updated 4/13/2005 12:46:27 PM ET 2005-04-13T16:46:27

Guest: Craig Crawford, Lewis Black Anne Bremner, Csaba Csere

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

You heard how Senators Kerry and Lugar outed a CIA agent at the Bolton hearings yesterday, used his real name, big scandal?  No.  It turns out the agent had already been publicly identified as an agent at least 10 time in newspapers, congressional committees, and by a private speaker‘s bureau.

Meets with Sharon, listens to “My Sharona (ph).”  What‘s in the president‘s iPod?  Lewis Black joins us.

Developments in the case of ABC News anchor Peter Jennings.  We‘ll have the latest.

And yes, I know you already know about high gas prices.  But did you know what they are doing to the prices of gasoline-electric hybrid cars, like the Prius?  A used Prius now costs more than a new one.

All that and more now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

It seemed to me a big political (UNINTELLIGIBLE), maybe even a big political scandal.  Two senators, one from each party, blowing the cover of a CIA agent by inadvertently using his real name instead of his unimaginative cover, Mr. Smith, during the confirmation hearings for U.N.  ambassador-designate John Bolton.  You know, Mr. Smith goes to Washington and gets screwed.

The Associated Press reported the story.  The infamous Internet gossip Matt Drudge reported the story.  And oh, by the way, Grudge blamed Democrat John Kerry while leaving out Republican Richard Lugar.

But it turns out there was no cover left to be blown by anybody.  When Kerry and Lugar forgot to call Fulton Armstrong Mr. Smith, it marked at least the 10th time in the last five years that Armstrong had been publicly identified as a CIA or national intelligence officer.

First, to the nonexposure-exposure moment itself.  Good political comedy, but evidently not much more than that.  Everybody else called Mr.  Armstrong, Mr. Smith.  Senators Lugar and Kerry kind of forgot.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  This is reading from Mr. Flites‘s (ph) interview, where he says, Did Otto Reich share his belief that Fulton Armstrong should be removed from his position?  The answer is yes.  Did John Bolton share that view?  Mr. Flites said yes.

JOHN BOLTON, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS NOMINEE:  As I said, I had lost confidence in—Mr. Smith, and I conveyed that.  I thought that was the honest thing to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The usually impeccable Associated Press turned that into a story headline, “Senators Try, and Maybe Fail, to Keep an Undercover Officer‘s Name a Secret.”  Actually, they didn‘t.  Since 1999, Fulton Armstrong has been identified by at least four newspapers, two magazines, a federal agency, a House committee, and in a list of expert speakers on the Web site of the American Management Association, which described Mr.  Armstrong as, quote, “National intelligence officer for Latin America, long-time CIA expert in the region.”

An awful security breach in the Senate yesterday.  And in the newspaper “The Charleston Gazette,” on January 26, 2003.  This now appears to be a tempest in a teapot, blown up by some rare sloppy reporting out of the Associated Press, and some not-so-rare sloppy—whatever it is he does, by the notorious Drudge.

But to help sort out this strange story, and analyzing the hearing that overshadowed it, I‘m pleased to be joined once again by “Congressional Quarterly” contributing editor and MSNBC analyst, Greg Crawford.

Good evening, Craig.

CRAIG CRAWFORD, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”:  Hi, Keith.  I think this is a story line we‘d get if Oliver Stone directed a “Seinfeld” episode.

OLBERMANN:  Exactly.  But how on earth did it get eight paragraphs on the Associated Press and in every—nearly every newspaper in America, without so much as a denial from either Kerry or Lugar?  It‘s sort of like the—what the dog didn‘t do in the night here.  Where‘s their response?

CRAWFORD:  Hey, everyone was hands-off after this.  It seems like a rare stumble, as you mentioned, from Associated Press, which is so reliable so much of the time.  But obviously, somewhere along the line, that reporter—we need some more autopsy, perhaps, on what happened.  But somebody has put the word out that this was not supposed to be revealed.

It‘s all part of the culture of secrecy in Washington.  There‘s almost an assumption that everything‘s secret until proven otherwise.

OLBERMANN:  But this case, in which a not-exposed CIA agent kind of got more attention than what remains of the story from last year, the actually exposed CIA agent Valerie Plame, why is that?

CRAWFORD:  I think there was some eagerness on the side of administration backers because of the Valerie Plame story.  And I believe the grand jury is still underway, investigating that leak.  Some inclination with administration backers to seize on an example of a Democrat revealing the identity of a potential cover (UNINTELLIGIBLE) cover story.

And so I think, you know, it played into partisan hands, and it got a little more action than it might have otherwise, because it seemed like a good partisan football.

OLBERMANN:  And Richard Lugar, the Republican chairman of the committee, who also did it, he was just sort of doing an impression of John Kerry?  (UNINTELLIGIBLE), is that the explanation of that scenario?

