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Vivanco Wants Foreign Money in Venezuela Campaign

Human Rights Watch "Americas Division" chief José Miguel Vivanco falls deeper down the slippery slope of anti-democracy lobbying now with his claim that foreign government funding of partisan electoral groups in Venezuela is okey-dokey by him.

First, a reality check and public service announcement for those who might not be familiar with United States campaign finance laws:

If you want to make a donation to the campaign of George W. Bush in the United States (we're not recommending it, for the record) and you go to Bush's website and click "donations" and you will find that, before you can give him money, you have to affirm:

"By clicking on this box I acknowledge that contributions from corporations and foreign nationals are prohibited."

Likewise, if you want to make a donation to the campaign of John Kerry in the United States (neither are we recommending this) go to Kerry's campaign website and click "contributions," and there you will have to affirm:

"I confirm that the following statements are true and accurate:

1. I am a United States citizen or a permanent resident alien...

Those who have violated these laws against foreign contributions have been prosecuted in the United States…

Fed agents back congressional probe of discrimination claims

The largest federal law enforcement association in the country has thrown its weight behind a call for a congressional inquiry into an alleged pattern of racial discrimination within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), which represents some 22,000 federal agents in 50 law enforcement agencies, has directed a letter to Congress in support of Ruben Gonzalez, a high-ranking supervisor within DHS' Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Houston. The letter, addressed to U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Texas, stresses that FLEOA “supports any and all efforts to eliminate bias and inequities in hiring and promotion processes by Federal law enforcement agencies.”

Gonzalez is a catalyst behind the growing chorus of Hispanic agents calling for congressional action on the issue. Gonzalez's attorney, Ron Schmidt, claims the racial discrimination within ICE is so pervasive that it has fostered a dysfunctional agency culture that poses a real threat to national security.

Investment research firm praises Chávez government

According to an interesting new economic report by the California-based investment research firm Condor Advisers, the Venezuelan government's restructuring of the country's state-owned oil company --Petroleos de Venezuela (PdVSA)-- is "dramatically increasing cash flow into Venezuela's economy, laying the foundation for sustained, robust economic growth."

Five "Secrets" of Online Journalism

My experience publishing Narco News over four years has taught me a lot about utilizing the Internet to do journalism.

The Internet is a young if already overpopulated frontier where there is a glut of material and a scarcity of quality, especially when it comes to journalism.

There are some very simple things we've done at Narco News differently than many others. I believe these ways of doing little, basic, things have a lot to do with our success.

The five "secrets" are:

  • 1. Respect the realities of email recipients
  • 2. Online etiquette from A to E-mail
  • 3. A website is an educational process ("No one story saves the world")
  • 4. Against Internet repetition and "copy cat publishing"
  • 5. On the Internet, speed is everything
It sometimes pains me to see other worthy projects making errors small and large that get in the way of their success and credibility. Since it's their show, I don't often volunteer advice: most people are fairly stuck in their ways of doing things, even when, sometimes especially when, those ways are counterproductive.

But since later this month the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism is meeting again, I'd like to share my general thoughts on how - and how not - to publish an online newspaper or journal...

Democracy in Venezuela

Wow! I never thought that in the more popular alternative press I would see an article that finally describes some of the truth about Venezuela, truth that I have learned mainly from the pages of NarcoNews.  This Fourth of July morning at truthout.org, I read an article by Saul Landau, originally published in Progreso Weekly, extolling the policies of Hugo Chavez and calling to task not only the US and mainstream media for their parts in lying about Chavez and his policies, but also Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for their complicity in these lies.  Specifically, Landau points out a number of positive steps taken by Chavez, including the halting of private school subsidies for the rich, lowering the inflation rate, contributing more to health care and education, and stopping the privatization of social security and university funding.  He points out the lies perpetrated by the Venezuelan rich elitists and the US government that include censorship of the press, collaborating with FARC and ELN guerillas, and undermining the constitution and behaving in an anti-democratic manner.  The article ends by focusing on how the media and those that go along with such false reporting obscure issues and encourage confusion by misusing the true meanings of the words "democracy" and "human rights."  Truth in reporting - what a way to start my US Independence Day!  

