December 19, 2010

WikiLeaks: U.S. Officials Praise Cuba but fault Jamaica in Anti-Drug Operations

By David Paulin

Cuba may be a tropical gulag and troublemaker in the hemisphere. But when it comes to the war on drug, the communist island is a reliable U.S. alley – with Cuban authorities even complaining to U.S. officials that neighboring Jamaica is failing to cooperate in drug-interdiction efforts.

That's according to a secret cable from the U.S. Special Interest Section in Havana dated August 11, 2009, and just released by WikiLeaks.

Cuba's state-controlled media follows a consistent narrative on the drug war: It's all America's fault because of its drug-hungry consumers. But in private conversations with U.S. officials, Cuban authorities are more likely to bad-mouth Jamaica -- not America. They express “significant frustration” over Jamaica's alleged failure to cooperate and share information to interdict drug-smuggling "go-fast" boats and aircraft originating from Jamaica and operating in or near Cuba, according to the diplomatic cable from Jonathan Farrar, Chief of Mission of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

Citing private conversations with at least 15 members of Cuba's interior ministry, the cable stated: “Cuban (Ministry of Interior officials) contend that narcotics smugglers from Jamaica are utilizing both Cuban airspace and waters to transport narcotics ultimately destined for the United States, but their repeated attempts to engage Jamaica on the issue have been ignored.”

Jamaica is a major transshipment point for Colombian cocaine and major producer of marijuana. Earlier this year, a State Department report on international drug trafficking said Jamaica's drug trade has compromised elected officials, the police, and legitimate businesses.

Jamaica, ironically, sees itself as a loyal ally of Cuba. Indeed, many Jamaican officials with an anti-American streak express admiration for Cuba's David-and-Goliath struggle against America. Yet the outwardly friendly relations between Cuba and Jamaica don't apply to the drug war – at least not according to top Cuban officials who privately deride Jamaica to their U.S. counterparts.

"Collectively and continually, (Cuban officials) express frustration over the (Jamaican government's) consistent ignoring of Cuban attempts to increase the flow of drug-related information between the two island nations to increase interdictions and avoid 'being surprised by drugs,'" the cable stated.

Cuba's failure to elicit more cooperation from Jamaica in the drug war isn't for lack of trying. In October, 2008, for instance, the U.K.'s Defense attache arranged an unusual meeting aboard a British Navy ship in the Port of Havana, bringing together Cuban and Jamaicans officials “to encourage greater dialogue, and to quash growing frustration between the two,” related the cable. Also attending was a U.S. Coast Guard specialist in anti-narcotics operations.

The meeting went badly. Cuban officials later complained to the U.S. Coast Guard specialist "that the two Jamaican officers 'just sat there and didn’t say anything,'" according to the cable. Cuba's interior ministry officials said “that Jamaican officials commonly agree to greater information sharing in person; however, that is the extent of their efforts.”

At one point, frustrated Cuban officials started translating communications being sent to Jamaica authorities into English “because in the past (Jamaican) officials stated to (Cuba officials) they did not understand Spanish. (Interior Ministry) officers report that despite their efforts, (Jamaican) officials still do not respond.”

The cable describes two cases of Cubans capturing drug smugglers from Jamaica.

On May 27, 2009, Cuban authorities interdicted a Jamaican go-fast boat carrying 700 kilograms of Jamaican marijuana -- an operation made possible by “real-time” information provided by the U.S. Coast Guard.

And on July 5, 2009, an aircraft from Jamaica dropped 13 bales of marijuana over a barren field in Cuba. Cuban officials determined the aircraft had been heading to a drop point in The Bahamas, but dropped its cargo prematurely in Cuba due to engine problems. The three crew members made an emergency landing in Cuba and were apprehended.

According to the cable, the U.S. Coast Guard's drug-interdiction specialist “gauges that (Cuba's government) genuinely desires greater information sharing on (anti-drug) issues with Jamaican authorities to serve the (Cuban government's) strategic interests.”

“Currently, Cuban officials appear resigned to the idea that they will not see greater (Government of Jamaica) cooperation in the near future.”

Earlier this year, Kingston, Jamaica, was plunged into violence when Jamaican authorities, after months of delays, moved to capture and extradite an alleged drug lord to the U.S. The efforts to capture Christopher “Dudus” Coke raised questions about the extent to which the alleged drug lord might be protected by government officials benefiting from Jamaica's drug trade.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported on the WikiLeaks cables on Tuesday, reviving claims in Jamaica that the ruling Jamaica Labor Party has been complacent with drug trafficking or is ignoring it.

The Obama administration's efforts to extradite Coke were the subject of two American Thinker articles, “Obama's Lesson in Realpolitik” and “Obama's Fruitless Quest to Extradite A Drug Thug.” (Originally published at The American Thinker blog)

December 15, 2010

The Hypocrisy of Anti-Israel 'Feminists'

By David Paulin

An ugly anti-Israel spectacle has been taking place in Philadelphia. A group of feminist women called the “Philly BDS Coalition
” has been staging “flash dances” at grocery stores to force them to stop carrying Sabra and Tribe hummus; both brands are manufactured in the U.S. but are owned by Israeli parent companies. Philly BDS charges that both companies are guilty of “Israeli war crimes.” The group is the local branch of the anti-Israel group "Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions for Palestine."

As the YouTube video
here shows, Philly BDS is an odd group of women. But not merely because of their masculine appearances, tasteless performances, and odd garb they wear. The women are odd because like other lefty feminists in America and the West, they vilify Israel -- yet remain utterly silent about the barbaric treatment of women in the Muslim word. None acknowledges that Israel is the only country in the Middle East were women are treated as equals to men.

What motivates these lefty feminists? At bottom their “feminism" reflects their anti-Western hated and leftist political agenda -- an agenda that's dressed up in feminist language. So says Carolyn B. Glick in a wonderful column in the Jerusalem Post, titled “The Feminist Deception

While skewering the hypocrisy of left-leaning feminists, Glick also derides Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration for in effect being ideological soul mates with Israel-hating feminists. She writes:

As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton – like her fellow self-described feminists – has chosen to single Israel out for opprobrium while keeping nearly mum on the institutionalized, structural oppression of women and girls throughout the Muslim world. In so acting, Clinton is of course, loyally representing the views of the Obama administration she serves. She is also representing the views of the ideological Left in which Clinton, US President Barack Obama, the human rights and feminist movements are all deeply rooted.”

