updated 12/2/2005 10:32:11 AM ET 2005-12-02T15:32:11

Guest: Dana Milbank, Mike Boyd

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

The debate over Iraq.  If a hawkish Democrat can demand quick withdrawal, but another called the president's speech a good start, why shouldn't a castigated liberal castigate Senator Clinton?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIM ROBBINS, ACTOR:  Hillary Clinton can kiss my butt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  I guess the war on terror is over.  Scissors and small screwdrivers will again be permitted on commercial flights.

The continuing recovery from Katrina, and those who took advantage of it.  They said they had fled the floods to seek shelter in Denver.  They weren't even nice about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, how do you like Colorado?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Colorado sucks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Small detail, they were living in Colorado when the hurricane hit.

Small detail over the Red Sox breaking their World Series curse.  Who owns this ball?  The team is now suing its former first baseman.

And he may look harmless enough, but this squirrel could be a killer.  Well, this squirrel and about a dozen of his friends, to say nothing about the gangs of vicious chipmunks.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

Every viable antiwar movement needs its tipping point, with no better example than Walter Cronkite telling the American people that the conflict in Vietnam would end, at best, in stalemate.

It is too early to tell if the war in Iraq will have its own Cronkite, but in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, this much is clear tonight.  The delicate balancing act of first being for the war in Iraq, and now against it, is proving treacherous for many Democrats.

Among them, former first lady Hillary Clinton, one of 29 Democrats in the Senate who had voted for Iraq war resolutions in the fall of 2002, now trying to make amends, of sorts, writing an open letter to her constituents in which she explains her current thinking on the war in Iraq, including her belief that we should still be there, but should not stay there indefinitely, and that she only voted for the use of force because of assurances from the White House that it would only be used as a last resort.

The senator's letter reading, in part, “From the start I have been clear that I believed that the administration did not have an adequate plan of what lay ahead.  I take responsibility for my vote, and I, along with a majority of Americans, expect the president and his administration to take responsibility for the false assurances, faulty evidence, and mismanagement of the war.”

It is the kind of centrist stance that appeases moderates but really cheeses off many on the Democratic Party's left flank, especially a prominent one who once used the Academy Awards telecast as a platform to rail against the policy belonging to the era of the other Clinton, a policy which had barred HIV-positive Haitians from entering the United States.

Actor Tim Robbins, one of Senator Clinton's New York constituents, today appearing on the Air America radio network's morning program, “Morning Sedition,” telling the host, Mark Marin (ph), what he really thinks about Mrs. Clinton's open letter to him.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, “MORNING SEDITION,” AIR AMERICA RADIO)

TIM ROBBINS, ACTOR:  Unfortunately, I think that there's such a—talk about the word political.  That's—it's kind of defined by this kind of one step forward, two steps back kind of approach.  Hillary Clinton can kiss my butt, you know?  It's just -- (INAUDIBLE) -- the ridiculous, ridiculous, statements she's made about the war.

First of all, supporting it in the first place.  Second of all, to kind of equivocate now.  I mean, it's that kind of—that terrible strategy that the Democratic Party's had that's wound up in the lost elections, lost Senate control, lost Congress—congressional control.

It's—you got to have a backbone.  If (INAUDIBLE), if you want people to vote for you, trust that someone will vote for you even if they disagree with you on certain issues.

MARK MARIN, HOST:  Stand for something, (INAUDIBLE)...

ROBBINS:  Stand for something...

(END AUDIO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Thus does Hollywood butt-kissing take on an entirely new meaning.

Taking on the implications of the war debate falls to “Washington Post” national political correspondent Dana Milbank, who joins us now.

Good evening, Dana.

DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: 

Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  I don't envy the Democrats on this one.  That flip-flop charge went a long way towards costing John Kerry the last election.  Now it seems, at least in the case of Hillary Clinton and Tim Robbins, that Democrats in the Senate who voted for the Iraq war resolution are not going to be able to win with their—members of their own party either.

Have the Democrats painted themselves into a corner that is now very visible and very prominent?

MILBANK:  Well, give them credit for one thing.  A month ago, the complaint about the Democrats was, they didn't have a position on Iraq.  Now they have three positions.  You've got Lieberman, who's saying, I agree with whatever the president has said.  You've got the John Murtha-Nancy Pelosi wing, saying, Let's get them out of there now.  And then you've got what we can now call the kiss-my-butt-Hillary Clinton position, which is right in the middle, saying no fixed timeline, but let's start to pull them out.

