Tuesday, August 23, 2011

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011
video 'podcast'

ShowPlug1: Yeah, it was an earthquake. Meanwhile, new polling: Perry burying Palin, Bachmann. W/TPM's @EvanMc_s Morris-Santoro

ShowPlug2: Plus Paul Ryan's tax breaks: for Frats, Golf, and Beer. What is he, Bluto? Economist Jeff Madrick of @RooseveltInst joins me

ShowPlug3: Moammar missing? Whatever. Where's the oil? Contributor @Kate_Sheppard of Mother Jones on the real story of Libya

ShowPlug4: Arrests outside White House protesting Canada-to-Texas "Tar Sands" pipeline pass 150. One of them, @BillMcKibben , joins us

ShowPlug5: Tea Partier posts "joke" on Facebook about throwing President Obama and First Lady out of plane, mid-flight. Surprised by reax.

ShowPlugLast: And the Quake didn't hurt you but the coverage did. The great Paul F. @PFTompkins and I sneer mightly at 8 EDT.

ShowPlugPS: We have calculated how many people could have felt the shake today. The number will blow your cranium.

watch whole playlist

#5 'Race on the Right', Evan McMorris-Santoro

#5 'War on the Poor', Jeff Madrick
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)

#4 'To The Victor Goes The Oil', Kate Sheppard

# Time Marches On!

#3 'Oil That Spoils', Bill McKibben
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)

#2 Worst Persons: Roger Ailes, Gov. Jan Brewer, Shery Lanford Smith
Current.com, YouTube

#1 'Shock Treatment', Paul F. Tompkins

printable PDF transcript

KEITH OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

So, yeah, that was an earthquake.


MAN: Yeah, it could have been an earthquake, but that's not my first thought.

OLBERMANN: Dude, I lived in L.A. for nine years, it was a quake.


DAN LOTHIAN: How bad is the situation at the epicenter? I'm getting some information here. Hang on just a second. I'm just getting some information. The President, who is out on the golf course, he just took a phone call.

OLBERMANN: And while the Right blames the President for being on the golf course, on March 14th, Eric Cantor defended cuts to the U.S. Geological Survey and other natural disaster preparedness entities.

Today, a 5.8 earthquake was felt by a third or more of the country. Its epicenter? In the middle of Eric Cantor's congressional district. Elsewhere, Bachmann's poll numbers collapse.

And so do Palin's.

And guess whose went up? This idiot.


RICK PERRY: We've gone from a country that made great strides in issues of Civil Rights. I think we all can be proud of that. And as we go forward, America needs to be about freedom. It needs to be about freedom from over-taxation, freedom from over-litigation, freedom from over-regulation.

OLBERMANN: Freedom from infantile comparisons between Civil Rights and safety net cuts to benefit billionaires? Libya, where in the world is Moammar Gadhafi ?

And what in the world does his overthrow mean for this country and the politics of oil prices? Tar Sands, The Pipeline protest at the White House.


WOMAN: Personally, I've never been arrested before. I don't do this for fun. I'm here because I think it's such an important issue that it really demands that kind of action, and it demands that level of commitment from myself.

OLBERMANN: Worsts -- the Tea Party chairwoman, who just posted a joke online about throwing the President and the First Lady out of an airplane. And if it scared you, I get it, but all's okay after the earthquake, except maybe for the coverage.

"U.S. Weather service says there is no tsunami expected after the east coast earthquake that was centered in VA."

OLBERMANN: Gee, thanks, Fox. What about Mothra? Was Mothra released by the earthquake?

All that and more now on "Countdown."


OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Tuesday, August 23, 441 days until the 2012 Presidential Election.

So those of you North of North Carolina, East of Indianapolis, South of Toronto, now you know why I never say this is a political earthquake, nor that something will shake the Republic. Whole coverage of the quake with its epicenter in Eric Cantor's congressional district, and moreover, full coverage of the semi-hysterical coverage, which included that Fox helpful hint that no tsunami is expected at the end of this news hour.

But in the fifth story on the "Countdown," the precipitous drops in the Republican polls by Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin were not tectonic shifts rumbling far beneath the surface of the American political landscape. Though the grinding sound you hear may be Texas governor Rick Perry snacking on his Tea Party opponents.

According to Public Policy Polling, in a tally that mixes declared and undeclared candidates, 21% of Iowa Republican voters favor Perry. 18% support Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann comes in third, down to 15%, Ron Paul at 14%, and Sarah Palin just creeping into double digits at 10% of the total.

Palin has not declared that she is running for president, may not declare that she's running for anything. She did declare war on her fellow Fox News propagandist Karl Rove for his claim that she would announce her run at a Tea Party event in Iowa on September 3rd.

In language unbecoming to a professional colleague, the erstwhile "Sarah Barracuda" informed the world and Rove through her Sarah-Pac webpage that, "Any professional pundit claiming to have 'inside information' regarding Governor Palin's personal decision is not only wrong but their comments are specifically intended to mislead the American public."

Take a second and let this sink in.

You heard it there. Sarah Palin claims Karl Rove goes on Fox News to mislead the American public.

Rick Perry has a different problem -- he can't stop himself from saying what he really believes.

