Archive for March, 2011



I’m bothered by poor quality police work and the way it is placing so many kids at risk of wrongful convictions and dooming them to inappropriate, severe, and unjust punishments. This is has been a factor in almost all the youth justice cases I’ve worked on.

The police in Kosiusco County completely failed to discover the circumstances leading to Philip Danner’s shooting, and these facts were never presented in court. Danner was depicted as an upstanding guy who was the victim of his troubled stepson. But no one in an official capacity seemed particularly interested in discovering the cause of Colt Lundy’s troubles.

Nor did his family apparently want it revealed that, rather than being a “pillar of the community” as Danner posed, he was in truth a man who allegedly abused his stepson in at least two different ways: with physical violence when he’d been drinking and another way when he was sober. Colt’s mother should have known, and seems to have done nothing to protect her son.

Neighbors also knew about the physical abuse but kept quiet. They could hear the boy’s screams all the way down the block as he was beaten. Kids at school knew about the physical abuse, too. They could see the bruises on Colt’s body; they could see the pain he so often experienced. Presumably the school officials should have known, too. But they too apparently turned a blind eye and remained quiet.

So why and how could the police have failed to uncover and reveal the truth?

There is a case in Florida with which I was asked to help and I turned it down. It is not that the child does not need help—he needs help desperately. But his family and family-friend attorneys have decided that the secrets of this child’s abuse are not to be told in order to protect the reputations of the two dead parents who—and forgive me for saying this—in my opinion deserve to be dead. All the adults who now control this child’s fate care more about appearances than securing justice and help for the child who is clearly the real victim in this situation. With such a conspiracy to hide the truth, there is nothing I could do but spin my wheels and fail to devote my energies where they might do some good.

How and why could the police have failed to discover the truth? We have discovered it, and we do not have even a fraction of the investigative resources available to us that the official sherlocks do.

Based on my observations of the police conduct surrounding the Jordan Brown case, it seems likely that the truth has not been revealed because the police do not want to discover it. All their physical evidence has come back from the state crime lab clearing Jordan, and yet they’re sticking to their implausible, senseless theory. I’m sure they have their reasons. But what are they?

There are almost certainly other people besides the killer and the police who don’t want the whole truth to come out.

After asking and searching in vain for almost two years, this morning I finally saw a picture of Adam Harvey. It stopped me cold. I’m no geneticist, and I’m admittedly not politically correct, but for the life of me I can see no family resemblance between Adam and Kenzie’s youngest daughter. What was the basis of Kenzie’s and Adam’s child support dispute? What did DNA testing have to do with anything? Who is/are the father(s) of the two little girls? Does this have anything to do with how events have unfolded? Whose scapegoat is Jordan, really? Aren’t these some of the questions police should have been asking in their investigation?

Instead they have left us with a big mess to untangle—which is probably just as some people involved in the case would prefer it.

It’s a wicked world and these cases are never as straightforward as the authorities would have us believe.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Black Sabbath performing “Wicked World”


pants on fire

I hope you will not accuse me of leading you on and then failing to deliver the goods. I had planned to share some information with you today about Paul Henry’s counselor, Michell Griffith.

We made some calls yesterday to confirm a piece of surprising information we’d learned last week—but alas, it was confirmed with a twist such as we’d never expected, and we need at least another day or two to confirm yesterday’s discovery. This investigation reminds me of a set of nesting boxes—or as Winston Churchill once said, “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

All this digging was triggered by a simple misrepresentation of fact when Michell told Paul Henry’s mom that she could not visit her son because his scores had not been very good that week—when, in fact, we knew that they had been slightly higher.

(In answer to a question posed yesterday by a reader: Scores in any given one-hour time period can be lowered from a 3 to a 2, to a 1, or all the way to a 0 if an inmate doesn’t make his bed properly, or clean up his area, is caught roughousing, is found somewhere where he’s not supposed to be, fails to hand in a school assignment on time, or any number of things most kids get away with everyday if they’re not in prison. And, as we saw on Friday, scores can also be lowered if a guard is pissed off at you or, presumably, even just having a bad hair day.)

Ever since I read M. Scott Peck’s People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil, I have attached new significance to liars and their lies—even lies of the “little white” variety. In his book Dr. Peck postulated that evil is a variant of narcissistic personality disorder—he calls it malignant narcissm. He says that evil is not simply the absence of goodness—it is actively hateful and destructive. Peck says that while evil manifests itself in many ways, its common identifier is the lie.

