Friday, January 21, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Jan. 21

Guest: Robin Wright, Bill Whalen, Robert Butterworth


KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Keep your shirt on. Football and TV today moving to prevent wardrobe malfunction dysfunction junior as the man at the center of that controversy quits the FCC.

Was something missing from the inaugural address? No mention of terrorism? Lots of mentions of...


OLBERMANN: Just like...


OLBERMANN: Is it no longer open season on terrorists but instead, open season on tyrants?

Another awful crime recorded on surveillance video. The disappearance of a teenage Wal-Mart employee is now a murder.

And it's going to snow again. You've already broken your new years resolutions. It's a month since Christmas. It's not just a bad time of year. It's the worst time of year. And a British psychologist has pinpointed the worst day of the year. It's next Monday. We'll help you prepare.

All that and more now on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: Good evening.

Not to say society changes quickly but about a year ago, the Super Bowl telecast featured live around the world coverage of a woman celebrity's naked breast, followed by live around the world controversy centering on the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Michael Powell.

But in our fifty story on the Countdown, today we learned that this year the Super Bowl telecast was almost pre-taped, has been vetted second by second by the National Football League, and oh, by the way, Michael Powell has just quit as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

The telecast part first.

Even though this year's headliner is Paul McCartney, only yesterday did the football honchos give FOX permission to televise the halftime live, rather than on a five- or 10-second delay.

And the league nonetheless sent representatives to London to meet with the 62-year-old Beatle, whose last wardrobe malfunction was wearing a Nehru jacket in 1968.

They went over his 12-minute performance on an instant-by-instant basis, presumably to make sure he was not going to perform "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?"

One thing appears to have slipped through, however. The new producer chosen for the halftime telecast: Don Mischer. Name sound familiar? That's because you may have heard him on another news network as he was producing the stagecraft at the Democratic convention last summer.

DON MISCHER, SUPER BOWL HALFTIME PRODUCER: Where are the balloons? What the hell. There's nothing falling. What the (expletive deleted) are you guys doing up there?

OLBERMANN: For God's sakes, Paul, please make sure the balloons drop.

Speaking of dropping, there is Michael Powell, who nearly a year ago was spending off the record 540,000 complaints about Janet Jackson and the Super Bowl.

His father will exit as secretary of state next Tuesday. He will bow out as FCC chairman in March. His four years as chair were marked by life at either end of the spectrum: increasing regulation of content, decreasing regulation of ownership.

In one final gesture, Chairman Powell did not even give television anything to bleep. His resignation announcement coming not at a news conference but at a prepared statement.

"During my tenure we worked to get the law right in order to stimulate innovative technology that puts more power in the hands of the American people."

Hey, friend, back off on that stimulation stuff.

So another change in the second term lineup of President Bush. A second term now officially underway after today's last part of the inaugural ceremonies, the national prayer service.

At the Washington Cathedral, Billy Graham lent an odd tone to the proceeding by thanking God for divine help in getting the president reelected. "We believe," Reverend Graham said, "that in your providence, you have granted a second term to our president."

However, he clearly did not grant the president a reminder to take a $20 with him to the collection plate, a tradition with presidents of both parties, creating an awkward moment. When the collection basket came around, Mr. Bush had to pass.

Sitting presidents usually do not carry wallets or cash. He said something, as you saw, to the first lady, who turned to the vice president, who anteed up.

Now the first President Bush becomes the national Bank of Dad, so Mr.

Cheney gets his money back.

As our correspondent, Norah O'Donnell, sweetly put it, the president began his second term without much capital to spend at church.

Nobody could accuse President Bush of having forgotten the prospect of the collection plate because he spent inauguration night painting the town red.

How on earth does anybody attend 10 separate inaugural galas? By dancing for a reported TDT - total dance time - of eight minutes and 54 seconds. That's an average of 53.4 seconds per gala.

He was back in the White House by 10:03 p.m. Eastern, even though his preset schedule said his curfew was not until 11:30.

Now, all told, at least 49,998 besides the first couple attended the 10 official events. They were not all happy customers, though. At the Patriots Ball, one celebrant complained, "There's no beef. There's no shrimp. This is the worst ball I've ever been to." The where's the beef question popping up at the celebrations for a Texan president seems a little incongruous.

And in fact, the president got it both ways about the longhorn state. There were actually complaints about the hook them horns hand gesture, the stock greeting of alums, students and fans of the University of Texas sports teams: hand raised, palm outwards, index and little fingers raised as the university marching band passed by the reviewing stand during yesterday's parade.

This led to a strange headline in a Norwegian online newspaper, "Netizen (ph)." Above a picture of Jenna Bush, it wrote "Shock Greeting from Bush Daughter."

