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Palast The Truth Sleuth: Vultures' Picnic

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             Palast the Truth Sleuth: Vultures' Picnic

"The new normal is serial disasters: economic and ecological."--Naomi Klein

"The rush for black gold is worse than the gold rush."--Anon.

Profession-wise (he is both a wise man and a wise guy), it is hard to pin  down Greg Palast. He calls himself an international journalist, which he is, more appreciated overseas than here, though that is changing (measured in book sales, I would reckon).

He has been called the best living investigative reporter and the only one--but then he describes his proteges, "Matty Pass" and "Miss Badpenny," and let's face it, there are others.

They are just not as forthcoming with their work and their souls.

He has been honored as a Patron of the University Philosophical Society at Trinity College in Dublin, along with Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde, but I can think of another author he resembles more, Upton Sinclair.

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Even though his books deal with intricate technicalities that span a wide range of knowledge, and even though he has lectured at Oxford, Palast is no academic, but does draw laughs describing one crook who has retreated to Oxford to study Latin, already proficient in ancient Greek--Michael Straus, that is, owner of the hedge fund Montreux, working with others to use junk bonds to rob starving Liberia of money it doesn't have.

  The drachma was good enough for ancient Greece, but Europe, in its effort to bring together highly disparate cultures, has invented the Euro, so that when one country's economy falls, the others go like dominoes. United they fall.

  Angela Merkel doesn't like being asked what's in her wallet, but the stock market goes up every time she leans toward donating enough to rescue floundering Greece and other peripherals including Ireland and Spain.


Like Palast, Vultures' Picnic answers to many descriptors, but to me the most accurate one is tragedy, both in objective and subjective content.

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The tragedy, inevitably globalized and all of ours, is depicted in terms of everywhere from the North Pole to Liberia. It always involves the richest preying on the poorest, the dirt-poor, beggars on the street, reduced from rank poverty to limbless on the street, having watched their parents' dismemberment to shreds.

His sparse style invokes Joe Friday's--the facts, sir, just the facts. Hair-raising but somehow readable, because the man also has a sense of humor, dry as dust, completely unpretentious, filled with the power of four-letter words reaching out to all who are literate, as far as narrative can go. Even his asides are facts.

I even went so far as to write in my notes that "Palast makes atrocities fun to read about." The principals are so unctuously (no pun intended) despicable, Palast's encounters with them so ridiculous, often wasted time, but he never ceases to return to that drawing board that stops nowhere before it maps out the truth. The book ends in frustration and despair, not exactly catharsis. He hasn't fixed everything yet. And he needs his portable office, so that the streets are not yet his way to go.

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A jack of some trades, writing and editing among them, Marta Steele, an admitted and proud holdover from the late sixties, returned to activism ten years ago after first establishing her skills as a college [mostly adjunct] professor in three (more...)

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