All Notebook Entries

  • Sin Fronteras, sin ética... y ojalá pronto sin dinero I

    Los últimos años, Reporteros Sin Fronteras (RSF) se ha dedicado a trabajar cobarde y mafiosamente en contra de Cuba y Venezuela, dejando la ética periodística de lado cuando se trata de esos países. Igualmente, han ignorado casos de ataques a periodistas o cambiaron de postura cuando sus intereses políticos y económicos pudieron ser afectados. Sin embargo, esta serie de acciones podría terminar en los próximos días: RSF enfrenta una demanda de poco más de 1,400.000 dólares que podría terminar con el cierre de sus oficinas... y todo por utilizar ilegal (y suciamente) la célebre foto del Che Guevara tomada por el cubano Alberto Korda.

    En este contexto, me parece por demás interesante revisar y repasar algunas de las acciones más conocidas de RSF y de Robert Ménard, su director, quien ha sido acusado de ser un agente de la CIA en varias ocasiones... esperando que el juicio que enfrentan llegue, creo que no está de más...

  • An Authentic Journalist in Haiti

    A correspondent for a major United States daily newspaper, who just returned from Haiti, wrote me this letter today:

    I'm glad to see you've opened the forum on the question of whether Aristide resigned. Well done!

    Click "links/comments" to

  • What's really happening in Venezuela?

    As most of us focus on the latest Narcocoup in Haiti, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez asserts his legitimacy and warns the US away from futher intervention.
  • A new buzz - Political Betrayal Trauma

    Having more reason, than time to focus on the myriad of feelings that comes with civil service and corruption, my brother's prison sentence lends me time to ponder, with 14 seemingly endless years and counting . . .

    A common emotion rolls through each never-ending session; roars up, entwining with crushing force; surfaces again. It is absolutely underlying, cloying, persistent throughout. I find it in people and circumstance that still, years later, I'm forced to consider. It is the hardest issue to confront, reason enough to start notebooks, diaries or blogs, no doubt, the stuff made of madness throughout. It's an emotion, and also a human act.

  • AFP: Aristide Didn't Resign...

    According to Agence France Press:

    A man who said he was a caretaker for the now exiled president told France's RTL radio station the troops forced Aristide out.

    "The American army came to take him away at two in the morning," the man said.

    "The Americans forced him out with weapons.

    "It was American soldiers. They came with a helicopter and they took the security guards.

    "(Aristide) was not happy. He did not want to be taken away. He did not want to leave. He was not able to fight against the Americans..."

    First newspaper to run with this is in Australia.

    Now, his own foreign minister was on CNN earlier today confirming the resignation. But, come to think of it, we haven't seen any resignation letter, we haven't seen or heard audio or video from Aristide since he supposedly "resigned" and...

    ...that's exactly what happened two years ago in the first hours of the Venezuela coup. The press said the president had resigned, when he had been kidnapped.

    (Thanks to Dennis Bernstien of KPFA Flashpoints Radio in San Francisco for alerting us to this report.)


  • Jamaica: Step Closer to Ganja Legalization

    The Jamaica Observer
    reports today:

    The parliamentary committee that was given the job of reviewing the report of the National Commission on Ganja has recommended the acceptance of its proposal that the personal use of small amounts of marijuana be decriminalised...

    We... sense that the mood in Jamaica is tolerant towards the proposed change... In this regard we expect that amendments to reflect the changes in the law will come to the House early in the new session, which starts in April...

    The fact... is that to maintain the laws on ganja use as they currently are, would be to keep legislation out of step with popular sentiment and the society's instinct for justice and fair play.

    The point is that Jamaicans, of all social classes, hardly view marijuana as a "drug" in the way they perceive cocaine or some other narcotic. Small amounts of ganja are culturally acceptable...

    And that's the official editorial position of the newspaper.

  • A Letter from Tim Meehan of Pot TV

    Dear Friends of Authentic Journalism:

    We're at a very unique and special time in the history of our planet: Voices of marginalized peoples are now on the same level of those called on by the establishment media, thanks to the Internet.

    With that in mind, I hope you will carefully consider a donation to the Fund for Authentic Journalism...

  • Mexico City DA Reiterates in Favor of Decriminalization

    The District Attorney of one of the largest cities in the world, Bernardo Batíz of Mexico City, continued this week his public education efforts to explain why decriminalizing drug users would make for a safer city, more room in prison for violent criminals, and more effective law enforcement.