So when you catch someone in a lie, you must be very cautious and vigilent, because there’s no telling what you’re really dealing with. Liars are all about deception and often leave you confused (this is the main tip-off for me). Peck says liars are all about imposing their will on you by overt or covert coercion. And if the liar is a shrink who is trained in mind games… well, I’ve already told you of my suspicions about shrinks.

In talking about this subject, I hope I am not giving the impression of being a self-rightous better-than-thou phoney. I’ve told some whoppers in my day, but learned from the experience that this is a self-defeating thing to do. I’ve learned the hard way that if someone catches you in a lie, they can discount everything you have to say. This is why it is so important to us that we are absolutely positively sure we get our facts confirmed in multiple ways before we make our next disclosures about Paul Henry’s counselor.

So please be patient with me and my sources. But it’s looking more and more like your patience will be well-rewarded.


Groove of the Day

Listen to The Castaways performing “Liar Liar”



It’s four in the afternoon and only now am I able to dash off a few lines. I’ve been up since four in the morning working on a background document for Alex King’s attorney. I am juggling so many projects, I am surprised and thankful the day has been quiet enough for me to get this work done.

Last night Nicole Gingerich called and confirmed that Paul Henry knew nothing about last Friday’s low scores. She said he was shocked that they had been so bad they even included a couple zeros. Paul Henry said that Friday had been a normal, unremarkable day. He’d done nothing wrong as far as he knew. So it’s clear Friday’s scores were just the Pendleton guards showing mean muscle.

Paul Henry’s scores for the end of the day Saturday and all day Sunday came in last night and they were pretty much back to normal. “But remember,” my contact cautioned, “it’s the weekend and there’s a different crew on duty. Monday’s scores will tell the tale.” So we’ll see the story tonight when today’s scores are reported. Fingers crossed.

With all these balls in the air I realize I have not yet reported that I’ve received commitments from Diary readers for the full amount we were seeking for Chris Brown to help him cover the funeral expenses for his sister. It made my heart soar to hear his voice brighten when I called the day of the funeral to tell Chris that we had covered the amount in full. He wants me to tell everyone who helped how thankful he is for your generosity and kindness.

Thank you from me too. It all happened in a single day, and it has provided dramatic evidence to help me realize that we have created here a wonderful, compassionate community of care.

I’m pretty sure there are some checks for Chris waiting in my mailbox. However, I have not been able to get to the mail today because on Friday night my car’s thermostat housing cracked. My friend Dave came up to the house and diagnosed the problem and we ordered replacement parts over the Internet. Until the parts arrive and the car is repaired, I’m pretty much marooned here. No problem, though. I have plenty of food and water (and an unending supply of eggs) and my local friends have been wonderful about looking out for me.

Tomorrow my friend Andy is going to help me haul in about 500 gallons of water for my water tank, which has been empty since just before the cold snap of about two months ago. It will be nice to be able to use the tap again and stop watching the skies for signs of rain that never comes.

The above illustration, by the way, is by Holly’s and my old friend and renowned children’s book illustrator, Leonard Everett Fisher.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Bobby Vee (aka Vinton) performing “Rubber Ball”


justice for money

Today I want to talk with you about “Truth, Justice, and The American Way.”

Truth  Yesterday I got a big laugh when one of my readers sent me a bit from one of the discussion boards in Pennsylvania. A poster calling himself “JFK” was upset about last Thursday’s article, “Esprit de Corps,” about Charles Harvey’s possible influence (as the commandant of the New Castle chapter of the Marine Corps League) on the failure of police to consider his son Adam as the most likely perpetrator of the murders of Kenzie Houk and her unborn baby son. “Blaming the US Marine corps is SOOO ridiculous that it is almost laughable,” said JFK.

And this is the part that made me laugh: he called this blog SLANDERvogel. People in Pennsylvania have been calling me a liar for more than a year whenever I present inconvenient facts. But this is the cleverest such accusation to date, even if JFK missed the point that it was not the Marine Corps I was talking about, but Charles Harvey’s network of influence… also, JFK may not understand that “slander” is something defamatory that’s not true and known to be untrue when it is said.

