Guest: Mike Weis; Jonathan Turley
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
If terrorism prosecutions are destroyed when it turns out the evidence came from torture, what happens to terrorism prosecutions when it turns out the evidence came from illegal wiretaps? Pretty much the same thing. The Bush eavesdropping scandal, and yet another ramification.
And another ramification of Hurricane Katrina. Why did so much Red Cross relief money go to people in Bakersfield, California? Because contractors the Red Cross hired to help disburse the money gave lots of it to their own relative there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAFAEL PALMIERO: I have never used steroids, period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Actually, semicolon. Rafael Palmiero is back for another possible explanation for why a test said he did too take steroids. It may have been an intentional act by someone else, he says. In other words, maybe somebody slipped him a Mickey or spiked his sample. Speaking of slipping Mickeys...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me have a Brooklyn lager.
I'm going to have a Boddington's (ph).
Let me have a Guinness.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
OLBERMANN: So many bars, so little time. The clock running out on one brave warrior's bid to have a drink in 1,000 bars in one year.
And speaking of drinks...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Checking Oddball traffic, we've got an overturned beer truck in Newton, Massachusetts. Luckily, the driver was uninjured, and all of the beer remained inside the -- Uh-oh, that's not good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: You just can't see this stuff too often. Or can you?
Let's find out. The best of Oddball and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
The comparison most readily used by its defenders is to the security screening at every airport in this country. We're looking for terrorists there, aren't we? So just because 999 million-plus out of a billion passengers are not terrorists, that does not mean we can't screen everybody, right?
The problem with the comparison, of course, is that when you go through that security checkpoint, you know it. You've not only volunteered, but the screening serves as a deterrent.
Yet in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, not only did none of us volunteer for the Bush administration's NSA domestic spying, but today it turns out that instead of being a deterrent, the screening could ultimately become a get-out-of-jail-free card for any possible terrorists it might have caught.
Some of the Bush administration's biggest courtroom victories against al Qaeda now thrown into legal jeopardy tonight, defense lawyers preparing challenges to determine whether the NSA used illegal wiretaps against their clients.
One of those attorneys, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, joins us in a moment.
First, “The New York Times” reporting that the first expected legal challenge is likely to come in Florida, where lawyers for two men charged with Jose Padilla planned to find out whether the NSA program was used to gain incriminating information against their clients.
Lawyers in several other terrorism cases, including the so-called Lackawanna Six and the Portland Seven, now planning to do the same, the White House defending the president's right to do whatever he wants, spokesman Trent Duffy telling “The Times” the program is, quote, “designed to monitor calls from very bad people to very bad people who have a history of blowing up commuter trains, weddings, and churches. The president believes he has the authority, and he does, under the Constitution, to do this limited program. It is fully in line with the Constitution and also protecting Americans' civil liberties.”
Then there is the government's case against Islamic scholar Ali Al-Timini, an American of Iraqi heritage now serving a life sentence for inciting his followers to wage war against the United States overseas.
Jonathan Turley one of the lawyers handling his appeal, and as promised, Professor Turley joins us now.
Jonathan, good evening to you.
JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: Good. You've already filed one appeal on your client's behalf, arguing that his right of free speech had been violated. Are you planning now a series of challenges to this conviction based on the revelation of the NSA spy program?
TURLEY: We've already informed the Justice Department that we are going to ask the Fourth Circuit, the court of appeals, to return this case to the district court for an evidentiary hearing. It seems very likely at this point, from the descriptions of this program, that Dr. Al-Timini was one of the subjects of the interceptions, because the reason is that the dates overlap, and the nature of the conversations are the same.
And this was never revealed at trial. So if there were interceptions, it's a pretty serious matter for a criminal trial for it not to be revealed to the judge.
OLBERMANN: How difficult do you expect it's going to be to get the government to admit, one way or another, that your client, or anybody else, was subject, in particular, to this operation?
TURLEY: Well, I'm hoping that the Department of Justice will agree that we're all here for the rule of law. That's what the president said this war is all about.
And look, we can all disagree about the president's decision to order this operation. Many of us believe he ordered a federal crime when he ordered this operation.
But we should not have a disagreement that when it comes to a criminal trial, the federal law has to be complied with, because if the president can go outside the federal law to engage in surveillance and then ignore federal law in convicting citizens, then he becomes a government unto himself.
And so maybe I'm na‹ve, but I'm hoping that the Department of Justice will say, All right, let's go ahead and have an evidentiary hearing and see what this is all about. And I'm also hoping, and I believe this to be true, that the Department of Justice attorneys in this case didn't know about this operation. I trust them as people of good faith, and I'm hoping, as people of good faith, that we can all go down to the trial level and see what happened and deal with it, whatever it is.
