December 21, 2011

NY Times' public editor rebukes paper for outing alleged Sandusky rape victim

By David Paulin

The New York Times outraged many readers by outing one of Jerry Sandusky's alleged rape victims in an article that -- while not actually naming the alleged victim -- nevertheless revealed so much about him that his identify could be determined with a simple Google search.

On Sunday, the Times' public editor joined the chorus of disgust. Arthur S. Brisbane, the paper's in-house watchdog for newsroom ethics, rebuked the paper for violating a fundamental journalistic cannon -- failing to protect the identify of an alleged rape victim. It's a journalistic cannon that's rarely breached without compelling reasons.

So why did the Times do it? Specifically, how come it ignored what the Society of Professional Journalists, in its code of ethics, characterizes as a fundamental duty to "minimize harm" when reporting sensitive issues such as sexual assaults? In the Times' case, it was purely for the "transient benefits" of telling a good story, according to Brisbane's 1,136-word column, "Name Withheld, but Not His Identity."

In coming to this damning conclusion, Brisbane gathered opinions from a number of sources, including two unapologetic Times editors: Philip B. Corbett, associate managing editor for "standards"; and Joe Sexton, the sports editor whose department produced the Nov. 22 article.

Brisbane also quoted Michael Boni, the lawyer for the victim who was outed, who criticized the Times' story. "These guys knew it would out the kid," he said.

And at various points, Brisbane referred to a column by David Newhouse, editor of The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which has extensively covered the Sandusky story.

In his widely cited column published Nov. 23, Newhouse said his paper deliberately withheld details about Sandusky's alleged victim in order to protect the boy's identity. And he harshly criticized the Times for failing to do the same in respect to "Victim One," as the boy is known in the grand jury report.

Most significantly, Newhouse described an overarching reason for protecting Victim One's anonymity -- a reason Brisbane quoted when describing the potential for harm the Times caused by effectively 'outing' the boy.

As Newhouse explained:

"It is no accident that Victim One was only the second boy to come forward to authorities in what is alleged to have been more than 15 years of assaults by Sandusky. Stories like these, if anything, could discourage future victims from speaking up."

It was a persuasive argument, Brisbane observed -- one backed up by experts on sex crime victimization such as Dean Kilpatrick, a clinical psychologist at the Medical University of South Carolina and director of its National Crime Victims Center.

"Most victims, based on the research, are very reluctant to report," he told Brisbane. He said that "some of the top concerns are: 'I am afraid,' 'I don't want other people to find out,' 'I am afraid that people will blame me for what happened.'"

Brisbane added: "Because of this, Mr. Kilpatrick said, surveys show that fewer than one in five rape cases are ever reported to authorities. Sexual crime is the most underreported category of serious crime in the United States."

In his final rebuke, Brisbane wrote: "The traditional mandate to preserve privacy is there to protect sex crime victims -- a broader social purpose that, in my mind, outweighs the transient benefits of a single human-interest story."

The New York Times has a storied history, and during a golden era of American journalism -- during the late 1800s and early to mid-1900s -- it distinguished itself from myriad other New York City newspapers with its level-headed judgment and good taste. Those virtues were summed up in its motto printed on the upper left-hand corner of its front page and dating to 1896: "All the News that's Fit to Print."

Perhaps the Times needs a new motto to better reflect the news that it now considers fit to print.

Originally published at The American Thinker

An American's Nightmare in a Mexican Hospital

By David Paulin

A recent vacation in Mexico turned into a nightmare for a 79-year-old Illinois man. But it wasn't a devastating bus crash that almost killed U.S.-born Alfonso Acosta.

It was his stay in one of Mexico's government-run hospitals.

According to a harrowing account in the Quad-City Times, a daily newspaper, Acosta suffered a "major head injury, multiple facial fractures, broken ribs and a punctured lung." Yet for five weeks he lay "virtually untreated" at the hospital where he was taken in Toluca, about 40 miles southwest from Mexico City, say outraged family members in the United States who rushed to his bedside.

They found him in a hospital room with six other patients. They barely recognized him: His head was grotesquely swollen and his urine contained clotted blood from an improperly placed catheter. Alarmed at his deteriorating condition and by the indifferent and seemingly incompetent medical personnel who were treating him, family members began caring for Acosta themselves, all while dealing with medical personnel who were unable or unwilling to speak English.

Acosta's family members said they quickly learned that Mexico's government-run hospitals are far different than hospitals here. Medical provisions -- X-rays, blood work, and other hospital supplies -- had to be paid for up front, they said; and so they made regular trips to a local pharmacy to buy medicines or gauze. Eventually, they concluded the hospital wanted to keep Acosta bedridden for as long as possible in order to jack up his bill.

"The longer he stayed, the more money the hospital would get," Acosta's daughter Gina Lieferman, a sheriff's deputy in Iowa, was quoted as saying in the article, "Moline Man's Nightmare Vacation to Mexico."

"I accused them of holding dad hostage. It was a ransom situation," she said, adding: "The whole system operates on bribes and threats. At one point, I yelled, 'You're murdering my father!'"

Even as Acosta's condition deteriorated, hospital officials refused to discharge him, and it eventually took the intervention of the family's representative in Illinois, Congressman Bobby Schilling, a Republican, to discharge him and arrange for an air- ambulance flight to Houston.

A representative from Schilling's office, Andrea Pivarunas, was quoted as saying:

"There is no question that the family encountered an extremely challenging situation and that the Mexican government was of little help. Beyond being grateful we could help them overcome those challenges, we are looking at what can be done to help reduce the chance that others (could) go through what Mr. Acosta and his family endured for far too long."

The Acosta family also complained that the U.S. Embassy in Mexico failed to provide them with proper support, but Embassy officials said they did all they normally do.