OLBERMANN:  Are the Democrats going to choose one of the above?  Are they going to choose a face on this, one person to embody one policy here?  Or is it going to go on like this, with this sort of three-headed monster?

MILBANK:  Well, that's the bad news, is that they eventually will have a face, but that face is going to emerge probably early in 2008, when the Democratic primaries come around for next presidential election.  When we're looking at the 2006 elections, you've got this whole host of candidates out there, who—everybody giving their own point of view.

Now there is a chance that the previous face of the party, Bill Clinton, who is out there on some other—I think it is the Cartoon Network tonight, he is taking something of the Hillary Clinton position, saying, Yes, let's draw down the troops, but let's not have a fixed timetable.  That is a coherent position.  It's the likeliest one, because it splits the difference for the Democrats to rally around.  So possibly old Bill Clinton could be their face in 2006.

OLBERMANN:  That's not a cartoon, that's Anderson Cooper.

The other side of the political element here, the president's stance on the war.  He went a lot further toward explaining it yesterday, obviously, than he ever had before.  There is not yet a new batch of poll numbers.  I suspect we will have many of them in the next few days.

But is there any kind of early read on whether or not that speech yesterday has resonated among civilians?

MILBANK:  Well, the bad news for the president is, each time he does this, you know, gives another major Iraq speech, it has less and less effect, because often people just view it as happy talk, the president just giving another one of these speeches.

Now, this time, as you mention, he did use—start to use some specifics, the number of battalions, specific numbers of Iraqi troops being trained.  So that's why people like Biden, Ken Salazar, were out there saying, OK, this is a step in the right direction.

So he's likely to get some—something of a bounce from that, many people think.  The problem is, he's up against sort of the facts on the ground.  You've got to—if developments in Iraq are not good, that's going to crowd out his message.

And now we're hearing that the—as I believe you're going to be hearing more about tonight, that the military is paying millions of dollars to plant stories in Iraqi newspapers.  That has a way of crowding out the good message the president's trying to get out there.

OLBERMANN:  Although that system may, in fact, turn out to be a better one than one, perhaps, that the president is using at the moment.  And to that point, I want to play a comment from Michael Ware of “TIME” magazine, who was embedded at Tal Afar, the offensive that the president cited as one of the success stories in his speech yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL WARE, “TIME” MAGAZINE:  I was in that battle.  I saw those forces, and it showed that they have very limited capabilities.  And without American tanks, armor, helicopters, they couldn't have battled al Qaeda.  And in some cases, they fell apart.  Indeed, there was a situation where the American commander in Tal Afar had to have an Iraqi commander physically thrown out of his command post, and his troops pulled from the battlefield.

It just revealed many of the schisms and many of the limitations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Dana, setting aside the fact that the guy sounds exactly like the Crocodile Hunter, again, there's the twin-track questions here.  What—who's vetting the president's information, and how much is he undercutting himself because the fact-checking seems to be less than it was at my high school newspaper?

MILBANK:  Well, the administration, as we know, has been very good, certainly, in the first four years, of staying a little bit out in front, and by the time people sort of sorted out the actual facts, we had moved on to the next subject.  That's really caught up with them, and you see credibility numbers very low, around 30 percent.

So again, though, it's not so much what the president says now, but what people actually see with their own eyes on TV.  Now, actually he sounded like Robin Leach to me.  But that's not the fact.  The fact is, when you see the bombs blowing up, is that going to change people's minds?

OLBERMANN:  “Washington Post” national political correspondent Dana Milbank.  Champagne wishes and caviar dreams.  Thanks for your time.

Last night on the COUNTDOWN, we drew distant parallels to the Armstrong Williams case in reporting that the Bush administration is indeed, as Dana mentioned, planting its own positive stories about the conflict in the press in Iraq.

Tonight, it appears there really is an Iraqi equivalent to Armstrong Williams, possibly more than one of them, certainly several million dollars' worth of them.

As foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell reports now, U.S.  Army officers have also been paying Iraqi journalists under the table to write those upbeat stories for them.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 

People are hungry for news in Baghdad.  But are they reading news, or Pentagon propaganda?

As first reported by “The Los Angeles Times,” the Pentagon is paying Iraqi papers to run positive stories secretly written by U.S. troops, supposedly without the knowledge of Iraqi editors.

For example, a story this week titled, “The Sands Are Blowing Toward a Democratic Iraq,” was scornful of critics of Iraq's progress.

How does the Pentagon do this?  By using a middleman, a Bush campaign supporter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can I talk to you for a second?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, I'm sorry.