CRAWFORD:  Well, frequently, Senator Lugar is not on message with this administration.  And I think probably there was some eagerness to go at him too from Bush backers.

OLBERMANN:  Wow.

All right, well, back to these hearings themselves, the John Bolton confirmation hearings.  Today a former official at State, a conservative, a Republican, called this man a kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy.  Is Bolton in trouble with not getting confirmed?  Or is he just going to get the—this now traditional congressional equivalent of the frat hazing, where you get paddled and covered in syrup and you‘re admitted?

CRAWFORD:  Well, when you get down to the vote-counting and the committee, it would take just one Republican to switch if there‘s party-line voting, which we expect.  And Lincoln Chaffee, senator from Rhode Island, is the only one who‘s indicated he‘s wavering, although he‘s leaning toward supporting the nomination.

So it seems as though Bolton will be confirmed.

This was a rough day of testimony about him.  And I think that‘s another reason the story we talked about earlier was—the Bush backers were so eager to get out there, as a distraction from some of the testimony today, which was pretty rough on Bolton.

OLBERMANN:  And yesterday too, I mean, there were opponents who played tapes of him, nominee to be ambassador of the U.N.—or to the U.N., and saying, 11 years ago, There is no such thing as the United Nations.  After the inaugural, there seemed to be an administration outreach to the world, to Europe, the trips.  Is this nomination saying, Well, you know, forget that, we‘re back to saying, Our way or the highway?  Or is there some other message behind it?

CRAWFORD:  Well, the words from the administration, Keith, have been very conciliatory.  President Bush ate fries with the French president.  And—but at the same time, the deeds are just as tough as ever.  And this nomination, also Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank‘s another example.

You know, I did some reporting for a column a couple of weeks ago on, you know, what the administration‘s strategy is long term.  And I learned some interesting things.  I mean, one of the things that these nominations represent is an effort by the administration to, long term, try to build some new alliances around the world and shift the emphasis of such heavy concentrations of troops, for example, in traditional allies like Germany, and move them around the world into some developing nations, where they can more quickly move to hot spots around the planet.

And getting Wolfowitz at World Bank, where he‘ll be in charge of loans to developing nations, and now Bolton, a very powerful figure, get the United Nations to do some of the diplomacy.  That‘s part of what they‘re up to here.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Craig Crawford of MSNBC and “Congressional Quarterly.”  As ever, Craig, great thanks for your time.  And especially for that last piece of insight.  It begins to make some sense now.  Thank you.

CRAWFORD:  All right.

OLBERMANN:  From the new man at the U.N. to the old one, and it would have been hard to imagine at the time of his nomination that when director of national intelligence designate John Negroponte got before Congress, his hearings would go easier than almost anybody else‘s, yet they have.

Negroponte expected to win easy approval now from the committee and the full Senate, promising big changes to America‘s spy agencies.  But today, not yet able, he says, to spell out exactly what those might be.

The proceedings, not entirely devoid of criticism, Democrats still chafing about botched intelligence in Iraq, suggesting he might not be impartial when it comes to intelligence information, raising allegations that while ambassador to Honduras two decades ago, Negroponte failed to report abuses by Honduran death squads, which were funded and trained by the CIA .  Negroponte has repeatedly said he did not believe death squads were operating there.

The news flow is almost seamless tonight, from the U.N. nominee to the old U.N. ambassador, who was also the first ambassador to Iraq, to the celebrations of the second anniversary of the fall of Baghdad and Saddam Hussein.

There is one slight bump there.  The anniversary was actually last Saturday.  But the president and his defense secretary, both hitting the road today in honor of that two-year mark.  President Bush to Ford Hood in Texas, thanking soldiers for their service, but saying it is not yet time to bring them home.  “The New York Times” reporting perhaps that time will come in 2006.

Now, two years and three days after the fall of Baghdad and of that statue, the president believing that April 9, 2003, will be one for the history books.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Millions of Iraqis and Americans, it is a day they will never forget.  The toppling of Saddam Hussein‘s statue in Baghdad will be recorded alongside the fall of the Berlin Wall as one of the great moments in the history of liberty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We‘ll see.

The president‘s defense secretary, Mr. Rumsfeld, landing in Iraq today for a surprise visit there, handing out Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts to U.S. troops at Camp Liberty.  Also meeting for the first time with Iraq‘s news leaders and advising them to avoid unnecessary turbulence on the path to stability and democracy, and to stick to that timeline for a new constitution.

And speaking of anniversaries, on the first of May, it will have been nine months since we last heard anything about the color-coded terror threat level.  That‘s when things went all orange around five financial centers in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Newark.  If that was the last of the controversial alerts, it was indeed a controversial one when it proved that the recon photos taken of those facilities were at least three years old.

Today the Justice Department salvaged something out of the deal and tried to take a little sting out of the age of the info by indicting three men on charges of a continuing conspiracy to commit terrorism.

