Friday, December 30, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Dec. 30th

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: The year 2005, 365 more days that didn't seem real then, and don't seem real now.


OLBERMANN: I want all of you to get up out of your chairs...


OLBERMANN: The Year of the Rooster in the Chinese calendar, and the news gods bring us what? A hermaphrodite rooster that lays yolk-free eggs. That's the kind of year it's been, 2005, the year of the exit from escaping the press...




OLBERMANN:... to escaping a wedding.


OLBERMANN: You look at that and say, is she going to run or do something?


OLBERMANN: From no escape from questions...


SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Again, David, this is a question relating to an ongoing investigation...


OLBERMANN:... to a thriller of an escape from the child molestation charges.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Find the defendant not guilty...

not guilty...

not guilty...


OLBERMANN: Two thousand and five, the year of the other woman, from superstar switches...


OLBERMANN: Kid, pail, shovel, an actor, and an actress. Case closed.

She's a hussy.


OLBERMANN:... to the justice juggle.


OLBERMANN: White House counsel Harriet Miers, nominated by President Bush...

Harriet Miers has withdrawn her name from consideration...


OLBERMANN: And from detested...


DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES: There were three of us in this marriage.


OLBERMANN:... to becoming the duchess.

Also, the year Tom Cruise put couches in the headlines from Oprah's to the psychiatrist's.


TOM CRUISE: You don't even - you're glib. You don't even know what Ritalin is.


OLBERMANN: The year investigations led to opportunities, Tom DeLay's tutorial on how to take a mug shot, Scooter Libby's success turning an indictment into increased sales for his novel with bestiality in it.

Two thousand and five, the year Countdown took a Popsicle stick and changed the face of journalism - the cardboard face of journalism.


OLBERMANN: Ooh, I have a flulike symptom.

BUSH: Need some wood?


OLBERMANN: A year where we offered no apologies for how we cover the news. Well, except for that one time.


OLBERMANN: I have sinned against you.


OLBERMANN: And if you thought that was a sin, this is Countdown's Favorite Things of 2005.




OLBERMANN: Welcome. This is our second annual tribute to the simple fact that, amid all the real news each night, in the past year, we sure needed the laughs. When we're really lucky every night here on Countdown, the two collide.

And we begin at the nexus of world-shaking import and side-splitting comedy, Washington, D.C., hello.

Where else could a Supreme Court nomination include discussions about public scatology? Where else could the indictment of a White House official turn into a frenzy to buy the crazy-ass book he wrote, full of pedophilia, grave-robbering, and bears, oh, my?

And where else could a White House press secretary survive an entire year without saying almost anything?


MCCLELLAN: Our policy continues to be that we're not going to get into commenting on an ongoing criminal investigation from this podium.

JOHN ROBERTS, NBC NEWS: What did you change your mind to say that it was OK to comment during the course of an investigation before, but now it's not?

MCCLELLAN: This is all relating to questions about an investigation.

And I've been through this.

DAVID GREGORY, ABC NEWS: Did Karl Rove commit a crime?

MCCLELLAN: Again, David, this is a question relating to an ongoing investigation.

GREGORY: I mean, this, I mean, this is ridiculous. You've got a public record out there. Do you stand by your remarks from that podium, or not?

MCCLELLAN: And again, David, I'm well aware, like you, of what was previously said.

OLBERMANN: It's described as the story of a young Japanese man who runs a remote mountain inn and gets caught up in a world of intrigue. Well, there's intrigue, and then there's, well, bestiality. There's a lot of bestiality in Mr. Libby's novel. Sure, we all know already about the passage about the bear and the girl.

Quote, "The young samurai's mother had the child sold to a brothel, where she swept the floors and oiled the women. At age 10, the madam put the child in a cage with a bear trained to couple with young girls so the girls would be frigid and not fall in love with their patrons. They fed her through the bars and aroused the bear with a stick when it seemed to lose interest. Groups of men paid to watch.

"Like other girls who had been trained this way, she learned to handle many men in a single night, and her skin turned a milky white."

OK. But what happened to the bear?

MCCLELLAN: Again, this is getting into where someone is engaged in a blame game. We've got to...


MCCLELLAN: No, I'm just not going to engage in the blame game or fingerpointing that you're trying to get me to engage in.

GREGORY: Not at all what I was asking.

MCCLELLAN: Sure it is.

GREGORY: Well...


GREGORY:... think about the blame game, you've said enough now.

MCCLELLAN: And what you're doing is trying to engage in this game of fingerpointing. If you want to continue to engage in fingerpointing and the blame game, and that's fine.


GREGORY:... that's ridiculous. I'm not engaging (INAUDIBLE)...

MCLELLAN: We're not...

GREGORY:... (INAUDIBLE). I'm not engaging (INAUDIBLE)...

MCCLELLAN: It's not ridiculous.

GREGORY:... don't...

MCCLELLAN: No, no. Everybody that watches this knows, David, that you're trying to engage in the blame game.


MCCLELLAN: And look, you can keep showboating for the cameras...

(INAUDIBLE) her qualifications...

OLBERMANN: Our number one story on the Countdown tonight, Harriet Miers is a man-killer. Yes, behind that seemingly bland exterior beats a rather potent heart, apparently, one capable of besting the competition, not only professionally, but also personally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) that my day job as an anagrammatist,

and so I took Harriet Miers' name, and I broke it down, and found that it's

there are different clues to her personality. Harriet Miers is an anagram for "a hermit riser," which could be many things. But it means that she can really bring anyone to life. She's a hermit riser.

It's also anagram for "trashier mier," which means that she could make the Supreme Court an even saucier place than it's already been, even trashier.

OLBERMANN: And then there's the Harriet Miers route, which we learned today included a birthday card to the future president who would nominate her that read, "Dear Governor G.W.B., you are the best governor ever." The admiration apparently mutual, Governor Bush writing back to with Ms. Miers a happy 52nd birthday, telling her to "Never hold back your sage advice," ending with the postscript - and this is where it gets weird - "No more public scatology."

You heard me, "scatology." You don't think it's some sort of jazz or blues reference, as in the study of the scat singing style of Louis Armstrong?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scott, he defended Al Gonzales without even being...

MCCLELLAN: I'll come to you in a second. I'll come to you in a second. Go.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he defended Al Gonzalez without ever being asked.

HELEN THOMAS: Can we get a straight answer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we ask the questions and you provide the answers?

MCCLELLAN: Yes, and I was providing the answer. Can I not say what I want to say?

OLBERMANN: You may love him or you may hate him, but you're going to go crazy over his mug shot. Former House majority leader Tom DeLay, already indicted, already deploying counter-prosecutor chafflike measures, and today turning himself in and making art.

Oh, Mr. DeLay seeming to forego all mug-shot conventional wisdom by embracing the portraiture opportunity. Check out the wide smile, the rosy glow, the button on the lapel. Not a hair out of place.

Should the congressman still be searching for a 2005 Christmas card photo, this could easily make the short list, which would tie in nicely if the DeLay family holiday newsletter is to include a criminal prosecution paragraph.

We never thought we'd say this, but right here, right now, at the historic moment of his induction, Tom DeLay is, without a doubt, the snazziest-looking member of the Countdown Mug Shot Hall of Fame.

Say, six-figure exterminating contract. Mr. Delay joining a suspicious-looking cast of characters, no matter what the eventual verdict may have been. Take former colleague James Traficant, his hairpiece asked for and received a separate trial.

Hair, no doubt a sore subject with this suspect. Apparently he was caught halfway through getting his do done.

This gentleman, charged with abusing harmful intoxicants, we're guessing - just guessing - that the can of gold Rustoleum spray paint they found with him had something to do with it.

The eyes always telling us everything needed to know about the runaway bride, Jennifer Wilbanks. Cable news celebrity has been built on much less, my friend.

And from our celebrity-celebrity file, two standouts, the DeLay mug shot, failing to achieve the Puppet Theater potential of one Michael Joe Jackson.

And last but never, ever least, Nick Nolte, still the yardstick against which all mug shots will be measured forevermore.

Many thanks to our friends at the

OLBERMANN: In Beijing over the weekend, as President Bush added another exhibit to what has to be his wing of what could be a Hall of Fame of Political Bloopers - Not that door, sir. That door's locked. Don't pull on that door. Fire alarm will go off. Chinese police will be alerted, sir.


OLBERMANN: Wait a minute. The Hall of Fame of Political Bloopers?

That gives me an idea. The Countdown Hall of Fame of Political Bloopers.

Roll 'em.


RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL (singing): Let the eagle soar, like she's never soared before. From rocky coast to golden shore, let the mighty eagle soar.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Those close to Reagan say he genuinely likes Bush and appreciates his loyalty. Bush sometimes gets carried away, expounding on his relationship with the president.

GEORGE G.W. BUSH, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've had triumphs. We made some mistakes. We've had some sex - setbacks. Sometimes I feel like the - sometimes I felt like a javelin competitor who won the coin toss and elected to receive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did Senator Obama do that Senator Kerry and other Democrats not do?

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Why don't we just ask Osama bin Laden - I say Osama, Obama - Obama what (INAUDIBLE) since he won by such a big amount?

Seriously, Senator Obama is really unique and special. I don't know him terribly well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kennedy, at the height of his popularity, praised the Berliners gathered at city hall for standing up to the communists, in words which still ring today.

JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As a free man, I take pride in the words "Ich bin ein Berliner."

DEAN: Not only are we going to New Hampshire, Tom Harkin, we're going to South Carolina, and Oklahoma, and Arizona, and North Dakota, and New Mexico. We're going to California and Texas and New York. And we're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan. And then we're going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House. Yeah!

TERESA HEINZ KERRY: You said something I didn't say. Now, shove it.

BUSH: We've had some discussion with key members of the defense team about a variety of subjects. We talked about Iraq. We're making progress on the ground. We were...

LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, another thing, the crotch, down where your (BLEEP) hang, is always a little too tight, because they cut me. See if you can't leave me about an inch from where the zipper (BELCH) ends, around under my - back to my (BLEEP).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bush returns to the issues debate after an embarrassing moment on the stump Monday in front of an open microphone.

BUSH: There's Adam Clymer, major league (BLEEP) from "The New York Times."


BRYANT GUMBEL, NBC NEWS: We are continuing to monitor developments in Tokyo, where this morning the president was taken ill. And there, as you can see, he collapsed while seated at the banquet table.

DAN QUAYLE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Spell that, spell again. Add one little bit on the end. Potato, how does that (INAUDIBLE)? There you go.

BUSH: We got issue in America. Too many good docs are getting out of business. Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country.

There's an old saying in Tennessee, I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee, that says, Fool me once - shame on - shame on you. Fool me - can't get fooled again.


OLBERMANN: From political exit strategies to wedding exits. The runaway bride, helping Martha Stewart put the afghan back in vogue, and headlining a year of bizarre relationship news.

And release the doves. The big legal story of this year, the acquittal of Michael Jackson on child molestation charges.

You are watching Countdown's Favorite Things of 2005 on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: Sometimes the stories on Countdown are not of my own choosing, not more than eight or nine a night, though, on a show that ostensibly only has five stories.

I call them the ones my producers force me to do. And they tend to be about celebrities and what they see as love, and the rest of us see as a reminder that even off-screen actors are acting.

From royal wedding gaffes to couch-jumping superstars, to a missing bride who seemingly everybody but me thought had been kidnapped, 2005, from the file labeled What's Love Got to Do with It?


TOM CRUISE: The premier, we wanted here in France, because it's beautiful and it's romantic, and, yes, I proposed to Kate last night.

OLBERMANN: It's the story that just keeps on giving. It gives my producers fits of glee, it gives me agida.

OPRAH WINFREY: We've never seen you behave this way before.

CRUISE: I know.

WINFREY: Have you ever felt this way before?

OLBERMANN: Tom Cruise went off on Matt Lauer this morning.



CRUISE: (INAUDIBLE), Matt, (INAUDIBLE), Matt, I, Matt...


CRUISE:... Matt, (INAUDIBLE), Matt, I (INAUDIBLE) - Matt, I'm asking you a question. You don't know the history of psychiatry, I do.

Matt, Matt, you don't even - you're glib. You don't even know what Ritalin is.

WINFREY: I've never seen you like this.

OLBERMANN: If Tom Cruise doesn't calm down soon, somebody's going to go after him, probably with an elephant tranquilizer gun.

Tom Cruise and his fiancee, Katie Holmes, are expecting a baby. No, their own. They're not sitting there waiting for cousins to stop by with a newborn.

KATIE HOLMES: We're so excited. It's amazing. It's (INAUDIBLE).

And there's so much excitement going on, it's (INAUDIBLE) exciting.

OLBERMANN: Hold on a second.


I'm going to traipse around this next question delicately. Is Tom Cruise a father? Artificial insemination, immaculate conception, neighborhood volunteer, pizza delivery boy...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tom is totally the father. He is not MIA, he is the top gun.

