Barb Caffrey's Blog

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Archive for the ‘Keith Olbermann’ Category

Memorial Day for Sale: NFL Teams Take Money to ‘Honor’ the Military

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Is Memorial Day truly for sale?

It sure seems that way, after finding out that 14 NFL teams have actually taken money to “honor” military veterans — including my own favorite team, the Green Bay Packers.

I found out about this last Friday (May 22, 2015) by watching Keith Olbermann’s ESPN2 show. As quoted from the website PoliticsUSA.com:

In a lengthy monologue on Friday’s broadcast of ESPN2′s Olbermann, host Keith Olbermann took NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to school over the recent revelation that the National Football League has taken millions of dollars from the US military to promote the armed forces of this country. Over the past few years, it has been estimated that the NFL has received $5.4 million since 2011 to ‘honor’ members of the military at games and other events. As Olbermann pointed out, the main issue isn’t that the league took money, but that it pretended that it was honoring the soldiers out of true patriotism rather than love of money.

This disturbs me for more than one reason.

First, veterans of the armed forces deserve to be treated well without teams being paid to do so.

Second, that teams have been pretending they’re doing this out of the goodness of their nonexistent hearts rather than some sort of business-oriented motivation is incredibly hypocritical.

It is especially upsetting because fans are expected to be both patriotic and uncritical of the teams they follow. So when we see teams giving what surely look to be deserving shout-outs to serving military members (or honorable veterans), we think it’s genuine.

We don’t expect these “Hometown Heroes” shout-outs to be merely a matter of public relations.

But they are. And that’s wrong.

Olbermann isn’t the only high-profile person angered by this behavior. Arizona’s two United States Senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, are also appalled. In an article from the Washington Post, McCain was quoted as saying:

“I think it’s really disgraceful that NFL teams whose profits are at an all-time high had to be paid to honor our veterans,” he said Tuesday (via ESPN)..

Agreed. (To the Nth power.)

Taking money in order to salute these real hometown heroes is wrong. Just ask U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, as quoted in the Washington Post article:

“You go to a game and you see a team honoring ‘Hometown Heroes,’ and you think it’s some sort of public service announcement, that the team is doing it out of the goodness of their heart,” Flake told ESPN on Monday. “Then you find out it’s paid for? That seems a little unseemly.”

This, right here, encapsulates why I’m so steamed.

Look. According to Olbermann (see his YouTube rant here), the Green Bay Packers took $600,000 from the Department of Defense for this practice.

But even if the Packers hadn’t taken any money, I’d still be upset.

As a fan, I’ve always seen military members get shout-outs. They are feted, get tickets to games, often are highlighted on the scoreboard, and the impression is that the teams are doing this because it’s the right thing to do.

Sure, it’s all public relations. We know this, deep down inside.

But we don’t expect that teams would actually be crass enough to require payment.

That these 14 NFL teams have done so is truly shameful. A recent editorial at Jacksonville.com said:

…the Department of Defense and 14 NFL teams deserve boos over revelations that the federal agency paid the clubs $5.4 million over a three-year period to feature military members during games. According to the Defense Department and the 14 teams, the payments were merely part of mutually agreed “sponsorship deals” designed to promote the military in a flattering, high-profile manner. But in truth, the deals were simply “crass” and “disgraceful,” as Sen. John McCain — a military hero who bravely survived captivity during the Vietnam War — so aptly put it.

(Preach it, brothers and sisters.)

Why the Packers ever thought it a good idea to take money to salute the military makes no sense.

NFL teams make money hand-over-fist. They do not need to take money from the Department of Defense or anyone else to salute the hard-working men and women who comprise the United States military.

That they did was absolutely reprehensible.

******
P.S. Because it’s come out that 14 NFL teams have taken money to salute soldiers, it makes me wonder…are teams in Major League Baseball also taking money for this practice?

Have the Milwaukee Brewers actually taken money over the years to salute these “Hometown Heroes” in order to put them on the big scoreboard in centerfield?

I sincerely hope the Brewers haven’t.

Pre-Olympics, Many Stray Dogs Killed In Sochi

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On Keith Olbermann’s ESPN nightly sportscast Tuesday evening, Olbermann discussed Russia’s current national disgrace: They’re killing stray dogs in Sochi.

Many of them. For no reason, excepting the dogs exist and it’s legal to do whatever you like to dogs in Russia.

That was bad enough news to give me nightmares. And I wondered at the time, “Where are all the Russian animal activists? Don’t they care?”

