'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, September 13th, 2011
ShowPlug1: 'Let The Uninsured Die'? Nicole Lamoureaux of @NAFClinics +frmr Rep. @AlanGrayson join me on Tea Party's Sadistic Tipping Point
ShowPlug2: Poverty at rates not seen since 1993. From 15% of al of us to 39% of black kids. Fixing gvmt to fix it, with Rep. Barney Frank
ShowPlug3: Finally! A bill to hold Supreme Court Justices to same ethics as federal judges. Sponsor Rep. @ChrisMurphyCT is my guest
ShowPlug4: Worsts: British MP calls out Rep. Peter King's hypocrisy: a witch-hunt for Muslims but he still won't disavow his support of IRA
ShowPlugLast: + Pre 9/11 Intel Failures, Post 9/11 substitution of sadism for interrogation, w/ ex-FBI officer Ali Soufan @TheSoufanGroup
watch whole playlist
Bonus: Countdown to Countdown Moment
#5 'Sickos', Nicole Lamoureaux
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#5 'Sickos', Alan Grayson
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#4 'Back to Work', Rep. Barney Frank
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Rules for the Rulers', Rep. Chris Murphy
#2 Worst Persons: Sen. Jeff Sessions, Rep. Peter King, Donald Rumsfeld
#1 'The Tortured Truth', Ali Soufan
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
Web extra: Ali Soufan details intelligence failures before 9/11, damage to U.S. reputation from torture
printable PDF transcript
Guests: Alan Grayson, Ali Soufan, Barney Frank, Chris Murphy, Nicole LaMoureux
KEITH OLBERMANN: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The tipping point. The death of a hypothetical uninsured patient.
(Excerpt from video clip) WOLF BLITZER: Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?
(Excerpt from video clip) RON PAUL: No.
(Excerpt from video clip) AUDIENCE: Yeah!
OLBERMANN: Your 2011 tea party in action. The same vicious, sick, dehumanized, sadistic crowd which cheered Rick Perry's execution track record last week.
(Excerpt from video clip) BRIAN WILLIAMS: Your state has executed 234 death-row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you -
(Excerpt from video clip) AUDIENCE: (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
OLBERMANN: The vindication of something said on the floor of the House of Representatives on September 29th, 2009.
(Excerpt from video clip) ALAN GRAYSON: If you get sick in America, this is what the Republicans what you to do. If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly. That's right. The Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick.
OLBERMANN: My special guest tonight, former Congressman Alan Grayson.
As poor as we were in 1993: 46 million Americans, again, living in poverty. Twenty-seven percent of all Blacks, 26 percent of all Latinos, 15 percent of all Americans. Fixing, that in part by fixing the Federal Reserve, with Congressman Barney Frank. Holding the Supreme Court to the same ethics we expect of all other federal judges. We're looking at you, Alito, Scalia, Thomas. The bill to restrict them from politicking, with its author Congressman Chris Murphy.
"Worsts," still lying after all of these years.
(Excerpt from video clip) DONALD RUMSFELD: The Guantanamo Bay, military commissions, indefinite detention, Patriot Act, these things have helped to protect the American people.
OLBERMANN: If by help to protect the American people you really mean, help to terrorize the American people. And the man who proves Rumsfeld and the others wrong, the man who got actually intel from Abu Zubaydah by non-torture interrogation, our guest Ali Soufan, the author of "The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and The War Against Al-Qaeda."
All that and more now on "Countdown."
(Excerpt from video clip) GEORGE W. BUSH: I'm not going to talk about techniques that we use on people.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York. This is Tuesday, September 13th, 420 days until the 2012 Presidential Election and one night removed from the moment the American far right in its tea party guise demonstrated its bent towards immorality, cruelty and heartlessness for the second time in less than a week.
The fifth story on the "Countdown," there's no debating this. What happened last night in Tampa should be a tipping point for any undecideds or Independents who might still have lingering doubts about what a Republican victory in 2012 would mean. The key moment in the "CNN Tea Party Express Debate" came not in the clash over Social Security, or vaccination, or job creation, or building a Great Wall of Mexico to keep illegal immigrants on the other side of the border. It came in an exchange between moderator Wolf Blitzer and the radical Libertarian candidate for the GOP nomination, the Texas Congressman Dr. Ron Paul, as in medical doctor. Blitzer asking what should happen to a healthy 30-year-old without medical insurance who then becomes seriously ill?
(Excerpt from video clip) PAUL: What he should do is whatever he wants to do and assume responsibility for himself. My advice to him would have a major medical policy, but not be forced -
(Excerpt from video clip) BLITZER: But he doesn't have that. He doesn't have it and he's - and he needs - he needs intensive care for six months, who pays?
(Excerpt from video clip) PAUL: That's what freedom is all about. Taking your own risks. This whole idea that you have to prepare and take care of everybody.
(Excerpt from video clip) AUDIENCE: (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(Excerpt from video clip) BLITZER: But, congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?
(Excerpt from video clip) AUDIENCE: (APPLAUSE) Yeah.
OLBERMANN: There you have it. Just let him die? Yeah.
Dr. Paul did mention that when he was a doctor in San Antonio before Medicaid, the churches took care of the sick who could not pay for their care. The audience seemed to like that. Anyone but them, otherwise, let them die. It was all too reminiscent of this exchange from last Wednesday's GOP debate at the Reagan Library.