Our correspondent Pete Williams with the details from Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETE WILLIAMS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  For nearly four months in late 2000 and early 2001, federal prosecutors now say, three men on a mission from al Qaeda carefully studied five potential economic targets.  The men, all British residents, were among eight suspects arrested last August in London and held there ever since.

Now the U.S. has filed charges of its own.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The three of them are currently in custody in the United Kingdom, and the United States will seek their extradition at the conclusion of the prosecution in the U.K.

WILLIAMS:  In several visits, officials say, they arrived at New York‘s Kennedy Airport, first in mid-August of 2000, and went to Washington to check out the World Bank and International Monetary Fund buildings.  Over the next few weeks, they also conducted surveillance on the New York Stock Exchange and Citigroup Center in Manhattan, and the Prudential headquarters in Newark.

The FBI says they returned again in March 2001 for another month and took pictures with video cameras.

When the plot was discovered last summer, the terror threat level was raised around those five buildings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

JOHN SEIGENTHALER, ANCHOR:  Good evening, everyone.

We begin tonight with a new terror warning from the Department of Homeland Security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hi, how are you doing?

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

WILLIAMS:  Asa Hutchinson, a former top Homeland Security official, says that was the right warning to send, even though the surveillance turned out to be more than three years old.

ASA HUTCHINSON, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY OFFICIAL:  With al Qaeda‘s patience, you know that time is not of great consequence, and it was just as relevant in 2004 as it was in 2001.

WILLIAMS:  The man considered the ringleader is Diren Barot (ph), also called Esa al-Hindi (ph).  Officials say he was sent at the suggestion of bin Laden himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Clearly, some of them, certainly, person who‘s referred to al—as al-Hindi is a major al Qaeda player.

WILLIAMS (on camera):  Tonight, officials say their investigation has so far found no evidence that anyone here in the U.S. helped the three men carry out their terrorist surveillance.

Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, the great secret is revealed.  We now know what President Bush listens to while he is exercising.  The commander in chief is part of the iPod nation.  Comedian and commentator Lewis Black breaks down the presidential hits for us.

And inside the courtroom again at the Michael Jackson trial today, the accuser‘s stepfather under oath, speaking of the lengths Jackson went to keep his family happy, including, perhaps, showing them Michael Jackson Puppet Theater.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  All ye know and all ye need know is that President Bush has an iPod, and it is a John Fogarty song, and no, it‘s not Fortunate Son.”  It‘s “Center Field,” you know, Put me in coach, I‘m ready to play, well, one that, upon its release in 1995 made half of America and 90 percent of baseball physically nauseous.

In a moment, I‘ll be joined by comedian, commentator, and now author Lewis Black.

First, more on the iPod.  This is the one his daughters gave him last July.  “The New York Times” quoting the president‘s chief media strategist, Mark MacKinnon (ph), as saying there are 250 songs on it, leaving him a little space for more downloads, say, about 9,750 more.

Lot of country, George Jones, Allan (ph) Jackson foremost, and some rock, Van Morrison‘s “Brown-Eyed Girl,” the 1979 one-hit wonder “My Sharona” by The Knack, which often vies for first place on lists of dirtiest rock lyrics ever, with “Miracles,” by Jefferson Starship.

The rest of the music supply is pretty eclectic, just like anybody else who‘s ever filled an iPod or made a tape or a disk for the reason the president uses his machine, working out, in the president‘s case, mountain biking, 1,300 calories‘ worth last Saturday reported at the Crawford ranch.

And all this got 14 paragraphs in “The New York Times” and considerable TV newstime today, like you‘re seeing now.  Which reminds us that there‘s nothing better than when politics breaks loose from the surly bonds of gravity and returns to its original purpose, as a form of American entertainment, somewhere between satire and lap dancing.

Always ready to help that process along, our old friend Lewis Black, the author of the new book “Nothing Sacred,” which is available now without a prescription.

Good evening, Lewis.

LEWIS BLACK, AUTHOR, “NOTHING SACRED”:  Good evening.

OLBERMANN:  Well, we may have lots of other questions about Mr. Bush, but at least we know what‘s in his iPod.  I feel safer tonight.  Do you not?

BLACK:  Well, it certainly explains a lot.  Wow, whew, I mean, it‘s almost like the soundtrack for—the same sound track a brain-dead person might have.

OLBERMANN:  Including “My Sharona,” though?  Don‘t you think that‘s a little odd?

BLACK:  Well, “My Sharona,” yes, but that‘s still—that‘s the one song that they—it‘s, like, probably the hippest song on the thing.  Like, that‘s the hippest song.  How sad is that?  Allan Jackson, I—ah, I imagine by the time you listen to all the music he had on there, I would rather just someone take a hammer and a nail and put it through my head.  Just right through the eardrums.  So that sound alone would be enough to make me happy.

