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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for March 17

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guests: Dana Milbank, Jonathan Turley, Billy Johnson

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

Which of these words will you be talking about tomorrow?  Pollster says, Which one word best describes President Bush?  America answers what?  Integrity, idiot?  Sincere, selfish?  Leader, liar?  The correct answer starts with “in-,” has “-compe-“ in the middle, and “-tent” at the end.  And by the way, six people chose the word “president.”

Does the same word also describe our airport screeners?  How to get a bomb on board a plane without really trying.

Don’t shoot, I’m human.  A month after the vice president’s hunting accident, a Las Vegas hockey team puts the event back in the news, giving the paying customers tonight Dick Cheney Hunting Vest Night.

Worst Person in the World jokes about whacking around a woman co-host, rips a liberal commentator, but gives a pass to the conservative on the same show who said the same thing.

Speaking of boobs...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There was this whole taboo issue around women’s bodies, and most public way to address that issue would be to photograph it publicly.


OLBERMANN:  Inspired by Janet Jackson, a New York photographer stages wardrobe malfunctions just to record the reactions of startled passers-by, and when the passers-by aren’t startled enough.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What kind of move was that?


OLBERMANN:  The dashcam, once the sole province of the police, now a safety device for private vehicles reducing accidents by 80 percent.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

The difference, Twain observed, between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.  To this day, we will inevitably think of the 16th president as Honest Abe Lincoln, judging by a remarkable bit of field research from the Pew Research Center.  It’s safe to say that if General Sherman had lost the battle of Atlanta in 1864, Lincoln might have gone into history as Incompetent Abe Lincoln.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, a bit of word association serving to symbolize the decline and fall of the Bush administration.  A year ago, the word most associated with Mr. Bush was “honest.”  Last July, the word most associated with Mr. Bush was “honest.”

Today, that word of choice is “incompetent.”

His declining image reflected tonight in the single-word descriptions Americans are using to describe their president these days, 48 percent of those surveyed by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press using a negative word to describe Mr. Bush, compared with just 28 percent using positive ones.

At the top of the list, in a word, “incompetent,” cited by 29 of the respondents, the warm fuzzies of the next word on the list, “good,” at 23, all but canceled out by the two words that follow, “idiot,” then “liar,” cited by a total of 38.

It gets worse all the way down.  In a tie for 15th place, six people who believed the correct word was “president” that best describes the president.

The aftermath of the Dubai ports deal thought to be largely responsible for the recent decline in the president’s image, his loss apparently Congress’s gain, 58 percent in the same survey giving lawmakers on the Hill major props for strongly opposing that ports deal, compared with just 24 percent who felt that representatives made too much out of it, which is not much higher than the 18 percent who had no opinion.

Wonder what happens when those surveyed get wind of this, Republicans in Congress now resisting any permanent change that would limit foreign ownerships of U.S. assets thought to be critical to the national security, nearly two dozen measures introduced in the wake of the ports deal controversy and scuttled, Senate majority leader Bill Frist asking the Banking Committee to come up with a less, quote, “far reaching” proposal.

Time now to call in “Washington Post” national political writer Dana Milbank, who always comes up aces in any word-association game played by the COUNTDOWN staff.

Good evening, Dana.

DANA MILBANK, POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:  Happy to join you in this incompetent discussion, (INAUDIBLE).

OLBERMANN:  We’ll see about that.  Were not the character traits always Mr. Bush’s selling point, that no matter what else happened, even to the point of last July, Americans, as this is sort of symbolically indicating, this survey, still believed he was an honest, standup guy?

MILBANK:  Absolutely.  In fact, it’s the exact opposite of what it was with Clinton during the impeachment time.  People had very low impressions of him personally, but really approved of his policies.  With Bush, it has been quite the opposite.  This is really something brand new here.  We weren’t seeing this even a few months ago, and really, it’s really pulled the rug out.

It’s not that the other words have disappeared, the good words, you know, “good,” “Christian,” “honest,” they’ve just been mixed in with these bad words.  In fact, I found out if you look at the top six words, you get some interesting descriptions.  You can get “good liar,” “incompetent Christian,” or “honest idiot.”

OLBERMANN:  And is that the way, if you’re working in the White House, do you try to turn this around by jamming the words together, making mad-libs out of them?  I mean, (INAUDIBLE), speeches about getting the message out may not cut it when “Christian” has placed behind “liar” in the word-association results.

MILBANK:  Oh, Keith, you’re kind.  You’ve left out “ass,” “jerk,” and


OLBERMANN:  Well, there was also, I think the other one that was prominent was “sucks.”  But I have some respect for the office under these circumstances.

What do they do about this?  I mean, if the—if what was left of the president, or of the presidency, was the president, what do you do to try to correct that?

MILBANK:  It’s time to call in the big guns.  You better get Cheney to make some more speeches.


MILBANK:  Well, here’s the problem.  In this same poll, the president’s overall numbers, support, is down to 33 percent, which is about as low as we’ve seen.  The real problem is that his support on terrorism slipped to 42 percent.  And that was all—that’s always been what’s propping him up.  So if you don’t get that back up, he’s not going to recover in these other ways.