The family's nightmare ended when Acosta was finally flown to a Houston hospital where he started to immediately receive the medical care that was never provided in Mexico. As the Quad-City Times explains:

When the jet carrying Acosta and Lieferman arrived at a Houston hospital, medical staff asked for his records from the hospital at Toluca.

"There was one page - one side of one sheet of paper," Mike Lieferman said. "After all those weeks in the hospital, there was nothing but a few notes."

Gina Lieferman hand carried a few X-rays, some of which contained stains from hospital workers setting their coffee cups on them.

Acosta's throat was in bad shape, probably from weeks of being on a ventilator tube, Lieferman said. Although doctors in Mexico had repeatedly declared he needed a tracheotomy, the procedure never was done.

"He got one in Houston almost immediately," Lieferman said. "The doctors in Mexico said his worst problem was a lung infection. The doctors in Houston had a different answer.

"They said his biggest problem was going all those weeks without treatment for his injuries. He spent his first week in Houston in the ICU."

The Quad-City Times' article is interesting on a number of levels, including how the nightmare story it tells contrasts with the excellent and humane emergency care that Mexicans -- including illegal and indigent immigrants - can count on getting at American hospitals, with medical personnel even making it a point to speak "medical Spanish" or having full-time translators available. Indeed, as the New York Times noted in an article in 2008 about larger numbers of poor immigrants seeking medical care at hospitals in the northeast, including Greenwich, Connecticut:

The number of illegal immigrants seeking emergency care at Greenwich has sharply increased since 2005 after the closing of United Hospital in the nearby Village of Port Chester, a community across the border in New York that has a high proportion of poor and working-class immigrants. In the year after United's closing, Greenwich's maternity load soared to 2,300 from 1,400.

Hospitals across New York State, New Jersey and Connecticut all report struggling with the costs of delivering emergency care and sometimes more to illegal immigrants and other uninsured patients, and many see it as their obligation.

The story of Alfonso Acosta's nightmare in a government-run Mexican hospital is worth considering the next time a self-serving Mexican official or open-borders advocate complains about how badly Mexican nationals are being treated in this country.

Originally published at The American Thinker

November 19, 2011

In Texas, A Tragic Miscarriage of Justice Fails to Excite the Liberal Media

By David Paulin

A tragic and Kafkaesque miscarriage of justice in central Texas grows more intriguing by the day, with one stunning development after another generating new headlines. Yet, strangely, the wrongful conviction of Michael Morton in 1987 for murdering his wife has failed to excite liberal media outlets and advocacy groups that typically go wild over such cases. Why?

On Wednesday, the newest twist in the case made headlines: District Judge Ken Anderson -- the lead prosecutor who convicted Morton 25 years ago -- publicly apologized to Morton and those adversely affected by the wrongful conviction. The legal system had suffered a "system's failure," Anderson admitted. But he denied charges that prosecutors hid evidence that would have bolstered Morton's defense.

The former district attorney of Williamson County spoke outside the same historic courthouse where Morton, after being convicted 25 years ago, collapsed at the defense table, sobbing and proclaiming his innocence.

"I didn't do this. That's all I can say. I did not do this," said Morton, then 32 years old -- a man with no history of violence. He was sentenced to life in prison.

The case against Morton was built upon circumstantial evidence -- including what prosecutors in Williamson County, just outside the capital of Austin, had portrayed as Morton's supposedly inappropriate reactions to news of his wife's murder and a claim that there were some tensions in his marriage.

Prosecutors put forth a murder theory tailor-made for lurid supermarket tabloids: Morton was upset that his wife didn't have sex with him on his birthday, the previous day, and so he bludgeoned her to death in her bed. He then went calmly to his job at a grocery store at 5:30 a.m.

Morton, now 57, was exonerated last month by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals after lawyers for Barry Scheck's New York-based Innocence Project overcame six years of objections from the William County district attorney and got a court order for new DNA testing of crime-scene evidence. The testing indicated that an intruder killed Christine Morton in 1986, as well as an Austin woman named Debra Baker after Morton was sent to prison. In 1988, Baker was beaten to death in her bed.

Last week, another stunning development made headlines: police arrested a suspect in Christine Morton's murder -- Mark Alan Norwood, 57, a dishwasher in Bastrop, Texas. He has a long criminal history. A bandana found near the crime scene contained DNA linked to Norwood and his victim. He has yet to be charged in Baker's death.

Morton's wrongful conviction has roiled the state's legal community as questions have emerged about prosecutorial misconduct in the case. Morton's lawyers are now pursuing Anderson and former assistant district attorney Mike Davis, now in private practice, claiming that they withheld evidence. Among other things, they want to know why a transcript from Christine Morton's mother was not made available to defense lawyers. She told the case's lead investigator that the couple's three-year-old son told her that a "monster" -- not his father -- had beaten his mother to death.

Prosecutors also allegedly withheld two other pieces of information: two weeks after Christine Morton's murder, her credit card was used in San Antonio. And a check made out to her was cashed with a signature deemed a forgery.

Judge Anderson, whom Gov. Rick Perry appointed in 2002, initially stonewalled efforts by Morton's lawyers to provide depositions aimed at learning whether he had intentionally withheld information that could have prevented Morton's wrongful conviction. However, a ruling by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals forced him to provide depositions. That same ruling applied to Davis.

The Texas attorney general plans to reinvestigate the murder case, and the State Bar of Texas, in charge of lawyer discipline, is undertaking its own investigation focusing on Anderson and Davis.

One of the jurors who convicted Morton was distraught and teary-eyed when discussing her role in convicting him -- and she was particularly upset that exculpatory evidence was allegedly kept from the jury. "We should have known something more," Lou Bryan, a retired high school English teacher in Round Rock, told a local television news channel. "And if that's the way it works in our system, then there is something wrong."

