Thursday, December 1, 2011

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, December 1st, 2011
video 'podcast'

#ShowPlug 1: Our special guest, just back from visiting #OWS: Jackson Browne @RealBrowne Plus AZ pepper-spray video, C'ville arrests

#ShowPlug 2: Is Occupy over? No! Frank Luntz; GOP manipulator says it scares him; he now coaches GOP on what not to say; @Markos joins me

#ShowPlug 3: MA ends taking bribes from banks as settlements; sues over chicanery, plus Chase VP reveals predatory lending was planned

#ShowPlug 4: We've sent a Rover to Mars complete with A Fricking Laser Ray Gun + Earth Germs? @CoolAstronomer Derrick Pitts joins me

#ShowPlug Last: Very, very sad: Michele Bachmann explains gays CAN marry anywhere. "They can marry a woman if they're a man." Oh. Oh Dear.

watch whole playlist

#5 'Occupy Wall Street'

#5 'Occupy This Album', Jackson Browne
YouTube, (excerpt)

#4 'Spin Cycle', Markos Moulitsas
YouTube, (excerpt)

# Time Marches On!

#3 'Suit's On!', Pat Garofalo

#2 Worst Persons: National Review, Rep. Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, YouTube

#1 'Mars Attack', Derrick Pitts

printable PDF transcript

On the show: , , , ,

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

The arrests continue - 18 at Occupy Charlottesville, as they human-mic Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech.

(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: We refuse!

(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: We refuse!

(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: To believe!

(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: To believe!

(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: That the bank of justice!

(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: That the bank of justice!

(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: Is bankrupt!

(Excerpt from video clip) CROWD: Is bankrupt!

OLBERMANN: Two more arrested in Minneapolis.

(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: I wanted to get my jacket!

OLBERMANN: And in Phoenix, police say those protesting the Koch Brothers-funded ALEC meeting tried to push through their lines, so then they pepper sprayed them. Maybe not.

(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: My whole face is burning right now. My eyes are stinging. But it doesn't mean I'm gonna stop either.

OLBERMANN: And in New York - Morello, Seeger, Crosby and Nash and, today, Jackson Browne.

(Excerpt from video clip) JACKSON BROWNE: I only know one party and it is freedom.

OLBERMANN: Our special guest, Jackson Browne.

The right wants you to think Occupy is over - yet it's so terrified, the Republican Governors Association brought in spin-doctor Frank Luntz to warn them, "I'm so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I'm frightened to death. They're having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism." And to offer his top 10 Do's and Don'ts about Occupy. Number one, "Don't say capitalism!"

Markos Moulitsas joins me.

It's all true. A Chase vice president admits his bank pushed minorities towards sub-prime mortgages because, "We're gonna make billions out of it - so who cares? The government is going to bail us out."

The Mars rover hits the ground running, but there was a NASA shortcut. We may have just contaminated Mars with Earth germs.

And after being pounded for advocating the repeal of child-labor laws, Newt "Breakfast At Tiffany's" Gingrich doubles down. Let 13-year-olds become bookkeepers or assistant librarians.

(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: What if they became assistant janitors and their job was to mop the floor and clean the bathroom?

OLBERMANN: You first. All that and more now, on "Countdown."

(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: Get a job, right after you take a bath.


OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Thursday, December 1st, 341 days until the 2012 presidential election.

Zucotti Park occupied again today. This time, by singers backing the Occupy movement with their voices, guitars and - soon - a benefit album, while police arrest more Occupy protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia and in Minneapolis.

And new video shows Phoenix police hosing down Occupy demonstrators with pepper spray, showing the same callousness we've seen at similar protests in New York, Seattle and UC Davis.

The fifth story on the "Countdown" - he didn't draw just protesters. There were Wall Streeters in the crowd too, but Jackson Browne spoke and performed and will join us here, in a moment. This, while a conservative sang a different tune - one that may be even more convincing - about the fear Occupy instills in the far right.

In New York, Zuccotti listeners treated first to music from Stephen Jenkins - vocalist and guitarist with the San Francisco alternative group Third Eye Blind - Mr. Browne following with a brief set, including this haunting song written by Steven Van Zandt, "I am a Patriot."

(Excerpt from video clip) JACKSON BROWNE: And I ain't no communist/But I ain't no capitalist/And I ain't no socialist/But I ain't no imperialist/And I ain't no Democrat/But I ain't no Republican/I only know one party/And it is freedom.

OLBERMANN: Jackson Browne and Third Eye Blind among more than 20 performers contributing to "Occupy this Album," a record to benefit the Occupy movement.

Elsewhere in the Occupy movement today, Charlottesville, Virginia police arresting 18 protesters in Lee Park early this morning, charging all 18 with trespass. Occupy Charlottesville reportedly figuring out where to move to next. City officials may grant permission for a new camp in another park.

Two more arrests today in Minneapolis, following police pulling down tents in front of Minneapolis' downtown Government Center. Occupy Minnesota protesters had set up 30 tents, saying it's a public space - a people's plaza and a county plaza. But a county sheriff insisting the tents were not allowed on Government Center property.

In Boston, Occupy attorneys in court today to try to keep a court order in place that would allow protesters to remain there, in Dewey Square. Boston Fire Marshal Bart Shea telling Superior Court Judge Frances McIntyre "People need to be removed from that site immediately. I fear for the life and safety of everyone on that property."