Now, how do you get that back up?  Well, unfortunately, if there’s a terrorist attack or something, or in a more positive way, if you find Osama bin Laden.  Now, what happens if there’s, you know, bombing of Iran?  Suddenly there’s—the president is much stronger again, and a lot of these other adjectives will improve.

OLBERMANN:  In the Pew research, and then we’ll leave that one alone for a while, there is a nugget that I thought was almost as compelling as the Scrabble contest.  Last October, 59 percent of the self-described conservatives that they polled said Mr. Bush was a conservative.  Now, 45 percent of self-described conservatives call him a conservative.  At that rate, by this time next year, some sizable number of conservatives will be denying he’s president, won’t they?

MILBANK:  And Pew allows Laura Bush to give a word association, and she’ll say, Who?


MILBANK:  This is what happens.  You know, always (INAUDIBLE) -- when a poll is done immediately after an election, you get a lopsided number of people who say they voted for the guy who actually won.  That’s why these party identifications in these polls don’t work, because if the Republicans are doing well, more people say they’re Republican, or fewer if they’re doing badly.

So that’s what you have, is this sort of overflowing going on now.

OLBERMANN:  A practical question that stems out of this, out of both today’s news and out of these surveys.  If the ports deal was so damaging to the president, such an apparent a winner for Congress, why is the Republican leadership so resistant to permanent change on the policies, the laws, that allowed that ports controversy to occur in the first place?

MILBANK:  You know, we talked about this earlier.  And I—it’s—unfortunately, it’s not terribly surprising that people are going to say, OK, we played it right on this Dubai thing, looks good for Congress.  Now they’re going to sort of...

OLBERMANN:  Forget about it.

MILBANK:  Yes, forget about the whole thing, don’t get mixed up in this again, when in reality, the problem was not that there was a Dubai company operating six ports.  The problem is, nothing’s getting screened or inspected that’s coming into U.S. ports to start with.

I talked to a lot of people on the Hill who said, Wait a second, we’re having a lot of hearings on this, we’re being quite serious about this, the Senate Homeland Security, guys like Norm Coleman, apparently are taking it seriously.  But, you know, we’ll believe it when we see it.  It’s unfortunately following a path a little bit like the lobbying reform.

OLBERMANN:  And the entire, getting back to the administration, the entire picture from the (INAUDIBLE) the Pew poll and from these other polls this week seems to be showing a blurring of that line, that there’s no distinction, as the president has, I guess, emphasized for the last five years, certainly, that there’s no distinction between the president of the United States and the Republican Party and the Republicans in Congress, that it’s all one group now, and whereas the president used to lead them, the coattails may now be going in the other direction.

Is that—are we getting any early indication of what that’s going to mean for the midterms in the fall?

MILBANK:  We are to some extent.  In, in fact, in the NBC poll this week, we saw a 13-point advantage for Democrats over Republicans.  That’s huge.  I mean, compare that to a 6-point advantage for Republicans before the 1994 election.  That would suggest a tidal wave.

But the difference now is that the both parties have been so successful at redistricting that we only have about three dozen House races in play, maybe a half dozen Senate races.  So the Democrats would really have to run the table in all those individual races to win back control of the Congress.

So what we have, basically, is a system that’s able to perfectly thwart the will of the people at any given time.

OLBERMANN:  Some people say that’s what government’s for.

Dana Milbank, national political reporter of “The Washington Post,” always a pleasure, sir.  Have a great weekend.

MILBANK:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  If you’re flying somewhere over the weekend, honestly, I don’t know whether to tell you to hit the Mute button now or press Record on the VCR.  Airport screening is no more consistent now than it was late 2001, early 2002, when the same passenger was pulled out of the boarding line for a special-extra search twice on one round trip.   The passenger’s name was Al Gore.

Last weekend, pulling off my sneakers as I went through security at an airport, I noticed that the people in the line next to me were not being asked to pull off their shoes.

It would be farcical were it not so deadly serious.  Worse still, as our chief investigative correspondent, Lisa Myers, reports, all those sophisticated bomb-detection devices we were supposed to roll out do not seem to be making any difference at all.



Imagine this, inside a passenger plane.  Government sources tell NBC News that federal investigators recently were able to carry materials needed to make a similar homemade bomb through security screening at 21 airports.  In all 21 airports tested, no machine, no swab, no screener anywhere stopped the bomb materials from getting through.

Even when investigators deliberately triggered extra screening of bags, no one stopped these materials.

We briefed Governor Tom Kean, chair of the 9/11 commission, on the results.

TOM KEAN, CHAIR, 9/11 COMMISSION:  I’m appalled and dismayed, and, yes, to a degree, it does surprise me, because I thought the Department of Homeland Security was making some progress on this, and evidently they’re not.

MYERS:  Investigators for the Government Accountability Office conducted the tests between October and January at the request of Congress.  The goal, determine how vulnerable U.S. airlines are to a suicide bomber using cheap, readily available materials.