Read Glick's entire essay for a blow-by-blow analysis of the corruption and hypocrisy animating feminists on the ideological Left. --(Originally published at The American Thinker blog.)

December 14, 2010

Tom DeLay and moral equivalence in Travis County, Texas

By David Paulin

Many Republicans regarded the prosecution of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay as a politically motivated witch hunt. After all, the prosecution took place in Austin, Texas, located in the heart of Travis County: It's a liberal bastion in an otherwise "red" state. DeLay is hated there.

Interestingly, most people in Travis County probably would be hard-pressed to explain exactly what DeLay did to deserve to be convicted of "money laundering" -- a crime one associates with drug dealers and thugs. He's set to be sentenced later this month, and faces decades in prison.

Countering charges of a politically motivated witch hunt, DeLay's prosecutors pointed out that they also had gone after Democrats for ethics violations.

One example: State Rep. Kino Flores, a veteran South Texas politician who was convicted last October of four felony charges for failing to fully disclose assets on ethics forms.

What exactly did Flores do? Nobody would have trouble understanding that. Among other things, he ran a shake-down business. He was known as "Mr. Ten Percent" for helping people get state contracts -- and then demanding 10-percent of their profits. His victims faced him during his trial.

As the Austin American-Statesman reported:

Jesus Sifuentes, a Palmview truck driver, testified that Flores demanded — and he paid — Flores 10 percent of the money he made on a trucking contract with Transit Mix concrete company. He said Flores got him the job. He listed Flores on checks he wrote as a “consultant.”

Over three years, those payments to Flores amounted to about $20,000, the witness said. When he objected to those payments, Flores demanded $60,000 — and he refused. He then lost the Transit Mix contract, his truck, his house and eventually his marriage, Sifuentes said.

That's just one of many sleazy dealings that were described at Flores' trial. Yesterday, Flores was sentenced for his crimes: five years of probation on four felony charges; and two years of probation on five misdemeanor charges. He'd faced a $10,000 fine -- but was ordered to pay only $1,000. He also was ordered to do 400 hours of community service.

Tom DeLay faces sentencing later this month. It will be interesting to see if he also gets probation in Travis County. (Originally published at The American Thinker.)
WikiLeaks: Insult to Thin-Skinned Hugo Chávez Lands American Airlines Crew in Hot Water

By David Paulin

Two years ago in Caracas, the U.S. Embassy got an urgent call one evening. Venezuela's manager for American Airlines was on the phone, and he had a serious problem: The crew of Flight 903 was being detained at the airport.

A crew member had allegedly insulted President Hugo Chávez, explained Omar Nottaro.

A confidential U.S. Embassy cable about the Sept. 30, 2008, incident -- just released by WikiLeaks -- reveals how tough it can be to do business in socialist and authoritarian Venezuela. Among other problems there, it's a crime to insult the president -- an offense that went into the penal code in March, 2006.

The alleged “insult” happened just after the American jet landed. When announcing the local time, a crew member allegedly referred to it as "local Chavez time." There was a legitimate reason to say this -- for as the cable pointed out: "In December 2007 Venezuela created its own time zone, moving the clock back half an hour on a permanent basis. The crew member was likely trying to remind passengers of this and to suggest they turn their watches back 30 minutes.”

Unfortunately for the crew, one of the passengers aboard the jet was a friend of pro-Chavez national assemblyman Carlos Echezuria Rodriguez. Meeting Rodriguez in the airport lobby, Nestor Maldonado Lanza said the crew member had said "loco Chavez time.”

Outraged, the assemblyman demanded to listen to the on-board recordings of in-flight announcements, and he wanted statements from each crew member. Then he started making phone calls -- the first being to Venezuelan Vice President Carrizales. As the Embassy cable explains:

"The Vice President called civil aviation authority (INAC) President Martinez who went to the airport. The Directorate for Venezuelan Domestic Intelligence and Prevention, DISIP, opened an investigation. However, because ONIDEX (immigration) had not allowed the crew to go through customs, DISIP backed out of investigation and turned it over to ONIDEX which had jurisdiction as the crew had not officially entered Venezuela. The crew then waited inside the airport for the results of a meeting between airport, customs, INAC and American Airlines staff.”

Ultimately, American's quick-thinking country manager came to the rescue. As the cable explains: "Nottaro was able to diffuse the situation by promising to put the crew back on the empty airplane as soon as it was refueled and get the captain and crew out of the country immediately.

“Nottaro also apologized in person to INAC President Martinez and committed to writing several letters of apology on October 1. Venezuelan authorities accepted Nottaro's offer and the crew left Venezuela at 11:30 pm. American made the decision to turn the plane around even though it meant canceling AA flight 902 out of Caracas the morning of October 1, at considerable cost to the airline.”

Earlier that month, a Delta crew also was involved in an "incident" at the Caracas airport, the cable noted. It didn't elaborate except to say the American incident was "yet another example of how heightened sensitivities are in the bilateral relationship when a chance remark escalates within minutes to the level of the Venezuelan Vice Presidency.”

The cable, incidentally, never nailed down exactly what the flight crew member said. However, according to a report from Venezuelan immigration -- obtained by an Embassy officer from an Interpol contact -- the crew member said "the hour of the crazy Chavez and his women."

(Originally published at The American Thinker)

December 11, 2010

Hugo Chávez's ex-wife gives Washington insights into strongman's psyche: WikiLeaks

By David Paulin

The Clinton and Bush administrations were flummoxed by Hugo Chávez's anti-Americanism. Rabid and inexplicable, it started soon after Chávez was elected president in 1998. During his presidential campaign, on the other hand, he'd presented himself as a moderate seeking a "Third Way" between socialism and capitalism.

Venezuela had traditionally been pro-American, aside from the occasional burning of an American flag outside the U.S. Embassy or a
blood-thirsty mob attacking Vice President Richard Nixon in 1958.

The likes of Chávez had never been seen in a Venezuelan leader. What made Chávez tick?

