Letters for December 30, 2004

Sacramento had a world-class journalist

Re “A sad goodbye” and “We need him” by Tom Walsh (SN&R Editor’s note, December 16 and 23):

Thank you, Tom Walsh, for your well-chosen words about Gary Webb over the past two weeks. I am sure it is not easy having been his last editor.

In 1999, I produced a 90-minute TV program on Access Sacramento titled Giants of Journalism: The Press & the CIA. It featured Gary Webb, Robert Parry (Consortiumnews.com) and Pete Brewton (The Mafia, CIA & George Bush), interviewed by Dennis Bernstein (KPFA’s Flashpoints). Melinda Welsh, then editor of SN&R, thought enough of the program to run an edited transcript of the show in the paper.

At the time, I was very proud of the support the Sacramento community gave to this hard-hitting look at the tremendous difficulties that face investigative journalists. While it is sad that Gary Webb paid the ultimate price for his professional dedication, I still find it inspiring that Sacramento was his home during the time of his greatest professional achievements.

God bless Gary Webb and all who came in contact with him. May his legacy forever illuminate Sacramento’s vibrant political life.

Raymond Cushing
Bogotá, Colombia

A rare fellow

Re “Gary Webb remembered” by Bill Forman and Melinda Welsh (SN&R Opinion, December 16) and “The day the writing died” by Chrisanne Beckner (SN&R News, December 23):

I was saddened to read of Gary Webb’s recent suicide. I wish I would have known that he was writing for SN&R right here in Sacramento, because I would have liked to have spoken with him, to have encouraged him and to have thanked him for his bravery and for sticking to his guns.

It seems strange that I would thank a journalist for writing the truth about the really crucial issues facing our society—in other words, for doing his job. I guess that’s how rare a fellow like Gary is. And that’s really the shame of it.

We can only hope his memory will inspire other reporters to pick up the banner and fight in his place, to remember when they first realized they wanted to write and why.

Not being a writer myself, I try to do my little part by talking to anyone who will listen about the sham that our “democracy” has become, and 9/11 and the war on terrorism and South Los Angeles. It’s a bit like de-brainwashing someone, only harder because the brainwashed in this case have the numbers on their side.

We all need to find a way to make Gary proud, to become the involved citizens that a true democracy needs in order to function. We can blame the Bushes, Cheneys, Roves and Clintons of the world all we want. In fact, that’s a good place to start. But we must also look in the mirror and ask ourselves: What have we done for the United States lately?

Neal Bergquist

In praise of courage

Re “Gary Webb remembered” by Melinda Welsh and Bill Forman (SN&R Opinion, December 16):

On the Internet last week, I stumbled across the announcement of Gary Webb’s death and began to review his work. Now I remember Gary Webb. I wish I had paid more attention. I wish that he was alive today so I could tell him something.

Charles de Gaulle, the valiant rebel of anti-Nazi France, once asked the great philosopher Jean Guitton, “What is cowardice, master?” Guitton replied, “Cowardice, General, is seeking approval and not the truth, decorations and not honor, promotion and not service, power and not the health of humanity.”

Thank you, Gary Webb, for having courage.

Dan Williams
via e-mail

Will they ever come clean?

Re “Gary Webb remembered” by Bill Forman and Melinda Welsh (SN&R Opinion, December 16):

Thank you for your wonderful article about Gary Webb. Although I sort of semi-followed his unfortunate story, I never had the opportunity to hear him speak and have wondered over the years what became of him.

The mainstream media and U.S. government will have a lot to answer for. Will they ever come clean? Maybe in my grandson’s lifetime.

Keep up the good work that you do!

Janice Speth

Setting the record straight

Re “Gary Webb remembered” by Melinda Welsh and Bill Forman (SN&R Opinion, December 16):

Thanks so much for this article.

My own local newspaper had a three-inch piece down on the bottom of page 12 or so, capped: “Discredited Reporter Dies.” It just made me sick! Unfortunately, they refuse to print the kinds of letters to the editor that I write.

Mr. Webb’s death was a terrible loss for us all in this country. It’s a worse shame that practically no one knows it.

Thanks for your effort to set the record straight!

Mary Hirzel
Ann Arbor, Mich.

Something stinks

Re “Secretary of nonpartisanship” (SN&R Guest comment, December 23):

I wholeheartedly agree with Republican State Senator Jeff Denham that the states’ secretaries of state, as the top election officials, should be nonpartisan.

However, his column very curiously omitted the facts that in 2000, Katherine Harris, the Republican secretary of state of Florida, the state that “won” George W. Bush the White House, was on the Florida committee to elect Bush and that in 2004, Kenneth Blackwell, the Republican secretary of state of Ohio, the state that “won” Bush his “re-election,” was on the Ohio committee to “re-elect” Bush.

These are bigger travesties of democracy than anything that any Democratic state secretary of state has ever done.

Denham was incredibly disingenuous to suggest, by omission, that Republicans’ shit doesn’t stink.

Robert Crook

Will Wal-Mart hurt vacant buildings?

Re “Box out” (SN&R Editorial, December 16):

The city “leaders” who have given us a K Street Mall filled with concrete structures that resemble tank traps and cornered with old “historical” buildings that are vacant and boarded up think that a Westfield Downtown Plaza Wal-Mart is “a bad idea.” That tells us all we need to know: Put in that Wal-Mart!

Your editorial claims a Downtown Plaza Wal-Mart will hurt smaller retailers in the area. Which ones? Macy’s shoppers are not about to ditch them for Wal-Mart. Nor will any of the chic boutiques and specialty stores in the Downtown Plaza be hurt one bit. They serve niche markets that Wal-Mart, too busy with the mass market, cannot be bothered with. Does SN&R really think that shoppers will abandon their specialty clothes and Papyrus stationery for the modest clothes and paper and pencils of Wal-Mart?

As for other downtown retailers (most of K Street is vacant, so it’s a short list): Shops like Joe Sun and Co., The Men’s Wearhouse, Emma’s Taco House, Bonehead Tattoos, Comics & Comix are in no danger from the competition, since Wal-Mart doesn’t offer products comparable to theirs.

Shoppers may be more likely to go to the Downtown Plaza specialty stores and boutiques, and even to the rest of K Street, if they can also pick up the light bulbs, detergent, toothpaste, canned and boxed food, and other sundries they need.

SN&R goes on to reveal what really bothers it about Wal-Mart: Outsourcing its clothing merchandise. Perhaps the editors should tell it to Macy’s and the downtown fashion boutiques. Where do we suppose their garments are sewn? As for the charges of minimum-wage jobs, don’t they also apply to Target, Macy’s and just about all other retailers?

SN&R opposes a Downtown Plaza Wal-Mart not for any real and practical reason, but just because it’s Wal-Mart.

Nicholas Byram

Beware of developers bearing gifts

Re “Trampled by progress” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R News, December 9):

I have only ventured into the new Safeway once, which was enough for me, as I had this nagging suspicion that an army of Greek soldiers was going to spill out of that chrome horse’s belly in front of the store and slaughter all the shoppers.

The point I am trying to make is that although art is a subjective matter, the placement of art lies in the realm of common sense. That’s why we take the time to hang paintings in several spots before choosing the best fit, so that we don’t accidentally hang a huge 10-foot-by-10-foot canvas on the refrigerator door.

The horse, while an impressive sculpture, is so ridiculously out of place that I must question the criteria developer Paul Petrovich employs in identifying an eyesore. The mural that Kevin Price had created was a monument to grassroots art, and I can only weep for the future of our community’s landscape if people like Mr. Petrovich spend more time developing land instead of good taste.

Chris Acosta