Though maybe he'll slow down a bit, after comments like this one, equating Civil Rights-era gains in freedom for minorities to the GOP crusade for freedom from taxes on corporations.


RICK PERRY: And as we go forward, America needs to be about freedom. It needs to be about freedom from over-taxation, freedom from over-litigation, freedom from over-regulation.

OLBERMANN: Perry's also pushing for a fourth freedom.

Freedom from the income tax.

In his book "F'ed Up!," sorry, "Fed Up!" -- truly a gift that keeps on giving -- Perry proposes, "An alternative model of taxation, such as a national sales tax, that provides only the modest revenue needed to perform the basic constitutional functions of the federal government."

If you enjoyed today's earthquake, you'd love the barren landscape of a post-Perry America because his version of basic constitutional functions may not be the same as yours.

Given that Perry's on the record calling Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security bankrupt and akin to Ponzi schemes and probably unconstitutional.

As for Governor Romney, at least the leading so-called "moderate" in the GOP pack did not call for a firing squad, when he in turn criticized a course that Fed Chairman Bernanke may take to boost the economy.


MITT ROMNEY: Another round of quantitative easing, money printing if you will, is not the right course for the economy, and suggests a growth of inflation down the road.

OLBERMANN: Correspondent Evan McMorris-Santoro of "Talking Points Memo" has been in South Carolina reporting on Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry and joins us now.

Evan, good evening.


OLBERMANN: So are we reading this right, the far right has found its true love in Perry, and Bachmann and Palin just got dumped?

McMORRIS-SANTORO: Well, you know, it does seem that way to a certain extent. I mean, in South Carolina I spoke to a lot of voters, political professionals and voters, and, you know, Rick Perry, they have all been waiting for. He comes in and he's got a robust campaign operation.

He's got 12 years of executive experience.These are the kind of things that sort of the Tea Party people think make him more electable, and the more establishment people think it makes him a little bit less worrisome than maybe a Bachmann or a Palin, who doesn't have the same amount of experience.

So, you know, every poll is sort showing at this point that Perry is really the man to beat now.

There is a new poll coming out tomorrow, a national PPP poll, that shows Perry with a double-digit lead in the Republican national contest, which of course isn't really a contest, but sort of judges how their support is. And it looks like Perry really has sort of jumped in there and grabbed a hold of the field, and left Bachmann specifically in the dust, I think.

OLBERMANN: Is that entirely, the last part, entirely Perry's doing or does some of that go to Bachmann's repeated gaffs? Is there some, is it not just, "Oh, we like Perry better," or "Oh, he's been louder," or "Oh, he's more extreme, he's been crazier to our liking"?

Or is there some sort of quantitative analysis that maybe Bachmann could not get through a week of the campaign without saying incredibly self damaging?

McMORRIS-SANTORO: Well, I think you are right on that. This is part of what I was hearing when I was down in South Carolina, was that she hasn't been able to expand her crowd, expand her base sort of beyond the very activist side. And partially it's because of what she says when she's not making gaffs.

For example, she talks about getting rid of the Department of Education, which is, you know, a good Tea Party issue but one that doesn't have a lot of national appeal. But then when she, you know, does go off script it's all, you know, getting Elvis's birthday wrong and saying she is in the wrong John Wayne's hometown.

So I think that she hasn't been able to sort of show that she's more than kind of the extremist, maybe kind of gaff-prone politician that she was before. For all of the impressiveness of her campaign so far, and it has been impressive to see her sort of leverage that national Tea Party fame that she has into so much support and so much influence in Iowa, and of course, influence in the debt debate.

She has been able to move past that sort of initial phase of fame, I think, because of sort of her personalities are just where she is and the things that she keeps saying.

OLBERMANN: And when you then account for those mistakes by saying, "Well, she's just busy, there's nothing wrong with her, she's just busy.

And if she speaks six times a day, she is likely to screw up." Then that does, I suppose, even in some sort of guttural level inside people's souls, make them say, "Uh, does she really expect not to be busy as President?"

McMORRIS-SANTORO: Well, you know, I think this is another of these experience questions. I mean, Perry has been running a large state for a long time, and Bachmann doesn't have the experience. And so whether or not that line goes to that or something else, I think that that is an essential part of why Perry's doing well.

He just has so much more sort of gravitas, if you will, than Bachmann does in terms of going into a general election race.

OLBERMANN: And Sarah Palin, is there evidence that if she was waiting to get in, she waited too long?

McMORRIS-SANTORO: Well, you know, we've have talked about this before. And I do think that the longer it goes, this sort of less interested people are in her. I mean, Rick Perry has come in, he's saying a lot of the same things I think that people think that a Bachmann -- that a Palin would say.

His comments about Ben Bernanke, and stuff, you know, the thing about the Civil Rights stuff that you mentioned earlier, these are kind of things you would kind of expect the sort of far right things you expect a Sarah Palin to say, but again, he says it while also being a Texan and having, you know, the cowboy swagger that is really appealing to the Republican Party and having that Texas experience.

OLBERMANN: Evan McMorris-Santoro, the reporter from Talking Points Memo, great to have you on the program. Thanks for your time.


