'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Monday, September 5th, 2011
Labor Day show - largely a replay of Friday, August 26th
video 'podcast' from August 26th
ShowPlug1: Special Labor Day edition of Countdown tonight at 8PM EDT: @SenatorSanders on securing Soc. Sec. for 75 years
ShowPlug2: @AFLCIO president Richard Trumka on orienting new SuperPac to support labor-dedicated candidates
ShowPlug3: AZ St. Sen. Steve Gallardo on his state still re-fighting the '60s: suing to stop enforcement of parts of the Voting Rights Act
ShowPlug4: How Radical RW groups astroturf the Islamophobes you see on tv; Richard Mellon Scaife still setting us back 50 years
ShowPlugLast: And a special holiday James Thurber reading: "Preface To A Life."
ShowPlugPS: truth in advertising - in response to many tweets, we are ON tonight, we are not live.
Segments: from August 26th
watch whole playlist
#5 'Securing the Safety Net', Sen. Bernie Sanders
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#5 'Tough Talk', Richard Trumka
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#4 'Right to Vote?', Steve Gallardo (D-AZ)
Time Marches On!
#3 'Fear Inc.', Faiz Shakir
#2 Worst Persons: Pat Robertson, Gov. Rick Perry, Frank Antenori (R-AZ)
#1 Fridays with Thurber: Preface To A Life
printable PDF transcript
KEITH OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Celebrate Labor Day by taking Social Security off the table and fund it for 75 years. Erase the payroll tax cap on those making more than a quarter of a million a year.
(EXCERPT FROM VIDEO CLIP)
BERNIE SANDERS: Social Security has not contributed one penny to the deficit! And I will be damned if they're gonna cut Social Security.
OLBERMANN: Our guest, Senator Bernie Sanders.
On Labor Day, the union pushes back. The AFL-CIO forms its own super PAC. Its president urges the Democrats on the super debt committee -- if it's a bad deal, walk away.
(EXCERPT FROM VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD TRUMKA: Look, we don't have a short-term deficit process. It does not exist. We have a short-term jobs crisis.
OLBERMANN: Our guest, AFL-CIO president, Richard Trumka. Arizona, suing to stop enforcement as part of the 1965 voting rights act -- the same week the Martin Luther King memorial is dedicated. Our guest, Arizona State Senator, Steve Gallardo, who says, "There is a reason Arizona is on the list. We have a history of discrimination, a history of unfairness." Bought and paid for, crassly commercialed, 100 percent Astroturfed Islamophobia -- how rabid right-wing extremists like Richard Mellon Scaife are funneling $42 million to bankroll mouthpiece morons like Frank Gaffney and Steve Emerson, to convince the stupid that this country is about to adopt Sharia law.
OLBERMANN: And the man who questions Gabby Gifford's health. Whether or not she is "back." And why the media hasn't been peppering her with questions yet. He just happens to have started an exploratory committee to run for her seat. He is not going to enjoy Labor Day's "Worst Persons." All that, and more now on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York, this is Monday, September 5th, Labor Day, 428 days until the 2012 presidential election.
Not perhaps, since the 1930s has there been a Labor Day during which American labor was under greater attack. The slow undermining of the simple floor that organized labor has kept stable and humble under the feet of the 98 percent of the country without wealth, or even much room for error, began in 1981 when Reagan fired the air traffic controllers and perhaps climaxed in Wisconsin earlier this year.
The fifth story on the "Countdown," tonight, two of the leading progressive voices in the country offered challenges to President Obama to speak up and fight back on behalf of the decreasingly silent majority. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka will each join me presently. Late last month, Mr. Trumka, the AFL-CIO telling reporters, that labor plans to cut back financial support in 2012, that it would rather build its own structures that work for working people instead, saying President Obama made a strategic mistake by confusing a job crisis with the debt crisis and then playing on Republican ground, and accusing the President of doing "little nibbly things around the edge" that won't solve the jobs problem, working with the tea party to cut middle class programs like Social Security, and being a follower, not a leader, unless he pushes for strong action that can boost the economy. Mr. Trumka also said that Democrats shouldn't agree to a bad deal that would cut Social Security when the so-called Super Congress Committee meets to cut the deficit, even if that means pulling the trigger on cuts that could cost millions of jobs. President Obama may take some comfort that Mr. Trumka confirmed the AFL-CIO will go ahead with plans for a so-called Super Political Action Committee, Super PAC, that can spend unlimited amounts of money on candidates in 2012.
There's a lot less comfort for him in these next numbers. A Quinnipiac poll from last week showed that 51 percent of registered voters did not believe the President deserved a second term. That's different, of course, than saying they wouldn't vote for him, or that he wouldn't get it, but it reflects a decided problem for Mr. Obama, one that must include dissatisfaction within his own party. Among Democrats, a plurality seems to agree with Mr. Trumka about the President's tone, 37 percent saying he needs to challenge the GOP more often. 25 percent say he should go along with the GOP more often. 26 percent think he's handling relations with the GOP just right. I think the 37 percent might be on to something, so might Iowa Democratic Senator Tom Harken, who told the "Des Moines Register" the president needs to raise revenue to rebuild the nation's infrastructure and create jobs. He added, "I don't think he's exercising the leadership that's necessary right now to move us in the direction that I think we ought to be moving in."
