'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, November 29th, 2011
#ShowPlug 1: #OccupyOakland's injured Scott Olsen speaks. IndyBay's 1st interview w/recovering Iraq vet hit by police canister last month
#ShowPlug 2: #Occupy proved right again. 5,000 illegal foreclosures on serving vets. Pat Garofalo of @TPEconomy broke story, joins me
#ShowPlug 3: Cain reassessing reassessment. Now insists "all's fine" after Umpteenth Accuser. @NiaWapo Nia Malika-Henderson joins me
#ShowPlug 4: + Revelation today Bush's Treasury Secretary leaked plans for Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, to Wall Street cronies.w/Jeff Madrick
#ShowPlug5: it'll only kill the internet as you know it. Sen. @RonWyden on fight against Protect IP Act, ranging from him to Rand Paul
#ShowPlug Last: And why Jennifer Lopez makes tonight's roster of the Worst Persons In The World.
watch whole playlist
#5 'Occupy Day 74'
#5 'Dishonorably Discharged', Pat Garofalo
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#4 '"Here We Go Again"', Nia-Malika Henderson
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Hedge Had The Edge', Jeff Madrick
#2 Worst Persons: Jennifer Lopez & Fiat, Ann Coulter, USA Ammo
#1 'America Offline', Sen. Ron Wyden
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
printable PDF transcript
On the show: Pat Garofalo, Ron Wyden, Jeff Madrick, Nia-Malika Henderson
KEITH OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
(Excerpt from video clip) SCOTT OLSEN: My name is Scott Olsen. I'm 24 years old. I'm an Iraq veteran and I participate in Occupy.
OLBERMANN: The most famous casualty of Occupy Wall Street gives his first interview since being struck by a gas canister fired by police.
(Excerpt from video clip) OLSEN: To all of them I would have to say, "Stay peaceful," because that's what this is about. It's about working together.
OLBERMANN: The exclusive interview with Scott Olsen. The chaos continues at Occupy Washington in Olympia, Washington.
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: We are being peaceful!
OLBERMANN: And the reasons for Occupy continue. Ten top U.S. banks illegally foreclosed on the mortgages of nearly 5,000 active-duty U.S. military members. And in 2008, the then-Secretary of the Treasury leaked the news of the government takeover of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to Wall Street - including his own ex-employers, Goldman Sachs. So right here, right here, the son of a bitch is lying.
(Excerpt from video clip) HENRY PAULSON: I operated very consistently within the ethic guidelines I had as Secretary of the Treasury.
OLBERMANN: Going, going, almost gone.
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGER WHITE: I was aware that he was married.
OLBERMANN: Cain Accuser number - I've lost count - causes Herman Cain to say, "This is cause for reassessment," of his presidential pseudo-campaign. While polls show that after he reassesses and drops out, his supporters will be turned into a Newt.
The plot to kill the Internet. You heard me.
(Excerpt from video clip) RON WYDEN: Bills like PIPA and SOPA will do lasting damage to one of the fastest-growing, job-creating sectors of our economy, the Internet.
OLBERMANN: My guest - Senator Ron Wyden. And in "Worsts," Ann Coulter gets bleeped again.
(Excerpt from video clip) MADAM: Already you may have noticed that Wayland, over here, is no ventriloquist. But it doesn't matter, you see, because I'm no f------ dummy. Ha-ha-ha.
OLBERMANN: All that and more, now on "Countdown."
(Excerpt from video clip) MADAM: Get ready, it's my favorite word.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Tuesday, November 29th, 343 days until the 2012 presidential election.
The Occupy movement has no official leader, no official spokesman and no official hierarchy, but in our fifth story on the "Countdown" - it may have just found an unofficial symbol. Scott Olsen, the Iraq Marine veteran whose skull was fractured by a police gas canister a month ago returns to Occupy Oakland. The first words on camera from the remarkable man, in a moment.
First -Occupy, Day 74. In Olympia, Washington, 3,000 protesters surrounded the Capitol building to protest Governor Gregoire's proposed cuts to education, public safety and health care. Several hundred made it into the rotunda of the Capitol building and were forcibly removed, some by use of tasers. Overall, 30 protesters there cited and four arrested.
Occupy Oklahoma City protesters given until 11:00 P.M. Monday to vacate Kerr Park. Today, protesters appealed directly to the city council to allow them to remain. The deadline was extended till Thursday to allow the protesters time to seek an injunction from a federal judge.
In Florida, Occupy Tampa marched to city hall to present a proposal to Mayor Buckhorn that would allow them to remain in downtown Tampa. They've also extended an invitation for the mayor to attend a general assembly meeting. The mayor has yet to respond.
All of the protests, thankfully, were peaceful. While there were a number of arrests, it is a far cry from the police over-reaction we saw last month in Oakland. On October 25th, Occupy attempted to return to their camp at Frank Ogawa Plaza. Police clashed with the protesters, then fired tear-gas canisters when the protesters refused to disperse. One of the canisters struck Scott Olsen directly in the head. Over the weekend, the Iraq vet returned to Occupy Oakland. He spoke deliberately and occasionally struggled to find his words, but his message in this extraordinary interview was clear.
