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Tuesday, October 18, 2016
A MUST-SEE IN AMERICA
Democracy On Ice In America And At The Ballot Box
Investigative journalist and filmmaker Greg Palast.
Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
GREG PALAST is a throwback. The classic 1950's-type investigative
journalist. Fearless, intrepid and dogged. He is the antidote to the
toxicity of the U.S. corporate news media.
Mr. Palast is an American who
generally isn't welcomed by the U.S. corporate news mediasphere. For decades now
Mr. Palast has been travelling the globe and traversing the U.S. and uncovering
undemocratic American schemes to eliminate millions of Americans from voting.
"The Best Democracy Money Can Buy", Mr. Palast's explosive and entertaining
documentary based on his same-titled New York Times best-selling book - is a
powerful experience that enlightens and outrages. The corrupt wheels of
power within state governments and corporations that imperil the ordinary
everyday American voter are the centerpiece of "Best Democracy", a must-see film
Mr. Palast hopes is seen and spread around the country prior to next month's
U.S. presidential election. ("Do you have any idea how difficult it is to
find a theatre that will do a week run at the last minute?," Mr. Palast asks.)
A recent Friday evening in San Francisco finds Mr. Palast and a couple of his
friends artist and illustrator Winston Smith and Dead Kennedys rock band
leader-founder/spoken word artist Jello Biafra in lively banter at a local
restaurant, speaking on almost everything you can think of. Most of it is
on the record. Getting a word in in this free-for-all was a challenge but
Mr. Biafra's frequent interruptions added good flavor to this late night
post-"Best Democracy" movie screening conversation in a San Francisco dot-com
neighborhood arguably oblivious to the serious nature and widespread aspects of
voter suppression in America.
Speaking of voter suppression, Crosscheck, a program adopted by Kris Kobach, the
Republican Secretary of State in Kansas, scours mass voter lists and links
millions of voters with similar names and knocks them off the voting rolls under
the guise of "well, they've voted twice because they have the same name" - when
in fact their names, dates of birth, residence, etc. clearly reveal they are two
different people. The result is that millions of Blacks, Latinos, Asians
and Native Americans are left out in the cold on election day through this and
other crude means, unable to cast their vote as American citizens.
The Crosscheck program is in effect in about 30 other ovewhelmingly
Republican-controlled states right now in the U.S., and will have a substantial
effect on the outcome of the presidential election between Hillary Clinton and
Donald Trump. The election is on November 8, and in a post-screening Q&A
Mr. Palast urged a San Francisco audience to ask others around the country to
check their voter registration. (In California for example, the
registration deadline to vote in next month's election is October 24.)
A Crosscheck caging list as reproduced in Mr. Palast's updated book "The Best
Democracy Money Can Buy".
For two hours "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy", directed by Mr. Palast and
David Ambrose, rivets. Styled in film noir tones the film sees Mr. Palast
on an odyssey to confront the corrupt and expose them and their nefarious deeds
in a way akin to Mr. Moore's ambush-style filmmaking. Celebrities
including activist-actresses Shailene Woodley and Rosario Dawson, appear and add
cogent discussion and insight. "You need to do this with celebrities," Mr.
Palast says, while studying a menu.
Also anchoring the film is its executive producer Leni Badpenny (her real name),
a musician who has long worked with Mr. Palast and whose own investigative and
undercover work and ideas onscreen are impetus. Mr. Palast was grateful to
her, though cited her initial reluctance to appear on camera due to concerns
about the protection of her identity. On his film and his life Mr. Palast
was as open a person as you might expect from his take-no-prisoners expose style
of investigative reporting.
"I want this on the record. Everything in it is real. I mean,
everything in it - it actually happened. Except that there is no
Santa Claus - that really is (actor-activist) Ed Asner. Spoiler alert - it
has Ed Asner!"
Mr. Palast writes for Rolling Stone, and has worked for the BBC and its
Newsnight program. He has also written for The Guardian and numerous other
publications. Yet in American news media, with one or two exceptions Mr.
Palast is as unwelcome as a terminal illness.
"Only the Black shows will have me on. The paleface
ones won't," Mr. Palast remarks, citing the "white-out" of his information on
Republican voter suppression and purging, which disproportionately affects
Black, Latino and Asian-American voters (the last a fast-rising group of new
"Even the law we have is not enforced," Mr. Palast adds, in response to a
question about trying to get a constitutional amendment that affirmatively
grants the right to vote. He wanted to put so much more into the
documentary - but had to leave many things out, though said there were outtakes
that were to come.
"The reason I stayed away from the electronic (voting fraud) stuff is that white
people are whining about their vote -- and fuck 'em! That's right
here. So you can quote me on it. I'm not saying it doesn't happen.
What I'm saying is I'm not gonna let you get away with, 'well, everyone hurts.'