OLBERMANN: Yes, in the immortal words of Howard Dean tonight on "Hardball," we're not playing hide-the-salami here.

Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston have just separated. But Linda Tripp has just gotten married.

Our number one story on the Countdown, to quote the comedian Louis Anderson, What the hell kind of world are we living in?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's romantic in a very weird way.

OLBERMANN: Here it is, the smoking gun. A kid, a pail, a shovel, and actor, and an actress. Case closed. She's a hussy. He's a guy. And more truly than would film of them romping naked down Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, shots of Pitt and Jolie, with Jolie Jr., indicate she's his girlfriend.

And Mrs. Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, who filed for divorce a month ago yesterday, did not jump, she was pushed. Hey, any man will tell you, if the son is there too, this is - the woman is going for the ring.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the kid is safer there than at Neverland,


OLBERMANN: Oh, that's a great finish.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the discovery of two strangers.

OLBERMANN: We're finishing tonight with another edition of Stories the Producers Made Me Cover.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's all the heat and passion of a stranger...

OLBERMANN: Have you sensed yet that I'm doing tonight's number-one story under protest?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:... that hot, drunken, wild sexy night with a stranger.

OLBERMANN: Keep your knees loose. Thank you, producers, for making me do that story.

Good night and good luck.

OLBERMANN: Previously on "Desperate Royal Housewives:...

DIANA: Well, there were three of us in this marriage. So it was a bit crowded.


QUEEN ELIZABETH: It has turned out to be an annus horribilis.


OLBERMANN: Their love burned for 30 years. Now, on the eve of their wedding, dark forces are gathering. Will his mother (INAUDIBLE)? What about his ex-wife's brother, Earl? And who's minding the castle? On "Desperate Royal Housewives."

So, everything should be fine now. They're getting married on April 9, the anniversary of the day the Beatles split up, and the day the "Titanic"'s officers came aboard ship.

Previously on "Desperate Royal Housewives," the royal marriage, take two. On the surface, it looked picture-perfect. But underneath her designer gown, did Camilla have cold feet? Did the queen forget the cardinal rule of Great Britain, the stiff upper lip? And did the guests realize that short skirts plus shuttle buses equals diapers? Next, on "Desperate Royal Housewives."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's great. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

OLBERMANN: I don't mean to judge a book by its cover, but those photos of this woman, I don't know how recent they are. There's just a feeling about those shots with her eyes sort of bugging out, that you look at that and say, Is she going to run, or do something?

Sentenced to 120 hours of community service for having lied to the police, the infamous runaway bride served a portion of that sentence in public today. Wilbanks, wearing an orange vest and a hat that reads "Life Is Good," but what skill she lacked in lawn mowing acumen, she more than made up with her unique weed-killing ability.

Oh, that's a lawsuit. I knew she could do that.

There's the - apparently still a fiance, John Mason. Here, we were advised, was once a rowdy, hard-living, dating kind of guy. But while rededicating himself to his faith, he declared himself a born-again virgin.

As I asked on Friday night, when did they change that rule?

Do I have to file paperwork on this, or do I have to get a note signed by a clergyman, or do I just have to put my hand on the rock and say, I am a born-again virgin?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keith, I know you're very interested in this kind of thing, and we can arrange it for you. But as far as I know, there's no formal paperwork available yet, so - None that I'm aware of, anyway. But I can arrange something for you, I'm sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will she show up this time? Will he show up this time? Will the blushing bride wear white, or just throw on the old blanket? Find out in nine days with Wandering Eyes 2: The Return of the Runaway Bride.

MSNBC's special 24/7 blowout wall-to-wall unrelenting coverage begins tomorrow morning in Georgia with an unrivaled panel of experts to cover every aspect of the story. Plus, our correspondents will be covering all the local train stations and bus depots, just in case there's a return to flight.

It's the Countdown to the return to the wedding that never happened but it gripped the nation because she ran away on a bus to Vegas, but now she's back, and they're getting married on August 12, only on MSNBC.

And most everywhere else.


OLBERMANN: That wedding alert was a red herring, as was the Wilbanks no-show (INAUDIBLE). We had hopes of inducting her into our Apology Hall of Fame. You'll see why she did not make the grade.

And later, how a Popsicle stick revolutionized the world of television journalism. Well, the Countdown world of television journalism, anyway.


OLBERMANN: Countdown'S Favorite Things, 2005. The 500 days of the Michael Jackson legal saga coming to an end in June, from the ER trips to Jesusjuice, all the way to the verdict day, we'll reopen the Countdown Jackson Time Capsule.

And where cameras could not take you in the Jackson trial, Countdown'S puppets did. We'll take you behind the scenes in a state-of-the-art look at the making of Puppet Theater.

And the spinoff, the Red Carpet Slap (ph) Puppets, Porn Stars at D.C.

Fundraiser Puppets, and the Secrecy of Picking Up Hope (ph) Puppets.

Now, we shudder to think of covering 2005 without Popsicle sticks.

All that and more, as Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: And we continue with "Countdown's" favorite things of 2005. It could be said that in the two and a half years of the Michael Jackson case, the story improved with age. Just like fine wine. Well, Jesus juice, anyway. Headlines so bizarre, some days we couldn't decide where to put our puppets.

Here now, the long national nightmare that was the Jackson trial and the journalistic genre it inspired. Inspired as in, how the hell are we going to cover a trial without no camera?


MICHAEL JACKSON, SINGER: I'd like to say hello to the people of Santa Maria, my friends and neighbors.


JACKSON: Do you remember the time we fell in love?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were here today around 8:30 a.m. Santa Barbara County sheriff's investigators, accompanied by investigators from the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's office served a search warrant as a part of an ongoing criminal investigation. This address is commonly referred to as the Neverland Ranch.

OLBERMANN: The network Court TV is reporting the actions were taken after unspecified charges from a 12-year-old boy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An arrest warrant for Mr. Jackson that has been issued on multiple counts of child molestation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jackson himself, I believe, has said that this was all done to try to ruin his new CD that was coming out or whatever it is he's doing. Like the sheriff and I really are into that kind of music. But.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to tell you, Keith, it's essentially boiled down to almost like Elvis sightings at the airport.

OLBERMANN: We are awaiting the first ever perp moon walk.

The media circus has begun.


JACKSON: Wanna be starting something. You got to be starting something. I said you wanna be starting something, you got to be starting something.

OLBERMANN: Michael Jackson's flying circus. The judge wraps his knuckles for showing up late to his own arraignment, but for the defendant, this was one giant love in, preserved for posterity by his own camera man.


JACKSON: The way you make me feel, you really turn me good.

OLBERMANN: Jackson arrived 40 minutes early this morning for his arraignment in a Santa Maria courtroom adorned in a suit and tie and wearing what looked like prescription glasses.


JACKSON: I'm starting with the man in mirror. I'm asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer. If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself then make a change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael, you do understand that if you're not here by 9:35, the judge will put you in jail. And he will forfeit your bond of $3 million.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a miracle. I'll be right over, Mr.

Mezmo. Tito, get me some jammies.

OLBERMANN: So now it's time for everybody else's nausea, the trial.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jackson gave him and his brother alcohol.

And the Jackson called the wine "Jesus juice".

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Jesus juice, the alcohol in the soda bottles.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Jesus juice in the Coke cans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Interpretive readings from porn magazines, toast the audience with Jesus juice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of porn apparently taken out of Neverland. Can't even mention most of the titles. I think "Barely Legal" is about the only magazine that we can actually mention.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hustler and Playboy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you attempt to watch pornography?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was pornography.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He had pornography all over his house.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I look at girlie magazines. Woo, hoo, hoo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is Michael Jackson's ex-wife, mother of his two eldest children. And now Debbie Rowe has taken the stand as a key witness in the case against him.

OLBERMANN: Only at the Michael Jackson trial, the word 'whacko' finally comes up on the record.

It's used by Larry King, who winds up not testifying after all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a comedian in my mid 50s. I'm not Batman, one of several Jay Leno lines in court today, which didn't get a laugh from audience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They'll be no more witnesses or testimony in the Michael Jackson case. It's over.

OLBERMANN: A juror of Jackson's peers, well, four guys and eight girls will decide whether the superstar walks free or goes to the clink.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now more than ever, there is a chance, a good chance that Michael may be convicted.

OLBERMANN: It has claimed Jackie Stallone, Sylvester's mother, owner of noted psychic dogs. "He is totally innocent. I got a flash. He's going to come out of this stronger than ever. This all came to me like a lightning bolt."

Lightning bolt, huh? Now I understand everything.

The promise notice to the world of an hour before the verdicts were read came at about 3:34 p.m. Eastern time, 12:34 in Santa Maria. Jackson then left Neverland Ranch, passing briefly passed supporters who have locked arms in a kind of cross between we are the world and hands across America.

One fan outside actually released a dove each time the court recorder spoke the words not guilty. 14 doves would be released.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the jury in the above entitled case, find the defendant not guilty of lewd act upon a minor child as charged in count 4 of the indictment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I disliked it intensely when she snapped her fingers at us. That's when I thought don't snap your fingers at me, lady.


OLBERMANN: He was acquitted of everything, except the Enron stock case.

And so at 5:14 p.m. Eastern, 2:14 Pacific, it all ended. Or did it? On the theory that the Michael Jackson trial is not really over until the last fat puppet sings, we'll decide when it's over.

One dramatic last blast from the cheapest puppet show this side of the North Korean government. But first, the best of Michael Jackson puppet theater.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ooh, I have a flu-like symptom. What happened? Oh, I remember. It was yesterday. Grrrr. Don't take me to the courtroom. I need a doctor and Ernie Geller.

Yes, I remember now. I got sick. I better go to the window and wave to NBC. Woo, hoo, hoo.

I know. I know. I'm late again, but I do not feel well. Then we had to meet here because my lawyer, Mr. Mesereau and I needed privacy. What? You thought I liked meeting men in bathrooms?

It's amazing how people misinterpret things. I mean, that testimony about the head licking. I only lick children's heads to help them stay clean.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello? Jesse Jackson. It's me. Michael Jackson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael? Let us pray that on this day, at this hour, before I rise to take a shower, I will remember to call the phone company so I can get me some caller ID.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today's jury appreciation week treat is carrot cake.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, no. My chimpanzee housekeeping staff has escaped. And they love carrot cake. They're very smart. Their DNA is identical to humans when you look under a microscope. And I've been doing that a lot lately.

Woo, hoo, hoo.

Did you hear my interview yesterday?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said, feed me. Hand feed me at times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Now you'll be haunted by that image for weeks. Woo, hoo, hoo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge, hello. What's your question?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. King, tell me exactly what you could tell the jury about the defendant, Michael Jackson.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Jackson? A star among stars. For my money, one of the world's great stamp collectors. And he uses Garlique, proven to reduce cholesterol levels by 25 points.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Culkin, you say that Mr. Jackson never touched you, that the accusation is completely ridiculous, that you never saw him bother any other child? What would your reaction be then to all these witnesses here who say they saw him touching you?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man, that was predictable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jury is dismissed with the court's thanks.

Mr. Jackson, you are free to leave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Michael.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank goodness. What a relief. Now I can remove this stupid mask.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tito. Hand me a loofah. Whoa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Woo, hoo, hoo. Woo, hoo, hoo. Woo, ho, hoo.

Woo, hoo, hoo.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's something wrong with my woo, hoo, hoo.


OLBERMANN: We are not alone in the fascination with puppets. They struck a chord with America. The evidence? Well, our originals did go for top dollar on the Internet. And there was a documentary about the puppets, hosted by the narrator of "Behind the Music". Of course we asked him to be the narrator of the documentary. Stop nitpicking.

And it's hard to say I'm sorry, but how about doing it in the glare the media's spotlight? The best apologies of all time coming up, as "Countdown's" favorite of 2005 continues.

But first, here's a look at "Countdown's" top three sound bites from a day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay. That's it. That's it. All right.

MICHAEL TYSON, BOXER: I was at my worse self. I'm just so happy that - I'm happy again.



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How's everybody feeling? Better be careful. The people behind you are really hungry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's happening here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's serve some chow here. The President's wasting away to nothing.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go Mesereau, let's go.

CROWD: Fight, Michael, fight! Fight, Michael, fight!

CROWD: Let's go bodyguards, let's go!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guilty as charged!



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, America, you love the Jackson trial, but boring sketches and scary talking heads don't come close to getting you into the courtroom until now.

Finally, "Countdown" with Keith Olbermann has brought America's love affair with celebrity trials and puppetry together in this very special TV offer. It's the Michael Jackson puppet theater home starter's kit hand chiseled from real popsicle sticks by unskilled laborers at MSNBC.

"Countdown's" puppets are only the highest quality. Just watch it slice through this ripe tomato. You'll get the Jackson puppet, the Sneddon puppet, Mesereau, and the judge. But that's not all. Act now, and we'll throw in Bubbles, the chimp and fancy pajama Michael. That's six puppets all autographed by Keith Olbermann.

