279 of 302 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2002
Greg Palast won't shut up. He won't shut up about how Jeb Bush and his lieutenant stole the election from Gore through a vicious manipulation of the voter rolls. He won't shut up about how cheaply Tony Blair's government can be bought. He won't shut up about how mainstream journalism is in thrall to the prevailing free market corporate ethos. He won't shut up about the Big Lie perpertreated by Milton Friedman and his gang that markets promote democracy, that markets are engines of viture. He shows with unshakable research that instead that instead of breeding virture and freedom, markets breed corruption, inequality, and through a politically moribund media, moral complacency.
The opening chapter on the high-tech mechanism that the Bush camp in Florida put in place before the elections in 2000 to expunge African-Americans from voter rolls is worth the price of the book. Palast tells us how Jeb's gang reinstated Jim Crow laws in the New South by hiring a database firm with strong ties to the Texas Republican party to compare lists of voters with lists of felons and purge names from the rolls that "matched" in only the most tenous ways. Roughly 60,000 voters, most of them Black (because the prison archipelago in the United States imprisons mostly Blacks) were stripped of the fundamental right of voting. Why take blacks off the rolls? Because, as Palast notes, better than 9 in 10 Blacks vote for Democrats. He personalizes these facts in the person of a Black minister who had met and broken bread with Jeb Bush on numerous occasions. The minister showed up to vote at his local precinct where he had been voting for over 20 years and discovered that his name had vanished from rolls. Palast goes into stunning detail on how the scam was perpertrated and shows conclusively that the Bush camp stacked the deck well before the election. Further, he proves even under these circumstances that Gore actually won in Florida.
Palast reported this high-tech lynching of Black voters rights in the Guardian (funded by public monies) before the actual election. No mainstream American media picked up on the story. When the Washington Post finally reported it, they did so months later under the cover of the Federal Election Commisions investigation into the manipulation of the election. Slate, to its credit, picked up on the story and helped with hard work of investigating the chicanery in Florida in the immediate aftermath of the elections, but as Palast notes, Slate is not the New York Times, or the Washington Post. He shows in lurid detail how the Republican power structure, including of course, the Supreme Court, swung into action under the guidance of James Baker and ended the counting on the basis of the flimsiest of legalistic doctrine. He depicts the almost comical ineptitude of a Democratic Party as it tries to take on the Repulicans. While the Democrats play by the Marquess of Queensbury rules, the Republicans play to win. Anti-nausea medicine is strongly recommended for this chapter.
Palast as a young activist attended lectures by Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago to better understand this radical restatement of Adam Smith's 18th century economic laws. In this regard Palast undoubtedly agrees with media historian Robert McChesney's analysis of Milton Friedman's faulty understand of democracy: "As Milton Friedman puts it in his seminal "Capitalism and Freedom," because profit-making is the essence of democracy (!), any government that puruses antimarket policies is being anit-democratic, no matter how much informed popular support they might enjoy. [Under this logic] Therefore it is best to restrict governments to the job of protecting private property and enforcing contracts, and to limit polictical debate to minor issues."
Palast is particularly angry at his peers in the media. At the same time he understands that they have very little freedom to report on anything that would pose a challenge to the values of the marketplace. He notes that it is only because the Guardian and the BBC is publicly funded can he explore venality and corruption in government and business. And by the way, he takes on the left as well as the right. His chapter on Tony Blair's government and how cheaply it can be bought demonstrates that the influence of corporate money has become so pervasive that even so-called Liberals must feed at the trough in order to fund their expensive media campaigns. The Clintonites hated him, too.
But Palast's work is invigorating, not demobilizing. The news he reports doesn't invite fatalistic acceptance of a corrupt system, rather it invites activism. This is probably why he is feared on both sides of the aisle. Someday, he just might get people mad enough to do more than just stand up and say I'm not going to take it anymore, but to take the next step and take back their governments from the cynical oligarchy which equates speech with money, which believes that suffrage should be defined as one dollar, one vote instead of one person, one vote.