OLBERMANN: This is an odd transition to ask you to make, but for a moment, stop being the defense attorney in this case, and pretend you're a prosecutor in another similarly structured case. When news that the president and the NSA had got—not gone to court for some of the counterterror wiretaps, if you're a prosecutor, did—would you have said to yourself, Well, there go all of our terror cases?
TURLEY: Well, I got to tell you, it's something like this that makes you crawl into a fetal position, because you don't always know, when you're a prosecutor, what evidence has been gathering outside of the case.
But I think that there's a lot of attorneys in the Department of Justice right now who are very worried. This is a very important type of violation. You know, this isn't some cop not giving someone Miranda. This is a case involving the withholding of evidence, that the whole purpose of that trial is to balance evidence. You don't balance it if someone's withholding it.
What you get is a game of three-card monte, where you have to guess under which card is the evidence. Well, we don't do that, because it's not a game. And I think prosecutors know how serious this is.
But I think that there's a lot of prosecutors out there that don't want to be accused of hiding evidence. And I think that there's going to be some support in the Department of Justice, whether it prevails, some support to go to the court and try to find out what happened and to deal with it.
OLBERMANN: One last angle, a third one to take, your hat as constitutional scholar. Which is the most troubling question of the many questions that the eavesdropping program raised for you?
TURLEY: Well, I think the most troubling question is the operation itself. I don't believe that this is a close issue. I think federal law is perfectly clear. It is a crime. This president ordered officials, some who opposed this program, to engage in surveillance without a court order. That's a crime.
Now, the suggestion that other presidents may have done it is not very persuasive. Saying you have precedent for a crime doesn't help much.
OLBERMANN: Jonathan Turley, defense attorney for Dr. Ali Al-Timini, and also law professor at George Washington University. As always, sir, great thanks for your time.
TURLEY: Thanks a lot.
OLBERMANN: As mentioned, there are those who believe President Bush is well within his rights to have ordered eavesdropping on American citizens and to continue to do so.
Berkeley law professor John Yoo is among them. As our justice correspondent, Pete LEWIS, reports, Professor Yoo is one of the architects of the legal theory that says the White House has expanded powers when the country is at war, an opinion that has put his work in the spotlight, if not the cross-hairs.
PETE LEWIS, MSNBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the University of California's law school at Berkeley, a liberal bastion, John Yoo defends the Bush administration's concept of broad presidential wartime power, one he helped draft as a Justice Department lawyer.
PROF. JOHN YOO, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think it would be a mistake for the government in this new, unprecedented kind of war against an enemy that fights us by violating all the rules of war, to commit ourselves to things we will or will not do when we're not legally required to.
LEWIS: No doubt, legal scholars say, Yoo's memos are central to the administration's claims about its wartime authority, including monitoring phone calls to and from the U.S. involving suspected al Qaeda members.
PROF. CASS SUNSTEIN, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO LAW SCHOOL: He's helped change the understanding in academic circles and in government circles of the power of president.
LEWIS: One of his key memos argues that the Constitution gives the president power to take “whatever actions he deems appropriate to preempt or respond to terrorist threats.” Based on that, the White House also argued that when Congress authorized military force to respond to the 9/11 attacks, it also provided legal authority to detain enemy combatants, since that's fundamental to waging war.
The Supreme Court agreed, even though Congress did not specifically mention detaining combatants.
By the same logic, the White House now says Congress authorized the NSA's wiretapping, without specifically mentioning it, because intelligence-gathering is also fundamental to waging war.
But Sunstein says Yoo's theory is not widely supported.
SUNSTEIN: He's not alone in that view, but that view remains the minority view.
LEWIS (on camera): If Congress holds wiretapping hearings, Professor Yoo may again be asked to defend a concept of presidential power that he helped to draft.
Pete LEWIS, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: That 2005 would end in scandal for the White House—multiple scandals, in fact—would have been all but impossible to predict at the year's outset. Back then, the newly reelected president could be heard proclaiming he had political capital to spend and big plans on how to spend it, well before names like Valerie Plame and Harriet Miers and Katrina altered President Bush's bottom line.
White House correspondent David LEWIS taking a look back at the year that was and the one that Mr. Bush probably wishes wasn't.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... George Walker Bush...
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, George Walker Bush...
DAVID LEWIS, MSNBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two thousand five begins with all the promise of the president's second term. Inauguration Day showcases Mr. Bush's soaring vision. The pursuit of democracy would be the administration's primary goal.
BUSH: ... with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.
LEWIS: A hard-fought campaign victory convinces the president he has a mandate.
