Friday, December 16, 2011

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, December 16th, 2011
video 'podcast'

#ShowPlug 1: 70% of voters can't wait for the election to be OVER. Coincidence this # appears after last night's GOP debate?

#ShowPlug 2: Bachmann wants war w/Iran, Romney war w/Obama, Gingrich war w/Judges Perry war/w N.E. Patriots. W/ @NiaWaPo + @Markos

#ShowPlug 3: Boehner, McConnell demand tax deal includes Keystone XL Pipeline while job creation #s drop again w/Joe Romm @ClimateProgress

#ShowPlug 4: Pre-trial hearing for PFC Bradley Manning. The importance of this case w/Pentagon Papers hero @DanielEllsberg

#ShowPlug 5: Lowe's still blows; Allen West compares Dems to Goebbels, Joe Arpaio invokes Pearl Harbor. A fine edition of Worsts

#ShowPlug Last: And lastly, To Bill Hicks on his 50th Birthday: Highlights of the late great comedian (the ones we can play anyway!)

watch whole playlist

#5 'Oh What A Lovely War', Nia-Malika Henderson

#5 'Oh What A Lovely War', Markos Moulitsas

#4 Breaking news on Keystone XL pipeline, Joe Romm

# Time Marches On!

#3 'Manning's Day In Court', Daniel Ellsberg
YouTube, (excerpt)

#2 Worst Persons: Joe Arpaio, Rep. Allen West, Robert A. Niblock, YouTube

#1 'Bill Hicks', download

printable PDF transcript

On the show: , , ,

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

If the Presidential election were held tomorrow, seven in 10 Americans would be happy. Seventy percent say they "can't wait for the election to be over." Can't imagine why. Bachmann declares war on Iran. Romney declares war on Obama. Gingrich declares war on judges. Perry?

(Excerpt from video clip) RICK PERRY: I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses.

OLBERMANN: Romney claims he thought up Ron Wyden's capitulation to Paul Ryan on privatizing Medicare. "It was an idea that I came up with about a month ago." But from England comes questions about Romney's missionary position. Did he really spend his Mormon mission in a mansion?

Keystone XL pipeline. The Republicans must have it in the payroll-tax-cut extension bill to pay off their big-oil puppeteers.

(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN BOEHNER: If that bill comes over to us, we will make changes to it and I will guarantee you that the Keystone pipeline will be in there when it goes back to the United States Senate.

OLBERMANN: The alleged Wikileaks source sees the light of day for the first time in 20 months. In defense of Private Bradley Manning, Former Lieutenant Dan Choi.

(Excerpt from video clip) DAN CHOI: I'm here because Bradley Manning is an excellent soldier. A soldier who stood up for truth and integrity, who defended our Constitution - and I believe our Constitution should defend him as well.

OLBERMANN: Daniel Ellsberg on the meaning of the Bradley Manning case.

"Worsts" - mix-and-match. One invoked Pearl Harbor about the Democrats, the other invoked Joseph Goebbels about the Democrats. See if you can guess which is which.

And, to Bill Hicks, on his 50th birthday.

(Excerpt from video clip) BILL HICKS: I'm gonna tell you non-smokers something right now that I know for a fact you don't know. Non-smokers die every day. Sleep tight.

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

(Excerpt from video clip) HICKS: I'm Bill Hicks and I'm dead now.


OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Friday, December 16th, 326 days until the 2012 presidential election. The war in Iraq officially declared over yesterday, freeing Republicans at the debate to try to sell us on war with Iran tomorrow.

The fifth story on the "Countdown" - while the GOP seems eager for another bloodshed episode, most voters are already exhausted about its political equivalent, the election. With the Iowa caucuses still a few weeks away, just over a quarter of U.S. voters telling Gallup polls they can't wait for the campaign to start, compared to 70 percent admitting they can't wait for it to be over. Mitt Romney is not in the latter group. The sometime GOP front-runner campaigning in Sioux City, Iowa today and getting the endorsement of tea party heroine Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina.

(Excerpt from video clip) NIKKI HALEY: What I want someone who is not part of the chaos that is Washington. What I wanted was someone who knew what it was like to turn broken companies around.

OLBERMANN: Or what it was like to take credit for a plan to partially privatize Medicare. Romney, saying of the bizarre scheme announced yesterday by Republican Congressman Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, "I'm kind of proud of Ryan-Wyden because it was an idea that I came up with about a month ago."

And as destructive ideas go, it beats bombing Iran to remove its alleged program to build a nuclear weapon. GOP candidate Congressman Ron Paul supporting the not-completely-insane side of argument in last night's presidential debate.

(Excerpt from video clip) RON PAUL: You know what I really fear about what's happening here? It's another Iraq coming. To me, the greatest danger is that we will have a president that will overreact and we will soon bomb Iran.

OLBERMANN: And if that's the candidate the GOP's looking for, former senator Rick Santorum seems eager to fill the slot, saying of Iran last night:

(Excerpt from video clip) RICK SANTORUM: We need to make sure that they do not have a nuclear weapon and we would - should - be working with the state of Israel right now. We should use covert activity and we should be planning a missile - I mean, a strike against their facilities.

