you, Keith.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
FELIX: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Right now let's bring in MSNBC contributor Chris Hayes, who is also Washington editor of "The Nation" magazine.
Chris, I don't know where to start with this. Would you just weigh in on what we've just seen?
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, I mean, I think the most important thing for everyone to understand is this is what austerity looks like. We talk a lot in this country, and now that there are all these people that want to impose austerity measures talk about shared sacrifice. What actually happens under a regime of austerity and we're seeing it across the world and we're seeing it in the state level here is that the pressure is brought to bear down.
And those parts of society that have the most amount of power and resources and will to resist that pressure are able to sort of maintain what they need. And those who are the most marginal, the most politically disempowered and alienated, they're the ones that bear the brunt of austerity.
So, we're not talking about a universal shared sacrifice when we talk about austerity. No matter what the rhetoric is, it's going to come down hardest on the people who are most dependent on the social safety net. And that's what we're seeing in this case.
OLBERMANN: There is a Republican lawmaker in Arizona who is saying they made these decisions on these 98 people based on bad data. How in God's name does someone like Jan Brewer refuse to call a special session of the legislature under those circumstances when the information is - on which this minimal amount of savings which could cost 98 lives in that state is obviously wrong even by the analysis of people or one person who voted for all this?
HAYES: I think the short answer - well, two answers. One, I have no idea.
HAYES: But if I had to guess, what I would say is that if the
political calculation is that this - the people who are impacted by this,
the small number of people who don't necessarily have resources - and
thank God there's some publicity for it now - that they are not going to -
they are not going to take political flesh from her, right? That this is not - she's not going to pay a political price for this.
And, you know, I don't want to get too sort of abstract here. But like we live in a country right now when banks have, you know, have to run to the federal government, we rush and we drop everything. And we pass a bailout. And they're going to go and have record bonuses this year.
Meanwhile, at the same time that billions of dollars of bonuses on Wall Street are happening, what's happening in states around the country - this is an extreme example. But the system that's been gutted for states around the country for people that don't have the lobbyists in Washington that Goldman Sachs have.
OLBERMANN: This extra dimension here of what we've seen, the claim that this is somehow President Obama's fault - what kind of person can possibly cobble together enough of a rationalization to say that a program that the local Republicans are trying to pass early in 2009 is somehow can be pinned on the other party politically?
HAYES: Yes. It's preposterous, and it's flat out untrue, right?
It should also be noticed that there's about $30 million, it looks like, in the discretionary fund from the Recovery Act in the governor's account that she could actually apportion if she'd like.
It should also be noted that the Democrats, who have been pushing, they're pushing the Recovery Act, and the Progressive Caucus now is pushing to come up with aid to states that they don't have to make choices like this so that while we're in this recession, they can close their budget gaps and not impose these sort of draconian measures on the most vulnerable members of society.
So, what it is it's Orwellian reversal. It's the Republicans and the right that are preaching austerity. It's the Democrats and progressives who have been saying, no, austerity is not the route to go down when we're under the conditions we're in. And for them to flip it around is really, really bizarre and disingenuous.
OLBERMANN: Do we know those families and the 96 others that we know of in Arizona that are already affected by this - of all of these, as you said, draconian measures, some of which probably stem from understandable budgetary concerns and have just gotten out of control where an idiot governor does not understand that these are human lives and not stories that she's heard on the Internet about dead bodies in the desert or seeing it on TV somewhere and mistaken it for reality - is this the worst - is this the bottom of the barrel at this point? Or do we know of instances where there are more people's lives at risk in other states or more draconian, horrifying measures that we're going to find out about in the next six months?
HAYES: Well, I mean, look - this is the bottom of the barrel at this point. But we already - we're going to see around - I mean, we haven't seen the worst of it yet because of the Recovery Act. The Recovery Act passed in 2009. It had aid to states for 2009 and for fiscal year 2010.
The worst of the worst is going to happen in 2011. These budget deficits in the state level are only going to be worse. You already hear Texas talking about getting out of Medicaid altogether, right? So, you're going to see - particularly in states that have Republican governors - but I think across the board, you're going to see some really gruesome cuts being made.
And the final point I make is this: we have a debate about rationing health care all the time. We had it during the Affordable Health Care Act. All health care is rationed. It is the question of how it is rationed. It's either rationed by price or it is rationed by some other entity. It's rationed collectively through the state or a mix thereof.
