'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Nov. 11
Guest: Tim Duffy, Kenneth Walsh, John McCormick
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Recount down, 3rd party candidates try to raise the cash to force second tallies for the presidential votes in Ohio and New Hampshire.
And John Kerry is looking at Ohio, not to overturn the outcome, only to verify the voting. Uh-huh.
And have you found yourself getting into more fist fights lately?
Have you been fainting on the job?
Then you may be suffering from what actor Vincent D'Onofrio reportedly has, post election anxiety disorder.
What next for the Palestinians? What next for Middle East Peace?
And what next for what is said to be the hidden billions of Yasser Arafat?
And did the fact that a broadcast network showed you this lead to another one, not being able to show you this? Saving, "Saving Private Ryan."
All that and more now on Countdown.
OLBERMANN: About $193,000 is the margin separating this country from recounts of the presidential election in New Hampshire and Ohio.
John Kerry has nothing to do with it. In fact, his lawyers headed to Ohio in essence prove that President Bush won there.
Our fifth story on the Countdown, making sure your vote counts. while efforts are underway to count it and everybody else's twice. The Kerry/Edwards part of the story first. You tax dollars in action, day 10 of the 2004 election irregularities investigations. The senators' legal counsel for Ohio, Dan Hoffheimer, says some of those election lawyers each side were wielding like switch blades before the election are in Ohio or keeping symbolic watch on Ohio, but not to try to get their hands on 20 electoral votes.
"Our effort is not in any way intended to overturn George Bush's victory in Ohio," Hoffheimer says. "And we do not expect to find a pattern of voter fraud." He says, the goal is to assure that the laws are followed during counting of the provisional, absentee, overseas and regular ballots.
But despite all those disclaimers, Kerry's Ohio attorney also refers to the "Many problem that sullied Ohio's electoral process before and on election day." Kerry does not want a recount but has resources to burn. Two other candidates do want one but they may not have any resources at all.
But David Cobb and Michael Badnarik, who between them got 14,355 of Ohio's 2.8 million votes, may still force a recount in that state. Cobb, the Green Party candidate and Badnarik, his counterpart in the Libertarian Party, today confirmed they intend to file for a recount in the Buckeye state. Their campaigns will have to pay for it in advance working on premise of $10 per precinct.
That would mean raising around $113,000 between now and five days after Ohio's secretary state, Kenneth Blackwell, certifies the election. Since they will not even start working on the provisional ballots until Saturday, that might give Cobb and Badnarik two weeks to locate the scratch. They say they will try to raise via their Web sites. They also ask Mr. Blackwell, who doubled as President Bush's campaign leader if Ohio, to recuse himself from a recount. Incidently, in Ohio, Badnarik got 14,331 votes and Cobb got 24.
Ralph Nader got 4,470 votes in New Hampshire. That and $2 will get him a gallon of gas if he's lucky. But that and a check now for $2,000, and some sort of binding promise to pay additional costs later will get him a recount in the granite state where incidentally, John Kerry won. The Nader campaign confirming this afternoon that the check was being sent to Concord today. They've even already picked out the 11 specific wards they wanted recounted. Those wards were chosen with the help of a Michigan computer programmer and self described math geek named, Ida Riggs (ph), who did a study comparing vote totals from the current election with results from 2000, largely center in the urban areas, in the southeast corner of the state. All those precincts registered a significant bounce for Mr. Bush, anywhere from 7 to 12 points. All of those precincts using optical scanners made by Diebold or Sequoia Voting System.
And according to Miss Briggs, if you look at all 71 precincts where President Bush improved upon his results from 2000, 73 percent of those used optical scanners. A reminder here that Mr. Bush lost the state of New Hampshire this time around. Nevertheless, after the ballots were fed into the optical scanners are recounted by hand at a cost of perhaps $80,000, Miss Briggs and the Nader campaign will crunch the number again to see if there are any discrepancies.
To reality check both the possible recounts and what the Kerry/Edwards legal team is or isn't doing in Ohio, I'm joined by John McCormick, "Chicago Tribune" reporter who has been following the story of the voting mechanics in these elections. Mr. McCormick, good evening. Thanks for your time.
JOHN MCCORMICK, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: Is this trying to have your cake and eat it too, on behalf of the Kerry campaign?
Kind of a betting recount or challenge of some sort without really running the risk of suffering the potential political blow back.
