Guests: Charles Gasparino, Larry Star
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Thirty-two square miles burned, 3,000 firefighters on the front lines. A month since Katrina (INAUDIBLE) the Gulf Coast, wildfires sear Southern California.
Judy, Judy, Judy. The “New York Times” reporter Judith Miller finally testifies, four hours, 87 days later. Why did she wait?
Who is Valerie? Someone left her on a New York street corner in the middle of the night. She isn‘t hurt, but no one has yet come forward to say, That‘s my daughter.
A phrase Larry Starr does not want anybody saying to him. Yes, he‘s been on this show wearing a wedding dress. Now he rejoins us with relationship advice, like, Men, don‘t wear a wedding dress.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
When the irony became first evident to our ancestors, that can only be guessed at. We might have still been living in caves. One day, too much water would imperil us, seemingly the next, too little. And the resultant fire would imperil us.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, that irony underscored anew tonight in Southern California, with 20,000 acres burned, 2,000 homes threatened, when five weeks ago, the nation was bracing for the impact of the killer with water, Hurricane Katrina.
Our correspondent George Lewis has been at the lines with the firefighters outside of Los Angeles, and joins us now from the fire command post in Thousand Oaks, California. George, good evening.
GEORGE LEWIS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Keith.
Tonight, the firemen are winning their battle in what was—what is being hailed as a rapid, well-coordinated, well-planned response to what could have been a major disaster.
LEWIS (voice-over): The huge fire continues to burn this evening, but the high winds that whipped it into a frenzy have died down. That‘s helping firefighters as they try to fill containment lines around the blaze to stop it from spread spreading any further.
This is what they were up against at the height of it, an inferno roaring into the back yards of multimillion-dollar homes, winds gusting to 40 miles an hour, and a wall of flames 15 miles long.
Remarkably, only two homes burn burned to the ground. Thousands more were saved. And today in California, they were talking about the lesson learned from Hurricane Katrina that quick response to a disaster is absolutely vital.
REP. ELTON GALLEGLY ®, CALIFORNIA: It gives you tremendous pride and relief to be in an event like this, to praise our first responders rather than having to apologize for them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) advise you leave your homes now.
LEWIS: Another effect of Katrina, this time, people heeded the evacuation orders.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They told us to evacuate, or that we would get arrested.
LEWIS: Today, this scorched hillside next to some of the houses was evidence of how close it came.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The house is OK. We made it.
LEWIS: As people were permitted to return home, they praised the fire crews.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We appreciate what the firefighters did. They literally saved the entire complex.
LEWIS: Ilana Lukoff (ph) returned home with her poodle, Cuddles, still wearing an air mask.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want the air mask so it doesn‘t get in—smoke doesn‘t get in her little lungs.
LEWIS: But tonight, As firefighters were knocking down this blaze, another one flared up in nearby Burbank, underscoring the forecast of a bad fire season in the West.
LEWIS: The fire crews are hoping that if the weather holds, they‘ll have this, the biggest of the blazes, completely contained by Monday, Keith.
OLBERMANN: George, 4:00 Pacific Time or thereabouts, Governor Schwarzenegger was at the scene with you there today and spoke to the media afterwards. Did what he say provide any insight or relevance?
LEWIS: Well, he said he used to play a firefighter in the movies, and that these guys are the real action heroes. The reason he was here was basically a photo-op with the successful firefighters in the background. He‘s been having a political fight with the firefighters‘ union over an initiative which would limit the union‘s ability to do politicking. So he wanted to show some solidarity with the firefighters.
But some of them told us they were ordered to appear with the governor, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Certain irony to that, considering some of those firefighters have appeared now in ads opposing the governor. George Lewis reporting from Thousand Oaks, California, great thanks, George.
Three thousand firefighters battling that blaze on the ground, at least a dozen planes and choppers dropping retardant from the air, some of it, as you‘ve seen, basically muddy water, on these two fires that are still threatening the communities.
At one point, some of those aircrafts had even flown over the fire at night in hopes of containing the flames before the winds kicked up again in the morning.
For more on the firefighting efforts, we‘re joined now by inspector Ron Haralson of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
As George Lewis just pointed out for us, the hope is that this thing will be contained by Monday. Is there an estimate at this point in terms of full control, when the thing is roughly going to be no longer a threat?
INSPECTOR RON HARALSON, LOS ANGELES COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT: (audio interrupt) ... take advantage of this window of opportunity, that window being the weather. We did get some relief from the weather, we got more of an onshore breeze as far as the winds. And we also, the increase in the humidity has helped us out significantly.
OLBERMANN: At one point, it was—this particular blaze was supposedly at risk of jumping the 101 Freeway and go right through Malibu, which is an identifiable name even if somebody has never been to Southern California and know where Malibu is, and go straight to the Pacific Ocean.