Fortunately, there are a few who do.

As Olbermann pointed out on his sportscast Wednesday evening, this article from the Boston Globe discusses the efforts of Russian animal activist Vlada Provotorova, who’s so far managed to save about one hundred dogs from the slaughter. These are friendly animals (Olbermann had a video clip, a brief one), and act like they were once members of someone’s family.

Note that Ms. Provotorova is not the only activist who’s tried to make a difference; there are a number of them. (Bless them all.)

You might be forgiven for wondering why it’s legal to kill dogs in Russia. As this article from CNN points out, in Russia, there’s no legislation — none whatsoever — that dictates anything about how to treat a pet.

This is why a pest control service has been contracted by Sochi itself to “take care” of all this by killing the dogs, leaving the city itself to say its hands are clean, because what they’re doing is legal.

What’s frustrating about all this, aside from the fact it’s happening at all, is that a year ago, the Humane Society International wanted to go in there and help sterilize the pet population . . . but Olympic officials turned them down flat according to this article from Time.

From the article:

Kelly O’Meara, director of companion animals and engagement for Humane Society International, was “very surprised” when she heard that Sochi officials planned to kill stray dogs roaming around the Olympic host region throughout the Games. Just last April, organizers scrapped that idea, and said they would build a shelter for the animals. Now, city officials have hired a private company to do the dirty work — its owner told ABC News that the dogs posed a public-safety and health risk and that they were “biological trash.”

“They’ve very publicly gone back on their word,” O’Meara says.

The more I hear about this story, folks, the more I just want to cry.

You see, dogs, as a group, are much more friendly and loyal than the people they’re often entrusted to — and they don’t deserve to be treated as if they’re “biological trash.”

Worst of all, the friendliest animals — the ones that could easily be taken to a shelter, neutered or spayed, and adopted out — are the “easiest to catch” according to O’Meara. So they’re the ones that are most likely getting killed the quickest.

This all could’ve easily been avoided. It should’ve been avoided.

Even now, if the IOC would just get their heads out of their rear ends and admit it’s actually happening, this shameful act could be halted in its tracks. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of dogs’ lives could be saved.

But it seems as if the IOC would rather die than admit to any sort of error whatsoever. Which is why the only story, according to them, is that the dogs are being treated “humanely,” and that all this talk of dogs getting killed is just that — talk.

While I’d like to believe the IOC, if only because they talk a good game, I cannot ignore report after report, both on Olbermann’s show and in at least seventeen different newspaper accounts (written by different people, no less), that talk about the same thing.

Look. I’m a dog lover. So if I were in Russia right now, I’d be one of the many people trying to get the dogs out of there — or at minimum, I’d be one of the reporters discussing the problem and letting the world know it exists.

I hope that in this case that sunlight really is the best disinfectant, so a few more innocent dogs will be saved.

But as I cannot hope for that — most particularly because dogs, at least in that one guy’s eyes, are merely “biological trash” — all I can do is pray that somehow, some way, the word will keep getting out about what’s happening to these poor dogs.

Because it is unconscionable.

Hard Luck Blues: Keith Olbermann Fired by Current TV

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Tonight, I found out that Keith Olbermann had been fired by turning on what I thought was going to be Keith Olbermann’s news program on Current TV, “Countdown,” and finding former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer in his place.  Spitzer did not explain what he was doing there.

Perturbed, I turned to the Internet and found out that Olbermann had been fired by Current TV because of “unexcused absences,” including the day before the March 6, 2012 primary (which must, by elimination, be March 5, 2012).  Here’s a link to the story on Yahoo News, which explains what Spitzer’s doing there:

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/upshot/keith-olberman-fired-current-tv-replaced-eliot-spitzer-213532556.html

And here’s a link from Forbes Magazine, which says that Olbermann is so mad, he’s gone “ballistic” over his ouster:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/frederickallen/2012/03/30/keith-olbermann-gets-fired-again-and-goes-ballistic/

Here’s Olbermann’s statement, as quoted by the Forbes article:

Editorially, Countdown had never been better.  But for more than a year I have been imploring Al Gore and Joel Hyatt to resolve our issues internally, while I’ve been not publicizing my complaints, and keeping the show alive for the sake of its loyal viewers and even more loyal staff.  Nevertheless, Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt, instead of abiding by their promises and obligations and investing in a quality news program, finally thought it was more economical to try to get out of my contract.It goes almost without saying that the claims against me implied in Current’s statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently.  To understand Mr. Hyatt’s “values of respect, openness, collegiality and loyalty,” I encourage you to read of a previous occasion Mr. Hyatt found himself in court for having unjustly fired an employee.  That employee’s name was Clarence B. Cain.

