You can take Greg Palast out of the San Fernando Valley, but you can't take the Valley out of this muckraking journalist.

The longtime Sun Valley resident has become an award-winning investigative reporter for BBC television and Britain's Guardian and Observer newspapers, as well as a New York Times bestselling author, but Palast credits his Valley upbringing with turning him into a prominent critic of President George W. Bush, Enron, globalization, the Iraq war and more. His embittered memories of growing up Valley during the McCarthy and Vietnam eras are anything but "American Graffiti"-like reveries.

"For me, the class war began in the Valley. ... We had this sense that there was a bright city over the hill. Cross Laurel Canyon and you entered the city of the winners. We were in the planet of the losers, below sea level, economically and socially. Most of my area was Chicano. We were the kids who worked at Bob's Big Boy, got your girlfriend pregnant, went to 'Nam - and, if that didn't kill you, overtime at the Chevy plant would."

It was education that provided an escape route for the young Jewish kid. Palast attended Francis Polytechnic. There, he was "threatened with expulsion from Poly for organizing an antiwar demo," he remembers. Upon graduation, Palast received a high lottery number that kept him out of Indochina.

Besides protesting, Palast "had lots of incredible teachers who wanted to help me get past what was laid out for the American working class." With scholarships, he attended L.A. Valley College, UCLA, University of California at Berkeley and the University of Chicago.

Palast went on to become an investigator for unions, environmentalists, indigenous tribes and government entities. By 1997, he brought his investigative acumen to British journalism. And he burst onto the American scene with his 2002 bombshell "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, The Truth About Corporate Cons, Globalization, and High-Finance Fraudsters," which sold more than half a million copies.

Now Palast is back with his new book, "Armed Madhouse," which offers "Dispatches from the Frontlines of the Class War." The author not only claims that the Bushies stole the 2004 election, but that the fix is already in for 2008. Palast also argues that Big Oil and its State Department henchmen allegedly invaded Iraq in order to keep OPEC's second-largest reserves off the world market.

In "Armed Madhouse," Palast also returns to the scene of the Enron crime, charging that Ken Lay was one of the energy executives who attended a top-secret meeting with Vice President Cheney in March 2001. In a section called "When Ahnold Got Lay'd," Palast alleges that Schwarzenegger met with "Kenny Boy" at Beverly Hills' Peninsula Hotel on May 17, 2001. Palast theorizes that a deal was cut to drastically reduce repayment of the $9 billion that "electricity buccaneers" had ripped off from California, and which then-Gov. Gray Davis had sought - until Schwarzenegger beat Davis in the 2003 recall election.

"I'm giving you the information and documentation about the rulers of the planet, which you ain't gonna get anywhere else," says Palast.

L.A. audiences will have an opportunity to hear from him live at 7 tonight at Immanuel Presbyterian as part of his national book tour for "Armed Madhouse."

Ed Rampell is an L.A.-based freelance writer and author.