Bob and Connie discuss the state of the union, police brutality and racism in Columbus and how the media portrays conspiracy theorists.
And they talk about up coming Case University Conference with Mark Crispin Miller.

Discussion of the death of Vang Pao and how the New York Times ignored the fact he was a major drug dealer, the shootings in Tucson, and other related politics by Bob Fitrakis and Connie Gadell Newton

New York Times obit fails to mention that Vang Pao was one of the world’s most notorious drug dealers
January 18, 2011

The New York Times, self-proclaimed “paper of record,” failed to record that General Vang Pao, who died Thursday, January 6, was a wretched drug dealer who targeted U.S. troops in Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines for drug sales.

Let’s go over the bizarre, Soviet-style, Times obit entitled “Gen. Vang Pao, Laotion Who Aided U.S., Dies at 81.” In their ideological analysis, Pao was a “…charismatic Laotian general who commanded a secret army of his mountain people in a long, losing campaign against Communist insurgents.” The Times goes on to say he had “almost kinglike status.”

They quote a Hmong refugee in California saying “He is like the earth and the sky.” They throw in the following quote of the general to his Hmong troops: “If we die, we die together. Nobody will be left behind.”

In the New York Times fantasyland, Vang Pao was a patriot and an anti-communist hero. The Times glosses over the fact that Vang Pao was discredited in Laos because he was perceived as a lackey and a tool of French imperialism. He was a sergeant in the French colonial army, the Times tells us, and then he went on to work directly for the CIA.

Here are the facts that the Times ignored.

Pao was reportedly born in December 1929 and began serving as an interpreter to the French forces in what was then called Indo-China. Following World War II, the French were desperate to hold together their crumbling empire and turned to the opium trade in order to hire Hmong mercenaries to fight Laotian national liberation forces.

From 1946 through 1954, the French allowed the so-called Operation X to run heroin labs on the lower Mekong River in Indo-China. Ho Chi Minh, like the Chinese in the 19th century rallied the people of Vietnam against the French by pointing out the insidious nature of the opium trade. Like the British opium wars in the 19th century, the French became drug pushers to control the people of Indo-China.

Pao, a self-titled general among the Hmong clans of the Laotian highlands, was the bagman for Laotian crowned prince Sopsaisana. Pao bought the locally-grown opium from the Hmong and helped process it into high-grade heroin.

In 1963, one of those rare moments in history occurred when Anthony A. “Tony Poe” Poshepny became Vang Pao’s case officer for the CIA in Laos. Poe, legendary figure who was often viewed as the model for Marlon Brando’s character Kurtz in the movie “Apocalypse Now,” initiated a program where he would pay the Hmong warriors cash for the ears of Pathet Lao communists.

According to Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair in their book Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs, and the Press, Poe progressed from ears to paying for “entire heads” claiming that he “preserved them in formaldehyde in his bedroom.”

In Richard Ehrlich’s obituary of Poe in the Asian Times, Poe “…dropped decapitated human heads from the air on to communists and stuck heads on pikes.”

Poe claimed that he was booted out of Long Tieng in 1965, the CIA’s “secret” airbase in Laos, because he objected to the CIA’s facilitating Vang Pao’s drug trafficking. In the Frontline documentary “Guns, Drugs, and the CIA,” Poe said, “He [Pao] was making millions. He had his own avenue for selling heroin.”

Long Tieng was the fabled site of the Air America airlines, the stuff of TV land and Hollywood legend. Later, many of these Air America drug runners would emerge around Southern Air Transport in the Iran-Contra cocaine scandal of the 1980s.

“Vang Pao controlled the opium in the plain of Jars region of Laos. By buying up the one sellable crop, the general could garner the allegiance of the hill tribes as well as stuff his own bank account. He would pay $60 a kilo, $10 over the prevailing rate, and would purchase a village’s crop if, in return, the village would supply recruits for his army,” Cockburn and St. Clair write.

So blatant was Vang Pao’s drug running and his use of American helicopters to buy opium to turn into heroin to sell to U.S. soldiers that the CIA created a fictional front airline to distance themselves from the heroin trade. In 1967, the CIA and USAID procured two C-47s for Pao so that he could operate Zieng Khouang Air. But, it was better known by the CIA assets and drug runners who drank at the Purple Porpoise as “Air Opium.” Infamous CIA agent Ted Shackley oversaw the creation of Air Opium.