(Excerpt from video clip) SCOTT OLSEN: My name is Scott Olsen. I'm 24 years old. I am an Iraq veteran and I participate in Occupy. Originally, I started with Occupy SF and I just thought that Occupy Oakland was doing things a little differently - it was a bit different, so I came over here to check it out and - and then my - and I liked what was being done here with the teachings and the community here and I came - I came back on October 25th. I saw a tweet or something that said you guys needed help, that you guys needed support. So, I had nothing better to do. So, I jumped right in and came over here.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: Okay and that was - that was when the raid was happening? Or that was - that was after the raid, the next evening?
(Excerpt from video clip) OLSEN: It was - well, I think the raid was that morning or something. I'm not -
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: Yeah, it was like - about 5:00 A.M. that morning.
(Excerpt from video clip) OLSEN: Right. And I was at work, working all day and I got off and got over to here, like -
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: So you came to the march afterwards? Okay.
(Excerpt from video clip) OLSEN: Yeah. I got here at - 7:00 - like 20ish.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: Uh-huh.
(Excerpt from video clip) OLSEN: It was - you know, it was kind of late. And then, after being here for not too long, after standing up for our rights to exist here with a veteran, who was there with me and all the people that was - that were there, we were attacked and I was victimized. I was attacked. And I ended up in the hospital that night.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: They were shooting tear gas and you were - you were hit in the head. Can you tell me what you remember about that?
(Excerpt from video clip) OLSEN: Well, I - I took a step back and I walked across the - the right a little bit and I had my phone out. I was - texting or something to a friend of mine and next thing I know, I'm - I'm down and on the - on the ground and there are people above me, trying to - helped me and they ended up carrying me away. I didn't want them to. I wanted to get up, stay there, pick up my bag. But they carried me away and they asked me my - my name several times and I - I couldn't answer them. I couldn't answer what - I don't know if I could recall the answer or if I couldn't spit it out. But that's when I knew that - yeah, okay, it's time to go. Time to let them take care of me.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: Yeah. Did you - did you understand what had happened at the time? That you had been hit in the head?
(Excerpt from video clip) OLSEN: Not initially, I didn't know how I got wounded, initially. I didn't know. I was - I was down and I - I didn't know right away how. It was - it was a very frustrating process. Initially, I couldn't form any words. I couldn't make any words. But initially, like, my brain was all pretty much there. I'd have brain farts every - more often then everybody normally does, but - mentally, I was there and I just couldn't spit these things out of my mouth and they worked hard with me to get me better and - I am doing much better than when I look at myself a month ago, which was two days after the attack. You know, I was not doing good. But now I am doing a lot better from then.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: And what - what do you expect at - like, with your prognosis moving forward from here? I see you still wear a neck brace and -
(Excerpt from video clip) OLSEN: Uh-huh.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: You have a bandana, probably covering some damage to your forehead.
(Excerpt from video clip) OLSEN: Well, I wore - but the bandana anyway. It takes the hair out of my face but I've got this scar. The brain is, you know, unique in how it works - I - I expect a fully recovery but -
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: Okay.
(Excerpt from video clip) OLSEN: I don't know.
(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: Is there anything you'd like to -- to say, in general, to the politicians or the Chamber of Commerce or Occupy Oakland or - you know?
(Excerpt from video clip) OLSEN: To - to all of them, I would have to say, "Stay peaceful," because that's what this is about. It's about working together, working with - one another and it's about being open with each other and - and that's how we can solve our problems.
OLBERMANN: Scott Olsen.
The Occupy movement has remained peaceful, despite violent overreactionfrom the police. This has allowed the Occupy message - "We are the 99 percent," - and the idea of standing up for those wronged by larger institutions to be heard and received by the country, whether it be government, corrupt banking practices or a combination of the two.
But all this may have come too late for thousands of our troops, in fact - like Scott Olsen, the Iraq vet - who had their homes illegally foreclosed on. A report from the Treasury Department office, which regulates the national banks, shows that 10 of the top U.S. lenders may have illegally foreclosed on up to 5,000 active duty servicemen.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act of 2003 affords special protection to active military members, including restricting ability of a bank to foreclose on the home of an active duty serviceman while that individual is overseas. The banks involved should come as no surprise to you. Bank of America, reviewing 2,400 foreclosures, Wells Fargo, looking at 900, Citigroup 700, Aurora - which was Lehman Brothers - is reviewing 56 foreclosures, and - if you're surprised that JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley are not on that list - do not be surprised. They settled claims of illegal foreclosure on active-duty servicemembers earlier in the year.
For more on all this, let's bring in Pat Garofalo, economic policy editor at ThinkProgress. Pat, thanks for your time tonight.
PAT GAROFALO: Hey, thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: How could so many banks be involved in this? Were they actively targeting active military members or is this just what the banks do with every foreclosure and the servicepeople got swept up in that?