82 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2003
"The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" is a must read for anyone-conservative or liberal-who wants to get a different perspective on what is happening in the world than the one that is consistently portrayed by the consolidated corporate media. While the controversial title of this book implies a liberal critique of Western values and institutions, it actually accomplishes something very different. Veteran investigative reporter, Greg Palast publishes some of the news stories that the consolidated corporate media refuses to report. While some may blanch at the targets of Palast's investigations, which include corrupt politicians, crooked companies, world finance organizations, and the consolidated corporate media, few can deny the accuracy and integrity of his reports. Palast is an independent reporter who originally specialized in racketeering investigations. His methods include scrupulously studying corporate documents, and examining the testimony of whistleblowers, many of whom approach him personally out of disgust toward their parent organizations. Palast does not work for a for-profit media company and is not beholden to corporate interests. This makes him one of the few honest voices in public life.
Chief among Palast's exposés is the illegal manner in which Florida Secretary of State, Kathleen Harris, and Governor Jeb Bush illegally denied tens of thousands of African American citizens their right to vote in the 2000 presidential election in Florida. Palast details the methods used by Bush and Harris to exclude eligible African American from voting such as manipulating database records to wrongfully categorize thousands of African Americans as felons, or wrongfully claiming that convicted felons who has completed their sentences in other states could not vote in Florida.
Palast also exposes the presidential instructions from the Clinton and Bush (Jr.) administrations that forced dedicated FBI agents to ignore any leads to Saudi terrorists that implicated the Saudi royal family, or people from that region with influential ties to the U.S. government. When it came to investigating Saudi terrorist links, according to Palast, under Clinton investigators were ordered to turn a blind eye, while under bush they were ordered to shut both eyes. While both Clinton and Bush were concerned about alienating a key American ally in the Middle East, Palast demonstrates, that the latter took more excessive steps to suppress the investigation of Saudi terrorists, since many of them had tentative links to his own family business, including those who invested in his first oil company, Arbusto, and those-mainly members of the Bin Laden family-who sat with his father (the first President Bush) on the board of the Carlysle Group. Palast does not believe George W. Bush was complicit in the attacks of September 11th, but he argues that had Clinton and Bush Jr. not interfered in FBI anti-terrorist investigations, the attacks of September 11th might well have been prevented.
The most heartbreaking chapter of this book is the one that details how the IMF, the WTO, and the World Bank work in concert to systematically destroy vulnerable countries. In nation after nation, Palast details the insidious four-step program these organizations employ ostensibly to provide aid to economically beleaguered nations, when in fact the opposite occurs. In the first step, on condition of providing aid, these organizations demand that countries privatize public infrastructure components such gas, electricity, and water. In the second step, powerful banks buy up the infrastructure components and immediately make them "more efficient" by laying off the bulk of their workers. In the third step, the financiers drastically raise the cost basic materials such as water to an unaffordable level. In the third step, riots predictably occur to protest unaffordable costs of basic living material, and in the fourth step, this becomes an excuse for capital flight, which in turn severely devalues these privatized components. The end result, according to Palast is a few banks and companies get richer from being handed a cost free monopoly that they can squeeze and then discard, while countries that once had a sustainable way of life are rendered destitute.
There are, of course some exceptions to this unhappy process. Botswana, for example, simply rejected the IMF altogether. When Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, did the same thing, according to Palast, he faced an American sponsored coup that was reinforced by false or nonexistent coverage in the American consolidated corporate media.
What might astound most readers is that predatory acts of privatization in the name of progress are not limited to vulnerable third world nations. In fact, corporate and financial moguls have preyed upon Europe and the United States with mixed results. When privatization of public water works sent prices up several hundred percent in Britain, the citizens of that country simply paid their bills. In San Diego California, however, consumers simply refused to pay their drastically marked up electric bills after that utility was deregulated. Instead, they effectively boycotted their own robbery by paying bills at the old rate and organizing a political movement around the process. Unlike Ecuador, where people were shot and beaten for protesting drastic hikes in the price of drinking water, San Diegans successfully opposed the scheme.
