Book of Rachel

October 4, 2019

The rain had finally stopped and a line of people stretched up 5th Ave and back across East 66th Street almost to Madison. A white $200,000 Bentley Continental convertible was parked across the street in front of the Lotos Club. Doormen eyed the crowd warily. What was the meaning of this apparent flash mob of greying Boomers on their normally super discreet block? Something at the Temple?

If the assembled men and women looked more like they belonged on a couch watching the MSNBC evening politics lineup on TV than lined up outside a synagogue on a damp Thursday night it’s because that’s where they’d probably be at this time of day. The only reason they weren’t was because one of that station’s talkers, its franchise player no less, was scheduled to be here. The namesake shero of The Rachel Maddow Show was about to be “In Conversation” at Temple Emanu-El of New York.

It took awhile for them all to get inside and when they did, each was handed a hardcover copy of Maddow’s just released new book, Blowout. More than 2,000 folks settled in to listen to the Conversation and around 8:20 Maddow literally hobbled (on crutches) to the pulpit to address the multitude. She said she’d been planning to read a selection from the book (about walruses and featuring a cameo appearance by former Secretary of State/Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson) but because of events today and the last hour and a half even, she was going to talk about impeachment instead. Big cheer.

What she wanted to point out was that it’s been reported that Giuliani has been working with two people in his quest to get the Biden’s son scandal off the ground: Paul Manafort, who’s doing time in Federal prison, and Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch who she said wrote a check for $174 million to stay out of prison in Europe while awaiting trial for corruption. Firtash became a very wealthy oligarch because all the natural gas that Ukraine buys from Russia first goes through his company. His markup was $800 million just in 2015, she said.

This led into the actual Conversation with comedian and TV Host Kamau Bell. Bell asked questions that led Maddow to share some of her creative process that went into writing Blowout. She said she had started out to write about the 2016 election, but as soon as she hit Russia it was all about oil. Tillerson, Trump’s first Secretary of State had come straight from the top job at Exxon where he’d just made a deal with Putin to drill in the Russian Arctic. But after Putin annexed Crimea the U.S. applied economic sanctions and the deal was off. Lifting sanctions would put it back on, which is what Russia and Exxon wanted, she said.

Maddow went on to describe another deal Exxon wanted to do in Iraq. The company was already the most profitable in the history of corporations when they attempted to make a deal with Iraqi Kurds in northern Iraq. The U.S. Government asked them to deal instead with the government in Baghdad to avoid fracturing the country – which had just gone through a terrible war and was just getting itself back up on its feet. They refused. Her point was the company has no allegiance to anything besides its own bottom line and that the costs in lives and money the US had poured into Iraq meant nothing to them.

From there the Conversation moved onto corruption in general, and she gave several more examples to illustrate. She said the two of the first things Trump did upon taking office were reversing policies that made it harder for the mentally impaired to get guns and that required multinational companies like Exxon to report bribes paid to foreign governments. Not prohibiting bribes, just reporting them.

There were a lot of nodding heads and sporadic bursts of applause as the Conversation continued for about an hour. When she had finished preaching to the choir, so to speak, Maddow rose to her injured feet and with an assist from Bell hobbled back offstage, on her crutches, to the sound of thunderous applause.

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