updated 12/19/2005 2:08:54 PM ET 2005-12-19T19:08:54

Guests: Charlie Savage, Gregg Spiridellis, Evan Spiridellis, Gary More

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

Now he‘s telling us what is and isn‘t the main story of the day.  The president authorized domestic eavesdropping by the National Security Agency, eavesdropping that, at best, is barely legal.  Interviewing him, Jim Lehrer characterizes it as the story of the day, and Mr. Bush tells him he‘s wrong.

What is the story of the day?  Robert Novak joining Fox News Channel? 

How redundant is that?

Maybe the JibJab Year in Review cartoon is the story of the day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  My approval rate is in a dive.  Hope it‘s not another year like 2-0-5.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  How about Howard Stern‘s last day on free radio?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD STERN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  You‘ll have to pay for it now.

(INAUDIBLE) across America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Yes, thanks for that image.

Or maybe the story of the day is the old Monty Python question, What‘s that on the tellyvision, then?  Looks like a penguin—a penguin exercise class.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

George Orwell may only have been off by 18 years.  The federal government now alleged to have been improperly, probably illegally, eavesdropping on its own citizens inside the United States, without search warrants, since 2002.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, it seems Big Brother is watching you and has been nearly four years now, “The New York Times” reporting today that the president signed a secret order in ‘02, just a few months after the 9/11 attacks, allowing the National Security Agency, the NSA, to track international phone calls and e-mails of hundreds of people without referral to the courts, ostensibly in the fight against terrorism.  Previously such surveillance on American soil was generally limited to foreign embassies, the charges raising al kinds of constitutional issues and an entire batch of ire.

Earlier tonight in an interview with Jim Lehrer for PBS, President Bush managing to defend his supersecret spying order without ever actually confirming that he had signed it, not to mention lecturing an acclaimed journalist on what is and is not news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “NEWSHOUR WITH JIM LEHRER,” PBS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We do not discuss ongoing intelligence operations to protect the country.  And the reason why is that there‘s an enemy that lurks, that would like to know exactly what we‘re trying to do to stop them.

After 9/11, I told the American people I would do everything in my power to protect the country, within the law, and that‘s exactly how I conduct my presidency.

JIM LEHRER, ANCHOR:  Well, Mr. President, in all due respect, don‘t you think, don‘t you believe that answer is going to lead people to believe that you‘re confirming that, in fact, you did this?

BUSH:  I—I—I—we—we—we—we don‘t talk about sources and methods.

LEHRER:  But the story is now all over the world.

BUSH:  Yes.

LEHRER:  I mean, it‘s on the front page of “The New York Times,” “The Washington Post,” every newspaper in America today, and it‘s going to—it‘s the main story of the day, so...

BUSH:  It‘s not the main story of the day.

LEHRER:  Well, but I mean, in terms of (INAUDIBLE)...

BUSH:  The main story of the day was the Iraqi elections.

LEHRER:  Right, and we‘re going to get to that.

BUSH:  OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  A key Republican chairman already putting the president on notice that his committee will be investigating these charges, Senator Arlen Specter observing that, “There is no doubt that this is inappropriate,” adding that he would make oversight hearings by the Judiciary Committee a, quote, “very, very high priority” next year.

And if you think that augers poorly, wait till you hear the Democrats‘ reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  This is Big Brother run amok.  The entire world is watching to see how we strike the balance between intelligence gathering and the Constitution.  We cannot protect our borders if we do not protect our ideals.  Not since Watergate has there been such a lack of openness and honesty in our government.  Americans deserve better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  On top of everything else, “The New York Times” revealed it had held the story for a year out of respect for White House claims that its dissemination might risk counterterror inquiries in this country.

Possibly hoping to change the lead story back to Iraq, the White House announcing little more than 90 minutes ago that President Bush will be addressing the nation about Iraq Sunday night.  Please join me at 9:00 p.m.  Eastern, 6:00 p.m. Pacific, for MSNBC‘s coverage of the president‘s hastily scheduled address, and after it, for the kind of instantaneous analysis without which even our modern politicians themselves would feel disoriented and perhaps even neglected.

Some of the fallout from today‘s report almost immediate, clashing with the Bush administration‘s fight to get key provisions of the PATRIOT Act renewed.  This would be bad timing, Republicans in the Senate unable to muster enough votes to overcome a filibuster and reauthorize those provisions, opponents saying that the act still allows the government too much authority to delve into the private lives of American citizens.

As if authority were the only question here.

Republicans have two more weeks in which to broker a compromise before the provisions are to expire on December 31.

Joining us now, Charlie Savage, the Washington correspondent for “The Boston Globe,” whose expertise lies in the area of security, and to a great degree.

Good evening, Charlie.  Thank you for your time.

CHARLIE SAVAGE, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, “THE BOSTON GLOBE”:  Nice to be back.

OLBERMANN:  You covered all aspects of how the Bush administration has carried on the war on terror.  Did the allegations in “The New York Times” today surprise you to any degree?