Investigators found recipes for homemade bombs from easily available public sources and bought chemicals and other materials over the counter.

(On camera):  For security reasons, NBC will not reveal any of the ingredients or the airports tested.  The report itself is classified.  But Lee Hamilton, the vice chair of the 9/11 commission, says the fact that so many airports failed this test is a hugely important story, which the American traveler is entitled to know.

(Voice-over):  NBC News asked a bomb technician to gather the same materials and assemble an explosive device to determine its power.  The materials for this bomb fit in the palm of one hand.

We showed the results to Leo West, a former FBI bomb expert.

LEO WEST, FORMER FBI BOMB EXPERT:  Well, potentially, an explosion of that type could lead to the destruction of the aircraft.

MYERS:  The Transportation Security Administration would not comment on the tests but tells NBC News that “detecting explosive materials and IEDs is TSA’s top priority.”

The agency also says screeners are now receiving added training to help identify these materials.

Not soon enough for Tom Kean.

KEAN:  They need to do it yesterday, because we haven’t got time.

MYERS:  Given hardened cockpit doors and other improvements, experts say explosives now are the gravest threat posed by terrorists in the sky.

Lisa Myers, NBC News, Washington.


OLBERMANN:  Grave threats of a different kind for judges.  Even the Supreme Court justices are now getting death threats.  Politicians may be to blame.  So says no less an authority than a sitting Supreme Court justice.

And the dashcam.  It used to be for police only, now it’s for reducing accident rates by 80 percent.  An explanation ahead.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  It was remarkable this time last week, a recently retired justice from the U.S. Supreme Court warning of the infancy of a prospective dictatorship in this country fed by politicians looking to, in effect, take over the judiciary.

For those whose conspiracy meter was tapped by the media’s near-silence about Sandra Day O’Connor’s remarks, something else to get jumpy about tonight.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, just coming to the surface now, an equally astonishing warning from a still-sitting justice, that death threats from an irrational fringe may be fueled by those in Congress seeking to limit the independence of judiciary.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s comments came during a speech before an audience at the Constitutional Court of South Africa in Pretoria on February 7.  The speech was posted on the Supreme Court Web site early in this month, almost went unnoticed.  The topic, the use of foreign laws in the Supreme Court’s decision.  If it sounds dry, it was.

Until we came to the part where Justice Ginsburg said that many current members of Congress would like to terminate all debate over whether federal courts should refer to foreign or international law.

Quoting, “Although I doubt the current measures will garner sufficient votes to pass, it is disquieting that they have attracted sizable support.  And one not-so-small concern, they fuel the irrational fringe.”

Then Justice Ginsburg offered what she called a personal example that the marshal of the Supreme Court had warned both her and Justice O’Connor about a posting on a Web site on February 28, 2005.  That posting called on so-called commandos to act on their, quote, “first patriotic assignment,” so that Justices Ginsburg and O’Connor, quote, “will not live out another week.”

This against the backdrop that, according to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, 75 percent of the country’s federal judges have requested home security systems to be supplied by the government.

Joining me now, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University Law School, Jonathan Turley.

Thank you for your time again tonight, sir.


OLBERMANN:  Supreme Court justices don’t usually talk about this stuff, do they?  I mean, they—that they are in these cases tells us what?

TURLEY:  Well, it tells a lot.  You know, usually the chief justice speaks for the federal judiciary.  And in fact, Rehnquist, before he died, the last chief justice, indicated that he was also concerned about attacks on the judiciary, even though he’s viewed as one of the most conservative chief justices in that court’s history.

But what you’re seeing, I think, is a lot of concern among the federal bench, which, by the way, is primarily Republican.  The majority of federal judges are Republican appointees.  But there are a lot of misgivings about this demonization of courts in Congress, and frankly, a lot of demagoguery.

OLBERMANN:  When former justice O’Connor made her dictatorship references, and they were reported last week, and we reported them here at least Friday, there were at least two of them in the same speech that she quoted the words of Tom DeLay, without mentioning his name, it got almost no publicity, nearly no media coverage.

There was an assumption in many quarters that there was a conspiracy of silence here.  But then someone suggested it not—really wasn’t that nefarious, simply that the media has no experience with justices or just-retired justices speaking in any way that resembles politics.  And nobody had any idea that (INAUDIBLE) what to do with these things, this story and the one last week, as news stories.  Do you buy that argument?

TURLEY:  Actually, I do, to some extent.  I think what you saw with O’Connor was a lot of pent-up frustration.  Usually, this issue is left to the chief justice.  But the minute she was retired, it was the first major issue she raised.

And I think that you’re going to see more of this, that there’s a sense that the legislative branch is encroaching on the authority of the judiciary.  And these judges and justices are trying to push back.  And remember, our independent judiciary is the very thing that has given us stability, that this talk, when you go to Terri Schiavo or all these other pieces of legislation, are extremely dangerous.

I mean, you know, we may have a lot of critics, but the one thing that you can recommend about our system is, we’re still here.  We’ve gone through tremendous crises and tests.  That stability is largely due to the independent judiciary, and it is definitely under attack by Congress.

