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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for May 20

Read the transcript to the Friday show

Guest: Jack Jacobs Richard Wolffe, Paul Mooney, Paul Mooney, Howard Eirinberg, Mark Marcucci, Kevin Ogle

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

Saddam‘s tightie whities.  Is the source of the photos really the U.S.  military?  Will there be retribution from the insurgents?  Will the White House blast Rupert Murdoch for publishing?  And does Saddam roll his socks, or fold them?

Fifty million, the first-day for the “Star Wars” flick.  But who took a copy of it and uploaded it onto the Web?  An arrest police make.

Our long national nightmare is over.  Truce between the manufacturers of hot dogs and the manufacturers of hot dog buns, which will now be sold in identical quantities in each pack.

And while you wonder why that peace took so long to broker...




OLBERMANN:  ... we will tell why you this interview is at the heart of our Hall of Fame‘s Greatest Story Ever Told.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

What the hell is this?

Ultimately, it may or may not matter what it is, only where it is from.  And even that maybe utterly irrelevant, since in many parts of this world, it‘s just going to be assumed that it‘s from here.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, Saddam Hussein is the answer to that commercial statement, Look who we‘ve got our Hanes on now.  And the second installment of these photos has just hit the streets in London on the cover of “The Sun” for tomorrow, Saddam in a robe or robelike garment, either holding his hands out in prayer, or gesturing, Why did I forget to wear this robe in yesterday‘s picture?

The paper is also containing photos of two other high-value prisoners, Ali Hassan al-Majid, who you see on the right holding some sort of cane.  He would be Chemical Ali, if you‘ve forgotten him already.  And Hudas Sali Medi Amash (ph), who‘s  Mrs. Anthrax, also known as Chemical Sally.

Collect them all.

Today‘s first set of photos engendered a series of questions.  Who took them?  Are they official photos taken by the jailers, or surveillance or unauthorized photos taken by somebody else?  Is Rupert Murdoch‘s London tabloid, “The Sun,” telling the truth when it says it got them from an unidentified U.S. military official?  Is it a coincidence that they were published just when the U.S. government is fearful of damage to its image in the Muslim world?  Is it a coincidence that they were published just as the first lady began her brief goodwill trip to the Middle East?

But Saddam‘s lawyers have a different question, a rhetorical one.


GIOVANNI DI STEFANO, SADDAM HUSSEIN‘S LAWYER:  It would be ironic if a person were charged for leaking these photographs or taking them or abusing the Geneva Convention, and not our client, who‘s been 19 months in custody.  That would be really, really ironic.


OLBERMANN:  Another one of Saddam‘s lawyers says he plans to sue “The Sun,” “The Post,” and Rupert Murdoch for printing, and the Red Cross and the U.S. agree it might be a violation of Geneva Conventions to have taken the photographs and let them get out.  Many Iraqis don‘t care about violations.  The reaction there seems to be similar to when the photos of Hussein‘s capture late in 2003 were released, a mix of Serves him right, and Those disrespectful Americans.

Back here, in the wake of the “Newsweek” flap, the president was questioned about whether he feared these photos might be exploited as an excuse by insurgents in Iraq.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don‘t think an—a photo inspires murderers.  I think they‘re inspired by an ideology that is so barbaric and backwards that it‘s hard for many in the Western world to comprehend how they think.


OLBERMANN:  Well, two words here, Abu Ghraib.

More on the overall image issue in a moment.

First, where did these come from?  The official reaction is, in sum, not happy.

From Baghdad, the Combined Press Information Center released a statement that reads, in part, “It is believed the photos were taken over a year ago.  These photos were taken in clear violation of DOD,” Department of Defense, “directives and possibly Geneva Convention guidelines for the humane treatment of detained individuals.  We are disappointed at the possibility that someone responsible for the security, welfare, and detention of Saddam would take and provide these photos for public release.”

Joining me now, retired U.S. Army colonel Jack Jacobs.

Good evening, Jack.

COL. JACK JACOBS (RET.), U.S. ARMY:  Good evening.

OLBERMANN:  Does the fact that the U.S. military in Iraq raised the possibility in that statement that Rupert Murdoch‘s papers are actually telling the truth, that they might have gotten these from a U.S. military source, does that give us, just that statement, any idea how likely it is that they actually could be from a U.S. military source?

JACOBS:  Well, I think the chances are probably at least 50/50.  But don‘t forget that Americans aren‘t the only people who‘ve been through that prison and have interrogated Saddam Hussein.  The Australians have been there, the British SAS has been there, many times, as a matter of fact.

So while it‘s possible it was the Americans, it could have been a wide variety of other people.  And the Iraqis have been through there as well.  So it could have been just about anybody.

But we‘ve already proved that we have the capability of generating photographs and sending them out there.  So I guess it‘s possible it‘s us.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  The understanding is that he‘s being held at one of the two facilities, camps, at or right outside Baghdad airport, which, of course, used to be Saddam Airport.  The special ops forces from Britain are there, the Australian special ops, MI-5, maybe MI-6, the British intelligence services.

But is it plausible that non-American intelligence would have access to take those photos, or get those photos?  Or even a motive to release those photos?  Because it doesn‘t sound, from what the paper is saying, that they spent a great deal of money for them.  So money may not be even a possible motive.

