Friday, April 07, 2006

Media Alert: Cartoon Time - Channel 4 Smears Chavez

By: Media Lens

Media Lens: Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media

On March 27, Channel 4 News included a report by Washington Correspondent Jonathan Rugman: 'Hugo to go?' (

Rugman relentlessly smeared Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, in a piece described by John Pilger as "one of the worst, most distorted pieces of journalism I have ever seen". (Email to Channel 4 News, copied to Media Lens, March 27, 2006)

Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow introduced the film:

"Now, he's the president with his own television show and a stream of semi-humorous invective hurled at America and George Bush. Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez, accuses the US of planning to invade his country to take control of its vast oil reserves. And last night he invoked the ultimate deterrent - the bow and arrow dipped in Indian poison. 'If we have to put a few arrows into the invading gringo, then you'll be done in thirty seconds.'"

Snow is of course known for his own semi-humorous take on politics. But in the context of Rugman's report, and of wider political commentary, this introduction fits well as part of the ongoing cartoonisation of Chávez.

Cartoon 'bad guys' are of course depicted as absurd and wicked, and as being absurdly delighted by their wickedness. Likewise, enemies of the West are consistently painted by the media as ridiculous and menacing. Western leaders, on the other hand, are presented as dignified and rational - serious people who have ascended to the summit of a meritocratic social order. Thus, Snow followed his comical portrait of Chávez by noting the mature concerns of sensible people in the West:

"Venezuela is the world's fifth largest oil exporter, and a major supplier to America itself - that causes jitters in Washington, where Chávez is seen as a demagogue who could spearhead a regional shift to the left. Chávez is undoubtedly popular at home, where he's spent billions on health and education programmes to improve the lives of the country's poor, although his critics point to an increasingly authoritarian streak."

The opening moments of Rugman's report recalled the Guardian's infamous October 2005 smear in which Noam Chomsky was pictured with Fidel Castro, John Pilger, and "en route to Hanoi to give a speech to the North Vietnamese". Chomsky commented at the time:

"That's my life: honoring commie-rats and the renegade who is the source of the word 'pilgerize' invented by journalists furious about his incisive and courageous reporting, and knowing that the only response they are capable of is ridicule." ('Chomsky answers Guardian,' November 13, 2005;

Rugman's film similarly showed footage of Chávez with Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein and Qadaffi. Rugman's voiceover, strident and dramatic, hammered home the point:

"He supplies 15 per cent of America's oil, yet America's enemies are his friends. Hugo Chávez, in danger of joining a rogue's gallery of dictators and despots - Washington's latest Latin nightmare".

The film repeatedly depicted Chávez as a dictatorial menace, referring to his "personality cult" and to factories run as "Soviet-style collectives". Rugman asked:

"Is Chávez on the way to becoming a dictator?"

If so, what species of monster might we be contemplating?:

"He's no Saddam, but what's happening here does feel eerily familiar. A strongman buoyed up by oil defying the United States, using oil wealth to rearm and consolidate his own power. Setting off alarm bells in Washington where securing energy is a key foreign policy goal. A petro-state heading for a showdown with its northern neighbour."

"Rearm" is a media trigger word intended to suggest a resurgent menace - Hitler rearmed after the first world war. Saddam was rearming (we were told). When exactly did mighty Venezuela disarm?

Washington's goal is merely "securing energy" - surely a reasonable, rational priority for any modern, high-tech state. There was not a word about the unreasonable, barbaric corporate greed that has led the United States to exploit, terrorise and devastate its defenceless southern neighbours for decades.

Rugman interviewed Maria Corina Machado, describing her as a "civil rights activist". In fact she is a leader of Sumate. Last November, the New York Times reported:

"Ms. Machado does not hide her close relations with Washington, which has provided financial aid to Sumate, the anti-Chávez, election-monitoring organization she helps run. In May, she infuriated the government when she met with President Bush at the White House, and she further antagonized officials in September by announcing that Sumate had received a fresh infusion of $107,000 from Washington." (Juan Forero, 'Venezuela's best-loved, or maybe most-hated, citizen,' New York Times, November 19, 2005)

In a March 23 report Rugman again described Machado as a "civil rights activist", citing her as the source for his claim that "government critics" are "fearing another Zimbabwe here". (Rugman, 'Lord Vestey's farm,' Channel 4 News, March 23, 2006;

John Pilger sent a letter to Channel 4 News complaining of Rugman's report:

"This was a piece seemingly written by the US State Department, although Channel 4's Washington correspondent, Jonathan Rugman, appeared on screen. It was one of the worst, most distorted pieces of journalism I have ever seen, qualifying as crude propaganda. I have been in Venezuela lately and almost nothing in Rugman's rant coincides with reality. Factories are like 'Soviet collectives'; a dictatorship is on the rise; Chávez is like Hitler (Rumsfeld); and the media is under government attack. The inversion of the truth throughout this travesty is demonstrated in the 'coverage' of a cowed media. Venezuela is a country in which 95 per cent of the press and TV and radio are owned by the far-right, who mount unrelenting daily attacks on the government unhindered. The Latin American Murdoch, Cisneros, unfettered, controls much of it. Indeed, it is probably the most concentrated, reactionary media on earth - but that was not worthy of a single word from Rugman." (Pilger, op., cit)

Chávez - Doing Something For The Poor

First elected in 1998, Chávez launched massive campaigns, described as Bolivarian Missions (named after the Venezuelan revolutionary, Simon Bolivar), to combat disease, illiteracy, malnutrition, poverty, and other social ills. In a country of 25 million people, 1.4 million have been taught to read and write, while three million previously excluded from education due to poverty had enrolled in the education system. Seventy per cent of the population now enjoys access to free health care while 45 per cent receive subsidised food. Julia Buxton, a British scholar of Venezuelan politics, argues that the Chávez government "has brought marginalised and excluded people into the political process and democratised power". (Buxton, 'Resisting Confusion: Pundit Michael Shifter and Venezuela,' April 23, 2005;

Chomsky comments on Chávez:

"The wealthy and the privileged hate him. On the other hand, the great majority of the population is very impoverished and has always been kept out of the country's enormous wealth. This Bolivarian Revolution, whatever you and I may think about it, is actually doing something for the poor and apparently they are reacting." (Chomsky interviewed by Steven Durel, 'Toward Freedom,' Social Change Today, November 7, 2005;

Radical attempts to raise the living standards of the poor are not welcomed by US elites. Such reforms risk creating "the threat of a good example", unleashing demands for greater equality and justice among impoverished people across the region. The potential cost to Western corporations exploiting this poverty is incalculable.

Thomas Carothers, a former Reagan State Department official, described US policy in Latin America. He explained how the US sought to maintain "the basic order of... quite undemocratic societies" and to avoid "populist-based change" that might upset "established economic and political orders" and open "a leftist direction". (Quoted, Neil Lewis, 'What can the US really do about Haiti?', New York Times, December 6, 1987)

In February, US media watch dog, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), reported that 95 per cent of the nearly 100 US press commentaries covering Venezuelan politics during the first six months of 2005 expressed clear hostility to Chávez.

The Wall Street Journal labelled Chávez a "tyrant" and "strongman", claiming he had presided over "the collapse of democracy". Three Journal editorials also referred to Chávez as a "strongman", while the editorial board suggested that Chávez should be placed on a list of the world's worst dictators. The Los Angeles Times called Chávez a "would-be dictator," arguing he engaged in "undemocratic tactics". (Justin Delacour, 'The Op-Ed Assassination of Hugo Chávez,' February 13, 2006;

And yet the Venezuelan government and its programme of change have been ratified by the Venezuelan electorate in eight elections and referenda. FAIR noted that, in spite of the fact that recent polls indicate that Chávez's domestic approval rating is above 70 per cent, "almost all commentaries about Venezuela represent the views of a small minority of the country, led by a traditional economic elite that has repeatedly attempted to overthrow the government in clearly anti-democratic ways". (Ibid)

Similarly, in Britain the Independent wrote of "the Venezuelan strongman, Hugo Chávez". (Rupert Cornwell, 'The 5-minute briefing: South America's struggle towards democracy,' The Independent, April 22, 2005) The Financial Times wrote of how "the populist militaristic strongman has irked Washington with his anti-US rhetoric". (Andy Webb-Vidal, 'US softens its stance on Venezuela in belief Chávez will hang on to power,' Financial Times, August 6, 2004)

Chávez insists America is planning to invade his country. Chomsky argues that this would probably already have happened, but for the disastrous turn of events in Iraq.

Some kind of military action is certainly an option for the West. In an April 2002 article titled, 'US "gave the nod" to Venezuelan coup,' the Guardian reported US involvement in a coup that temporarily removed Chávez from office earlier that month. A few weeks before the coup attempt, US administration officials had met business leaders who took over the interim government after Chávez was arrested. The US defence department also confirmed that the Venezuelan army's chief of staff, General Rincon, visited the Pentagon the previous December and met senior officials.

