Tuesday, December 28, 2004

So Why Did They Vote for Him or Did They? 

Los Angeles Times, Dec. 28:

Despite a clear-cut reelection and the prospect of lasting GOP dominance in Congress, President Bush (news - web sites) prepares to start his second term with the lowest approval ratings of any just-elected sitting president in half a century, according to new surveys.

That distinction, which pollsters and analysts blame on public discontent over the war in Iraq (news - web sites), comes as Bush begins drafting two major speeches that could quickly recast his image: an inaugural address Jan. 20 and the State of the Union soon after. Bracketed between them is the Jan. 30 election in Iraq, another milestone that could affect public impressions of Bush.

His performance in those speeches and the outcome of the Iraqi vote could determine whether Bush regains the momentum from his Nov. 2 election victory in time to push through controversial initiatives such as revamping Social Security (news - web sites), rewriting the tax code, limiting lawsuits and trimming the budget deficit, analysts said.

A Gallup survey conducted for CNN and USA Today puts Bush's approval rating at 49% — close to his preelection numbers. That's 10 to 20 points lower than every elected sitting president at this stage since just after World War II, according to Gallup, which has been tabulating such data since Harry S. Truman won a full term in 1948.

Bush's Gallup rating echoed a survey published last week by ABC News and the Washington Post, which put his approval rating at 48%. That poll also found that 56% of Americans believed the Iraq war was not worth fighting. Time magazine also put Bush's overall approval at 49%.

"The question is, what happened to the honeymoon?" asked Frank Newport, editor of the Gallup survey.

[read more]

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Webb's Last Deadline 

From the newspaper that betrayed him:

San Jose Mercury News, Dec. 12:

by Jessica Portner

Gary Webb, a former Mercury News investigative reporter, author and legislative staffer who ignited a firestorm with his controversial stories, died Friday in an apparent suicide in his suburban Sacramento home. He was 49.

The Sacramento County coroner's office said that when A Better Moving Company arrived at Mr. Webb's Carmichael home at about 8:20 a.m. Friday, a worker discovered a note posted to the front door which read: ``Please do not enter. Call 911 and ask for an ambulance.''

Mr. Webb, an award-winning journalist, was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head, Sacramento County Deputy Coroner Bill Guillot said Saturday.

Mr. Webb's friends and colleagues described him as a devoted father and a funny, dogged reporter who was passionate about investigative journalism.

As a staff writer for the Mercury News from 1989 to 1997, he exposed freeway retrofitting problems in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and wrote stories about the Department of Motor Vehicles' computer software fiascos.

Mr. Webb was perhaps best known for sparking a national controversy with a 1996 story that contended supporters of a CIA-backed guerrilla army in Nicaragua helped trigger America's crack-cocaine epidemic in the 1980s. The ``Dark Alliance'' series in the Mercury News came under fire by other news organizations, and the paper's own investigation concluded the series did not meet its standards.

Mr. Webb resigned a year and a half after the series appeared in the paper. ... (yeah, right. They demoted a Pulitzer-prize winner to covering zoning commission hearings)

[read more]

Shoot Me Two Times, Baby, I'm Going Away 

How does a coroner rule a death a suicide without further investigation, when the deceased received two shots in the head? And why would any reporter believe such bullshit?

Sacramento Bee, Dec. 15:

by Sam Stanton

Facing a barrage of calls from the media and the public, the Sacramento County Coroner's Office issued a statement Tuesday confirming that former investigative reporter Gary Webb committed suicide with two gunshots to the head.

"The cause of death was determined to be self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the head," the coroner's statement said.

"Information and evidence gathered at the scene of death, including a handwritten note indicating an intention on the part of the decedent to take his own life, resulted in 'suicide' as the determined manner of death.

"The investigation is continuing and will take an estimated additional six to eight weeks to complete."

The statement was issued because of the number of calls that had flooded the Coroner's Office since The Bee reported Sunday that Webb's death was caused by more than one wound.

Webb, a former San Jose Mercury News reporter, was found dead in his Carmichael home Friday morning.

