Saturday, February 28, 2004

Kerry on Haiti, circa 1993 

Drugs and the Haitian Military
In late 1993, Senator John Kerry, who had by then made a considerable study of the Haitian role in the drug trade, issued a memorandum on what his inquiries had turned up to date. Kerry concluded that "there is a partnership made in hell, in cocaine, and in dollars between the Colombian cartels and the Haitian military."

Fundamental Points
Since the mid-1980s, the U.S. has had clear evidence of the involvement of senior members of the Haitian military in co ntrolling drug trafficking through Haiti. Haiti has been used to tranship drugs by air and sea through Port-au-Prince.

We heard testimony about how the leading members of the Haitian military viewed control of the drug trafficking as a kind of "perk" th at went with being the top military personnel in the country. The drug trafficking "perk" to the Haitian military is like getting your stars when you become an American general -- it goes with the promotion. Right now it is controlled by the Port-au-Princ e police chief, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Francois.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, the administration kept certifying that human rights and the drug problem we had with Haiti were getting better. They weren't and haven't. We have had a succesion of milit ary figures running the drug trade. As the Clinton State Department acknowldedged in April, corruption of Haitian officials continues to be a major problem.

Recently, we learned that there are more than 1,000 Colombian nationals living in Haiti. They ar en't there to play soccer. There is only one reason for a Colombian to live in Haiti, which has no functioning economy. that reason is the drug trade. There is a partnership made in hell, in cocaine, and in dollars between the Colombian cartels and the Ha itian military. This partnership has to be broken.

Since April (1993), the State Department has also acknowledged publicly that we have received credible reports indicating involvement of government and military personnel in Haiti in narcotics trafficki ng. In fact, our own chief Drug Enforcement Administration agent in Haiti had to leave the country last year after he received a life-threatening phone call driected at his family from a member of the Haitian military. The problem was our DEA agent had ar rested a lower-level Haiti official who was a member of a drug organization run by the high-ranking member of the Haitian military.

Haitian President Aristide is right when he says that one of the reasons the Haitian military will not let go is that their life-style depends on the drug trade. They have been making a hundred million dollars or more on providing sactuary for drugs coming to the U.S. They do not want to lose that money. And thgey don't want to be prosecutied for their criminal activity.

The last time the U.S. made a big push to get rid of the drug traffickers in the Haitian military, the result was that the military leader of Haiti Lt. Gen. Prosper Avril, dismissed 140 officers, mostly for drug trafficking. This in turn brought a bout a coup attempt at Avril, who then stepped down. The drug traffickers are among the most powerful people in Haiti.

There is relatively little direct evidence that Haitian military leader Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras is involved with the drug trade. But obv iously, there is an arrangement between him and poeple like Police Chief Lt. Col. Michael Francois, who clearly controls the trade.

The princiapl Colombian who controls Haiti is Fernando Burgos Martinez. We have a witness who was arrested in Haiti after a marijuana drop, and had to make a payoff to Fernando Burgos Martinez to be released. The witness complained that he wasn't getting good service in Haiti and made a $20,000 payoff. Horus later, his pilots were flown home.

We have two DEA agents in Hai ti. They are confined to the U.S. embassy. They gather inteligence as they can. They cannot make cases. They are not able to do anything of significance right now. Their work is effectively shut down.

Both the State Department and DEA have publicly ackn owledged that: "Corruption within the anti-narcotics services, which are staffed by the military at all levels, is substantial enough to hamper any significant drug investigations focused on dismantling Colombian organizations operating in Haiti.

Impact of the Embargo on the Drug Trade
The broad-scale, worldwide economic set of sactions against Haiti imposed by the United Nations at our request not only puts pressure on the Haitian military to permit the restoration of the Aristide government -- it also has the salutory eff3ect of making Haitia less attractive as a drug-transshipment point. Since we are not letting anything in or out of Haiti, Haiti is not going to continue to be as important as drug-transit site so long as the embargo is in place. No boats will be going in, no boats will be going out.

No evidence suggests that the CIA backed the coup or intentionally undermined President Aristide. In fact, the agency has acted to help him at times, for example, through a program that is now training bodyguards to protect him should he return to Haiti from his exile into the United States.

Having created the Haitian intelligence service, the agency failed to insure that several million dollars spent training and equipping the service from 1986 to 19 91 was actually used in the war on drugs. The unit produced little narcotics intellligence. Seniro members committed acts of political terror against Aristide supporters, including interrogations that included torture, and threatened last year to kill the local chief of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.

On the other hand, United States officials said, one senior Haitian intelligence officer dissuaded soldiers from killing President Aristide during the 1991 coup. The CIA also helped to s ave the lives of at least six Aristide supporters after the coup, evacuating them in a late-night rescue that involved the Navey's elite SEAL unit, officals said.

The CIA also had a mixed track record in analyzing the fall of the 20-year Duvalier family dicatorship in 1986. The agency's analysts did not foresee the political violence that led to the collapse of elections in 1987 and the 1991 coup. But the analysts, contradicting the White House and the State Department , correctly predicted this year that the Haitian miltary would block President's Aristide's scheduled return in October.

Members of the Congressional panels that oversse the CIA say the agency's intelligence gathering helped American policy makers bewildered by the political cahos that followed the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship, including a series of military coups, and by Father Aristide's overwhelming victory in the December 1990 election. [to be continued][

Local News in Miami 

While the international press focused its attention on the chaos occurring in Haiti, another facet of the turmoil quietly played out in a Florida courtroom.

