'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Wednesday, December 29th, 2010
Video via MSNBC: Oddball
Guests: Eugene Robinson, Matt Taibbi, Dan Savage, Tom Hartmann, Chris Hardwick
SAM SEDER, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
How bad is the new House GOP rule on spending? Unions hate it, and so does the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Bonus babies: Record profits, massive bonuses in the best quarter ever still can't keep those on Wall Street from whining about the administration scoring political points at their expense. "Forgive us for not wanting to buy him a drink after getting punched in the eye."
The politics of Wall Street with Matt Taibbi.
Fighting dirty: With "don't ask, don't tell" all but officially repealed, some on the right won't give up. They claim showering with homosexuals might make our straight servicemen uncomfortable.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Showering with homosexuals? What do you think goes wrong when people shower with homosexuals? Do you think it's the spray makes it catching?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SEDER: Snow excuses: With emergency services compromised, mass transit is still a mess, and some areas are still buried. Anger with the mayor and the city's response is piling high.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK CITY: I'm angry, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SEDER: The governor across the river? Still at Disney World.
They'll take Manhattan. The latest right-wing fear-based attack on the president: he'll give the city back to Native Americans.
Imperial forces: "The Empire Strikes Back" selected by the Library of Congress to be placed in its National Film Registry.
And joining Luke and the gang to be preserved for all time.
All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.
SEDER: Good morning from New York. This is Wednesday, December 29th, 678 days until the 2012 presidential election.
The GOP loved to pretend that unless President Obama gave tax cuts to the rich, uncertainty would take hold of the struggling economy.
But in our fifth story: the new Congress is already creating very real uncertainty in sectors that actually matter to economic growth and to those most in need - and that Congress hasn't even begun. That plus the Wall Street bonus babies.
First, a new spending rule proposed by the incoming House Republican leadership will seriously threaten vital transportation funding - that according to both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and contractors and unions like the Laborers International Union. You heard that right - businesses and labor actually agreeing on something.
In fact, the joint letter to the GOP leadership says that the rule change could, quote, "make annual federal highway and transit investments subject to the whims of the appropriations process."
A Chamber of Commerce director added, quote, "The only thing that's propping up the construction industry is the notion that there is stable funding. If you make this change now, you're inserting uncertainty to the construction industry and that's bad for near-term economic job and in the chamber's view is bad for long-term economic growth."
And there's the problem of the continuing resolution or C.R. That is what Republicans insisted on passing in the lame duck session instead of an actual budget for 2011. The C.R. simply extends funding for fiscal year 2011 at 2010 levels. And as a practical matter, that means across the board cuts with no regards for merits and worth. Some of the cuts include food pantries, homeless shelters, elderly care, AIDS drug assistance, Head Start's childhood education programs and, again, the uncertainty principle.
Federal agencies are prohibited from funding certain programs until the 2011 budget is approved. Nor can they even plan for the near or long-term future because of that uncertainty that's created.
A United Way executive is saying, quote, "This ended up being the worst of all worlds for us. The United Way Worldwide administers a federal program for food pantries and shelters. People who are in desperate need of shelter and food assistance are not going to get it because of the way this is done."
But that's not the full extent of the problem. The C.R. also holds up grants for the Department of Homeland Security, $4.5 billion that would have gone to port security and railroad security and to local law enforcement efforts at responding to terror threats. Even some Republicans are complaining about the C.R., like the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Ted Cochran of Mississippi. He called the resolution "an inefficient mechanism that would con strain the Defense Department and other agencies in carrying out their missions."
Let's bring in "Washington Post" associate editor, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and MSNBC political analyst, Eugene Robinson, also author of "Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America."
Good evening, Gene.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, and almost happy New Year.
SEDER: Thank you. You, too.
Now, this new rule proposed by the GOP that would affect transportation projects, it's actually so bad that it's drawing the ire of both business and labor.
ROBINSON: Right. This is, I guess, what the - this is common ground that everyone can agree on. It's really a mess. It does throw this uncertainty into these highway projects that are quite important not just to labor but obviously to business as well. As we - as you and I both know, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce might be opposed to some kinds of federal assistance, but the federal assistance that we would call corporate welfare, they're not at all opposed to. In fact, they're in favor of it.
And so, this is something that unusually labor and business can both agree on that Congress by booting this thing over did - is doing a bad job. They're doing a bad job with this transportation rule.
