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Purged Voters’ “Provisional” Ballots
Could Decide Georgia Governor Race

By Greg Palast for Truthout 

[Macon, Georgia.] On Sunday, I watched President Donald Trump warn a rally in Macon, Georgia, that Stacey Abrams, running to become the first Black female governor in US history, “is one of the most extreme far left politicians in the entire country,"  adding, "you know that! You put Stacey in there, you’re going to have Georgia turn into Venezuela. I don’t think the people of Georgia like that.”



Trump's rant against Abrams has not driven away her many supporters.  But voters like Atlanta filmmaker Rahiem Shabazz are being driven away from the ballot box.
“I want to vote for Stacey Abrams.” Shabazz told me, but, “I won’t be able to vote in the November 6 election.”

Shabazz' voter registration, his right to vote, has been cancelled by Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brian Kemp.

Notably, Kemp, while running the election for the state of Georgia, is also running in the election for governor of Georgia—against Democrat Stacey Abrams.

Rahiem is just one of more than 340,134 Georgians Kemp has purged from the voter rolls based on dead-wrong evidence they’d moved from the state or from their home county.. It took a federal lawsuit — which I filed jointly with voting rights advocate Helen Butler — to force Kemp to divulge the names and addresses of those whose registration he cancelled in a single year, 2017.

And, while Kemp may believe that the tidal wave of purges may overcome a Democratic Blue Wave, there is another possibility: When a voter turning up to the polling station discovers his/her registration is missing or cancelled, the voter has the right, under federal law, to cast a “provisional” ballot.

However, the man who decides whether these “provisional” ballots will be counted is… Brian Kemp. But Kemp should stop grinning. “Federal judges may feel differently about Kemp’s right not to count these provisional ballots,” says Jeanne Mirer, lead attorney on the lawsuit filed against Kemp in October. If the court determines that Kemp misused his power as Georgia’s “Purge’n General” it could order that those provisional votes be counted.
 
No Notice for Purged Voters
Rahiem Shabazz, like hundreds of thousands of others, had no idea he’d been flushed from the rolls, and assumed he was still registered. Kemp sent out no notice to voters after cancelling their registrations.

Rahiem Shabazz, wrongfully purged Georgia Voter | Photo by Zach D Roberts, Palast Investigative Fund


Then Rahiem heard on radio that the Palast Investigative Fund had posted every purged voter’s name. “And lo and behold, my name is there and it’s telling me that I have to re-register to vote!” 

He did attempt to re-register for the election, but Kemp’s office informed him it would take at least three weeks to verify his registration information.  Conveniently for Kemp, that would be a week past Election Day.

Federal law permits Kemp to cancel the registrations of voters who move out of state or out of their home county.  But Rahiem, like every one of 340,134 others, never moved from his home county, let alone the state.

“I never left the state of Georgia.  I never left the county.  My license has me in the same county.  So all they had to do is look at my DMV records and they will see that I live in the same county.”

Shabazz noted that the government has no trouble finding him to pay a parking ticket, or pay his taxes. But when purging voters, Kemp does not check his own state’s DMV nor tax records nor even the post office to see if voters have moved.

Rather, Kemp looks at voting records. Miss two elections and Kemp takes that as evidence the voter has moved away. That infuriates Shabazz who skipped two elections because he didn’t like his choices. And, he says, "you have a Constitutional right to vote and a Constitutional right not to vote, right?"

A Clear Violation of Voting Rights
Scholars are debating whether the right to vote is implicit in the Constitution, but there’s no doubt that voting rights are explicit in federal law. The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) of 1993 states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote is a fundamental right.”

And there’s more: “It is the duty of the Federal, State, and local governments to promote the exercise of that right.”

Furthermore, says attorney Jeanne Mirer, the National Voter Registration Act explicitly prohibits state voting officials from purging voters simply for not voting.

Kemp — and two dozen other GOP Secretaries of State — claim they don’t use non-voting as grounds for taking away a person's vote. They claim non-voting is merely evidence, when combined with failure to return a postcard to the secretary of state, that a voter moved away.