MCCORMICK: I haven't talked to anybody in the Kerry camp today. I think there is kind of a fine line here. You don't want to be seen as a sore loser. And yet John Edwards came out on election night, and one of the first things he said, we want to make sure all the votes are counted. And we all know that elections are pretty messy business. Not a lot of attention was paid to this stuff before the 2000 election and how close that one was. But as - as people geared up for this election, everybody knew that it would be lawyered to death. That when I was in Ohio before the election, literally, hundred of lawyers were there watching.
OLBERMANN: Now they may have something to do. When you talk of a fine line, speaking of a fine line. If what they're saying is not a cover for a recount, if the premise is exactly as Hoffheimer put it, which was to increase, not diminish the public's confidence in our election laws. In that sense, has not Senator Kerry put himself in a rather odd position, spending his campaigns money to double-check the fact that President Bush was reelected?
MCCORMICK: Well, I suppose. But both campaigns geared up for this. They had a legal and accounting funds where they raised millions of dollars in preparation should a recount be necessary. So, they have the money in place. And you know, it's probably not going to be that expensive a proposition to be in Ohio, to be able to take complaints from voters, if there are some out there. There's a lot of stuff running around on the Internet these days about all kind of conspiracy theories about people who have looked at statistical models on this and all kinds of fairly tangential things. The Democrats concede they did not win the election. And they don't expect any of this to change the outcome.
OLBERMANN: It looks as if there will be, at least a partial recount in New Hampshire. At least their's the chance of one in Ohio. And they would all be sponsored by three non-mainstream candidates. If there is a recount in Ohio, how would that impact either Senator Kerry or the remnants of his campaign?
Would it impact them?
MCCORMICK: Well, again, I don't think, if he wants to run for president again, in '08, and there's some speculation that he does, obviously, it is too soon to tell if they'll really do that. But you don't want to be viewed as a sore loser. And if you are too closely tied to these recount efforts, that's a potential risk. But again, you know, all of these states have unique laws when it comes to recount, and their voting procedure. I mean, the nation's election system is really a patch work of varying systems and technologies. And in term of recount, they all have their own different laws and regulations. And it's within any candidate's right, a three party or whatever, to make those requests.
OLBERMANN: It's not just an emcee as you're drawing, our voting, means, it is an emcee exhibition.
John McCormick of the "Chicago Tribune," many thanks for your time, sir.
MCCORMICK: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: All of this, Kerry's auditors, if you will, for Ohio, the Libertarian/Green Party bid to recount there, the Nader negations in New Hampshire, may be entirely new to you. Not if you're on the Internet. Once again, the amorphous world of ether and blogs, seems to have pointed mainstream politics in this country in at least a slightly different direction.
Who better to analyze that than MSNBC's own Joe Trippi, former manager of Howard Dean's presidential campaign. Author of the "Revolution Will Not be Televised: Democracy, the Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything," and Mr. Web around these parts.
Joe, good evening.
JOE TRIPPI, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Simply put, is the roar on the Internet about Ohio, the reason that the Kerry folks have sort of side stepped back into that state now?
TRIPPI: I don't think there's any question about it. I mean, I think they were willing to walk away from it on election night. I think they wouldn't be sending anybody on this mission unless, except for the fact that the blogosphere went out, grabbed the story. And you know, it was something we were seeing all day at MSNBC. Citizen journalists were commenting on our blog of problems that they were seeing in Ohio. We have the make your Count Vote Project that MSNBC was running, has 2000 recorded complaints from Ohio. So these complaints were out there. But it was blogosphere that picked them up, ran with then, and then bloggerman yourself reported it. And I think it sort of got - another one of those stories that jumped in the mainstream media. And now all these campaigns are reacting to it, and I think even using it as a valid excuse to go in and see what's there and try to, you know, at least count every vote. Make sure some of this stuff didn't happen.
OLBERMANN: Kind of a passport into the prospects of a recount in Ohio.
The dynamic is kind of fascinating, too, about the coverage of the questionable events, we'll call it that in the election. The media do almost nothing initially. The bloggers get frenetic. The media do reports but not so much on the election or anything that happened during it. But on how frenetic the blogs are. What is next? Do the blogs ultimately push the story in the mainstream? Or does the media push back and send the bloggers into their own communicate where they ignore the mainstream media?
TRIPPI: No, you know what I think happens, the blogs really reflect -
· that frenzy reflects a lot of concern out there among a lot of Americans.
There are a lot of Americans who have a concern about this election being stolen. And so blogs just reflect that and point to any little tea leaves or facts or evidence that they can. What happened then was it got picked up by people like yourself who reported what was going on. Now what we're seeing is, actual, the Kerry campaign sending people in on just a search and look mission. But in the end, if what comes out of this is all these concerns by Americans who are worried about this election, conclude, because the Kerry campaign says, and we all find out, nothing happened. That's good.