She noted that a few jurors had found holes in the case during their twelve hours of deliberations; however, their doubts were cast aside by, among other things, testimony from a forensic specialist that Christine Morton was killed when her husband was still at home, based on food in her system she'd eaten the previous night.

During Judge Anderson's public apology, one young woman at his news conference said that she wasn't about to forgive him. Caitlin Baker, daughter of the second woman whom Norwood is thought to have killed, said that "[m]y mother could be alive right now" if Anderson hadn't convicted an innocent man. "If he feels bad, prove it -- resign."

Morton now lives with his parents as he tries to rebuild his life. He's eligible to receive $2 million from the state for his wrongful conviction -- $80,000 for each year he spent in prison. "Thank God this wasn't a capital case," he said after a judge released him from prison early last month.

All in all, it has been a breathtaking series of events in recent weeks. So where are all the nation's liberal media outlets -- CNN, the New York Times, and others who love to showcase abuses of power and miscarriages of justice? Perhaps the case lacks an essential element for them: race.

Michael Morton is white, as was his wife. So were the prosecutors who convicted him. What's more, he was convicted in overwhelmingly white Williamson County by a jury that presumably was overwhelmingly white. All of this is at odds with the favorite liberal media narrative about horrific miscarriages of justice -- that they're typically committed by white prosecutors and white juries who allegedly harbor a racial animus against hapless black defendants and other minorities.

How did things go so wrong in the Morton case? Aside from questions of prosecutorial misconduct, a columnist for the Austin-American Statesman described a perfect storm of tragic events: prosecutor Ken Anderson had a fine reputation, wrote Alberta Phillips, and so the jury was too willing to believe him.

Moreover, they wanted to believe him. It made everybody in the community feel safer that, with Morton in prison, "[n]o monsters lurked under our beds," Phillips wrote.

Bryan, the distraught juror, is surely not unique in her anguish over convicting an innocent man. Her reaction reflects a bedrock value in America's criminal justice system and, indeed, Western culture. "Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer," observed famed English jurist William Blackstone.

Blackstone's 10-1 formulation has biblical underpinnings -- Abraham's argument with God over the fate of Sodom. "Will you consume the righteous with the wicked?" Abraham asks, and then presses that point, saying: "What if ten [righteous] are found there?" God replies: "I will not destroy it for the ten's sake." It's a concept that's hardwired into our culture and the expectations of ordinary Americans.

Liberal media outlets may find the Morton case dull -- not worthy of any showcase stories because in their minds, it fails to illuminate deeper problems in American society. But the perfect storm of events leading to Morton's conviction will continue to play out for months in Texas, out of sight and mind of liberal media outlets that cannot further their political agendas by covering the story in a big way. It would be another matter entirely if Michael Morton were black.

It's another sad aspect of this case.

For a YouTube clip of Morton being released by a judge on October 4, 2011 in Georgetown, Texas, click here. For a TV news clip of distraught juror Lou Bryan discussing her role in convicting Morton, click here.

Originally published at The American Thinker

November 15, 2011

James O'Keefe video targets biased Pulitzer winner, Columbia J-School

By David Paulin

The myth of journalistic objectivity is the subject of James O'Keefe's latest video project -- and the YouTube clip he has produced is as amusing as earlier efforts that brought down ACORN and top NPR executives.

"Should journalists disclose their journalistic biases?" That's the question posed by O'Keefe's video released via YouTube and part of an ongoing series under his Amusingly, the clip reveals that liberal members of the Fourth Estate hate having tape recorders and video cameras turned on themselves with the aim of holding them accountable to the ethical standards they claim to uphold and that -- let's face it -- were unrealistic standards to begin with.

The departure point for O'Keefe's video released on Thursday is a journalism conference where one of O'Keefe's associates poses as a cub reporter. With a hidden camera rolling, O'Keefe's operative engages a 2011 Pulitzer Prize winner at New Jersey's Star-Ledger, Amy Ellis Nutt, in what the reporter and adjunct professor at Columbia University’s journalism school thinks is innocent shop talk.

Nutt, however, is caught on video tape tacitly agreeing with the need to reelect President Obama and calls Republican Gov. Christopher James "Chris" Christie an "asshole" and “liar.” She covered his 2009 election.

O’Keefe subsequently attempts to get comments about the biased remarks from Nutt herself, her boss at the Star-Ledger, and her colleagues at Columbia's journalism school. However, phones are hung up on O'Keefe. He's stonewalled. And he's called unethical and unprofessional -- no matter that his techniques are no different than what many members of Fourth Estate themselves use. One Columbia professor even goes into a vulgar tirade against O'Keefe in an Internet post and e-mail -- and the young filmmaker later confronts the professor walking nervously in the street and avoiding questions about his juvenile conduct.

"These professors and journalists have never been held accountable in their entire lives," says O'Keefe. He adds: “Evidently, they hate when they are the ones being asked difficult questions."

Interestingly, when O'Keefe visits the Star-Ledger in a fruitless attempt to talk with the paper's editor, a man who identifies himself as being from the paper's advertising department shakes O'Keefe's hand.
"I like your work. I can't say much for our editorial side," he says.
It's unclear if the man knows the encounter is being taped, however. One has to wonder if the poor schmuck still has a job. Maybe O'Keefe should have edited that encounter out of his video.

YouTube clip runs nearly eight minutes.

(Originally published at The American Thinker blog. Also see another article at The American Thinker concerning O'Keefe: "James O'Keefe and the Fourth Estate's Double Standards."

November 4, 2011

Obama's Food-Stamp Dole at Record Levels

By David Paulin

Nearly 15 percent of the population -- 45.8 million people - were on the food-stamp dole in August, the Wall Street Journal reported. How come?