Yet I am not the first to have brought the Marines into this story. Do you know who was? None other than Adam Harvey!

Yes, in an interview between Adam Harvey and Trooper Jeffrey Martin, Adam very quickly let Martin know that his father is a Marine. We have it on tape. If my suggestion that Charles Harvey and his Marine buddies may have exercised undue influence on the police investigation is “SOOO ridiculous,” then why would Adam have been the first to play this card?

I have an acquaintance out here who is always getting into (and out of) trouble. He is a wild man. A hard-drinking and -drugging partier. Irresponsible. Charming. A scammer. He’s a guy who may never grow up. Whenever he is stopped by the police for some infraction, he makes a point of telling them right away that his dad is a Texas Ranger. It usually gets him off with a warning.

(Oh, and by the way JFK, I didn’t just blame the Texas Rangers for this guy’s infractions or for his father’s enabling—even though his dad has more than once called in favors to keep his son out of jail.)

Justice  Paul Henry’s scores have just come in for the beginning of the second day since his mother’s disclosure that we have access to Pendleton’s true “scorebook,” and it does appear the guards may be scoring him lower to make a point. His daily scores have dropped overnight from an overall average of 82.8% to 55.5% since Nicole’s visit on Thursday. “Except in his first week when he had one really bad day, he has never scored that low,” Nicole said. Until Nicole visits with Paul Henry later today, he probably will not even know why this overnight change has occurred.

If this pattern continues, it would appear that Paul Henry is being penalized for events that are totally outside of his control. They’re not of his making in any way–he doesn’t even know about them. I worry that because the Pendleton authorities have lost control over their information and their alleged “dual books” scam has been exposed, they may be reasserting control in the only way they know how: by punishing the child as a warning to us. We will have to wait and see what happens on Monday when the regular crew returns.

If these low results become a pattern, it would be a pathetic response. It would also show they’ve not thought this thing through. By punishing Paul Henry for our disclosures, they would be creating measurable evidence of injustice for which, in combination with the withholding of commissary and restriction of parental contact, they could be sued. They can make all sorts of claims and justifications to the contrary, but the coincidence of Nicole’s disclosure and the sudden lowering of his scores is anything but subtle. If it continues, it would show that the scoring system is arbitrary, subjective, and essentially meaningless—especially in the light of the “dual books” allegation.

It seems to me that Pendleton has three choices: (1) they can back off this ill-considered tactic and work to restore integrity to their scoring system and earn back some moral authority; (2) they can stay the course of reprisal and set off a public debate about the injustice of manipulating their system to limit contact between Paul Henry and his mother; or (3) they can escalate the punishment of Paul Henry in ways that will create paperwork which will identify the prison workers involved, and thus personally open them up to in-depth scrutiny.

Door #1 is the only sensible choice.

It seems it would be better for everybody if we were to de-escalate things right away by focusing everyone’s energies on what’s right rather than who’s right.

The American Way  People tell me every day that the system is broken, that America has taken a wrong turn sometime back and lost its way.

They tell me that justice can only be had for money, and that our politicians have created the largest prison-industrial complex in the world just so some people—the corporatists—can make money off of other people’s misery.

I agree.

You can see it everywhere— our jails and prisons, the schools, the banks and credit card industry, our health care system and the food and drug companies that keep it overcrowded with patients, and on and on. Everybody’s making a buck by making someone else miserable. It’s today’s American Way.

On the flip side of this, another reader wrote to me yesterday suggesting that Pennsylvania police had a disincentive for considering Adam Harvey as a murder suspect. He may have been passed over, she said, to save a buck. If Adam were charged with Kenzie’s murder, the New Castle police might have been open to a civil lawsuit from the Houks for failing to protect her.

Because Kenzie had a PFA on Adam, the New Castle Police were legally obligated to protect her from Adam Harvey. I was told that Kenzie called them “countless times over the year of her last PFA, and they did nothing to protect her.” She continued: “After speaking with several attorneys about this, I found that women in Kenzie’s situation—with  arrest records, children from multiple partners, etc.—are often discriminated against and do not receive the same protection as married, middle class women who are issued PFAs.” She told me that Debbie Houk was recently made aware of this and offered legal support.