    According to a report last night on the national Channel 11 News, Batíz lectured a city judge about overcrowding in the city's jails and prisons:

    "There are places that are overpopulated by 100, 200 or 300 percent, where you put three or four times as many people as there should be per meter, and this harms security," Batíz warned Judge Luis Rodríguez Manzanera...

    He also insisted that drug consumption should be legalized: "That can be a path to end the mafias. It is the path, also, to succeed in the rehabilitation or cure of those who are addicts, it would make that possible," he said.

    Months ago, when Batíz, of the Center-Left Democratic Revolution Party, called for decriminalization, some beautiful losers claimed he wasn't serious (and they confused him with national prosecutors of a competing political party). But Batíz keeps up the fight!

  • Hispanic agents confront racism in U.S. Customs

    The federal judge hearing a class-action discrimination case filed by a group of Hispanic U.S. Customs agents has handed down a ruling that is a major victory for the agents, according to their attorney, Ron Schmidt.

    Customs was seeking to have the agents’ case dismissed upfront -- on summary judgment -- before legal discovery and a trial. The judge's ruling stopped that effort in its tracks.

    The class-action lawsuit, which was filed in May 2002 on behalf of some 400 active and former Hispanic special agents, alleges that Customs has engaged in a pattern of discrimination. That discrimination, the lawsuit claims, dates back to the 1970s.

    In addition to back-pay and compensatory damages, the Hispanic agents are asking the court to order Customs to cease its “illegal and discriminatory conduct," the lawsuit states.

    In its pleadings for summary judgment, Customs claims that the Hispanic agents failed to exhaust the administrative remedies available to them outside of federal court. Customs also argues that the agents failed to meet the legal threshold for demonstrating discrimination.

  • Argentina City Councilor Proposes to Decriminalize Drugs

    According to the El Ciudadano newspaper, City Councilor Ricardo Barrera, of the Socialist Party in Rosario, Argentina, "wants the Council to approve a declaration to discuss changes in the current law…"

    I've translated some excerpts for your reading pleasure…

  • What is an internal affair?

    My father told me that he was glad to leave the copper mines, and had been just itching to go to war, and defend his country and family. He enlisted, was allowed to return home to say goodbye to his father, Ed Callahan dying of miner's lung and not yet 50 years old. Halfway to the South Pacific my dad got a telegram that his father had died. I have the letters he wrote to his mother, Nora -- I'm her namesake. They are sad indeed.

    I've briefly explained my father's penchant for war stories, but there is more to add. I think that part of the problem that civil servants have, is due to the policy that converts military and combat service particularly, into domestic and other kinds of civilian and international policing. And so, I continue my story.

  • Enter the Authentic Letter Scholarship Contest

    This year's full session of The School of Authentic Journalism promises to be better than ever.  An absolutely astounding faculty of gifted and renowned journalism professionals is being put together for this intensive ten-day program, and this year's campus has the space for a significantly larger student body. This can mean more journalism students than ever before and more Authentic Journalists, trained in the skills, ethics, and issues of reporting on the drug war and democracy from Latin America, who will be challenging mass media distortions in the years to come.  

    The Narco News School of Authentic Journalism has offered one scholarship slot to The Fund for Authentic Journalism as a special incentive to help us to recruit good writers in our fundraising campaign on behalf of Narco News.  This scholarship provides the ability for somebody to attend the ten-day session, tuition free, with room and board included.  Narco News already has a rigorous application process for finding the most promising scholarship applicants. Duplicating it didn't seem to make sense. Since the art of good writing and the art of successful fundraising are so entwined, here is what we're going to do:

    Announcing:  The Authentic Letter Scholarship Contest


  • Red-baiting white paper

    Given all the recent media hype over the CIA's lack of good intelligence on Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion of that country, it's easy to backburner the fact that this nation's intelligence agencies also were accused of dropping the ball with respect to the 9/11 terrorists.

    Now CIA Director George Tenet and Defense Intelligence Agency top gun Lowell Jacoby are all over the news telling us that, beyond Al Qaeda, we face an even greater threat from as-yet-unknown terrorists groups who are being spurred on in the wake of rising anti-Americanism.

    Gee, I wonder why we're ticking so many people off? In any event, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to connect the dots and predict that because there's a rising tide of rage against the United States, there is likely more fuel being thrown on the fire of terrorism.

    But what isn't being asked often enough in the media is what the current administration was focusing on prior to 9/11 in terms of perceived terrorist threats. A little-notice report prepared for the Department of Energy (DOE) some five months prior to 9/11 offers some clues.

    It seems, according to that report, that some elements of the Bush administration were concerned about a potential rise in "left wing" terrorism. The title of the report says it all: Left-Wing Extremism: The Current Threat.