This is the new national meme. You can block traffic in any city with smelly tents and booths as long as you call it a Christmas Village and you accept Visa and Mastercard. The authorities magically fear no fire then. In Boston, the Occupy attorney, Howard Cooper insisting safety was not the issue:

(Excerpt from video clip) HOWARD COOPER: The issue is a balance. Public safety doesn't defeat free speech.

OLBERMANN: Judge McIntyre is expected to rule, no later than December 15th, on whether that court order and Occupy Boston can stay in place.

From Phoenix - this is the video of police pepper spraying a crowd from the story we first reported last night. Occupy demonstrators on hand to protest a meeting of ALEC - the conservative legislation mill, much-beloved of the Koch Brothers. Phoenix police claiming they used the spray after protesters tried to push their way through the barrier. One protester - and perhaps this videotape - saying to the contrary.

(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: The cops just decide to every once in awhile - "Oh, let's just start spraying the crowd." It's like crowd control, rather than any kind of defensive, you know, measure.

OLBERMANN: Exactly. Lazy crowd control.

And Wells Fargo branch or - ha-ha, that's an ironic statement - Wells Fargo Bank CEO John Stumpf may have wanted to take some defensive measures of his own. Occupy protesters interrupting his speech last night at North Carolina State's Poole College of Management. The protesters accusing Wells Fargo of predatory lending and leadership that's "lead to the death of the American dream." More on predatory lending and what Massachusetts is suing about a little while later on in the program. Police led a dozen out of the auditorium without making any arrests.

Now, as promised - my great pleasure to welcome to "Countdown" the activist and singer/songwriter Jackson Browne.

BROWNE: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Our pleasure.

BROWNE: It's great to be here.

OLBERMANN: Thank you.

BROWNE: How long have you been following this and - and - we were talking beforehand - this wasn't your first trip?

BROWNE: No, yeah, I went down there a month or so ago, in October. I was on tour and I - I was invited to - to go visit the - the Occupy encampment in Washington, D.C. but - being on tour, I can't really - I mean, there are no microphones. There's like a - I protect my voice, even on my days off so it wasn't really set up for me to go and - and do it but I went down there quietly and just sort of walked around and spoke to - spoke to some people and - and just figured I would come back and - and sing as soon as I got off of my tour - my tour, so - I've been following it since the beginning, since before it started, really, you know, having received the e-mails and the calls, you know.

But I don't think that I guessed that it would - it would turn into what it's turned into and I'm so happy that it has.

OLBERMANN: Particularly, the efforts that - the extraordinary efforts being made to - to suppress it, to discredit it, to - to spray it, to - to claim it must be unhealthy, to say - probably next thing is it's - it could probably cause cancer. Who knows what the next -

BROWN: Well, it's a -

OLBERMANN: Claim will be?

BROWNE: It's a sign that it's being effective. I mean, they don't really - they don't go to those lengths if it's not really reaching anybody, but I think, obviously, the fact that it's - that it's sprung up in so many places and it has such a resonance with - with the Arab Spring and with demonstrations in other parts of the world.

I used to think, when - when all of France would be shut down by unionists and students - I'd think what - why can't that happen in the United States? But I think that it is possible that this will really have a real effect on our electoral politics and, obviously, when you have people in Minneapolis - I mean, places all over the country, concurrently, all at the same time, you know, taking on the - the perceived ills, you know, in this manner - because it's non-violent, but it's extremely confrontational.

And of course, anything you do to confront and question the authority, whether you can gather, you know - I mean, I was wondering about the one in - in D.C. and whether or not they'll try to shut that down because that would be really - tacky.

OLBERMANN: Yes. And easily exposed to just the people they don't want out there covering this, which would be all the Washington political reporters.

BROWNE: Right.

OLBERMANN: So there's a reason to just, sort of, let it alone - 'til at least the last minute.

But that - that raises the - the question of what has been done in other places. We saw this at UC Davis, ten days ago - to horrible effect - on the Davis crowd and the pepper spraying that we - the video we just showed from Arizona, which was yesterday. Does it - you've seen a lot of protests, much of what you've done has been inspired by protests and has been relevant to protest throughout your career - when you see this being done as the lazy crowd-control methods that it's being used for -

BROWNE: I think they're freakin' out.


BROWNE: They're just freaking out. I mean, to actually - to empower their - you know, their - their officers to just walk up and, you know - and coldly just pepper spray nonviolent protesters is, I think, a sign that - that somebody's met - decided this is a - a shift in the tactics. I mean, if you've -if you've ever followed any of the COINTELPRO, you there - there was a point at which law enforcement began to meet with federal agencies about -


BROWNE: About crowd control and about, really, suppressing dissent and - and so - there are those agencies who do that and connect law enforcement. You're not supposed to. Apparently federal agencies are not supposed to be involved in - in local crowd control but they - I think they admitted the other day that they - that there was a meeting and, you know - but it's just like Gingrich talking about being - not being a lobbyist, you know? Like it's - I mean, it - there's a little bit of doubletalk going on there but whether or not they're really telling people, "Okay, it's time to step it up. This is an embarrassment," or whether, you know - whether or not they're just - individually, as a class of people - freaking out.

