The Best Democracy Money Can Buy
by Greg Palast
It is very difficult to read this book without clenching your teeth. Journalist Greg Palast has documented, in painful detail, some of the more repulsive events of the last few years. From the stealing of the Florida election to the real causes of the crash of the Exxon Valdez. The stories told here are generally examples not of random misfortune, but rather systematic, premeditated attempts (in most cases, successful) to subvert the law and societies norms for money.
And make no mistake, it is all for money. From Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris cooking the voting rolls in Florida to Pat Robertson’s “holy” shenanigans, the reporting adage of “follow the money” is the divine principle here. The blackmailing of California and Britain’s energy customers by Enron and the Southern Company is a prime example; freed from regulation, they promised limitless energy at a 20% savings. They then paid off a few legislators and promptly held consumers hostage, raising rates as much as 1000% in a single day, using stage-managed “blackouts” to increase need. Exxon/Mobil’s board sat in a meeting months before the spill in Alaska and acknowledged (only to themselves, of course) that such an event was likely to occur. And that they didn’t have the material or crew to contain it if it did. The Valdez hit the rocks not because of a drunken captain, as we were led to believe–he was asleep below, and not at the bridge. However, an expensive bit of radar gear in disrepair was turned off and had been for over a year. But hey, Exxon/Mobil made a profit, so everything is fine, right? Tell that to the people who have to live there, and have seen their livelihood ruined because the area is now a toxic waste dump. Tell it to the thousands of animals that smothered to death in oil, or who can’t reproduce because of chemicals in their systems.
Palast is an American reporter who finds himself having to work in the UK in order to get printed. Seems our fearless press here in the States doesn’t have the cojones to print the sort of things he uncovers. The only media outlet that printed his description of the Florida debacle was Salon.com, and that isn’t what you would call a widely read source of news to most of America. In case you missed it (and it would hardly be surprising if you did), Jeb Bush, governor of Florida and brother of the President, along with Katherine Harris, Secretary of State for Florida, set out to remove potential Democratic voters from the rolls before the 2000 election. They did this by hiring a firm to “scrub” the voter rolls of people who were not eligible to vote in the state, based on previous felony convictions. The only problem was, most of the names they selected as ineligible were in fact not felons at all. But that didn’t seem to make a difference in 2000. Thousands of voters were removed from the rolls by “mistake”, and unable to cast a vote. It’s surely only chance that the majority of these voters were black, and thus likely to vote for Gore. We’re talking upwards of 7,000 voters removed by this ploy- and remember, Bush “won” the state by less than 600 votes. So who stole what? This book does not attempt to document efforts by the Gore team to garner the election via the courts, but it didn’t make a difference. In a race of thieves, Bush got to the finish line first, by virtue of family connections and illegal acts, long before the first votes were cast.
Allegations such as this are not idly tossed about in The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. Palast is a seasoned, trained investigator who has a knack for getting people to talk, turn over confidential documents, and generally do the right thing. But no matter how well he states his case, or how solid are his facts, nothing much seems to happen. Exxon/Mobil should have been bankrupted in court for their inhumane activity in the Valdez crash. But gosh, when you’re the second largest contributor to the Republican party (behind those shining lights of scum, Enron), you have a way of avoiding the consequences of your (in) actions. So it goes in the “business of America is business” United States. A country ruled by shadow corporations who are beyond the reach of the laws that they helped draft, led by a man who is in office illegally. A man whose financial ties to Middle East terrorists (documented here), makes a mockery of the words he uses to justify his “War on Terror”.
Yes, this is a maddening book to read. Nevertheless, it should be read and shared until enough people get angry enough to do something. Like vote these scumbags out of office.
Oh, wait, that won’t work. Well, we are a nation of rather bright people. One hopes we will figure something out, before it’s too late.