updated 2/1/2005 1:44:50 PM ET 2005-02-01T18:44:50

Guest: Tom Squiteri, Dave Attell

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

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

After the elections.  The mayor of Baghdad wants to put up a statue there of George Bush.

While that might go up, Senator Hillary Clinton goes down, fainting during a speech in buffalo.

No speeches, no dances in Santa Maria.  Michael Jackson shows up for jury selection.  But what is it with these Jackson family home made video releases?  The camera can only do close-ups?

What if your camera could only see pro homosexual conspiracies?  More on Spongebob and now he‘s got company.  Buster the bunny?

And what this country really needs.  Beer that can give you coffee breath.  Or is it coffee that can give you a beer belly?  Budweiser unveils B to the E.  Beer with caffeine in it.  Great now you can get drunk and jittery at the same time.

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  Three years and 18 days after President Bush blacked out at the White House during a pretzel malfunction, the junior senator from New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton, fainted five minutes into a scheduled speech at buffalo, New York.  Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, politics.  Starting with the reminder that the phrase politicians will fall all oh themselves for a little publicity was not meant to be taken literally.  Senator Clinton is OK.  Not long after the episode, she managed to give another speech, though she has canceled a third speech in Washington scheduled for tomorrow morning.

The 57 year old former first lady met with the editorial board of the “Buffalo News” this morning and complained of flu-like symptoms.  Not long after, she got to the Saturn Club and began to speak about Social Security.  She said she felt weak and needed to sit down.  After continuing her speech from her seat, she fainted briefly.  She did not, as early reports mischaracterized it, collapse.  Senator Clinton got back on her feet to deliver a second 30 minute speech  much she got back on her feet to deliver a second speech at Conesus College in Buffalo and of her fainting she said, quote, “It wasn‘t as dramatic as it sounds.”  And adding during a speech about healthcare, “what better place to come and talk about healing the sick.”

Nonetheless, senators or presidents swooning is not recommended.  It is particularly odd given the near anniversary of Mr. Bush‘s adventure with snack foods in 2002.  Considering that today, in the wake of what appears to have been a largely successfully staged election today in Iraq.  The new mayor of Baghdad as proposed erecting a new statue there in celebration.  A statue of President Bush.  “We will build a statue for Bush,” says Ali Fadel.  “He is the symbol of freedom.”

Fadel wants it in the center of Baghdad.  Given that city‘s recent history with statues, in effect, fainting and given the fact that Mayor Fadel is only assuming his office because his predecessor was assassinated 27 days ago, maybe he wants to hold off on this idea a little bit.

In the wake of the election, Iraq‘s prime minister was a little more cautious.  “The terrorists now know they cannot win,” Iyad Allawi told a news conference.  “The whole world is watching us,” he added, “as we worked together yesterday to finish dictatorship, let us work together toward a bright future.”  He said nothing about building any statues.

That the insurgents ultimately had little impact on yesterdays voting turns out to not have been for lack of effort.  The number of attacks yesterday originally reportedly at eight is now estimated at 100 by the U.S. military.  And it appears yesterday‘s crash of a British plane could be one of them.

The Arab television station Al Jazeera airing a videotape that purports to show insurgents shooting down that transport.  A finger seen pressing a button, followed by two missiles flying into the air and then scenes of wreckage.  What the video does not show is a missile actually hitting a plane.  Al Jazeera saying it received the tape from a resistance group called the Green Brigade.  10 British centuries were killed in that crash.

Iraq‘s interior minister providing disturbing color about another election day attack, claiming that insurgents used a handicapped child as a suicide bomber.  The minister giving no further details but police at the scene of one attack in Baghdad revealing that the bomber appeared to have Down ‘s syndrome.

Observers everywhere from Iraq to Washington to Arabic TV agreed the elections were a significant defeat for the insurgents.  But few thought there had been real inroads made against them, that the extraordinary nationwide lock down procedures yesterday, had much more to do with the comparatively low levels of violence.  Then there‘s a third opinion.  Both explanations could have had the same result.

For an expert opinion, we turn to Steve Emerson, terrorism expert and MSNBC analyst.  Good evening, Steve.

STEVE EMERSON, MSNBC ANALYST:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  What was it yesterday?  Was it a turning point?  Some sort of sea change against the insurgents or was it primarily the result of that huge lockdown?

EMERSON:  Well, I tell you, I think I‘d give this round to the United States and the Allawi government.  The fact is Zarqawi tried to intimidate.  He tried to stop the voting and he wasn‘t successful.  He was able to get 13 suicide car bombs.  That‘s a record for him.  That‘s a pretty amazing number.  And yet still, the Iraqis came out and voted.  But this is a long term battle, Keith.  And I don‘t know that we can say this was a major defeat.  He has got other targets, which are the people that got elected.  And the question is whether if and U.S. and the Iraqis are going to be able to protect them.