OLBERMANN: Oh, Rick, if it makes you feel any better, we are working with Israel right now, we are using covert activities and - while we won't admit to planning a strike - that's what the planning groups in the Pentagon do for a living.

But while the CIA has questions about Iran's nuclear program and its intentions, GOP candidate Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has none:

(Excerpt from video clip) MICHELE BACHMANN: We know, without a shadow of a doubt, that Iran will take a nuclear weapon. They will use it to wipe our ally, Israel, off of the face of the map and they've stated they will use it against the United States of America.

OLBERMANN: Makeup is a hell of a drug. Ron Paul's not buying it.

(Excerpt from video clip) RON PAUL: This wild goal to have another war in the name of defense is the dangerous thing. The dangers - the danger is really us overreacting.

OLBERMANN: You think?

Mitt Romney seemingly ready to overreact with the best of them, accusing the president of running down the military and demanding action:

(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: We need to rebuild our navy, we nee to modernize our air force. We need a hundred thousand new, additional troops in our military.

OLBERMANN: Point of fact, we have the largest and most modern navy in the world. We have the largest and most modern air force in the world and we don't need another hundred thousand troops, unless we're planning another ground war. That would be even more firepower than Newt Gingrich needs in his war on the federal courts.

(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: The courts have become grotesquely dictatorial, far too powerful and now - and I think, frankly, arrogant in their mis-reading of the American people.

OLBERMANN: And if there's one man who knows all that, it's Newt Gingrich. He wants the liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals abolished and he wants judges he disagrees with hauled in front of Congress.

Texas Governor Rick Perry - he just wants to pretend he's gonna go on the field and beat the New England Patriots on Sunday:

(Excerpt from video clip) PERRY: There are a lot of folks that said Tim Tebow wasn't gonna be a very good NFL quarterback. Let me tell you, I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses.

OLBERMANN: Not likely, Governor. In fact, it's about as unlikely as Mitt Romney's claim that he lived modestly during his stint as a Mormon missionary in France in the late 1960s, "sometimes in apartments without toilets or refrigerators or bathtubs" and, at other times, according to the British newspaper, the Telegraph, living here - a luxury building in Paris that is now valued at about $12 million.

According to Richard Anderson, the son of the Mormon mission president during Romney's stay, it was a house built by and for rich people, with a Spanish chef called Pardo and a houseboy who prepared lunch and supper five days a week. Don Pardo? Thank you, Don Pardo.

For more on last night's fun and threat-filled GOP debate, I'm joined by Washington Post national political reporter and "Countdown" contributor, Nia-Malika Henderson. Nia, good evening.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Hey, good to see you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Seventy percent have election fatigue already? Is the populous wising up or this year worse, somehow?

HENDERSON: Well, in some ways, it does seem like it's worse. This thing has been going on for a while.

There've been so many candidates that we focused on and obsessed over and people got sick of. Herman Cain comes to mind when I say that. Donald Trump, back in the spring, with all of his talk of - of birtherism. Michele Bachmann, at one point - leading these polls and, I think, some of the fatigue is a result of the fact that we've ended where we began, and that is with Mitt Romney.

He came out of - last - last night's debate, I think, in many ways, again, the front-runner.

Newt Gingrich seemed to be a little damaged coming out of that debate, arguing back and forth with Michele Bachmann. I think a lot of female voters were look at - will look at his - what was in some ways dismissal of Michele Bachmann, essentially calling her a liar, saying that she didn't have her facts straight. I think it didn't make him look so good and certainly was a bit of a departure from his pledge to not fight nasty - to not talk about other Republicans in a disparaging way.

But again, I think this thing is - has gone on for a long time. This is the final, crucial, two weeks before the Iowa caucus. But again, I think, in some ways, you can make the argument of that the - Iowa caucuses - that they don't necessarily matter. Again, we remember that Mike Huckabee won last go-round and then, of course, he came in, I guess, second or third out of this whole thing, last go-round.

OLBERMANN: The - the one substantial, or issue-related, difference from last night's debate and its 345 predecessors, was apparently most of the Republican candidates decided, I guess - with the Iraq War over and 24 hours having intervened - that it was time to declare war on Iran.

I mean, there did seem to be something of a sea change in terms of the - the - their readiness and their acceptance of this as - as a viable possibility. I mean, it was pretty universal, other than Ron Paul.

HENDERSON: Yeah and I think Ron Paul - I mean, he's obviously got - he some cheers, I think, from the audience and he's got his Ron Paul revolutionaries, that - people who really support him. So, it won't hurt him with them, I think. But again, you know, all of this saber-rattling over - over Iran and I think the main thing here is about Israel. It's a way for these candidates, who very much want this evangelical vote, to really sound tough on Israel.

So, that's why you have Rick Santorum up there, suggesting things that the country's already doing - covert action, talking to Israel about plans in dealing with Iran - but, again, I think one of the things that is true about the Republican Party, that even members of the Republican Party have a certain war fatigue.

They also lived in - in a country that went through two wars and, in many ways, bankrupted the country and set us on a - a path of real financial instability. But, again, I think they are speaking to a very specific audience. They are evangelicals in Iowa and it'll be interesting to - to see - once this thing goes wide, in the more general election - will - will there be this readiness to really say, "Hey, let's start another war with Iran"?