Log on to Search Michael Jackson puppet theater and make your bid today.

OLBERMANN: By the way, bidding recently closed. And when I say recently, of course I mean last May. Apparently one of "Countdown's" favorite things was also one of your favorite things.

Americans got a chance to own a piece of Michael Jackson puppet theater history. When the hammer went down, the bidding was over at $15,099.99, a profit for charity of roughly $15,099.99.

So what do you do when popsicle sticks make you that much money? Well, first, you try to understand the mystique that is Michael Jackson puppet theater. And then you try to make more popsicle sticks. and then you try to duplicate it.


OLBERMANN: Another inside glimpse, courtesy Michael Jackson puppet theater.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Television, the word itself implies the very elements necessary for this ubiquitous information of media. So in the most important story of the modern age comes along.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shocker, more drama at the Michael Jackson case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How does an award winning news team cover it when there are no pictures? They call it puppet theater. The idea, give America what they crave, a peek inside the California courtroom where Michael Jackson is standing trial and recreate it with popsicle stick puppetry.

Mmm, popsicles. But how does something as simple as this, become this? The process begins, of course, with a script.

OLBERMANN: I have really bad nightmares. And I just wake up in the middle of the night screaming and write them down. And then we act them out as puppet theater.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's tracked in a state of the art sound booth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love this part. Billy Jean.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Puppets are crafted by hand and then they're brought to life by a crew of 45 and the magic of television.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll toss one in there. Then I want you to come up and follow him in. And then she's going to flush.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What? You thought I liked meeting men in bathrooms?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are there any creative differences ever?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Later, the project heads to post-production for sweetening and finishing touches.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How important is the accuracy? How real is puppet theater?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we're a news network. Facts are very important to us. The rocks the other day that they were throwing at the lions? Real, totally real.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the real news didn't stop with Michael Jackson. When cardinals locked themselves into the Sistine Chapel to pick a pope, there were puppets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, you got enough votes for anybody?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many votes do you got?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, no pope today. Make with the white smoke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, black smoke, black smoke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was a close one. Woo, hoo, hoo.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When stars slapped producers on red carpets and other networks won't sell "Countdown," the video, there were puppets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell us a little bit about the movie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't know anything about the movie?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well then, what the hell are you asking me for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to get your point of view.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see the original?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the hell kind of guy are you? This guy's never seen a (bleep) original. He's asking me to tell him about the picture. He's standing there in his shirt and he's ironing. The man works for CBS. I'm just - I'm embarrassed. I like the guy. He's a nice guy. A tough guy. He wants to come on out. He can't because he's under contract with CBS, but we'll meet later if you want.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When a porn star goes to a Republican fundraiser in D.C., queue the puppets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, Mary, here come the politicians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, Mr. Delay. I'm - bye. Mr. Speaker. My name is - nice to meet you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Mary, it's the big guy, the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Need some work?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mary, Mary, I need your hugging.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And when we learned Anna Nicole appeared before the Supreme Court, puppets looked into the future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're hearing argument now, number 041544 making Marshall against E. Pierce Marshall. Mr. Richland?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chief justice, may it please the court, petitioners are.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I have my tip from the lap dance now? These guy's a freaking genius. And - wait. You are the Supremes?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Behind the headlines, beyond the reach of cameras, 2005 forever remembered as the year "Countdown" brought us puppets.


OLBERMANN: Special thanks to the great Jim Forbes for the use of his voice.

Hall of fame time. Next up on "Countdown", the art of the public apology. Just the right mix of sincerity, tears, and working it for the camera. Favorite things 2005 returns in a moment.


OLBERMANN: There's a hall of fame for football, baseball, fresh water fishing, for rock and roll, the polka, even the ukulele, where inventors, accountants, clowns, and left-handed people. Everybody's got a hall of fame. America is obsessed with the best of the best. And you know you've arrived once somebody's put up a few plaques and calls it a hall.

We here on "Countdown" like to celebrate the best of the worst, those people who have done wrong, broken the law, behaved badly, or simply acted in poor taste. And most critically, they didn't get away with it.

"Countdown's" apology hall of fame, one of our most favorite things of 2005.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry I did it. I'm sorry it offended people. And I apologize to the people that this has offended.

DAN RATHER, FORMER CBS ANCHOR: It was a mistake. CBS News deeply regrets it. Also, I want to say personally and directly, I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Personally, I didn't think it would have offended anyone. And you know, if it did, you know, we apologize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am sorry. So, so sorry.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: For those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of the U.S. Armed Forces, I offer my deepest apology.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I apologize to anybody that's been brought into this unnecessarily.

ASHLEY SIMPSON: On a Monday, I am waiting. Tuesday, I am fading.

I feel so bad, my band started playing the wrong song. I had no excuse, so I thought I'd do a hoedown. I'm sorry.

JANET JACKSON, SINGER: And unfortunately, the whole thing went wrong in the end. I am really sorry.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I misled people, including even my wife.

KOBE BRYANT, BASKETBALL PLAYER: I'm so sorry. I love my wife so much.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MISSISSIPPI: In order to be a racist, you have to feel superior. I don't feel superior to you at all. I don't believe any man or any woman is superior to any.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But did you always hold that view?

LOTT: I think I did.

TONYA HARDING, FORMER SKATER: I feel really bad for Nancy. And I feel really lucky that it wasn't me.

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW": What the hell were you thinking?

HUGH GRANT, ACTOR: I think you know in life pretty much what's a good thing to do and what's a bad thing. And I did a bad thing. And there you have it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sweetheart, what do you want to be when you grow up?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just like my daddy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steve, let me jump in here.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: Yes, I have behaved badly sometimes. Those people that I have offended, I want to say to them I'm deeply sorry about that. And I apologize.

RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But as some of my judgments were wrong, and some were wrong, they were made in what I believed at the time to be the best interests of the nation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What will I do to make you want me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please forgive me. I have sinned against you, my Lord. And I would ask that your precious blood.


OLBERMANN: And here's hoping that in 2006, you don't find yourself in the "Countdown" apology hall of fame. Me either.

That's "Countdown's" favorite things of 2005. I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night and good luck.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for December 29

Guest: Craig Crawford

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

Karl Rove urged a rave against critics. Dan Bartlett urged quotation of the realities and setbacks. Competing advice to President Bush on how to pull his Iraq reputation out of free fall.

Nobody said, Hey, go on "Survivor." Turns out that's an option too.

A new option for airport screeners, talk to passengers to see if they might be terrorists. See if they sound anxious or nervous. Yes, you never find anybody at an airport who's anxious or nervous.

The age-old conundrum comes to post-Katrina New Orleans.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Physically creating (INAUDIBLE) to come see Katrina damage? That's pathetic.


OLBERMANN: But tourists spend money, and money rebuilds. Ask downtown Manhattan.

Happy happy joy joy, the Secret Society of Happy People picks its top 10 happy moments of the year - Wait, the Secret Society of Happy People?

We pick our top moments too, including a late entry, the football bowl game that ended last night with 426 players on the field.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the ball game ends on the Blue Diamond Almonds' nuttiest play of the game.


OLBERMANN: Thank goodness you got that sponsorship in, buddy.

All that and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening.

Les Moonves, take note, 33 percent of those Americans surveyed by "Parade" magazine say they would like to see President George W. Bush appear on "Survivor," and for one simple reason, so that he could be the first contestant voted off the island.

Our fifth story on the Countdown, presidential survival. While a reality show faceoff may not actually be on Mr. Bush's calendar, new garden-variety poll numbers out tonight, the serious kind, suggesting that the president's political free fall may not be over, not yet, anyway.

Fewer than half of those surveyed by Gallup for "USA Today" offering a favorable opinion of the president as a person, 53 percent unfavorable, the worst rating yet of the Bush presidency. That's a new kind of ratings slide for him.

His personal approval has always been stronger than his presidential approval, that skid proving today to have been the subject of an intense debate among his top advisers, "The Washington Post" reporting that two camps have formed inside the White House, Karl Rove advocating a campaign-style formula, attack, attack, and, in the spare time, attack some more.

Younger aides like communications director Dan Bartlett pushing for more candor about all that's going wrong in Iraq.

The result, in recent speeches, we have seen Mr. Bush doing a bit of both, lashing out at his critics as a kinder, gentler commander in chief. As for whether or not it's working, small gains have been seen so far, the last batch of job approval numbers up slightly for the president, despite today's backslide on personal favorability.

And, by the way, that "Parade" magazine poll, yes, 33 percent would like to see Mr. Bush on the "Survivor" island so they could vote him off, but 35 percent would like to do exactly the same thing to Paris Hilton.

Countdown's favorable opinion of political analyst Craig Crawford, as always, is off the charts. The "Congressional Quarterly" columnist joins us now.

Good evening, Craig.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, "CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY": Hi, happy New Year, I don't know if that's politically correct, (INAUDIBLE)...

OLBERMANN: And a belated merry Christmas to you, and don't you forget it.


OLBERMANN: All right.

CRAWFORD: No war on New Year's here.

OLBERMANN: Not yet, anyway.

Is the new and improved Bush approach on Iraq a little schizophrenic? I mean, does "admit your mistakes" conflict with "TASER your enemies"? Or is this the kind of, you know, layered strategy that might work in what we could describe as a fractious political environment?

CRAWFORD: It's a good tactic to see what works. They might have been gotten a little movement there. There is the old, is it F. Scott Fitzgerald, said, There's a sign of intelligence, the ability to hold opposing thoughts in your mind without going insane? Opposing strategies, you get a poll boost.

The problem is, you might get a short-term boost, there, Keith, but I have a feeling it's harder to get a long-term kick from that, if you're admitting mistakes. Admitting mistakes is kind of a odd way to get a boost in approval.

OLBERMANN: An artist is a man who can hold two fundamentally conflicting viewpoints on the same issue and still function, I think that's the Fitzgerald quote.

CRAWFORD: All right.

OLBERMANN: Didn't do his wife any good, if we're talking about that.

Should we be surprised, though, based on this "Washington Post" report, that Mr. Rove has been, to some degree, marginalized, that it no longer seems to be the choice in the White House of Karl's way or the highway?

CRAWFORD: That is what struck me. It suggests to me that people don't fear Karl Rove like they once did, because you didn't even see people off the record suggesting that Karl Rove's opinion about a strategy wasn't the dominant one, which was the gist of this article. You know, these people weren't bold enough to actually be named in this article, so maybe they were hedging their bets.

OLBERMANN: Yes, the threat of indictment is - always does take some of your power away from you, no matter what the context.

CRAWFORD: That's true.

OLBERMANN: The CIA leak investigation, the NSA spying fallout, these are the presidential wild cards, do we think, for the year ahead? I mean, we know we're still going to be in Iraq, we know we'll still be cleaning up after Katrina, and we know there'll be new hurricanes in 2006. Is what we do not know about those two investigations the real danger facing the administration as it plans ahead?

CRAWFORD: CIA leak being a real wild card for the White House, because they don't know what this prosecutor Fitzgerald may do. He holds all the cards there. On the NSA, the dispute with Congress, if that's how it turns out, over presidential power in wartime, it depends on whether Republicans in Congress want to protect and defend their president, or protect their branch of government from his encouragement (ph) on it.

OLBERMANN: Now, is it guaranteed to come up? Is the NSA guaranteed to come up, or could that sputter?

CRAWFORD: Well, there is a flashpoint. I think the Samuel Alito hearing, Supreme Court nominee, which is coming up very soon, will be an opportunity for any senators who want to get into this to certainly get into it. There are memos in his background where he's passed judgment on this idea of the president, whether or not president has authority to order warrantless seize - searches and surveillance.

So that will be an opportunity. It could turn that hearing into something of a proxy for this debate. And then later on, Congress may hold hearings specifically on this issue.

OLBERMANN: And Iraq, obviously the speech a week and a half ago had a measure of reassurance. But will reassuring the public be enough for very long? Does it matter if there are no substantial gains on the ground, if troops do not start coming home before more of them are killed?

CRAWFORD: The Iraq elections seemed to make a big impact. People felt like that went pretty well. I think the media treaded lightly on some of the tougher aspects of that story, some of the violence, assassination of candidates, also the fact that many, many of the American-backed candidates didn't do as well as hoped.

But on balance, it was seen as a good thing. And that is what changed in the president's polls internally, the feelings about Iraq improved significantly because of those elections.

But there again, that shows how he's hostage to events, whether they're good or bad. And the casualties aren't anywhere near Vietnam levels, and all the president has to do is keep this from becoming a full-blown antiwar movement a la Vietnam.

OLBERMANN: But speaking of elections, 11 months and one week or so from now, there happens to be a series of them here. Is the one thing that seems to be clear on the political horizon that - that the midterms are shaping up as a referendum on the president? And will his party view it that way? Will they want to avoid him? What - how is that all going to shape out, including his involvement in the campaigns?