  • Warlords and Whistleblowers, civil service and cynicism

    Bill Conroy's, Borderline Security has prompted me to begin this notebook, blog, or diary.

    Why do we have warlords or whistleblowers, and fewer civil servants in between the extremes? The topic begs for discussion, and I have some personal thoughts of my own to share.

    My father was a combat veteran of World War II, my mother a suburban pioneer with a lifetime of hurt behind her -- or thinking so when I came along in 1953. Growing up on white bread and thousands of bloody war stories, my oral history was punctuated by fantastic tales of survival in the 'hardest times there were.' The Great Depression and World War II were as steady a stream in our home as tea, coffee and old friends. I was raised under the shadow of remarkable events.

    I was never sure if I was supposed to be grateful for growing up in cold war peace, and shopping ample aisles of grocery stores, or to feel guilty that I was. So I did both.

    My public education included 'duck and cover' exercises in school.  People who love peace, having lots of enemies -- a tired line, revived today -- was literally drilled into me as a child.

    "How is that supposed to keep us alive if the A-bomb hits?" I would ask my teacher, after we pulled our terrified bodies from under our desks. Furthermore, how do you study after a near death experience?

  • Comments Rating System Is Now Turned On

    Colleagues and Copublishers,

    Now that 80 of our 118 original copublishers are in the door, a critical mass has begun commenting, and there are starting to be more comments, we've turned on the "comments rating system" which allows you, the copublishers, to "vote" on which comments get linked on both page one of Narco News, and the front page of this Narcosphere.

    That means that YOU, the copublishers, collectively decide which comments get page one placement. This is the main way that we assure that comments, corrections, enhancements, and additional information - especially regarding those news stories reported on Narco News - that the copublishers feel are important get prominent billing for the wider and massive universe of readers. In this, as publisher, I'm surrendering a significant amount of control to you.

    Here, below, is how the ratings system works...

  • Hard Number Time

    Hard Number Time.

    $7,023.  That's the grand total raised for Narco News through The Fund for Authentic Journalism since we started over New Year's.  Much of that money, along with funds raised for Narco News last year via the (now defunct) LiveArt1st, allowed us to qualify for that first $10,000 installment of our matching grant from Tides.  

    $3,443.  That's the total raised since February 5th.  That's everything we can be certain counts toward the next $10,000 batch of matching funds.  That's just over one third of the way there.  

    $129.69  That's the average per day of what we've raised this year.  That's a handful of people.  Sometimes even one person.  But always someone.  One person at a time, putting their money where their beliefs are, who wont let mass media distortions go by unchallenged.  

    1   Minute.  That's all it takes to contribute, right now.  Please, go to and use the PayPal buttons to make a contribution today.  Thank you.  

  • How Not to Practice Journalism

    Last week's vicious smear and libel campaign against Brazilian drug policy reform leader Fábio Mesquita (read about his timely exoneration here) was an atrocity. The perpetrator, Phil Smith of DRCNet, instead of admitting that he was wrong by posting a correction and offering the apology that any professional journalist would offer, hides in his bunker.

    Narco News has obtained the texts of four "private" emails that are now published here, below. They demonstrate grossly unethical journalism on the part of Smith. We didn't hack anybody's email account: Smith sent them, by accident, last week to a public mailing list. He later posted a message to that list confessing: "This was supposed to be a private message."

    The emails reveal:

    1. Prior intent, by Smith, to smear Fábio Mesquita.
    2. That Smith reported information he knew to be untrue in his newsletter.
    3. Dishonesty, by Smith, to his sources regarding the subject of his article.
    4. The suggestion that Smith unethically shared his text, in advance, with one side of the conflict.
    5. The fundamental unfairness of conducting interviews in English with native Spanish and Portuguese speakers.
    6. The presence of the legal definition of "malice" in Smith's reporting.
    If you don't like to read someone's emails that were intended to be private, nobody's forcing you to click to read more. But for those of us who care about journalism and ethics, this is a textbook case on how not to do it.

  • Copublishers Introductions... ¡Presente!

    Now that more than half of our copublishers are in the door, with others constantly arriving, let's hear from each of ya with a brief introduction here on this thread.

    Present your brilliant copublishing selves!

    Al Giordano, ¡Presente!. I live somewhere in a country called América (too often in various somewheres all at once). I'm a journalist who reports on the drug war and democracy from Latin America, and I'm publisher of Narco News. I offer my partisan political opinions over at my weblog,, so if anyone wants to play at elections and that kind of thing, you're invited over there, too.