SEDER: Yes, it's actually got the GOP leadership a little bit defensive. They sent an e-mail to the Hill sort of defending this proposal, saying that it's meant to ensure the highway trust fund will not spend more money than it takes in. But is it really that simple?
ROBINSON: No, it's never that simple. First of all, if you look at actual rule, it's not simple at all. It reads like gobbledygook and it's a good illustration of the fact that whenever you move a lever inside the federal budget, it's like a Rube Goldberg contraption and all sorts of things begin to happen that you may or may not intend.
So, no, it's not a simple matter of saying, well, gee, we have this much in the trust fund, therefore, we will only fund this much. In fact, these are long-term projects that have to have secure sources of funding, otherwise, there's no point in starting them. It's insanity to start to - you know, to start rebuild a bridge and then not be sure that you have the money to finish the bridge.
SEDER: Right. And, so, you know, this is sort of a twofer for the Republicans, isn't it? I mean, in one way, the continuing resolution freezes a lot of spending and a lot of planning, and then they'll have the opportunity to actually just make cuts when they actually pass the actual budget?
ROBINSON: Yes. And that could be worse. We're not quite sure. It's going to be an interesting dynamic, actually, in the House especially, between those who understand the federal budget and who understand that you can't start a bridge and not finish it and that sort of thing, who understand the impact of continuing resolutions, who understand how complicated it is versus some of the newer members who are going to come in with this kind of very simple mantra: cut government spending. It's going to be a very interesting dynamic within the Republican caucus to see if reality prevails over fantasy.
SEDER: Now, let me ask you. These expected cuts and the delays in funding, don't they essentially create a wash with any stimulative effect that the tax cuts had?
ROBINSON: Well, they certainly mitigate whatever stimulative effect the tax cuts had. It doesn't add up, at least not at this point, to $1 trillion like the tax package, by some calculations, does.
But does it mitigate the stimulus that the economy needs according to every reputable economist right now? Yes, it does mitigate that. Look at the transportation spending. This is - this puts people in jobs. It puts people to work.
And, you know, to the extent that it is stimulative, it's not going to happen.
SEDER: Eugene Robinson of "The Washington Post" - many thanks and happy New Year.
ROBINSON: Same to you.
SEDER: Now then to the Wall Street whiners who after getting bailed out for their misdeeds and then achieving record profits and record bonuses were all too happy to provide politico with a whole bunch of anonymous quotes about how much they don't like President Obama. From a big banker, "He whipped everyone into a frenzy against us." From another banker, "It's a bunch of academic lefties down there." And from another executive of one of the big six banks upset that those banks weren't invited to a recent meeting between the president and a group of CEOs, "If they don't hate us anymore, why weren't any of us there?"
Meanwhile, 2010 was the worst year for bank failures since 1992. This according to "The Washington Post," not the big Wall Street banks mind you, but the smaller, main street banks - 157 bank failures in 2010, and 140 bank failures in 2009.
So, let's turn to "Rolling Stone" contributor editor Matt Taibbi, also author of "Griftopia: Bubble Machine, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That is Breaking America."
MATT TAIBBI, ROLLING STONE: Thanks for having me. It's weird to see you in a tie.
SEDER: I understand.
SEDER: So, all right. First impression of those quotes - pretty jaw-dropping, right?
TAIBBI: I was - I almost had an aneurysm when I read this stuff today. It's so unbelievably obnoxious. It's like the American version of let them eat cake, honestly.
These guys - you have to look at the business model was for Wall Street in a decade or so before Obama came into office. Basically, they serially committed every single white collar crime imaginable - predatory lending, insider trading, securities fraud. They nearly blew up the entire international economy. And when Obama came into office, if there was any justice in the world, he would have built a brand new supermax facility on the moon and put them all in it.
Not only did he not do that, not only did he not put anybody in jail, he instead bailed them all out. All the toxic assets that they've accumulated that they didn't manage to fawn off on the Chinese or on us, and in the pension funds, he bought with American taxpayer money.
TAIBBI: He bailed them out and continued to bail them out. And now, every time one of these banks wants to make money, they just go to the Fed with a fistful of worthless mortgage-backed securities that are worth 50 cents and they get $100 million for it. And that's how they have their record profits now. And then they have the temerity to go and complain to "Politico" about how they're upset with Barack Obama.
