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March 4, 2002

Narco News '02

Reader Mail

March 4, 2002

Your Letters on...

Ethics Problems at Alternet...

Plan Colombia, and...

ex-White House Press Secretary Bob Weiner

(Note: We really do welcome letters-to-the-editor that disagree with our report, "Ethics Problems at Alternet," but so far have not received any in our mailbox. Our email address is

March 9th Update: More Alternet Papers, links, letters, clarifications and a correction on one part of our White Paper on Ethics Problems at Alternet are now posted to Narco News in our ongoing coverage of this story through the uncensored words of all sides. Click here.

"Alternet Must Clean House"

Mr. Giordano,

I just now read your excellent article...

...and am very grateful for your scrupulous honesty. Wow. I had no idea that this BS was going on. It sure is simultaneously inspiring to see such journalistic honesty on your part and disheartening to see such dishonesty on Hazen's part with both of you within the same 'alternative' news realm.

Ego: it's such a trap and, clearly, Hazen has fallen into it, thus has damaged the alternative news genre as a result, but it is clear to me that you have limited the damage greatly or, at least, I hope that such damage has been limited.

Now what to do about Hazen, beyond boycotting? I won't go back to the Alternet site again--that's for sure. Perhaps the Alternet board has that power to fire the guy? I suppose strong pressure from many readers will pursuade that it is best to let Hazen go? Some web-based 'hazing' of Hazen seems in order to me.

If you could kindly share an e-mail address or two of the Alternet board members, or of those in a position to demote Hazen, I will be happy to pass along the e-addresses, along with the url to your Hazen story, to others with an encouragement for them to pass it along as well.

One thing for sure: as long as Hazen remains at the helm at Alternet, I won't hit the website; furthermore, Alternet must not only get rid of Hazen, but clean up its house and fully answer your list of questions regarding its policies.

Again, I thank you very much for your stalwart journalistic honesty. If only the mainstream journalist whores were like you...


"Respect the Talent"


Alternet does a shitty job and always has. The entire corrupt and inordinately top-heavy institution needs to collapse.

And the sooner we begin to make people respect the talent of workers, the better.

The foundations better dig what you say-- besides the freelancers, they are the ones being robbed.

OK, update me when you got more. (Which I assume is now)

From US Journalist

A Letter To Alternet

Letter to Alternet (CCed to Narco News):

Is the article in Narconews today about Hazen true? If so, why would Alternet continue to have him on their staff? He sounds, in the Narconews article, like a real sleaze ball. I hope to see an open, truthful and complete response to Giordano accusations on Alternet's page and /or Narconews' page.

Thanks for your response.

Owen R. Jones

Publisher's Note

(If Alternet sends us a response, we will publish it uncensored.)


From Political Cartoonist David Rees

Good for you!

Remember when you were kind enough to ask permission to post one of my "get your war on" comics?

Well, indymedia reprinted two of them in their newspaper without notifying me! Arrrrrrgh

Why does lefty journalism discredit itself with unprofessional b.s. like this?

I'm glad you're bringing attention to this topic!

Take care,

David Rees

Another Writer Blacklisted?

Hi Al,

I just read your piece on Alternet ethics with great interest. Alternet had syndicated my work for a couple of years until last fall. Since then, I can't get them to return an e-mail, change the address for my royalty checks or my 1099, or acknowledge stories I sent to them in any way. Your talk of a blacklist interests me greatly. I'm not sure what I would have done to be blacklisted, but I suppose it's possible. Do you know any of the other names on the list?

Interestingly, this happened about the same time that I had a contract dispute with one of my major alternative clients, which is still unresolved and has me blacklisted as a result. I have wondered if that somehow had affected Alternet's willingness to communicate with me, much less continue running my stories.

Anyway, I thought you might have some thoughts. I really appreciated reading your story. Coming on the heels of this other contract problem, it is very interesting to me to read about Alternet's ethical lapses.

Maybe this new syndication service will be a decent alternative.

Thanks much,

A US Journalist

From the the SF Bay Guardian

Dear Al and Narco News,

That is a wonderful piece, marvelously researched and conceptualized and written. And you are right on target, on all counts. As the first "alternative" journalist to take on Don publicly, as the one who led the fight to cut his annual AAN subsidy, as the one who has fought him publicly for years out here and nationally, I am in a position to appreciate your truly good work. I do feel badly I did not know about your case; I would gladly have helped out.