OLBERMANN: But, you'll remember this and I - and I remember it. Whenever efforts were made to - to quash protests, as late as the Sixties, each time that that was attempted, the protests got bigger.


OLBERMANN: Because more people realized that there was actually something to protest. That it was actually - even if it was just the - the treatment of the first set of protesters. Did - is -do you see, in this whole thing, the potential for it to continue and to grow in the immediate future?

BROWNE: Yeah, I actually think that - that having been evicted from these really - I mean, the places that are going to get really cold might be - there's a little bit of an advantage to that. For one thing, give - it gives you a chance to move - it gives the organizers or the - not the organizers but the - the Occupiers and the organization that they - that has, sort of - that they have begun - that's begun to grow among them, a chance to organize and - and plan and strategize indoors and - and not - I mean, they have what they call a radical - what do they call it? It was a term I heard used today. But a way of - of being transparent. A radical transparency.


BROWNE: Like - like - so, I think that that - that works in their - on - to their benefit. At the same time, it also works to the benefit of those who wish to, you know, undo you.

I mean, I used to think that it was no big thing if they tapped my phone because - after all, I'm not doing anything wrong.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, right.

BROWNE: But if they can tap your phone, they can plot all kinds of dirty tricks against you, you know? And - I'm actually referring to a real case where, like, me and a bunch of people in Los Angeles were - were wiretapped by LAPD on behalf of a right-wing computer database.

And - in the end - there was a lawsuit and they were - they were made to - to stop and give up whatever information they had and what - the information they had on me was that I had sang at an anti-war rally, which is not -

OLBERMANN: Yeah, no kidding.

BROWNE: They didn't have to tap my phone to find that out. So, you don't - you don't know if they ever gave up the information they have or what they're - what kind of, you know, nefarious activities.

To say the least, it's - it's un-American, it's illegal and it's really against principles of our country - to - to prevent people from - from meeting, finding common cause and to advance their vision of a prosperous future. So, it's just - I think that - I think what's gonna happen is in - in spring, we're gonna find out what's really going on, you know and it - it'll be - it'll be easier to do the - this kind of work.

I mean, this - I think this is a galvanizing thing to have kept these encampments going under these conditions.

OLBERMANN: What - what do you think took so long? I mean, we were also talking about this before we went on the air. There was a period of - it was - it was a trough period for protest in this country, where people just -

BROWNE: Well, I've always felt that - that Americans think things are really bad before they're really bad and when - but they're starting to get bad. Now things - I think it took so long because, basically, America's still the most prosperous place in the world and in - even when, you know, even when - when things are - people doing well, even when things are not going well - and now that there are people - people have seen, in recent years, you know, they - you know, the - the evaporation of their - their future, their prospects at the hands of, you know, the corporations that have - were supposed to be the paragon of achievement and of security.

OLBERMANN: Yeah. Even in - in - as I was thinking about it, that you mention that, it's an astute observation - because even in the Sixties, at the - and the time of protest, the people who were on the streets saying, "We have to fix this country," still assumed we could fix this country.

BROWNE: Right.

OLBERMANN: We still had the opportunities to change it by - by democratic action and by protest and by song and all the rest of that.


OLBERMANN: And there - it really seemed - it seemed to have evaporated suddenly and been replaced by some sort of sense of desperation, almost.

BROWNE: Yeah, because I think - perhaps, because people realize that - that it's not enough to be - you know, it's a little bit naive to assume that those people who are - who are looting the economy are doing it in - with a different view of everybody's "best interest."


BROWNE: Some of them are just flat-out criminals.


BROWNE: Some of them are just simply, you know, laughing their - you know - on their way back and forth to their - their private compounds and their - their surveillance systems and their private armies, you know? I mean there - there is really a very different version of prosperity, you know? Between those people who - the ultra rich and those people who have - and - and there's a certain amount of pride, you know? The human - humans are - there's a pride in the mastery of the situation.

Like, as Americans, we love - we love the game. We love, you know, like - you know, like, watching the game or the horse race and, I mean - that's what our politics have become, horse races and - or baseball games and - and the same with the political arena. I mean, what gets lost on - those people who - who really have so much money lose how - how serious a game this is to people who are slipping below the poverty line.


BROWNE: And whose - whose children's futures are beginning to evaporate. And when you see people, you know, year after year, whose - whose - and the homeless and the problems with education and all of the things - there was part of the contract of being an American and being - part of the contract is that you - you - you - you believe. You have expectations that, if you work hard, and you do your best -


BROWNE: That certain things come your way.


BROWNE: And that's turning out not to be true. And that will - I think, that will change the - the color of the whole - the - the debate and of the - of the - the conflict, ultimately. I think that it'll - I mean, I don't - I - I certainly hope that - that the Occupations that are happening - I mean, they're happening in little places like Arcata, California and -


BROWNE: Okay, there's 20 tents on city hall and they said, "Okay - oh, please do it in the - let's not do it in the town hall - we, kind of - we see it. We get what you're talking about. Come over here at city hall and we'll -" You know, and they probably talk every day. I mean, in a way - I think that there's a workability in most American communities that may not be there, when push comes to shove, in the big cities, you know? Where there's - there's a lot of face at stake here, you know, in -


BROWNE: In New York and in Los Angeles. And in Philadelphia, where, you know, they've -they've famously like - really, really put down, really hard put down, you know - insurrections like MOVE.