By 2004 -- well into President Bush's first term and six years into Chávez's -- Washington still apparently didn't know. However, the Bush administration finally wanted answers, having belatedly realized it had been distracted for too long by 9/11 and the war on terror.

In Caracas, accordingly, a political officer at the U.S. Embassy sought out an interesting source of information -- Chávez's former common-law wife, Herma Marksman. A history professor, Marksman lived with Chávez for nine years between 1984 and 1993. In Venezuela, such arrangements are common.

According to a confidential
diplomatic cable dated July 9, 2004, and released by WikiLeaks, the officer's objective in interviewing Marksman was to understand "the development of Chávez's political ideology."

Among highlights of the cable based on Marksman's comments:

*Chávez as a poor youngster was influenced by a teacher who admired Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Ambitions from an early age, Chávez imagined himself running the country as a 20 year-old.

*As a junior officer in Venezuela's Army, Chávez fell under the influence of Douglas Bravo, a former communist and guerrilla leader during Venezuela's 1960's communist insurgency. It was Bravo, not Chávez , who developed the philosophy of the "Bolivarian Revolution," which takes its name from Venezuelan liberator and national hero Simon Bolivar. A cornerstone of the Bolivarian Revolution is close civil-military cooperation.

*"Marksman stated that Chávez is loyal to no one and does not have true friends. If he has a problem, he will only confide in his brother, Adan, whom she characterized as a communist, and Cuban leader Fidel Castro," wrote the Embassy officer.

According to WikiLeaks, the full cable was not available and so it provided a "partial extract."

Interestingly, the WikiLeaks cable provides nothing new, but echoes much of what Venezuela's news media had reported well before 2004. In short, the cable is remarkable for the lack of insider's knowledge one expects of diplomatic cables.

Marksman, for instance, had been interviewed by Venezuela's media numerous times before 2004. In addition, two Venezuelan journalists published a well-received book in 2004 that mentioned much of what was contained in the cable. Marksman is mentioned in numerous passages of "
Hugo Chávez: The Definitive Biography of the Venezuela's Controversial President."

If the cable's information was new to anybody in the Bush administration, this suggests the administration in 2004 was as behind the curve on Chávez as the Clinton administration had been in 1998.

Consider Clinton-era Ambassador to Venezuela
John Maisto. He regarded former coup leader Chávez as democrat who'd traded the bullet for the ballet. Maisto, according to former Heritage Foundation analyst John Sweeney, was "a career diplomat strongly associated with the Democratic Party and Liberation Theology ideas."

"Maisto was always soft on Chávez, like he was soft on Daniel Ortega during his stint as Ambassador to Nicaragua in the 1990s, before he was sent to Venezuela," Sweeney wrote in an essay, "
Playing the Washington Blame Game."

Whatever became of Maisto after leaving Caracas? Incredibly, as Sweeney points out, Maisto "became the first senior appointee on Latin America in the Bush administration."

Eventually, Chávez's anti-Americanism had its intended effect -- poisoning the views of millions of Venezuelans about the U.S.. Accordingly, the U.S. Embassy finally decided it must respond with a major campaign to counter such anti-Americanism.

It sent a
confidential cable on March 26, 2008: “Embassy Strategic Communications – Countering Chavez' (sic) Anti-Americanism.” It stated:

"The strategy's goal is to counter the active and deliberate campaign by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (BRV) to instill in the population a negative perception of the US. and distort more than 100 years of close and mutually beneficial relations between our two countries. Regrettably, the BRV has had some success. From a pre-Chavez level of over 65% approval, today the positive image of the US has fallen to a historic low of 31% in Venezuela." --Originally published at The American Thinker.

December 7, 2010

Kuwait's Gitmo solution: 'Kill them!'

By David Paulin

What to do with the Gitmo prisoners? The Obama administration frets and dithers. Kuwait's interior minister has a simple solution: Drop them into a combat zone in Afghanistan -- and kill them!

That's according to a secret diplomatic cable from the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait dated Feb. 5, 2009, and just released by WikiLeaks. The title of the cable from U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait Deborah K. Jones: “THE INTERIOR MINISTER'S REMEDY FOR TERRORISTS: 'LET THEM DIE.'”

Kuwait's creative Gitmo solution came up during a meeting on joint anti-terror initiatives attended by Jones and Kuwait's interior minister, Shaykh Jaber al-Khalid Al Sabah. Touching on terror financing and the Guantanamo prisoners, the discussion was politically incorrect, to say the least.

"Jihad" -- a word the Obama administration publicly abhors because it offends many Muslims -- is used repeatedly in reference to Islamic terrorists when describing the meeting. Jones, moreover, calls four Kuwaiti prisoners "nasty, unrepentant individuals" -- but would nevertheless like Kuwait to take them off the Obama administration's hands, perhaps to be reprogrammed in "rehabilitation centers."

The administration is nevertheless concerned that the Kuwaiti jihadists don't end up like "former Gitmo detainee al-Ajmi, who'd allegedly blown himself up in Mosul following his release to the Kuwaiti authorities," Jones points out. She adds that former Gitmo prisoners from Saudi Arabia returned to the battlefield after being released from Saudi “rehabilitation centers.”

Poo-pooing the idea of rehabilitation centers, Shaykh Jaber explains: “I can talk to you into next week about building a rehabilitation center, but it won't happen. We are not Saudi Arabia; we cannot isolate these people in desert camps or somewhere on an island.

"We cannot compel them to stay. If they are rotten, they are rotten and the best thing to do is get rid of them. You picked them up in Afghanistan; you should drop them off in Afghanistan, in the middle of the war zone."

Citing another problem with taking Kuwaiti Gitmo prisoners, the interior minister mentions the "constraints of Kuwait's current legal and political systems" which the Gitmo detainees could exploit.

"You know better than I that we cannot deal with these people,” he tells Jones. “I can't detain them. If I take their passports, they will sue to get them back.” Indeed, Jones herself notes that Al-Ajmi sued to get his passport back before blowing himself up.

Shaykh Jaber -- "smiling broadly" as the cable tells it -- questions why the U.S. Navy had two weeks earlier rescued seven Iranian hashhish smugglers whose boat was foundering.

