'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for August 15
Guests: P. J. Crowley, Anne Kornblut, William Irwin
KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will
you be talking about tomorrow? The Petraeus report, the definitive
military word on the surge in Iraq. The general's document for which
President Bush has insisted we wait. The September milestone from which
dozens of American soldiers have died. The Petraeus report will be written
by the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA PERINO, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The Congress asked for these reports from the president. They asked for the president report to Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Oops, we left out that little detail.
Craig Crawford on the latest game of Three-card Monte from President Bush.
P.J. Crawley on the credibility of a military report, not written by military men.
He is a uniter, not a divider - not him, rather, another would-be president, Barack Obama: I can bring the country together more effectively than she can.
He is the traffic flow expert who can break our, quote, "ideological grid lock."
Grid lock created. It is the Browns versus the Goldmans over the publication of the O. J. Simpson fictional confession book.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why would you bring the nightmare back to these children? That's what I want to know from you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Did you get an iPhone? Did you get the bill yet?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got my first AT&T bill right here in a box.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Does anybody want my iPhone?
More technology news. Do you play any the sims or any of those computer simulated computer reality games where you become part of or you control a virtual universe? We may all be the sims. The Oxford professor's startling claim, there is a 20 percent chance that all of life as we know it is a computer simulation. Seriously, we are some super computer geek's hobby. I knew O'Reilly was not for real.
All that and more on "Countdown."
(on camera): Good evening. It was the Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius who observed that we each encounter deceit, greed falsehood, failure every day and yet we are constantly stunned by it. How ridiculous and what a stranger he is, he wrote nearly 1900 years ago as he led an army through the forests of Germany, who is surprised at anything which happens in life.
In our fifth story in the "Countdown," in the Bush administration, the cell phone service you did not read the fine-print contract of presidencies, why are we surprised that the report on the surge by the latest white knight of Iraq, David Petraeus, will not be written by General David Petraeus, but will be written by the White House. As Marcus Aurelius would probably say, you dummies are the ones providing the surprise, not Bush.
Buried in a "Los Angeles Times" article, the oh-didn't-you-know revelation said that whatever David Petraeus accompanied by Ambassador Ryan Crocker is charged to present to Congress will not actually be his own work. Despite the constant references to the work as his.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will be coming back to report on the findings of the success of the surge. The surge success will include military successes and military failures, but also political successes and political failures. How the troops are configure, what the deployment looks like, will depend upon the recommendations of David Petraeus.
David Petraeus, the general on the ground, will bring his recommendations back to the Congress on or about September 15th.
This September, as Congress has required, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will return to Washington to provide a more comprehensive assessment.
OLBERMANN: To say nothing of the assessments of dozens of nameless staffers and those with nothing but political viewpoints from the White House.
And say nothing is exactly what they did. Having been caught, the White House now insisting that the report was never going to be from General Petraeus. It was always going to be from the president.
PERINO: The Congress and asked for these reports from the president. They asked for the president to report to Congress. The July 15th report will be no different to the September 15th report in terms of how that works. The president has said that he will take the recommendations from General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker and then he will consult further before deciding on any possible next course of action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: As to those recommendations that are not really his, General Petraeus tells reporters that he will recommend troop cuts in September. He believes that the U.S. presence should be considerably smaller by next summer, but that a quick withdrawal could hurt any progress made.
Some other officials telling the "L.A. Times" they expect troops to withdraw from some areas, maybe Anbar Province, but to remain in Iraq for another six months to help in Baghdad. More on the military plans in a moment, first, the latest wool-pulling by the president.
I am joined by Congressional Quarterly columnist, our MSNBC Craig Crawford.
Craig, good evening.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC ANALYST & CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY COLUMNIST:
OLBERMANN: We are all victims of not listening to Marcus Aurelius. We should not be surprised, but we are. Don't the Democrats pull this thing and the general and the president apart as duplicitous and deceptive and cheap?
CRAWFORD: The Republican - there are Republicans who are bound to be nervous about this development because many Republicans were using the prospect of the Petraeus report as cover way back in the last wave or two of votes on Iraq to say we're going to for the report and then they will make a firm decision. They were buying time for themselves before the next election to see where they needed to be.