In 1975, Pao settled in the United States at a ranch in the Missoula, Montana area. At the end of his life he spent time in southern California and among the Hmong ethnic community in Minnesota. He died at the age of 81 in Clovis, California.

To really understand the death of one of the CIA’s favorite drug runners, Albert McCoy’s book The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia remains an essential source. As for the New York Times obituary, it simply should have read “Gen. Vang Pao, Laotian who Aided Heroin Addiction Among U.S. GIs, Dies at 81.”

Dr. Bob Fitrakis is Editor of The Free Press (

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Dr. Robert Fitrakis
December 28, 2010

The giant headline proclaimed “Mr. Ohio.” On Sunday, December 12, the Columbus Dispatch spun a fawning Orwellian tale of George V. Voinovich as he retires from the Senate. One of the many incidents they missed was the part about the then-Governor Voinovich fleeing town after nearly being indicted by a grand jury for money laundering into his campaign.

The fact that Central Ohio’s daily monopoly remains silent to this day on one of the most corrupt administrations in the history of the Buckeye State should come as no surprise. Even when Gov. Voinovich’s Chief of Staff Paul Mifsud was charged with three felony counts and three misdemeanors, their reporting was apologetic and meager. The Dispatch’s Joe Hallett, Jack Torry, and Jonathan Riskind lionize the childhood of Voinovich and speak glowingly of his roots in the Collinwood neighborhood in Cleveland.

What the Dispatch always fails to point out, although it was originally leaked to me from a Dispatch reporter, were the ties Governors Voinovich and James A. Rhodes had to the mob. It’s not that Voinovich ever really hid those connections. He attempted to appoint a long-time friend, Ray Gallagher to an $80,000 a year state job after Gallagher had been convicted of theft in office.

Another of George’s buddies, Booker Tall, was indicted for writing checks to three nonexistent state employees. And who can forget his attempt to appoint alleged mobster and Teamster official Carmen Parisi to the Ohio Turnpike Commission?

But hooking up old friends was nothing compared to the real gangsters he hung around with in corporate Ohio. In one of the blatant and obvious pay-to-play schemes in the nation, Voinovich took $100 thousand from the Lindner family of Chiquita banana fame for his re-election campaign after approving $8.7 million of state funds to the family during his first term as governor.

Perhaps my favorite quote in the Dispatch article comes from Curt Steiner, the Communication Director and Chief of Staff during Voinovich’s first term as governor: “If Jim Rhodes was the Babe Ruth of Ohio politics, then George Voinovich is the Hank Aaron.” Rhodes, as FBI files show, was a small-time bookie who ran numbers and sold porn films in the OSU area prior to becoming governor. And Voinovich is the architect of Ohio’s prison industrial complex – much of it built by his own family business.

To understand Ohio, you need to recall that Speaker of the House John Boehner used to regularly publish the “Washington Union Boss Watch.” In one issue during the mid-90s, he alleged “close links between a labor leader and both the Clintons and organized crime.” Shocking, eh? What Boehner and the Dispatch missed is that when Voinovich was mayor of Cleveland, he gave the eulogy for Teamster mob boss Jackie Presser. At the Berkowitz-Cumin Memorial Chapel on July 12, 1988, Mr. Ohio said “He was a man who loved his fellow man. He made a difference in my life. I will miss him and pray for him.”

So like Rhodes before him, Voinovich did little to hide his organized crime ties. A re-reading of a Life magazine from May 2, 1969 entitled “The Governor…and the Mobster” should shed some light on how Ohio politics is done. The state is sort of like New Jersey without the glamour, and Snooki.

Remember, Voinovich’s spokesperson Michael Dawson called reputed mobster Carmen Parisi “A very good friend of the governor.” When Parisi failed to get appointed to the Turnpike Commission, the governor chose another interesting character, Umberto Fedeli.

Voinovich, as governor and senator, liked to make a public demonstration of his religious faith. He apparently knew the Lord’s Prayer, since he appeared to be the good shepherd to every reputed gangster, and made sure they shall not want.

One of my favorite quotes from the governor’s good friend Parisi, was an infamous uttering caught on tape. Parisi told Teamster driver Jerry Lee Jones: “The day after this [Teamster] fucking election, you motherfucker, no one’s going to bust your fucking head but me, from here down to your prick….Every time you turn around I’ll have someone give you a fucking beating. You understand me?”

