- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 29, 2003

EU long on talk

Perhaps instead of lecturing the United States in Orwellian newspeak, EU foreign-policy chief Javier Solana (because he is a precise scientist) can focus specifically on what the European Union can do to help change the Middle East for the better ("Solana affirms EU stand on Iraq war," Nation, Monday).

This would not suggest playing happy face and speaking about "cooperation" and "interventions," but getting down to some real work. For instance, the European Union could live up to its statement of several months ago that it and Arab allies would promote leadership reform in the Palestinian Authority. Remember that?

As usual, the European Union is great with grand announcements and symbolic hoo-ha but pretty darn short on delivering. Or perhaps EU officials were just too busy demagoguing the United States and trashing President Bush's name and honor to worry about those silly old Palestinian terrorists.



Criticism of columnist askew

I am writing in response to the Sunday letter from Larry Birns of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs ("Compromised view on Venezuela?") regarding my column about the pro-Hugo Chavez bias in the American media ("Venezuela through a tilted lens?" Commentary, Jan. 22).

Mr. Birns inaccurately writes that I was a government official "Venezuela's controversial drug czar in the early 1990s" although I was a student at the time. Mr. Birns has mistaken me for my father, who was "controversial" because he brought about the lawful impeachment of the Venezuelan president by supplying evidence of corruption.

For this and for his tireless efforts at combating illegal money laundering, my father was imprisoned and tortured in Venezuela on trumped up charges that were subsequently dismissed. All of those involved in this injustice were subsequently imprisoned.

This is all part of the public record, and it is unthinkable that Mr. Birns failed to come across the truth about my father's case (which, if anything, would make my father an unimpeachable source had he written the column).

At best, Mr. Birns reveals that he is a sloppy researcher. At worst, he knew the truth and deliberately tried to muddy the issue with personal attacks in order to shift the focus away from the issue at hand: the lack of truth in reports about what occurs in Venezuela.

Mr. Birns says I "savaged" professional journalists for their biased reporting from Venezuela, and he follows up by ad hominem attacks against me, including that old standby, "mean-spirited." Yet it is revealing that Mr. Birns does not provide a single factual inaccuracy in my exposure of the errors in the American media coverage of Venezuela.

I fairly and correctly exposed a handful of examples of the brazen bias demonstrated by the New York Times, The Washington Post and the Associated Press, which have consistently betrayed journalistic objectivity in their coverage of what is occurring in Venezuela under the regime of Mr. Chavez.

Mr. Birns disagrees with my characterization of his organization as a Chavez cheerleader and apologist. He congratulates himself for being balanced because he has called Mr. Chavez "arrogant," "confrontational," "authoritarian," "acerbic" and "inflexible." In light of actual events, such characterizations are meager fare, indeed.

No Venezuelan government has had such a large revenue stream in history, yet the Venezuelan economy is set to contract a staggering 40 percent this quarter. Beyond bringing about the most dramatic destruction of wealth and jobs ever as a result of stratospheric levels of corruption and collectivist central planning, Mr. Chavez supplies weapons and funding to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) drug-trafficking guerrilla terrorists in Colombia.

He considers the dictators of Cuba, Libya, Iran and Iraq as his partners, and he has praised Saddam Hussein as his "brother." Mr. Chavez has publicly described the U.S. military response to Osama bin Laden as "terrorism," claiming he saw no difference between the invasion of Afghanistan and the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Mr. Chavez has illegally organized militia gangs to protect his revolution. He has obliterated the separation of powers in Venezuela and has repeatedly warned that he plans to rule until 2021. Just last week, Mr. Chavez's secret police was exposed for torturing, under his orders, a 24-year-old student for his political views. Not one word of these facts can be found in Mr. Birns' reports to the U.S. Congress.

In five years, Mr. Birns' organization has heaped praise on Mr. Chavez but deigned to supply a total of five negative adjectives to describe him. This does not amount to balance. It does expose his unashamed support for Mr. Chavez's criminal regime, and it underlines why he and his group are not credible sources.



Licenses for illegals

Monday's editorial encouraging Virginia to enact "legal presence" testing for driver's license applicants, "Warner and Virginia license fraud," is mistitled. Illegal aliens in Virginia who apply for Virginia driver's licenses are following Virginia law, which requires its residents to obtain Virginia driver's licenses soon after moving into the state. Fraud, per se, has nothing to do with it.

The Virginia bill the editorial supports (SB 1058) would repeat California's mistake and simply result in more unlicensed drivers on the highways. Higher human casualties and insurance premiums for all are the net result of the equation.

Regardless, SB 1058 will trigger Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) discrimination against hundreds of thousands of legally present aliens who live and work in the United States while they are awaiting an adjustment of immigration status.

During the two-to-three-year-long wait for the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to adjust one's status to permanent residency, a law-abiding alien is provided no credible documentation of his status from the INS and is not even permitted to renew his visa. There is simply no way for the DMV to accord due process for such legal aliens under SB 1058.

Shame on Virginia Sen. James "Jay" O'Brien, Fairfax County Republican, and Delegate David Albo, Fairfax County Republican, for promoting nativist legislation under color of combating "fraud." This is really a "Jim Crow" measure against all aliens, including those who are legally present. If it passes, I recommend everyone buy more auto insurance. You'll all need it.


Alexandria, Va.

Conservatives aren't radio's only talking heads

In his reach to make his ideological points, Cal Thomas often circles out farther than Pluto, but in a recent column he went so far out that he completely lost touch with reality.

In his column, "In denial about radio and TV" (Commentary, Jan. 8), he asserts that "every time" a progressive voice has tried to make it on radio, "the results have been disastrous." He then cites me as an example, telling readers that my Texas-based show "tried going national" but failed.

Had Mr. Thomas bothered to call me or simply check my Web site, www.jimhightower.com, he would have learned that I'm not only alive on national radio but flourishing. Next month, I will celebrate my 10th year of broadcasting daily commentaries, now airing on more than 100 stations nationwide, with affiliates in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Boston, Seattle, Minneapolis and Atlanta. Self-syndication is about the only way progressive voices can get on the air in this day of media monopoly, when five corporate chains control more than half of the commercial radio market.

Worldwide, listeners can hear me on Sirius Satellite Radio, Radio for Peace International, One World Radio and the Armed Forces Radio Network (which has the good sense of humor to pop my populist commentaries smack in the middle of Rush Limbaugh's daily rants).

While it certainly is difficult for progressives to crack the overarching right-wing slant and corporate ownership of the big radio stations, nonetheless, there already are quite a few strong progressive voices out there every day. Obviously, that will be news to Mr. Thomas, but next time he might want to check with a few of them before so cavalierly dismissing their efforts.


Hightower & Associates

Austin, Texas

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