CRAWFORD: That's a gut-check they'll have to make. When things were looking bad for him, when he was really in the dumps in the polls, even folks like Senator Santorum, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, managed not to show up onstage in his home state of Pennsylvania when the president went there.

Some polling showed that voters might hold it against their congressmen if they support the president on everything. That is what they've got to change, and Republicans would rather have a popular president to run with, instead of running away from him.

OLBERMANN: That will be a fascinating dynamic, and will grow so as the months elapse.

Craig Crawford...

CRAWFORD: Yes, but it's pretty easy to watch too. Just see if they show up with him when he (INAUDIBLE), when he comes to their districts.

OLBERMANN: Very simple check. If there's a photo-op and he's the only one in it, trouble.

Craig Crawford, of course, the author of "Attack the Messenger," and once again, happy New Year.

CRAWFORD: All right.



OLBERMANN: The official second term of the Bush administration, beginning with the inauguration that took place at the start of this year, but the unofficial midway mark was of September 11, 2001, most administration policy characterized now as being either pre-9/11 or post-9/11.

And none more so than the post-9/11 creation of the Transportation Safety Administration, charged with overhauling airport security in this country. It has a new strategy, and it's all talk, literally.

If you plan to fly in 2006, there is a chance that the airport screener might start talking to you, and he or she will not just be making friendly chit-chat. I don't know about you, but I feel safer already.

Our correspondent Tom Costello has the details.


TOM COSTELLO, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For 15 years, Police Chief Steve Deal (ph) has worked DFW Airport in Dallas, canines, SWAT teams, and an eye for the suspicious.

CHIEF STEVE DEAL, DALLAS POLICE: Abnormal behavior that singles that person out from the rest of the traveling public.

COSTELLO: It's called behavior detection, and DFW police have been doing it for years, scanning the crowd, searching for clues to what a passenger's hidden motives may be.

RICK HAHN, FORMER FBI COUNTERTERRORISM EXPERT: They would be looking for either nervous behavior, someone perhaps averting their eyes from the security personnel or physically appearing to be nervous.

COSTELLO: And asking probing questions to see if passengers get rattled.

Now, the TSA plans to train its officers to do the same, looking for travelers who offer deceptive answers or appear anxious, and paying close attention to speech patterns and body language.

HAHN: Those are definitely linked to criminal activity and to terrorism.

COSTELLO: All part of the new TSA director's orders to make airport security more complex and less predictable.

KIP HAWLEY, TSA ADMINISTRATION: We are very tuned in to the world environment, and we pay a lot of attention. And we don't want to assume that one particular attack would be repeated in exactly the same way.

COSTELLO: Intense questioning is common at airports overseas. Shoe bomber Richard Reid was questioned so extensively, he missed his first flight from Paris to Miami.

But the ACLU is suing to stop the technique, saying it could lead to racial profiling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to train our officers to be acutely aware of diversity and be focusing on behavior of an individual.


OLBERMANN: Tom Costello doing the talking and reporting for us there.

Also tonight, a new controversy in New Orleans, visitors touring the devastation left by the hurricane. Is this helping the city recover, or is it profiteering off misery?

And from the year's saddest story to the happiest, as selected by the Secret Society of Happy People. We will reveal its top pick of the year, also ours, when our Countdown-within-a-Countdown starts now.

The number 10 happiest story of the year on their list going to the people of Mink, Louisiana, all 15 families. Phone service finally arrived in the Louisiana town, and the first phone call came from Governor Blanco of Louisiana, advising residents to sign up for the do-not-call list.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: More than a decade ago, a not-very-well-received TV-movie called "Disaster in Time" posited future ghoulish tourists who travel back through history to witness things like the "Hindenburg" disaster, or the destruction of Pompeii.

Our number-four story on the Countdown, the most plausible part of the film was the idea that, for as long as there would be man, he would rubberneck whenever his fellow men were destroyed or in endangered.

Two stories of that tonight, including resistance to it in the wake of Katrina in New Orleans.

But first, to Don Teague in Cross Plains, Texas, where the most vivid of disasters continues to come sweepin' down the plains - fire.


DON TEAGUE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just as officials feared, strong winds kicked up again today in Texas and Oklahoma.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) dropping water again coming across there.

TEAGUE: In Oklahoma County, 30-mile-per-hour gusts fueled another destructive fire, flames racing across bone-dry brush, destroying hundreds of acres, and threatening homes. With fire advancing toward his horses, this rancher cut a hole in the fence so they could run for their lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want it to get any further to the west.

TEAGUE: In Texas, a new wildfire today near Austin. It was contained after burning 50 acres.

And in Cross Plains, the fire that's already claimed entire neighborhoods kept firefighters busy battling flare-ups. Officials revised the number of homes destroyed in this small town to 116, double the original estimate, bringing the total of homes lost statewide to nearly 200.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: There are a lot of families in this community that are without, without a home, without any of the things that they had two days ago.

TEAGUE (on camera): Cross Plains has never been a wealthy town. Officials say with 25 to 30 percent of the community's homes in ashes, the town's very survival is now at risk.

MONTY RICHARDS, CROSS PLAINS RESIDENT: God-fearing Christians, hardworking individuals that basically worked for everything they got.

TEAGUE: Still, hard work can't make it rain. With the region in the grips of extreme drought, Governor Perry has deployed additional ground and air assets, and, with New Year's Eve this weekend, the governor is asking counties statewide to ban all fireworks.

PERRY: Be careful out there. Texas truly is a tinderbox at this (INAUDIBLE) point in time.

TEAGUE: And, forecasters say, it's going to be a dry, windy winter.

Don Teague, NBC News, Cross Plains, Texas.


OLBERMANN: And now to disasters of the recent past, and the American ability - or, we might say, the American need - to transform them into money-making enterprises. We were well into the 20th century before some of the older citizens of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, stopped resenting the idea that people would tramp through their town to see the Civil War battle site. And when, early in 2002, the city of New York opened a viewing platform next to ground zero, there was also confused feelings.

And now, as our correspondent Ron MOTT reports, all of those mixed emotions have come to New Orleans.


RON MOTT, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The beignets are back, so is the Cajun flavor.




MOTT: Even corny jokesters.


MOTT: And tourists are returning to New Orleans for a taste of it all, and they mean all, because what some of them want most is a sampling of Katrina, snapshots, they say, of history and the city's now-infamous levees.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you can see the way the water came.

MOTT: Then there's Isabelle Cossert's (ph) tour business, which took a hit during the storm, and so she's hitting back with Katrina disaster tours.

VIVIAN REYNARD, TOURIST: You cannot conceive of it until you're standing in it.

MOTT: It's a twist that could help restore some of the 1 billion tourism dollars already lost here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This hole was not that wide.

MOTT: These disaster tours are not just for Mom-and-Pop operations like Isabelle's.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to welcome you personally. My name is Joe.

MOTT: Even big tour companies like Gray Line see Katrina as a potential blockbuster, proclaiming it "America's worst catastrophe." It may be a sign of the times, but it's a sign not welcomed by everyone.

MICHELLE FALLON, DISPLACED NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: Physically creating tours to come see Katrina damage, that's pathetic.

MOTT (on camera): Businesses like the House of Blues, that depend on a thriving tourism industry, say the important thing is to get tourists back no matter what.

(voice-over): And they're counting on the first live show since Katrina tonight to start drawing them back to this institution.

LAURA TENNYSON, HOUSE OF BLUES: It's almost sold out, so we're really encouraged by that.

MOTT: Encouragement that's apparently spreading across the country as more tourists arrive.

STEPHEN PERRY: Maybe the most patriotic act an American could engage in next year is coming back to New Orleans.

MOTT: A city hoping that red, white, and some blues will turn this the color of money.

Ron Mott, NBC News, New Orleans.


OLBERMANN: No mixed emotions about this, the oddest Oddball moment of 2005. All you need is a girl band, a Japanese TV network, a lizard, and some pork chops.

Maybe all those things could explain what happened at a college football bowl game. Is it just me, or does Nebraska have 47 guys on the field here?

And as we count down to the happiest moment of the year, time to reveal number nine on their list. Oprah, Dave. Dave, Oprah. After 16 years of begging, Oprah Winfrey returns to "The Late Show," to say nothing of David Letterman's biggest ratings in more than a decade.

Countdown continues after this.


OLBERMANN: Back now, and we pause this day's real news to illuminate that which others prefer to keep in darkness. Some video clips are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.

And there's this one, which is all three. But a warning, the following video may be unsettling if you're easily disturbed by images of Japanese bubble-gum pop girl band members with pork chops strapped to their heads, then put in a big glass box with a hungry lizard, all on live television.

No, I'm just kidding. It's nothing like that.

We present in its entirety and without commentary, and for the final time this year, Countdown's top Oddball moment of 2005, the Japanese reality TV pork chop show.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No way! No way! No way!


No! No!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's heading right for her. He's heading for Abe.

He's going to Abe! He's going to Abe!

Abe, Ogawi, Yasuda, keep your head up!

Go on! Stay in!

That's it!

She ran away!

Izam is heading back that way.

Izam-san is taking off! He's taking off!

He's going to fall! He's going to fall!

Izam is falling!

The studio is in a panic!

Everyone's panicking!

Everyone's panicking! Yasuda has run away!

Izam-san is taking off! He's taking off!

He's going to fall! He's going to fall!

Izam is falling!

Izam-san is taking off! He's taking off!

He's going to fall! He's going to fall!

The studio is in a panic!

Izam-san is taking off! He's taking off!

He's going to fall! He's going to fall!

Izam is falling!

The studio is in a panic!


OLBERMANN: There's always panic in our studio. Don't worry, the animals coming up in our Oddballpalooza are much easier to get along with, just don't make eye contact.

And as we edge closer to the top happy story of '05, number eight out of 10, Danica Patrick races at the INDY 500. We said they were picked as happy stories. We never said they were interesting.

First, our list of Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Jim Jensen of Spanish Fort, Utah. He's the owner of a herd of 140 prized show sheep. That's right, like show dogs, only sheep.

But somehow a neighbor's dog got loose and by himself chased all 140 of the

sheep onto the Union Pacific Railroad line. The dog kept them at bay until

· Well, you can guess what happened.

And yes, they have shot the dog.

Number two, Tom Cruise, voted by the readers of the British magazine "Empire" as the most irritating actor in the last 16 years. For the record, Jennifer Lopez was second, Julia Roberts third, and Adam Sandler fourth. Then again, these readers voted for, as their favorite male actor of the last 16 years, Kevin Spacey. Nothing against Kevin Spacey, but even he'd say, Kevin Spacey?

Anyway, number one, Crystal Rozell of Saratoga Springs, New York. She called up an 85-year - old man in Illinois the other day and inadvertently saved his life. He'd fallen in the snow outside his home, had managed to drag himself inside, and, to his horror, discovered his phone line was on the fritz. He could not place any outgoing calls, he could not call 911.

Ms. Rozell's call was the first he'd received all that day. She then called the authorities and saved his life. And why was Ms. Rozell calling this 85-year-old man in Illinois? Because she's a telemarketer.


OLBERMANN: I believe it was H.L. Mencken who said there were really only two kinds of stories worthy of journalistic inquiry, animal stories and giant food stories.

Our third story on the Countdown tonight, since there were no giant food stories and precious other news today, here's a bonus edition of "Oddball" devoted entirely to our four-legged furry friends. No charge.


OLBERMANN (voice-over): We begin in Oakland, Maryland, for the opening day of the extremely controversial bear hunting season. Hundreds of hunters entering the woods of western Maryland in an attempt to lower the population of black bears in the area. And today the first bear was brought down by an eight-year-old girl named Sierra Styles (ph) and isn't she precious?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like animals, but that was - it really made me happy to get one.

OLBERMANN: Daddy's little princess gave the 200 pound bear both barrels in the chest for a first ever kill. A special moment in any eight-year-old girls life.

And we begin in Scacuse (ph), Oregon. There's a moose loose in Scacuse. It's a bear, actually, but bear doesn't rhyme.

We begin down under, where one little Australian kitty cat is doing what 32 percent of the country's human population has trouble with, using the toilet to do his dirty, dirty business.

The United Arab Emirates, where they're so rich they've got robots to ride on camels.

We know she has the tank to herself, because she's being shell fish.

Surfing mice. Alert your friends and loved ones. If your children are sleeping, wake them up, you'll never forgive yourself if you let them miss this.

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: What is it we have here? Perhaps this is a case of sibling rivalry.

OLBERMANN: I, for one, would like to welcome our crab overlords.

All hail Ahn Sanh Gyu (ph), master beekeeper. Sanh Gyu? No! Sanh Gyu. See Sanh Gyu do pushups covered with bees, see him ride a bike with bees, see him run screaming away and jump into a lake.

This is more my speed. Mongo like Sheriff Bart. Carlis (ph), Louisiana, home of Teeny Swoop and Buck. That's not three people, Teeny Swoop is the guy. The steer is Buck. Folks in town called Teeny the steer whisperer. That's what they call him to his face. He's said he's managed to tame the bull and rides him around town and puts those balls on his horn to prove it. No complaints from old Buck thus far, because he's biding his time. Then one day Teeny's going to get it. Ah, yes. Teeny will get it good.

