It is ironic that the bank holiday in Greece starts on the first day of the fortnight (June 29-July 13) governed by the rune Feoh or Fehu. The rune’s phonetic value is “F” and its literal meaning is “cattle” to be interpreted as “wealth.” In the traditional society of ancient Europe, the main negotiable property of a person, family, or clan was cattle. In Scandinavia the homestead was immutable inheritable property, and could not be sold or bartered away. Thus “cattle” literally refers to mobile wealth. The shape of the rune is like a horned bovine head.

40Feoh was looked upon as a completely positive rune. It was associated not only with possession, but with honor as well. Great wealth has always enabled men to make rich presents, which won them esteem. The meaning of Feoh may also at one time have included slaves (or human cattle), who were looked upon as beasts of burden and units of wealth. To give slaves captured in battle, and later to give the equivalent measure of gold, was to give some of the battle glory to another. A man‘s courage and strength were measured by his plunder.

On a material level, Feoh symbolizes the accretion of power and control, both directly over the herd itself and through its possession and manipulation. But, by possessing anything, we automatically have certain responsibilities that ownership confers. To own a herd of cattle wisely and responsibly entails correct stewardship. Wastefulness and greed lead to disaster, either through the collapse of the enterprise or interpersonal discord.

In modern times, Feoh refers to money in general, but more specifically, to the ability or opportunity to gain worldly success and great wealth, and keep it. The word “fee,” meaning a payment, comes from the name of this rune.

As with all things, there are two polar aspects of wealth. The Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem expresses them both: Wealth is a comfort to everybody, yet we must give it away freely if we want to gain favor in the sight of the lord. But The Norwegian Rune Poem emphasizes the problems of wealth engendering greed and envy, which can bring the downfall of all: Wealth causes friction between relatives, while the wolf lurks in the woods.

I have always believed that possessions—especially fine possessions likely to arouse feelings of envy in others—are a curse unless one is willing to share their enjoyment with others. Yet your material wealth must not be wasted on the undeserving or squandered on things unlikely to result in material increase.

In matters related to your spiritual wealth, however, it is important to recognize that it cannot be reduced by use. Share as much of your spiritual wealth as you can and you will become stronger, not weaker.

In general, Feoh is a rune of fulfillment and can apply to relationships, friendships, health, and ambition, as well as to financial matters. The important point is that humility, generosity, and stewardship must be your bywords as you enjoy the fruits of your labors.

Magically, Feoh can be used for good or evil. If used to signify that someone has power over his environment or that his wealth will increase, it is beneficial. If applied with respect for one’s adversary, it can break the opponent’s spirit and render him incapable of effective action. However, if applied with scornful regard, Feoh can backfire and create cowardliness and hubris in one’s self and fawning dependence and fear in others who could be supporting you.

In contemporary American culture, the great secular sin is being poor and powerless. However, Feoh’s wisdom reminds us that the greater sin—the spiritual sin—is misusing the resources we presently possess to increase their quantity and quality and thereby be in a position to achieve the greater good.

The great lesson I have learned since moving to West Texas is that, by adopting a lower standard of living that is more commensurate with one’s available resources, one can achieve a higher satisfaction with life. For example, I no longer drive a fancy sports car with a burdensome monthly payment; instead, I drive a used pickup truck that is 100%  paid for and requires no monthly payment whatsoever. My home is about a year from being fully paid-for.

I can no longer imagine returning to the outer world and the treadmill of existence that would entail. This is the closest I have ever been to total freedom since I was a child.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Bea Miller performing “Rich Kids”


Weather Report

94° and Clear




Everyone I tend to agree with is celebrating… so I may as well join in.

A cousin posted this picture on Facebook, and I stole it.

Here’s to everyone being happy, even if Michele Bachmann is offended.


Hell, here’s to Michele Bachman being offended!



Groove of the Day

Listen to the Village People performing “YMCA”


Weather Report

98° and Clear




Fear, So Useful to TPTB*

by Hat Bailey

(* The Powers That Be)

Many are beginning to realize that for many years, hundreds, and possibly thousands of years, there have been those who have developed a highly-specialized technology for controlling and exploiting masses of people. One of the many tools in their arsenal of control has always been the skillful use of naturally inherent biologically-based fears.