OLBERMANN:  Zarqawi has said today, in response to the Allawi remarks, that they will continue to do what they try to do.  Are there expectations, anticipations about any ways the insurgents might change strategies as they try to resume operations?

EMERSON:  Well, he‘s got different targets now.  Remember now, he has a regime that he has to destabilize.  So, symbolically, I think he is probably going to go after some of the candidates that were elected and much more serious ways than he went after, lets say, some of the police commanders.  Number two, he still has a cadre of jihadists coming in from Syria, from Iran and elsewhere that he can count on.  I‘m still amazed that he was recruit 13 suicide bombers.  That‘s a record number for any type of terrorist operation that I can recall in recent memory, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Steve, let‘s say that yesterday was a one-day pause in this process in term of the insurgency‘s growth.  Even if that‘s the case, can that still have a dampening effect on the entirety of the insurgency on their supporters, on their bankers?

EMERSON:  Well, you know what, that‘s an interesting question.  Because perception and the big mo (ph) count a lot here.  There may be Ba‘athists who say, you know what, we can‘t defeat them.  Let‘s rejoin the government.  So there is the possibility, Keith, that he may lose a cadre of supporters from the old Ba‘athist regime.  Of course, he still has the hard core jihadists and that may be enough to accomplish what he‘s trying to do which is destabilize the regime.

OLBERMANN:  MSNBC terrorism analyst Steve Emerson.  As always, Steve, great thanks.

EMERSON:  Sure.

OLBERMANN:  Turnout in the election, not surprisingly lowest in the Sunni Triangle.  Loyalty to Saddam Hussein still strong in that region, the insurgency there still fierce.  Some polling stations never even bothered to open.  Few voters actually made it to the ones that did.  Despite rumors that food rations would be taken away if residents failed to vote.  That rumor particularly strong in Tikrit, the home town of Saddam Hussein.  The election official in charge of voting there admitting to having spread that rumor himself in a failed bit to lure—a bid, rather, to lure voters.

Some voters in Baghdad, however, telling a local news agency, they were sent directly to food distribution centers after they voted.  If only Sunni voters were the extent of things that are missing in Iraq tonight.  There‘s also some $9 billion of which U.S. officials, it seem, simply lost track.  It happened under the watch of L. Paul Bremer.  A federal audit showing that the American occupation authority did not properly monitor the spending of $8,800 million.  Money it transferred to the Iraqi government ministries, over a nine month period over 2003 and 2004.

The lack of oversight opening the door to, quote, “fraud, kickbacks and misappropriations of funds.”  Ambassador Bremer responding on the “Today” show this morning, saying they were not going to slow down the reconstruction to deal with things like “western standard auditing and spread sheets.”

Spread sheets made of gold, evidently.  While Ambassador Bremer has since left Iraq, the exit strategy for the rest of the American presence there is still anybody‘s guess.  Here to make our next guest, an educated one, Tom Squitieri, a national correspondent for “USA Today.”  Tom, good evening.

TOM SQUITERI, “USA TODAY”:  Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Is anything that happened yesterday likely to hasten U.S.  withdrawals from Iraq?

SQUITERI:  Probably not.  It may hasten the withdrawal of other troops from other countries, but the United States, it expects to stay in Iraq through most of 2006 at the earliest.  They have to stay there because they are the force that will back the Iraqis as they develop their military and also, to ensure that the new government that was started in the process of being elected yesterday remain the government.

OLBERMANN:  And Tom, regardless, even if there were some change in plans.  We wouldn‘t know about it.  Would we?  It‘s not going to be advertised in say, the state of the union address night after tomorrow.  It would be one of those intentional last-minute rush jobs, like moving up the transfer of authority last summer, wouldn‘t it?

SQUITERI:  You would take that and sort of meld it with the way the Baltimore Colts slipped out of Baltimore several years ago.  They don‘t want people to know when you‘re leaving because it tells the bad guys, let‘s just wait until they leave and come back into action.  And also, you want to avoid the spectacle of having your troops put in a situation akin to the British coming back from Concord where everyone is taking a shot at you when you leave.

That being said, it won‘t an total secret, Keith, because there is a lot of equipment and a lot of manpower to get out of there that you just can‘t really do quietly.  But I think that like you pointed out with the Bremer thing, they‘ll make a decision and announce it as close to departure as possible.