"God wished to punish them for smuggling drugs by drowning them," he tells Jones, "and then you saved them. So they're your problem! You should have let them drown."

Shaykh Jaber expressed concerns as well "about terrorist influences from Saudi Arabia as from Iran."

Regarding Iraq, Jones noted that Shaykh Jaber started the meeting by "applauding the 'huge success' of the provincial elections in Iraq and expressing his confidence in the ability of President Obama and the 'super power' U.S. to address current challenges."

What might members of Obama's far-left political base make of all this?

Concluding the cable, Jones observed:

“The Minister was as frank and pessimistic as ever when it came to the subject of apprehending and detaining terror financiers and facilitators under Kuwait's current legal and political framework. Ongoing tensions between parliament and the PM and his cabinet make any changes highly unlikely any time soon. The remaining GITMO detainees remain a particularly thorny issue for the leadership here, who privately recognize the downsides of taking custody and readily acknowledge their inability to manage them but who remain under strong domestic political pressure to "bring their boys home."

Originally published at The American Thinker.

December 2, 2010

WikiLeaks Embassy Cables Reveal Venezuela's Health-Care System Collapsing

By David Paulin

Some of Venezuela's public hospitals are closing. Others are ridden with crime. Many physicians are quitting medicine -- starting new careers in Venezuela or immigrating abroad, upset at being paid a pittance or not paid at all. Medical supplies are in short supply.

A "confidential" U.S. Embassy cable from Caracas, just released by Wikileaks, says socialist Venezuela's health-care system is in "disarray” – and the poor are suffering the most. The document appears to be authentic. However, U.S. officials have flatly refused to confirm the authenticity of any purloined documents published by Wikleaks.

The Embassy cable released in December, 2009, blames Venezuela's ongoing health-care crisis squarely on President Hugo Chávez – his Cuban-style health care initiatives and overall mismanagement; not to mention his politicization of the South American's nation's health-care system. Physicians perceived as being anti-Chávez are disciplined, while incompetent military officials are placed in charge of public hospitals.

Looking ahead, the 1,900-word document warns that Chávez may create more havoc by nationalizing Venezuela's private clinics. They provide high-quality U.S.-style health care, something I experienced first-hand at private Clinica de Caracas, when going their for routine care and for some stitches to my forehead after an accident at a local gym. I was a Caracas-based journalist for much of the 1990s, leaving Venezuela in 2000 to go to CNN in Atlanta. This year Chávez has seized 234 companies, according to the Venezuelan Confederation of Industries (Conindustria).

The U.S. Embassy's blunt anti-Chávez critique comes, ironically, as oil-producing Venezuela enjoys record levels of oil wealth while embarking on Chávez's version of "21st-Century socialism." The ongoing health-care crisis says much about Chávez -- and specifically about the way such populist and authoritarian rulers invariably wreck a nation's economy with bread-and-circus socialism.

Little if any coverage has been given to Venezuela’s collapsing health-care system, with one exception being a piece in the Los Angeles Times. Accordingly, the cable provides a fascinating insider's glimpse of how Chávez is transforming Venezuela into a Latin American version of Zimbabwe, as one senior French official put it in a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.

To be sure, Venezuela's public health-care system was declining years before Chávez became president 12 years ago -- thanks to Venezuela's notorious mismanagement; endemic corruption; and a dwindling supply of petro-dollars to support Venezuela's huge government bureaucracy.

Yet according to the Embassy cable, that deterioration has worsened significantly under Chávez -- a former coup leader whom poor and well-off alike voted for in a landslide election victory. He'd pledged to reverse years of decline in the oil-rich nation with a "Third Way" between socialism and capitalism. Venezuela's economy and quality-of-life had been in a tailspin since the end of soaring oil prices in the mid-1970s. Back then, the country was called “Saudi Venezuela.” It seemed poised for First World status.

Cuba-style heath care

According to the Embassy cable, Chávez has undermined Venezuela's public health-care system by creating a "parallel" Cuba-inspired medical system that most Venezuelans dislike: community medical clinics called “Barrio Adentro” (Mission Inside the Neighborhood) that provide “free” care provided by Cuban physicians.

According to the cable, critics say the missions are inefficient and have drained funding away from public hospitals that poor and middle-class Venezuelans still prefer – thus "lowering the overall quality of medical care" for everybody. Of the 30,000 personnel staffing the Cuba-style free clinics, about one half are reportedly Cuban physicians.

Interestingly, the Embassy cable is at odds with the two United Nation's agencies -- UNICEF and the Latin American branch of the World Health Organization. Both have reportedly praised the Cuban-style missions.

Regarding the politicization of Venezuela’s health-are system, the cable said health authorities have “suspended doctors for speaking out about the crisis while giving former military officers and community councils a greater role in hospital administration."

Another problem is Chávez's plans to "eliminate a government health care benefit that pays for public workers to receive health care at private clinics, a move that would place even greater strain on already overburdened public hospitals," the cable notes. This has outraged many middle-class Venezuelans.

"The evidence suggests that all classes of Venezuelans continue to prefer public hospitals to Barrio Adentro, even as the quality of medical services in the former has deteriorated.”

The cable added: “To the extent that President Chavez has acknowledged Venezuela's health care crisis, (Venezuela's government) has looked to Barrio Adentro and Cuba – and not the public hospitals – as the solution.”

What do Venezuelans think of Cuban physicians? An answer was suggested by a "secret" Embassy cable sent in January, 2006. Its title: "Cuba/Venezuela Axis of Mischief: The View From Caracas."

The cable's focus was on Cuba's growing influence in Venezuela, including by Cuban intelligence agents. But it also dealt with "free" Cuban health care, stating: "Anecdotal reporting suggests the care Cuban doctors provide is often lacking and that many 'physicians' are actually medical students."

Cuban doctors were earning about $400 per month, but they apparently weren't being paid up front. According to the cable: "A Cuban physician told (the Embassy's) medical advisor...that he received room, board, and toiletries but that the Cuban Government was 'holding' his salary until he finished his two-year tour."

Citing an interview with a local legislator, one Embassy officer reported that some "Cuban doctors complained bitterly that the Cuban regime held their families hostage while the doctors relied on local donations to survive."