(Excerpt from video clip) WILLIAMS: Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you -
(Excerpt from video clip) AUDIENCE: (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(Excerpt from video clip) WILLIAMS: Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?
(Excerpt from video clip) RICK PERRY: No, sir. I have never struggled with that at all. You kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is you will be executed.
(Excerpt from video clip) WILLIAMS: What do you make of -
(Excerpt from video clip) AUDIENCE: (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(Excerpt from video clip) WILLIAMS: What do you make of the dynamic that just happened here? The mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause.
(Excerpt from video clip) PERRY: I think Americans understand justice.
OLBERMANN: Republicans understand sadism. Americans who understand justice also understand that innocent people sometimes die when the death penalty is employed, and that there are serious questions as to whether some of the inmates executed during Governor Perry's reign received fair trials or may have been actually innocent of the crimes for which they were dispatched. Governor Perry does not understand that. Proving he does not understand justice. Just how to throw red meat to a crowd demanding more of the same. They got more red meat last night in this exchange on Social Security. Governor Romney asking Perry if he believes as he wrote in his book "Fed up" that Social Security was unconstitutional, not to mention being a Ponzi scheme and should be returned to the states.
(Excerpt from video clip) PERRY: If what you're trying to say is that back in the '30s and the '40s that the federal government made all the right decisions, I disagree with you. And it's time for us to get back to the Constitution and a program that's been there 70 or 80 years, obviously we're not going to - we're not going to take that program away. But for people to stand up and support what they did in the '30s or what they're doing in the 2010s is not appropriate for America.
(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: But the question is, do you still believe that Social Security should be ended as a federal program as you did six months ago when your book came out, and return to the states. Or do you want to retreat from that?
(Excerpt from video clip) PERRY: I think we ought to have a conversation -
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: We're having that right now, Governor. That's - we're running for president.
(Excerpt from video clip) PERRY: Yes, sir, if you'll let me finish, I'll finish this conversation.
OLBERMANN: I'll finish it for you. If we got back to the 1930s, Texas would be bankrupt in a matter of months. Other states should in a tea-party America to finish that thought, do as Texas did in the 1980s - move its state employees off Social Security and into local retirement plans. Plans that would be a lot less solid than Social Security. No doubt Tea Party Republicans would applaud that. Or shout their approval so long as it all happens to someone else.
We'll hear from former Florida Congressman Alan Grayson on this in a moment, but first I'd like to discuss last night with another old friend, Nicole Lamoureux, the executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics. Nicole, good to talk to you. I'm sorry it's under these circumstances.
NICOLE LAMOUREUX: Well, it's nice to be back. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: The audience reaction last night, cheers for letting even a hypothetical stranger die for lack of health insurance. Your reaction was and is what?
LAMOUREUX: I was livid. I was disgusted and I was disappointed. I have to be honest, and Keith you know this from doing the clinics with us. It's not a hypothetical situation.
LAMOUREUX: There are real people that are dying every single day because they do not have access to health care, and what that showed me last night is that we had this thought process that our lives are more important than that undocumented or uninsured person, and that's not the way it needs to be in this country. Health care should be a right, not a privilege.
OLBERMANN: You see as much harshness as you see kindness at those wonderful clinics. But did you ever actually expect to hear people at a political debate, people involved in a political party, people that supposedly engaged in a political process make those sort of comments and have those sort of reactions in public where people could see them reacting to other human beings like they were filth?
LAMOUREUX: It broke my heart. It broke my heart for the uninsured, and someone needs to be the voice for those uninsured. As we've talked about before, 83 percent of the people who come to our clinics come from a working household. They don't want to be uninsured. They don't want to be unemployed and they definitely do not want to be treated as if they are the filth on someone else's shoe.
OLBERMANN: Dr. Ron Paul's reaction, were you surprised by that? I mean, that's not an honorary title? That's not something - he was an OB/GYN, and basically let the charities take over if people don't have enough insurance, you know, presumably there are enough free clinics out there to take care of everybody without insurance. Is there any factual basis for that - that next leap forward from where he - where he finished off last night?
LAMOUREUX: Absolutely not. Free and charitable clinics, we are part of a solution. But as we've talked about before, we're not the entire solution. I would remind Ron Paul that when we were in Houston, Texas, 1,800 people had to come to a convention center to get the health care that we need.
LAMOUREUX: This is not a solution. Yes, we service 8 million patients across the country. Yes, we do it without state or federal support, but we have never said that we are the solution, nor do I think that any charity would say that to you.
OLBERMANN: The debate over Social Security that we're now seeing, is this another part of the same picture? Is it all basically "I've got mine. Who cares about anybody else"?
LAMOUREUX: I really think what we're finding is that really we're all looking at what's most important for me, for that faction, to get that vote. But we're not looking at what's best for America. And I think that's what we have to do as voters. We have to find what's best for America, for our brothers and sisters. So, yes, I think that's exactly what's happening.
OLBERMANN: We've been hearing a lot about the upcoming election, that it's going to be about that it is right now about what sort of a country we are or what sort of country we may become. And based on the audience reaction last night and its reaction to that death-penalty issue and the horrible number that they seemed so proud of last week, in your opinion, what are we becoming?