OLBERMANN:  I have one more question for you, but for the people who aren‘t sports fans, I have to explain that Baltimore Colts analogy.  When they moved out of Baltimore in 1984, they did so with big moving vans in a snowstorm in the middle of the night.  So ultimately—let‘s see if I follow the probable pattern, if the success of the elections yesterday has an impact, even long term, essentially a domino thing, a renewed sense of independence in Iraq which would presumably undermine the insurgents, give Iraqi soldiers something to fight for, Americans getting to train more Iraqis, more successfully.  And then more American going home sooner.  Is that about it?

SQUITERI:  That‘s about it.  Eliminating the opposition in the government, also, by having one government and the soldiers fighting for it.  And look to the summer of 2006 before the first signs of an exit plan.

OLBERMANN:  Tom Squiteri, national correspondent of “USA Today” and clearly still broken Baltimore Colts fan.

As always, Tom, thanks for your time.

SQUITERI:  You‘re welcome.

OLBERMANN:  More on what‘s next in Iraq in a moment.  First a case of the medium literally being the message.  Want to byu the Al Jazeera network?  You might be surprised how good a deal it could be.  Currently bankrolled by the Gulf nation of Qatar, there is a lot of international pressure—well, U.S. pressure on the government there to disassociate itself from a broadcaster which frequently airs hostage and terrorist videos.  But apparently that‘s a good marketing strategy.  A survey of 2,000 advertising professionals worldwide by online magazine indicates that from number one to number five, the top five most influential brand names right now in this world are:  Number one.  Apple.  Number two, Google.  Number three, Ikea.  Number four, Starbucks, and number five, Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera reports, the Arab world decides.  While most think the election in Iraq was a success that has not translated into warm feelings from the neighborhood toward the president.

Speaking of warm and fuzzy, something for both your coffeeholic side and your alcoholic side.  Budweiser and caffeine gets again for the first time.  Good grief.  It is Jolt beer!

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

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OLBERMANN:  Support in Europe, skepticism in the Arab world, anticipation for the state of the union.  Reaction worldwide to the Iraqi elections and to President Bush next here on countdown.

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OLBERMANN:  The Iraqi election was featured on the covers of just about all international newspapers today.  Many with the instantly iconic image of the voter showing off his or her purple figure.  Even newspapers in France and Germany they did that.  In our number four story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, just like an election here, you may or may not win at the polls, but if you do, you have to also win in the spin.  Two reports tonight starting in London with our correspondent Keith Miller.

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KEITH MILLER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  President George W.  Bush was not on the ballot but judging by international reaction, he was one of the winners.  Listen to the French.

CHARLES LAMBROSCHINI, “LE FIGARO”:  Suddenly, we have a whole different perspective and it can only benefit George W. Bush.  He has been proven right.

MILLER:  The newspaper “Liberation” called the election a victory for the “kamikazes of democracy.”  In Germany, which also opposed the war, government officials had nothing but praise for the election.  But no indication that Germany is ready to do more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Voting is one thing.  To build up a country is another thing.

MILLER:  In the Arab world, mostly opposed to the American occupation, the election affected TV coverage.  On Sunday, Arab news channels stayed with pictures of people voting, relegating Election Day violence to the news crawl at the bottom of the screen.  But the distrust of American power in the region remains strong.  Egyptians may have been surprised by the high voter turnout, but not swayed by it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The march of democracy is fine.  But you know, military actions and all that bloodshed is really alarming.

MILLER (on camera):  But even before a winner of the election has been declared, there is a new issue open to debate.  Commentators in at least a dozen countries are now talking about an exit strategy for coalition forces.

(voice-over):  And in Britain, the coverage was overshadowed by the apparent shooting down of a British military transport plane, killing at least 10.  A sober reminder that while the balloting in Iraq lasted a day, the bombs and bullets are expected to last longer.  Keith Miller, NBC News, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Back here, there‘s nothing nefarious about the scheduling of the state of the union address this year.  Usually it falls in the last 12 days of January.  In inaugural years like this one, it always shifts to February.  So the timing, a peaceful election on Sunday, state of the union address on Wednesday, is for President Bush just a happy coincidence.  As White House correspondent David Gregory reports, Iraq will come up Wednesday night, largely because Iraq has come up every day for this president for nearly three years.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID GREGORY, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  War and the first spark of democracy in Iraq represent the great gamble of the Bush presidency.

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT:  I believe that when we succeed in Iraq, that America will be more secure.

GREGORY:  Success, it is argued, would be much bigger than one country‘s transformation.

BUSH:  A free Iraq was saying that a clear message to the part of the world desperate for freedom.

GREGORY:  Because a democratic Iraq, argues one supporter of the war, would make Osama bin Laden and his disciples less popular.

DAVID FRUM, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE:  It undercuts the whole poisonous lie of jihad terrorism.  Which is that it is the killers who represent the aspirations of the people of the region.