The implied conclusion of Palast's research, as noted in the ironic title, is that America and global capitalism are hardly democratic. Their behavior, according to Palast's example is frighteningly similar to that of a loan shark. No matter what they give you, they will always wind up extracting more than you can possibly return. As a result we may be on the verge of experiencing an odd form of historical determinism: the decent from capitalism, back to feudalism.
Be warned that much of that material in this book is depressing, as Palast readily acknowledges. But along side the corruption and abuses chronicled here are the stories of countless individuals who either oppose such practices or who covertly assist those who do so. At the end of the book Palast provides numerous resources for anyone who wants to help oppose predatory institutional practices in their communities or other parts of the world.
204 of 224 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2002
In a time when fiduciary responsibilities and concern for stockholders have reduced most American newsrooms to ghost towns populated only by cut and paste journalists, Greg Palast, an American working for the Observer in London, still does what reporters used to do. He digs through the evidence, particularly the emails, the government records and the financial reports to get the hard evidence.
His evidence on the 2000 Florida Presidential election voting process is both astonishing and terribly troubling.
Palast also offers clear documentary evidence that Blacks were racially profiled to be eliminated from voter rolls by Florida's voter/felon purge. Essentially, at the behest of Katherine Harris, under Jeb Bush's close watch, Florida systematically and intentionally denied voting rights to approximately 90,000 voters whose right to vote in Florida was legally unquestionable--and over 54% of them were Black. Since Florida Blacks voted 93% for Al Gore, Palast's remarkably detailed book makes it perfectly evident that illegally purged Black votes prevented Florida from voting overwhelmingly for Al Gore and giving Gore the presidency.
Palast also demonstrates that the issue is not one of Black incompetence. Voting machines were set to accept double voted, and therefore uncountable, ballots in Black districts, while they were set to reject double voted ballots in White districts, so Whites could recast their ballots. In other counties with heavily Black populations, the automatic protection systems which reject double voted ballots were simply turned off to "reduce costs."
So while Bush "won" the presidency on a 5-4 Supreme Court vote which said, essentially, that Americans don't have the Constitutional right to vote for the President, something far more sacred was lost in the Florida voting process--the right of every eligible, adult American to have his or her vote counted and to have that vote determine who will lead our country.
53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on May 27, 2002
What can I say? Along with Alexander Cockburn, Robert Fisk,
John Pilger, Alain Nairn, Amy Goodman, Russ Mokhiber, Greg Palasat is on the Planet Earth pure hard news reporting all star team. His reporting on Team Bush's theft of the American presidency was as ground breaking as it was censored in America.
His analysis of how the U.S. mainstream media works evokes Chomsky and Herman's Manufacturing Consent. Palast tells the facts and names the names in the tradition of George Seldes and I.F. Stone. ...
If you want to know just how intellectually bankrupt the conservative philosophy is read this book. If you still think that capitalism is the best economic policy, read this book.
I can tell you one thing about Greg Palast: he will not get his own show on CBS or NBC or ABC or CNN or FOX telling the facts and naming the names. But not because he's not accurate; not because he's boring; not because he wouldn't get ratings. It's because Palast tells citizens the truth that corporations and their political allies do not want us to think about or even know.
112 of 122 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2002
Greg Palast is not your typical journalist. He doesn't varnish the truth based upon ideology, political leaning or who's paying his salary. His background as an investigator shines through in his writing. Unlike a vast majority of so-called investigative reporters, Greg does his homework by scouring sources and providing evidence, not by rewording what's already been dictated to the media.