On the other hand, Democrats were also using it to some extent with their own base voters when they could not get the votes they need to override the vetoes. They were telling their liberal base voters once this Petraeus report comes in, Republicans will defect and we'll be able to override vetoes. Now it looks like none of that will happen.
OLBERMANN: What happens when a report with no credibility, certainly no credibility of General Petraeus behind it, since he will not be the author or even the principal voice in it - what happens to that whole series of dominoes expected to go over from both sides in September? Is that re-evaluation process still alive or was it knocked over?
CRAWFORD: I am not sure that it was ever real to begin with. It smelled to me like a ruse on the part of the White House. Another bit of footwork in their rope-a-dope with Congress to keep this war going just like the president wanted to go. This will be the fifth wave of voting, as will probably will have in the fall, on Capital Hill, on the war.
Also, Democrats - I will not be so cynical to say that they're thinking this, but there is the dirty truth that they are better off with things like they are because, in the next election, they can argue for winning the White House and keeping control of Congress. The only way to get real change in Iraq is to vote for a Democrat. If they were able to get a handle on this war and play a role in the management, why would they vote for it?
OLBERMANN: Why did the president play into that aspect of this given the good will, whether forced or legitimate, being offered in terms of General Petraeus. He was being given credibility by both sides no matter what his motives. Why didn't the White House taking advantage of this and, instead of buying time with counterfeit money, buy time with the general's respectability?
CRAWFORD: Exactly. I find it fascinating, this development. It is one of two things. They are very confident that they have the votes and they can hold enough Republicans, especially in the House, to forestall any serious efforts in Congress and keep the vetoes solid. They will feel that they don't even need this routine in September. Or they began to see where he might be going with the report and feared letting him have too much control. It'll be a little time before we know which of those it is.
OLBERMANN: Do you think we're ever going to know what General Petraeus' actual assessment of the situation in Iraq is, an assessment that has not been whitewashed, politicized, just White-Housed now?
CRAWFORD: When he gets on the griddle and the hearings, which I'm sure will come - he will be testifying after this report and I am sure a lot of Democrats, including some running for president, may get in the act and pound him pretty hard to get what he really thinks out of him. He is a pretty candid guy and he had a lot of respect among Democrats.
The whole problem here is there's really two things going on, the combat ground truth, which he supposed to try to bring back to Washington and tell policymakers what's really happening, and the political games of using him as a way to buy time for Republicans and Democrats.
OLBERMANN: I believe the quote was attributed to Boake Carter, the 1930's newscaster, "In war, truth is the first casualty," or in this case, it seems to multiple.
Our own Craig Crawford, columnist for Congressional Quarterly. As always, Craig, thanks for joining us.
CRAWFORD: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: As promised, the military point of view. For that, we're joined by senior fellow and director of Homeland Security at the Center for American Progress, by P.J. Crowley.
P.J., good evening to you.
P.J. CRAWLEY, DIRECTOR OF HOMELAND SECURITY, CENTER FOR AMERICAN
PROGRESS: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Is bad that the president keeps calling his surge as the Petraeus plan, but now even the success or failure is not going to be assessed by Petraeus, it will be written by the White House. Will it have any shred of military credibility?
CRAWLEY: I think I'll pick up where Craig left off. One way or the other, if Petraeus has something to tell the Congress and the American people, he will do that. It is important that the military give its best advice to the president and to the Congress.
What is really missing here is not necessarily the Petraeus report per say. We really know what he's going to say, some discrete things, good, happening on the ground. The big picture has not changed. What is really missing here is the Bush report. What is the appetite for violence in Iraq and what do we, as civilian leaders of the military, what judgments we make to where we go from here? It is shameless that the president has been hiding behind Petraeus for many months. It is not so much what Petraeus might say or will say, one way or the other. It is really what do the policymakers at the White House or the Congress, what do they do, based on the knowledge that we have that Iraq is not going very well. The appetite for violence is high. There's no real political process leading to reconciliation. When do with the surge and when do we start to bring troops home from Iraq?
OLBERMANN: There's no real political process here either. This is like an old game show where you can pass or play. The first contestant has passed, the second contestant has passed, and you never get anything done.