If we all find out, wait, there's smoke, there's fire here. That's good, too. So it's a process that I actually think is pretty healthy. That the blogs are just really churning what a lot of Americans are worried about, what concerns they really have. And then once those concerns are exposed, the people who are supposed to go in and make sure everything happened right, the campaigns have a responsibility to do that. The press has a responsibility to do that. We're doing it now.
OLBERMANN: And it is not just a question of stolen. It can be altered by static cling, is perfectly nightmarish enough. MSNBC's webmeister, Joe Trippi. Thanks, Joe. Good evening. We'll see you later.
One unresolved election issue is not up for any kind of debate. The state of Washington still does not have a governor elect. As of election night Republican Dino Rossi and Democrat Christine Gregoire had essentially split the 1.9 million votes. Rossi led by 1,064. At one point late that evening Gregoire had led by 32 votes. But Washington does most of its voting by mail. They are still counting those ballots, evidently using tweezers. And as of the end of tallying yesterday Rossi was ahead by about 3,500. It is going to be this way until next week at least. Washington does not even begin to count its provisional votes until next Wednesday. And any vote decided by less than 2,000 triggers an automatic recount.
Rossi has nonetheless held a news conference to announce his transition team.
Among those already ceded, the pressure continued today on moderate Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen Specter. Not over his remarks to the president about the political realities of sending anti-abortion judicial nominees to a Senate in which the Republican majority is not sufficient to break Democratic filibusters against judicial nominees, but because of his vote on a judicial nominee.
In 1987. Robert Bork. The "New York Times," quotes a series of conservative consultants and commentators who say they oppose Specter's candidacy to head the Senate judiciary committee because of his vote against Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court 17 years ago. "We'll never forget what he did to Judge Bork," Republican and consultant Richard Vigery (ph) is quoted as saying. The "Times" says some conservative will acquiesce to Specter as the judiciary chair if he will support changing the century-old Senate rule that permits filibusters to block judicial nominations.
A note of partisanship tonight in the nomination of the new White House dog. The Associated Press with a scoop on the providence of her name. Miss Beasley. That what's the Bush daughters have named the new Scottish terrier puppy, who will join Barney among the presidential pooches just before Christmas. They said the name was inspired by a character named Uncle Beasley in Oliver Butterworth's 1956 kid's book, "The Enormous Egg." The late Mr. Butterworth's son Tim reveals that not only was his father a Democrat, but the book was actually written as a response to the investigations conducted by the infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy.
On the Democrat-Republican thing, says Tim Butterworth, his father would, quote, "probably be smiling quite a bit because he liked irony."
And lastly, from the political arena tonight, Mrs. Elizabeth Edwards has sent out an e-mail to the supporters of her husband's campaign in which she writes she will win her battle with breast cancer. She literally wrote we will win, referring to herself and her husband, whom she says has been by her side every minute since her diagnosis which came the very day he and Senator Kerry conceded. Her doctors at Georgetown Medical Center have today given her a strong prognosis. The biopsy shows the cancer has not spread from the breast. She will need a lumpectomy and then 16 weeks of chemotherapy.
There is more politics tonight. Two key changes in the Bush administration. Who is next? Will Condoleezza Rice stay on top of national security or try to realize her secret dream?
And "Saving Private Ryan" may be an Oscar winner but dozens of stations are too scared to run the war movie tonight for fear of an FCC fine. And it is Janet Jackson's fault kind of. We'll explain.
OLBERMANN: The answer to the question is there actual wagering going on about the makeup of President Bush's second term cabinet is, somewhere in the world, somebody is wagering on everything.
Our fourth story on the Countdown, we continue our series on the president's 2005 team. We start with the fact that the odds of the secretary of defense Mr. Rumsfeld will return have switched from heavily against to heavily in favor. What about the noncabinet positions that could be lumped under the heading defense-like? Like national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. There are at least three different wagers about her. Stays on the job, goes home and resumes her campaign to become the next commissioner of the National Football League, or goes into the running to succeed Colin Powell as secretary of state.
Joining me now to help us determine where to put our figurative bets is Ken Walsh, the chief White House correspondent for "U.S. News & World Report." Mr. Walsh, good evening.
KENNETH WALSH, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": Good evening. Nice to be with you again.
OLBERMANN: So when whither Condi Rice, do we think?