Fortunately, Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, also my guest ahead, is providing leadership. Late last month, the senator called for legislation that would ensure that Social Security benefits would be paid without interruption for another 75 years by applying the Social Security payroll tax to all income over one quarter of a million dollars, $250,000. The Senator also defended the program's solvency in a speech to the United Steel Workers Conference last month.
(EXCERPT FROM VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: Social Security can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 25 years. Social Security has not contributed one penny to the deficit, and I will be damned if they're gonna cut Social Security!
OLBERMANN: Social Security may well be on the table when the so-called Super Congress Committee meets for the next round of deficit cutting. As to whether another round of political bickering would help the economy, Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke, who offered nothing tangible in the way of the stimulus last month, also had nothing good to say about the GOP's manufactured debt crisis. Noting that, "the negotiations that took place over the summer disrupted financial markets and probably the economy as well."
And now, as promised, I'm joined from Burlington by Senator Bernie Sanders, the Independent of Vermont. Thanks for your time again tonight, Senator.
SANDERS: My pleasure.
OLBERMANN: Your idea, apply Social Security payroll tax to all income above $250,000. Have you sounded out other Democratic senators on it? Where are -- where is everybody?
SANDERS: Well, we just sent out a dear colleague, and we'll see what kind of support we get, but I should tell you, Keith, interestingly enough, you know who initiated that idea several years ago? A fellow named Barack Obama when he was running for President of the United States. So we look forward to the president's support. The bottom line here, is Social Security is life and death for tens of millions of Americans. Social Security today is strong for the next 25 years, but I want to see it strong for the next 75 years, and the way to do that is to lift the cap on taxable income for people making more than a quarter of a million dollars a year.
OLBERMANN: But, it takes a penny away from the rich instead of $10 away from the poor. Do you think you can get it past the Republicans in a filibuster?
SANDERS: Well -- that is a very good question. But I'll tell you this, at a time when we have the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of any major country on Earth, when the top 1 percent were doing phenomenally well, earned more income than the bottom 50 percent, when we got people in my state of Vermont who are surviving on $14,000, $15,000 a year on Social Security. When you got a program that has worked so well for 75 years, we have got to make it very clear that we are gonna protect Social Security, we're gonna make it solvent for our kids, and our grandchildren, and by the way, we are not gonna tolerate anybody who is thinking of cutting Social Security or raising the retirement age.
OLBERMANN: What happens if it comes up on the table in the super committee?
SANDERS: These guys, the Democrats, have gotta be very, very strong, and do what the overwhelming majority of the American people want, and that is not to cut Social Security. One of the issues that concerns me, Keith, there is the so-called chained CPI out there --
SANDERS: -- which tells seniors, by the way, this is really laughable, that the current COLA formulation is too generous. Too generous. Seniors haven't gotten a COLA in two years. If you go to this chained CPI, it would mean in 10 years, if you're 65 now, a $560 a year cut in your Social Security benefits, and in 20 years, $1,000 a year when you're 85. That is not, in my view, what America is about.
OLBERMANN: Let me ask you about another topic on that same subheading, that is very much on the floor at the moment, which is the president's relation to labor. Obviously, this is Mr. Trumka's area, and I will ask him about it extensively, but what's your assessment of how serious a problem this is for the president, or the Democrats facing election next year?
SANDERS: It is huge. It is huge. If you're the President of the United States and you talk about cutting back on Social Security, as the president has, if you talk about raising the eligibility age for Medicare, as the president has, if you implement a policy which says to every federal worker there is not gonna be a wage increase for the next two years, which is a signal to the private sector that they can do the same, you are in trouble. When you go forward with disastrous trade policies, that continue the path of NAFTA and permanent, normal trade relations with China, which have cost us millions of jobs, you are in trouble. So I think, it is very sad. I like the president. He is a very smart guy. Why he is adopting these policies, frankly, is beyond my comprehension.
OLBERMANN: A sort of umbrella question to all this, the number of Democrats who say that the president needs to challenge the Republicans more is -- it's huge, it's larger than any other subdivision in that poll that we cited earlier, and we've talked again and again on this program about this one detail. John Nichols from "The Nation" was on here the other night, with the empirical evidence about what's happened to Democrats who've run in special elections in Ohio and Wisconsin, and they've stood up, and they've been pro safety net, pro labor, pro -- the things that are traditionally associated with Democrats. They are doing nine to ten percent better than others did in the same districts last year. Is not everything about what the country needs and what the Democrats need in 2012 contained in a very small set of facts that can be recited in 45 seconds, as I just did?