SEDER: They did so well that - the last quarter, they had no days of trading. This is like the top four or five banks.
TAIBBI: Some of the banks had no - there were quarters last year where some of the had no losing trading days. Now, that has a lot to do with the fact that some of these guys are just serially committing, again, insider trading. They're front running the markets, the computerized trading programs and things like that.
They're just not losing. They're just so much public money out there, it's impossible for them not to make money. When you borrowing money at zero and lending it out to the rest of us at market rates, you cannot lose money.
SEDER: Right. And we're actually paying the interest at that point, because they're buying our treasury.
TAIBBI: They're taking it from us and give it to them.
SEDER: OK. So, that's the first reaction that we have to these quotes.
TAIBBI: Then I thought about it.
SEDER: All right. That's what I was saying. What's the second reaction? Because it just occurs to me that like - that these type of bankers, they don't air their dirty laundry in public in this way. They don't have to, it seems.
TAIBBI: Right. This is what I call mutually beneficial propaganda. This is like - you know, I don't know if you're a football fan, but Peyton Manning when it comes to the line of scrimmage, he waves his arms all over the place and he makes all these signals. It's all meaningless.
When the ball is hiked, it's the same two-yard run that he called two minutes ago. This stuff is all meaningless. It's beneficial for both Wall Street and for Barack Obama to have this myth out there that Obama is somehow against Wall Street. You know, Obama gets to score points with his progressive left followers who believe that he's somehow taking on Wall Street, and these guys get basically -
SEDER: And not just the left. I mean, frankly, this is what we hear this across the political spectrum.
TAIBBI: Right. Exactly. And then they basically get to put pressure on the administration to get whatever they want, whether it's continued bailouts or deregulation. It's a win-win for both sides.
And funny thing about the story, it's clearly been planted by somebody, but it could easily be either the White House or somebody in one of these banks.
SEDER: Right. All right. So, quickly, President Obama's replacement for Larry Summers, one of his chief economic advisers, good chance the guy is going to come from Wall Street?
TAIBBI: Well, that's the history. You know, clearly, I mean - you know, when he came into office, he basically brought in almost universally, a team full of Wall Street friendly guys - the guys who came from the big banks, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup. Historically, those have been his choices and it's likely that that's going to be the choice again.
SEDER: Yes. That's - I guess that's very mean to Wall Street, isn't it?
TAIBBI: Exactly. I mean, Timothy Geithner. They're upset with this guy. He's just been handing out federal money for the first two years of Barack Obama's presidency. So, it's ridiculous that the notion that they're actually genuinely upset is ridiculous. The notion that it's useful propaganda, that's more realistic.
SEDER: That sounds more like it to me.
Well, Matt Taibbi, contributing editor of "Rolling Stone" magazine - thanks for your time tonight. Happy New Year.
TAIBBI: Thanks very much. Happy New Year, Sam.
SEDER: The Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC, is inviting a gay group to help organize its events, which means CPAC is now too liberal for the Family Research Council. The splintering on the right over gay rights - next.
SEDER: The latest smear about the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal? It's not about military preparedness, it's about the gay spray. The last-gasp of opponents make it all about the showers.
The real result of plowing after the blizzard, uncovering the fact that our infrastructure is in serious trouble.
And the Library of Congress is using the force and saving the empire -
SEDER: In light of the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," there is evidence the GOP is easing up on its anti-gay agenda. But there are still some conservatives who are not backing down on their prejudices.
Our fourth story tonight: as Republicans begin to draw in more gay and lesbian groups, the party's socially conservative wing has taken a firm stand for bigotry.
Last November, the Conservative Political Action Conference or CPAC, the annual gathering of right wing organizations, invited GOProud, a Republican gay rights organization not only attend but to also take a role in planning next year's events.
In protest, a number of conservative groups, including the Family Research Council, the Concerned Women for America, and the Americans for Truth About Homosexuality have announced that they will not attend the event. According to Family Research Council's senior vice president, Tom McClusky, CPAC's recent attitudes represent a movement away from conservative principles. Never mind that the chairman of GOProud is collaborating with Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn and counts the standard bearer in anti-tax leader Grover Norquist as one of its advisers.
Meanwhile, one of the abstaining groups, the Center for Military Readiness, is already pushing back on the repeals of "don't ask, don't tell." Among their chief complaints: the provision to prohibit the creation of separate bathroom and shower facilities based on sexual orientation, which the Defense Department working group says would, quote, "wrongly isolate and stigmatize some service members."
