by Greg Palast
Greg Palast has a witty, sharp writing style. He writes as only an American can. However, if his journalistic style is very typically American, his subject matter is most definitely not.
The Best Democracy Money Can Buy is a collection of his writings, many first published in the Guardian and the Observer. He is also known over here for his reporting for Newsnight. His subject matter is corporate power and political corruption.
It is the opening chapter, Jim Crow in Cyberspace, that is Palast's best known piece of investigative journalism. It tells the story of how George Dubya Bush "stole" the presidential election. Palast digs into the state records of Florida and Texas (Dubya was Governor of Texas; his brother Jeb was Governor of Florida) and of the private company that "washed" the electoral registers.
In America convicted felons are illegible for voting. To make sure that they weren't letting Democrats, sorry felons, vote, Florida paid out $4 billion to DBT Online, now called ChoicePoint of America, to go through the electoral list and wash out any felons. DBT were helpfully assisted by the State of Texas who provided a list of felons from that state who might now be in Florida. DBT looked at the names on the felons lists and compared them to names on the electoral list. They then matched up similar sounding names, birth dates and so on and removed the rights of those people to vote - including people with spent convictions, people only convicted of misdemeanours and people with convictions from outside of the state of Florida that should have no effect. In total about 60,000 names were removed from the register, mainly the names of poor people, overwhelmingly of black people. Thousands were wrongly removed and George Bush Junior "won" the election by fewer votes than the number illegitimately removed by Jeb Bush's Florida administration.
Palast goes on to uncover some of the dirty cash deals between the Bush family, big oil, terrorists and dictators. "Where there's muck there's brass", they say up north. There's a lot of muck around the Bush family and a hell of a lot of brass in their bank accounts (and those of the Republican Party).
Along the way, Palast also takes a look at some of the methods used by the World Bank and the IMF and how they impoverish the world's poor. He finishes up with his other big coup, "lobbygate".
Solidarity readers may remember the first sleaze scandal to hit the Blair government when Palast posed as a company director and was offered access for cash to ministers by lobbyists including Derek Draper. It still a warming experience to read about these snivelling ex-student hack creeps throwing themselves into the shit.
Unfortunately Blair passed off Draper et al as nobodies with no connection to the Blair and Mandelson gang. Palast doesn't dig up quite how close their relationship really was and how close to the heart of New Labour lobbygate really got.
The Best Democracy Money Can Buy reveals just what you get when you remove the commitment to working-class struggle from politics. All that is left is greed, corruption and self-interest. This book shows it in all its ugly colours. The new edition promises more of the same, although the UK edition unfortunately misses some juicy sleaze on the Bush family for fear of being sued.
Never mind, you can still read the missing article on Greg Palast's website.
Link: Greg Palast
Reviewer: Mick Duncan