BUSH: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.
LEWIS: And a country at war finds reason for optimism, up to the first successful democratic elections in Iraq.
But the president's political fortunes would change.
MARSHALL WITTMANN, DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP COUNCIL: Two thousand and five was largely President Bush's terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad year.
LEWIS: The first major misstep, Social Security. Mr. Bush travels the country making the case for change and pushing for private accounts.
BUSH: The money going out of Social Security is greater than the amount of money coming into Social Security.
LEWIS: But seniors are nervous, fearing massive change to the program. Republicans and Democrats alike balk. The president's plan fails, and the White House appears to overreach.
RICHARD WOLFFE, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE: He didn't not have nearly as much political capital as he thought. In the end, private accounts don't fix the problem of Social Security. They create another problem, which is all about funding.
LEWIS: The war, meanwhile, , grinds on, the backdrop against which the president tries to govern all year.
As the number of U.S. CASUALTIES grows, so does the public's anxiety.
Approval for the president's handling of the war falls.
DAVID BROOKS, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: Well, There was a lot of thinking, including people who supported him, who said, you know, Does he see the same reality I see on the evening news? You know, they wanted him to address the actual realities.
LEWIS: The administration's predictions also lose credibility.
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.
LEWIS: An antiwar movements gain strength. And by the fall, a former Marine and hawkish Democrat gives voice to the growing public desire to withdraw troops from Iraq.
REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: It's a flawed policy wrapped in illusion that Iraq cannot be won militarily.
LEWIS: Away from the war, Mr. Bush enjoys perhaps his finest political moment, the nomination of Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court, Embraced by senators from both parties as a brilliant legal scholar, the 50-year-old appeals court judge will ultimately succeed William Rehnquist as chief justice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The ease with which he went through was a major achievement for the administration. They didn't get credit for that, partly because Harriet Miers and her nomination was such a spectacular failure.
LEWIS: The short-lived Miers nomination would infuriate conservatives and raise questions about the president's judgment.
But nothing would rock the White House more than Katrina. The federal government is disastrously slow to react, and the president appears out of touch, first surveying the damage from Air Force One, and then on the ground.
BUSH: And Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.
BROOKS: And I think Americans felt ashamed with the sight of bodies floating in the streets five days after they were killed in New Orleans. And that was, to me, the low point of the president's year.
LEWIS: But there would be more, scandal.
BUSH: Today I accepted the resignation of Scooter Libby.
LEWIS: Questions about a domestic spying program, and the war's drumbeat of grim news.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Two thousand dead. U.S. military deaths in Iraq hit a grim new mark.
BUSH: The work in Iraq has been especially difficult, more difficult than we expected.
LEWIS: After successful Iraqi elections this month, the president argues it would be disaster to abandon the fight.
(on camera): But the president ends the year hinting that troops may begin to come home in 2006, a new year, and, the president hopes, a new start for his second term.
David LEWIS, NBC News, New York.
OLBERMANN: Also not the best of the years for the American Red Cross, the massive effort to help in the wake of Hurricane Katrina exposing fraud now, dozens indicted for taking money that should have gone to the victims.
And Rafael Palmiero now has another theory for his positive steroid test result, the one that shook the sports world. He thinks he could have been set up.
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: This year will be remembered not just for Hurricane Katrina, but also for the deep fissures it exposed in our nation's emergency response system. Some of the fingers were pointed at people in institutions which had let us down before.
But in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, some also had to be pointed at organizations that were supposedly sacrosanct and reliable.
George Lewis tonight with the extraordinary, and the extraordinarily disturbing, story about how the Red Cross's rush to get help to the victims also met a rush through the firewalls that should have prevented embezzling.
GEORGE LEWIS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Law enforcement knew something was wrong when a large number of Katrina evacuees began applying for aid 2,0o0 miles away in Bakersfield, California. Turns out the phony evacuees were actually Red Cross subcontracted employees at this call center handling relief payments.
(on camera): Over the last three months, federal authorities have indicted almost 50 people in California, charging them with siphoning off hundreds of thousands of dollars intended for hurricane victims.
(voice-over): This gas station minimart, a pickup point for Western Union money orders, was where, according to prosecutors, a lot of the bogus transactions took place.
MCGREGOR SCOTT, U.S. ATTORNEY: The contract employees working at the call center would call their buddies, or their relatives, and say, Here's a PIN number, get down to the Western Union and collect the money.
LEWIS: Prosecutors say more indictments are expected, and are investigating other call centers which helped the Red Cross distribute $1.4 billion to hurricane victims.
It's the latest scandal to hit an organization some critics charge is broken and needs to be fixed.