GREGORY (on camera):  With stakes so high, even on a day filled with hope for the future, American are forced to could not front another possibility.  What if the U.S. fails in Iraq?

FRUM:  The consequences would be grave for the Iraqis themselves. 

They would face civil war.

GREGORY:  Radicals throughout the region would be emboldened.  Terrorists would find new havens.  America‘s image as a strong power would be undermined.  Middle East expert Shibli Tahami (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  U.S. deterrence will be undermined.  People will say this is the biggest country but it couldn‘t get it done.

GREGORY:  Tahami says there‘s another fear, that most Arabs will not be inspired by a democratic Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What they see in Iraq, most of them don‘t interpret as real democracy.  And what the see in Iraq is the violence and anarchy which they fear.

GREGORY:  Still, some analysts argue in the end, the U.S. could lose Iraq and still win the region.  Stability in Afghanistan, a denuclearized Iran or a breakthrough in the Arab/Israeli dispute.  Yet for now it is Iraq which looms the largest for this president, who has wagered that success there means security here.

David Gregory, NBC News, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  What about the balance between security and freedom?  The Bush administration‘s practice of indefinitely detaining enemy combatants was dealt a major blow today by a federal judge who ruled unconstitutional the very process for determing that status.  U.S. District Judge Joyce Green saying prisoners at Guantanamo Bay were entitled to due process under the Fifth Amendment and cannot be denied access to material evidence, nor the help of a lawyer.  She also deemed the term “enemy combatant” unconstitutionally vague and said that in some cases, relied on confessions obtained by torture.

The ruling applies to 50 of the 540 suspects now held at Gitmo, most of them captured during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.  It clashes with another recent case denying constitutional protection to seven of the prisoners there, a fundamental dispute that will have to be resolve on appeal.  But not before Judge Green gets her two cents worth, saying the necessity of the commander in chief to protect against unprecedented threats, quote, “Cannot negate the existence of the most fundamental rights for which the people of this country have fought and died for well over 200 years.”

Not all those rights are serious ones.  You have the right to mock Alaskan sled dog racing in New York.  And watch it on our segment, “Oddball.”  And in court today, Michael Jackson was dressed in white.  Online today, he looked a little green.  Stand by.

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OLBERMANN:  We‘re back and we pause the COUNTDOWN now for the stories the other newscasts won‘t cover because they decide for you what they think is and is not important.  Well, not here.  We‘re the people‘s news show.  Let‘s play “Oddball.”

We begin in New York with the running of the second annual Idiotarod.  Not to be confused with the thousand mile sled dog race across frozen Alaska, the Iditarod.  There‘s the five man shopping cart team, the mid race pit stop to booze it up and the clear encouragement to sabotage other teams with marble, snow balls, oil slicks and overly revealing race uniforms.  We‘re not sure if it has been sanctioned by anybody nor if it is even legal to go across the Brooklyn Bridge like that.  But unlike in real racing, if there is a sudden blizzard and you‘re trapped out there for weeks, you cannot simply eat shopping carts.

Other “Oddball” sporting news, the super bowl is just six days away.  And with the two-week break between playoffs and the big game this year, the league is clearly hurting for event to fill up the time.  Thus the match-up of the NFL mascots versus the Northwestern Middle School in the first annual tackle Reading Bowl.  I‘ve got a mascotphobic sportscaster friend of mine who would be shaking by now.  This looks to be a bit stacked in the favor of the mascots, if you ask me.  But that did not stop the kids from trying.  We have a nice late kick from 00, the cowboy.  That‘s disgusting.  A cheap shot.  Sorry you had to see it here on “Oddball.”  The NFL would get a movie contract.

Wilmington, North Carolina, shattering yet another Guinness world record.  Not for most uncomfortable public soul kissing but for the most continuous hours playing the piano.  Local resident Tim Bowie (ph) had been ticking the ivories for eight hours straight.  More than 800 songs in a row.  Apparently the camera crew was stuck in traffic for three days.  Take our word for it.  He did do it.  He did it and he did it.  See you, adios.  Good night.  Mr. Bowie has left the house.  He never went more than 30 seconds without playing, sitting at the keys for more than two days.  And he could not have done it without hard work, dedication, and his ever present Mozart truckers jug.  Think about it.

Soft lighting, bland background, and is that Vasoline on the edge of the camera frame there?  A home made video statement from Michael Jackson.  This one looks strangely familiar.  Speaking of videos, who would have thought that a few minutes of harmless cartoons could spark a week-long spam e-mail campaign against me.

These stories ahead.  But now, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three news makers.  Number three, the actor Leonardo DiCaprio receiving today from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival a lifetime achievement award.  Mr. DiCaprio is 30 years old.  I guess you can just mail it in from here, buddy.