It turns out that in that country, that is the sign, right there, of the devil. It's popular at heavy metal and death rock concerts around Scandinavia, which is about a decade behind the U.S., where the Beavis and Butthead crowd used to cheer its head-banging heroes a decade ago with that gesture.

One more misguided criticism. The gesture was also erroneously reported as a mild obscenity in American Sign Language. "The New York Daily News" said it translated as "bull blank."

Actually, in American sign, the reverse of "hook them horns," palm facing inward, means "horse blank."

Although we leave to you draw your own conclusions about what anybody doing this might be signing to the people standing behind them.

There was of course more substantial criticism of inauguration day, especially internationally, specifically in Europe. Britain's tabs had no difficulty mocking the theme of ending tyranny, nor in criticizing the president for not bringing up Iraq.

"The Daily Mail" even showed Barbara Bush getting a kiss from her father with the tag, "Back off, daddy, this really isn't very cool."

The back off part might also sum up the reaction from other countries. The French paper, "Liberation," noting that "Not all the world strongly wants this freedom a l'americaine. It is only necessary to look at Iraq."

The "Jerusalem Post" warning, "Hold onto your hats. This may be the most ambitious second-term - or any term - presidency ever."

An even stronger response from "The Australian" newspaper from Sydney. Quote, "He and those around him do such small-minded things that it detracts from the grandeur of his purpose, whether you regard that purpose as grand folly or grand mission."

A Hungarian paper was far more pragmatic. Quote, "Mr. Bush will be the president of the USA for the next four years, and whatever he ruins, he will ruin it for us, too. So it is worth keeping our fingers crossed for him, for mere selfishness, if for no other reason."

Newly designate outpost of tyranny, North Korea, called the U.S. a, quote, "wrecker of democracy as it ruthlessly infringes upon the sovereignty of other countries." The newspaper did not advise its readers that "this column also makes excellent filling for your sandwich."

Speaking of outposts of tyranny, one thing the international media and the domestic media largely missed in the inaugural address was, in addition to rest of the week's worth of evidence that with the new term comes new lingo. The new lingo may come to be new policy.

Suddenly the words "terror" and "terrorist" are out. And "tyranny" and "tyrant" are in.

It is assumed to be a coincidence that even Abu Musab Zarqawi, the alleged al Qaeda top man in Iraq, used the word "tyrant" in a 75-minute audio recording posted on what is called a guerrilla web site. They're reasonably sure it was his voice.

Here, of course the tyranny-tyrant terminology sprung up first during Condoleezza Rice's confirmation hearings Tuesday in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.


RICE: To be sure, in our world, there remain outposts of tyranny. And America stands with oppressed people on every continent: in Cuba, and Burma and North Korea and Iran and Belarus and Zimbabwe.


OLBERMANN: And then came the president's address. Two thousand eight-three words, none of them "terror" or "terrorist" or "terrorism." One of them, "tyrant." Five of them, "tyranny."


BUSH: The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it.


OLBERMANN: Is this more than just the result of a change in speechwriters? For some answers, I'm joined now by Robin Wright, the diplomatic correspondent for the "Washington Post."

Good evening. Thanks again for your time.


OLBERMANN: We spoke about this the other day when it was just being defined by Dr. Rice's comments. Is there any chance now that the war on tyranny is not going to replace the war on terror?

WRIGHT: I think the war on tyranny is an extension of the war on terror. During the first administration, we saw the focus on the, eliminating the terrorists - Zarqawi, Osama bin Laden. But the administration clearly feels that the antidote to terrorism is to promote liberty and to wage a war against tyrants.

The - of course, the real question is, is the administration willing to take the actions necessary to deal with some of the tyrants who are, ironically, some of our best allies in the war on terror?

OLBERMANN: The other part of this, the idea that the target might not be just narrowly the defined states that harbor terrorism, but now outposts of tyranny, which is kind of broad, does that lower the bar for justifying American action wherever we just want to do it? I mean, did we go from anybody harboring terrorists to anybody?

WRIGHT: Well, the original use of the phrase, the axis of evil was really in relation to the Bush doctrine of preemptive action. And I don't think we're going to see that extended to countries like Cuba, Belarus and Zimbabwe, which were countries cited as part of the outposts of tyrants, or tyranny. So I don't think there's an equivalency.

OLBERMANN: Then what - what is the anticipated reaction or action by the Bush administration during the second term towards these outposts of tyranny? What is the difference?

WRIGHT: Well, if the United States, for example, in dealing with some of its allies, really has the challenge of trying to get them to open up, whether it's freedom of the press. In the case of Egypt, for example, getting them to eliminate the emergency rule that has been in place for 25 years and getting Mubarak not to run for a sixth presidential term.