Although the Organisation of American States denounced the coup attempt, as did all Venezuela's neighbours, Washington was eager to acknowledge the new government, declaring: "A transitional civilian government has been installed. This government has promised early elections." (Julian Borger and Alex Bellos, 'US 'gave the nod' to Venezuelan coup,' The Guardian, April 17, 2002)

In February, Tony Blair preached ethics to Venezuela:

"It is rather important that the government of Venezuela realise that if they want to be respected members of the international community they should abide by the rules of the international community." ('Chávez rejects "attack" by Blair';, February 9, 2006)

The response from Chávez was telling:

"You, Mr Blair, do not have the morality to call on anyone to respect the rules of the international community. You are precisely the one who has flouted international law the most... siding with Mr Danger [George Bush] to trample the people in Iraq."

By contrast, Jonathan Rugman said of the invasion of Iraq:

"Yes, the Americans want democracy here, but they don't want to die for it." (Channel 4 News, November 12, 2003)

Rugman warned, without irony, that if the Americans "democratise too quickly" they risked handing power over to Shia clerics.

There is an ugly truth behind the high technology, smart suits and genial smiles - the modern mass media system provides the vital propaganda component for a brutal system of exploitation.

But what will we see when the cruise missiles scorch the skies over Venezuela? When yet more poor, brown-skinned people are left incinerated by the weapons of the wealthy? Will we see the real thing: terrible crimes, the trampling of hope - the West once again imposing poverty for profit on helpless human beings?

Or will we see the media's version: one more tinpot dictator getting what he deserved? A "rogue's gallery" of cronies and lackeys - the "willing executioners" of a "rogue state" - receiving their just desserts? Will the Sun headline read: 'Chávez Shafted!'? Will we see our leaders sincerely mourning the "collateral damage" inflicted on the loved ones and little ones with whom, as ever, "we have no argument"?

Will we be appalled, or will we stand a little taller, a little prouder, alongside the Rugmans at the thought that the civilised West has once again made its "tough choices" wisely in bringing "order" to this unruly world?


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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

John Pilger's Email To Channel 4's Jon Snow (re: Snow's anti-Chavez bullshit article)

John Pilger Email To Channel 4's Jon Snow
Posted by The Editors on March 28, 2006, 9:39 am
User logged in as: Editor

A version has been sent personally to Jon Snow...
The Editors


Last night (March 27), Channel 4 News broadcast a relatively long piece on Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela. On Channel 4's website you get a flavour: "He is in danger of joining a rogue's gallery of dictators and despots -- Washington's latest Latin nightmare."

This was a piece seemingly written by the US State Department, although Channel 4's Washington correspondent, Jonathan Rugman, appeared on screen. It was one of the worst, most distorted pieces of journalism I have ever seen, qualifying as crude propaganda. I have been in Venezuela lately and almost nothing in Rugman's rant coincides with reality. Factories are like "Soviet collectives"; a dictatorship is on the rise; Chavez is like Hitler (Rumsfeld); and the media is under government attack. The inversion of the truth throughout this travesty is demonstrated in the "coverage" of a cowed media. Venezuela is a country in which 95 per cent of the press and TV and radio are owned by the far-right. who mount unrelenting daily attacks on the government unhindered. The Latin American Murdoch, Cisneros, unfettered, controls much of it. Indeed, it is probably the most concentrated, reactionary media on earth -- but that was not worthy of a single word from Rugman.

The dishonesty of interviewing Maria Corina Machado and calling her a "human rights activist" was breathtaking. She is a leader of Sumate ('Join up'), an extreme right organisati on that was deeply involved in the 2002 coup. She met Bush in the White House shortly before the coup. There was no mention of this. Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, is dismissed as a Chavez protege", a puppet, a ludicrous description of a man who has been in polityics longer than Chavez and has just won a landslide election. No mention of this.

Chavez himself is portrayed by Rugman as a comical dictator, with his folksy Latin way (one reason ordinary people love him) taken out of any context. In fact, this highly intelligent, accessible man has overseen victory in nine democratic elections in less than eight years -- a world record. In crude Soviet-flick style, he is shown with the likes of Saddam Hussein and Gaddafy when these brief encounters only had to do with Opec and oil. (He met Saddam literally in a day-long stopover).

Chavez is said to have "torn up contracts" with foreign oil companies. The con tracts were barely legal, based on loopholes which Chavez's predecessaor Rafael Caldera exploited to give away much of Venezuela's oil, in effect; billions of dollars went into the pockets of Venezuela's wealthy minority. No mention of this.

Utter bullshit about Venezuela helping Iran develop a nuclear capability is sourced to "press reports" (discredited in the United States) peddled by axe-grinding outsiders, in league with Washington, along with other half-baked hearsay. There was little, apart from tokens, about the way the Chavez government has changed millions of people's lives for the better. Rugman whined that he was "held for 30 hours" by police in Caracas. Oh, how dramatic for him. This is a country threatened day and night by the United States; there was nothing from our Channel 4 hero about "Operation Bilbao", to which serious US analysts like William Arkin have given credibility and which is about overthrowing the elected government of Ve nezuela. In his brief captivity, Rugman would have learned that this is a country, although under constant military threat, and threats from within, has not a single political prisoner.

While Chavez was offered up as a clown, Condaleeza Rice was given true gravitas. I could go on, but that's enough. This was a disgrace from beginning to end. Worse, it joined the kind of hysteria in the US that is following the Bush administration's agenda of "positioning" Venezuela as a "rogue state" and a threat to US interests: in other words, softening it up for attack. If and when it comes, the Rugmans will share some of the responsibility.

John Pilger

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Long Live The 9/11 Conspiracy! Anyone still care about the heap of disturbing, unsolved questions surrounding Our Great Tragedy?

Long Live The 9/11 Conspiracy!
Anyone still care about the heap of disturbing, unsolved questions surrounding Our Great Tragedy?

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Here is your must-read for the month. Here is your oh-my-God- I'm-sending-this-piece- to-every-smart-person-I-know hunk of outstanding, distressing, disquieting media bliss.

Here it is: an absolutely exceptional inside scoop on the white-hot world of Sept. 11 conspiracy theories [], writ large and smart by Mark Jacobson over at New York magazine, and it's mandatory reading for anyone and everyone who's ever entertained the nagging thought that something -- or rather, far more than one something -- is deeply wrong with the official line on what actually happened on Sept. 11.

See, it is very likely that you already know that Sept. 11 will go down in the conspiracy history books as a far more sinister affair than, say, the murky swirl of the Kennedy assassination. You probably already know that much of what exactly happened on Sept. 11 remains deeply unsettling and largely unsolved -- or to put another way, if you don't know all of this and if you fully and blithely accept the official Sept. 11 story, well, you haven't been paying close enough attention.

But on this, the third anniversary of the launch of Bush's illegal invasion of Iraq by way of whoring the tragedy of Sept. 11 for his cronies' appalling gain, what you might not know, what gets so easily forgotten in the mists of time and via the endless repetition of the orthodox Sept. 11 tale, is the sheer volume, the staggering array of unanswered questions about just about every single aspect of Sept. 11 -- the planes, the WTC towers, the Pentagon, the fires, the passengers and the cell phone calls and the firefighters and, well, just about everything. It is, when you look closely, all merely a matter of how far down the rabbit hole you are willing to go.

Verily, Jacobson, in his New York mag piece, encounters crackpots and fringe nutballs and those who think Sept. 11 was connected to aliens and electromagnetic fields and the Illuminati. It can, unfortunately, get a little crazy. But there is also a very smart, grounded, intelligent and surprisingly large faction -- which includes eyewitnesses, Sept. 11 widows, former generals, pilots, professors, engineers, WTC maintenance workers and many, many more -- who point to a rather shocking pile of evidence that says there is simply no way 19 fanatics with box cutters sent by some bearded lunatic in a cave could have pulled off the most perfectly orchestrated air attack of the century. Not without serious help, anyway.

Whose help? This, of course, is the biggest question of all, one which many of the more well-researched theories go a surprisingly long way toward answering.

You have to sift and sort. There are disturbing questions about collapse speeds and controlled demolitions and why the towers fell when the all-steel infrastructure was designed to easily withstand the temperatures of any sort of fire, even burning jet fuel. There are questions of the mysterious, media-documented blasts deep in the WTC towers that took place after the planes hit. There are questions of why there was such a short-selling spree on shares of American Airlines and United Air Lines the day before the attack, huge doubts about the failures of NORAD and the FAA, the bizarre case of the missing plane in the Pentagon crash, and also the downing of Flight 93 where, according to the coroner, no blood or major plane wreckage was actually found. There is, ultimately, the stunning failure of the entire multi-trillion-dollar American air-defense system. Just for starters.

There is also the very big question of what happened to 7 WTC, the only building not hit by anything at all, but which collapsed anyway, in a perfect controlled-demolition sort of way, for no reason anyone can sufficiently explain. But which just so happened to contain vital offices for the IRS, the Department of Defense, the CIA, the Secret Service, the Securities and Exchange Commission and more.

