Blowout by Rachel Maddow – Book

Never would I have imagined that I would, by choice, read a book about oil and gas, but I found Blowout by Rachel Maddow both readable and sort of gripping. Except for a brief visit with Putin, as the title telegraphs the book begins with the BP Deep Water Horizon blowout and the oil leak which made it clear that while the industry has plenty of tools for drilling, it has almost none for clean-up. Rachel expresses incredulity that even now, in 2020, we still have only giant paper towels, dish detergent, and booms.

Once the Deep Water Horizon gusher is finally capped, Maddow has us shuttling back and forth between Putin’s Russia and Oklahoma City, In Russia Exxon Mobil under the leadership of Rex Tillerson signs a deal with Putin to drill using horizontal drilling techniques (fracking) in the Arctic releasing billions of gallons of oil and gas trapped in the ancient shale under the Arctic Ocean.

In Oklahoma we follow the rather excessively risky Aubrey McClendon in his quest to frack every inch of Oklahoma and put Oklahoma City on the map. It is hard to say if Aubrey loves oil or Oklahoma City most, but he loves money over both. He is a wildcatter who somehow talks banks into allowing him to carry enormous debts, and he talks with government officials and the powers that be at Oklahoma University to hush up the emerging evidence of a connection between fracking and the numerous earthquakes rocking Oklahoma.

There are so many good oil and gas stories (all true) in Maddow’s book that I can’t begin to tell them all. The Russia saga alone has so much corruption and thuggery that it reads like a thriller, but it is not a thriller. It’s an actual chunk of world history that reveals how chasing oil and gas resources and profits is destroying our democracy every bit as much as the Republicans, the Fundamentalists, and Trump.

Oil and gas are so tied to money and power that it becomes clear that the power people around the globe never had any plans to stop using fossil fuels. In fact nations were competing to tap oil reserves far under earth in difficult to reach places and either control the global flow of petroleum or have an independent long term supply. Putin even has dreams of getting Exxon Mobil to use their technical drilling knowledge to tap enough Russian oil and gas that Putin can become the sole supplier of oil and gas to the EU and thus be able to pull strings in as many EU countries as desired. He seems to dream of a mighty Russia, with imperialistic expansion back to the old boundaries of the Soviet Union (or even beyond) on his mind. Fascinating and frightening.

And we learn how money and powerful oil companies ‘bought’ the Republican Party and turned them into the climate deniers they are, and why any attempts to bring alternative energies to the forefront and turn America into an engine of production in the emerging alternative energy markets were facing enough headwinds to keep them very small indeed. The book ends with notes on attributions for the information contained in each chapter. Blowout by Rachel Maddow is a very informative nonfiction offering by an Oxford scholar who also hosts an hour of news each night on MSNBC.

Drama or Civility? – The Mueller Hearings

Mueller in the House

While the drama we experienced in the Mueller Hearing on this Wednesday, July 24, 2019 appeals to our nature the civil approach of the Democrats was far more professional, Congressional, cognizant of the nature and the legal stance of Robert Mueller as a prosecutor and far more pertinent to the actual content of the Mueller report.

Republican questioners, sticking to their elaborate conspiracy theories that implicate Hillary Clinton and clear Trump in the Russia matters, knew that their points had nothing to do with the Mueller report and were in fact intended to destroy the credibility of the entire Mueller investigation.

But if we ignore the things we learned from the Mueller investigations then we will pay a price in terms of allowing the infiltration into our business by Russia and any other foreign nation that decides it can benefit from being able to interfere in our politics and stay under our radar. And we will turn our government into a seat for liars and manipulators and those who grasp power for whatever reasons they enjoy being in control, and that will end our republic.


Watching the Mueller Hearings today was an exercise in blood pressure control. Republicans are able to capture the attention of the Americans who are listening to these hearings in real time because they have some theories about how the President was supposedly railroaded and how the Republicans were shafted by a team assembled to conduct the investigation which was highly partisan. Mueller is a well-respected prosecutor who worked for Ronald Reagan and two Bushes. He reminded us all that good prosecutors never ask potential hires about their political affiliation and said that he has never asked for that information. He chooses mostly from people available in the Department of Justice who may have arrived during a number of administrations. Republicans continue to insist that they were victimized.