Well, it‘s (INAUDIBLE), first of all, those photographs, somebody alleged that the photographs may have been surveillance photographs.  Certainly the one—I don‘t think that the one in which we find Saddam Hussein in his underwear is a surveillance photo.  It‘s of particularly high quality.

And I‘ll tell you something else.  It was shot from a very low angle.  Typically, surveillance cameras are high up.  You don‘t want the bad guys to be able to disable them.  So it was taken at eye level.  And it looks to me as if it was taken by somebody who was in the cell, and was in the cell with him at the time, and that he knew photograph was being taken.

I suspect it was probably some jailer or interrogator, turnkey, some other person who was there at the time, and then subsequently made off with the photograph.

The fact that it was published now might indicate that whoever had it left the country maybe about six months ago, because he probably took it with him.  We know that the photograph is older.  It‘s probably over a year old.  And that would give him enough time to take the photograph, get out of country, and then negotiate with “The Sun” for the paltry amount of money that he got for it.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  That picture, the cover picture in both of the tabloids, is supposed to contain a couple of clues about that, because that wouldn‘t be his cell.  It would probably be his laundry area, based on the idea that you‘ve got those hinges in the middle of the picture on the door.  There‘s a door that opens inward, and apparently there‘s more—particularly in this case, you can see a latch to the right of his left elbow that suggests he might feel like he has privacy in there.

But you‘re suggesting that he‘s standing right in front of the photographer?  Or is it possible that there‘s some sort of 24-hour surveillance, either video or digital camera, that is constantly taking pictures of him without his knowledge?

JACOBS:  Oh, you can bet that there is 24-hour surveillance on him.  There should be.  But the—if you notice the angle of the camera is at eye level or thereabouts, as if someone is actually taking the photograph.  And it‘s not at a high angle.  Typically, you‘ll mount these things at a wall and ceiling junction.

And (INAUDIBLE) so any photograph taken would be at a—would look different than this one, that looks like it was taken at eye level.

And not only that, it‘s—it looks like it‘s of a higher quality than it would be from a typical surveillance camera, which is not taking still photographs, it‘s taking television photographs.  And the quality of those is not as good.  Then you have to go capture that from the surveillance equipment.

I think it was probably a photograph that was taken right there with them.

OLBERMANN:  Unless you‘ve got a digital 24-hour retrieval system of some sort, computerized, which is just constantly taking images.  But now we‘re just getting into technical speculation.

One last bit of speculation.  You touched on this before, but go into depth for me, if you will.  The idea that these are old, and you‘ve timed it as somebody who left the country maybe six months ago, it is presumed to be a coincidence that it is coming now at this turbulent time between the “Newsweek” story and the first lady‘s trip?

JACOBS:  Yes, I think, I think it‘s a coincidence.  You know, we‘ve had a wide variety of difficulties with photographs being taken in prisons that, you know, you --  This could have been taken and (INAUDIBLE) -- this could have been released, let‘s say, three or four weeks ago, and everybody might have said, Well, it‘s a coincidence it‘s coming.  It‘s not a coincidence coming out when Lynndie England is getting sentenced, or a month before that, somebody would have said, No, it‘s not a coincidence because Graner is being convicted.

So we‘ve had so many incidents in which prisoners and photographs and so on have been in news, that you could have released this photograph at any time, and it would have coincided with something that took place that we‘re not particularly proud of.

And I also think, to go back one more time about who it might have been, this was sold to “The Sun.”  And it would take a particularly astute American to know that “The Sun” is the kind of paper back in England that pays money for things like this.

So I think it‘s at least a 50/50 chance it was somebody who is in that room with him taking a picture at eye level, and that it was—it could have been a 50/50 chance it was a Brit or an Australian.

OLBERMANN:  And they—that paper does publish a lot of pictures of people topless, but usually it‘s women and not former dictators.

But a great point on the timing thing, Jack.

MSNBC analyst, retired U.S. Army colonel Jack Jacobs, as always, sir, great thanks.

And by the way, “The Sun” says there will, in fact, be more photographs, which we have already seen, because technically, it already is tomorrow in England.

It certainly is that in Amman, Jordan.  That is where the first lady was today, starting her three-nation trip to burnish the American image, when the Saddam tightie whities photo hit the world stage.  Laura Bush yet to comment on that.

But she did seem to take a different view of that “Newsweek” story, saying that while she agreed with those who said the magazine had been irresponsible, she would not blame it for the rioting in Afghanistan.  “You can‘t blame it all on ‘Newsweek,‘” as she put it.  “And you shouldn‘t,” she said, on the flight to Jordan, “blame it all on the U.S.”


LAURA BUSH:  We‘ve had terrible happenings that have really, really hurt our image in the United States.  And they‘re not—they were very atypical.  They‘re not any sort of typical thing from the United States, Abu Ghraib, for instance.  And people in the United States are sick about it.


OLBERMANN:  So is that American image in for another hitch after the Saddam photo, or not?

I‘m joined now by Richard Wolffe, “Newsweek”‘s senior White House correspondent.

Good evening, Richard.


be with you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Are these things going to impact at all in Iraq?