When a reporter from the conservative CNS news service went to Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank to ask about the shower issue, Frank had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a question for you about the working group that Secretary Gates put into effect, he appointed of the Defense Department working group. They recommended that a straight military personnel will have to shower with homosexuals.
FRANK: Showering with a homosexual? What do you think happens in gyms all over America? What do you think happens in the House of Representatives? Of course, people shower with homosexuals. What a silly issue.
What do you think goes wrong when people shower with homosexuals? Do you think it's the spray makes it catching? The notion that there's somehow anything new in the first place about showering with homosexuals.
Remember, under "don't ask, don't tell," by the way, the policy was that you would be showering with homosexuals. You just weren't supposed to know which was which. So, there was no change in that.
The notion that knowing that someone is gay or lesbian as opposed to knowing that there are gay and lesbian people you just don't know who they are that that somehow makes a difference, is a bit silly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SEDER: Let's bring in columnist and editorial director of the Seattle newspaper, "The Stranger," Dan Savage.
Dan, thanks for joining us tonight.
DAN SAVAGE, THE STRANGER: Thanks for having me, Sam.
SEDER: So, it appears that we now have on one hand, a growing number of conservatives who are inclusive of gays and lesbians. Ann Coulter actually was the keynote speaker at the right wing Homocon Convention this year, for example. And yet, at the same time, there are groups like the Center for Military Readiness that oppose "don't ask, don't tell" repeal and want there to be segregated showers for gays in the military.
So, what's your take on this split that seems to be growing in the Republican Party?
SAVAGE: My take is that you're making more of this split that there actually is. You know, Ann Coulter was invited by GOProud to their event where she said intensely bigoted things. She's against marriage equality. GOProud describes marriage equality, a gay marriage rights as a states rights issue, which is what interracial marriage once was.
GOProud isn't a pro-gay rights organization. They're an organization of gay quislings and useful idiots that help window-dress the Republican Party, which is really still rabidly anti-gay to its core. It's a little window dressing, a little gay window dressing, that allows them to appeal to moderates, perhaps some independents as being less bigoted than the Republican Party in its current iteration actually is.
SEDER: So, I mean, that's basically - you know, GOProud being part of developing CPAC is really more window dressing.
Well, let me ask you this. I mean, is there any - anything positive to say about the fact that they actually perceive a need to window dress? I mean, maybe not so much with the Republicans, but just in general?
SAVAGE: Yes, that's a real positive development. Increasingly moderates, independents and younger conservatives, even younger evangelicals are over this issue, are for gay rights. You see as Vice President Biden said last week, gay marriage as an inevitability and it's a colossal waste time, energy and resources to oppose the gay rights agenda. And that is a positive development.
But the GOP in Washington, the people who control the leverage of power are still rabidly anti-gay. You got Senator DeMint saying that gay and lesbian people shouldn't be allowed to be school teachers, which is Andrew Sullivan pointed puts him to the right of Ronald Reagan in the 1970s on gay rights. And you've got unreconstructed bigots like John McCain coming up the works in the Senate.
And with the Senate being as it is, really, gay rights comes down to hanging by a thread in the Senate, and the worst of the GOP can really thwart most progressive developments for LGBT people. And we know who's for us and who's against us. The GOP is against us.
SEDER: And so, do you think - do you see any advantage in terms of moving - this rights agenda forward in the fact that there's one part of conservative movement that seems to feel like it needs to window dress and another part of the movement that is angry and terrified of gay spray in the showers essentially?
SAVAGE: Yes. They're making themselves ridiculous, the anti-gay folks, which is making larger parts of the GOP uncomfortable. They're beginning to realize just like they couldn't be baldly racist, although they still pursue the Southern strategy and dog whistles when it came to racism and still do pursue dog whistles when it comes to racism. Look what they've done over and over again to the Obama administration since the first black president was sworn in. They're going to drop the bigoted crazies, the people who can't dog whistle, the Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, the Family Research Council, recently labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center - they're going to move away from those people, but they're going to continue to demagogue on gay rights and continue to employ a dog whistle strategy on gay rights, an opposition to gay rights.
SEDER: Well, Dan, you know, I actually that, you know, what we're about to see, that unlike the way they dog whistle on racism and it's been so effective for them, the Southern strategy over the past 30 years, I actually think we're going to start to see these type of questions become an advantage for the Democrats, a big advantage. And I think they're going to be too toxic for the Republicans.