So maybe Debbie will change her mind about Jordan’s innocence. This, too, would be a reflection of The American Way.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Styx performing “Half Penny, Two Penny”

“Justice for money; how much more can we pay? We all know it’s the American way.”


story of job, revisited

When Chris Brown answered the phone the other day, I could tell right away from his voice that something was wrong. “Chris, are you still sick?” I asked.

“No,” he said, “my sister died Sunday night.”

Chris’ sister was Misti Brown Kirschner, age 36. Misti lived in New Castle, worked as a vendor at Heinz Field, and loved being with her friends and family.

The last time Chris and I had spoken was when the Superior Court ruling was announced. He told me then that Misti had been in intensive care for some time and that her condition was unchanged and still undiagnosed; she was being kept alive by technology. Nevertheless she was happy that the tide had begun to turn for Jordan.

By the time the doctors finally figured out that the cause of her condition was Swine Flu and had her airlifted to Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, it was too late. Misti had endured a long and very difficult illness. She never recovered and passed away on March 20th.

“At least her suffering is over,” Chris said. Something in the way he said this gave the impression it was a practiced line, something he’d already used to reassure friends who are worried for his state of mind and health in the wake of yet another tragedy.

Chris said his mother Janice is coping but devastated.

Out of a population of 12.7 million in Pennsylvania, the flu had claimed only 39 lives through mid-February. What are the chances that another such death would strike Chris Brown and his family after everything they have already endured?

It is as if lightning has struck Chris multiple times.

Like the Biblical character Job, everything has been taken from the man. He has lost the woman he loved and their unborn child; he has lost the daughters he loved and fathered as if they had been his own; he has lost his employment and almost all his worldly possessions; his son Jordan has been taken from him, threatened with lifelong hopeless imprisonment, and both have been deprived of the comfort they might have provided one another through these two years of anguish.

Through it all, ugly hateful people have defamed and slandered him, threatened him (even with weapons), shunned him, stolen from him, insulted him, and incited total strangers against him. Through it all, his tormenters have been celebrated in the media, their hypocrisies overlooked, their characters unexamined, their motives and falsehoods unchallenged. If I were a believer in conventional religion, I could only conclude that Satan is up to the same evil designs as described in the Book of Job.

Over these last two years Chris and I have had many deep talks and, like Job, Chris has experienced innumerable lows bordering on despair; yet he has steadfastly remained true to his commitment to endure and always travel the “high road.” Chris is not a perfect man (God knows, he’s certainly had poor luck choosing women), but he is a good man who has always exercised remarkable patience and equanimity in the face of his trials—the “patience of Job.”

There are a lot of people who would prefer to believe that Chris’ ordeals are God’s retribution for some past wrongdoing or sins. There are a lot of people who would prefer to cast Chris as a latter day Joe Btfslk (Al Capp’s character in the “Li’l Abner” comic strip, a jinx, who was so unlucky that a tiny rain cloud followed him wherever he went). But these are all the same people who, despite all evidence to the contrary, believe life is fair. It isn’t—at least not on its own.

Like luck, fairness is something that we create in the ways we live and in the ways we treat others. If you believe life should be fair, you must be fair—otherwise fairness is just an empty platitude, wishful thinking, a sham, a self-delusion.

The other night I told Chris the same thing Holly and I told ourselves when her cancer had been diagnosed after fifteen years of dealing with multiple sclerosis: “At least you know you can deal with this. After everything you’ve been through, you can put this in perspective. It’s like you’ve been in training for this. You know it can’t break you.”

He agreed.

Yet in the next moment after I asked, he did tell me he doesn’t know how he and his mother will pay for Misti’s funeral expenses, he is so broke. The funeral director has given him a big break on the costs, yet he still needs to come up with about $1,500—a daunting amount given his present circumstances and the need to continue traveling to Erie each day to support Jordan through his ordeal.

“Would it be alright if I asked readers of the blog to help?” I asked. After a moment’s hesitation he said he would be happy for any help we might provide.

So this is what I suggest. If you want to help Chris, please leave a comment on today’s post to express your ability and willingness (I will keep your comment from posting publicly if you ask me to). I will get back to you by private e-mail with specific instructions. Gifts will need to be made to Chris directly by check or money order (not to Jordan’s trust fund and not to me). I will aggregate your contributions and forward them to Chris.