For animals in the natural state, where life is about nothing more than day to day survival and reproduction, and where the maintenance of the physical body is the highest value, fear (at least to the extent of teaching respect for common realistic threats) has been a mostly useful strategy. However, for beings who rely primarily on an order-of-magnitude increase in rationality and conscious intelligence as a strategy for survival and success, fear begins to lose much of its luster. This is especially problematic when it is allowed to become very intense, such as in the case of extremes of terror or panic. Here fear has a tendency to take rationality and higher cognitive functions right off-line, leaving an organism with nothing but blind, mindless, adrenaline-boosted fight or flight. For a human being, who has forgotten that he is essentially a spiritual entity within a physical body, and who has forgotten the reason for his even being here in this universe in the first place, the effects of terror can be even more disastrous and counterproductive.

Yet there are those, sometimes called “the Merchants of Chaos” who find it very useful indeed for their benefit and survival as parasites upon the masses of humanity. Always, of course, based on the promise of protection from some fearful thing. For these people, an enemy—or some real or pretended threat—Is vitally necessary for their strategy to be successful. If such a threat does not exist, then it becomes very necessary to invent or manufacture one immediately. Thus the popularity of staging so called “false flag” events to stimulate the necessary fear or outrage necessary for their plan to proceed.

People left to their own devices naturally tend to cooperate with one another to accomplish shared goals and objectives. However they don’t like others ordering them about or taking things from them that they have produced through their intelligent labor without fair consensual compensation. Naturally this is looked upon as theft. And those who gained positions of leadership through an ability to get respect or fear of their strength or prowess, or through aggressive intimidation, soon found that an exterior threat tended to make people more amenable to control, and less likely to rebel against their control.

Today, more than ever this tool has become ever present. We are taught to fear each other, those of different appearances, different cultures or religious beliefs. We are afraid of symbols, afraid to offend or be offended. Let’s show how evil it is to offend by offending the one accused of offense by making him take down his symbol. Of course our use of offense is good while his is evil.

It has been said that “War is the Health of the State” and indeed the fears of a credible foreign enemy has been very useful to political leaders and rulers of all stripes. This is clearly shown in the movie: “Wag the Dog” Wars were such a profitable strategy for them it was not enough to have wars or potential wars against other nations. We were also carefully taught to fear the evils of marijuana and other fearful drugs, we are also expected to fear terrorists, as well as ordinary criminals. So we got the “war on (some) drugs,” the “war on poverty,” the “war on cancer,” the “war on crime,” and the ever-popular “war on terror.”

What we have as a result are more people in prison than any of the totalitarian police states in the world at any time. The prison industrial complex is thriving. Poverty is still here, as is the carefully nurtured fear of terrorists. I used to be afraid of cancer, my father died of it. While people are still in poverty, still on drugs, still dying of cancer. Today I am not at all afraid of this disease as I have done my own research and know that there are many easy cheap cures for cancer that have been (or are being) suppressed. While people are scared into the same old cut, burn, and poison routine that seldom seems to grant more than a few months of extra life at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars of one’s own or of others’ money, and the loss of all semblance of a quality of life.

The mass media and many trolls on the internet continually feed into this atmosphere of fear. And it is all so contrived. We are told that we must spend billions of dollars to protect us against terrorists, yet (according to the US Department of State) only 17 U.S. citizens were killed worldwide as a result of terrorism in 2011. That figure includes deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq, and all other theaters of war.

Yet you are 35,079 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack. You are 33,842 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack. A new study reveals that each year preventable adverse events (PAEs) lead to the death of 210,000-400,000 patients who seek care at a hospital. Those figures would make medical errors the third-leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics—yet you won’t find this being blared from the mass media. You are nine times as likely to be shot by a policeman than to be killed by a terrorist. Yet how much is being spent on this problem?

Although many people think that we are approaching something like Armageddon or the Apocalypse there is evidence that things may not be as dire as some would have you believe.

All this fear-mongering has led to some very mistaken perceptions of both what is dangerous, and the notion that we are living in one of the most dangerous times in history, when the truth is very different from that. The truth does not support the level of fear that is necessary to justify a total police state and totalitarian global government to the distress of the powers-that-be. The fact is that crime rates are dropping all over the world.

But as the crime rate has dropped, Americans have missed the news. The number of people who told Gallup that crime is getting worse climbed to 74% last year, a figure higher than any year since the carnage of the early ’90s.

• All violent crime: Down 48% 1993 -2012

• All homicides: Down 50.5% 1993-2012

• Forcible rape: Down 34.5% 1993 -2012 (Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports )

• Physical Assault: down 33% 2003-2011

• Rape, attempted or completed: down 43% 2003- 2011 (Source: University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center) Down 80% since 1973.