But this “evidence” is clearly faulty. Data experts from CohereOne found, reviewing the DMV, postal records and dozens of other records, that not one of these 340,134 Georgians has moved.
 

Kemp’s odd reliance on postcards to verify addresses has a serious built-in racial bias. The US Census reports that renters, young people, and Americans of color — i.e. Democrats — do not get nor return government cards and letters anywhere near the response rates of white, suburban, older homeowners — i.e. Republicans.

The National Voter Registration Act does require Kemp and other Secretaries of State “to ensure that accurate and current voter registration rolls are maintained.”

GOP officials call it voter list “cleansing.” Shabazz says, “I wouldn't call it cleansing the voting roll. I would call it ethnic cleansing.”

It is a cruel irony that Kemp cites the National Voter Registration Act as the excuse for the purge-by-postcard trick, because using voting history and postcards makes the list monstrously inaccurate.

Purged Voters Get Out the Vote
During Trump’s Georgia rally, assorted right-wing and white supremacist attendants took selfies in front of Air Force 1, while fanatics sported Qanon, Three Percenter and Oath Keepers T-shirts. Proud Boys flashed “white power” signs. One Trumper thought Abrams’ supporters should stop complaining, telling me, “We all have rules to vote. Just follow the rules.”

Still, Kemp’s wrongful purging frenzy may, in the end, backfire, even if it does not come down to a court fight over the provisional ballots.

Shabazz warns Kemp, “You took one vote away, but Stacey Abrams is going to get ten more because I'm going to bring ten more people out to vote.”
 
 

Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, now out as major motion non-fiction movie: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: The Case of the Stolen Election, now available on Amazon and Amazon Prime.

Number of Georgia Voters Purged by Brian Kemp Continues to Climb: 
Investigation reveals 340,000 voters were improperly removed

GregPalast.com

   

Number of Georgia Voters Purged by
Brian Kemp Continues to Climb

Investigation reveals 340,000 voters were improperly removed
By Peter Wade, Rolling Stone

Republican gubernatorial candidate and current Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp incorrectly canceled some 340,000 voter registrations, according to a recent investigation. Although Kemp claimed the voters left the state of Georgia or moved to another county, they hadn’t, Greg Palast, who filed suit against Kemp.
 

Don’t miss this 7-minute film of Palast's Georgia Investigation (for Salon TV)



According to John Lenser, who is CEO of CohereOne and who led a review of the list of purged voters for Palast, “340,000 of those voters remained at their original address. They should have never been removed from the voter registration rolls.”
Palast only obtained the list after he filed suit against Kemp. “It began five years ago, when Kemp stonewalled my first requests for information on purges in Georgia, first for Al Jazeera and Rolling Stone, now for Truthout and Democracy Now!” Palast wrote, “It took my lawyer’s threat of a federal lawsuit, filed last week in Atlanta federal court, to blast the list of the electorally doomed from Kemp’s hands.”

After he received the list, Palast said he analyzed it and discovered that 340,134 voters were purged when they shouldn’t have been. To do this, he consulted experts who cross-referenced voter data with a number of other databases including cell phone bills and tax filings to see if, in fact, any of these voters had actually moved. Many had not. A list of the purged voters’ names is available on Palast’s website. While it is too late for them to register for the upcoming midterm elections, they are still eligible to re-register for the 2020 presidential election.

Kemp used a tactic Palast calls “Purge by Postcard” to remove eligible voters from the rolls. Kemp sent a postcard that could have easily been mistaken for spam to voters who did not vote in the prior election. If a voter did not return the postcard, Kemp purged their registration without informing the voters it was happening.

Thanks to a June 2018 Supreme Court ruling that reversed the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, this practice is now legal. If a voter misses an election and fails to respond to a notice by mail, the court ruled it legal to remove them from the list of registered voters. In a dissent to the majority opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor called the practice part of “concerted state efforts to prevent minorities from voting and to undermine the efficacy of their votes” and said they were “an unfortunate feature of our country’s history.”