GAROFALO: I think it's more the latter. There's not much evidence that they were actively targeting service members, but the banks were trying to cut corners on tens of thousands of foreclosures. They were robo-signing documents, they were submitting fraudulent documents to courts and - as it turns out - lots of service members seemed to have been caught up in all of that.
OLBERMANN: Is there - is there a requirement in the law that they - they look to make sure they're not doing this? Is it - do they have to be pro-active? Do the banks have to be pro-active in avoiding this or - is there some excuse like, "Well, yeah, we had - we were doing this by our - our robot systems and we didn't catch any of these"?
GAROFALO: Well, the problem is that their robot systems entirely are illegal. You're not supposed to be approving foreclosures and stamping them one by one by one without actually looking at them.
And so, the whole process from the beginning was tarnished and was potentially illegal. And now, what a lot of the banks are doing is - they're actually settling the claims that have to do with the service members. As you said, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley settled those claims, but that actually hasn't fixed the system. They went on and settled the claims with service members and then kept on submitting fraudulent documents and robo-signing and keeping the whole entire process in place.
OLBERMANN: So, where there have been not been settlements, what happens to those who - who were unlawfully foreclosed on in - as this investigation unfolds? Is it - is it too late for them - for their homes?
GAROFALO: There is still some hope. These cases are all kind of working their way through the court system right now. It was only a - you know, few months ago that this story broke at all, that we had any idea that the banks were doing this, even though they've been doing it for years. So, hopefully, some of these homeowners will get some sort of compensation from the banks through the court system, but - as of right now - we haven't seen much of that.
OLBERMANN: The office that I refer to, which is the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, is merely reporting the numbers that it's - it's culled from - from those that were given to it by the banks. Who's in charge of - of overseeing the whole process and who is in charge of - to the degree that this is prosecuted? And we presume that would be - just be a slap on the wrist if anything happens, but who's in charge of the - of the digging into this?
GAROFALO: Unfortunately, right now there is really nobody overseeing the enforcement process except for the banks. A lot of the settlements that have come forward that the regulators have negotiated have literally put the banks in charge of their own enforcement mechanisms. They said to the banks, "Hey, go back and look at your foreclosures and make sure you did them properly."
The agencies that would be in charge of prosecuting these sorts of things, agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission - the SEC - don't have the resources to actively prosecute all of the cases that are coming up. You've actually seen the SEC settle a lot of these cases out of court for mere pennies with regard to how much damage the banks have done. And in large part, it's because the SEC just doesn't have the time or the resources to actually prosecute all of these huge banks.
OLBERMANN: You hate to think of the - of laws being used as chilling effects on lawbreakers, but there is - is there any indication that just merely the reporting of this has gotten the banks to - to be a little bit more careful, as it regards active military service members?
GAROFALO: With regard to service members, yes, because the banks know that seeing "Bank Forecloses Illegally on Active-Duty Military," is a terrible headline, but when it comes to everybody else - there really hasn't been much action. Even after the stories first broke about robo-signing and everybody saw the extent of what the banks were doing, for months, they kept on doing it. They actually didn't shut the processes down at all.
OLBERMANN: Pat Garofalo of ThinkProgress, who did excellent writing on this today. Great thanks for some for your time tonight.
GAROFALO: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Last night, after his sex scandal of the week, Herman Cain said he was reassessing his campaign. Tonight, an indication that Herman Cain is reassessing his reassessment. Just dropped in to see what condition his condition was in. Next on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: Yesterday, accuser number - a lot - says he had an extramarital affair with her for 13 years. He then says he's reassessing his presidential bid. Now he says "Nine-nine-nine, we're doin' fine." Tonight, he's asking for donations because she's a troubled woman.
You're the Secretary of the Treasury and you've just learned your government is going to bail out Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. What do you do? Turns out, naturally, he tipped his former employers and employees on Wall Street about the government plans.
The bill is called the PROTECT IP Act. In fact, it so obviously crushes freedom on the Internet so much that everybody from Ron Wyden to Rand Paul is strategizing on how to kill it. Senator Wyden joins me. And ten words - Jennifer Lopez, one of tonight's "Worst Persons in the World."
OLBERMANN: The latest in his chorus line of sexual-misconduct accusers had Herman Cain reassessing his campaign last night at this time, but now he says his bizarre presidential bid is "Nine-nine-nine and doing fine."
In our fourth story tonight - Cain brushing off reports that he'll drop out. Reports he, himself, had fed. While Newt Gingrich, no stranger to extramarital scandal himself, looks poised to benefit - reap the benefits, rather - if Cain supporters do desert him. Late today, Cain responding to the question whether he'll drop out in a way only he can.
(Excerpt from video clip) CAIN: Nine-nine-nine. Doin' fine.
OLBERMANN: That tone somewhat different from the one he took in a conference call this morning, in which he reportedly told senior staff he was considering dropping out, explaining, "Now with this latest one, we have to do an assessment as to whether or not this is going to create too much of a cloud in some people's minds as to whether or not they should support us going forward."