Cuban Physicians Flee

Not surprisingly, hundreds of Cuban physicians have sought and been granted visas from the U.S. Embassy, according two separate Embassy cables describing the plight of Cuban physicians. The doctors complained of "poor working conditions, inadequate medical supplies, and of constantly being watched and monitored by co-workers," according to a
"secret" Embassy cable sent in April, 2009, and titled: "Cuban Medical Personnel Flee Venezuela."

Most of the asylum-seeking physicians managed to leave Venezuela, but in many cases only after suffering harassment from Venezuelan officials or paying bribes of up to $1,000, according to a
"confidential" Embassy cable sent in February, 2010, describing increased harassment of asylum-seeking physicians.

Here are some horrific examples of Venezuela's health-care crisis cited by the Embassy cable dealing with Venezuela's collapsing health-care system:

*"Criminals go to the public hospitals to rob, steal, and even kill patients. The emergency room in Hospital Vargas is only open for twelve hours-between seven in the morning and seven at night-because of security concerns."

*In the impoverished Catia area of Caracas, 140 physicians staged a mass resignation at one of the area's "two largest and most important public hospitals" for poor Venezuelans. They were upset over unpaid wages and benefits, lack of hospital funding -- and the Health Ministry's suspension of four physicians accused of "inciting" patients to protest poor hospital conditions.

*An Embassy officer was told by an unnamed person (the name was deleted by WikiLeaks or an Embassy official) that Venezuela's government had “suspended doctors to discourage them from speaking out about the health care crisis. Last year four doctors were suspended when they exposed the accidental death of six babies in a maternity ward.” According to the unnamed person, Venezuela's government “has limited the role of the resident doctors in hospital management and transferred authority to local community councils.

*Shortages of basic medical supplies have prompted physicians “to ask patients to purchase their own needles, disinfectants and gauze." A Venezuelan whose name was deleted in the Embassy cable (presumably by WikiLeaks or an Embassy official) told an Embassy officer that "doctors sometimes dress wounds with the same dirty bandages. Other patients are told to bring their own X-rays from private clinics. In many areas of Caracas, public hospitals suffer from water shortages, forcing doctors to postpone important operations. In some of the older public hospitals, the plumbing systems cannot pump water above the first few floors of the building.”

*"The maternity ward of the Lidice hospital – considered the second most important in Caracas for many years – has now been closed for two years, while Catia's other major public hospital, Los Magallanes Jose Gregorio Hernandez, has been partially closed for over a year while awaiting renovation."

*Salaries for physicians are “barely enough to cover rent in Caracas.” Accordingly, "many doctors have left the public hospitals in search of other jobs, while some of the most qualified have left the country to earn better salaries abroad. In a December 4 press report, the Venezuelan Medical Federation (FMV) estimated that the public hospitals are understaffed by 43 percent."

*An unnamed Venezuela (his name was deleted) told an Embassy officer "that the quality of health care in the public hospitals has deteriorated as (Venezuela's government) has redirected resources to Barrio Adentro. Although Barrio Adentro has translated into political gains for President Chávez , its medical impact is questionable, despite having received massive government investment."

As revelations of the Embassy cable are publicized, expect the hyper-sensitive Hugo Chávez to go into a frothing anti-American rage.

(Originally published at The American Thinker.)

November 29, 2010

Defying Obama edict, FBI says Portland plot inspired by 'jihad'

By David Paulin

Has the FBI jumped off the Obama administration's political correctness bandwagon? Well, the FBI's Portland office apparently has.

Under the Obama administration, certain words that help us describe our enemies are verboten. For instance, the State Department and Department of Homeland Security are banned from using "jihad" and "mujahideen" with reference to Islamic terrorism. It's all part of an effort to avoid offending the Muslim world.

Yet in a press release about the aborted Portland terror attack, the FBI repeatedly uses the "J" word (jihad) to describe what inspired Somali-born Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. Citizen who was arrested in the plot. Mohamud, 19, allegedly wanted to blow up an explosives-packed van near a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square. Mohamud was on the receiving end of a sting operation, so nobody was ever in any danger.

What set him off?

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has refused to use the term "radical Islam" to describe the ideology of Muslims who want to kill Westerners and destroy the West. Yet in its press release, the FBI is clear about what motivated Mohamud. It uses the verboten "J" word four times to describe what motivated Mohamud to set out to murder American moms, dads, and their children enjoying Portland's Christmas festivities.

"Cognitive dissonance" describes what's happening here -- the peculiar state of holding two conflicting concepts in one's mind at the same time. Obviously, the FBI couldn't avoid the politically incorrect "J" word when Mohamud himself used it to describe what was motivating him. Or as the FBI says: "Mohamud allegedly told undercover FBI operatives he had been thinking of committing violent jihad since the age of 15."

Not only that, the FBI noted that Mohamud had "written articles that were published in Jihad Recollections, an online magazine that advocated violent jihad."

What must Eric Holder think of all this? (Hat Tip: Gates of Vienna)

In case you missed it, here is a YouTube video of Holder explaining why he refuses to use the term “radical Islam":

Originally published at The American Thinker.

November 25, 2010

A Colorado Resident Blasts President Obama with a Craigslist Ad:

Democrat Bear Problem (Denver)

Date: 2010-11-24, 11:03AM MST

A disturbing trend was noted this past summer by National Park Rangers as Democrat Bears invaded public picnic areas and demanded to be fed. They also wanted the government to assure they had adequate caves to sleep in this winter, stocked with hibernation supplies and a guarantee that there would be free food when they woke up in the Spring. The AFL-CIO have begun talks on the Bear's behalf for the Summer 2011 season . . . .

  • Location: Denver
  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
image 2077875702-0

HAT TIP: Vegasviper1


November 24, 2010

The Liberal Obsession: Spread the Wealth Around

By David Paulin

Liberal Democrats have a singular obsession: the gap between rich and poor. Close it with Robin Hood-style soak-the-rich policies, and America will be a better place, they believe. “Spread the wealth around,” presidential candidate Barack Obama told “Joe the Plumber.”

It's an obsession, of course, that's also found in Hugo Chavez's Venezuela and Castro's Cuba: places where such policies have not created innovation, investment and wealth -- but instead created poverty.