But perhaps Jacobson's article is insufficient for you. Perhaps you have heard much of it before, or you're more of the visceral type and need to actually see the proofs in order to delve deeper, have them laid out like gruesome body parts in a mesmerizing autopsy. Fair enough.

For you, we have the surprisingly compelling indie documentary "9/11 Loose Change" (Google it), freely available on the Internet and produced by three very astute and very young and very strong-willed dudes who managed to cobble together a truly astounding array of proofs and interviews and evidence, a full 1 hour and 20 minutes' worth of mesmerizing footage you will not be able to easily forget.

Or maybe you should peruse one of the countless Sept. 11 conspiracy sites, many of which link to relevant video and one of which -- -- claims to be "a non-partisan association of faculty, students, and scholars, in fields as diverse as history, science, military affairs, psychology, and philosophy, dedicated to exposing falsehoods and to revealing truths behind 9/11." Start there.

Now, it's very true that some of the more specious conspiracy claims have been largely discredited and proved false. Some of the more radical "evidence" gathered by theorists is quite suspect and easily placed in the category of no-way-in-hell. This is valid. This is as it should be. You have to chew through a lot of skin and gristle to get to the real meat.

But oh the meat. The overwhelming quantity, the bloody, deadly stench of it. Fact is, it is quite impossible to watch the entire "Loose Change" documentary and not come away just a little shaken, a little awed by the sheer number of perversely interrelated facts and aberrant coincidences-that-aren't-coincidences, shaking your head at how it all seems to irrefutably prove there is far, far more to the Sept. 11 tragedy than just crazy Osama and his band of zealots, as you begin to sink into a sighing morass of rage and frustration and suspicion and mistrust. You almost can't help it.

Of course, there is another option. There is another way out. You may, as is the standard cultural default, simply ignore it all, scoff and roll your eyes and shrug it all off because it's just too bleak and distasteful to entertain the idea that the dark Sept. 11 thread winds all the way through the NSA and the FBI and the White House and the Project for the New American Century and Dick Cheney's mangled soul and God only knows where else.

But then again, no. You have to look. You have to try. Knowledge is power, and while the truth may be spurious and slippery and messy and deep, the pursuit of it is just about the only thing we have left. Give that up, and all that's left is spiritual numbness, emotional stasis and death. So what are you waiting for?

Thoughts for the author? E-mail him.

Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SF Gate and in the Datebook section of the SF Chronicle. To get on the e-mail list for this column, please click here and remove one article of clothing. Mark's column also has an RSS feed and an archive of past columns, which includes a tiny photo of Mark probably insufficient for you to recognize him in the street and give him gifts.

As if that weren't enough, Mark also contributes to the hot, spankin' SF GateCulture Blog.

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DeLay implicated in Florida gangland hit of casino boats owner.

Former GOP Majority Leader Tom DeLay's surprise announcement that he will resign from Congress in a few weeks and not stand for re-election after winning the GOP primary in his Houston area district came after a bombshell was dropped in the Broward County, Florida trial of former John Gotti hit man Anthony "Big Tony" Moscatiello for the February 2001 gangland slaying of Sun Cruz casino boat owner Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis. Moscatiello is on trial with Anthony "Little Tony" Ferrari and James "Pudgy" Fiorillo in the murder of Boulis.

On April 1, the Miami Herald reported that Moscatiello was a long time informant for the FBI at the time of the murder of Boulis. Moscatiello quit his association with the the FBI shortly after the murder of Boulis. Recently convicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his colleague Adam Kidan forced Boulis to sell Sun Cruz Casino Cruises to them in a scheme engineered by Gov. Jeb Bus to establish a GOP money launcering contrivance. The state pressured Boulis, a Greek national, to sell Sun Cruz to Abramoff because of an obscure state requirement that shipping companies be owned by U.S. citizens. Jeb Bush, using Florida's regulatory mechanisms behind the scenes, ensured Boulis was pressured to divest his interests in Sun Cruz to Abramoff.

WMR sources report that Broward County prosecutors are livid about the failure of the FBI to inform them that Moscatiello was an FBI informant at the time of the Boulis murder. They are convinced that the George W. and Jeb Bush administrations in Washington and Tallahassee, respectively, deliberately blocked the prosecution from linking Moscatiello to the criminal cases against Abramoff and Kidan. Kidan placed Moscatiello and Ferrari on the Sun Cruz payroll after Abramoff assumed control of the company. Abramoff and Kidan were sentenced to over 5 years in prison last week for lying to financers in their purchase of Sun Cruz from Boulis. The light sentences were the result of plea agreements in which they promised to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

However, the Sun Cruz case goes far beyond Abramoff and involves DeLay, according to informed sources. The Broward County prosecutors believe that the FBI's written summaries (FD-302s) of their interviews with Moscatiello were withheld from the prosecution by the FBI in order to protect senior GOP officials. Had the prosecution known Moscatiello was an FBI informer, he could have been offered a plea bargain in return for his cooperation against Republican politicians in Florida and Washington, DC.

The story behind the story: DeLay's involvement with Florida gangland mobsters probed by prosecutors stymied by withheld FBI interview forms and obstruction from George W. and Jeb Bush.

Prosecutors and investigative reporters in Miami and Fort Lauderdale are focusing on the time line involving Sun Cruz, Boulis, Abramoff, and DeLay. In February 2000, Abramoff began negotiations with Boulis for the sale of Sun Cruz, which Boulis eventually sold to Abramoff for a mere $147 million. At the time, Abramoff was a lobbyist for the well-connected Preston Gates law firm. After the November 2000 election of George W. Bush, Boulis protested that he had been defrauded by Abramoff and Kidan in the sale of Sun Cruz. To avoid legal issues, Abramoff and Kidan began to make legal moves to move Sun Cruz's corporate headquarters from Florida to the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas.

On December 13, 2000, Abramoff's Sun Cruz paid $145,000 to Moscatiello for "consulting services." On January 19, 2001, one day prior to the inauguration of George W. Bush, Boulis filed court action to block Abramoff's and Kidan's involvement with Sun Cruz. On January 20, 2001, Kidan and former DeLay aide Michael Scanlon met in DeLay's congressional office in Washington to "officially" celebrate the Bush inauguration. Scanlon, former DeLay aide Tony Rudy, Abramoff, and Kidan are all cooperating with federal prosecutors after agreeing to plea agreements.

On January 25, 2001, Abramoff reportedly flew DeLay's senior staffer Tim Berry, named his chief of staff in 2002, to Tampa for the Super Bowl and a meeting on one of the Sun Cruz casino boats. Suspiciously, Berry did not report the trip on disclosure forms, something DeLay's office later called an "honest mistake."

On February 6, 2001, Boulis was shot to death in his car after leaving his Fort Lauderdale office. Florida prosecutors have uncovered preliminary evidence that Sun Cruz was wrested from Boulis to enable hundreds of millions of dollars in cash could be laundered into GOP campaigns, including the DeLay and Bush-Cheney 2004 campaigns, from the casino boats.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Israel and Moral Blackmail - The Israel lobby is bringing out the big guns

The reaction to a pathbreaking – or, rather, taboo-busting – study of how and why Israel's interests came to be substituted for America's national interests in Washington policymaking circles, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," [.pdf] by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, has confirmed, in part, its thesis.

"The Lobby," as the authors call it, effectively works to control the debate over our Israel-centric policy in the Middle East by ensuring that there is no debate. Congress has been captured through their exemplary use of pressure tactics, and the editorial pages of the nation's newspapers and magazines are also dominated by the Israel-Firsters, where the same imbalance prevails. In a hint of what these two distinguished scholars had to go through to get their study published, they aver: "It is hard to imagine any mainstream media outlet in the United States publishing a piece like this one."

It turns out that, before turning to Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government – where Walt is academic dean (albeit not for long) – they attempted to get a version of their study published in an American magazine:

"John Mearsheimer says that the pro-Israel lobby is so powerful that he and co-author Stephen Walt would never have been able to place their report in a American-based scientific publication. 'I do not believe that we could have gotten it published in the United States,' Mearsheimer told the Forward. He said that the paper was originally commissioned in the fall of 2002 by one of America's leading magazines, 'but the publishers told us that it was virtually impossible to get the piece published in the United States.' Most scholars, policymakers and journalists know that 'the whole subject of the Israel lobby and American foreign policy is a third-rail issue,' he said. 'Publishers understand that if they publish a piece like ours it would cause them all sorts of problems.'"

Mary-Kay Wilmers, editor of the London Review of Books – which published a shortened version – tells the Guardian that the piece "was originally written for, but rejected by, the Atlantic Monthly and picked up by the LRB, when Wilmers 'became aware of its existence.'"

In an important sense, then, it appears that, like Palestine, the American literary and political scene is Israeli-occupied territory. As Mearsheimer and Walt point out, academia, too, suffers from the pro-Israel version of the Inquisition, suffering extensive efforts to "police" campuses for evidence of "anti-Israel" sentiments. As if to verify this charge, the authors have run smack up against the campus Thought Police, with Harvard University taking the unusual step of pulling its logo from their piece, altering and making a boilerplate disclaimer more prominent, and finally announcing that Walt would be resigning shortly from his post as academic dean.

