Archive for February, 2011

28
Feb
11

no laughing matter

The other day I was talking with one of Alex King’s attorneys who said he doesn’t read newspapers anymore.

“I get my news from the Daily Show and the Colbert Report,” I replied. It was a jovial moment, and I didn’t mention Public Radio which, like Comedy Central’s fake news programs, I also stream.

Sometimes the news is so disheartening, though, the only way to swallow the bitter pill without gagging is to take it down with a sweet swig of humor.

While researching the “School-to-Prison Pipeline” the other day, I read about Tim, an 11-year-old middle schooler in Arvada Colorado, who last October was arrested and hauled away in handcuffs for drawing stick figures in school.

Tim’s therapist had told him to draw pictures when he got upset, rather than disrupting the class. Tim is being treated for Attention Deficit Disorder, and the school knew it. So Tim drew stick figures of himself with a gun pointed at four other stick figures, and the words “teacher must die.”

Tim felt better and was throwing the picture away when the teacher saw it and sent him to the principal’s office. After it was determined that Tim posed no threat, school officials notified his parents, and returned him to class.

So it was a shock to his mom when the police showed up that night, handcuffed Tim, and took him away in a squad car to jail. Tim’s mother begged police to let her drive her son to the police department and to let her stay with him through the booking process, but they refused. At the jail Tim was booked and fingerprinted, his mug shot was taken, and they put him in a cell. Tim says he thought he would never be able to go home again.

He was charged with a third degree misdemeanor—“interfering with staff and students at an educational facility.”

I don’t know about you, but stories like this make my blood boil. My first reaction was that the best next place where a school shooting should take place is Arvada Colorado—line up those school authorities against the wall and give ‘em a Chicago-style valentine. And these mental midgets are teaching kids?! The gene pool obviously needs some cleansing.

Then I caught myself. If I were a kid, they’d try to arrest me, too, for thinking this way.

Calm down, Dan. Get a grip. Lighten up. Be like Stephen… here’s what he ran on his Valentine’s Day show:

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/374291/february-14-2011/the-enemy-within—toddler-edition

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to The Beau Brummels performing “Laugh, Laugh”

27
Feb
11

free paul henry gingerich!

I’m pleased to announce that Paul Henry’s new website has finally gone live this weekend at http://www.paulhenrygingerichtrustfund.org/ and http://www.freepaulhenrygingerich.com .

Because of delays in the trust fund paperwork, the site is not processing donations at this time—but we do hope to have this issue resolved in a few days. In the meantime, we can now begin using the site to get our message out about the true story behind the death of Philip Danner and Paul Henry’s role in trying to prevent it.

Please circulate the above links to everyone you can. This is important because the more people who visit the site now, the sooner the search engines will begin turning up the website in their search results.

Let our public campaign to Free Paul Henry now commence!

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Roger Daltrey performing “Free Me”

26
Feb
11

trouble

I’m not going to go into details at this time, but I received a phone call at the end of the day yesterday that suggests there are a number of factors which will make Alex’s deliverance from his current troubles more difficult or, at the very least, more uncertain.

As unfair as it may seem, a big thing that could affect these factors is what the media in Pensacola may choose to do with the story—and right out of the gate it does not appear that “fair and balanced” seems to be a priority for the media except in the Fox Network use of the phrase.

I have always felt that the most dangerous and hostile place for Derek or Alex to live is Pensacola. It is a place where a single drop of blood in the water will draw the sharks—a view which is unfortunately being confirmed by the biased media coverage of Alex’s fender-bender so far. The Pensacola media are predisposed to inflate any innocent error, no matter how innocuous, into a capital offense. It is just the nature of the prevalent mentality in that unhappy corner of our imperfect world.

After an initial flirtation with Pensacola, Derek wisely chose to live elsewhere. But Alex fell in love with a girl from Pensacola and moved there, which I suppose offered the additional allure of his reclaiming or restoring things denied him in the abject deprivation of his childhood—a possibility no doubt encouraged by his family, which has been deeply scarred by events since 2001. An overpowering desire for redemption is shared by them, too.

Like just about anyone who read the sensational media coverage surrounding the 2001 crime and 2002 trial, I had developed a very negative impression of the family which was not tempered until I met them and got to know them in their homes. I now feel deep compassion for them and see in them that which Derek and Alex both love. Everyone has changed and grown as a result of the family’s shared nightmare, and I respect and admire them for it.