WOLFFE:  Well, of course the dynamic in Iraq is already pretty well established in terms of violence, from the insurgents and attitudes towards U.S. forces and coalition forces there.  So I don‘t think these pictures make things any worse than they already are.  Obviously, after Abu Ghraib, after Guantanamo Bay, there is a huge image problem for the United States.

And the invasion of Iraq as well, itself, of course, is still deeply controversial.

OLBERMANN:  The president says, as we heard before, that he does not think that a photo precipitates violence.  Presumably he means a photo of Saddam Hussein, because the prison photos most assuredly were used as an excuse, possibly as a rallying cry.  We don‘t know that.  But it was—they were used as an excuse by the insurgents.

WOLFFE:  Sure.  I mean, these people don‘t really need excuses, whether they‘re rioters or insurgents.  They‘re targeting something much bigger than whatever it is that has just happened in the news, or they‘ve seen through the news.

So yes, there are—the real target of the violence there is the presence of American forces, and the political system as it‘s being established in Iraq and Afghanistan.

OLBERMANN:  We are led to believe that the White House is upset with the publication of the photos.  The military certainly is, based on the investigation it has already launched.  But after the blast against your home, “Newsweek,” where is the big blast against Rupert Murdoch for doing something that could damage America‘s reputation in the region? And to a certain degree, Great Britain‘s as well.

Does Murdoch get a pass because he owns the president‘s fan club TV network at Fox News?

WOLFFE:  Well, that‘s a tough question.  I mean...

OLBERMANN:  I know it, yes.

WOLFFE:  It‘s very hard...


WOLFFE:  ... it‘s very hard to know what the motives of the are.  And I‘m a White House correspondent, not a mind reader.  You know, there is a big difference here, and it‘s not about politics.  The difference in the—between the two stories is really the reaction on the ground.  What we saw in the street following our story, in whatever connection there was between the story and the riots in Afghanistan.  And, of course, you know, we haven‘t seen that kind of violence in response to this, these pictures.

But it‘s early.  Who knows?  It took several days for things to build up in Afghanistan.  And we don‘t know what the reaction is going to be to these photos in Iraq.

OLBERMANN:  Do we have an idea yet what the reaction, the net effect on events in Iraq was of, say, the pictures of his capture late in 2003, those extraordinary picture of his being—of his beard being checked for lice, and his mouth being checked for sores?

WOLFFE:  Well, remember, there were two reactions.  First of all, there was the reaction of disbelief, and the question about whether the photos were true or staged in some way.  So they had a different impact because people were seeing for themselves for the first time proof of Saddam‘s capture and his fall, if you will.  So the idea that he would rise up somehow from the shadows was laid to rest.

This is kind of different.  And the problem here for the administration is that sort of echo of Abu Ghraib, seeing a naked prisoner.  And, you know, under the Geneva Convention terms, it is humiliation.  I mean, that‘s what it‘s classified as.  That‘s why it‘s banned by the Geneva Convention.

So, you know, that‘s—these are the problems they face now.  It‘s not the public reaction, it‘s almost the echo of what went before, and the legal problem that it throws up.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  Well, the only positive, I guess, in this is that the photographs, the underwear, is being held by the person who owns it, rather than applied to them.

Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek,” formerly its diplomatic correspondent.  Great thanks, as always, sir.

WOLFFE:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  Much more on the Saddam-and-his-skivvies story.  It is not all serious.  The former dictator, now a punch line around the world.  The one and only Paul Mooney gives us his unique analysis of today‘s headlines.

And the great hot dog war is over, after a century.  The 100 years‘ war, the days of either not enough or too many buns, is now history.  It is bipartisanship at its best, with mustard.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  Think the American image is suffering?  That‘s nothing compared to the Saddam Hussein fashion image.  It has undergone more makeovers in the last 18 months than Britney Spears, and all of them even more unsuccessful.

Remember shaggy Saddam, fresh out of his spider hole in December 2003, covered in dirt, getting swabbed for DNA, checked for lice?  Or the lice getting checked for him?  With bags under his eyes, an out-of-control do, and a salt-and-pepper beard, only six months later, an amazing transformation.  Sassy Saddam showed up to court, wearing a sharp suit, no tie, and the color fashionably—and a collar fashionably unbuttoned.  His beard was neatly trimmed, his hair was coiffed, he almost looked like the dictator of style.

And now, this, Saddam just kind of hanging out.

I‘m delighted to be joined again by Mr. Paul Mooney, social commentator, radio host, writer for everybody from Red Foxx to Richard Pryor, and a presence on Dave Chappelle‘s show.

Thanks again for your time.  Welcome back.

PAUL MOONEY, SOCIAL COMMENTATOR:  Hey, I‘m glad to be back.  How are you doing?

OLBERMANN:  I‘m OK except for this Saddam stuff‘s got me all funky here.  The—give me a big picture, and it is a big picture.  What did you think when you saw these things of (INAUDIBLE)...

MOONEY:  I honestly thought it was “Playgirl.”  I did, I really did, I thought it was “Playgirl” at first.  At first, when I first looked at it, I thought it was “Playgirl.”  And then I thought it was, like, the Cuban Castro, I thought it was Castro.  I did, I thought he was doing some kind of PR.  And then I realized who it was, and then I started laughing, because it‘s pretty funny, you know.  I mean, he‘s in his underwear.