Kemp also faces a lawsuit for exposing the records of 6 million registered Georgia voters and potentially the state’s election system to foreign hackers. Kemp has become notorious for his efforts to cull voter registrations, especially those of Democratic and minority voters. Rolling Stone recently obtained audio of Kemp speaking to donors, saying his opponent Stacey Abrams’s campaign “continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote.”

Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, now out as major motion non-fiction movie: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: The Case of the Stolen Election now available on Amazon and Amazon Prime.


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Copyright © 2018 Greg Palast, All rights reserved.

 Cambridge Analytica Ain’t Nuthin:
Look out for i360 and DataTrust 
By Greg Palast

There are two dangers in the media howl over Trump’s computer gurus Cambridge Analytica, the data-driven psy-ops company founded by billionaire brown-shirts, the Mercer Family.

The story is that Cambridge Analytica, once directed by Steve Bannon, by shoplifting Facebook profiles to bend your brain, is some unique “bad apple” of the cyber world.

That’s a dangerously narrow view. In fact, the dark art of dynamic psychometric manipulation in politics was not pioneered by Cambridge Analytica for Trump, but by i360 Themis, the operation founded by… no points for guessing… the Brothers Koch.

Mark Swedlund, himself an expert in these tools, explained in film The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, that i360 dynamically tracks you on 1800 behaviors, or as Swedlund graphically puts it [see clip above], “They know the last time you downloaded porn and whether you ordered Chinese food before you voted.”  Swedlund adds his expert conclusion: "I think that’s creepy."

The Koch operation and its competitor, DataTrust, use your credit card purchases, cable TV choices and other personal info — which is far more revealing about your inner life than the BS you put on your Facebook profile. Don’t trust DataTrust: This cyber-monster is operated by Karl Rove, “Bush’s Brain,” who is principally funded by Paul Singer, the far Right financier better known as The Vulture.

Way too much is made of the importance of Cambridge Analytica stealing data through a phony app. If you’ve ever filled out an online survey, Swedlund told me, they’ve got you — legally.

The second danger is to forget that the GOP has been using computer power to erase the voting rights of Black and Hispanic voters for years — by "caging," "Crosscheck," citizenship challenges based on last name (Garcia? Not American!!), the list goes on — a far more effective use of cyberpower than manipulating your behavior through Facebook ads.

Just last week, Kris Kobach, Secretary of State of Kansas and Trump’s chief voting law advisor, defended his method of hunting alleged “aliens” on voter rolls against a legal challenge by the ALCU. Kobach's expert, Jessie Richman, uses a computer algorithm that can locate “foreign” names on voter rolls. He identified, for example, one “Carlos Murguia” as a potential alien voter. Murguia is a Kansas-born judge who presides in a nearby courtroom.

It would be a joke, except that Kobach’s “alien” hunt has blocked one in seven new (i.e. young) voters from registering in the state. If Kobach wins, it will, like his Crosscheck purge program and voter ID laws, almost certainly spread to other GOP controlled states.  This could ultimately block one million new voters, exactly what Trump had in mind by pushing the alien-voter hysteria.

The Cambridge Analytica story was first reported by The Guardian and Observer in 2015. Did we listen? Did any US paper carry the story the British paper worked on for years? So, my first reaction reading this story was nostalgia — for the time when I was a reporter with The Guardian and Observer investigations team. We could spend a year digging deep into complex stories, working with crazy insiders. There, in 2000, I uncovered another cyber-crime: Using database matching to purge felons from Florida voter rolls. (None, in fact, were felons; most were Democrats.)

I moved back to America, but found I had to give up any hope of doing true, deep investigative reports for newspapers in my own country. US papers will sometimes re-report Guardian news, but American media almost never initiates deep investigation. And THAT, fear of the cost, difficulty and risk in digging out the truth, is a greater threat to America than Steve Bannon.

Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, now out as major motion non-fiction movie: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: The Case of the Stolen Election (the brand new, updated, post-election edition).


GregPalast.com
Trojan Hearse: 
Greek Elections and the Euro Leper Colony

By Greg Palast for το χων委 (Greece)
[updated January 20, 2015]



Europe is stunned, and bankers aghast, that polls show the new party of the Left, Syriza, will win Greece’s parliamentary elections to be held this coming Sunday, January 25.
 