OLBERMANN: Not so great, a theme that the "Wall Street Journal" is calling "The New GOP Orthodox" -- you lower lower taxes for the corporations and rich to be paid for by a new income tax for the working poor families and seniors -- the guys normally thought of as too poor to pay that tax under current law.

Jon Huntsman, who sometimes plays a moderate Republican on TV told "The Journal" he agreed with Tea Party favorite Florida senator Marco Rubio that we don't have enough people paying taxes in this country.

It's not really a new take on class warfare.

The "Wall Street Journal" has been pushing it since 2002 -- impose income taxes on the people who are too poor to pay them. Their numbers went from less than 30 to nearly 47% of the American public thanks to the Bush tax cuts and the Bush recession which followed.

Illinois congressman Randy Hultgren tried out a variation on this theme at a town hall last night, one that should please his wealthier constituents and contributors.


RANDY HULTGREN: I am not out there trying to coddle anybody. I, in fact, I support a bill that allows super rich -- if they want to make, if they want to give more money to the federal government, it could be a charitable contribution.

OLBERMANN: However, former Reagan and George H. W. Bush official Bruce Bartlett was not laughing nor feeling charitable when he attacked ideas like Hultgren's in his "New York Times" column today writing, "It is not class warfare to suggest that the richest 1% of the people in society pay one-third of their income to the federal government as they did under Ronald Reagan."

It is fair to point out hypocrisy, when would-be tax cutters promote tax loopholes to benefit their own contributors, like house budget committee chairman Paul Ryan. According to the "Huffington Post," Ryan has pushed legislation to special loopholes manufacturer for S.C. Johnson and Son, which contributed $41,000 to his campaign.

The Fraternity and Sorority political action committee -- another $24,500, and The National Wholesalers Association, which put $7,200 in Ryan's war chest.

For more on this latest front in the GOP's war on the poor, I am joined again by Jeff Madrick -- a senior fellow at The Roosevelt Institute, and the author of the aptly titled "Age of Greed."

Thank you for coming in, sir.

JEFF MADRICK: Good to see you.

OLBERMANN: Uh -- let's see. This is a new orthodoxy here. Tax breaks for the rich, new income taxes for the poor. Sound like a plan?

MADRICK: Well, it sounds like the old orthodoxy. But, this one is especially, I think, mean-spirited, insensitive and may backfire, because who is the base of this Republican uprising, but these very people who are supposedly not paying taxes?

Your viewers should understand 46% of people may not pay taxes. That number has gone up, as you have said, because of the recession. People are losing jobs.

But, two-thirds of those do pay FICA, Social Security taxes. So, this implication, which I think is a very deliberate one, that half of American people are not paying taxes is an outright lie, in fact.

Most of them are paying Social Security taxes, and they are high, and they are regressive.

OLBERMANN: But it is, as ridiculous as it is, it's one of the great pieces of sophistry because it sounds symmetrical. It sounds -- oval. It sounds something that people can get easily enraged at, those people who are maybe middle income, or lower to middle, or even higher end of middle income people. That makes you want to say, "Well, that's damn right. Why are they not paying their fair share?"

And of course, the answer to it is they are paying their fair share, because they don't have any money to begin with. That's just as easy to sell. Whose responsibility is it to make that point to the vast part of the public that would naturally say, "I would like for somebody to take this tax burden off of me"?

MADRICK: Yours and mine, I think.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, I guess.

MADRICK: It's up to us. The facts are -- the facts have to stand. But this -- I mean, speak agreed this really is a contemptible idea. Only 18% -- less than one out of five Americans pay either no -- pay no FICA, Social Security tax, or no income tax.

Who are those 18% that don't pay any major Federal taxes? The elderly. Basically, the majority are the elderly. What are we talking about?

And a lot of that has come -- and a lot of that, in fact, ironically it's because George Bush passed the child tax credits, and extended an earned income tax credit to eliminate some more people from the income tax roles.

The money is just not there. This is a bad joke, an insensitive joke. I think a mean-spirited joke and it may well backfire on these people.

OLBERMANN: All right. The Bruce Bartlett comment in "The New York Times" today that the rich can't afford to pay more. It seems like a fairly simple concept.

But, is that not an impossibility, politically, unless the Bush tax cuts are going to expire at some point?

MADRICK: Well, I think the Bush tax cuts have to expire.

OLBERMANN: You thought so last time.

MADRICK: That doesn't mean they will expire. Yeah, right. That doesn't mean they will expire. People should know very clearly. If all of the Bush tax cuts expire, not just the rich, but the middle -- and middle would not mean a lot of extra tax burden for middle income people.

We would not have a budget-balancing problem, even by conservative lights. Think about that.

If we just paid the tax rates of the Clinton years when some people remember we had an economical boon.


MADRICK: We would be okay, and not talking about this budget balancing, and not strapping government down, and able to make the public investments and maintain the social programs we need. It's a very cynical time.

I don't remember economic leadership this poor in the U.S.

OLBERMANN: Oh, yes. I was just going to say, Dickensian London sounds about --

MADRICK: Well, yeah. And they're rapidly catching up to Dickensian London.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, the last thing, and it can never be underscored too many times with the easy answer.