OLBERMANN: Yeah, and just to state the obvious for anybody who doesn't get it, Israel fits into the evangelical, apocalyptic, rapture stuff. That's what that's all about. About -


OLBERMANN: About rapture, there's Newt Gingrich, who had his two weeks of it, and now has gone out, apparently ready to subpoena judges and eliminate districts courts and really coming out - he seems enabled by his lead. Is that really a good posture for him to be taking? It looks like there - already dents are appearing on the outside of that shell.

HENDERSON: Yeah, I think that whole position - again, they are speaking to a very specific audience in Iowa. Iowa state, of course, where the Supreme Court judges unanimously voted to support same-sex marriage and then, three of them were voted out in the fall.

So, that's what they're talking about there and, of course, you had Michele Bachmann in a rare moment, agreeing with Newt Gingrich on there. But then, you had the questioner saying - all of these Republicans and conservatives are saying - that this would be, you know, out of whack. This would be against this whole idea of checks and balances and equal branches of government.

So, I mean, it did set Newt Gingrich up to do something that he likes to do, and that is - compare himself to other great presidents. He compared himself to Lincoln and Jackson and Jefferson and FDR - who, I think, actually packed the courts. But that gave him a nice little riff there, that is very familiar to him and I think, at some point, he compared himself to Reagan as well.

But, again, if you - they take this stuff wide, I don't think they're gonna find a very wide audience, even among Republicans who say, "Yes, the judges should be subpoenaed if people don't like what their decisions are," and that the executive branch should have the authority to abolish courts. It just doesn't make much sense.

OLBERMANN: Washington Post national political reporter, "Countdown" contributor, Nia-Malika Henderson. Have a great weekend, thanks for your time tonight.

HENDERSON: You too, take care.

OLBERMANN: Drilling down further, as the kids say, into the Republican quicksand, I'm joined By Daily Kos founder and publisher and "Countdown" contributor, Markos Moulitsas. Markos, good evening.

MARKOS MOULITSAS: Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Picking up on what Nia just said about Gingrich. I'm - I'm just flashbacked to the - like, the first political education I ever had, sitting at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in 1998, next to a ten-term ex-New York congressman, and listening to Gingrich spout on and on and on and I said, "I hate this guy and everything he stands for but at least he really believes this bull" - fill in the blank.

And the congressman went, "He doesn't believe a word of it. This man is utterly driven by research groups and focus groups and polls and there's nothing to him. He is a vessel for whatever needs to be said to that particular audience."

And I guess, Nia just picked up on something really good about these points, particularly with the - the evangelicals and Iran and the activist judges last night. He was playing to that crowd and those people in that state, wasn't he?

MOULITSAS: Yeah, I mean, this is - this is sort of vintage Newt.


MOULITSAS: From the beginning, he's been very good at this. And - when he came into this race, I mean, it was - everybody seemed to think, you know, "This guy's running to sell books" and if you go to his campaign website, he actually has links to his DVDs and his books, so it seemed like a commercial venture.

Suddenly, he finds himself in a position to win and now, he's finding his polling eroding, so - he - we're gonna see the - the most - pandering Newt possible in these next couple of weeks, 'cause he really has to run out the clock right now and not erode any of that lead. And if that means just giving people - telling them what they want to hear, I think we're gonna see a lot of that.

OLBERMANN: One thing I - perhaps the first thing in the entire Republican race I haven't been able to follow - Mitt Romney endorsed in the same week by tea party poster women, Christine O'Donnell and Nikki Haley. The two sides of - the failed candidate and the successful candidate. What happened to the - I mean, the tea party was ultra-right, enforcing ideological purity, you know? Burn 'em if they're not conservative. Mitt Romney is the choice of the tea party?

MOULITSAS: It's - he's not the choice of the tea party. Right before I - I headed out for the studio, I - I saw a political piece. They have a new piece up, talking about how the tea party crowd in - in South Carolina is absolutely incensed.

Now, Nikki Haley is a governor whose approval rating is now in the mid 30s, so she's already not exactly a popular, towering figure. Endorsements don't mean much anyway but these local tea partiers - they're furious. They're already talking about primarying her in - in - the next time she's up for re-election, so I don't think it's quite a populous decision.

She's made certain calculations. I mean, whether it's because of Mitt Romney being more electable, and he is - it's actually a more electable decision - or maybe it's - she's angling for - she thinks he's gonna win so she's angling for an administration job, that's the tea party conspiracy theory. Who know? But - but this is not going down to the rank-and-file by any means.

OLBERMANN: Mr. Romney may be in trouble, though, because of this story and it's - the Telegraph of - of England is not exactly the - the gold standard, in terms of news - but they are quoting the son of the head of the - of the Mormon church from - from Romney's time as - as a missionary, that he was, you know, living in a mansion for most of the time.

At some point, is this one - one wall have to crack? The - with the current economic calamities, with everything that's going wrong, that - that Romney would actually get the pass, in terms of being the wealthiest candidate running - and not only that but be able to accuse people like Gingrich of being part of the one percent or Obama being the one percent when the man's worth $200 something million, just personally?