In due course, the truth of the ethics of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt will come out. For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one.  That lack of judgment is mine and mine alone, and I apologize again for it.

Here’s a relevant quote from the Forbes.com article (explaining what Olbermann said in his press release in simpler terms):

To paraphrase: Whatever happened, the fault is every bit Gore’s and Hyatt’s and not one scintilla mine. I merely created my best show ever and selflessly said nothing while my bosses broke promises and ultimately let me go because they’re cheap bastards. The whole world knows (“it almost goes without saying”) that Gore and Hyatt are dishonest and I’m honest, and I’m suing their asses, and here’s some unrelated dirt on them, just for good measure. Poor me. My only mistake was to trust the rats. I humbly apologize.

Forbes follows this up by asking tonight’s burning question: Where will Keith Olbermann work next, considering he’s burned his bridges with Fox TV, MSNBC, Current, and ESPN (among others)?

But I think they’ve missed the point entirely.  I’ve watched Olbermann for years; I didn’t like how he treated Hillary R. Clinton while she was running for President (some of his comments then were inexcusable), but other than that he’s a principled man who obviously takes pride in putting together a great show.  His show, his staff, and even his substitute hosts are first-rate; while I never enjoyed having to watch David Shuster or Bill Press sub for Olbermann, they always did an outstanding job. 

In addition, Olbermann was hired to help put together other shows for Current TV; since he was hired a year ago, Cenk Uygur, former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, and former Gov. of New York Spitzer have been brought on board.  Olbermann had to take some time (I’m not sure how much) to get the Uygur show up to speed (Uygur had a show previously on MSNBC for a few months, so that probably wasn’t too taxing), then probably much more time to get former Gov. Granholm ready to host her own show as she’d had very little experience on the air — and most of that as a commentator, not as a host.  (Come to think of it, before her show “War Room with Jennifer Granholm,” I’m not sure Gov. Granholm had any experience as a host at all.)

Then, factor in the health problems that most people who’ve followed Olbermann’s career know he has — these are a bad back, and periodic headaches (they may be migraines, maybe not, but definitely aren’t good — they’re due to an accident using mass transit years ago) — and the fact that Olbermann’s widowed mother is getting up in years and probably has many health issues of her own to deal with.

So do you see what’s really going on here?  Olbermann had a great deal on his plate; he was developing shows and getting them “ramped up and ready to go” while keeping the quality high on his own show at the same time.  This may have been enough additional stress to exacerbate his back problems (and the headaches, which I’m more aware of because of things Olbermann hasn’t said rather than what he has).  And who knows how much Olbermann’s mother has needed him in the past year — if it’s been extensive, how can anyone blame him for that?

And all of that might explain what Current’s now calling his “excessive absenteeism.”  (I’d be willing to bet this is at least part of it.)

This is why I call Olbermann’s latest endgame the “hard luck blues.”  Because this time, unlike the last (which I blogged about here), I truly think Olbermann’s problems were brought on by one thing: stress.  He’d taken on more responsibility than ever before; as he’s known for being meticulous, irascible, and a perfectionist, how could Al Gore (who owns Current TV) have expected Olbermann to behave any differently?  (Especially as their own advertising on-line for “Countdown” says that Olbermann is known for his “provocative” commentary and is “journalism’s . . . most outspoken voice?”)

How can Current TV, or Al Gore in particular, honestly say they didn’t know what they were getting when they hired Olbermann?  Especially using namby-pamby language like this (quoted from the Yahoo article):

Current was also founded on the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. Unfortunately these values are no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann and we have ended it.

And from what I recall from when Olbermann was signed by Current TV last year, he had as close to an iron-clad contract as is known to mankind, which might be why his lawyer, Patty Glaser, is saying tonight that:

“Keith Olbermann’s termination is baseless,” she said. “We will sue them for their improper conduct. They made a bad decision; they can expect a bad result.”

Lawyers are never this emphatic unless they’re absolutely certain they’re right.

So here’s the upshot, folks: I’m actually sorry for Keith Olbermann tonight.  Despite his millions of dollars, his high-fashion suits, and his “provocative” commentary, he’s been fired twice in two years.  And that has to hurt, no matter who you are.