This question of Walt's resignation has aroused some interest – especially since it was made shortly after major Harvard contributor Robert Belfer (who gave $7.5 million to the Kennedy School in 1997) expressed his displeasure. This concatenation of events has occasioned a denial by Walt, who says that his stepping down had nothing to do with the controversy surrounding his work. This echoes the official statement put out by Harvard, as well as an e-mail to me by Melodie Jackson, the Kennedy School's director of communications and public affairs:

"There is no connection between the conclusion of Professor Walt's term as academic dean and the discussion around his recent paper. As agreed a year ago, professor Walt's term as academic dean will expire at the end of this academic year and has absolutely no connection to the current conversation around his paper."

Well, then, that's that – right? Move along, nothing to see here. But not quite. As the Harvard Crimson reports:

"[Kennedy School Dean David T.] Ellwood said that he sent an e-mail to Kennedy School faculty members on Feb. 21 – before the uproar over the article – informing them that Walt would end his term as academic dean in June. Ellwood said he also asked professors for recommendations regarding the search for the next academic dean.

"When asked to provide the Feb. 21 e-mail to The Crimson, Kennedy School spokeswoman Melodie Jackson declined to do so. …

"Walt's term as academic dean will be one year shorter than that of his predecessor, Frederick Schauer, who held the post from 1997 to 2002. Though Ellwood's statement made reference to a 'normal three-year cycle' of academic deans, three-year terms have not been the norm for administrators who have held that post in recent years.

"Ellwood himself held the post for a year before joining the Clinton administration in 1993, and he returned to the school in 1995 to serve a two-year term as academic dean. Alan A. Altshuler held the post for two years during Ellwood's absence. And before that, Albert Carnesale was the school's academic dean for a decade."

It seems clear that Walt, loyal to Harvard, and understandably not wanting to widen the breach between himself and the university administration, is stretching the truth, to put it charitably. He says the decision to alter the disclaimer and remove the Harvard logo from his work was made to correct a misimpression that the study was the work of "two Harvard researchers," and that their work constituted an "official report." However, I can't find a single news story about this brouhaha that falsely reports Professor Mearsheimer as resident at Harvard: all correctly describe him as a professor of political science at the University of Chicago.

Furthermore, it is difficult to define what would constitute an "official report." Universities publish all sorts of research on a wide variety of topics, written from any number of perspectives: the decision to publish implies that the university has held the work to a high academic standard and found it at least acceptable, if not exemplary. It never constitutes "official" agreement with the views expressed therein.

It is undeniable that the Mearsheimer-Walt study was singled out for special treatment: out of all the "working papers" published by Harvard, only this one now lacks the university's logo. Only this one has special language appended to it putting the reader on notice that neither Harvard nor the University of Chicago "take positions on the scholarship of individual faculty." Ouch! If that isn't a slap in the face – impugning their scholarship – then I don't know what is. (Go here to see the difference between the treatment afforded the Mearsheimer-Walt "working paper" and others recently published.)

The controversy has certainly been as instructive as it's been ugly. Not only has the Lobby revealed itself by such a visible and vocal baring of its very pointed teeth, but we have also seen some remarkable alliances forged in its defense. Who would have thought that Christopher Hitchens would be on the same side of the barricades as Noam Chomsky? Not since the days of the Hitler-Stalin pact have we seen such a mind-blowing convergence.

Like that previous rapprochement, however, when you think about it, it makes perfect sense: after all, these two do have something in common – a monomaniacal focus on the military and political supremacy of the U.S. Chomsky sees it as a bad thing, while Hitchens sees it as a positive development, yet they come together in averring that the omnipotent warlords of Washington could not possibly have been captured by a foreign lobby. The former sees the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis as a diversion away from his anti-capitalist message and the "war for oil" spiel we are so used to hearing, while the latter derides as "smelly" the very idea that Israel had anything to do with us going to war against Iraq. Both go all the way back to the days of Dwight Eisenhower to chronicle incidents of U.S.-Israel disharmony. The problem with this argument is that the study says the consolidation of the Lobby's power was achieved much later, after the 1973 war. But ideologues have a habit of ignoring bothersome details.

While complimenting Mearsheimer and Walt for taking what he admits is a "courageous stand," Chomsky says he doesn't find their argument "very convincing." He attributes the causes of our Middle East policy of "regime change" and perpetual war to "strategic-economic interests of concentrations of domestic power in the tight state-corporate linkage," rather than the machinations of the Lobby. The proof? Haven't the oil companies made "profits beyond the dreams of avarice?" What more do we need to know?

Oh, and don't forget how Israel performed a great "service" for the evil American capitalists by "smashing secular Arab nationalism, which threatened to divert resources to domestic needs." Leaving aside the oddity of a professed "anarchist" like Chomsky pining for the "independent nationalism" of the "secular" Arab leaders, killers like Nasser and the Mesopotamian Ba'athists, the big problem for Chomsky and his co-thinkers on the Left is that their reasoning is dizzyingly circular. They ascribe everything to the machinations of a "corporate" cabal, but their case is stated in terms of the broadest generalities, leaving the details to the imagination.

It is the lack of details, however, that is most telling. Because wars are started not by abstract "forces" nor by ideological constructs floating in mid-air, but by individuals – not corporate entities, but specific government officials, their advisers and employees. One could say that, in the abstract, the "stovepiping" of false information about Iraq's alleged WMD was the result of late capitalism's moral corruption and the "class interests" of Scooter Libby, but most people would find such a formulation baffling – and it is certainly inadequate.

The question of how and why we were lied into war is a matter of fact, not ideology. Abstract "forces" had nothing to do with it: specific individuals carried out specific acts. The misinformation that was deliberately planted was produced not by decaying capitalism, but by the decayed moral sense of certain government officials. And I'd be very surprised if the Niger uranium forgeries were fabricated by capitalists in top hats.

The confluence of views on this matter between Chomsky and the War Party – not only Hitchens, but Martin Peretz, whose magazine, The New Republic, has long been the house organ of the Lobby – is, as the Marxists used to say, no accident. Peretz, too, wants to know why Mearsheimer and Walt give a free pass to Big Oil, not to mention the supposedly powerful Saudi lobby. What I want to know is where was the Saudi lobby when the U.S. decided to invade and occupy Iraq? Apparently they went missing in action. As for attributing the genesis of the war to oil companies, is the editor of The New Republic confessing, in public, that in all those long years of agitation for war with Iraq, his magazine was merely the instrument of "strategic-economic interests of concentrations of domestic power in the tight state-corporate linkage," as the Chomskyite jargon would phrase it?

Of all the commentary on this subject – and there has been a lot – the most rational, aside from Daniel Levy's, is to be found in a Financial Times editorial:

"Reflexes that ordinarily spring automatically to the defence of open debate and free enquiry shut down – at least among much of America's political elite – once the subject turns to Israel, and above all the pro-Israel lobby's role in shaping US foreign policy.

"Even though policy toward the Middle East is arguably the single biggest determinant of America's reputation in the world, any attempt to rethink this from first principles is politically risky.

"Examining the specific role of organizations such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, commonly considered to be the most effective lobby group in the US apart from the National Rifle Association, is something to be undertaken with caution."

The Lobby has nothing to worry about from the Noam Chomskys of this world. No amount of evidence can prove the Chomskyite case that abstract economic forces somehow unleashed the U.S. military on the people of Iraq, and are now threatening Iran with more of the same. In this way, the real culprits are let off the hook, while popular ire is directed at a conjuration of shadows.

Any attempt to cut through this smokescreen is met with an organized campaign of calumny, exemplified by the smears aimed at Mearsheimer and Walt. Alan Dershowitz screeches that the Harvard paper is the equivalent of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and virtually every news story about the matter mentions neo-Nazi David Duke in the same breath as the academic dean of the Kennedy School and his co-author, the foremost advocate of foreign policy "realism." The Financial Times rightly diagnoses the problem:

"Only a UK publication, the London Review of Books, was prepared to carry their critique, in the same way that it was Prospect, a British monthly journal, that four years ago published a path-breaking study of the Israel lobby by the American analyst, Michael Lind.

"Moral blackmail – the fear that any criticism of Israeli policy and US support for it will lead to charges of anti-Semitism – is a powerful disincentive to publish dissenting views. It is also leading to the silencing of policy debate on American university campuses, partly as the result of targeted campaigns against the dissenters."

I emphasize the phrase "moral blackmail" because it aptly characterizes what the foreign policy community and the people of the United States are being subjected to. As we awaken from the fever-dream induced by war propaganda and recover our senses, we look around at the disaster unfolding in the Middle East and ask: How did we get here? The Lobby is right to feel endangered by this question: several administration figures, including Douglas Feith, a former top Pentagon official, are being investigated for having unusually "close" relations with the government of Israel. The Larry Franklin spy case is not being prosecuted – against a veritable tsunami of criticism, including from the judge – for nothing.