• Murder within families: The US rate of husbands being killed by their wives has dropped from 1.2 per 100,000 in 1976 to just 0.2. For wives killed by their husbands, the rate has slipped from 1.4 to 0.8 over the same time period.

• Lynchings, which used to occur at a rate of 150 a year, have disappeared.

But it isn’t just physical violence that is down.

The chances of dying in a crash in a late-model car or light truck fell by more than a third over three years, and nine car models had zero deaths per million-registered-vehicles, according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Discrimination against blacks and gays is down, as is capital punishment, the spanking of children, and child abuse.

This is also true in other nations as well:

• Canada: Crime rate back to level of 1972 and continuing to fall.

• Britain: Murder rate lowest since 1978.

• Australia: Since a peak of 344 murder victims in 1999, the number has continued to decline, to 244 victims in 2011.

• Murder in European countries has steadily fallen from near 100 per 100,000 people in the 14th and 15th centuries to about 1 per 100,000 people now.

The World is More Peaceful Now than You Think, as well. It seems as if violence is everywhere, but it’s really on the run. Yes, thousands of people have died in bloody unrest from Africa to Pakistan, yet we’ve historically never had it this peaceful.

That’s the thesis of three new books, including one by prominent Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker. Statistics reveal dramatic reductions in war deaths, family violence, racism, rape, murder and all sorts of mayhem. In his book, Pinker writes: “The decline of violence may be the most significant and least appreciated development in the history of our species.”

And it runs counter to what the mass media is reporting and essentially what we feel in our guts. Pinker and other experts say the reality is not painted in bloody anecdotes, but demonstrated in the black-and-white of spreadsheets and historical documents. They tell a story of a world moving away from violence.

In his new book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Pinker makes the case that a smarter, more educated world is becoming more peaceful in several statistically significant ways. His findings are based on peer-reviewed studies published by other academics using examinations of graveyards, surveys, and historical records:

• The number of people killed in battle—calculated per 100,000 population—has dropped 1,000-fold over the centuries as civilizations evolved. Before there were organized countries, battles killed on average more than 500 out of every 100,000 people. In 19th century France, it was 70. In the 20th century (with two world wars and a few genocides) it was 60. Now battlefield deaths are down to three-tenths of a person per 100,000.

• The rate of genocide deaths per world population was 1,400 times higher in 1942 than in 2008.

• There were fewer than 20 democracies in 1946. Now there are close to 100. Meanwhile, the number of authoritarian countries has dropped from a high of almost 90 in 1976 to about 25 now.

Pinker says one of the main reasons for the drop in violence is that we are smarter. IQ tests show that the average teenager is smarter with each generation. The tests are constantly adjusted to keep average at 100, and a teenager who now would score a 100 would have scored a 118 in 1950 and a 130 in 1910. So this year’s “average kid” would have been a near-genius a century ago. And that increase in intelligence translates into a kinder, gentler world, says Pinker.

(And this despite the efforts to lower IQ by fluoride, GMOs, mercury-laced vaccines, corruption of the food supply, and intentional dumbing down the curriculum in public schools.)

“As we get smarter, we try to think up better ways of getting everyone to turn their swords into plowshares at the same time,” Pinker said in an interview. “Human life has become more precious than it used to be.”

Pinker argued his case in a commentary this past week in the scientific journal Nature. He has plenty of charts and graphs to back up his claims, including evidence beyond wartime deaths—evidence that our everyday lives are also less violent.

Now whether or not you believe (as some do) that a wonderful new “golden age” may soon be upon us, the evidence supports the fact that humanity does seem to be evolving into something a bit more peaceful, and awakening to the dangers and dysfunctionality that has kept us down so long as a species. They are tired of all these “wars” that never seem to resolve any of the issues to which they were expected to be a solution.

I would submit that it is not so much that things have become worse and more chaotic, as that so much that was hidden and denied is now being exposed and made very evident to masses of people. Secrets are being revealed, people are beginning to see how they have been manipulated.

The solution is to begin giving up the fear, or at least being willing to confront it and act intelligently in spite of it. Am I sometimes fearful? Yes, but not to the extent I once was, and I refuse to be provoked into giving up highly-valued freedoms and rights for a semblance or pretense of security. As I have shown in the above statistics, what we have been persuaded to believe are our greatest threats are greatly exaggerated and distorted. We have been persuaded that we need external rulers, a so called “government” an institution with a monopoly on the use of force and coercion, because we cannot trust most of our fellow men and are frankly afraid of each other. Actually there are only a few who are really dangerous, and these would be essentially powerless without our cooperation.