MOULITSAS: Yeah, poor Mitt. I mean, here he is, running at a time when income inequality has become sort of the national debate of the moment, I mean, it' definitely not a good place to be.

Here's a guy who, a couple months ago, remember, he talked - he told people that he was unemployed. He felt their plight because he, too was unemployed. You know, if only people were sitting on $250 million in assets in their unemployment, I don't think there would be as much angst in the country today.

So, he - he's running against the tide and he's gonna try to muddy the waters. I mean, Newt Gingrich - he made his money, sort of the - the political way, right? He - he cashed in on his government service. Mitt Romney was born into it. Both of those are really unflattering portraits of wealth. Neither of them will serve either of those candidates well in a general election.

OLBERMANN: At what point - how many debates in - in another ten or 20 - do Ron Pal and Jon Huntsman come out of the closet and say, "We're just not Republicans anymore, we still have our sanity"?

MOULITSAS: I would not put the words "Ron Paul" and "sanity" in the same sentence.

OLBERMANN: You - who would you - in the Sanity Draft, Markos -


OLBERMANN: who do you take? I'm giving you a choice of Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. Your first choice is Ron Paul, of those four.

MOULITSAS: Okay. But boy, that's a really low bar.

OLBERMANN: Well, what - what are we talking about? We're talking about the Republican nominating process. Of course it's a low bar.

MOULITSAS: He - this is a guy who wants to abolish paper currency for the gold standards.


MOULITSAS: So - so - but, on - on Iran, obviously - at least on that front, if nothing else - he's the one presidential candidate on the GOP side that wouldn't us a war with Iraq - or with Iran. Maybe Jon Huntsman. No, Jon Huntsman probably is the "sanest," quote unquote, of the lot. Of course, that means he's gonna be at one percent in the polls for the rest of this primary.

OLBERMANN: The founder and publisher of Daily Kos, "Countdown" contributor, Markos Moulitsas. Great thanks and have a great weekend and we'll have that Sanity Draft next week, 2:00, Tuesday.

MOULITSAS: Have a great weekend.

OLBERMANN: You, too.

The president tabled the Keystone XL pipeline until after the election. Independent studies showed it would not create 250,000 jobs but only 50 permanent ones.

Today, the Republican leaders in both houses insisted if they don't get an immediate ruling - or at least one in the next couple of months - they would crash the government. The deal is apparently done. Next on "Countdown."


OLBERMANN: Why is John Boehner so orange? It's all the stuff that dripped off the oil pipeline he sucks day and night for sustenance. He and Senator McConnell insist presidential decision on the Keystone XL project must be included in the tax cut compromise or they will get - kill it. They have apparently gotten that.

The pre-trial day for Private Bradley Manning, the man accused in the WikiLeaks case. Defended here by the man behind the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg.

Nine days after the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, Arizona's national embarrassment compares the charges against him to Pearl Harbor.

And it would have been his 50th birthday. The greatest comedian you may still have never heard of. You still have plenty of time 'cause he's still funny, as we'll show you, ahead.


OLBERMANN: Republicans jamming through legislation tonight on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline by refusing to sign off on an extension of middle-class tax cuts unless they got their way.

In our fourth story tonight - Republicans in both houses holding those tax cuts hostage, saying they would pass only if the bill included language to hasten the president's yea or nay on the XL pipeline.

That strategy proving successful. Senate Republicans tonight agreeing to a two-month extension of the tax cut, in exchange for a reported Democratic agreement to "speed up a decision" on Keystone XL. The vote could come as early as tomorrow. Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell saying today he would not let Democrats strip the Keystone provision from the bill.

(Excerpt from video clip) MITCH McCONNELL: I will not be able to support a package that doesn't include the pipeline.

OLBERMANN: House Speaker John Boehner addressing the two-month extension before it was formally agreed upon, saying that - no matter what - Republicans would get that pipeline decision language into the bill.

(Excerpt from video clip) BOEHNER: But these rumors that are floating around here about a two-month extension - I'll just say this, if that bill comes over to us, we will make changes to it and I will guarantee you that the Keystone Pipeline will be in there when it goes back to the United States Senate.

OLBERMANN: The president, of course - previously having vowed to reject any bill tying the pipeline to tax cuts or even a decision on the pipeline to tax cuts - but White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today signaling that position might have changed:

(Excerpt from video clip) JAY CARNEY: I'm not going to prejudge a final product that does not yet exist.

OLBERMANN: Well, apparently it exists now. The pipeline, which would run from Canada to Texas, could pose extensive environmental damage, according to experts and anybody with eyes.

Republicans arguing it's a small price to pay for jobs. In fact though, the State Department estimates it would create perhaps 5,000 jobs. A new study by the Cornell University Global Labor Institute finding the number might be even lower, that it would, "create just 500 to 1,400 temporary construction jobs with a negative long-term economic impact."

And Governor Rick Perry not letting pesky facts get in the way of campaigning today, though. The Guardian newspaper reporting he told a group of Iowa voters that the pipeline will create "thousands and thousands, if not over a million, jobs."

Joining me now, Joe Romm, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and editor of Joe, thanks for your time tonight.