Number two, the headmaster John Dogett of the Massachusetts prep school, Governor Dummer Academy.  He wants to change the name to something else.  The school is named for a Massachusetts colonial governor, William Dummer who donated the funds to get it started in 1763.  What, this has suddenly just become an issue now?

And number one, the House Senate Joint Committee On Taxation suggesting that a 105 years old tax measure, a surcharge of a penny per phone call, could be extended to all Internet and broad band connections and cell phone usage.  The tax was created in 1898 to pay for Spanish-American War.  You know, Teddy Roosevelt going up to San Juan Hill.  So presume reply they could levy an extra charge if your customized tone rang sound like this, “Charge!”

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OLBERMANN:  Could it mean something about the decline of his popularity in this country or if it means something about the maturation of the taste of, say, the cable news audience is guess work.  But in our third story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, as Michael Jackson went to the start of jury selection for his child molestation case trial, there were 1,000 reporter credentialed.  An extraordinarily large number of them were not from this country.  Jackson cooperated by not doing anything outlandish.  It is your entertainment dollar in action.

Day 441 of the Michael Jackson investigations.  Jackson arriving this morning at the Santa Barbara County courthouse for the first day of the jury selection.  No song, no dance, no seltzer down your pants.  Our correspondent outside the courthouse in Santa Maria, California is Mike Taibbi.  Mike, good evening.

MIKE TAIBBI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Keith.  It good to be on the people‘s show.  All of this on the way it worked outdoes say something about Michael Jackson‘s declining status as a pop superstar.  A pop superstar, even a beleaguered one would draw a crowd bigger than about 200.  Which is, I think, where it peaked there today.  There could have been five media people assign to each of his supporters today.  We chose not to do that but instead to go inside the courtroom to see what was going on. 

The actual business of the day.  And this was as in, as we said before, the start of the jury selection process.  That is to say, those jurors who have exceptions, hardships they wanted to claim to get them out of certain jury duty could say so in front of Judge Rodney Melville and then he would say, “OK, you can leave and the rest can stay and fill out their jury questionnaires.”

Now, Judge Melville is going to be a character in this who you won‘t really get to know him because this is not a televised case.  I‘ll say more about that later.  But Melville runs his court with an iron hand.  He has lectured Michael Jackson, he has lectured the  prosecutors, he has fined one of Michael Jackson‘s lawyers 2,000 saying you‘re going to be paying two large right now because you refuse to follow my orders.  Very stern guy, but today he leavened his performance with some humor, typically droll humor.  One woman at one point said I‘m eight months pregnant.  He said that‘s it.  You‘re excused.  You don‘t have to serve.  The first one to be officially excused.

Another guy said, “Listen, my boss won‘t pay me if I go to jury trial.”  And he says why not?  He‘s supposed to pay you.  He said he‘s a lawyer.  And that led to a chorus of laughter in the courtroom.  But importantly, significantly in terms of news today, at one point an older woman said I can‘t afford to be away from my family.  I‘m an older woman.  They lock juries up, don‘t they?

And Judge Melville said, well, that‘s not going to happen here.  She said, “Can you guarantee I‘ll be home every night?”  And Melville said, “I‘ll be home every night.”  And everybody broke up in laughter.  The bottom line to that, this jury, apparently there are no plans right now for this jury to be sequestered at any point.  Jackson, as you said before, showed up with in his white suit without any of his famous relatives and left in good humor after having after having arrived at court a day after making an 11th hour protestation of his innocence.  The latest in his claims of total innocence in this case.  The jury process will take about three weeks, maybe a little more.  And the actual trial, testimony and opening statements of this trial will begin about a month from now and last between three and five months.  Back to you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  NBC‘s Mike Taibbi outside the Jackson trial venue in Santa Maria, California, where public interest was conspicuous by its absence.  Mike, great thanks.

There is a gag order on all the trial‘s participants.  Once again, fitting terminology.  Albeit unintentionally so.  After a series of leaks of sealed grand jury testimony, harmful to the defense, that Judge Rodney Melville allowed Jackson to grant an interview which he could respond.  When the interview was not run, Jackson was then permitted to do an online response.  And no, do not adjust your set.  Either the recording made it appear that he has either become phosphorescent or he really is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL JACKSON, ENTERTAINER:  In the last few weeks, a large amount of ugly, malicious information has been released to the media about me.  Apparently this information was leaked through transcripts in a grand jury proceeding where neither my lawyers nor I ever appeared.  The information is disgusting and false.  Years ago, I allowed a family to visit and spend some time at Neverland.  Neverland is my home.  I allowed this family into my home because they told me their son was ill with cancer and needed my help.  Through the years, I have helped thousands of children who are ill or in distress.