At one time we were helpless babies, with vulnerable little bodies. We needed parents to protect us and see to our needs. That is no longer the case. It is time to grow up and become self sufficient adults with something to offer in free value-for-value exchanges with others. People who take responsibility for their own lives, rulers of their own feelings, emotions, and possessions. Government is another word for control. Those who fail to control themselves will ultimately be controlled by external forces, some of which care little for your preferences or values. Ridding oneself of fear, or at least refusing to give in to its powerful control over your life, is to remove a prime tool in the arsenal of those who would enslave us all. The fear in them is very terrified of the fearlessness they see growing in you.

In any case, beginning to know who and what we are is vital to being rid of so much of the fear that surrounds us, and becoming free to be exactly what we really are.


Hat Bailey is the eldest in a family of nine kids raised in the ’60s in Bakersfield CA, and on the Jameson cattle ranch in the Tehachapi Mountains east of there. He served a two-year volunteer mission for the Mormon Church and graduated from BYU in Utah with a BS in psychology. He has metaphorically worn many hats, a few of them including: computer programmer, mental health rehab specialist, electrician’s helper, hard-rock underground copper miner, salesman, general manager of California Compost Corporation, swap meet business owner, resort maintenance manager, actor, taxi driver, long-haul truck driver, roofing business contractor. Hat presently lives off-the-grid in the Big Bend area of Texas working as rock mason and general handyman, and the shepherd of a small non-denominational Christian church.


Groove of the Day

Listen to The Doors performing “The End”


Weather Report

87° Rain, but Mostly Sunny


affordable housing


There is a refusal today in America to recognize a reality which has been kept out of the public view and which has, in some places, been criminalized in various ways. And that is the simple fact that housing, the most basic of human rights, has been priced out of the reach of many people.

A couple days ago, the website Zero Hedge published some very interesting information that pretty much destroys the myths that have led to our blissful self-satisfaction and obscure the fact that too many Americans have been living on credit and enriching only the mortgage bankers and landlords who don’t give a damn about them. According to a report issued by the Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, more than half of all renters are spending at least 30% of their incomes on housing and a quarter of all renter households pay more than half their income for rent (so much for the “25% rule”). The median US renter household in 2013 earned $2,725 per month ($32,700 yearly) and spent $900 per month on housing. In other words, American consumers are caught in a state of near-permanent spending depression because almost nothing is left over after one’s basic living expenses are met. Homeownership has plunged to 1993 levels, and asking rent amounts have never been higher. The burden of this reality falls heavily on Millennials who are also burdened with over $1 trillion in student debt.

This situation is not sustainable, but people who try to think radically outside the box are often penalized.

Readers of this blog will recall a post about a Kentucky “off-the-grid” family, which has had its ten children kidnapped from them by that state’s department of children’s services (CHFS). An “investigation” of flimsy accusations against the parents is ongoing, but I am sure a big part of CHFS’s determination to permanently remove the children from their parents is that the family had been living in a structure that was exposed to the elements, does not have indoor plumbing or running water, and otherwise does not conform to the “American Dream.”

080918-tent-cities-hmed1p.grid-6x2It is estimated that there are over 100 tent communities in the US to cope with our nation’s rising tide of homelessness, but only eight are actually considered legal. Formed as an alternative to shelters and street-living, these makeshift communities are often set up off of highways, under bridges, and in the woods. All that I know of are a mish-mosh of the cheap camping tents which are so typical in America. Few reflect any of the sophisticated planning which is possible.

Some have “mayors” who determine the rules of the camp and who can and can’t join, others are a free-for-all. Some are overflowing with trash, old food, human waste, and drug paraphernalia, while others are relatively clean and drug-free. But for their residents, almost all of them are just one step away from jail.

The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) documented media accounts of tent cities between 2008 and 2013, and says the encampments are on the rise. “There have been increasing reports of homeless encampments emerging in communities across the country, primarily in urban and suburban areas and spanning states as diverse as Hawaii, Alaska, California, and Connecticut,” the organization’s study says.

Tent cities are most common in areas where shelter space is scarce or housing unaffordable. Yet, many people say they choose to live in a tent even when shelter is an option. And they do so for one big reason: freedom.

As these encampments continue to spread, public officials are responding in different ways. The NLCHP found ten tent cities weren’t officially recognized, but the city or county wasn’t doing anything to get rid of them. The vast majority of encampments, however, have been shut down and occupants have been evicted.