LAMOUREUX: I'll tell you one thing, the people that I have worked with at these clinics, 17,000 volunteers that have come because of you and this show and our other outreach efforts, we are not that America. We are the America that feels that we should take care of our brothers and sisters. We are the Americans who volunteers to give our time to give that health care. So what did we see? We saw a group of people who wanted to have a mob mentality and clap. But I have faith that the rest of us are not that way.
OLBERMANN: I hope you're right, and I think you just hit it on the head with the mob mentality. That's exactly what we saw in action. Nicole Lamoureux, the executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics. And If you haven't met Nicole before, one of the saints here. Donations always accepted at freeclinics.us. Thanks as ever, Nicole.
LAMOUREUX: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: In 2009, my next guest anticipated last night's tea party call to let the uninsured drop dead without medical care. Alan Grayson, then a Florida Congressman got on the floor of the House and said, "The Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick." To stay he took a lot of criticism for that understates the case just a little bit. And as last night proved, he was right.
I am joined now by the former Florida Congressman Alan Grayson. Good evening, sir.
ALAN GRAYSON: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Your immediate reaction to last night?
GRAYSON: Well, in fact, it does prove that I was right, but I wish I was wrong. We belong to a 3,000-year-old tradition in this country where you shelter the homeless, you feed the hungry and you heal the sick. And it's amazing to me that at this late date after all of this time, we're still debating a fundamental question like this. We have so many problems in this country. We have 23 million people who can't find a job, a full-time job. We have 47 million people in this country who need the government's help to feed themselves. We have 50 million people in this country who can't see a doctor when they're sick. We have 15 million families who owe more on their mortgage than the value of their homes. And all of those people could end up very quickly living in their cars. And to all of those people, the tea party has only this to say. All they want to say to them is, "You can go to Hell."
OLBERMANN: And there's even one stage beyond that, isn't there? I mean, it's really - It's "I'd rather see you die than see my taxes go up or my taxes not go down"? Is that where we are?
GRAYSON: It's - No, it's worse than that. They see - they take pleasure in other people's pain. The interesting thing about them is that they have this enormous threshold for pain as long as it's someone else's.
GRAYSON: That's the saddest thing. It's sadism.
OLBERMANN: All right, when see sadism, I've noticed a dearth to some degree of anger. I felt it within, but even sitting here now, it's hard for me to express my reaction to this in terms of anger. And you and I have both gotten angry on this very subject. Is it more sadness or horror that these are people who live among us or that this is something we have to contend with to make a society that isn't handing out bouquets and gold bricks to everybody, but is just keeping everybody alive for a couple of extra months or a couple of extra years or as long as they possibly can be? What is the appropriate response? What is the functional response to this?
GRAYSON: Listen, 2,000 years ago, it's the same people, the same kind of mentality that was cheering when the lions ate the Christians. It's always been with us. There's always been a dark side to us. But we have to fight it. We have to make sure that in the end, we are decent human beings. Look, I was on a plane today and somebody saw that I was in front of the plane and my bag was in the back of the plane. He took the bag. He brought it to the front of the plane. I don't know his name. I'll never see him again. I have no idea who he is, but he showed me human kindness. Not just American kindness, but human kindness. That's who we really are. And there's plenty of us among us who recognize that.
OLBERMANN: And not to turn this into sermonette or something, but the tea party as you know infuses religion into everything. Where was the Christianity in that response last night? That sounded more like devil worshipers to me, actually.
GRAYSON: Right, I would suggest they go back and read the sermon on the mount. Maybe it'll have new meaning for them now.
OLBERMANN: And again, to try to figure out what to do about this, it's seemingly much more of a dilemma than you would think at first glance. As I said, I'm having trouble summoning the anger even though I know I feel it. It's more horror and - as if you knew a great terrible truth was revealed last night and you need to tell people about it. Should the Democrats run with that clip, should that be a part of everybody's campaign next year, that one little sequence or an explanation of what that means?
GRAYSON: What it comes down to is very simple. And you don't just see it on that clip because it does summarize it, but it summarizes a much larger truth. The larger truth is that these people who claim to be pro-life are actually pro-death. And they glorify and sanctify other people's pain. That's what it comes down to. They are callous, bigoted tools and that's the so-called loyal opposition, these days, in America. And that's the underlying truth the Democrats failed to bring out in the 2010 election, and must bring out in the 2012 election or God help us all.
OLBERMANN: Indeed. How do we do it?
GRAYSON: Oh, very simple. Show people that clip. Make the point. Don't feel like you have to compromise when you're talking about people's lives, when you're talking about life and death. There is no compromise between life and death. You take away people's Social Security, you're hurting old people. You take away people's Medicare, you're hurting old, sick people. You take away people's Medicaid, you're hurting old - sorry - not old - poor, sick people. That's the truth that needs to be brought out. The pain that corresponds to taking all of these things away from people. You know, the thing that has motivated the tea party, it seems, is the fear. They claim that something's being taken away from them. And they're using that fear to take away something from everybody else. And that's the sense that we're all in this together, that we do have responsibilities to each other, that I am my brother's keeper.
OLBERMANN: There is no compromise between life and death. Well said, sir, the former and we hope the future Congressman from Florida, Alan Grayson. Thanks again. Good to see you.