I'll give you the seemingly complicated question here. The GOP argument is, lower tax rates, especially on the wealthy, spur economic growth and the answers is?


OLBERMANN: And why not?

MADRICK: It didn't in the 2000s.


MADRICK: We have good, empirical, historical proof. Let's call it proof, which is a dangerous thing in economics.

It didn't work in the 2000s, slowest rate of economic growth of the post World War II period after the Bush tax cuts which promised jobs -- slowest rate of job creation.

So, let's you and I keep telling viewers this, and maybe it will sink in.

OLBERMANN: The economist Jeff Madrick, the author of "The Age of Greed." As ever, great thanks for coming in.

MADRICK: Very nice to be here.

OLBERMANN: My pleasure.

Simultaneously, the push to control the oil of Libya and the arrest at the White House over a dangerous oil pipeline that creates almost no new jobs, but risks countless new environmental disasters. That's next.

This is "Countdown."


OLBERMANN: Rebels capture Gadhafi's compound. Well, that would make it their compound, right? The latest from, and the latest oil implications of Libya.

As Libyan oil is in the news, so is his probable approval of the tar sands pipeline from Canada to Texas. Our guest, one of dozens who are willing to be arrested at the White House to stop this project. The manuscript for her new autobiographical "History of the World" is late, and she has just blamed for that, the President.

And by our calculations, the number of Americans who today experienced an earthquake for the first time might be as high as 121,382,000,692. Nearly that many potentially exposed to how an earthquake gets covered by people who don't understand earthquakes, and are trying to keep themselves from crying or screaming on TV.

Paul F. Tompkins joins me ahead on "Countdown."

OLBERMANN: Moammar Gadhafi is missing, and presumed no longer the dictator of Libya. Rebels seized his compound -- he was nowhere to be found. President Obama is calling this a victory for the people of Libya, but it's also looking like the President could be a big winner as well.

With the U.S. economy benefitting from falling oil prices, as analysts anticipate a Libya without Gadhafi.

In our fourth story tonight, while news cameras follow the chaos and joy on the streets there, oil companies have their sights set on the vast oil reserves beneath those streets. Libya sits on more oil than any other African country.

Before the uprising, it was the world's twelfth largest exporter, mostly to European nations. And, how Libya's reserves are divvied up by its new government will likely impact the health of the U.S. economy.

The President has consistently referred to the uprising in the Middle East, or the uprisings in the Middle East as headwinds hampering economic growth here.

But, the "New York Times" reporting today that the rebel-controlled oil company Agoco is already indicating it will give the U.S. preferential treatment, a spokesman saying, "We don't have a problem with western countries like Italians, French and UK companies. But, we may have some political issues with Russia, China and Brazil. Russia, China, and Brazil did not back strong sanctions and pushed for negotiations to end the uprising."

Those three are among a growing number of countries whose oil companies are hoping to access Libyan reserves -- companies from the U.S., France, Britain, Italy, the Netherlands also seeking rights to drill there.

They're all hoping the new rebel-led government is a better business partner than colonel Gadhafi was. The erratic dictator frequently increased fees and made other demands on companies working there.

Already, markets are responding well to the news that he is on his way out. The price of Brent crude, which is used to price oil, dropping on word that the rebels had taken Tripoli.

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama's approval ratings on the economy are the lowest they've been.

Holding in about a quarter of American's saying he's doing a good job.

Let's bring in "Countdown" contributor Kate Sheppard, a reporter from Mother Jones magazine. Thanks for joining me tonight, Kate.

KATE SHEPPARD: Thanks for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN: If the situation is confused and scrambling at the Gadhafi compound, what would you describe the situation in the oil company board rooms around the planet right now?

SHEPPARD: Well, they are definitely pretty happy about the situation. They, you know, even as early as yesterday, companies were saying that they were going to start sending in delegations to start figuring out what the status is of the infrastructure there and start making plans to continue development they had underway or seek new contracts there.

So, they are definitely eager to get back into Libya as soon as possible.

OLBERMANN: It's easy to throw around oil as a motive for everything. But do you think there was one that related to that in terms of our involvement in Libya? The U.N. resolution we were supporting through NATO was about protecting citizens in part of the country, something made us push the envelope of that resolution and stick to it in ways that we have not in other African nations or nations of a similar economic stratus?

SHEPPARD: Well, you know, I think that oil is always involved when we get ourselves in the Middle Eastern countries. It's really hard to avoid.I don't think that this is necessarily the number one reason that we went in. But it, I'm certainly sure that it was involved.

I think, you know, probably the broader reason that we decided to get involved is that we thought it was going to be rather easy to push Gadhafi out and move these rebel forces in. And I think that probably had more to do with it than the oil factor.

OLBERMANN: In the end, though, is there result of this going to be making us more dependent on foreign oil rather than less so?

SHEPPARD: It will be interesting. Right now the U.S. is not a huge importer of Libyan oil. But, as you noted, that could change with the new power in place there. It's our allies in Europe who have been more reliant of Libyan oil in the past.

And, so, whether the U.S. will import more from there remains to be seen. But, they definitely, they're hopeful that it will be easier with the new government in place.