Right after that call, though, his lawyer - Lin Wood - doing damage control, saying, "Any report that Mr. Cain has decided to withdraw his candidacy is inaccurate."
This, of course, coming after Atlanta resident Ginger White alleged yesterday she had had a 13-year-long extramarital affair with Cain. In a fundraising email to supporters this evening, Cain attempting to discredit her - that's a mild term for it - saying she is "a trouble Atlanta businesswoman who used national media outlets to promulgate a fabricated, unsubstantiated story about a 13-year affair with me." There'd better not be any receipts.
While Cain denies the allegations, another candidate - famous for his own affairs - could stand to benefit. Cain's supporters now expressing support for Newt Gingrich, the man who famously left his cancer-stricken wife, then later cheated on his second wife with the woman who would become his third wife. A public-policy poll out today finding that Cain supporters would still overwhelmingly choose Gingrich instead of Mitt Romney. Seventy-three percent of Cain's supporters saying they view Gingrich favorably. Thirty-three percent saying the same about Romney.
Joining me now, "Countdown" contributor Nia-Malika Henderson, national political reporter for The Washington Post. Good evening, Nia.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Hey, Keith, it's good to see you.
OLBERMANN: Good to see you, too. This morning, Cain says he's reassessing. Now he's saying, "Nine-nine-nine and doing fine." Did something change, or is this more like what we, sort of, came to know as his - his previous consistent inconsistency?
HENDERSON: No, I think you're right. It is this campaign that seems to be all over the map, seems to not know what it's doing from minute to minute. Advisers say one thing and then another adviser will say another. I got off of the phone with his top - one of his top communications guys, who says he's in it to win it, that he's gonna go through this thing - be in Iowa, New Hampshire and all over the place - but I think we have seen a campaign today that has looked like what this campaign has looked like before, which is this troubled campaign, which is this campaign unable to stay on message. That's something you saw them try to do today, with this speech out in Michigan about foreign policy.
HENDERSON: But again, he seems like he's all over the place. We'll hear him again tomorrow on Fox News. They have said that by "reassessing," they actually mean they're reassessing - not whether or not he's gonna drop out - but reassessing what states he'll go to, reassessing what speeches he makes, reassessing what interviews he'll give. So, that's what they said. They've also said just not to read so much into the word "reassessing." So they are - again, they're all over the map.
I think probably one of the biggest takeaways from the Ginger White interview - for me, at least - was her statement that "Herman Cain loves Herman Cain," and I think - you know, if that's the takeaway, I think we could possibly expect that he might be in this thing for awhile.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, also, if that's the - the judgment by which we - we assess presidential candidates, nobody's ever gonna run for president ever again. They all - they all love themselves, but -
OLBERMANN: One thing from this email that just caught my eye here. He's describing Ms. White as - he says, "I have helped her financially at times, over the past few years, just as I have helped many friends and acquaintances through the - throughout the years." And then he asks people to - to donate money to his campaign. We could talk about the irony of that juxtaposition, but what happens to him - and I know we keep assuming that, at one point, he's just gonna go, "Okay, ya got me" - but what happens to him if - when he's denied this utterly, there turn out to - as I - as I - as I referred to it earlier - there turn out to be receipts or verification of her story, even in part?
HENDERSON: Yeah, well, so far we haven't seen that with her story. You can imagine that, if she had those receipts, that perhaps she would have showed them already. She does have the records that there were 60 phone calls between them - 4:00 AM calls from Herman Cain to her. So, there is that evidence and you have seen Republicans finally come out and say, "You know what? This is pretty serious and this is something that could really tank his campaign."
Of course, his rivals have said that - Michele Bachmann, for instance. But then, other Republicans: Mike Huckabee, Sean Hannity, on his show - who'd been a real champion of Herman Cain and really defending him against those sexual-harassment allegations - again, has come out to say that this really chips away at Herman Cain's likeability.
OLBERMANN: The premise and - and obviously, this has been building for awhile, that Gingrich is the front-runner - and so far, that's only meant, in the GOP race, you get be next in the game of self-destruction - can Gingrich self-destruct or is his - his own baggage so well-known that he might actually last or might he be vulnerable, in an unusual way, because it - the spotlight might be on his policy? I mean, this is a man who last week suggested repealing some child labor laws so 13-year-olds could become janitors.
HENDERSON: Right, well, in Republicans' circles, that's known as a bold idea and I think - you know, I talked to some folks in Iowa and they say they - and these were evangelicals - they say they are aware of Newt Gingrich's baggage, his personal baggage, and that it's in the past and that, in some ways, he's asked for forgiveness. They've moved on.
They like him because they think he's a smart guy. They think he can take it to Barack Obama. They think he has that anger that so many folks in the tea party feel. And so, that's something that I think will do him some good out in Iowa. But again, he does have this baggage, not only personally, but this personal baggage - appearing in these commercials with Nancy Pelosi, appearing with Al Sharpton, to basically say that the Department of Education under Barack Obama is doing - is doing well. And, of course, we know this is a party for some folks who have said, "Let's abolish the Department of Education."