GRAYSON: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Two out of every five black children in this country lives in poverty. Nearly as many Latino children do and more than a quarter of all black and Latino adults. And 15 percent of all of us do. Those new numbers tonight showing that as the richest nation in the history of the Earth, we have just gotten poorer. That's next. This is "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: As the House majority leader says the issue of taxing the rich should be decided by next year's election, the news that 15 percent of us live in poverty. Congressman Barney Frank joins me.
Shouldn't there be a law preventing Justice Clarence Thomas from politicking with the tea party or somebody with the Liberal Party? Congressmen Chris Murphy thinks so. He and 42 colleagues have introduced legislation, he joins us here.
While he beats his chest in England over supposed Muslim terrorists, a British parliamentarian points out Congressman King is still an unrepentant IRA sympathizer.
And amid the latest rantings from Mr. Bush's war criminals, I'll be joined by a man who broke the terrorist Abu Zubaydah by talking to him. And who thinks the CIA had the info or may have had the info it needed to interrupt 9/11 in 2000. Ali Soufan ahead on "Countdown".
OLBERMANN: Census Bureau reporting new and staggering economic numbers today. Over 15 percent of Americans now live in poverty, and that is the good news. For Latinos it's 26 percent, for blacks 27 percent, for children it's almost too horrible to say out loud. In all 42,600,000 people, the highest percentage of Americans since 1993 and the largest number ever, live in poverty. To put the number in perspective, the number of people living in poverty in this country now equal to the population of California and Colorado combined.
In our fourth story tonight, against that bleak backdrop, the president fighting to get his jobs bill passed, even as Republicans gear up to oppose it. President Obama making his case in John Boehner's home state of Ohio, today.
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: So, let's tell Congress, instead of just talking about helping America's jobs creators, let's actually do something to help America's job creators. Let's pass this bill right away.
OLBERMANN: That bill, though, not big enough for the Congressional Progressive Caucus which unveiled its own jobs plan today, but top White House advisor David Axelrod telling ABC that administration's bill will be effective as long as Congress passes all of it.
(Excerpt from video clip) DAVID AXELROD: We're not in a negotiation to break up the package, and it's not an a la carte menu. It is the strategy to get this country moving.
OLBERMANN: As for the Republicans, after initially saying there were parts of that plan they could support, they're now listing the things they will not agree to. House Majority Leader Cantor announcing today he would not accept tax hikes on the rich and might reject other parts of the bill as well, saying, "Obama's message, all or nothing, take it or leave it. That's just not the way I think anything works, and certainly not the way Washington works."
A Republican suddenly saying all or nothing doesn't work in Washington. It's like the Catholic Church when it reversed itself on that Earth-goes-around-the-sun heresy. In any case, Obama indicating he might agree with Cantor, at least on this, saying, he would pass parts of his bill, piecemeal, saying today, "Obviously if they pass parts of it, I'm not going to veto those parts. I will sign it, but I will say, then, give me the rest, and I will keep on making that argument as long as the need is there to put people back to work."
Joining me now, in the context of all of this and with some more context to come, Representative Barney Frank, the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, who's working on his own financial legislation that would reform the Federal Reserve. Congressman, thanks as always for your time tonight.
BARNEY FRANK: I am glad to be here, Keith. It's a very important time, obviously.
OLBERMANN: Before we get to your legislation, the poverty numbers. How on Earth did we get here?
FRANK: By public policy in part. There were some national economic factors, international economic factors, that tend to put money towards wealthier people in the United States because that's where we have some international advantages, but public policy has clearly exacerbated that. We have a tax system which is unfair and which shelters the wealthiest while working people still pay Social Security and other taxes, but we have public policies that cut back on things. Let me give you one example. I've asked both Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke, neither of them very radical, what they thought over the long term we could do about increasing income inequality, which has been a problem for a couple of decades. Both of them pointed to community colleges as ways that you can give people from families that don't have a lot of money the kind of skills they need, and community colleges can give people the kind of jobs, frankly - heating repair, nursing - they're the things you can't do from Mumbai. They are things that would be done hands-on, that would allow the quality of a life to go up. But community colleges are largely funded publicly. They're funded by the states. So, community colleges all across America, which conservative Federal Reserve chairs have said in the best way, over the longer term, to give people the jobs skills. They're getting cut. There is this mindless notion, on the part of my Republican colleagues, bought into by too many Democrats, that less government spending is always better, with one exception, of course, and that's the military.
FRANK: And if you listen to some of these guys, they will talk to you about you can't cut the military because of its great jobs thing. There are militarized Keynesians, but for everything else, they want to cut it back. We have 700,000 fewer jobs in America today because they have cut the funding by their public policies for teachers and public works employees who shovel the snow and clean up the garbage, for firefighters, and et cetera. So, it's public policy that has exacerbated this by promoting a tax system and other things that protect the wealthiest people and that undo the kinds of things by which we can enhance the income opportunities for lower-income people.
OLBERMANN: As you suggested, you believe that some of this has to do with who at the Fed, the Federal Reserve, is making important decisions, the fed governors who you say are too concerned with inflation as opposed to being focused particularly now on unemployment. Explain the new proposed legislation and how it will change.