After Hurricane Katrina, when relief was slow in coming, even some Red Cross volunteers joined in the criticism.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm ashamed. Don't want to wear this again unless these problems are fixed. I don't want to wear this again.
LEWIS: Earlier this month, Marsha Evans resigned as president of the Red Cross, the third president in just over six years. The organization said she had disagreements with the board of directors, a huge body that has 50 members.
DR. BERNADINE HEALEY, FORMER RED CROSS PRESIDENT: Its board, its financial accountability, its disclosure policies may have worked 20 years ago. They are not for a modern organization.
LEWIS: A major concern for the check-writing public the next time disaster strikes.
George Lewis, NBC News, Los Angeles.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight—yes, that is the president of Russia. No, he is not simply exercising his constitutional mandate to protect his people in time of emergency.
And it turns out Oprah was not given the emergency bird in midair. Sounds like she may have gotten the shaft instead. The new explanation as to why the windshield of her private jet cracked.
OLBERMANN: Back now, and pausing the COUNTDOWN for our newest segment, Literary Corner. Tonight, the quintessential American poet, Walt Whitman, who, in “Leaves of Grass,” wrote, “Always—“ -- No, it was, “Never—“ Ah, hell, roll the dumb video.
Let's play Oddball.
We begin at the Kobrakai (ph) Dojo in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Bow to your sensei. Bow to your -- I said, Bow to your sensei! It's Russian President Vladimir Putin, showing local judo students how to crush their opponents. Putin, a black belt in judo himself, returned to the school where he first learned his craft, putting on a display of fitness and strength while teaching Russian youngsters the art of self-defense.
See Pootie-Poot hopping around with the students. See him doing a series of pushups. Next, telling the kids, When the enemy comes, welcome him. When he goes, send him on his way. And then show him how to throw a helpless woman with relative ease.
Yes, sweep the (INAUDIBLE), Vladdy, and put her in a body bag.
To the mud pits of Malvin (ph), Essex, England, it's the latest in the long line of dumb British traditions, the mud race. They're running. Each year, competitors from all over dress up in cockamamie costumes to slog through cold, wet dirt to raise money for charity.
At different points in the race, the mud is waist-high, and, ironically, the participants by then are either wasted or high. There's a dirty angel there, a reindeer kind of guy, even the Swamp Thing showed up. Hi, Swampy.
Upon finishing the race, everybody gets a shower, a warm thermal wrap, and, of course, a parasitic roundworm infection. Those that get stuck in the mud and do not finish the race are slowly eaten alive by local hyenas and vultures. Cheerio.
Need a bigger Oddball fix? You're in luck. It's bonus Oddball tonight, the best of year in weird. It can't be missed.
Speaking of odd, Rafael Palmiero and steroids again. Now he is suggesting he might be the victim of a conspiracy to make him test positive.
Those stories ahead, but now, here are COUNTDOWN's top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, an independent artists' group in Vienna. It has had its series of electronic billboards on streets and highways around the city, funded to the tune of a million dollars in Austrian government funds, shut off by the chancellor of the nation, simply because the art showed the queen of England engaging in a sexual act with the presidents of France and the United States.
Number two, an unnamed bicyclist in Melbourne, in Australia. The bad news, he fell off his bike. The good news, he landed on something soft that broke his fall. The bad news, the soft thing was a snake. He has a few minor bites, but nothing is broken.
And number one, Joseph Rains, a paper boy in the seventh grade in Grand Island, New York, outside Buffalo. On Christmas morning, he left, as always, a copy of “The Buffalo Courier Express” at the home of 81-year-old Audrey Yale. The next day, he did the same thing, and noticed that the previous day's paper was still on the porch.
Joseph went up to the house and heard screaming and banging inside. He called 911. Minutes later, police discovered Mrs. Yale trapped between the outside side door and the inside side door. She'd been there three days. They think she'll be all right. Yes, and, of course, a grateful Mrs. Yale gave Joseph a 10-cent tip.
I made that up. It's just a joke. She didn't give him a 10-cent tip.
KEITH OLBERMANN: The Associated Press today selected its sports story of the year, 2005. The Chicago White Sox ending an 88-year drought by winning the World Series, in our third story in the COUNTDOWN.
For the sake of the long-suffering of the pale hose - I wish - but ultimately it's almost inescapable. The sports story of the year was steroids in baseball and it's a story that keeps unfolding.
Today Raphael Palmeiro and 'roids, chapter four. Maybe the test was fixed or somebody slipped the stuff into him somehow.