So, I think there is going to be increased scrutiny, but I gotta say - people do not like Romney. There was a focus group out in Iowa and the words that came up to describe Newt Gingrich - "brilliant" - and the words that came up to describe Mitt Romney was "opportunist." So, there's a real divide there, I think, in terms of perception and people just have not warmed up to Romney.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, like those two things are mutually exclusive, too. I mentioned --
OLBERMANN: I mentioned the other, earlier front-runners. Perry -- bless him, he doesn't know it's over - it turns out, in fact, he doesn't know a lot of stuff. There's a clip you have to see and I need your reaction to this - from Manchester, New Hampshire, today:
(Excerpt from video clip) RICK PERRY: Those of you that are - will be 21 by November the 12th, I ask for your support and your vote. Those of you who won't be, just work hard.
OLBERMANN: Doesn't know the voting age in the United States of America. Just - is the line from "The Producers" "Oops"? "Just say "Oops" and get out?
HENDERSON: Yeah, no, you know - I guess he's thinking of the drinking age. I don't know if the person chuckling in the audience there is chuckling at his not knowing that or what, but, yeah, I mean, it's "oops," you know, and he was in New Hampshire, obviously, campaigning with Sheriff Joe - out of Arizona - who, you know, is, in some ways, a problematic figure for - in Republican circles - and especially in Republican circles in New Hampshire - so folks thought that was a bad idea in New Hampshire, trying to court Republican voters by saying that his - his approach to immigration is the one they want to see.
But you're right. I mean, this guy is dead in the water. Talked to folks in Iowa, they say he's dead in the water there. So, it's hard to see, you know - we're talking about Herman Cain reassessing his candidacy. That's something that Rick Perry certainly probably needs to do as well.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, that's not gonna happen either. "Countdown" contributor, Nia-Malika Henderson of The Washington Post. As always, great thanks.
HENDERSON: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Do you like the Internet? Do you like the way it is now? Do you think that a bill that is opposed by Rand Paul and Ron Wyden and me and a bunch of ultra-conservatives on the Web - do you think that seems to indicate that it might be a bad thing for the way the Internet is now? Senator Wyden joins me, ahead.
OLBERMANN: You thought the Secretary of the Treasury in the Bush administration merely favored his old Wall Street cronies? No, he tipped them off about what the government was going to do next about Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Next.
First, the "Sanity Break," and on this date in 1901, East 182nd Street in the Bronx was paved and opened to traffic, marking the last time a New York City street has been both fully paved and fully opened to traffic.
"Time Marches On!"
VIDEO: Porcupine loves corn on the cob.
We begin - as we always do - with a porcupine eating corn on the cob. You have to be careful in this situation, it could get prickly. Ah-ha-ha! Ehh.
And when someone tries to take the corn away, he's not having it. It's like they always say, porcupines love corn on the cob. Oddly enough, the reverse is also true.
"Get your damn government hands off my stinking corn on the cob!"
VIDEO: Chinese dog goes shopping.
We travel to China, where if you don't have time to get all your shopping done, this dog will do it for you. That's right, he's taken "fetch" to an entirely new level. "Wait, I have a coupon!"
Not only does he do the shopping, he'll also find you the best deal. The only drawback? He tends to come home with a lot more bones and dog treats than you originally put on your shopping list.
VIDEO: Hunter shoots his own hat, but luckily not his own face.
Finally, we end with some hunting. Apparently the game this man is after is the North American glass bottle. But when the gun seems to be jammed up, he takes a look down the barrel of the gun. And - boom goes the dynamite. Hope you didn't like that hat.
Man, is he lucky. This guy would be a good hunting buddy for Dick Cheney because - now that Dick has no pulse - this would save him a lot of effort because the guy shoots himself in the - boom. From way downtown - bang.
"Time Marches On!"
How could Jennifer Lopez possibly merit being one of the "Worst Persons in the World," and I'm not criticizing her acting or her singing? The answer, presently, on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: Dumont's coverage of The Army-McCarthy hearings will not be seen tonight so we can instead bring you "Countdown," the first news hour on cable to seriously cover Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy movement. The longest continuously-running 8:00 P.M. news hour on cable, unless you consider Fox - "news." We are live each night at 8:00 P.M. Eastern. We call it "our little social-media platform."
KEITH OLBERMANN: A secret meeting - here in New York, in July 2008 - between President Bush's Treasury Secretary and about a dozen top hedge-fund managers, right before the economy fell apart.
In our third story on the "Countdown" - nothing suspicious there, huh? News today that those hedge-fund managers got advanced word from Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson about how he would deal with the impending disaster at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and their trillions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities.
The story, released this morning by Bloomberg Markets magazine, said Paulson's little lunch group included at least five former employees of Goldman Sachs, which he used to run. Did Paulson's inside information really help the hedge-fund managers? Remembering that hedge funds are exactly what the name implies - means for big money investors to hedge their bets in case the stock market falls - consider the context. The morning of Paulson's illicit meeting, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had opened at nearly 11,500 and, seven months later, the market had fallen so far that it had lost more than one-third of its value. It's not the first time Paulson's dealings have been questioned. Before a Congressional committee a year later, Republican Representative Cliff Stearns of Florida seemed appalled by how Paulson had bailed out some financial institutions.