SAVAGE: I agree. I think the Democrats are realizing that gay rights isn't a losing issue for them but a winning issue for them, not just with their own base, but with kind of in a way the future base of the Republican Party, which is over and past this issue. Again, the majority of younger evangelical Christians are for marriage equality.
I just don't think it's going to come quickly particularly while you have octogenarian GOP senator bigots like McCain tattling around in the Senate and will for years and years to come.
SEDER: Right. Well, Dan Savage, syndicated columnist and co-founder of the It Gets Better Project - happy New Year and thanks for your time tonight.
SAVAGE: Happy New Year to you, too, Sam.
SEDER: It isn't just the snow and ice blocking roads and snarling traffic. It's politics - ahead.
SEDER: Hey, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, your state is about to be hit by a blizzard. Where are you going now? Hello, Mickey Mouse.
First, the sanity break and the Karl Rove moment of the day. Perhaps you will remember it well, the week Christine "I'm not a witch" O'Donnell won the Delaware Republican primary. Karl Rove, not on board.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH AIDE: When you have a headline in the state's leading newspaper "O'Donnell Faces Campaign Debt and Back Tax Issues," that's something you got to deal with. And you can't get away with simply saying, oh, go to my Web site. I got the answers there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SEDER: Apparently, it is a problem. A person with knowledge of the investigation says federal authorities have opened a criminal probe of O'Donnell to determine if the former candidate used campaign money to pay personal expenses. The case has not gone to a grand jury. O'Donnell, who sets a state record by raising more than $7.3 million in a Tea Party fueled campaign this year, has not commented. Her campaign wizards are denying it.
Let's play Oddball.
We begin in Madrid. How many times have you watched a reporter talking to kids sledding and wished the reporter would join them. For me, the answer is three times. And reporter Lydia Cayman (ph) decides to do exactly that, with one slight problem. I guess wireless microphones have not yet made it to Spain and Lydia does not notice the cord wrapped around her leg. And boom goes the dynamite.
The camera would be OK, albeit a little cold and wet. But perhaps Lydia should stick to summer stories from now on.
We stay in Spain, but move over to Ibi (ph), where it is time for the annual flour fight. Every year, citizens take control of the town for one day. They, of course, use this day to pass nonsense laws, such as no walking in the shade or no smoking. Crazy, I know.
Anyone caught breaking these laws is subject to a fine or the punishment of being covered in flour. Or they can choose option three and just sit it all out. This is all done in an attempt to highlight the promises made by the real council throughout the year that they failed to accomplish. Maybe those Spaniards are onto something?
Finally, to the Internets, where we continue with Jeff Foxworthy's award-worthy observational humor. You might be a redneck if - today, you might be a redneck if your trailer is missing a tire, and your solution is to use a log, especially if the spare appears to be sitting in the trailer itself.
Still, it does seem to be working surprisingly well. If I didn't have a spare tire and needed to keep driving, I would be stumped.
While Chris Christie rode the rides, Cory Booker shoveled. And New Jersey fumed. The snow job in politics next.
SEDER: As the northeast continues to dig out from a blanket of snow, the effects of this week's blizzard are starting to become clear. In our number three story tonight, some of those effects are turning out to be political ones.
As we reported on this news hour last night, big snowfalls like this week's fuels the denial of global warming. It's obviously counterintuitive on a simplistic level to have big snowfalls during global warming. But as "Countdown" meteorologist Sam Seder explained last night, there are other factors, too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEDER: Thanks, Sam. Now, this is Sunday's storm right over the northeast, dropping more than two feet of snow in some regions. But then we got a high-pressure system coming in from the energy-producing states, specifically lobbing pressure that emanates from companies that stand to lose money if we actually go green.
This effect is known as the Koch Brothers, sometimes referred to as Los Armanos (ph). Now, combine that with a strong front of ignorance sweeping up from down south. And keep in mind, on their best day, you're looking at 60, 65 percent stupidity levels down there. And that gives you a strong chance of thunder and prevarication. And it just sits right on top here and hangs there.
And, of course, you get that current of blustery hot air out of just one radio studio in Palm Beach, Florida. And that gust actually controls an entire stream of Republican lawmakers, leading all the way up to Washington, D.C., and creating an entire system spinning counter-fact-wise.