The real challenge is finding ways to, among both allies and countries we consider enemies, to open up. And you know, that's not easy, as he found during the first administration.

OLBERMANN: And how does it pertain to Iran particularly? Do we have a better idea of that now then we did after Dr. Rice's testimony?

WRIGHT: I'm not sure. I think that there's been a lot of hype over the past week about whether the Bush administration was going to move against Iran. I think there very much is that still, that's an unanswered question. It will depend largely on what Iran does on its nuclear talks with disarmament talks with the Europeans.

Clearly, the administration is kind of letting it be known there is an option out there and it's willing to invoke the Bush doctrine, if necessary. But I don't think we're any place - anywhere close to that. The United States has a lot to do in Iraq still.

OLBERMANN: Robin Wright, diplomatic correspondent of the "Washington Post." As ever, many thanks.

WRIGHT: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: If the verbal symbolism did not get sufficient interpretation yesterday, certainly neither did the logistical symbolism.

For the first time since at least the 1949 inauguration of President Harry Truman and Vice President Alban Barkley, the two men who took the oaths of office were assumed to be signing up for their last political jobs that they will have take.

And the politician the president wants to succeed him was nowhere to be seen. Well, maybe he was. Nothing happens by accident at an inauguration, so tealeaf readers are wondering if it meant anything that the man who was line of sight, right behind President Bush, right there, there was Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

Of course, Senators Frist and McCain were not far away, especially during the speech. Nor, for that matter, were Senators Clinton and Kerry.

Joining me to discuss whether or not any of that means anything is Republican strategist Bill Whalen, most recently of Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign and also a campaign speechwriter for the first President Bush in 1992.

Mr. Whalen, thank you for your time.


OLBERMANN: We're not in the Soviet Union of the '50s or the '60s. And how close you stand to the leader while the missile transports roll through the plaza does not decide whether or not you get promoted or you disappear.

But was anything to be gleaned from who was in that inner circle yesterday? Especially Senator Santorum? I mean, literally, where do they all stand?

WHALEN: Well, you also found, I forgot to mention John Kerry, who was conveniently seven rows off the platform so you could get him in a deep camera shot.

There was a moment which was close to criminology. And that was when they had parade procession down Pennsylvania Avenue. And you noticed this procession of policymakers, of elected officials, who came down to stand next to the president.

I saw lot of Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, getting quality TV time in that - in that situation.

OLBERMANN: One can envision that what is already a murmur about the Republican candidate for '08. It started certainly by the convention last year. That it gets louder and louder, and finally, within the beltway, anyway, it gets deafening and perhaps quickly.

For all the credit that the party gives Mr. Cheney as vice president, are there prominent Republicans who believe or will be coming to believe that it was a mistake to retain him and not put a successor candidate on the ticket this past year?

WHALEN: I don't know about that. But you know, you're right. This is the most wide-open situation the Republicans have faced in the past 50 years.

We are a stodgy party, and we're a predictable party in this respect when it comes to presidential nominations. If it doesn't go to the incumbent vice president, then who does it go to next? The old bull, the guy who can stand up and say, "It's my turn." Bob Dole in 1996.

If that person's not around, who does it go to? The person who comes up with the most money the fastest: George Bush in 2000.

If you look at all the people who were talked about, speculated about, whispered right now, nobody can claim the old bull status. Nobody can claim the money at this point. So it's wide open with a capital W.

OLBERMANN: Yes. Back in - back in the '49 to '52 era, of course, it wound up being a man who in '49, anyway, nobody knew was a Republican, Dwight Eisenhower.

The political reality of this, when we compare it to Truman's inaugural of '49, Truman didn't really know he wasn't going to run in '52. He hadn't decided that early.

But this could be the first totally open presidential field for a party in power since the Democrats of Woodrow Wilson's day were looking towards 1920. Politics have intensified, accelerated since then.

Will the president have to wind up endorsing somebody? And would he have to do it comparatively early?

WHALEN: Well, you know, in 1952, there was that one colossus, Eisenhower, who was sort of the Carlos Beltran of his time, big free agent. And he declared, I think, one month before the New Hampshire primary that was a Republican.

There is one very large person sitting out there in this - in this whole field right now. And it's not Governor Schwarzenegger here in California.

It's Governor Bush in Florida, in this respect. If he runs, you assume that the Bush machinery gets behind him. Not the White House directly, let's say, but the various, you know, people in the states who, for the past eight years, have worked for the president. He becomes their guy, and he gets that status.

But without him running, then again, it's wide open. And all those candidates are going to have to make a decision. How closely do they embrace George Bush? Do they become clones of George Bush? Do they become George Bush with a slight variation? Or do they become, like John McCain was in 2000, the quote unquote maverick who tries to go in a new direction?