It started on St. Patrick's Day with the finger-wagging denial before a Congressional dog and pony show. Palmeiro insisting that during 19 years of stardom in Major League baseball he'd never used steroids, period.
Six weeks later, he tested positive for steroids.
Chapter two, the former Viagra spokesman becoming the first prominent ballplayer to get caught by a policy against another kind of performance enhancer, a policy that suddenly had teeth.
Chapter three, in September when Palmeiro insisted he had never knowingly taken steroids, saying that they might have gotten into his bloodstream though some liquid vitamin B12, explaining that the vitamin B12 had been given to him by his Baltimore Orioles teammate, Miguel Tejada, on the left there.
It was an act that another Baltimore player described as throwing Tejada under the bus.
Orioles' management in essence fired Palmeiro on the spot.
Now, today, a new theory. Chapter four. In an interview with “The New York Times,” Palmeiro now suggests that positive tests may have been the result of some foul play.
Quoting, “If something happened that I'm not aware of, an intentional act by someone else, I don't know. I can't rule anything out. I'm going to take the responsibility (he continued) me being careless and taking something I wasn't knowing if it was clean.it was careless, stupid, na‹ve of me to think it was safe.”
Taking responsibility except for the part in which he isn't taking responsibility. And wondering if somebody else tampered with the test or had slipped him steroids.
Let's call in “Washington Post” sports columnist Mike Wise.
Good evening Mike.
MIKE WISE, WASHINGTON POST: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I'm reading this right, aren't I? Palmeiro saying maybe somebody doctored his food or his vitamins or whatever or somebody at the other end of it corrupted the steroid test itself?
WISE: That's what he's trying to say, and he's been saying this all along and it - as you said, chapter four in “the dog ate my homework.”
When do we - when do we actually believe this guy? I don't know.
OLBERMANN: The premise of either of those explanations has to be, I suppose, that somebody wanted him to get caught.
Did I know a different Raphael Palmeiro than the real one? I mean does the real Raphael Palmeiro have enemies on his own team, or enemies inside baseball who would have wanted him to test positive for some reason?
WISE: You know, if you talk to a lot of the games' writers, they describe him as one of the nicest, most congenial players out there, and a lot of them had a hard time bringing themselves to write columns about him testing positive.
I could see maybe Mike Piazza spiking Roger Clemens' juice, or somebody doing something to Ty Cobb in the day, but Raphael Palmeiro wasn't somebody you were out to get, per se.
OLBERMANN: My original point here - the Associated Press selecting the White Sox as the sports story of the year and Lance Armstrong as the athlete of the year. Is it the steroids story, specifically, Raphael Palmeiro as part of the real story of this year?
WISE: I think so, and we've kind of turned a blind eye to it in a lot of ways.
We're as guilty as anybody, but we don't care how that ball gets over the wall, we just want to see it get there, and I think finally we've - we're confronted with all these facts and all these allegations; we have to say I don't know about you, but would you put Jose Conseco on that possible sportsman of the year list for blowing the whistle?
OLBERMANN: That's - that was one of my other points here. The second TV interview he did - the one after “Sixty Minutes,” was on this program at a time when American journalism was ready to skewer him and serve him up for lunch with a book that he wrote, and I remember reading the book in the days before that interview was scheduled and slowly this feeling was creeping over me - wow, I mean Jose is five percent right.
Wow, Jose is ten percent right.
Wow, Jose is 85 percent right.
And you know at the end of it was wow; this self-centered, flawed guy may have been the Woodward and Bernstein of baseball.
Should he not at least get a few votes for sportsman of the year?
WISE: I don't know, but that would probably be going a little bit far; it would be like making Sammy the Bull “TIME's” person of the year. But I mean, yeah, he turned in the mob, but he still did some damage himself.
I think but Jose Conseco can rest peacefully in his retirement knowing he did a little bit to help the game and that he's not going to go into retirement just to - being known for signing autographs at mobile home shows.
He will actually have more of a legacy, and I do think it says something about his character that whatever you think about the messenger, the message was essentially true.
OLBERMANN: Let me go back to Mr. Palmeiro and the message, the other part of that column in “The New York Times,” the interview with Murray Chass, their veteran baseball columnist was about what Palmeiro wants to do next in talking about coming back and hitting 30 homeruns for somebody else and proving that he can do it clean and he'd like to play for the Yankees and does it sound like that the reality gong has not gone off loudly enough in the Palmeiro household?
WISE: The saddest thing about this story, Keith, as we make light of it in some respects is Raphael Palmeiro to this day is more concerned about his own legacy than he is that steroids is a public health issue and if he'd just come clean and he and the other players that have been accused of this would come clean, America is all about second chances and I don't understand why he - I mean to me him getting an interview to Murray Chass, whom my former colleague who I respect greatly is more about lobbying a premier Hall of Fame voter than it is - than it is anything about Raphael Palmeiro coming clean.