How was that—what would have been certainly an economic disaster and a cultural disaster and a financial disaster, how did the firefighters stop that from occurring?
HARALSON: We were very much aware of that threat and that potential, had this fire crossed the 101 Freeway. Our efforts throughout the night with our bulldozers and our crew on the ground, putting in line or trying to stop it at that point, carried over into today. And once again, with the assistance of the weather and crews from all over the state, local crews, a group effort, jurisdictional municipalities did a great job.
OLBERMANN: If you got two big fires at the start of the fire season, and 30 square miles burned in total, and yet the final result, or at least the current result, is two homes that were destroyed, essentially, by the fire, that‘s such a remarkable ratio. Is that skill, luck, a combination of the two? How did that happen that way?
HARALSON: I think it‘s a combination. We have to credit everyone, everyone meaning the residents, who adhered to our brush-clearance program, and who understand the importance of clearing away debris, vegetation that is flammable around their structures. The group effort from firefighters from all over the country, again, and also Mother Nature. The weather played a significant part in us being able to get a handle on this.
OLBERMANN: George Lewis just mentioned this too, and I‘m sure this will be a fascinating contrast for people who have been involved in neither but watched both of these disasters unfold, the Hurricane Katrina experience, did it really factor in this time? Have you found the residents more cooperative than in previous years?
HARALSON: We have to think that, due to the disasters in Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf states, that America and across the country, everyone‘s aware of the importance of being prepared and disaster preparedness. So we have to believe that that has carried over to the residents here in Southern California.
They are no strangers to the brushfires here, and neither are our firefighters. So we understand that it is that time of the season, and we prepare for it, we train for it. And the residents, they do a excellent job.
OLBERMANN: Ron Haralson, inspector with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, one of the, one of the best municipal organizations in this country. Great thanks for your efforts, sir, and great thanks for your time tonight.
HARALSON: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: This year alone, over 40,000 acres have burned already in Southern California, and the height of fire season is just about hitting now, according to the calendars.
For a look and why and how the Golden State starts to burn every year, I‘m joined by phone by Professor Reese Halter, founder of Global Forest Science, and a house, of host of “Dr. Reese‘s Planet” on PBS in California.
Thanks for joining us, sir.
REESE HALTER, PH.D., FOUNDER, GLOBAL FOREST SCIENCE (on phone):
Thanks for having me, Keith.
OLBERMANN: As I mentioned last night, it seems like this season the fire season kicked off a little early in California this year, not by a great deal of time, but a week or so. Is that a coincidence, or is it a harbinger of a bad fire season to come, do you think?
REESE: Well, not really, I don‘t think so. I mean, give or take a day or a week. Where we live in a—not only in an earthquake zone, but we live in a fire forest. Our forests and the vegetation along the coast are well-adapted to fire. It just so happens you‘ve got 12 million people who call Southern California home.
So it‘s tricky. And plus, we‘ve just come off a rainfall that‘s a one in 100-year event, seven times the normal rainfall. And that translates on the ground to lots and lots of vegetation. And what happens is, over a period of three, four months, which we‘ve had a nice long, warm, summer, as usual, we get lots of vegetation that‘s cured and ready go up in flames.
OLBERMANN: Yes, if you have not lived in Southern California, it‘s hard to make that connection, that rain would cause fires. You‘ve explained it, I think, to the point that most people would get it, but explain why the exceptional amount of rain produces the exceptional amount of brush, and why that stuff is even more like a tinderbox than usual.
REESE: OK, well, basically, Botany 101, it‘s so beautiful here, the temperatures are so conducive to luxuriant growth, that what actually prevents growth from taking place is moisture. You give a plant a lot of sunlight, you give it the California moisture, and voila. You‘ve got great growth.
And, you know, that‘s fine, well, and dandy. But it‘s a problem when fire comes in in the fall. And the fire comes in. And we know it comes in. I mean, we have a climate here that they call a Mediterranean climate. That‘s because it mimics Western Europe and around the Mediterranean. That is, we‘ve got wet winters, cool, wet winters, and long, dry summers.
So the vegetation is—it just takes off, and then fire comes in. And then you add behind that, Keith, this wonderful event of Nevada, Utah, and Arizona that are hot for three, four months, and all of a sudden, the air has to go somewhere. Where does it go? It outflows through Southern California, that‘s what we call the Santa Ana winds. And when a lightning bolt, and lightning bolts happen here, and fire is ignited, those winds fan these fires.
OLBERMANN: And they are a part, obviously, a natural part of the ecology in California, especially the southern part, yet people still build houses right on the edge of this risk area. Is another part of the California ecology man‘s willingness to rationalize these risks? I mean, I lived there for a total of 10 years, and it seemed essential for survival to deny that the fires existed and deny that the earthquakes existed, or you‘d just go nuts worrying about those risks.