As we learn more about the activities of Scooter Libby, and more indictments come down, the key role of the neoconservatives in the Bush administration as the sparkplugs who ignited this war will become as plain as the wart on Ahmed Chalabi's nose. To Hitchens and the rest of the neocon fellow travelers, this is merely "code" for "the Jews." This is the sort of moral blackmail that has always ended all discussion of this vitally important topic – but not anymore.

It is ridiculous to identify the neocons as somehow representative of Jewish opinion on matters of foreign policy: not only is this demonstrably false, but it is also indicative of real anti-Semitism. David Duke inveighs against "the Jewish neocons," and the Lobby echoes his rhetoric, albeit from the opposite perspective. Both argue that we ought to dispense with the "code words" and call a spade a spade. But this is nonsense: as Mearsheimer and Walt point out, the distortion of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East by the Lobby is no more in Israel's interest than it is in America's. Aside from that, the majority of American Jews are against this war, no doubt in greater proportion than the rest of the population.

The problem isn't "the Jews" – it's the Lobby. Until it is reined in by public awareness, and the appropriate legislation – which might start, for example, by requiring AIPAC to register as a foreign agent, like all the other lobbyists for foreign governments – the danger of a prolonged and widened war in the Middle East will continue unabated. Aside from that, however, what is needed is further investigation by Congress into the "faulty" intelligence that lured us into the Iraqi quagmire: I'd bet the ranch that a lot of it came directly from Tel Aviv to Washington.

I might add this dollop from the Financial Times editorial:

"Judgment of the precise value of the Walt-Mearsheimer paper has been swept aside by a wave of condemnation. Their scholarship has been derided and their motives impugned, while Harvard has energetically disassociated itself from their views. Mr Walt's position as academic dean of the Kennedy School is in doubt."

No one is buying Harvard's denials, least of all the Lobby. They glory in their power: note how the New York Sun, a house organ of the Israel-Firsters, was gloating all last week over the troubles inflicted on the authors of the Harvard study. The Lobby means business: like the Mafia, which likes to make an example of recalcitrants who fail to pay protection money, they want people to take notice of their ruthlessness. Fear prevents debate – and a real debate is what the Lobby can least afford.

THE NEW WORLD OIL ORDER: Hugo Chavez Tells BBC, We Have More Oil Than Saudi Arabia

Greg Palast Reporting for BBC Newsnight TV
Monday, April 3, 2006

In an exclusive interview with GREG PALAST, Hugo Chávez declares a new oil

Venezuela officially demands OPEC recognize his nation's reserves as largest.

Tonight, BBC Newsnight will kick off its Latin America Week Special with
Palast's exclusive report from Venezuela.

You can watch the BBC Newsnight Report live at 5.30 pm EST at Newsnight's

(The report will remain viewable for 24 hours).

Read below about BBC Newsnight revelations ...

BBC Newsnight
Monday April 3, 2006

If you thought high oil prices were just a blip think again. In an exclusive
interview with Greg Palast for BBC Newsnight the Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez has ruled out any return to the era of cheap oil.

The colourful Venezuelan leader hosts the OPEC meeting on June 1 in Caracas and
he will ask OPEC to set $50 a barrel - the average price last year - as the long
term level. During the 1990s the price of oil had hovered around the $20 mark
falling as low as $10 a barrel in early 1999.

Chavez told Newsnight "we're trying to find an equilibrium. The price of oil
could remain at the low level of $50. That's a fair price it's not a high
price". Hugo Chavez will have added clout at this OPEC meeting.

US Department of Energy analyses seen by Newsnight show that at $50 a barrel
Venezuela - not Saudi Arabia - will have the biggest oil reserves in OPEC.
Venezuela has vast deposits of extra heavy oil in the Orinoco. Traditionally
these have not been counted because at $20 a barrel they were too expensive to
exploit - but at $50 a barrel melting them into liquid petroleum becomes
extremely profitable.

The US DoE report shows that at today's prices Venezuela's oil reserves are
bigger than those of the entire Middle East including Saudi Arabia, the Gulf
states, Iran and Iraq. The US DoE also identifies Canada as another future oil
superpower. Venezuela's deposits alone could extend the oil age for another 100

The US DoE estimates that Chavez controls 1.3 trillion barrels of oil - more
than the entire declared oil reserves of the rest of the planet. Hugo Chavez
told Newsnight's Greg Palast that "Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the
world. In the future Venezuela won't have any more oil - but that's in the 22nd
century. Venezuela has oil for 200 years." Chavez will ask the OPEC meeting in
June to formally accept that Venezuela's reserves are now bigger than Saudi

Chavez's increased muscle will not go down well in Washington. In 2002 the Bush
administration welcomed an attempted coup against Chavez. He told Newsnight that
the Americans had organised it in an attempt to get hold of Venezuela's oil.

Ironically by invading Iraq George Bush has boosted oil prices and effectively
transferred billions of dollars from American consumers to Chavez. Up to $200
million a day - half of it from the US - is flooding into Caracas. Chavez is
spending this on building infrastructure and increasing the minimum wage and
improving health and education in the poor ranchos which surround the cities. As
a result even his opponents accept that Chavez is extremely popular and will
easily win the next Presidential election in December.

Chavez is also spending billions in the rest of Latin America - exchanging
contracts for oil tankers and infrastructure projects and buying up loans in
Argentina and Brazil. He has made cheap oil deals with Ecuador and the

He has also spent some of the dollars which have come in from the US supporting
Fidel Castro in Cuba. In return Cuba has supplied the thousands of doctors and
teachers who are transforming conditions in the barrios of Caracas. Washington
accuses Chavez of buying influence in Latin America.

The Newsnight team had to endure the long speeches and marathon six hour TV
shows which Hugo Chavez delights in. Chavez posed for Newsnight posing with the
sword of Simon Bolivar the 18th century liberator who drove out Spanish
imperialists from South America. The symbolism was clear but behind the showman
is a clever political brain.

Chavez has not invaded any foreign countries. He does not have secret prisons at
home or abroad. Chavez has repeatedly won democratic elections and the
opposition operates freely although some members have been charged with
accepting illegal foreign donations. Nonetheless George Bush's administration
repeatedly targets Chavez on human rights and finances his opponents.

Earlier this year US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld compared Chavez to Hitler
- because he was elected democratically - and last year the influential American
evangelist Pat Robertson called for his assassination. Robertson later
apologized and said that he did not "necessarily" have to be killed so long as
he was kidnapped by American special forces.

Chavez told Newsnight that he was still concerned that George Bush had not
learnt the lessons of Iraq and would order an invasion to try to secure
Venezuela's oil. "I pray this will not happen because US soldiers will bite the
dust and so will we, Venezuelans". He warned that any such attempt would lead to
a prolonged guerilla war and an end to oil production. "The US people should
know there will be no oil for anyone".

Chavez does not accept Tony Blair's criticism of him for lining up with Fidel
Castro. He told Newsnight "if someone is sleeping together it is Bush and Blair.
They share the same bed."

Also see The Guardian story about the report:,,1745467,00.html

Read, "The Assassination of Hugo Chavez," in Greg Palast's new book, "ARMED
MADHOUSE: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War" to be released by
Penguin Dutton June 6 (US) and July 7 (UK).

Pre-order it today or donate to Palast Investigative Fund for a personally
signed copy at:

View Palast's investigative reports for Harper's Magazine and BBC Television's
Newsnight at

Special thanks to Matt Pascarella, Leni von Eckardt, and Richard Rowley for
their research and production assistance on this report.

Revealed: victims of UK's cold war torture camp (When will U$A cold war camps be revealed?)

Photographs of victims of a secret torture programme operated by British authorities during the early days of the cold war are published for the first time today after being concealed for almost 60 years.
The pictures show men who had suffered months of starvation, sleep deprivation, beatings and extreme cold at one of a number of interrogation centres run by the War Office in postwar Germany.

A few were starved or beaten to death, while British soldiers are alleged to have tortured some victims with thumb screws and shin screws recovered from a gestapo prison. The men in the photographs are not Nazis, however, but suspected communists, arrested in 1946 because they were thought to support the Soviet Union, an ally 18 months earlier.

World Health Assembly Must Stop Dangerous Smallpox Experiments

News Release
3 April 2006

Health Assembly Must Stop Dangerous Smallpox Experiments

Non-governmental organizations are calling for the 59th World Health Assembly (WHA), which begins on May 22nd, to stop dangerous smallpox research, including genetic engineering experiments, and to quickly bring about the destruction of all remaining smallpox virus stocks. Discussions on a draft WHA resolution will begin at an intergovernmental working group that meets in Geneva on April 5th.

Third World Network and the Sunshine Project are calling on the WHA to adopt a resolution to dramatically reduce risky research with the smallpox virus and to replace a failed oversight committee with a more balanced successor. What is urgently needed is a body that will control smallpox virus research and restrict experiments to only those which are essential, thus quickly paving the way for final destruction of smallpox virus stocks.