(Excerpt from video clip) HENRY PAULSON: The next thing I would to say to you, and say it very, very clearly, is I - you know, I behaved with the -
(Excerpt from video clip) CLIFF STEARNS: You don't think you should've recused yourself when you asked Lehman to go into bankruptcy and you didn't put Bear Stearns in bankruptcy and then you folded Merrill Lynch into - I mean, isn't there some point where you gotta say, "Hey, I got a conflict of interest here"?
OLBERMANN: Always a pleasure to welcome in the economist Jeff Madrick, senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and the author of "Age of Greed." Good to see you again, sir.
JEFF MADRICK: Good to see you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: This sounds to me - as a layman - as if this is the ultimate insider trading. The hedge-fund managers get inside info from the Treasury Secretary before he does what he's going to do. What do they do, theoretically, and what's the evidence that they actually did it?
MADRICK: There is not much evidence that they actually did it.
MADRICK: What they could have done was sell Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac. He told them he was going to take them into conservatorship. That means they were gonna wipe out the stock. They could have sold the stock to unsuspecting investors and not have to pay it back. So, they could have made 10, 14 bucks on that - those shares with no risk. Did they do it? We don't know for sure.
Is it likely that none of them did anything - even tell their best buddies in the other hedge funds about it? You know, I think the question answers itself. But I really have to answer - I really have to make clear how much this is taking advantage.
MADRICK: Of those who are not on the inside.
MADRICK: Because people often call insider trading a victimless crime. In the last "Wall Street" movie, they used that phrase. It's not - let me go on.
OLBERMANN: Of course - no, yeah, I was just gonna say - how - people actually consider it a victimless crime when - when people who have more information are playing on the same field as - it's as if you had people playing football who had wheels on the bottom of their feet, rather than shoes.
MADRICK: Exactly, it is indeed. I always use the example - and maybe I've used it with you - of the 1800s, when, if you knew where the train tracks were going -
OLBERMANN: Exactly, yes.
MADRICK: Boy, you could make a fortune. Well, needless to say, some people named Gould and Harriman and so forth knew and their cronies knew and so forth. You buy up the land from the unsuspecting farmers -
MADRICK: At a very low price. Farmland goes up. Same thing with insider trading. So, the idea that Paulson talked to these friends of his about this kind of thing suggests to me a set of values that's very disturbing.
MADRICK: Not surprising. What's surprising is we actually found out about it. Congratulations to Bloomberg. But the set of values that suggests, "It's okay to take advantage of those people on the outside -- who are they? We don't have to worry about them. We have a privilege. We are special people." And I think that's what's driven "Age of Greed," if you don't mind my saying that - the new title of my book. That kind of attitude - "Let's not care about the little guys, the medium-size guys, even some of the big guys who, after all manage pension funds for all of us. Let's just care about ourselves."
OLBERMANN: Right, so we know, ethically, this has - this has very little legs to stand on. Is it - is it illegal in any way? Is there any - you can put Paulson in jail or anything?
MADRICK: No, you cannot put Paulson in jail. If they traded on the inside information - and it can still be discovered that they did, if the SEC decides to investigate or the Justice Department - if they traded on inside information, it would be illegal. Insider-information law is not entirely clear. It's much less ambiguous than it used to be. What is clear is they could not trade and make money on that information. But again, to me, the shock - but the non-shock - is the set of values.
MADRICK: These people - this willingness to take advantage of others.
OLBERMANN: And there's a personal twist to this? He wound up - Paulson wound up at the University of Chicago? What's the meaning of that?
MADRICK: Well, to me, it has some meaning.
MADRICK: I do not treat Milton Friedman very well in my book. That was the House of Milton Friedman built - the House of Deregulation, laissez-faire, "Keep government out of almost everything" - and it's entirely appropriate that Hank Paulsen is there.
OLBERMANN: In the Friedman chair. All right, we had this thing yesterday - $13 billion in pure profits out of the Fed. Now, we have this - about the ethically null-and-void Treasury Secretary. What are you expecting next to fall out from the Bush administration and the falling of the economy in 2008?
MADRICK: Well, there's a good question. I think that we have to begin to understand - for a moment - TARP, Ben Bernanke and the Obama stimulus looks enlightened, compared to what's going on in Europe. I mean, that is really something.
But the fact that they couldn't use their advantage to get the economy going again - I don't know what secrets lie of that. What's very clear is the banks were bailed out, friends were bailed out. They made a lot of money. It was very easy to make money, as we found out in that story.
You just borrow at very low rates, you invest in slightly higher rates - riskless on that side - and then you borrow a lot of money to lever your investment and you're making a fortune.
One friend of mine, Herb Allison - who's now looking into the solar investments for the administration, hired by them, used to be president of Merrill Lynch - says nobody should get a bonus based on that kind of trading - borrowing low, investing a little more and just levering up your investment. And they got millions - tens of millions, twenties of millions - of dollars in bonuses. It's pretty ugly.