Greg reveals what really happened in Florida. Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris fixed the election. Plain and simple. The proof is in the book....This book doesn't spare the Clintons or Gore. If you've wondered why the Democrats didn't jump on the Palast bandwagon during the election fiasco and publicize the voter purge of primarily black Democratic voters, Greg's got the answers. You may not like them.
The chapters on the WTO and IMF may bring tears to your eyes when you stop and think about what they've done in the name of progress. The wholesale destruction of economies and people seems to be the new definition of progress, with the US leading the pack. Ever really wonder why America is so despised? Here's one answer.
Media myths are destroyed in this book. Read about Walmart, Tony Blair, Pat Robertson, the Exxon/Valdez coverup, Volvo, etc. This is the most explosive and accurate portrayal of our new globalized society that you can find in America. No fluff, only substance. If you care about civilization, read the book.
86 of 93 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2002
Remember all those great things you were taught to believe about America when you went to school? Well, until you're prepared to have your illusions blown away, stay away from this book.
I was not one to be blinded by propaganda and lies, or at least so I thought. I thought the Supreme Court was a bastion of rationality and reason, an impartial body of law. I thought that we had a representative democracy. Well, only the events of sElection 2000 could've prepared my mind to read this book. And even still, the documented facts and evidence that Greg Palast presents in "Best Democracy Money Can Buy" kept me up at night.
This book is not about left or right, conservative or liberal. It's about who really runs things on this planet, about who has the power and who does not. In chapter after chapter, media myth after government lie is laid bare before the reader, and it's a wonder that Mr. Palast is still among the living. For anyone who wants true freedom, truly free markets, and a safe world for his or her children, you better read this book. Or turn on the TV and stay comfortably sedated.
The beginning of the book is a bit clunky, but once Palast gets in his groove - look out! The scales will fall from your eyes.
89 of 97 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2003
All right, I'll admit it. My attitudes about various things, corporations, the World Bank, and countless other items, change as do my experience with them. But this fine text brought me back to the planet earth.
And to get the criticism out of the way, yes, there were a few editing errors. Like another reviewer or two, I noticed that (have, unfortunately, reduced my evaluation by one star.) But I don't make it as big a deal as some others. Get over it, and keep on reading.
Palast starts the book with an appropriate blast at our first unelected president. I saw a film on the same subject and to that and this book I have the same comment: "Racism" is a word that's so overused that it's lost its original effect. Doubtless those who manipulated the records to keep thousands of Democrats from practicing their right to vote were conscious of race. But it gets boring to claim they did it because of their unadulterated racism. I think they did what they did out of convenience: They knew that those they targeted for elimination were almost all Democrat, as are the bulk of the black and Latino population. Well, I don't want to dwell on that, and I understand Palast's point, but the bottom line is that the election was a sham. (I blush that we Yanks claim to be such a thriving democracy and now, thanks to the GOP, the rest of the world sees us as a joke.)
A good deal of the focus of the book is a subject on which I've expressed bitterness for decades: the media. Even in the electoral sham, Palast starts that such foolishness wasn't even reported in the US press, but was exposed in his journal which is British. Other items, such as the sell out of much of the world's poor by the World Bank and related organizations not only frequently occur but are NOT covered by the good old boys of American journalism. Indeed, it is from this book that I learned a lot, for instance of the police slaughter of demonstrators in Bolivia, or of the half a million or so who marched in favor of the president of Argentina. (The US press only covered the less that half of that number who marched against him.) Then there was the Exxon-Valdez sinking. I'd bought into the fairy tale that the ship's captain was drunk and ran the vessel aground. Palast educated me by showing that the corporation had conspired against all kinds of regulations and THAT'S why the ship eventually sank. The rest was typical PR generated to make the serfs look responsible.