At his sentencing in Miami federal court this week, convicted Haitian cocaine trafficker Beaudoin "Jacques" Kentant accused Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of being involved in drug smuggling, according to the Miami Herald.

The unsubstaniated allegations were made during a rambling 20-minute speech, which preceded his sentencing. Kentant received 27 years in prison and a $30 million fine.

Aristide "is a drug lord," said Kentant. "He turned the country into a narco-country."

Miami lawyer Ira Kurzban, general counsel to the Haitian government and an advisor to Aristide, discounted Kentant's claims. "This is just another effort to politically assassinate President Aristide before the U.S.-directed military coup physically eliminates him," Kurzman said.

The Herald reported that "Ketant and Aristide appeared to be close. One of Kentant's siblings said outside the courtroom that his brother is the godfather to one of Aristide's children."

According to the Herald, Kentant maintained a network of informants and drugrunners within Haiti and the U.S. He was believed to work for the the Medellin, Cali and Northern Valley cartels of Colombia. The Colombians use Haiti as a transshipment point for drugs entering the U.S.

A Thumbnail Bio of Aristide 

from the Dictionary of Political Biography edited by Dennis Kavanagh, Oxford University Press, 1998:

Aristide, Jean-Bertrand (b. Haiti, 15 July 1953)

Aristide trained as a priest and studied in Israel and Europe before working at the Salesian St. Jean Bosco church in a slum area of Port-au-Prince in 1975. In the mid-1980s he became an outspoken critic of the Duvalier dictatorship and was widely identified with the ti legliz, the Haitian version of radical liberation theology. His political stance included attacks on Haiti's mulatto elite, U.S. imperialism, and the army as well as the dictatorship itself. His fiery sermons and radio braodcasts were an important factor in mobilizing oppostiion to Baby Doc Duvalier who finally fled Haiti in February 1986.

In the aftermath of the dictatorship, a number of military regimes succeeded one another and Aristede remained a central figure in the fledgling democratization movement. He survived three assassination attempts from parmilitary forces enhancing his popular stature. He was expelled from the Salesian Order in 1988 for alleged "incitement to class struggle" and withdrew to run an orphanage. In 1990, having previously shunned electorial politics, he was nominated as presidential candidate for a left-wing coalition and won the December election with 67 percent of the vote.

Aristide's period in office was in may ways a failure. Despite his radical campaign pledges, little was achieved to remedy Haiti's poverty and social injustice. His coalition broke up, he was unable to enact significant legislation due to a hostile congress and he was accused of tolerating mob rule among his lavalas (landslide) supporters. In September 1991, after severn months in power, he was ousted in a coup and exiled first to Venezuela and then to the U.S. A period of three years in exile ensued, as the U.S. tried to find a solution to the Haitian problem which would sideline Aristide or at least reduce his influence. After months of abortive negotiations with the de facto military regime in Port-au-Prince, the Clintion administration finally led a UN-endorsed occupation, designed to return Aristide to the presidency. A combination of international pressure and the fear of escalating illegal immigration from Haiti into Florida were the main factors in forcing Aristide's return. Both the Bush and Clinton administrations had made it clear that they were suspicious of Aristide himself and would much prefer another Haitian leader.

Despite calls for him to extend his presidency, Aristide agreed to stand down in February 1996. His remaining months in office were dominated by the US occupation of Haiti and allegations among his more radical supporters that he had mad concessions to the World Bank and IMF on economic restructuring in return for US military support.

In January 1996 Aristide married, having first renounced his priesthood. He remains enormously popular among the majority of Haitians, despite his checkered record in office, and is a rel eontender for a future presidency, should Haiti's chaotic political culture allow it. 

Haiti Revisited 

In early 1992, Katherine Dunham, the renowned dancer and choreographer, staged a fast in support ofthen-exiled Haitian leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Dunham's action focused attention on the plight of the Haitian people, turning her house in East St. Louis into a media campground for weeks. Among those who supported Dunham was activist Dick Gregory, who participated in a series of protest. Gregory would later be arrested for shoplifting at the Golden Grocer, a health food store, on Euclid in the Central West End. His arrest on a minor, unrelated criminal charge shifted the direction of the news coverage away from Haitian situation. Before Gregory's shoplifting bust, I wrote the following story on the former comedian's earlier arrests that were related to the Haitian situation. Note that more than ten years ago Gregory suggested that using a Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba as a internment camp for Haitian refugees was a front for bringing in supplies to invade Cuba. The same allegation could be raised again today with imprisonment of the Taliban.


Dick Gregory is worried. Since allying himself with Katherine Dunham, Gregory has been jailed three times in the last week. The 82-year-old Dunham -- a world renown dancer -- has been fasting for 26 days to protest the repatriation of Haitian refugees.

Incarcerations themselves are nothing new to Gregory and neither is foregoing food. Dunham enlisted Gregory's support after asking his advice about the latter. Gregory, a former comedian, has a history of fasting against U.S. foreign policy that stretches from Vietnam to Iran. By his own count the 60-year-old civil rights activist says he's been arrested some 280 times as well. But being pulled from his cell in the middle of the night by a federal posse has a way of evoking the feeling of the Jewish holocaust or a Southern lynching, Gregory says.