Last night on the
PBS Newshour, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an influential Illinois Democrat, again raised the Democrat's spread-the-wealth banner – putting forth the usual liberal crackpot theories about how to reduce the federal deficit – namely, she explained, by utilizing massive soak-the-rich tax polices and huge cuts in defense spending. But what underpinned Rep. Jan Schakowsky deficit-reduction plan was her obsession with closing the gap between rich and poor -- a goal she's obviously unwilling to address with business-friendly policies, entrepreneurship, and a free market. She explained:

Well, you know, we have right now the greatest disparity in income from the rich to the poor and middle class than we have had since 1925, right before the Great Depression.

And this kind of income inequality is not good for our economy. And it's certainly not good for people who have seen their incomes stagnant or falling over the last couple decades. In fact, all of the growth in wealth went during the Bush years to the top -- wealthiest people in our economy.

It is not a good situation for us to be, as Nicholas Kristof has called, like a banana republic.

In Britain during Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's conservative
pro-growth policies in the 1980s (now making a comeback in Britian and Europe), left-wing Members of Parliament had the same obsession: closing the gap between rich and poor -- even though Britain's economy was humming and rich and poor alike benefited from that prosperity. Here is the prime minister's famous response to one of those left-wing MP's during "Question Time" in Britain’s Parliament -- a lesson from "Economic's 101" that Democrats like Rep. Schakowsky would do well to learn:

(Originally published at The American Thinker.)

November 18, 2010

Obama's Hand in Your Crotch

By David Paulin

At long last, a newspaper editorial hits the nail on the head regarding the TSA's new crotch-fondling polices: Stop humiliating innocent airline passengers and do what Israel's security-conscious El Al does -- profiling.

The Washington Times makes this point in an editorial aptly titled "Obama's Hand in Your Crotch."

The Transportation Security Administration's demeaning new "enhanced pat-down" procedures are a direct result of the Obama administration's willful blindness to the threat from Islamic radicals. While better tools are available to keep air travelers safe, they would involve recognizing the threat for what it is, which is something the White House will never do.

El Al, Israel's national airline, employs a smarter approach. Any airline representing the state of Israel is a natural - some might say preeminent - target for terrorist attacks. Yet El Al has one of the best security records in the world and doesn't resort to wide-scale use of methods that would under other circumstances constitute sexual assault. The Israelis have achieved this track record of safety by employing sophisticated intelligence analysis which allows them to predict which travelers constitute a possible threat and which do not. Resources are then focused on the more probable threats with minimal intrusion on those who are likely not to be terrorists.

Interestingly, growing public outrage over the TSA's excesses and political correctness may end up benefiting the GOP. Writing in the Washington Examiner, political correspondent Byron York notes that Rep. John Mica, a Florida Republican, is zeroing in on the TSA. The agency, Mica contends, has become a "a huge, unwieldy bureaucracy" -- its security checks all but useless against would-be terrorists. Mica will soon be chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, notes the Examiner's piece, "Amid airport anger, GOP takes aim at screening."

York, based on an interview with Mica, writes that the "TSA has become dangerously ineffective. Its specialty is what (its) critics call "security theater" -- that is, a show of what appear to be stringent security measures designed to make passengers feel more secure without providing real security. "That's exactly what it is," Mica tells him. "It's a big Kabuki dance."
Interestingly, the TSA has in fact created security checks in some airports inspired by El Al-style profiling, writes York. They're part of a system called SPOT: "Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques." "The problem is, they're doing it all wrong," writes York, citing a recent study from the Government Accountability Office.

"It's not an Israeli model, it's a TSA, screwed-up model," he quotes Mica as saying.

Indeed, York explains:

In a May 2010 letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Mica noted that the GAO "discovered that since the program's inception, at least 17 known terrorists...have flown on 24 different occasions, passing through security at eight SPOT airports." One of those known terrorists was Faisal Shahzad, who made it past SPOT monitors onto a Dubai-bound plane at New York's JFK International Airport not long after trying to set off a car bomb in Times Square. Federal agents nabbed him just before departure.

Ultimately, it probably won't be TSA agents who stop the next would-be terrorist from blowing up an airliner. It will be passengers themselves. After all, it was passengers who thwarted shoe-bomber Richard Reid and underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. In other cases, passengers were the first to alert flight attendants to the presence of fellow passengers (young men of Middle Eastern origin) who were acting suspiciously -- roaming about the cabin and changing seats for no apparent reason.

Among other things, Rep. Mica says private contractors working under federal supervision may do a better job than the TSA. One thing is certain: The Congressman has much work to do. (Originally published at The American Thinker.)

October 27, 2010

Venezuelan workers protest Chavez's nationalization of U.S. company

By David Paulin

As part of ongoing efforts to introduce "21st-century socialism" to Venezuela, Hugo Chávez plans to nationalize yet another foreign company – this time the local subsidiary of U.S. glass-making giant Owens-Illinois, Inc. Chávez claims the company's subsidiary has been “exploiting” workers.

You'd think the 1,000 workers at Owens-Illinois de Venezuela CA would be overjoyed to know they'll soon have all the benefits of a “workers paradise.”

Just the opposite is the case.

Yesterday, hundreds of “exploited” workers loudly protested the impending nationalization. Speaking to a Venezuela TV station, union leader Rigoberto Méndez said workers were “totally in disagreement with the expropriation.” Owen's workers had an excellent contract and good working conditions, he stressed, while surrounded by supportive workers. The company has been in Venezuela 50 years.

"We are going to defend the company to the last," Méndez said. "We want our right to work to be respected." (You can see a video clip here of Méndez giving an interview to Venezuela's Globovision television station.)

Méndez speculated that a nationalized company will enable Chávez to indirectly control the many companies the glass manufacturer supplies. One of the biggest is Empresas Polar SA, Venezuela's largest beer and food producer – a company Chávez often criticizes. Indeed, Chávez declared “an economic war” on Venezuela's “bourgeoisie” last June, and he lashed into Polar owner Lorenzo Mendoza “for allegedly manipulating its employees and trying to undermine the government," Bloomberg News noted in an article about the expropriation.