On smallpox research, the NGOs are asking the WHA to:

* Stop all distribution of smallpox DNA except that necessary for maintaining diagnostic labs, and to prohibit genetic engineering of smallpox, as both create unnecessary and unacceptable biosafety and security risks;

* Withdraw the temporary authorization it granted to retain smallpox virus stocks for genetic sequencing, diagnostic tests and vaccine research, as there is broad agreement that live virus is not needed for these purposes;

* Withdraw temporary authorization for experiments to infect monkeys with the smallpox virus in favor of a safer approach that does not utilize smallpox virus, and;

* Stop temporarily authorized research (that uses smallpox virus) into antiviral drugs in less than two years.

To strengthen international oversight, the NGOs are asking the WHA to:

* Terminate the WHO Advisory Committee on Variola Virus Research which, in over six years of existence, has not developed rigorous oversight and review procedures, has not adequately tracked distribution of smallpox DNA, and has broadly failed to uphold the WHA's mandate to control smallpox research, and;

* Replace the disbanded committee with an oversight body that is geographically and scientifically balanced, that is transparent, and which will reassert international control until the virus stocks are destroyed.

At the 2005 WHA meeting, many governments expressed concerns and objections to US and Russian experiments proposed for approval by the committee, including the genetic engineering of smallpox and the splicing of smallpox genes into related viruses. (A report on the WHA discussion in 2005 is available at

Although the proposal to put smallpox genes in other poxviruses has been withdrawn, a number of dangerous experiments remain on the table. This could take place if the WHA does not act to stop them this year.

For more information, please visit


If the world is upside down the way it is now, wouldn’t we have to turn it over to get it to stand up straight?”  - Eduardo Galeano

A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves. -- Edward R. Murrow

"Sow Justice, Reap Peace -- Strategies for Moving Beyond War"
2006 VFP Annual Convention
August 10-13, Seattle, WA

NOTICE: Due to Presidential Executive Orders, the National Security Agency
may have read this email without warning, warrant, or notice. They may do
this without any judicial or legislative oversight. You have no recourse
nor protection save to call for the impeachment of the current President.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Throwing Stones at Venezuela By Onnesha Roychoudhuri

U.S. criticism of Hugo Chavez's politics only serves to highlight the weakness of our democracy at home.

It's certainly no surprise. Even over a year ago, journalists were remarking at the "left turn" that so many Latin American countries were making. Of late, however, we only hear about Hugo Chavez and Venezuela. The South American country has taken the place of Cuba as the new whipping boy of alternative political models. But the targeted arguments -- coming mainly from the United States -- that depict Chavez as a tyrannical despot do little more than make the United States look the defensive paranoid for so mischaracterizing Venezuela's politics.

From Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to Pat Robertson, absurd public comparisons of President Hugo Chavez to Hitler and calls for assassination, it's clear that U.S. public figures love to vilify Chavez. The defamations have now been firmly established in mainstream politics -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice continues to allege that Venezuela poses the greatest threat to Latin America. Why? Rice accuses Chavez of leading a "Latin brand of populism that has taken countries down the drain."

AlterNet spoke to Bernardo Alvarez, Venezuela's ambassador to the United States, during his recent trip through California to meet with civil society groups and Latino leaders. When asked why he thought Chavez and Venezuela were so vilified, Alvarez stated, "For the first time, people are taking seriously that the major problems in the world are poverty and social exclusion -- not terrorism. These allegations are simply to avoid discussing these true problems; they are an attempt to undermine and divert from true economic development."

Whether or not this is the true motivation behind this administration's reluctance to engage in dialogue is up for debate. One thing, however, is clear: The press has spent far more energy exploring largely unsubstantiated allegations of fraud and corruption targeting Chavez than exploring the reality of his agenda.

After getting the obligatory controversial questions out of the way -- is Chavez planning to run for president in 2013? Are the United States and Venezuela too ideologically different to have meaningful discussions? What do you say to the allegations that Venezuela is becoming a dictatorship akin to Castro's Cuba? -- a common thread emerged in Alvarez's oft-repeated answers. Strung together, it goes something like this:

Chavez is not an accident. His election expresses a new awakening of people and participation. Chavez and Venezuela are not an anomaly in an otherwise "normal" world. We're talking about the entire hemisphere, here. These are societies trying to find alternative ways of dealing with the same problems. It is better that they understand what is happening in Venezuela as part of a broader process.
Alvarez is obviously quite good at responding to questions that start with "How do you respond to the allegations that." He has learned to (sometimes subtly, sometimes blatantly) work in details of Chavez's agenda amidst these usual suspect questions. Without asking, I learned that Chavez has extended health care to 10 million Venezuelans, defeated illiteracy in two years, given three million Venezuelans ID cards so that they can access social programs and vote, and worked to rebuild oil refineries and guarantee security of supply and accessible prices.

Members of the media, trying to substantiate the obsessive fixation on Chavez-as-tyrant, have let the wild accusations frame our dialogue about Venezuela. You won't read much about Chavez's focus on the eradication of poverty -- extended even to the United States through the heating oil program that is bringing over 40 million gallons of discounted and free oil to low-income Americans in eight states. Rather, you'll get an earful of the Texas congressman Joe Barton seeking an investigation into the program. You have to read academic publications like Political Affairs Magazine to get to the irony behind the facts:

The only change in Venezuelan oil supply to the U.S. in the past three years has been this year's program to provide 40 percent discounts on 49 million gallons of heating fuel for poor people in Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, and soon Vermont and Connecticut. How bizarre that Texas Republican congressman Joe Barton has launched an investigation into this humanitarian offering, instead of investigating the U.S, multinational oil companies that posted over $100 billion in corporate profits last year due to soaring gasoline prices.
There are components of Chavez's agenda that merit skepticism, but the cheap oil program hardly qualifies. Critics have raised Venezuela's record of human rights violations. And while police violence against protesters has attracted rebukes from human rights organizations like Amnesty International, AI make clear that the weak record of human rights preceded Chavez: "President Chavez's administration introduced several important improvements in the 1999 Constitution to protect civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural rights." The problem is that many of these measures have yet to implemented.

Perhaps the meatiest and most interesting issue that Ambassador Alvarez touched upon was whether Chavez's agenda to eradicate poverty can be achieved through democratic means. When asked about the difference between Cuba's form of socialism and Venezuela's "new socialism," Alvarez noted,

Our revolution was made in peace, following a democratic path. But, we are looking for social justice. There is no real democracy if there is no social justice. We have to go beyond representative democracy to a participatory social system. If you don't fight poverty, you will have a very weak democracy.
So what if the kind of social justice that Chavez is seeking is at odds with the brand of democracy that currently exists in Venezuela? This is an interesting tension to explore especially in light of Alvarez's emphasis on Chavez's current intent to consolidate the infrastructure that will enable a "cultural transformation" before he leaves office: "From the very beginning," said Alvarez, "we understood that we were there not only to be another government, but that we were elected because we represented the desire and expectations of a whole transformation of society."

That's quite a charge. But, instead of reading about the ins and outs of Chavez's methodology, we consistently get sensationalized non-news. A recent article from The Economist, "Mission Impossible," reads, "Poverty is at last falling under Hugo Chavez, but not nearly as much as it should have "

No one seems to think that poverty is abating. "If only there were 50 Chavezes in the country,"sighs Minerva, a middle-aged woman from the outskirts of Caracas. "But he's all on his own. End poverty? That will take 50 years."
Better to quote Minerva than cite economic stats of a per capita growth rate of 17.9 percent in 2004 and 9 percent last year -- making it one of the fastest-growing countries in the region. Or independent polls that put Venezuelan approval of Chavez at 70 percent (an approval rating that President Bush only saw immediately following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.)

We are led to think that Chavez is bad because his plans to turn the formerly elitist Venezuelan political structure on its head and end poverty just aren't happening fast enough. Similarly, in a recent Foreign Policy article, Javier Corrales writes:

Civil society has not disappeared, as it did in Cuba after the 1959 revolution. There is no systematic, state-sponsored terror … there is certainly no efficiently repressive and meddlesome bureaucracy … In fact, in Venezuela, one can still find an active and vociferous opposition, elections, a feisty press and a vibrant and organized civil society. Venezuela, in other words, appears almost democratic … Undeniably, Chavez has brought innovative social programs to neighborhoods that the private sector and the Venezuelan state had all but abandoned … He also launched one of the most dramatic increases in state spending in the developing world.
Difficult to tell from this excerpt that the thrust of the article is to depict Chavez as a modern tyrant. Corrales gets one thing right -- trashing the United States is an effective way for many Latin American leaders to gain populist support. And the United States is playing right into this political tactic by posing so trashable a target. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has officially announced an "inoculation strategy" that involves trying to isolate Venezuela by organizing other countries against Chavez.