Keep in mind, with the chilling factor on the mainstream media, it's going to feel several degrees stupider than it already is. So, please, folks, bundle up. Back to you, Sam.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SEDER: That was last night's report from Countdown meteorologist Sam Seder. Ironically however, the heavy snowfalls caused by global warming end up illustrating some of the reasons we need big government. It's not just because it takes governments to curb the emissions that cause global warming. It's also because heavy snowfalls remind us, in very immediate terms, the price we pay when we buy the old line that government is not the solution. We lose services and infrastructure.
For more on that perspective, let's go now to Countdown traffic reporter, from our Countdown eye in the sky, Sam Seder. Good evening, Sam.
Thanks, Sam. We've got a good vantage up here in the Countdown chopper. But I got to tell you, based on the legislative traffic coming out of Washington, they seem to have zero visibility down there. We've got infrastructure repair stalled in the right lane, a two-year tax cut totally blocking services from getting through the left lane.
Couple that with a huge 10-year tax cut pileup, union busting and privatization, hey, if you're headed towards the future, don't expect to get there anytime soon.
Over in Jersey, mass transit is snarled, with commerce and progress backed up for years, and a bottleneck at that tunnel that Governor Christie won't build. As expected, anti-big government sentiment has stalled high-speed rail all along the 50-state metro area. Expect at least 25 to 30-year delays.
Looking down the road, I can see an austerity plan jackknifed right on the backs of the middle class, basically blocking the on ramp to a 21st century. You are going to definitely want to find an alternate route.
You know, Sam, I can see Russia from here. Hey, are those wolves down there? I'm going to shoot me a wolf.
Back to you in the studio, Sam.
Countdown traffic reporter Sam Seder, thanks for that report. Seems to be no snow on the ground up there.
The need for big government hit home with the storm this week, especially hard for the two politicians who are the darlings of the right and the alleged center. Respectively, Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, whose hopes of soaring to national prominence with his new No Labels group now look more like falling to notoriety with his new no snowplow city.
New York, which has handled bigger storms better, still digging out three days later, some train lines still not running, some buses and ambulances still stuck in the snow. At least two people dead reportedly because emergency services were overwhelmed and could not get through unplowed streets.
Mayor Bloomberg at least taking responsibility, unlike Governor Christie, who took vacation at Disneyworld, leaving New Jersey on Sunday just before snowfall shut down New Jersey airports, staying on vacation while his state dug out.
Now, not in Disneyworld tonight is Tom Hartmann, host of his nationally syndicated radio show and author whose most recent book is "Rebooting the American Dream, 11 Ways to Rebuild Our Country."
Tom, thanks for your time tonight. Happy new year.
TOM HARTMANN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Great to see you, Sam. Thank you.
SEDER: Nice to see you. Now can you weigh in here on the premise that something like the blizzard provides a very visceral immediate example of how essential a big, active, responsive government actually is?
HARTMANN: I think there's almost two pieces to this, Sam. One is that it reminds Americans that the government is us, that when Ben Franklin developed the first fire department or the first public library, the first public utilities, that we're in this all together. It's a we society, not a me society, and it has been since the founding of the country.
It kind of wakes people up to that. I think second part of it is that's why it's so politically toxic, when politicians like Governor Christie fail to do their job, or Mayor Bloomberg, or are even perceived as failing to do their jobs, even though when - you know, you've got all these people saying big government is bad, but, holy cow, we want the government to do the job right.
SEDER: Just to remind me, there's no part of Constitution that actually says the government is responsible for, let's say, snow removal, is there? But that's part of people's expectations.
HARTMANN: Yeah, clearly. And there is - actually, arguably there
is. The common welfare is cited twice in the Constitution, Sam, in the
preamble and in the body of the Constitution. So you would think that
clearing snow is part of common - part of general welfare. It's part of -
you know, the commons in general is what government was created to be responsible for. The roads that we travel on, the water that we drink, the air that we breathe.
We have expanded it over the years. Now it's the safety of our food supply, the safety of our drugs. But it's all about the commons. That really is the purpose of democracy in America. We are the government. The government is us.
SEDER: Fair enough. The Brits privatized Heathrow Airport. And the senior consulting editor of "Conde Nast Traveler" wrote on the "Daily Beast" that the owners' focus on profits from airport - from the airport and from actually selling goods there in a mall left them blind to things like snowplows, de-icers, actually getting planes to take off from Heathrow.