Syriza promises that, if elected, it will cure Greece of leprosy.
Oddly, Syriza also promises that it will remain in the leper colony.  That is, Syriza wants to rid Greece of the cruelty of austerity imposed by the European Central Bank but insists on staying in the euro zone.
 
The problem is, austerity run wild is merely a symptom of an illness.  The underlying disease is the euro itself. 
 
For the last five years, Greeks have been told that, if you cure your disease—that is, if you dump the euro—the sky will fall.  I guess you haven’t noticed, the sky has fallen already.  With unemployment at 25%, with Greek doctors and teachers eating out of garbage cans, there is no further to fall.
 
In 2010, when unemployment was a terrible 10%, a year into the crisis, the “Troika” (the European Central Bank, European Commission and the International Monetary Fund) told the Greeks that brutal austerity measures would restore Greece’s economy by 2012. 
 
Ask yourself, Was the Troika right? 
 
There is a saying in America:  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.
 
Can Greece survive without the euro?  Greece is already dead, but the Germans won’t even bother to bury the corpse.  Greeks are told that if they leave the euro and renounce its debts, the nation will not be able to access world capital markets.  The reality is, Greece can’t access world markets now:  no one lends to a corpse.
 
There’s a way back across the River Styx.  But it’s not by paddling on a euro.
 
There’s Life after Euro
Many nations do quite well without the euro.  Sweden, Denmark and India do just fine without the euro—and so does Turkey, which had the luck to be excluded from the euro-zone.  As long as Turks stick to the lira, even Turkey’s brain-damaged Islamo-fascist President Tayyip Erdo臒an cannot destroy their economy.
 
Can Greece just dump the euro?  They have happy precedents to follow.  Argentina was once pegged to the US dollar much as Greece is tied to the euro today.  In 2000, Argentines, hungry and angry, revolted.  Argentina ultimately overthrew the dollar dictatorship, the IMF diktats and the threats of creditors, and defaulted on its dollar bonds.  Free at last!  In the decade since, the Argentine economy soared.  Yes, today, Argentina is under attack by financial vultures, but that is only because the nation became so temptingly wealthy.
 
I was in Brazil when its President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva told the IMF to go to hell—and rejected privatization of the state banks and the state oil company, rejected cutting pensions and thumbed his nose at the rest of the austerity nonsense. Instead, Lula created the bolsa familia, a massive pay-out to the nation’s poor.  The result: Brazil not only survived but thrived during the 2008-10  world financial crisis.  Despite pressure, Brazil never ceded control of its currency. (It is a sad irony that Brazil is only now faltering.  That’s the fault entirely of Lula’s successor, President Dilma Rousseff,  who is beginning to dance the austerity samba.)
 
Austerity:  Religion, Not Economics
The euro is simply the deutschmark with little stars on it.  Greece cannot adopt Germany’s currency without adopting Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, as its own. 
 
And Schäuble has determined that Greece must be punished.  As my homey Paul Krugman points out, there is no credible economic theory that says that austerity—that is, cutting government spending, cutting wages, cutting consumer demand—can in any way help a nation in recession, in deflation.  That’s why, in 2009, Obama ordered up stimulus, not a sleeping pill. 
 
But austerity has nothing to do with economics.  It is religion:  the belief by the stern Lutheran Germans that Greeks have had too much fun, spent too much money, and spent too much lazy time in the sun—and now Greeks must pay a price for their sins.
 
Oddly, I hear this self-flagellating nonsense from Greeks themselves:  we are lazy.  We deserve our punishment.  Nonsense.  The average Greek works more hours in a year than any other worker in the 34 nations of the OECD; Germans the least.  
 
The Euro’s Father Describes his Little Bastard
Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, would like to pretend that austerity and the euro are two different things, that you can marry the pretty girl but not invite her ugly sister to the wedding. Apparently, the Syriza chief is blissfully ignorant of the history of the euro.  The horror of austerity is not the consequence of Greek profligacy:  it was designed into the euro’s plan from the beginning.
 