Knoxville, Tennessee, it's Sniffles the bunny. He received this handsome certificate from the "Guinness Book of World Records" today as the world's oldest living rabbit. He is so old he used to dance the Charleston with Bubba the lobster back in the '20s. Actually, he's dated 14 years. Karen Mills (ph) of Knoxville bought Sniffles for her son in 1991, crediting his long life to a steady diet of French fries and arthritis medicine.

But is you (ph) in Brookfield, Illinois, Stormy the groundhog apparently saw his shadow and was totally embarrassed by his enormous, crooked choppers, so they're going to give him braces. No, I'm not kidding. Apparently Stormy was having trouble chewing his food, plus, when he smiled it looked like he was throwing gang signs. Zookeepers say Stormy's teeth should be nice and straight for Groundhog Day 2006 and maybe they can get to work on that hideous hairdo. Mullet.

We're back with our nightly segment full of stupid stories and weird animal video. Don't laugh, this is up for a Peabody Award. Or is it Polk Award. The Jimmy Dean Pork Sausage Award. Never mind.

We begin at the restaurant in Seoul, South Korea. On the menu, elephants. Elephants. Six of them escaped from a nearby amusement park. Two, who obviously heard about the great kimchee they serve at this joint because they have mashed through the big plate glass window out front and come in for lunch. No, they didn't have a reservation. Table in the back, please.

Slightly south and west to Shanghai, in China for the first Swine Olympiad. Dozens of children and parents on hand for the games, which featured pigs in obstacle course competing in various events of sprinting, hurdles and swimming events. I said swimming events. Come on, get in there. These kids didn't pay to see you gradually turning into bacon, you know. Come on! The facility here was formerly used for a dolphin show, but finances were tight, so they got the next best thing, pigs. Each little piggy tried his hardest but at the end of the day, only one could call himself a Gold Medal Ham.

That's Romeo, a 33-pound load of a cat who has been sitting in the animal shelter eating bonbons and waiting to be adopted. Don't do that, you can start an earthquake! He's about three times the size the cat of a normal cat. He's so fat, even his fur has stretch marks. I tell you, I get no respect. But a friendly local family finally decided to take in the tubby tabby this week. They say they want to get him down to about 20 pounds, so they put him on a diet of subway sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

But officials say the video is no fake. He is the first documented lesser panda to stand up straight. Most of them obviously have bad posture. They say at night he rides a unicycle and deals poker to the kangaroos, but they don't have that on tape, either. That is a guy in a suit, come on. Guy in a suit.

I'm not really sure how Elsie managed to swallow a 13 inch knife. I'm even more confused about the fact that she was completely uninjured and didn't mention anything to anybody. The doctors performed a two-hour surgery to remove the knife, which is good because waiting for nature to take its course would have doubtless been a huge mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so they are, off. And so they are.

OLBERMANN: What's new pussy cat. Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh. Help me, stop singing and help me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Try to pick them up here when they come out of the

· yes, there they go.

OLBERMANN: Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam. And the deer and the antelope play mixed doubles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just so thick, they crossed under the finish line. I couldn't tell one from another.

OLBERMANN: From Florida to North Carolina, beachgoers have been quite taken with the lion fish's beautiful rainbow of colors and spots. But don't kid yourself, Jimmy, if the lion fish got the chance, he would kill you and everyone you care about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it was Bortz (ph) in front, may have been number five, Coeus. Oh. They have Coeus in front.

OLBERMANN: But wildlife officials wonder, can a turtle that's been around since the Chester A. Arthur administration and hippo fat enough to crush a coconut live together without driving each other crazy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And here they come. It's going to be close. I think it was number four. I'm not sure. But it was a hell of a race.


OLBERMANN: And our bonus "Oddball" coverage continues tonight with a salute to Florida. The Sunshine State because the sun shines out of their march to the happiest story of the year. It now stops at number seven out of 10, release of the "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith" film, finally revealing why Darth Vader is a heavy breather.

If you're not liking the happy list so far, wait until you see our happiest pick.

As ever, something in the waning days of the year gets added to all of those best of lists. How football's Alamo Bowl ended last night, Nebraska 32, Michigan 28, that was the final score and perhaps the number of players each team had on the field in the most bizarre ending to a football game in more than 20 years.

But the finale becomes our "Soundbite of the Day" not because of the football but because of the radio announcers from Michigan, Frank Beckmann and Jim Branstater (ph). Due to a shift in stations carrying the Michigan broadcast it may have been Mr. Beckmann's last game. If so, in his last moment, he remembered where the bread is buttered.


FRANK BECKMANN, COMPANY MAN: All right. Last play of the game right here. Henny's (ph) got the snap. Three man rush. He's set. He fires underneath. And here comes the hook and lateral. It's Aban (ph) to Manningham (ph), now back to Aban (ph) again. Aban throwing it across the field on a lateral to Manningham at the 45. He breaks to the right and he's got nobody behind him. And Mannigham is lateraling it to - they're going backwards. Aban will heave it back across the field and caught by Behl, he is hit, fumbles the ball and the Wolverines pick it up and Hartz (ph) running with it. Nebraska has got the whole team on the field and Michigan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They haven't blown the whistle.

BECKMANN: No. Racing up the right side line, Tyler Hackler (ph) to the 15 yard line and knocked out of bounds. Now the whole Nebraska team is on the field. Clearly they have too many men on the field. Now, did they ever blow it dead is the question - I'm assuming they did. Because the officials are running off the field.

As the ballgame ends on the Blue Diamond Almonds Nuttiest Play of the Game, Nebraska wins the Alamo Bowl, by the final score of 32-28.



OLBERMANN: Your faithful Countdown staff here concocted something like 270 newscasts this year. That's 11 days and four hours worth. At that volume one begins to notice trends. For instance, so many strange stories originate in Vienna, that we have begun to doubt their veracity. We think somebody is making them up there.

Of course, as our number two story suggests, right now there's some newscaster is Austria saying the same thing about all those wacky stories from Florida. Day in and day out, no state delivers more crazy news items than Florida. It has become its own category of weirdness. Maybe it's the year-around sunshine, something in the water, maybe it's all just a strange coincidence.

I mean, face it, wildlife officials in Alaska are not going to come across a scene of a python that exploded after trying to eat an alligator. Eww.

And pet store robberies. Where are the cameras in the cages to give us shots like this. It could happen probably anywhere, yoink, but they don't happen just anywhere. Time after mind-boggling time the freaky stuff happens in Florida, which is why we say thank you, Florida. Thank you. If for the not for your inordinate amount of strange people, weird animals, crazy video and dumb criminals, Countdown itself would not be possible. Florida, we salute you.



OLBERMANN (voice-over): America, US&A. Here at Countdown we love each and every state in the union for all the wonderful stories they bring us, from the runaway brides of Georgia to the celebrity trials of California, from the prison camps of West Virginia, to the sexually unfocused mayors of the great Northwest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't deny that.

OLBERMANN: Each state has something to offer Countdown, but one state in particular seems to bring more to the table time after lovable time. It's the states that brought us count and recount, the pregnant, dimpled, hanging and regular chad, Katherine Harris, Bush beat Gore itself.

The state that brought us the midnight raid of Elian Gonzales, the state that brought us the Schiavo saga and it is the state that brings us more crazy news that we can shake a rundown at. It's Florida, 900 miles of gator, tape and doctor-shopping, tiger gropin', mullet wearing, kitty snatching, Virgin Mary sandwich selling Countdown contributors.

When network news anchors want to get ripped around in a storm, they head to Florida. When Vanilla Ice loses his wallaroo, which state does he lose it in? Florida! When the president courts those NASCAR dads .

BUSH: Start your engines!

OLBERMANN: When he wants to listen to his iPod during a debate, where does he go? Florida. When dumb criminals with dumb hairdos get drunk and ride scooters, where does it happen? Florida.

UNIDENTIFID MALE: You try driving a Go-Ped (ph) drunk. It's impossible.

OLBERMANN: When you need a robotic rasta refrigerator to bring you cool beers, where can you find it? Florida. When Donald Trump gets married, again, where does he get married? Florida.

When Fifi and Toto the dogs get married, where do they get married? Florida. When an Orange County sheriff's deputy uses an elevator as a Port-a-John, Florida. When amateur dentists decide to open a practice in a garage, Florida. When sumo wrestlers go street surfing, get caught and aren't worried about the charges .

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got a great lawyer and a lot of money, so I don't really care a whole lot.

OLBERMANN: Florida. When Fidel Castro gets prank called, who's on the line? Florida.

Car chases, blown up bridges, alligators, sharks, manatees, even Tarzan's tiger. Florida, our most favoritest peninsula in the whole wild world, including Wangaparela (ph) Peninsula in New Zealand. When it comes to the news we here at Countdown use, Florida is numero uno.


OLBERMANN: Florida is the state that made us the happiest in 2005. Also tonight, the happiness inducing people like that woman. And as for the happy stories of the year, from the secret society of happy people, there number six out of 10, Harvard University appointing a fun czar, a term the Harvard newspaper described as "infamous."

Back to our own list. Today's three nominees for Countdown's worst person in the world, bronze winners. Donovan Blackburn, city manager of Pikeville, Kentucky. How do we improve conditions there, he wonders? Aha, he concludes, talk a coal company into mining and then knocking down two of the mountaintops that surround the town. More money, more room for houses, and of course, more chances of ecological disaster.

Tonight's runner-up, Juan Reyes, a 37-year-old baby sitting two toddlers in Patchog (ph) on Long Island, New York. Mr. Reyes was discovered passed out and drunk and the two-year-old child was having more trouble standing than usual and his breath smelled of alcohol. Mr. Reyes has been arrested.

But the winner, the police officer Jared Wingland (ph) of Chicago and his two brothers. They were looking at pictures of a bank robbery taken by surveillance cameras when one of them looked at the silver-plated gun the robber was holding and said something like isn't that the gun we gave dad last year in and another one looked at the robber and said something like, isn't that dad holding it? The Winglands promptly gave up their 64-year-old father to the authorities. Well, Mr. Wingland (ph) was sentenced today to 40 years in jail after he was turned in by my three sons. Today's worst persons in the world.


OLBERMANN (on camera): Throughout the hour, we've been counting down the top 10 happiest stories of 2005 according to a group called the secret society of happy people. So to our number one story on the Countdown tonight, the rest of their list and the rest of ours. Number five on the secret society 2005 list, Disneyland celebrates its 50th anniversary. One disappointment, of course, Walt Disney didn't de-ice himself and join the party.

Number four, emotion recognition software revealing that da Vinci "Mona Lisa" was 83 percent happy. The other 17 percent was "I got a bus to catch Leonardo."

Number three, the Chicago White Sox winning their first world series since 1917 lifted the nation's spirits no doubt. Number two, researchers find happier people are healthier people. So how do you explain the cranky old people then? The number one happy story according to the secret society of happy people, a year full of natural disasters also triggered a worldwide outpouring donations and personal involvement to help millions of people recover, and there is really little argument with that point.

But, by the way, if I'm running Homeland Security and I hear about the secret society of happy people, I'm checking them out first.

And the Countdown staff second, but that's just because I know them. We have our own happy 2005 list. These are the best of the best in their fields of endeavor. Speed Rubik's Cubing may be enough for other newscasts but here you have got to really impress us, use your feet.

Think you're a bad parent? Taking your kid to the Wal-Mart at 3:00 in the morning isn't enough to catch our fancy. Blowing the rent money trying to win him back from the claw machine he has crawled into, that is something special.

And did anybody on the happy list crazy glue her husband's private parts to his leg? Did a small town sheriff do his very best to explain motive to the big city media?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She found pubical (ph) hair on her viberator (ph) that did not belong to him. And she was very upset about that. That's why she did what she did.


OLBERMAN: The pubical viberator.

These are the select few who not only get on the list but also get immediate induction into the Countdown Hall of Fame. They've earned a direct ticket into the pantheon of legends.



OLBERMANN (voice-over): The Hall of Fame is a big imaginary building but not so big we could afford to devote an entire wing to just dumb criminals and another one to only wacky stunt men and a third to only drunken idiots who got themselves stuck in the trash can. There's just not enough room, especially since we had to enlarge the animal wing accommodate the huge bouncing bear crowd.

So here in the Hall of Fame's great hall, yes, that's right, there's a hall inside the hall.

Bear with us here, each of these individuals whose bizarre actions have brought us joy, bewilderment to just great videotape over the years has its own little plaque. It's here the Countdown Hall of Fame honors "The Legends."

Who are these people? Well, they're every man and every woman caught on tape in strange situations either of their own making or of someone else's.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you talking about? You're crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're crazy! You're crazy, man!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you just hit me?