MITCHELL:  This K Street lobbyist, Christian Bailey (ph), has a $100 million contract for his firm, the Lincoln Group, including $6 million to translate pro-U.S. stories into Arabic and pay Iraqi media to run them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You're unable to comment because it's a classified contract?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, that's what our contract is.  As much as we'd like to (INAUDIBLE).

MITCHELL:  Documents obtained by NBC News reveal that Bailey has had at least four different companies since 2002, including a hedge fund in New York and a firm that advertised it “tailored intelligence services” for “government clients faced with critical intelligence challenges.”

In Baghdad, the military said the program is needed to combat the lies from the leader of Iraq's insurgency, Abu Musab Zarqawi.

MAJ. GEN. RICK LYNCH, U.S. ARMY:  He is lying to the Iraqi people.  We don't lie.  We don't need to lie.

MITCHELL:  And U.S. officials tell NBC News, the CIA is also paying some Iraqi journalists for favorable stories.

DR. ALI AL-NASHMI, Al-FAJI NEWSPAPER:  (INAUDIBLE) they say hello to any money (INAUDIBLE).

PROF. MARK FELDSTEIN, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY:  This is no way to teach the Iraqi people about democracy or freedom of the press.  In fact, it's subverting the very freedom of the press that we're pretending to promote over there.

MITCHELL (on camera):  NBC News tried to interview two of the editors involved.  But one said he had already been threatened for running the Pentagon stories.  And a second was also too afraid to appear on camera.

(voice-over):  And tonight, U.S. military officials tell NBC News the Pentagon secretly owns an Iraqi newspaper and at least one radio station.  All this, say U.S. diplomats, undercuts their efforts to promote a democratic free press in Iraq.

Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Payola will not be necessary to keep President Bush from having to report for jury duty in Crawford, Texas, Monday, the White House saying today that he has been called, and it will reschedule the service of Crawford's resident in chief.  He will report for jury duty at some point.  But it appears the president could have been a no-show had a local newspaper not gotten wind of the summons, press secretary Scott McClellan saying Mr. Bush has not yet received said summons, adding that the White House only learned about it from news accounts.

And no, his father isn't going to get him out of serving.

For the record, the president's Democratic rival in the last election, Senator John Kerry, was not only chosen for service when he reported for jury duty in Massachusetts last month, he was elected foreman of that jury.  And he was happy to be elected.

Also tonight, an audacious and infuriating fraud in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  Colorado puts up a family forced to leave New Orleans.  Only they apparently left New Orleans several years ago.

Then, to keep terrorists from discerning normal screening routines at airports, the TSA will start letting you bring scissors and screwdrivers on board.  OK, what do those two things have to do with each other?  We'll ask an expert.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  You've already met the two escaped prisoners who managed to swim with the human tide, leaving New Orleans after Katrina, the ones who wound up as frat boys at the University of Tennessee.

Now, in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, a scam more audacious still.  As it turned to a community for help, the family said it was forced to go to Colorado because of the storm, which does not quite explain why they had been living in Colorado for several years previously.  The investigation from correspondent Deborah Sherman of our Denver affiliate, KUSA.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The evacuees were coming to Colorado.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They're OK, I know they're OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And these folks knew they could jump on the gravy train.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, I'm thankful I'm living.

DEBORAH SHERMAN, REPORTER, KUSA (voice-over):  Rhoda Gray (ph) says her family lost it all when Hurricane Katrina hit their home in New Orleans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We couldn't take all of our belongings with us, so we had—we just took what we could, like our clothing, food.  And we got out.

SHERMAN:  In September, they registered at Lowry (ph) with thousands of others as hurricane evacuees.  Rhoda, her brother, Roosevelt, their sister, Lindetta Brewer (ph), her sister, and friend, Antoinette Allen (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We lost all of our stuff.  It's just gone.  Our property is gone.

SHERMAN:  At least three of them are getting free rent and utilities in this apartment or others.  Rhoda also got free furniture, food, clothing, and $600 from the Red Cross.

(on camera):  Well, how do you like Colorado?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Colorado sucks.

SHERMAN (voice-over):  Well, she's about to like it even less, because her story just doesn't hold water.  We've learned they're all longtime Colorado residents.  Records show just two weeks before the hurricane, police questioned Rhoda and Lindetta in Aurora.  In June, Rhoda was arrested for assault in Denver.  In fact, Rhoda's been in the courts 10 times during the last few years, all in Colorado.  She even has a state ID.

We've also learned they went to school in Denver.  This is Rhoda, Roosevelt, and Lindetta at Hamilton Middle School.  And here's Roosevelt in high school.