It‘s beyond—and then I also think there‘s probably a giant space where there‘s a voice that just says, You are the best.  You are the master of the universe.  You truly are the best.  Could you believe that thing?  You were commenting, I was watching earlier, the thing where he‘s out, where he says that the fall of the statue of Saddam would be the equivalent of the falling of the Berlin Wall.

I—you‘re not, you‘re—you‘re not supposed to say that.  You let historians say that.  You let other people.  You don‘t—if you‘re the architect of what still might be called madness, you can‘t be the one to pat yourself on the back.

OLBERMANN:  Maybe that‘s on the iPod.  Have you thought of that?  I mean, you know, it‘s like a—it‘s a—you know, it‘s (UNINTELLIGIBLE) --

Norman Vincent Peale, power of positive thinking kind of thing.

BLACK:  It is.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, I kind of recoiled on that too, and we‘re doing a newscast here, so I don‘t want to take sides on it.  But it was, like, on behalf of history, I‘d like to say, Hold on, give it a couple more years first.

BLACK:  He‘s constantly doing that sort of a thing, that he‘s the Dale Carnegie president.  As long as I‘m positive, we‘ll all be positive.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  I think we also, though, in this, we have gotten an answer from the big mystery from the first debate last year.  Look at the picture on the screen, the apparent bulge under the jacket, which we saw in several places.  We theorized that it‘s a radio receiver, so he could hear Karl Rove with real answers?  No.  Heart mini-defibrillator, because he had some sort of medical emergency?  No.  It‘s his iPod.  And right there, as he‘s looking at Jim Lehrer, he is listening to “My Sharona.”  Isn‘t it?

BLACK:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE).OLBERMANN:  That‘s it?

BLACK:  It‘s got to be it.  It‘s the one thing that makes any sort of sense.  It‘s why I watch your shows for moments like that.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, Lewis.

Let‘s get to change topics here.  We have an Al Sharpton story, which is always by itself usually an invitation to humor.  But he just—he‘s walked into another plane propeller.  “The Philadelphia Inquirer” said the FBI‘s investigating whether he legally raised funds for his presidential campaign, maybe even pocketed some of them.  And that‘s not meant figuratively.  That meant—it meant he went into a room and put the money in his pockets.

It explains, at least, why he stayed in the presidential race as long as he did, right?

BLACK:  It certainly does.  But then again, when you—you know, the sad thing is, as you reach that level of paranoia after a while, where you know you‘ve got, you‘ve got (UNINTELLIGIBLE), you‘ve got the FBI and Al Sharpton.  Where do you side?  It‘s, where do you go in a situation like that?  Either way, you lose.

OLBERMANN:  Back to the iPod.  Lastly, do you like this nominee for ambassador to the U.N., Mr. Bolton, the guy who wants to turn it into luxury East Side condos or something?

BLACK:  Yes, tremendous just get rid of the top 38 floors, or whatever it was, you don‘t need that.  That‘s perfect.  Another good choice, another reaching out.  You know what you want to do is, you want to send somebody to the U.N. with a message that you hate them, because you just kind of spend all of that time over in Europe sucking up, trying to get things back in order, and then you send this guy, who‘s been out of control for God knows how long as regards the U.N.

You know, yes, here‘s a guy who‘s going to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- here‘s a guy who probably, when kids came to the house with the UNICEF cup, he grabbed the pennies.

OLBERMANN:  Lewis Black, correspondent for “The Daily Show With John Stewart” on Comedy Central, and now presenting that personal belief set that you heard a little bit of now in his new work, “Nothing Sacred,” available at bookstores and other stores that sell books.

Lewis, as always, thank you for coming on the show.

BLACK:  Always a pleasure.  Hope to see you soon.

OLBERMANN:  Take care.

Also tonight on COUNTDOWN, trouble getting out of bed in the morning?  Some geniuses at MIT have come up with a whole new way to help.  Believe it not, that‘s it.

And extreme measures to save a buck at the gas pump.  Used hybrid cars, used ones, cost more than new ones.  Why would that be, Keith?  I don‘t know.  I‘ll check later on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  We‘re back, and it‘s time once again to pause the COUNTDOWN for our nightly segment of arts and culture.  Tonight, I‘m sorry to say, there will be no culture.  Also, no arts.

Let‘s play Oddball.

There is some science.  We begin inside the labs at MIT, that would be the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, if you‘re not up to speed on that whole science thing.

Rarely does one of our newsmakers graduate to its own item in Oddball, but there he is.  You heard about him, you loved him, you wanted to meet him.  It‘s Clockie (ph).  Hooray, Clockie!

Clockie is the world‘s first alarm clock with wheels and shag carpeting, designed to run around your bedroom and hide, forcing you to actually get out of bed to shut him off.  No snooze for you.

Clockie‘s got a built-in device that sends it to a different hiding place each day, so you‘ll never know where Clockie is.  Clockie should be on the market sometime next year, and at competitive prices, so you can buy a new one after that inevitable morning comes when you get out the nine iron and you beat Clockie to death.