According to the paper, it's all because of the horrible economy, with the number of people on food stamps having risen 8.1 percent in the past year.

What the WSJ doesn't mention is that the exploding use of food stamps has much to do with changing attitudes over the years about what food-stamp recipients are entitled to -- and that now includes junk food and sugary drinks. In addition, soaring levels of fraud have helped to drive soaring food-stamp use, according to a recent Op-Ed in The Journal, "The Food-Stamp Crime Wave." (Do WSJ reporters read their paper's Op-Ed page?)

Interestingly, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried some months ago to stop the use of food stamps for sugary beverages like soda pop in an effort to curb exploding levels of diabetes and obesity among New Yorkers. However, the Obama administration rejected Bloomberg's proposal for eliminating soda. Among other things, administration bureaucrats claimed Bloomberg's plan lacked "a clear and practical means to determine product eligibility, which is essential to avoid retailer confusion at point-of-sale and stigma (emphasis added) for affected clients."

Stigma? Now that's an interesting word, because there is no stigma left anymore for those using food stamps, which incidentally are no longer actually "stamps" but debit cards that you swipe like a credit card. And food-stamp cards can buy just about anything your stomach desires. Nationwide, 6 percent of food stamp benefits are spent on sugary beverages, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, which administers the food stamp program and that was the source of the WSJ's statistics about soaring levels of food-stamp use.

As to fraud, that WSJ Op-Ed by James Bovard noted that "The number of food-stamp recipients has soared to 44 million from 26 million in 2007. Not surprisingly, fraud and abuse are rampant."

Among other things, he explained:

Millionaires are now legally entitled to collect food stamps as long as they have little or no monthly income. Thirty-five states have abolished asset tests for most food-stamp recipients. These and similar "paperwork reduction" reforms advocated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are turning the food-stamp program into a magnet for abuses and absurdities.

Ultimately, soaring food-stamp use is not just another anti-poverty program for the Obama administration. It's all about "spreading the wealth around."

Unfortunately, poor people who really need food stamps must now endure the "stigma" of being lumped together with the many deadbeats now on the food-stamp dole.

Originally published at The American Thinker blog

October 21, 2011

So long bastard. Have a nice trip to HELL!

October 20, 2011

In Havana, Hugo and Fidel talk politics

By David Paulin

In between cancer treatments, Hugo Chávez is talking up a storm with Fidel Castro on some favorite subjects - the impending collapse of the United States and Venezuela's role as a "revolutionary model" for the world.

That's according to Castro himself, writing on Wednesday in his regular newspaper column, "Reflections of Fidel."

"I had long conversations with him (Chávez) yesterday and today," the 85-year-old Castro wrote in Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party. "I explained to him the intensity with which I am devoting my remaining energies to dreams of a better and more just world.

"It is not difficult to share dreams with the Bolivarian leader when the empire is already showing the symptoms of a terminal illness." ("Empire" is a reference to the U.S; the name "Granma" is taken from the name of the yacht on which Castro and fellow revolutionaries sailed to Cuba from Mexico in 1956.)

On Sunday, Venezuela's 57-year-old president arrived in Havana for a medical checkup, following four rounds of chemotherapy and surgery on the island to remove a cancerous tumor.

Castro didn't say anything about Chávez's illness, said to be terminal.

Nor did he comment on two interesting immigration trends -- the ongoing flow of Cubans fleeing to the "empire"; and the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who, during Chávez's 12 years as president, have immigrated to the U.S. and overseas. They include Venezuela's most educated citizens, including its best and brightest. They could have played a role in Venezuela's economic development, but Chávez saw them as part of Venezuela's problems. (In Monday's Wall Street Journal, an article by Venezuelan-born Ángel González discussed how the Venezuelan Diaspora has increased dramatically under Chávez'.)

Castro did at various point engage in his usual anti-American frothing, referring to "yankee plunder of oil, natural resources and the sweat of Venezuelans."

But not to worry, he noted, because the "Bolivarian people of Venezuela are organizing and uniting to confront and defeat the nauseating oligarchy in the service of the empire which is once again attempting to take government power in that country.

"Given its exceptional educational, cultural, social development and its immense energy and natural resources, Venezuela is called upon to become a revolutionary model for the world."

Regarding comrade Hugo, Castro wrote:

"I have observed him for 17 years, since he visited Cuba for the first time. He is a supremely humanitarian person and respectful of the law; he has never taken revenge against anyone. The poorest and most forgotten sectors of his country are profoundly grateful to him for responding - for the first time in history - to their dreams of social justice."
On the other hand, human rights groups have regularly criticized Chávez's government for bullying political opponents, harassing the country's media, and attacking democratic institutions.

In Cuba, to be sure, there is no concept of private property. In Venezuela, Chávez has nationalized large swaths of the economy, and he recently pledged to take over private residences, hotels, and yachts on the resort island of Los Roques; the idea is to create a resort for poor Venezuelans.

In his recent book, "Civilization: The West and The Rest," British historian and Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson at various points discusses Hugo Chávez and Latin America. In particular, he focuses on why glaring social inequities pervade Latin American yet are nowhere nearly as evident in the United States. The answer is simple: a lack of respect for private property in Latin America.

Interestingly, in a recent article about Ferguson's book in Venezuelan newspaper El Universal, author Sara Carolina Díaz notes that Ferguson compares "the revolutions of Latin American countries with the U.S. revolution." Understanding the differences between these revolutions, Ferguson contends, is the key to understanding why social inequities pervade Latin American.

