The Best Democracy Money Can Buyby Greg Palast
Award-winning investigative journalist Greg Palast digs deep to unearth the ugly facts that few reporters working anywhere in the world today have the courage or ability to cover. From East Timor to Waco, he has exposed some of the most egregious cases of political corruption, corporate fraud, and financial manipulation in the US and abroad. His uncanny investigative… See more details below
Award-winning investigative journalist Greg Palast digs deep to unearth the ugly facts that few reporters working anywhere in the world today have the courage or ability to cover. From East Timor to Waco, he has exposed some of the most egregious cases of political corruption, corporate fraud, and financial manipulation in the US and abroad. His uncanny investigative skills as well as his no-holds-barred style have made him an anathema among magnates on four continents and a living legend among his colleagues and his devoted readership.This exciting new collection brings together some of Palast's most powerful writing of the past decade. Included here are his celebrated "Washington Post" exposé on Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris's stealing of the presidential election in Florida, and recent stories on George W. Bush's payoffs to corporate cronies, the payola behind Hillary Clinton, and the faux energy crisis. Also included in this volume are new and previously unpublished material, television transcripts, photographs, and letters.
- Penguin Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Older Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 5.24(w) x 7.96(h) x 0.83(d)
Read an Excerpt
Who Gives a Shit?
An Introduction to the New American Edition
You read the papers and you watch television, so you know the kind of spider-brained, commercially poisoned piece-of-crap reporting you get in America.
You could call this book What You Didn't Read in the New York Times and What You Can't See on CBS. For example:
Five months before the November 2000 election, Governor Jeb Bush of Florida moved to purge 57,700 people from the voter rolls, supposedly criminals not allowed to vote. Most were innocent of crimes, but the majority were guilty of being Black.
I wrote that exposé for page one of the nation's top newspaper. But it was the wrong nation: Britain. It ran in the Guardian of London and its Sunday sister paper, the Observer. You could see it on television too-in Europe, on BBC TV's Newsnight, which airs my investigate reports. (If you want to know what was in that diseased sausage called a presidential election, read Chapter 1, "Jim Crow in Cyberspace.")
Something else you didn't read: After the American electorate booted the senior Bush from the White House, he landed softly on the board of a gold-mining company originally funded by the Saudi Arabian Adnan Khashoggi, arms dealer to the Axis of Evil. The former president's gold-digger friends made a billion off changes in rules courtesy of the outgoing Bush administration. From there, the story gets more brutal and much bloodier (see Chapter 2, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy," new to this American edition).
Then there's the story of Monsanto's genetically modified milk-making hormone. The stuff caused company test cows to drip pus into milk buckets. Yummy. Monsantofixed that problem the easy way-by burying test data. U.S. officials helped out, slipping the company confidential regulatory documents. American journals couldn't cover that. They were too busy licking the loafers of Monsanto's Robert Shapiro, GE's Jack Welch and Enron's Ken Lay to write something not cribbed off a company press release (see Chapter 5, "Inside Corporate America").
And you didn't read how the "Reverend" Dr. Pat Robertson secretly, illicitly used his Christian Crusade jihad assets to boost his berserker get-rich-quick business schemes (see Chapter 6, "Pat Robertson").
Nor did you get the news about Anibal Vern. In August 2000, Vern, a bus driver who hadn't received his pay for nine months, protested and was shot dead. Argentines believe the World Bank had a secret plan to force the nation to cut wages. Antiglobalization conspiracy fantasy? I'll show you the document. Instead, American-style journalism gives you proglobalization gurus like Thomas Friedman. It tells you the new international financial order is all about the communications revolution and cell phones that will call your broker and do your laundry at the same time. Golly. And if you're against globalization, you're against the future. The kids protesting in the streets are just a bunch of unsophisticated jack-offs. And in the United States especially, there's no dissent from this slaphappy view. I'm not going to argue with Friedman and guys in favor of The Future. What I will do is take you through Country Assistance Strategies, Article 133 diplomatic letters and GATS committee memos. Most are marked "confidential" and "not for public disclosure"-having walked out of filing cabinets inside the IMF, World Bank, World Trade Organization. And there's nothing in there about cell phones for Incas.