KATIE MAVER, ROOSEVELT GRAY'S NEIGHBOR:  I do not believe you say he's a hurricane evacuee.

SHERMAN:  For the last year, Katie Maver says Roosevelt's been her next-door neighbor in Aurora.

MAVER:  I've seen him out working on people's cars.

SHERMAN:  Before that, records show Roosevelt lived in the Denver jail.

And what about Antoinette Allen?  Did she really survive the storm?  According to her landlord, Antoinette was living in this Denver apartment when the hurricane hit in August.

(on camera):  How often did you see her, Antoinette?

MAURENA ESTRADA, LANDINGS BUSINESS MANAGER:  I see her, the lady, every day.  Every day see the lady.

SHERMAN:  In August.

(voice-over):  But despite all of this...

(on camera):  Now, are you sure you're from New Orleans?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (INAUDIBLE) New Orleans, Louisiana, born there. 

OK.  Yes, I am.

SHERMAN (voice-over):  Rhoda's sticking to her story.

(on camera):  Records show you're a resident.  You've been living here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (INAUDIBLE), I have not been living here.

SHERMAN:  Are you pretending to be an evacuee?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I'm not—oh, my God in heaven.  I'm not pretending to be no evacuee from no New Orleans.

SHERMAN (voice-over):  Remember what she said earlier?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  My property is gone.

SHERMAN:  Rhoda claims this is her house in New Orleans.  But records show someone else owns it.  Rhoda and her siblings were born in Louisiana, but that's not enough for relief agencies.

ROBERT THOMPSON, MILE HIGH RED CROSS CHAPTER:  Sorry, if you're living here or you own property here, you've lived here for a number of years, you have really no physical connection to a disaster area, it doesn't work that way.

SHERMAN (on camera):  Many real evacuees had no identification when they showed up in Colorado, so relief workers had to take them at their word when they asked for assistance.  Background checks would have delayed help for months.

THOMPSON:  You know, the Red Cross decided early on in Katrina to err on the side of compassion, and to make sure that everyone who said they needed help got help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No, I have not...

SHERMAN (voice-over):  But that means some people may have cheated the system, taking precious resources from evacuees, who really need the help.

MIKE BEASLEY, DIRECTOR, COLORADO DEPARTMENT OF LOCAL AFFAIRS:  For those who've committed fraud of this nature, especially, you know, when the need is so great, they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I don't know what you're talking about, lady.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Oops.

Deborah Sherman of KUSA reporting.

As for some of the true victims of Katrina, those who actually lived in the flooded-out Ninth Ward neighborhood in New Orleans, they finally got to see their wrecked homes for the first time since the hurricane hit.  Officials let residents in today to collect their belongings and survey the damage left behind by a disaster now three months in the past.

But with 40 percent of the area still without power, and debris still littering the streets, people were not allowed to stay long.  No word on when or even if that neighborhood will again be habitable.

From plain frog to plain frightened.  Do you know what happens when squirrels perceive that there's a food shortage?  Here's a hint.  Do not let your dog chase any of them.

And remember the cell phone bandit?  We now know the answer to the big question.  Was there anybody on the other end of her phone?

COUNTDOWN continues.

OLBERMANN:  Hello again.  Each night at this time, we take a break from the COUNTDOWN for a quick segment of weird news and gratuitous video.  But tonight, we're going to try something a little different.  We're going with a yellow coffee cup.  Normally it's red.

OK, let's play Oddball.

We begin with scary video from outside Madrid, in one of the shortest helicopter trips ever.  No one was seriously injured when the chopper carrying the Spanish opposition leader, Mariano Rajoy (ph) and others, took off from a bull ring in Mothores (ph), cleared the outer wall, and then crashed outside in the parking lot.  Nearby, a group of bulls was seen trying to hide a Phillips head screwdriver.

Bystanders rushed to the crash, pulled the passengers out, none of whom were injured any worse than minor scrapes and bruises.  As for the bulls, oh, they'll get what's coming to them, all right.

Now to happy little squirrels cavorting on a carpet of lawn almost anywhere in this world, a friendly, energetic, cute little squirrel who could kill you.

Behind those little almond eyes lurk the dark, unspeakable evil blood lust.  At least among the squirrels in the village of Lazo (ph) in the Maritime (ph) Territory of Russia, where a local newspaper quotes three eyewitnesses who insist they saw a stray dog barking at a bunch of squirrels in the branches of a tree in a park, squirrels just like that one, except those squirrels suddenly descended en masse and bit the dog to death, in one minute, before the villagers were able to scare them off, the squirrels, quote, “literally gutted the dog.”

