When a Trump appointment stinks

Viewers of The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC know that generally she begins he first segment with a 20 minute segment that meanders though a story that initially doesn’t seem to be leading anywhere significant. Last night was no different.

In honor of Rachel I will begin this story with a peripherally related introduction the same way, though I won’t drag it out.

Last night my friend and I went to dinner at our favorite little Mexican restaurant, Cha! Cha! Cha! which is in nearby Milwaukie (with an -ie) outside of Portland, Oregon. I had the Molcajete: Grilled Steak / Sausage / Bell Peppers / Onions / Melted Jack & Shredded Cheese / Fresh Guacamole / Chipotle Crema / and Three Sisters Corn Tortillas: delicious.  She had the Wholesome Bowl of kale, black beans, and other healthy veggies which I try to avoid. I had a Corona and she had a margarita.

The week-long celebration of The Day of the Dead had ended but they still had their decorations displayed on a table with colorful skeletons and skulls.  After diner we came back to my house to watch The Rachel Maddow Show.

We couldn’t have anticipated that references to the stench of death would come up several times in Rachel’s opening segment, but it did.

Rachel’s story began with a description of a train full raw supposedly non-odorous treated sewage, what she then called poop for the rest of the segment, loaded on what she also called the “poop train” as the segment continued. Boxcars of poop, she said, had been shipped from either New York or New Jersey and it ended up stopping in various towns in Alabama. In each town the residents and officials complained mightily that the train emanated such an odious smell that people said that it was as if someone had died and their body was rotting. The train smelled like death.

After five minutes, as usually happens, we were wondering “where is Rachel going with this?” My guess was that the story had to have something to do with the Trump administration.

As the story unfolded Rachel described how the “poop train” was forced by officials to move from one town to another as it made its way south to Birmingham.

My impression was that she took delight in saying poop again and again. She must have said it about a dozen times. She resisted implying directly that she could have noted that the poop train stirred up the kind of storm often referred to by using a term she wasn’t allowed to say on television. The closest she got to saying “shit” was saying that “the claim that the treated sewage wouldn’t stink was a load of — umm — claptrap.”

Eventually she got to the point and, as I predicted, it did have everything to do with the Trump administration. It turned out that the man responsible for the poop train, Trey Glenn, was an individual who also ended up embroiled in several ethics scandals and is the current subject of new indictments, eventually was appointed as head of the southeastern branch of the Environment Protection Agency, the largest geographical area covered by an EPA office. Rachel noted the headline in the Alabama media that his appointment to the national EPA was downright Orwellian.

There had to be more to the story than merely one comparatively minor incompetent and ethically challenged individual being hired to run a federal agency that is tasked with a job that they have been proved to be incapable of doing. After all, this is par for the course in the Trump administration.

Trey Glenn, the said regional EPA administrator, was just indicted in state court in Alabama for violating state ethics laws when he was in charge of the state environment agency. Rachel went on and on, dragging out the segment longer than absolutely necessary as usual, to list all the Trump appointees who have been investigated for ethics violations, fired, or were about to be fired.

Jeff Sessions finally comes up in the last minute of this 20 minute segment. However, you won’t find out how and why until the next segment. It has to do with the new Maryland State case challenging the legality of Matt Whitaker being the acting attorney general, a State case involving Jeff Sessions.

You can watch the entire Rachel Maddow segment, “Stench of EPA officials indictment scandal reached Jeff Sessions” here.

Politicians and their parties are not the answer

It’s no secret that we at Capitol Hill Blue hold politicians, political parties and partisans in low esteem.

Actually, that’s an understatement.  We think politicians, political parties are scum of the earth and those who buy into their fantasies are delusional at best.

America doesn’t need another politician at the helm.

We don’t need a celebrity.

We don’t need a pre-packaged, consultant-molded, TV-friendly candidate.

We need a leader.

Is there one out there?

Not in the current, pathetic crop available for election to the House, Senate or White House.

Sadly, the choices for those to represent us and/or to lead this nation will be made by brain-dead voters who long-ago abandoned independent thought and make their decisions now based on blind party affiliation and minds filled with propaganda from the raving lunatics who masquerade as purveyors of information.

Conservatives genuflect at the feet of loons like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity while liberals accept slanted garbage from Rachel Maddow on Keith Olbermann of the left.  Olbermann, thankfully, is off the air for the moment but he will be back, just like a bad check or diarrhea.

Political parties don’t recruit leaders.  They select celebrities or “game changers” who lack the skills necessary for the job.  That’s how we ended up with Barack Obama in the White House and pretenders like Sarah Palin.