And I think at some point he's got to - he's got to just say look, I did this, I took Stanazol, it wasn't a B12 vitamin shot - I mean I get my B vitamins at CVS. I don't know - do you get them in a syringe, Keith?
OLBERMANN: Yeah, from the Dominican Republic. I always ask Miguel Tejada, whoever brings them back for me. It's really special. There's a nice flavor to it. It kind of a nutty taste to the stuff.
Maybe - well, maybe - my thought on this, Mike is that Palmeiro is trying to convince himself. I guess that's the bottom line.
In any event “Washington Post” sports columnist Mike Wise. As always great. Thanks for your time and insights.
WISE: Okay. Happy holidays.
OLBERMANN: And to you. Which reminds us that what might have been the sports event of the year never happened.
Jose Canseco said he was considering appearing on a live pay-per-view TV broadcast in which he would be asked questions about the use of steroids by him and other ball players while he was strapped to a lie detector.
I still have dreams about it.
This February 30th the biggest thing to hit pay-per-view since Snoop Dog got sued, an exclusive live television event for the ages: six-time all-star, one-time author Jose Conseco takes on his toughest challenge yet, the truth.
It's man versus machine. His testicles may be shrinking, but are his sweat glands growing? And on the under (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we'll hook up Tanya Harding and ask her if she's been taking steroids or just cheesecakes?
Michael Jackson answers six questions about his various noses. And special guest Jeff Gannon gets four chances to correct his real name.
All that and Jose Conseco live, live, live! The 'roid injector versus the lie detector. Somebody's chance will be on fire!
It's the pay-per-view event of the month. Call your local cable provider and tell them you can handle the truth.
Just $3.95 per household or make best offer.
Cancelled because it was obvious he would have passed.
A mere outtake from our take of the year in review airing this Friday night in our regular time slots here on MSNBC at 8 and midnight Eastern. Five and 9 p.m. Pacific.
Our year-end special COUNTDOWN'S favorite things, 2005. Be there; aloha.
The year in review, a fuzzy thing for this man. His mission was 1,000 bars in 365 days in New York City. Will he make his goal?
Then forget the bird. The real reason Oprah's plane had to make that emergency landing the other day has just come out. This is COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: One man's goal in life, 1,000 bars all in one year. I've got to stop talking like that.
Not 1,000 song's bars. Booze. We're talking booze. Three days to go. Will he do it?
The answer next on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: When the character Don Birnem as played by Ray Milland went on a three-day binge in Manhattan in 1945 they made a movie out of it called “The Lost Weekend.”
So why should Dan Freeman get his own film studio?
Friday, closer to six p.m. than to 6:15, Mr. Freeman will amble up to the bar at The Pioneer on The Bowery in New York, order a libation and make it official: our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, he's going to have had a drink in 1,000 different New York watering holes in just 365 days.
COUNTDOWN'S Monica Novotny introduced us to Mr. Freeman last June at bar number 532 and now brings us the update.
MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC: Have you learned anything in this process?
DAN FREEMAN: I learned that I'm never going to do this again.
NOVOTNY: After a lengthy journey, the end is near. The man spending his first year of retirement visiting 1,000 bars is down to the last drop.
DAN FREEMAN: I think I'll have a “winter hook.”
NOVOTNY: We first met 61-year-old Dan Freeman, a former computer consultant, back in June, just over halfway through his 365-day bar-a-thon.
FREEMAN: Cheers. I just thought it would be something fun to do and something I could kind of look back on and say you know what, maybe I've done something that nobody else has actually ever done before.
VUM CHIN, DAN FREEMAN'S WIFE: I wanted him to have a hobby, but I really didn't know exactly what kind of hobby I was expecting.
NOVOTNY: Dan has spent much of 2005 fulfilling his dream, visiting three to five bars almost every day.
FREEMAN: Let me have a “Brooklyn Modern.”
FREEMAN: I'm going to have a Guinness.
NOVOTNY: His drinking documented and posted online to his 1,000 Bars Blog.
The rules are pretty simple. There has be a bar -
FREEMAN: Right, a bar.
NOVOTNY: And you have to have at least one alcoholic beverage.
FREEMAN: One alcoholic beverage at the bar.
NOVOTNY: Now are there any other perks that you found besides just the alcohol?
FREEMAN: Well, I've had people come into town and want to meet me and they've bought me drinks and one fellow sent me a ticket to a Yankees game.
NOVOTNY: Perks aside, this retirement turned out to be work.