This was explained to me by the father of the euro himself, economist Robert Mundell of Columbia University.  (I studied economics with Mundell’s buddy, Milton Friedman.)  Mundell not only invented the euro, he also fathered the misery-making policies of Thatcher and Reagan, known as “supply-side economics” – or, as George Bush Sr. called it, “voodoo economics.”  Supply-side voodoo is the long-discredited belief that if a nation demolishes the power of unions, cuts business taxes, eliminates government regulation and public ownership of utilities, economic prosperity will follow.
 
The euro is simply the other side of the supply-side coin.  As Mundell explained it, the euro is the way in which congresses and parliaments can be stripped of all power over monetary and fiscal policy.  Bothersome democracy is removed from the economic system.  “Without fiscal policy,” Mundell told me, “the only way nations can keep jobs is by the competitive reduction of rules on business.”   
 
Greece, to survive in a euro economy, can only revive employment by reducing wages.  Indeed, the recent tiny reduction in unemployment is the sign that Greeks are slowly accepting a permanent future of low wages serving piña coladas to Germans on holiday cruises.
 
It is argued that Greece owes Germany, the IMF and the European Central Bank for bail-out-billions.  Nonsense.  None of the billions in bail-out funds went into Greek pockets.  It all went to bail out Deutsche Bank and other foreign creditors.  The EU treasuries swallowed 90% of its private bankers’ bonds.  Germany bailed out Germany, not Greece.
 
Nevertheless, Greece must pay Germany back, Mr. Tsipras, if you want to continue to use Germany’s currency, that is.
 
Greece:  Goldman Sacked
Greece’s ruin began with secret, fraudulent currency swaps, designed a decade ago by Goldman Sachs, to conceal Greek deficits that exceeded the euro zone’s 3%-of-GDP limit.  In 2009, when the truth came out, Greek debt holders realized they had been cheated.  These debt buyers then demanded usurious levels of interest (or, if you prefer, a high “spread”) to insure themselves against future fraud.  The compounding of this interest premium brought the Greek nation to its knees.  In other words, the crimes committed to join and stay in the euro, not Greek profligacy, caused the crisis.

The USA, Brazil and China escaped from depression by controlling their money supply, government spending and currency exchange rates—crucial tools Greece gave up in return for the euro.

Worse, once the Trojan hearse of the euro entered Athens, tourism, Greece’s main industry, drained to Turkey where hotels and souvenirs are priced in cheap lira.  This allowed Dr. Mundell’s remorseless wage-lowering machine, the euro, to do its work, to force Greece to strip all its workers of pensions and power.  
 
Greece fell to its knees, with no choice but to beg Germany for mercy.
 
But there is no mercy.  As Germany’s Schäuble insists, democracy, this week’s vote, means nothing.  "New elections change nothing in the accords struck with the Greek government,” he says.  “[Greeks] have no alternative.”
 
Ah, but they do, Mr. Schäuble.  They can tell you to take your euro and shove it up your Merkel.
 
Investigative reporter Greg Palast’s book, Vultures’ Picnic, with the no-BS inside story of the financial collapse, will soon be released in a Greek edition by Livanis.   

Greg Palast is the author of
several  New York Times bestsellers including The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits.

Palast is a Puffin Foundation Fellow for Investigative Reporting.

Greg Palast wins December Sidney Award
for Exposing a Defective Database that Endangers
the Votes of Millions of People of Color

NEW YORK – Greg Palast wins the December Sidney Award for “Jim Crow Returns,” and “Challenging Crosscheck,” a two-part Al Jazeera America exposé that shows how millions of innocent people were flagged as suspected vote fraudsters just because they have the same first and last name as someone in another state.

On the eve of the 2014 elections, officials had begun to purge voters based upon Interstate Crosscheck, voter fraud prevention software. More than 40,000 voters were dropped from the rolls in Virginia alone.

Read The Backstory, our Q&A with Greg Palast.

The Crosscheck program, used in 28 states, is ostensibly designed to prevent voter fraud by identifying people who voted in different states in the same election. The system is billed as a sophisticated fraud-detection tool, but Crosscheck lists obtained by Palast for three states show that the system matches on first and last name alone. Crosscheck flagged more than 2 million names in those three states, Palast found.