OLBERMANN: And what happens to Jeb Bush if he does run after all his mother said and all his brother said about the fact that he would not be running?

WHALEN: We have had - four of the past five - four of the past five

· pardon me - four of the past five elections have featured a Bush. It's been a referendum on somebody named Bush. Five out of six might be a little much. The public might - God forbid, excuse the pun - be bushed.

OLBERMANN: Bill Whalen, Republican strategist, research fellow at the Hoover Institution, thanks again greatly for your time, sir.

WHALEN: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, another child paralyzed by another drunk driver. But extraordinarily, this story ends with some optimism and possibly millions for stem cell research.

And another abduction recorded by surveillance cameras today. It was a quick conclusion to the ensuing manhunt but a grim conclusion.

You're watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: The nightmare of a child paralyzed by a drunk driver is not new, nor is it ever not heart breaking. But in our fourth story on the Countdown tonight, a court verdict, $135 million in damages, may have ensured, if not a happy ending, then perhaps the happiest ending available.

Our correspondent Mike Taibbi now on the little girl whose spirit made reporters cheer and the father who hopes to donate millions of that reward to research.


MIKE TAIBBI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Though burdened by a wheelchair, a breathing tube and monitors, Antonia Verni can speak of her dreams like any 7-year-old.

ANTONIA VERNI, PARALYZED IN ACCIDENT: A kindergarten teacher, a singer and a ballerina.

TAIBBI: Her hopes resilient, despite a tragedy five years ago. During a football game at Giant Stadium, a fan named Daniel Lanzaro was served enough beers by stadium vendors, more than a dozen by Lanzaro's own count, to push him three time above the legal limit.

Antonia, then 2, was picking pumpkins with her family that day. Later, at this intersection, Lanzaro's car smashed into the Vernis' car, leaving Antonia paralyzed from the neck down.

RONALD VERNI, ANTONIA'S FATHER: Occupational therapies, physical therapies.

TAIBBI: Her father explained caring for Antonia could cost an estimated $42 million over her lifetime. A jury awarded more than three times that amount: $30 million from Lanzaro and $105 million from the Aramark vending company.

Ronald Verni says he'll direct some of the jury's award toward stem cell research, because of its potential as a treatment for spinal cord injury.

R. VERNI: Maybe 10 or 15 years down the road, it can develop to something.

TAIBBI: Right now it's a struggle that consumes the family. At Thursday's news conference, Antonia suddenly need her breeding tube cleared, her distress evident.

Later when she sang her favorite song, "Celebration"...

A. VERNI (singing): Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate you and me.

TAIBBI: The assembled reporters, who aren't supposed to, applauded.

Mike Taibbi, NBC News, New York.


OLBERMANN: Time for a much-needed break for the serious news of the day. And it seems like these guys are already taking a break from something, like reality. In reality, they're in the middle of a contest requiring nerves of steel.

And old man winter got you down? Wait until what has been mathematically calculated as the worst day of the year. It, and the story about it, are coming right up.


OLBERMANN: We're back, and for the final time this week, barring the unexpected tomorrow, we pause the Countdown to check in with the strange news that comes to us from the four corners of the earth and beyond.

Let's play "Oddball."

And we begin tonight with a report from our bureau on the sun. NASA scientists have observed the largest series of solar flares in years. Giant sun spots the size of the planet Jupiter have erupted into coronal mass ejections. Setting a stream of high energetic electrons speeding toward earth, which could interfere with our planet's magnetic field, knock out telecommunications and power grids, wreak havoc with the climate, yada, yada, yada.

On the upside, look at the cool pictures, everybody! These were taken from NASA's Soho's spacecraft, the trendiest spaceship south of Houston (ph) Street.

Scientists say they are not expecting any major problems with this solar storm but they admit they can't measure the strength and direction of the blast until they're about 15 minutes from Earth. So I wouldn't buy any green bananas, if you get my drift.

Meanwhile back in earth, on earth, perhaps, a contest in Finland which makes you want to stand up and say, "Solar electrons, here, in Finland."

From the country that brought you the air guitar championships, it's the Helsinki table drumming competition. A long cold winter in Finland, apparently.

There's a huge turnout this year as six morons - challengers, pounded away on schoolroom desks. They're seeking a shot at the title of Finland's best table drummer. And also, the grand prize: six months of free Ritalin.

Finally to L.A. International Airport, where signs at the security checkpoints clearly state that items such as guns, knives, pepper spray and fireworks are not to be allowed through. But nowhere does it say anything about anteaters. Believe me, I checked.