OLBERMANN:  And, of course, there is another way around the judiciary, and this pertains to this breaking story that I referred to earlier, that’s a press release is out from “U.S. News and World Report,” which will publish a piece online tomorrow night, and it will be in the magazine on newsstands Monday.  And I’ll just read you the first paragraph of the press release about this story, Jon, and you can tell me what your reaction to it is.

“Soon after the September 11, 2002, terrorist attacks, lawyers in the White House and the Justice Department argued that the same legal authority that allowed warrant-less electronic surveillance inside the United States could also be used to justify physical searches of terror suspects’ homes and businesses without court approval.”

Does that send chills down your spine?

TURLEY:  Well, it does.  It’s horrific, because what that would constitute is to effectively remove the Fourth Amendment from the United States Constitution.  And the fact that it was so quick, as a suggestion, I think shows the inclinations, unfortunately, of this administration.  It treats the Constitution like some legal technicality, and instead of the thing we’re trying to fight to protect, you know, notably, the “U.S. News and World Report” story has said that FBI officials apparently, or at least some of them, objected.

And we’re seeing a lot of people within the administration with the courage to say, Hold it, you know, this is not what we’re supposed to be about.  If we’re fighting a war, it’s a war of self-definition.  And if we start to take whole amendments out of the Constitution in the name of a war on terror, we have to wonder what’s left at the end except victory.

OLBERMANN:  “According to two current former and former government officials,” this is the second paragraph that you just mentioned, “the Bush administration lawyers presented the arguments to senior FBI officials, who expressed strong reservation about the proposal,” which is what you essentially just said there.

There’s another quotation here.  “It could not be determined whether any warrantless physical searches had been carried out under the legal authority cited by the administration, but at least one defense attorney representing a terrorism suspect has alleged that his law office and home may have been searched without a court warrant.”

The attorney’s office and home, not the suspect’s office and home.

Is it—is there a way to overstate this?  You know, when you start to talk about the Fourth Amendment and the protections of the Constitution versus the needs of trying to track down terrorists, you can move very quickly into that tinfoil hat zone, where you are sound totally paranoid about, you know, what’s happening here, and they’re spying on us through the walls.

But is this not the first thing that you would see if you did some sort of (INAUDIBLE) I’ve made this analogy many times before, if there was a prequel to the book “1984,” wouldn’t this be somewhere in the first chapter?

OLBERMANN:  I’m afraid it would.  This is something to be very concerned about.  You know, these are not trivial matters.  We’ve seen a sort of broad-based assault on basic constitutional rights in our country since 9/11.  We have a president who ordered electronic surveillance, as you know, by the NSA without warrants, in something that constitutes a federal crime.  Congress isn’t even holding serious hearings on that.

So we have a system that, frankly, has checks and balances, but none of them seem to be working.  And at the same time, as we noted earlier, (INAUDIBLE) the attack on the judiciary itself, all of this should present a (INAUDIBLE), a picture of concern for any American.

TURLEY:  Well, we have the NSA warrantless scandal, if you will, controversy.  That worked its way through the media in a short time and lasted for a couple of weeks, and I think we’re going to have another one starting Monday, when “U.S. News and World Report” puts this out in magazine form, and, as we said, it will be online at their Web site tomorrow night.

Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington, great thanks for your insight as this story has broken before our eyes tonight.

TURLEY:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, the lighter stuff.  I don’t want to cast aspersions, sir, but is the drummer in your band a little short?

And fine art, or just gratuitous soft porn?  Either way, the odds are now 8 to 5 that you will stay to watch it, ahead here on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  OK, none of them is exactly Ringo Starr, but today is the birthday of no fewer than three rock drummers of the ‘60s and ‘70s, Harold Brown of War, Pat McCaulay of Them, and Roxy Petrusci of Vixen.  Why, oh, why would you care?  Because, obviously, I’m setting up the first video from our nightly headfirst plunge into the absurd.

Let’s play Oddball.

We begin in Detroit, home of the child prodigy rock sensation Julian Pavone, the 2-year-old drummer.  His dad says Julian first picked up the sticks while he was on Daddy’s lap at the age of 3 months.  By 6 months, he was already better than Ringo.  He’s played at halftime of an NBA game on a CD for a small, ha-ha, small record label, and lately he’s been on a mini-media tour.

But the pros all agree, the kid has something special.  And as Julian gets older, we can all expect to see him take his rightful place among the top skins men of all time, Neil Peart of Rush, Keith Moon of the Stones, and, of course, Animal from The Muppets.

And lastly here tonight, we have unearthed another treasure from our award-winning segment “Weird Stuff We Found on the Internets.”  Today, we have come across a piece of video so rare that we just had to show it to you.  Then it’s straight to the Smithsonian.  We have found an interesting soccer highlight. 

Not sure how old this is.  Not sure we care either.  All we know is, he kicked the ball real hard.  And Newcastle’s Olivier Bernard is going down.  Gianluca Pagliuca.  And that’s it.  That’s all we got. 