CRAWLEY: Right. The first draft of the Petraeus or White House report came in July and it said it's a mixed picture, but things not going very well. The violence is high. Next month we will get largely a repeat of that picture. The president in July said let's wait until September. What is he going to say now, wait until April? I doubt that Congress will let him get away with that.
OLBERMANN: These plans themselves, if Petraeus is going to follow through on what they say today, how are they going to achieve troop cuts without losing the areas from which they withdraw. That horrifying bomb attack that killed - the original number is 260. The British media reports 500 people dead in one attack in northern Iraq yesterday. That is an area where U.S. troops have been redeployed out of.
CRAWLEY: Absolutely. General Petraeus, even with the surge, does not have all the troops he'd like to have to do what he wants to do. He has to move some pieces on his chest board. He pulls his troops out of Anbar and puts them somewhere else. Al Qaeda can do the same thing. As we move, they will adjust.
We do know the bottom line that one way or the other the surge will end next spring, troops are going to begin to come home next spring and the point of the debate is how fast is that process and when does the last troop leave?
OLBERMANN: Next spring is a long time away. That is emphasized again by a story that came across the Associated Press wire about 7:45 eastern time. It is a preview of a report from the military. Let me read you this in the context of keeping troops in Iraq. "Army soldiers committed suicide at the highest rate in 26 years. More than a quarter did so while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan." This is according to report by the Pentagon. Ninety-nine confirmed suicides. How morally can we keep these men and women there when we are not seen them attacked, not just from the outside, but under such an emotional strain that we have the highest rate of suicides in 26 years?
CRAWLEY: You are absolutely right. These are people on the go since 2001, multiple tours in Afghanistan, multiple tours in Iraq. For those who commit suicide, that is tragic. For those who don't, they come home with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The military is at the breaking point, the president will try to maneuver for six months more for the surge. We have to recognize that we're doing great damage to the U.S. military.
OLBERMANN: These people are dying because of this extension of this war.
P. J. Crawley, director of Homeland Security for the Center for American Progress. Always a pleasure to speak with you sir. Great thanks.
CRAWLEY: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: After it mysteriously disappeared last year, the resignation letter of Donald Rumsfeld has surfaced. It surfaced only after numerous Freedom of Information Acts filed by Reuters and the Associated Press Wire Services. Written one day before the 2006 elections, received by the president on election day, the letter makes no reference to Iraq or war. Instead it refers to a challenging time for our country, and Mr. Rumsfeld called also, a critical time in history.
As to why the president waited until after the loss of the House and Senate in 2006 to accept the resignation, the spokeswoman for the White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino says that he wanted to avoid, quote, "the appearance of trying to make this be a political decision." Because, of course, firing him after the day of the Republican loss did not seem political at all.
The "Countdown" to 2008. Senator Obama says he's a uniter and Senator Clinton is not. But just in saying that, isn't he failing to unite Democrats?
And divided after 13 years of unified opposition, the Browns versus the Goldmans over the decision to publish O. J. Simpson's book, a dramatic and stirring confrontation on national TV.
You're watching "Countdown" on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: The last time a politician claimed to be a uniter and not a divider, it was George W. Bush. Better luck next time. Our fourth story tonight, our "Countdown" to 2008, and since the uniter title is available, Barack Obama is picking up the theme. The Illinois senator saying one of the reasons he decided to run for president because Hillary Clinton is too divisive to get the country out of what he calls our ideological gridlock.
Senator Obama telling the "Washington Post": "I think it is fair to say that I believe I can bring the country together more effectively than she can. That is not entirely a problem of her making. So of those battles in the '90s that she went through were the result of some pretty unfair attacks on the Clintons. But that history exists, and so, yes, I believe I can bring the country together in a way she cannot do."
Ironically, it is the same line of attack on Senator Clinton used by the White House after a new campaign ad said the middle class and even the troops are invisible to President Bush.
The soon to be removed presidential brain, Karl Rove, already rerunning his catch phrases again today, describing Clinton as fatally flawed, as he appeared with comedian Rush Limbaugh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR: She is who she is. There is no front runner who has entered the primary season with negatives as high as she has in the history of modern polling. She is going into the general election in the high 40's on the negative side and just below that on the positive side. There's no one who is ever won the presidency was started out in that position.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Clinton seemed to revel in the White House. She made a statement late in Iowa today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: Karl Rove attacked me today trying to, once again, poison the atmosphere. I feel so lucky that I'm giving them such heartburn.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Watching it all, Anne Kornblut, national political reporter of the "Washington Post."