But, right now, we don't really even know what that never government would look like. So, time will tell what actually happens there.

OLBERMANN: The several oil producing countries including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, providing a sort of strange side light on all of this. Endorsing the attack on Gadhafi in the name of Democracy, when those don't really seem to be huge components of their own political systems, can you decipher that, or are they just happy to have somebody out of competition with them, or what is that all about?

SHEPPARD: I think there's certainly an aspect of competition there. You know it's always easier to push, to point the finger at someone and say, "No, that's that bad guy, we're fine." I'm sure there's a certain degree of that going on as well.

OLBERMANN: Kate Sheppard, the "Countdown" contributor from Mother Jones magazine.

Thanks for your time tonight, Kate.

SHEPPARD: Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: And, however oil is obtained, oil requires pipelines. And one new pipeline project is so controversial that in this age of acquiescence, more than 150 protesters have now gotten themselves arrested over several days outside the White House.

One of them, Bill McKibben, joins me ahead on "Countdown."


OLBERMANN: The push to stop the pipeline next. First, the sanity break.

And this was written in the San Francisco "Daily Morning Call" newspaper in 1864. A story by a waggish young reporter who was mocking the fact that something hadn't happened. Headline, "No Earthquake."

Story, "In consequence of the warm close atmosphere which smothered the city at two o'clock yesterday afternoon, everybody expected to be shaken out of their boots by an earthquake before night, but up to the hour of our going to press the supernatural bootjack had not arrived yet. That is just what makes it so unhealthy, the earthquakes are getting so irregular. When a community gets used to a thing, they suffer when they have to go without it. However, the trouble cannot be remedied, we know of nothing that will answer as a substitute for one of those convulsions, to an unmarried man."

That was published on August 23rd, 1864, 147 years ago today and it was written by Mark Twain.

Time marches on.

We begin in the animal kingdom where this bird's career has hit the proverbial glass ceiling.

What I'm going to call a cardinal, sure.


OLBERMANN: Appears to be trying to get past a glass window to what I can only assume is a buffet of worms.

But this bird is no dodo and he keeps at it because persistence is the key to success. However, after eight unsuccessful attempts, our hero retreats in failure.

But, in the end, he gave it his all.

I'm sure he has no regrets or egrets. Although, he did have to take two aspirin for his massive migration.


Moving on.

We check in on the kids. What do kids like? Candy. There's nothing better as a kid than an extra large pixie stick.

All right, you tell me what we're going to play. Play it, we'll just see if it's there.


OLBERMANN: Whoa, this looks familiar.

To the internets, the hot summers, there's not better activity than finding creative ways to cool down. Release rotation splash.

I'm just so used to seeing the guys fail, or the tape not play.

his one succeeded and it actually surprised me. East German, 9.9, 9.8, 9.9, and a 10 from the East German judge.

Ignore for a second the random furniture scattered in the yard, for today, that man has nothing to be embarrassed about.



Time marches on.

You survived the earthquake, but did you survive the earthquake news coverage? I don't think so. Paul F. Tompkins ahead on "Countdown.


OLBERMANN: We are live from "Countdown" world headquarters in the Sports Capsule Building in New York City each night at 8:00 P.M.

And then we transmit into your home again at 11:00 P.M., 2:00 A.M., 7:00 A.M., noon and 3:00 P.M. We call it our little miracle.

For a fourth straight day outside the White House, environmentalists were arrested for protesting a pipeline that would can a carry acidic crude oil, if you can call it oil, from western Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast.

In our third story on the countdown, the protestors begin what should be a two-week long demonstration, Saturday against the proposed Key Stone XL Pipeline.

The so-called Tar Sands Pipeline, it would travel about 1,700 miles.

Tar sands or oil sands are sluggish mixes of sand, clay, water, and a molasses-level-thick petroleum. It used to be considered so unusable that until recently none of it was counted as the world's oil supply.

Extracting it, heating it, moving it will destroy Canadian forests, risk spills on sensitive terrain and increase U.S. dependence on carbon based fuels. One demonstrator from Maine summed it up.

(EXCERPT FROM VIDEO CLIP) ANDIE BURR: It's a terrible idea, and it is time for us to turn the tide on climate change.

OLBERMANN: Part of the pipeline already exists, but most of it must still be built by the TransCanada Company.

To the benefit, surprisingly enough, of many oil companies including some from Texas, which we should not be surprised then, that a Republican Congressman, Ted Poe, recently spoke in favor of the project.

(EXCERPT FROM VIDEO CLIP)TED POE: An easy choice for this administration. Either they can force Americans to continue to rely on unfriendly, foreign countries for our energy, like Venezuela and the Middle Eastern dictators, or work with our friends in the North to supply over 1.4 million barrels of oil per day.

OLBERMANN: And rely on Texas dictators.

The Obama Administration says it will decide on the pipeline by the end of the year.

The "New York Times," in a strongly worded editorial last Sunday sided with the environmentalist, saying, "We have two main concerns -- the risk of oil spills along the pipeline, which would traverse highly sensitive terrain, and the fact that the extraction of petroleum from the tar sands creates far more greenhouse admissions than conventional production does. The state department will decide whether approve or reject the pipeline by the end of the year. It should acknowledge the environmental risk on the pipeline and the larger damage caused by tar sands production and block the Keystone XL."