SAVAGE:  They surprised me a great deal.  Putting aside whether or not this was illegal or even unconstitutional, if you think back to the months after 9/11, the Bush administration was getting everything it asked for from Congress.  Congress couldn‘t wait to approve the PATRIOT Act, couldn‘t even have a debate in the—in committee before they approved it.  They could have easily thrown this kind of authority into such a bill and slid it right through Congress.

But it‘s a self-inflicted wound not to have covered their bases that way.  The only reason they did is because there was a small band of ideological lawyers within the administration pushing a theory that the president should have absolute power to protect the country from national security without any judicial or congressional input.  They wanted to make that point, and they did it.

And that‘s why the administration is in the mess it is today.

OLBERMANN:  So there—I guess there is an irony inside what you describe as the self-inflicted wound, that the president could have gotten these things legally by pretty much just by asking.  That raises the question whether the NSA‘s spying and the direct Pentagon‘s spying that Lisa Myers had revealed earlier this week, whether or not those are legal.  Did the revelations today effectively end the programs, particularly that NSA one?

SAVAGE:  Well, the revelation today, of course, is still one report unconfirmed from “The New York Times.”  The administration very careful not to officially confirm or deny it today, even as they—as you said, sort of between the lines, defended it.

So who knows if it goes on or not?  I mean, it presents a very difficult situation.  On the face of it, a 1978 law forbids this absolutely.  Congress said after the Watergate revelations that Nixon abused his national security powers to spy on his enemies domestically.  Congress said in 1978, No, you‘ve got to go to a secret court, you‘ve got to go to a secret court, you‘ve got to get a warrant if you‘re going to spy on U.S. citizens, period.  No exceptions.

And so in that—in the face of it, this would seem to be completely illegal.

On the other hand, there is this legal theory that Congress can‘t tie the hands of the president, who has broad constitutional commander-in-chief powers to protect the country, and the Supreme Court‘s never resolved the issue.  So here it is, and so we go.

OLBERMANN:  Several presidents, obviously, have authorized extralegal spying on Americans for the most urgent, the most necessary, the most inescapable of reasons, and the courts and the political world and the citizenry have always punished them for it.  I mean, I think that‘s the right word, punished.  And yet this president tonight sent a message to Congress saying, in respect to the PATRIOT Act, he has to have these rights and others just like them.

Did we just see an escalation of what has been a public brawl, but within a lot of flag waving?  Did this counterterrorism versus what‘s beyond the pale debate just significantly change in nature today?

SAVAGE:  There‘s no doubt that a pushback against these broad claims of absolute authority residing in the White House, without any kind of oversight or checks and balances, is escalating.

We saw that—we saw it begin a year and a half ago, when the Supreme Court began to reject the administration‘s legal theories and gave some rights to Guantanamo Bay prisoners.  We saw it this week, when Congress passed the McCain amendment outlawing torture and other forms of cruel and inhuman and degrading punishment anywhere in the world, over the stringent objections of the Bush administration.

And now we‘re seeing it with this filibuster of the PATRIOT Act.  There‘s a wide range of fronts in which Congress and the courts and the critics of the administration‘s claims of power, absolute power, are pushing back, and it‘s reaching a crescendo this week.

OLBERMANN:  Charlie Savage, Washington correspondent at “The Boston Globe,” as always, sir, great thanks for your insight.

SAVAGE:  Thanks very much for having me.

OLBERMANN:  Meantime, in the latest surprising development ever, or the least surprising development ever to come out of the CIA leak investigation, Robert Novak is officially out at CNN.  There is, however, a this-just-in.  The man at the center of the investigation will relocate to Fox News, where the subject just does not come up.

The conservative commentators has not been on CNN since swearing and storming off the set this summer, just before correspondent Ed Henry was going to ask him about his role in the leak investigation.  Mr. Novak apologized for that outburst, but the network never let him back on the air, Novak saying today that his switch to Fox has nothing to do with finding a comfortable home for his political views.

And President Bush saying today, in that same PBS interview, that he has no idea why Mr. Novak would think he knows who originally leaked Valerie Plame‘s name.  Besides which, it‘s an ongoing investigation, a different kind of ongoing investigation than is the Tom DeLay investigation, with the president addressing Novak and also, by the way, repositioning what he did say about DeLay.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “NEWSHOUR WITH JIM LEHRER,” PBS)

BUSH:  Not going to talk about the case.  I‘ve been asked not to talk about the case by the prosecutor, and I‘m not going to.  I appreciate his bold assertion, however.

LEHRER:  I mean, you—in other words, you don‘t—you‘re not going to say anything about this?

BUSH:  No, I‘m really not.  I, you know, I‘m, you know, I made a statement the other day about another case, and, about Tom DeLay.  My point in bringing up Tom DeLay‘s name in terms of another case going on in Texas was is that people are innocent until proven otherwise, all people are.

LEHRER:  Why would Novak say something like that?

BUSH:  Better ask him.  I don‘t know.