These events have cause ad nightmare for my family, my children and me.  I never intend to place myself in so vulnerable a position ever again.  I love my community and I have great faith in our justice system.  Please keep an open mind and let me have my day in court.  I deserve a fair trial like every other American citizen.  I will be acquitted and vindicated when the truth is told.  Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Did that recorded statement remind you of anything?  Say, Michael Jackson‘s previous direct to video denial or the message his sister roared last year after the Super Bowl?  We‘re beginning to see a theme emerge here.  Who knows?  Maybe a DVD collection as well.

They sing, they dance, they flash their cans.  But as we have discovered over the years with the first family of pop, oftentimes, things do go wrong.  Whether you pose for “Playboy” or you‘ve name your kid “Jermajesty.”  Maybe the media attacked you for playing peek-a-boo over a balcony in the nosebleeds or maybe your head caught fire.  When this good family has gone bad, they simply send out the signal and the Jackson family A/V club reconvenes.  Tito fires up the camcorder, Marlon jimmies those lights just right, and Germane scribbles out some line.  Lights, camera, squirming.  They‘re the one that got Michael to put the chimp down and convince America he was innocent in 1993.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACKSON:  I do not think I am God but I do try to be godlike in my heart.

OLBERMANN:  They urged Janet not to do her videotaped apology topless. 

And now she is back in everyone‘s good graces.  Isn‘t she?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JANET JACKSON, ENTERTAINER:  I am really sorry if I offended anyone. 

That was truly not my intention.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  They also do out of housework.  You may remember President Clinton‘s grand jury testimony.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT:  It depend upon what the meaning of the word is is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Certainly they inspired the word production on those Osama tapes.  The Paris Hilton video.  Although that one didn‘t have the same quality of lighting as the others.  And now in the third installment of the Jackson A/B Club presents, Michael is back at it.  Out in front of the charts this time, and also, sporting that “I spent too much time inside the nuclear reactor look.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL JACKSON:  I deserve a fair trial like every other American citizen.  I will be acquitted and vindicated when the truth is told.  Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  He‘s just glowing with good health.  First the controversy over the too tolerant sponge.  Now the new secretary of education against a bunny who accepts lesbians.  The latest on the cartoon conspiracy consuming our society and why advertising for reruns of the show “Sex and the City” has sparked a $10 million lawsuit by Yogi Berra.  Huh?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  See, first it was this sponge.  Now, a second cartoon character has gotten embroiled in a same-sex scandal.  Next, it will be cats and dogs living together.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If in the areas of public morals and values, 2004 was the year of loofah, then it appears 2005 is the year of the sponge.  Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, how something we reported here week from last provoked a spamming campaign by a fundamentalist group and how the most aptly named secretary in our history has assumed her new job with a controversy already in progress.  Margaret Spellings, there was a career choice waiting to happen, was sworn in today by president Bush near lay week after the secretary had jumped the gun a bid and written to one of the programming heads of public television warning him not to broadcast an episode of the kids‘ show “Postcards from Buster.” 

The Buster-buster had written PBS executive office per she had very strong concern about an episode in the series called “Sugar Time.”  In that episode, Buster, an animated 8-year-old rabbit with asthma visits real life people around the country.  He has previously met people at the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming and some skiers in Utah and rodeo barrel racers in Houston.  The idea is to generally introduce a new family each week from a different culture or cultural background.

But in the “Sugar Time” episode, Buster was to meet a little girl in Vermont and her mom and step mom.  She showed Buster such dangerous and mind warping event as how to make maple syrup and cheese.  Jillian Piper and Karen Pike (ph), the mom and step mom are, of course, a same sex couple.  It is to that which the new education secretary objected and over which the implicit threat of cutting off funds to PBS hangs.

So, to paraphrase a satirical cry across the never, first they came for Tinky Winky and I did not speak out because I was not a Teletubby.  Then they came for Barney and I did not protest because I was not purple. 

Then they came for Buster, and Spongebob.

Two weeks ago, we reported that Dr. James Dobson, founder of a fundamentalist group called Focus on the Family had invoked that name during a speech criticizing another group called We Are Family Foundation for what he called the pro homosexual agenda.  Dobson asked his largely congressional audience, “Does anyone here know Spongebob?”  And then went on to explain how the absorbent kids heroes and dozens of other heroes had been used by we are family in a tolerance video sent by more than—sent to more than 6,000 elementary schools.