"In fact, someone wanted me to change my thing (Mr. Palast's four-minute video
on Crosscheck) -- and I say, 'Black votes matter, Asian-American votes matter,
Native American votes matter, Hispanic votes matter' -- and one of my sales
agents wanted me to say 'white votes matter'. I say, 'I don't have to say
that because the system's already there.' And once you do that (say "white
votes matter") then you're not representing anything at all. So I'm trying
to tell a story not about Crosscheck - I'm trying to talk about the return of
apartheid in America. That's a much more serious issue - the return of
apartheid and class war, which are these billionaires - which is inextricably
linked in America with race war," Mr. Palast noted.
"George Bush (the 43rd U.S. president) sued me in England - sued The Guardian
(over Mr. Palast's "Best Democracy Money Can Buy" article, which was originally
going to be called "Burning Down The House" - that latter title ironically, was
the one Mr. Palast felt would get himself sued - and he decided to change it to
the present title.)
A few of the chapters in Mr. Palast's book "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy",
which his new documentary is based on.
Mr. Palast revealed the threats against him from various circles, including U.S.
Greg Palast is someone the powerful are afraid of.
"National Petroleum Radio (Mr. Palast's satiric dig at the evolving and
much-changed NPR) did a piece on Crosscheck that they're finding double voters.
That's NPR, not Fox. They're all Democrats. A producer on a
major NPR show said, and you can quote me, 'well we haven't had Greg on for a
while but let him on this time on one condition that he doesn't say anything
"I'm constantly being told, 'oh, you're this swashbuckling courageous guy.'
No, no, no, no. That's an excuse for people not to do
shit. If I'm a special guy then you're off the hook. But if I'm an
ordinary guy then what are you doing?"
Born in Los Angeles, Greg Palast saw from an early age what the rich did to his
father, an industrial worker. He was fired. Ruthlessly. By
what he'd likely term a corporation's greed agenda. And this outrage
fueled Mr. Palast in his dedication to naming and shaming the rich people in
America who were making the 90% of American people's lives a living hell.
In a 21st century landscape dotted with reality TV atmospheres and personality
drivers, Mr. Palast strives and succeeds in entertaining and informing with a
just-the-facts-ma'am endeavor and outrageous comments from some interviewees.
This is all part of the cost of doing business, and Mr. Palast admitted that he
needed people other than those "who have read my shit" to see his film, which is
playing now in San Francisco through Thursday, and begins in Seattle on Friday
and in Washington, D.C. on October 28. This pertinent and important film
is also having many one-night-only screenings across the U.S. and is also on DVD
and on demand as of today.
"The original title (of Mr. Palast's article) was 'The Great White Hope
Machine', but they wouldn't let me use it. They didn't think it was
serious enough," Mr. Palast said of Rolling Stone, which published his article
"The GOP's Stealth War Against Voters".
"The one thing I am is a title maven," Mr. Palast proudly declares.
At one point in this long, spirited evening of cross-talk Mr. Palast asserts
that Tipper Gore is homosexual. "Let her fucking deny it," he adds, while
being reminded he is on the record. He implied that Ms. Gore, who led the
fight against explicit lyrics and for parental warning labels in the 1990s, was
an impediment to her husband's 2000 campaign. (Mr. Biafra spontaneously
mentions that Ms. Gore was "getting it on with her Secret Service Agent.")
There are many other things, salacious and otherwise, spoken on the record about
Republicans and Democrats, including Mr. Palast's repeated line about "we have
an ultra-rich, psychopathic narcissist running for president and Donald Trump",
his blunt reference to the two main party candidates in next month's American
Considering his book's first edition emerged several years ago "The Best
Democracy" documentary took two years to complete. The new book, which the
film is largely built from, has new material on the billionaires like the
Republican Koch Brothers, who are affecting the elections up and down the
country thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United.
At the film's inception Mr. Palast had just had quadruple bypass heart surgery.
The now-defunct Al Jazeera approached him to do another story on the elections.
He decided to move forward, and things evolved from there.
"One of the challenges of the movie is to challenge yourself to be fucking
honest. I didn't want to do this. I just wanted to sit in the
hammock. I'm just a dirty old man who wanted to hang out. I'm tired
of doing - haven't you guys learned a fucking thing? How come I'm still on
this same vote theft story after 12 years? Doesn't anyone give a shit?"
"The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: The Movie - A Tale Of Billionaires &
Ballot Bandits", is playing in San Francisco (through Thursday October 20 at
Presidio Theatre). It opens on Friday (October 21) at
Ark Lodge Cinemas in
Seattle for one-week only before heading to Washington D.C. on October 28 at
Angelika Pop-Up at Union Market. The documentary will be on demand this
week and on DVD and throughout the U.S. in many one-night-only screenings.
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