One person has already volunteered to send $500, so we are already a third of the way there. When you contact me I will be able to tell you how close to the goal we are or if it has been reached.

In the story of Job, God restored everything to Job (and more) that Satan had been allowed to take away to test Job’s faithfulness. I am hopeful that by assisting Chris in this time of need, we can demonstrate that God has not forsaken him and that this is the point beyond which things will begin improving for Chris, and that his family life and happiness will be restored.

Please help make this so and offer to help him today. Any size gift, even if it is very small, will make a huge impact. The funeral will be held this evening at 6:00 pm. I hope we will be able to give Chris some good news by then.

Thank you.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Anna Netrebko and Andrew Swait performing “Pie Jesu”

(from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Requiem)


esprit de corps

One of the most mystifying things about the Jordan Brown case is why the police never seriously pursued an investigation of Kenzie Houk’s former boyfriend Adam Harvey, the only character in this whole sordid affair with a known motive for seeing Kenzie dead.

It was Adam Harvey, after all, who had been engaged in a bitter paternity and child-support battle with Kenzie and who, after paying for the support of Kenzie’s youngest daughter Adalynn for years, discovered through DNA testing that Adalynn is not his daughter afterall—and that Kenzie had not been honest with him in more ways than one.

She had cheated him of his money and cheated on him by sleeping with another man. That’s blood-boiling, seeing-red motive. Why would the police ignore it?

And it was Adam Harvey who was the object of not one, but two PFA (protection from abuse) orders taken out against him by Kenzie in 2006 and 2008. These documents are public record and surely would have been accessed as a first step in any honest police investigation. Why then could the police overlook key statements made by Kenzie herself that:

(From the 2008 PFA regarding a February 3, 2008 incident)


(emphasis added)

(And from the 2006 PFA regarding a May 26, 2006 incident)


Elsewhere on the same form, Kenzie cited the following as prior incidents of abuse that Adam had allegedly committed against her: ”MENTAL ABUSE; THREATENING TO KILL ME OR HAVE ME KILLED BY HIS FRIENDS IN HILLSVILLE.

(emphasis added in both quotes)

Now, let us consider the timing of the murders in relation to Adam’s discovery from the DNA evidence that Kenzie had played him for a royal fool. According to what Chris Brown has told me, Adam discovered Kenzie’s infidelity and deception only a week or two before she and the baby were murdered. There was not even an opportunity for Adam to cool off. He must have still been boiling with rage on February 20th.

So why were the police so quick to dismiss Adam Harvey as a suspect? The police say that even though he’d returned to Newcastle from where he’d been living and working in North Carolina, Adam had a “solid alibi” on the morning of the murders because he was sleeping at his parents’ home on Boston Avenue and his truck was surrounded by newly-fallen snow. There were no tire tracks when the police arrived, and his father vouched for him.

Yet given his relationships with lowlife friends (and at least one family member who had threatened Kenzie), Adam certainly had the opportunity to hire someone or otherwise arrange with somebody to have Kenzie killed. His background report says he earns between $50,000 and $75,000 a year—so he probably had the means to pay. Everyone knows that such arrangements leave no snow tracks. Given the victim’s own assertion and belief that Adam could have hired a surrogate to do the hit, the police characterization of Adam’s alibi as “solid” is, by any reasonable judgment, an overstatement to say the least.

Why would the police have been so quick to back off?

And remember, more than a year ago Jordan’s lawyers received a tip that Adam had tearfully admitted to a friend at a party, “I killed my old girlfriend,” and this tip was passed on to police in writing—though more than a month later Trooper Jeffrey Martin, who was heading up the murder investigation, denied to reporters any knowledge of this letter which had been addressed to him. So what was really going on? Why did Trooper Martin apparently lie?

It was a mystery to me until last night when a reader sent me a clue which suggests there is much more to this story than one sees on the surface. This clue is an example of how eventually, given enough time and digging, the whole true story will eventually be revealed.

This reader’s e-mail began: “When they run into problems, sons of fathers with status are kept out of the news and courts. But I’ve never seen it at the expense of an eleven year old boy.