REESE: You, you, you, you hit the nail right on the head. And, you know, what we‘ve got to do, obviously, is work with Mother Nature, not against her. So what does that mean on the ground? Well, it means don‘t plant nonnative vegetation. Look, I lived in Australia for five years, I love the country. It‘s very botanically cool. But eucalyptus is—belongs in Australia, not in Southern California. Eucalyptus is volatile, it explodes with resin and spits fire onto houses.
So we got to get back to the basics, and love our plants here that live in Southern California.
OLBERMANN: The host of the PBS program “Dr. Reese‘s Planet.”
Professor Reese Halter, great thanks for your time, sir.
REESE: Thanks very much, Keith.
OLBERMANN: A mystery, meanwhile, gripping New York City. A 4-year-old girl found in the middle of the night, unharmed, on the street. She knows her name, she knows her parents‘ names. And no one has come to claim her as their own.
Speaking of homecoming, Judith Miller enjoying freedom once again after finally having testified before a grand jury in the Valerie Plame leak investigation today. Why today, after 85 days behind bars?
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: She knows her name and her parents‘ names, and she knows she‘s lost. She even managed to tell police how she ended up wandering the streets of Middle Village, Queens, in New York City just after midnight last Sunday. But being just 4 years old, little Valerie didn‘t know how to tell police where to find her family.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, especially because no one even reported her missing.
COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny is here with this extraordinary story.
Good evening, Monica.
MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, good evening.
There is some good news tonight. New York City police have been able to identify the abandoned 4-year-old‘s mother. But this woman has not been seen since Saturday, and they‘ve now declared her missing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what‘s your mommy‘s name?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Monica? And how about your daddy?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOVOTNY: This lost little girl holds the key to her own family mystery. Officers have identified her mother as 26-year-old Monica Lozada (ph). But while the 4-year-old has told police who her parents are, nearly a week later, they still don‘t know where they are.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell us your name?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOVOTNY: She was found walking alone and barefoot in Queens, New York, 1:00 Sunday morning, by a woman who heard noises outside her home. Valerie says it was her father who left her there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VALERIE: I got lost, and when I was sleeping, he took me in the car, and he took...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your daddy?
VALERIE: ... took me outside with no shoes. So I was crying. And some people find me, and they give me a sweater and everything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOVOTNY: Taken immediately to a local hospital, doctors found no signs of abuse or neglect. Today, police peered into the mother‘s home and searched the area and say they found nothing unusual.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you speak English at home, or Spanish at home?
VALERIE: English and then Spanish.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOVOTNY: Right now, Valerie‘s staying with a foster family.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She‘s adjusted now. For the first couple of days, she was crying, saying that she missed her mommy. So I tried to comfort her, and tell her, Yes, we‘ll try to find her mommy.
NOVOTNY: Police continue to follow tips and are reportedly questioning a man named Caesar about her mother‘s whereabouts. But for now, the best lead they have is Valerie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What does your mommy look like?
VALERIE: She looks like a princess.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOVOTNY: Valerie says she has two fathers. Police believe one, who Valerie identified as Caesar, is the mother‘s boyfriend. Now, reports are that he has told police that he drove Valerie and her mother to the airport to catch a flight, and he doesn‘t know how Valerie ended up lost in the middle of the night.
I should mention that homicide detectives have been put on the case.
Of course, they‘re still hoping for a happy ending, but...
OLBERMANN: It‘s a heartbreaker one way or the other.
OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny, great thanks.
OLBERMANN: San Francisco‘s streets turned into a ski jump. That can mean only one thing, publicity stunt that got into Oddball.
And a rescue from Rita, a dolphin in distress. A team of experts called in by our own correspondent Kerry Sanders, who saved the day of the dolphin. That‘s next.
This is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: We‘re back. And for the final time this week, we pause our COUNTDOWN for the segment of stories where no one is indicted, no one is investigated, and no one gets hurt—that badly.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in San Francisco, where the summer has been the coldest winter they‘ve ever spent, even though it‘s fall now. Apparently it‘s cold enough to have a ski-jumping competition right down the middle of Fillmore Street. Two hundred tons of snow trucked in and dumped on the city‘s steep steepest road, which was closed for most of the day, along with the surrounding streets, to accommodate this crowd.
(INAUDIBLE) and snowboarders took part, and the ones who landed upright had a grand old time. The others, oh, they‘ll be OK in a couple weeks. All this to celebrate the birthday of Olympic gold medalist Johnny Mosely (ph). Happy birthday, Johnny. Hope you (INAUDIBLE) enjoyed your surprise gift, a traffic jam that enveloped the city.