Written by Barb Caffrey

March 30, 2012 at 11:40 pm

WI Rs dither over Unemployment Benefits Extension . . . while National Rs Continue their Do-Nothing Ways

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Folks, again I have two topics for discussion.

First, the Wisconsin Republicans have acted up again, refusing to pass a bill to extend unemployment benefits — or, rather, refusing to pass the same, exact bill.  The Republican-controlled Assembly passed a bill that requires a one-week wait for unemployment benefits (a one-week, unpaid wait, at that), while the Republican-controlled state Senate passed a bill that did not require a wait and passed that decisively, 30-3 in an unusual bipartisan vote.

As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s headline put it, “Dispute on Jobless Benefits Puts Unemployed in a Bind.”  A relevant quote from the article:

Republicans who control the Senate and Assembly agree they should accept the federal money to allow the unemployed to collect benefits for an extra 13 weeks – in part because that won’t hurt the state’s struggling unemployment insurance fund. But the two houses cannot agree on whether to make laid-off workers wait a week for their initial benefits – a move that would save the fund money.

The main problem is, some in the Assembly believe it will take months to resolve this issue — months, when some Wisconsinites have been out of unemployment since April 16, 2011!  As stated in this article:

“It’s not something we’re going to leave hanging out there,” said Andrew Welhouse, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau). “It’s just trying to come to the right answer. We all understand the stakes here.”

The senator’s brother, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon), has said he wants to fix the problem soon, but added that lawmakers might not be able to do it until September.

As you see — it’s July 22, 2011, right now as it’s just clicked over to midnight as I write this.  Not doing anything until September would indeed take months, at a time when even Republican Gov. Scott  Walker admits that unemployment rates are too high in parts of the state (including my own Racine, WI).

I’m sorry; I agree fully with Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona), who said this:

“It is due to incredible incompetence or coldhearted calculation that we are delaying passage of this bill . . . It’s time we recognized that the workers in Wisconsin that have lost their jobs are not toys to be played with,” Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) said.

Miller is exactly right.  He knows what happened here; the Senate Rs, six of them facing impending recall elections, voted to say they want unemployment extensions done right now and not to wait a week before any worker receives benefits, either — partly because they are facing recall, and this looks good for them.  But the Senate Rs knew full well that the Assembly Rs wouldn’t play ball here; none of them are facing recall (they aren’t eligible for recall until January of ’12), and they don’t seem to be very concerned about the possibility of a recall election, either, as normally their seats would be up at the end of ’12 anyway.

So what the Senate Rs did is this — they figured they’d “have their cake and eat it, too.”  They did this in order to look compassionate, but their real beliefs are probably in line with the Assembly Rs, who aren’t budging and won’t budge, even though many people in Wisconsin haven’t had any unemployment since April 16 of this year and won’t get any until this bill is finally passed.

As of now, the Senate will have to take it up again next Tuesday, July 26, 2011.  They may well not do anything other than affirm their same bill; this will once again allow themselves to look good, while knowing that the Wisconsin unemployed workers remain shut out of the decisions . . . remember, unemployment insurance is not welfare.  It is our right, as workers, as we’ve paid into it and deserve to be able to tap into it when times are very hard and bad (as they are now).

I implore the Wisconsin Legislature, Rs and Ds alike, to do the right thing here.  Pass the unemployment benefits extension now.  Worry about the one-week cut later.

As for anything else, the national Rs also do not impress me with their willingness to work together toward anything.  The deficit talks remain stalled out, with word tonight according to Ed Schultz at MSNBC and Keith Olbermann of Current TV that President Obama has met with both Rs and Ds and wants his “Grand Bargain” to take place.

Don’t know about the “Grand Bargain” yet?  Well, it’s simple — it would cut the deficit by cutting three essential social programs, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security in exchange perhaps for some tax revenue (maybe by raising taxes on the top 1% of the country, maybe by closing tax loopholes).  Yet Social Security is running at a surplus — any short-term “deficit” there is because the Congress keeps raiding the “lock-box,” nothing more — and while I support an end to waste, fraud and abuse in Medicaid and Medicare (including disallowing really expensive medicine — something that costs over $500 monthly and will not add any life expectancy to a cancer victim, say — unless that expensive medicine actually helps to restore life and health to someone so that person can re-enter the work force after his/her health crisis has been taken care of), I do not support any other changes to these essential programs.