And it‘s—and it‘s also very strange, don‘t you think?

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  I mean, it‘s both of those things.  It‘s—and it‘s also—just the other day here in the office, a guy said—he was describing a painful public experience that he had been through, as, like being asked to stand there in your underwear when the diet is only half over.  And I didn‘t know exactly what he meant then.  But do I now, having seen these pictures.

MOONEY:  Well, I heard that he‘s got a lot of offers from, you know, wait till until I get my Hanes on you, from Hanes, and also from a lot of people.  He‘s got some offers to do some underwear ads.  So we‘ll see what happens.

OLBERMANN:  And he needs the work.

The newspaper claims it got these pictures from somebody in the U.S.  military, and that the guy in the military‘s motive was to bring Saddam Hussein‘s image in Iraq down.  But I see the pictures on the inside, I see a guy washing his own socks.  He‘s folding his own pants.  This is a new self-sufficient, independent side of Hussein here.  I mean, hell, I don‘t even wash my own socks.

MOONEY:  But you got to also understand that these are images.  I—what I want to know is, you said, Who took these pictures?  It came out in “The Sun” and “The Post.”  Who owns both of them?

OLBERMANN:  Rupert Murdoch.

MOONEY:  OK, so that‘s the culprit.

OLBERMANN:  You think he did it himself?  I mean...

MOONEY:  Oh, he could have.  I mean, after all, he‘s the one that, you know, topped everybody with this.  I mean, it‘s all over town.  It‘s all over—it‘s actually all over the world.  The Red Cross is very upset about it.  And I think the Geneva Conventions, this could be against the law.

OLBERMANN:  There‘s no question it‘s against the law.

MOONEY:  His rights, because it‘s pretty weird.  First of all, this is

·         he‘s in a government facility, OK?  And we‘re supposed to be on orange alert, red, green, and all this other stuff.  How does someone in—this is not an throw-away camera.  How did someone get in and take these pictures?

OLBERMANN:  Yes, either we have no security, or it‘s one of our pictures that just—somebody just walked off with, that fell off the back of a truck.

MOONEY:  Or it‘s, yes, or it‘s, well, Americans are very good at selling things, including the country, you know, and slaves and everything else.  Americans, this is an old habit for Americans to sell things.  I just think there‘s a dangerous part of this too, because I don‘t think pictures like this should be just running around.

OLBERMANN:  I‘d like a professional opinion on the humor of the headlines themselves.  “The New York Post” read, “Butcher of Sagdad,” and the London “Sun” had, “Tyrant‘s in His Pants.”  Am I missing something funny here, or did they strike out?

MOONEY:  I don‘t think they stride out—I—that‘s—it‘s not funny.  It‘s not—the serious part of it‘s not funny, because he‘s not Paris Hilton, I mean, you know, who‘s looking for publicity.  You know, she‘s looking for photographs and running around loving every minute of it.

This is a man that‘s high profile that we consider like Hitler.  You know, it‘s—the funny part of it is, maybe Bush—maybe they all should be in their underwear.  It would be less of a war.

OLBERMANN:  Why would it be less of a war?

MOONEY:  Because everyone‘s very vain.  And a lot of them don‘t look good in their underwear.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, you‘re telling me.  This is how it—you lose a war, this is what happens to you, nobody would go to war again.

MOONEY:  Right.  I don‘t think anybody would go to war again, right, if they showed them (INAUDIBLE) in their underwear.

OLBERMANN:  That‘d probably be true in any profession, including yours and mine.

MOONEY:  Yes, but I‘m saying Americans, I don‘t think the majority of Americans—I don‘t think they think this is cute.  He‘s not a—he, no, I mean, let‘s—we‘re not dealing with a comedian here.  This is a serious man.


Paul Mooney of WBLS Radio in New York, “PM in the AM,” and headlining tonight at Caroline‘s in New York City.  Good luck to you on that, and thank you...

MOONEY:  I‘ll be in my underwear.  So come on over.

OLBERMANN:  Oh, goodness.  Thanks, Paul.

The news gods provided a lead story that was in and of itself odd. 

But that does not mean we forego our usual Oddball segment.

This little panda is standing up, either that, or it‘s a guy in a hat. 

And he‘ll help us uphold our maternalistic standards.

Controversy brewing around the new “Star Wars” movie.  It‘s already available in bootleg form, and there‘s evidence it was an inside job.  Yoda, he is a pirater.


OLBERMANN:  We‘re back, and we pause our COUNTDOWN of the day‘s international underwear and sock news for another award-winning episode of who‘s weirder, man or animal?

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin at the Chiba Zoological Park near Tokyo—Hi, Chiba—where the laws of nature don‘t control this lesser panda.  He has become the talk of the zoo ever since he learned to stand upright.  Not that he did it for this camera crew.  But officials say their video is no fake.  He is the first documented lesser panda to stand up straight.  Most of them obviously have bad posture.

They say at night he rides a unicycle and deals poker to the kangaroos, but they don‘t have that on tape either.  That‘s a guy in a suit.  Come on.  Guy in a suit.