Instead of evicting people from tent cities, the NLCHP says the root of the issue—unaffordable housing—needs to be addressed. “Encampments and tent cities have emerged as a means of self-help for homeless individuals to survive and find shelter, safety and a sense of community,” the report states. “Ultimately, the solution to the proliferation of encampments across the United States is the provision of affordable housing.”

Ms. Ross reported that in January 2010 there were 700,000 individuals in the US who were homeless. She reported that the share of families who lack a place to sleep continued the rapid expansion that began during the recession, and that between 2007 and 2010, the number of homeless families grew by 20%. The nation’s elevated unemployment rate and the large number of foreclosures have increased demand just as municipal and state budget problems have led to a reduction in services available to the poor and homeless.

Some cities have begun to regulate tent cities issuing temporary permits that allow churches or other organizations to host the homeless for few months. In January, Seattle WA mayor Ed Murray proposed that Seattle make it easier for nonprofits to establish three new tent cities to deal with part of an estimated 2,300 people living outdoors or in cars in Seattle, but his proposal met with opposition from those who said such support would give Seattle a bad name. In March, however, the City Council voted to authorize and regulate up to three new homeless encampments, for as many as 100 people each.

In most other cities, developers, business district boosters, and city councils have clashed with the homeless, encouraging police to issue more frequent tickets for violations such as sleeping in public, loitering, littering, or public urination and defecation.

Homelessness isn’t my issue, much as I decry that it exists. But I have to listen to the constant complaints of my son Henry that his rent relentlessly goes up while his wages do not in a corresponding amount. And then there is the fact that we will have to provide sleeping quarters whenever parricides and others show up at Estrella Vista. It has long been my plan that tents can provide a cost-effective way to expand and contract the sleeping capacity of the property as needed.

Now I’m not suggesting using cheap, uncomfortable tents that are only suited to a short camping outing. The German scouting movement has developed distinctive black cotton tents which are particularly well-suited to this country and offer unparalleled comfort and durability for users.

IMG_4073I have one such tent called a Kohte. It is basically a Northern European teepee, originally developed in Lapland, and it is a marvel of construction that comfortably sleeps up to five occupants. It breaks up into five panels, with the idea that each man in a five-man patrol packs one panel with him to a location where the tent is assembled in about 20 minutes. The Kohte has a chimney opening at the top so a space heater or fire can be lighted within the tent for warmth in cold weather. The tent’s design makes it resistant to high winds and side-flaps facilitate cooling in hot weather. If it were erected on a low platform, it would be off the desert floor and less attractive to desert creatures and creepy-crawlies. Foam rubber padding could even be added beneath the tent’s groundcloth to make it that much more comfortable for the tent’s occupants. A more elaborate cousin, the Jurte (the German version of a Yurt and pictured above), could be purchased at a later date.

You are probably saying, “But the tent is black. Doesn’t this absorb more heat in the desert environment?” Surprisingly not. It actually creates a deeper shade than a tent of any other color. If you have ever been in a white tent on the desert, you will know that the sunlight permitted in absolutely bakes the interior. Black tents are actually 10° cooler than the ambient temperature. On the desert, shade equals relative coolness.

I have come to believe that, in the right environment, living in or close to nature is no hardship at all. I am sure homeless people in New Jersey or Minnesota have it very hard, but I was not scandalized by descriptions of the Kentucky family’s home life. Abe Lincoln grew up in a modest Kentucky log cabin, and that is not what killed him. You don’t have to live in a McMansion to survive or to be happy and satisfied with life.

What you do need is an opportunity to live your life with dignity. Everyone needs this, whether they shelter themselves under conventional construction or in a cotton tent. What the data from Zero Hedge suggests is that too many people live in penury or under a mountain of debt and live like slaves. There’s nothing dignified about slavery. Freedom is the greatest source of dignity.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Bob Dylan performing “Dignity”


Weather Report

98° and Clear to Cloudy



















It remains to be seen whether South Carolina governor Nikki Haley sparked a national dialog about racial equality or just a headlong lemming-dash about a flag. But it’s not looking good.

Major retailers like Amazon, Ebay, and Walmart have removed confederate battle flags from their listings. Yet they still continue to allow the sale of items featuring Nazi emblems and swastikas. Apple has just removed all Civil War games from its app store.

The idiocy doesn’t stop there.

Warner Brothers has now announced that it has halted production of toys and replicas of the iconic “Dukes of Hazzard” car known as the General Lee, which famously bore the flag on its roof.

