Saturday, December 18

Two gunshot wounds to the head a Suicide?

Gary Webb, the reporter that broke the story about the CIA, and Contra-cocaine, being sold as crack in LA, has died, the result of two gunshot wounds to the head, in what is being reported a suicide. From Common dreams.
Webb's explosive San Jose Mercury News series documented that funders of the Contras included drug traffickers who played a role in the crack epidemic that hit Los Angeles and other cities. Webb's series focused heavily on Oscar Danilo Blandon, a cocaine importer and federal informant, who once testified in federal court that "whatever we were running in L.A., the profit was going to the Contra revolution." Blandon further testified that Colonel Enrique Bermudez, a CIA asset who led the Contra army against Nicaragua's leftwing Sandinista government, knew the funds were from drug running. (Bermudez was a colonel during the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua.)

Webb reported that U.S. law enforcement agents complained that the CIA had squelched drug probes of Blandon and his partner Norwin Meneses in the name of "national security." Blandon's drugs flowed into L.A. and elsewhere thanks to the legendary "Freeway" Ricky Donnell Ross, a supplier of crack to the Crips and Bloods gangs.

While Webb's series could be faulted for some overstatement in presenting its powerful new evidence (a controversial graphic on the Mercury News website superimposed a person smoking crack over the CIA seal), the fresh documentation mightily moved forward the CIA-Contra-cocaine story that national media had been trying to bury for years. Any exaggeration in the Mercury News presentation was dwarfed by a mendacious, triple-barreled attack on Webb that came from the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.

The Post and others criticized Webb for referring to the Contras of the so-called Nicaraguan Democratic Force as "the CIA's army" -- an absurd objection since by all accounts, including those of Contra leaders, the CIA set up the group, selected its leaders and paid their salaries, and directed its day-to-day battlefield strategies.
Stories like these are extrememly difficult to deal with, because most people would not like to know, in fact would rather avoid knowledge of what their government (and they by extension) might be capable of. Having come of age during the reagan administration, I have no such difficulties. While Webb may not have been able to completely expose the shadowy parties that signed off on the plan, the CIA was involved in the sale of cocaine in order to fund the Contras. This operation may have also had other strategic objectives, but that is a post for another day.

From the SacBee, the Coroner signs off on the death as a suicide.
Reporter's suicide confirmed by coroner
A flood of inquiries about Gary Webb's shooting death prompts statement.
By Sam Stanton -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 am PST Wednesday, December 15, 2004

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.
So we are left with the image of a very determined person failing to kill himself with the first shot, and having the wherewithal to pull the trigger the second time, or we are looking at an execution. While the first image is possible, and while his ex-wife suggests is in deed the case, the cynic in me finds the latter more plausible. The coroner in question suggests "It's unusual in a suicide case to have two shots, but it has been done in the past, and it is in fact a distinct possibility." Of course a little more information on the nature of the first wound might clear things up considerably on all accounts, I won't be holding my breath.

Tip of the hat to Helga for bringing this to my attention.

Friday, December 17

A bag of cat and his eyes

Jack again, doing one of the things he does best, lounging. I give the rat bastard a list of chores every day and what does he do? Actually most of them, though he always omits one or two from his list. First the picture, then the list of chores.

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Jack's list of chores
1. Wake up.
2. Lounge for a bit.
3. Stretch extra good.
4. Plop back down.
5. Get up and check out the Food Bowl, if in satisfactory condition, eat.
6. Stretch some more
7. Clean the litter boxes
8. If inside, take a nap
9. If outside, contemplate chasing Bean, or a chipmunk.
10. Vacuum the carpet.
11. Roll around in the catnip.
12 Balance the checkbook.

You see, the list is not particularly hard, but it seems that he just skips over 3 items, every single time. I am at my wits end regarding his insubordinance, but then again, the other cats seem incapable of compliance as well, so maybe it is just a cat thing.

Tuesday, December 14

They write letters to Newsweek. Part two.