Webb, who most recently had been writing for the Sacramento News & Review, is survived by his ex-wife and three children.

Such a case normally would have sparked little notice. But Webb gained notoriety in the 1990s after writing a series of stories for the Mercury News linking the CIA to Nicaraguan Contras seeking to overthrow the Sandinista government and to drug sales of crack cocaine flooding South Central Los Angeles in the 1980s.

His newspaper and others later questioned the conclusions in Webb's reporting, and he left the San Jose newspaper in 1997 after being moved to a suburban bureau.

But Webb's allegations spawned a following, including conspiracy theorists who have worked the Internet feverishly for days with notions that because Webb died from two gunshots he was killed by government agents or the Contras in retribution for the stories written nearly a decade ago.

Webb's ex-wife, Sue Bell, discounted such theories Tuesday, saying the 49-year-old Webb had been distraught for some time over his inability to get a job at another major newspaper.

"The way he was acting it would be hard for me to believe it was anything but suicide," Bell said.

She said that before he died Webb wrote and mailed notes to family members and placed his baby shoes in his mother's shed.

Webb had paid for his own cremation earlier in the year and had named Bell months ago as the beneficiary of his bank account, she said. He had sold his house last week, because he could no longer afford the mortgage, and was upset that his motorcycle had been stolen last week.

He had apparently laid out his driver's license before taking his father's .38-caliber pistol, which he kept in his nightstand, to shoot himself.

Coroner Robert Lyons said his office had been swamped with calls. "It's unusual in a suicide case to have two shots," he said, "but it has been done in the past, and it is in fact a distinct possibility."

[read more]

More on Gary Webb's "Double" Suicide 

Prison Planet, Dec. 15:

by Alex Jones

Evidence Begins To Indicate Gary Webb Was Murdered
Webb Spoke Of Death Threats, 'Government People' Around His Home

Alex Jones & Paul Joseph Watson | Updated December 15 2004

UPDATE: Only In Arkansas: Webb 'Double Gunshot Wounds' Explanation Defies Belief

We will simply not let the issue drop. How on earth can somebody have two different gunshot wounds and their cause of death still be passed off as suicide?

UPDATE: Coroner: Gary Webb's Death Confirmed as Suicide

First it was multiple gunshot wounds, then it was just one and now it's multiple again. Would somebody stealing your motorcycle really drive you over the edge?

UPDATE: Do you really think someone can shoot themself in the face twice? How stupid do they think we are? (WARNING EXTREMELY GRAPHIC)

Credible sources who were close to Gary Webb have stated that he was receiving death threats, being regularly followed, and that he was concerned about strange individuals who were seen on multiple occasions breaking into and leaving his house before his apparent 'suicide' on Friday morning.

Webb, a Pullitzer prize winning journalist, exposed CIA drug trafficking operations in a series of books and reports for the San Jose Mercury News. He was found dead on Friday morning in what the police said was an apparent suicide.

Webb's 1996 series in the Mercury News alleged that Nicaraguan drug traffickers had sold tons of crack cocaine in Los Angeles and funneled millions of dollars in profits to the CIA-supported Nicaraguan Contras during the 1980s.

Today's Alex Jones Show, aired on the GCN radio network featured interviews with Chico Brown and Cele Castillo. Castillo is author of "Powder Burns", Cocaine, Contras & The Drug Connection. A retired DEA agent, Castillo personally witnessed CIA drug smuggling operations. Chico Brown, was former business parter and co-defendent with 'Freeway' Ricky Ross, the biggest drug dealer on the west coast supplied by the CIA.

Ricky Ross, one of Gary Webb's primary sources had spoken to Gary in the days before his death. Gary told Ricky that he had seen men scaling down the pipes outside his home and that they were obviously not burglars but 'government people'. Gary also told Ricky that he had been receiving death threats and was being regularly followed. It was also mentioned that Gary was working on a new story concerning the CIA and drug trafficking.

Gary described the men around his home as 'professionals' who jumped from his balcony and ran away when Gary confronted them ...