Political Correctness is so mindless. Try as you might, you can’t unring a bell. You can only pretend, but that’s not honest.

The South Carolina legislature could now conceivably decide to keep the flag flying, just to restore sanity or balance to the national discourse.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Trace Adkins performing “Til the Last Shot’s Fired”


Weather Report

92° and Clear



Austin croppped 3.

Here is an update of the accusations by the administrators of Clemens Unit prison against Austin Eversole.

The biggest piece of news is that the “stolen” hard drive has been located. Where it was found and how it went missing are not known, but we can only hope that it was not planted in Austin’s property to substantiate the administrators’ knee-jerk allegations that Austin, a model prisoner for five years, must have been responsible. Austin is still being punished in solitary confinement, even though it is clear the hard drive was not stolen after all.

It would be too much to expect that an apology for the accusation will follow—but such an admission is not out of the question if goodwill really exists and prison administrators are willing to admit that the hard drive’s location was temporarily beyond their control. Yet lack of control is one of the biggest failures which most prisons try to avoid admitting, even when it occurs.

It would seem that the staff’s refusal to share any information about this incident is a situation of the prison’s own making. Austin had apparently tried to place me on his visitor’s list, but the request was denied citing a “rule” that I could appear on only one inmate’s list—and David Childress had been the first in line. This rule is a surprise to me, as I had been told by a prison chaplain to get listed by all four inmates at Clemens in order to effectively advocate for each if problems should arise. When the new warden arrived last year, I spoke with him briefly on the phone and explained that I supported four inmates at his prison—but he failed to forewarn me about any difficulties with this arrangement.

Austin says that such a rule “is not true, but Clemens likes to make their own rules” to suit their ad hoc needs. It appears to be an attempt by Clemens to curtail outside support for inmates. In one of his interrogations by prison staff, he was told by Sgt. McRory and Inspector General Eckert that “they did not want to be bothered by any of (Austin’s) friends.” It should be regarded as a mark of distinction—not suspicion—that Austin and others are able to maintain friendships with good people on the outside.

Since interacting with prison authorities in Texas and other states, I have observed that friends of inmates are treated with the same hostility or indifference as if we were “offenders.” Those who present themselves as friends or supporters of inmates are subjected to the same confiscatory exploitation by prison phone companies and canteen rackets as are family members of “offenders.” We are made to feel unwelcome, even though we are blameless of anything but human compassion.

It is offensive. As a result, one cannot help but feel resentment and distrust of those who staff our nation’s prisons. One cannot help but think that the world of prisons is a shady world of secrecy and injustice that reveals the seamy underside of our society.

I am bothered.


To see the earlier installment of this story, click here.



Groove of the Day

Listen to Stone Sour performing “Bother”


Weather Report

84° Cloudy and Rain, then Partly Cloudy


race-based testing

I think one of the hardest things about confronting real history is appreciating the differences in normative thinking between now and that which prevailed in earlier times. We look back on the Jim Crow discrimination of pre-1960s America or the anti-Semitism of 1930s Germany, and it is natural enough to think, “That was so wrong,” and we react with outraged anger. But we fail to realize that had we been alive or older at the time, we might have been willing participants in some of the behavior that so infuriates us today.

This is not to say that we would have been members of the Ku Klux Klan or Schutzstallel—the vast majority of people just “go along” with the prevailing winds—but if we thought of ourselves as “movers and shakers,” maybe we would have been guilty of some of the crimes which we regard as so unthinkable by today’s standards.

When thinking about the changes in thinking through history, it is important to draw a distinction between attitudes and beliefs. To borrow a concept written about by Gustav LeBon (whose ideas were influential to an understanding of propaganda amongst Hitler’s inner circle), attitudes are like the shifting sands atop a bedrock of beliefs. Beliefs change very slowly, whereas attitudes change much more quickly depending on what people are told.

This is why Dylann Roof, despite his young age, seems like such a throwback to the past.


US Troops Tested By Race In Secret World War II Chemical Experiments

by Caitlin Dickerson, National Public Radio

June 22, 2015
plates-quad_custom-54cafadeb03329937f2c729da669e71cea24ee4e-s1000-c85These historical photographs depict the forearms of human test subjects after being exposed to nitrogen mustard and lewisite agents in World War II experiments conducted at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC.


As a young US Army soldier during World War II, Rollins Edwards knew better than to refuse an assignment.

When officers led him and a dozen others into a wooden gas chamber and locked the door, he didn’t complain. None of them did. Then, a mixture of mustard gas and a similar agent called lewisite was piped inside.