Elkhart, Indiana, hello.  Once again, a Wal-Mart figures prominently in an Oddball story.  Check out the new prize in the Claw Game.  That‘s 3-year-old James Manges (ph) stuck in there, second kid in about a year and a half to do this.  His mother says James climbed up through the prize chute when she took him shopping there yesterday at about 3:00 a.m.  Yes, you heard that correctly.  Apparently he‘s been sick, so his sleeping has been off.  And, you know, a predawn trip to Wal-Mart will always help with that in a kid.

James was stuck in the machine for over an hour before firefighters were able to get him out.  His mother passed the time by buying a disposable camera and taking snapshots.  Well, you did something right, lady.  Thank you very much.

Also tonight, how the hot dog and hot dog bun industries might yet save our splintered land and teach us all the value of compromise, on how we can all just get along.

Well, nearly all of us.  A story of marital disharmony, superglue, and revenge.  Hope the writers at “Desperate Housewives” have their pens out.

These stories ahead.

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

Number three, Michael Werner.  He‘s a chemist from Braunschweig in Germany.  Claims he has survived for three years on nothing but water, juice, tea, coffee, and a, quote, “hearty helping of natural light.”  By natural light, we do not think he means the favorite beer of starving American college students, but if so, at three years, he‘s a full year short of the record.

Number two, Massachusetts State Representative Deborah Blumer.  She has somewhat reluctantly sponsored legislation that...

OLBERMANN:  Michael Werner.  He‘s a chemist from Braunschweig in Germany, claims he has survived for three years on nothing but water, juice, tea, coffee and a, quote, “hearty helping of natural light.”  By “natural light” we do not think he means the favorite beer of starving American college students, but if so, at three years, he‘s a full year short of the record.

Number two, Massachusetts state representative Deborah Blumer.  She has somewhat reluctantly sponsored legislation that would require student soccer players in the state to wear helmets to prevent brain damage.  Look, if you don‘t have any more brain damage, you‘re not going to have any more soccer fans.  Peace (ph)!

Number one, Mary Carey, the adult actress, failed 2003 California gubernatorial candidate and former COUNTDOWN guest.  According to “Adult Video News”—that‘s a branch of The Associated Press, if I‘m right—she has been invited to Washington next month for a conference with Karl Rove and then a dinner with the president on the 14th.  I‘m not sure, but we think Miss Carey‘s invitation is some sort of clerical error related to the filibuster.


OLBERMANN:  In England, the schism came because Henry VIII needed to remarry every couple of months and the Catholic Church would not let him.  In baseball, the American League adopted the new designated hitter rule in 1973 and the National League did not because there were supposedly more older famous hitters who couldn‘t play defensively anymore in the American League than there were in the National.

And in our third story on the COUNTDOWN, in the world of hot dogs, the fatal moment came because bakers bake in dozens but meat packers sell by the pound.  Thus, the century-long conundrum: You had to buy a pound of franks, eight of them, but the buns came in packages of six or twelve.  One day, you‘ll recall, it just got too much for Steve Martin.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Excuse me, sir.  What are you doing?

STEVE MARTIN:  I‘ll tell you what I‘m doing.  I want to buy eight hot dogs and eight hot dog buns to go with them.  But no one sells eight hot dog buns.  They only sell twelve hot dog buns.  So I end up paying for four buns I don‘t need.  So I am removing the superfluous buns!


OLBERMANN:  To make it even, you, of course, had to buy three packs of dogs and two packs of buns.  But now, peace in our time, the treaty of Frankfurt-er.  A major bun manufacturer will switch to eight-packs, one for each dog in the hot dog eight-packs.  It ain‘t the Middle East peace accord exactly, but it is, in the words of one of the signatories, “the perfect opportunity to right a 100-year wrong.”

The man who said that is Howard Eirinberg, president of Vienna Beef.  He joins us from Chicago tonight, along with the man to whom he proposed the landmark settlement, Mark Marcucci, the president of Alpha Baking, which makes the brand S. Rosen‘s buns.  Gentlemen, good evening and congratulations.

HOWARD EIRINBERG, CEO, VIENNA BEEF:  Good evening, Keith.  How are you?


OLBERMANN:  Mr. Eirinberg, this is eight-packs of dogs, six-packs of buns.  This wasn‘t just part of Steve Martin‘s stand-up act all these years?  People really did complain?

EIRINBERG:  No.  You‘d be amazed at how many people came up to me.  Whenever I tell people I‘m in the hot dog business, the first thing they ask me is, Hey, what‘s with the buns and the dogs?  And how come that happens like that?  And why don‘t—you know, why don‘t you do something about it?  And you know, we didn‘t have a good—a good answer for it.  But you‘d be amazed at how many people mention it.

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Marcucci, when Mr. Eirinberg came to you and he said, you know, Let‘s stop the madness, did you think he was nuts?  Did you think he was trying to pull a fast one on you, or did the commonality of interests suddenly surge over you like some big hug?

MARCUCCI:  Yes.  It was more the third version.  I kind of looked at it and said, Boy, why didn‘t we think of this before?  We‘ve been doing this for 100 years, and we never thought of combining the products together.

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Eirinberg, why did it take so long?  I mean, I think my mother still has leftover Hostess hot dog buns from 1972 in the freezer back home.