But we don't - you know, if you have hundreds of millions of dollars, you could pay for any health care you want, right? So, the question is what does a just society do with this problem? And I think staring this in the face shows us this is not the end that we want.
OLBERMANN: Chris Hayes, editor of "The Nation" - thank you kindly for being on with us today.
HAYES: Really appreciate.
OLBERMANN: And again, let me mentioned - the National Transplant Assistance Fund, NTAFund.org, helps raise money for transplants, not just in Arizona but nationwide. You can donate to the Francisco Felix fund or the Randy Shepherd fund, or both, or anybody else's at NTAFund.org.
In the interim, this right here is the GOP's America.
In the middle of this outrage, there's another - it has come to this
at an American airport, a flight attendant, a cancer survivor required during the feel-up pat-down to remove her prosthetic breast. The TSA versus the USA is now reaching critical mass - next.
OLBERMANN: A major city council will consider legislation banning TSA full-body screening from its airports.
Plus, lawsuits, opt-outs, protests and kilts.
A warning from a European mayor who looks startlingly like Chris Matthews. It is to President Bush and it's about his book tour. It could turn into an arrest.
Never mind just an arrest, it was guns drawn when these poor kids tried to run through traffic in a major tunnel because they were late for a TV performance.
All of which makes James Thurber's story of a country philosopher everybody loves except him seemed quiet by contrast. The continuation of "A Friend of the Earth."
Ahead on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: It was merely a matter of time before an ineffective, unnecessarily expensive and invasive security measure would reach critical mass of lawsuits, of proposed legislative action and of complaints from travelers.
In our fourth story: with the TSA's porno scanner or junk groper security option, we are there. With the added bonus of a protest at which could at your choosing involve the wearing of kilts.
First, the proposed legislation that it passed could set of a wave of protests across the country offered by New York City Councilman David Greenfield. It would ban the TSA from using body scanners at all New York airports, JFK included, the busiest international port in the country.
Mr. Greenfield says that six other council members have already signed on to his legislation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID GREENFIELD, NEW YORK CITY COUNCILMAN: It's an outrage. It's unacceptable. It's ineffectual. And that's why I've introduced legislation with the support of many of my colleagues on city council to ban these naked body scanners from the entire New York City, including New York's airports. Remember, once again, even according to Israeli's top security experts, this does not work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: There is the issue of whether a local law could override a federal agency like the TSA. But Mr. Greenfield says he believes it could as long as alternative security measures are in place and the mere existence of such legislation even prior to a court challenge might get the TSA to rethink this.
Meantime, two New Jersey state senators are drafting a resolution calling on Congress to end the TSA procedures.
And in addition to the lawsuit by two pilots to stop the new screening procedure which we mentioned previously, there's also a lawsuit from the Electronic Privacy Information Center who's director will join me in a moment. That suit filed against the Department of Homeland Security argues the body scanners violate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizures as well as other federal laws.
Meantime, complaints about the pat downs mounting. Various privacy groups collecting reports of inconsistently applied techniques. According to "The New York Times," one woman, an elementary schoolteacher, telling "The Times," and please forgive the graphic description, these are her words, quote, "I didn't really expect her, the TSA agent, to touch my vagina through my pants."
And submitting to the porn scanner does not guarantee exemption from the pat down since some passengers who go through are then randomly selected for the additional physical search anyway.
Then there are people with medical issues, will be forced to submit to a pat down every time. Like a Morehouse College professor who wears an insulin pump, telling "The Times" she was disturbed by the thought of having to go through a physical search when she travels on a monthly basis.
There's also now an instance reported of a Charlotte area flight attendant and cancer survivor who says she was asked to remove her prosthetic breast during an aggressive pat down. The flight attendant reluctantly complied. The TSA says it will review that matter.
Which brings us to the national opt-out day - next Wednesday, the 24th, the busiest travel day of the year. Although opting out of the porn scanner means submitting to the pat down, the point would still be made to the TSA, variations are being proposed from Jeffrey Goldberg of "The Atlantic," for example, urging men to wear kilts, possibly with commando style.
Others urge passengers to strip down to their underwear before entering the security line. That also according to "The New York Times."
Let's bring in as promised, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, professor of law at Georgetown University, Marc Rotenberg.
Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
MARC ROTENBERG, ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER: Nice to see you.
OLBERMANN: Does your lawsuit that this is an invasion of privacy actually become stronger because of the evidence that these scanners don't really accomplish what they're supposedly accomplishing?
