April 11, 2007
To Serve with Love: "Fighting for America" with Greg Palast
It's no picnic being investigative journalist Greg Palast. In 1980 Palast was the investigator who directed the racketeering charges against LILCO for misuse of public funds, resulting in a $4.3 billion dollar verdict against LILCO. It was reorganized and renamed LIPA in 1986.
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When Palast, an investigator of corporate fraud and racketeering, turned his skills to journalism he was quickly recognized as, "The most important investigative reporter of our time," according to Tribune Magazine in Britain. His first reports appeared on the BBC and in The Guardian newspaper. "My specialty is uncovering greed from jealousy to gluttony, the seven sins. The ones I'm investigating is of avarice," said Palast.
In 2003 Palast forfeited his George Orwell column, created for Orwell in 1941 in The Observer/Guardian newspaper in England to move back to the U.S. He commented how close we are to living the Orwellian nightmare of Big Brother in the book 1984, written in 1949. "We're kind of there, but it's more subtle. The war in Iraq was very Orwellian. The whole message with Big Brother; they create fear, then offer to protect you," Palast said.
Whilst he hangs his hat in the U.K. and NYC, so as not to drown in the political muck he keeps a cupful of gnawed pencils at his home on the North Fork. It's a place where he can go when he wants to detach from sleuth mode, which has been challenging over the last nine years with all the greed befalling corporate America, and the fumbling politicians here and abroad. It's produced an abyss of material for the journalist, as The New York Times ranked his latest book, Armed Madhouse, a bestseller in 2006. While Palast can cast a net over the most serious of topics, he can do it with a constant flow of inherent wit, sarcasm and humor, which helps soften the blow of truth.
Palast's work has been acknowledged with a slew of awards including Trinity College with a Patron of the Philosophical Society Award – once given to Oscar Wilde and Jonathan Swift; The George Orwell Courage in Journalism Award for Palast's BBC documentary, Bush Family Fortunes and Guerilla News Network's Reporter of the Year.
With Palast no subject is taboo, as reflected in chapter one of Armed Madhouse with a section dedicated to Southold called, "Tiny Town." He spoofs the absurdity of small towns across America who are exploiting Homeland Security's financial aid: "If you don't pick a terrorism Vulnerability Point, your burg can't get its slice of the loot from the federal government," he writes.
In Southold, that Critical Asset and Vulnerable Infrastructure Point (CAVIP) was selected by former Town Supervisor Josh Horton in 2005 when he designated the Orient Point/New London Ferry, which many use to get to the casinos in Connecticut, to be the CAVIP, anticipating a suicide bomber or sleeper cell in Southold waiting for the right moment to take the ferry.
Palast writes, ". . . This is a national security threat. With the lumberyard shut and the nearby plastics plant gone to China, Al-Queda could quite easily gain a couple of recruits in our town. All bin Laden has to do is offer decent health insurance."
"When you make the ferry a terrorism point – what we've had is a slow rolling corporate coup d'etat in America. The next election will be stolen outright again in 2008," Palast predicted. "Lying is a profit center. Corporate Democrats or corporate Republicans, there's no difference. You can buy the Republicans, but only rent the Democrats."
The American people seem so trusting of our politicians and CEOs, Palast observed. "Lincoln said, 'You can't do it all the time.' American's need to put down the remote control and stand up on their hind legs . . . Americans are the most reactive to the information given over the media. I've lived around the planet, and I'd say Americans actually have a rare idealism . . . until they get screwed," he said.
For those who want to reverse a totalitarian society being jammed down their throats, "Turn off the TV and throw away the daily newspapers, but keep the weeklies – they are the source of real local news," said Palast. "There's hope for America when you see nightly news viewing down and four percent of paper readership is down, because they [the public] know they're being jived. Americans are way ahead."
Mainstream media chooses to blackout important issues, he noted. "It's not because the public is uninterested. Anchor Brian Williams hypnotizes you every night with boloney and lies. If they weren't lying they would not make super profits. If they show the truth about oil and Iraq, American's would be in the street burning cars and rioting," Palast exclaimed. "With war profiteers Halliburton is nothing – it's spit. The money is in the oil industry and that's the industry that makes all the money in Iraq. A profiteering tax is charged by every country except the U.S."
Palast believes the only way to bring democracy back to the papers and airwaves is to stop consuming it. "NBC, FOX, CNN . . . they have a news sewage pipe coming into your house and making it stink. When you find the source of stench . . . close it up by not watching it," he suggested. "People are drugged by TV and boloney. They need to pull the news I.V. out of their arm and throw away The New York Times . . . or use it to pick up your dog poop like I do."
Palast also penned another New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.
The reporter broke the story in The Observer of how Jeb Bush purged thousands of black Florida citizens from voter rolls before the 2000 election, thereby handing the White House to his brother George. He also reported on the theft of the 2004 election.
The revealing of secret State Department documents planning the seizure of Iraq's oil fields have won him a record six "Project Censored" for reporting the news the American media doesn't. As an investigator for the Chugach Natives of Alaska, Palast also uncovered the oil company frauds, which led to the grounding of the Exxon Valdez.
Palast has led investigations for governments on three continents, has appeared on the BBC's "Newsnight" and is a frequent guest on Amy Goodman's "Democracy NOW!" discussing war on terror and globalization. He's written for Harper's Magazine and is the author of
Democracy and Regulations, a seminal treatise on energy corporations and government control commissioned by the U.N. based on his lectures at Cambridge University and the University of Sao Paulo.
With all the controversy he kicks up, does Palast fear for his life? "Unfortunately, I'm not worth eliminating. They [the government and Congress] don't care. I don't count – forget it, they don't worry about me. I think I'm more of a source of amusement, if they know about me at all. The only death threats I worry about is in Caracas [Venezuela] . . . " he conceded.
It's the good guys like JFK and MLK that will continue to be assassinated, he added. "That's why they're saints. That's the cost, the price of taking a bite out of these people; the creepy, elite, self-serving profiteers."