LEHRER:  You don‘t know?  OK.  The—you mention Tom DeLay.  Why did you say he was innocent?

BUSH:  Well, I was...

LEHRER:  You said this in an interview with Brit Hume.

BUSH:  I did.  And the point I was making was innocent until otherwise proven, and I was also asked, did I hope he‘d come back to Congress.  The answer is yes.

LEHRER:  But you—I looked very carefully at that transcript.  I mean, you essentially said he was innocent.  I mean, you didn‘t—you weren‘t—that wasn‘t—you weren‘t really saying that, then, you were just saying he‘s presumed innocent.

BUSH:  I—that‘s exactly what I was saying.

LEHRER:  OK.

BUSH:  Thank you.

LEHRER:  Do you feel the same way about Lewis “Scooter” Libby?

BUSH:  He‘s—I—innocent until proven otherwise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And where politics and art overlap tonight, an untimely passing to report.  Many people probably truly believe that Leo McGarry was the White House chief of staff, or at least many of them wanted him to be.  For an actor, there could be no greater praise.  Now it is a greater legacy.

Actor John Spencer of “The West Wing” has died today of a heart attack in Los Angeles, his publicist releasing no further details.  In the most depressing instance yet of “The West Wing” not just imitating life but forecasting it, the character of Leo McGarry had suffered a heart attack, one from which he recovered in season six of the series.

Others will no doubt remember John Spencer‘s work as attorney Tommy Malaney (ph) on the hit 1980s series “L.A. Law,” John Spencer‘s work on “The West Wing” earning him an Emmy in 2002.  He was nominated five times.  “The West Wing” creator, Aaron Sorkin, and his colleague Thomas Schlamme saying in a statement tonight, “John was an uncommonly good man, an exceptional role model, and a brilliant actor.  We feel privileged to have known him and worked with him.  He‘ll be missed and remembered every day by his many, many friends, and his fans, for whom he always had time.

John Spencer was 58 years old.

Also tonight, the president‘s year in review, as seen through the eyes of some familiar animators.  The JibJab guys are back, and they will join us.

And Howard Stern‘s last day on terrestrial radio.  We‘ll show you Stern‘s farewell to the free airwaves and find out how he thinks his show will change on satellite radio, despite all the millions of dollars in profits, all that stuff.

You are watching COUNTDOWN” on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  The folly of politicians is more likely to be beaten with a club than it is to be pinioned by the well-aimed darts of satire.

But in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, the Internets  again come to the rescue of the stiletto.  JibJab, which became an overnight sensation during last year‘s presidential election, with its singing Bush and Kerry cartoons, has unveiled its latest vaudeville act.  It is “The Year in Review,” the cast of characters never more appealing than they are now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE YEAR IN REVIEW,” JIBJAB)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. President?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. President?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. President?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. President?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. President?  Mr. President, you‘ve had quite a year.  Can you tell us what you‘re thinking as it draws to a close?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  With hurricanes and terrorists, it‘s been hard to just get by.  Here‘s hoping the year 2-0-6 turns out better than 2-0-5.

Well, Kim Jong (INAUDIBLE) and the shuttle‘s on the fritz.  There‘s an intifada brewing in the Gaza Strip.  (INAUDIBLE), and industrial America is going bankrupt.

There is a great sense of urgency, we‘ve got to squash the insurgency. 

My approval rating‘s in a dive.  Hope it‘s another year like 2-0-5.

A leak investigation‘s got the White House in a snarl.  There‘s a special prosecutor after my friend Karl.  And our energy dependency is (INAUDIBLE).  Oh, don‘t worry about Alaska, it‘ll be just fine.

My appointee was a big flop.  The housing market is about to pop. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  With record profits at the pump...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  With record profits at the pump...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  With record profits at the pump...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I drive an SUV and take it in the rump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All of our jobs going overseas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All of our jobs going overseas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  All of our jobs going overseas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Each week I make $1.73.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, Katrina, FEMA, Gitmo too, the last thing I need now is the avian flu.

Because every problem in the world lands right here on my desk, I try to get to Crawford, even there couldn‘t get no rest.  From pirates in Somalia to that nut job in Iran, it‘s hard to rule the free world, but I‘m doing the best I can.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s hard work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  With same-sex marriage, stem cells, Scooter Libby...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... Tom DeLay...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... Tom DeLay...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... Tom DeLay...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... here‘s hoping the year 2-0-6...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... brings a few more brighter days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... brings a few more brighter days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  ... brings a few more brighter days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Wow, you can say that again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Big time now.  That had its debut last night on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

I‘m joined by JibJab creators Gregg and Evan Spiridellis.

Gentlemen, good evening.

GREGG SPIRIDELLIS, JIBJAB:  Hi.  Thanks for having us.

EVAN SPIRIDELLIS, JIBJAB:  Hi.  Thanks for having us.

OLBERMANN:  Greg, let me start with you.  I get the feeling that the events of this past year kind of served your subject matter up to you on a silver platter.