Nonetheless, a California couple had their baby pangolin (ph) confiscated as they tried to get reenter the country with the little fellow stuffed in their suitcase. They had picked up the animal on a trip to Africa and hoped to keep it as a pet, possibly because of the nickname of one of the local college sports teams is the U.C. Irvine Anteaters.

But there's an international treaty protecting anteaters, especially ones that sounded like Jackie Mason in the old Aardvark cartoons. Write in if you remember those.

The new glooms day. Not April 15, not February 14. A calculation deducing which is the most depressing day of the year. It's soon!

And if it's Friday, that means it's my day to get depressed. Public triumph, public humiliation. Our weekly news quiz is ahead.

Now here at Countdown's top three newsmakers of this date.

No. 3, the Caitlins. Thirty years ago, I did a play-by-play of a high school hockey game where all five skaters were named the Palmer. Three brothers, two cousins. Now in Nevada, the name Caitlin is so popular that the basketball team at Reno Galeno High School (ph) started a line-up Tuesday of four girls named Caitlin with a "C" and one with Kaitlin with a "K." And they won, too, 65 to 30.

No. 2, the police department of Fremont, California. It has announced that there have been so many false alarms, it will no longer reply to most burglar alarms. And yes, thieves, that's the Fremont, California, in Alameda County, about 35 miles south-southeast of San Francisco.

And No. 1, Professor David Atkinson of the University of Idaho. He spent 18 years designing an experiment to be sent on the Cassini-Huygens probe to Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, then seven more years waiting for the probe to actually get there. Just now, he should be getting his data back, except that before the launch in 1997, somebody apparently forgot to switch Dr. Atkinson's experiment on. Oh! Oh, lordy!



OLBERMANN: The next holiday is Valentine's Day and for a lot of us, that is no holiday at all. For most of the country the next warm day is two months off, maybe three and now a psychologist has calculated the most depressing day of the year.

Our third story on the Countdown, January stinks. We will illustrate that on a descending scale of seriousness, beginning with the release of 911 tapes that tell of the tragedy of drugs, combined with impaired judgment and frigid Nebraska temperatures. On the fifth, Michael Wamsley and Janelle Hornickel died after being caught in a snowstorm in their vehicle is Sarpy County. The 20-year-old couple called 911 at least five times from a cell phones but official say the calls were impossible to accurately trace and they did not know where they were. Authorities today released autopsy reports, showing that both Mr. Wamsley and Ms. Hornickel had methamphetamine in their systems. That often makes users feel very warm. They may have underdressed. In fact, they may have not had coats at all. Their judgment could easily have been impaired. Nonetheless, they did manage to call police five times over a three-hour period.


MICHAEL WAMSLEY, FROZE TO DEATH: My phone is going to die. I need some help now.

OPERATOR: I don't understand - but I can't help you because I'm in a different area. 75th and Poppleton, what's going on.

WAMSLEY: I need someone, please.

OPERATOR: What's your address.

WAMSLEY: I don't know the exact address here. I just lost my vehicle here, I went to go find it. I couldn't find it.

OPERATOR: And what's the name of the building

WAMSLEY: It's an old gravel pit, like gravel pit where it's got gravel on the ground.

OPERATOR: OK. Well, I'm going to transfer you but stay on the line and I will... stay on the line.

ANOTHER OPERATOR: 911, what's your emergency?

WAMSLEY: We're out by an older gravel pit out somewhere (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and Poppleton, like further south yet not much more but we need some assistance like right now.


OLBERMANN: No such tragic outlines in Raleigh, North Carolina, but one inch of snow paralyzed that city. It stranded thousands of students, contributed to at least 1,000 auto accidents and prompted the mayor to blame the TV weathermen. "A forecast that had given a better indication of the likely problem would have been very helpful." That was the reaction from the mayor, Charlie Meecker. All of the city's local TV forecasters missed the storm just they had missed a major ice-storm just over two years ago. One 24-year veteran of TV in Raleigh had predicted a quote, "dusting."

About 3,000 students and teacher spent the night in classrooms. Other people holed up in offices and even grocery stores. Drivers who did not get into fender benders faced traffic jams of up to eight hour. The city has trucks to salt the road but the storm and the drivers beat them to it. No fatalities reported.

Chance, they say, favors the prepare mind. Another one inch blizzard shutting down the Missions Operation Center of the Federal Air Marshal Program. Prepared minds, indeed. For eight hours, on the eve of the president's inauguration, air marshals were unable to contact the operation centers in DC. Many of their flights were rerouted, delayed or canceled because of the weather. Some out in the field reporting it took up to 30 minutes of calling before they could relay or receive information from headquarters. A spokesman for the air marshal service said the center was properly staffed in spite of the snow. Agents were told not to call in unless their flights were canceled but one marshal telling the newspaper of the "Washington Times," it is called the Weather Channel. They should watch it. Mid-January can get worse if you're homeless 21 years old and in Minnesota. Where do you go? Back to your old high school?