OLBERMANN: Perhaps they got drunk and did something stupid or perhaps they didn't get drunk at all and still did something stupid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a bubbling cauldron of hell I advise upon no human being on the face of the earth. You'll die if you go down the falls. I reached out and touched the face of God and he smiled. Thank you.

OLBERMANN: Or they're just run-of-the-mill weirdos and showoffs out for our attention. We're not too proud to oblige if they make it strange enough.

Some of the legends are dumb criminals and some are really dumb criminals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You readily admitted your involvement to the robbery and stated you were forced into it to pay a drug debt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a drug dealer, not a bank robber. I'm the one with the drugs. He was the one who robbed me. My co-defendant. I'm the mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) drug dealer.

OLBERMANN: Some are television personalities. Others are just personalities caught on television.

ELTON: Pig. Pig. Pig. Rude, wild pig.

OLBERMANN: And one is here because he solved the Countdown magic equation. High-pressure sales guy plus four-foot samurai sword plus live TV equals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The nice thing about the practice katanas, oh, oh that hurt.

OLBERMANN: His partner entered the hall on the write-in ballot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We, um, we may need emergency surgery in the studio.

OLBERMANN: Many of our legends are Guinness World Record holders as well. You wouldn't believe how easy it is to get into that book.

Mixed in are the true stuntmen and the daredevils like the all-time great Felix Baumgardener (ph). This guy goes out there and performs all manner of unsafe acts literally risking death on a regular basis and for what? So we can have 30 more seconds of really cool video? Felix, we salute you.

And we salute you, Miss Universe, the klutziest supermodel on earth. We salute every celebrity who ever had a glamour shot taken at 3:0 a.m. in some Arizona drunk tank and we salute the true legends, those caught in unbelievable but un-filmed situations who later for some reason defying belief agreed to reenact the event for the cameras.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMEALE: There was only one thing I had that I could use, my tongue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And as odd as this looks, with her hands and legs tied, Bennet-Lance (ph) called her office, not police for help.

OLBERMANN: The hall honors all of these wild stunts, feats of strength, strange people and even stranger things they do. You may call them dopes, you may call them maniacs or you may even call them common criminals, but here, here on this ground, we call them the legends.



OLBERMANN (on camera): Be sure to tune in tomorrow evening at our regularly appointed hours at 8:00 and midnight Eastern, 5:00 and 9:00 p.m. Pacific for more of that which brings us joy, all the pubical stuff and the good viberations.

Our year end special, Countdown's "Favorite Things 2005." Be there.

Aloha. And finally, let's just admit this. There was no news today. Please rejoin your life already in progress. That's Countdown. I'm Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with LIVE AND DIRECT. Jane Velez-Mitchell in for Rita tonight. Good evening, Jane.


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for December 28

Guest: Mike Weis; Jonathan Turley

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

If terrorism prosecutions are destroyed when it turns out the evidence came from torture, what happens to terrorism prosecutions when it turns out the evidence came from illegal wiretaps? Pretty much the same thing. The Bush eavesdropping scandal, and yet another ramification.

And another ramification of Hurricane Katrina. Why did so much Red Cross relief money go to people in Bakersfield, California? Because contractors the Red Cross hired to help disburse the money gave lots of it to their own relative there.


RAFAEL PALMIERO: I have never used steroids, period.


OLBERMANN: Actually, semicolon. Rafael Palmiero is back for another possible explanation for why a test said he did too take steroids. It may have been an intentional act by someone else, he says. In other words, maybe somebody slipped him a Mickey or spiked his sample. Speaking of slipping Mickeys...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me have a Brooklyn lager.

I'm going to have a Boddington's (ph).

Let me have a Guinness.


OLBERMANN: So many bars, so little time. The clock running out on one brave warrior's bid to have a drink in 1,000 bars in one year.

And speaking of drinks...


OLBERMANN: Checking Oddball traffic, we've got an overturned beer truck in Newton, Massachusetts. Luckily, the driver was uninjured, and all of the beer remained inside the - Uh-oh, that's not good.


OLBERMANN: You just can't see this stuff too often. Or can you?

Let's find out. The best of Oddball and more, now on Countdown.

Good evening.

The comparison most readily used by its defenders is to the security screening at every airport in this country. We're looking for terrorists there, aren't we? So just because 999 million-plus out of a billion passengers are not terrorists, that does not mean we can't screen everybody, right?

The problem with the comparison, of course, is that when you go through that security checkpoint, you know it. You've not only volunteered, but the screening serves as a deterrent.

Yet in our fifth story on the Countdown, not only did none of us volunteer for the Bush administration's NSA domestic spying, but today it turns out that instead of being a deterrent, the screening could ultimately become a get-out-of-jail-free card for any possible terrorists it might have caught.

Some of the Bush administration's biggest courtroom victories against al Qaeda now thrown into legal jeopardy tonight, defense lawyers preparing challenges to determine whether the NSA used illegal wiretaps against their clients.

One of those attorneys, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, joins us in a moment.

First, "The New York Times" reporting that the first expected legal challenge is likely to come in Florida, where lawyers for two men charged with Jose Padilla planned to find out whether the NSA program was used to gain incriminating information against their clients.

Lawyers in several other terrorism cases, including the so-called Lackawanna Six and the Portland Seven, now planning to do the same, the White House defending the president's right to do whatever he wants, spokesman Trent Duffy telling "The Times" the program is, quote, "designed to monitor calls from very bad people to very bad people who have a history of blowing up commuter trains, weddings, and churches. The president believes he has the authority, and he does, under the Constitution, to do this limited program. It is fully in line with the Constitution and also protecting Americans' civil liberties."

Then there is the government's case against Islamic scholar Ali Al-Timini, an American of Iraqi heritage now serving a life sentence for inciting his followers to wage war against the United States overseas.

Jonathan Turley one of the lawyers handling his appeal, and as promised, Professor Turley joins us now.

Jonathan, good evening to you.


OLBERMANN: Good. You've already filed one appeal on your client's behalf, arguing that his right of free speech had been violated. Are you planning now a series of challenges to this conviction based on the revelation of the NSA spy program?

TURLEY: We've already informed the Justice Department that we are going to ask the Fourth Circuit, the court of appeals, to return this case to the district court for an evidentiary hearing. It seems very likely at this point, from the descriptions of this program, that Dr. Al-Timini was one of the subjects of the interceptions, because the reason is that the dates overlap, and the nature of the conversations are the same.

And this was never revealed at trial. So if there were interceptions, it's a pretty serious matter for a criminal trial for it not to be revealed to the judge.

OLBERMANN: How difficult do you expect it's going to be to get the government to admit, one way or another, that your client, or anybody else, was subject, in particular, to this operation?

TURLEY: Well, I'm hoping that the Department of Justice will agree that we're all here for the rule of law. That's what the president said this war is all about.

And look, we can all disagree about the president's decision to order this operation. Many of us believe he ordered a federal crime when he ordered this operation.

But we should not have a disagreement that when it comes to a criminal trial, the federal law has to be complied with, because if the president can go outside the federal law to engage in surveillance and then ignore federal law in convicting citizens, then he becomes a government unto himself.

And so maybe I'm na‹ve, but I'm hoping that the Department of Justice will say, All right, let's go ahead and have an evidentiary hearing and see what this is all about. And I'm also hoping, and I believe this to be true, that the Department of Justice attorneys in this case didn't know about this operation. I trust them as people of good faith, and I'm hoping, as people of good faith, that we can all go down to the trial level and see what happened and deal with it, whatever it is.

OLBERMANN: This is an odd transition to ask you to make, but for a moment, stop being the defense attorney in this case, and pretend you're a prosecutor in another similarly structured case. When news that the president and the NSA had got - not gone to court for some of the counterterror wiretaps, if you're a prosecutor, did - would you have said to yourself, Well, there go all of our terror cases?

TURLEY: Well, I got to tell you, it's something like this that makes you crawl into a fetal position, because you don't always know, when you're a prosecutor, what evidence has been gathering outside of the case.

But I think that there's a lot of attorneys in the Department of Justice right now who are very worried. This is a very important type of violation. You know, this isn't some cop not giving someone Miranda. This is a case involving the withholding of evidence, that the whole purpose of that trial is to balance evidence. You don't balance it if someone's withholding it.

What you get is a game of three-card monte, where you have to guess under which card is the evidence. Well, we don't do that, because it's not a game. And I think prosecutors know how serious this is.

But I think that there's a lot of prosecutors out there that don't want to be accused of hiding evidence. And I think that there's going to be some support in the Department of Justice, whether it prevails, some support to go to the court and try to find out what happened and to deal with it.

OLBERMANN: One last angle, a third one to take, your hat as constitutional scholar. Which is the most troubling question of the many questions that the eavesdropping program raised for you?

TURLEY: Well, I think the most troubling question is the operation itself. I don't believe that this is a close issue. I think federal law is perfectly clear. It is a crime. This president ordered officials, some who opposed this program, to engage in surveillance without a court order. That's a crime.

Now, the suggestion that other presidents may have done it is not very persuasive. Saying you have precedent for a crime doesn't help much.

OLBERMANN: Jonathan Turley, defense attorney for Dr. Ali Al-Timini, and also law professor at George Washington University. As always, sir, great thanks for your time.

TURLEY: Thanks a lot.

OLBERMANN: As mentioned, there are those who believe President Bush is well within his rights to have ordered eavesdropping on American citizens and to continue to do so.

Berkeley law professor John Yoo is among them. As our justice correspondent, Pete LEWIS, reports, Professor Yoo is one of the architects of the legal theory that says the White House has expanded powers when the country is at war, an opinion that has put his work in the spotlight, if not the cross-hairs.


PETE LEWIS, MSNBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the University of California's law school at Berkeley, a liberal bastion, John Yoo defends the Bush administration's concept of broad presidential wartime power, one he helped draft as a Justice Department lawyer.

PROF. JOHN YOO, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think it would be a mistake for the government in this new, unprecedented kind of war against an enemy that fights us by violating all the rules of war, to commit ourselves to things we will or will not do when we're not legally required to.

LEWIS: No doubt, legal scholars say, Yoo's memos are central to the administration's claims about its wartime authority, including monitoring phone calls to and from the U.S. involving suspected al Qaeda members.

PROF. CASS SUNSTEIN, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO LAW SCHOOL: He's helped change the understanding in academic circles and in government circles of the power of president.

LEWIS: One of his key memos argues that the Constitution gives the president power to take "whatever actions he deems appropriate to preempt or respond to terrorist threats." Based on that, the White House also argued that when Congress authorized military force to respond to the 9/11 attacks, it also provided legal authority to detain enemy combatants, since that's fundamental to waging war.

The Supreme Court agreed, even though Congress did not specifically mention detaining combatants.

By the same logic, the White House now says Congress authorized the NSA's wiretapping, without specifically mentioning it, because intelligence-gathering is also fundamental to waging war.

But Sunstein says Yoo's theory is not widely supported.

SUNSTEIN: He's not alone in that view, but that view remains the minority view.

LEWIS (on camera): If Congress holds wiretapping hearings, Professor Yoo may again be asked to defend a concept of presidential power that he helped to draft.

Pete LEWIS, NBC News, Washington.


OLBERMANN: That 2005 would end in scandal for the White House - multiple scandals, in fact - would have been all but impossible to predict at the year's outset. Back then, the newly reelected president could be heard proclaiming he had political capital to spend and big plans on how to spend it, well before names like Valerie Plame and Harriet Miers and Katrina altered President Bush's bottom line.

White House correspondent David LEWIS taking a look back at the year that was and the one that Mr. Bush probably wishes wasn't.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:... George Walker Bush...


DAVID LEWIS, MSNBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two thousand five begins with all the promise of the president's second term. Inauguration Day showcases Mr. Bush's soaring vision. The pursuit of democracy would be the administration's primary goal.

BUSH:... with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

LEWIS: A hard-fought campaign victory convinces the president he has a mandate.

BUSH: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.

LEWIS: And a country at war finds reason for optimism, up to the first successful democratic elections in Iraq.

But the president's political fortunes would change.

MARSHALL WITTMANN, DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP COUNCIL: Two thousand and five was largely President Bush's terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad year.

LEWIS: The first major misstep, Social Security. Mr. Bush travels the country making the case for change and pushing for private accounts.

BUSH: The money going out of Social Security is greater than the amount of money coming into Social Security.

LEWIS: But seniors are nervous, fearing massive change to the program. Republicans and Democrats alike balk. The president's plan fails, and the White House appears to overreach.

RICHARD WOLFFE, "NEWSWEEK" MAGAZINE: He didn't not have nearly as much political capital as he thought. In the end, private accounts don't fix the problem of Social Security. They create another problem, which is all about funding.

LEWIS: The war, meanwhile, , grinds on, the backdrop against which the president tries to govern all year.

As the number of U.S. CASUALTIES grows, so does the public's anxiety.

Approval for the president's handling of the war falls.

DAVID BROOKS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, There was a lot of thinking, including people who supported him, who said, you know, Does he see the same reality I see on the evening news? You know, they wanted him to address the actual realities.