GREGG SPIRIDELLIS:  Well, absolutely.  We—in the summer, we decided we wanted to do a year in review.  And by the fall, it was pretty clear that the big story was, you know, how far Bush‘s approvals had fallen over the year, and all of the events that had kind of transpired.  And, you know, it was just ripe for a two-minute short that had to be very fast to squeeze in all those ideas.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Evan, how did you guys, this desire to skewer politicians, where did it come from?  Why did it take this form?  How did it get started?

EVAN SPIRIDELLIS:  Well, we always say, if you—when you read the headlines, if you don‘t laugh, you‘ll cry.  So, you know, we try to attack tough issues with a bit of humor, and never meanspirited, we hope, and just to have a good time with it all.

OLBERMANN:  Gregg, the work here is—there‘s the premier of the thing on “The Tonight Show” last night, which suggests has obviously caught fire, it‘s rung the bell, it‘s hit a vein, and all that.  But what—where is the fiduciary element in this?  How you guys make—able to make money off this property?

GREGG SPIRIDELLIS:  The big question.  It‘s still a very early-stage business.  For us, we‘ve been able to do some advertising online to help fund these pieces.  Our partner, msnvideo.com, is now helping us, so we can produce more of them.  But really, about—for us, it‘s about the long term, it‘s about building a brand online.  And hopefully people will associate JibJab with a fun place to go and laugh, and maybe take five minutes off during the day at work.

OLBERMANN:  Right.  And then you just take it eventually to Sirius satellite radio and join Howard Stern.  I get it now.

EVAN SPIRIDELLIS:  Well, absolutely, yes.

OLBERMANN:  Evan, I‘m going to take a guess here.  You mentioned it‘s all meant with a good spirit of fun, as opposed to the various other kinds of spirits of fun that we‘ve seen, especially in politics, in the last few years.  But I‘m just going to take a guess on this.  You get criticized for being leftist-liberal bastards and for being conservative reactionary suckups, am I right?

GREGG SPIRIDELLIS:  Yes.

EVAN SPIRIDELLIS:  Yes, that‘s the best response we can get.  When we‘re accused of being both, we‘ve done our job well.

OLBERMANN:  Is it about even money on that?  Do you get it about evenly, or is it one side more than the other?

EVAN SPIRIDELLIS:  Pretty much, although I have to say now that there‘s just one guy in power and one party in power.  People tend to think we‘re a little more to the left, but our job is—we try to leave our personal politics out of all of our pieces.  And our job is to kind of tell it like we see it and have a good time with it.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  It does become—of course, political satire is going to be largely anti-the power—party in power, because that‘s who you want to make political satire about.

Last question, Gregg, the logistical process here, how many man-hours for something like what we just saw, and do you have more resources than you used to after the past year?

GREGG SPIRIDELLIS:  Oh, yes, absolutely, thanks to people passing our work around.  We say we quadrupled the size of our company from two of us to eight of us now.

OLBERMANN:  Excellent.

GREGG SPIRIDELLIS:  And takes about two months to produce one of these, once we know what the idea is and we know what it is we want to produce.

OLBERMANN:  Well, it is time well spent on behalf of your many fans and viewers.  Congratulations.  The brain trust behind JibJab, the brothers Evan and Gregg Spiridellis.  Thanks for your time.  Keep up the good work.  Happy holidays.

GREGG SPIRIDELLIS:  Thank you.

EVAN SPIRIDELLIS:  Thanks for having us.

GREGG SPIRIDELLIS:  Same to you.

OLBERMANN:  Speaking of which, Christmas in the coldest place on earth.  Guy in the red hat is making a list and checking it twice, checking to see if it‘s frozen solid.

Speaking of checking it twice, that is a skill that Chase Bank needs to brush up on.  They‘ve issued this frustrated man a credit card he never wanted, in a name you won‘t believe.

All that and more ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Back now, and we pause the COUNTDOWN crossword puzzle to give you a major award.  Yes, it‘s the electric sex in front of the window portion of our revolutionary news hour.  Time for stupid video, fragile.

Let‘s play Oddball.

Beginning in the remote village of Oymoyokon (ph), Siberia, where the three official Santas of Finland, Siberia, and the northern Urals met to discuss the European alliance of that big Christmas war you‘ve heard so much about, also to resolve the issue of little Ralphie Parker at home in Indiana.  He‘s on the naughty or nice bubble.  It could go either way.

The village is known as the coldest place on earth, holding the world record for lowest temperature, 96 below in 1926, or might have been 26 below in 1996.  Wow, who cares?

The Santys had more important issues on the agenda for the summit, such as the problem of sitting in an open sleigh behind eight reindeer for 12 hours.  What does a brother have to do to get a windshield around here?

To Tokyo, where Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizume—oh, I knew I was going to do that tonight—Koizume—is riding a Segway.  And look at him go.  Yes, this was a gift from President Bush in November as part of the president‘s all-scooters-left-behind policy.