Furthermore, Gregory suspects the government's interest in both the East St. Louis protest and the quarantining of thousands of Haitians at the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba goes far beyond a simple immigration dispute. More than 15,000 islanders have fled the island since the Sept. 30 deposal of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide by the military. "(It) smells ofthe CIA," says Gregory.

Perhaps there is something rotten in the state of Illinois, too. At 4 a.m. Jan. 21, Gregory was taken from the Bond County jail in Greenville, Ill. by U.S. marshals and flown to Washington D.C. to be arraigned over a White House protest against the Persian Gulf war early last year. Gregory admits he failed to make a court appearance in June. So it's not the minor federal charge, but the timing of what he calls his "kidnapping"that troubles him.

Gregory, who has fasted for nearly two weeks now himself, spoke to the RFT in a telephone interview from yet another rural Illinois jail late Monday. "Why am I being held 70 miles away from the people I was arrested with?" asks Gregory. He adds that the authorities give mafia members more deference than he has been afforded. Gregory was being detained in Pickneyville, Ill.after being arrested in Belleville during a noonday vigil for two other Dunham supporters held at the St. Clair County jail.

U.S. marshals first arrested Gregory last Wednesday after he and others chained themselves to the doors of the federal courthouse in East St. Louis. The veteran activist finds it peculiar that after being arrested at the time of the State ofthe Union address in Washington last month, authorities failed to cite him for skipping his previous court date. They didn't seem to notice his fugitive status until his second arrest in East St.Louis last Thursday, when he declined to pay a $50 fine associated with last year's war protest in the capital.

Local activist Bill Ramsey, who is also supporting Dunham's fast, sees a method to the U.S. marshal's madness. The feds are incarcerating Gregory in rural county jails because the prison populations in those institutions are largely white. The authorities don't want the civil rights activist raising the consciousness of fellow Afro-American inmates, Ramsey surmises.

There may be other reasons for the jailhouse shuffle.Through Gregory's abrupt trip to Washington and his visits to podunk hoosegows, authorities could hope to interrupt the protest's message and diffuse its focus. Gregory sees this as a mistake on the government's part because the civil rights demonstrations of the 60s proved arrests are necessary to coalesce a movement.

Gregory's own unique interpretation of Haitian events has thus far been stifled. Long before Oliver Stone popularized conspiracy theories, Gregory railed against the intelligence establishment and the military-industrial complex. Now the native St. Louisan thinks there is something fishy going on in the Caribbean and it has nothing to do with aquatic life.

"What they're telling us (the government) is a lie," says Gregory. "It's bigger then some refugees." According to Gregory,the average annual income of a Haitian resident is $280. Poverty alone would preclude the recent mass exodus without financial assistance, he says. In addition, people would not be allowed to flee in such numbers without at least the tacit permission of the military dictatorship, says Gregory.

The refugees were permitted to leave and then shanghaied to Guantanamo Bay by the U.S. Navy as part of a CIA plot, according to Gregory. The transport of food and medicine to the refugees was done to coverup massive shipments of war matierals and military hardware for the imminent invasion of Cuba, he says. Gregory plans to ask members of Congress to initiate an investigation and have attorney Mark Lane represent him. Regardless of the theory's veracity, voicing the mere possibility of such an idea is dangerous.

After being uncooperative with the federal magistrate in Washington last week, Gregory was unexpectedly released. Out on the street, without any identification or money, the thought crossed his mind that he was being set up to be assassinated, Gregory says. At the start of his comedic career, Gregory packed Gaslight Square's Crystal Palace in 1961, but there is no hint that the voice on the other end of the line was now joking. The perennial hellraiser's fears could easily be dismissed as paranoid hyperbole, if not for the late J. Edgar Hoover's own words.

In a 1968 memorandum to the head of the Chicago field office, the FBI chief suggested the mafia be informed of Gregory's adamant opposition to organized crime. Said Hoover: "(A) sophisticated, completely untraceable means of neutralizing Gregory should be developed."

It may be a "New World Order," but things haven't changed much in Dick Gregory's eyes.


Friday, February 27, 2004

Today's Word Puzzle 

courtesy of Danny Casolaro's notes

books Kwitney's
Milton Corley (?) won u. Call Corley (?) and John Walker
Les Collings (?)
Donald Beazley
Bernie Houton
Admiral Yates
Michael Hand
Patry Loomis director of a company in the Nugan Hand group
(For eign Policy, Winter 82-83)
Mysterious "Charlie" who entered Australia and helped Michael Hand leave under a phony identity

June 1980. Michael Hand
Bourbon and Beef Steak Bar

Richard Virden
International Communications (Communicators?) Agency

Australia n & Pacific Holdings Ltd.

Waj-On Bank Hong Kong

Inter Alpha

Hawaiian Trust Co.
Douglas Philpotts

folder 2, page 3
ubiquitious function
appropriated funds
dead giveaway with the
user name
Brazil -- arms
Lima -- dr ug s

folder 2, page 4
Bob N.
John P.
John V
Bob F. Manifesto

Nugan Hand
The Rise of Geoff Whitlam as Australia's PM
floating point system
Nugan Hand

It's a Small World After All 

So Terry Nichols went to the Phillipines and hung out with Muslim extremists prior to blowing up the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma on April 19, 1995. Big deal.