LEWIS: The administration's predictions also lose credibility.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.

LEWIS: An antiwar movements gain strength. And by the fall, a former Marine and hawkish Democrat gives voice to the growing public desire to withdraw troops from Iraq.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: It's a flawed policy wrapped in illusion that Iraq cannot be won militarily.

LEWIS: Away from the war, Mr. Bush enjoys perhaps his finest political moment, the nomination of Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court, Embraced by senators from both parties as a brilliant legal scholar, the 50-year-old appeals court judge will ultimately succeed William Rehnquist as chief justice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ease with which he went through was a major achievement for the administration. They didn't get credit for that, partly because Harriet Miers and her nomination was such a spectacular failure.

LEWIS: The short-lived Miers nomination would infuriate conservatives and raise questions about the president's judgment.

But nothing would rock the White House more than Katrina. The federal government is disastrously slow to react, and the president appears out of touch, first surveying the damage from Air Force One, and then on the ground.

BUSH: And Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.

BROOKS: And I think Americans felt ashamed with the sight of bodies floating in the streets five days after they were killed in New Orleans. And that was, to me, the low point of the president's year.

LEWIS: But there would be more, scandal.

BUSH: Today I accepted the resignation of Scooter Libby.

LEWIS: Questions about a domestic spying program, and the war's drumbeat of grim news.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Two thousand dead. U.S. military deaths in Iraq hit a grim new mark.

BUSH: The work in Iraq has been especially difficult, more difficult than we expected.

LEWIS: After successful Iraqi elections this month, the president argues it would be disaster to abandon the fight.

(on camera): But the president ends the year hinting that troops may begin to come home in 2006, a new year, and, the president hopes, a new start for his second term.

David LEWIS, NBC News, New York.


OLBERMANN: Also not the best of the years for the American Red Cross, the massive effort to help in the wake of Hurricane Katrina exposing fraud now, dozens indicted for taking money that should have gone to the victims.

And Rafael Palmiero now has another theory for his positive steroid test result, the one that shook the sports world. He thinks he could have been set up.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: This year will be remembered not just for Hurricane Katrina, but also for the deep fissures it exposed in our nation's emergency response system. Some of the fingers were pointed at people in institutions which had let us down before.

But in our fourth story on the Countdown tonight, some also had to be pointed at organizations that were supposedly sacrosanct and reliable.

George Lewis tonight with the extraordinary, and the extraordinarily disturbing, story about how the Red Cross's rush to get help to the victims also met a rush through the firewalls that should have prevented embezzling.


GEORGE LEWIS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Law enforcement knew something was wrong when a large number of Katrina evacuees began applying for aid 2,0o0 miles away in Bakersfield, California. Turns out the phony evacuees were actually Red Cross subcontracted employees at this call center handling relief payments.

(on camera): Over the last three months, federal authorities have indicted almost 50 people in California, charging them with siphoning off hundreds of thousands of dollars intended for hurricane victims.

(voice-over): This gas station minimart, a pickup point for Western Union money orders, was where, according to prosecutors, a lot of the bogus transactions took place.

MCGREGOR SCOTT, U.S. ATTORNEY: The contract employees working at the call center would call their buddies, or their relatives, and say, Here's a PIN number, get down to the Western Union and collect the money.

LEWIS: Prosecutors say more indictments are expected, and are investigating other call centers which helped the Red Cross distribute $1.4 billion to hurricane victims.

It's the latest scandal to hit an organization some critics charge is broken and needs to be fixed.

After Hurricane Katrina, when relief was slow in coming, even some Red Cross volunteers joined in the criticism.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm ashamed. Don't want to wear this again unless these problems are fixed. I don't want to wear this again.

LEWIS: Earlier this month, Marsha Evans resigned as president of the Red Cross, the third president in just over six years. The organization said she had disagreements with the board of directors, a huge body that has 50 members.

DR. BERNADINE HEALEY, FORMER RED CROSS PRESIDENT: Its board, its financial accountability, its disclosure policies may have worked 20 years ago. They are not for a modern organization.

LEWIS: A major concern for the check-writing public the next time disaster strikes.

George Lewis, NBC News, Los Angeles.


OLBERMANN: Also tonight - yes, that is the president of Russia. No, he is not simply exercising his constitutional mandate to protect his people in time of emergency.

And it turns out Oprah was not given the emergency bird in midair. Sounds like she may have gotten the shaft instead. The new explanation as to why the windshield of her private jet cracked.

Countdown continues.


OLBERMANN: Back now, and pausing the Countdown for our newest segment, Literary Corner. Tonight, the quintessential American poet, Walt Whitman, who, in "Leaves of Grass," wrote, "Always - " - No, it was, "Never - " Ah, hell, roll the dumb video.

Let's play Oddball.

We begin at the Kobrakai (ph) Dojo in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Bow to your sensei. Bow to your - I said, Bow to your sensei! It's Russian President Vladimir Putin, showing local judo students how to crush their opponents. Putin, a black belt in judo himself, returned to the school where he first learned his craft, putting on a display of fitness and strength while teaching Russian youngsters the art of self-defense.

See Pootie-Poot hopping around with the students. See him doing a series of pushups. Next, telling the kids, When the enemy comes, welcome him. When he goes, send him on his way. And then show him how to throw a helpless woman with relative ease.

Yes, sweep the (INAUDIBLE), Vladdy, and put her in a body bag.

To the mud pits of Malvin (ph), Essex, England, it's the latest in the long line of dumb British traditions, the mud race. They're running. Each year, competitors from all over dress up in cockamamie costumes to slog through cold, wet dirt to raise money for charity.

At different points in the race, the mud is waist-high, and, ironically, the participants by then are either wasted or high. There's a dirty angel there, a reindeer kind of guy, even the Swamp Thing showed up. Hi, Swampy.

Upon finishing the race, everybody gets a shower, a warm thermal wrap, and, of course, a parasitic roundworm infection. Those that get stuck in the mud and do not finish the race are slowly eaten alive by local hyenas and vultures. Cheerio.

Need a bigger Oddball fix? You're in luck. It's bonus Oddball tonight, the best of year in weird. It can't be missed.

Speaking of odd, Rafael Palmiero and steroids again. Now he is suggesting he might be the victim of a conspiracy to make him test positive.

Those stories ahead, but now, here are Countdown's top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, an independent artists' group in Vienna. It has had its series of electronic billboards on streets and highways around the city, funded to the tune of a million dollars in Austrian government funds, shut off by the chancellor of the nation, simply because the art showed the queen of England engaging in a sexual act with the presidents of France and the United States.

Number two, an unnamed bicyclist in Melbourne, in Australia. The bad news, he fell off his bike. The good news, he landed on something soft that broke his fall. The bad news, the soft thing was a snake. He has a few minor bites, but nothing is broken.

And number one, Joseph Rains, a paper boy in the seventh grade in Grand Island, New York, outside Buffalo. On Christmas morning, he left, as always, a copy of "The Buffalo Courier Express" at the home of 81-year-old Audrey Yale. The next day, he did the same thing, and noticed that the previous day's paper was still on the porch.

Joseph went up to the house and heard screaming and banging inside. He called 911. Minutes later, police discovered Mrs. Yale trapped between the outside side door and the inside side door. She'd been there three days. They think she'll be all right. Yes, and, of course, a grateful Mrs. Yale gave Joseph a 10-cent tip.

I made that up. It's just a joke. She didn't give him a 10-cent tip.


KEITH OLBERMANN: The Associated Press today selected its sports story of the year, 2005. The Chicago White Sox ending an 88-year drought by winning the World Series, in our third story in the Countdown.

For the sake of the long-suffering of the pale hose - I wish - but ultimately it's almost inescapable. The sports story of the year was steroids in baseball and it's a story that keeps unfolding.

Today Raphael Palmeiro and 'roids, chapter four. Maybe the test was fixed or somebody slipped the stuff into him somehow.

It started on St. Patrick's Day with the finger-wagging denial before a Congressional dog and pony show. Palmeiro insisting that during 19 years of stardom in Major League baseball he'd never used steroids, period.

Six weeks later, he tested positive for steroids.

Chapter two, the former Viagra spokesman becoming the first prominent ballplayer to get caught by a policy against another kind of performance enhancer, a policy that suddenly had teeth.

Chapter three, in September when Palmeiro insisted he had never knowingly taken steroids, saying that they might have gotten into his bloodstream though some liquid vitamin B12, explaining that the vitamin B12 had been given to him by his Baltimore Orioles teammate, Miguel Tejada, on the left there.

It was an act that another Baltimore player described as throwing Tejada under the bus.

Orioles' management in essence fired Palmeiro on the spot.

Now, today, a new theory. Chapter four. In an interview with "The New York Times," Palmeiro now suggests that positive tests may have been the result of some foul play.

Quoting, "If something happened that I'm not aware of, an intentional act by someone else, I don't know. I can't rule anything out. I'm going to take the responsibility (he continued) me being careless and taking something I wasn't knowing if it was was careless, stupid, na‹ve of me to think it was safe."

Taking responsibility except for the part in which he isn't taking responsibility. And wondering if somebody else tampered with the test or had slipped him steroids.

Let's call in "Washington Post" sports columnist Mike Wise.

Good evening Mike.


OLBERMANN: I'm reading this right, aren't I? Palmeiro saying maybe somebody doctored his food or his vitamins or whatever or somebody at the other end of it corrupted the steroid test itself?

WISE: That's what he's trying to say, and he's been saying this all along and it - as you said, chapter four in "the dog ate my homework."

When do we - when do we actually believe this guy? I don't know.

OLBERMANN: The premise of either of those explanations has to be, I suppose, that somebody wanted him to get caught.

Did I know a different Raphael Palmeiro than the real one? I mean does the real Raphael Palmeiro have enemies on his own team, or enemies inside baseball who would have wanted him to test positive for some reason?

WISE: You know, if you talk to a lot of the games' writers, they describe him as one of the nicest, most congenial players out there, and a lot of them had a hard time bringing themselves to write columns about him testing positive.

I could see maybe Mike Piazza spiking Roger Clemens' juice, or somebody doing something to Ty Cobb in the day, but Raphael Palmeiro wasn't somebody you were out to get, per se.

OLBERMANN: My original point here - the Associated Press selecting the White Sox as the sports story of the year and Lance Armstrong as the athlete of the year. Is it the steroids story, specifically, Raphael Palmeiro as part of the real story of this year?

WISE: I think so, and we've kind of turned a blind eye to it in a lot of ways.

We're as guilty as anybody, but we don't care how that ball gets over the wall, we just want to see it get there, and I think finally we've - we're confronted with all these facts and all these allegations; we have to say I don't know about you, but would you put Jose Conseco on that possible sportsman of the year list for blowing the whistle?

OLBERMANN: That's - that was one of my other points here. The second TV interview he did - the one after "Sixty Minutes," was on this program at a time when American journalism was ready to skewer him and serve him up for lunch with a book that he wrote, and I remember reading the book in the days before that interview was scheduled and slowly this feeling was creeping over me - wow, I mean Jose is five percent right.

Wow, Jose is ten percent right.

Wow, Jose is 85 percent right.

And you know at the end of it was wow; this self-centered, flawed guy may have been the Woodward and Bernstein of baseball.

Should he not at least get a few votes for sportsman of the year?

WISE: I don't know, but that would probably be going a little bit far; it would be like making Sammy the Bull "TIME's" person of the year. But I mean, yeah, he turned in the mob, but he still did some damage himself.

I think but Jose Conseco can rest peacefully in his retirement knowing he did a little bit to help the game and that he's not going to go into retirement just to - being known for signing autographs at mobile home shows.

He will actually have more of a legacy, and I do think it says something about his character that whatever you think about the messenger, the message was essentially true.

OLBERMANN: Let me go back to Mr. Palmeiro and the message, the other part of that column in "The New York Times," the interview with Murray Chass, their veteran baseball columnist was about what Palmeiro wants to do next in talking about coming back and hitting 30 homeruns for somebody else and proving that he can do it clean and he'd like to play for the Yankees and does it sound like that the reality gong has not gone off loudly enough in the Palmeiro household?

WISE: The saddest thing about this story, Keith, as we make light of it in some respects is Raphael Palmeiro to this day is more concerned about his own legacy than he is that steroids is a public health issue and if he'd just come clean and he and the other players that have been accused of this would come clean, America is all about second chances and I don't understand why he - I mean to me him getting an interview to Murray Chass, whom my former colleague who I respect greatly is more about lobbying a premier Hall of Fame voter than it is - than it is anything about Raphael Palmeiro coming clean.

And I think at some point he's got to - he's got to just say look, I did this, I took Stanazol, it wasn't a B12 vitamin shot - I mean I get my B vitamins at CVS. I don't know - do you get them in a syringe, Keith?

OLBERMANN: Yeah, from the Dominican Republic. I always ask Miguel Tejada, whoever brings them back for me. It's really special. There's a nice flavor to it. It kind of a nutty taste to the stuff.