I was visiting a couple friends yesterday who happen to have a subscription the that paragon of newsweeklies Newsweek. It was the one with the painting of the Virgin and Child on the cover and somesuch about the origin of Christmas. Anyway I started flipping through the thing and came upon the letters section. A couple of them lept out and grabbed my attention, so I found a pen grabbed the notebook I had forgotten I carry around and transcribed them so that I could post them here for your edification. The first letter is in response to the Question on the cover, which was a lead in to an article about that new hit "Desparate Housewives".
Your Nov 29 cover line asks: Has pop culture gone too far? Unfortunately, it went too far long ago. That is why I, along with millions of others, voted not only against John Kerry and his support of the current pop culture, but against the Hollywood that supported Kerry and created "Desparate Housewives".

The housewives depicted in this show are not the housewives I am familiar with. If they are typical of mainstream America, then we are desparate -- desparately in trouble.

Jim Olsen
Hobe Sound, FL
Now I am not sure where to start, so many angles as to boggle the mind. It occurs to me that this was composed at one of the regional republican indignant composition farms. But lets see, This gentleman, if he is indeed a person and if he is indeed the author, would have us believe that he voted not for George Bush, but against John Kerry, pop culture, and Hollywood. In fact he projects his intention on millions of others that seem to think that Kerry's carreer as a sleaze merchant in hollywood, has done quite a bit to turn America into a Moral sesspit.

Oh I see, it appears that Kerry was not a longtime hollywood producer, but was the benificiary of the support of "the Hollywood"
that "created" a stupid assed TV show (just one of millions of stupid assed TV shows, In fact one thing that ole Jim and I might agree on is that the show sucks, in fact I have not and have no interest in watching the thing, and I am a heathen liberal, but I digress).

The last sentence is just a bit too clever, which raises my suspicions about its authorship. But in any event when has a Fucking TV show sitcom or Drama, bared even a remote resemblence to reality. And Jim old boy, why does this show in particular ring the death knell of civilization? There is a whole lot of gorge rising material out there, or does this have anything to do with the orchestrated campaign of outrage directed at the commercial spot featuring the Nordic Sullivan and Mandingo Played by Terrel Owens.

White man has enough to worry about, without having to search under the bed for Mandingo before sleep.

They write letters to Newsweek Part One

The following is from the December 13th issue of Newsweek letters section. Apparently there was an article written by Jonathan Alter titled "Shabby Fiesta of Hypocracy" at some point in a previous issue. Apparently Clinton, Bill was put under a pleasing light, and this was too much to take from one reader apparently.
Providing a positive spin to Bill Clinton regarding raunchy TV as Jonathan Alter does, takes some real creative thinking. No one did as much to lower the moral standards of this country and to lowerrespect for elected officials as Clinton did. He damaged the respect of the presidency to a point that would have been considered unimaginable prior to his immoral shenanigans while he was in office. Using his name in a positive manner when talking about raunchiness is laughable.

Don Landis
Broomall, PA

Now first things first, I would not be suprised if this letter was witten by Don, and I also would not be suprised to find that Don is a relation of Floyd's. Floyd Landis, a teammate of Lance Armstrong's, and one of the primary reasons that lance was able to capture an unprecedented 6th title in this years tour.

That said, I will keep this short, 'cause, well, its just batshit stupid. The author must be talking about a blowjob right? One which really wasn't anyones business, one that no one would have found out about, (Yo Don, Gush the Elder, had him a piece of Washington ass, and I am quite sure that Barbara is not the only one from whom he has enjoyed a blowjob) so you can than Ken Starr for his pornographic report, congress for 70 million to find nothing except the exact kind of purgery that anyone would commit (Don, has the little soldier ever been stiffened by anything other than thoughts and visions of wifeypoo, and if not, have you told her about it? And if you want Moral, the guy you voted against in 1980, was probably the most moral man to hold office, but I am getting away from myself).

Have you heard of Bob "grab ass" Packwood? Does Nixon ring a bell?
One could go on and on if one had the interest, but mine has run out.