    I sometimes subsidize this intercontinental ballistic trilingual online newspaper by strumming my Dobro in clubs. Over the next year, thanks to a recent stroke of good luck in the legal system, I (who have never owned a house before) plan on constructing a permanent oceanside campus-newsroom for the School of Authentic Journalism. In future years, we'll see some of you there, no doubt.

    In the meantime, we're hard at work in the Narco Newsroom, and I'm very excited that so many of you are already here, inside the Narcosphere. Ahead of us on the highway is immediate history, and we're gaining on it!

  • State Dept. Heavy Dispatched to Brazil

    That didn't take long.

    Days after Brazil's Congress approved a bill to decriminalize drug users, a heavy hitter from Foggy Bottom was dispatched to Brazil to discuss, among other matters, "security concerns including terrorism and narcotrafficking," according to this press release from the U.S. General Consulate in São Paulo:

    Brasília, February 19, 2004 Under Secretary of State Marc Grossman, the State Department’s top political affairs official, is visiting Brazil February 18-19. After touring the new facilities of the U.S. Consulate General in São Paulo on February 18, Grossman will hold talks today with high-level Brazilian government officials in Brasília. These annual discussions are part of an on-going bilateral dialogue between the United States and Brazil.

    Under Secretary Grossman will review a wide range of bilateral and multilateral issues in his meetings with senior Brazilian officials. Among the topics to be discussed are the state of bilateral relations, U.S. and Brazilian views on matters of regional and global importance, the United Nations, and security concerns including terrorism and narcotrafficking.

    Let's take this opportunity to look at the U.S. Embassy and Consulate's team on the field in Brasilia and São Paulo, and their past histories that just happen to coincide with US Embassy dirty tricks and other atrocities in those regions, for some perspective on the underhanded smear campaign that has begun against leading drug policy reform advocates in Brazil at the very moment that the movement is on the verge of victory...

  • Thanks and Introductions

    It’s almost a week now that we’ve been online here, and I thought it was about time I introduced myself and said a few things about how we’re doing so far. I’m the Narco News Webmaster, in charge of the technical aspects of this experiment, or forum, or publication, or community, or war machine, or whatever you want to call it. I’ll be using my reporters’ notebook here, in part, to discuss the evolution of this site into what we all expect to be a really unique and vital space for all authentic journalists.
  • Around América on February 20th

    The Drug User Decriminalization Law passed the Brazilian Congress!

    I informed y'all this would happen eight days ago.

    More details, plus news from Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, and...

    Miami Oligarchs on Parade Tomorrow!

    Details follow below...

  • Secret vetting at Customs

    Earlier this week, I received a letter -- sent anonymously. It was stuffed with documents, including a memo written by Colleen Kelley, the president of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU). The union represents some 13,000 Customs employees who work for the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) -- which is under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  

    The NTEU, which has endorsed Sen. John F. Kerry for president, is currently battling the Bush administration and DHS over proposed workplace rule changes that will severely limit the union's ability to represent workers within the new super department.  

    The leaked Kelley memo, which is directed to NTEU chapter presidents, also deals with a workplace-rights issue. The memo, dated Nov. 14, 2003, is the real thing. A spokesman for the union confirmed that fact.  

    The memo reveals something quite startling in terms of how the government operates with respect to promoting the right people to the right jobs. Essentially, the memo indicates that since December 1998 Customs has maintained a "secret vetting" policy that requires that background checks be run at the headquarters level on employees who are up for promotion.  

    So why is this a big deal?  

    One Customs inspector interviewed put it this way: "There's a secret vetting list that the agency has. What that means is they have opened a file on your name, to be used for anything."  


  • A "Cotton Gin" for the Fourth Estate

    The "issue of blogging" that is pounding at the gates of Commercial Media is becoming a kind of modern-day Cotton Gin: separating the fiber from the chaff in our profession.

    The good news is that some prominent media critics with long experience in journalism are starting to weigh in defense of the bloggers.

    Jay Rosen, at New York University and PressThink, comments here.

    As already mentioned, Cynthia Cotts, at The Village Voice, comments here.

    (Both were attentive and nice enough to quote me accurately.)

    And also worth repeating, Philadelphia City Paper editor and media critic Howard Altman cheers the return of Narco News.

    This is becoming one of the healthiest discussions and debates among journalists in a long, long, time.

    So, don't be shy, copublishers: Jump into the conversation.

  • Around América on February 19, 2004

    I'll be publishing some questions about Haiti and the coup attempt (see my notebook entry of yesterday) on Narco News later today.

    Meanwhile, there is lots of news around the hemisphere...