Anne, good evening.
ANNE KORNBLUT, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Let's work backwards. The bromide is supposed to be for the challenger, don't attack the incumbent if you're not running against that incumbent, because in a way you let your actual opponents slide. But does that apply in this election. Isn't positioning yourself as being under attack by George Bush and Karl Rove - is that not a single best pieces strategy for a Democrat right now?
KORNBLUT: There's no harm in any Democrat, particularly Hillary Clinton, going after this president. You'll notice that it is Karl Rove making the attacks on her. There's nothing but mileage in this for her.
OLBERMANN: Senator Obama, with this interview with your colleagues at "The Post," seems to a split a very fine hair. He says that Hillary Clinton is too divisive to win, he is not. He is willing to be divisive enough to attack another Democrat for being divisive. It's like an M.C. Escher drawing.
KORNBLUT: It's debatable how much of a frontal attack I think that is. He is starting to draw a distinction between himself and Senator Clinton. She has stayed the front runner in all the national polls there, in a three-way tie in Iowa, where I am now. If he does not start to draw these distinctions and say what is different and what makes him better than her and her worse than him by default, he is not going to get anywhere. I think that is what he was doing there. It is not the same as a full-on attack. Certainly not something that we saw in the caucuses. Whether it will get to something like that, I don't know.
OLBERMANN: The mild stuff seems to be getting past people. There was something about Senator Obama and this issue of unifying that happened at the debate in Chicago that seems to go right past people. He was talking about roots to citizenship for immigrants. He suggested one of the tests should be are they learning English. In retrospect, I think I should have stopped the debate right there and said, did you really just say that? How unifying is that position going to be among Democrats in, say, Florida and New York and California and Texas?
KORNBLUT: Interesting question. The Obama campaign probably feels that he is inoculated on that kind of a point, being a direct child of an immigrant. But this is one of the crossover issues for him where he has got to appeal to both Republicans and Democrats. One of his selling points is that he can appeal to Republicans. When any Democrat talks about immigration in terms of terms that sound slightly tougher than the usual Democratic line, they could earn some Republican points.
OLBERMANN: Senator Clinton has gotten good press lately from many commentators on the right. Bruce Bartlett says that conservatives should consider. Fred Barnes, "She is firm and cool on foreign policy." Rich Lowery, "She excels." Those are people that you see on FOX noise is all the time. And David Brooks said, "The combination of experience and change." Is that stuff to be taken on face value or do they really want to compete against her so much that they are boosting her primary candidacy?
KORNBLUT: I had the same conversation with Bill Crystal, of all people, who really commended her on foreign policy. There's two groups here. One of the serious foreign policy conservatives, who have been dismayed by the way Bush has handled the war in Iraq. They seem generally impressed with her views. Her pro-Israel stance. Everything she has said so far, they have been impressed with, particularly her support of the military.
Then you have political Republicans that are probably the Rove category. Republicans who like to see her run because they believe that she is the most beatable. As you heard, that clip that you played of him saying that she has these high negative ratings. Those are sensing up a bit of a fall for the Democrats in wishing it is Hillary Clinton, even though they do so at their peril. She is a very strong campaigner.
OLBERMANN: Anne Kornblut of the "Washington Post." Anne, thank you.
If Senators Clinton and Obama are characters in a big giant all-inclusive computer simulated universe, what's the difference to gets nominated? The startling theory that the odds are about 20 percent of what we think is life is actually some creature somewhere playing his super computer version of the sims.
That explains this guy in the mop. "Countdown's" star of the game, Mr. Master Criminal himself, next.
OLBERMANN: 950 years ago, the king of Scotland was killed by the son of his predecessor, a predecessor that he himself had killed in battle. If that, to you, sounds like the basis of a good play or maybe a movie, you're a little too late. William Shakespeare thought so too. The king killed on August 15, 1057, was Macbeth. He souped up the story a bit. The real Macbeth did not murder King Duncan at the urging of Mrs. Macbeth. He did not say, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day. And Macbeth had never even thought to say, let's play "Oddball."