To Tokyo, where the latest kids‘ craze combines everything that‘s cool about video games and card collecting with everything that‘s fun and about watching hideous rhinoceros beetles wrestle. They‘ve long been the favorite pets of Japanese children, but now kids can let them battle each other without having to clean up the nasty goo that always comes with a beetle fight.
Mu Shi King (ph), the king of beetles, has been the hottest thing to sweep the country since Pokemon. With more than 250 million of the bug cards sold, the beetle game it‘s expected to spread to the U.S. soon, except, of course, they will be substituting pit bulls for the beetles here.
Finally, to Dallas, where the Butter Elvis is the star attraction at this weekend‘s Texas State Fair. Thank you, thank you very much. The real Elvis Presley would now be about 70 years old, and he probably would have fared just about the same as his dairy counterpart, which broke a hip and collapsed yesterday in the Texas heat. Parkay.
The King‘s sculptor is rushing back to repair the statue, which, like the real Elvis‘s last breakfast, took more than 800 pounds of butter to construct.
Thank you, thank you very much.
No word on if Judy Miller (INAUDIBLE) passed her time behind bars sculpting butter herself, but she was waiting for a phone call from Scooter Libby, a wait that lasted 85 days, and the thought probably occurred to her. Big developments in the Valerie Plame leak investigation.
And later, relationship on the rocks? You think this guy might have the answer? (INAUDIBLE), we‘re not sure either. But we will listen to what Wedding Dress Guy has to say.
Those stories ahead.
But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Mark Bridgewood of Dartwood‘s—Dartmouth, England. He and the missus separated. She got the $200,000 yacht. She didn‘t care, she put it up for sale, asking $72,000. Mr. Bridgewood was not going to stand for that, so he rode out to the yacht and sank it.
Number two, Christian Canabou of Boulder Creek, Colorado. Actually, Mr. Canabou‘s pig. Mr. Canabou has been evicted from his home but will not leave. Police say every time they go out there to evict him, he runs into the woods, and his pet pig attacks them, chases deputies, chews up parts of their (INAUDIBLE) bars. As a sergeant says, The pig, and I don‘t know her name, is aggressive. Well, maybe if you troubled yourself to learn her name, sir, she‘d be more agreeable.
Number one, Alicia Evans, an animal psychic from Aspen, Colorado. Authorities recovered a Jack Russell terrier there, apparently abandoned, on whose side someone had written the word “Free.” The obvious conclusion, the dog was free to whoever would take him.
That‘s not what Ms. Evans says, though. She thinks it might be a message that animals were meant to live free, or that people should live their lives as free as dogs. So she‘s going to go ask the terrier psychically. We are hoping that the terrier then tells her, What in the hell do I know about this, lady? I‘m a dog.
OLBERMANN: There is the mystery of: What did Judith Miller know and when did she know it? And then there is the mystery, more perplexing still, of: What did Judith Miller know about her source releasing her from confidentiality and when did she know that?
This much we know: Her first meal as a free woman, a fruit plate and a martini. Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, Washington, weirder than ever. Highlighted by the New York Times reporter saying that the vice president‘s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, just let her off the journalistic hook yesterday, while he says he did so nearly a year ago. Either way, Ms. Miller is out of jail and back in court, her testimony clearing the way for prosecutors to decide who, if anybody, broke the law by knowingly revealing the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
Mr. Libby‘s lawyers said they were surprised when attorneys for Ms. Miller asked them again for permission for her to testify, claiming they had already done that long ago. But, Ms. Miller standing firm today that she personally had not been released by her source, nor had the special prosecutor agreed to limit his questioning to that one source.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDITH MILLER, REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: I said I had not received a personal, explicit, voluntary waiver from my source, what I considered that. That was my position and I said it many times. I said it before I went to jail. I said it when I was in jail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Confused yet? We are. Especially as to why anyone would spend 12 weeks in jail if perhaps they did not have to. As we so often do when befuddlement sets in, we call in our own Craig Crawford, also of Congressional Quarterly, for guidance. Craig, good evening.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Hello there. Out here on the road, signing books and meeting a lot of COUNTDOWN fans showing up.
OLBERMANN: We appreciate both of those things. What are we.
CRAWFORD: Most would rather meet you than me, but that‘s okay.
OLBERMANN: I‘m not going to say it. Let‘s stick with the interview. What—do we have any idea what actually has happened here? Was she literally sitting there waiting for an engraved invitation to talk?
CRAWFORD: There seems to be a change in her position, Keith, although she said it‘s been consistent. I thought the position that she and the New York Times had taken is that no waiver is good enough, that it‘s almost like taking a hostage. The government takes a reporter hostage and forces a source to reveal or to waive the confidentiality, and so it‘s just not valid.
I thought that was their position. Now, it may be that they adjusted it somewhat because she want wanted to get out of jail, and you know what? I‘m not going to blame her for that.