“It was absolute murder trying to get the Crosscheck lists out of the hands of these highly political agencies,” Palast said. “They knew damn well the lists were phonies—just common ethnic names, an excuse to knock off Democrats—and dynamite if exposed.”
 
In the states Palast studied, anyone with a common name is at risk, but the system disproportionately flags voters of color: If you’re white, you have a 1 in 11 chance of being flagged. If you’re Asian or Hispanic, your odds are 1 in 8. If you’re black, the odds are 1 in 7 that someone in another Crosscheck state shares your first and last name.

Check Al Jazeera’s interactive database to see if your name is in on the list.

“Greg Palast has uncovered a major threat to voting rights,” said Sidney judge Lindsay Beyerstein. “Crosscheck is casting unwarranted suspicion on innocent people and endangering their right to vote.”

Greg Palast produces investigative reports for the Guardian, BBC TV, and other outlets. Before becoming a reporter, he was an investigator of corporate crime and racketeering for governments and labor unions worldwide. He is the author of several books including “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy” and “Vulture’s Picnic.”

“Jim Crow Returns” was produced by Alex Newman, Steve Melendez, Tate Strickland, John Thomason, and Lam Thuy Vo, edited by Mark Rykoff and Jayati Vora, with photographs by Zach D. Roberts and interactive production by Alex Newman.

Al Jazeera America’s broadcast of "Crosscheck" was produced by Hanaan Sarhan, with Richard Rowley as director of photography.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *
The Sidney Hillman Foundation honors excellence in journalism in service of the common good. Judges are Rose Arce, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Hendrik Hertzberg, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Harold Meyerson and Lindsay Beyerstein.

The Sidney Award is given once a month to an outstanding piece of journalism about social or economic injustice, by the Sidney Hillman Foundation, which also awards the annual Hillman Prizes every spring. Winners of the Sidney receive a certificate designed by New Yorker cartoonist, Edward Sorel, a $500 honorarium and a bottle of union-made wine.
For 15 years, Greg Palast has been uncovering voter suppression tactics in investigative reports for BBC Television, The Guardian, Harper’s and Rolling Stone. 

Greg Palast is the author of
several  New York Times bestsellers including The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits.

Palast is a Puffin Foundation Fellow for Investigative Reporting.
 
Follow Palast on Twitter | Like Palast on Facebook | Forward to a frien

                                        OCCUPY

GregPalast.com

BP and the Three Stooges Defense
By Greg Palast for Truthdig
Thursday, 26 September 2014


GregPalast.com

Forget Stephen King. If you want scary, read U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier’s 150-page Findings of Fact released Thursday in the Deepwater Horizon case.

Although the judge found BP liable for “gross negligence,” some U.S. media failed to mention that Barbier let BP off the hook on punitive damages. And that stuns me, given that the record seems to identify enough smoking guns to roast a sizable pig. 

Here’s a standout example:

Every rig operator knows that, before a rig can unhook from a drill pipe, the operator has to run a “negative pressure test” to make sure the cement has properly sealed the drill pipe. If the pipe is safely plugged, the pressure gauge will read zero. The amount of pressure BP measured at 5 p.m. on April 20, 2010, the day of the explosion? 1400 psi (see the findings, pages 62-65). So, how could the company record zero? Answer: BP’s crew re-ran the test measuring the pressure in something called the “kill line,” which is definitely not the drill pipe.

By reporting that the pipe had no pressure and all was safe, BP could begin to unhook the Deepwater Horizon from the pipe—and sail away. Why would BP do that? In my view, there were three motives: money, money and money. It costs BP a good half million dollars each extra day the rig stays on top of the drill hole. It seems that BP wanted the rig gone and quickly.

So, instead of halting the disconnection process, BP appears to have lied and recorded the pressure reading as “zero.” The rig’s owner, Transocean of Switzerland, went along with BP’s actions.

So how did BP get away with mere “gross negligence” as opposed to the more serious claim of fraud? Because the court found that the blowout, explosion, fire and oil spill were caused by “misinterpretation of the negative pressure test.”