FRANK: Well, some of them, people are making mistakes. You know, people talk about "Congress." Well, Congress consists of some people who got elected to dismantle government, who really want the president to fail, and would be disappointed if the economy got better because it would hurt their chances next year, and some of us who are trying to work more constructively, as I did even with the Bush administration.
The Federal Reserve voting members, of what's called the Open Market Committee, are of two categories. One, people appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, and then there's a second category that people haven't focused on. They are the presidents of the regional Federal Reserve banks. They are not appointed by any public official. They're not confirmed by any public official. They are selected by the regional Federal Reserve boards. The regional Federal Reserve boards are, of course, in turn picked by the president. Overwhelmingly, they are conservative people from the financial community, and I have been noticing this trend for some time. But, in the most recent vote, where Ben Bernanke, to his credit - and I think he has been trying very hard to take a more stimulative role on the part of the Federal Reserve - the vote was seven to three against him. Five of the votes are presidentially appointed and Senate confirmed. Five of the votes are these regional presidents. The regional presidents voted three to two against this, and the way the Federal Reserve works, when you see a seven to three vote, that becomes, people start rending their garments and gnashing their teeth because you need to have this all together.
The fact is that, if is the only part of American government where people who have no electable sanction whatever - they're not themselves elected, they're not appointed by elected officials, they're not confirmed by elected officials - it's a self-perpetuating group of financial people, perfectly nice people, many of them, and they have a right to do whatever they want to do, but they shouldn't be making monetary policy for the U.S., and it's become very clear, they are a constraint. You heard people like Paul Krugman, who's a great economist and a great advocate for things that will make this a less unfair society, complaining legitimately about the caution of the Federal Reserve. But I think it ought to be made clear, I don't think it's fair to say that Ben Bernanke is being too cautious. He is in a constrained situation.
And by the way, the Republicans thuggery in the Senate, whereby they simply refuse to do their job of confirming people and misuse the filibuster, that's made it even worse because there were supposed to be seven Senate confirmed presidentially appointed governors and the five regional presidents on a rotating basis who vote. But now it's only five and five because, for instance, Peter Diamond, a Nobel-wining economist from M.I.T., was vetoed by the Senate Republicans under Senator Shelby because they thought he'd be too concerned about trying to stimulate employment. They say the fed shouldn't do that. So, what we have is a situation where, yeah, the Federal Reserve can't do it all. We should be doing more stimulative. I'm for the president's program. I'm for more than the president's program, but I'll take what I can get. But the Federal Reserve's part of that is not as vigorous as it could be because you have these - conservative - this conservative element, private citizens appointed by other private citizens from the business sector who incongruously are given a vote on this very important issue of monetary policy.
OLBERMANN: Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, it's always an education, sir. Good luck with the bill.
FRANK: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, kindly.
For more than 200 years we have had ethical standards for every judge in this nation except for the ones who comprise the Supreme Court. Forty-three Democratic congressmen want to change that. Their leader joins me ahead on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: Finally, somebody is trying to apply judicial ethics standards to the Supreme Court. The congressman behind that, Chris Murphy, joins me next.
First, "Time Marches On."
Let's go to Milan - Milano, in Italy, the basketball juggling capital of the world - just made that up. But after seeing the skills of Selyna Bogino, it might as well be. Selyna, who's practicing to beat the world record for the most difficult and longest juggling routine, starts simply enough by balancing two hoops on her feet. Well, it's simple for her. And then the real fun begins. Not amazing enough for you? How about this NSFW stuff? Still not impressed? Let's throw in a little basketball pyramid trick. Wee! And after an incredible routine, Selyna casually gets up and bows quickly, and walks away. You can catch her performing in a city near you under the name "Pistol Feet Maravich."
And then to Lincoln, Nebraska, where - oh, no, the kids are late for school. Not to worry, introducing - the jet-powered school bus. Complete with an F-4 engine, this 21,000 pound - oh, I've been in school buses like that - 42,000 horse power vehicle might not be the safest way to get little Timmy to school, but it sure is fun. Speeds up to 320 miles an hour. You do need an experienced driver to handle this thing, and I've got just the guy for them. "My name is Otto, I loved to get blotto."
"Time marches on."
Congressman Murphy in the bid to stop Supreme Court justices from politicking - we're looking at you, Clarence Thomas - , next on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: We're coming to you live from the World Headquarters of the DuMont Television Network, each week night at 8 p.m. Eastern, program replayed at 11 p.m., 2 a.m., 7 a.m.., noon, and 3 p.m. "Countdown" - we call it our little miracle.
If you watched Justice Alito mouth criticisms during the State of the Union, or you saw Justice Thomas' wife raising money for the "Let-Him-Die" tea party, you have doubtless wondered why there is no law preventing justices of the U.S. Supreme Court from degrading themselves, and us, ethically.
In our third story on the "Countdown," Congressman Chris Murphy of Connecticut sure has. The congressman, who joins me presently, and at least 42 of his Democratic colleagues, have put it down on paper for the benefit of the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Their letter strongly suggests hearings on HR 862, the Supreme Court transparency and disclosure act. Along with a few generalities about sunlight being the best disinfectant, the letter pointed out specific fingers at three right-wing judges.