And just because CIA asset Jim Bath, a crony of George W. Bush, invested $50,000 in Arbusto, Bush's oil company, that doesn't mean anything. It doesn't make any difference that Bath was fronting for Saudi businessman Salem Bin Laden, Osama's half brother.

This all happened years ago, anyway, and few of can even remember what we did yesterday. None of these mere coincidences could possibly be related. The fact that the Cardinal owners, Mercer Reynolds and William DeWitt, also invested in Arbusto with Bin Laden and this dude Quasha couldn't possibly mean anything. How could any of this relate to 9/11 or Oklahoma City?

Quasha who?
The Manila brank of Nugan-Hand bank, huh?

Harken Energy was formed in l973 by two oilmen who would benefit from a successful covert effort to destabilize Australia's Labor Party government (which had attempted to shut out foreign oil exploration).
A decade later, Harken was sold to a new investment group headed by New York attorney Alan G. Quasha, a partner in the firm of Quasha, Wessely & Schneider.

Quasha's father, a powerful attorney in the Philippines, had been a staunch supporter of then-president Ferdinand Marcos. William Quasha had also given legal advice to two top officials of the notorious Nugan Hand Bank in Australia, a CIA operation.

After the sale of Harken Energy in 1983, Alan Quasha became a director and chairman of the board. Under Quasha, Harken suddenly absorbed Junior's struggling Spectrum 7 in 1986. The merger immediately opened a financial horn of plenty and reversed Junior's fortunes. But like
his brother Jeb, Junior seemed unconcerned about the characters who were becoming his benefactors.

Harken's $25 million stock offering in 1987, for example, was underwritten by a Little Rock, Arkansas, brokerage house, Stephens, Inc., which placed the Harken stock offering with the London subsidiary of Union Bank -- a bank that had surfaced in the scandal that resulted in the downfall of the Australian Labor government in 1976 and, later, in the Nugan Hand Bank scandal. (It was also Union Bank, according to congressional hearings on international money laundering, that helped the now-notorious

Bank of Credit and Commerce International skirt Panamanian money-laundering laws by flying cash out of the country in private jets, and that was used by Ferdinand Marcos to stash 325 tons of Philippine gold
around the world.)

Stephens, Inc., also helped introduce the BCCI virus into US banking in 1978 when it arranged the sale of Bert Lance's National Bank of Georgia to BCCI front man Ghaith Pharoan. (The head of Stephens, Inc.,

Jackson Stephens, is a member of President Bush's exclusive "Team 100," a group of 249 wealthy individuals who have contributed at least $100,000 each to the GOP's presidential-campaign committee.)

If any of these associations raised questions in the mind of George Bush, Jr., he had little incentive to voice
them. ....

Gore Vidal Did It 

The FBI has reopened the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing case in response to an Associated Press story that suggested the possibility that Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols may have received help from a group of racist bank robbers.

Nichols is set t o go on trial in Oklahoma next week on state charges.

In his 1998 book Others Unknown, McVeigh's defense attorney suggests other possible co-conspirators, including Phillipine terrorist allies of Osama Bin Laden.

According to Jones:

"...Bin Laden was known to Ramzi Yousef. Terry Nichols had met Yousef, Angeles said. Ramzi Yousef's brother had been a member of Abu Sayyaf with Angeles. If the government found it reasonable that Tim McVeigh had been willing to travel all the way from Arizona to Harrison burg, Virginia, just to get a length of detonation cord ... then was it unreasonable to think Terry Nichols had gone to the Phillipines to find somebody to teach him how to make a bomb? ..."

Fear and Loathing: Fertitta Worked for Civella 

As reported by Media Mayhem last week, Carl Wesley Thomas died in a one-car crash in Oregon in 1993. His death halted plans by the Missouri Gaming Commission to interview the former Las Vegas casino executive. The state gaming board was then interested in Thomas because a former colleague of his, Frank Fertitta Jr., had applied (through his son) for a license to operate a casino in St. Charles, Mo. In 1995, author Nicholas Pileggi wrote about Thomas' skimming operations in Las Vegas in the 1970s for the mafia. Keep in mind FBI wiretaps show that Fertitta was involved in Thomas' skimming operation. Ultimately, Station Casino was granted a Missouri gaming license. But it was taken away after the casino's outside counsel Michael Lazaroff was found to have been dealing with gaming board chief Robert Wolfson under the table. The Riverfront Times failed to report anything about Fertitta's background when reporter Bruce Rushton belatedly covered the issue. The omitting of any reference to Fertitta wasn't from lack of knowledge, however, because I tipped Rushton to the mafia ties months before his story ran. Here's an excerpt on Thomas, Fertitta's former boss, from Pileggi's book, Casino:

"... Carl Wesley Thomas was one of th e most highly respected casino executives in Nevada. In his conservative business suits and his steel-rimmed glasses, Carl Thomas looked more like a Carson City banker than a Las Vegas casino boss. He had moved to Las Vegas in 1953 and had risen in ten ye ar s, from blackjack dealer in the Stardust to minority partner in the Circus Circus casino, which was owned at the time by Jay Sarno, one of the great casino impresarios. In addition to Circus Circus, the town's first kiddie-friendly casino, Sarno b uilt Caesar's Palace, the most successful casino in Las Vegas history. Sarno was a great frined of Allen Dorfman's and had used Teamster pension fund loans to build both casinos.