We‘re not sure if the president has regifted the exact scooter that he dented up in this 2003 spill, but we are sure that the Japanese PM, Mr.  Koizume, is having a much easier time.  Watch as he gracefully weaves around...

Uh-oh, wait a minute.  I don‘t think he can stop the thing.  Pump the brakes, Prime Minister!  Someone cut the brake lines.  Look out!  He‘s out of control.  Oh, the humanity, oh!

Call the deputy prime minister, tell him he‘s got that office he wanted.

Mispronounced his name too.  And I feel just like that right now.

Still yearning for more Oddball?  You‘re in luck.  It‘s bonus Oddball night again, the best of the weirdest animals in 2005 still coming your way.

And then up next, Howard Stern‘s big farewell.  Funny doggone thing that his last day before going to satellite radio, the stock price of the satellite radio company went down.

Those stories ahead.

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

Number three, oddest dumb criminal of late, James Chevas of Chicago, charged with theft and official misconduct after he stole some credit cards and ran up $1,600 in charges on them.  The twist, Chevas is a police officer, and the cards belonged to a guy he had arrested.

Number two, mailman Brian Groves of Sussex in England.  Somehow there turned up in the items in his route a package addressed to “Dan the Mushroom Man in His Van at the Side of the Road on the Burgess Hill Roundabout Somewhere Near Brighton.”  Brian the mailman knew where that was and found Dan living in his car just where the address suggested.  The package, Christmas presents from Dan‘s girlfriend, who evidently is not the brightest bulb on the Christmas decorations.

Number one, the city fathers of Nova Iguacu in Brazil.  The 800,000 residents are evidently in the midst of a public toilet crisis the rest of us cannot imagine.  A city councilor says it is now time to divide the city‘s facilities into three kinds, not two—one for men, one for women, one for transvestites.  What exactly—what kind of town y‘all got down there in Nova Iguacu, huh?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMAN:  The self-proclaimed king of all media just ended his decades long stint in his original media terrestrial radio, or as we in the business call it, free you don‘t got to buy nothing.  No salesman will come to your door or hardy ESPN goodness style radio.

Our third story in the “Countdown,” the final gratis appearance of Howard Stern.  Hundreds of his fans showed up to his good-bye in New York City, where he held a big parade in his own honor to celebrate his move to Sirius Satellite Radio, but only after reminding his fans in his final earthly radio broadcast of all the things he‘s done in 25 years on the air.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD STERN, D.J.:  We play anal ring toss.  We play dildo

(INAUDIBLE).  We had the Wheel of (INAUDIBLE).  And we spanked our way into history to the last of a dying breed.

That‘s what we are.  This is a big moment.  You know, when everybody else played by the rules, we didn‘t.  We weren‘t interested.  We broke every rule known to radio and mankind.  And I‘m proud of that.  Let the freedom bell be rung.  And let it be rung by a stripper.   Howard is coming across America. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMAN:  I always thought he could afford an indoor studio.  Anyway, that‘s what you heard if you were standing in midtown, Manhattan, watching this final show.  But if you tuned into the Howard   Stern on the radio, you would have heard almost gobbledy-gook at times, specifically those times when the stations which had his show on some kind of delay, dumped out his audio to prevent obscenities yelled by the crowd from accidentally making it on the air. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STERN:  All these radio stations that fired me, we fire you.  Clear Channel Broadcasting.  Their radio stations sunk because they --  thank you for—thank you for clubbing Clear Channel over the  head.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMAN:  Stern‘s final show, thus summing up exactly why he is taking his act to Sirius Satellite, where he cannot be censored.  Katie Couric visited him at his new pad to talk about all the things he‘s done already and what he plans to do next and not about what she plans to do next.  For God‘s sakes, don‘t go. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HOWARD STERN, D.J.:  I think I came on the scene.  And I was this breath of fresh air, if you will.  I went on the.  

KATIE COURIC, NBC ANCHOR:  That‘s one way to describe  it.  

STERN:  Yes.  Some people would probably take an opposite tack and say I was the foulest smelling odor in the building, but.  

COURIC:  Stench comes to mind, Howard.  

STERN:  That‘s right.  Yes, gas.

COURIC:  Yes.

STERN:  But you know, people remember a wild show with me.  They remember that I say anything, and do anything, and I push the envelope.

And what happened for so long between the FCC, the religious right, and everybody‘s grandmother complaining, what  happened is the stations got so much pressure that I couldn‘t do my show anymore.  I couldn‘t do it the way I wanted to.  I found that I had to stifle my speech.  I had to stop saying certain things a certain way.  So you know, it‘s like the erosion of “The Howard  Stern Show.”

COURIC (voice-over):  Over the years, Stern and his  employers have

been hit with some of the biggest fines in   broadcasting history,

prompting Clear Channel Communications, a   company which ran the show on

six of its stations, to permanently pull the plug.

(on camera):  You‘re also responsible for the largest cumulative fine in history, $1.7 million in 1995. 

STERN:  I‘m very proud of that. 