And I believe the British government has already bought back Gatwik from privatization. Is there a lesson there for us?
HARTMANN: There's a huge lesson. The same thing happened with the British rail system a decade ago. This is - this situation is Thatchernomics, Reaganomics on steroids. The idea that, you know, the market is going to solve all problems, that there should be a blurring of the line between the commons that I was talking about a second ago, and private industry and private area.
I don't want the government making my jeans or selling me my computers. And I don't think anybody in America does. On the other hand, I don't want a private corporation making sure that my public transportation facilities are operating properly, because their goal isn't to make public transportation operate properly. Their goal is to make a buck.
So what happened at Heathrow is they redesigned the terminal and the airport to turn it into a giant shopping mall to drive as much merchandise as possible out of there, so that the company that owns it, which has this nice name of the Transportation Authority, as if it was government - it's not. This company could make more money selling products, selling junk to tourists. And therefore, they didn't spend so much time paying attention to whether or not they're going to get airplanes in and out safely and de-iced, and what they're going to do if something like this should happen.
SEDER: Tom Hartmann, syndicated radio host, many, many thanks for your time tonight.
HARTMANN: Thank you, Sam.
SEDER: If the right is right about the president, favoring the return of New York City to its original inhabitants, the Native-Americans, we would support that, if they brought shovels.
And for all who knew what a stuck up, half witted, scruffy looking, nerf herder is, generations to come are guaranteed to remember it as well, next.
SEDER: In a week that saw no shortage of hysteria and hyperbole from Birthers, death panelers, and climate change deniers, a new brand of right wing conspiracy theorists emerged. Our number two story tonight, the conservatives who want you to think that President Obama is planning to give Manhattan Island back to Native-Americans. Their premise stems from a recent announcement by the president that the United States will reverse the Bush administration's opposition to a United Nations resolution supporting indigenous people the world over.
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you know, in April we announced that we were reviewing our position on the U.N. Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous People. Today, I can announce that the United States is lending its support to this declaration.
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SEDER: Supporters of the declaration say it serves as a guide for dealing with indigenous people, including Native-Americans here in the U.S. But over at the conservative conspiracy clearinghouse, World Net Daily reporter Eugene Caprosky (ph) sees a more sinister motivation. In an article entitled "Obama to Give Manhattan Back to Native-Americans," Caprosky wrote that that resolution, quote, "could accomplish something as radical as relinquishing some U.S. sovereignty and opening a path for the return of ancient tribal lands to American Indians, including even parts of Manhattan."
The basis for this? Article 26 of the Resolution, which states indigenous peoples have the right to lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.
Could it be? Is it possible Native-Americans loving Barack Obama is poised to pull off the biggest government land grab since the Louisiana Purchase? That theory is complicated by one thing: the resolution is non binding agreement. Like all U.N. resolutions, it cannot be adopted into law.
That's not good enough for World Net Daily founder and editor Joseph Farra (ph), who thinks the honorary adoption of then Senator Barack Obama by Montana's Crow Nation Tribe in 2008 opens the door for presidential trickery.
Quoting Farra, "I suspect Obama himself plans to cash in on this action."
Yes, be suspicious of a president if he's adopted into a Native-American tribe, unless it's Tea Party hero Calvin Coolidge, who was inducted into the Sioux Tribe in 1927. Just look at all that land he's secretly planning to give back to those Native Americans.
But the most puzzling thing about this invented controversy is why would right wingers even care if President Obama gave away Manhattan, with all its Ground Zero Mosques, its Broadway values and its liberal media outlets?
Making sure America will always remember, do or do not, there is no try, next.
SEDER: Finally tonight, it's my duty to announce to the American public that the bureaucratic fat cats at the Library of Congress have finally gotten it right. In our number one story, the National Film Preservation Board - yes, there is such a thing - has revealed that among films added to the National Film Registry this year is "The Empire Strikes Back." Meaning no longer will "Star Wars" geeks, present or future, have to live in fear that the original celluloid film version of the movie could some day disintegrate and be lost forever.
Even though all those "Star Wars" movies are on a 24-hour loop on the Spike Channel. No flipping. The National Film Preservation board adds 25 movies to its registry every year. Its goal, "to preserve films that are culturally, historically or aesthetically significant, and make them publicly available. Also to protect orphan films, those without owners able to pay for their preservation."