SANDERS: Look, the answer is absolutely yes. The working class of this country is being decimated. Median family income is going down. The people -- the only people who are doing well, are the very wealthy and large corporations. The president has got to understand, not only does he have to, from a moral perspective, fight for working class, fight for the middle class, not only is that the right thing to do for public policy, it is the right thing to do politically. That is what the American people want. Give you one funny example, people who are associated with the tea party, of all people, believe that we should not be cutting Medicare and Medicaid. What we need is the president to stand firmly with the working class of this country, be prepared to take on big-money interest, when he does that, he's gonna win this election handily.
OLBERMANN: To what degree, you think, Democrats are willing to point that out to him in meaningful ways in the next 18 months?
SANDERS: Well, I tell you, there's a clear split. I'm an independent, but I sit in the Democratic caucus.
And there is a clear split. There are many of us who are saying that, to the president, that for the sake of the country and politically -- he has got to stand up, take on Wall Street, take on corporate America, fight for working families. But there is another element, the conservative element within the Democratic caucus, that is worried about all kinds of campaign contributions and working with large corporations and the big-money interest. So, there's a split within the Democratic caucus.
OLBERMANN: Maddening. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, as ever Senator, great, thanks.
SANDERS: Thank you very much, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Take care. Now from Washington, also as promised, Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO. And good evening to you, sir.
TRUMKA: Keith, how are you, buddy?
OLBERMANN: I'd like to do a program in which I just interviewed you and Senator Sanders and pretty much nobody else, not even the commercials. Apparently, you were too much for the website Politico, which headlined a story about what you said lately as labor-to-ditch Democrats. Are you ditching the Democrats, and if not, what is the message to the president and the other Democrats?
TRUMKA: Here's the message, that workers have become voiceless because of policies and politicians that are driven by brinksmanship, rather than come together to try to solve the nation's problems, and to put Americans back to work. So we've decided to create an independent voice, that's not beholden to any party or any politician, and strengthen the voice of working people, all working people, whether they're in the union or not in the union. And we're determined to do that year round, so we can move from electoral politics, to advocacy, to accountability seamlessly and workers will have a real voice.
OLBERMANN: What are the practical implications of what you are suggesting, or doing in the future, as opposed to what has been done in the past? What's the difference?
TRUMKA: Well, we're going to focus on our friends. Those that really support working people, and are willing to stand up for jobs. We'll be able to do more with them than we were before. We'll also, instead of like we did in the past, Keith, where we, six months, nine months before an election we created our electoral mechanism and then after election day dismantle it, we'll do this 24 hours around the clock, 12 months a year, seven days a week, where we are educating and immobilizing workers. But we'll be talking not just to our own members, but to all workers, we're making new alliances, for instance, with people that don't have a voice right now. Taxicab workers, domestic workers, worker centers, and we're looking again at the young people to be able to reach out to them and redefine what we mean to them, and how we can fit in to the new definition of work that they confront every day.
OLBERMANN: The AFL-CIO Super PAC, you've been quoted as describing it as hyper-localized, what does that mean in particular? And how does it work if it appears in the large context that Republican control of just one half of Congress, turns all of Congress into a tool of the right wing?
TRUMKA: Well, first of all, we'll be looking at different races up and down the ballot, from the president down to local union offices. Focusing on state places, state offices and state office holders as well as federal office holders, and we'll be able to take friends and actually give them more support than we have in the past, and we'll probably do to acquaintances what they do to us. Tell us how much they love us and wish us good luck.
OLBERMANN: So, in some senses, I'm sure this is not exactly where the idea came from, but is it not something of a mirror of what the Republicans started to do in the late '70s and early '80s, and move from the school board up?
TRUMKA: Well, I think we do have to focus on those local races. We've done that in a couple of areas.
I mean, in New Jersey we have over 500 union members that have been elected to public office at the various levels. They've become a farm team, they're able to talk about your economic message at all levels of the government, so that it's not just you're dependent upon a couple of people at the federal level talking about it, but we talk about it throughout the economy and then you can make some sanity. Can let people know that with 25 million people underemployed, the jobs ought to be the focus of everything that's out there. And those politicians that don't make jobs their full focus, they should be ashamed of being in office right now, quite frankly.
OLBERMANN: Your comments about asking Democrats, theoretically, just say no to a super committee deal if it is a bad deal, what about the consequences of that? Because that would trigger, in the structure that was adopted, 1.2 trillion in cuts, and there's got to be a lot of jobs in 1.2 trillion in cuts.
TRUMKA: It's gonna cost a couple of million jobs for us in the United States. That's a bad, bad situation, but it's also a bad deal can create or destroy even more jobs. What we can't do is punish the middle class and working class and the working poor for what the banks did and the upper class did. What we have to do, actually, is focus on jobs. Take the money that they should be doing. Now, Congressmen Larson is about to introduce a bill that is going to have a trigger. But before you go to all of this deficit nonsense, in the short term you focus on the jobs crisis. And whenever you get unemployment level down to 5 percent, 5.5 percent, then you do all of the deficit reduction you need to do.