EIRINBERG:  Well, you know, it‘s been going on for 100 years, I believe, so we‘re playing catch-up here.  And we know it doesn‘t cut the mustard with the consumer.  But I think the reason is...


EIRINBERG:  The reason is that hot dogs, obviously, have been—the meat industry has been (INAUDIBLE) pound.  And everybody talks in the meat industry to each other and solves their own industry problems.  In the baker industry, they have their own issues and they talk to each other at trade association meetings and things like that.  But never the two shall meet.  There‘s not a lot of cross-industry discussion in our business.  We don‘t think about it from a consumer standpoint.  You know, a consumer eats a sandwich, it‘s a hot dog and a bun.  We‘re thinking about it with blinders on.  We‘re thinking about hot dogs, the bun guys are thinking about buns.  And we thought it was finally time to put an end to that, and that‘s when we got together.

OLBERMANN:  And here you are, sitting on national television, each of you wearing tie-dyed T-shirts with the word “Piece Treaty” on them.  So you obviously...


OLBERMANN:  ... bridged the gap there.

EIRINBERG:  You got it.  You got it.  We‘re getting along pretty well now.  I mean, we go—You can see, we got eights and eight.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, eight and eight.  OK.

EIRINBERG:  So we did it.

OLBERMANN:  We can handle that.  But as part of that, Mr. Marcucci, you‘re the guys who have to do the adjusting.  It‘s not a six-pack of buns or a twelve-pack of buns, it‘s an eight-pack of buns.  Do you think this is going to become an industry-wide standard, or is it just going to apply to your two companies?

MARCUCCI:  Well, you know, what we‘re hoping to do is get the industry to follow with their regional hot dog manufacturers.  There‘s sixes, there‘s eights, there‘s tens and twelves out there from both the hot dog and the hot dog bun manufacturers.  We want to set a precedent and get things rolling in the right direction, and we think we‘ve done that.

OLBERMANN:  Mr. Eirinberg, is there anyway further to go on this?  Are there any other great unresolved issues involving the sale of hot dogs?  I mean, is there—do you need to confer with a mustard delegate or anything like that?

EIRINBERG:  I think—I think this is the big one.  We‘ve tackled the biggest one.  I don‘t know.  I guess there‘s mustard packets that squirt all over people and things like that, but I think we‘ve got the major one down after a century-long issue.  So we‘re pretty proud of this one.

OLBERMANN:  Now, is there—Mr. Marcucci, there‘s always—there‘s always conspiracy theories on these things, that if you‘ve got—if you‘re making people or having people buy more of a product than they actually need—I‘m thinking that there‘s an old Bob and Ray sketch about ketchup, that they had to come up with a new marketing scheme for ketchup because after 30 years of success, getting people to waste ketchup by having to hit the bottom of the container, having it—now suddenly having to use more than you really wanted, people had wised up to that and they had to come up with something else.  At no point in the baking industry was it considered a good idea to try to get people to buy more than they needed, was it?

MARCUCCI:  Never came across our minds.  I wish we were that smart.  But I think it was more of just an extension of what we normally do, and we count in sixes and dozens, and that‘s how we started packing things.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, it‘s an amazing event.  Howard Eirinberg, the CEO of Vienna Beef, and Mark Marcucci, vice president of Alpha Baking Company, congratulations again.  And if you‘d just go to Washington and straighten out the filibuster thing, we‘d all be mighty grateful.

EIRINBERG:  We‘d like to try.

MARCUCCI:  This is the yeast we could do.


MARCUCCI:  Peace!  Peace!

OLBERMANN:  Thank you.

We may have another place to send the men who brought peace to the world of hot dogs with that handshake, Oklahoma City.  There we have the latest example of what might be called the continuing Lorena Bobbit phenomenon.  But in this case, as our correspondent Kevin Ogle of the NBC station there, KFOR, points out, nothing got cut off.  In fact, quite the opposite.


KEVIN OGLE, KFOR-TV (voice-over):  It can be found in almost every home.  There are a million uses for Superglue, but one this Oklahoma lawman never thought of.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She had glued his left testicle to his left leg. 

That‘d just make every man cringe.

OGLE:  In the hands of an angry ex-wife, Superglue became a weapon last Saturday.  Laurie Ann Leonard (ph) has admitted to her work with the super adhesive.  She told police she was getting back at her ex for seeing another woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She found a pubical hair on her vibrator that did not belong to him, and she was very upset about that, was why she did what she did.

OGLE:  So she found her former husband at the pit stop along I-40.  He was sleeping in the cab of his semi, and that‘s when she used an entire tube of glue on him.  He didn‘t realize what had happened until he awoke to a burning sensation in his groin area.  We‘re told there will be no permanent damage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, I don‘t believe there was any serious injuries to him.  I imagine probably more than anything, his pride was hurt.


OLBERMANN:  Not as hurt, of course, as the English language was after Sheriff Craig (ph) got around to trying to make up that new double adjective—pubical.

Also tonight, the force is back with a vengeance, not necessarily a plot but plenty of vengeance.  A new box office record for a film opening and someone under arrest tonight for trying to bring the Jedi directly into your home without benefit of George Lucas.  And how about this directly near your home, protesters breaking into a nuclear power plant and not exactly employing stealth means to do so.  That‘s comforting.