Francisco Serrano was arrested twice at Apple Valley High this month, pretending he was still a student there. He was showering in the school's locker room, sleeping in its theater. He did attend classes there two years ago and was able to use his old school I.D. to keep up the charade for three weeks. This was not some kind of threat nor ruse on his part. His mother had gone home to Mexico. His father had disappeared. Serrano has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor trespass charge. Now members of the community have offered him a job and a place to live upon his release.

And when you're supposed to live virtually in school, things could be bad in the middle of January. Still hell on ice, if, that is, you are the president of the Harvard University and your apology for saying women might be innately less able to succeed in careers in math and science, has not been accepted. Yesterday more than 100 of Harvard's 600 professors signed a complaint letter delivered to the office of the President Lawrence H. Summers. The National Organization of Women called for his resignation. He apologized in person to a group of Harvard's leading professors. His fourth apology so far. Number three had been posted Wednesday on the university Web site.

"I deeply regret the impact of my comments and apologize for not having weighed them more carefully. I was wrong to have spoken in a way that was an unintended discouragement to talented girls and women."

If Dr. Summers winds up relocating from Harvard, voluntarily or otherwise, he might senior Doan eCollege, Nebraska. Not only is it looking for a new president, not only does it embrace the differences between men and women, they also use them to try to recruit students. Well, hell, it is the middle of winter at the three Doanee campuses that are at Lincoln, Crete and Grand Island, NE. And you have to convince high school kids it will be ok to be there at this time of the year next year. So send them this. A post card showing a cartoon of a male student surrounded by co-ed friends, bearing the legend, play the feel. They sent this to 13,000 kids in California. The over under of when they will hear from the national organization from women is 2:00 p.m. Monday. All which of adds to the conclusion, it is the least wonderful time of the year. And speaking of colleges and universities, a British academic has actually created a formula to determine which of the individual days of this stretch is the worst. The most depressing. Dr. Cliff Arnall has reduced it had to this. W, weather, plus big D debt minus little D salary times T times it's Christmas time's Q times that you failed your New Year's resolution like quitting smoking divided by M, low motivational levels, times NA, the need to take action. Dr. Arnall claims that if you fit it full of numbers, it will spit back January 24. January 24 is the worst day of the year. January 24 is Monday. We will leave the algebra to English translation to Professor Frink or Mr. Science and turn instead to Dr. Robert Butterworth, a psychologist who specializes in trauma, anxiety and depression, all things that can be caused apparently by that occasion. Dr. Butterworth, good evening and thanks for your time.

DR. ROBERT BUTTERWORTH, PSYCHOLOGIST: Hey Keith. Well, there's one reason to live out here in sunny California. That is that sunlight seems to be pushing away the doctor's sadness theory.

OLBERMANN: Thanks for reminding those of us who used to live there that we don't live there anymore. Even if he's not exactly right about the 24th, do you buy that formula that for most folks, we are at or near or just past the low point of their year?

BUTTERWORTH: Well, yeah. Look at what's happened. We've survivors the holidays and now we're kind of exhausted because of that. Remember those New Years' resolutions on the first of the year? Most of the people, those have dropped by the wayside. We're thinking about tax season so that's starting to impinge on us. And for all those folks who don't have the sunlight to perk us up, it kind of just flattens people's mood. Unless you can afford to go to Florida or California or install those banks of florescent lights they use in Seattle to keep the mood up, things can get tough.

OLBERMANN: I am fascinated that there is a predictable date about when the average New Year's resolution gets broken. Has that gotten down to a science? How long people tend to last before they fall off whatever wagon they got on?

BUTTERWORTH: We used to call it reality day. It was like the 21st. Most people that make these resolutions, except for some of us that forget it the next day, kind of keep it for a while. But the ones that are really tough, stop smoking, going to the gym, watching the food. We've kind of gone by the wayside. It is starting to really sink in. And when people are out there and there's no sunlight and there's nothing really to make you alive, people start feeling blue.

OLBERMANN: So of course, this is the 21st right now. Let's conclude this. What is your advice to combat the worst day of the year, whether it's today, Monday or somewhere in between?

BUTTERWORTH: Other than going under the bed and stocking up on Prozac, I really think you have to think of one positive thing that you can do. Go out and take a day off. If you're really feeling blue, dust off the resolutions. You can start them again when everyone else has failed. Remember, April 15th is still April 15th. You have two more months. Don't worry about it until the devil starts knocking on your door.

OLBERMANN: Let me ask you one other thing in the few seconds we have left. As a society, would we be better off psychology if we split up the holidays and moved New Year 's Day to March 21 or something?