Speaking of famous video, Janet Jackson’s greatest ever public appearance providing the inspiration for one New York artist—wanted to see how people would react to a bevy of topless women in public.  See what else the video—video cams could do?  Look, I’m giving you truth (ph), breaking news, topless women, and car crashes.  What the hell else could you want in a TV newscast? 

Those stories ahead—now here are COUNTDOWN’s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Juergen Heckrodt, owner of a hotel in Norden, in German.  He was noticing some of his guests were a little heavy, so he started charging them by the pound.  He says it’s just an incentive to get them to slim down.  I say, this is the way Procrustes started.  Look him up.

Number two, Detective Sergeant Maureen Watson of the police in Seguin, Texas—kind of a rough afternoon, as she described it.  First, the gate on a cattle truck came loose, and some cows fell out on the interstate.  They were hit by some cars.  When police went to the scene, one of the police was nearly hit by a truck filled with illegal immigrants.  Then, more police came.  And, then, they parked on the grass, which was brittle-dry from the drought.  And, then, the heat from the engines lit the grass on fire.  Then, the police cars caught fire. 

So, yes, the headline was flying cows set police cars ablaze. 

And, number one, Craig Jerome and Heather Kates of suburban Chicago tried to hold up a bank in Naperville from the drive-through lane, sent the teller a note in one of those pneumatic tubes: “You have 10 seconds to fill up the tube with $100s and $50s, or I will shoot everybody in the parking lot.”

The teller promptly locked the bank doors and called the cops.  Geez, you want to hold up a bank?  Muster the energy to get out of your damn car!


OLBERMANN:  Sometimes, we make big errors on this show.  Sometimes, we make small ones.  And, sometimes, they are not my fault at all. 

Widen the camera out a little bit.  This is Denis Horgan.  He writes the “Oddball” section, researches it, spends the whole day looking for the information, write its.  And, statement, I just read it cold, right? 



Keith Moon is with who?  Or he was with who?

HORGAN:  The Who. 

OLBERMANN:  All right.  And what did you write?

HORGAN:  I wrote the Stones. 

OLBERMANN:  You wrote the Stones.

HORGAN:  I did.

And, so, and I—and I just read it. 

HORGAN:  You read it.

OLBERMANN:  So, I’m a moron. 


OLBERMANN:  And what does that make you? 

HORGAN:  I’m an idiot. 

OLBERMANN:  You’re an idiot.

HORGAN:  Thank you. 


OLBERMANN:  All right?

HORGAN:  I’m sorry. 


OLBERMANN:  Eat this.  That’s tonight’s script. 


OLBERMANN:  He couldn’t even come up with something original. 

The Charles Addams’ cartoon showed a giant octopus bursting out from under a manhole cover to grab a businessman, while startled passersby gaped in horror.  Two other men walked past the scene, one saying to the other, “It doesn’t take much to draw a crowd in New York.”

And our number-three story on the COUNTDOWN, wasn’t true then, isn’t true now.  New Yorkers almost pride ourselves on not noticing. 

Tonight: topless women, car crashes, and the hidden cameras that capture them.  First, we will see which can get the attention of us blasé Manhattanites.

Our correspondent is Ann Curry. 



ANN CURRY, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  What was once reserved for the bedroom has been busting out all over. 

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

CURRY:  This little clothing malfunction scandalized the nation.


CURRY:  But it inspired photographer Jordan Matter to see how his fellow New Yorkers would handle...

MATTER:  Oh, whoa, whoa, whoa.

CURRY:  ... a little breast.

MATTER:  I’m not there yet. 

The next red light, we are going to do it.

CURRY:  He enlisted female volunteers of every shape and, uh, size to take off their tops around town, all for an art project he calls “Uncovered.”

MATTER:  You are going right into the center. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I’m so freaked out.  There is only all these people. 


MATTER:  There was this whole taboo issue around women’s bodies.  And the most public way to address that issue would be to photograph it publicly. 

Walk towards me.  Then turn around and walk back. 

CURRY:  And so he did, assuming his display would shock the city.  But the biggest shock? 

MATTER:  The great majority of people walk by, as if they don’t even see it. 

CURRY:  All right, some lingered, admired the view. 

MATTER:  The other day, I was shooting a woman, and this guy said:

“Thank you.  Thank you.”  And he gave me a big hug. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You have got to enjoy yourself in life.  That’s what it’s about. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We are only passing through.  We are only a number.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We are only passing through.  She has got two lovely numbers. 


CURRY:  Other amateurs were inspired to create a little art of their own, which didn’t bother this model’s husband too much. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The first time Jordan shot with Sonya (ph), I went with her, because I was like, you are going to have a bodyguard, and it’s going to be me. 

CURRY:  The only hassle came from the men in blue. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey, do you have a permit or anything like that for taking pictures? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No.  No.  You are not allowed in here. 

MATTER:  Oh, really?



MATTER:  What?