This 1891 Thomas Edison short, "Newark Athlete," which made it to the Registry this year, may fall into that category. The silent film features a half naked guy swinging some clubs around. A box office bust, but historically important. Just look at him go. We just saved you a trip to the Library of Congress.
Tuesday, it was announced that "The Exorcist," "Airplane," "Saturday Night Fever" and "All The President's Men" would also get the nod. But the headline grabber was the federal government's acknowledgement "Star Wars" episode Roman numeral V.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, the creators of the biggest smash hit of all time bring you the next episode in the "Star Wars" saga, "The Empire Strikes Back."
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SEDER: To be clear, that was from the trailer. We don't want to get sued by Spike. Widely thought to be the best of the six "Star Wars" films, "Empire" is the second in the George Lucas series to be preserved in the Library of Congress. The original movie, "Star Wars, A New Hope," is already on a shelf in Washington.
And it was an especially good year for Lucas films. His 1971 sci-fi movie "THX-1138" was also selected for preservation by the Library, though the future prospect of the rest of the "Star War" films making the cut look dim. "Return of the Jedi" and the prequels will never be federally preserved. And fans of the 1978 "Star Wars" holiday special starring Bea Arthur and Art Carney will just have to continue to watch crappy versions on Youtube.
Joining me now is Chris Hardwick, writer for "Wired Magazine," proprietor of Nerdist.com, also of "Attack of the Show," and host of "Web Soup" on G-4 Network. Chris, happy New Year. Welcome.
CHRIS HARDWICK, "WIRED MAGAZINE": Sam, it's nice to see you. I have not seen you in a long time. It's nice to see you helming a show right now. I'm enjoying you.
SEDER: Thank you, Chris. It's nice to have you here. Now tell me something. You must be - well, I don't want to presume. What is your reaction to "Empire's" induction into the Library of Congress? Give me a sense of how all or most nerd Americans take the news.
HARDWICK: My reaction would be - my gut reaction would be full double-rainbow. That means good. Yes, of course, "Empire" should be - of course it should be in the Library of Congress. It's the best of all of the six movies. "Star Wars" could have just been a fluke. But when "Empire" came around, it showed us that there was a story to follow. There were amazing characters.
We found out that - spoiler alert - Darth Vader is Luke's father, a meme which is still not dead. We met Yoda. We froze Han in carbonite. I mean, like "Empire" was a gorgeous movie. And I respect the Library of Congress for giving the nod to nerd America.
SEDER: So let me ask you this. Tell non-nerd America why "Empire Strikes Back" could have - or maybe should have gone into the registry before the first "Star Wars."
HARDWICK: Well, I mean, it's a better movie. "Star Wars" was great, and it certainly changed the way that we watch space epic films. But "Empire" was a solid story. It was gorgeous to look at. There was real drama. There was wonderful interaction with the characters. We really started to see Luke struggle going through becoming a Jedi.
That's weird. All the girls are running out of the room. It really was a phenomenal - it was a phenomenal movie. I probably would have put it before "Star Wars." But since "Star Wars" really technically was the first one that got the ball rolling, I can understand why they adopted that one at the Library of Congress first.
SEDER: Let me ask you this. This is probably the ultimate nerd question. Which version of "Empire" should be preserved? The regular, normal version, or the 3D version?
HARDWICK: I'm so sick of people putting the number three and the letter D together like it means something. 3D technology is just not that exciting yet. So it's a ploy to get money from consumers. Because the original "Empire" was the one that people flocked to in 1980, that is the one that should go in the archives, not the 3D version.
SEDER: Let me ask you this: how will George Lucas turn this news into cash?
HARDWICK: Well, Lucas - you know, Lucas will probably either offer them some sort of a technology to preserve film, or he will buy the Library of Congress and have it moved to Skywalker Ranch, and charge admission to it or something.
SEDER: Fantastic. That will be great. I would love to see the line out in front of that place. There will be a lot of - have you ever dressed up as one of the characters, Chris?
HARDWICK: No. No, I have not. Yes, yes, I have. I've dressed up as a Wooky. Actually, this year I did a mash up Halloween costume for Halloween. I was Luke Skywalker Texas Ranger.
SEDER: Chris Hardwick of Wired.com, G-4 TV, thanks. I'm Sam Seder, in for Keith Olbermann. That's December 29th. Thanks very much.
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