ROTENBERG: Oh, absolutely. The critical question that a court will have to ask is whether the search is reasonable. We argued originally that it was uniquely invasive and unnecessary.
But we've since learned that it's also not effective because it does not detect materials in body cavities. It does not detect powdered explosives. It really does not work.
And so, we think when the court gets the opportunity to do the analysis, they'll conclude it's just not reasonable. The TSA has crossed a line here.
OLBERMANN: How does the fact that passengers are given this so-called option either a scanner or pat-down, you know, a picture or a feel-up - what does that choice do to this argument of yours?
ROTENBERG: You know, it's interesting. Before we filed this lawsuit, Keith, we had actually done another lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act. And we asked the DHS to turn over to us the traveler complaints that we knew they had received. They weren't talking about them. They were telling the public that there were no objections, that everything was OK.
We got ahold of those traveler complaints. And people describe the sense of being, you know, violated. And we've since received more complaints from people who experience the pat-down. They say it feels like retaliation. Anyone who asks for a pat down in an airport is literally called out by the security officials, pulled aside and experiences something that's really humiliating.
We don't see it as a meaningful alternative.
OLBERMANN: The defenders of this have said that there was a recent CBS News poll that suggested that more than 80 percent of Americans were OK with both of these processes. Do you suppose that that number comes from the fact that it's probable this all went into effect - we've only probably had 20 percent or less of the public actually go through this experience?
ROTENBERG: Yes, I'd like them to ask that poll question to people, you know, after they go through this new TSA security procedure. I think those numbers, you know, would drop to close to zero. There are very few people who experience this enhanced pat down who feel good about it.
And even the people who are trying to seem strong and they say, well, they're willing to accept some sacrifice, when they watch their daughter or their wife being touched by someone else in this way, I think they have a very different feeling.
OLBERMANN: What needs do you think should happen next? I mean, more lawsuits or more action like the thing in New York City, or these protests, or all of it, or what?
ROTENBERG: Well, the first thing to say, I think it's actually very heartening to see how much public opposition just in the last week has been growing all across the country. Council member Greenfield in New York City, Congressman Ron Paul, religious groups, political groups across the spectrum, I think are speaking out.
And we're hearing it in Congress now, too, from both Democrats and Republicans. They're not happy.
My own organization, EPIC today, filed another lawsuit. We actually want to get the DHS to disclose the medical studies, the reports that they relied on, before they decided to make primary screening - you know, the body scanner procedure.
There's been a lot of controversy about the medical impacts and the exposure to radiation. Some experts are saying it's not a big deal. Other people are saying it could be quite serious, quite harmful.
We think at the very least, the Department of Homeland Security should make available the studies they relied on. Let the public decide. Let people have more say about all this. They're just being told by TSA they have to go through all of it.
OLBERMANN: Yes, it's like the Chicago stockyards out there at this point.
Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center - good luck with your efforts and thanks to your time tonight.
ROTENBERG: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: The warning from the mayor of London to former President Bush, do not come to Great Britain because we may have to arrest you for torture, just as we did General Pinochet.
OLBERMANN: A warning from the mayor of London to author George W.
Bush about extending the book tour to the United Kingdom: don't.
First, the sanity break and the Tweet o the day from Radley Balko of "Reason Magazine," "FB friend suggested TSA slogan, 'exploring the vas deferens between liberty and security.' Kids, if you don't get that, feel free to look it up on the Internet. Just don't ask mom.
Let's play Oddball.
We go to the second city and WGN Morning News. Anchors Robin Baumgarten (ph) and Larry Potach (ph) potentially waiting for a broadcast of a bridge explosion. After several minutes of waiting, they decided on a quick check of the weather. And that's when they detonate the bridge.
Being professionals, they take it completely in stride. Completely in stride. Anchor smash!
Apparently Robin learned how to express her anger by playing Donkey Kong. No one hurt in this episode of "When Anchors Attack." So much for doing it live.
Time marches on.
Yes, the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, looks like Chris Matthews. But tonight he's in the news for something else. Like a warning to former President Bush about a European book tour. Jonathan Turley joins me next.
OLBERMANN: Turns out George W. Bush's "Decision Points" may be less important than his book tour's destination points. In our third story, following Bush's admission that he ordered the CIA to waterboard prisoners, the conservative mayor of London, England has warned our last president that if his tour were to make any stops in Europe, quote, "he might never see Texas again."