Because I've said this before, I'll say it again, because it's the absolute truth: We don't have a short-term deficit crisis. We have a short-term job crisis. Put people back to work, the deficit disappears. The CBO just said if they let the Bush tax cuts expire, the deficit will get cut in half. We can do that. People at the top have done exceptionally well, the rest of America not so well. We've got 25 million people out of work, we've got stagnant wages. One out of five of our children are now living in poverty. If you are in an African-American community it's three times higher. If you're in a Hispanic community it's three times higher. 38 out of our 50 states saw an increase in the number of people living in poverty. We're one of the richest nations on the face of the Earth, Keith, we can do a lot better than this. And we're going to use our political strength with workers, to make sure that we do. OLBERMANN: The president of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka. Always a pleasure, sir, thanks for your time.
TRUMKA: Thanks, and congratulations on your show. It's terrific.
OLBERMANN: Thank you kindly, sir. Always a pleasure to talk to you.
Arizona continues its March backwards. Suing to overturn part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The latest on America's "State of Shame."
That's next, this is "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: Arizona now holds the dubious distinction of being the only state in the union trying to make its citizens more vulnerable to voter discrimination The State Attorney General there filing suit, challenging the Constitutionality of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the federal law that makes it illegal to discriminate against voters based on race.
In our fourth story tonight, the Attorney General of the state with some of the harshest anti-immigrant laws in the books, now calling the law that protects minorities from being discriminated against that the polls are archaic. State Attorney General Tom Horne, archaic enough as it is, challenging the federal government's authority to enforce part of the Voting Rights Act, requiring states to preclear any changes to local voting. Horne explaining his decision to sue this way, "The portions of the Voting Rights Act requiring preclearance of all voting changes are either archaic, not based in fact, or subject to completely subjective enforcement based on the whim of federal authorities."
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder responding to the suit, noting that those archaic laws were reauthorized by Congress just five years ago with overwhelming bipartisan support and pledging to fight the suit because, he says, the act continues to play "a vital role in our society by ensuring that every American has the right to vote and to have that vote counted." The Voting Rights Act had guaranteed that right since President Johnson signed it into law in 1965 when he said that the future of our democracy depends on the unimpeded right of its citizens to vote.
(EXCERPT FROM AUDIO CLIP)
LYNDON JOHNSON: Should we defeat every enemy, and should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people, and as a nation.
OLBERMANN: Arizona Democratic State Senator Steve Gallardo telling "Arizona Republic" that his state is exactly where this law is needed saying, "We have a history of discrimination, a history of unfairness."
In fact, during the last round of redistricting ten years ago, the Justice Department required Arizona to redraw its maps after determining that its proposed lines disadvantaged Hispanic voters. Just last April, Governor Brewer signed the controversial "Papers, Please" law which allows officers to profile residents based on race. The current suit which Brewer endorses could result in further erosion of the rights of U.S. citizens. Here is Arizona State Senator Steve Gallardo, Democrat of Phoenix. Thanks for your time tonight, sir.
STEVE GALLARDO: Thank you. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: What happens to minorities in Arizona if this suit is successful?
GALLARDO: Well, we're locked out of the process. What you're saying is that there's a large segment, 30 percent of the population of the state of Arizona, minority, will be locked out of having that opportunity to exercise the most fundamental right we have, the right to vote. Shame on Tom Horne for wanting even to push it. The fact is that there are many pieces of legislation that continued to be rejected by the Department of Justice because how they will disenfranchise minorities' right to exercise the right to vote. And Tom Horne has a problem with it.
OLBERMANN: Explain what we're talking about in context of the history of civil rights in Arizona, and why the story of, say, Ernesto Miranda, who is probably not known to many people these days is as relevant today as the Papers, Please law is, or attorney General Horne's action is.
GALLARDO: You bet. For the last 35 years, the state of Arizona has had to be able to go to the Department of Justice to have pre-cleared any type of change in their current state or local laws. They would have to have redistricting boundaries pre-cleared, and the reason for that, because of a history. A history of discrimination, a history of unfairness here in the state of Arizona, and we continue to see it. Just this year, the Department of Justice rejected another piece of legislation introduced by many of my Republican colleagues here at the State Senate. Once again, they continue to reject a lot of pieces of legislation that continues to hamper the ability of minorities from exercising their right. And Mr. Horne -- Mr. Horne continues to want to push legislation there at the state capitol only to be shut down by the Department of Justice. Mr. Horne, what's wrong with your legislation if the Department of Justice is saying, "Wait a minute, it's unfair. It's discriminatory. It doesn't meet our standard."