CURRY:  Always polite, Jordan comes armed with the documents that prove it’s legal. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She is not allowed to like that in public. 

MATTER:  Oh, yes, she is.  It’s legal.


MATTER: “The people have offered nothing to justify a law that discriminates against women.”

CURRY:  A 1992 ruling in a Rochester court allowed women in New York state to go topless in public. 

MATTER: “As men are routinely permitted to do.”

CURRY:  Some may never exercise that right...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Just don’t agree with people streaking.  That’s it.

CURRY:  But many seemed liberated. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Here I am.  This is me. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Ladies, I’m so proud of you all.  You all go, girls. 


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You all go, girls.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That’s what the hell I’m talking about.  Where can I sign up? 


MATTER:  Oh, that’s great.

CURRY:  As for the subjects...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, I like that one a lot. 

CURRY:  They do it all for free. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Just for the love of it.


CURRY:  And, of course, a bit of exposure. 


OLBERMANN:  Ann Curry. 

And then there is the DriveCam, an adaptation of the police recorder mechanism, which may not only save lives and increase overall road safety, but also allows us to segue from racks to wrecks. 

Remarkably, no humans were seriously injured in the making of this video. 

Our correspondent here is Mark Mullen. 


MARK MULLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Caught on tape—keep your eye on the tractor-trailer in the far-right lane as it swerves across traffic. 


MULLEN:  Remarkably, the driver of this Audi sedan, wedged under the rig, survived this accident on New York’s Long Island Expressway. 

BRYAN PACELLI, AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENT VICTIM:  I guess just pretty much in shock at that—at that point, didn’t know what was going on. 


MULLEN:  A camera on board a bus recorded every moment of the crash. 

More and more, cameras are keeping an eye on the road. 

BRUCE MOELLER, PRESIDENT AND CEO, DRIVECAM VIDEO SYSTEMS:  The camera basically just tells you the truth. 

MULLEN:  Bruce Moeller runs DriveCam.  They have sold 30,000 onboard cameras nationwide, mostly to businesses and transit companies. 

The cameras can capture apparent mechanical problems, like when the steering failed on this bus...


MULLEN:  ... and the mistakes of others, like this motorist, who slammed into a pole. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What kind of move was that? 

MULLEN:  But businesses most often install in vehicles to monitor their own drivers. 

MOELLER:  It’s amazing, when the driver sees himself doing this, how much more aware he becomes. 

MULLEN:  Staying awake, however, is a requirement.  This driver drifted off to sleep and off the road.  His boss later saw the video. 

Some parents of teen drivers are also installing cameras, which are triggered when driving gets risky. 


MOELLER:  There is a learning curve that the camera helps accelerate. 

MULLEN:  While drivers may object to Big Brother on the road, DriveCam’s CEO says commercial drivers with onboard cameras have up to 80 percent fewer accidents—a reminder for every driver:  Keep your eyes on the road. 


MULLEN:  For “Today,” Mark Mullen, NBC News, Los Angeles. 


OLBERMANN:  Also tonight, having already fought off—dramatically fought off people making videos of their films, theater operators now go after those who refuse to shut off their cell phones in the audience.

And Scientology vs. “South Park,” part two.  First, it was the chef quitting.  Now it’s Tom Cruise threatening corporate wars. 

You bastards.  They have converted Kenny—those stories ahead.

Now here are COUNTDOWN’s top three sound bites of this day.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Curiosity leads to large crowds in Mobile’s frightened community. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  To me—it look like a leprechaun to me.  All you got to do is look up in the tree. 

Who else sees a leprechaun?  Say yeah!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This amateur sketch resembles what many of you say the leprechaun looks like.  Others find it hard to believe and have come up with their own theories and explanations for the image. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It could be a crack-head that got hold to the wrong stuff, and it told him to get up in the tree and play a leprechaun. 


CONAN O’BRIEN, HOST, “LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O’BRIEN”:  This—this is an uplifting story.  In Virginia, a high school math student recited 8,784 digits of the numeral pi.  Yes.  Yes.  Yes, it turns out the only number he can’t recite is a girl’s phone number. 




GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The Census Bureau tells us, there are more than 34 million Americans that claim Irish ancestry.  On Saint Patrick’s Day, I suspect that number jumps a little bit. 


BUSH:  On this special day, we honor the saint who brought the gospel of peace to the Green Isle.  And we count ourselves blessed by the warm friendship between his adopted land and our own. 

Thanks for coming.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We are cooking now!



OLBERMANN:  Even worse than the guy kicking in the back of your chair, the fellow spending 15 minutes unwrapping the candy, is the film fan who must talk on his cell phone—how the theaters are fighting back.

And, fearful of a face full of vice presidential birdshot at a minor league hockey game, then the new anti-Dick Cheney hunting vest is right up your alley. 

COUNTDOWN continues. 


OLBERMANN:  So, why aren’t you going to the movie theaters anymore?  Is it the bane of 21st century America, the bleat of the cell phone, the clang of the BlackBerry?

Our number-two story on the COUNTDOWN, as our correspondent Peter Alexander reports, said movie house owners have the same worry, and a new idea—coming to a theater near you. 



UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Concentrate on containing that virus.


PETER ALEXANDER, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  If going to the movies is a way to escape...


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  Ringing phones ruin movies.


ALEXANDER:  ... life sure knows how to sneak in.  With movie attendance dropping for three years running, theater owners think cell phones are to blame. 


Well, when people go to a movie theater, they want a shared experience, but they don’t want to share somebody’s cell phone call right down the aisle. 

ALEXANDER:  Their plan to win back crowds, asking for FCC for permission to jam cell reception in theaters. 


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR:  The radar, sir, it appears to be jammed. 


ALEXANDER:  Right now, jamming signals is illegal anywhere in the U.S. 

And not everyone thinks it’s such a good idea. 


You never know when the emergency is going to call.  This is really a safety device for parents who have kids at home, for doctors who have patients in the hospital, or have to be on call. 

ALEXANDER:  We wanted to know what moviegoers thought.  So, we invited them to take a seat. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You are there to watch a movie, and, all the sudden, this guy behind you starts yacking on the phone?  Give me a break.  You want to yack on the phone, go outside. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I think you can put it on vibrate, so that you are the only one that knows it’s ringing. 

ALEXANDER:  So, wait.  Are cell phones what’s really keeping people from the movies?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Sometimes, babies crying, that will bother me, but not cell phones. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think it’s because it costs so much. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think it’s because the movies are not very good. 


ALEXANDER (on camera):  Clearly, the frustration is not just cell phones ringing, but all that chatter, you know, people talking, blabbing through the entire movie, on and on. 


ALEXANDER:  Right.  Sorry. 

(Voice-over):  When it comes to cell phones in the theater, there may be a disconnect. 

Peter Alexander, NBC News, Los Angeles. 


OLBERMANN:  Weirdos in the movies, an easy segue tonight to “Keeping Tabs”: Tom Cruise. 

First, it was the chef, Isaac Hayes, quitting “South Park” in protest over an episode zinging his Scientology beliefs.  Now it’s Cruise reportedly declaring war on the show, leading Comedy Central to cancel a rerun of an episode that suggests Cruise is a closet homosexual and a deranged member of a fraudulent alien cult. 

His leverage, pretty strong—pretty strong:  Pull the episode, or he would boycott for promotion of his upcoming movie “Mission: Impossible III” for Paramount.  Paramount is owned by Viacom.  Comedy Central is also owned by Viacom.  College of corporations ruling the world, it’s terrific. 

When asked if the cantankerous Cruise was to blame for the yanking of the closet episode on Wednesday, a representative from Comedy Central noted that the network was instead running a mini-festival of the best episodes featuring Chef, the Scientologist. 

And more trouble tonight in my own family—my cousin, Mike Tyson—as always, for the sake of full disclosure, the former heavyweight champ is indeed a cousin by adoption and marriage—a road-rage rumble back in 2003 that led Tyson to chomp off a chunk of the leg of a driver again making headlines.

The driver, also personal assistant to legendary boxing promoter Don

King—it’s a damn small world—has settled his lawsuit against Tyson

For about $275,000.  The caveat, according to Tyson’s lawyer, the case was

“settled without admission of liability.” 

The bite out of Evander Holyfield’s ear, the threat to kill and eat the children of another opponent, this thing, in the family, we like cousin Mike to keep the mouth guard on at all times. 


OLBERMANN:  Speaking of sports, there a lot of odd promotional events around the games we love so very much, but few can beat Dick Cheney hunting vest night from the Las Vegas Wranglers hockey team.  The club’s president’s wears it next.

But, first, time for COUNTDOWN’s list of today’s three nominees for worst person in the world. 

The bronze, John Dunleavy, chairman of the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in New York today.  Oh, here we go.  This year’s rationale for barring the Irish Lesbian and Gay Association from the parade—quote—“If an Israeli group wants to march in New York,” he says, “do you allow neo-Nazis into their parade.”

Oh, that’s a good analogy. 


OLBERMANN:  Tonight’s runner-up, Ted Baxter again, ripping his own FOX News colleague Neil Gabler again, calling him a bomb thrower and a Kool-Aid drinker, because, on the FOX media show, Gabler complained that a Colorado family had gone to the conservative media to complain about a high school teacher, rather than to the school.

On the same show in which Gabler said that, his colleague Cal Thomas agreed with Gabler.  But, of course, O’Reilly did not call Thomas a Kool-Aid drinker. 

But the winner, ah, we are celebrating the day with a double dose of Bill.


OLBERMANN:  Explaining to a caller, one of the ones who did not get arrested, that he would not denigrate a guest, because that’s why he has his co-host, Lis Wiehl: “Every time I want do that, I just go over to her and whack her around, figuratively speaking, of course.”

Yes, figuratively speaking.  Just hit her with a loofah, Billy.


OLBERMANN:  Bill O’Reilly, today’s worst person in the world. 