Basically, there are now three groups of people in Washington, DC.  Those who will work with others in both parties.  Those who will work with others in their own party only.  And those who won’t work with anyone, period, because they think raising the debt ceiling is morally wrong.  

While I have some sympathy, emotionally anyway, for this last group, no one has ever been sent to Washington, DC, to completely obstruct the process of governing.  Instead, they’re sent to work and make the best deals they can, so refusing to do so is pointless and absurd, not to mention a waste of taxpayer money.  Because last I checked, it’s the taxpayers — i.e., all of us — who pay the salaries of the House of Reps.

So what we have here isn’t just a “failure to communicate,” as the movie actress once said.  It’s a failure to even understand what communication is, much less do anything about it.

And all the while, the United States of America’s credit rating starts to slip . . . people start to worry about losing their jobs (for example, much of the Federal Aviation Administration is being held up due to similar problems and they could end up “furloughed” — meaning they don’t get paid — as early as Saturday) . . . fewer people work, meaning the tax base gets lower overall, meaning the deficit increases.  All very, very bad things.

President Obama, by putting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid on the table for discussion, has caused some of the Rs — those willing to work at compromise — to salivate at the bit.  But as President, Mr. Obama is supposed to be working on behalf of all Americans, including the least among us.  Those who are ill.  Those who are helpless.  Those who are on fixed incomes, such as those on Social Security who have nothing else.  Not only for the needs of the wealthy, none of those likely to need those three programs.

I stand with Ed Schultz and Keith Olbermann tonight (among others), who wonder what this Democratic President is doing by even thinking about cutting these essential programs.  Because it’s just not right to kick anyone when they’re down . . . not the poor, not the disabled, not the helpless, not anyone. 

And that’s all cuts to those three programs will do.  Hurt those who cannot help themselves.

Keith Olbermann Ousted by MSNBC

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Keith Olbermann is out at MSNBC, and many of my friends among the Hillary Clinton Democrats (and Independents) are cheering tonight because of some of the awful things KO said about Mrs. Clinton (one of the comments was something like, “Someone should take her into a room, then only one of ’em come back out,” which was indeed a terrible comment to make).

But I feel . . . strange, I guess is the best word.  I don’t think this is a triumph at all, nor do I see it as a form of karmic comeuppance.  I feel that Olbermann , while controversial, would nearly always backtrack when something he believed later turned out to be wrong.  And in fact, earlier this year after the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), Olbermann apologized for any comments he might’ve made — including that awful one I alluded to above — that made violence seem at all an acceptable resort to combat any political candidate, or any politician.  Olbermann has made it clear in recent weeks that the only two things people should do are these:

1) Educate yourself, and learn about the candidates.

2) Vote for the candidate who best represents you and your beliefs.

(For which I applaud him, as he’s been one of the very few commentators who’s been explicit about what should be done in the wake of what’s now being called the “Tucson Tragedy.”)

In other words, I think Olbermann has realized he made a few mistakes here and there, and had become a slightly better balanced commentator over recent weeks.  I’d been heartened at this turn of events and hoped it would continue; that “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” is now off the air is, to my mind, a stunning disappointment because despite my objections to how Olbermann sometimes handled himself (especially over l’affaire Hillary Clinton in 2008), he was an entertaining host who made politics a little less complex and a lot more fun on his best nights.

Lawrence O’Donnell will be taking over Olbermann’s time slot, which isn’t an improvement by any means . . . while O’Donnell can have an interesting perspective, he doesn’t have much of a sense of humor, nor does he seem to know when to back off a little (his overwhelming personality, bigger than Olbermann’s in my opinion, does not help anything, either).   Then Ed Schultz moves into O’Donnell’s late-night slot — and while I like Ed’s program a great deal, I’d rather see it at 5 PM CST where it’s always been than have it move to the 9 PM slot.  And finally, Cenk Uyger, who’s called one of the “Young Turks,” is getting his own program at 5 PM for reasons that escape me . . . this, to my mind, does not bring MSNBC even close to being a balanced network, nor does it promote a balanced perspective in any way, shape or form.

Keith Olbermann has always been a lightning rod for criticism; he was one when he worked for ESPN as a sports announcer, and he’s been one at MSNBC as a news announcer.  But one thing KO has never been is boring . . . so in that sense, unlike many of my HRC friends, I will miss Olbermann, especially as he really did seem to be getting a better, and more centrist, perspective lately.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 22, 2011 at 12:43 am