Dobson criticized the teacher‘s materials, issued and included with the videotape and the anti-gay-bashing tone of the We Are Family Foundation Web site.  The video, of course, portions which of you are seeing now, is not only not about gays.  It doesn‘t even mention sexuality.  But when Dobson was widely criticized for connecting Spongebob to his latest anti-tolerance crusade, he struck back.  On his Web site, he installed a mechanism by which followers could send e-mails to me and four other reporters who had called him on this silliness.  It claims its member have sent 30,000 such spams to the personal e-mail addresses of the five of us reporters, although I only got 2,000 of them here.  I feel shortchanged.  Although Dobson insists he never said Spongebob was gay and is not criticizing the cartoon show, nor the video itself, some of those who sent us e-mails did not quite see it that way.  They apparently want their crabby patties and eat them, too.

From Dietrich, Illinois, someone writes, “Dr. Dobson did not say Spongebob is gay.  That is only a theory.  It has been around for a while.” 

And from Estes Park, Colorado, “I believe him, Dr. Dobson, to be correct in his assumption of homosexual references in the show.  We have watched this cartoon for years and recently it has appeared to us to be more homosexual in nature.” 

A St. Louis area church felt Dr. Dobson‘s Spongebob church need someday balancing.  The guest of honor yesterday at the altar of the Evangelical United Church of Christ in Webster Groves, Missouri, was the sponge in question.  “Bullying and namecalling have no place in a community of faith,” Pastor Katy Hawker told her congregation.  “We will not allow our silence to be interpreted as acquiescence.”

Back to our reporting.  It is probably instructive that before we aired the original story, we contact the press department of Dr. Dobson‘s group.  We outlined what we were going to broadcast with.  He asked if they wanted to put a little distance between its point of view and the dragging of a cartoon character into this.  They gave us a statement.  But never said we were quoting Dr. Dobson out of context or unfairly representing his position or remarks.  Not until after the public flap began did they say anything.  And just for the record, there were a lot of e-mails reminding me what, quote, “we,” unquote, did to Dan Rather.  Well, not all of them mentioned Dan Rather.

“Haven‘t you and the liberal media learned anything from what happened to Tom Brokaw at ABC.”

And there was one Focus on the Family e-mailer from Mason, Ohio, who was unhappy that i did not agree with her forecast, that I would be going to hell when I replied to her e-mail.  She in turn replied.

“I showed respect even though I disagreed with you and you have the audacity to call me intelligent.”

Sorry, madam.  You have me there.  I won‘t make that mistake again.

Does that sound like a remark you might attribute to the great baseball star, D-Day veteran and creator of his own language, Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra?  Well, be careful how you answer that.  He has just sued somebody for $10 million for using his name without his consent.  That‘s the lead item in our celebrity and gossip round up.  Keeping tabs. 

The Web site, the smokinggun.com is reporting that he has hit the TV network TBS with a suit over advertising for its reruns in the series “Sex in the City.”  The bus shelter and subway station ads asked for a definition of yogasm.  And one of the multiple choice answers is b, sex with Yogi Berra.  Berra says he is a married grandfather and a, quote, “deeply religious man who has maintained and continues to maintain a moral lifestyle.”  He wants $10 million in damages.  No comment from the network, and no, Yogi was not asked about the series itself so he did not say, yeah, I like all them girls.  Sarah, Jessica, and Parker.

And last month, the rapper Snoop Dogg, known hereafter as Calvin Brodus, or simply as the defendant, sued claiming he was the subject of an extortion scheme planned by a woman who had claimed she had been sexually assaulted.  Today the woman sued.  She is Kiley Bell, a make-up artist who was attending to him when he recorded ABC‘s “Jimmy Kimmel Show” in January 2003.  She claims she was drugged, and raped in the dressing room at the program studios by him and four of his colleagues.  She wants $25 million in damages from Brodus, ABC and the owners, claiming that Brodus‘ dressing room at the show had been stocked with quote, “large quantities of champagne and marijuana.”

Also tonight, it may be as much of a brain storm as the day some guy decided to mix chocolate and peanut butter.  Or it could be like the day some marker decide that had Coke tasted all wrong and needed to be replaced.  Next, beer with caffeine in it!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  You‘ve probably never wondered about how they decide to introduce new brands of beer.  After tonight‘s number one story in the COUNTDOWN, you might spend all day tomorrow considering it even when you‘re having the double mochaccino frappe.  Legendary is the story of the head of Budweiser, August Busch, buying the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team in 1953.  As his fellow owners were about to vote their approval, Busch explained he‘d be renaming the Cardinals ballpark Budweiser Stadium.  “The hell you will,” his fellow owners said.  Thinking quickly, Mr. Busch said, “All right, I‘ll just name it Busch Stadium, after myself.”  The owners voted him in.  And as soon as he could, he got to a pay phone, called the brewery in St. Louis and told his vice president for marketing, I want to you introduce a new brand, Busch Beer.