Joining us now from Washington, Bill McKibben, an environmentalist and author who spent the weekend with fellow demonstrators in a Washington jail.

Mr. McKibben, thanks for your time tonight.

BILL McKIBBEN: Keith, what a pleasure to be with you.

OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir. It's ours.

President Obama can decide this without Congress. What's his political calculation and which side do you expect him to end up on?

McKIBBEN: Well, I think we're changing the odds of that at the moment. You know, a week ago, I think there was little question he would have gone ahead.

Think of the pressure coming from the most powerful, profitable industry on the planet. But we have succeeded by organizing the largest civil disobedience protest in the environmental movement in decades in nationalizing this issue.

It's no longer just people along the pipeline route and native people who have been carrying this fight for a couple of years. Now, it's people from all 50 states who have come to Washington to get arrested, and the media coverage that they are drawing is producing things like that editorial in the "Times." So it's beginning to shift.

It's going to be gut-check time for the president. When he ran for president, he said -- the night he was nominated, in fact -- he said, "You know what? When I am president, the rise of the oceans will begin to slow and the planet will begin to heal." That's powerful talk.

He hasn't yet done heroic things on the environment.

He has done some good things around the edges but nothing transformative, and he has backed down on some important fights.

This time, he can't blame it on Congress. He doesn't need to ask Jim Inhofe's permission. He doesn't need any help from the congress. He can turn down this permit himself, and if he does -- and here I think is the political calculation -- If he does, it will send a surge of excitement through that base.

We were sitting and lying on the metal shelves in the, what's called central cell block in the Washington jail the other day, and people were saying, "You know, the last time I was this uncomfortable, I was lying on a church basement getting ready to go knock on doors for Barack Obama."

I sure hope I get reminded of why I was doing all of that.

OLBERMANN: Obviously, transporting oil involves risks. Even the most dedicated environmentalist president would not be able to dismantle the oil reliance of this country in a matter of years --let alone decades, probably.

McKIBBEN: Very true.

OLBERMANN: -- let alone decades, probably. But why is this one project worse than usual, worse than acceptable?

McKIBBEN: Sure. The answer lies at heart in the place it's coming from.

The Tar Sands of Canada are the second largest pool of carbon on Earth. Only after the Saudi Arabian oil fields.

We plumed those Saudi oil fields 70 years ago when no one had heard of global warming. If we do the same kind of thing, make the same kind of investment, produce the same volumes of oil from Canada, then as Jim Hansen, our leading climate scientist put it not long ago, it will be essentially game over for the climate.

That's about as strong language as you will get from a scientist, and it's a reminder that we need to leave carbon in the ground. It's exactly the same principle as say, telling the Brazilians that they need to guard their rain forest, not cut it down.

If the Brazilians who are poor are supposed to guard their rain forest – and, actually, they've begun to do a pretty good job of just that -- then surely North Americans who aren't poor should be able to keep their hands off something as dangerous as all that oil.

It's risky in transmission. It will almost certainly spill in places like the Ogallala aquifer.

The precursor pipeline has leaked 12 times in 12 months, you know?

But even if that oil gets safely to Texas, that's just that much more of it to spill into the atmosphere, essentially game over for the climate. That's why this has emerged as the premier environmental test for Barack Obama between now and the next election.

OLBERMANN: And the rationalization for going ahead for it, obviously they're not going to say, "We're going to do this to put more money in the oil companies pockets." But there is not some huge gain in jobs creation or something to throw out?

McKIBBEN: Well, you know, you're going to have to -- some people are going to have to build the pipeline. The State Department, in its analysis, estimates a few thousand jobs, about 800 or 900 of them for people along the pipeline route.

But, of course that's dwarfed by the number of people who would be employed turning to the wind and the sun, if we decide that we are no longer going to allow our addiction to oil to grow, that we are not going to find one more vein in, you know, to exploit.

Instead, we are going to make the beginning of what, as you pointed out, will be a long and difficult transition off of fossil fuel.

But as long as we keep pumping to the ground every barrel we can find, then we will never make that transition. And it's that kind of transformation that Barack Obama needs to show us he will lead on.

OLBERMANN: Bill McKibben of tarsandaction.org, great. Thanks for your time, and good luck with this.

McKIBBEN: Thanks so much.

OLBERMANN: Thank you.

Just another joke about president Obama from a leader of the Tea Party. This one encourages people to fantasize about pushing him out of an airplane midflight. But, there is nothing wrong, or belligerent, or violent about the Tea Party.

So, I am sure they would love the same joke if it was told about, say, Sarah Palin.

"Worst Persons" ahead on "Countdown."


OLBERMANN: It was just a joke about pushing the president of the United States out of a plane midflight, and First Lady. "Worst Persons," ahead.

And this was not a joke, but some of the coverage? Yeah, pretty much.

Paul F. Tompkins and I talked earthquakes and what happens when nearly all of the national media has never lived in Los Angeles, next on "Countdown."