Noriega wants crackdown on Argentine "piqueteros"

According to an Agence France Presse report from today, Roger Noriega --Bush's awful Ambassador to the OAS (I hear that Noriega doesn't even speak Spanish)-- is putting pressure on the Argentine government to crack down on the country's "piqueteros," the poor and unemployed picketers who have reportedly been blocking roads, occupying McDonald's restaurants and taking over the offices of multinational firms (God forbid!!).

Fortunately, the Argentine government no longer takes its orders from Washington; Argentina's Foreign Minister Rafael Bielsa criticized Noriega's recent statements about the demonstrators, saying "In all honesty, the Argentine government is fed up with Mr. Noriega's meddling in Argentina's internal affairs."

Hispanic federal agents' claims finally find an ear in Congress

Ruben Gonzalez scored a major victory recently in his efforts to expose what he and other Hispanic federal agents describe as widespread discrimination within the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Gonzalez, an associate special agent in charge at the Houston ICE office, wrote recently to his senator and congressman seeking their help in addressing the discrimination problem within ICE and DHS in general. A group of Hispanic federal agents and their attorney, Ron Schmidt, contend the dysfunction and atmosphere of retaliation that is fostered by the discrimination pose a real threat to national security.

To date, Gonzalez’ senator, Republican John Cornyn, has opted to sit on the sidelines on the issue. Despite the national security concerns raised by the alleged pattern of discrimination, Cornyn says he has chosen to "refrain from intervening” due to Senate ethics rules that caution against getting involved in matters that are pending in the courts. Gonzalez is part of a group of Hispanic agents who have brought a class-action discrimination lawsuit against DHS.

In an ironic twist, Cornyn referred Gonzalez’ complaint to the agent’s superiors at DHS -- the same group Gonzalez is accusing of allowing the discrimination to fester. Timothy Haugh, the acting director for DHS’ Office of Congressional Affairs, replied to Cornyn by asserting that Gonzalez’ charges are without merit.

However, Gonzalez’ congressman, Nick Lampson, D-Texas, apparently operates under a different set of congressional ethics.

Venezuela's Private Media and Pollsters: An Echo Chamber that Would Make Goebbels Proud

More than a year ago, I received a somewhat angry message from an opponent of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez regarding an article that I wrote for Narco News criticizing the political partiality and methodological problems of Venezuela's two most cited pollsters (Can You Believe Venezuela's Pollsters?, January 22, 2003). A number of anti-Chavez critiques of my article, including one by Francisco Toro, were pasted below the message.

For those who are not familiar with Toro, he is a well-known anti-Chavez activist based in Caracas whom the New York Times once hired as a reporter, in violation of the Times' own claims to objective and disinterested reporting. Toro runs an anti-Chavez weblog called the Caracas Chronicles.

At the time that I received this angry message, I was preoccupied with other issues, so, if I recall correctly, I did not read the critique by Toro that followed the message. However, the recent agreement in Venezuela to move ahead with a recall referendum on Chavez's government, as well as the Venezuelan President's recent citations of my article on Radio Nacional de Venezuela, have re-sparked interest in the topic of the pollsters. Thus, I have decided to revisit one of Toro's criticisms in order to show just how vacuous the Venezuelan opposition's defense of their pollsters is. I will address Toro’s other "main" criticisms in future entries.

Homeland Security Tips Wallow in the Halls of Congress

Ruben Gonzalez, a high-level supervisor with the Houston office of the federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), was only trying to get some help from his U.S. Senator, Republican John Cornyn.

Gonzalez wrote to the senator earlier this year to clue him into the widespread discrimination and retaliation problems within ICE, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The discriminatory practices, according to Ron Schmidt, an attorney representing Gonzalez and other ICE agents, foster a dysfunctional culture within the federal law enforcement agency that poses a real threat to national security.

In response to Gonzalez’ letter, Sen. Cornyn’s office sent the federal agent a form asking him to verify his immigration status.

Cornyn’s response was an insult to Gonzalez, who is part of a group of Hispanic federal agents suing the Department of Homeland Security for alleged racial discrimination.

In a commentary posted on the Web site for the Federal Hispanic Law Enforcement Officers Association (FHLEOA), Gonzalez states that Cornyn's reply "demonstrated the obvious bigotry that I and others of Hispanic origin continue to endure."

Thanks to everyone for helping us make our deadline!

Thanks to all of you, we made our fundraising deadline.  Click more to read details and thanks from myself and Al Giordano.  

