All Notebook Entries

  • 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.

  • At the Eve of Continental Social Revolution in Venezuela

    Once upon a time, a weird monk hurriedly rushed across the central place of Wittenberg, heading for the cathedral. All over peasants were loitering about watching this unusual spectre, discussing about their crops, their confessions, the Church, and about their wonderful feudal lords. Then, suddenly loud noises were heard, coming from the door of the church; like mad, "out of love and concern for the truth," the stranger was hammering pieces of paper onto the huge door, his famous 95 theses. Just as he appeared, so he vanished into thin air. Ever since, none of the onlookers discussed this issue anymore. What the poor peasants did not realize was that they have been witnessing the transhistoric beginning of the Reformation, Luther's attack on the feudalist, absolutist religious superstructure, in fact, they experienced the beginning of the French and Industrial Revolutions, their own historical demise. Already then, we could have witnessed the "friend-enemy" Cold War Syndrome, Luther's flock called him a Protestant hero, a freedom fighter, a wise and insightful church leader. His "opposition" called him a heretic, an apostate, a profane ecclesiastical terrorist. This week, we witnessed another transhistoric similar moment, the so-called "Opposition" in Venezuela, the "Coordinadora Democrática", that had no consensus in who should be its presidential candidate for future elections, and that had only one project in mind "!Qué Chávez se va!", now suddenly wants to present a transitional project called "Consenso País" to the world. President Chávez calls it "Consenso Bush".
  • Chavez government says illiteracy has been eliminated

    In a recent interview with Australia's Green Left Weekly, Dr. Rodrigo Chaves --who served until recently as the coordinator of Venezuela's pro-government Bolivarian Circles and now works as President Hugo Chavez's private secretary-- claims that Venezuela's illiteracy rate has declined from nine percent to one percent in recent years.  According to Chaves, illiteracy was essentially eradicated through a government program called "Mission Robinson," which was designed to teach poor adults and teenagers to read.

    According to Chaves, "Mission Robinson II" is already in place and is educating 900,000 adults up to the level of sixth grade. Another program, "Mission Ribas," is designed to give all Venezuelans a high school education.

  • 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."
  • Venezuela: The Spatial-Temporal Chains of Illusion

    Concerning the Global Positioning System and Weapons of Mass Destruction

    "The winning weapon of the American assault on Iraq, like that of World War II, depended on a technology first imagined by Einstein, with some help from Poincare. Not nuclear weapons of mass destruction, but the Global Positioning System, by which the four dimensions of space-time can be so precisely measured as to direct a bomb or a soldier to within 50 feet of any spot on earth."
    (WILLIAM R. EVERDELL, New York Times, 17/08/03)

    Definitely, if here in Mérida, Venezuela, we could discover Juyá, a planet, rotating beyond Pluto, then surely we could easily develop a Real, Original Science and a True, Authentic Philosophy of the Bolivarian Revolution, directed against the global horror and terror, against the "awestruck" of the White House, the Pentagon, NASA and NATO, against any global positioning system or weaponry.

  • 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.  
  • A Spectre is haunting the Fourth Reich -- the Spectre of Chávez!

    Currently, all the oligarchic powers in Venezuela and abroad have entered into a fascist, neo-liberal alliance to exorcise this spectre: Bush and Kerry, OAS and Carter Center, Blair and Berlusconi, Ortega and CAP, "Friends of Venezuela" and Enemies of "Castro-Communism". Where is the "party" in the "opposition" that did not decry Chávez as a "dictator", as a "tyrant"? Where are the anti-governmental "stormtroopers of the apocalypse", the national and international mass media, that did not try to assassinate his character?
  • 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...

  • Twin Towers and Globospeak

    An interesting debate

    Hi, Franz:

    Note my dialogue with an online contact on 911 and what's next.

    Carl Zimmerman <carlfranz@optonline.net>,

  • Laura Restrepo: &quot;Legalize Drugs&quot;

    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…

  • Otto Reich is Outa There

    According to Reuters, Otto Reich has resigned.  "For personal and financial reasons."  Which is more or less what they all say.  If things haven't been going so well for poor Otto, I wish him nothing but more of the same in his future endeavors.  

    http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=poli ticsNews&storyID=5440997

  • Homeland Security wants us kept in the dark

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has adopted a draconian classification scheme that essentially imposes a blackout on the release of any information it deems sensitive.

    Under the scheme, outlined in a directive issued last month, DHS is creating a new “For Official Use Only” (FOUO) classification process that encompasses a wide swath of information that the government bureaucracy deems “sensitive but unclassified.”  

    The directive empowers DHS employees and contractors to classify information as FOUO if it falls within 11 general categories, and that information is to remain classified “until determined otherwise” by DHS.

    In addition, DHS supervisors and managers are empowered to go beyond the 11 categories and designate “other information” as FOUO.

  • Coca tea defense OK for failed drug test

    The Chicago Sun-Times carries a story today about the employee of a local law enforcement agency who was reinstated to her job after a failed drug test. She claimed the use of coca tea, which she first obtained during a trip to Peru, caused the positive test falsely.

    But last week, the Illinois Court of Appeals ruled Garrido should not have lost her job in 2001 because the positive test result probably didn't come from cocaine, but instead from the tea she'd been drinking.