OLBERMANN: Oh yes. And the former mayor from -

BROWNE: Yeah, so there's - there's - there's a lot of pride on the part of the people who control things and I think that it exists, you know, for the police too. Like, today, at - at Zuccotti Park, the police were very - they were cool. But we had somebody who spoke cop.

OLBERMANN: Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.

BROWNE: We had somebody with us - a retired cop - who was like - and the - and one of the people who work with my - my tour is, himself, you know, from a military family and is very, very able to, like, speak into the - the - the - kind of the fabric of their structure and - and we were able to - 'cause it's not easy to go into a crowd like that, that is - you know, like, and - and even get from one end of the park to the other.

OLBERMANN: Absolutely. It's a small place. Well, we appreciate both the - the fact that you were able to spend some time there and to spend some time with us tonight.

BROWNE: Well, thanks, it's a - it's a real thrill to meet you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: The pleasure's all mine. Jackson Browne, thank you again.

And, as I said - somebody else who can't sing a lick may have resonated even more than Mr. Browne did today. The GOP's top spinmeister telling a Republican governor's convention that he is, "frightened to death of Occupy," explaining to the governors why they should be too and giving them a top ten list of what to say and what not to say. Markos Moulitsas and I will cut this up seven ways to Sunday, next.


OLBERMANN: The focus group manipulator who advises the GOP on everything but good haircuts warns them he is terrified by how Occupy has changed Americans' view of capitalism. He's got cause-and-effect backwards, of course, but his top 10 Do's and Don'ts about Occupy for conservatives is hilarious and revelatory.

The Attorney General of Massachusetts says enough, bailing out of yet another attempt to negotiate a bribe to stop prosecutions. She sues the nation's top five mortgage lenders over their predatory practices. He now has reason to be angry - very, very angry, indeed.

Our latest Mars rover is en route. It may have brought some Earth germs with it, plus a laser. Derrick Pitts joins me.

And an agonizing moment in "Worsts," as Michele Bachmann tells a high school student that gay people can too get married. That gay men can marry straight women. Oh. Oh, dear.


OLBERMANN: Republican governors get a lesson in spin from the Master of the Dark Art himself, Frank Luntz. The Republican pollster, famous for such conservative talking points as recasting President Obama's healthcare reform as a government takeover and referring to the inheritance tax as a "death tax," has now set his sights on Occupy Wall Street and validated it in the process.

In our fourth story tonight - Luntz telling Republican leaders he finds the movement "frightening." That they should prepare for voters to ask about such horrifying topics such as income inequality and paying your fair share. Speaking at the Republican Governors Association yesterday, Luntz saying "I'm so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort, I am frightened to death. They are having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism."

Luntz recommending the governors abandon that C-word entirely, advising them "Don't say 'capitalism,' say 'economic freedom' or free market.'" Luntz says the public prefer capitalism to - gasp - socialism, but still thinks capitalism is immoral.

Next, "Don't say 'Government taxes the rich.' Do say 'Government takes from the rich.'"

This is largely boilerplate stuff so far, but now it turns out that "middle" and "class" have become dirty words to Republicans. So, instead of saying "Defend the middle class," say, "Defend hardworking taxpayers."

And, he says, be sure to point out to voters that their hard-earned dollars are being entirely squandered by the government, advising the governors "Don't say 'government spending,' do say 'waste.'" Because, of course, any and all government spending - whether it is to educate your children, keep your water clean, pave your roads, provide your safety net for your aged and infirmed - all of that is just a massive waste of resources.

And, on that note, "Don't ask anyone to 'sacrifice.' Do tell everyone 'We're in this together.'" And that includes hard-working, unfairly-targeted Wall Street executives. In fact, according to Mr. Luntz, "Don't blame Wall Street. Shift the blame to Washington." And while you're not blaming Wall Street for the economic meltdown, don't call attention to the huge bonuses they've been getting. From here on, says Luntz, "Don't say 'bonus,' say 'pay for performance.'"

Joining me now, trying to keep himself from dying from laughter - "Countdown" contributor Markos Moulitsas, the founder and publisher of Daily Kos, Good evening, Markos.

MARKOS MOULITSAS: Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: It is funny, but it's really a revelation, isn't it?

MOULITSAS: Yeah, you know - when we think about Republican ability to get people to vote against their own interests, there is nobody more responsible than that than Frank Luntz. I mean, the guy is an absolute genius in manipulating language. So, for him to say that this Occupy message scares him and it's having an impact - it is absolutely, to Republicans, scary and it is actually having an impact. It - like you said - it's a huge validator of the Occupy movement.

OLBERMANN: How scared does what he has put together suggest? That not just Frank, as the spinmeister, but Republicans in - in general, are about Occupy?

MOULITSAS: Yeah, no, they're - they're scared. I mean, just a couple weeks ago, they were saying there would be no extension of the middle-class payroll tax cut unless there was an extension of the Bush tax cuts, or if rich people were otherwise similarly compensated. Just yesterday, I think it was, they actually backtracked on that. And now they're saying, "Well, we don't really want to be painted as really being against middle class, so maybe we'll consider that tax cut after all."

So, here's something - I mean, Republicans have not caved on any issue like that, as far as I remember - I mean, nothing the Democrats did were able to do that - and a bunch of ragtag Occupiers were able to get Republicans to back down. Again - huge, huge impact.