OLBERMANN:  Once upon a time, promotional nights at sporting events were pretty mundane things, bat day, ball day, cap day, then a second bat day, if there were a lot of bats left over from the first one.

But, in 1974, the Cleveland Indians staged 10-cent beer night, which ended with a drunken fan crashing a folding metal chair over the head of Texas Rangers outfielder Jeff Burroughs.  Sports promotions have never been the same. 

Our number-one story on the COUNTDOWN, disco demolition night, runaway bride bobblehead doll night, Bill Walton stuffed doll night, hairy back night, and, of late, moving into the political realm, Dick Cheney hunting vest night, tonight, at the East Coast Hockey League game between the Alaska Aces and the Las Vegas Wranglers at the Wranglers’ home arena, the Orleans Arena—vests going to the first 1,000 fans to arrive for the contest tonight, bright orange and reading: “Don’t shoot.  I’m human.”

Somewhere, Harry Whittington is saying, “No, it still hurts too much to laugh.”

Team president and chief operating officer Billy Johnson says it was sort of too juicy not to do.  It’s one of those events in pop culture. 

Ms. Johnson joins us now.

Good evening to you, sir. 


WRANGLERS:  Happy Saint Patrick’s Day. 

OLBERMANN:  And to you.

So, you position this is a spoof of pop culture?  Was there not supposed to be a political hook to it? 

JOHNSON:  Well—well, maybe, maybe not.  It depends on who is listening and who is watching. 


JOHNSON:  If—if you take a look at the e-mails that I get, some are looking at it that way, and some aren’t. 

But, at the end of the day, it is a pop culture event.  And if—if -

if we get too stuck on that type of question, we are just going to say, it’s a—it’s a hunting safety awareness campaign. 

OLBERMANN:  Excellent.


OLBERMANN:  Now—now, I understand you had a—an additional and more subtle bit of humor planned in here, that, originally, people who showed up tonight to get the “Don’t shoot; I’m human” vests were going to get a surprise instead? 

JOHNSON:  Yes.  We were not going to give them away until 18 hours later.


JOHNSON:  But—but we are not exactly sure a paying customer would have appreciated it. 

And I’m—I’m more certain that most people might not have gotten that.  So, we—we decided just to go ahead and keep our word. 

OLBERMANN:  Right.  There would have been an extra cost for the little card explaining the joke. 




JOHNSON:  Exactly. 

OLBERMANN:  We have learned many times not to try that. 


OLBERMANN:  We have seen guaranteed fight nights in minor league hockey.  We have had dress up like the Hanson brothers from “Slap Shot” night...


OLBERMANN:  ... night in minor league hockey. 

Is the vest thing more your style?  Have the Wranglers done other kind of spoof giveaways? 

JOHNSON:  We are—we are sort of all over the map.  We—we have done—we have—we have paid homage to the—to the mullet haircut by giving away the—the mullet wig once a year.

This year, it got a little stale.  So, we sewed on a trucker cap to it.  I think this year’s version of the—of the mullet was the Kentucky rainfall, I believe, is—was that—that exact variety. 

We have done the Elvis sunglasses with the attached sideburns, in celebration of his birth, on his birthday.  And, then we have—this—this past year, we—we usually have a midnight game around Christmas.  We we couldn’t book the real KISS, so we booked MiniKiss.  They—they—they stand about—about waist high.  They put a great show on.  And we went to the—such great lengths just so we could to hear “We Want to Rock and Roll All Night” just before the puck dropped.

OLBERMANN:  Excellent.

To tonight’s promotion—how many of those things did you actually, and could someone who did not get to attend tonight’s game in Vegas actually get one some other way? 

JOHNSON:  Yes.  Actually, the demand nationwide has been huge.

So, seriously and legitimately, yesterday morning, we launched


JOHNSON:  ... where viewers all over the country can log on, buy a vest, take them home.  We have ordered more already.  And look for, mid part of next week, we are going to branch out to bright orange hunting caps with the same slogan, and T-shirts, for those who like sleeves and not the sleeveless look, like I’m donning this evening. 

OLBERMANN:  Very nice.

You have to wonder what Harry Whittington’s home e-mail is.


OLBERMANN:  Last question here:  You have gotten great publicity out of this.  How do you top it? 

JOHNSON:  Well, we are going to wait for the news to come to us. 

So, we are—we are kind of—we are kind of holding a séance for, I don’t know, a Condoleezza Rice garden weasel accident, so we can have a Condoleezza weasel night...


JOHNSON:  Or maybe if Hillary Clinton could get caught smoking a Chia Pet, that would be—that would be good for us, too. 

OLBERMANN:  Excellent.

Well, then you—then you would be bipartisan.

JOHNSON:  That’s right.


OLBERMANN:  Billy Johnson, the president of the Las Vegas Wranglers, thanks for your time.  And keep dodging that old birdshot. 

JOHNSON:  All right.  We will. 

OLBERMANN:  That’s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,051st day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. 

A special presentation of “Lockup: Inside L.A. County,” we think the jail, not the county.

I’m Keith Olbermann.  Keep your knees loose.  Good night, and good luck.

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