OLBERMANN: People who visited her in jail say she did not want to be there. They insist she was not grandstanding and she was not being a masochist of some sort, but that would also mean that either Mr. Libby is not being honest about when he relieved her of journalistic obligations or the outcome is the way you suggested it: that they fudged just a little bit because she was just tired of being there. Or is it conceivable that this whole stay in jail was the result of a misunderstanding or a miscommunication?
CRAWFORD: I don‘t think it was a miscommunication. She took the position that these form waivers that a lot of government employees now have to sign just are not valid, and I agree with that. I think it does have to be a specific waiver if you are going to accept a waiver.
But, I have to tell you, as a purist on this stuff, I liked what I thought was there position in the beginning, which is that no waiver is good enough. Because once you have a judge forcing a source basically to waive confidentiality, because otherwise he takes the hit for keeping a reporter in jail, that‘s just not a valid waiver in my mind. I thought that was their original position.
OLBERMANN: In terms of the case, Judith Miller was the last of the witnesses holding out. Matt Cooper had spoken nearly three months ago with the approval of his source. If we are going to see any indictments against Scooter Libby or Karl Rove, does this mean they would come soon or is the whole thing going to be closed soon? What does it tell us about the timing?
CRAWFORD: The suggestion is this was the last step. This prosecutor has been at this for two years. The deadline is coming up for this grand jury to disassemble. He could always go for an extension, but one would think that we are at the point where if there are going to be indictments, there‘s going to be. If I‘m Libby, for his sake, I hope he‘s not indict and convicted. I wouldn‘t want to go to jail with a name like “Scooter.”
OLBERMANN: Speaking of anniversaries, 10 days from now, it will be two years since Scott McClellan said that Karl Rove, Elliot Abrams and Mr. Libby were not involved in this. They didn‘t tell any reporter Plame‘s name. How does the identification of Libby as Judith Miller‘s source jibe with that McClellan statement? And what relevance does it have for the Bush administration at this point?
CRAWFORD: Oh, again, I think it proved that either Scott McClellan, the press secretary, was prevaricating or just didn‘t know the situation when he said they were not involved. I mean, that‘s a very blanket denial that has turned out to be just simply not true.
OLBERMANN: Congressional Quarterly‘s Craig Crawford. And the book he mentioned was “Attack the Messenger: How Politicians Turn You Against The Media,” now at a bookstore near and near Craig. Thanks, Craig.
CRAWFORD: I will be out in north Florida and Georgia next week, and my schedule is on the Web site at attackthemessenger.com.
OLBERMANN: Two shows nightly, and a three-drink minimum. Thank you, Craig.
CRAWFORD: You bet.
OLBERMANN: In the same week that saw Ms. Miller finally testifying, we also witnessed the indictment of House Majority Leader Tom Delay and the opening of an insider trading investigation by the SEC into a questionable stock sale made by Mr. Delay‘s counterpart in the Senate, Bill Frist. A trifecta of murky legal maneuvers, about which we can all hope to learn more in the days, weeks and months to come.
What we know so far about Senator Frist‘s stock sale goes something like this: In mid-June of this year, the good doctor ordered the sale of all his shares in a family company, HCA, the nation‘s largest hospital chain. At that time, the company was trading at a 52-week high. Dr. Frist‘s wife and daughter dumped their shares, too, at that point. Those transactions coming before HCA‘s announcement in July that its quarterly profits would fall short of expectations, which would drive the share price down by 9 percent.
Oddly enough, Dr. Frist, previously claiming in 2003 that because they were held in a blind trust, he no longer even knew if he still owned any shares in HCA. May be the tale of Dr. Frist‘s investment portfolio sounds something like a story you heard before, perhaps like the one involving a so-called “domestic diva,” who dumped her stock in a company called ImClone the day before the rest of us learned the FDA had rejected one of its cancer drugs. You would not be alone in making that analogy.
After following the Martha Stewart case in the very beginning, a Newsweek senior writer, Charles Gasparino, is now hard at work on the Frist story for next week‘s issue of his magazine. Good evening to you, sir.
CHARLES GASPARINO, SENIOR WRITER, NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: As we mentioned, several people have noticed some structural similarities here between the Frist case and the Martha Stewart case. Do you think there is a parallel?
GASPARINO: There‘s some parallel. They‘re both celebrities. You know one thing I think Frist is going to do is not lie. And I think that was the big problem with Martha. She made up one of the dumbest lies known in white-collar crime history. Frist is not going to do that, because usually they don‘t get you on the exact crime.
Insider trading is notoriously difficult to prove. They get you on the cover-up. So, I don‘t think you‘ll see much cover up from him. As a matter of fact, he has said he‘s going to be completely cooperative and hand stuff over, and in his view by handing stuff over, he‘s going to be exonerated.