OLBERMANN: Why not - one thing in there that just jumped out at me - why not mention the middle class? I thought - weren't some Republicans middle class, or are they just rich people and poor people voting against their own interests 'cause they think they're going to win the lottery next month?

MOULITSAS: Yeah, you know, that's actually one - one that, you know, you have to think about a little bit, 'cause it is sort of perplexing. I think what it means is that the Occupy message has been so effective in turning it into "99 percent versus one percent" that people are realizing that being in the middle class is actually no - no longer that great of an economic place to be, that one percent is really out of reach.

It's people that are completely in a different plane and that division is there, so - for awhile, Republicans were talking about class war. "We can't have a class war." But what they're realizing is that people actually, kind of, do want a class war. They want the government to go after the rich, so that wasn't working. So this is, I guess, Plan B. Yeah, to say nothing to the fact that there's been a class war in progress for 30 years and it's been waged by the rich, on the poor.

Luntz also said, "When talking to Occupiers, Republicans should say, 'I get it' and then propose Republican solutions."

Now, first off, those two things would seem to be contradictory - but is there really some sort of expectation, even in Frank Luntz's wildest dreams, that Republicans could somehow appeal to Occupiers?

MOULITSAS: Oh, I don't think they can appeal to Occupiers. I don't think they believe that any - either. I think it's really trying to neutralize the message. I mean - remember, Frank Luntz is a message person. He's a - he's a - he's a wordsmith. And so he's trying to de-emphasize the power of the Occupy message and he's hoping that simply showing some empathy will do that.

Now - remember, Republicans are anti-empathy, as we found out during the Sotomayor rearings, so I'm not sure why he's now telling them to show some empathy.

OLBERMANN: Do we have any idea what the governors would have - how they would have reacted to this? Because, again, what we - what you might say or what I might say about Occupy would just bounce right off them, but to hear Frank Luntz say, "I'm frightened. I'm scared. You need to - you need to never mention the word 'capitalism' again." Do - did any of these guys sleep last night?

MOULITSAS: Yeah, no, I'm sure they were furiously scribbling down notes after that conversation.

OLBERMANN: On their hands. As - as Republican governors tend to do.

The founder and publisher of Daily Kos, "Countdown" contributor Markos Moulitsas. Great thanks.

MOULITSAS: Thank you very much.

OLBERMANN: The Chase vice president who admits his company pushed minorities toward subprime mortgages, knowing that - whatever happened - the government would bail out the bank. Yep. Everything you feared was true is true. Coming up.


OLBERMANN: Massachusetts gives up on negotiation. It's suing the five top mortgage lenders for its -their - shameless manipulation of people who just wanted their own home. Next.

First, the "Sanity Break," and on this date, today, Bobby Valentine - the man who has managed the third-most games in baseball history without ever finishing in first place - was named the new manager of the Boston Red Sox.

The former TV commentator's reputation as something of a - bullcrap artist reinforced when his first comment at his first news conference was the seemingly self-deprecating observation that, after his new boss said a few nice words of introduction about him, he - Valentine - was looking around the room for a Teleprompter and didn't see one. His former colleague, Karl Ravech of ESPN, promptly tweeted, "Bobby V never used teleprompter at ESPN." Nice.

"Time Marches On!"

VIDEO: Scientists have developed robot squid.

We begin in the world of science. When the president vowed at his inauguration that - by the end of his first term - science would develop a robotic squid, we all thought he was crazy, but then - geniuses at Harvard have finally come through.

This soft-bodied, squid-like robot can perform a series of slithering movements to get around and under - underneath obstacles and like, walk next to a ruler. But mostly they just use it to play limbo.

Robot calamari, anyone? It's impressive, but call me when your robot mollusk can predict the winner of World Cup matches.

VIDEO: Baby love to wear her sunglasses at night. Well, really, all the time.

To the Internets, where there's only one way to get this kid to stop crying. That's right, give her her sunglasses. She's only happy when she has her shades on. She's just like Bono. A little off to - to the side, there.

Can the kid get any - any cooler? Yes, when she flashes the peace sign.


Finally, with Christmas season in full swing, Santa is swinging into a South Florida mall. Having never rehearsed this stunt while wearing his beard, Santa has run into some problems. As confused children - in fact, terrified ones - watch from below, Santa tries desperately to free his caught beard.

When he finally made it to the ground, sans beard, Santa declared that he was actually one of Santa's elves, filling in for Santa. Yeah, that ought to take the whole scarring element out of it - the scarring-for-life stuff. The oddest Santa performance since Billy Bob Thornton.

"Time Marches On!"

Speaking of Christmas - just in time for the holidays, Newt Gingrich has something for the kids, especially those 14 and under - jobs. Assistant janitor jobs. Again, he tries to sell this idea today. Ahead, in "Worst Persons."


OLBERMANN: "Russ Hodges and the Dumont Scoreboard" will not be seen tonight so we can instead bring you "Countdown," the longest continuously-running 8:00 PM news hour on cable, unless you consider Fox - "news." We're live each night at 8:00 Eastern. We call it "our little leadership team."

Massachusetts has today filed the first major lawsuit against the nation's biggest banks for unfair and deceptive foreclosure practices. In our third story on the "Countdown" - somebody finally ended the local and national pattern of simply negotiating a bribe from the banks to cover up their wrongdoing.