JOE ROMM: Thanks for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN: In advance of this apparent deal, the House Democrats were already downplaying it. Representative Waxman, Representative Markey told Politico this afternoon: "Even if President Barack Obama signed a law requiring him to make a decision on permitting the pipeline within 60 days, he'd still end up rejecting it." Is Waxman right? Is this - is this a tempest in a teapot?

ROMM: Well, I think Republicans want Obama to reject this. They're kind of tying his hands because Obama - as you know, the original route of this pipeline was gonna go through Nebraska and go over a pretty sensitive aquifer and the Nebraskians objected and Obama said, "Look, we're going to look at a different pipeline route but that's gonna take an extensive environmental impact." The law requires one. So, the Republicans know if they force this decision to be made in two months, Obama's gonna have to say no.


ROMM: Well, this is a clever and cynical ploy by the Republicans. It's kind of a Newt Gingrich-type strategy. They think they can win on the jobs issue. They're just gonna demagogue - "See Obama - loves the environment and hates jobs," whereas, as you just said, this is not a job creator. I think anybody can see it's just a pipeline. Once you're done building it, it sits there.

We don't need hundreds of people running up and down the pipeline to see if it is leaking. Although, frankly, as you know, the - the pipelines leak all the time so maybe, we should employ people checking that they don't leak.

OLBERMANN: Right. Hire somebody to cover every five feet of the place and then we would, in fact, solve a lot of job problems in the country and unfortunately, that might be what we're talking about. Recap some of the environmental lowlights of this thing.

ROMM: Well, of course, you start with the - the tar sands, itself, which, if you've ever seen any pictures of it - it's just a - you know, environmental mess and that poisons the local water and - and the local air.

I suppose that's the right of the Canadians if they want to destroy their own environment, but in the process, they use a lot of natural gas in order to get this - you know, tar sands - this gunky substance out. It takes a lot more energy to transport and then refine it, of course, so it's much dirtier than regular petroleum. So that's why James Hansen said that, if we fully exploit the tar sands, it would be "game over" for the climate.

Then you have the risk of spills - and TransCanada had about a dozen spills in their pipeline last year, alone. So, the fact is, we're going to have to worry about spills, worrying about prestigious aquifers and - and the like. And it - the irony is, according to some estimates, this oil may be exported, so there's not really a lot of benefit to the American public from this. But there is, I think, some transparent harm.

OLBERMANN: And if the president has to make a decision in two months, would that be, politically, enough time for it the - effectively to have worn off by the election Because, it would seem to me, either you want to do it now, or you want to do what his original plan was - which was to delay it till after the election.

ROMM: Well, look, it's all a matter of - of who can make their case better. We know the facts. The facts are A) this thing doesn't generate a lot of jobs. We also know that Republicans have consistently voted against jobs at every opportunity and - and, you know - by one estimate, 7 million jobs they voted against, over the course of the last year.

So, I think the - the president can - can make a clear case this is not gonna create permanent jobs. It -it's not good for the environment. It's just not the way the country should move forward. Will he be able to make that argument effectively against the Republicans? Well, you know - you know as well as I do, the - the administration has not been the best at making an effective message.

OLBERMANN: All right, but I guess the more serious concern is the president could take his chances. That's his - that's his political end of his job. Is there a chance that he now kowtows to the whole deal and approves - puts his stamp on going ahead with this project?

ROMM: Well, he would look very - I mean, there's always a chance. Look - you're asking me, "Is there a chance the - the president will prove feckless?" The answer is yes, but I think his commitment to the environment is on the line - not just because the environment would be harmed by this but because he would have to circumvent the law and not do a full environmental statement.

So, he - he would really have to totally disregard the environment for - for just a rhetorical claim that he's gonna generate a few permanent jobs, so I'm hoping - you know - and not only that, of course, he'd be giving in to the Republicans. The Republicans would have forced this down his throat, so he would look doubly weak, all to harm the environment and not generate many jobs, so I think it would be a simple decision for him to say no but, you know, when the - the president is involved, maybe no decision is simple.

OLBERMANN: Yeah and then - you have Republicans try to multiply Keystone XL by Solyndra, which hasn't really gotten any traction either. And then they think they have a whole, big climate and jobs and real energy versus phony energy thing going. We'll see what happens but, again, that is the president's - that's his job, to do stuff like that.

The editor of, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, Joe Romm. Always useful information and great thanks for some of your time tonight, sir.

ROMM: Thanks for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Occupy and Lieutenant Dan Choi among those showing up today at the pre-trial hearing for Private Bradley Manning. Daniel Ellsberg joins us tonight.


OLBERMANN: Our contributor, John Dean, has just tweeted something pertinent to the Keystone XL part of the payroll-tax-cut extension deal that was reached tonight.

To read it in full, "I look forward to seeing the language. Congress cannot force the president of the United States to make a decision on Keystone, other than to say no."

The pre-trial hearing of Private Bradley Manning. Next.

First, the "Sanity Break." We'll be paying tribute to a man later in the show who was born 50 years ago today, Bill Hicks. So, forget the anniversary, let's get to the cartoons.

"Time Marches On!"

VIDEO: Yorkie puppy knocks baby over.

We begin on the Internets and it's a "TMO" Adorable Clip of the Day. In fact, it's too adorable. The Internet should really have a warning over these things. The ultimate showdown between man and beast. The littlest version of each.