We can’t say this often enough:  America cannot be saved by those who think of themselves as Democrats or Republicans, conservatives or liberals or any other political stereotype.

America and only be saved by Americans.

Are you up to the job?

God help us if you’re not.

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Call your cable or dish company.

Who would have suspected that “American Exceptionalism” really meant that everyone in the world would have access to decent, serious, in depth news coverage Except for America?

Let’s face it. American news sucks, regardless of which medium you point to.

The state of the news reporting within the US is disgusting.

Paper based journalism. Surprisingly, there are some decent sources still in print.

I do not mean WaPo, which remains useful on a camping trip in which all your toilet paper has run out, nor even the Grey Lady, who appears ever more senile with each new hire of a new conservative voice.

ChiTrib? Sam Zell should be drawn & quartered,  Tarred & Feathered, hung in effigy, covered with honey and tied down over an African Fire Ant nest.

After that, he should be really punished.

The Tribune, admittedly a conservative paper, used to report real news, in depth, and with serious research. It had foreign correspondents, experts, and great writers on staff. It was financially stable until Sam Zell leveraged with with millions in loans, and stole it blind. Since then, USA Toady has more news than the Trib. It’s not just Chicago. LA and other cities that had Trib company papers all suffered.

There are some news sources, just not many. The Economist is still solid. The Nation kicks butt on a few important subjects. Most science magazines provide news and great reporting. There are even a few small, regional papers that serve their local readership quite well.

Unfortunately, these are the exceptions, not the rule.

Radio?

Most radio outlets are forced to rely on AP. Few of them can support reporters on the street anymore. Here in Chicago, WBBM 780 AM has a handful, ready to cover fires, weather, a new arrest of some politician, etc, but for real reporting, their hands are tied. If you want traffic, sports, a business break, or the headlines, it is fine. But there is no breaking story on radio. Not like it used to do.

The problem is AP. They made a deliberate change from serious news to something weird.

Local TV? In my yute, I remember being barely old enough to walk, yet, watching a black and white news program was truly awesome. 15 minutes of the outside world, brought to me, using some words that I might not get, but that I would learn. Today’s local news may be 30 minutes, but in real time, the time spent on actual news is shorter than 45-50 years ago. Sports, some besotted blond bimbette reading the weather, and a local fire take the vast majority of time.

National news?  Quick! Gag me before I lose another keyboard to vomit.
I don’t understand how they have the nerve to call themselves news programs. News consists of someone reading something, without having a clue about the content. When there is a serious story, instead of reporting on it, you are forced to see one or two opposing “experts” (usually the same stale, politicized players taking opposing roles) blather about the subject without adding any fact or background.

National boredcast news is an embarrassment.

Cable News?
Today’s Huffpost hits the nail on the head. Ryan Grim’s story about the sad state of affairs in cable news is timely and scary.

CNN? Pathetic. How a formerly proud and serious news gatherer turned into a mere shadow of itself, has to be one of the saddest stories in the business. CNN used to cover hot spots, their reporters looked into backgrounds, and informed America. Hell, they informed the world. Until the bean counters took over and turned it into an entertainment center. Simply by firing Wolf Blitzer, I suspect that the average IQ of the remaining 2000 CNN employes  would increase by 10%.

Until and unless they do a massive restructuring of that station, it is doomed to irrelevance, something actually worse than failure.

FOX?  The Rude Pundit once described Fox so accurately, that I still smile at his description.

MSNBC? Also someplace between poor and worthless. Sure, Rachel Maddow and O’Donnell actually give us news and background, but two shows hardly make a cable news station. Take a serious look at their programing. Mourning Joe, Andrea Mitchell, and more – that’s not news, that’s entertainment! And not very good entertainment, either.

There has been one company that has kicked ass on coverage, and here in the colonies, the only place to see them is on the intertubes. Al Jazeera.

I suggest that you contact your cable provider (if you have one, and ask them to add Al Jazeera to your program menu.

Somehow, I suspect that the added competition would serve us better than any girl or boycott. Existing news providers would realize that news really is important to us.

Here is ATT’s number. I will edit and add other providers if you give me that information.800 288 2020

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Olbermann suspension ends Tuesday

MSNBC says Keith Olbermann will be back on the air Tuesday, ending his suspension for violating NBC’s rules against making political donations after two shows.

MSNBC’s chief executive Phil Griffin said late Sunday that after several days of deliberation, he had determined that two days off the air was “an appropriate punishment for his violation of our policy.”