Scientists have their doubts about this, but locals say that this fall, there has been a shortage of traditional squirrel food in the area, that they even saw a gang of chipmunks chasing a cat.  I did not make that up.

So the next time you see a squirrel, don't think Rocky and Bullwinkle, think its Manson and Squeaky Fromme.

Finally to Buenos Aires.  Is that an obelisk in your city square, or are you just glad to see me?  Promoters of World AIDS day had marked the event by giving the city's 230-foot-tall obelisk a little protection.  That is a giant pink condom.  It was posted with the full permission of the government, visible for miles in all directions.  It took organizers hours to get the giant prophylactic in place.  But the obelisk did remain upright for the entire time.

The structure is almost identical to our own Washington Monument, except that it's slightly shorter, and it's covered in a giant condom.

Just like the rules for scissors and screwdrivers aboard U.S. flights are exactly the same, except that you can now bring all of them on board with you.  The TSA says this is good time management.  We'll speak with an expert who agrees.

And the 2004 World Series is now going from the history books into the courtroom.  The Boston Red Sox want that baseball from that last out.  You will not believe who they are suing to get it.

Those stories ahead.

But now, here are COUNTDOWN's top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Abraham Alexander of Long Island, New York, another executive putting your money where his mouth is, “The New York Post” reporting that police have accused him of lifting $210,000 from the Cardiovascular Research Foundation to pay for the services and travel expenses of Lady Sage, a world-renowned whip mistress from Columbus, Ohio.

Number two, Dick Van Patten.  The “Eight Is Enough” and “High Anxiety” star has a new gig, eating dog food in public.  He is the face of Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Eatables for Dogs.  And at the introductory news conference, to show how close to human food it is, he took a bite of the dog stew.  We may need to introduce him to Lady Sage, what do you think?

And number one, closing a theme of sorts, Hugh Hefner.  He says he has selected his final resting place, an ornate vault at Westwood Cemetery in L.A., right next to the one occupied by Marilyn Monroe.  “When I found it was available,” he's quoted as saying, “it seemed natural.”  Given Mr.  Hefner's reputation, I guess we're just lucky he's not trying to move in now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  For the past four years, even nail clippers have been considered too dangerous to be allowed on board commercial airplanes in this country.  The silverware has been plastic.  All sharp objects have been confiscated.  Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, forget all that, bring your scissors and screw drivers with you.  The rules just changed. 

In a moment, an aviation expert who thinks this is a good idea.  First, our correspondent Tom Costello with the method to the Transportation Safety Administration's seeming madness. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM COSTELLO, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Two million times a day, airport screeners wave passengers through the metal detectors, X-ray their bags, and confiscate thousands of scissors, knives, tools and lighters.  Now, four years after 9/11, the TSA says it is spending too much time looking for scissors and screw drivers when terrorists are much more likely to use explosives. 

So now a change.  Scissors with a blade less than four inch long will be allowed, as will tools under seven inches long.  But a flight attendant's union says four-inch scissor blades are still lethal. 

PATRICIA FRIEND, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS:  By having the blades sharpened or being separate and creating two knives.  Which would serve the same purpose as a box cutter. 

COSTELLO:  Still, the TSA says scissors and small tools pose a minimal risk because cockpit doors are now bullet proof and locked.  Air marshals and pilots carry guns and passenger luggage is X-rayed.  But the TSA also believes the screening process has become far too predictable.  The order from the new boss, change the routine every day. 

KIP HAWLEY, TSA DIRECTOR:  Absolutely.  That is an additional element of security.  You will see, for instance, canine patrols now working out in front of the passenger check point.  That's new. 

COSTELLO:  More dogs, more explosive sniffing devices, and much more of the unexpected. 

Tom Costello, NBC News, Washington. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  News of the upcoming changes greeted with incredulity by one U.S. congressman, Representative Ed Markey, who promised to reintroduce a congressional measure to ban all blades from airplanes while using a visual tool to emphasize his point. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ED MARKEY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS:  Flight attendants and passengers should not be put in a situation where a scissors, a sharp scissors can be taken apart and used as a weapon at the throat of flight attendants and passengers at any time. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Let's bring in aviation consultant, Mike Boyd, founder of the Boyd Group.  Thanks for your time again tonight, sir.

MIKE BOYD, BOYD GROUP:  Sure.

OLBERMANN:  On the face of it, Congressman Markey argument seems to have a lot of logic behind it.  But I gather you don't agree with him in principle or in detail. 