I would say this reminds me of last night's GOP debate but really, it's just that Newt Gingrich reminds me of a giant baby with a big head.

Kid liked the joke.

VIDEO: Penguin delivers the newspaper.

We travel to Japan.

One of the sadder consequences of the demise of print media is that people in the future will never know the joy of having your pet penguin bring you the paper in the morning. It makes sense though - he is dressed like a butler.

Or is this a scene from the upcoming film "Happy Feet Three," where penguins take over Rupert Murdoch's media empire? Happy indeed.

Penguins is practically chickens.

VIDEO: Men ride horses into a Colorado bar, Safeway.

Finally, we end with the old joke - a horse walks into a bar and the bartender says, "Why the long face?" Actually, the bartender says, "Damn, there's a horse in my bar! Get out!"

A group of guys in Steamboat Springs, Colorado thought it would be a good idea to bring their horses into the bar. Earlier in the night, they'd also paid a visit to a local grocery store. It's unclear why the guys decided to - horse around like this.

As confused as the people in the store and bar were, even more confused were the horses.

"Time Marches On!"

The pre-trial hearing for alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley - Bradley Manning - forgive - with Daniel Ellsberg. Next.


OLBERMANN: Dumont's "Court of Current Issues" 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. Every night is a "Best of 'Countdown.'"

The man accused of the biggest intelligence leak in U.S. history appeared in a military court today at Fort Meade. In our third story on the "Countdown" - Bradley Manning, at the heart of the twin controversies - WikiLeaks and the military's ability to sequester and at least emotionally torture one of its own, indefinitely.

This is the first time we've seen Private First Class Manning since he was taken into custody in May of last year. He is accused of aiding the enemy and violating the Espionage Act by giving WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government documents and videos from Iraq. He could face life in prison if convicted.

Manning's supporters gathered at the main gate of Fort Meade to stand vigil during today's pre - pre-trial hearing to determine whether Manning should face a court martial. A bus full of Occupy Wall Street protesters joined the vigil. Iraq vet Dan Choi - expelled under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" - was also on hand to show his support.

(Excerpt from video clip) DAN CHOI: I'm here because Bradley Manning is an excellent soldier. A soldier who stood up for truth and integrity, who defended our Constitution and I believe our Constitution should defend him as well.

OLBERMANN: An international day of solidarity for Manning is scheduled for tomorrow, which is also his 24th birthday. More than 50 events worldwide planned, including a rally and march in front of Fort Meade. Not much decided at proceedings today, as the day became bogged down in a dispute over the impartiality of the presiding officer.

Manning's attorney requested that the judge recuse himself, since he also works as a Justice Department prosecutor in his civilian life. The Department is conducting a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks, but the judge says he does not handle such cases at Justice and he denied the motion about himself.

Joining me now, our best-known government whistle-blower - the man who released the Pentagon Papers - Daniel Ellsberg, now a senior fellow at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Good to talk to you again, sir.

DANIEL ELLSBERG: Glad to be here, Keith. Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Back in 1971, you were the first to face the charges under the Espionage Act, the same thing Manning is facing now. Describe, from your experience and from your knowledge of this case, what he's up against.

ELLSBERG: Well, he'd have a much tougher case than either I or any of the other four people that - that President Obama has brought these charges against. That's almost twice as many as all the previous presidents put together. None of them ever brought more than one case against a whistle-blower or anyone for leaking classified information. I was the very first and there were two other before President Obama.

He's brought five cases, going on six, and obviously, Assange is the one that he really has in his sights, really, now - which is why I think the only possibly explanation for why we've seen Private Manning imprisoned and treated as he has been for the last year without - for the first time, being brought into a court.

OLBERMANN: What do we know - definitively, or even by reasonable estimate - about how he has been treated since he was sequestered in May of 2010?

ELLSBERG: Well, on the one hand, we know the testimony of the people - actually, of his own lawyer, but also of his family members, who've been allowed in to see him, who testified - 23 hours a day under lights.

One hour in a cell - an isolated cell - one hour a day to - to walk figure eights in a secluded room, which had, by the way, exercise machinery in it, which I was told about by the - judge in that - by a lawyer in that case. But the exercise machinery was turned off while he was in. It had cards on it saying "Out of order."

So, he was totally isolated. It's a form of torture.

President Obama called it "appropriate," or he had been assured that it was appropriate, behavior for - Private Manning. But, as a matter of fact, it's not behavior that the military has been willing to let anyone else see. The UN Rapporteur for torture, Juan Mendez, has tried all year now to see him, based on credible reports that he's been treated inhumanely and under a definition of torture.

Prolonged isolation of that sort is regarded by prisoners as one of the most effective forms of torture. And the purpose of torture, by the way, has always been to get false confessions. That's what it's for. And very clearly, in this case, it's to try to break Manning into incriminating Julian Assange in some way that the grand jury has not been able to do. Evidently, they have not succeeded in doing that.

OLBERMANN: Is there a way to quantify the importance of this case, in terms of our ability to know what our government is doing in our name, regardless of the - of the documents, just as you described the - the treatment and the handling of Private Manning while he's been out of public view?