The Massachusetts suit alleges that Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and GMAC all illegally seized properties, filed fraudulent foreclosure documents and failed to help struggling borrowers, who could've stayed in their homes had they been allowed to make lower mortgage payments. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said she filed the suit after negotiations failed between the banks and a coalition of state attorneys general. The banks, she said, wanted broad immunity from liability for what they did.

(Excerpt from video clip) MARTHA COAKLEY: They've had more than a year to show they've understood their role and the need to show their accountability for this economic mess and they've failed to do so. Whether through the courts or through negotiation, we will accept only one result - obtaining accountability from these banks and other large institutions and getting real relief for homeowners.

OLBERMANN: Furth proof the banks are knowingly responsible for the messes they cause came today from a former Chase Banker who acknowledged to The New York Times that he and other mortgage lenders pushed minorities and unqualified borrowers towards subprime mortgages because, "The bigwigs figured we're going to make billions out of it, so who cares? The government is going to bail us out."

For more on this, let's bring in Pat Garofalo, economic policy editor for ThinkProgress. Pat, thanks again for your time tonight.

PAT GAROFALO: Hey, thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: We'll start with the Chase banker story. How - is that damaging? I mean, is it finally just proof of - of what we've known all along or does it - just doesn't matter at this point?

GAROFALO: I certainly hope it's damaging. As you said, we've kind of known that this sort of stuff was going on. Lawsuits have been filed - particularly against Wells Fargo for their "ghetto loans," which were loans that they pushed onto minority borrowers - but it's - it's nice, I guess - in a way - to hear it from the mouth of a former banker himself, acknowledging that this sort of stuff was going on.

OLBERMANN: So, the part about where he said, "We had no worries because - what the hell? We knew the government was gonna bail us out no matter what happened." Three years after that all happened, is it any clearer - was the economic crater story of September 2008 legit? Was it provoked? Was it blackmail? Was it a fake? What was it?

GAROFALO: I think it was legit, in the sense that the banks were all so tied together and had so much junk on their books that they legitimately could have brought down the economy, but the way in which we went about bailing them out - and then asking them for nothing in return and letting them go back to record profits and record bonuses, year after year, while the rest of the country gets stuck at nine percent unemployment - I think that's where the real problem was, in terms of policy from Washington.

OLBERMANN: All right, let's turn to Massachusetts and the attorney general, Coakley, making this decision to file the suit and stepping away from the negotiations to try to reach a settlement or - the impolite term for that, would be "accept a bribe" - from the big banks. What are the immediate implications of this?

GAROFALO: The immediate implications are that - finally, this dog-and-pony show that the attorneys general have had going on with these settlement talks is revealed for what it is. The banks were just dragging this out, hoping to get immunity, hoping - like they did in their deals with the federal regulators - that they could pay just a pittance and make it all go away, But Coakley is finally taking a stand and saying, "You know what? This time, that's not gonna happen."

OLBERMANN: On the other hand, you know - as I suggested - the attorney general had - had avoided a negotiated bribe, but she was part of these negotiations and bailed out. If she changed her mind and went in this other direction, even if it's just in reaction to the - to the foot-dragging by the banks, does it suggest that there's any momentum in any other quarter to actually prosecute these things and file these lawsuits, rather than simply take the easy way out and cut some deal and - and announce "This is a record fine," when it's a drop in the bucket that's already been budgeted for by most of these banks?

GAROFALO: I think there have been a few good signs. In addition to Coakley, we've seen the New York attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, say that he's going to start investigating and prosecuting banks.

We saw a judge in New York - Judge Jed Rakoff - actually reject a settlement between federal regulators and Citigroup, saying that - not only was the money not enough - but that the public deserves to know what actually happened with these fraudulent mortgage practices. So, I think you're seeing some of the officials who actually have the power do the things that they can do to try and at least get this information forward.

We talked about a little bit the other night, how the federal regulators - while they are cutting these kind of terrible deals and getting a pittance from the banks - they're really overwhelmed. They don't have the resources to prosecute all these cases.


GAROFALO: So it is nice to see that, on a state level, the people who can do these sorts of things - and have the resources - are actually taking that step and doing it.

OLBERMANN: What about the root problem? There's an estimate - an estimate from one website - one real-estate website - 28 percent of all American mortgages, more is owed than the home is worth - the underwater figure. That's up by nearly a quarter from a year ago. What do we do about that, I mean - let alone prosecutions and investigations. What about that problem?

GAROFALO: That actually is a huge problem, in terms of economic recovery. We still haven't managed to wrap our hands around the kind of slow-burning crisis that has been the housing and foreclosure - foreclosure crisis. And until we do, the economic recovery is gonna be held back.

It's just a simple fact that - if people are stuck in underwater homes, if people are being foreclosed upon - that drags down home values for entire neighborhoods. And we'll never really get out of this until that problem is solved.

OLBERMANN: Pat Garofalo, economic policy editor at ThinkProgress. Great thanks again, Pat.

GAROFALO: Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN: One of the top right-wing magazine/website combinations turns out to have been funded - by as much as one third - by the biggest big pharmacy lobbying organization. "Worst Persons," coming up on "Countdown." That was only third place.