WALSH: I think the other option there is that she pretty much stays where she is. And I think that's also possible. If President Bush asks her to stay I think she will. I think that - one thing that Condi Rice has done, as she has become sort of a buddy of the president and Laura Bush, she goes to Camp David with them all the time, goes to the ranch in Texas, which some people feel is beyond the call of duty. She doesn't clear brush down there but she does show up at the ranch a lot.
And so I think this complicates things as far as what she should do, because she's not purely an adviser, she is also a friend to the president's. And some of the purists who have had that job before feel this is not such a good thing, because she might not give the president the unvarnished version of what he needs to hear.
OLBERMANN; If their opinion prevails, or for any other reason she leaves N.S.A., are there candidates to precede her? Are there names we would recognize?
WALSH: Sure. Well, I don't know how many people would recognize the names but Steve Hadley, her deputy, is probably, sort of the insider's bet to succeed her. He is an acolyte of Vice President Cheney. He is very popular in the Bush family, including with the father, former President Bush. And he is considered another one of these very loyal people who don't seek the limelight, which President Bush likes a lot. So he probably would be the No. 1 bet to succeed Condi Rice.
There could be others, too. Paul Wolfowitz at the Defense Department is thought to be possible. That would cause a lot of hackles to rise on Capitol Hill, but basically that's another possibility. But I think this is another one of these things where we have all these basic four options, with what Condi Rice does. It may be in the end that she doesn't go anywhere for a period of time, just to sort of see things through in Iraq, and to see what comes of this new situation in the Mideast with Arafat's passing away.
OLBERMANN: Changing the specific area but not the general one.
Presumably, the president would not seek a new CIA chief. He just got one. Now nor a new FBI boss. But is Homeland Security likely to see a change, ultimately?
WALSH: I think so. I think Tom Ridge, who is currently the secretary, shows every indication of wanting to move on. And there is a number of other people who would fulfill that role. President Bush likes former governors to run things. Ridge is a former governor of Pennsylvania.
A possible successors there are Mark Racicot, as a former Governor of Montana, who was the chairman of President Bush's re-election campaign, Frank Keating, the former governor of Oklahoma. And even Tommy Thompson who is the former governor of Wisconsin, who is now at Health and Human Services who could conceivably move to Homeland Security.
So, you have sort of a governor's club that President Bush thinks they're administrators. They know how to run bureaucracies. That's his theory about how to run that operation.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Particularly when Keating dealt with the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.
OLBERMANN: Ted Walsh, chief White House correspondent for "U.S. News & World Report." As always, sir, we appreciate your insights.
WALSH: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Thank you.
Car chases will probably not be a priority of the president's new attorney general. But they are a priority of ours. And a new twist today, we have not yet seen in the daily dance between good guys and the bad guys. Where's the road?
And the bad guys are not just on the highways, they're on the information superhighway. Fraud on eBay. When was the last time you heard anybody use the phrase, information superhighway? Bidding goodbye to bidding against yourself.
OLBERMANN: Oh, we're back. And it is a special pleasure tonight to leave the Countdown of the important news of the day, instead to go to our nightly segment full of dumb news and gratuitous video. Let's play "Oddball."
And we begin in Southern California with the Countdown car chase of the week. And we go another female competitor. In the never ending struggle between Johnny Law and Janie Law Breaker. Checking the "Oddball" scoreboard for the year, we could see it's a one-sided affair. Cops, 54, individuals of any gender, race, creed, or nationality who think they can escape the cops, goose eggs.
21-year-old Michelle White is at the wheel of this stolen red Honda. She's in traffic. There is a female passenger with her. They're doing 70 on the streets of West Covina outside L.A.. Not at the moment, of course. Side swiping other cars along the way with wanton disregard for the basic rules of traffic safety, they drag this out for 90 minutes. I mean, not just at that corner.
But in southern California, brains will only get you so far. Luck always runs out. There will be no happy ending for this modern day Thelma and Louise. Somebody told them to get a life, and they did, in the big house.
But wait. It is an "Oddball" two for Thursday. Now, this looks more like the ending from Thelma and Louise. We've got a suspect on the run from the law who has taken this high-speed chase into a Hialeah, Florida cement factory. That's cement there.
And high speeds off road, he is putting some distance between himself and the law. But there's only one way into this gravel pit, and only one way out. Let's keep going, Thelma! As Pee Wee Herman said, I meant to that.
So, now we got a foot chase. And he is in a hurry, clearly. He is running, perhaps, and talking on his cell phone at the same time. Maybe he was calling his lawyer, or mom, or just calling ahead to have the bed turned down at his new home for the next few years, the other big house.