As Rice works the isolation strategy, using the mainstream media as a pulpit for her fulminations, Chavez continues to build alliances with other Latin American governments and political leaders around the world. While both Chavez and Rice have employed fairly vacuous public talking points and rhetoric, the differing strategies make all the difference. As the Bush administration works to slander Chavez and allege that his government consorts with terrorists, Chavez is sending poor Americans oil. It just sets up a scenario in which Ambassador Alvarez can say things like this:

Some people ask why we are helping the U.S. poor. Why not? Are they a different kind of poor people? Those are the kinds of things that people should do. We do it with energy because that's what we have. Other countries should do it with what they have. It's part of our philosophy. We're talking about an alternative model here, and we have to demonstrate what that is.
Ambassador Alvarez continues to meet with civil society groups and the media, confidently asserting that the Venezuelan government is committed to developing real instruments for participatory democracy -- starting at the grassroots.

There's always a place for criticism and cynicism, especially when it comes to politicians who claim to be developing a new political ideology, but the Bush administration's tactic of slandering a democratic and reform-minded government that has an approval rating this president can only envy is a guaranteed losing battle. The more members of the Bush administration chastise Chavez's democracy, the more embarrassing the hypocrisy becomes.

Rice told students at Johns Hopkins that she hoped Chavez will "recognize the importance of democratic values for real, not just claiming that because you're elected you are exercising democratic values. When people are elected, they have a responsibility to follow democratic values, and we have to call it for what we see."

If only our administration could heed its own advice.

Onnesha Roychoudhuri is an assistant editor at AlterNet.

Flu 'Oddities' - the shit gets deeper, and Rumsfeld and his ilk, get richer.

The JFK assassination and Bush's refusal to extradite Posada Carriles to Venezuela? All three were in Dallas that day

I wish that respected journalists would leave the debate whether Posada is a terrorist, and concentrate on the question whether he and Orlando Bosch were involved in the JFK assassination under direction of George HW Bush.

Because THAT is the real reason he will NEVER be extradited as long as Bushes are in the big seat.

All three were in Dallas that day ... Bosch and Posada on Dealey Plaza to be exact.

The current debate is very much like the the debate on the single bullet theory. It centers around the question whether the impossible trajectory of that bullet is possible after all. Which takes away from the much more important reasons to blow it out of the water, namely:

1) The bullet fragments retrieved from Connolly's wrist weighed much more than what the "magic bullet" had lost from its original weight.

2) No bullet penetrated Kennedy's neck

3) No bullet in recorded history has ever caused 7 wounds, penetrating and shattering bones in the process, and emerged in the un-deformed condition of the magic bullet.

4) It is simply impossible that one bullet causing such damage, emerges in almost pristine condition, while the other one, the one in Kennedy's head, purportedly from the same rifle, explodes in a thousand fragments.

Wim Dankbaar

Wim Dankbaar is a 44-year-old father of two in The Netherlands. For the last four years he has been actively involved in a project to gather and present new evidence in the JFK assassination ... evidence that proves that the official story is a fraud and that the Kennedy killing was a conspiracy with the knowledge and consent of the highest powers in US government.

What is the basis for Dankbaar's assertion that the CIA and and anti-Castro elements were behind the assassination?

Dankbaar: This becomes very clear for everyone who studies the known evidence thoroughly. Both the CIA, or maybe I should say the hawks in the CIA, and the anti Castro cubans, who were trained by the CIA, had the means and the motives to kill Kennedy. But they did it in partnership with some key figures in the US Government and Big Business in Texas, as well as a few leaders in Organized Crime. These last three groups had equally strong motives to rid themselves of Kennedy, and even stronger means to pull it off. The fact of the matter is that it was an ordinary but hidden coup d'etat, to take over the US government and reverse the policies of Kennedy. Policies that were detested by all of these groups. These groups had already found each other long before 1963.

They were in bed together. The most visible proof of that, is their efforts to assassinate Fidel Castro. The groups involved in that are the exact same groups that I have mentioned, this is a proven and public fact now, and they are the exact same people that ended up killing Kennedy. They were very much intertwined, and probably still are. Now if you want to put faces to these devils of power, you could best divide them first into a 3 level hierarchy. High level, mid level and operational level. The high level is the select group of conspirators, you may think of Lyndon Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover, George and Prescott Bush, Allen Dulles, oil barons Clint Murchison and H. L. Hunt, crime bosses Santo Trafficante, Sam Giancana and Carlos Marcello. It was actually a wider group than that, but it is difficult to pinpoint them all. After all, in a cover-up you have to work with circumstantial evidence, unless someone breaks the secrecy with a public confession.

The mid-level was the planning cadre, the managers, the puppet masters directing the pawns and the actual shooters. Two of those managers, the CIA calls them controllers, were E. Howard Hunt and his partner David Atlee Phillips. They are both legends in Covert Operations. Guy Banister in New Orleans is another example. The CIA also used assets to assist with the operational side. Philip Twombly for example, a very unknown name, was instrumental in providing the fake secret service badges that were made for the executives in Dealey Plaza. He was also in Dallas that day, as was Nixon, their cover was the Pepsi Cola bottling convention. So this mid group organizes the actual operation. They direct the shooters and their spotters. They are the operational level. And it is important to understand that these shooters do not necessarily have to know about each other's participation. That is what the CIA calls compartimentalization. They only take orders from their direct boss, they are not being told who else is involved in the operation, just to follow orders. This works horizontally and vertically in the organization. Even the mid level people do not have to know all the people at the top. One man to take the orders from is enough. For example, if Howard Hunt gets his orders from Dulles, he doesn't have to know that Dulles planned it with Nixon and Johnson. And Nixon and Johnson don't need to know the identities of the shooters. So at the top the conspiracy is rather closely held, although many people are used. The ground rules are CIA only, maximum security, non-attributability, plausible denial, need to know basis, no written communication. Another ground rule is "What you don't know can't hurt anybody." Interestingly, this rule is also applied by a control of the mass media, who hardly ever report on the JFK assassination, unless it is something nutty or disinformation, but the real critics of the official version are not given a voice by US media.

Only Oliver Stone was able to break through this wall with his much attacked movie JFK, which presented a more believable scenario, however still without naming the names.
If you want names in the operational level I can tell you that Charles Nicoletti and James Files were two of the shooters. They were both under orders from Sam Giancana, the mafia boss of Chicago. John Roselli, another lieutenant of Giancana, was also there, but as a spotter, he did not shoot. Of these names I am absolutely sure, based on the detailed confession of James Files, who claims he fired the fatal headshot from the grassy knoll. Why he is credible is too detailed to explain here, I do that in my book 'Files on JFK.' He says that his boss Charles Nicoletti fired from the Daltex building behind Kennedy. His knowledge does not go further than that, which shows the compartimentalization again. Of course there were also shooters in the Texas schoolbook building, and possibly other locations like the roof of the Records building, but I don't know their identities beyond any doubt. I have strong indications though that both David Sanchez Morales and Richard Cain were shooters in the Book Depository. Richard Cain was another hitman for Sam Giancana with strong CIA ties and Morales was a husky looking Mexican-Indian with very dark complection, who developed a reputation as best CIA assassin for Latin American. He was also very close with David Atlee Phillips and he was the Chief of Operations of the CIA station in Miami which trained the Cuban exiles for raids against Castro. The boss of that station was Ted Shackley, an associate of George Bush, which connection is later formalized when Bush becomes CIA director and appoints Shackley as his Deputy Director Operations. Interestingly, James Files says that he was recruited for the CIA by David Atlee Phillips on a recommendation of Ted Shackley. Furthermore I know that Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch were on Dealey Plaza.

Was Oswald the assassin of JFK?

Dankbaar: No, of course not. Oswald was a CIA agent who was cleverly setup as the patsy by his superiors David Atlee Phillips and Guy Banister in New Orleans. It appears that George Demohrenschildt, an oil geologist who knew all the Texan oil tycoons, including Bush, was also handling Oswald in Dallas. Anyway, I am positive that Phillips made Oswald believe that he was playing the part of the hero, trying to infiltrate the assassination plot in order to inform on it and thus in order to prevent it. It is only at the last moment that Oswald realized he was just a patsy, as he said himself. This is also why he was at the right time in the right place. He cooperated, hoping up to the last moment that he could prevent the assassination. He was actually an admirer of Kennedy for his civil rights and anti-segregation policies. But he was also the perfect patsy. Through his staged defection to Russia, which was in fact a covert mission supported by the CIA, he already looked like a communist and he smelled like a communist. This was reinforced with his pro Castro cover and Fair Play for Cuba Committee, which he also did under direction of the CIA. Lee Harvey loved to be a double agent and infiltrate the other side. But the truth is that he was very strongly anti-Castro. I do know that he participated in at least one of the plans to kill Castro. Funny enough Oswald misspeaks in one of his radio interviews. He says that in Russia he" was at all times under the protection of the US Government." Then he quickly corrects himself, saying that he did not mean to say that but that he "held at all times contacts with the American Embassy in Moscow"

No, Oswald was the opposite of the assassin of JFK, and this is perhaps the greatest injustice of all. Although the media and government mouthpieces are still trying to brainwash the public with the lone-nut-assassin-lie, there is not a shred of evidence to place him on the 6th floor with that old rifle, let alone firing it, let alone hitting JFK. This is even clear for those who read the Warren Report, there is enough evidence in there to vindicate him, but they knew that the average American is not going to plough through those 26 volumes, so just repeating its "conclusion" through the media was enough to accomplish the mission. Certainly at that time when Americans still trusted their government.