And that's what the Department of Justice is looking for. It creates a standard, a standard for which all pieces of legislation, all voting rules are to live by to make sure they're fair, equitable and they're not discriminatory. Just 10 years ago, our redistricting boundaries were thrown out by the Department of Justice because they did not give the ability for minorities to elect candidates of their choice. And now Tom Horne is trying to remove the state of Arizona, or remove the country for the most part, in having to have anything pre-cleared.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, that last point, people who look at Arizona and the way things have been going the last couple of years, even liberal people, tend to throw their hands up in the air and go, "There's nothing we can do about this. We're just going to have to stay out of there." But your point is well taken. This -- could this be a sort of wedge that allows other states to say, "We don't need to be -- to hold in to the Voting Rights Act or anything else that protects minorities"?
GALLARDO: Oh, you bet, you bet. And I really believe that is his intent. His intent is not only to get Arizona out from having pre-clearance. His intent is to be able to open the doors for other states. I mean, this is something that will have a ripple effect across the country. The fact is that over the last 35 years there are many states that have had to abide by the Voting Rights Act and have some of their measures pre-cleared. He is trying to take away that oversight, and that's unfortunate, especially -- particularly here in the state of Arizona. We have Senate bill 1070, we continue to see English-only type provisions, a most recent voter ID provision being passed here in the state legislature.
The fact is this -- the fact is that Mr. Horne has a problem with some of the folks going to the polls to vote. That's the end of the story. I mean, seriously. If Mr. Horne had his way, he would eliminate the Voting Rights Act all together. That's unfortunate. We don't need this type of politician in the state of Arizona. What we need is to be able to have fair, equitable laws. If we did not need -- if we don't need DOJ, stop trying to pass pieces of legislation that's going to be rejected by the Department of Justice.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, what on earth happened with the timing of this? They filed this suit the week the Martin Luther King memorial was supposed to be dedicated? Was that accidental tone-deafness or was that an intentional insult?
GALLARDO: Oh, it doesn't surprise me. It really does not surprise me. I've lived in the state of Arizona all my life. I'm a native here, and it just absolutely does not surprise me how insensitive, on behalf of Tom Horne, to introduce this type of legislation or to introduce this lawsuit in the federal court. It's not needed.
The fact is that the preclearance procedure set by the Department of Justice has worked over the last 35 years. There's a need for oversight. We see it every year here in the state of Arizona, and if we don't have that level of protection, I believe that minorities across the state of Arizona -- not only Hispanics, but particularly Native Americans -- will be desperately affected.
OLBERMANN: I'm glad you mentioned them as well. Arizona State Senator Steve Gallardo, great thanks, and as I always say to the Democrats in your state, try to convince the Republicans to spend less time out in the sun. Thank you, sir.
$42 million from seven rabidly right-wing organizations, including that of the notorious Clinton persecutor, Richard Mellon Scaife. Money awarded to promote hatred of, and fear of, and prejudice against, and inaccuracy, and Islamophobia. The full and harrowing story ahead here on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: How people like Richard Mellon Scaife have been funneling money to people like supposed diplomat Frank Gaffney and supposed terrorism expert Steve Emerson to pedal Islamophobia in this country. Ahead.
First, the sanity break. On this date in 1698, Czar Peter the Great trying to get Russia to be more Western, impose on all males except priests and peasants, attacks on beards. Which is why Glenn Beck now thinks Obama has a beard czar.
"Time Marches On!"
We are begin at Fota Wildlife Park in Ireland with the TMO adorable video of the day. Looks like a bunch of penguins. A group of happy, little penguins, standing together, getting their picture taken. When they see the golf cart drive up, they know it's feeding time. So, everybody into the pool and over to be the first to eat.
Well, almost everybody. One lone penguin remains either unaware of the impending meal or too socially awkward to travel with his pen partners. Either that or he's stuffed. Although, I suspect he just wanted to have the camera all to himself. "Admiral Byrd, bound for Brooklyn."
To England, a woman engaged and enraged at an ATM decided to enact some fabulous justice. That's her stiletto she's using to smash the machine's screen and keypad a total of 50 times. Take that! And that's for Carrie Bradshaw. Apparently not satisfied with the result she was getting, she goes for the running start. And -- come on -- from way downtown, bang! Surprisingly, going all smashy-smashy did not help her get any money and police are searching for her identity. Luckily, she will not have to worry about an ATM holding out on her in the big house.
Finally, to the Internet. What? The crane has already fallen over? Usually these videos start before the screw-up. We've already missed the "ha-ha, look at these geniuses" moment. Well, here they go. They're going to try to put it back on its tracks so everything will be fine -- buh-bye. Apparently, nobody thought to take the crane out of neutral and it goes all the way down the hill. Whee! As much fun as it would be to go down that hill, I'm sure lugging it will be -- back up will be fairly terrible on the other hand. I think we've just seen a real-life illustration of the story of Sisyphus, the boulder and hell, only with cranes. "Time Marches On!"
$42 million to bankroll hatred of Muslims in this country. What, you thought that was an accident? The ugly details next on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: We are live from "Countdown" world headquarters, here in the M.C. Escher Building, in New York, each night at 8 p.m. We retransmit into your home at 11 p.m., 2 a.m., 7 a.m., noon and 3 p.m. We call it our little miracle.