"There have been alarming reports of Justices, most notably Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, attending political events and using their positions to fundraise for organizations. While we understand that the Supreme Court is unique, we do not believe there should be one set of guidelines for Supreme Court justices and stricter standards for all others."
Along with Mr. Murphy, the letter was signed by some of the more progressive Democrats, including Barney Frank, Keith Ellison, Pete DeFazio, Raul Grijalva, Jan Schakowsky, Steve Rothman, Jesse Jackson, Jr., and Louise Slaughter. The letter accuses no current justice of criminal behavior, nor does it threaten impeachment, but it makes clear the liberals are concerned about gifts given to conservative judges, especially to Mr. Thomas, and their ties to right-wing think tanks. Judiciary Chair Lamar Smith, Republican, has neither responded to the letter, nor set a date for the hearing.
As promised, here is Representative Chris Murphy of the Connecticut 5th, now running for the Senate in that state. Good evening, sir.
CHRIS MURPHY: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So what's wrong with Clarence Thomas getting a $15,000 gift from an organization that had a brief pending before the court?
MURPHY: Well, here's the first problem - we don't know whether that's the only problem with Clarence Thomas or the tip of the iceberg. The fact is that there is a judicial code of conduct that applies to every judge in the federal judicial system except for nine, except for the nine judges on the Supreme Court. And, frankly, though my letter was signed by 40-some-odd Democrats, mostly progressives, this shouldn't be a progressive or a conservative issue. All we're asking for, is for the Supreme Court justices to live up to the same code of conduct that all the other judges do that would prevent them from openly engaging in the kind of political activities that clearly Justice Thomas and Justice Scalia have. That is just absolutely critical to the maintenance of blind justice in the Supreme Court.
OLBERMANN: Yeah, it seems almost silly that we have to underscore the point that this would also apply to any liberal justices now, or in the future. I mean, it's for - it's for everybody.
MURPHY: Yeah, absolutely, it's for everybody. And the fact is that right now we have very little idea what's going on in the Supreme Court. The only reason we know, for instance, that Justice Thomas and Justice Scalia went to a conference in Palm Springs hosted by the Koch brothers - the funders of a lot of the shadowy right-wing organizations in this country - is because it was on one of their brochures and was picked up by investigative reporter. We need to have a disclosure by the justices ahead of time when they're doing this kind of coordination with right-wing or left-wing political groups for that matter, so that we understand whether they are really litigating on the bench based on their own sense of constitutional right and wrong or whether they're being pressured by outside political groups that they have affiliations with.
OLBERMANN: With a Republican House, Republican committee chairman, and Mr. Smith here, is there chance that a bill like this actually gets through in any way? And if you're dealing with the Supreme Court, do you actually need a Constitutional amendment at some point?
MURPHY: We certainly don't need a Constitutional amendment. The legislature, the Congress, has the ability to set standards of conduct for the Supreme Court. In fact, there's one very vague statute on the books now that doesn't allow for judges to sit on cases in which they have conflicts. But I don't think we're likely to get a hearing from the Judiciary Committee right now, which is, frankly, ironic given the fact that they have already launched an investigation into their belief that Justice Kagan has a conflict on the Supreme Court on the health-care bill because her work previously for the Obama administration. So, you know, this Congress, as is par for the course, is very content to launch investigations into Democrats, and when the same things are proposed for more conservative members of the court, they, I think, sit idle, as they will likely in response to this letter.
OLBERMANN: If Mr. Alito and Mr. Scalia and Mr. Thomas left the country tomorrow to open their own nation somewhere and President Obama got to appoint three moderate or progressive justices, would you go ahead with this bill?
MURPHY: Absolutely. I mean, this is really about sunlight right now. I think, when I talk about this bill back in my district, people are alarmed that there is one code of conduct for the federal judiciary that exempts nine justices on the Supreme Court. I want to know whether progressive judges, moderate judges or conservative judges are out there openly coordinating with political groups. That is good for democracy, and, frankly, I would hope that in the end this bill draws support from both sides of the aisle. It is simply a bill set in the idea that transparency and sunlight is good for democracy and good for all political parties.
OLBERMANN: No wonder the Republican doesn't want it. Congress Chris Murphy, the Democrat of Connecticut, good luck with this. It's long overdue. Supreme Court justices should be former Democrats or former Republicans. In any event, great thanks for your time tonight.
MURPHY: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The man who really broke Abu Zubaydah with conversation. Ali Soufan joins me to push back against the latest torture nonsense being pedaled by Dick Cheney and associates, ahead.
OLBERMANN: They stopped his non-violent interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. They stopped his requests for CIA information that might have forestalled the 9/11 attacks. Former FBI interrogator, now author, Ali Soufan, is my guest.
And, asked in the British Parliament if he would now disavow his statements of support for the terrorism at the IRA in the 1980s, including the deaths of civilians, the New York congressman investigating supposed Islamic terrorism says he would not disavow them. "Worsts," next on "Countdown."
OLBERMANN: The man who knows firsthand why torture does not work and old fashion interrogation does, Ali Soufan joins me next.
First, because there is such a thing as nonviolent torture, and these next guys embody it, here are "Countdown's" nominees for today's "Worst Persons in the World."