OLBERMANN: We're on our way to Mars. Well, the rover Curiosity is on its way to Mars, equipped with cameras, sample collectors, transmitters, biological agents and a laser ray gun. Great. Derrick Pitts joins us.

And - speaking of outer space - an answer at once infuriating, hilarious, and personally tragic, as Michele Bachmann explains to an Iowa high school girl that gay men can marry. They can marry women. "Worst Persons," next.


OLBERMANN: The launch of the Mars rover Curiosity and the chance that the latest exploration vehicle has introduced Earth germs to Mars that will turn the place into a wasteland - or maybe they'll multiply and become super giant-sized amoebas or something. Derrick Pitts talks me down, next.

First, because these next people - well, the best analogy for them might be "super giant-sized amoebas or something" - here are "Countdown"'s top-three nominees for today's "Worst Person in the World."

The bronze to The National Review, the right-wing, non-profit magazine and website. Brought to you by AstraZeneca, Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, and Merck - the members of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. PhRMA.

It is revealed today that in 2009, The National Review - rabidly anti-health care reform, stoking the fires of death panels, insisting drug companies were being persecuted - The National Review got about a third of its total donated income from PhRMA. So, when conservatives were reading all that anti-healthcare reform crap in The National Review, they were not reading opinions - they were reading advertisements.

The runner-up? Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. This just in - she's still running for the Republican nomination, despite incredible gaffes. This is Bachmann at Waverly, Iowa - and it's presented not without sympathy for her situation - but listen to this, this agonizing self-revelation, as she tries to answer a high-school student named Jane Schmidt, who's an LGBT advocate. Remember, this is Michele Bachmann, married to the "pray-away-the-teen-aged-boy's-gay" Marcus Bachmann.

(Excerpt from video clip) JANE SCHMIDT: Then, why can't same-sex couples get married?

(Excerpt from video clip) MICHELE BACHMANN: Well, they - they can get married. They can -but they - they abide by the same law as everyone else. They can marry a man, if they're a woman. Or they can marry a woman, if they're a man.

(Excerpt from video clip)SCHMIDT: Why can't a man marry a man?

(Excerpt from video clip)BACHMANN: because that's not the law of the land.

OLBERMANN: So, she's saying gay men should marry women. Because it's the law of the land. Hoo-boy.

But our winner, once again - Newt "Breakfast At Tiffany's" Gingrich. Maybe his name needs to change from "Breakfast At Tiffany's" Gingrich to "Child Labor" Gingrich.

He has, today, doubled down on his premise that the laws against child labor - instituted in the late 1800's and early 1900's to wipe out sweatshops and keep kids out of dangerous and even fatal jobs in mines and near conveyor belts and things - should be repealed. First, he had suggested poor kids be allowed to go to work as young as 13, as janitors. Evidently he got some flack for that from - the world! So today in Des Moines, he offered a kinder, gentler sweatshop for kids:

(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: What if you paid them part-time in the afternoon to sit at the clerical office and greet people when they came in? What if you paid them to work as the assistant librarian? What if you - and - and I'd pay them as early as is reasonable and practical. Okay? What if you - what - and this - then we get into the janitor thing and I get these -these letters are written that say 'Janitorial work is really hard and really dangerous,' and it's this and that. I go - fine. So, what if they became assistant janitors and their job was to mop the floor and clean the bathroom?"

OLBERMANN: So, Gingrich has now modified his proposal from permitting child labor as janitors to permitting child labor as assistant janitors, cleaning out toilets. He's also clearly tried to repackage the thing, to dress it up as something other than what it is - forcing kids to work dangerous jobs at age 13. He's done this by introducing the rewards for the kids who become assistant librarians or assistant janitors, who join the program - ice cream!

GINGRICH: The ice cream truck comes by. The kid who's in the program walks up and buys their own ice cream. Their friend says to them, "How come you have money?"

OLBERMANN: Gingrich added, "Are there no prisons?" "Plenty of prisons," said the audience. "And the Union workhouses," demanded Gingrich. "Are they still in operation?" "They are. Still," returned the audience. "I wish I could say that they were not." "The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigor, then?" said Gingrich. "Both very busy, sir." "Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course," said Gingrich. "I'm very glad to hear it."

Newt "Breakfast At Tiffany's" Gingrich. Why don't you go cover - clean out - the toilet that you live in, sir? Today's "Worst Person In The World."


OLBERMANN: "War of the Worlds," "Mars Attacks," The "Looney Toons" episodes featuring Marvin the Martian - all of these focus on the danger of an attack from Martians.

In our number-one story - it appears we've struck first, by sending a plutonium-powered laser to Mars, along with biological weapons. Kinda. Maybe. Which can mean only one thing - we have declared war on Mars.

On Saturday, an unmanned Atlas V rocket, carrying what is officially known as the Mars Science Laboratory, took off - just ahead of that bird. One piece of the laboratory is the rover named Curiosity. The ten-foot-high, one-ton rover is the most technologically-advanced piece of equipment ever sent to Mars. Curiosity is too heavy to use air bags to land, as its predecessors had. So instead, the rover will have to be lowered gently to the surface using jet packs. Wow, like "Jetsons" and things.

Once on the surface, it will study Mars using an on-board weather station, a jackhammer, and tools for studying stuff, like soil. The rover also contains an instrument known as the ChemCam, which we would call a "shark with frickin' laser beams attached to its head."