"President Obama is a Muslim. Muslims are trying to enforce Sharia law in America. And the missile defense logo is evidence of Obama's submission to Sharia. Also, a community center nowhere near ground zero is a kind of triumphalism that we should not tolerate."
In our third story on the "Countdown," the Center for American Progress has released a report illustrating how fear of Muslims is manufactured and fed to the American public and who's paying for it. The study is entitled "Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America" and it details how seven foundations contributed over $42 million over the past eight years to fund and create hatred towards Muslims. Donors Capital Fund -- almost $21 million. Richard Scaife Foundations -- nearly $8 million. Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation -- over $5 million. Russell Berrie Foundation -- a little over $3 million. Anchorage Charitable Fund and William Rosenwald Family Fund -- nearly $3 million. Fairbook Foundation -- almost $1.5 million. Newton and Rochelle Becker Foundations -- about $1 million. The center says the donations are used to fund rallies, create flawed reports and subsidize islamophobic writers and bloggers. The vast majority of these donations going to organizations led by five key pseudo experts. Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, David Yerushalmi of the Society of Americans for National Existence, Daniel Pipes of Middle East Forum, Jihad Watch's Robert Spencer and Steve Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism. Frequent TV guest. Gaffney and Robert Spencer being two major figures who were mentioned in Norway shooter Anders Breivik's manifesto.
Let's bring in Faiz Shakir, editor of ThinkProgress.org, co-author of the aforementioned report, and it's good to talk to you again, sir. Thanks for your time.
FAIZ SHAKIR: Great to be with you again, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Walk me fast through all of the -- this trail of the spending, here. The foundations feed these phony scholars and then the phony scholars use the money to sponsor rallies and create reports. Is there then a direct line anywhere to Newt Gingrich, and Michele Bachmann, and Allen West, or Fox News, or whoever's out there, actually propagating it?
SHAKIR: Yeah, you've nailed it right there. I think -- excuse the metaphor, but it's like a hurricane of misinformation. You know, it starts with a little storm of hate -- it usually comes from a small group of people. You've mentioned their names, and I would include David Horowitz, Pamela Geller, Bridget Gabriel in that list. They create the propaganda, they feed it out, and then, it metastasizes over time, and then you have Fox News, Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, as you mentioned, Allen West, and a whole host of other politicians talking it up and giving it a huge impact and influence. What we did with this report, though, is we said, "All right, if you want to end Islamophobia, how do we do it?" And, I think it starts with the money trail.
These people are being fed by -- as you said, $42 million, and I think a lot of those funders don't know what they're feeding. And, so what we're trying to do with this report is name names and hold them accountable.
If they really want to fund hate, then their name should be out there. If they want to pull their names away from people like Frank Gaffney, I think there's an opportunity for that as well.
OLBERMANN: Well, how would it happen that they wouldn't know? I mean, does Richard --? We know Richard Mellon Scaife probably sees this as a wonderful political opportunity. Does he really think that there's some sort of Sharia law threat in this country? Or, do we have any idea where the people who are -- who are channeling this money to these people stand on the actual issue? I mean, if it's -- I suppose honest paranoia is better than -- than fraudulent paranoia.
SHAKIR: Right. I mean, the intellectual nexus, the nerve center of Islamophobia -- their motivations are scattered.
SHAKIR: They have political motivations, they raise money, and they make money off of this -- people like Steve Emerson and Daniel Pipes, they make money off their Islamophobia. They want to help get conservative voters out there. They have an ideology against Muslim participation in American civic life.
But the funders, we don't really know much about. I got a call after the publication of our report today. One of the donors that we list in our report, he talked to me off the record and mentioned that he was outraged that his name was in it, because he never knew what he was funding, and he thinks he -- he's really against what Daniel Pipes and Frank Daphne do. And he said, "I don't want my name associated with them." I was like, "Well, now's your opportunity. You've got to come out and let people know about that."
So, I hope that there are others just like him, and I would encourage them to -- to stamp out the hate. If they put their -- if they take their bucks away from this kind of operation, I think we can really put a lot of this Islamophobia to rest.
OLBERMANN: But on the other end of it, in the vast field of manufacturing and buying public opinion, $42 million seems almost like small change. Is there more to it? Are there other donations that -- that you don't know about at this point? SHAKIR: Yeah, so, all we were able to track, Keith, is the -- these foundations that publicly report how much money that they're giving out through the IRS -- a 990 form. So, those are publicly available, but of course, there could be a whole bunch of private foundations, there could be them collecting money from other individuals, corporations getting money -- who knows? There could be a lot more there. Clearly, it's sustaining itself because there's a lot of activities that a lot of these groups are planning. They're doing these anti-ballot initiative and anti-Sharia initiatives in a whole bunch of states, just like we saw in Oklahoma.
I think they're going to try to do it again in 2012, because they want to drive conservative voters out to try to defeat President Obama, and so, I think one of the methods they're going to do is try to scare people about Sharia again, and I think that has a funding base to it.