“It felt like you were on fire,” recalls Edwards, now 93 years old. “Guys started screaming and hollering and trying to break out. And then some of the guys fainted. And finally they opened the door and let us out, and the guys were just, they were in bad shape.”

Edwards was one of 60,000 enlisted men enrolled in a once-secret government program—formally declassified in 1993—to test mustard gas and other chemical agents on American troops. But there was a specific reason he was chosen: Edwards is African-American.

“They said we were being tested to see what effect these gases would have on black skins,” Edwards says.

rollins-edwards-historical_custom-25cb051c1e4e0c159b9a5d40d4e47bbac998540f-s500-c85An NPR investigation has found evidence that Edwards’ experience was not unique. While the Pentagon admitted decades ago that it used American troops as test subjects in experiments with mustard gas, until now, officials have never spoken about the tests that grouped subjects by race.

For the first time, NPR tracked down some of the men used in the race-based experiments. And it wasn’t just African-Americans. Japanese-Americans were used as test subjects, serving as proxies for the enemy so scientists could explore how mustard gas and other chemicals might affect Japanese troops. Puerto Rican soldiers were also singled out.

White enlisted men were used as scientific control groups. Their reactions were used to establish what was “normal,” and then compared to the minority troops.

All of the World War II experiments with mustard gas were done in secret and weren’t recorded on the subjects’ official military records. Most do not have proof of what they went through. They received no follow-up health care or monitoring of any kind. And they were sworn to secrecy about the tests under threat of dishonorable discharge and military prison time, leaving some unable to receive adequate medical treatment for their injuries, because they couldn’t tell doctors what happened to them.

Army Col. Steve Warren, director of press operations at the Pentagon, acknowledged NPR’s findings and was quick to put distance between today’s military and the World War II experiments.

“The first thing to be very clear about is that the Department of Defense does not conduct chemical weapons testing any longer,” he says. “And I think we have probably come as far as any institution in America on race. … So I think particularly for us in uniform, to hear and see something like this, it’s stark. It’s even a little bit jarring.”

NPR shared the findings of this investigation with Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., a member of the Congressional Black Caucus who sits on a House subcommittee for veterans affairs. She points to similarities between these tests and the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, where U.S. government scientists withheld treatment from black sharecroppers in Alabama to observe the disease’s progression.

troops-diptych1_custom-1accb08d22093b840f1bbb893a1db58c356073be-s1000-c85“I’m angry. I’m very sad,” Lee says. “I guess I shouldn’t be shocked when you look at the syphilis studies and all the other very terrible experiments that have taken place as it relates to African-Americans and people of color. But I guess I’m still shocked that, here we go again.”

Lee says the U.S. government needs to recognize the men who were used as test subjects while it can still reach some, who are now in their 80s and 90s.

“We owe them a huge debt, first of all. And I’m not sure how you repay such a debt,” she says.

Mustard gas damages DNA within seconds of making contact. It causes painful skin blisters and burns, and it can lead to serious, and sometimes life-threatening illnesses including leukemia, skin cancer, emphysema and asthma.

In 1991, federal officials for the first time admitted that the military conducted mustard gas experiments on enlisted men during World War II.

According to declassified records and reports published soon after, three types of experiments were done: Patch tests, where liquid mustard gas was applied directly onto test subjects’ skin; field tests, where subjects were exposed to gas outdoors in simulated combat settings; and chamber tests, where men were locked inside gas chambers while mustard gas was piped inside.

gas-race_custom-c50369d78e0d980307a083c9c5b15e10f195220b-s600-c85Even once the program was declassified, however, the race-based experiments remained largely a secret until a researcher in Canada disclosed some of the details in 2008. Susan Smith, a medical historian at the University of Alberta in Canada, published an article in The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics.

In it, she suggested that black and Puerto Rican troops were tested in search of an “ideal chemical soldier.” If they were more resistant, they could be used on the front lines while white soldiers stayed back, protected from the gas.

The article received little media attention at the time, and the Department of Defense didn’t respond.

Despite months of federal records requests, NPR still hasn’t been given access to hundreds of pages of documents related to the experiments, which could provide confirmation of the motivations behind them. Much of what we know about the experiments has been provided by the remaining living test subjects.

Juan Lopez Negron, who’s Puerto Rican, says he was involved in experiments known as the San Jose Project.

Military documents show more than 100 experiments took place on the Panamanian island, chosen for its climate, which is similar to islands in the Pacific. Its main function, according to military documents obtained by NPR, was to gather data on “the behavior of lethal chemical agents.”