BUTTERWORTH: Yeah, and I think we should have a ban on Christmas starting the buying and the advertising until about five days before. Because we get so hyped up and so nervous and people get so crazy. I think five days of Christmas, and put New Year's around February or March.

OLBERMANN: Excellent. We'll work on it. Great thanks for the free therapy, sir.

BUTTERWORTH: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, a crime caught on surveillance tape but discovered too late to save the victim abducted as she left her job at a Wal-Mart. And the tail of the Boston Red Sox fan who waited a lifetime to see them win and then missed it. Now here are Countdown's top three sound bites of this day.

SGT WILLIAM THOMAS, SEGWAY COP: They go ooh, ah, is it fun? (unintelligible) How much it cost? It's nice. It is cute. They just go on and on with different things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A snake man. Wayne has had a fascination with these reptiles that dates back to his childhood.

WAYNE SWITTERMAN, SNAKE MAN: Of course, Monday is always the wash day. Back then if I had bib overalls. And if I heard my mom scream or holler, I knew I forgot to take the snake out of my bib overalls.

CONAN O'BRIEN, TALK SHOW HOST: President Bush is being criticized because his inaugural celebration cost $40 million. When asked about it, the president said sorry but my daughters insisted on an open bar.


OLBERMANN: It may have been intended as nothing more than a carjacking. But with its most brutal, terrifying moment recorded by the surveillance camera at the workplace, it became the Wal-Mart abduction. Our number two story of the count down, as our correspondent Leanne Gregg reports, this afternoon it became the Wal-Mart murder.


LEANNE GREGG, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Surveillance tape of this parking lot at an east Texas Wal-Mart store captured a man shoving the 19-year-old Meagan Holden into her truck Wednesday night. Then driving away. 400 miles from where she was abduct, police found Holden, shot to death along the side of a road in Stanton, Texas. The 19-year-old college student was reported missing Thursday when she didn't return home from her shift the night before.

GARY SWINDLE, TYLER P.D.: At this point in time, there's no doubt this was a total stranger abduction.

GREGG: The teenager's truck turned up at a hospital in Wilcox, Arizona, driven by 24-year-old Johnny Lee Williams who stopped for treatment for a gunshot wound to his shoulder. Police believed he had been shot during a robbery attempt near Wilcox. When authorities determined the truck Williams was driving belonged to Holden, they arrested him. A gun was recovered from the vehicle.

SWINDLE: We'll be working very closely with the Arizona authorities to get him back to Tyler.

GREGG: The surveillance tape showed Williams loitering around the store an hour and a half before the kidnapping. Police say he made several other potential abduction attempts before choosing Holden. Leanne Gregg, NBC News.

OLBERMANN: Another abduction case getting national attention, coming to a positive conclusion. An Amber alert had been issued Wednesday for an 11-year-old boy from Dunellen, Florida who was abducted from school. That boy has been found alive in northern Georgia. Police say he was safe and uninjured. A search is still ongoing for the suspected abductor, identified as a 42-year-old man named Frederick Fetz. He is a convicted sex offend who had served time with the child's father behind bars and was living with the family.

To make the tough transition to our nightly round up of entertainment and celebrities news "Keeping Tabs," although sometimes it can be a useful reminder of how useful - how little they understand of their privilege and comfort. The Paris Hilton video is out. Not that video. This one. This bit where she go to the newsstand? West Hollywood. She poses for the picture and now she realizes he is selling her sex tape and she wigs out on him. She reach in, swipes the DVD, supposedly of the sex tape, which you would have thought she already had a copy of. The D.A. is still considering charge of petty they have and vandalism.

Now back to a type when women could be immortal without being naked. They found the long lost studio of Leonardo da Vinci. Researchers locating a hidden staircase in a monastery in Florence. Apart from the fact that this is where he did much of his work, possibly even painting the Mona Lisa here a series of frescos have been discovered here that are those to be those of da Vinci. Unfortunately, the studio had been empty for 500 years. So all the plants have died.

Speaking of getting found after a long time out of a loop, there's Steven Manganello (ph), who is he? He is lifelong Boston Red Sox Fan, grandson of the guy who was born the year before the sear I had and who died before they won it again in 2004. Anyway, Manganello took a vacation to Japan last September. Scheduled so he would be back in New England to watch the Red Sox and the baseball playoffs. Except on October 1 last year, he got hit by a cab. So as Boston rallied to defeat the hated New York Yankees and then sweep the World Series, he was in Tokyo in a coma. Manganello has largely recovered but says he feels like he missed something big because the Red Sox won and he was not conscious for it. He is hping they can repeat it this year. You might want to consider going back to sleep, pal.