So was it hard?
FREEMAN: It was harder than I would have expected and -
NOVOTNY: Not the drinking part.
FREEMAN: Not the drinking part, but just going into different bars and finding different bars.
NOVOTNY: I'm glad that Dan's doing something that he really enjoys, but I would even be gladder when he's done with it.
NOVOTNY: And the lesson in the liquor? Too much of a good thing really is too much. Even when it's beer.
FREEMAN: I can say without a doubt that a New Year's resolution I'll keep will be going to fewer bars next year. That's an easy one to keep.
NOVOTNY: For COUNTDOWN, Monica Novotny.
OLBERMANN: So why did Mr. Freeman do that? Well, a friend of his bet him he couldn't; his friend owns a bar in Brooklyn and offered him a prize if he pulled it off.
You guessed it: a hundred free beers. Just what he needs, huh?
An update of sorts; also opening up our roundup of celebrity and entertainment news keeping tabs, breaking Oprah Winfrey news.
Her private jet was not attacked by a duck after all. Yesterday California aviation authorities reported that Winfrey's jet had been forced to return to the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport.
On Monday it's windshield cracked after a collision with a bird, breaking news.
But now the Santa Barbara Fire Department says wear and tear caused that crack. Winfrey and boyfriend Stedman Graham were not hurt. No change there. But Winfrey now has to contend with this old junker of a plane.
How old? We don't know, but please send your donations to the Oprah Winfrey Private Jet Fund, c/o Maury Povich, MSNBC, World Domination Plaza, New Jersey.
And yesterday we learned that entertainment had lost one of its great character actors, Michael Schiavelli, who was among other things the subway ghost in the film “Ghost.”
Now its someone with an even more specific video heritage who has left us - Michael Vale is dead. This is him. The man who said, “Time to make the doughnuts.”
The ads ran from 1982 to 1997. Officially he was Fred the Baker for Dunkin' Donuts. Mr. Vale made more than 1300 other commercials and he was an actor in everything from “Car 54, Where are You?” to the movie “Marathon Man.”
He was an Acting Workshop classmate of Tony Curtis and Rod Steiger; yet this will be his legacy.
MICHAEL VALE, ACTOR: Time to make the doughnuts.
OLBERMANN: Michael Vale died yesterday in New York of complications from diabetes. He was 83.
From goodbyes to gaffs. Next, the year in weird is back by popular demand.
But first time for COUNTDOWN'S list of today's three nominees of the coveted title of “Worst Person in the World.”
The bronze winner, Trisha Owens (ph) of Edison, Ohio, arrested and charged with robbing a bank in Gilead (ph). She explained she had gotten the idea from her brother when he robbed the same bank four years ago.
She even wore a wire to record him admitting he'd done it. Thanks, sis.
The runner-up tonight, Reno Tobler, a truck driver from Clive, Iowa. Police picked him up for hurling detergent-sized bottles into the back yards of houses he passed. Inside said bottles, his own urine. Yes, it is really bad, but look at the bright side. At least he left it in the bottles.
But tonight's winner, Lisa Carlson of St. George, Vermont. She's one of the backers of a plan there to take 50 acres of undeveloped public land and turn it into a garden park nature reserve and do it yourself cemetery.
That's right, family's can go dig their own graves for their own loved ones. No muss, no fuss, no caskets, no embalming. Just bring your own shovel and fill 'er up.
As the character Lou Grant said on the “Chuckle's” episode of the “Mary Tyler Moore” show, I don't want anybody to make any fuss. When I go, I just want to be stood outside in the garbage with my hat on.
Lisa Carlson, today's worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: We'll close with a correction.
I just called the late character actor, Vincent Schiavelli Michael.
My mistake and my apologies.
Lastly, from its trail of animal travails to its parade of human hijinks from its daredevils and car chases to its super models and the horses they rode in on it is the best or maybe the worst.
Man does not live with a grimace permanently stapled to his face, thus our nightly segment, “Oddball” and our yearly roundup of its highlights.
Our number one story, the best or worst of the best or worst.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN (voice-over): We begin in Latvia...
We begin in Scappoose, Oregon...
We begin in northeastern Tennessee with the
COUNTDOWN camel chase of the week.
We begin at Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City where...
We begin at the Borcell (ph) Nuclear Power Plant in
the Netherlands where-Warning, warning, danger Will
Robinson-the nuclear waste has sprouted legs and is
climbing the fence to escape.
Indianapolis, Indiana, hello. Laytonsville, Maryland, hello.
Fort Hood, Texas, (SCREAM)
To Houston, hello. Minot, North Dakota, hello.