Finally, an update to a story we first brought you here 60 million years ago. Scientists at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America making a starting announcement concerning the king of dinosaurs, the Tyrannosaurus Rex. It seems he was partial to ribs. Researchers say bite marks found on the fossilized bones of larger dinosaurs like the duck-billed hadrosaurus, lead them to believe the giant carnivore went straight for the rib cage of his prey and did not stop until the bones were picked clean. Not to mention they also found a 60 million-year-old McRib wrapper.
Researcher believe that one rack of hadrosaurus ribs might have been enough for T-Rex to eat by himself, but it was certainly too heavy for stone age cars which tended to roll over under the enormous weight causing serious injury to the vehicles occupants.
Back to the hard news of the day. The death watch is over. The passing of Yasser Arafat. What will it do to his peace efforts? What did he do with his billions? And FCC and news paranoia? TV stations afraid to air Saving Private Ryan fearing they could be fined.
Those stories ahead. Now, here are Countdown's top 3 newsmakers of this day.
No. 3: The Environmental Protection Agency. It has called off its planned 2 year, $9 million dollar study into how children's bodies absorb pesticides due to ethical concerns. Your tax dollars in action.
No. 2, Prince Charles of England attacking the culture of fast food. In hopes of reintroducing the world to the joy of eating the sheep dish mutton. Chucks really has his fingers on the pulse of society, doesn't he?
And No. 1, Paul Francisco, already arrested in Hamilton, New Jersey, on an outstanding warrant. He may now face a count of arson. While in the police lock-up, Mr. Francisco set his pants on fire. In advance of his testimony, he may also be charged with lying.
OLBERMANN: It happened at 9:30 p.m. Eastern time, 3:30 a.m. Paris time, news so expected that the CBS network actually apologized for having interrupted their prime-time programming to give the bulletin last night.
Our third story on the Countdown this evening, Yasser Arafat is dead.
NBC's Brian Williams is outside his eventual final resting place in Ramallah tonight with the reaction among his people - Brian.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR: Well, Keith, good evening to you from Ramallah.
Of all the heads of state who reacted to this today, President Bush's statement containing the words that he hopes this will bring peace to the Palestinian state. Among all those who reacted, nowhere, of course, was the reaction to the first word of Yasser Arafat's death as strong as it was here in Ramallah.
(voice-over): The people in his small town of Ramallah first learned they had lost their leader when at dawn they heard the Muslim call to prayer mixed with church bells. The end came at 3:30 in the morning in a Paris hospital. With all his other organs shut down, Arafat's steady heartbeat, which doctors had described as a miracle, finally stopped.
The French government moved immediately to pay tribute, military honors led by President Chirac, who comforted Arafat's widow, Suha. Arafat's body made the journey to a nighttime arrival in his birthplace, Cairo. His lieutenants called an emergency meeting. The patriarch's chair sat empty. They picked a longtime Arafat associate, Mahmoud Abbas, to run the PLO wing of the organization.
That job is considered the heir apparent to take over for Arafat. Just yards from where they met, a backhoe dug a grave. The reaction to his death took on as many forms as this region's varied populations, the guns fired into the air representing the continuing struggle, burning tires in the streets a visible, pungent reminder of the intifada. In Israel, a prediction that this is a turning point from Shimon Peres, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Arafat.
SHIMON PERES, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I am finally very optimistic, but I'm not blind. I know that we're going to have tough times and tough issues.
WILLIAMS: And the more militant Israeli view came from this vehemently anti-Palestinian Israeli settler.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like Hitler who died, the same thing, or bin Laden. Thank God.
WILLIAMS: And tonight, on the streets of Ramallah, just outside the old Arafat compound, it became a living, teeming memorial, posters and candles everywhere, families with children allowed to stay up late to be able to someday say they were here. Tonight, Palestinians are trying to stay joined together.
(on camera): This is a picture of what's going on tonight in Ramallah. Behind us here, those are stone masons and grave diggers. They are laying cement. They will work through the night on what is going to be the grave of Yasser Arafat. That will be his tomb. It will be his final resting place 24 hours from now.
And more than that, this is going to become a shrine for the Palestinian people to visit for decades, generations to come. Services begin in Cairo tomorrow morning. Burial is here in Ramallah. And, of course, it is the last Friday night of Ramadan. It will conclude at sundown - Keith, back to you.
OLBERMANN: Brian, thank you - Brian Williams in Ramallah.