OLBERMANN: There was a lot of belief, almost a broad assumption, that Ms. Stewart was targeted, so that she could be made an example of, and if she had been, you know, someone named Stewart Martha, there would never have been any case whatsoever. And we can face this now. She is well past post-prison poncho and ankle bracelet stage.
GASPARINO: She still faces insider trading charges by the SEC by the way, civil charges.
OLBERMANN: But, while that‘s all wrapped up, that whole thing is now in her past, Ken Lay from Enron has yet to go to trial. Is the majority leader of the Senate more likely to get A, the kid glove treatment, or B, the possible overzealous make-an-example-of-him prosecution treatment?
GASPARINO: I mean, he is going to get the Wall Street version of a proctologist exam, basically. They are going to do it quick. I think they do it over the next three months, but they‘re going to look at everything. Basically, if you are the SEC, you can‘t look like you are laying down for the Republicans at this point. The SEC is run by a Republican, Chris Cox, appointed by the president.
So you really do have to go in there, and you have to look at everything, and I think that‘s what‘s going to happen. Yes, there is a sort of tendency by the SEC to make examples out of high-profile people. But these are high-profile people that in many ways deserve to be looked at in a certain way. Martha Stewart traded, from what I remember, hours before this announcement came out. Frist is a little different. He traded, I believe it was, a month before. But it still was before, and so he deserves to be looked at.
OLBERMANN: Explain, as we sit on the sidelines and try to look at it without understanding most of the components to any great degree, the concept of the blind trust and how it relates to the senator‘s case. If it‘s a blind trust, how could he have known what was in it? And also, how could he have accessed it to make a trade, to sell off this stock?
GASPARINO: That‘s a great question. I mean, here is the problem:
The one thing that—I‘m basically ready to say the guy is going to get off, except for this concept of the blind trust. Because, if it‘s blind, he is not supposed to be dealing with it. Why is he dealing with something that‘s mostly blind, that a trustee is supposed to be dealing with? And I think that‘s the one problem he has, and I think that‘s one of the things that the SEC is somewhat skeptical about.
OLBERMANN: Well, maybe it was a near-sighted trust. Where does it go from here? Is this just going to stick around as a sticky rumor? At what point are we going to have further developments? Or is the thing going to go away?
GASPARINO: No, they‘re going to really investigate this. They‘re going to subpoena his e-mails, his telephone conversations. His brother‘s involved in this whole thing, so I‘m sure the e-mails and telephone conversations of the brother, who is apparently a director of HCA. They‘re going to really investigate this stuff. And I think we will know in three months or so. I mean, there is a tendency by the SEC to get these sort of things wrapped up quick when, you know, let‘s face it—the guy‘s political career is hanging in the balance.
OLBERMANN: Charles Gasparino of Newsweek magazine, also the author of “Blood on the Street,” on the Frist HCA case and the Frist-Stewart parallels. Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
GASPARINO: Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: Hurricane Katrina pulled a group of domesticated dolphins out to sea, you remember that, but Hurricane Rita had the opposite effect, pushing one desperate dolphin miles inland. We‘ll show you the race to save it and the unlikely saviors.
And the effort to rehabilitate the image of Prince Harry of England. We are putting him in harm‘s way in Bosnia to do the trick. Well, we know he can bring his own uniform. That one ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Ahead on COUNTOWN: How to save a dolphin displaced by a hurricane, how to save your relationship using the real-life experience of a guy who wore his ex-wife‘s wedding dress on this newscast.
OLBERMANN: Despite the objections of the state‘s lead environmental officer, nearly a third of the residents of New Orleans were permitted to return to their homes today. Whether or not that many did was another question. Mayor Ray Nagin opening neighborhoods which largely escaped flooding, such as the French Quarter, despite the fact that the sewage system still doesn‘t work and the drinkability of the water has been called into question. Regardless, the desire to return to some sort of post-Katrina normalcy is unavoidable.
More evidence of that tonight in our number two story, the semi-regular dolphin report. As we told you Monday, the rumors are not true. There no secret Navy-trained dolphins with frickin‘ toxic dart guns attached to their heads, swimming around in the Gulf after they were liberated by Hurricane Katrina. The eight aquarium bottlenoses from Gulfport, Mississippi, have all been rescued now and are at a naval base awaiting the rebuilding of their home. So let‘s make it a trifecta of dolphin good news. Call him Flipper, the dolphin rescued by none other than our correspondent Kerry Sanders is apparently safe tonight, and so is Kerry.
KERRY SANDERS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When we first saw the dolphin, it was in a sort of jail, trapped by marsh grass in shallow water in a roadside ditch.
SANDERS (on camera): I think if I pull the grasses out of the way.
SANDERS (voice-over): We tried our best, but failed to free the 500-pound bottlenose dolphin.
SANDERS (on camera): Look how far he has to try to make it out to the Gulf.