[read more]

Elementary Watson: Webb Killed Himself Twice 

While the leftist American press lamented Gary Webb's death, it was left to an anarchist web site in Europe to raise the question as to how Webb managed to finish himself off by shooting himself twice in the head.

Bellaciao, Dec. 21:

by Charlene Fassa

’Move-On - Nothing To See Here’

How convincing is this statement:

Coroner Robert Lyons said his office had been swamped with calls. "It’s unusual in a suicide case to have two shots," he said, "but it has been done in the past, and it is in fact a distinct possibility."

This milquetoast declaration sounds like the pathetic utterance of someone who’s trying to cover his career ass, all the while crossing his fingers behind his back. Maybe - just maybe, it’s also indicative of someone who wants to keep his own life intact. I’d say it’s a distinct possibility! While the coroner spews his Webb suicide fallacy to the numbed down and distracted (pre-holiday) masses - he simultaneously implores any doubters of the official mythology to immediately discard their tin-foil hats along with their conspiracy theories and just move on cause there’s nothing to see here. Nope, there’s nothing to SEE or KNOW here.

[read more]

Charles Bowden on Gary Webb's Death 

Counterpunch, Dec. 20:

by Bill Conroy

It's funny how things come back to you when you lose a friend.

As I was smoking a cigarette on my patio the other night, thinking about Gary Webb and how everything I stood for in journalism was now quaking under my feet, I recalled that Gary told me there was one person, in particular, that he trusted completely: journalist Chuck Bowden.

Gary had once told me that he would "trust Chuck Bowden with his life."

So in the wake of Gary's recent death, I decided to look up Bowden and give him a call.

Bowden is the author of some 15 books, including Down by the River: Drugs, Money, Murder and Family. Bowden also penned an article for Esquire magazine in 1998 that backed up the findings of Gary's 1996 San Jose Mercury News expose on the CIA/Nicaraguan Contra crack connection. That meant Bowden was one of the few journalists in Gary's corner when he fell victim to the media-jackal feeding frenzy that enveloped him in the wake of his investigative series.

Bowden's 1998 Esquire article starts with the following lead in:

Two years ago, Gary Webb wrote a series of articles that said some bad things about the CIA and drug traffickers. The CIA denied the charges, and every major newspaper in the country took the agency's word for it. Gary Webb was ruined. Which is a shame, because he was right.

When I got Bowden on the phone this week in Tucson, where he lives, it was clear he was upset over Gary's death. Bowden, 59, said he believed Gary took his own life, despite the two gunshot wounds involved. ...

Another Webb Obit 

Canyon News, Dec. 19:

by Henry Meyerding

Many readers may recall the crusading journalist Gary Webb, the man who broke the astounding story in the mid-1990s about the CIA involvement in the US cocaine trade. His book, "Dark Alliance," and his Pulitzer Prize winning pieces for the San Jose Mercury News stirred up considerable controversy within the press establishment. Most "responsible" journalists accused him of being a "conspiracy theorist" and he was effectively banned from participation in the mainstream media. This professional shunning occurred despite the quiet admissions by CIA operations staff before Congressional hearings (and elsewhere) that the majority of Gary Webb's allegations were true.

The crime here is not that a journalist should have broken an unpopular and dangerous story -- that is supposed to happen, it is one of the principal reasons for supporting a "free and vigorous press." Neither is the crime that this story was loudly denounced by government officials as bunk, and then much later and much more quietly admitted to -- that happens all the time, too. What is the crime here is that the professional life of a dedicated reporter was ruined by the very liars he denounced (and by collaborators within the press), totally without comment. ...

[read more]

In These Times Obit on Gary Webb 

In These Times, Dec. 20:

by Salim Muwakkil

In September 1998, Esquire ran an article chronicling the sad saga of investigative journalist Gary Webb, who had uncovered a story of government skullduggery that proved to be too vast for his own good. Webb’s big story was a three-part series arguing that the CIA was complicit with right-wing Nicaraguan Contras as they sold the cocaine that accelerated the crack-cocaine epidemic. One of the subheadlines of the Esquire article was “A Good Man Destroyed.”

Six years later, on December 10, 2004, the 49-year-old Webb died by a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.