ELLSBERG: Look, first off, as of all - as far as the case goes - this should have been a relatively easy one, because he's the one person, of all of the 11 people - eight separate cases, 11 people who ever been charged with this - I was the first, for these leaks - he's the first military person, which means that just violating military regulations is a crime for him, for which he can - imprisoned, in some cases - as in the charges under this - conceivably even given the death sentence. They say they're not gonna ask for that but the military judges could, under these charges, actually give him that.

But the life sentence that he's facing is - clearly, as I say - to break him down, to incriminate Julian Assange. However, as a military man, when it comes to downloading or uploading software, something that, according to his lawyer, every other member of his group - his agency - actually did, they could probably easily get him.

They've contaminated his case in two fatal ways, I say, which doesn't mean that it's going to effect him. The partiality of this case is not - is not mainly exemplified by the presiding officer.

In the first case, the commander-in-chief, President Obama, gave him verdict first, trial later. He said he had broken the law before even the prosecution case had been heard, let alone the defense case. He said he was guilty. That alone is virtually a directed verdict - unlawful command influence on the subordinate officers who will be carrying out both this decision and later in the trial. That's - court martial should be out for that reason alone.

Second - the way he's been treated at my old base, at Quantico is - was shameful, amounted to torture. My own case - the first one ever brought on this - was dismissed for reasons of gross governmental misconduct by President Nixon. There has been gross governmental misconduct in this case, in the form of that 10 1/2 months of isolation and the case should be dismissed for that reason, but it won't be.

OLBERMANN: How sad, after all this time, that it won't be. After 40 years of facing this and understanding the necessity of whistle-blowers, what position the president -

ELLSBERG: As I said, it's - he's practically got a war going on whistle-blowers. He's setting precedents here, for the use of the - Espionage Ac, which is a very questionable constitutionality in this guise. It was meant for espionage, been often used for espionage - successfully five - four - I'm sorry - three times, of which only one lead to a jury verdict before Obama. Five under him. So, he's setting a precedent in regarding this as constitutional.

Apparently, he's hoping that the current Supreme Court will not find it unconstitutional. No previous Supreme Court ever addressed this question. They were unlikely to find it as anything but a violation of the First Amendment. But I think he's counting that one of these cases - you ask about this one - it would have been easy, as I say, except for the fact that they've clearly shown the - partiality here. They - they poisoned the case, fatally, for anybody but this military and this president. I - I don't want to say only this president. I don't want to say that his rivals, that we just saw on your - would - would act any better.

OLBERMANN: Daniel Ellsberg, always an education and our great thanks for your time, again.

ELLSBERG: Thank you for having me.

OLBERMANN: Lowe's, still stonewalling. "Worst Persons," ahead. This is "Countdown."


OLBERMANN: If you don't know some of the work of Bill Hicks, or even if you do, we will show you just a sampling of his greatness on what would have been his 50th birthday.

And he tries the cheapest trick in the book - compare Democrats to Nazis, then claim you didn't. "Worst Persons," next.


OLBERMANN: The 50th anniversary of the birth of perhaps the most insightful American comedian of that half century. Next.

First, because insight has nothing to do with this crowd, here are "Countdown's" top three nominees for today's "Worst Persons in the World."

The bronze? To the rapidly self-destructing Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona. Accused by the Justice Department of ignoring more than 400 cases of sexual abuse, mostly become - because the victims were minorities, he held a news conference to address the real victim here - him.

Called it "a sad day for America," a "witch hunt," said "President Obama and a band of his merry men might just as well erect their own pink neon sign at the border saying 'Welcome all illegals' ... This was a sneak attack, a Western ambush." And he compared the Department of Justice news conference to Pearl Harbor.

Just remember the old joke from the British series "The Young Ones," Sheriff Joe: "I tried it hundreds of times, there's no way you can hammer in the last nail."

Our runner-up? Congressman Allen West, Republican representing - his invisible friends and invisible supporters. He'll see Arpaio's tasteless Pearl Harbor reference and raise you one Third Reich reference. "If Joseph Goebbels was around, he'd be very proud of the Democrat Party, because they have an incredible propaganda machine."

This clown, who disgraced this country's uniform by threatening to kill a prisoner, not only invokes the Nazis but then he has the nerve to try to get away with it by adding that "the comparison was not between Democrats and Nazis but applied only to the quality of Democratic propaganda," which leads to his worst offense.

The Democrats are good at propaganda? Since when? If the Democrats were good at propaganda, do you think we'd have that Ron Wyden launching that disastrous "Privatize Medicare" plan with Paul Ryan?

But our winner, yet again? Robert Niblock, the CEO of Lowe's. Still, he and his company remain silent, despite a week of blowback for their decision to cave to a Florida right-wing fringe group, led by an admitted porn addict, which thinks there simply were not enough terrorists shown in the TLC network reality show "All-American Muslim."

A Lowe's store in Paterson, New Jersey was protested today. Members of the Muslim-American community spoke eloquently about their freedom and their love of this country and of its freedoms.

A small pro-Lowe's group also showed up. The Associated Press reports that one featured a man named Ronald DeBois, who said he was a member of the New Jersey Tea Party Coalition and who carried a sign reading "America Muslim is lying propaganda. Lowe's equals Patriots."