SANDERS (voice-over): Hurricane Rita‘s storm surge had carried him four miles in from the Gulf, in Cameron Parish. When the waters receded, he had no way out.
SANDERS (on camera): I know. We‘re getting the tangles off of you.
SANDERS (voice-over): Our story on the wayward dolphin on Tuesday‘s “Today Show,” including the call for outside help...
SANDERS (on camera): Think you can rescue this little guy?
SANDERS (voice-over): .made him a local celebrity. A few town residents said the attention given the dolphin seemed misplaced, what with all the devastation here. But even those who lost everything are not without a soft spot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to save the dolphin. No need to let it die right there. No sense for something to die a senseless death.
SANDERS (voice-over): So, with the help of the Coast Guard, the Army and the locals, a team of volunteer marine experts from Texas monitored.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They‘re very sensitive animals.
SANDERS (voice-over): .rehearsed, corral and finally captured the dolphin.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unbelievable that he is still alive.
SANDERS (on camera): But it was just too heavy for the team to bring up alone on the sling. So it was all hands on deck.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need an even number of people on both sides.
SANDERS (voice-over): His frisky tail hitting my tail. A good sign, said the scientists. This dolphin was still strong. Loaded onto a Coast Guard chopper, yet one more amazing adventure for this guy.
SANDERS (on camera): Were you surprised how easy it was?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not really.
SANDERS (on camera): Think he‘s just tired?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, probably.
SANDERS (voice-over): A two-minute flight across the marshes to the beach.
SANDERS (on camera): This is the most critical time now for the dolphin. One of the concerns is that dolphins instinctively sometimes will just stop breathing when they are out of the water.
SANDERS (voice-over): Twenty-one minutes after leaving the ditch, the team gingerly lowers him back into the Gulf of Mexico.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Think we‘re about there.
SANDERS (on camera): You excited?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very.
SANDERS (voice-over): He quickly gets his bearings, and he is back in the wild.
SANDERS (on camera): Now we wonder, does he make it? Does he live a happy life?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That‘s what we are going with. The happy life, yeah.
OLBERMANN: From rescued dolphins after Hurricane Rita and, by extension, dolphins with frickin‘ poison dart guns stickin‘ out of their heads to British princes with guns stick out of their hands.
Our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news begins with Prince Harry of England, make that Dirty Prince Harry. The 21-year-old performing his military duty says he wants to be a frontline soldier in the Welsh Guard. They are the British squadron on assignment to NATO keeping the peace in Bosnia. “It is about the most dangerous place you can be in the Army,” says the man third in line for the British throne. The royal family is not sure it wants his fair-haired boy being shot at by rival ethnic groups. Although, his dad, Prince Charles considered letting him.
And, there is the ex-Navy Seal, ex-pro wrestler, ex-governor of Minnesota, ex-MSNBC host, yeah, like that distinguishes you. Jesse Ventura, appearing on our sister network, CNBC with host Donny Deutsch, and saying he‘s leaving the country, in part because the FCC is acting like Nazis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSE VENTURA, FORMER MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: I‘m leaving the country.
I‘m not even going to live here anymore.
DONNY DEUTSCH, CNBC HOST: Why are you leaving the country?
VENTURA: I find there is more freedom in other countries. We‘ve lost personal responsibility here, in the sense that our freedoms are being taken away from us every day in the name of terrorism. We are getting an assault on the first amendment right now by the FCC. I mean, they can now fine you, Donny, a half million dollars. That‘s the same the Nazis used to do with a gun, only our government is doing it with money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: You saw, Jesse‘s now playing Ming in the latest remake of “Flash Gordon.” Actually, the FCC can‘t fine Donny or me or, if Jesse gets another show, even him. It has no jurisdiction over cable. You might know that if you had, say, been a governor. Where he is moving, no word, or if it will cost him his latest gig as a pitchman for an internet gambling site.
When we first met Larry Star, he was trying to get rid of his ex‘s wedding dress. Well, he‘s back. Now he‘s trying to unload his own special brand of relationship advice. Dr. Phil he‘s not. That‘s ahead, but first I have the COUNTDOWN‘s list of the nominees for the coveted title of “worst person in the world.”
Nominated at our bronze level, Mayor Marcos Irizarry of Lajas in Puerto Rico. The territory is in dire financial straights, with the government asking its employees to voluntarily shorten their workweeks, but the mayor thinks taxpayers should pay some of the $100,000 it will cost to set up a proposed landing strip in their city, a landing strip for UFOs.
The runner up here, Major General Lief Simonsen, head of the Danish air force. His people have agreed to pay nearly $5,000 in damages to Olovi Nikkanoff. Mr. Nikkanoff is one of Denmark‘s many professional Santa Clauses, his territory the island of Fyn. Last February a Danish fighter jet made a low pass near Mr. Nikkanoff‘s farm, and the shock of the deafening noise proved just too much for one of Mr. Nikkanoff‘s Christmastime employees: his reindeer named Rudolph. That‘s right, the Danish air force killed Rudolph the reindeer.