The ChemCam's pinhead-sized laser beam contains as much power as a million light bulbs and shoots in five one-billionths of a second, which is bad news for any pinhead-sized aliens who might get in the way. The laser is designed to vaporize Martian rock, turning it into an ionized gas, resulting in a flash of light. The ChemCam then uses a spectrometer to record the wavelength of the light emitted. Different chemical elements emit different wavelengths of light, so scientist will be able to determine the chemical makeup of Mars. Or - in other words -

(Movie clip of a planet exploding)

On that note, let's bring in Derrick Pitts, "Countdown" contributor and chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Good evening, sir.

DERRICK PITTS: How are you?

OLBERMANN: I was just thinking about that, as I heard that description of - of the - the - what it can do to Martian rocks, this laser. A 10-foot-high, one-ton, nuclear-powered laser. It's exactly the kind of weapon that Marvin the Martian had in the Marvin the Martian - Bugs Bunny - cartoons only we're using it on them. Are we attacking Mars?

PITTS: We have to look on the back for the label that says "ACME Rocket Company," to see if - where it's from.

OLBERMANN: ACME Intergalactic Rocket Company, yeah.

PITTS: That's - that's the one. This is a remarkable piece of equipment. It is huge. This is like the Humvee of planetary rovers, it's such a big piece of equipment. And so well-equipped. But this is the next step for NASA scientists to try to figure out whether or not Mars has ever had an environment where it may have been possible for life to develop. So, this is a really great piece of equipment that's going to help us understand so much more than we did before.

OLBERMANN: Yeah but, the bottom line still is - we go someplace new and we start destroying it. Didn't we learn anything about Earth?

PITTS: Well, the thing about this is that - the way that we go about this, actually, is to just get little, tiny samples, and from those little, tiny samples be able to do a lot of analysis.

You know, the point is that we don't really want to try to do very much destructive stuff on Mars at all. We're not really trying to harm the planet at all but, if we can just get a little bit of sample material that we can analyze, that'll help us tell an awful lot. And the instruments that are being used are so, so excellent that they really can use a very small sample amount to tell us what we need to know.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, you know what? Tomorrow, they'll be fracking on Mars and then they'll have these cute - these cute college kids saying, "Oh, maybe it's a good thing" in the ads on Martian - Martian TV.

PITTS: And can I sell you some shares in the mines that I'm going to establish there?

OLBERMANN: Hey, in a thousand years - I wouldn't be a bit surprised. Back to the rover. All right, I'll put away my complaints for a second. Is it microbial life? Is it - is it only the environmental suitability of life? What could it actually tell us?

PITTS: Yeah, the story is that we're trying to figure out whether or not the planet, in some locations - in the particular location where it's going, called Gale Crater, it's about a 100-mile wide-crater - we're trying to figure out if this might have been a place where there was an environment that could have been conducive the to the development of life.

It's really important, Keith, that this process be done in very small steps - very accurate steps - to make sure that we don't jump to any conclusions about what could have been on Mars or what still could be, because another objective is to try to see if there is an environment present today that would allow life to develop.

OLBERMANN: All right - speaking of microbial life, they revealed today that project developers may not have properly sterilized some drill bits aboard Curiosity. They might have Earth germs on them - a very small chance of it, but it's possible. Is - is that, like, the beginning of - of the end of potential life on Mars going forward because, you know, it's - that's how, as I recall, that's how we killed all - the Martians off in the documentary "The War of the Worlds," when the Martians came here and caught colds and died in Los Angeles.

PITTS: And we were very effective at getting rid of them that way.


PITTS: Well, in this case - if we want to talk about contamination of Mars - this particular spacecraft is - has been - better sterilized than any of the other spacecraft we have sent to Mars in the history of our exploration. So, if there was some contamination that was gonna be done by a spacecraft we sent to Mars, it would've happened by the other spacecraft we've already sent there.

So, we can talk about the chance of that contamination being higher than it would be if we had actually done the sterilization properly but the real chance of that happening is pretty much slim to none.


PITTS: Of course, that remains to be seen.

OLBERMANN: Right, when the giant, 26-foot-tall microbe comes around the corner and eats the - the rover, you'll - you'll - I'll have the last laugh on that one.

PITTS: And then comes back home.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, takes their - that's it - takes the ship back and - and it heads for home, yeah.

What's with all the jet packs? Is this all of the jet packs we were promised - they're being used to land this damn thing?

PITTS: I really hope that one of the spinoffs that comes out of this - out of this project, actually - is those jet packs that we were promised. Where's mine? So, this is - this is a really interesting and exciting way to do this. It's gonna be an exciting thing to see - come next August, when it actually happens - to see how these jet packs actually lower this big craft.

OLBERMANN: And the video we just showed - of the jet pack - looked exactly like the one that they blew around at the 1964-65 New York City World's Fair, so there ya go.

PITTS: Yep. There's the tech.

OLBERMANN: The - the chief - it's advanced so much in the interim - the chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, and good sport and "Countdown" contributor, Derrick Pitts. As ever, great thanks for your time, Derrick.

PITTS: I'll give you a ride in my jet pack, when I get it.

OLBERMANN: Thank you kindly, we'll go -

PITTS: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Hunting for microbes.

That's "Countdown," I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.