In the Church with Robert Kennedy, Jr., Greg Palast, and Randi Rhodes:
Yesterday had been one of those days for the Rude Pundit, where the overwhelming stench of depravity and rot wafting through the skies of America and transmitted through our networks of "news" was unrelenting. There was no right combination of vodka and Ketamine to make it all go away, and, truly, the police attacks on protesters for immigrant rights in Los Angeles, on the day when the Rude Pundit learned that an old tape from the Kent State riots seemed to contain the word "Fire," spoken to National Guard troops there, well, hell, it was just too damn much. The Rude Pundit needed himself some churchin'.
So he found himself at the Community Church of New York last night with a few hundred other converted for an event featuring investigative reporter Greg Palast, Robert Kennedy, Jr., and radio host Randi Rhodes. The occasion was the release of a new edition of Palast's book Armed Madhouse, which summarizes the gut-churning reporting Palast has been doing on the Bush administration for the last couple of years. We also were there to watch Palast's documentary for the BBC on New Orleans a year after Hurricane Katrina, which was pretty much what you'd expect (although it was a little heavy on glorifying areas of New Orleans that were shitty before the storm).
Palast spoke first, and, truth be told, the Rude Pundit always wanted to tell Palast to strip away the irony and stupid jokes (indeed, skip the prologue chapter of the book - but the rest is well worth the ride) and just tell the goddamn story. But the Rude Pundit needed churchin', and Palast was frighteningly on-target last night - even the snide remarks seemed fine - laying out, like a lawyer making a closing argument, why the U.S. attorney purge occurred, leading us through his investigation of the Republican "caging lists" - essentially, who could be purged from voter rolls in high minority districts - inadvertently sent to an anti-Bush site. Palast connected the dots through to the need to have federal prosecutors in place in 2008 who would not move on cases of voting irregularities in their states. It was stunning stuff, even if you knew it all before, because Palast is old school, man, the kind of muckraker that Drew Pearson would have been proud to know. And a reporter who could kick Bill O'Reilly's ass from here back to the UK if the Great Falafelator ever had the guts to bring Palast on.
But Palast was really the warm-up, 'cause Robert Kennedy, Jr. was the preacher. In a mostly improvised speech, Kennedy ripped into the contemporary media hegemony that refuses to give the American people the information they need. Drawing on his own research into the abandonment of the Fairness Doctrine under Reagan (and buried by Clinton's signing of the Telecommunications Act), Kennedy passionately held forth on how misinformation, spin, and lies have destroyed our access to and belief in real democracy. This was the churchin' the Rude Pundit was looking for, old-fashioned rabble-rousing, although he couldn't help but note how far things have moved to the right in this country when Kennedy's real rallying cry was a move away from government-sponsored corporate cronyism (which Kennedy outright called "fascism") and back to a free-market economy. Yep, that's right: all us liberals in the audience were applauding the need for a return to genuine capitalism. If that makes us "pinkos" or some such shit, we're really lost in this nation. In the end, though, Kennedy was inspiring. Really, truly inspiring, breaking through the malaise and cynicism of the Rude Pundit's fog.
Randi Rhodes was Randi Rhodes. If you dig her, you'd've dug her. If you don't, chances are you wouldn't. The Rude Pundit can generally only listen to about ten minutes of her on the radio before he needs to shut off the radio and listen to the soothing sounds of traffic (it ain't a question of her politics). In person, she was mucho more interesting, re-telling her oft-recited tale of her involvement in the 2000 election debacle in Palm Beach County, Florida, where her show was based at the time. Fun, lively, sardonic. A fine coda to Kennedy's roar of outrage.
Of course, after church, there's always the next day. This morning, as if to prove Kennedy correct, here was a discussion on CNN's American Morning between Kiran Chetry, the pseudo-Soledad, and Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr:
"CHETRY: President Bush has been saying that this funding feud has to end quickly. If not, U.S. troops will begin paying the price. Is that true? CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr joins us now with a "Fact Check". Hi, Barbara. Good to see you.
"STARR: Good morning to you, Kiran.
"Well, you know, here at the Pentagon, they always say they stay out of the politics, but, of course, they do have their list of budget cuts that they are beginning to circulate. Let's look right off the top here at a couple of things they say if this goes on that they will have to start cutting back on by May 15th. Here are a couple of the items.
"Training for brigade combat teams, those teams that are going to Iraq and Afghanistan Afghanistan, that might be delayed if there's no founding. Tours in Iraq, combat tours in Iraq in Afghanistan, may be extended. And as for new contracts and service orders, spare parts, maintenance, that type of thing, all of that will have to be stopped over time as this funding crisis goes on.
"But Kiran, what's the real bottom line here? As we have all discussed, the political common sense is that, of course, some deal, some compromise will be reached. Nobody wants to be held responsible for the troops not having the training and equipment they need. And, of course, the top military brass says, at the end of the day, no one will be deployed to the war without the training and equipment -- Kiran. "
There you go: the completely unpolitical list of cuts from the unpolitical Pentagon as reported by CNN. Nothing on, say, how the Congressional Research Service says that there's money to last a few more months without such cuts. In fact, nothing but the Pentagon's perspective as "fact." Man, Palast can make his self-righteous jokes as much as he wants as long as he offers at least some corrective to this nonsense.
Yeah, church is fine - it makes you remember why you believe. But once you leave the sanctuary, you still gotta face the sinners.