The left-leaning cable network’s most popular personality acknowledged donating $2,400 apiece to the campaigns of Kentucky Senate candidate Jack Conway and Arizona Reps. Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords. NBC News prohibits its employees from making political donations unless an exception is granted in advance by the network news president. In this case, Olbermann’s bosses didn’t know about them until being informed by a reporter.

“We look forward to having him back on the air Tuesday night,” Griffin said in a statement.

Liberal groups had taken on Olbermann’s suspension as a cause. An online petition calling for his reinstatement, run by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, had exceeded 300,000 signatures Sunday, and Michael Moore had tweeted his support. The committee’s Adam Green said Griffin was repeatedly e-mailed updates on the petition drives.

“Progressives proved that when one of our own are targeted, we will have their backs,” he said.

Left unanswered is the question of why Olbermann would do something he undoubtedly knew would be provocative, or whether he was trying to make a statement against NBC’s policy. He did not immediately return an e-mail message seeking comment Sunday.

On his Twitter page, Olbermann wrote: “Greetings from exile! A quick, overwhelmed, stunned THANK YOU for support that feels like a global hug.”

The incident raised questions about how long-standing rules designed to preserve the appearance of objectivity for news organizations fit at a time that cable news networks, most prominently Fox News Channel and MSNBC, have increased their popularity through prime-time programs that dispense with any notion of impartiality.

“What we’ve seen in the last five years is the rise of these personalities that eclipse the journalism that these organizations do,” said Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute journalism think tank.

Many mainstream news organizations take these rules dead seriously. National Public Radio subjected itself to some teasing this fall when it issued a memo forbidding its personnel from attending comic Jon Stewart’s rally in Washington last month, but NPR didn’t want reporters seen at an event that some people could interpret as political, unless the reporters were covering it.

Olbermann’s fans note that he’s made no secret of his support for Democrats on his prime-time “Countdown” show. So why should he be suspended for putting his money where his mouth is?

His prime-time MSNBC colleague, Rachel Maddow, said on her show Friday night that Olbermann should be reinstated. Her bosses were told she’d be saying that before going on the air, however.

McBride said she wouldn’t be surprised if some news organizations drop these rules in the next few years, or at least carve out exceptions for certain personalities. Fox News seems to have effectively done this. Prime-time host Sean Hannity made a $5,000 donation to Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann’s PAC this summer; Fox says he’s a conservative talk show host, not a journalist. Part-time commentators the network has hired like Karl Rove and Sarah Palin continue their political work while drawing pay from Fox.

“It’s getting harder and harder to draw the lines in general,” McBride said. “The public doesn’t spend a lot of time differentiating between commentators and journalists.”

Yet the principle of journalistic independence is more important now than ever, said Bob Steele, director of the Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University in Indiana.

Prime-time opinion hosts are journalists as well as commentators, Steele said. They host news programs, make decisions on what stories to emphasize, what guests to bring on, and what questions are asked, he said.

“There’s a huge difference between having a belief and becoming an activist,” he said, “and when you contribute to a campaign with your money or your energy, you’re an activist.”

Donations to some Democratic candidates by a commentator who clearly supports Democrats may seem simple. But why these candidates in these states and not others? What if these candidates get involved in primaries?

In other words, it can get messy.

Griffin’s statement about Olbermann’s return said nothing about any changes to NBC’s rules.

For NBC News, there’s also the risk of having its journalists associated with activist hosts. Olbermann and Maddow are clear in their opinions on MSNBC, but veteran NBC journalist Andrea Mitchell hosts a daytime hour on the network. So do White House reporters Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie.

The question of whether MSNBC is an opinion network or news network seemed particularly hard to answer on election night. In the 2008 political season, MSNBC went back and forth between having Olbermann serve as a news anchor or commentator on nights of big political news; on election night this year, Olbermann was one of the hosts. Chris Matthews was an anchor, too, and he put some tough questions to GOP guests like Bachmann. But beyond asking tough questions, he wondered aloud whether Bachmann was under “hypnosis,” and some of MSNBC’s personalities were heard laughing at their guests’ responses.

Some journalists may also get mixed signals when they see corporate overseers active in political campaigns. Fox’s parent News Corp. donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association this summer. Steele noted there’s a long tradition of political activism among owners of news organizations in this country.

Beyond the decision on Olbermann’s future, some broader thinking on these issues appears in the offing.