In addition Republicans have a theory that Hillary Clinton got the Russians involved in the 2016 election and that she paid Fusion GPS to have Christopher Steele produce the Steele Dossier which contained “dirt” on Donald Trump. They kept pushing this unverified and thinly veiled piece of theory although they knew it was currently under investigation by the Department of Justice and that Mueller could not give testimony about it. They were talking through this hearing to their Fox “News” audience. Mueller’s answers suggest that he never even considered the Steele Dossier part of his investigation.

The Republicans said also that, since Trump denies any interactions on his part with the Russians, this investigation should never have been conducted. They ignored evidence that this President has so far lied over 3,000 times, both great big fat lies and tiny lies intended to confuse the records in the media over what is fact and what is fiction. Michael Cohen, the President’s lawyer, although admittedly tarnished by his own lies, tells us that Trump never does his own dirty work. He likes to have deniability. He tries not to ever be implicated in the things he orders his employees to do. That is why at least five of Trump’s campaign staff members are either in prison or under indictment.

Then there is the whole issue of why Mr. Joseph Mifsud was never indicted and the incredulity Republicans express, however disingenuously, that Mueller was never able to get him to testify although he was in and out of America a number of times during the pertinent time period. This whole issue of Mifsud and Papadopoulos and who Mifsud actually represented is another Republican conspiracy theory.

In fact, especially in the afternoon session, Republicans claim there are many things Mueller should have investigated that he didn’t that would have been exculpatory to Trump. Well since these things were not investigated it is strictly a Republican theory that these things will fall out in Trump’s favor, but they are currently under investigation in the DOJ at Republican insistence. Given that Democrats consider William Barr, the Attorney General, a Trump toady it seems unlikely Dems will feel they can trust the outcome of the most recent investigations into Republican talking points.

Although Mueller was never able to tie Trump to the Russian intervention in the election, it is certainly interesting to note that his campaign had about 140 interactions with Russians which certainly seems excessive.

Another Republican belittles Mueller’s accomplishments by saying that he cites the media over 200 times in his evidence so it appears that this report could have simply been compiled from what was in the media. However, we have a President who conducts his Presidency in the media, and who refused to testify before the Mueller investigation. Even when the President tries to keep secrets he is usually unsuccessful; someone leaks private discussions to the media either from the prodding of their conscience or perhaps even as directed by the President. The media used in the Mueller report consists of actual quotes of things Trump said either to the media or on Twitter (social media). Since these are direct quotes, things we all heard and know about, things the President owns as things he has said, they offered the only testimony from Trump that was available at the time. Although there is an Appendix that tells what the President said in his written statement with his lawyer, those answers were made after-the-fact and the President either could not remember or refused to answer many of the key questions put to him.


The Democrats, on the other hand, appeared dry as paper, but that was because they stuck to what was in the report instead of constantly trying to criticize what was not in the report that they thought should be in the report as the Republicans did all day. The Democrats understood what Mueller would be willing to say and what he wouldn’t be able to say. The Democrats treated Robert Mueller with the respect he deserved. Clearly, the Dems would have liked Mueller to be even more definitive than he was about whether Trump stepped over the line with Russia and moved into the area of treason, which many of us believe he did. However Mueller insists that he could not make such a judgment based on the evidence, but he also said that the fact that so many of the witnesses lied to the investigators and even the Grand Jury did hurt the investigation. Mueller does say that there is clear evidence of Russian interference in our election and he does not soft pedal the seriousness of this nor the fear that this interference has not ended and probably will be a factor in the 2020 election.

What the Democrats tried to do is go over the most egregious examples of obstruction in Part II of the report and show how each met the three requirements of the Obstruction charge. They looked at the firing of James Comey, which the President admitted to Lester Holt was because of the investigation into Trump and Russia before the American people in a television interview, very publicly. We heard the things that Trump said to Cohen and Manafort and Flynn and Roger Stone which alternatively hinted at future pardons or issued veiled threats that harm might come to their families. These things are in the public record, the videos are out there and can be searched. Trump may think he speaks in code, but his coded statements are crude and easy to decode by even the least educated among us. We cannot help but wonder how it is that the only people unable to get Trump’s thinly veiled points are the Republicans and Americans who get their news from the Fox channel. We have physical evidence of the checks Trump wrote to pay off women he had affairs with who he feared would add to the flames of the “pussy” incident aired during his campaign. This President, for some reason, can convince people to deny the evidence that they can see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears.