By the way, the Bay Guardian and I are founders of IAJ/IMI/Alternet, I am a former board member for years. I and many of my staff spent a lot of time and money developing the organization and then having to fight Don. From our point of view, the key questions go to his secret foundation funding: the source, the amount, and the conditions of his solicitation and the ultimate bequest. Precisely the questions you raise. I will ask his board to get the answers (to yours) and to mine or else they will be running a doomed organization. Too bad. Alas. Keep us informed on developments, B3, from (still) sunny and (still) muddy sf

Bruce B. Brugmann, editor and publisher
San Francisco Bay Guardian
520 Hampshire Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
phone (415) 255-3100
fax (415) 487-3658


Dear Mr. Giordano,

I just read your piece on Alternet. I think you left out the fact that my company,, which syndicates articles by more than 600 top journalists including Jimmy Breslin, Ted Rall, Andrei Codrescu, and David Margolick, has been competing with Alternet since October 2000.

Please visit Featurewell's home page, by clicking on the following link:


David Wallis

From Author Martin A. Lee

Al -

Many thanks for your report on Hazen. I was one of the founders of FAIR.

Martin A. Lee

Our Publisher Replies to Lee:

Thanks Martin,

I interviewed you about your book, Acid Dreams, many many years ago when I was a cub reporter at the Valley Advocate in the 80s, and have always looked for your work ever since.

Did you notice that your name is in my report today? According to one of Hazen's internal memos, a story of yours that it sold was among those submitted to a donor for the "bounty" funding. It appears that Alternet received an extra $150 for that story.

salud y abrazo,

Al Giordano

Marty Lee Replies

Al -

Yes, I did notice you mentioned my name in the story. It probably had to do with a piece I syndicated through Alternet, "Shamanism vs. Capitalism: The Politics of Ayahuasca." I know several papers picked up the story last June but I've only seen something like $40 total. I hope this Pulp Syndication effort works out. We sorely need it.


From Syndicated Columnist Amy Alkon

Hey, thanks so much for the Alternet piece you wrote. I'm a self-syndicated columnist in over 70 papers -- started out going through Alternet -- terrible experience.

Papers would run me and I wouldn't get paid. It was "the honor system" they said. I called it terrible business practices that needed to be changed, and dumped them.

50 percent is indeed usurious -- for doing absolutely ZERO to market the writers' work -- simply putting it up on a website and making it available. Syndicates take fifty percent, but they sell your work, manage the papers, see that the editors are happy, advertise your work, invoice, etc. A pal of mine, journalist David Wallis, has a syndication service called
"" -- I think his take is 40 him/60 the journalist, and he works to see that pieces get placed. Might even be 70/30.

Why is it the supposed "anti-capitalists" are ten times slimier than for-profit businesses which are up front about their motive to earn money?

Amy Alkon
The Advice Goddess
syndicated columnist in 71 papers across North America



I just read your indictment of Alternet. Thank you.

I have been in heated discussion about this "publication" with a friend for a long time, and I have just hand-delivered a print-out of your article.

I do a morning talk show in San Francisco called "Straight Up with Sunny," on KDNZ 880 AM - if you're ever in the Bay Area, I wish you'd drop me a line.

I'd love to have you on the show.

Keep up the good work.


Sunny Angulo
KDNZ Radio, TheSchism

Alternet Condescending to IndyMedia

Thank you for your illuminating story on AlterNet. As someone who works with San Francisco Indymedia, I have
long wondered what is up at AlterNet. I know several people who work there, and I know other people who
have contracted there.

One thing of interest is that the core AlterNet people are routinely condescending towards us unwashed
indymedia folks... their recent "user survey" results excluded indymedia altogether, even though "internal
documents" showed us scoring higher than The Nation and similar for-profit outfits. And in person they
have a kind of smirk on their face whenever indymedia comes up, as if it is a cute project but not a real
attempt at community media.

If this message reaches Al Giordano, thank you for your nice words about indymedia. Many of us involved
with the sf-imc obsessively check narconews, so the compliment couldnt have come from a more respected

From San Francisco

"Never Seem to Get Paid By Them"

Hey Al:

You're a trip, dude! Just printed out 17 pages to read on the subway re Alternet. Never seem to get paid by them. Maybe I'll write for you to get the big bucks. Ha! Talk to you.

A US Journalist

"Just Got Out of the Shower"

Jesus, Al, I just got out of the shower, and I feel dirty all over again. Does Alternet really believe that people are going to accept this?

So outrageous!!!!!!!!!

The blacklist thing is funny. Certain writers, and even entire news organizations, are known by the Alternet staff to be off limits for various reasons (although the staff often doesn't know what those "reasons" are).

A US Journalist

"Thanks for Your White Paper"

thanks for your white paper on Alternet . . . I recently discovered their website and will be paying a lot
more attention to their practices. i'm very glad that I discovered Narco News as well. keep up the good work!