A couple more dead prisoners

The US Army has admitted to two more deaths of prisoners held in custody in Afghanistan, bringing the total number to eight. One has to wonder if a full accounting of prisoner deaths will ever see the light of day. From the BBC.
The US army has admitted that eight detainees have died in its custody in Afghanistan - two more than it had previously acknowledged.

The army's admission came after the campaign group Human Rights Watch said it knew of three new incidents.

The group sent an open letter to US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying the US has failed to investigate or punish abuses by its soldiers.

A US official said at least three deaths were still being investigated.
"It's time for the United States to come clean about crimes committed by US forces in Afghanistan," said Brad Adams, Asia Division director for Human Rights Watch (HRW).

A failure to prosecute soldiers for incidents in Afghanistan had led to "a culture of impunity" which may have spread to Iraq, he said.

There was fury earlier this year when photographs emerged of Iraqi prisoners being physically and sexually abused by American prison guards.

The latest revelations are a further embarrassment for the US military and will only intensify scrutiny of the way it treats its prisoners, says the BBC's Ian Pannell in Washington.
Just what the doctor ordered, more embarrasment. Can we just go ahead and put some guidelines in place, so we can stop improper treatment and handling, 'cause in the long run this is going to bite us in the ass. I would hate to hear that the 70 oral surgeon that is shipping out to Afghanistan, has been kidnapped, tortured and killed in retaliation. I am sure that Rummy will finally get around to fixing this mess.
HRW also urged the US military to publish a delayed internal report on its Afghan detention centres.

The US authorities promised to release parts of the report several months ago, but a spokesman said on Monday that no date had been set for publishing the report because its findings were still being reviewed in Washington - but that no abuses had been uncovered.
Natch, we are still reviewing the case, but do not expect to find anything that could cause the administration damage, I mean any other cases of abuse. If we had let Ken Lay investigate Enron, I am sure that he would find no evidence at all of impropriety.

Sunday, December 12

How long c*a*n they put off the Draft

In the latest episode of that great new hit show "The Backdoor Draft", a 70 year old oral surgeon, who retired from the service for the second time in 1980, has been called back to service in Afghanistan. It's too bad that he didn't answer the phone, as he may have found a billet in Hawaii, but alas he thought the calls were a mistake. If this was the first story it would be astonishing, but by now it's just old news.
Gannett News Service

Dr. John Caulfield thought it had to be a mistake when the Army asked him to return to active duty. After all, he's 70 years old and had already retired - twice. He left the Army in 1980 and private practice two years ago.

"My first reaction was disbelief," Caulfield said. "It never occurred to me that they would call a 70-year-old."

In fact, he was so sure it was an error that he ignored the postcards and telephone messages asking if he would be willing to volunteer for active duty to "backfill" somewhere on the East Coast, Europe or Hawaii. That would be OK, he thought. It would release active duty oral surgeons from those areas to go to combat zones in Iraq or Afghanistan.

But then the orders came for him to go to Afghanistan.

Today, Caulfield, a colonel from Satellite Beach, Fla., is an example of how the continuing demands of keeping ground troops in Afghanistan and Iraq are forcing the military to go to extraordinary measures to keep its ranks filled. He's attending to patients - U.S. troops, Afghan soldiers and civilians - at the Army's 325th Field Hospital in Bagram, Afghanistan.

He is one of about 100 over the age of 60 known to be serving. The Department of Defense couldn't provide exact figures.
"Those figures are around here somewhere I swear" No Fucking shit, the last thing the DoD wants out in the wild is the number of septegenarians and greatgrandfathers who are serving in combat zones.
Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army spokesman, said the service has taken back some 350 soldiers who had already retired from the military. But some of those could have done 20 years of duty and still be only in their late 30s. He did not know how many of the returning retirees are 60 or older.

The reason, he said, is clear: "It's the continuing demand in the service."

The Navy has 36 medical personnel and 16 chaplains who are over 60.

There is one Marine between 60 and 65 currently serving.