OLBERMANN: So, the coverage of the quake was far more damaging than the quake itself.

Paula Thompkins joins me to review what could have been so deadly serious, but not to do it so deadly seriously.

But first, because these mutton heads have already blamed it on socialism, here are "Countdown's" nominee's for today's top three worst persons in the world.

The runner-up -- Rodger Ailes, the maƮtre d' at Fixed News, you don't think their talking points off which his collection of mynah birds learns its nonsense, think again. Mediamatters.org has chronicled a curious repetition on the propaganda channel lately about president Obama's vacation.

August 17th, Greta Van Susteren, "I don't begrudge him on vacation, I just begrudge him."

August 17th, somebody named David Webb on "Fox Out of Business," -- "Never begrudged the President a vacation, but..."

August 18th, Andrea Tantaros, moron, one of the hosts of the thing they put on after they cancelled Glenn Beck, "I don't think people begrudge him from time off... Here's the issue..."

August 18th, Eric Bolling, racist, same show, "Is Obama tone-death for taking ten days right now on the Vineyard?"

Nobody is begrudging the president a vacation.

August 19th, Karl Rove, "Well, look, I don't begrudge any President a vacation. I do think he's got a perception problem."

August 19th, Steven Hayes, "I don't begrudge the President of the United States to take a vacation, but..."

Nice, crappy grammar, by the way.

August 20th, the despicable Judith Miller, "I don't begrudge the president a vacation, but..."

She did not add W.M.D.

Now, I don't begrudge Fox News being a factory of propaganda the likes of which the nation has never seen before, nor the people on it being attention-crazed losers who will literally say anything to get to be in television, and in their sick world, adored.

But, I just wish they tried harder to mix it up a little vocabulary-wise.

The runner-up -- Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona, her book is apparently late.

So she is writing one. She isn't trying to read one.

It is delayed as she explained to Capital Media Services, because, "Something came up. I am working away, trying to get this all done on the weekends and late at night, trying to get it done. And all of the sudden, here we go, he starts it all up again."

Who is the "he"?

President Obama.

This insane governor who thinks the Arizona desert is littered with decapitated corpses because she saw it on some TV show, and is no longer there enough to know the difference between that and realty, is now blaming delays in writing her own warped view of the recent American history she helped to poison on interference by the President of the United States.

Madam Governor, you are a laughing stock. You have reduced the great and generous state of Arizona to a national punch line. You are giving the wicked witch of the West a bad name.

Resign. Go away.

Let another Republican run the place. Any other one. I will take Steve Pearce at this point.

But our winner -- Sherry Lanford Smith of Sumter, South Carolina, she posted a joke on Facebook about killing the President and the First Lady.

It's an old one about Character 1 saying, "If I could throw a thousand dollar bill out of this plane and make one person very happy."

Then, Character 2 says, "I could throw 10, $100 bills and make 10 people very happy."

Then the pilot tops them. Only this time, Character 1 is President Obama.

Character 2 is the First Lady and the rest of Ms. Smith's Facebook post reads, "I could throw both of them out the window and make 256 million people very happy."

Smith added, "If you are one of the 256 million, pass it on."

Ms. Smith has removed it, telling a local Sumter newspaper, "It was just a joke, and I had no idea it would be an issue."

Which is plausible if you are not too bright.

But it might seem a little more serious if you were not as Sherry Lanford Smith is, the chairwoman of the Sumter Tea Party.

Sumter, Tea Party boss, Sherry Lanford Smith, simply put, today's Worst Person in The World.


OLBERMANN: There is a chance it may have made you think of that line from the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life" -- "Don't look now, but there is something funny going on over at the bank, George."

I never have seen one but that has all of the earmarks of being a run or our number one story, an earthquake.

For around 121 Americans who may have never felt one before, certainly not where they were, a 5.8 epicenter in Mineral or Louisa, Virginia, felt in Buffalo and Michigan and of course the centers for panic in the media -- New York and D.C.

The earthquake forced the evacuation of building in Washington, like that white one there, including the White House and the Pentagon, shockwaves stretched from Ohio to Massachusetts.

Building in other large metropolitan areas in the northeast also evacuated including a New York courtroom holding a news conference during the dismissal of the charges against a defendant.

They thought it was some sort of attack on the district attorney.

No reports of injuries.

Very few things were broken including what passes for breaking news.

Here is Dan Lothian.


DAN LOTHIAN: Hang on just a second. I am just getting some information. The President, who is out on the golf course, he just took a phone call.

OLBERMANN: Thank God you said, "phone call."

"Fixed News" made a brilliant observation on its crawl there that, "The east coast need not worry about a tsunami following the earthquake."

Good to know, considering the earthquake happened inland.

Perhaps, no one truly captured the days' news better though than clever folks with Twitter handles, including "Countdown" contributor Jeremy Scahill.

"It's just like Obama to be golfing when an earthquake suddenly hits."

Jet Blue tweeted, "We've issued a temporary ground stop while we assess the earthquake impact. In the meantime, enjoy some Carole King."

This from a conversation overheard during an evacuation, "The stairs? But I am wearing R.L. Collection heels." I believe from a woman.