As Díaz notes in her paper's English-language edition:

"The main reason behind the differences between both revolutions, Ferguson explains, is that the system created in the United States (from its origin as a nation), deemed a success by the author, is based on property rights. In Latin America, however, land ownership was first claimed by the Spanish royalty and then passed on to an elite minority. This situation gave rise to significant socio-economic differences that, among other things, paved the way for the caudillo phenomenon."

And in Ferguson's view Chávez is simply another strongman or caudillo, according to Díaz's article, "Chávez pins Venezuela under a false democracy."
There is a positive outcome to this tragic phenomena, of course. Members of Cuba's entrepreneurial and business classes, who fled to the U.S. after Castro came to power, have made many positive contributions to this country and, in particular, played a major role in creating the vibrant city of Miami. Today, that city's gleaming skyline stands in dramatic contrast to the grubby skyline of Havana, whose deteriorating buildings and homes are owned by the state.

And today, members of Venezuela's Diaspora in the U.S. are making their own contributions, with their brain power and entrepreneurial skills.

Cuba and Venezuela's losses have been American's gain.

Originally published in The American Thinker

October 19, 2011

Hugo Chavez: Sick in Mind and Body

By David Paulin

In a Havana cancer ward, as Hugo Chávez contemplates his final days, the truth about his medical condition -- mental and physical -- is coming out.

His face grotesquely bloated, Hugo Chávez has been fighting the biggest battle of his life: cancer. But the prognosis for Venezuela's increasingly reclusive president has been a highly guarded state secret. Besides distorting his features, the chemotherapy he's receiving has rendered him bald.

Several unconfirmed reports -- all from anonymous sources -- have claimed in recent months that Chávez's cancer is very bad. Yet during his increasingly irregular and brief public appearances, the leftist 57-year-old leader has remained upbeat -- seemingly defying the worst-case scenarios put forth about his health.

Now, Chávez's former Venezuelan physician has dropped a bombshell: Chávez's cancer is terminal, and he has "no more than two years left."

"President Chávez has a tumor in the pelvis called sarcoma," said Dr. Salvador Navarrete, during a lengthy interview published Sunday in Mexican newspaper Milenio Semanal. He added: "The information I have from the family is that he has a sarcoma, an aggressive tumor with a poor prognosis and I'm pretty sure that's the reality."

Navarrete's revelations offer the most intriguing information yet about Chávez's health -- and perhaps the most credible. So why is the prominent Venezuelan surgeon breaking a hallowed oath of doctor-patient confidentiality? It's a question many Venezuelans are asking.

"Traitor or Good Citizen?" That was the title of an article published Monday at by Gustavo Coronel -- a Chávez opponent and former top Venezuelan executive in the South American country's state oil company. Coronel's conclusion regarding Navarrete's "complex ethical situation": he's a good citizen, because knowing the truth about Chávez is vital to Venezuela's future political health.

Interestingly, Navarrete described himself as a former Chávez supporter, the only "ideological" member of a Venezuelan team of physicians who started treating Chávez in 2002. Months ago, however, Chávez dismissed his circle of Venezuelan physicians, having grown increasingly suspicious of everybody around him, Navarette said. "In Venezuela, President Chávez does not trust anyone, only Cubans," he added. Navarrete, for his part, said he's finished with militant leftist politics.

Citing information provided by Chávez's family -- but not naming specific family members -- Navarrete said Chávez's cancer is being treated with "aggressive chemotherapy."

Asked if Chavez had prostate cancer, he replied: "It is not a tumor of the prostate. It is a tumor that is very close to the prostate and probably invading the bladder. Or it's a tumor that originates in the bladder that is invading the pelvis. In any case, it's a tumor that originates in the bottom of the pelvis, which is considered the anatomical region that is within the hips."

Chávez is Bipolar

In revealing information he'd obtained from Chávez's family members, Navarrete may not have been violating patient-physician confidentiality, Coronel noted. That surely wasn't the case, on the other hand, in respect to intriguing details Navarrete revealed about Chávez's precarious mental health in early 2002 -- a period of seething political turmoil in Venezuela that was taking an emotional toll on Chávez.

Chávez at the time was "very distressed," Navarrete said, and "under intense pressure and physical exhaustion." Accordingly, a team of psychiatrist began treating him.

Chávez had reason to be anxious, for his grip on power was becoming increasingly tenuous. At the time, tens of thousands of anti-Chávez protesters -- on the eve of a March coup against him -- marched regularly in the streets, demonstrating against Chávez's autocratic style and leftist agenda.

Yet it wasn't political turmoil alone that was provoking stress-related problems in Chávez. It was much more serious: Chávez is a "manic-depressive," Navarrete said. He explained that Chávez's "unstable mental states turn from euphoria to sadness -- states in which the personality becomes dissociated and has episodes of loosing contact with reality. It is a very common disease in today's world, described as bipolar disorder. President Chávez oscillates between these poles, more prone to euphoria, to hyperactivity and mania."

Interestingly, Navarrete noted that Chávez's psychiatric team was led by Dr. Edmundo Chirinos, now serving a 20-year prison sentence for murdering a patient in 2008.

Over the years, Chávez has been described as a narcissist by many, an observation reflecting his desire to be the center of attention. When he was in good health, he regularly gave rambling speeches on the radio and TV that went on for three or more hours. But the diagnosis of bipolar disorder gives physiological underpinnings to Chávez's high-energy and rambling monologues and governance.

Regarding Chávez's personal habits, Navarrete said Chávez pays a great deal of attention to his personal appearance, keeping himself "very, very clean," and this includes careful "nail care for his hands and feet." He noted: "He thought he was not going to get sick -- ever."

As for health-related vices, Navarrete said Chávez "drinks too much coffee, a lot, consuming countless cups of coffee a day[.]" He also smokes "under stress or pleasure, in private, never in public."

