Taking off from where Armed Madhouse and The Best Democracy Can Buy left off, Palast brings us up-to-date with his ongoing series of investigations into those corrupt and obscenely wealthy people and corporations who run roughshod over rules and regulations, vacuuming up money and leaving a trail of toxic investments and petroleum residues in their wake.
Its a disturbing book to read even though it is written in Palast's visceral, witty pulp-noir spiel which renders it palatable, though it surely leaves one with the enduring taste of evil in one's mouth. You will learn a lot of truth here about things you probably do care a lot about - how the flooding of New Orleans as well as the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf Of Mexico and the Exxon Valdez grounding were largely a result of a negligent oil industry who found it is cheaper to pay fines and compensation than to maintain an adequate level of safety for example, or the Fukushima nuclear power plant whose back up diesel engines are known to be inadequate in the event of reactor failure but what is a faked safety report between friends if it saves a few $100M (pretty much standard practice in the industry across the world), or the World Bank's "Poverty Reduction Strategy" - destabilise an economy, force up prices, put down protests, introduce austerity, allow US investment banks to clean up on cut-price nationalised debts, maybe not a worry when it is pisspoor nations like Ecuador rioting, but it seems much closer to home when we see this happening right now in Greece (we've pretty much got to the point in UK of what the WB call "IMF riots" in their confidential documents) we see there is a far greater invisible enemy out there than Al Qaeda - the World Bank, the International Money Fund, the World Trade Organisation, "friendly" organisations out to take all that we have.
You will also learn about things you probably won't be expected to care much about, the natives, Indians and third world people shafted by big corporations and left in a pool of toxic sludge where they watch their children dying from cancer and other diseases, their ways of life replaced by $8-an-hour jobs cleaning up grimy beaches.
Particularly disturbing to me are the new class of tycoons Palast calls "Vultures" ("Vampires" is probably a more fitting word) - when you see Bono and the Pope get some third world debt written down, behind the scenes this new class of speculator are buying up this debt at the new knockdown price and then holding the third world to ransom for the full coupon value of the loan, aggressively and quite legally seizing any asset they can, literally starving millions of children to death to put another Bentley on their driveway. The sheer amorality of these people is quite disturbing, and I'm sure if they weren't great pals with the George W. Bushs and Tony Blairs of this world something might be done to bring them to justice.
The book is a great work of investigative journalism in an age where all too often rehashing an official press-release is passed off as real journalism. There is a certain level of pessimism in Palast's conclusion in how hard it is to right wrongs when a few well-aimed millions can rewrite the legally accepted definition of wrong. But in saying that, the value of Palast's work is not just in attempting to bring evil men and corporations to justice but in getting the facts out there and known by the general population.