This one captured the "devastation in D.C." in a picture. It was also used for Central Park in New York.

Mike Barrett hit the nail on the head, "Unconfirmed report" or bearish, "Unconfirmed reports of people moving on with their lives, news reporters undeterred."

But no one captured the essence as the blogger Empty Wheel -- her tweet reminded us that Virginia Republican Congressman, Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, defended in March Republican plans to cut funding from the U.S. geological service, survey rather.

Empty Wheel tweets, "March 15th 2011,"It's actually March 14th, "Eric Cantor attacked U.S.G.S. funding. August 23rd 2011, freak earthquake hits his district."

That's right. His district.

The epicenter of the quake today in Virginia is inside Congressman Eric Cantor's district.

For a fitting perspective on all this, let's go to Los Angeles, unaffected by the earthquake, here is the actor and comedian Paul F. Tompkins, who will be recording his fourth Comedy Central special on Friday, October 7th, at the Alex Theater in Glendale -- barring acts of God.

Hello, Paul.

PAUL F. TOMPKINS: Hello, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Unbelievable. I don't want to dismiss this. I mean, I was on the 15th floor of a building in midtown Manhattan. You'll know this immediately, and anybody from California will recognize this terminology, it felt like a 3.6 or so, maybe a little stronger would have felt in L.A.

I mean, you noticed it, but it's like, "Okay. So what?" But is all Southern California just laughing its head off over the suddenly earthquake-panicked East?

TOMPKINS: Yes, absolutely, 100%.


TOMPKINS: It's nothing but hilarious. You know, I -- here is the thing about New York City, especially, is that the dirty little secret about New York City -- the greatest city on Earth -- is that it is largely uninhabitable.

It is not fit for human beings to live in.

New Yorkers pride themselves on being tough. They can deal with the extreme heat, the extreme cold, and so on and so forth.

Well, now they know what it's like in Southern California to walk around, not knowing when the Earth will suddenly decide to throw you off of itself.

That's tough. Okay?


TOMPKINS: So what if it's summertime all year round? That's a heavy burden to walk around under.

OLBERMANN: There was, as I suggested, a good deal of panic on television. I mean, if you were in Steubenville, Ohio, it must have been very reassuring there would be no tsunami hitting downtown Steubenville.

TOMPKINS: Yeah, I think -- that's on the Ohio license plate, right? "Almost no chance of tsunamis." Like now, it's just, we've just put them hand-in-hand, no matter where an earthquake might happen.

It's like, "Well, in this, how far behind could the tsunami be?"


TOMPKINS: Surely, this is just what happens now.

OLBERMANN: What part did you enjoy most about the coverage you have been able to see today?

TOMPKINS: Stuff like this, I always love when news anchors get to do their dramatic sort of 1940s radio question, when they will look in the camera and say, "An earthquake in Connecticut?"

And they get to show off a little bit.

That, to me, is when broadcasters really shine.

OLBERMANN: My favorite part of this was watching every network try to answer the one question that all Californians, northern and southern, know is unanswerable by this one line repeated everywhere – "U.S. geological survey says aftershocks likely," which is like saying, "Wednesday is likely."

There are always aftershocks.


OLBERMANN: There are always earthquakes, but there is no way, sorry, we hate to break this to you at this late moment, after you've been through an earthquake, there is no way to predict what happens next.


TOMPKINS: Yeah. What I love about living in Los Angeles is you are never sure if it's an earthquake or an aftershock from five earthquakes ago.


TOMPKINS: There is that wonderful moment you are just sitting there and everything starts to roll a little bit and then there is always a moment where it's very pleasant for just a few seconds.

OLBERMANN: Yes. A hammock kind of quality.

TOMPKINS: And then it's over.

OLBERMANN: Yes. The little hammock thing, where you're sort of swinging nicely.

TOMPKINS: Yeah, it's like we're all on a big water bed.

OLBERMANN: Right. Until the water starts to splash up and drown you.

To be fair, I was working in L.A. and I think it was 1986 when in snowed in Malibu. Flurries that did not stick, and very few got to the pavement and every local station in L.A., including the one I went to went live to Malibu for, snow you could not see on television.

So, this is, that was, today was like the reverse of that, I thought.


I mean, you have to understand in that in Los Angeles, if it rains, that is -- that is the story of the day.

OLBERMANN: Yes, sir.

TOMPKINS: It doesn't matter what's going on in the rest of the world, Washington, anything. We always lead with – "If it can get your car wet, it leads."


TOMPKINS: So I imagine that any sort of frozen rain happening would be the Holy Grail of California news coverage.

OLBERMANN: That's it. "President Obama has resigned but let's go to Dallas rains where three inches of snow have fallen."

Paul F. Tompkins, whose fourth Comedy Central special tapes in October, and then presumably they show it sometime after.

Thanks, Paul, it's a pleasure.

TOMPKINS: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: That's "Countdown" for this, the 22nd day since the Republican debt ceiling blackmail worked.

Speaker Boehner, where are the jobs?

Where is our credit rating?

Up next on Current, "50 Documentaries To See Before You Die, Part 4."

I'm Keith Olbermann.

Good night, and good luck.