BOYD:  Well, you get on an airplane.  There are a lot of pointy objects.  Forks are now again metal.  Your Bic pen can be used as a pointy object.  I mean, Congressman Markey before 9/11, even though he was made aware of Logan's bad security never said anything.  So, I don't put a lot of credibility in what this guys says. 

The point is, we need security that anticipate threats, not goes after just some pointy objects, because there's a lot of those things already on an airplane today, anybody can use those kind of things if they want to make mayhem.  And in the last four years, if we have an al Qaeda cell that was made up of angry hair dressers, we might have been safer.  But that's not the case. 

OLBERMANN:  So the thought here from T.S.A. is spend the time and the effort looking for bombs, not pointy objects.  But are we, in fact, looking for bombs? 

BOYD:  We're not looking for either one.  The fact is, on 9/11, the chances are that those box cutters and probably guns, too, got on those airplane before the terrorists got on.  That kind of a hole, the TSA doesn't even consider now.  And looking for bombs, I mean, the equipment they used is shoddy.  We don't even know how effective they are.

So, the TSA doesn't get off the edge here.  Taking away the ability of somebody to take away a Phillips screwdriver that's not going to make us any safer.  But the point of the matter is, we have got bigger hole than that to fill.  And the TSA is incapable of doing it. 

OLBERMANN:  Ideally, you would want fewer sharp objects, you'd want more screening for explosives.  But given our record since 9/11, what we're likely to wind up with not getting better screening for explosives no matter what they change. 

Isn't the only result of this practically going to be making it easier for, if not a true terrorist, then a psychopath to get on a plane with a weapon and wreak some sort of havoc, even if he does not intend to crash into something? 

BOYD:  Well, the psychopath get on an airplane right now, and he can take a Bic pen and use it as a weapon.  He can take his American Express Gold Card and shave it properly and slit somebody's throat.  He can take the fork the flight attendant gives him, which is metal, and use that as a weapon.  He can go to the lavatory and rip some parts off the doors and whatnot and make a weapon. 

So, taking grandma's nail clippers away doesn't make us any safer. 

OLBERMANN:  And the idea that if you change the screening rules for sharp objects, or sneakers or whatever you're changing that they mentioned in there, if you mix it up from day to day that that will confound anybody who is trying to study the screening rules?  What do you make of that? 

BOYD:  Well, I think if terrorists study the TSA, they may die laughing.  That may be the only real issue here, because they know this is no a real threat, a real trained terrorist.  This is basically more show than go. 

But the idea that having a pair of small scissors on the airplane or not having it there makes us any more safe is just ridiculous.  I mean, it would be great not to have pointy objects.  But there's plenty on that airplane to start with.

OLBERMANN:  Michael Boyd of the Aviation Consultants the Boyd Group. 

Great thanks for you time tonight, sir.

BOYD:  Thank you, sir.

OLBERMANN:  And also on this topic, two false alarms for the TSA over the past 24 hour, an America West plane in route from Phoenix to Boston was diverted to Kansas City this afternoon after a threatening note mentioning the Taliban was found in a lavatory.  All passenger were rescreened.  Nothing suspicious turned up and they all eventually arrived at their destination tonight at least three hours late. 

Last night, passengers waiting at the airport in Philadelphia had to evacuate after a piece of luggage triggered an alarm at the American Airlines check in.  The bomb squad arrived to check it out, then called the all-clear a couple of hours later.  It turns out the potential hazard detected inside the suitcase was garlic paste. 

Also tonight, the bloom is definitely off the rose from last year's epic curse busting World Series win by the Boston Red Sox, the team is suing one of its ex-players over the trophy baseball. 

And in football, unbeaten but not unchallenged.  The Indianapolis Colts are screaming bloody murder after being accused of pumping up the volume inside their own stadium.  That's next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Only the Boston Red Sox could turn the first world championship in 86 years into a court case against one of their own players.  Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, the old town team leading off our nightly segment, the World of Wide Sports, with the announcement that they have sued former first baseman Doug McCavitch (ph).  It was McCavitch (ph) who caught the flip from pitcher Keith Polk to record the final out in the decisive game of the 2004 World Series, that sweep that marked Boston's first win in the fall classic since 1918. 

McCavitch kept the ball, and the team's owners later demanded it from him, saying they want to display it as part of the celebration of the end of Boston's incredibly long string of failures.  But the value of milestone baseball having suddenly shot through roofed, $3 million for Mark McGuire's record breaking home run ball from 1998, no money back guarantee, McCavitch said not so fast, that it was his ball and he intended to put his kid through college with it. 