We begin in Estero, Florida, because you asked for it. The guy we
told you about last night, they have found the surveillance video of our
"Countdown" start of the game, the mop-headed bandit. Despite his
resemblance to Goldilocks on crack, that is a mop on his head used as a
disguise. Brilliant. He demanded money, he got nothing. And the store
clerk chased him and his mop out. Later, the clerk realized he should have
mopped the floors with that guy, literally. As far as we know, he bears no
connection to the duct-tape bandit, except perhaps in the neighborhood of
To Shelbyville, Indiana, and the site of eternal youth, or at least really old age, because that spry lady there is celebrating her birthday. At 114 years old, she is the oldest person in the world now, according to Guinness Records. Edna Parker was born in 1893, which means her online dating profile is in a class by itself. Kidding.
Miss Parker does not bother which such silliness and she just happens to be in the same convalescence center as the world's tallest woman. Coincidence, or is there something odd in the water in Shelbyville?
The battle over O.J. Simpson's book; it has, remarkably, turned into a battle between the families of his victims. Brown versus Goldman.
Life is not cabaret. Life is not a bitch and then you die. Startling evidence tonight that life may, in fact, be a computer simulation game. Do not press game over. Don't press game over. Don't press game over. Details ahead, but first time for Countdown's top three news makers of this day.
Number three, Jonathan Lee Riches, perhaps the only man who could make embattled football player Michael Vick look good right now. Riches an inmate in a South Carolina prison has sued Vick, claiming the Atlanta Falcon accused of dog fighting is also a thief. Riches says his pit bulls were stolen by Vick. Then the pit bulls sold on eBay by Vick to raise money so Vick could buy missiles from Iran and fulfill his pledge of allegiance to al Qaeda.
Riches wants 63 billion dollars in damages. You might try creative writing, sir.
Number two, Danny Fendley of John's Creek, Georgia. He started up his old pull cord lawn mower yesterday and it exploded. Evacuating their house, Mrs. Fendley She tried to throw a can of gasoline out of the window. She missed. She hit a wall. The gas spilled everywhere inside the house.
Within minutes the Fendley's house had burned down.
Those push buttons starting mowers are great.
Number one, Ken Millus of Long View, Washington. He's the manager of the Less Schwab Tire Store there. A customer was pulling in for service when he lost control of his car. He went through Mr. Millus' front window. From his seat inside the car, inside the store, the drive then explained he had been having a problem with the vehicle and he thought it might be the brakes.
OLBERMANN: It has been a remarkable and consistent allegiance, two families united for 13 years, even when the criminal justice system failed them, fighting, leading the fight, the symbolic leaders of all those still seeking to bring to justice O.J. Simpson. Our third story on the Countdown, that allegiance apparently came to end this morning on national television.
The Browns and the Simpsons, not so much fighting Simpson as fighting over him. The Browns and the Goldmans that should be. At the center of the dispute, the ill fated attempt to launch "If I Did It," by Rupert Murdoch's publishing arm, the virtual confession of guilt, positioned as fiction, apparently ghost written, designed to cash in on any remaining interest in this sorry matter.
The Goldmans successfully winning the asset that is the legal rights to the book, which they initially said they hoped would never see the light of day. Now the Goldmans plan to publish it to raise money for the children of Nic Brown Simpson.
Her sister Denise objects. She confronted the publisher the Goldmans selected, as David Gregory tried to referee this morning on "Today."
DENISE BROWN, SISTER OF NICOLE SIMPSON: It's not even about the murders anymore. It's so far beyond the murders now that this has become the commercialization of blood money. That's what I feel. Everybody knows that O.J. Simpson is guilty. A lot of people do. I just want to know, what about Sidney and Justin? What about them reliving the past that was so hard for them?
Thirteen years ago these two children lost their mother. Now you are going and you are publishing this book that at first you said you didn't want to have published. Why would you bring this nightmare back to these children? That is what I want to know from you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can say the exact same thing about Ron.
BROWN: I do. Do you know that every year we hold a candle light vigil in the memory of Nicole and Ron. Do you know that every time I speak, I speak out on behalf of Ron and Nicole? Because we both lost loved ones.