Oh, and what about Umberto? Turned out while he was the chair of the Ohio Turnpike Commission, he was also the sole owner of the Fedeli Group Insurance Company, and those who got contracts to do business with the Turnpike coincidentally liked to do business with the Fedeli Group.

Yet, the largest story ignored by the Dispatch was the steering of prison and jail contracts to the Voinovich family business. Sure, the governor’s brother tried to hide it by changing the business’ name from the Voinovich Company to the V Group. The man who tried the blow the whistle on it, Joseph Gilyard, a Voinovich cabinet member in charge of the criminal justice system, was disparaged by the Dispatch and run out of office. And when the Inspector General David Sturtz began to look into the allegations, Voinovich fired him.

This is how Voinovich really played the game. His chief gubernatorial fundraiser, chair of his transition team and his chief of staff (who would later serve time), was the Voinovich Company’s executive vice president, Paul Mifsud. V Group lobbyist and former Company vice president Phil Hamilton coordinated personnel appointments for the newly election Voinovich administration.

So blatant was the governor’s brother Paul Voinovich’s involvement in pay-to-play politics, his older brother George had to promise in his initial 1990 gubernatorial campaign that “Pauly” would not be allowed to bid on state contracts. This promise was easily circumvented when Voinovich decided to give state monies directly to city and county governments, which allowed the V (Voinovich) Group to secure local government contracts funded by the state.

Also, Voinovich ran as a self-proclaimed “environmental governor” in 1990, even posing for a propaganda ad in a canoe. That didn’t stop him from immediately pushing for one of the world’s largest toxic incinerators, WTI in East Liverpool, Ohio. Not surprisingly, the money for the incinerator was linked to the notorious criminal enterprise known as the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) and the owner of record turned out to be Von Roll, Ltd. of Switzerland, the company that tried to sell the nuclear supergun to Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. The governor’s brother Pauly emerged as the go-between between the criminal conspirators at WTI and the Voinovich administration.

In late August 1998, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Cincinnati sent grand jury evidence to Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien concerning money laundering involving Governor Voinovich’s 1994 gubernatorial re-election campaign. Two complaints were filed against the Voinovich campaign involving money laundering and illegal and improper use of corporate funds for political purposes.

Voinovich narrowly missed being indicted by the Cincinnati grand jury after his treasurer swore under oath that he had told Voinovich about the illegal money laundering involving his brother. Voinovich explained to the grand jury that he had his hearing aid turned off, because he’s a vain man, when the money laundering was revealed to him by his treasurer.

It also helped that a key witness, Nick Mamias, a reputed “bagman” who laundered $60,000 from WTI into a joint venture company ECIC, Inc. with the V. Group, tragically died after slipping on the ice in 1997.

Mimi Myers, ECIC’s former office manager, testified under oath that her company functioned as a corporate shell in order to pay kickbacks to the V Group. Records show that ECIC paid the V Group $114,500 between April 1994 and September 1996. As Myers explained it, “Well, I always thought that it was returning a portion of the money that Mr. Fabiano was receiving as a lobbyist for WTI, which the V Group and Frank Fela got WTI as a client for Fabiano and Associates, and that this was paying them back for doing that.”

Can you say kickback?

The real legacy of George V. Voinovich is one of systemic pay-to-play corruption, kickbacks, and cronyism. Mr. Ohio, indeed.


Bob Fitrakis is the author of The Fitrakis Files: The Brothers Voinovich and the Ohiogate Scandal, which includes the article “The V Report” voted the Best Coverage of Government from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists in 2000.

by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
January 10, 2011

An epic legal battle now rages between Karl Rove and Ohio election rights attorneys. The question is whether the public has the right to see full transcripts of a court deposition that could shed explosive new light on the bitterly contested presidential election of 2004.

The deposition came from the late Michael Connell, Rove’s IT guru. Connell died in a mysterious plan crash in December 2008, one month after he spoke under oath to election protection attorney Clifford O. Arnebeck. Connell had implanted the state-contracted software used to compute Ohio’s electronic voting tabulations during the contest between Bush and John Kerry.