Misinterpretation? If a woman says “thanks” when you say she’s dressed nicely and you think she wants a kiss, that’s “misinterpretation.” But on the Deepwater Horizon, the drill pipe gauge read 1400 psi and BP picked a different pipe that gave the company the magic zero. That’s not, I contend, “misinterpretation.”

Maybe the judge thought he was pretty tough by calling out BP for “gross” negligence (rather than plain-vanilla negligence, the finding against Transocean and contractor Halliburton). But, in fact, it seems Barbier fell for the Three Stooges defense.

Throughout the 150-page decision, the judge cites one instance after another of bone-headed, buffoonish, slapstick decisions, and plenty of pratfalls and banana-peel slips by BP, Transocean and Halliburton. You have to wonder how these schmucks even found their drill hole. It was a corporate Larry-Moe-and-Curly-Joe routine that would provide a lot of belly laughs if 11 men hadn’t died as a result.

I’ve seen the Three Stooges defense before in federal court. In 1988, the corporate owner and the builder of the Shoreham nuclear plant were on trial on accusations they bilked their New York customers out of $1.8 billion. In court, they pleaded stupidity and incompetence as a defense against deliberate deception. As the government’s investigator, I didn’t buy it—billion-dollar corporations can’t be that stupid—and neither did the jury. (The racketeering charges were settled after trial for $400 million.)

And here is a new set of Stooges: BP plays Larry, Transocean puts on Moe’s wig and Halliburton makes “Nyuk! Nyuk! Nyuk!” sounds like Curly Joe. Halliburton, the judge found, failed to test the final cement mix and BP bitched about it—“[Halliburton engineer Jesse Gagliano] isn’t cutting it any more,” reads an email between two BP managers on the rig—but BP went ahead and used the bad cement anyway (Findings, paragraphs 227-228). 

When the pressure in the drill pipe read 1400 psi, BP and Transocean managers should have stopped the rig departure immediately. They didn’t. Nevertheless, other systems should have prevented a blowout. According to Barbier, other safety systems were jacked with to save a penny here, a penny there (or, a million here, a million there). Example: BP used leftover cement (Findings, paragraphs 209-211) that contained chemicals that destroyed the integrity of the new cement, because using the old stuff saved some serious cash.

And this leads to the question of punitive damages.

...

1400 psi is not zero. Stick a balloon in your mouth with zero pressure and nothing happens except that you look silly. Replace the balloon with a hose delivering a 1400 psi blast and it’ll blow your skull apart.

...


So maybe it was not the judge but the public that was blinded by the government and media crowing about a possible $18 billion fine for gross negligence. Eighteen billion dollars may sound like a lot to us mere mortals, but to a trillion-dollar behemoth like BP, it is not a punishment, but a reasonably priced permit for plunder.
Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestsellers, Billionaires & Ballot BanditsThe Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Armed Madhouse and the highly acclaimed Vultures’ Picnic, a BBC Television Book of the Year. 
Greg Palast's mailing address is:
Greg Palast
PO Box 90
Greenport, NY 11944

Greg Palast has a book  14 called Vultures' Picnic

Greg, the New York Times bestselling author of Armed Madhouse, offers a globetrotting, Sam Spade-style investigation that blows the lid off the oil and banking industries, and exposes how government agencies aren't
regulating either.

This is the story of corporate vultures that feed on the weak and ruin our planet in the process-a story that spans the globe and decades.  Palast shows how transnational economic cartels (the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organization, and Central Banks) act as puppets for Big Oil.

With Palast at the center of an investigation that takes us from the Arctic to Africa to the Amazon, Vultures' Picnic shows how the big powers in the money and oil game avoid regulations and break the rules to take advantage of nations and everyday people. 


Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, "Armed Madhouse" (Penguin Paperback 2007).   When Palast (an investigator of corporate fraud and racketeering) turned his skills to journalism, he was quickly recognized as,
"The most important investigative reporter of our time" [Tribune Magazine] in Britain, where his first reports appeared on
BBC television and in the Guardian newspapers.    Greg Palast's Reel Click here to watch.  
Download the Greg Palast's Bio here.  contact@gregpalast.com