Today, however, new beers come into the world without such serendipity meaning someone in Anheuser-Busch has actually decided deliberately and intentionally introduced something called B to the E.  It‘s beer with caffeine in it.  No, I‘m not kidding.  Sold in 10oz cans, each dosage is 54 milligrams of caffeine, about half of what you get in a cup of coffee.  They also put ginseng in it.  The result, according to the brew messter—messter, that‘s a Freudian slip.  The brewmaster who concocted it, is a beverage with aroma with blackberry and a little bit of cherry which is unexpected.  It has typical beer flavors like hops and malts and finishes with what we‘re calling the “wow” factor.

Or as a reviewer for “Rolling Stone” magazine put it, “It tastes like cough syrup.”  Does America really need coffee with a head on it or cola that can get you drunk?  Who better to join us now than the host of a TV show with the word “Insomniac” in the title, “Insomniac with Dave Attell” on Comedy Central, to be precise.  And his standup tour begins on February 11th through the 13th in Sacramento, California, Dave, thank you for time.  Good evening.

DAVE ATTELL, COMEDIAN:  Thank you for having me, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  You know, I was thinking about it tasting like cough syrup.  When I was in college, a lot of us used to drink cough syrup as a cheap after dinner drink.  There was a trace amount of chloroform in it back then so there was little better kick, but is this a good idea or is this just insane?

ATTELL:  I think that‘s the last thing you need when you‘re drinking with alcohol is more energy.  I don‘t think we should mess with a good thing.  Alcohol does its job, it makes, let‘s call it, ugly women attractive it makes ugly guys attractive to women it does what it‘s supposed to do.  If anything they‘re going to add to alcohol, it should be a helmet and the number of lawyer.

OLBERMANN:  And the other thing, here, you don‘t want—as I suggested earlier—nervous or agitated drunks.  You put them in a car, you get two chances and it could be a horrible accident from the alcohol or just not being able to hold the wheel.

ATTELL:  Maybe this is designed so you can drink at work finally.  You really are only half doing something wrong since some of it is coffee.

OBERMANN:  There is in theory a genuinely dark side here.  It‘s not beer with caffeine in it.  It‘s coffee or cola with alcohol in it.  If you put caffeine in the beer, you might even allow people to just keep drink longer before they pass out or they burst into flames.  Should we look into a different delivery methods for this alcoholic substance?

ATTELL:  I have to tell you personally I‘m a crunk juice guy so—um, I think it‘s bad to mess with something that does work what‘s next?  What‘s next, fiber and pot?  I don‘t get it, you know.

OLBERMANN:  The name, B to the E.  Is there—to your experience something particularly loopy about the beverage industry in particular or this just par for the course for American business?  We had clear soda.  Zima.  This year is the 20th anniversary of New Coke.  We‘re still talking about how well that went over.  Is there something?  Do they have that marijuana with fiber in the ad offices at the breweries in the beverage companies?

ATTELL:  I don‘t know how they come was not names and things but I guess it‘s kind of a B to the E and then eventually to the A and to the AA meeting I guess, I don‘t know, but I don‘t think you need energy you when you drink.  For me personally—and look at me, I am a drinker.  That‘s the last thing i want to do is head butt a gumball machine or anything like that.

OLBERMANN:  And a ball of energy to begin with?

ATTELL:  Right, exactly.

OLBERMANN:  One of the premises of your show is you go around and shoot during insomniac-kind of hours, overnight.  Obviously people who may have alcohol in them are unstable and hard to deal with.  Do you think this will personally affect you?  Now you have to go out and essentially people who have the combination that sort of best represents angel dust, alcohol and caffeine?

ATTELL:  I guess I‘ll have to bring out tequila decaf shots to bring them down or just some doughnuts or some kind of dipping things to get them off the caffeine part of it so they can go back to being normal drunks like me.

OLBERMANN:  Lastly, do you think this is Anheuser-Busch‘s revenge against Starbucks trying to bring back some of the liquid dollar back into the brewmeister where it belongs?

ATTELL:  I think it‘s great you can get the coffee and the beer together which would be perfect, because there should be prizes in beer too.  You know, maybe a whistle or something like that make it like Cracker Jacks.

OLBERMANN:  If you drink enough of it you‘ll get a whistle.  No question about it.  Dave Attell, the host of “Insomniac with Dave Attell” on Comedy Central.  Many thanks for joining us tonight.  Good luck on your trips.

ATTELL:  Thanks for having me.

OLBERMANN:  And that‘s COUNTDOWN.  Thank you for being part of it.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Double mint cappuccino light, yeah.  Good night and good luck.

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

END   

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