Beer and wine

Rachel Maddow’s Blowout, Impeachment Porn and Martini Recipe at Chicago Humanities Festival

CHF Artistic Director Alison Cuddy interviews MSNBC host, Blowout book author and martini maven Rachel Maddow (photo courtesy CHF).

Emmy Award-winning host of the eponymous MSNBC program Rachel Maddow made a book tour stop on October 12 at McCormick Place’s Arie Crown Theater, as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival’s packed 30th anniversary “Power” series. The festival will feature 70 events by intriguing notables through November 10.

“I could write a whole book about how to make a martini,” Maddow said during the hour-long program, moderated by CHF’s Artistic Director Alison Cuddy. But she was there to talk about her just-published book, currently #1 nonfiction on The New York Times Best Seller List, called Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth.

The title pretty much sums it up, but she still offered an engaging excerpt reading and chat in front of an enthusiastic, 4000-strong audience (the long and winding entry lines felt more like pre-show at a Metallica concert). Maddow talked about how economies based on the oil and gas industry tend toward the corrupt. She also shared how her fascination with this business, and in Russia in particular, have converged with the current Ukrainian quid pro quo and impeachment news cycle.

That forthrightness draws in battle-weary progressives, with her willingness to say on her program and in person that Trump’s invitation to foreign powers—Ukraine, China, and likely more—to interfere in US elections is why he’s “going to get impeached.”

The recent arrests related to this administration, Rudy Giuliani’s shadow diplomacy mobsters “Lev and Igor,” just happened to time perfectly with her book drop: “I feel like it’s all coming together,” she said.

“I was writing about the end of the world, and here it is!” she smiled.

Her voluminous research reveals that oil and natural gas interests keep organized crime in power, especially for those countries in the Soviet sphere. The related “Lock Her Up” playbook used in the US, created by now-incarcerated Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, is currently being deployed, play by play, in Ukraine.

This democracy-in-decline trend around the world has roots in this fight between the rule of law and authoritarianism, fueled by corrupt fossil fuel industry interests.

“What is sapping the strength of democracy?” asked the self-professed Russia obsessive.

“Big business,” she answered, at the event and in the book.

She said that Russia is literally floating on a sea of oil and gas. “A gas station masquerading as a country,” Senator John McCain famously noted—but the economy sucks, smaller than Italy’s, because it’s historically bad to build a system on only one dubious industry. (In the former Soviet Union, the major players are Gazprom and Rosneft.) Even an OPEC exec called oil “the excrement of the devil” (Maddow said her eight-year-old goofy self laughs at that), and its continued use drives climate crises. Over 70% of US carbon emissions come from burning fossil fuels.

So Russia has the oil, but needs the US and its technology to process it, as well as wanting oil industry friends like former Exxon executive Rex Tillerson, who then became Secretary of State without even meeting his orange boss.

“Where oil flows, governments suffer,” Maddow said. “The oil and gas industry props up despots and terrible, malignant, kleptocratic governments.”

She acknowledged that some viewers tell her they can’t watch her show at night, because the stories can be too stressful. The political science Ph.D. (from Oxford, after Stanford), who started as an AIDS and prison reform activist at age 16, said “I’m not trying to upset you.”

“I’m drawn to stories to help policy-makers change their minds.”

She concluded the discussion on a hopeful note, celebrating activists and the young environmentalist movement, saying “don’t underestimate their geopolitical impact, which is needed to turn away from this industry.”

“Expect and demand the most from our leaders,” she said.

After the program, Maddow (right) and Cuddy (left) joined Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot (center) and First Lady Amy Eshleman for a backstage conversation about the Democratic presidential candidates, the pressures experienced by career prosecutors in the US Justice Department, and how to effect change in Chicago politics (photo courtesy CHF).

Maddow also encouraged attendees to support journalism programs in middle and high schools, to “grow investigative reporters.”

And show up, in person, like thousands did for this lecture.

“Do something more than we are already doing, to transform the US and the world.”

Then maybe have a cocktail.

 

The Maddow Martini, transcribed by the CHF:

  • Dry vermouth, 1 ounce: “Use fresh vermouth! Not something you opened in the Jurassic era!”
  • Gin, 3 ounces: “Gin is in there. Vodka does not go in a martini.”
  • Garnish with a lemon twist or green olive: “If you have a lemon twist, add orange bitters. If you have an olive, the only filling can be pimento. No other modifications are acceptable.”
  • ADD gin and vermouth to a shaker full of ice
  • STIR 40 times until very cold
  • STRAIN into a martini glass. Garnish with lemon twist or green olive.
  • WATCH Maddow on MSNBC

 

Continue the conversation about journalism, women and public affairs with these upcoming programs:

Jill Abramson: Merchants of Truth
Sunday, October 27, 11 a.m.-12 noon
Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson St., Evanston

Supermajority: Ai-jen Poo, Alicia Garza, and Cecile Richards
Doris Conant Lecture on Women and Culture
Friday, November 8, 7:30-8:50 p.m.
Harold Washington Cultural Center
4701 S. Martin Luther King Drive, Chicago

David E. Sanger: War in the Cyber Age
Saturday, November 9, 11 a.m.-12 noon
Field Museum, James Simpson Theatre
1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

Desk 88: Senator Sherrod Brown and Connie Schultz 
Saturday, November 9, 3-4 p.m.
Field Museum, James Simpson Theatre
1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

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