One of the first things I did after meeting the family around the time of Derek’s release from prison was to apologize to the boys’ mother for the judgmental and hostile feelings I had harbored about her for so long. I was wrong to have believed what I read in the newspapers. Reality is always more nuanced than what the media can depict in soundbites. Like the unforgiving public in Pensacola, I had forgotten that and had succumbed to my own shallow thinking.

I can see now that one of my major tasks in the coming weeks must be to reach out to the Pensacola media and help them to develop coverage of Alex’s current troubles which will serve a deeper public understanding of the truth. The media deserve a chance to rise to their higher aspirations, too.

Like Derek’s and Alex’s family, and the boys themselves, the community must be given an opportunity to grow and better itself through this tragedy and what it has to teach us all.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Cat Stevens performing “Trouble”

25
Feb
11

time out

By evening yesterday, I’d worked myself into a pretty dark mood. Dealing with Alex’s situation was pretty frustrating as I kept thinking on and off all day of him being caged in the Escambia County Jail—and for what?! There were other frustrations, too. I kept thinking of Paul Henry caged. And Jordan.

All these kids locked up by uncaring bureaucratic systems that seem designed to only inflict damage and harm… absolutely resistant to common sense… systems that just seem to magnify human stupidity… callousness… brutality.

Life’s not fair and yesterday there wasn’t that much I could do about it. It just got to be too much, so I took a time out and went looking for new music that might lift my spirits.

I found a Belgian girls’ choir called Scala that was just the medicine I needed.

 

These girls hail from the city of Aarschot and perform under the direction of two classically-trained brothers named Steven (piano) and Stijn (conductor) Kolacny, who had a vision of a young women’s chorus performing imaginatively reworked covers of songs made popular by Radiohead, U2, Rammstein, Nirvana, etc., as well as original compositions.

 

Since Scala’s first rehearsal in 1996, the chorus has become a sensation, an international phenomenon. They’ll be touring the US in April.

Maybe they’ll lift your spirits too.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Scala & Kolacny Brothers performing “Ohne Dich”

23
Feb
11

unforgiven

I learned only yesterday that Alex King is back in jail again and facing the possibility of a revocation of his probation.

He was involved in a minor traffic accident shortly after midnight last Thursday morning February 17th, and fled the scene on foot. A little later at a Pensacola apartment complex, he was arrested and charged with violation of right of way, leaving the scene of a crash, and violation of a driver’s license restriction; was placed in the Escambia County Jail; released on a $1,000 bond; and then rearrested the next day when it had been learned that he’d tested positive for opiates—a parole violation. He is now being held without bail in the county jail until his appearance at a March 25th hearing where the court will decide if he goes back to prison, spends time in jail, or is returned to probation.

All that I know about Alex’s situation is based on the little that Derek was able to tell me and other particulars gleaned from Florida media reports. I’m not a newspaper reporter, so I’m not going to run through all of the details of the accident except to say that Alex was with a friend and that no one in either car was seriously injured.

My main concern at this point is what the State of Florida is going to make of this and how it will impact Alex’s future. Alex is on five years’ probation through 2013 for a 2005 “escape attempt” at Okeechobee Juvenile Corrections Center, where he was serving a seven year sentence for the murder of his father. Following this incident in which he spent a night in a classroom in the facility after escaping from his cell, Alex served out his full term as a model prisoner. The five year probation sentence was wisely applied instead of additional prison time which would probably have resulted in his demoralization, ruination, and loss to the world.

Today I’ll be calling key people in his support network to make sure Alex receives the help he will need to make the best of this situation. I’ll be spending the day figuring out what additional things you and I will need to do to help him get through this in one piece.

Alex is a very smart kid, but in some ways very lacking in the kinds of experience that you and I take for granted. He spent his whole childhood in prison.

The first prison was created by his father, where he was isolated without friends and outside contacts except for Rick Chavis, a pedophile adult who preyed on the boy and manipulated Alex into convincing Derek to vent his rage by murdering their father who stood in the way of Chavis’ domination of Alex.

The second prison—two facilities, actually—was provided by the State of Florida where Alex was surrounded by dysfunctional people who were negative role models as bad in their own ways as was Chavis.

There is precious little in Alex’s early life to help him negotiate this difficult transition from prison to freedom and self-responsibility. His father was a man who was overwhelmed and continually defeated by small problems. It is only since Alex’s release in 2008—just three years ago—that Alex has been surrounded by good people who have been positive role models. After spending 85% of his life in dysfunction, it should be no surprise to anyone that these positive influences have been insufficient to prevent this relatively minor stumble and lapse of judgment. A parole violation and traffic accident are not violent or serious crimes.