OLBERMANN: Well, at minimum, you've gotten people to be like me, reassured that there isn't actual support for the Pamela Gellers of this world, that they have to be totally Astroturfed. So, at least that's already accomplished. And, we'll see what else you get done, Faiz Shakir of the Center for American Progress. It's nice to know, though, that these people are doing it the old-fashioned way. They're buying it. Thank you, sir.
SHAKIR: Yes, sir. Thank you for your support, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Always. Pat Robertson thinks the earthquake crack in the top of The Washington Monument may be a sign from God. The fact that the earthquake originated in the congressional district of Eric Cantor, Mr. Robertson is taciturn on that subject -- ahead in "Worst Persons."
OLBERMANN: James Thurber's desperate fear that he was being softly followed by little men padding along in single file about a foot and a half high, large-eyed and whiskered. "Preface to a Life" is looking for them.
First, the worst -- the Arizona State Republican Senator who wants Gabby Giffords' house seat, even if he has to metaphorically push her out of the wheelchair to get it -- next.
OLBERMANN: "Preface to a Life," in which James Thurber confesses to, and also pokes fun at, the nervous ticks and worldly inattention of the comedic writer coming up.
First, because the following people will never confess to anything, here are "Countdown's" top three nominees for today's "Worst Persons in the World."
The bronze to Pat Robertson -- he has told the fire and brimstone crowd who watches TV fiction channel that the earthquake left a sign from God. "Ladies and gentlemen, I don't want to get weird on this, so please take it for what it's worth. But, it seems to me The Washington Monument, the symbol of America's power, a symbol of our great nation, we look at that monument and we say, 'One nation, under God' -- now, there's a crack in it. There's a crack in it, and it's closed up. Is that a sign from the Lord? When Jesus was crucified, and when he died, the curtain in the temple was ripped from top to bottom. There was a tear, and it was extremely symbolic. Is this symbolic?" All right, Jesus died in the earthquake on the east coast? What did he say? Secondly, you got a crack near your top, Pat, and I don't think that's a sign. Thirdly, what does the damage to The Washington Cathedral mean? Keep religion out of politics? Lastly, if you want a sign, Pat, the thing's epicenter was in Eric Cantor's district. Work with that, salvation boy.
Our runner up, Governor Rick Perry, "Death Gambler." The Huffington Post reporting Perry tried to float an insurance scheme eight years ago. He tried to sell the Swiss banking monolith UBS on a plan in which they would take out life insurance policies on retired school teachers in Texas, but only the ones aged 75 and older. When the teachers die, UBS would make hundreds of millions of dollars, and the state would then receive a fee for each dead teacher. You may be worth $700 million, all told. Perry's idea was that he could convince the teachers to endorse the deal, and permit UBS to take out the life insurance in exchange for cheap gifts like pairs of shoes. Fortunately, Perry was just as stupid then as he is now, and apparently, the teachers they approached would not hand over their insurance in exchange for shoes.
But our winner, Arizona state senator Frank Antenori -- considered one of the possible challengers next year for congresswoman Gabby Giffords. If she stands for re-election, he is to open up an exploratory committee, and he's also become the first named Republican to commit political suicide over Giffords' health. He has told the Washington paper The Hill, "She's cognizant enough to read and comprehend the debt bill and cast a vote. But her handlers don't feel the media should be given access to her, and I don't know why that is.
It's creating the legitimate question -- is she able to vigorously represent the district, or was this a one-time deal? Can she do this next term to the same degree as every member of Congress? Is she able to continue that level of energy? Her staff have denied access to the media. If she's back, as they claim, why are they still blocking media access to her?" A lot can be said here about the appropriateness or tastefulness of Mr. Antenori's remarks, but given we are less than eight months removed from the morning when a man walked up to Congresswoman Giffords and put a hole through her head at point-blank range, and she's already made a remarkable recovery that is still in its earliest stages, all I want to say to Mr. Antenori consists of two words -- first word is "blow," and the second has nothing to do with hurricanes.
Arizona State Senator Frank Antenori, today's "Worst Person in the World."
OLBERMANN: All of Thurber is autobiographical, but in nothing perhaps does he get closer to addressing his own idiosyncrasies, phobias and ticks than in something that most people shoot right past. Something I'll read in a moment. Thurber really ticked off his own family with everything else he wrote in the book, "My Life in Hard Times." His brother in particular -- brothers rather really never forgave him for his exaggerated characterizations of them. But he may have been harshest on himself in the preface. I read some of "My Life in Hard Times" in the James Thurber audio collection, which you can download on Amazon and iTunes and everywhere else. And from which, I'm happy to say I don't make dime.
I'm reading tonight from "My Life and Hard Times," and Thurber has actually dated and date-lined this composition.
"Sandy Hook, Connecticut, September 25th, 1933."
"Preface to a Life," by James Thurber.