"Gaming officials throughout the state breathed a sigh of releif when they hea rd that Carl Thomas was going to replace Frank (Lefty) Rosenthal at Argent. There was no question among them that Allen Glick had made a brilliant, purifying choice for his troubled corporation.

"What Glick did not know about Carl Thomas -- what alm ost n o o ne in the state knew about him -- was that in addition to his impeccable repuatiation as the first of the new breed of Nevada casino executives, Carl Thomas was also the greatest casino skimmer in America at the time.

"Carl Tho mas ha d le arned at Circus Circus, where skimming the casino was part of his job. The practice had started under Sarno even before Thomas got there and had been established to repay the fees on the Teamster pension fund loans. Back in the early 1960s, th e skimming of casinos was a relatively common practice, and Thomas proved so able and discreet that he soon became casino manager. During this period Sarno introduced him to Allen Dorfman, who was in Las Vegas at least once a month, on the prowl for entrepereneurs looking for Teamster loans to build new casinos.

"Thomas and Dorfman became good friends, and in 1963, Dorfman invited Thomas to Chicago for his forieth birthday party. There were about three hundred guests at the party, many of them from Las Vegas, but in the middle of the affair, Allen Dorfman made a special point of introducing Thomas to Nick Civella. Civella, Thomas learned, was one of the men to whom the skim was delivered, and Thomas soon found himself meeting secretly with the (Kansas City) mob boss whenever Civella came to town. ...",

Get it?

In short, Fertitta -- the guy who owns Station's -- worked for Thomas, who was directly involved in skimming for Kansas City Mafia boss Nick Civella in the 1970s. In the 90s, when riverboat gambling was legalized in Missouri, Ferttita was granted two licenses -- one in St. Louis and one in Kansas City -- to operate casinos despite his ties to organized crime. When attorney Michael Lazaroff, Station's casino's Missouri lobbyist, was found to be illegally influencing the gaming board, the Riverfront Times and, for that matter, the St. Louis Post-Dispatach failed to report Feritta's background.

After the scandal became public, Station's executives refused to testify before the gaming board. This led the gaming board to kick Station's out of the state. The gaming board had been appointed by the late Gov. Mel Carnahan, who would die in a small airplane crash about six weeks after the gaming board hearings on the Lazaroff affair in the late summer of 2000. The hearings resulted in Station's expulsion from the state.

For the RFT and the Post to both ignore Fertitta's background, in the wake of the Lazaroff scandal, remains an unconscionable act.

My 2001 Letter to the St. Louis Journalism Review 

In Response to Mr. Van De Voorde’s letter

After selling the Riverfront Times in 1998, Ray Hartmann, its founder, seldom visited the newsroom, choosing instead to write his commentaries from his homes in University City or South Beach, Fla., where he keeps a second residence. Eventually, he stopped dropping by his office altogether. In April, I helped another staff writer push his desk into editor Safir Ahmed’s office.

The move, which occurred late one Friday afternoon, came without explanation. I realize now that I should have recognized the portent of the occasion. Within weeks, I was told to clean out my own desk on a moment’s notice. New Times Inc., the owner of the newspaper, had finally decided to put its indelible stamp on the RFT, molding it in the image of the dozen other publications it controls in major cities across the country. The harbingers of this change had already appeared: the redesigned layout, the altered masthead, the tweaking of the smallest of details. I chose to see these alterations merely as window dressing. Call it hubris or blind optimism, but I thought the mission of the newspaper remained the same. I also assumed wrongly that the differences I had with my editors over policy and content would be tolerated because of the passion I showed for my work.

After being fired, I contacted Ed Bishop, editor of the St. Louis Journalism Review. Bishop assigned Alex Posorske, a young reporter to cover the story of my dismissal. Posorske interviewed me in person and by telephone. During the interviews, I criticized the editorial shift at the RFT. Posorske then called the editors at the RFT for a response. This is standard procedure for all reporters. Reporters at the RFT do it everyday.

Nevertheless, when New Times’ corporate leadership saw the resulting story, they chose to personally attack Posorske.

In a letter to SJR, Andy Van de Voorde, the executive associate editor of New Times, called Posorske’s story "boneheaded" and an "amateurish piece of claptrap." He accused Posorske of being "my best friend" and called him a "home-boy." The New Times spokesman reserved his most vituperative remarks for me, accusing me of performing an enema on myself.

The sarcastic tone of Van De Voorde’s missive demonstrates a prevalent attitude at New Times and the RFT, which may be best termed sophomoric. When he wasn’t belittling the SJR’s reporter or me, Van de Voorde attempted to defend the newspaper’s record by bestowing a series of accolades on it.

There is a flaw in his strident defense, however. Van De Voorde is an absentee landlord. He oversees the St. Louis newsroom from Denver, where the New Times’ editorial offices are located. Therefore, Van de Voorde has no personal knowledge or understanding of the day-to-day operation of the RFT. To carry out his long-distance duties, he must by necessity rely on information filtered through Roland Klose, the RFT’s managing editor. Indeed, the main reason Klose was hired as managing editor at the RFT was to act as the eyes and ears of the new corporate ownership.

However good his intentions, Klose, a former reporter and editor for the Memphis Commercial Appeal and Tampa Tribune, caused discord at the RFT almost immediately. By his own admission, he was unsuited for his job in middle management and disillusionment with his career. More importantly, though , Klose disagreed with our mutual boss – editor Safir Ahmed.