    Garrido, the wife of a Chicago narcotics officer, said she drank "a significant amount" of the coca-tinged tea, which she got from Peru, just before her drug test.

    Though the sheriff's merit board didn't buy it -- and fired her -- the judges ruled the small traces of cocaine metabolites in Garrido's system were more likely to have come from tea than drugs.

    Anyone concerned about a future drug test, plenty of coca tea suppliers sell their wares on the internet. Just Google it, and be prepared to drink a "significant amount" (or at least say you did) when the time comes. And, it might not hurt to marry a narcotics officer.

  • CONTEMPORARY RELIGION: WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD

    THE DEMOCRATIC PROZAC OF, BY AND FOR THE PEOPLE
    Visiting Feuerbach and Marx again in the Epoch of Global Fascism

    By  Franz J. T. Lee

    Ché Guevara underlined that the duty of all real, true revolutionaries, "is to make the revolution", to act (práxis) and to think (theory) it. In time, this implies also to warn the comrades about mortal ideological dangers, no matter how delicate they may be, even touching "forbidden fruits" and "sacred cows".

  • Petroleum, Politics, and Populism

    This is a history of Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan People.  I don't feel it is as well written as my earlier work but I feel it has more relevancy in today's world.  Enjoy and please tell me what you think.
  • Return of the NarcoBanker

    Again, interest-free loans to support the Narco News J-School are available.  If you don't have the money to give to the Fund for Authentic Journalism before the June 21 Tides matching grant deadline, I'll front it for you now.

  • &quot;Free Pacho&quot; Cry Goes Global

    Last February, when Narco News came alive again, we launched a multi-part series from Bolivia and Colombia (what we call our "Narco News Swarm Coverage") to break the information blockade and publish the true facts about the bizarre and reckless prosecution of Colombian human rights leader Pacho Cortés, imprisoned, now, for 14 months in Bolivia, on flimsy accusations of "terrorism."

    At the time, some of you, conscious of the authoritarian "laws" approved in recent years in the United States and elsewhere under the pretext of fighting "terrorism," wrote me, worried, concerned. In the words of one reader: "Aren't you afraid that they'll come after Narco News next, for supporting an accused terrorist?"

  • Forero / NYT have something nice to say about coca

    Today's New York Times has a Juan Forero story in the business section that actually discusses the benefits of coca. The story extols an energy drink processed from coca leaves as a way to create a (from the viewpoint of the NYT) legitimate export market for coca farmers.

    The question: Has Forero been learning about coca's upside from Narconews?

    I'm probably missing some nuances here, but here's part of what Forero says:

    In this Andean country, that pitch - that KDrink is natural and good for consumers - has the beverage flying off the shelves of some of Peru's biggest supermarket chains. Though priced at $1 a bottle, far more than what other beverages sell for, KDrink is selling about 50,000 bottles a month.

    But it is the possibility that KDrink could be sold abroad that is seen as a tantalizing solution for poverty-stricken coca farmers who are periodically forced to eradicate their illicit crops in Washington-backed antidrug efforts.

    The rest of the story is at http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/10/business/worldbu siness/10coca.html?ei=5007&en=5d8b5778042ed949 &ex=1402286400&partner=USERLAND&pagewa nted=print&position

  • Bilingual feds demand equal pay

    A group of Hispanic Customs agents have filed a class-action lawsuit in a special federal court claiming that the government owes them money.

    The special agents, who represent a class of more than 400 current and former bilingual Customs agents, contend the U.S. Customs Service -- and its successor agencies within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) -- have denied them adequate compensation for their second-language abilities.

    The Customs agents, who are fluent in English and Spanish, contend that they have been shortchanged on second-language pay awards despite the fact that their fellow agents in the FBI and DEA are afforded fair reimbursement for their bilingual skills. In addition, the special agents charge that other bilingual Customs employees, such as inspectors and canine enforcement officers, are reimbursed fairly for their second-language skills, yet the government has chosen to create extraordinary barriers for similar compensation to be earned by bilingual special agents.

    From the lawsuit:

    To be eligible for a foreign language proficiency award, Customs Officers (Customs inspectors and canine enforcement officers) need only speak a foreign language at least 10 percent of his/her basic non-overtime, regularly scheduled duty. In contrast to these simple rules, the rules for awarding foreign language proficiency awards to special agents were unduly burdensome and restrictive.

    Special agents were required to meticulously document their daily usage of a foreign language using investigative case numbers, confidential informant (“CI”) identification numbers, duties and narrative report.

     

  • Give now, or I will kick your ass.

    It's a no-brainer, really, when you stop and think about it:

    Donate - or have your ass kicked.

    It's not that often that life offers us such clear-cut choices.  Do the right thing.  Donate.

    Christopher Fee has very generously offered to match contributions up to $500, which will in turn be matched by the Tides Foundation.  Yes, right now, you give $1, the j-school gets $4.  Don't leave the man hangin', and don't leave your ass hangin' off the end of my Red Wing.  Need I say, donate?

  • An appeal, and a pledge for quadruple matching funds

    Dear Narco News Readers,

    I am writing this letter in the hope you will support The Fund for Authentic Journalism, a nonprofit corporation helping to support Narco News, a tri-lingual online newspaper, and its School of Authentic Journalism.

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