One of the studies uncovered by NPR through the Freedom of Information Act was conducted in the Spring 1944. It describes how researchers exposed 39 Japanese American soldiers and 40 white soldiers to mustard and lewisite agents over the course of 20 days. Read the study.

Lopez Negron, now 95 years old, says he and other test subjects were sent out to the jungle and bombarded with mustard gas sprayed from U.S. military planes flying overhead.

“We had uniforms on to protect ourselves, but the animals didn’t,” he says. “There were rabbits. They all died.”

Lopez Negron says he and the other soldiers were burned and felt sick almost immediately.

“I spent three weeks in the hospital with a bad fever. Almost all of us got sick,” he says.

Edwards says that crawling through fields saturated with mustard gas day after day as a young soldier took a toll on his body.

rollins-diptych_custom-1bfb754300d6d225fc1b444bb3481d0102c2450b-s700-c85Rollins Edwards, who lives in Summerville SC, shows one of his many scars from exposure to mustard gas in World War II military experiments. More than 70 years after the exposure, his skin still falls off in flakes. For years, he carried around a jar full of the flakes to try to convince people of what happened to him.

“It took all the skin off your hands. Your hands just rotted,” he says. He never refused or questioned the experiments as they were occurring. Defiance was unthinkable, he says, especially for black soldiers.

“You do what they tell you to do and you ask no questions,” he says.

Edwards constantly scratches at the skin on his arms and legs, which still break out in rashes in the places he was burned by chemical weapons more than 70 years ago.

During outbreaks, his skin falls off in flakes that pile up on the floor. For years, he carried around a jar full of the flakes to try to convince people of what he went through.

But while Edwards wanted people to know what happened to him, others—like Louis Bessho—didn’t like to talk about it.

His son, David Bessho, first learned about his father’s participation as a teenager. One evening, sitting in the living room, David Bessho asked his dad about an Army commendation hanging on the wall. David Bessho, who’s now retired from the Army, says the award stood out from several others displayed beside it.

“Generally, they’re just kind of generic about doing a good job,” he says. “But this one was a bit unusual.”

The commendation, presented by the Office of the Army’s Chief of the Chemical Warfare Service, says: “These men participated beyond the call of duty by subjecting themselves to pain, discomfort, and possible permanent injury for the advancement of research in protection of our armed forces.”

Attached was a long list of names. Where Louis Bessho’s name appears on Page 10, the list begins to take on a curious similarity. Names like Tanamachi, Kawasaki, Higashi, Sasaki. More than three dozen Japanese-American names in a row.

bessho-orders_custom-09293937220aecbaacce2ceac123dfc86642893e-s1000-c85“They were interested in seeing if chemical weapons would have the same effect on Japanese as they did on white people,” Bessho says his father told him that evening. “I guess they were contemplating having to use them on the Japanese.”

A portrait of Louis Bessho from 1969 and military orders from April 1944 for Japanese-American soldiers, including Bessho, who were part of the military’s mustard gas testing at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland.

Documents that were released by the Department of Defense in the 1990s show the military developed at least one secret plan to use mustard gas offensively against the Japanese. The plan, which was approved by the Army’s highest chemical warfare officer, could have “easily kill[ed] 5 million people.”

Japanese-American, African-American and Puerto Rican troops were confined to segregated units during World War II. They were considered less capable than their white counterparts, and most were assigned jobs accordingly, such as cooking and driving dump trucks.

Susan Matsumoto says her husband, Tom, who died in 2004 of pneumonia, told his wife that he was OK with the testing because he felt it would help “prove he was a good United States citizen.”

Matsumoto remembers FBI agents coming to her family’s home during the war, forcing them to burn their Japanese books and music to prove their loyalty to the U.S. Later, they were sent to live at an internment camp in Arkansas.

Matsumoto says her husband faced similar scrutiny in the military, but despite that, he was a proud American.

“He always loved his country,” Matsumoto says. “He said, ‘Where else can you find this kind of place where you have all this freedom?’ ”


You can hear this story as broadcast on June 22 here. Part 2 of the story, aired on June 23, which deals with the broken promises made by the Veterans’ Administration, can be heard here.


Caitlin Dickerson is a reporter with NPR’s Investigations Team. NPR Investigations Research Librarian Barbara Van Woerkom contributed reporting and research to this investigation. NPR Photo Editor Ariel Zambelich and reporters Jani Actman and Lydia Emmanouilidou also contributed to this story.


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