“This guy, who is in his sixties and lives at the same address as Adam J. Harvey (ex-boyfriend of Kenzie), is most  probably his father. If he is, take a look at who he is:

Detachment Listing and Detachment Officers / Department of Pennsylvania

Marine Corps League

New Castle Marines #788  (4/01/09)

Commandant: Charles Harvey / 506 Boston Ave / New Castle, Pa 16101 / (724) 654-7309

Sr. Vice Commandant: Ronald E. Jones / 1600 Grove Ave / New Castle PA 16101 / (724) 658-5448

Jr. Vice Commandant: David L. Thomas / 426 Fairgreen Ave / New Castle PA 16101 / (724) 654-1178

Judge Advocate: John P. Wherthey / 2414 Anne Dr / New Castle PA 16105 / (724) 652-7901

Jr. Past Commandant: Claude D.Shorts / 109 Germanski La / New Castle, PA 16102 / (724) 667-9422; Dan Chuey 132 S. Myers Ave / Sharon PA 16146 / (724) 699-6872

Adjutant: Richard W. Nonnemacher / 1201 Highland Ave, Apt #1 / New Castle PA 16105-2645 / (724) 657-8746

Paymaster: Gerald F. Kern / 414 E. Moody Ave / New Castle PA 16105 / (724) 652-4371

Chaplain: Emmett W. Shaffer / 315 Jones St / New Castle PA 16101 / (724) 652-9245

Sergeant-at-Arms: Fred Humphries / Conner School Road / Wampum PA 16157 / (724) 535-7243

“Now I understand why the police were so quick to accept the feeble alibi and drop Adam Harvey as a suspect. It may also explain why the media comments in PA are so negative; why the justice system in Newcastle is denying Jordan his rights; why Melissa had her posts on Topix deleted; why I had unusual difficulty–several times–posting to CBS Local Pittsburgh in response to a poster called “Dallas” who was knowledgeable, smooth, and polite—but adamant beyond reason considering his education (IMO), that Jordan was guilty. This news would explain much of what is happening to Jordan,” he said.

“It looks like the police and prosecution were not inept but something much worse.”

These are the reader’s conclusions, not mine. However, he has aroused my curiosity enough that I have initiated background checks on everyone connected with this Marine Corps League chapter. We will be looking for any connections whatsoever to the police, prosecutors, and other authorities in Lawrence County. We are using databases not available to the public and our cybersleuths and other investigators will keep digging until we discover the truth about exactly how this blatant miscarriage of justice has been engineered.

In time the truth will come out and any persons who are accessories to the murders and to the framing of an innocent child will be held to account. (Neither one is an insignificant crime, but a serious felony involving prison time.) If anyone knows something they are hiding, this is their last chance to come forward and avoid more serious consequences for themselves and their loved ones.

The Marines’ famous slogan is “Semper Fidelis” (Always Faithful), and signifies the dedication and loyalty that individual Marines have for “Corps and Country”, even after leaving the service. It is easy to see how loyalty between Marine veterans could become so personal that loyalty to Country, its laws and ideals, could become lost among drinking buddies—and we do know from the long line of DUI convictions in the public record that Charles Harvey and his sons have been heavy drinkers.

Now is the time for some sober reflection. This absurd story has played out far too long. It is time for grunts and civilians alike to be faithful to the truth and restore justice in Western Pennsylvania.

It’s time to wake up and heed what a wise champion of freedom named Voltaire once said: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”


Groove of the Day

Listen to the Angels performing “My Boyfriend’s Back”



The recent release of the debut album by former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher’s new band Beady Eye has got me thinking about the “Britpop” phenomenon of the half decade from about 1992 to1997. Britprop is an alternative rock subgenre that formed the backbone of a larger cultural movement called “Cool Britannia.”

Oasis was probably the signature band of the movement, and was certainly its most enduring and popular band, yet in my opinion not necessarily its most important. This distinction must be shared by the bands Suede and Blur, whose guitar-oriented sounds, catchy hooks, and lyrics with intended relevance to British kids innovated Britprop and were acclaimed at the time as Britain’s answer to American “grunge” music. (Between the two bands, I have always preferred Blur.)

Blur’s “Anglocentric” approach was inspired by an early 1992 tour of the United States during which lead singer Damon Albarn began to resent American culture and found the need to comment on its seeping influence in Britain. Blur became Britain’s most popular band by 1994.