Mr. Niblock, you are not only on the side of hatred and racism and intolerance, you are also on the side of morons who don't even know the name of the show you are all supposedly protesting.

Robert Niblock, the CEO of Lowe's - once again, today's "Worst Person in the World."

Don't buy anything at Lowe's!


OLBERMANN: We look incredulously back to the decade before Vincent Van Gogh died at the age of just 37, that never in his lifetime did anybody buy one of his paintings. Life wasn't quite like that for William Melvin Hicks, who was born 50 years ago today. When he died at 32, he'd done an HBO comedy special, released two brilliant and successful CDs called "Dangerous" and "Relentless," and made 11 appearances on David Letterman's show.

England had figured him out. A poll there last year of the top 100 stand-up comics ranked Bill Hicks 4th. But this, his home country, is even now only beginning to perceive his greatness. Much of his humor is eternal and so much on the edge that no one has come close to it since he died. And even what he did topically endures because so much of his work was about Iraq, Bush, Limbaugh and the religious right.

Tonight, instead of James Thurber, most of the Bill Hicks classics - the ones we can show on TV anyway. It'll only take six minutes. To Bill Hicks on his 50th Birthday.

(Excerpt from video clip) HICKS: How many smokers do we have here tonight? Smokers? That's a lotta energy for you f---ers, that's good. Usually you get - thank you guys, thank you. Next time I need you, just hock a chunk of lung for me, all right? Rear back, launch a Phlegm Jim towards the stage.

But listen to this - how many non-smokers do we have here tonight? Bunch of whining little maggots. You obnoxious, self-righteous slugs. Don't take that wrong. I'd quit smoking if I didn't think I'd become one of you.

But you gotta understand something. First of all, I don't do anything else, all right? Now, I don't drink. Now a lot of you non-smokers are drinking. Okay, I'm a non-drinker and I smoke. Now, to me, we're trading off vices. That seems fair to me. Yeah, f--- you, man. "No, its not! No, its not! Why should our lives be threatened by your nasty habit?" Yeah, but you know what? I can't kill anyone in a car 'cause I'm smoking a - cigarette, all right?

And I've tried. Turn off all the lights, rush them. They always see the glow. "Man, there's a big firefly heading this way. - it's f---ing knocking over shrubs!"

By the way, if anyone here is in advertising or marketing, kill yourself. Thank you. Thank you. Just a little thought. I'm just trying to plant seeds. Maybe - maybe one day they'll take root. I don't know. You try. You do what you can. Kill yourselves.

Seriously though, if you are, do. No, really. There's no rationalization for what you do and you are Satan's little helpers, okay? Kill yourself, seriously. You're the ruiner of all things good. Seriously, so I'm - this is not a joke - "There's gonna be a joke coming." There's no f---ing joke coming.

You are Satan's spawn, filling the world with bile and garbage. You are f---ers and you are f---ing us. Kill yourself. It's the only way to save your f---ing soul. Kill yourself. Planting seeds.

I know all the marketing people are going, "He's just doing a joke." There's no joke here whatsoever. Suck a tailpipe, f---ing hang yourself, borrow a gun from a Yank friend. I don't care how you do it. Rid the world of your evil f---ing machinations - okay, whatever. You know what I mean.

I know what all the marketing people are thinking right now, too. "Oh, you know what Bill's doing? He's going for that anti-marketing dollar. That's a good market. He's very smart." Oh man, I am not doing that, you f---ing evil scumbags. "Oh, you know what Bill's doing now? He's going for the righteous indignation dollar. That's a big dollar. A lot of people are feeling that indignation. We've done research. Huge market. He's doing a good thing."

Goddamn it, I'm not doing that, you scumbags! Quit putting a goddamn dollar sign on every f---ing thing on this planet!

The world is like a ride at the amusement park and when you choose to go on it, you think it's real - 'cause that's how powerful our minds are - and the ride goes up and down and 'round and 'round and it has thrills and chills and it's very brightly-colored and it's very loud. And it's fun, for a while.

Some people have been on the ride for a long time and they begin to question, "Is this real or is this just a ride?" And other people have remembered and they come back to us and they say, "Hey, don't worry, don't be afraid ever because - this is just a ride." And we - kill those people. "Shut him up!" We have a lot invested in this ride! Shut him up. Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account. And my family. This has to be real."

It's just a ride. But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that. You notice that? And let the demons run amok.

But it doesn't matter because - it's just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It's only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. A choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your door, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one.

Here's what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride - take all that money we spend on weapons and defense each year and, instead, spend it feeding, clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would many times over - not one human being excluded - and we can explore space together. Both inner and outer, forever in peace.

OLBERMANN: The work of Bill Hicks lives on in an amazing documentary called "American: The Bill Hicks Story" and an ever-growing catalogue of CDs and DVDs, foremost of them, four audio collections - "Dangerous," "Relentless," "Arizona Bay," and "Rant In E-Minor."

As he lay dying of cancer, Hicks composed a farewell, the last lines of which were distributed at his memorial and which, I'm proud to say, I carry in my wallet:

"I left in love, in laughter and in truth," he wrote. "And wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit."

Good night.