On December 10, 2010, attorneys in the King-Lincoln-Bronzeville Neighborhood Association case moved to release the Connell transcript in an ongoing legal struggle with Rove and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The King-Lincoln case was filed in 2006 by attorney Arnebeck alleging civil rights violations against blacks, young voters and others in Ohio’s 2004 election process.

Connell’s November 3, 2008 deposition in Cleveland concerned his role in the 2004 election and whether or not he was being threatened by Rove. Just over a month later on December 19, 2008, Connell died in the mysterious crash of his small plane near his Akron, Ohio, home. Suspicions of foul play surround the accident.

The Connell deposition has been sealed since his death. During the closing days of the 2010 election, King-Lincoln attorneys sought the deposition of Karl Rove in connection with his activities involving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in all Ohio elections since 2000.

Rove and Chamber attorneys, as well as the Ohio Attorney General’s office, claimed that there was no connection between Connell’s deposition and more recent activities involving Rove and the Chamber.

Connell’s attorney, James L. Ervin, represented Connell at the deposition and also represented Connell’s estate. He filed papers with the court asking for a 30-day extension of time to file a response to the court on December 27, 2010 regarding the opening of Connell’s deposition.

According to Ervin, “Mr. Connell’s deposition is comprised of questions, answers, and topics that are privileged and/or confidential and are reflected as such by being designated ‘sealed.'” No part of Connell’s deposition has of yet been made public.

Arnebeck told how Connell described what he did: “One, he integrated voter data files with the vote tabulation process in the Ohio Secretary of State’s office in the 2004 election and two, he broadened the accessibility to this information, including facilitating its appearance on a mirror site at the SmartTech offices in Chattanooga, Tennessee.”

“His testimony provided facts of a general nature. He did not, as suggested by his counsel, reveal or discuss anything that could be fairly described as a trade secret or an expert opinion,” Arnebeck asserted.

In the spring and summer prior to Connell’s deposition, contacts were made on behalf of Connell with both U.S. Representatives John Conyers and Dennis Kucinich in an attempt to have Connell testify before Congress regarding his role in the 2004 election.

Memorandum to U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich [PDF]

Ervin’s motion before the court states: “During calendar year 2009, Mr. Connell’s businesses, New Media Communications and GovTech Solutions, came under new ownership, and Mr. Connell’s Estate was probated.”

These pleadings before the court may offer insight into who exactly owns Connell’s election computer businesses. Ervin’s motion states: “because the deposition transcript addresses issues that constituted privilege and/or proprietary matters, the new ownership of Connell’s former businesses may have an interest in the deposition transcripts and may be the owners of the transcript.”

Ervin concludes “Decisions must be made as to who owns Mr. Connell’s 2008 deposition transcript….” This same line of argument has been used to allow private vendors to use secret proprietary source code in election software.

In a democratic society, the people should own Connell’s deposition. Karl Rove should testify under oath about the electronic machinery Connell devised to link Ohio’s 2004 real-time vote count to an obscure company in Chattanooga, Tennessee. That company was SmarTech, which according to public records, was hosting a website that was operating out of the White House on that election night.

Says Arnebeck: “Mr. Connell’s testimony is important to the plaintiffs and the public because it reveals how those seeking to steal the 2004 Presidential election in the State of Ohio, led by Karl Rove, were better able to do so through the utilization of these integrated data files and more accessible tabulation processes. SmarTech was simultaneously serving the electronic data processes for the George W. Bush presidential campaign in that election.”

Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman’s four books on election protection are at, where this article was first published. Disclosure: Fitrakis serves as co-counsel with Arnebeck in the King-Lincoln case and was at Connell’s deposition.

Original article posted here:

Defend Ohio Rally and Free Press Second Saturday Salon
Saturday January 8, 2011

Meet at Progress Ohio, 172 E. State Street, Columbus at noon for the Defend Ohio rally at the Statehouse, Broad and High Streets. Demonstrate to defeat Kasich’s agenda and FOR good schools, good jobs, and public services.
Contact Marc Auerbach

After the Defend Ohio rally this day, come to the Free Press for the Second Saturday Salon from 6:30pm-midnight. Join with activist friends for food, drink, music, art, and socializing. Political conversation may break out. See Oliver Stone’s “South of the Border.” Come and see what the evening holds!
1021 E. Broad St. Columbus (side door, parking in rear)