Oswald would have been vindicated if he would have gone to trial. He would also have blown the lid of the conspiracy. Therefore he could not be allowed to live. It is obvious that something went wrong in the plan. They did not plan for him to be captured and alive in custody. So Jack Ruby, who was Giancana's man in Dallas and also worked for Carlos Marcello and Santo Trafficante, was hastily selected to finish the job. He had to, disobeying an order in the mob is not an option.

How long took the investigation that you have been directing?

Dankbaar: That depends on when you start counting, I have been interested in it since 1988. From that time I have read books, watched documentaries and such. But I have become actively involved when I learned about the confession of James Files, which was only 4 years ago.

Who financed your investigation?

Dankbaar: Myself, but I have to say I that am building on the work and testimonies of others, most of those have invested at great personal cost, financially, emotionally or both. Without these people my work would not have been possible. Jim Garrison and Joe West are just a few of those people. The late Joe West is the man who found James Files and persuaded him to confess, although Joe West did not live to hear it himself. Jim Garrsion was the one and only public official to take on the conspiracy and try to bring the guilty to justice. If we would have man like that today , with what we know today, the American public would quickly learn the ugly truth. But unfortunately, so far there does not seem to be a man like Jim Garrison. They should make a statue for him, maybe next to Kennedy's grave or in front of the White House.

What is the evidence for the involvement of Bush senior?

Dankbaar: He is connected to all the main players. It is a matter of common sense and circumstancial evidence. I do not know if that evidence would be enough for a conviction, but right now the problem is more that the public does not know about that evidence, because they are not informed of it. To me that clearly shows there is no real freedom of press in America, that is just a cheap myth. What can be proven without any doubt is that Bush lied about not being in the CIA in 1963. A declassified document written by J. Edgar Hoover shows that he was in contact with Hoover about the Kennedy assassination, specifically about the reaction of the cuban exile community in Miami. Hoover names him as "George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency." It is further logical that Bush would be informed on the Cuban exiles because there are several sources that claim he helped finance the Bay of Pigs invasion and actively recruited people for it. There he made his friends in the exile community. One example is Felix Rodriguez, who is Luis Posada's buddy and takes credit for killing Che Guevara.

Common sense also tells you that someone with no experience, is appointed director of the CIA. But Bush wants us to believe the opposite. Although he seems to have insulated himself preety well, there is a wealth of evidence that puts him in the middle of all the players. Like he was good friends with Oswald's best friend in Dallas, George Demohrenschildt. But he was also very close to Nixon and Dulles, who did not only plan the Bay of the pigs, but are also better known suspects in the Kennedy conspiracy. Nixon would not do anything without the knowledge of Bush because he thanked his political career to Prescott Bush. Prescott Bush had installed Nixon as VP under Eisenhower, and he and Gerald Ford were also fundraisers for Nixon's campaign against Kennedy. Nixon lost to Kennedy by complete surprise of the Bushes, for they did not know that Kennedy had made a deal with Giancana to rig the elections in Illinois and Virginia. Had that not happened, their men would have become President. Ford and Dulles were both appointed by Johnson on the Warren Commission, no doubt to control the cover-up from there. They were the two most active members. And both were fierce Kennedy enemies, and strong friends of Nixon and the Bushes. I mean Dulles had been FIRED by Kennedy. Dulles hated the man. How could you honestly have Dulles and Ford investigate the man's murder? The Warren Commission was a complete farce to hide the truth and to convict the patsy in the eyes of the public.

Are all the files declassified now, or is there still information that is withheld?

Dankbaar: There are still a lot of documents classified. That fact alone is indication that the Warren Commission was a lie to satisfy the American Public. Because if Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone nut they said he was, there is no valid reason to keep the files locked. If the Warren Commission was correct, national security would not be endangered with the disclosure of that information. They need to lock the files to keep the real truth hidden.

On what do you base your claims that George Bush, Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch were in Dallas the day that JFK was murdered?

Dankbaar: On documents and witness testimonies. A declassified document tells that Bush will be in Dallas on the day of the assassination. It's about a phone call from Bush to the FBI in Houston . In that phone call, Bush himself says he will be in Dallas and asks to keep the information confidential. It's funny that we have that in black and white and Bush does not recall where he was, while every normal citizen does. Another declassified FBI document proves that he was high up in the CIA in 1963, in relation to the "misguided anti-Castro Cubans." In that document Bush is being informed about their reaction to the Kennedy assassination. it's funny again that Bush himself has always denied that he was in the CIA before becoming director of the Agency. That was already a bit hard to believe, but this document proves the lie.

As for the others, I have several sources that place both Posada and Bosch in Dallas that day.
Is there a connection Posada-Bush?

Dankbaar: Lots of connections. But they are not so visible, because they are secret and not exactly advertised on CNN. The Posada-Bush connections root back all the way to the Bay of Pigs. That is when they became acquainted. Not only with Posada but with many other members of Operation 40, because Bush was the creator of Operation 40 with Dulles and Nixon. Because Operation 40 was very secret and illegal, these friendships are covert, but it is no secret that the Bush family is friends with the Cuban exile community in Florida. Jeb Bush is the Governor there, he has the support of all the anti-Castro leaders. Do you remember the Florida recount for the 2000 elections? It is no surprise it happened there and ended in Bush's favor. The most visible friendship of Bush is the one with Felix Rodriguez. Felix Rodriguez is a direct associate of Posada, both are Bay of Pigs veterans and members of Operation 40. Remember the Cuban airline bombing in 1976? This was the year that Bush was CIA director. For this atrocity, Bosch and Posada were convicted in Caracas . After Posada's escape from prison in 1985, he turns up in el Salvador, to work with Felix Rodriguez in another secret operation. It became known as Iran-Contra. It was weapons-supplies to Nicaragua and Iran, financed with drugs trafficking. This operation was also led by George Bush, who was vice president then. Maybe you recall that Carter lost the election to Reagan and Bush? Right after that, the American hostages in Iran were released. This was because Bush had made a secret deal with the Ayatollah Khomeini in Paris to postpone the release of the hostages, so that Carter could not profit from that. In return Iran would get weapons. This event is known as "The October surprise", because the release of the hostages was such a surprise to the public, but not for Bush, because it was all staged. That's how Bush became vice president.

And if you look at Bosch, Posada's accomplice in the airline bombing, who was still in jail in Caracas, he is released in 1987 after a diplomatic negotiation led by Jeb Bush. And when his father becomes President, Bosch receives a presidential pardon. Once you study this history, a clear pattern emerges. A pattern that the Bush guides and protects the terrorists and assassins of Operation 40, some of whom killed president Kennedy.

Also, a direct supervisor of Posada and Rodriguez was Ted Shackley. Shackley and Bush were very close since the Bay of Pigs. In 1976, when Bush became CIA director, he appointed Shackley as his deputy director Operations. The current CIA director, Porter Goss, also worked under Ted Shackley in Operation 40. There are a lot more connections, but suffice to say that Bush senior is a puppet master behind the scenes. The spider in the web. Very insulated in secrecy, but very deadly.

What is your analysis of the refusal to extradite Posada Carriles to Venezuela?

Dankbaar: Posada is the holder of many secrets, the disclosure of which would be disastrous for Bush. Posada himself has said this publicly. This is why Posada gets this protection, and this is why he cannot be extradited to Venezuela. The Bush administration is therefore in an extremely embarrassing situation. A hot potato that they can't swallow. The best thing that could happen for them is that Posada simply dies of old age. I can hardly see a good solution. They can't extradite him, and they can't release him, for that would create an international protest. So far the outcry is mainly coming from Castro and Chavez, and my advise to them would be to keep the pressure on. I am actually surprised that Castro is not exploiting the Kennedy connection more. After all, it is his own former girl friend Marita Lorenz, who implicated Bosch and other Operation 40 members in the Kennedy murder. The American media pay little attention to his outrage, because they are controlled by Big Business and because he is just the communist dictator, an enemy of the United States. And Chavez is his puppet. What they say is just propaganda. That is the image painted of them. If Castro would simply say that Bush is protecting the killers of JFK, it would be all over the news, also in the United States. That would shake the world awake on what's playing here. And that is what Castro wants, if I am not mistaken. He wants the world to see the hypocrisy of the Posada asylum case and the War on Terror. But I am not sure if he sees that he could unleash a scandal bigger than Watergate.

Anyway, I hope he reads this (laughs).

Wim Dankbaar