I lost a sister. Kim lost a brother. My mother lost a daughter. Fred lost a son. But there are two children that are still alive that have to relive all of this. Don't you think that these children have lived enough, living with this man that the court's order to give back?
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Give him a chance to respond to that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had exactly the same conversation with the Goldmans last week on the phone. We had a conference call as part of this. I basically expressed the same sentiments that Denise just expressed. It is outrageous what this guy has gotten away with. He is kind of a restless wonder of the Earth.
BROWN: Why are you publishing this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because these are his words. This is his description. This is his confession. I think the people in this country should be able to read O.J.'s words and make a decision for themselves. I think this book brings closure, because O.J. Simpson nails himself.
BROWN: There is no closure. He is still alive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He nails himself in his book.
BROWN: But he nails himself every time he goes out and speaks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not like this.
BROWN: O.J. Simpson just did a three hour interview. The guy nails himself every time he opens his mouth. I say take him for every penny that he is worth, but do not do it in this horrific way.
GREGORY: This is the first time that the Brown and Goldman families have been at odds with one another. What's happened here? Why have you disagreed with the Goldmans on this one?
BROWN: At first we are on the same page. We all got together, the whole country spoke up loud and clear, saying no, we don't want this book published. I am still on that same page. It is the Goldmans that have changed their tune about wanting to have that book published. It is all about money. How much money is going to take to make you guys happy? It is not going to bring Nicole or Ron back.
GREGORY: Can you appreciate what this may provide for them?
BROWN: What, money?
GREGORY: Not just money.
BROWN: What is it going to provide for them? Is it going to bring Ron back? No. Is it going to possibly have a repercussion of more murders, like it did when the murders originally happened, copy cat murders, is that a possibility of happening? Yes. I work for victims of domestic violence. I work for victims and I talk to these organizations all day long. It is a manual on murder, like I had said before. But we are commercializing blood money.
GREGORY: Have you read it?
BROWN: I have seen enough. All I have to do is look at that cover, "If I Did It."
GREGORY: Hold on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have not arrived at a final title. It could be that title. It might be another title. It's going to have a different subtitle. O.J. Simpson is going to not be mentioned anywhere in the title.
BROWN: That does not mean anything. The words and everything that he wrote are still those words that he had put into that book that everybody was supposed to.
GREGORY: The debate will continue. Denise Brown, thank you for coming. Eric Campman, a story that continues to live with all of us.
BROWN: It does, and I'm sorry.
OLBERMANN: The Goldmans' literary agent says the Simpson manuscript will not be edited, but they do plan to add their own commentary in some form.
Did you get an iPhone? Did you get the first bill yet? Apparently it is big enough to come in a box. Same could be true for the list of subpoenas sent out by Kevin Federline to Britney Spears' assistants, past present and future. His legal work in a box when Countdown continues.
OLBERMANN: Before the proliferation of the desktop computer, the people who they envisioned the future used to talk about something called the paperless office. To quote Chris Matthews, hah. In our number two story tonight, not even the handy, dandy, all in one, self contained, ultra cool iPhone has bought about the magic of a paperless life, because as long as there are phones, there will be paper bills.
Now some of you might think, why not just do the billing online. Smart move. Why? Because if you don't, according to a popular video making the rounds on the Internets, when AT&T sends you the bill for you iPhone, it does not just tell you the amount you owe. Apparently, in true Alberto Gonzales, it not only lists every text message you have ever set, but it also prints out all of them for you.
That is what you texted at 2:00 a.m. on Saturday. What would a bill like that look like? Glad you asked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have an iPhone. I had to switch to AT&T. That's wonderful. I got my first AT&T bill. Right here, in a box. Let's see what's inside of here.
Three hundred pages of a phone bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And iPod bill full of text messages does cover you in case you ever get subpoenaed by Kevin Federline, which, as we begin tonight's round up of celebrity and entertainment news, Keeping Tabs, seems like an excellent chance. This week we are finding out one the employee perks her staff gets. We all new about the free Oh Boy and the endless dream of uh oh. Who knew she would throw in a free legal education.