Yesterday, Mr. Bush was in front of a decidedly home crowd at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. Later on "The Tonight Show," he was Jay Leno's guest, and he got into the act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's all this extra security about tonight?
JAY LENO, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": We have President Bush on the program tonight. So everybody gets patted down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even you? This is your show.
LENO: It makes no sense at all.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tell me about it. Listen, go easy, grope master.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: His best acting since that State of the Union. In his new book, Bush writes about his decision to waterboard alleged 9/11 plotter Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. According to the former president, he was asked to approve waterboarding by the CIA. His response was damn right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: They say he's got information. I said find out what he knows. I said to our team, are the techniques legal? And a legal team says yes, they are. And I said use them.
MATT LAUER, "THE TODAY SHOW": Why is waterboarding legal, in your opinion?
BUSH: Because the lawyer said it was legal. He said it did not fall within the Anti-Torture Act. I'm not a lawyer. But you've got to trust the judgment of people around you, and I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Despite considering waterboarding torture, the current Justice Department has declined to prosecute the ex-president. In the wake of Bush's admission, the group Amnesty International has called for a criminal investigation. And quoting the absence of a U.S. investigation, "other states must step in and carry out such an investigation themselves."
This week, the British newspaper "The Telegraph," London Mayor Boris Johnson, a conservative, a Tory, issued the following warning: "it is not yet clear whether George W. Bush is planning to cross the Atlantic to flog us his memoirs. But if I were his PR people, I would urge caution. The real trouble from the Bush point of view is that he might never see Texas again. One moment, he might be holding forth to a great perspiring tent at Hay-On-wye. The next moment, click, some embarrassed member of the Welsh constabulary could walk on stage, place some handcuffs on the former leader of the free world and take him away to be charged. Of course, we are told this scenario is unlikely. W is the former leader of a friendly power with whom this country is determined to have good relations. But that is what torture-authorizing Augusto Pinochet thought. And unlike Pinochet, Mr. Bush is making no bones about what he has done."
Let's call in Jonathan Turley, scholar of constitutional law at George Washington University School of Law. Jon, good evening.
JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL LOF LAW: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The mayor of London is not necessarily saying that he
would push to have Mr. Bush arrested. He's just positing that this could
happen. Is it likely? Or did he just write an interesting
TURLEY: Well, it's an interesting article. It's also an interesting idea. The fact is there is a basis to arrest George Bush. He has a memoir where he is virtually bragging about ordering a war crime. Waterboarding is defined as torture. It's been defined that way by international courts, by U.S. courts. And he's being quoted, and he's, in fact, doing interviews where he seems to take great pride in the fact that he ordered something that constitutes a war crime.
And the way this works is that the country itself, in this case the United States, is expected to carry out our duties under international obligations. But if we don't, if we act like Bosnia, if we act like other countries that shelter people that commit torture, other nations are allowed to enforce it. And that's what he risks. This could be a very interesting book tour.
OLBERMANN: We called the "Decision Points" publishers for the itinerary for Mr. Bush, and they say they have no European book dates planned. WE know he's been to Canada since he left office. Is there anywhere else that an attorney such as yourself, perhaps, would advise him, don't go?
TURLEY: Probably Western Europe I would start with. You know, he might want to avoid Spain and Italy. They have people there that really take human rights seriously. It's not a sound bite. They have judges there who would sign a warrant for someone who likes to brag about war crimes. You're better off doing book tours in cities like Beijing, Damascus, Tehran, where you can actually find this book in a how-to section in those cities, because those are places where I'm sure he'll find a lot of natural allies and readers.
But I think quite serious here, that his natural audience are those countries that I think relish the idea that the United States was embracing torture. This was a great thing for them.
OLBERMANN: Well - and the mayor of London also wrote in that op-ed there that this country's loss of credibility when it comes to maintaining its position on human rights violations around the world and other nations, it's just been shot to hell. I mean, has our global reputation recovered at all from the Bush presidency?
TURLEY: No, it hasn't. I mean, I was just in France a couple weeks ago. And I talked to a lot of lawyers from European countries. And they're quite frank that we look like hypocrites. And it's hard to argue with that.
