Welcome to the Madhouse

Carol Lipton Jun 9, 2006

Armed Madhouse, the latest book by BBC journalist Greg Palast, is both audacious
and ambitious. The topics covered range from the theft of the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections and the ensuing “war on terror,” to the privatization of government spying and the Dan Rather false documents debacle. While as non-linear as an experimental film, it’s nonetheless a fascinating read, crammed with compelling revelations, although often unnecessarily scatological. The complete absence
of footnotes is also disturbing. A former economist and forensic investigator, Palast deftly analyzes the “disappearance” of over 3 million votes in the 2004 election and the machinations of the utility industry to set energy prices artificially high following repeal of the Public Utility Holding Companies Act, a cornerstone of the New Deal. He predicts the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, expounds on Huey Long as Chavez’s progenitor, and delves into GM’s worker take-backs, the bias in educational testing, and the importance of class-action lawsuits.

As well, he fires a salvo at Michael Moore, envisioning a friedfood- engorged Moore exploding onstage at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival with exuberant sadism reminiscent of Team America. Palast uncovers an impressive array of smoking guns. One of his sources had the foresight to register as a domain name, capturing memoranda intended for that revealed intentional purging of African Americans from voter rolls.

However, he inaccurately credits Clinton with quashing the threat of domestic terror following the Oklahoma City bombing “without invalidating the Constitution,” when it was Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center whose relentless litigation against hate groups spurred Clinton’s Justice Department to action. Palast also forgets that Timothy McVeigh’s rage was fueled by his obsession with the unconstitutional Waco massacre, ordered by Clinton’s Attorney General Janet Reno.

Palast’s final chapter reveals that underneath the crypto-Marxist veneer lies a startlingly naive sensibility. He applauds “Manifest Destiny,” which was the justification for further slaughter of Native Americans, and holds to a Disney version of U.S. imperialism. Palast should reread Malcolm X and Howard Zinn, to fully comprehend the hollowness of claims of American liberty when the United States’ rapid ascent to capitalist superpower was made possible by the enormous reserves of wealth generated by 250 years of slavery.

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