Our look back at the top five stories of the week as voted on by us,

the COUNTDOWN staff, and not you, the COUNTDOWN viewer.  Coming up.  Stand



OLBERMANN:  So you were one of those folks who helped the new “Star Wars” film ring up $50 million in box office take—on a Thursday.  Had any second thoughts about quitting your job to go see the flick?  How about after the bootleg version hit the Internet faster than you can say, “The force is very weak in the this prequel, Luke.”


The COUNTDOWN and our second story it is.  George Lewis in Los Angeles reporting does he.


GEORGE LEWIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  As “Star Wars” fans waited in line from the Chinese Theater in Hollywood to Beijing in the real China to see the movie on its opening day, copies of it were already circulating worldwide on the Internet.  The time clocks running over the picture are used in film editing, raising the question whether someone in the film industry, perhaps even in the studio, leaked it to the Web.


“YODA”:  Twisted by the dark side young Skywalker has become.


DEAN GARFIELD, MOTION PICTURE ASSOC. OF AMERICA:  What is clear is that we‘re going to try to get to the bottom of it.  And whomever did it will be caught and will be punished.

LEWIS:  With movie piracy costing the industry up to an estimated $5 billion a year, the producers of “Star Wars” went to great lengths to try to foil the pirates.

(on camera):  They opened the movie simultaneously around the world to prevent advance copies from leaking out.  They had theater owners tell moviegoers not to bring bags inside, to make it harder for pirates to conceal camcorders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think bootlegging is no different than any other

·         like stealing or any other crime.  It‘s wrong.

LEWIS (voice-over):  Today the Los Angeles police said they had arrested one man peddling bootleg “Star Wars” DVDs on the street.  He‘s out on bail now, but his disks have been sent to the studios for analysis to try to figure out the original source of the piracy.  George Lucas, the man behind the “Star Wars” series, is a big fan of technology in movie-making.

GEORGE LUCAS, “STAR WARS” CREATOR:  And so you‘re always sort of bumping against the technology.  You‘re always sort of bumping against the fact that you don‘t have enough money.

LEWIS:  Now Lucas and other moviemakers are bumping up against a technology that is taking gobs of money away from their industry.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I feel so helpless!


LEWIS:  The dark side of the Internet.  George Lewis, NBC News, Los Angeles.


OLBERMANN:  Fairly easy transition tonight to our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.”  And it‘s your tax dollars in action, day 550 of the Michael Jackson investigations, Jackson‘s former attorney, Mark Geragos, completing his testimony, which he had begun last week.  He only works Friday.  Different day, same theme.  Concerned that the accuser‘s family would sell its story to the tabloids or hire a lawyer, Geragos said he ordered a private investigator named Brad Miller to follow the family.  The timeframe, after the Bashir documentary but prior to Jackson‘s arrest in November, 2003.  That is the time, prosecutors contend, the entertainer‘s entourage was trying to keep the family quiet, even hold them captive.  Geragos denied authorizing the investigator, Miller, to tape a conversation between the accuser‘s mother and Jackson employee Frank Cassio (ph).

Also today, for the first time on the record, prosecutors said that Jackson‘s lawyers have indicated to them that the defense may rest their case as early as next Tuesday.  And a mighty roar went up from the crowd.

And If you think we can make an edition of “Puppet Theatre,” out of lame material like this, you‘re crazy.

We don‘t know the mental shape of the person who dislikes Ryan Seacrest so much that he‘s offering 50 bucks to the first other person who will, well, soil Seacrest‘s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but somebody does.  Under the alias “Assistant Atlas,” he has made the offer on line and on a Los Angeles radio station.  “Soil” here, of course, is a euphemism.  If what I mean is eluding you, perhaps you‘ll get the drift when you hear that city law in LA makes it illegal for humans to soil in public, an offense that could land you six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.  So maybe Assistant Atlas needs to raise the stakes a bit here.

Also tonight, as COUNTDOWN Hall of Fame week concludes, a story that took me more than two decades and eight different mustaches to report.  Yes, that‘s me.  But for once, the story is not about me.  It‘s about a producer.  Stand by.


OLBERMANN:  We hope you‘ve enjoyed COUNTDOWN‘s Hall of Fame week. 

Tonight we‘re going to wrap it up with the greatest story ever told in it.  But first, being Friday, we have to wrap up another week of creeping meatball-ism that is the modern world, COUNTDOWN‘s top five stories.


(voice-over):  Number five, the treaty of Frankfurt-ers.  Our long national nightmare is over.  Major bun manufacturer gets together with major hot dog company.  They agree to sell in packages of eight only each.  Two million wasted buns a year will be saved.  but what will become of the annual Hong Kong tradition of bun snatching?  Oops!  Somebody please think of the bun snatchers!

Number four, Wal-Mart has done it again, a whole new demographic group to gouge, the Amish.  Actually, the prices are quite reasonable, and there‘s plenty of parking, too -- 84 horse-and-buggy spaces, complete with hitching posts.  Still, having to walk right past the power tool department when there‘s a barn to be raised—oh, that must be very tempting!

Number three, “Star Wars,” those near and far wars.  It was the biggest opening in history for the space saga‘s final episode, but the real show was watching the people in line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, this is just an average Jedi knight robe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was a great movie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Grade A, number one.