MADRICK: I would call it corrupt.
OLBERMANN: I think that's - that's the polite term for it. The author of "Age of Greed," Jeff Madrick. A pleasure, as always, sir.
MADRICK: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: It's nothing important, here. It's just an attempt to stop websites that rely on user-created material. You know, like everything from Daily Kos to Free Republic. Senator Ron Wyden joins me, ahead.
OLBERMANN: When this guy is in agreement with me about anything, you know it's damned serious stuff. The attempt to kill the Internet as you know it.
And do you notice anything wrong with this ad from one of those gun-nut websites, warning you about how President Obama is just the latest "dictator" to try to seize your guns? One of these men is not a dictator. I mean - besides Obama. Next.
OLBERMANN: It's nothing short of a plan to kill the Internet as you know it. Senator Ron Wyden, on the PROTECT IP Act, next.
First, because this is where I try to protect sanity, here are "Countdown's" top-three nominees for today's "Worst Persons in the World."
The bronze - to entertainer Jennifer Lopez and Fiat. You may have seen this commercial, in which Lopez is driving around in what looks like a toy car, while she says, "Here, this is my world. This place inspires me. They may be just streets to you but to me, they're a playground."
The implication, obviously, is that it's good ol' Jenny from the block, driving around her native New York borough - and mine - the Bronx. Nope. It turns out all the shots of her were filmed in a soundstage in LA and intercut with footage from the Bronx.
Now, it turns out that the big "I heart the Bronx" mural given such prominent play in the commercial - that belongs to a group of artists called TATS Cru - T-A-T-S Cru - and the first time they heard about it being in the commercial was when they saw the commercial. One of the artists says they've called their lawyer.
One other thing about the Fiat ad - that tiny Fiat that Jennifer Lopez is not driving around the Bronx looks like one of those little cars you see all the clowns piling out of at the circus.
The runner-up tonight? Ann Coulter - "Coultergeist" - bleeped three separate times for 13 total seconds - which is a hell of a lot of bleeps - on television this morning, because before she called the late, great Senator Ted Kennedy "human pestilence," she apparently called - twice - Senator John McCain a "douchebag."
So, while we're at this - I know my friend Bill Maher respects Coultergeist because she'll say things when people boo. And I have other friends who actually think she's funny, sometimes even intentionally. But let's face it - Ann Coulter's an asshole.
By the way, did I see something amiss with that photo? Let me see that photo of her again. Oh, see? That's not fair. Ann Coulter as Madam from Waylon Jennings and Madam? That's totally inappropriate. Coulter isn't gray-haired. She dyes it blonde. I'm very sorry.
But our winners? USA Ammo, one of the arms dealers trying to make cash by scaring gun owners. The premise is, "Buy your weapons now, because President Obama will eliminate gun ownership right after his re-election." I wish.
"Gun control is one election away," warns the ad e-mail to the craziest readers of the crazy website, WorldNetDaily. It shows various dictators who instituted gun control, leaving people who "unable to defend themselves, were imprisoned, enslaved and annihilated." The ad then urges readers to buy their friends, for Christmas, "Something they'll love before it's too late."
All this is the usual gun-nut ammo M.O., try to terrify the stupid into buying guns and bullets, with which they are far more likely to blow off their own heads - see the earlier video - or some innocent passersby than stop some government takeover, which - if it ever happens - is probably going to come from Congressman Steve King, not Barack Obama.
But USA Ammo earns this honor - not for its paranoia-exploiting salesmanship - rather for its stupidity. Those gun-grabbing dictators - let's take a look. From left to right: Chinese dictator and mass murderer Mao Zedong; Josef Stalin, the sadistic strongman of the Soviet Union; Adolf Hitler, no introduction necessary; the madman who turned Cambodia into "The Killing Fields," Pol Pot and - of course - Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker, who caused such devastation when he posed for this freakin' publicity shot during the filming of his movie, "The Last King of Scotland."
Seriously, you want to terrify the unwashed into stockpiling AK-47s, so you show them oppressive dictators who took away guns and you use a picture of Forest Whitaker? Genius, I tell you! Genius!
Ammo USA - not exactly overflowing with the brainpower - today's "Worst Persons in the World."
OLBERMANN: Once again, I need to apologize about the Ann Coulter remark. I'm very sorry. That was not Waylon Jennings and Madam, it was "Wayland Flowers and Madam." I apologize to Waylon Jennings and Wayland Flowers - and Madam.
Freedom to use the Internet, as you currently do so, may be a thing of the past if some in Washington have their way. In our number-one story on the "Countdown" - both houses of Congress have now introduced bills aimed at fighting online piracy, which are actually much more likely to end up killing commerce and freedom of speech.
