Greg Palast lecture – Armed Madhouse - by Seán Kinane


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On Saturday in the Fletcher Lounge at the University of Tampa, investigative journalist Greg Palast spoke about his new book, Armed Madhouse. WMNF’s Seán Kinane was there and files this report.

“We don’t have apartheid elections any more; we have apartheid vote counts.�

That was Greg Palast. Before the 2000 election, the Florida Legislature paid the company DBT, now ChoicePoint, $4 million to create a list of Floridians who were ineligible to vote because they were felons. Palast became well known after exposing that even though the company warned Florida officials that the list contained many people who should not have been on the list, the Secretary of State Katherine Harris instructed county supervisors of elections to use the list anyway, illegally scrubbing the voting rolls of 93,000 mostly African-American voters. But things were even worse for minority voters in the 2004 elections, as Palast explains.

�Three million people walked to the polls on Election Day and were handed not ballots, but provisional, placebo, back-of-the-bus ballots and thought they were voting. And of the three million, 1,090,729 were junked and not counted, strategically in the swing states. One million votes junked. How did that happen? The answer was the biggest mass challenge campaign in the history of the Republic.

Because of the challenge to minority voters by Republicans in the 2004 election, votes by African-Americans were 900% more likely to be not counted than those of white voters. Votes cast by Hispanics were 500% more likely not to be counted and those by Native Americans were 2000% more likely to be discarded. Palast said these challenges were the result of “caging lists� distributed by the Republican Party. He received copies of these lists of voters to be challenged and he confronted Republican Party officials.

“I went to the RNC in Washington, they slammed the door in my face. Then I took a camera crew to Tallahassee right here to talk to the chairman of the Republican Party here, because it had his name on it, Doster, I said ‘you lose something? This yours? Recognize it?’ And their response, ‘Oh, ahh, that’s umm our potential donor list. The entire sheet here says “Jacksonville State Street Rescue Mission for the Homeless.� A lot of Bush donations, eh? You get another answer.’ They tried several. What we found after all our research is that almost every single name was in an African-American majority voting district.�

Palast said that the Iraq war was waged in part to increase the price of oil by keeping the supply down and that this was decided in meetings between energy corporations and the Bush administration early in its first term, so destabilization of Iraq, high gas prices, and record oil company profits were all intended outcomes.

“The gathering of December 2000, the meeting of March 2001, for the military option. And now this week we’re going to have Congressional hearings on ‘what went wrong.’ I’m going to tell you this: nothing went wrong. When Bill Clinton left office, oil was 20 bucks a barrel, cheap as peanut butter. It is now $70 a barrel. Mission Accomplished. Don’t kid yourself. And that’s why they’ve gotta kill Hugo Chavez.�

Chavez is a target of the US government, according to Palast, because he wants to reduce the price of oil and is not willing to return petro dollars to the United States. Most other oil nations, especially Saudi Arabia, invest the billions of dollars that the US spends on oil in US treasury bonds and in American corporations, rather than on improving the lives of their own people.

“Chavez says, ‘Look, this is killing you. High oil prices are killing you and devastating the third world. Tell you what; let’s cut the price of oil. Stabilize the price of oil, so I can get you my extra heavy Oronoco crude. That’s the only way I can get it to you, if we make this deal. But, I will give you low-cost oil; I will not give Mr. Bush back in return the petro dollars for his oil wars and his wars against my people and the American people itself. Not going to do that, OK?’�

As Palast reminded the crowd of nearly five hundred, the US has assisted in the overthrow of popular leaders in the past, and the long-term consequences have been devastating for our country.

“When the president of Iran seized the oil fields there, the CIA removed the president of Iran, Mr. Mossedech. You should read the cables from the CIA. The CIA frustrated with the gutless Shah, said there’s only one thing to do to remove the guy who grabbed our oil fields. And that is we have to activate Iran’s Mullahs, who now are not political, but we need to convince them that they have to declare democracy ‘un-Islamic.’ Thank god that policy never came back to haunt us.�

Earlier in the day, Palast spoke briefly at an event sponsored by the Voting Integrity Alliance, which featured Leon County Supervisor of Elections, Ion Sancho. Sancho, like Palast, is concerned that many people in power are actively trying to reduce the number of people whose votes are counted. He relates a story where Senator Brown from Volusia County told him exactly that.

“He says you don’t understand this at all, he says we don’t want, we being the legislature, we don’t want new voters voting. All of us were elected by the people that voted. If you add new voters to that pool, we don’t know that we’ll keep our positions. So you coming before our committees and saying this will increase turnout by 15% is a losing proposition. Because, and this is a direct quote, the devil you know is always better than the devil you don’t know. Promoting participation voting is not what politicians are about.�

WMNF asked Ion Sancho what voters could do to increase the odds that their votes would be counted. He recommended requesting an absentee ballot today.

“If you are going to vote by absentee ballot, there are protections that you need to do such as insuring that you have an up-to-date copy of your signature on file because the number one reason that absentee ballots are not counted is that the signatures on the absentee ballot, which are required, do not match the signatures of the original voting care that the voter may have filled out.�

WMNF spoke with Florida Fair Elections Coalition Executive Director Susan Pynchon. She said that we are losing our democracy in part because voting machine vendors are misleading government officials.

“I really think the supervisors of elections are victims also. I think they’ve been scammed, I think the whole country has been scammed by these voting machine vendors. These machines are so vulnerable to fraud, and to tampering, to breakdowns, to miscounts for no explicable reason. The supervisors of elections trusted the vendors; they trusted the state. Even the states to some extent have been victimized. It’s time we had an investigation into this. It’s a national scandal. Billions of dollars have been spent on these machines. And we are literally losing our democracy to this very, very poor technology.�

To find out more about Greg Palast, visit To contact the Voting Integrity Alliance of Tampa Bay, visit

For WMNF News, I’m Seán Kinane


Greg Palast

Armed Madhouse

Ion Sancho

Voting Integrity Alliance Tampa Bay

Florida Fair Elections Coalition – Susan Pynchon Exec. Dir.

Black Box Voting

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