“I would really struggle if I were running one of these organizations to figure out where the journalism fits in,” McBride said. “It’s obvious that journalism still has some role in these organizations, but it’s not sure where it figures in anymore.”

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

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Rand Paul plans to dump his campaign staff

Rand Paul: Tough times in the big leagues (AP)

It’s the oldest ploy in politics. When a candidate screws up, blame the staff and start firing people.

Rand Paul, the Tea Party darling that upset the political establishment to win the Kentucky GOP Senatorial nomination and then upset most everyone else with off-the-wall comments about racial segregation, announced Tuesday he’s dumping his staff of political novices and volunteers and turning to more established political pros.

Palul said he’s planning a campaign staff shakeup but would not elaborate on the details.

Campaign manager David Adams, a Republican blogger before entering the heady world of statewide politics, will most likely be demoted and a longtime aide to Paul’s father, Jesse Benton, appears to be taking a more active role in the campaign.

Paul stuck his foot in his mouth right after his primary win by telling MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that he believes restaurants should have the right to discriminate if they wanted — a reflection of some of the more extreme views of the libertarian philosophy that his Father, Texas Congressman and failed Presidential contender Ron Paul, follows.

Paul, a doctor, appeared in hospital scrubs while addressing a lunch meeting of the Bowling Green Lions Club Tuesday and echoed the words of Charles Dickens in saying the past week “was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

But political pros say the worst is yet to come for Rand Paul.

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The Tea Party pot boils over

Rand Paul: Don't look now but the truth is closing in (Reuters)

An old proverb states: “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.”

The Tea Party cult got its wish this week with the election of Rand Paul — son of the sometimes Republican, sometimes libertarian, always controversial Ron Paul — to the Republican Senatorial nomination in Kentucky.

Now the Tea Party pot is boiling over and scalding anyone standing too close.

Like his father and many libertarians, Rand Paul is an extremist, driven by an unrealistic belief that government must be driven from nearly all areas of life. While government is too pervasive in modern American life, it also is a necessary evil in a democratic Republic. The problem cannot be solved by going to far in the other direction.

Rand Paul proves this point by saying that a private business like a restaurant should be allowed to discriminate against minorities, gays or anyone else they don’t like.

When asked about his stance right after his election, Paul again answered “yes” when MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow asked if he still supported the right of a business to discriminate.

“It was stupid,” conservative Republican talk show host Joe Scarborough said today. “It makes us wonder if Rand Paul is ready for prime time.”

Defenders to the mantra according to Rand Paul defend his actions by saying he makes it clear that he would not discriminate but defends the rights of others to do so.

This is a standard libertarian cop out. They claim that they are not racist but defend the rights of others to be so. By doing so, they condone racism in our midst and that — in my view — makes them just as racist as those they ignore.

Such passive racism is just as racist as those who don white sheets, burn crosses and terrorize minorities.

It also reinforces that belief that the Tea Party is driven, in part, by racism.

Writes Arian Camp0-Flores in Newsweek:

Try as it might, the Tea Party just can’t shake the accusations of racism. As I wrote in an article last month, recent polling seemed to confirm many people’s darkest suspicions about the movement—that it was motivated not just by antipathy toward big government but also by racial animus. When confronted with such allegations, Tea Partiers offer a standard response: any evidence of racist sentiment can be chalked up to a tiny minority, and hey, what group doesn’t have a freaky fringe?

Rand Paul has just severely compromised that argument. By refusing to say whether he would have voted for the Civil Rights Act and claiming that the federal government has no business fighting discrimination in private establishments, he comes across as an avatar of 1950s thinking on race. And as Kentucky’s newly crowned Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, he is anything but fringy. In fact, he’s about the closest thing to a national leader that the Tea Party has.

Paul later told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he would have voted for the Civil Right Act but on screen he looked like a man with a gun to his head.

By condoning racism as an American right, Rand Paul is a racist.

So is his father.

For many years, Ron Paul’s newsletters — used primarily as a fundraising tool — were filled with racist diatribes. The elder Paul later claimed he didn’t write the pieces and didn’t even know such trash was being distributed in his name.

Ron Paul’s claims are hard to believe because while he has disowned the comments made in his name, a Nexis search of news articles plus transcripts of radio and television appearances has not uncovered a single apology for the racist comments.

Both Pauls offer a similar defense to past statements and misdeeds: It’s all the fault of a liberal media that they claim constantly misquotes and misinterprets their comments.

It’s a tired old excuse that Republicans have been using since the days of Spiro Agnew.

Didn’t work then. Won’t wash now.

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