In 1994 Oasis released its debut album, which became the fastest-selling first album in British history. In the following year a chart battle between Blur and Oasis ensued. Spurred on by the media, the battle pitted the two bands against each other, and the conflict was as much about British class and regional divisions as it was about music (with Oasis representing the working-class north of England and Blur representing the middle-class south).

Blur won the battle of the bands, selling 274,000 copies to Oasis’ 216,000, with the songs charting at number one and number two respectively. Yet in the long run Oasis became more commercially successful than Blur because of sustained US sales driven by the singles “Champagne Supernova” and “Wonderwall.”



If you followed Oasis, you already know the band was always troubled by the relationship between brothers and band members Liam and Noel Gallagher who were—and are—famous for their neverending squabbles and drag-down fights. The band finally fell apart because of it and the brothers are no longer on speaking terms if you can believe the media hype. Liam has created a new band, Beady Eye, and as you will see from this song, Britpop is history. Liam’s new sound is more classic rock with a strong flavor of John Lennon folded in. I was never that captivated by Oasis, but I do like this sound a lot.



Britpop was in its last days when two of the best bands in the subgenre appeared on the scene in 1997—The Verve and Radiohead. You heard Scala’s cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” almost a month ago; in the interest of variety I really should put up something by The Verve as today’s Groove. However, I just think it is so interesting to hear John Lennon’s influence, too, in this Radiohead piece.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Radiohead performing “Karma Police”


pushing a rope

I just couldn’t get motivated to write yesterday. I awoke three hours before dawn to begin the day’s work on the phone and computer.

The day started off on a discouraging note when a lawyer pooh-poohed a day rate that’s comparable to an amount I can live on for a month. Another person called to say a payment that was to have shown up in my mailbox yesterday was just going into the mail and would be here late. A couple other folks told me they would be late doing other things I’d been waiting for. Other phone calls were not returned.

I have an expression to describe days like this: “Pushing a rope.”

Three people told me about vacations they were about to take, were on, or had just returned from. One chastized me for not having joined them. “I’m chained to this phone,” I replied lamely. “Anyway, I live in a vacation paradise year-round,” I said without a whole lot of conviction.

After dealing with a succession of problems, delays, and disappointments, I finally ran out of gas. So I took a time out. Screw it, I said.

I fell asleep in one of my wingback chairs and had a disturbing dream about being behind the wheel of a car, physically paralyzed, as the car moved forward controlled by dumb luck alone. And yes, the dream expressed exactly the way I was feeling about the day and all the good I’d been able to accomplish.

I woke up disoriented with cobwebs between my ears. This day wasn’t getting any better. The sky had clouded over while I’d slept, and I could tell there would be no rain to fill my empty water tank. Only depressing gray light.

I spent a couple hours researching choral music, hoping that might cheer me up. It didn’t. It all sounded so churchey, nothing particularly uplifting.

Alex called and I told him about what I’d learned about the Okeechobee Jail over the weekend. “Are you alright there?” I asked. “I mean, do you feel safe? Are the staff people treating you okay?”

“It’s sufferable. But I will be glad to leave here, even if it means going to a different institution,” he answered.

That didn’t make me feel a whole lot better. If anything I began chiding myself for being such a sad sack all day. I should look up to Alex as an example. I should stop feeling sorry for myself and be a stoic like him. Yet I just felt worse because I felt so powerless to help him. He still hasn’t gotten his books. The people who run that jail just don’t give a damn. Spiritual hospitality—dream on!

Right about now you’re probably wondering when in this story am I going to pull out a razor to slash my wrists, but the day didn’t end that way. The day actually ended on a high note.

Earlier in the day I’d received some disturbing news about a staff member at Pendleton who has been making threats about giving Paul Henry trouble. I’d made a phone call to ask some questions, and by 9:30 last night a phone call was returned with my answers. I got a virtual peek into this staff person’s personnel file and learned everything we need to defend the boy. I learned enough to anticipate what this staff person’s game is and what we must watch out for. If a finger is raised against the boy, we will be ready to nip it off immediately.

So I’m not feeling so powerless and paralyzed afterall. I went to bed last night energized, ready for the next day’s challenges, and feeling the day was a success.


Groove of the Day

Listen to James Brown performing “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”


paradigm shift

Since I have been writing about Alex’s treatment at the Okeechobee County Jail, readers have brought it to my attention that there have been two suicides there in the last couple years—a 16-year-old boy in 2009 and a 35-year-old woman in 2010.