    Honduran television journalist Renato Alvarez, 38, sentenced to 32 months in prison for "defamation" of a National Party politician who he labeled a "narco-trafficker," according to AP Español. It's a horrible precedent, but the glass is half-full: His prison time is suspended and he'll pay a fine of $800 dollars and do some community service work. The authorities want to intimidate journalists, but not, apparently, create martyrs for the international press. Still, heed Alvarez's warning:

    "They've now begun with the journalists and tomorrow (the government) will restrict the freedom of speech of Honduran citizens who fight against the current State... The people are tired of so much injustice in the country."

    More of today's Narco News Round-up, with reports and links from Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela, below...

  • Philadelphia City Paper Welcomes Us Back

    Editor, journalist, and media critic Howard Altman welcomes Narco News back in today's issue of the Philadelphia City Paper.

    About the return of Narco News, he writes, "Watch out, America," and notes that we're "on a mission… to change the way news is gathered and distributed…."

    "It’s good news for most of Latin America and anyone who questions how our government operates down there. It’s good news for anyone who has doubts about the so-called war on drugs (remember that?) and the way corporate media covers the world.

    "It's bad news for the people who don't want you to know what's going on in Latin America. It's bad news for those who want no light shed on drugs or revolution. It's bad news for the Bush administration, which did its best to topple President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela..."

  • How We Got Here

    Hi folks.  Al Giordano suggested a regular blog from the treasurer of The Fund for Authentic Journalism would be a great way to keep people involved in the fundraising end of this operation, up to date with our progress and fully informed about the twists and turns that come up along the way.  Our aim is more than just keeping the Narco News funded.  We want to demonstrate a new model of financial support for journalism that provides the resources necessary to produce the finest journalism without any of the corrupting pressures inherent in advertising and other models.  So hopefully this space will keep your interest.  I'm humbled by having a blog appear alongside such fantastic writers as are lined up for the NarcoSphere, but I'll do my best to keep up.  

    First, I want to tell you a bit about where we are and how we got here….


  • Coup Attempt in Haiti

    A Narco News reader, Thomas, writes me that he's "disappointed" that we're not reporting from Haiti.

    I'm disappointed too. We don't yet count with the resources to put a reporter on the ground there. (The Fund for Authentic Journalism treasurer, Andrew Grice, will shortly appear here in the Narcosphere to explain that we're still waiting on pledged funds.)

    But I have thought of who could do the job, if resources suddenly became available: Paging Stan Goff.

    Meanwhile, click the "read more" link for a round up of links to the latest news reports on what is occuring in this Caribbean country...

  • Around América on February 17, 2004

    Part of journalism involves, obviously, deciding what to investigate and write about.

    Here in the Nomadic Narco Newsroom, we review what other journalists, media, and bloggers are saying on events throughout the hemisphere, daily. Sometimes we notice gaps, or falsehoods, in the coverage, and that often suggests a job for Narco News to fill in the blanks, or to deepen a story that is only told superficially.

    Today, with the introduction of The Narcosphere, the readers become more involved in pointing us toward the news that is already out there, and what Authentic Journalists need to do about it.

    If you've seen a story today about the drug war and democracy in Latin America, give us the link, here, and add your comments on the news, and your critiques of how it could have been reported better.

    I'll post some below, in the comments, too.

  • Welcome to the Narcosphere

    Veteran journalist Chris Lydon has a name for it: "the transformation."

    A fundamental shift is underway in how politics and fundraising are practiced: from dependence on the financiers at the top levels of the economy to a more authentically democratic model of a wide base of support from below.

  • The God of Shit

    Shit was a word that was prohibited in my childhood home.  We tried alternatives:

    "Oh, crap!"

    "You're not going to use that word in this household!"

    "Oh, crud!"

    "That means the same thing!"

    Thus three four-letter words were eliminated from my useful vocabulary at a very early age.  I grew up not liking them.  I advanced in wisdom and age not using them.

    Now it wasn't that there was no strong language used around our house. One of my sisters mentioned that my father spoke five or six languages.  My mother only three:  English, German and Profanity.  English was the language used with the natives and the kids; German with the few Austrians and Germans in Cheyenne, Wyoming who weren't ashamed to continue speaking it while World War II raged on; and, Profanity which was reserved to use on my father on special occasions when my mother had a need to verbally dump on him.  There is an explanation as to how my mother learned each of these three languages but I will share that another day.  I would also like to add that I think my mother was a very holy person.

    The point that I would like to establish at the very beginning of my blogging life is that I grew up hating the word "shit."

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