Whether or not one person’s mind was changed relative to the findings of the Mueller report by today’s hearings is going to vary once again by the party you give your allegiance to. This should not be true but it is. I doubt that people who pledge allegiance to Donald Trump will be swayed by such wonky legal evidence or such a respectfully conducted set of questions as the Democrats offered. This will most likely be the end of the Mueller report, but the proceedings did nothing to overturn the historical moments documented in the report. Trump may be reelected and may run out the legal clock and thereby escape indictment or conviction for his crimes, but what our historical documents say about Trump and his Presidency will not be kind or in any way respectful, if our historical record is allowed to say anything honest at all. This President likes to rewrite history to erase the negative things he does. What version of history survives will tell us whether our democracy made it through the Trump years.

Rachel Maddow

I will remind anyone who watches Rachel Maddow on MSNBC that she taught us what we needed to know to understand the Mueller Report before it was ever completed. She did not have spies on the Special Prosecutor’s investigation; she put everything together with journalistic talent and meticulous attention to detail. She always knew the current target of the investigation and with the help of her staff was aware of all the relevant news reports and articles by reputable news writers. She was apprised of all Trump’s many statements and all his tweets and offered us quotes that were also echoed in the press. She read us transcripts of trials, showed us footage of arrests, kept us informed of future court appearances and speculated about the identity of witnesses mentioned only by monikers like Individual 1 or 2. If anyone should get an award for coverage of the Mueller Investigation it should be Rachel Maddow. It is small wonder that Democrats who watched MSNBC knew immediately that Bill Barr (AG) was lying about the conclusions Mueller reached in his report and American’s who watched Fox News were unprepared to accept this reality.

Photo Credit: From a Google Image Search – Cassidy in the New Yorker

Can Understanding History Help People Change?

I have
learned quite a bit from Rachel Maddow about the historical underpinnings of
the streaks of rebellion, racial hate, and anti-government sentiment which run
beneath the mainstream of American life. I heard from Rachel about the Posse
Comitatus when we were watching the self-appointed militias threaten to off the
Feds in support of the rights of local sheriffs to rule over Federal law. The
Posse Comitatus was a movement that arose during Reconstruction after the Civil
War and wounds were still too raw to make a point of overturning these groups.
And although Posse Comitatus rules were later repealed many acted as if they
were still in use.
I don’t have
a historical view of these modern events and that is why I love the political
geeks at MSNBC. They show me that we did not arrive at this current moment out
of the blue. The Civil War has left indelible marks on our nation and we have
ignored the remnants of bad feeling for far too long. We no longer allow the
blatant expressions of hate and rancor (at least since 1964), but the more we have
tried to put a lid on these strong emotions, the more they have squished out
After Dylann
Roof’s deplorable killings Rachel told me (and all her viewers) about the White
Citizen’s Councils and the Council of Conservative Citizens formed in cities
throughout the South. These “political entities” are where the Ku Klux Klan
went to “repackage” themselves as concerned citizens doing their political duty
which included an entire slate of activities designed to shore up racial
Does Rachel
Maddow just know this stuff; does she carry it around in that analytical brain
of hers, or does she just have great research resources/people? Doesn’t matter.
She is always teaching me something and for that I thank her.
When slavery
began in America it was not at all new to the world. At the time, when Africa
was being divided up as spoils among European nations, Africans and other
native peoples whose cultures differed from Western culture were regarded as
savages. This view should not have persisted but for some it has. What’s so
crazy is that the very people who ripped Africans from their native lands now
want to walk away from the problems that were created when their ancestors
imprisoned African people and brought them to America as slaves, and that these
same Southerners continue to nurture an outdated attitude and to exploit it in
order to form a “pure white” city, state, or nation. Are they just the ultimate
sore losers?
forefathers were very clear about the ideals included in the American founding
documents, after all they wrote them. They were obviously clearer than we are
at this late date. The only way they could justify their treatment of African
slaves was by making a cultural decision that they were animals – savages, not
real people. This was actually the prevalent view in the 18th
century and as such Southern Plantation owners were just creatures of the culture
they swam in. Northerners were not blameless either. Slavery began in 1620 and
no great disavowal was forthcoming until the Civil War in 1860. So, Northerners
must at least accept guilt by omission or by association.
Are we
guilty for the bad cultural decisions of a less enlightened age? Perhaps not,
but we are guilty for having kept those poor cultural ideas alive and for
acting on them in the present. There is, sadly, no skin-color –“ectomy” that we
can perform to rid us of our prejudices. It is and always has been our minds we
must change.
historical perspective and a study, that I also heard from Rachel, or read
somewhere, traced the groups who entered America in the 1800’s and who
immediately moved west. This study concluded or postulated that those who moved
west tended to be folks who liked a lot of autonomy and that the descendants of
these almost anarchistic immigrants may be exhibiting attitudes passed down
through generations that may account for that rebellious streak previously
discussed; the rebellious streak that continues as the state’s rights movement,
militias, survivalists, hate groups, gun activists and perhaps even those who
stock-pile of weapons in case of a need to defend against their own government.
gives us perspective. It traces things back to their roots. Will knowing how
these trends began offer any insight into how we can heal all this stored anger
and pain? Well it seems better than just believing this stuff is made up or
just appeared out of thin air. How can we teach people who have kept their
rancor close and regularly relived the injustice and unfairness of it all, that
we are not trying to fight with them, we are trying to win them back?
By Nancy