You know, we have a law from 1994 that says that we will prosecute anyone for torture committed in other countries. We prosecuted Chucky Taylor, gave him 99 years for torture in another country. So what is destroying our credibility and continuing that process is President Obama, who is saying, I'm not going to enforce these laws. It's just not politically convenient, even though I've got Bush and Cheney going around doing actual tours talking about something that is a defined war crime.
OLBERMANN: Did you hear of anybody on your travels who had - any prosecutor who had heard of this book and the revelations in it, who might have been moved to actually act, based on the sort of boastfulness of the Bush autobiography?
TURLEY: Well, I must tell you that the view in Europe is that the United States is not going to fulfill its obligations. There's a great deal of talk. There's many organizations in Germany, even Canada, who are saying we need to enforce it, because we cannot be viewed as hypocrites of allowing someone to come onto our soil and actually talk about how he ordered torture.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Turley, professor at George Washington University School of Law, great thanks and great thanks for the laugh. I needed that tonight, too.
TURLEY: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Thanks, Jon. So these eight step dance kids from Jacksonville get stuck in rush hour traffic and they're late for their big TV break. And they decide to run through the Lincoln Tunnel. And that's where the Counterterrorism Joint Task Force comes in.
And a quieter time when a man could hate the local self important yokel and turn him into a short story published in a national magazine. The continuation of Thurber's "A Friend of the Earth" Ahead.
OLBERMANN: Part two of Thurber's wonderful mean destruction of a local rube, "A Friend of the Earth," next.
First, get out your pitchforks and torches, time for today's nominees for the Worst Persons in the World, not really.
The bronze - I guess it goes to Landon Burse (ph) who leads this group. This is Club Envy, a group of teenage step dancers who raised enough money in their native Jacksonville to get to New York for a guest shot on the BET Network program "Wild on Wednesday." What they didn't realize was that the next to last stage of their drive, the late afternoon rush through the Lincoln Tunnel from Jersey into Manhattan, also got "Wild on Wednesday."
Stuck in unmoving traffic on the helix-shaped approach to the tunnel from which the city skyline is beautifully and tantalizingly visible, somebody decided their only chance to make the TV show in time was to run for it! The next thing you knew, eight kids in their outfits, unfortunately their camouflage-colored outfits, were running through the traffic in the Lincoln Tunnel.
They got to the other side all right to find the FBI, NYPD Joint Terrorism Task Force waiting for them with guns drawn. It was all sorted out. The same cops wound up offering them a police escort to the show. But by then they had already missed it. This is why you always dress as Vegas showgirls.
The runner up, Rick DeGuerin, the attorney for Tom DeLay in the illegal PAC money swap trial in Texas. DeGuerin has argued that Delay was not involved in the day-to-day operations of the PAC, so he didn't know about the money swap. He introduced scheduling calendars into evidence that he thought proved DeLay had only met with the head of the PAC, Jim Ellis, weeks after the swap was made.
Except on the calendar, it showed DeLay and Ellis going to the same meeting just a few hours after the PAC-man, Ellis, had taken out a blank check for the PAC to make the swap. Lawyer DeGuerin's response to that remarkable gaffe, "I just missed that one."
But our winner is former President Bush. Our friend, David Corn, saw this in Bush's book "Decision Points" on the non-discovery of the nonexistent of weapons of non-mass destruction. "That was a massive blow to our credibility, my credibility, that would shake the confidence of the American people. No one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn't find the weapons. I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do."
As Mr. Corn wrote, really? Even on March 24th, 2004?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Those weapons of mass destruction got to be somewhere. Nope.
No weapons over there. Maybe under here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: So you had a sickening feeling all that time? As we had about you. George W. Bush, hypocrite and today's Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: James Thurber was born in Columbus, Ohio, and wrote that the chimes that rang in his dreams were from the clocks of Columbus. He's identified with the city that birthed the "New Yorker," but he lived the last 25 years of his life in rural Connecticut, a place to whom he seems largely connected by sarcasm.
It was never stronger than when Thurber, writing in the first person and not of his youth but of his middle age, cut to ribbons the arch-typical country character of the fictional Ludlow, Connecticut, a man named Zef Leggin. This was first published in "Thurber Country" in 1949, and my battered copy dates back to about 1980. Everybody loved Zef Leggin, except a lady named Ms. Elden, who once turned to Zef to get rid of some beetles she said were the size of mice, only to have him tell her that the only way to get rid of beetles the size of mice is to stop drinking.
Everybody loves Zef Leggin, except Ms. Elden, and the town's newest resident, James Thurber, in part two of "A Friend of the Earth" by James Thurber.