OLBERMANN:  I weep for our future.

Number two, alarm!  Alarm!  At the four-cell nuclear power plant in the Netherlands, where toxic waste appears to be running wild through the facility.  Actually, it was a Greenpeace protest, a dozen goofballs in barrels climbing an outer fence, scaling the side of the plant and painting a giant crack on the reactor.  It‘s good to see that security at the nukes is slightly worse than it is on “The Simpsons.”

And number one, me and you and a tube of glue.  It‘s a disturbing story of marital infidelity and extra-strength adhesive.  I‘ll let the local Oklahoma authorities take it from here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She glued his left testicle to his left leg.

OLBERMANN:  Oh, why would anyone do something like that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  She found a pubical hair on her vibrator that did not belong to him, and she was very upset about that.

OLBERMANN:  Oh, I see.  Well, there‘s nothing worse than making a pube-lic spectacle of yourself.


Didn‘t belong to him?

So lastly, to the one exhibit at our COUNTDOWN Hall of Fame that‘s worth the price of admission all by itself, COUNTDOWN Hall of Fame greatest story ever told.  It‘s only taken me 23 years to report it, and it‘s about the executive producer of COUNTDOWN, Izzy Povich.


(voice-over):  You know Izzy.  That‘s her, overacting her little heart out in a bit that we did more than a year ago about how you can tell if your boss is a psychopath.


IZZY POVICH, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, COUNTDOWN:  I don‘t want him to beat me again!  I don‘t want him to beat me again!


OLBERMANN:  Izzy‘s a great executive producer, a great colleague, Great friend, and I can say that even though I‘ve only known her about two years.  Well, I thought that‘s how long I‘ve known her.

(on camera):  When did you and I think we first met?

POVICH:  I believe we think we first met sometime in February of 2003.

OLBERMANN:  And now it proves that we actually met when?

POVICH:  April 27, 28, 29, 1982.

OLBERMANN (voice-over):  We didn‘t even know until last week.  We never would have known but for the wildest coincidence either one of us has ever experienced.  I was doing a story here last week about rebuilding the World Trade Center, and we needed some pictures of me working there when I was with CNN in the early ‘80s.  I got plenty of tapes from those broadcasts, but only three of them are not in storage.  So I was screening through the tapes I did have.

On the first two, I pretty much found all I needed.  I was going to stop, but instead I thought, Well, I‘ll look at the last ones just for a little while.  And that‘s when I came to a report that I did on April 28, 1982.  It was about Reggie Jackson, the baseball player, returning to New York for the first time after he left the Yankees.  I was asking fans why they had booed Jackson when he was still a Yankee but they were now cheering him when he was no longer on their team.  And look who I asked.


POVICH:  It‘s a good question.  Why didn‘t these people cheer him when he was here, instead of when—while he is here—you know, while he‘s not here?


OLBERMANN:  Yes, that‘s her.  You don‘t believe me?  1982 Izzy, 2005 Izzy.  She was 15 years old then, just a kid Yankee fan looking for autographs.  I had no idea who she was, and she has no memory of even doing the interview.

POVICH:  I do not remember talking to you.  I‘m sorry.

OLBERMANN:  But it was Izzy Povich.  I had interviewed my executive producer 23 years ago.  I had interviewed my executive producer 21 years before I met her.  I had interviewed my executive producer in what was exactly the 38th story I‘d ever covered in a TV career that‘s now lasted a quarter of a century.  I had looked that this tape, of all of my CNN tapes.  I had this tape.  It wasn‘t in storage, so I could look at it, of all of my tapes.  And I thought to myself, What are the chances?

POVICH:  Oh, (EXPLETIVE DELETED).  He has video of me in 1982, standing at Yankee Stadium.

OLBERMANN (on camera):  You don‘t sound the way you did then.

POVICH:  No.  No, I don‘t.


It‘s a good question.  Why didn‘t these people cheer him when he was here, instead of when—while he is here—you know, while he‘s not here?


My daughter, who‘s 6, Molly, said, Mommy, what are you saying?  You sound like you‘re speaking a different language.

OLBERMANN:  Izzy, who I‘ve known 21 years longer than I thought I‘ve known her, has something more to explain.  Check out the girl in the upper right-hand corner of another interview did I for that story back in 1982.

(on camera):  Why would you be in the background?

POVICH:  That‘s a good question.

OLBERMANN:  Were you destined to become an executive producer by dint of saying, “That‘s a good question” to the reporter?  Is that how this turned out?

POVICH:  That‘s a good question.


It‘s a good question.


Why‘d you use the bite?

OLBERMANN:  It was funny!

POVICH:  It was terrible!  Badly produced.  Who produced that?


POVICH:  Oh, it‘s terrible.

OLBERMANN:  It was entertaining as hell.  It got you in the COUNTDOWN Hall of...

POVICH:  For who!

OLBERMANN:  You‘re in the COUNTDOWN Hall of Fame!  It‘s the greatest story ever told!


OLBERMANN:  We‘ll be right back.


It‘s like that every day for me.  So of course, it‘s not so much that Izzy said “That‘s a good question,” but that she was willing to talk to me at all, then or now.

That‘s COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Hang by your thumbs.  Good night, and good luck.


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