The Senate's PROTECT IP Act was intended to target foreign-based websites that deal in counterfeit goods and copyrighted material. The House then took it a step further with its bill - the Stop Online Piracy Act - targeting U.S.-based sites as well. Online piracy obviously should be controlled. The music industry alone saw 40 billion files shared illegally in 2008. The way the legislation is written, a copyright holder - meaning a major movie or recording studio - could use the Department of Justice to effectively take down websites which unknowingly host pirated material.
Technically, a large corporation should - could shut down an upstart competitor, or someone saying negative things about its product, without ever having to go to court. While the Motion Picture Association and Recording Industry Association are both big supporters of both bills, many in Silicon Valley are leading the charge against the legislation. A representative from Google testified to the House Judiciary Committee:
(Excerpt from video clip) KATHERINE OYAMA: We are as motivated as anyone to get this right. But the Stop Online Piracy Act is not the right approach. SOPA would undermine the legal, commercial and cultural architecture that has propelled the extraordinary growth of Internet commerce over the past decade - a sector that has grown to $2 trillion annual U.S. GDP, including $300 billion from online advertising. Virtually every major Internet company - from Twitter to Facebook, Yahoo! and eBay - as well as a diverse array of other groups - from venture capitalists to librarians to musicians - have expressed serious concerns about this bill.
OLBERMANN: The House bill is still in committee. The Senate version has already passed unanimously through the Judiciary Committee, which is headed by Democrat Pat Leahy - the same Senator who introduced the bill. It's expected to reach a full chamber vote in the next few months. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon - threatening to filibuster if it reaches the Senate floor in its current form - and he's been good enough to join to us tonight. Senator, good to talk to you again.
RON WYDEN: Thanks for having me back, Keith.
OLBERMANN: All right, hit me on this - why is the legislation so dangerous and what do we lose if it passes?
WYDEN: What the problem here is - is this bill essentially uses a bunker-buster bomb when you ought to go in there with a laser beam. I mean, the fact of the matter is - if you're talking about bad actors, you oughtta handcuff them. If they're selling tainted Viagra or fake Rolexes or movies they don't own, come after them. But these bills that you've just described go much, much further.
And they would, in my view, do a lot of damage to what we believe makes the Internet so special. The Internet is a place that's open to all. It's a place where, if you've got a good idea, you can take it worldwide. The Internet is a shipping lane of the 21st century and, as you noted, I think this would do a lot damage to the part of our economy that's growing.
OLBERMANN: What's the worst case scenario, Senator? Why would - why would websites that rely on user-generated material be vulnerable and - I guess as a corollary to that - why is every political website, from Daily Kos to Free Republic, opposed to this?
WYDEN: Because this does so much damage to - to innovation. Again, the strongest part of the American economy today. There's a old saying that the American economy is about two guys in a garage. You pass these bills, it's not gonna be two guys in a garage. They're gonna have to have a whole floor upstairs, just full of - of lawyers.
I mean, this is really a lawyers' full-employment program. All of the - all of the mandates and particularly, what is this does is it changes a law - The Digital Millennium Copyright Act - that, it's not perfect but it does a decent job, in terms of striking a balance. It provides for what's called "Notice and Take Down," if you have, for example, infringing content. What you're talking about here is essentially a blacklisting program, a censorship program. It'd do an awful lot of damage to the 'Net.
OLBERMANN: The - the bipartisan alternative to this - that you're working on with Senators and members of the House - how do you - how do you secure the actual piracy issue that does remain out there, beyond those takedown measures?
WYDEN: Our focus is to try to narrow the scope. I mean, the big problem with these bills is they essentially turn websites into web cops. I mean, you know, YouTube is getting something like 24 hours of video a minute. Nobody can monitor all of that stuff. The only people that probably try are the Iranians and the Chinese. Thank goodness they haven't succeeded, but that's not a model we want to follow.
So, let's narrow the scope, let's go after the bad actors. We're looking on a bipartisan basis at some ways, for example, to work with the payment processors - we could cut them off. But the focus ought to be to narrow the scope and - particularly with the Internet - do no harm.
OLBERMANN: Speaking of "Do no harm," do you think this is flawed legislation or somebody sneaking - trying to sneak - the Trojan Horse in, under a transom? And I know I mixed a couple of analogies there.
WYDEN: I think this is an example of a very powerful industry - the content sector - essentially trying to use a government as a club over the innovation sector, particularly folks who focus on the Internet.
And we're up against some of the most powerful, most moneyed interests in Washington. They've always been resistant to innovation. It wasn't very long ago when they were comparing the VCR to the Boston Strangler. The VCR was a huge bonus for the movie industries, so we're up against some very powerful interests but, boy, we're coming on. In the last few days, hundreds of - of thousands of folks have gotten involved in supporting our site.
OLBERMANN: Good. Remember, television was supposed to kill sports, too.
WYDEN: There you are.
OLBERMANN: Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon - as usual, on the side of the angels - here. Great thanks for some of your time tonight, sir.
WYDEN: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: That's "Countdown" for this, the 325th day since John Boehner and the Republicans took the House, thus 325 days in which the Republicans have not passed a jobs bill of any kind. I'm Keith Olbermann. Congratulations on getting through another day of this crap. Good night and good luck.