If you read the original hardcover edition of this book, you'll see here a substantially different text. An awful lot has happened since we last met between these covers, and new material arrives daily. There were letters like this: "You are a freak liberal asshole! [signed] A Reasonable American." That is not news.
However, there was an extraordinary note from Florida. Katherine Harris, secretary of state, wrote that my reporting was "twisted." Again, no news there; but I was astonished by the evidence she provided me in her lengthy high-volume screed. In this book's first edition, I disclosed that Governor Jeb Bush's office had knowingly blocked 40,000 legal voters from registering. Coincidentally, over 90 percent of those voters were Democrats. Bush's office stone-cold denied it. Now, his buddy Harris faxed me the proof (unwittingly, I presume). You'll see the documents in this new American edition.
In addition, there's the latest on how Governor Jeb fixed his own race for reelection in 2002 and how Republicans are finagling the machinery for 2004. The first edition of this book included ten pages introducing you to a company named Enron. "This is Enron. You've never heard of them." Presumably, by now, you've heard. But if you think the truth has come out about Enron, Arthur Andersen, Global Crossing, Reliant and the host of other sharks in CEO clothing, don't kid yourself: The U.S. media is still peeing on your leg and telling you it's raining. You're now being told that Harry Potter-magical accounting is a new, short-lived game limited to a couple of corporate rogues, a few bad apples.
New? Limited? The apples are dropping because the U.S. corporate tree is rotten-root and branch. Andersen should have been indicted a decade ago. If you want to know why they weren't, ask our president's daddy-and read the new section on the Power Pirates in Chapter 3.
Also in this edition, new information indicating that U.S. financial institutions helped Argentina's ruling families speculate on their nation's death spiral. That opens the door to more tales of Enron, the kidnapping of the president of Venezuela and the Bush-Bush's gold mine, all new to this edition.
Some of you may be wondering why I'd bother with a revision. After all, in 2002 the U.S. Congress passed campaign finance reform. Our president signed it into law. The election process is "reformed." Bush signed another law promising to jail corporate bad guys. But if we look closely, reform consists of doubling the amount of so-called "hard" contributions politicians may legally harvest, eliminating only "soft" contributions. Stiffening flaccid contributions may be Congress's idea of progress, but the financial poisoning of our body politic continues. And the corporate governance reforms, like the elections reforms, are simply covers for new mischief.
Am I a bit too rough on the Republicans? I recognize that the selling of America is a bipartisan business. If I spill more ink here on the Bushes than the Clintons, it's primarily because a journalist's first job should be to discomfit those in power. Regarding the Democrats, my policy is to let sleeping dogs lie and lying dogs sleep.
Words in Exile
So why have you not seen these stories, or very few of them, in the mainstream media? Take that story of the theft of the U.S. election. In America, editors looked at their shoes and whistled-and hoped it would go away. Not everyone ignored it, of course-I got lots of letters like this one: "Stay out of our politics, you English pig!" I hate to quibble, but I'm not British.
I'm from Los Angeles. Actually, the scum end of L.A., in the San Fernando Valley, raised in a pastel house between the power plant and the city garbage dump. It was not as glamorous as abject poverty, but not far above it. Half the kids in my school were Mexican American and, brown or white, we were pretty much tagged as America's losers. You graduated, worked minimum wage at Bob's Big Boy on Van Nuys Boulevard, and got your girlfriend pregnant. If Vietnam didn't kill you, overtime at the Chevy plant would.
America was a carnivore and we were just food. Anyway, I got out and so did my sister-how we did is neither interesting nor remarkable.
Am I bitter? Why shouldn't I be when I look at the privileged little pricks that call the shots on this planet, whose daddies could make the phone calls, write the checks, make it smooth? Daddy Bush, Daddy Koch, Daddy bin Laden-I've got a list.
As a scholarship kid at the University of Chicago, I witnessed the birth of the New World Globalization Order. It was the mid-1970s and I'd worked my way into Milton Friedman's postgraduate seminar and into a strange clique, which later became known as the "Chicago Boys." That was the little cabal of South America's budding dictators and right-wing economists who would turn Chile into an experiment in torture and free markets.
Even then I was undercover, working for Frank Rosen, head of the United Electrical Workers Union, and Eddie Sadlowski, the dissident steelworkers' leader, for a greater purpose I could understand dimly at best.