The house was divided, torn asunder, and the differences between the two editors began having an impact on morale of the staff. Writers became caught in the crossfire. Klose groused to me about Ahmed’s work habits, complaining that he rarely arrived in the office before 10 or 11 a.m. But Klose refrained from informing Van de Voorde of Ahmed’s AWOL status and the situation festered.

Klose also took great exception to Ahmed’s deliberative editing style, which was diametrically opposite of his. Ahmed, to his credit, was meticulous in his edits and would involve the writer in a collaborative process. If he felt substantive changes needed to be made, he would allow the writer to do so. Klose, on the other hand, referred to his own editing technique as "slash and burn." He would cut passages and rewrite paragraphs without the reporter’s input and then hand it back to him or her expecting tacit approval.

When I objected once, he threatened to kill the story. After the Klose finished placing his mark on a piece , reporters would then have to go back and edit their own work to make sure he had not inserted any errors into their copy. After this arduous and redundant task, the story would then go to Ahmed, who would sometimes instruct the reporters to change the story back to the way they had originally written it. It was akin to writing by committee, with each editor trying to validate his role at the writer’s expense. Rarely, if ever, did this process improve the writing or reporting.

Despite these internal conflicts, I continued to devote myself to in-depth, investigative journalism -- which was what I was hired to do. I tackled complicated public policy issues including, environmental issues, tax increment financing, urban sprawl and flood plain development . As recently as this January, I scooped the Post in a story about air quality problems at a proposed cement kiln in northern Jefferson County.

I had the experience to tackle these complicated stories because I had a good teacher. When Ahmed became editor of the RFT in 1991, I was already a free-lance feature writer for the newspaper. As a former reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Ahmed expected me to write and report on a broader and more serious level. He was the quintessential hard news editor.

Ultimately, under his guidance, I won the 1997 award for best investigative reporting from the Missouri Press Association. As recently as April 2000, Van de Voorde himself lauded me for being a finalist in the Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Writing Awards . New Times rewarded me with an $800 bonus. This honor, of course, is conspicuously missing from the list that Van de Voorde submitted to the St. Louis Journalism Review.

Not surprisingly, I wrote the story, which gained national recognition, before Klose ever darkened the door at the RFT. After his arrival, it became more difficult to cover the topics that I had in the past. He expressed total disdain for stories related to dioxin contamination. He also showed little interest in a wide range of other environmental topics. These issues were passe, according to Klose. In short, his abject worldview went beyond the pale of the most jaded editor. He showed contempt for sources, referring to them as snitches, or, in one case, "a lying sack of shit." In the same vein, Klose routinely referred to old people as "geezers."

This is the person to whom I was expected to kowtow.
As for the New Times quota system -- journalists shouldn’t be required to work piece meal. The measure of your worth can’t be quantified by how many words you produce. Besides, nobody at the RFT met the quota last year. It would be arithmetically impossible for all the writers to have met the quota because there was not a big enough news hole to accommodate all the stories. In addition, Van de Voorde is wrong in stating that my output was the lowest on the staff. New Times editors are themselves expected to write for a living, too. In nearly three years time, Ahmed and Klose have collectively generated a total of only three cover stories. As for my own circumstances, I could have possibly come closer to achieving the quota, if I had written features stories about high school proms, UFOs, or the death of a chimpanzee . But that’s not what Ahmed had told me to do – until earlier this year.
During my annual evaluation in January, Ahmed suggested I emulate another RFT writer, who was then profiling a downtown midget. This is the same editor who taught me how to do investigative journalism. At a subsequent staff meeting, Ahmed told everybody present that we were to concentrate on writing "wacky" stories. Contrary to Van de Voorde’s allegation, no other adjectives were used to describe the editorial shift. Ahmed -- the consummate hard newsman -- seemed at a loss to describe the editorial shift in any other way. We were also told that there would be no more than a handful of public policy issues published per year. The corporate hierarchy had handed Ahmed an edict and he was carrying it out without protest. "Gotcha journalism," as Van de Voorde refers to it, has replaced substantive reporting. The targets of the RFT are nowadays more apt to be minor public figures bereft of any power.

New Times was virtually pushing me out the door, but I still didn’t know it. Like any other capitalist enterprise, the newspaper trade lives and dies by the bottom line. My employer, a burgeoning chain, had bought three alternative weeklies in as many years, and now the economy was starting to tilt south. Ad lineage was stagnant. The bean counters likely issued a warning. Something had to give, or, more accurately, somebody had to go.

It is disingenuous for Van De Voorde to say that New Times increased the editorial budget by more than 50 percent. Most of that initial increase went to pay the inflated salaries of the top three bosses: Hartmann, Ahmed and Klose. In fact, Klose’s job didn’t even exist before New Times bought the RFT. Moreover, since being fired, my position hasn’t been filled. Essentially, New Times has downsized the RFT and a wage freeze is in effect. The people who remain at the newspaper are being forced to do more work for substandard pay. The majority of those doing the heavy lifting are women. If ever there was a work place in need of a union, it is the RFT. In the last six months, four out of12 members of editorial staff have left the paper; a 33 percent turnover. The loss of talent tallies up to more than three decades of experience. The senior writer -- the "geezer" -- is the only one who didn’t go by his own volition.