Mendoza has the sort of credentials Chávez despises: Forbes magazine named him Venezuela's second-wealthiest man, Bloomberg noted. He also “runs a venture with PepsiCo Inc. and makes Harina P.A.N., the staple corn flour to make arepas, the flat cakes that are a staple of the Venezuelan diet."

Explaining what Chávez hopes to gain, Bloomberg provided insights from a Venezuelans analyst who echoed those of union leader Méndez:

"The takeover will weaken closely held putting its supply chain under government control, said Rafael Alfonzo, president of Caracas-based researcher Cedice. Combined with the expropriation earlier this month of Agroislena C.A. Sucesora de Enrique Fraga Afonso, Venezuela’s biggest farm-supply business, the move gives Chávez significant sway over Polar, Alfonzo said.

"The expropriation of Owens-Illinois is part of a government project to create a food hegemony and the total takeover of the food supply,” Alfonzo said in a phone interview. “If you control the supply chain, there is no need to take control of a company like Polar.”

Chávez made his announcement on state television Monday in his typically buffoonish manner, while surrounded by government lackeys. (Even readers who don't speak Spanish will get a sense of this from this Globovision video clip.)

"What’s it called?” Chávez said, gesturing toward officials after apparently forgetting the name of the company he plans to expropriate.

"Owens-Illinois!” he continued without missing a beat. "Expropriate it.”

According to a spokesperson at Owens-Illinois, the announcement was the first they'd heard of Chávez's plans to take-over the company. Such surprise announcements are typical of how Chávez operates. During his 11 years in office, El Presidente has carried out nationalizations in the telecommunications, steel, banking, power, and oil sectors. Not surprisingly, Venezuela is Latin America's worst-performing economy this year.

The fact that Venezuela's workers are opposed to the take-over underscores that Chávez's agenda is not about creating better conditions for workers. It's about power, ideology, and Chávez's own narcissism.

Venezuela's poor take a back seat to all these things.

(originally published at The American Thinker)

Obama using a 'back door' amnesty for illegals?

David Paulin

In a secretive process, immigration judges are dismissing large numbers of deportation complaints against illegal immigrants, lending credence to claims that the Obama administration is using immigration courts to achieve a "back door amnesty" for illegals.

What's it take for an immigration judge to dismiss a deportation case against an illegal immigrant who has been in the country a few years? Apparently, only that the person has stayed out of trouble with the law (although being in the country illegally doesn't qualify as an offense.)

News about the dismissals -- in Houston, Dallas, Miami and other major cities -- was reported by the Houston Chronicle yesterday. In its article, "Immigration cases tossed by the hundreds," the paper reported:

In the month after Homeland Security officials started a review of Houston's immigration court docket, immigration judges dismissed more than 200 cases, an increase of more than 700 percent from the prior month, new data shows.

The number of dismissals in Houston courts reached 217 in August — up from just 27 in July, according to data from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which administers the nation's immigration court system.

In September, judges dismissed 174 pending cases — the vast majority involving immigrants who already were out on bond and had cases pending on Houston's crowded downtown court docket, where hearings are now being scheduled into 2012. Roughly 45 percent of the 350 cases decided in that court in September resulted in dismissals, the records show.

The EOIR data offers the first glimpse into Homeland Security's largely secretive review of pending cases on the local immigration court docket. In early August, federal attorneys in Houston started filing unsolicited motions to dismiss cases involving suspected illegal immigrants who have lived in the country for years without committing serious crimes.

What does all this mean? Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, an organization that advocates for stricter border controls, told the Chronicle:

"When you have this kind of mass dismissal, it sends a very clear message to illegal immigrants, and to society at large, that the government is not serious about enforcing the laws. This type of action muddles the message so both the public at large as well as illegal immigrants don't know what to think." (originally published at The American Thinker)

October 25, 2010

Connecticut Sees 'Red' After Horrific Home-Invasion Murders

By David Paulin

Blue-state Connecticut has undergone a jolting metamorphosis over the past three years, with potential ramifications for the Senate contest between Linda McMahon and Richard Blumenthal. Many residents have become a lot more like red-state Texans than blue-state New Englanders. Now, they're enthusiastic supporters of the death penalty and are fond of handguns and shotguns. It's all due to a horrific home invasion in 2007 in the affluent town of Cheshire, a New Haven suburb.

Chilling details of the "Cheshire Murders," as they're known, have played out in a New Haven courtroom this fall during the first of two trials. Now, the proceedings are in the penalty phase after Steven Hayes, 48, was convicted of murder and rape. Jurors must decide if he should get life in prison or the death penalty. According to a recent opinion poll, Connecticut residents overwhelmingly favor lethal injection.

On July 23, 2007, at 3 a.m., Hayes and fellow career criminal Joshua Komisarjevsky, now 30, burst into the home of the Petit family. Three family members were murdered: Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and daughters Hayley, 17, and Michaela, 11. Mrs. Petit and Michaela were raped. The sole survivor was Dr. William A. Petit, Jr., then 50, a prominent physician and diabetes specialist who was beaten senseless with a baseball bat and tied up. He eventually freed himself and stumbled out of his home to summon help from neighbors.

Interestingly, the Cheshire Murders have repeatedly overshadowed Connecticut politics -- putting anti-death penalty Democrats on the defensive. Democrat lawmakers in May 2009 revealed themselves to be out of touch with voters when pushing through a vote to abolish Connecticut's death penalty. It followed a debate overshadowed by the "Cheshire Murders." Governor M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, vetoed the law.

Murder and rape normally are unheard of in places like Cheshire, rated by Money Magazine as one of the best places to live in America. They don't happen to families like the Petits, all of whom were accomplished, highly respected, and active in community affairs. The horrific home invasion offered Connecticut residents an appalling glimpse of something liberals and Connecticut's Democratic lawmakers seem unable to understand: criminals who commit unspeakable evil -- and the limits of the police's ability to protect law-abiding citizens from such predatory monsters.

For the rest of the article, go to The American Thinker.

October 16, 2010

Diversity, the Enlightenment, and American Medicine

By David Paulin

The story of America (the one Obama won't tell you) starts with British settlers and their vision of a new country. Next came European immigrants who assimilated into the culture created by those settlers.