Speaking of grueling disappointments, our weekly news quiz, "What have we learned?" is just around the corner. Time for me to get my head in the game. My hand in my wallet. And Monica Novotny on the set to rip me off yet again. Stand by.


OLBERMANN: Time once again for the only quiz show on television wherein the contestant never wins anything. As per our custom on Friday nights, we blow of the number one story in the Countdown and see what, if anything, a dunderhead on TV remembers of the news he's just written and read. For each wrong answer I lose $50. If I quote-unquote "win" there could be some kind of crappy prize, usually something lying around or previously stolen out of my office. Having now done an exquisite job in selling you on watching this it's time to play...

ANNOUNCER: What Have we learned?

OLBERMANN: Here now is the inflictor of pain, the emcee of "what have we learned?" Monica Novotny. Howdy.

MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hola. It's always a pleasure to inflict. Let's start by reminding viewers, you can take the official MSNBC news quiz online at [link] as for tonight's festivities, we'll be two minutes on the clock. For each question answered incorrectly $50 goes to charity. If more than half are answered correctly, Mr. Countdown wins a prize. Are you ready sir? Please, stop stalling.

OLBERMANN: I'm cleaning my glasses. It helps me think.

NOVOTNY: Are you ready?

Number one. Who designed the soon to be Mrs. Trump's wedding dress?

I know you've been following this all week.

OLBERMANN: Which one? Christian Dior is doing the second one.

NOVOTNY: Actually, the first one. From Marsha in Maryland, who designed the dress worn by Mrs. Bush at last night inaugural balls?

OLBERMANN: She did. She knitted it herself. I have no idea.

NOVOTNY: Oscar de la Renta.

OLBERMANN: Didn't come up in the news.

NOVOTNY: From Marisa in Michigan, name four of the friends that appear with Spongebob in the "Spongebob and Friends" video.

OLBERMANN: There is like 2000 of them. There's Barney, Jimmy Neutron, Elmo, he's in there too. And I think Oscar the Grouch is in there too.

NOVOTNY: Yes, all right. From Teresa. What was the name of Tuesday's youth concert in Washington?

OLBERMANN: "Welcome to the greatest f-ing country earth?"

NOVOTNY: Not actually what they called it.

OLBERMANN: No. No. It was the "tomorrow's youth rocks today?"

NOVOTNY: Wrong, "a call to service." Thank you, though.

OLBERMANN: No, the youth concert wasn't "a call to service." I'm going protest that one.

NOVOTNY: Number five. We're not listening. Who is Mateo Brandy?

OLBERMANN: Brandy. Mateo Brandy?


OLBERMANN: He owns an iguana.

NOVOTNY: No. He did, however, found an oyster with Jesus' face to it. From Arlene in New York, name of the pig living in Jupiter who is fighting to have the same rights as dogs and cats. The name of the pig, sir.

OLBERMANN: Boy, so many things I can say that could take the network off the air. Mr. Anonymous.


OLBERMANN: Daisy the pig. I was close.

NOVOTNY: From John in Florida, how many times did Mr. Bush use liberty and freedom in his presidential speech.

OLBERMANN: The two of them combined? A total of 42.

NOVOTNY: Let's not do the math. Freedom?

OLBERMANN: Freedom, one was 25, the other was 17. It was.

NOVOTNY: You're wrong. 27 and 15. 27 for freedom, 15 for liberty.

OLBERMANN: Like I said, you asked two many of the two words were used.

NOVOTNY: Quickly, how many were in the president's speech, from Daniel in Michigan?

_OLBERMANN: 2084._

NOVOTNY: 2083. I think will give that you one because you blew it otherwise.

OLBERMANN: I have one protest - There were two protests.

NOVOTNY: You were wrong. We'll take it to the judge and talk about it next week. That's $20 for charity this week which means you don't get the wonderful prize. Instead you get your punishment. As you may recall last night you showed us a piece of Abraham Lincoln's hair which you own.

OLBERMANN: I remember it.

NOVOTNY: Well, we have this for you. Would you like to guess whose hair that is?

OLBERMANN: Whose hair is this?

NOVOTNY: That's Ann Coulter's doll hair.

OLBERMANN: In fact, that's all that's left of Ann Coulter's doll.

This is not human hair so we know it's not authentic. So anyway, the net charitable donation is now $400, although I'm protesting the questions I won't protest the money.

NOVOTNY: Oh, blah, blah.

OLBERMANN: Thanks a lot. Thanks a lot, Monica. Thank you question senders. Join us next time if there is a next time when we again play...

ANNOUNCER: "What Have We Learned?"

OLBERMANN: That's Countdown, thank you for being part of it. You, you're fired for being snide. Good night and good luck.