In July, I went to New Orleans with the intention of attending the Association of Alternative Newspapers’ annual conference, but instead found myself dancing in the streets as a part of a jazz funeral of a local R&B singer, who was buried at St. Louis Cemetery #2. That night, I saw Hartmann, the founder of the RFT, at Tipitina’s, an uptown club. There was nothing left to say. I moved away from him towards the center of the room and found myself swept away by the funky music of Papa Mali. After I had been fired, I had called the founder of the RFT. Hartmann had expressed his regrets and told me that he most likely would not renew his contract with New Times in November.

The Riverfront Times is dead.

C.D. Stelzer

More ATF Guns Stats 

Gun Stats & Facts

Rank of the Lorcin 380 in the
ATF's top ten most-traced
firearms: 1
Number of so called "Junk Guns" in
the top ten: 6
(Source: ATF 1996 Firearms Enforcement Report)

Number of firearms produced by US
manufacturers every minute: 8
Number of handguns produced by US
manufacturers every minute: 3
Number of handguns produced every
2 minutes by ROF in 1995: 1
[Number of pistols produced by Ring of Fire
companies in 1995 257,155.
(Source: ATF manufacturing numbers)

Average number of firearm thefts
that occur every year in the US: 341,000
(Source: US Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice
Statistics, Guns and Crime, 4/94)

Number of guns federal firearms
licensees have reported as lost,
stolen or missing since Sept. 13,
1994 when the Clinton Crime Bill
made reporting a requirement: 23,775
Percentage decrease in federal
firearms licensees since 1993: 56%
Number of federal firearms
licensees in the US: 124,286
Number of ATF agents to regulate
them: 391
Number of trace requests responded
to by the ATF in 1996: 139,092
Number of ATF employees who work
on trace requests: 41
(Source: ATF: Gun Dealer Licensing and Illegal
Gun Trafficking, Jan.,1997)

Percentage of Americans who agree
that "companies that manufacture
guns with no hunting or sporting
purpose should be held financially
responsible when these guns injure
or kill people": 45
(Source: BJS Sourcebook of criminal justice
statistics, pg. 190)

Percentage of Americans who feel
that "the laws covering the sale
of firearms should be made more
strict": 62
(Source: BJS Sourcebook of criminal justice
statistics, pg. 191)

Number of federal safety standards
that apply to the manufacture of
teddy bears: 4
Number of federal safety standards
that apply to the manufacture of
firearms: 0
(Mother Jones, Jan-Feb/94)

Number of firearms in the US: 223 Million
(Source: US Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice
Statistics, Guns Used in Crime, 7/95, from ATF

Percentage of L.A. High School
students who say they could obtain
a gun for less than $50: 25
(Source: ACLU report: From Words to Weapons,

Percentage of arrestees who say it
is easy to get a gun illegally: 55
(Source: Arrestees and Guns: Monitoring the
Illegal Firearms Market, 5/96)

Percentage of all Saturday Night
Specials produced by the "Ring of
Fire" companies: 80
Percentage of all handguns
produced by the "Ring of Fire"
companies in 1992: 34
(Source: Wintemute, G.J. Ring of Fire: The
Handgun Makers of Southern California
(Sacramento, CA: Violence Prevention Research
Program, 1994))

Number of murders committed in
1995 in the US: 20,043
Percentage of murders committed
with a firearm: 68 (13,673)
Percentage of murders committed
with a handgun: 56 (11,198)
(Source: FBI Uniform Crime
Reports, 1995)

Projected year when deaths from
gunfire will surpass death from
auto accidents: 2001
(Source: CDC National Center for Injury
Prevention and Control Fact Sheet, 1/25/96)

Year that the NRA supported a SNS
importation ban and called the
guns "miserably-made, potentially
defective arms that contribute so
much to rising violence" : 1968
(Source: "Are we Really So
Violent?" American Rifleman,
February, 1968.)

Cost of firearms assault injuries
per fatal gunshot wound: $21,700
Total cost per survivor of gunshot
wounds caused by assault: $260,000
Total cost of firearm assault
injury and death in 1992: $63.4 billion
(Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics - Firearm
Injury from Crime - 4/96)

Cost of a Lorcin .22 handgun at a
Pasadena California sporting goods
store: $40
(Source: Center for Investigative Reporting)

Number of people killed by
firearms every hour in America: 4
(Source: CDC)

Number of crime victims that were
shot in 1994: 32,162
(Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports, 1995, pg.

Number of violent crimes reported
to police that were committed with
firearms in 1994: 544,880
(Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports, 1995, pg.

Percent increase in juveniles
arrested for weapons violations
from '85-'94 : 113
(Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports, 1995, pg.

Number of violent crime
victimizations committed with a
firearm in 1993: 1.3 million
Number in 1995: 815,130
(Source: National Crime Victimization Survey,
Cited in Guns Used in Crime, pg.1)

A Competitive Press in a Third World Country 

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch may be the only daily newspaper in town, but in Sport-of-Spain, Trinidad, which has a population of 50,000, there's no shortage of newsprint to digest. The dailies in the capital city of Trinidand and Tobago include the Guaridan, Newsday and theDaily Express.

The Price of News 

The Miami Herald still only costs 35 cents.

Dateline Miami 

People were still lining up to fly to Port au Prince, Haiti yesterday at Miami International Airport, but the lines were shorter than a week ago. The U.S. government has warned Americans not to travel to thc Caribbean island nation because of the ensuing coup against President Jean-Bertrand's administration.