Maybe - well, maybe - my thought on this, Mike is that Palmeiro is trying to convince himself. I guess that's the bottom line.

In any event "Washington Post" sports columnist Mike Wise. As always great. Thanks for your time and insights.

WISE: Okay. Happy holidays.

OLBERMANN: And to you. Which reminds us that what might have been the sports event of the year never happened.

Jose Canseco said he was considering appearing on a live pay-per-view TV broadcast in which he would be asked questions about the use of steroids by him and other ball players while he was strapped to a lie detector.

I still have dreams about it.

This February 30th the biggest thing to hit pay-per-view since Snoop Dog got sued, an exclusive live television event for the ages: six-time all-star, one-time author Jose Conseco takes on his toughest challenge yet, the truth.

It's man versus machine. His testicles may be shrinking, but are his sweat glands growing? And on the under (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we'll hook up Tanya Harding and ask her if she's been taking steroids or just cheesecakes?

Michael Jackson answers six questions about his various noses. And special guest Jeff Gannon gets four chances to correct his real name.

All that and Jose Conseco live, live, live! The 'roid injector versus the lie detector. Somebody's chance will be on fire!

It's the pay-per-view event of the month. Call your local cable provider and tell them you can handle the truth.

Just $3.95 per household or make best offer.

Cancelled because it was obvious he would have passed.

A mere outtake from our take of the year in review airing this Friday night in our regular time slots here on MSNBC at 8 and midnight Eastern. Five and 9 p.m. Pacific.

Our year-end special Countdown'S favorite things, 2005. Be there; aloha.

The year in review, a fuzzy thing for this man. His mission was 1,000 bars in 365 days in New York City. Will he make his goal?

Then forget the bird. The real reason Oprah's plane had to make that emergency landing the other day has just come out. This is Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: One man's goal in life, 1,000 bars all in one year. I've got to stop talking like that.

Not 1,000 song's bars. Booze. We're talking booze. Three days to go. Will he do it?

The answer next on Countdown.


OLBERMANN: When the character Don Birnem as played by Ray Milland went on a three-day binge in Manhattan in 1945 they made a movie out of it called "The Lost Weekend."

So why should Dan Freeman get his own film studio?

Friday, closer to six p.m. than to 6:15, Mr. Freeman will amble up to the bar at The Pioneer on The Bowery in New York, order a libation and make it official: our number two story on the Countdown, he's going to have had a drink in 1,000 different New York watering holes in just 365 days.

Countdown'S Monica Novotny introduced us to Mr. Freeman last June at bar number 532 and now brings us the update.


MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC: Have you learned anything in this process?

DAN FREEMAN: I learned that I'm never going to do this again.

NOVOTNY: After a lengthy journey, the end is near. The man spending his first year of retirement visiting 1,000 bars is down to the last drop.

DAN FREEMAN: I think I'll have a "winter hook."

NOVOTNY: We first met 61-year-old Dan Freeman, a former computer consultant, back in June, just over halfway through his 365-day bar-a-thon.

FREEMAN: Cheers. I just thought it would be something fun to do and something I could kind of look back on and say you know what, maybe I've done something that nobody else has actually ever done before.

VUM CHIN, DAN FREEMAN'S WIFE: I wanted him to have a hobby, but I really didn't know exactly what kind of hobby I was expecting.

NOVOTNY: Dan has spent much of 2005 fulfilling his dream, visiting three to five bars almost every day.

FREEMAN: Let me have a "Brooklyn Modern."

FREEMAN: I'm going to have a Guinness.

NOVOTNY: His drinking documented and posted online to his 1,000 Bars Blog.

The rules are pretty simple. There has be a bar -

FREEMAN: Right, a bar.

NOVOTNY: And you have to have at least one alcoholic beverage.

FREEMAN: One alcoholic beverage at the bar.

NOVOTNY: Now are there any other perks that you found besides just the alcohol?

FREEMAN: Well, I've had people come into town and want to meet me and they've bought me drinks and one fellow sent me a ticket to a Yankees game.

NOVOTNY: Perks aside, this retirement turned out to be work.

So was it hard?

FREEMAN: It was harder than I would have expected and -

NOVOTNY: Not the drinking part.

FREEMAN: Not the drinking part, but just going into different bars and finding different bars.

NOVOTNY: I'm glad that Dan's doing something that he really enjoys, but I would even be gladder when he's done with it.

NOVOTNY: And the lesson in the liquor? Too much of a good thing really is too much. Even when it's beer.

FREEMAN: I can say without a doubt that a New Year's resolution I'll keep will be going to fewer bars next year. That's an easy one to keep.

NOVOTNY: For Countdown, Monica Novotny.


OLBERMANN: So why did Mr. Freeman do that? Well, a friend of his bet him he couldn't; his friend owns a bar in Brooklyn and offered him a prize if he pulled it off.

You guessed it: a hundred free beers. Just what he needs, huh?

An update of sorts; also opening up our roundup of celebrity and entertainment news keeping tabs, breaking Oprah Winfrey news.

Her private jet was not attacked by a duck after all. Yesterday California aviation authorities reported that Winfrey's jet had been forced to return to the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport.

On Monday it's windshield cracked after a collision with a bird, breaking news.

But now the Santa Barbara Fire Department says wear and tear caused that crack. Winfrey and boyfriend Stedman Graham were not hurt. No change there. But Winfrey now has to contend with this old junker of a plane.

How old? We don't know, but please send your donations to the Oprah Winfrey Private Jet Fund, c/o Maury Povich, MSNBC, World Domination Plaza, New Jersey.

And yesterday we learned that entertainment had lost one of its great character actors, Michael Schiavelli, who was among other things the subway ghost in the film "Ghost."

Now its someone with an even more specific video heritage who has left us - Michael Vale is dead. This is him. The man who said, "Time to make the doughnuts."

The ads ran from 1982 to 1997. Officially he was Fred the Baker for Dunkin' Donuts. Mr. Vale made more than 1300 other commercials and he was an actor in everything from "Car 54, Where are You?" to the movie "Marathon Man."

He was an Acting Workshop classmate of Tony Curtis and Rod Steiger; yet this will be his legacy.

MICHAEL VALE, ACTOR: Time to make the doughnuts.

OLBERMANN: Michael Vale died yesterday in New York of complications from diabetes. He was 83.

From goodbyes to gaffs. Next, the year in weird is back by popular demand.

But first time for Countdown'S list of today's three nominees of the coveted title of "Worst Person in the World."

The bronze winner, Trisha Owens (ph) of Edison, Ohio, arrested and charged with robbing a bank in Gilead (ph). She explained she had gotten the idea from her brother when he robbed the same bank four years ago.

She even wore a wire to record him admitting he'd done it. Thanks, sis.

The runner-up tonight, Reno Tobler, a truck driver from Clive, Iowa. Police picked him up for hurling detergent-sized bottles into the back yards of houses he passed. Inside said bottles, his own urine. Yes, it is really bad, but look at the bright side. At least he left it in the bottles.

But tonight's winner, Lisa Carlson of St. George, Vermont. She's one of the backers of a plan there to take 50 acres of undeveloped public land and turn it into a garden park nature reserve and do it yourself cemetery.

That's right, family's can go dig their own graves for their own loved ones. No muss, no fuss, no caskets, no embalming. Just bring your own shovel and fill 'er up.

As the character Lou Grant said on the "Chuckle's" episode of the "Mary Tyler Moore" show, I don't want anybody to make any fuss. When I go, I just want to be stood outside in the garbage with my hat on.

Lisa Carlson, today's worst person in the world.


OLBERMANN: We'll close with a correction.

I just called the late character actor, Vincent Schiavelli Michael.

My mistake and my apologies.

Lastly, from its trail of animal travails to its parade of human hijinks from its daredevils and car chases to its super models and the horses they rode in on it is the best or maybe the worst.

Man does not live with a grimace permanently stapled to his face, thus our nightly segment, "Oddball" and our yearly roundup of its highlights.

Our number one story, the best or worst of the best or worst.


OLBERMANN (voice-over): We begin in Latvia...

We begin in Scappoose, Oregon...

We begin in northeastern Tennessee with the

Countdown camel chase of the week.

We begin at Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City where...

We begin at the Borcell (ph) Nuclear Power Plant in

the Netherlands where-Warning, warning, danger Will

Robinson-the nuclear waste has sprouted legs and is

climbing the fence to escape.

Indianapolis, Indiana, hello. Laytonsville, Maryland, hello.

Fort Hood, Texas, (SCREAM)

Tokyo, hello.

To Houston, hello. Minot, North Dakota, hello.

Tibu (ph), South Korea, hello.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We begin in Guatemala, where

science is bringing the people new and interesting ways

to mix drinks and stuff. Yes, using recycled parts from

old bicycles; women like these here can save hundreds of

dollars on costly kitchen appliances. And in just 20 to

30 minutes, blend themselves a refreshing beverage and

get some healthy bench and get exercise in the process.

OLBERMANN: Come on, pedal for it. Earn that margarita.

Now to the San Francisco Zoo for another episode of rhinoceros versus big pumpkin. This is Gene; he's a 3,000 pound black rhino.

His keepers put a 500-pound pumpkin in his pen as part of the big annual "Boo at the Zoo" event. Oh baby, he's going to smash this pumpkin.

There we go. Come on, buddy. Come on, smashy, smashy. Come on.

Come on! Hey, where are you going? Come on. Come back, smash the pumpkin. Oh, what a jip.

Checking "Oddball" traffic, we've got an overturned

beer truck in Newton, Massachusetts. Luckily the driver

was uninjured and all the beer remained inside. Uh-oh,

that's no good.

Dude, cool Ferrari. Whoa, hot Ferrari.

Speaking of deformed vegetables, we take off to the

Great White North for the story of a Canadian farmer

whose carrots are purple. It's got nothing to do with

the tightness of his overalls.

And what's the situation with this deer in Fitchburg, Massachusetts?

I'll tell you. He just can't believe those low, low prices.

I had a special new educational segment planned for this evening, "Brush up on String Theory with Keith Olbermann."

Unfortunately, one of the producers hid my textbook, so we'll now go to the backup plan. Wacky video, let's play "Oddball".

There's a train coming.

This is Lucy Kibaki, the first lady of Kenya, and

unhappy with a recent newspaper story she has just made

this photo op into the Kenyan version of "Meet the


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She slapped me here.

OLBERMANN: Chios, Greece, where Orthodox Easter is

our favorite event of the year because the two rival

churches on the island celebrate annually by firing

65,000 rockets at each other. I want plenty of rockets.

When the unfortunate model tried to turn her ride around, down goes Frieda! Down goes Frieda!

Back it up. Back it up. You got it. OK, right there'll be good.

We're back and we pause the Countdown now to get into the serious news. Seriously stupid.


OLBERMANN: Now, here's a monkey fishing.

Hey, look at those really big pants.

And we got a dog on the Major Deegan.

Oh boy, we got a floater.

Here's a good ol' fashioned cow chase.

Here's a very old guy bowling.

Thank, thank, thank you, Mr. whatever your name is.

Thank you.

Look at them running.

And there she goes, she's passed the Best Buy, hangs

a right at the Applebee. Look at her run. She could go

all the way. She's in the...

Into the first furlong (ph) it's big squirrel with

no tail in front, the Sun thing-kind of thing, second dog

in stripped shirt third. Big squirrel through the

hurdles, he could go (UNINTELLIGIBLE) fast behind the duck, it's a hippopotamus.

And down the stretch they come. It's the big squirrel with no tail, way out in front.

Big squirrel with no tail, first, sun thing second, a lion or monkey, I'm not sure what is third.

The winner of this race moving on to the finals next week in Dallas and that's where the big money-wait a minute, what's this?

The little girl on the outside is throwing the race. She-little Mickey (ph) is the winner. She had the thing locked up; she just stopped.

Never in my 30 years of broadcasting have I seen a more disgusting display of the corruption of a sporting event.

Oops, it seems party leader Vladimir Geronoffski

(ph) has just spit on Dumas (ph) deputy Andre Sylvalia

(ph) looks like spitting. And let's get ready to


Oh, boy. Ok.

Attendance was down this year at the big annual battle of the oranges because organizers started charging admission. Can't imagine why somebody would be reluctant to pay for this.

And sad news tonight from Pittsburgh. Bubba the Lobster is dead.

Some estimated Bubba may have lived 100 years in the Atlantic Ocean before he was caught this week, but as his celebrity grew a custody battle raged between Ripley's, PETA, the people for the ethical treatment of animals, and the other PETA, the people for the eating of tasty animals.

In the end, it was all too much strife for Bubba.

He is dead now, and the rest of these people have blood on their hands. Or is that butter? On their hands?

Bubba the lobster was 100 years old.

Bubba, we hardly knew you, but you left a great taste in our mouths.

Our MSNBC coverage continues next with Rita Cosby


That's Countdown; I'm Keith Olbermann; keep your knees loose. Good night and good luck.