To Waikiki, Hawaii, where 5-0 is investigating the case of grand theft clams.  Somebody snatched these rare, endangered giant clams out of their habitat at the Waikiki Aquarium, then walked out with the little fellows.  Police presume the perpetrator stuffed them down his pants.  Book ‘em, Dano.

Officials feared the shellfish had met an awful fate.  Perhaps they had become a big serving of clams casino.  Then late Saturday, an aquarium guard found a strange bag at the front gate.  The clam nappers—clam nappers—apparently had a change of heart and returned them safe and sound in Tupperware containers.

Moral?  Those clams should thank Poseidon that the Hawaii Aquarium does not treat strange bags the way the Capitol police in D.C. do.

That was my rare clam collection!

Michael Jackson back in court, the family of the accuser back.  Also back, Michael Jackson Puppet Theater.

And a look ahead to what could be another critical moment in that trial.

Also, an ex-con on the run, wanted for rape, double murder, but no ordinary ex-con key, a former author and advocate of prison reform.

Those stories ahead.  Now, though, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, FEMA.  The hard-working folks at the Federal Emergency Management Administration, they paid for 315 funerals for victims of Florida‘s hurricane cluster last summer, 315.  Which has raised eyebrows, because only 123 people died during Florida‘s hurricane cluster last summer.

Two, Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister, tried to rally the troops as the conservatives try again to unseat Labour and Tony Blair in the general election next month.  She tried to rally them at a fund-raiser at Stringfellows, a female strip club in London.  The 79-year-old Mrs. Thatcher did not take it all off, and grateful conservatives donated thousands.

And number one, Jeannette Hall, a taxidermist from Nevada.  She thought she‘d created the next best thing in taxidermy, pet cushions.  Yes, pet cushions.  And yes, it is as bad as you think: remembering your beloved late dog or cat by turning their skin and fur into a fluffy pillowcase.  And yes, Miss Hall is in hiding after death threats.  And yes, a taxidermy association member said he wasn‘t sure this was such a good idea.  And he added...

(LAUGHTER)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Back to the courtroom in Santa Maria, California, for the latest challenge to your and my intestinal fortitude.  It is your entertainment and tax dollars in action, day 512 of the Michael Jackson investigation, the prosecution swinging the legal pendulum back from alleged prior bad acts committed by Jackson to those for which he is actually on trial.

Today‘s theme, the accusation that he held his accuser‘s family as virtual captives and compelled them to participate in the so-called “rebuttal video” after the Martin Bashir documentary, the stepfather of the accuser in this case today alleging two associates of Jackson offered bribes to the family in the form of college tuition and a home in exchange for their participation in that video.  When that was refused, he said, they offered, quote, “protection.”

He told prosecutors the family was frightened, being kept under constant surveillance, and that when his stepson return from Neverland for the last time, he‘d changed, acting, quote, “brainwashed,” a shortened day in court preventing a full cross-examination of the witness, who will return to the stand tomorrow and may be followed by the accuser‘s mother.  More on that in a moment.

In the shortened court day, there was evidently no time for a reprise of the subject that yesterday baffled one witness and turn America‘s collective stomach, but it has reared its ugly head—OK, its ugly head licking, in the latest edition of our quasi-serious interpretive recreation of the trial, “Michael Jackson Puppet Theatre.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  It‘s amazing how people misinterpret things.  I mean, that testimony about the head licking?  I only lick children‘s heads to help them stay clean.  And me crying when his mom wouldn‘t let him sleep with me?  Goodness, that was only because I was worried about how he would keep clean all night.  Hey, Mr. Mesereau, think they‘ll buy that?  Half day!  Whoa!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Today, no head licking, just more conspiracy, and in court for all of it, criminal defense attorney, former sex crimes prosecutor, Anne Bremner, who joins us now.  Good evening, Ms. Bremner.

ANNE BREMNER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY, FORMER SEX CRIMES PROSECUTOR: 

Good evening.

OLBERMANN:  Do you think that the stepfather here managed to get the jury to leap with him in that testimony?  Because it is something of a leap, his son, as he described it, more or less being held hostage by Michael Jackson and his people.  Obviously, that‘s damaging to Michael Jackson, but whatever was happening, it didn‘t seem to be bad enough for the stepfather to actually do anything about it.

BREMNER:  Exactly.  The fact that he didn‘t do anything about it basically underscores the fact that it probably wasn‘t that serious and didn‘t happen.  And he made a good appearance, but he didn‘t do a thing, didn‘t lift a finger.  And we also know in this false imprisonment, that involved where the mother would go and get her nails done, get full-body waxes, and of course, they were traveling in white Rolls-Royces.  So these are very weak counts, and they didn‘t get very far with this witness.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  There‘s imprisonment, and then there‘s imprisonment.  But today—this was a preamble, actually, wasn‘t it?  I mean, the big show, at this point, is the mother‘s testimony.  Is, in fact—is she going to testify?  Is there something to this ABC report that there‘s some sort of Welfare fraud charge against her, and she doesn‘t want to deal with it under oath?  And is there a case without her, if she doesn‘t testify?