Webb’s controversial series, which appeared in the San Jose Mercury News during August 1996, detailed how the Contras sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs and used the profits to finance their terrorist campaign against Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government. He provided a well-researched and powerfully written chronicle of how anti-communist fervor got our government involved in helping to propagate one of the most damaging drug epidemics in modern history.

The black community was particularly outraged by the information contained in Webb’s stories, which were widely circulated on the Internet. The crack-cocaine epidemic had spread across black America, wreaking devastation in its wake. Charges that both the FBI and CIA were out to get blacks have long circulated within the African-American community, and the Mercury News series alleging CIA involvement in this deadly epidemic resonated strongly.

Ever since a congressional investigation revealed the scope of the government’s COINTELPRO program, which was intended to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize” black leaders across the political spectrum, black activist organizations have cast a wary eye toward federal intelligence agencies. And, in fact, some radical groups long had charged the government was proliferating drugs as a form of “chemical warfare,” to demobilize black activism. Webb’s series seemed to corroborate all of this and he was hailed as a hero by many in the black community. Webb told me that such adulation made him very uncomfortable. ...

[read more]

The Life and Death of Gary Webb 

The word of reporter Gary Webb's death earlier this month came by email on literally the darkest days of a very bleak year. I Since the presidential election and its tragic results, I've been paying less attention to the news. The war goes on. Americans and Iraqis continue to die and the madman in the White House spews out nonsense and platitudes.

Meanwhile, media moguls such as my old boss Mike Lacey, owner of the New Times "alternative" newspaper chain go about the business of overseeing their empires, enriching themselves and ignoring the news. Those in his employ who do otherwise soon find themselves in the unemployment line. And so it goes.

That's essentially what happened to Webb's career at the San Jose Mercury News, after Walter Pincus of the Washington Post and other guardians of the Mighty Wurlitzer trashed Webb for his 1996 investigative series entitled "Dark Alliance," which uncovered the CIA's role in supporting cocaine traffickers for the purpose funding right-wing death squads in Nicaragua in the 1980s. Webb was able to track how the drugs moved from Central America to the streets of East LA. The scandal pushed community activists in Los Angeles to call for reforms and a government investigation. Eventually, much of Webb's reporting was substantiated by the CIA itself in a belated report the agency published. But by that time, the Mercury News had fired Webb. Though he subsequently published a book on the subject, his career in journalism was dead.

On Dec. 10, Webb died of an apparent suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. A colleague and I interviewed Webb in August 1998 around the time that his book came out. My friend sent me a copy of the transcript. Looking it over, I'm struck by how little has changed since 9/11. The CIA is still getting away with murder and doing the bidding of the Bush dynasty.

So as I mull over what to do with the transcript, I've decided to begin posting some of the Webb's obits, beginning with Robert Parry's, which appeared in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. I'm sure the fact that Parry's work appeared in the Guardian and not its weak New Times' competitor SF Weekly is by no means an accident. That's because Mike Lacey is a right-wing asshole.

Bay Guardian, Dec. 22:

IN 1996, journalist Gary Webb wrote a series of articles that forced a long-overdue investigation of a very dark chapter of recent U.S. foreign policy: the Reagan-Bush administration's protection of cocaine traffickers who operated under the cover of the Nicaraguan contra war in the 1980s.

For his brave reporting at the San Jose Mercury News, Webb paid a high price. He was attacked by journalistic colleagues at the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the American Journalism Review, and even the Nation magazine. Under this media pressure, his editor, Jerry Ceppos, sold out the story and demoted Webb, causing him to quit the Mercury News.

On Dec. 10, Gary Webb, 49, died of an apparent suicide, a gunshot wound to the head.

Whatever the details of Webb's death, American history owes him a huge debt. Though denigrated by much of the national news media, Webb's contra-cocaine series prompted internal investigations by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Justice Department, probes that confirmed that scores of contra units and contra-connected individuals were implicated in the drug trade. The probes also showed that the Reagan-Bush administration frustrated investigations into those crimes for geopolitical reasons.

[read more]

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