Plan Colombia Letters

"Jaded by the Media Establishment"

Dear NarcoNews,

Your dedication in covering the increasingly hostile situation in Columbia has, again, shown the journalistic integrity of Narco News. Jaded by the establishment media in this country, your site is a refreshing reminder that there are people out there who both know and care about America's dirty drug war in South America. Keep up the good work and Ja bless.


"Shine the Light of Truth on Corruption"

Not content with stealing Panama in 1903 the USA now seeks the conquest of the entire country in order to secure to its rulers the drug and oil resources of that country. Thanks from the bottom of my heart for your faithfulness to the principles of real journalism -- to shine the light of truth on corruption.

You will always have my admiration and support.

Chris D Herz

"Fan Mail from a Flounder"

Dear Mr. Giordano,

The "Flounder" deprecatingly referred to in the subject header above -- "Fan Mail from a Flounder" -- is myself, in reference to the "Rocky And Bullwinkle" tagline, but it really should be "From Some 'Flounderer'" instead, since that's what I was doing with regard to my long-time, and previously much more active, role as a street-level drug abuse counselor and discussion facilitator with small groups of people involved at all stages of the interface between illegal drug use, enforcement, judicial review and incarceration...

I've fallen by the wayside in recent years due to chronic illness and lost touch with the developments that your site delivers such excellent, regularly updated information on, and that thanks to which I've been able to "get back on board" with, with no excuse for "floundering" in the morass of sheer laziness and physical isolation from the contacts I used to take for granted in the Drug War milieu that was part of my professional life, so thank _you_ for the chance to stay abreast of the facts and for your "dead bang-dead center" take on drug-related journalism.

With sincere regards,

Joseph Carson

Bob Weiner Redux

Publisher's Note: We have more than a dozen new emails in our mailbox from former White House Press Secretary Robert Weiner, which we will deal with on a later date. Meanwhile, our readers weigh in about his two letters published on Narco News...

"A Special Kind of Slime"


Nice second response to Bob Weiner. An additional point: it takes a special kind of slime to take credit, in the midst of protesting that he has been treated unfairly, for "pressing other alternatives for THC delivery so people get the medical benefits without the hallucinogenic high or cancerous dangers of the hot smoke of marijuana."

Say what? First, is Mr. Weiner under the impression that THC itself, as the primary active ingredient in marijuana, is not itself responsible for much of this "hallucinogenic high"? Is he unaware that this is, in fact, one of the primary physician complaints about Marinol: that it provides all the psychoactive effects of THC, but none of the effects of marijuana's other cannabinoids, which appear to modulate that psychoactivity? (References available if you need them.)

And second: I'd like to see Mr. Weiner find us even one person who has died of cancer due to "the cancerous dangers of the hot smoke of marijuana," and who did not also smoke tobacco. Of course, in a culture not committed to declaring war on cannabis users, more users would undoubtedly choose to use the higher amounts necessary for oral
consumption -- thereby reducing the genuine risks of smoking, such as increased risk of bronchitis.

Sheesh. This guy hardly needs you to take him down a peg (though it sure is fun to read when you do). He's capable of doing it all by himself.

In solidarity,

Ethan Straffin
Palo Alto, CA

What Weiner Admitted

Bob Weiner's second letter brings a question to mind that I have been asking for years. Marijuana is classified as a drug with no known medical benefits in the United States. This is one of the biggest hurdles to relaxing marijuana laws, most importantly allowing medical marijuana.

My question has always been this:

If marijuana has no known medical benefits, why do they have, and continue to research, synthetic (and patentable) alternatives for medical purposes such as Marinol?

Surely if the drug has no known medical benefits, there would be no point to making synthetic prescription alternatives. Especially when those drugs are less affective than the natural, real thing (by their logic, less than zero).

Mr. Weiner (or is it Whiner) wants a pat on the back for "...pressing other alternatives for THC delivery so people get the medical benefits without the hallucinogenic high or cancerous dangers of the hot smoke of marijuana...." Wait a minute. A former administration official is admitting that the administration's position was that marijuana has medical benefits. But instead of working to change marijuana's classification or trying to formulate some kind of medical marijuana laws, they decided to try to smash the medical marijuana movement, throw medical marijuana patients and providers in jail and throw the big drug companies a bone by letting them patent legal alternatives, which *do* get you high by the way.

As if there aren't prescription drugs, including marinol, that get you high in some way. Of course, we wouldn't want anybody to get cancer either, unless it comes from an "acceptable" source like cigarettes, processed foods, high-tension wires, depleted uranium, pollution or industrial waste.

Just another angle on the corrupt drug war.

While on the subject of medical marijuana, when Dubya was campaigning, he said he thought medical marijauna should be left to the states to decide. This was his position on the record. And now that he is in office, Asa Hutchinson has the DEA busting co-ops and patients all over California without mercy. Maybe we should change Dubya to Doubletongue.

Sean Treat

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