BREMNER:  Well, I think he was a preamble, form over substance because he‘s militaristic.  He seems squared away.  He‘s been, you know, in the same position for 23 years.  And so he kind of makes her legitimized in advance.

Now, that having been said, she says she‘s going to take the 5th about this Welfare fraud that she could be prosecuted for.  She didn‘t report income from a settlement, and then she got Welfare.  And that‘s a felony.  And here‘s the kicker.  She may be in a position where, if she takes the 5th, Mesereau can come back and say, Well, she can‘t testify at all.  There‘s a U.S. Supreme Court case on this, and it says, you know, if someone takes the 5th and you can‘t adequately cross-examine as to their credibility, as a defense lawyer, they can‘t testify at all, or if they testify, their testimony can be stricken entirely from the record.  So it‘ll be a very interesting day tomorrow.

OLBERMANN:  So whatever she...

BREMNER:  And whether she‘s...

OLBERMANN:  Whatever she—whatever she says, at that point, the first question Mesereau asks is about this Welfare business, and he gets no answer and turns to the judge, and Judge Melville says, Forget that.  It never happened, the testimony.

BREMNER:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) erase that from your memory.  Yes, it depends on—it‘s up to the judge to make that call of whether this is really material to her credibility.  But he can just look at the jurors and say, That goes away from your memory, everything she said.

OLBERMANN:  As we suggested here, as a final note, the unpleasant

details of what Jackson was accused of in this case and the previous ones -

·         grim, disturbing and oddly comical at points, but obviously, it was all impactful.  And it stopped today.  Did the prosecution get all it that had on the table in front of the jury, or is there another reason they would switch away from the gory details to go over to the case of this family here today?

BREMNER:  They proved once a pedophile, always a pedophile.  They had compelling evidence.  They had pattern evidence.  And I think that they had enough right here, that as they stand today—in this case, you can‘t take temperature of this case on a given day and predict what‘s going to happen, but at least right now, on balance, they‘re in a good position.  And I think it was time for them to shift into the other evidence.  I think that they‘ve proved the pattern.  We can all see it, and it‘s not a pretty sight.

OLBERMANN:  Anne Bremner, criminal defense attorney, great.  Thanks for your time tonight.

BREMNER:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  And once again tonight, a story of real crime that makes the Jackson case look like comic relief, a manhunt ending today for an ex-con suspected of raping a teenage girl and killing two adults in a span of 24 hours.  Stephen Stanko was captured in Augusta, Georgia.  Police say that last Friday, at his home near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Stanko killed the woman with whom he lived, a 43-year-old librarian named Laura Ling.  Her body was discovered after the teenage girl who also lived there called the police to report she had been raped.  Stanko had not only met Ms. Ling at the local library, there he had also befriended a 74-year-old man named Henry Turner.  Mr. Turner was found shot to death in his home on Saturday, and police believe Stanko stole Turner‘s pick-up truck.

He was apprehended today without incident near that truck after being spotted outside an Augusta shopping center.  This man was not thought to be dangerous to society.  While incarcerated for kidnapping, he had co-authored a book with two criminologists about how to survive prison life.  He was a staunch advocate for prison reform.  Released nearly year ago after a decade behind bars, he got a job as a salesman for a supply company, but last week, after just a month of work, he was fired, and obviously, something went very wrong.

Also tonight, again, the kids are all right.  911 tapes from a home break-in and an 11-year-old knowing exactly what to do.  Britney Spears‘s fan club will be expanding by one five or six months from now.  She‘s pregnant.  And we believe it is of this earth.  There is also late-breaking cat shooting news from Wisconsin.  That doesn‘t have anything to do with these pictures.  All that ahead.

Now these are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of the day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK, that‘s it.  That‘s it.

MIKE TYSON, BOXER:  I was at my worst self.  I‘m just so happy that I‘m happy again.  Whoa!

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  How‘s everybody doing?  Be careful (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Let‘s serve some chow here.  The president‘s wasting away to nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MICHAEL JACKSON FANS:  Let‘s go, Mesereau!  Let‘s go, Mesereau!

UNIDENTIFIED MICHAEL JACKSON FANS:  Fight, Michael, Fight!  Fight, Michael, fight!

UNIDENTIFIED MICHAEL JACKSON FANS:  Let‘s go, bodyguards, let‘s go! 