It's not just Yasser Arafat himself that the Palestinians are now missing. He died without telling anyone exactly where he stashed what is supposedly billions of Palestinian dollars. An audit last year revealed that Arafat had diverted $900 million dollars in public funds into a private bank account. It seems that was just the tip of the iceberg.
One former finance minister estimates his personal fortune to have been worth somewhere between $3 and $5 billion. Arafat spent little on himself, choosing instead to live in spartan surroundings in his compound in Ramallah. Palestinians say he used the money to finance everything from the political movement to charities to militant groups, but it appears he also invested millions in commercial businesses for overseas interests.
And while no one knows how much his wife, Suha, spent while living in luxury in Paris, her critics say she got $100,000 a month. If coincidental, it is remarkable timing the Arafat died the night before British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Washington to meet with the president, the itch to get out the Middle East peace road map again front and center in Blair's mind. The pair met this evening for a photo opportunity on the White House lawn, before tomorrow's official conference, where Blair is expected to urge Mr. Bush to seize the opportunity of a change in Palestinian leadership and revive that so-called road map.
The prime minister, facing heavy criticism from his own constituency about Britain's role in Iraq, is under pressure to show some kind of payoff for his continued support of President Bush's policies. And getting the peace process in the Middle East back on track would at least demonstrate he has a voice in Washington and that the president is listening to him.
Listening to U.S. commanders talk about the assault in Fallujah, its success so far seems to be the best possible manner in which they could have commemorated Veterans Day. The second phase of the assault has been launched now into the insurgent-held southern sector of that city. So far, 18 U.S. soldiers reported killed, 178 wounded in a four-day siege, five Iraqi government officers also dead.
But commanders say the mission is ahead of schedule. Troops on the ground discovered further evidence of insurgent atrocities across the city today, inside one house, the body of five civilians - bodies of five civilians - used as human shields. Another home contained blood, stained mats, a wheelchair and computers. It appeared to have been used as a holding and execution place for foreign hostages.
The troops did find one hostage alive today. He was chained to a wall in northeast Fallujah. Through a translator, he said he was an Iraqi cab driver and said he had been taken prisoner 10 days ago, tortured and beaten by insurgents.
U.S. military officials estimate that about 1,000 insurgents have died in the conflict so far. Others, they say, are now trying to break out of Fallujah by blasting mortars at the U.S. cordon around the city.
Before that siege in Fallujah kicked off, commanders estimated that between 1,200 and 3,000 fighters were entrenched there. But now several ground officers believe that, given the speed of the U.S. advance, most insurgents had actually fled before the offensive even began, an assessment to which the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff responded this morning on NBC's "Today Show."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TODAY SHOW")
GEN. RICHARD MYERS, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Well, that's the nature of an insurgency, where people can fight one minute and then blend into the surroundings the next minute. So that's the definition of insurgency. But if anybody thinks that Fallujah is going to be the end of the insurgency in Iraq, that was never the objective, never our intention, and even never our hope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And, as if to prove that very point, the insurgents stepped up their campaigns elsewhere in Iraq today. In Mosul, it was a concentrated effort to take over that city, insurgents attacking nine police stations, stealing weapons, killing five Iraqi soldiers, launching attacks on U.S. troops across the River Tigris, while in Baghdad, a car bomb exploded in a busy street; 17 bystanders were killed, 30 more wounded.
Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, meanwhile, is vowing to remain strong in the face of these events. Three of his relatives, one of whom is pregnant, were kidnapped two days ago, threatened with beheading if Allawi did not call off the Fallujah assault by today. He refused to concede to that demand. No word yet on the fate of his family members.
Here, on Veterans Day, it seemed to make perfect sense, show the World War II epic "Saving Private Ryan" on network television. But 20 of those networks' affiliates won't. And eBay sellers will, an attorney general punishing online sellers who place bids on their own auction items. That's ahead.
Now here are Countdown's top three sound bites of this day.
LYNNE DIXON, WGRZ REPORTER: Mom is away and the dogs do play. Or do they? Look closer.
This is no bull. I mean, this is a bull, but this is no bull. And I'm holding a bull that could grow to be 1,000 pounds.
QUESTION: The coach said that you compromised the integrity of the team.
RON ARTEST, INDIANA PACERS: I don't even know what that means.
ARTEST:... vocabulary. I've been meaning to ask everybody, my father. I didn't look in the dictionary yet, but what does integrity mean?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN")
CONAN O'BRIEN, HOST: The dog debate channel, let's find out what that is all about. Let's check if out.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's totally absurd.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Coming up, bidding against yourself on eBay. And it is Veterans Day. The movie was honored by veterans, so why are 20 TV stations afraid that, if they will show it, they will get punished by the FCC?