Palast is not just a Yank basher. In fact, he's is far more critical of British libel law. At least in this country we can express something without fear of criminal penalty from the government itself. In Britain, they're not so lucky. (And, with respect to Britain, Palast exposes the, shall I say "mercenary"--with that I'm being a real gentleman--nature of Tony Blair's government. I'm not saying we Yanks are better, but if I found my representatives being so blatantly corrupt, I'd send them to prison!)
There's a great essay on Pinochet's Chile, notably that, contrary to what we hear all the time, Pinochet's "economic miracle" was a travesty (AND a slaughter) while the "liberal" policy is the only thing that worked for that country, and for the others he discussed. And the corporate collaboration with those who overthrew Allende is truly criminal.
And, again, of course, the US press didn't cover that. They're too busy passing on the PR copy of the "corporate relations" offices.
Even Pat Robertson gets exposed by this book in a way that should make us all pause and reconsider everything about that "religious" figure.
There's so much more I could say but I don?t want to give away everything on this book.
If you want to read how this country really runs, I cannot recommend this volume strongly enough. It gets depressing, and many heard me let out shouts of anger as I learned more and more. But the end implores the reader to DO something. There's any number of web pages to refer to from which to learn more. And I'm still not sure what I'll do. But it's time to do something, again.
101 of 111 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2002
Greg Palast is a superb reporter with the courage and instincts to open many doors that were hermetically sealed, uncovering answers that interested citizens should welcome in the manner of unearthing hidden treasures. As Vincent Bugliosi wrote concerning Palast, "Astonishing -- gets the real evidence no one else has the guts to dig up." Jim Hightower notes with awe, "The type of investigative reporter you don't see anymore --a cross between Sam Spade and Sherlock Holmes."
Mesmerized readers learn early that it is incomprehensible to speed read or partially digest Palast's reportorial classic, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." The danger is that the very information glossed over could prove to be the most significant of the book as Palast piles facts upon facts, providing the kind of illuminating insights into the real workings of American and global governments available only through reading alternative journalistic sources. As Palast points out, the major media is interlocked with the corporate establishment. As a result a "don't rock the boat" mentality prevails.
Palast begins rocking the boat with a brilliant opening chapter in which he nails Governor Jeb Bush of Florida and his Secretary of State Catherine Harris for blatant violations of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. As a BBC correspondent Palast personally confronted Florida's Director of Elections, Clayton Roberts, with his smoking gun, a list verifying that no cross checking was done on the basis of raw data commissioned by Bush and Harris with the ostensible purpose of preventing felons from voting in the 2000 election. Despite having paid for a cross check, which would have reduced a list of almost sixty thousand voters made ineligible to a mere fraction, Bush and Harris chose to accept the raw data list, which was preliminary and failed to even verify that names on it correlated with affected citizens in Florida. When Roberts was confronted with the smoking gun by Palast he ended the interview, darted into his office, and bolted the door shut. It was all captured on camera, which Palast invites interested citizens to view on the Internet.
Having unmasked the Florida vote theft and subsequent triumph of an unelected president in the first chapter, one wonders where Palast can possibly go from there. He does not disappoint, taking dead aim on the World Trade Organization and its Siamese twin, the World Bank. Palast points out why President Bush is so insistent on obtaining "fast track" authority regarding agreements not subject to amendment by Congress, which conflicts with the U.S. Constitution. Fast track authority is needed since the WTO's authority overrides that of national legislatures. Palast reveals how the WTO in concert with the World Bank left nations such as Russia, Brazil and Argentina destitute in the wake of ponderous obligations, which through the ripple effect resulted in crushing poverty and unemployment. He also details the provision of WTO in which nations with less pollution, such as Russia in the post-Communist era with sharply diminished factory production, can provide points to a nation such as the U.S., which then has purchased rights for the corporate establishment to produce more gases and toxic fumes for its citizens to breathe.
Palast, a one time student of Dr. Milton Friedman at Chicago University, exposes the charlatan economics of a man who, in the midst of taking credit for economic success in Chile, produced cataclysmic disaster. He exposes British Prime Minister Tony Blair as "the toy boy of globalization" and looks into the charlatan economic endeavors of Pat Robertson.