COURIC:  A total you‘ve been on the air.  You‘ve cost your licensees more than $2.2 million in fines.  So you know, part of the fun, it seems to me, doing commercial radio for you was pushing the  envelope.  There are no restrictions here.  It‘s anything goes.  So without an envelope to push, is it going to have sort of the same sort of risky tension that your show had before? 

STERN:  I‘ve heard so many people say you need the   government clamping down on you to be outrageous.  And early in my career, I didn‘t have the government clamping down on me.  And the fact of the matter is that was my best radio.  That‘s the radio that got me the highest ratings.  That‘s the radio that put me on the map. 

And now, even in looking at this, I‘m shocked when people say to me you need censorship in order to be funny.  I‘m not coming on satellite just so I can say the “F” word.  You know, that‘s never been my scene.  That‘s not what I‘m about.  I‘m all about the language of fun.  If it‘s fun, we do it. 

COURIC (voice-over):  Stern may be making the switch at just the right time.  Though his show is still number one in nearly all of his 46 markets, his ratings have hit a slide.  Some fans argue his jump the shark moment was the divorce from his wife Allison in 2001.

(on camera):  A lot of your schtick was sort of the poor repressed, sex-craved guy who was sort of flirting with the hot women and had sort of this closet lascivious side, maybe not so closeted.  Do you give any credence, though, Howard, to people who say OK, we can‘t relate to him as much now that he‘s dating a supermodel and going clubbing all the time.  

Is there anything?

STERN:  Well, it‘s going to funny to be—anybody who‘s really in my audience would know my show has always been about whatever is going on in my life.  The sad fact is I‘ve got - you know, I‘m  trapped inside of me.  And I don‘t go out at all.  That‘s why I‘m shocked that you go out during the week.  You‘re probably out there  clubbing.  I‘m not clubbing.  

COURIC:  I am not. 

STERN:  I go to bed at 8:00 at night.  I never go out during the week. 

And I‘m in psychotherapy four days a week.  Pretty heavy commitment.  

COURIC:  Seriously? 

STERN:  Yes.

COURIC:  Wow.

STERN:  And I think I can now.

COURIC:  That‘s a lot of.

STERN:  It is.

COURIC:  That‘s a lot of.

STERN:  Well, there‘s a lot of problems up here.  I mean, come on. 

Look at me.  

COURIC:  At Sirius, Howard gets not one, but two channels to get out all that‘s in his head.  He even has his own 24-hour news team that covers any breaking story about, well, Howard. 

STERN:  So we put together.

COURIC:  That‘s not the.

STERN:  Ultimate ego.  

COURIC:  Yes, I was going to say, what an egomaniac, Howard.  

STERN:  Well, let me tell you something.  Tune into it.  It is the funniest thing.  We have 17. 

COURIC:  If you do say so yourself, right?

STERN:  It‘s great.  I‘m telling you, you‘ll end up working there. 

The “Today” show is a real drag.  

COURIC:  Oh, God, I hope not.

STERN:  You will.

COURIC:  But the stratosphere of satellite radio isn‘t even the final frontier.   Digital cable customers who want to O.D. on Howard can now subscribe to Howard on Demand, a tawdry trove of uncensored and unpixillated best of moments from his E! Channel TV  show. 

STERN:  It‘s a whole new universe.  And I see myself as a content provider that we have television programming now  uncensored and we have radio programming uncensored.  And the two will merge.  And I think it‘s going to be a.  

COURIC:  And you‘re going to take over the world.  

STERN:  I‘m going to take over the world.  And everyone watch out. 

You‘re in big trouble. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMAN:  From shock to awe.  Ever heard of a man named Never Waste Tree?  Chase Bank has.  It‘s issued him a credit card.  Mr. Never Waste Tree joins us next.

Teri Hatcher a lot less desperate now after winning a big liable suit against a seedy British tabloid.  Plus, late-breaking tabs news about the big divorce.  This is “Countdown” on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMAN:  It is the chief offender in your daily pile of junk mail, credit card applications generated by banks, promising all sorts of frequent flyer miles or cash back bonuses or zero percent transfer balances on your other credit cards.  And of course, the mailings use reams of paper.

So in our number two story in the “Countdown” tonight, one   man decided to do something about it.  Gary More, a realtor in West    Hollywood, California, filled out an application from Chase Credit  Cards by writing “Never Waste Tree.”  And he mailed it in.  Apparently, the point of his reply was lost on anyone who saw that   application at Chase because they sent Mr. More a credit card anyway.  Not exactly to Mr. More exactly.  They sent a credit card   to Mr. Never Waste Tree.

And I‘m joined now by Gary More.  Good evening, sir. 

GARY MORE, AKA “NEVER WASTE TREE”:  Good evening. 

OLBERMAN:  Should we call you Mr. Tree?  Do you prefer Mr. Waste Tree? 

What do you like best?

MORE:  Oh, I prefer Mr. More but, no, Tree is just something that I wanted to do to make sure that they understood I was not Mr.   More.  