He added: "He works late into the night every day, is a night owl, and makes his ministers work at the same rhythm. He rises at six-thirty or seven o'clock, sleeping an average of three or four hours a day, no more than that, and sleeps very little. He's a strong man, although he's now deformed by the effects of chemotherapy.

A recent article in El Nuevo Herald (sister publication of The Miami Herald) described Chávez as being in grave condition when he was recently rushed to a military hospital. But Navarrete said Chávez underwent kidney dialysis treatment due to complications associated with his chemotherapy and its negative effect on his kidneys. The kidneys cleanse the body of toxins.

Navarrete's remarks about Chávez's prognosis echo those of Roger F. Noriega, assistant secretary of state under George W. Bush and a former ambassador to the Organization of the American States. In a column last July in The Miami Herald, he wrote: "Doctors treating Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez for cancer told him weeks ago that he has only a 50 percent chance of living another 18 months, according to sources close to his medical team in Cuba."

Venezuela's Future

It was a little over two and a half months ago that Chávez, during a national television address, told stunned Venezuelans that he'd undergone two surgeries in Cuba to remove a pelvic abscess and cancerous tumor. Speculation has been rife since then about what a post-Chávez Venezuela will look like. Last month, early elections for next year were called for October as opposed to December.

To date, however, Chávez has no credible successor. But he does have his fanatic supporters, Chavistas, along with plenty of help from Cuba. Large numbers of Cuban intelligence agents now operate in Venezuela in support of Chávez's regime.

Venezuela has provided Cuba with economic largess and regular shipments of oil; accordingly, Cuba can be counted on to do all it can to make sure Venezuela remains an ideological and economic alley.

Unfortunately, Chávez has so completely polarized his country that it will be difficult for Venezuelans to repair the damage he has done. He has taken three bad ideas from Venezuela's past -- statism, authoritarianism, and populism -- and taken them to epic levels. Anti-Americanism has become more prevalent than ever. Large swaths of Venezuela's economy have been nationalized. And hundreds of thousands of middle-class Venezuelans -- including many of the country's best and brightest -- have immigrated to the U.S. and overseas. They could have been part of the solution to Venezuela's economic development, but Chávez viewed them as part of Venezuela's problems.

The opposition will have much work to do to find a candidate to appeal to Venezuela's poor majority; and even if an opposition candidate prevails, a new government will face an epic task to undo Chávez's damage -- soaring levels of corruption, crime, and dysfunctional governance. Venezuela's state oil company, critical to government revenues, is a shadow of itself thanks to Chávez's mismanagement.Even without Chávez (or a Chávez clone), Venezuela will take years to recover from the damage Chávez has done with his leftist and anti-American agenda.

Originally published at The American Thinker

October 12, 2011

Boston Globe outs tipster who turned in 'Whitey' Bulger

By David Paulin

In a case of journalistic malpractice aided by big-mouthed federal law-enforcement officials, The Boston Globe has outed the tipster who told the FBI where to find James "Whitey" Bulger, the former South Boston crime boss.

The Globe, in a long and riveting article on Sunday, revealed that the tipster and recipient of a $2 million award for information leading to Bulger's capture was Anna Bjornsdottir of Reykjavík, Iceland. She was Miss Iceland in 1974, and went onto work as an actress in movies and TV commercials. The Icelandic beauty, now 57, is famous for her role as one of the sexy blonds in the Noxzema shaving-cream TV ads, who tells viewers to "take it off, take it all off."

Her name was supposed to have been kept a secret by law-enforcement officials. But The Globe, after figuring out who she was, felt it had a duty to reveal her identify. When Globe reporters approached her on two occasions outside her Reykjavík apartment, she ran back inside. Later, her husband sent The Globe an e-mail, saying she wouldn't talk about the Bulger case.

Most of the Globe's story, "Whitey in Exile," deals with Bulger's life on the lam for 16 years -- living for much of that time in a rent-controlled Santa Monica apartment. He had some $800,000 of cash stuffed in the walls along with an arsenal of guns and knives.

In a tease for its story, The Globe explained: "It is a portrait of the gangster as a grumpy old man, hunkered down in a Santa Monica flat with his girlfriend. Neighbors liked them, but no one got close -- or, rather, almost no one. And that was their undoing."

It was through gum-shoe detective work, dumb luck, and the unwitting help of law-enforcement officials that Globe reporters figured out who the tipster was who brought down the 82-year-old Bulger -- wanted for organized crime activities that included allegedly murdering 19 people while leading the notorious Winter Hill Gang, a fixture of South Boston's "Irish Mob" in the 1970s to mid-'80s.

Now, questions are being raised about whether Bjornsdottir's life might be in danger due to The Globe's decision to out her.

In its story, The Globe explains that Bulger's undoing began about six years ago with a scene fit for a Hollywood script - an abandoned tiger-stripped cat roaming outside Bulger and Greig's Santa Monica apartment. Greig went outside twice a day to the feed the hungry tabby whose name was "Tiger."

Bjornsdottir - also a cat lover -- was living nearby at the time. She was touched at the sight of Greig feeding the wayward feline. The two struck up a conversation while the cat was being fed, and they eventually became friends, according to the Globe's account.

Globe reporters were led to Reykjavík and Bjornsdottir by two things. First, big-mouthed law-enforcement officials -- apparently in the FBI or U.S. Attorney's office - had let loose an intriguing detail last September: Bulger's tipster was a woman living in Iceland.

Who could it be? Globe reporters put two and two together when they visited the Santa Monica neighborhood where Bulger and Greig, now 60, had lived. There, they came across a neighbor who recalled how Bjornsdottir and Greig had become fast friends, having bonded over the abandoned cat.