"The grinning face of Zef Leggin hung over my house in Ludlow like a moon. He didn't come around during the first couple weeks and I didn't send for him, although a number of chores needed doing. But his face was always rising in my consciousness, bland and bright and impudent. And I kept hearing the mischievous music of his harmonica, Old Maria, playing on the edges of my mind.
The fellow had called me bub. I don't get over such things easily. Somewhere I felt he was thinking about gags or planning pranks to disconcert me. Paul Morton thought I was acting like a child about the town comic, especially when he found out that I couldn't use the studio behind the house until several rotted boards in the floor were replaced.
"Why don't you get Zef over to fix it," Paul wanted to know. It was a foolish question and I gave him a foolish answer. "He insulted the memory of my dead wife," I said.
Paul was amazed. You started that, he said. You spoiled his little joke about the dry goods store and got me in bad. He knew I had told you about it.
"I'm sorry," I said. "But even if it hadn't happened, Leggin and I could never get along. Each of us wishes the other were dead. It takes all kinds of people to make up a world, Paul. The seasick sailor, the surgeon who faints at the sight of blood and the man who hated Leggin. And I'm destined to be known that after I'm gone. If Zef were the last" -
"Nuts," said Paul, and went away. It was about ten days later that I heard the sounds of someone moving in the studio. I went out to investigate. It was Zef. He was standing with his back to me, studying the rotted floorboards. Though he must have heard me come in, he didn't turn around.
"Fellow goes into this grocery store," he said over his shoulder, "and says to the man, what you got in the shape of bananas? Cucumbers, says the man."
He tapped one of the boards with his shoe and turned around slowly. "What you got in the shape of tools?" he asked. I wasn't going to play any games with the old rascal.
"I rented this house furnished," I told him. :I haven't had time to find out where everything is. I thought you had tools of your own."
He gave me the twinkle. "Won't know about that till I get back home," he said. He took it for granted that the job of fixing the floor, like all other tasks of the kind, was his by inalienable right. And I decided to let it go at that.
"There ought to be a toolbox somewhere in the house," I said. He gave me the grin. "Tool come to us," he said. "But I have to go to it."
On the way out of the studio, Zef stopped at a table and picked up a flashlight that lay on it. He clicked it several times and then said "needs new batteries. I'll be going by Barton's store in Danbury this afternoon. Want me to take it along?"
I told him that would be fine and thanked him, and he put the flashlight in his pocket. I can't remember now where we found the saw but the search lasted a good 20 minutes.
Zef examined it carefully and then put it down. "Can't use it," he said. "Left-handed saw."
I studied it for a few moments. "I guess you have to bring your own then," I said. He frowned. "Job a work comes a little higher if I furnish my own tools," he announced.
I turned without saying anything and led the way out of the house. "When can you get at the job," I asked him? He looked at the sky and then held out in one hand as if testing the quality of the air. "Bit dry for sawing," he said finally. He couldn't trap me into any comment on this.
"There's some sound planks in one quarter of the studio. " I said.
"Did you see them?"
Zef's grin crinkled the corners of his eyes. "I saw them," he said. We both turned away at the same moment and went about our business. Or to be more exact, I went about mine.
It rained that night, and there were showers off and on for several days. On the fourth day after Zef's visit, I ran into him at the post office. "Why haven't you been over to fix the floor?" I demanded.
Zef unwrapped a stick of gum with great care, put it in his mouth and chewed for half a minute. "Twan't sawing weather," he said. Paul Morton would have laughed his head off, and I should have let it ride, but I didn't. "Twar," I snarled loudly. And several of my neighbors turned and started.
I decided I might just as well break with Leggin for good then and there. "I don't think you can tell a hawk from a handsaw," I said sharply. I told you before that his mind was quick enough. He squinted at me for only a few seconds. "You lay them out in the weather," he said, "the one that rusts is the handsaw."
Several people who had listened into this exchange laughed loudly. Old Zef was in form. One of them slapped him on the back. I left the post office and walked home muttering to myself. "Mail," said my wife when I walked into the living room. It was mail of a kind, three letters I had taken to the post office and forgotten to put in the slot."
Part two, the continuation, which we'll finish next week of "A Friend of the Earth" by James Thurber.
That's November 19th, 50 Days since Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona decided to let Francisco Felix and Randy Shepherd die. I'm Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END