Let‘s go, bodyguards, let‘s go!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Guilty as charged!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If you hadn‘t noticed, television, news and entertainment alike, has pretty much devolved into a series of warnings that something could kill you.  Your SUV?   It could kill you.  Terrorism?  It could kill you.  The Democratic Party?  It could kill you.  The Republican Party?  It could kill you.  Any of two million ravenous roaming stray cats in Wisconsin?  It could kill you.  Your husband‘s eye for other women?  It could kill you.  In fact, the malice of any defendant in any case Nancy Grace reports on.  It could kill you.  Hell, Nancy Grace herself?  It could kill you.

Well, here‘s another one tonight.  Leaving your child home alone while he‘s sick.  It could kill you.  Fortunately, as our correspondent, Jim Cummins, reports, in Oklahoma, it did not.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And then he started banging on the door.

JIM CUMMINS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  That‘s 10-year-old Zane Peary, home alone on a sick day from school, describing the first terrifying moments when a would-be burglar kicked in the front door of his house in Guthrie, Oklahoma, Monday afternoon.  As the burglar was ransacking the house...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I was hiding right here, like this.

CUMMINS:  ... Zane called the police, sounding frightened at first.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

911 OPERATOR:  911.UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think someone‘s trying to break into my house!911 OPERATOR:  Doing what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think someone‘s trying to break into my house! 

He‘s banging on the door!

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CUMMINS: As the intruder approaches, the 4th grader stops talking, then whispers.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s in my room!

911 OPERATOR:  Are you in the closet?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Bathroom.

911 OPERATOR:  OK.  Have you got the door locked?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There ain‘t no door.  He‘s going upstairs.  Get out of my house!  He‘s running out the door!

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CUMMINS:  The intruder got away, but police are confident they will catch him, thanks to Zane Peary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I mean, he gave us an excellent description of the person, down to the earring in his ear, so—I mean, that‘s an excellent description for a child that was home sick today from school.

CUMMINS:  Jim Cummins, NBC News, Dallas.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And last night, we reported that the Wisconsin Conservation Congress was meeting in all 72 counties of that state to consider a measure that would recommend to the state legislature that cats be taken off Wisconsin‘s list of protected animals.  In other words, you could shoot stray cats. 

Voting, the counting of it, just completed this evening, 6,830 statewide voting in favor of making that recommendation to the legislature, 5,201 opposed.  It is not yet cat season, though.  This is still only a recommendation, and there is no word whether the state legislature there will actually change the law, even though Wisconsin‘s wildlife is apparently being overrun by about two million stray and feral kitties.

We turn now to our nightly review of the celebrity and entertainment news, and we begin with a story we‘d all very much prefer not to find necessary to include.  Peter Jennings has reportedly begun his chemotherapy today, exactly a week after his startling and heart-breaking announcement that he‘s been diagnosed with lung cancer.  The anchorman of ABC “World News Tonight” was to begin that treatment at an undisclosed New York City facility.

On the positive front, a news organization reporting that the extreme vocal strain that Mr. Jennings showed in his last appearance last Tuesday may have owed not to the illness but to the aftereffects of testing, in which equipment had been insert down his throat.  Even if it did not, his voice, they say, is very much improved and, quote, “nearly back.”

Something more traditional way of tabs, Britney Spears pregnant.  Run for the hills, she‘s going to reproduce.  Miss Spears confirming tonight via a statement to her fans on her Web site earlier media reports to that effect.  Though no further details are available, you may remember we recently reported that Ms. Spears had sold a six-part reality show about herself to the UPN network, based on video of her courtship, engagement and wedding to Kevin Federline, also known as “the guy in the hat.”  That video reportedly by Spears and Federline themselves.  We are assuming that the conception is not included in the series and that the working title is, “And You Thought Nick and Jessica Were Stupid?”

Also tonight, they used to say of drivers hindered by early unreliable models, “Get a horse.”  Now it‘s, Get a mule, or a hybrid car.  The hybrids in such demand that you will never believe which costs more, the new one that they deliver later or the used one you can buy now.  Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Over the past three weeks, the price of gas rose 19 cents, and the number of stories about the price of gas rose to 1.4 per news broadcast hour.  We are meeting our quota tonight.  First, there is Dee Dee Beavers (ph) of Oxford, Georgia, another victim of gas pain, who has turned to an alternate means of transportation, her mule.  Every day, she rides her four-legged friend, sometimes on its back, sometimes using a cart.  She says the biggest problem she‘s encountered so far is the lack of hitching posts anymore outside the Post Office.  That‘s very funny, dear.  She did not even have to make a down payment on the new vehicle.  She built the buggy at home, and the mule, Miss Belle (ph), is a family pet.  As for comparative costs, her pick-up costs $30 a week for fuel.  The mule costs about $12 a week for fuel.