But he agreed to loan the ball to the Red Sox for a year while the matter was worked out, saying I want the fans to see it.  The Red Sox then traded McCavitch.  Today they sued him claiming he gained possession of the ball only because he was a Red Sox employee and that the ball is team property. 

Of course, precedent is entirely on McCavitch's side.  No other team has ever claimed such a baseball from a player.  And since the game was played not in the Boston Stadium, but rather in the one in St. Louis, if this is going to be decided by the courts, could it very easily be the case that the ball is actually owned not by the Red Sox, but by the St. Louis Cardinals. 

The week's earlier big sports controversy has been resolved apparently.  Former football star, now commentator, Michael Irvin, says he has been suspended for a week from his television job.  Irvin has been charged by police outside Dallas, that was last Friday, with possession of drug paraphernalia, particularly a drug pipe with marijuana residue on it.  He maintains it belonged to a friend or a brother or a friend who is like a brother to him.  Today he says ESPN has suspended him from his duties as a football analyst through next Monday, not because of the arrest but because he did not report the arrest to them. 

Network executives apparently found out when Dallas reporters called them for comment.  “I was just scared,” Irvin told a Dallas newspaper this afternoon, “hoping and praying and maybe it would go away.”  No comment from ESPN. 

It looks like there won't be any charges in the disappearance of the trophy that goes to the winner of the football competition among the service academies.  It has been found.  The commander-in-chief's trophy was in a locked glass case under guard at the Naval Academy in Annapolis pending Saturday's Army-Navy game.  To motivate the Midshipmen, it was taken to the team's locker room on Monday.  And then it sort of vanished, replaced in its case by a note reading, before we win the football game on Saturday, we thought we would take the trophy.  By the time you read this, it will be halfway to Westpoint. 

In fact, it turned up in a storage room at the Naval Academy, suggesting an inside job and maybe even a red herring.  Some sort of attempt by somebody at the Naval Academy to inspire their own team, given that Army is on a four-game win streak going into the big game. 

Speaking of psychology, the Indianapolis Colts are vehemently denying what we might call artificial dissemination, canned crowd noise.  The Indy audience was so loud when the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers were at the line have scrimmage Monday night that two different reporters at the game, Ed Warter (ph) of ESPN and Ed Buschette (ph) of the “Pittsburgh Post Gazette” both said they believed the noise was being amplified, presumably to keep visiting players from hearing the signal calls of the quarterback. 

The Colts set up microphones around their stadium closer to the floor, wrote Buschette (ph), and captured the crowd noise and sent it back through their P.A.  Such hooray helper would be illegal.  Indianapolis not only denied it, but also issued a press release blasting the reporters and my partner, Dan Patrick, since he and I discussed it on the radio yesterday. 

Hey, Colts, you may be 11-0, but if you're going to get Dan, you're going to have to go through me first. 

A perfect segue to our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs” from psychological operations to psychic consultation Britney Spears.  This is about what “Life and Style Magazine” calls her marital problems.  It reports her first choice was to take hubby Kevin Federline to a marital counselor or therapist, but he reputedly applied, that's for crazy people.  If you want to see a shrink, go by yourself.  And there it is.  The moment the love went out of the marriage. 

Spears there reportedly turned to a psychic adviser for info on whether Federline might cheat, father another child, if the marriage will last.  No reports on the psychic's answers, but I'm putting my money on father another child followed by cheating. 

Speaking of another celebrity baby, reportedly there's a new one, a Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner co-production.  So says “US Weekly”  The Benifer II baby, a girl, joined the rest of us on Wednesday night.  The due date was a week from today, labor has been induced.  None of this is official, of course.  Nor is the magazine source for the child's name.  Violet.  Just Violet?  An ordinary, regular human name?  Why, Mr. and Mrs.

Affleck, you have unsuspected depth. 

And you would not call it a meeting of the minds exactly, maybe a meeting of the mullets.  Actor Patrick Swayze is apparently an admirer of Bono, according to the Web site contactmusic.com.  So he asked a mutual friend to set up a meeting.  Bono reportedly said, quote, “I have issues with that guy, real serious issues.”  Swayze's friend thought trouble was in the offing, then the U2 frontman finished.  “I read somewhere that people Patrick Swayze invented the mullet.  Someone needs to tell him, I invented the mullet.”

This was reported back to Swayze who exclaimed, oh my God, I'm going to love him.