Get Ready to be Shot 

As Missouri readies for the onslaught of further handgun deaths due to the legalization of the "right" of citizens to carry concealed weapons, it's worth noting some old stats still accurately represent a growing trend in American handgun violence.

Number of murders committed in
1995 in the US: 20,043
Percentage of murders committed
with a firearm: 68 (13,673)
Percentage of murders committed
with a handgun: 56 (11,198)
(Source: FBI Uniform Crime
Reports, 1995)

Projected year when deaths from
gunfire will surpass death from
auto accidents: 2001
(Source: CDC National Center for Injury
Prevention and Control Fact Sheet, 1/25/96)

Number of people killed by
firearms every hour in America: 4
(Source: CDC)

Number of murd ers committed in
1995 in the US: 20,043
Percentage of murders committed
with a firearm: 68 (13,673)
Percentage of murders committed
with a han dgun: 56 (11,198)
(Source: FBI Uniform Crime
Reports, 1995)

Number of firearms in the US: 223 Million
(Source: US Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice
Statistics, Guns Us ed in Crime, 7/95, from ATF

Number of firearms produced by US
manufacturers every minute: 8
Number of handguns produced by US
manufacturers every minute: 3
Number of handguns prod uced every
2 minutes by ROF in 1995: 1
[Number of pistols produced by Ring of Fire
companies in 1995 257,155.
(Source: ATF manufacturing numbers)

Average number of firear m the fts
that occur every year in the US: 341,000
(Source: US Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice
Statistics, Guns and Crime, 4/94)

Number of guns federal firearms
licensees have reported as lost,
stolen or missing since Sept. 13,
1994 when the Clinton Crime Bill
made reporting a requirement: 23,775
Percentage decrease in federal
firearms licensees since 1993: 56%
Number of federal firearms
licensees in the US: 124,286
Number of ATF agents to regulate
them: 391
Number of trace re quests responded
to by the ATF in 1996: 139,092
Number of ATF employees who work
on trace requests: 41
(Source: ATF: Gun Dealer Licensing and Illegal
Gun Traf ficking, Jan.,1997)

Hey Lacey, Ship Andy "Piss Ant" Van De Voorde to Phoenix, Too 

[After being unfairly fired by New Times in 2001, I spoke to Husch & Eppenberger attorney G. Carroll Strilbing about my situation. Note that I mentioned the Lazaroff scandal in the body of the letter. New Times fired me because I said I was going to blow the whistle on the Fertitta-Mafia coverup.]

C.D. Stelzer
6545A Clayton Ave.
St. Louis, Mo. 63139

Mr. G. Carroll Stribling
190 Carondelet Plaza
Suite 600
Clayton, Mo. 63105

Aug. 16, 2002

Dear Mr. Stribling:

As you suggested in our telephone conversation yesterday, I am forwarding two St. Louis Journalism Review articles and two letters, published in the same periodical. I am also enclosing a story I wrote earlier this year for Whats Up magazine.

I hope that collectively the stories and letters will provide some context for you to begin to understand my circumstances.

The letter by New Times Executive Associate Editor Andy Van De Voorde, which appeared in the July-August 2001 issue of the journalism review, is headlined Shame on SJR. I have been unemployed since being fired by the Riverfront Times in May of 2001. My career has been damaged, and I have suffered emotional duress due to the defamatory remarks written by Mr. Van De Voorde.

If you take the time to read my response to Mr. Van De Voorde’s letter, it will help answer some of the questions raised by Mr. Van De Voorde’s screed. The same holds true for the story published more recently in Whats Up magazine.

The allegations Mr. Van De Voorde raises about my unfounded claims that Riverfront Times advertisers had ties to organized crime is much more complicated , of course, than he is making it out to be. In short, it involves the disbarred attorney Michael Lazaroff, Stations Casino and the Riverfront Times’ decision to omit relevant information from its published reports on the case.


C.D. Stelzer

Hasta La Vista, Bruce 

Bruce Rushton, the Riverfront Times reporter who dropped the ball on the Station Casino founder's ties to the mafia, has been transferred to the New Times' sinking mother ship in Phoenix, according a blurb by Post gossip columnist Deb Pe terson last week.

Rushton's departure from St. Louis coincides with recent reports by Media Mayhem on how Rushton and then-editors Safir Ahmed and Roland Klose failed to report on Station Casino founder Frank Fertitta Jr.'s connections to the m afia skim operations in Las Vegas in late 2000. At that time, Station's was kicked out of the state for its role in illegally influencing the Missouri Gaming Commission and its former executive director Robert Wolfson.

Even though Rushton knew of Fertit ta's sordid past, he omitted the information in his story about Station's lobbyist-lawyer Michael Lazaroff's efforts to influence the gaming board. Rushton's lame story on the scandal came 11 months after the RFT became aware of the issue. During the interim, the newspaper continued to accept full-page ads for Station's St. Charles, Mo. casino.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Gotta Run 

On the clock at an internet kiosak in downtown Port-of-Spain.

Post Snoozes 

The Belleville News-Democrat scooped the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in the lawsuit filed against Argosy Gaming by John Foley, a creditor of Floyd Warmann.

Media Mayhem, of course, reported on the lawsuit a week ago.


On a travel writing gig in Trinidad. Media Mayhem will be back in action Friday.

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