The winner: the promoters of NecroComicon, a comic and horror convention in the L.A. suburb of Northridge, whose special celebrity guests this weekend are O.J. Simpson and Al Cowlings. Pose with O.J.‘s arm around your shoulders and neck for only $95. Bad enough, but get this additional note from the press release. The Red Cross is also scheduled to hold a blood drive at the event. The promoters of NecroComicon, today‘s worst persons in the world.
OLBERMANN: This is not a quid pro quo program. Just because I‘m mentioned on about page five of Craig Crawford‘s book does not mean we‘ll put him on the show all the time. Of course, he was on earlier this evening. Just because in Larry Star‘s new book, the third name on his list of acknowledgements is MSNBC‘s COUNTDOWN, that doesn‘t mean we‘re going to put him on the show to promote the book. I mean, besides tonight.
Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, would you take dating and relationship advice from a guy wearing his own ex-wife‘s wedding dress? This guy. You may remember him as the jilted gentlemen who tried to sell his ex‘s bridal gown on the internet auction site eBay. The bidding, as with all highly publicized auctions, got a little out of hand. One offer, $99 million. Most bids were not surprisingly fake, and Larry was stuck with his taffeta.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Do you re-list this thing? Do you wear it on stage with your band? What do you do with it?
LARRY STAR, AUTHOR: You know, I was actually going to use this forum to sell this beautiful wedding dress. Used only 6,000 times.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That was more than a year ago, and he did not sell the dress, but he is selling advice: relationship advice. His new book is entitled “Bitter, Party of One, Your Table is Ready: Relationship Advice From Advice From a Guy Who Has No Business Giving It.” Larry Star, welcome back.
STAR: Mr. Bloggermann, thank you very much.
OLBERMANN: So, this 15 minutes of fame thing sure went a long way.
Did you need to keep your day job?
STAR: I still have my day job, and I hate it.
OLBERMANN: So, now it is writing advice. Let‘s get right to some of it here. The dating courtship stage: “If you know you are going to do something that will upset your woman,” you write, “you‘d better be sure it‘s worth the trouble.” When you say “upset your woman,” you mean what?
STAR: If you‘re going to do something you know will piss her off, you might as well piss off her entire family to go along with it. I call it the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid tactic. You know you‘re going down, so take down as many of them as you can.
OLBERMANN: Your thoughts on marriage include the following observation: “You will never win any argument if you are naked and your antagonist is not.” That sounds like it is based on bitter personal experience.
STAR: Well, you know, when you come out of the shower and you go to the fridge and you reach for the butter and the woman is standing there behind you, arguing with you, no matter how big your point is, in full-frontal nudity, you will never, ever win the argument. You‘ll always get deflated. Pardon the pun.
OLBERMANN: No matter how big the butter is. Some may agree with you on the observation on the divorce process. “Attorneys have no sense of humor or as the comedian Ray Goulding once put it, they do have a sense of humor. A sense of humor like a bankruptcy referee.”
STAR: That‘s true. I asked my attorney when writing the book if I could put in his law firm, and I asked if I was going to get sued, and he said, “Well, you can use it, but they won‘t think it‘s funny.” And I‘m like, “It is funny.” But, you know, apparently attorneys have no sense of humor. And if they do sue me, refer to the point that attorneys have no sense of humor.
OLBERMANN: That‘s right and perhaps you might catch one of them naked with butter in his hand. So, throughout this whole process, have you heard anything from the ex?
STAR: No, not at all, and I want to keep it that way. So, don‘t tell her about it, OK?
OLBERMANN: All right. Well, she‘s probably not watching. But what‘s next for you and what‘s going to become of that dress?
STAR: Well, the dress is probably going to go curled up into a ball and thrown in a garbage bag and stuck in the bottom of my closet until my next appearance here. But, you know, I figured I would like to come on this show with, like, one shred of dignity. You know what I mean? At least once.
OLBERMANN: That would make one shred of dignity between us.
STAR: But I‘m writing—I‘m in the middle of writing another book. As a matter of fact, I‘m thinking about teaming up with Tom Delay and writing a book called “It‘s Not Really Money Laundering.”
OLBERMANN: Larry Star, the genius behind “Bitter, Party of One, Your Table is Ready.” Pleasure to talk to you again, sir, and all the best. Maybe you could cut up the dress and sell it on baseball cards, game-used uniforms. That just occurred to me. Thank you sir. That‘s COUNTDOWN, I‘m Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose, good night, and good luck. Our coverage continues on MSNBC now with “RITA COSBY, LIVE AND DIRECT.” Good evening, Rita.
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