You are going to love how the cell phone bandit story turned out.  Roaming charges?  That's ahead.  But first, time for COUNTDOWN's list of today's three nominees for the coveted title of worst person in the world.  The bronze winner.  Howard Fohr (ph), the principal of Jasper County Comprehensive School in Monticello, Georgia.  An eighth grade boy discovered a video camera installed in the boys' bathroom there.  So he and some friends removed it to protect their privacy from what they presumed was a pervert somewhere.  Nope!  It was principal Fohr (ph) who had installed the camera, he says, to catch anybody vandalizing the bathroom.  He also suspended the student for destroying school property. 

Runner up, Rush Limbaugh.  After the kidnapping this week in Iraq, of four members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, including a man from Virginia.  This man who keeps the prescription drug industry in business, said he was not sure the kidnapping was not some sort of stunt or fake.  He added, quote, “part of me likes this because I'm eager for people to see reality.”  Boy, Rush, I hope part of you likes hell. 

But the winners, FOX News again.  Remember last night, we told you that despite this phony baloney story they concocted about liberals trying to replace Christmas recognitions with the generic happy holidays?  They're own Web site was selling Bill O'Reilly Holiday ornaments for your holiday tree instead of Bill O'Reilly Christmas ornaments for your Christmas tree?  Today they change it.  The Web site now identifies them as Christmas ornaments.  Hypocritical sons of—oh, well. 

This holiday time of year, let's be forgiving.  Let's just all be happy in the knowledge that somebody is finally going to hang Bill O'Reilly's ornaments from a tree somewhere!  FOX News Channel, today's worst persons in the world!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It is the joke I found helps just a little when you're stuck next to one or near one of those cell phonies, the people who talk louder than sirens while using their mobile phones.  Just remember, I will say to whoever is with me, there's no one on the other end of that call. 

Our top story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, for the most recent most infamous cell phoner, the big question was answered there was too somebody on the other end of the phone held by the so-called cell phone bandit.  Between October 12 and November 4 this year, 19-year-old Candice Martinez hit four Wachovia bank branches in Virginia.  Each security camera showed her appearing to talk to someone while the robbery was in progress on her cell phone. 

She is being held without bail in jail in Alexandria waiting indictment.  This was the guy at the other end, Dave C. Williams, Ms.  Martinez's boyfriend, nice tie.  Each today pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy as well as an additional gun charge.  Mr. Williams faces up to life in prison because of the latter count.  He's agreed to make restitution for more than $48,000 stolen, some of which was spent on a 1997 Acura, and a four-piece bedroom set behind door number three. 

You got it, he was a bank robber so lazy that he sent his girlfriend while he just phoned it in.  What to do with two losers like that?  Induct them into COUNTDOWN's hall of fame pantheon of legends. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Good evening. 

OLBERMANN:  The hall of fame is a big imaginary building, but not so big we can afford to devote an entire wing to just dumb criminals and another one to only wacky stuntmen and a third to only drunken idiots who got themselves stuck in a trash can.  There's just not enough room especially since we had to enlarge the animal wing to 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 or just great videotape over the years, has his own little plaque.  It is here that 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:  I'm crazy?  You're crazy, man. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you just hit me?  Hey, hey. 

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It is a bubbling cauldron of hell, but I'd advise upon no human being on the face of the Earth.  You will die if you go to those 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:  And you readily admitted your involvement in 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 that riding my (INAUDIBLE).  I'm the mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED) drug dealer. 

OLBERMANN:  Some are television personalities, others are just personalities caught on television. 

ELTON JOHN, SINGER:  Yes, we'd love to get out of Taiwan.  It's full of people like you.  Pig.  Pig.  Rude, vial pig—vile 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:  Can I say something about these practice Katanas? 

Oh.  Oh that hurt. 

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  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 on the true stuntmen and the daredevils like the all-time great Felix Baumgartner.  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 3:00 in some Arizona drunk tank.  And we salute the true legends, those caught in unbelievable, but unfilmed situations who later for some reason defying belief agreed to reenact the occasions for the cameras. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There's only one thing I could use, my tongue. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And as odd as this looks, with her hands and legs tied, Benay 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, you may call them miscreants, you may even call them common criminals, but here, here on this ground, we call them the legends.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Shut up. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Candice Martinez and boyfriend Dave C. Williams not shown in your picture, the newest members of the COUNTDOWN hall of fame. 

And of course, they leave us wondering just one final thing, during those conversations during the bank robberies, did his call waiting kick in and might he have said to her, hold on, honey, I have another robbery coming through on the other line? 

That's COUNTDOWN.  I'm Keith Olbermann.  Keep your knees loose.  Good night and good luck.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

END   

Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.'s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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