The Role of Rachel Maddow in the Media and in Politics

Photo from The Washington Post
Rachel Maddow sometimes makes me feel like saying “get on
with it girl” because she is so meticulous about including all the tiny details
in the well-researched stories she tells us each weeknight on MSNBC. She could
very easily be a big picture person; she has that in her intelligence arsenal I
am sure. However, she chooses to lead us into the dark underbelly of politics,
down to the murky roots where the lice live.

Rachel Maddow is a great nit-picker. She hunts down every
little nit until that particular political scalp is picked clean. I’m sorry,
Rachel, I should have chosen a nicer analogy, but nit-pickers are often parents
who are performing the very nurturing, although perhaps distasteful, service of
ridding their child of parasites.

This is the exact service you are performing for us. Your
reports of what Conservatives were about in Virginia, reports exposing the
quiet attempts right-wingers were making to plant their lice in secret places
where they went unnoticed at first; that was nit-picking at its best. You told
us about the corruption of the current governor, Bob McDonnell, and you told us
about what was going on at the local level where Conservatives were stuffing
local government councils with right-wingers so they could play with voter
suppression unopposed. You kept shining your spotlight on Ken Cuccinelli until
that particular louse had no shadows left to hide in. He must have realized how
extreme his viewpoints were and how few people could stomach that nonsense, but
he thought he had stacked the deck so far in his favor that he couldn’t lose.
He left his little nits everywhere, too numerous it seemed to get at them. But
our national nit-picker did it. She exposed enough to our view that healthy
democracy was able to reassert itself, shaking off the parasites.

Now she is nit-picking in New Jersey. What juicy louse will
turn up this time? If you aren’t aware of what happened recently on the George Washington Bridge in Fort
Lee, New Jersey  you should give a listen. Politics has always been a business of
high ideals and back room deals; of ideology and shadowy strategy, of soaring
patriots (real ones) and lousy scoundrels. If anyone can help our current crop
of politicos spend more time on the high road and less time planting those
pesky and parasitical nits, the better off our democracy will be. This is the
yucky but incredibly useful thing that Rachel Maddow takes on because she
believes in fairness.

Rachel Maddow was just hired to write a column in The Washington Post once a week. Congratulations Rachel. What
dark eggs planted in out-of-the-way nests will she ferret out next? Watch that
spot! (If you can – it is behind the pay wall.)
By Nancy Brisson