Bloomberg Screws-Up Venezuela Report

To: Peter Wilson, "reporter" for Bloomberg, in Venezuela - pewilson@bloomberg.net

CC: Laura Zelenko, "editor responsible for this story" - lzelenko@bloomberg.net

From: Al Giordano, Publisher, Narco News

Peter,

A quick question regarding your "report" today:

Venezuela Chavez Would Lose Recall Vote, Poll Finds (Update1)

When you take dictation from notorious opposition partisans, is it standard practice at Bloomberg to use only one unquestioned source for a story like that?

Okay, a second question:

When "reporting" a story, do you conduct even a one-minute Google search on the sole source whose credibility you accept unchallenged in the story?

Here... Let me do your work for you, retroactively...

Laura Restrepo: "Legalize Drugs"

Earlier this year, Colombian novelist Laura Restrepo won the prestigious Alfaguara Novel Prize for 2004 (the Alfaguara jury is headed by Portuguese Pulitzer prize winning novelist José Saramago) for her work, "Delirio." The prize included $175,000, which allowed her to leave her job in the culture department of Bogotá Mayor Lucho Garzón. Restrepo, 53, (who has the distinction of being one of the only people in the hemisphere to have successfully mediated a peace agreement between a guerrilla organization, M19, and the government), isn't sitting on her laurels though.

She appeared this week in an interview with the Argentine daily Página 12 to call for the legalization of drugs as the solution to her country of Colombia's long civil war. Página 12 reports:

The Colombian writer Laura Restrepo, winner of the Alfaguara Novel Prize of 2004 for her work "Delirio," said that the problem of drug trafficking in Colombia will end at the moment in which drugs are legalized, and the business will be destroyed. "Drugs in Colombia involve millions of dollars that serve like gasoline to inflame the war even more, which is why we must have legalization," said the author. Restrepo... added that the countries that have serious problems with drug consumption should think about preventative methods to combat them, "and that is how we will save ourselves from a war that is liquidating us as a nation."

Some of Restrepo's novels have been translated into English by Harper Collins.

The Ten Suggestions of Journalism

It is said that Moses had it backwards: he went up the mountain, away from the people, to find the Ten Commandments... And the rest of human history is a story of mass disobedience to all ten.

Had Moses come down from the mountain and held a Constituent Assembly, he probably would have come up with laws that would be adhered to more consistently.

(Plus, to say "thou shalt not lie," and "a burning bush told me that and gave me these stone tablets" does kind of give a mixed message, no?)

Thus, I present the following Ten Suggestions of Authentic Journalism as a draft document, to which I ask co-publishers to add your own suggestions... so that "your truth, together with my truth, can make a better truth..."

And hopefully by the time the Narco News J-School rolls around, 40 days and 40 nights from now, we'll have a working document of this kind.

Forero Caught Out, Again

In Friday's NYT Juan Forero, in the midst of railing against government bullying of the poor, helpless judiciary, said:

The report comes as opposition leaders and foreign diplomats have raised concerns about the efforts of government officials and the electoral council to limit the role of foreign observers from the O.A.S. and the Carter Center in the recall. Some officials have even called for the two organizations to be banned.

On the very day Forero's piece was run, alas, Reuters says President Chavez was having a meeting about the recall... with Jimmy Carter his own self.

Good try though, Juan! Maybe next time your little duplicities will survive contact with reality for a couple of days, at least.

Human Rights Botch: Vivanco & Venezuela

José Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch today launched a media-attention-seeking attack on the Venezuelan government for a new law providing a process for impeachment of Supreme Court justices in that country. He held a press conference in Caracas, barking highly charged words in a report titled Venezuela: Judicial Independence Under Siege.

Vivanco and Human Rights Watch are now on record opposing a U.S.-modeled impeachment process for Supreme Court justices in Venezuela. The timing - two months before the August 15 referendum in that country - is obviously a partisan attempt to meddle in electoral politics.

Perhaps Vivanco and his bureaucrats should have done a little bit of research on the United States Constitution and American History before demonstrating such ignorance about democratic principles.

Before this essay is done, we will hear from Thomas Jefferson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt - whose stated principles on the appointment and impeachment of Supreme Court justices HRW has now gone against with this maneuver - on this question. But first let's consult a more recent U.S. president who spoke on this issue… Gerald R. Ford…