Benvenuto Cellini said that, 'A man should be at least 40 years old before he undertakes so fine an enterprise as that of setting down a story of his life.' He said also that, 'An autobiographer should have accomplished something of excellence.'
Nowadays nobody who has a typewriter pays any attention to the master's quaint rules. I myself have accomplished nothing of excellence except a remarkable, and to some of my friends, unaccountable expertness in hitting empty ginger ale bottles with small rocks.
At the distance of 30 paces. Moreover, I'm not yet 40 years old, but the grim date moves toward me at pace. My legs are beginning to go. Things blur before my eyes, and the faces of the rose-lipped maids I knew in my 20s are misty as dreams At 40, my faculties may have closed up like flowers at evening, leaving me unable to write my memoirs with a fitting and discrete inaccuracy or having written them. Unable to carry them to the publishers.
A writer, verging in to the middle years who lives in dread of losing his way to the publishing house and wandering. There to disappear like Ambrose Bierce. And he has sometimes also has the kindred dread of turning a corner and meeting himself sauntering long in the opposite direction. I have known writers of this dangerous and tricky age to phone their homes, from their offices or their offices from their homes ask for themselves in a low tone. And then having fortunately discovered they were out to collapse in relief.
This is particularly writers of light pieces, running from 1,000 to 2,000 words. The notion that some of these persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue.
They lead as matter of fact an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of literature in the house of life. They have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats, afraid of losing themselves in the two-volume novel or even the one-volume novel, they stick to short accounts of misadventures because they never get so deep into them but that they feel they can out.
This type of writing is not a joyous form of self-expression, but the manifestation of a twitchiness that is once cosmic and mundane. Authors of such pieces have, nobody knows why, a genius for getting in to minor difficulties. They walk into the wrong apartments. They drink furniture polish for stomach bitters. They drive their cars in to the prized tulip beds of neighbors. They playfully slap gangsters, mistaking them for old school friends. To call such persons humorous, a lose-fitting and ugly word, is to miss the nature of their dilemma and the dilemma of their nature.
The little wheels of their invention are set in motion by the damp hand of melancholy.
Such a writer moves about restlessly wherever he goes, ready to get the hell out at the drop of a pie pan or the lift of a skirt.
His gestures are the ludicrous reflexes of the maladjusted.
His repose is the momentary inertia of the nonplussed.
He pulls the blinds against the morning and creeps in to smoky corners at night.
He talks largely about small matters and smally about great affairs.
His ears are shut to the ominous rumblings of the dynasties of the world moving toward a cloudier chaos than ever before, but he hears with an acute perception the startling sounds that rabbits make twisting in the bushes along a country road at night, and a cold chill comes upon him when the comic supplement of a Sunday newspaper blows unexpectedly out of an areaway and envelops his knees.
He can sleep while the commonwealth crumbles, but a strange sound in the pantry at 3:00 in the morning will strike terror into his stomach.
He is not afraid or much aware of the menaces of empire, but he keeps looking behind him as he walks along darkening streets out of the fear that he's being softly followed by little men, padding along in single file, about a foot-and-a-half high, large-eyed and whiskered.
It is difficult for such a person to conform to what Ford Madox Ford in his book of recollections has called the sole reason for writing one's memoirs, mainly to paint a picture of one's time.
Your short piece writer's time is not Walter Lippmann's time, or Stuart Chase's time, or Professor Einstein's time.
It is his own personal time, circumscribed by the short boundaries of his pain and his embarrassment, in which what happens to his digestion, the rear axle of his car, and the confused flow of his relationships with six or eight persons and two or three buildings is of greater importance than what goes on in the nation or in the Universe.
He knows vaguely that the nation is not much good anymore.
He has read that the crust of the Earth is shrinking alarmingly and that the Universe is growing steadily colder, but he does not believe that any of the three is in half as bad of a shape as he is.
Enormous strides are made in star measurement, theoretical economics, and the manufacture of bombing planes, but he usually doesn't find out about them until he picks up an old copy of "Time" on a picnic ground or in the summer house of a friend.
He is aware that billions of dollars are stolen every year by bankers and politicians and that thousands of people are out of work, but these conditions do not worry him a tenth as much as the time he has wasted three months on a stupid psychoanalyst or the suspicion that a piece that he has been working on for two long days was done much better, and probably more quickly, by Robert Benchley in 1924.
The time of such a writer then is hardly worth reading about if the reader wishes to find out what was going on in the world while the writer in question was alive in what might laughingly called "his best." All that the reader is going to find out is what happened to the writer. The composition, I suppose, must lie in the comforting feeling that one has had, after all, a pretty sensible and peaceful life by comparison.
It is unfortunate, however, that even a well-ordered life cannot lead anybody safely around the inevitable doom that waits in the skies.
As F. Hopkinson Smith long ago pointed out, 'The claw of the sea-puss gets us all in the end.'"
"Preface to a Life," by James Thurber.
That's "Countdown," in New York.
I'm Keith Olbermann.
Good night, and good luck.