Thanks to her on going custody battle, ex husband Federline has served three of her current or former staff with subpoenas this week. Federline has now served papers to her body guard/nanny, her former assistant and her former future former assistant.
Federline apparently wants them all to tell the courts about Spears' parenting skills. "In Touch Weekly" reports that Britney Spears' mother and father have changed their minds about supporting him in the custody battle because he is a bad dad? Because she is a great mom? No, because they don't want to embarrass her. Mission accomplished.
The legal education of Lindsay Lohan continues apace. Miss Lohan - this was criminal court. The lawsuit against you yesterday was filed in civil court. See how this works. The mother of Lohan's former assistant is claiming assault, negligence and intentional affliction of emotional distress.
It turns out she was in the car Lohan allegedly chased on July 24th. Her complaint says she thought they were being car jacked because they did not know it was Lohan who was driving it. Wait a minute, who else drives like Lindsay Lohan?
Ever played one of the computer simulated world games? What would you do if you found out that the odds are about one in five that you and I and everybody and everything you know are all living inside somebody else's computer simulation game right now? That's ahead, but first time for Countdown's latest list of nominees for Worst Person in the World.
The Bronze to former Major League shortstop Jose Offerman, still playing in minor leagues for the Long Island Ducks of the Atlanta league. He hit a homer last night against the Bridgeport Blue Fish. Next time up, the Bridgeport pitcher deliberately hit Offerman with a pitch. So Offerman promptly hit the Bridgeport catcher over the head with his bat and then the picture in the hand with his bat.
Thus marking the first time since he turned pro in 1988 that Offerman has ever hit anything hard on two consecutive swings. He's been arrested, charged with two counts of second degree assault.
The silver to the disgraced and ousted North Carolina prosecutor Mike Nifong of Duke lacrosse infamy. Ordered to hand in his law license, the document he returned to the state featured extensive damage, which he claimed had been done, quoting his letter, by a puppy in her chewing stage?
Your dog ate your law license? What a fitting end.
But our winner, right wing water carrier Melanie Morgan, blasting Jon Soltz, the head of VoteVets.org and our frequent guest here. Morgan claims Soltz is, quote, actually a reservist and he has no business - well, he's in violation of the United States Marine Corps code of justice by making these kind of outrageous political and partisan statements.
Morgan goes on to claim that the code says military reservists cannot engage in politics. This will come as something of a surprise to active reservist Lindsay Graham and active reservist Steven Buyer. Though like Jon Soltz, they are in the reserves, they seem to be engaged in some politics. Reservist Graham is the Republican senator from South Carolina. And reservist Buyer is the Republican congressman from Indiana.
According to Melanie Morgan, they both better quit their offices before the reservists find out that they're breaking the law. A law that exists only in the empty head of Melanie Morgan, today's Worst Person in the World.
OLBERMANN: You have hard all the complaints. Life is just a sick and twisted game. That guy over there is wired wrong. Or, as even Shakespeare wrote, as flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for sport. Number one story in the Countdown tonight, we've got what might be bad news for you. There is a 20 percent chance we're living inside a computer simulation.
Yes, you, me, Lindsay Lohan, everybody. The classic answer from Descartes to the question of existence, I think therefore I am, perhaps more correctly stated as, a guy clicks a mouse, therefore I am. The theory by Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University and fleshed out by the "New York Times'" science writer John Tierney yesterday, that technological advances will some day produce for us a computer so powerful that it could simulate a complex world with billions of creatures of some sort in it.
Yes, it is sort of like "The Matrix," except that the virtual people would have no physical counterpart, just virtual beings in a giant virtual world. Advanced civilizations of real people, the argument goes, would create these simulations to better understand their own evolution or just for S and giggles. Like a super advanced version of the SIMS.
Ultimately, says Bostrom, there would be far more virtual people in computer simulations than there are real people in a real world. Therefore, there is a decent chance that some entity somewhere has already invented those super computers, that they have already perfected one of those mammoth simulated world games and that we are in it.
Professor Bostrom of Oxford puts the chances at about 20 percent. You could argue it is more like 50-50. After all, if such computer simulation could some day exist, it is equally possible that it already does exist and that we all are already in it. Which would at least explain that metallic taste you get sometimes in your mouth.