I made the mistake of reading through public comments made to the stories of Alex’s re-arrest, and I am dismayed at the ignorance and intolerance and meanness of people. I don’t understand how people who have never lifted a finger to help Alex can be exhibiting such umbrage over this recent incident. They make it so abundantly clear that, no matter what he has and continues to suffer, Alex is still unforgiven and being held to a standard that few people can or do live up to in their own lives.

If anyone is “entitled” to be pissed off at Alex, it would be me if I were so inclined. Hell, I have invested huge amounts of time in him and raised large amounts of money to help with Alex’s legal defense for the escape charge. Yes, I am disappointed this has happened, but I am not disappointed in him.

Alex is doing the best that he knows how to do. Everyone and everything in his early life failed him, and it is utterly retarded for anyone to now feel that he has somehow let us down.

When the time comes that I ask you to help, I hope you will please join me in once again showing Alex that we still believe in him and will cover his back.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Talk Talk performing “I Believe In You”

(postscript)

I’ve spent a couple hours on the phone talking with Alex’s mother, parole officer, etc., and it appears the “opiates” detected were a medication for which Alex had a prescription and had taken for the pain associated with cracked ribs sustained in the accident. So, contrary to the impression being stirred up in the media tempest, Alex had not been partying that night and panicked for more complex reasons based on his prior experiences with the law.

He has, in fact, been enrolled in school, getting good grades, and walking a straight-and-narrow path. The accident happened in foggy conditions while Alex and his friend were driving a short distance to a convenience store.

The hate-mongers in Pensacola will believe what they will, but the truth is that Alex is a good kid who is simply being dogged by his unfortunate past.

22
Feb
11

change agents

It is looking like people all over the world are losing patience with their leaders.

Crowds have taken to the streets in the Middle East and are toppling their governments. An epidemic of joblessness among the world’s educated young people is resulting in resentment and restlessness with the status quo. Protesters and renegade lawmakers in Wisconsin have brought the work of that state’s legislature to a standstill. Reactionary forces almost everywhere are beginning to yield.

Even in my work, I can see that the number of Guardians in Indiana’s state prison system is increasing. The Children’s Hope and Voice network has grown by almost 50% in the last few weeks.

Unrest and insurrection are in the air everywhere. Youth is on the march. Fresh young ideas are coming to the forefront. For better or worse, individual people are taking matters into their own hands as their perplexed and geriatric leaders stand by in helpless disbelief.

Just as the cycle of the solar year entered the fortnight of Sigel ten days ago, the 54-year economic/political cycle has entered its period of Sigel. People are beginning to see the light. The pulse of change is quickening. We are entering a period which will be characterized by the irresistible ascendancy of change agents.

Authority has no choice but to either facilitate change or get out of the way.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to Stevie Ray Vaughan performing “Change It”

21
Feb
11

shackles

 

“I guess this means I’m family,” I said, after Eva handed me the near-empty chocolate ice cream container and a spoon.

Jerry’s the only other person I’ve seen eating the remains of an ice cream batch out of that container. I felt honored, and Eva wasn’t even going to charge me.

Eva claimed there wasn’t enough ice cream left to fill a single order, but I’m not so sure of that. It seemed like a regular double-order to me, except this time I had to pay attention and not get chocolate on my forearm (brown knuckles were unavoidable).

I like to think of myself as being so damned free and independent, but the truth is my heart is chained to the Shack. I rely on my daily visit there in the same way a prisoner in solitary confinement must rely on his one-hour shackled release to the exercise yard.

There’s a parallel there, but no comparability. My own solitude is so much pleasanter than a prisoner’s.

I’ve been hearing about the anguish being suffered by 15-year-old Colt Lundy now that he is in 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. The boy’s torture and mental deterioration have been like uninvited shade-like visitors at the door. I wish they would go away and leave me in peace.

The other night, Colt was so distraught that the only way he could be silenced is the prison authorities shot him up with drugs. These shades are menacing and they will not leave me alone.

I wish I could send the kid some of Eva’s “Love Shack” ice cream. Colt needs a shot or two of love each day, not a solution from a syringe.

I wish the shades would go to Judge Reed’s door instead.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to The Ramones performing “I Wanna Be Sedated”




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