Bulger's downfall came on June 20. That's when the FBI started running TV commercials seeking information about the whereabouts of Bulger's girlfriend, figuring the best way to catch Bulger was through her. In Reykjavík, Bjornsdottir saw a news item about the ads on CNN. She phoned the FBI. The next day, FBI agents arrested Bulger and Greig at their Santa Monica apartment, near where the wayward tabby used to roam.

Bjornsdottir now works as a graphic designer and yoga instructor, and some in Iceland are wondering if her life is safe, according to an article in Monday's Boston Herald. An arch rival of The Boston Globe, The Herald said it won't be revealing Bjornsdottir's name. It offered no explanation, but it appears that it felt this was a case of journalistic ethics and responsibility, and it also was a way of keep their heads high after being scooped by The Globe.

The Globe, to be sure, could easily have written a story without using Bjornsdottir's name -- offering just enough details to make it interesting. But in the end, the paper's editors could's resist dragging Bjornsdottir into the story; for doing so in their minds made a good story a great story - and most journalists find greats stories irresistible.

Many of Bulger's gangland pals are now dead or too old to do anybody much harm. But that surely is no comfort to Bjornsdottir, who had thought her privacy would be protected when she contacted the FBI. That she was outed may well deter other potential informants from coming forward in high-profile cases.

The FBI has been embarrassed for years by the case of Whitey Bulger, for it was a corrupt FBI agent -- Bulger's "handler" -- who tipped off the crime boss that he was about to be arrested; this was after an indictment was issued charging Bulger with murder, racketeering, and other crimes. In the end, Bulger played the FBI like a fiddle, serving as an FBI informant for rival crime groups, while the FBI ignored his own gang.

Now, somebody in the FBI or U.S. Attorney's office has inadvertently helped the Boston Globe reveal the name of a person who had been promised anonymity. It will be interesting to watch the finger-pointing that is sure to start in the coming days over the latest wrinkle in the sordid case of Whitey Bulger.

Originally published at The American Thinker

October 11, 2011

In socialist Venezuela, air travel becomes a white-knuckle affair

By David Paulin

"Socialism or death" is taking on a new meaning for Venezuelan air travelers. Recently, a spate of incidents and emergency landings by some of Venezuela's domestic air carriers -- including two
emergency landings occurring hours apart -- prompted Hugo Chavez's government to open an inquiry concerning the causes of the latest in-flight emergencies.

In one incident, an Aeropostal DC-9 carrying 125 passengers reported problems with both engines. It made a hard landing in Puerto Ordaz. Photos of the DC-9 and its damaged engines -- both torn loose and hanging from the fuselage -- may be seen at The Aviation Herald and Noticas 24. In another incident, an Acerca Airlines DC-9 carrying 90 passengers made an emergency landing at Carlos Piar airport after smoke was detected in the cabin. No injuries were reported during either incident involving the aging DC-9s.

These incidents and others have raised the usual questions about maintenance standards. But other observers say there may be other problems involved -- specifically, Venezuela's draconian currency exchange controls and their effect upon Venezuela's domestic airlines. Exchange controls are a cornerstone of Chavez's command-and-control economic policies.
As Financial Times writer Benedict Mander explains in a blog post about the aviation incidents:

As well as a general problem of oversight, there is a consensus that the fundamental cause is a widespread lack of maintenance. And shoddy maintenance is largely due to the fact that getting spare parts in this country, as any Venezuelan will tell you with a weary sigh, can be a traumatic exercise, not to mention time-consuming and costly, if it is possible at all.
The reason is simple enough: currency controls.


The problem is, access to dollars is severely restricted in Venezuela – in part to prevent capital flight and in part also because of an exchange rate that is seriously overvalued — which means that dollars are unusually cheap, and hence demand for them is unusually high.
Basically, like so many other sectors of the economy, Venezuela’s tight-fisted exchange control agency isn’t giving airlines enough dollars.

At the same time, more cynical observes speculate that good old-fashioned Venezuelan corruption and sloppiness also may have played a role in the spate of aviation incidents. There are about 17
private airlines in Venezuela, a number that includes charter and scheduled carriers.

Hugo Chavez has no reason to fear for his own safety when taking to Venezuela's skies. He flies in his Airbus A-319, the most modern presidential jet in Latin America. Amid
much criticism, it was purchased to replace an aging Boeing 707 used by previous Venezuelan presidents.

Chavez, meanwhile, continues to battle cancer. Its type and prognosis is a highly guarded state secret. One thing that's certain about El Presidente's health: He's not on his death bed as El Nuevo Herald (sister publication of The Miami Herald)
recently reported, citing unnamed sources. Chavez, to be sure, quickly dismissed that news report and on Saturday, looking reasonably fit, he announced at the presidential palace that he would return to Cuba yet again for a series of medical exams next week. "We are going to confirm what I believe is the case; no more cancer cells...with the blessing of God, that will be the news," Chavez said. (For a video of the news conference, click here.)

Originally published at The American Thinker

October 5, 2011

Rick Perry's 'N-Head' Problem and the Fourth Estate's Hypocrisy

By David Paulin

"Nigger go home."

So read the ugly note. It was left in the mid-'70s on the desk of a young black woman -- a college intern.

Where did this happen? Not, to be sure, in the deep South; nor in the part of West Texas where Gov. Rick Perry grew up, during a time when the Lone Star State was segregated. It happened in sophisticated and liberal Boston -- and at a mainstream newspaper: the Boston Herald American (now the Boston Herald).

The young black woman claiming to have found the note was Gwen Ifill -- now PBS NewsHour's senior reporter and news anchor.

The mainstream media and fellow travelers in the lefty blogosphere have a hypocrisy problem -- one underscored by the Washington Post's recent race-hustling piece on Gov. Perry: "At Rick Perry’s Texas hunting spot, camp’s old racially charged name lingered."