OLBERMANN: It is legendary showman P.T. Barnum who is generally given credit for the phrase, there's a sucker born every minute. And yet it was not he who said it. Appropriate, the actual speaker largely lost to history until the advent of the Internet search engine.
Our No. 2 story on the Countdown, the man who really did say there's a sucker born every minute, David Hannum, who had sold Barnum his infamous, fraudulent, 12-foot-tall cadaver, the Cardiff Giant. Mr. Hannum would have felt right at home on the Web that now allows anybody to read his story, for the Web also takes advantage of said suckers in one fashion he could not have imagined. It's called eBay.
Earlier this week, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer ordered eight of eBay's sellers to pay nearly $90,000 in restitution and fines after they admitted to jacking up the prices on their own items. In three separate cases, ranging from the sales of cars to sports memorabilia, the final sale price of the individual item was increased by as much as 50 percent of the actual value, the sellers admitting to using alternate sign-ons to raise the bidding against real buyers.
So, how do you, compulsive bidder 33 at MSN.com, stop that?
I'm joined now by Tim Duffy, a consumer advocate whose company offers free and paid help for victims of fraud.
Mr. Duffy, good evening.
TIM DUFFY, CONSUMER ADVOCATE: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The principle of this scam is obviously incredibly simple. You get a fake sign-on. You drive up the price of your item. How on earth would a legitimate bidder be able to tell what was going on and how would the bidder protect himself?
DUFFY: Well, quite frankly, the only way they're going to realize it is when it - after it happens, after the fact. They make a bid of $100. Somebody comes in at $150. And it keeps climbing. And they end up the third or fourth bidder down the list. And just before the close of the auction, the top three bidders will pull out before the auction closes, making the victim the No. 1 winner or loser, depending upon how you look at it.
OLBERMANN: Obviously, it is as - I don't know what percentage of the population has gone to eBay. I would think it now approaching 100 percent of those who have ever been on the Internet.
But it is hardly the only scam that that otherwise very strong and reputable service encounters. What are the other ones that people might not be prepared for?
DUFFY: Well, besides computers, for example, that are sold for $500, $600 under what you would normally find them for on sale, you should be cautious of that. Software, right now, you can buy Office XP Professional for $52. Now, that is a ridiculous price. And it is either counterfeit or you won't get anything at all.
You have to watch out for Tiffany jewelry, for example; 73 percent, it's alleged, of the Tiffany jewelry sold on the Internet sites is fraudulent, counterfeit jewelry.
OLBERMANN: So, it's like going shopping for a Rolex on the streets of New York City. It probably looks - needs - if it is too good to be true, you probably are right. It is too good to be true, right?
DUFFY: Caveat emptor, yes, very, very correct, Keith, that you have to let the buyer beware.
And you should do some - to prevent from you being cheated on these things, you have to do the research and know what you're looking at before you make the bid.
OLBERMANN: Consumer advocate Tim Duffy, many thanks for your time, sir.
DUFFY: My pleasure.
OLBERMANN: We segue from the eBay to our entertainment stories, beginning with the help of "Law & Order" actor Vincent D'Onofrio. "The New York Post"'s "Page Six," not the best of sources, insists the former star of "Full Metal Jacket" had a full metal meltdown yesterday on the set of his series, "Law & Order: Criminal Intent."
He reportedly fainted, this after a series of fistfights, the paper claims, that were connected to the presidential campaign. D'Onofrio's major malfunction surrounds his depression, reportedly, over the reelection of the president last week. The paper quotes an insider who says, "Ever since John Kerry lost the election, D'Onofrio has lost his stuff."
And another day, another lawsuit filed by the ex-girlfriend of another celebrity. Yesterday, it was Burt Reynolds, today, Bill Maher. The comedian and host of HBO's "Real Time" was hit today by a $9 million palimony suit filed by Nancy "Coco" Johnsen. You didn't think that's what I was going to say when I said he got hit with something.
Johnson claims Maher vowed to marry her, buy her a house, take care of her financially the rest of her life, and so she gave up her promising career in the friendly skies, moved to California. But the relationship lasted just 13 months and now Johnsen is alleging abuse, saying Maher once aggressively grabbed her arm and shook her at a party.
Maher's attorney called it a - quote - "completely frivolous lawsuit and part of a pattern by Ms. Johnsen to seek retribution since the end of their short relationship." Not that short.