The Air Force has 12 chaplains over 60 and 32 medical personnel between 60 and 65.
Interesting, the other Services seem to be able to provide the numbers of service members over 60, hmmmmm. This is apparently a voluntary situation and Col. Caufield has elected to serve, and while it is a testament to the man, the bottom line is if the force was not near the breaking point, he would never have had to make the desicion. I hope that he is able to save some lives, and stay out of harms way in that shining city on a hill known as Afghanistan.

They are still pissed at Pitt.

We'll try this again. After spending the better part of the day searching for crystal radio ideas, and playing around with a newly constructed breadboard experimental platform, I though I might want to check in to the world and see I there was anything I might be missing. Sure enough, I hit the eschaton and atrios has a letter posted that was recieved by Greg Mitchell, who had posted it for his editor and publisher column, among other letters. This is a prime example of frustrated wingnut and he is, to put it lightly, pissed that that guardsman would question Dapper Don Rumsfeld about a lack of armor plated vehicles, and that a damn reporter....well by now you should get the rest......
Joe M. Richardson: "The duped soldier should be put at the very front of the action, no armor. The cooperating sergeant's career should be over and maybe become MIA. Pitts and all his cronies should be executed as traitors. We are fighting a war, the debate is over, you’re either for us or against us, there is no middle ground. I say start executing the leftists in our country, soon."
Thats some pretty strong language, I am not sure what we are supposed to call it, but god forbid I think the Pubby Pundits might just call it "Hate Speech". At least you could count on the CoulterBot™ to make substantial piles of hay over several TV appearances about the intemperate invective used by commie leftists. Now remember kids, this guy is not being serious, he's just venting off a bit of steam. It can build up quickly in the Morally Superior, when they run straight into a wall of Moral Outrage.

There are several letters, some from folks this guy might define as worthy of execution, but for the most part they are well reasoned and well, no fun. However there is another, from a man who by all accounts probably received his PhD in history and wrote his dissertation on the press in WWII.
Peter Minoc, Vallejo, Calif.: "I would hate to think how World War II would turn out if our military had a media like the one today. There were so many friendly-fire deaths to ill-equipped units that led to soldiers dying, but the media of that time knew what the stakes were. The media today has this suicidal belief that their press credentials will protect them from the Islamic fascists. This belief is so strong that you are willing to lower the morale of the people fighting for your right to attack this administration. Stop being the damn story and just report the news!"
Would it were possible Peter. I am going to step out on a limb Peter and guess that you receive most of what you call news from What I like to call "rightwing worldview reinforcement dispensaries" i.e. equal parts Fox and Rush. You might even have a couple of Hannity's books on the shelf next to your copy of "Treason". If that is the case, you will never be satisfied. the next letter adds a talking point that might have me looking at media matters, cause, well, the wording is so similar that both of these guys are unlikely to have come up with it independantly.
Ron Bean, Pachuta, Miss.: "He knew it was a low-life tactic to use a GI that was probably stressed out from having to go into Iraq. Oh, I forgot, anything to get a story. What happened to reporting the news instead of making the news?"
There seems to be a new found sensitivity that was lacking during the Clinton administration to the idea of the press as objective reporters who should not inject themselves into the story. Funny that. Finally there is another crime that has been commited by Pitt in the following writers eyes.
Wade Hampton, Phoenix, Ariz.: "That was a well orchestrated con job by Pitts. Sure you’re going to get some cheering, a good portion of our military are indeed liberals who voted for Kerry. Plus the military always needs or wants something. If they made a one-man tank suit they would all want one, although I doubt Kerry would have approved the funding. What the media has done is insure that military personnel probably won't be given the opportunity to ask questions in this manner again."
No doubt dude, them pesky libs are everywhere even in the Military, and some of them doubtless voted for that evil, shiftless, and eminantly unqualified Kerry. It would be a shame if the soldiers never got to ask questions again, and we only have that reporter to blame, because if the soldier had not been coached........then..........they still would roast the poor bastard and the military would only allow pre-scripted Q and A's just like they do for the prez. Now if someone could be a dear and map out a couple of points on my skull that I could hit with a ball peen hammer that would make me smarter, and therefor more receptive to these types of arguments, and I would forever be in your debt, that is, if I remember the favor.