In 2009 one of the sheriff’s detectives, Sergeant Tommie Joe (T.J.) Brock, was fired for coercing sex from a 39-year-old female inmate. He pleaded nolo contendere and seems to have gotten off with 5 years’ probation and the loss of his pension—relatively speaking, a bone-crushing slap on the hand, but better than a 30-year prison term during which this jailhouse Casanova might have become a rape victim himself or worse.

The signs are there. This is clearly not a facility where you would want to partake of Okeechobee County Sheriff Paul C. May’s hospitality. As our experience with Alex’s commissary account and the jail phone system suggest, you would be nickel-dimed for the privilege (and the cost could conceivably be much greater).

Six years ago I visited this facility and met with the captain of the jail, who has always treated me with respect and friendliness. I am surprised and disappointed to have learned of these incidents which one can only conclude are the symptoms of a sick institution.

I have been thinking about this all day and can understand how this can be. I think a big part of the problem is that jailers see themselves as agents of retribution and punishment. It seems to fit with my first-hand impressions of the facility.

What if there were a paradigm shift in such facilities? What if the staff were to see their roles as hospitaliers?

(Don’t laugh or scoff. Please hear me out.)

I am not speaking of hospitality in the way we typically think of the term.

(Though it is a comical image to think of big-bellied Bubba cops placing mints on the inmates’ pillows at night.)

No, I am speaking of spiritual hospitality—an attitude in which we recognize and serve the Godness, the divinity, the divine spark in others (no matter how bright or dimly it burns). This idea is integral to the teachings of every major world religion, and yet it is only rarely practiced anywhere.

But wouldn’t it be an amazing, transformative, redemptive, healing thing if spiritual hospitality were practiced in our jails and prisons?


Groove of the Day

Listen to Cocteau Twins performing “Music for Vampires”


wanna bite back?

I have been both encouraged and outraged since Alex and I were finally able to talk yesterday afternoon.

On the encouraging side: I could hear a bright note in Alex’s voice. I have the impression that he is clearly in charge and determined to be self-responsibile for his actions in connection with the driving infractions. He is hopeful he will be returned to probation with some added fines or community service in addition to the jail time he will have already served by then. This would be a reasonable outcome.

It is a relief for me to be able to rely on his knowledge of the system and how to best navigate it. This kid is intellectually brilliant. Plus, I’ve always maintained the philosophy that someone in the role of advocate (in this case, me) should function as the servant of the young person for whom one is advocating. However, for younger kids especially, there is a natural tendency to do that which we think is good for the child rather than accepting the child’s leadership—a tendency I am working to change, even with younger kids.

This is the first time I will have had the opportunity to put my ideas to the test with confidence that the young person (Alex in this case) has a broad enough repetoire of knowledge and skills to exercise the kind of leadership I understand and prefer. My role will involve the gathering of quality resources and facilitating action in service to Alex’s goals. I could tell from his questions and statements that Alex has a clear view of our priorities, possibilities and probabilities.

Now, for the outrage: Alex reported that something like $60 has been hijacked from his commissary account. The captain of the jail only told me about the $25 fee. I feel like we’ve been ambushed. I think we’ve been robbed. Whatever its technical legality, this makes the point I have been writing about for the last couple days: the justice and detention systems are a machine for extorting money from the prisoner and his/her support system.

I will be following up with the captain of the jail to clarify these charges and challenge this inappropriate expropriation of funds intended for Alex’s comfort. If I determine that this taking was unlawful, I will consider whether to file a crime report with the appropriate level of law enforcement just to make a point.

Yet the raiding of a commissary account is a diversion—the main focus must be the probation violation hearing on the 25th.

Nevertheless I am thinking more and more that we must grow some large and sharp teeth of our own and defend violated young people more vigorously. We must go after bad prosecutors and judges and punish them for their misdeeds in career-stopping ways. We must pursue official victimizers of kids to the fullest extent of criminal and civil law, as well as through heart-stopping political action.

I want to bite these people back where it will hurt most —I want to bleed them and see them in a position where they’ll no longer be able to afford their country club dues (and where no decent club would have anything to do with them anyway).

I want to drive a stake through their cold black hearts.


Groove of the Day

Listen to the theme of the 1931 movie “Dracula”