Or you can go for the $29,000 solution.  Go shopping at the second-hand hybrid car dealership, specifically, the Toyota Prius.  The gas and electric car which gets about 55 miles per gallon is now so popular that used models are actually selling for more than brand-new ones, all because of the high gas prices.  Huh?  Well, a new Prius costs anywhere between $20,975 and $26,640.  But according to the Kelly “Blue Book,” a secondhand Prius from this year or last year can sell for $1,000 to $3,000 over the sticker price of a new one.  That‘s the result of wannabe owners who do not want to wait for their cars, who are willing to pay a bit more to get it now.  According to “USA Today,” a used Prius in Iowa is on the market right now for $29,000.  In California, another owner wants $31,500 for his car.  And a Prius dealership in L.A. put a whopping $35,000 tag on one of its used models.  But low mileage.  They had to knock that price down when not even the most rabid hybrid fan would fork out sticker plus 10 grand for a used car.

Joining me now to talk about the hybrid craze, the editor-in-chief of “Car and Driver” magazine, Csaba Csere.  Thank you for your time tonight, sir.

CSABA CSERE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, “CAR AND DRIVER”:  My pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  For 40 years, we heard that nobody would ever take alternative energy automobiles seriously until they were cheaper to use than standard gas-only cars.  Has that just happened, or is this a fad?

CSERE:  Well, it‘s a little bit of both.  I mean, certainly, this is driven by the really high price of gas, but the sort of prices you‘re quoting are really pretty ridiculous because a Prius replaces a comparable car that can be had for $15,000.  And to pay double that price to get a Prius, well, you‘re going to be driving it for the next hundred years to make that up in fuel savings.

OLBERMANN:  Are there also things to be considered that people aren‘t thinking about regarding the hybrids?  In other words, these so-called “wild cards” regarding replacements of things.  For instance, it has been suggested that if you need a new battery, that will cost you, you know, not $149.95 but a couple of thousand.  Is that true, or are those just—is that just scare talk?

CSERE:  Well, it is true, although we don‘t know exactly how soon those batteries are going to wear out.  You know, hybrids have only been on the market about four years.  Right now, all the hybrids have an eight-year warranty on the battery.  But that battery is the most expensive part of the hybrid power train.  It‘s probably a $2,000 or $3,000 deal.  So if you were to buy a used Prius when it‘s seven or eight years old, boy, I‘d want to make sure the battery‘s been replaced on warranty before I bought one of those.

OLBERMANN:  But now, apparently, there‘s a second element to this, which is—it‘s almost like tree rustling or, you know, literally stealing cars to sell parts for popular cars.  With these Priuses, if you own one, you get it, you own it for a couple of months, you drive it for 100 miles, and then you can sell it for an additional $5,000, or whatever the figure is.  Could that be enough of a factor?  Would that be well enough known that that‘s—the resale value is what‘s contributing to the—to the resale value, if you will?

CSERE:  I don‘t think so.  I think most of the Prius buyers genuinely either want to save gas or they‘re real environmentalists and they‘re buying the Prius because they‘re concerned about global warming or pollution.  And let‘s remember, the Prius, this generation, has been wildly popular since it first went on the market in the fall of ‘03, and that was even before the gas prices went up.  So that demand for that car has been driven by environmentalism more than anything else.  And I don‘t think that it‘s guys looking to make a quick buck.

OLBERMANN:  Is—are we at—and back to, I guess, sort of my original point here.  Are we at the tipping point regarding hybrids?  I mean, is somebody else following Toyota into hybrid-land or making one for the high-end market?  Is anyone doing this?

CSERE:  Well, there‘s quite a few hybrids that are hitting the market this year, and a couple more that just recently went on sale.  There‘s a Lexus RX400, and this is a hybrid version of the mid-size Lexus SUV.  And they call it a 400 instead of a 330 because, in this case, the hybrid is actually faster and more powerful than the regular version of the Lexus.  You don‘t get quite as much of a fuel economy improvement, but you get a faster car.  And for the privilege, you pay about $5,000, and all of a sudden, your neighbors can‘t guilt you about driving one of these earth-killing SUVs.  So I think that‘s really going to drive the market a bit.

Honda‘s got an Accord that‘s the same way.  It‘s a high-powered version of the Accord.  The hybrid is the fastest model.  And it still gets about 30 percent better fuel economy, again for about a $4,000 increment.

OLBERMANN:  Quickly—would you wait for further technology, or would you buy one of these now if you‘re interested in doing it?

CSERE:  No, if you‘re interested in doing it, buy one now.  These things work very, very well.  We don‘t know how long they‘re going to last, but there‘s no indication that they‘re going to fall apart.  We had a Honda Insight, one of the very first hybrids, as a long-term test car at our magazine.  We kept it for 50,000 miles.  It ran as well the day we gave it back as it did when it was brand-new.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Csaba Csere, the editor-in-chief of “Car and Driver” magazine, thanks again for your time tonight, sir.

CSERE:  My pleasure.

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN.  Thank you for being part of it.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Vacation here the next three days.  Alison Stewart will be here in the interim.  See you Monday when the College of Cardinals enters its conclave to select the next pope.

You‘re not getting away from me that easily!  Good night, and good luck.

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

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