OLBERMAN:  Evidently, they didn‘t quite get it.  But did you actually write it, Never Waste a Tree, in that space for name of the applicant? 

MORE:  No, I did not.  As you‘re familiar with the credit card applications which I‘m  sure everyone gets many of, there is a box where you fill in your Social Security number and other relevant financial information.  In that box, I always write “please take me off your list.”  And I write it in large letters, so it goes over those    computer read boxes.  I also draw lines through the boxes.  And then down in the other name for the card where it would be a co-signer or child or one of those names, I have written “never waste a tree, save our forest”, that sort of thing.

Then what I do is I take the credit card application and  whatever they send me, and I put it back in their postage paid  envelope, and staple it in.  And then I mail it back to them. 

OLBERMAN:  So when this card shaped up—showed up after all the efforts you had made to make sure that they would get the point, what was your reaction when you saw it?

MORE:  I was really surprised, if not a little bit stunned and   then very amused, of course.  It was funny to see Never Waste a Tree and my name Gary More next to it.  Two cards, two different names.  

OLBERMAN:  Does it work?  Is there an account somewhere that you‘re not getting the bill for? 

MORE:  Well, I canceled that account, obviously, with the   activation.  And they told me that I also had to call other credit unions and make sure that they knew that I was not going to be using the card.  And then the card was cut up. 

OLBERMAN:  Take us back to wrap this up to the beginning.  You get all these credit card applications.  You‘re getting frustrated, but Never Waste a Tree is not your first response to it.  I mean, do you have more conventional means?

MORE:  No, this is my first response to the mail and  applications that I generally write “save a forest” or “never waste a tree”.

OLBERMAN:  Right.

MORE:  I write different things on the cards, but it‘s the same format.  

OLBERMAN:  Well, I get an occasional application from one of the  companies that‘s addressed to Mr.  Kolbermann Olberman, which is tremendous.  Just somebody saw K. Olberman somewhere and combined it with my last name.  And you just wonder when you hear about dogs who get a credit card under crazy names.

How in the world the entire economy has not collapsed.  Gary More of the Never Waste Tree Mores with an example of modern credit card living for us.  Great.  Thanks for your time tonight,  sir. 

MORE:  Thank you.  It‘s a pleasure. 

OLBERMAN:  From desperate attempts to get them to stop, to “Desperate   Housewives,” starting our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, keeping tabs on one of the stars of that ABC soap opera has won a libel suit against a British tabloid for saying she was essentially a very bad mother and trashy, too.

Teri Hatcher accepting a very substantial financial settlement from “The Daily Sport of London.”  Would you really read a paper  called “The Daily Sport” unless it was maybe a sports paper?

Also, she gets a front-page retraction and an admission that a story of her trysting while leaving her 7-year-old daughter alone was entirely false.  The item was reprinted in “The National Enquirer.”  That publication will also print an apology.

“When a story appeared about me insinuating that I am an irresponsible and neglectful parent,” she said, “I had to draw the line.   I will never allow any tabloid to so egregiously attack the area of my life which I give top priority.  And that is my parenting.”

Parenting of Jessica Simpson no longer the responsibility of her estranged husband, at least not yet or soon to be now that the singer and actress has filed for divorce from Nick Lachey.  If they are indeed the second coming of Sonny and Cher, we have Congressman  Lachey to look forward to.  Or by then, he may have changed the pronunciation of his name to Lakey, and then later an Oscar win for the woman who has brought us Daisy Duke.

And tonight, a Major League baseball team has turned into a  spelling bee.  On the same day, the Kansas City Royals have signed  two top free agent infielders.  Second baseman Mark Grudzielanek and first baseman, Doug Mientkiewicz.  Grudzielanek, G-r-u-d-z-i-e-l-a-n-e-k.  Mientkiewicz, M-i-e-n-t-k-i-e-w-i-c-z.

The royals may not have the biggest payroll in baseball, but clearly, they intend to go nuts on buying letters for the backs of their   uniforms.

Kansas City already has a shortstop in Al Beroa and a third baseman in Mark Tien (ph), but one can only imagine if they wanted to pursue a free agent shortstop like Nomar Garciaparra, which would give them a double play combination of Garciaparra to Grudzielanek to Mientkiewicz.   35 letters.

From unpronounceable to inexplicable, penguins who need exercise. 

Pudgy penguins in parade, next.

But first, time for “Countdown‘s” list of today‘s three nominees for the coveted title of worst person in the world.  The bronze, Clint Wilson, an employee at the Waffle House in Stockbridge, Georgia.  Police accuse him of offering a homeless man who was camped out near their place $5 to drink a cocktail.  The cocktail consisting of a chemical cleaning solution. It ate through the victim‘s esophagun,  tongue, gums, left him on a ventilator.  So far, all they‘ve got on Wilson is a charge of misdemeanor recklessness.  They may go for a felony.