To the top of the Countdown, FCC PTSD? That would be Federal Communications Commission post-traumatic stress disorder relating to Janet Jackson and "Saving Private Ryan."
OLBERMANN: It is less than a week since "The New York Times"' columnist and word aficionado William Safire suggested, in full seriousness, that the election may have been decided the day Janet Jackson's breast made its cameo at halftime of the 2004 Super Bowl.
Our No. 1 story on the Countdown, if the wardrobe malfunction seen around the world did not do that, it has clearly changed the television landscape. Tonight, 20 affiliates will not be airing ABC's telecast of the World War II epic "Saving Private Ryan" because they fear the new FCC may fine them if they do.
And the same cable network that shows the bloody, innuendo-filled series "Nip & Tuck" has just commissioned a project based on the Ten Commandments, this on the very night that the woman who made the nipple shield famous is to receive an award in New York City as an African-American history maker. Other recipients tonight include baseball's Hank Aaron.
"Saving Private Ryan" won five Academy Wards. But, tonight, it's drawing not praise, but fear. Steven Spielberg's film must air unedited, per ABC's deal with the Spielberg company DreamWorks. So one station group chief, Ray Cole of Citadel Communications, trying to get an advance waiver from the FCC for showing it, but - quote - "Remarkably to me, they are not willing to do so. We're just coming off an election where moral issues were cited as a reason by people voting one way or another and the commissioners are fearful of the new Congress."
As our correspondent Hillary Lane reports, the problem on Veterans Day is that the movie does too good a job accurately portraying the way soldiers spoke.
HILLARY LANE, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The film "Saving Private Ryan" twice before has brought in high ratings as it aired on Veterans Day on the ABC network. But now about a third of the ABC stations refuse to show the Oscar-winning film during prime time. The movie has graphic violence, but of more concern to the stations is this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SAVING PRIVATE RYAN")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:... got a mother. I mean (EXPLETIVE DELETED) I bet even the captain has got a mother.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LANE: One of the dozens of expletives that could cause viewers to complain and the government to react with fines.
ANDY SCHWARTZMAN, MEDIA ACCESS PROJECT AGAINST CENSORSHIP: You have broadcasters who make their decisions based not on what they think is appropriate for their communities, but what they think might upset the FCC in Washington.
LANE: When "Saving Private Ryan" aired before, the Federal Communications Commission received complains and declined to act. But times have changed.
BONO, MUSICIAN: Really, really (EXPLETIVE DELETED) brilliant.
LANE: During last year's Golden Globes, then during the Super Bowl.
(on camera): Shortly after, the government admitted in a published decision that what it might have considered acceptable before may not be anymore.
RANDY SHARP, AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION: Certainly, the FCC has already ruled that the use of the F-word is indecent, regardless of the context in which it is used.
LANE (voice-over): But that ruling is now under appeal.
BRENT BOZELL, MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: I think it is very clear that they are going to distinguish the content that is in this movie with the contents that is on the Golden Globes or a halftime Super Bowl show.
LANE: But with the fear of fines of more than $27,000 for an offense, many stations may not be willing to take chance.
Hillary Lane, NBC News, New York.
OLBERMANN: And is it coincidental that a cable network best known for showing endless reruns of "Cops" and "Married With Children" suddenly today revealed it was getting proactively decent, in fact, doing so in biblical proportions?
The trade publication "Variety" reporting that George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh will team up on what is billed as a Ten Commandments-themed series for television's FX network. The two men will executive produce the 10-part series exploring moral issues facing modern America, each episode to address one biblical law put to the test in today's post-Janet world.
And just when you might be wondering if we in this country might be headed for an entertainment apocalypse, a merger of the disaster that is television with the disaster that is government regulation, this final refreshing remind that, somewhere else, it is always inevitably worse.
You are looking at Charlton Heston in his big role before "Soylent Green" and "Planet of the Apes" and the NRA, his stint at Moses in the movie "The Ten Commandments." Not three years after the defeat of the Taliban, which had banished all TV in Afghanistan, the new government there has shut down all cable networks in Afghanistan because they were showing what the nation's top Islamic judge labeled wicked films, specifically, Heston in "The Ten Commandments" because - quote - "It showed the prophet Moses with short trousers and among the girls."
Thank goodness Afghan cable did not show him mixing with the monkeys in that ape movie.
That's Countdown. Thank you for being part of it. I'm Keith Olbermann. We just lost the Afghanistan (INAUDIBLE)
Good night and good luck.
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