In her disingenuous article, young reporter Stephanie McCrummen cleverly suggests that Perry suffers a potential character deficiency: He grew up in a "segregated era" and "mostly white world."

Even worse, she writes, his family has a sprawling hunting camp in West Texas that some locals once called "niggerhead" -- a name that even used to be painted on a rock, though Perry's father had the rock painted over when he joined the property's lease, according to Gov. Perry. He told the Washington Post that “niggerhead” is “an offensive name that has no place in the modern world.”

Interestingly, the Washington Post notes the name “niggerhead” is not unlike many names of other geographic sites across the U.S. in years past; sites named long ago with variations of the "n-word" that were renamed over the years.

However, the Washington Post fails to stress that this underscores that the word “nigger” has undergone various metamorphosis over the years. It has meant different things to different people at different times, as Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy notes in his book, "Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word."

The Washington Post nevertheless hints at this during an interview with Haskell County Judge David Davis. He looks out a window and says of the hunting camp once called niggerhead: "It's just a name. Like those are vertical blinds. It’s just what it was called. There was no significance other than as a hunting deal.”

So what to make of the "niggerhead" scandal that's casting Perry as a something of a racist? Well, it's really "much ado about nothing," says Wallace Jefferson, the first black chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court -- and a Perry appointee.

Jefferson, during an interview with the Texas Tribune, said that Perry "appreciates the role diversity plays in our state and nation. To imply that the governor condoned either the use of that word or that sentiment, I find false."

Yet the white liberals at the Washington Post, together with other liberal race-baiting journalists, are nevertheless uncomfortable about Perry having grown up in a "white world.”

This is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. After all, when Perry was growing up in a "white world," America's mainstream journalists worked in overwhelmingly white newsrooms. Indeed, up until the late 1980s and early 1990s, it would have been hard to find many blacks and Hispanics in newsrooms -- a fact that changed in the late 1990s due to aggressive affirmative action efforts by the nation's major news organizations, which had grown embarrassed over their lack of diversity. Yet even today, not enough integration has occurred, according to diversity advocates.

Liberals and conservatives debate the reasons for the problem of "whiteness" in the newsroom, as one journalism professor snidely put it in an article in trade magazine Editor and Publisher. (Conservative media analysts contend it's due to a lack of qualified blacks and Hispanics in a highly competitive field.) But one thing is certain: If you use the standards that liberals themselves use, you have to conclude that the reason the nation's newsrooms are mainly white (in the past and even today) is because they are, well, racist. Or at least racist in the way that liberals now define racism – that the ethnic and racial composition of America's newsrooms fails to reflect the communities they serve; that there is not, in other words, appropriate “diversity” in them.

Even the Fourth Estate's aggressive affirmative action and "diversity efforts" have failed to resolve this "problem," although they have brought into newsrooms people like journalistic huckster Jayson Blair, the former disgraced New York Times reporter.

In the mainstream media's Perry-is-a-racist narrative, a contradiction emerges. It's a case of do as I say, not as I do. In the mid-1970s, newsrooms where overwhelmingly white. Yet while America's journalists worked in white worlds, that definitely was not the case in respect to Rick Perry and the world he inhabited.

In the mid-1970s, Perry left behind the “white world” of West Texas. After graduating from Texas A&M University, he was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force -- an institution that like other branches of the armed forces was integrated to an extent that America's newsrooms were not integrated -- and are still not integrated

A friend of mine is a former Air Force F-16 senior pilot and captain. He flew nearly 15 years, including during about the same time that Perry was an Air Force pilot. In an e-mail to me, he provided these observations about racial integration in the Air Force:

"It's very fair to say that at least a quarter of the entire USAF manpower was made up of African-Americans. You had to look long and hard to find a true blue racist among us. And when you did, he usually stuck out like a sore thumb. This went both ways. When it became apparent you disliked someone merely because of the color of their skin, your circle of friends shrank dramatically, as did your chance for advancement."

So how did Perry distinguish himself in the Air Force, an institution far more integrated than most of the nation's newsrooms have ever been? He was, according to a recent article in the Austin American-Statesman, regarded as a good pilot and officer, one with a "magnetic personality." After five years, Perry left the Air Force with the rank of captain. The Statesman's article was based on interviews with six men who served with Perry. If Perry had any major character issues as an officer, it's likely the Statesman would have dug them up.

As Texas' governor, Perry also distinguished himself in another respect. He appointed large numbers of blacks and Hispanics to top positions on state commissions, courts, and colleges and universities. And according to an interview Perry gave to an African-American newspaper, these appointments were based on merit – not on “the color of your skin or the sound of your last name." On the other hand, skin color and ethnicity are the criteria used by many newsroom editors in their hiring decisions -- a fact explored by William McGowan in his book, "Coloring the News: How Crusading for Diversity Has Corrupted American Journalism."

"Perry’s appointments of African-Americans are significant and in some ways ground-breaking, and they can and should be applauded," a black-oriented website called “” grudgingly acknowledged.

The mainstream media has a double standard. It finds racism where none exist in respect to Rick Perry; yet during Sen. Barack Obama's presidential run, it failed to vet candidate Obama's curious relationship with racist preacher Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Now, it's ignoring another emerging scandal: Obama's relationship with the New Black Panthers that was recently revealed by Andrew Breitbart's Big Government website.

Speaking on Fox News Tuesday morning, black presidential candidate Herman Cain clarified earlier remarks about the controversy over "niggerhead." It's a hateful word, he said, and has nothing to do with who Rick Perry is.

If history is anything to go by, expect the Washington Post and others to engage in lots more race-baiting of Republican presidential candidates.

Originally published by The American Thinker