The bronze - Senator Jeff Sessions, pride of Keebler Elf Tree, Alabama. He is the leading member of the Republicans' latest attack - their success in the Senate in blocking more funding for disaster relief. An additional $7 billion to FEMA, which is now so strapped that reconstruction efforts in Joplin, Missouri, have had to have been suspended. "$7 billion? The state of Alabama's general budget is $2 billion. $7 billion is a lot of money," he said. "We have not looked at it. We have not thought about it. I strongly oppose adding another debt-spending bill that we haven't carefully examined every penny in it to making sure it's all necessary and appropriate." Great. Next disaster in Alabama, you repair it with your bare hands, senator, and the cash in your pocket. And a loofah. The good news is Sessions just refuted the assumption that he did not know seven was more than two.
The runner-up, Congressman Peter King of New York, currently known as the Chairman of the House Committee on Witch Hunting Muslims and Getting Peter King Re-elected. With parallel reactionaries now trying similar purges in Great Britain, Mr. King thought he'd get a nice round of applause for his supposed counterterrorism activities here at an appearance before Parliament there. Oops. Labour MP David Winnick brought it up. Winnick noted that just a few years ago, Peter King was a widely known supporter of the Irish Republican Army. In fact, a member of a fund-raising group suspected of providing the IRA - then utterly violent, with cash and weapons. "There's been some surprise the United States, but also in Britain, that you have a job looking into and investigating into terrorism," said the member of Parliament. He added that King, quote, "seems to be an apologist for terrorism." You might dismiss that as rhetoric, so Mr. Winnick quoted Peter King from 1985 when King said, "If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the IRA for it." He then asked King if he stood by his previous condoning of collateral terrorism casualties. "I stand by it in the context of when it was said." King then explained that he was just trying to put the IRA in perspective for Americans, went through his own history and connection to that terrorist group and how invaluable he was to the subsequent peace process, and, of course, King never once denounced nor expressed remorse or regret for supporting terrorism. The member of Parliament, Mr. Winnick, then noted that King believed that British torture of IRA prisoners had been used by the group as a recruiting tool. He asked King if there was a parallel to how this country inspired the growth of terrorist groups after 9/11 due to torture. King said he did not. And you know why? Because Peter King is a large rock in a suit with dyed hair who assumes that any Muslim might be a terrorist, but he doesn't recognize that he was a terrorist sympathizer because he thinks he and his group were right.
But our winner, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Speaking of rocks, he angrily announced on Twitter that he was canceling his subscription to The New York Times. This after columnist and frequent "Countdown" guest Paul Krugman wrote that given how the Republicans exploited it, "What happened after 9/11, and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not, was deeply shameful. The atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead, it became a wedge issue. The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned. It has become an occasion for shame and in its heart, the nation knows it." Rumsfeld was bothered by that for some reason? Rumsfeld, who with Cheney and Bush and all of the others took the unanimity of support the country left and right gave them, and exploited it in order to start a phony war in Iraq, who ruined this nation's standing internationally with torture designed to get false information, who spied on Americans without any law saying they could, who fostered Islamophobia, who spread and manipulated counter-terror efforts to advance their own political power? That Rumsfeld? Why did he cancel his subscription? Because Krugman didn't give him enough credit for all that? I've said it before and I will say it again - remembering that terrorism is as much about compelling irrational fear as it is about actual violence - between 2002 and 2009, the leading terrorist groups in this country were the Republican Party and the presidential administration of George W. Bush.
Donald Rumsfeld, shut up. Today's "Worst Person in the World."
OLBERMANN: If you've had it with hearing Dick Cheney defend the Bush administration's enhanced interrogation techniques, that is to say, torture, as he peddles his memoir around the country, take heart.
Our number one story on the "Countdown," we have the antidote to Mr. Cheney's prevarications. Ali Soufan is a former FBI special agent who began investigating al-Qaida in 1997. He had great success getting vital information from al-Qaida suspects before the CIA stepped in with methods, which the Red Cross confirmed in a confidential report, constituted torture. Methods like forced nudity, sleep deprivation, waterboarding, familiar from the Soviet Gulag and the Spanish Inquisition.
Mr. Soufan has written about his fight against al-Qaida and the Bush administration's torture policies in a new book called "The Black Banners." A Lebanese-American and a Muslim fluent in Arabic, Mr. Soufan was in Yemen investigating al-Qaida's attack on the USS Cole when 9/11 attacks took place. He quickly learned from an al-Qaida suspect the names of many of the terror group's operatives, including seven of the 9/11 hijackers. He also read a secret file that he believes could have helped prevent the attacks had he received it when he requested it, months before 9/11. From Yemen, Mr. Soufan was dispatched to a secret prison in Thailand, where he took part in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, the first of many operatives to be identified by U.S. officials as al-Qaida's number three. During that interrogation, Mr. Soufan succeeded in getting Zubaydah to identify Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the Mukhtar, the mastermind of the plane operations. Ten days later, a CIA contractor took over and Ali Soufan and the other FBI agents watched on video monitors as the enhanced interrogation of Zubaydah began. What he saw eventually led the FBI to pull its agents from the interrogation program. Mr. Cheney was still defending that program as recently as last Friday.
(Excerpt from video clip) DICK CHENEY: Few matters have inspired so much contrived indignation and phony moralizing as the interrogation methods applied to a few captured terrorists. The enhanced interrogations of high-value detainees and the terrorist surveillance program have, without question, made our country safer.