I avoided journalism. Starting in 1975, from a desk in the basement of the electrical workers' union hall, I began grinding through U.S. corporate account books. Using their own abstruse financial codes, I challenged gas company heating charges. I negotiated contracts for steel and iron workers. I was broke and I was in heaven.
My dad had been a furniture salesman. He hated furniture. If it were up to him, we would have eaten sitting on the floor. Mom worked in the school cafeteria (you know, hairnet and creamed corn) until she became a hypnotist for McDonald's (really-see Chapter 7). From them, I gained a deep and abiding fear of working for a living.
Bang: One minute I was this dead-broke anticorporate scourge with his head buried in bureaucratic file cabinets, and the next I was "America's number one expert on government regulation bar none" (wrote one kind newspaper). My office, on the fiftieth floor of the World Trade Center, was bigger than an L.A. bowling alley.
Still, I kept my nose in dusty files. I found things like this: Executives of a megalithic power company, Long Island Lighting of New York, swore under oath that their nuclear plant would cost $1.8 billion. Internal confidential memos said the plant would cost $3.2 billion. I convinced the government to charge them with civil racketeering, and a jury said they should pay $4.8 billion. Then, the governor of New York, a slick operator named Mario Cuomo, reached the chief federal judge in New York-and poof!-the jury's verdict was thrown out. That's when I learned about love, and that there is no love greater than the love of politicians for the captains of finance.
So am I bitter? See above.
I finally quit. It was during my investigation of the Exxon Valdez crack-up (see Chapter 6). I was working for the Chugach natives of Alaska. Our team quickly discovered the oil spill was no accident: Before the tanker's grounding, Exxon shut off the ship's radar to save money and a British Petroleum affiliate had faked the safety equipment reports.
How could I get the real story out? From a kayak in the Prince William Sound, who can hear you scream? The press had f'd up the Exxon Valdez story something awful. That was six years ago. I decided from then on I'd write these stories myself, an idea immediately encouraged by the British Guardian and Observer papers and BBC's Newsnight.
While American journalists spent those years smothered in Monica Lewinsky's panties, I had the luxury of diving into the filing cabinets of the Reverend Pat Robertson, the World Trade Organization and George Bush's favorite billionaires.
I began in earnest in 1997 and my work quickly attracted a little more attention than I'd expected. On July 8 of that year, the entire front page of the Mirror, one of Britain's biggest-selling papers, was taken up by a picture of this nasty-looking bald guy-me-under a four-inch-tall headline: THE LIAR (figure i.1). And I thought, "Damn, it doesn't get any better than this." The Mirror-and the man they loved, Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair-did not like a story I had written with Antony Barnett for the Observer. To get the story, "Lobbygate," I'd gone undercover and exposed a stinky little deal-making operation running through Blair's cabinet. That story and the others to follow grew out of this idea: Why not apply the techniques of investigations I've conducted in government racketeering cases to news reporting? This would be a quantum leap in dig-out-the-facts methodologies rarely used even by "investigative" journalists. That's what makes these writings a bit different-lots of facts, many from documents thought by their writers to be hidden away in desk drawers, from missent faxes and from tape recordings made when big mouths didn't know whom they were talking to.
If Britain's government was selling its nation, corporate America was buying. That's my main beat: "Inside Corporate America," the title of my column in the Observer. Those columns-updated, all fresh material-are in Chapter 5. There you will get, for example, the skinny on Wal-Mart ("What Price a Store-gasm?") and the tale of the strange little deal cut by a big-time environmental group and the number-one lobbyist representing polluters ("How the Filth Trade Turned Green").
This book is largely a compendium of the investigations printed and broadcast overseas, expanded, with the newest information, plus substantial new material for this special edition for the United States.
* * *
The question remains, why were these stories (and their author) exiled to Europe? Where are you, America? Don't you want to know how your president was elected? How the IMF spends your money?
Mike Isikoff, a Newsweek reporter, suggested an answer. A couple of years ago, he passed me some truly disturbing information on President Clinton, not the usual intern-under-the-desk stuff. I said, "Mike, why don't you print this?" And he said,
"Because no one gives a shit."
But if you're one of the few who do, here's your book.
from The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: The Truth About Corporate Cons, Globalization, and High-Finance Fraudsters by Greg Palast, Copyright © 2003 by Greg Palast, published by Plume Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.
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