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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Unfortunately for Chafee–and society–Coulter still has a job

January 30, 2011

If anyone had asked me after the September primary what I thought Bill Lynch would be doing in the future, the answer “selling marijuana” would have been very, very close to the bottom of my list.
But his name was right there in Donna Kenny Kirwan’s story last Wednesday, along with several other bold-type names from Rhode Island politics, government and business, looking to open a compassion center to supply medical marijuana patients.
The first thing I thought when I saw this was: there must be some good money in the compassion business. Any time you see big names from politics, government and business all in one story, you know that either a lot of money or a lot of power is at stake. Yes, I know compassion centers are supposed to be non-profit, but non-profits have been known to dole out staggering benefits and bonuses to executives. Look up what the CEOs of supposedly non-profit Blue Cross and Lifespan make sometime; it would curl your hair.
Lynch and his would-be partners in the compassion center venture – former Councilwoman and now PUC Commissioner Mary Bray, former Pawtucket Police Chief George Kelley and China Inn owner/real estate mogul Louis Yip are all good people. I can tell you that first-hand, knowing and having dealt with all of them. But up until now, I haven’t seen any of them show a great deal of interest in the healing arts, or marijuana. So something must have lured them to apply for a compassion center. On the other hand, Lynch’s sister, Rhode Island Center for Compassion and
Wellness, Ann Dugan, is listed as an executive director/principal of the operation, so there is a medical connection.
The fact that they wanted to use the venerable TK Club as a grow house added even more local pizzazz to the story although, as intrepid reporter Kirwan also told us, that isn’t going to happen.
Last year, a committee of the RI Senate looked into legalizing and taxing marijuana. If you legalized it to be sold in stand-alone stores, regulated like liquor stores, how many jobs would that create across the state and how many millions in tax dollars would it generate?

Gov. Lincoln Chafee has reawakened an old enemy. During his recent spat with talk radio, Chafee bemoaned the vitriolic nature of political discourse these days and, as an example, pointed to a column written about him by Anne Coulter that ran with the headline “They Shot the Wrong Lincoln.”
That got the attention of – guess who – Anne Coulter.
In a column last week, Coulter re-aimed her trademark ridicule at the governor.
That column, titled Mud Libel, said:
“In response to the Arizona shooting, the governor of Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee, banned state employees from going on talk radio, telling reporters he had been a victim of rhetorical violence himself, citing the title of one of my columns from four years ago (italics in the original): “They Shot the Wrong Lincoln”
“In that four-year-old column, I supported Chafee's opponent in the Republican primary by pointing out that ‘he only person who hasn't figured out that Lincoln Chafee is a Democrat is Lincoln Chafee. As the expression goes, ‘if Chafee switched parties, the average IQ on both sides of the aisle would go up.
“My column got results,” she boasted, “Chafee is no longer a Republican.” Then she really turned on the snark.
“But the column did not produce my secret goal, which the governor has now exposed: That John Wilkes Booth return from the dead to stalk people named ‘Lincoln.’ Yes, the governor of Rhode Island is afraid of 19th-century assassins. Whatever you do, Lincoln, don't look under the bed!”
Despite my efforts to draw him into a spitting match, Chafee would have no comment on Coulter’s self-congratulating calumny.

Politics and the news business are poorer today, the first day that Keith Olbermann won’t be giving us the nightly Countdown.
Olbermann either quit suddenly or was summarily canned, nobody is really saying which – although the reports the MSNBC is paying out the remainder of his four-year, $30 million contract after two years certainly argues for the latter.
The bosses apparently wanted him out so badly that they overlooked the fact that Olbermann had, far and away, the news network’s highest ratings, something network executives almost never overlook. MSNBC disingenuously had a link on its website on Saturday, one day after he announced his departure at the end of Friday’s show to a story on NBC’s Today Show website that said: “Olbermann did not explain why he was leaving.” Gee, there’s some in-depth reporting of a story in your own front yard.
Olbermann had many loyal fans, but perhaps just as many, or maybe even more, despised him with a hatred that burned white hot. That’s the way the cable news business is now, unfortunately; people watch the news that suits their ideology.
Conservatives tune into Fox News and liberals turn to MSNBC. But that isn’t informing yourself; it is having your prejudices reinforced, or perhaps validated.
I confess to being such a news geek, I am one of the few people I know who switches back and forth between the two. Most folks stick to one or the other.
Sometimes I watch (or record if I’m still working) Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity in the early evening, and then the re-runs of Olbermann and Rachel Maddow after 11, or vice versa. Although I admit, sometimes I would just duck into Olbermann’s show at the 45-minute mark to catch the “Worst Persons in the World” segment, the thing I think I will miss most about Olbermann being gone.
Say what you will, Olbermann was enormously intelligent, quick witted and a terrific writer. He is going to leave a gaping hole, not just in MSNBC’s prime time schedule, but in the cable news business as a whole. I particularly liked the way he could just drop in somewhat obscure cultural references – he would often quote the fictional British Prime Minister Francis Urquhart from the BBC mini-series House of Cards (rent it, or buy it if you have to; it is well worth seeing) saying “you many think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment” – without even mentioning where it came from, he trusted his audience to keep up.
Yes, he could be smug, vain, pompous and too much to take sometimes (his “Special Comments” could be particularly grating, even to his fans) – imperious is probably the best of the non-flattering descriptions. Many conservatives, certainly, found him to be an overbearing blowhard – similar to the way many liberals feel about Rush Limbaugh. Olbermann’s successor in the 8 p.m. slot, Lawrence O’Donnell seems to have many of the same flaws as Olbermann, but not as much of the upside. He will be a pale replacement.
Olbermann is far too big a talent to be on the sidelines for very long, although it is a good bet that his buyout included a non-compete clause that will keep him off TV for a while, at least.

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