OLBERMANN: Joining me now, Ali Soufan, former FBI special agent and the author of "The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against Al-Qaeda." Welcome, sir.
ALI SOUFAN: Thank you, Keith. Great to be with you.
OLBERMANN: With their last breaths, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld and the others will insist that all good things, any positives of the last 10 years, trace back to, let's call it what it is, torture. There's one other thing that I wanted to play from Cheney's comments and get your reaction to. This is from last Friday.
(Excerpt from video clip) CHENEY: I've seen some comment to this effect from current officials of the government - helped produce, for example, the intelligence that allowed us to get Osama bin Laden.
OLBERMANN: Any truth to that?
SOUFAN: That's simply no. I mean, just the fact that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed lied after 130 - 183 session of waterboarding about the identity of the Kuwaiti. And just the fact that we later found out that that Kuwaiti was important - a fact that led us, eventually, to Osama bin Laden - that does not mean that enhanced interrogation worked. After 183 session, I, you know, suspect the person to be telling the truth, if waterboarding works. Everything that we've been told about waterboarding, everything we've been told about enhanced interrogation techniques, the identification of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as a mastermind of 9/11, the identification of Jose Padilla as the alleged "dirty bomber."
OLBERMANN: "Dirty bomber." Sure.
SOUFAN: And a lot of the other threats. We actually got that information from Abu Zubaydah way before waterboarding was even applied. Month and month before waterboarding was even applied. I'll give it to you this way - I mean, Padilla was arrested in May of 2002. Waterboarding didn't start until the end of July, early August of 2002. So month and month before, we had Padilla.
OLBERMANN: And where else could that have come from? Exactly.
SOUFAN: Absolutely, absolutely. And with Abu Zubaydah - they have been using Abu Zubaydah as a perfect example of how enhanced interrogation techniques work. Even, you know, all the different memos, all the different speeches that the advocates of enhanced interrogation techniques have been promoting around the nation basically are full of misinformation, because everything that I've heard so far about the alleged successes of enhanced interrogation techniques, I can tell you, I was there.
OLBERMANN: Um hm.
SOUFAN: My statement to the U.S. Senate is the only statement on record about what happened with Abu Zubaydah, and when they are able to raise their right hand, take an oath and talk about the efficacy of this program, then we can talk.
OLBERMANN: If you want to take the plug out all together, we're done with anything you'd have to listen to. You can just listen to me.
SOUFAN: Okay, great, thanks.
OLBERMANN: Do you get the impression, at this point, that we - that they pulled you guys out and threw the torturers in there not to get information at all, but simply to be able to say, "we tortured"? I mean, wouldn't it have been, to some degree, ethically cleaner to say, "Hey, if you're a terrorist or a suspected terrorist and we capture you, we're gonna torture you, not because it's going to work to get information, but just so we can."
SOUFAN: Well, you know, the program was secret at the time, and they went step by step towards enhanced interrogation techniques. It didn't happen overnight. But it was disheartening to see that happening and -
OLBERMANN: I'm sure.
SOUFAN: And especially when a person is talking, when a person is providing actionable intelligence, when a person is telling you about threats that they are planning to conduct around the world - not one, not two, not three. When the person identified Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the mastermind of 9/11. And I'll tell you how we got Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the mastermind of 9/11. Not because of waterboarding. We got him, as I told the U.S. Senate, we Forrest Gump ourselves to it. I mean, he was telling us about a threat in a country that I still cannot tell you -
SOUFAN: - the name because it's still classified, and he was telling us about the details of that threat. So when we were discussing it, he said this individual from al-Qaida is in charge of the operation. At the time, we were in the hospital and were caring for him. We were trying to help him recover. We did not have photo books with us to basically identify that specific individual. We knew - my partner and I - who he was talking about, so - but we didn't have the photos with us.
SOUFAN: My partner, remember, he has a - you know, remember those old Palm Pilots?
OLBERMANN: Right, yes, yes.
SOUFAN: You know, it has the stylus. And he downloaded the poster of the 22 most wanted terrorists. He clicked on the wrong photo because it was so small, and you know, and you have to hit it with the stylus a couple of times.
OLBERMANN: Right, right, right.
SOUFAN: And he gave it to me. I didn't look at it. He didn't look at it. So, I told him, "is this the guy?" And he said, "no." And I was really upset with him. I said, "after everything we've done to you and you're still freaking lying to me." He said, "don't play games with me, brother. This is Mukhtar. This is the guy who did the plane operation." I looked at it and it's Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. At that time, we did not know that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was a member of Al-Qaeda. The only reason his photo was on the most wanted - most wanted terrorists poster is because of his involvement in Manila air and the Bojinka plot.
OLBERMANN: Oh, my goodness.
SOUFAN: Not because he's a member of al-Qaida. So, this is how we knew about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
OLBERMANN: That's how that information comes.
SOUFAN: We - and then he continued. He continued to tell us all the details about the plot of 9/11, from A to Z.
OLBERMANN: We're gonna have to the end the hour because we're done in an hour, but if you can stay, we'll do something for the Web about the 9/11 story that you tell in the book. Ali Soufan's book is called "The Black Banners," and it's terrific.
I'm Keith Olbermann, that's "Countdown." Good night and good luck.