I am joined here by William Irwin, professor of philosophy at Kings College in Pennsylvania, editor of "More Matrix and Philosophy, Revolutions and Reloaded Decoded." Thanks for coming in.
WILLIAM IRWIN, KINGS COLLEGE: Thanks for having me, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So we're part of a computer program? You would this would have gotten larger play on the news.
IRWIN: It's possible. The idea is that if you were in a really high-tech, sophisticated virtual reality program, you would not know it, as portrayed in "The Matrix." It's an old idea, as you mentioned, going all the way back to Rene Descartes.
The new twist on it that Bostrom puts in an essay that's reprinted in my book is that there are three possibilities really. That technologically mature societies go extinct before they reach the stage of being able to produce these kinds of things, in which case nuclear holocaust, that sort of thing. Or, second option, that they simply wouldn't do this or would find it boring or ethically troublesome.
OLBERMANN: Like that has ever stopped science before.
IRWIN: Unlikely. I would put that as a low probability. The third one is that they would get to this point in this technology and then, perhaps, they would make these worlds. If there were a billion people in such a world, each of whom is running a virtual world with people in it, say a billion people, it becomes a billion to one shot that you are one of the people in the real world.
OLBERMANN: So, but this is a basic theory - We have seen "Twilight Zones" like, this where you are in somebody else's dream. We are in a somebody else's little bead sweat near their brow. The entire universe is actually this big. All of these things. This is the first time that it really has matched up with technology that people at home can understand.
If there is a SIMs game, we could be in a super version of a SIMs game. That's what this is all about. Right?
IRWIN: It started with Pong. We moved 20 years later up to the SIMs. We're amazed with that. Imagine what 100 years of computer technology from now will produce. Probably virtual reality games with beings in it that have minds and consciousness just like ours and who think they are in the real world. They will vastly outnumber the number of people in the real world.
OLBERMANN: Is human existence a research experiment? Is a video game Is somebody winning? Is there a high score?
IRWIN: Who knows. But, in any case, we are not the players in it if this scenario holds true. We are simply being played. We are the pawns in chess, if you will. Who knows what the point to of game is? Someone's science experiment, someone's hobby, whatever the case might be.
OLBERMANN: One of my favorite jokes has always been there's evidence that there is a god, but there is just as much evidence that it clearly a part-time job. That would explain everything. Even if this is a research project somewhere, the guy goes home at night and it could be a million years in between visits. Right?
IRWIN: It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. The classic question in philosophy is how could this world be the product of an all knowing, all loving, all powerful god? It takes a lot of faith to believe that. However, if this world is simply a virtual simulation, maybe it is run by a fourth grader who has forgot about it or a part-time creator.
It begins to explain what? Deadly hurricanes, cancer, the Lindsay Lohan scenario and the on going popularity of "American Idol."
OLBERMANN: Just to screw with the characters to make them react to a bad situation.
IRWIN: It's a glitch in the matrix. That explains the popularity there.
OLBERMANN: What happens if we are simulations and we all read this piece in your book or the version that was released yesterday and we all figure it out and go, yes, this actually rings true to my experience. And everyone holds up a big sign like this that says hey pal, we figured out this is a computer simulation, what happens then?
IRWIN: I would caution against that. Because when my parents found out that I did not believe in Santa Claus anymore, the gifts stopped coming quite as quickly and quite as well. If we let the maker of this game know that we are on to him, the game might be over. I suggest we go along with things, even though there's a 50-50 chance that this is such a game. Let's play along.
OLBERMANN: What would you do if the SIMs that you were playing with suddenly all held up signs, you would run out of the room screaming. In ten seconds, does this actual change, from the philosophical point of view, the meaning of life? Even if it is a creation in a machine, it doesn't matter, does it?
IRWIN: I don't think so, no. We still would want to live our lives the way we've always thought they should be lived, with great variety among viewpoints there, of course.
OLBERMANN: We just have to worry about viruses and being downloaded too many times.
IRWIN: And conveniences.
OLBERMANN: Professor William Irwin of philosophy and also the editor of the book "The Matrix and Philosophy," great thanks for your time.
Boy, are the intelligent design folks going to freak out over this. That is Countdown for this the 1,568th day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END