The runner-up tonight, Walmart again.  This is at the Islandia Shopping Center in central Islip, New York.  The local high school choir had just finished a church performance, when it went across the street, started doing impromptu caroling at the mall.  All the stores,  including the Stop N Shop welcomed the singers with open arms.   The managers at Walmart called the cops.

And the winner, I know, I know, we‘re going to ban him soon,   but the material he produces we couldn‘t buy this stuff with Howard stern‘s salary.  The latest part of his delusion about this war on Christmas, that it‘s partially the fault of the Catholic church.  The Catholic church, the people who brought you Christmas.

This is a tough sell.  The pellets and cardinals and the archbishops aren‘t “standing up for Christmas,” he says.  “They were MIA, he says, in the priest pedophilia scandals.  Now they‘re MIA in the Christmas controversy.  Catholics against Christmas.  Do you know what‘s MIA, Bill?  Your brain!  Bill O‘Reilly, once again, today‘s worst person in the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMAN:  Penguins, the Monty Python‘s flying circus boys were obsessed with them.  As John Cleese once put it, “These penguins, these comic flightless web footed little bastards.”

Our number one story in the “Countdown,” not just penguins  tonight, but pudgy penguins, plump penguins, (INAUDIBLE) penguins.  In a moment, a sneak preview of the year in review in odd animal headlines.  But first, today‘s sad animal escapades.  Fat  penguins.

You fat penguin.  These guys are on orders from the Tokyo Zoo to shape up or ship out.  They‘re now undergoing a rigorous   exercise plan that includes two long walks in the snow every day until April.  It‘s not so much the march of the penguins, but maybe the breathless, overweight shuffle of the penguins.

Yet they do maintain that typical penguin beak in the air superiority that says, and what are all you inferior, cold sensitive mammals looking at exactly?  It is in the spirit of these big fat Japanese penguins that we bring you a big fat piece of oddball animal tape, a compilation of some of our favorite furry friends that you‘ll never be able to see again unless you count this time next - this airs December 26th at 8:00 p.m.

So fire up the Tivo, strap on your feed bag, and let‘s play bonus   oddball.

Oakland, Maryland, for 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 8-year-old girl named Sierra Styles.  And isn‘t she precious? 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SIERRA STYLES:  I like animals, but that was really—that really made me happy to get one.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMAN:  Daddy‘s little princess gave the 200 pound bear both barrels in the chest for her first ever kill.  A special moment in any eight-year old girl‘s life.

We begin in Scafoose (ph), Oregon.  There‘s a moose loose in Scafoose (ph).  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 got  robots to

ride on camels.  They also know she has the tank all to  herself, because -

well, because she‘s being shelf fish.  Ha, ha, ha.  

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. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Uh-oh.  What is it we have here?  Perhaps this is a case of  sibling rivalry. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMAN:  I for one would like to welcome our crab overlords.  All hail unsung, you, master beekeeper.  Sung You?  No, Sung Yu.  See Sung Yu do push-ups 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 likes Sheriff Bart.  Carlos, Louisiana, home of Teeny, Swoop, and Buck.  What‘s that three people?  Teeny Swoop is the guy.  The steer is Buck.  Folks in town call Teeny the Steer Whisperer.  Well, that‘s what they call to his face and says he‘s managed to tame the 8-year-old bull and rides him  around town and puts those balls on his horns to prove it.

No complaints from old Buck thus far, because he‘s biding his time. 

Then one day, Teeny is going to get it.  Oh, yes.  Teeny will get it good.  

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And they‘re off.  And so they are.  

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMAN:  What‘s new, pussycat?  Whoa, whoa—help me!  Stop singing and help me! 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Try to pick them up here when they come out the - oh, oh, yes, there they go. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s just so think.  They crossed out of the finish line.  I couldn‘t tell one from another. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMAN:  From Florida to North Carolina, beachgoers have been quite  taken with the Mayan fishes beautiful rainbow of colors and spots.  But don‘t kid yourself, Jimmy.  If the lion fish got the chance, he‘d kill you and everyone you care about. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think it was Bortz (ph) in front.  May have been number 5 Coeus.  Oh, they have Coeus in front.

(END VIDEO CLIP)  

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And well, here they come.  It‘s going to be close. 

I think it was number 4.  I‘m not sure.  That was a hell of a race. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMAN:  For more bizarre animal headlines, the hour-long “Oddball Special” Monday, December 26th at 8:00 Eastern.  And one week from tonight, at this same hour, our second annual “Countdown‘s  Favorite Things 2005.”  That‘s right, not one, but two holiday specials for you to enjoy.  And I‘m sure you wrote those times down.

That‘s “Countdown.”  I‘m Keith Olberman.  We‘ll dedicate this newscast in memory of John Spencer, the actor who passed away today of heart attack in Los Angeles at the age of 58.  He would have been 59 next week.  He was a great man.

Good night and good luck.  Our MSNBC coverage continues now with Rita Cosby, live and direct from San Francisco.  Good evening, Rita.

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

Copy: 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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