Tibu (ph), South Korea, hello.
LARRY KING, “LARRY KING LIVE”: Los Angeles.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We begin in Guatemala, where
science is bringing the people new and interesting ways
to mix drinks and stuff. Yes, using recycled parts from
old bicycles; women like these here can save hundreds of
dollars on costly kitchen appliances. And in just 20 to
30 minutes, blend themselves a refreshing beverage and
get some healthy bench and get exercise in the process.
OLBERMANN: Come on, pedal for it. Earn that margarita.
Now to the San Francisco Zoo for another episode of rhinoceros versus big pumpkin. This is Gene; he's a 3,000 pound black rhino.
His keepers put a 500-pound pumpkin in his pen as part of the big annual “Boo at the Zoo” event. Oh baby, he's going to smash this pumpkin.
There we go. Come on, buddy. Come on, smashy, smashy. Come on.
Come on! Hey, where are you going? Come on. Come back, smash the pumpkin. Oh, what a jip.
Checking “Oddball” traffic, we've got an overturned
beer truck in Newton, Massachusetts. Luckily the driver
was uninjured and all the beer remained inside. Uh-oh,
that's no good.
Dude, cool Ferrari. Whoa, hot Ferrari.
Speaking of deformed vegetables, we take off to the
Great White North for the story of a Canadian farmer
whose carrots are purple. It's got nothing to do with
the tightness of his overalls.
And what's the situation with this deer in Fitchburg, Massachusetts?
I'll tell you. He just can't believe those low, low prices.
I had a special new educational segment planned for this evening, “Brush up on String Theory with Keith Olbermann.”
Unfortunately, one of the producers hid my textbook, so we'll now go to the backup plan. Wacky video, let's play “Oddball”.
There's a train coming.
This is Lucy Kibaki, the first lady of Kenya, and
unhappy with a recent newspaper story she has just made
this photo op into the Kenyan version of “Meet the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She slapped me here.
OLBERMANN: Chios, Greece, where Orthodox Easter is
our favorite event of the year because the two rival
churches on the island celebrate annually by firing
65,000 rockets at each other. I want plenty of rockets.
When the unfortunate model tried to turn her ride around, down goes Frieda! Down goes Frieda!
Back it up. Back it up. You got it. OK, right there'll be good.
We're back and we pause the COUNTDOWN now to get into the serious news. Seriously stupid.
OLBERMANN: Now, here's a monkey fishing.
Hey, look at those really big pants.
And we got a dog on the Major Deegan.
Oh boy, we got a floater.
Here's a good ol' fashioned cow chase.
Here's a very old guy bowling.
Thank, thank, thank you, Mr. whatever your name is.
Look at them running.
And there she goes, she's passed the Best Buy, hangs
a right at the Applebee. Look at her run. She could go
all the way. She's in the...
Into the first furlong (ph) it's big squirrel with
no tail in front, the Sun thing-kind of thing, second dog
in stripped shirt third. Big squirrel through the
hurdles, he could go (UNINTELLIGIBLE) fast behind the duck, it's a hippopotamus.
And down the stretch they come. It's the big squirrel with no tail, way out in front.
Big squirrel with no tail, first, sun thing second, a lion or monkey, I'm not sure what is third.
The winner of this race moving on to the finals next week in Dallas and that's where the big money-wait a minute, what's this?
The little girl on the outside is throwing the race. She-little Mickey (ph) is the winner. She had the thing locked up; she just stopped.
Never in my 30 years of broadcasting have I seen a more disgusting display of the corruption of a sporting event.
Oops, it seems party leader Vladimir Geronoffski
(ph) has just spit on Dumas (ph) deputy Andre Sylvalia
(ph) looks like spitting. And let's get ready to
Oh, boy. Ok.
Attendance was down this year at the big annual
battle of the oranges because organizers started charging admission. Can't imagine why somebody would be reluctant to pay for this.
And sad news tonight from Pittsburgh. Bubba the Lobster is dead.
Some estimated Bubba may have lived 100 years in the
Atlantic Ocean before he was caught this week, but as his
celebrity grew a custody battle raged between Ripley's,
PETA, the people for the ethical treatment of animals,
and the other PETA, the people for the eating of tasty
In the end, it was all too much strife for Bubba.
He is dead now, and the rest of these people have blood
on their hands. Or is that butter? On their hands?
Bubba the lobster was 100 years old.
Bubba, we hardly knew you, but you left a great
taste in our mouths.
Our MSNBC coverage continues next with Rita Cosby
LIVE AND DIRECT.
That's COUNTDOWN; I'm Keith Olbermann; keep your knees loose. Good night and good luck.
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