Greg Palast is one of America's great patriots, someone who looks after the rights of citizens who are being trampled upon by the Bushie march into the New World Order, which he notes has a decided Orwellian 1984 character. Palast is one of the patriotic contingent of the information super highway exposing the corruption of the powers that be, along with others such as Mike Ruppert of the "From the Wilderness" website and Michael Moore.
These courageous Americans dare to speak out! May their tribe increase!
96 of 107 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2003
No matter what your political or religious affiliations may be, the information in "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" affects everyone in the United States and elsewhere or possibly will sometime in the future. It certainly appears that the global elite and those who control the monetary standard of life leave no stone unturned in their wicked pursuits and show no remorse from its adverse effects on the common populace.
Early on in the book, the presidential election of 2000 (focusing on Florida) is put under the microscope with some dramatic revelations. Thousands of registered U.S. voters were denied their right to vote, many of them African-Americans. A thorough explanation is well detailed to show the reader how this occurred. Obstruction of civil rights and bias immediately come to mind coupled with the fact that statistically, African-Americans in Florida predominantly vote democratic. Coincidence? Not likely.
Farther along, the book describes how the Bush family has indeed been linked with the Bin-Laden family (not Osama himself) in Saudi Arabia regarding business ventures. Not for public knowledge of course, the presidential administration ordered the Department of Justice (FBI) to steer clear of any revealing investigations concerning this match not made in heaven. The sum total, to a point, is that the United States may have missed out on critically valuable information regarding terrorism.
Rounding out this review, chapter 4 of the book gives you a taste of the heinous activities of the IMF (International Monetary Fund). Here's a group that likes to throw third world and even developed countries into chaos with outrageous financial policies and procedures. One example is privatizing water and power structures and then financially bleeding consumers to death with exaggerated fees. Another that I found most distasteful was in Tanzania. A relatively poor African country with a rampant AIDS epidemic now charges fees for hospital appointments and charges fees for school attendance, all courtesy of the IMF.
These above summations are just the tip of the iceberg. The book has many more disturbing and revealing chapters that readers will find very interesting. Finishing off, Greg Palast sends a clear message that the mainstream media is not your friend and they love to expose critical news stories long after public sentiment has elapsed and damage control has been completed. As a former governor of Minnesota once said, the media is no longer in the business of reporting the news, they are in the business of creating the news.
Greg Palast has written an outstanding, although disturbing book of who actually controls power and money and their machinations to sweep aside the little people regardless of consequences. This is a highly recommended read for those that are fed up and those looking for answers.
44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2002
Greg Palast has written a book that weaves together his journalism investigations into a variety of government/corporate issues. He's hard-hitting and relentless when on the trail, judging by what he's collected in this book.
I am very imprerssed with what he's uncovered in these pages, and I've come away wondering why we didn't read more of it here in the US media. He offers an explanation - - that the profit/cost-cutting motives of media corporations can hinder someone devoting much time to a single story, but these stories are so shocking, one has to question the efforts of our media.
The format is a little frustrating, however, which is why I've only given it 4 stars. Each story is told in a succession of column reprints, and they overlap in their content, so there are times where you have a sense of deja vu. Also, as a result, the book comes off not just about the stories, but also how Palast covered them and peeled away the layers of the onion. So at times it sounds a bit self-serving.
However, there is a value to Palast choosing this method. Because we see -how- Palast covered it step by step, the news is more credible and less 'from Mars.' It would be easier to read a single summary of all he learned, but less believable.
Oh, and it's NOT just about Florida and the 2000 Presidential election. Palast covers a number of other topics, among them: problems with the IMF/World Bank and their stipulations to countries, many of which are outrageous; corporate America; presidential access for the wealthy; and the UK's Prime Minister Blair and lobbyists.