And despite speaking different languages and coming from myriad cultures, those settlers and immigrants had much in common. Among other things, they were children of Europe's 18th century Enlightenment – an era in which reason and science became a new religion, albeit a secular one.

Some of America's most breathtaking achievements have been in medicine -- the science of healing human beings. And even without ObamaCare, American medicine is today the envy of the world. Dr. John Olsen, a prominent cardiologist, wrote with much pride about this in an Op-Ed for the Seattle-Times:

Our students are the product of intense competition... Outstanding medical centers have arisen in most major cities in the country, attracting talent from around the world...

Our national conferences routinely attract thousands who seek to validate their ideas on the most competitive stage. The best journals, the most publications, and the most scientific accolades are garnered by physicians working in this country.

We have deciphered the genome and developed dialysis, bone-marrow transplantation and catheter-based cardiac interventions. Our population can get advanced imaging studies or virtually any laboratory test performed promptly and reliably. A simple call to 911 provides instant access to a remarkable countrywide system of emergency care.

Could anything be missing from this upbeat assessment from a proud American physician?

"Yes," says diversity expert Nydia Gonzalez: American medicine needs more “cultural sensitivity” in order to accommodate the non-Western beliefs of new immigrants from non-Western traditions -- immigrants who are changing America's demographic landscape. Indeed, as America's demographic landscape changes, American medicine must change too, becoming more culturally sensitive and diverse, she contends in an article published in the Austin American-Statesman: “
Dose of cultural sensitivity helpful in health care setting.”

American medicine, in other words, is no longer primarily about science and values rooted in the Age of Enlightenment. And nor is it about intense competition in which medical schools and medical centers compete for the best and the brightest: It's now about "diversity" too, says Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, associate vice chancellor for institutional diversity at Tarrant County College in Forth Worth, Texas, says it's not enough for a physician (or translator) to speak to a patient in their own language. They also must demonstrate “sensitivity to and respect (for)...religion, customs, values and traditions — all these values around health care that shape the approaches that we take to health and illness."

In other words, science rooted in 18th century Enlightenment values is no longer the cornerstone of American medicine.

Could what happened at a Minneapolis medical center be a harbinger of things to come? To accommodate a large population of Muslim immigrants from Somalia, hospital administrators at "Hennepin County Medical Center developed an obstetrical staff made up almost entirely of women after Muslim Somali women objected to having male doctors deliver their babies," reported the
New York Times last year.

Nydia Gonzalez may well applaud such cultural sensitivity. But couldn't all those Somali women have been “culturally sensitive” to American medical traditions? Or does cultural sensitivity not apply to Western traditions and values?

As an expert on diversity and cultural sensitivity, Gonzales has an impressive background, and an interesting one. She previously held “diversity related” positions at Yale University and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, noted the Statesman. Even more interestingly, she speaks with much insight about “cultural sensitivity” because she was raised in what might be considered a non-Western tradition.

Gonzales, you see, grew up in South Texas where she was exposed to non-Western medical care -- the type found in backward parts of Mexico.

As the Statesman explains:
Growing up with insight into two cultures provides the backdrop for Gonzalez's interest in cultural competence among health care providers. She said that when she had a fever as a child, a curandera, or faith healer, was called to the family's house to rub an egg from the crown of the girl's head down to her feet. Once the egg was cracked and left in a saucer under her bed overnight, the state of the egg indicated whether her illness was caused by mal de ojo, the evil eye — a concept that exists in cultures around the world.

If that wasn't the case, her family figured she likely had an infection easily treated by driving to a pediatrician's office in Weslaco for a shot of antibiotics.

In the time and place where Gonzalez grew up — in the 1950s in South Texas — it was common for Hispanic families to seek health care from a curandera as well as a medical doctor, she said. Now that she is an expert in organizational diversity, she has a name for the treatment she was given.

"I didn't know it then, but what I was really experiencing was integrative medicine," Gonzalez said.

What a strange way to describe such treatments -- as part of “integrative medicine.” For those who've never heard of “
integrative medicine,” it's a relatively new approach to medical care; a holistic approach practiced at some medical centers in which traditional care is combined with things like nutrition, fitness, and yoga.

I'm no medical expert, to be sure, but I doubt that “integrative medicine” would involve the Mexican voodoo that Gonzalez was exposed to as a child.

Putting forth the case for “cultural competence” among physicians, Gonzalez points to America's changing demographic landscape where white “Anglos” (as she might put it) are heading toward minority status. It's a landscape, of course, that's far different than the one created by British settlers and European immigrants, now that millions of immigrants are here from non-Western and non-European cultures: Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

American medicine and physicians must change to accommodate them, says Gonzalez, who offered this mouthful of insight:

"There's a compelling need for cultural competence just by responding to projected demographic changes to eliminate long-standing disparities in people of diverse cultural backgrounds. Really, nowhere are the divisions of race, ethnicity and culture more sharply drawn than in the issue of health care in the United States."

Besides “cultural sensitivity,” Gonzalez maintains that American medicine needs lots more “diversity” too. As the Statesman explains:

“In response, health care organizations have been issued 14 national standards known as Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) by the Office of Minority Health, a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. CLAS mandates on providing translation services at no cost to patients are required of health care organizations that receive federal funds. Overall, the list of guidelines calls for care that's respectful of a patient's "cultural health beliefs and practices and preferred language." The standards also suggest that a health care organization's staff should reflect the demographics of the surrounding community and should receive training in cultural sensitivity.

Besides interviewing Gonzalez, the Statesman's reporter dug up a hip physician in Austin who's a big fan of cultural sensitivity training.
Dr. David Kessler told the paper that "Whether it's a class or reading the newspaper every day, it's incumbent upon you to get that training. That's what it means to be an informed citizen in this country."

Dr. Kessler, I have a recurring nightmare: It's that I wake up in a hospital run by you and Nydia Gonzalez; a hospital in which people are not hired based on merit but on their ethnic backgrounds and skin colors. A hospital in which, in the room next to mine, I can hear Nydia Gonzalez's witchdoctor performing the “egg” treatment that Gonzalez claims is part of “integrative medicine” – a ceremony you no doubt would encourage due to your your cultural sensitivity. (Originally published at The American Thinker.)