Archive for January, 2014



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While catching a ride to town, there was an interview on the radio that made me angrier by the minute with the state of the outer world.

“Has the world always been this bad,” I asked my neighbor (who was driving), “or are we less tolerant of it the older we get?”

She reckoned that it could all be chalked up to that “they’re trying to create one world government.”

Maybe. Maybe not.

One world government feels like it’s a long way from here.

Today it got up to 75 degrees. Tomorrow it’s supposed to get into the 80s. It’s finally coming to the end of the propane-burning season.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Billy Joel performing “We Didn’t Start the Fire”


inept parents

abusive parent 2

I am coming to the conclusion that it is a dangerous thing to be a bad parent—at least for some people—but how bad you have to be to cross the danger threshold I cannot say.

Adam Lanza’s mother—the first victim of the Sandy Hook School shooter—was an incredibly bad parent. What could be a more foolish thing than to put weapons into the hands of a mentally ill person? She paid for her foolishness with her life.

Terry King was a control freak who was apparently in acute danger of being upstaged by the manipulations of Rick Chavis, an excessively permissive yet adult “family friend” who had an evil ulterior motive for seeing Terry out of the picture. I would (and have) placed my own life in the hands of Terry’s sons, and can only surmise that Terry must have been a very lacking father indeed for his boys to have been manipulated into murdering him.

Danny Eversole was a wife- and child-beater and sexual abuser who kept his youngest son Austin in constant fear for his life. One day in March of 2009, after 10 years of abuse that began when Austin was just 5 years old, this mild-mannered well-spoken boy did what any sane person would have done: he defended himself. The trouble is, Danny Eversole was dead, Austin was a minor and without rights, and the full story of how bad a parent Danny was was never introduced in court by Austin’s court-appointed attorney.

Danny and Meda Childress were the parents from hell. Danny was physically abusive, Meda was sexually abusive, and both were emotionally abusive towards their son David. He, too, believed that he was in danger of being killed by his parents and he struck first. Meda is dead, Danny is living on in San Antonio (in 2012 he bought a $92,000 house), and their son David is paying the price for their abusive run at parenting by serving a 40-year sentence in prison. What could be a more perfect outcome than that for Danny W. Childress?

Oh, and poor Colt Lundy. One of my readers told me there is a perception out there that I have thrown Colt under the bus, but nothing could be further from the truth. I have been told in no uncertain terms to keep my distance from Colt Lundy, and I am complying. I have been told that his biological father, Carlos Lundy, is the adult Colt most trusts in the world. Whether or not this is a good choice, I cannot say. The facts about Colt’s background are unclear to me, but I am not impressed with Carlos’ actions since he allowed his son to live in the household of a step-father who was reportedly physically abusive towards Colt and an abuser of drugs and alcohol. The fact that Carlos has filed bogus lawsuits in Kosciusko County IN against me  (rather than acting like an adult and enlisting my help for his son) does not inspire my confidence in his judgment or abilities as a parent.

I am sick to death of the capacity that the law allows for bad parents to make life awful for their children long after they have grown up. I was contacted recently by the aunt of a parricide who wanted the best defense for her nephew. Within days I had engaged one of the best criminal defense firms in the US and had gotten the interest of an international TV network in covering his story. Then, on a single day, a classmate of the parricide who had been forewarned of the murder was called in by law enforcement for an interview. There were allegations that the parricide had been subjected to sexual abuse by the father and that this fact would come out in the interview. This same day, the father withdrew his permission for all arrangements which had been made at his sister’s behest, preferring instead to work with local talent “that he trusted.” I have seen this ploy before: a surviving abusive parent pays for an inept defense for the child and allows the child to take the fall for family dysfunction that never sees the light of day. I am not saying this is the case in this particular instance, but my suspicions are aroused.

This is a dirty business, and I encounter parents all the time who have no right raising the unfortunates who are their offspring. But who am I to judge? Who am I to say that the kids I see would be better off if they were raised by someone else other than their natural parents? The foster care system offers its own threats to children. Kids can rarely specify a workable situation which would be better for them than the hells that they know. That is why there are so many runaways living on the streets, substituting one kind of victimization for another.

If any runaway were to seek sanctuary here, there would be no attempt to return them to their abusive homes. This may put me in opposition to the law, but the law has got to be reformed.


Groove of the Day

Listen to John Lennon performing “Mother”



toe tag 1

The other night I watched an old Frontline program about death in America. Most people, the program said, die in hospital where modern medical technology can keep anyone alive indefinitely, even if keeping the subject organism alive is the only point of the exercise.

Let everybody know. I am of sound mind, my health is stable, I am not depressed, and I love being alive as much as the next person. But when my time comes, I am prepared to go without extraordinary means being employed to forestall the inevitable. When it’s my time, please let me go without a fuss.

When I voice these sentiments to my friends, they inevitably say something like, “Oh no, Dan. You have so much more to do.” Well, I do, and I promise to keep up the good fight as long as I am able to. But when I fall, it is up to you to pick up the flag and proceed.

As a reincarnationist, my view of death is not the same as yours. I believe we are given a “freshie” sometime after we die. I am looking forward to this prospect as much and as confidently as you may be looking forward to an eternity involving clouds, wings, and a harp.

I don’t like your idea of eternity. I want to shit again in a nappy—and not as an old man.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Eric Burton & the Animals performing “It’s My Life”


knuckle-dragging in indiana

Daniel-Brewington-mug-shotApparently Dearborn County IN is competing for public assignation as the most repressive enclave in Indiana in its defense of the conviction and imprisonment of a blogger who freely expressed his thoughts about his treatment by family court judge James Humphrey in a 2008 custody case. Daniel Brewington had accused Humphrey of “child abuse” by separating children from their parent (namely him), but Brewington was tried and convicted of intimidation, perjury, and obstruction of justice. Rather than accept a plea and relinquish his rights of free speech, Barrington was sentenced to five years imprisonment, of which he served 2½ years.

Brewington was freed on September 5, just days before the Indiana Supreme Court heard oral arguments on an appeal of his case. The court has not yet issued a judgment, despite the fact that Barrington’s case has attracted the attention of a spectrum of amici from the ACLU of Indiana, to Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, along with numerous media, speech, and academic interests. Brewington’s case also drew First Amendment scholar Eugene Volokh to argue on behalf of a dozen amici who feared that if the Brewington verdict were affirmed,  it would have a chilling effect on speech, opinions expressed in the media, and political speech.

I had not heard about this case until today, when a reader who is following my lawsuit in Kosciusko County IN sent me a link to a January 23th Huffington Post interview of Brewington. To learn more about the case from more of a legal standpoint, please refer to a September 25th article in the Indiana Lawyer by David Stafford.


Groove of the Day

Listen to George Thorogood & the Destroyers performing “You Talk Too Much”


drones in the big bend

The outer world is relentlessly inserting itself in the pristine Big Bend region of far west Texas.

At the end of December, the Federal Aviation Administration announced six states, including Texas, that will develop test sites for drones. Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, and Virginia will also host the research sites as the Federal Aviation Administration seeks to introduce commercial drones into US airspace.

Texas’ eleven test site locations will be spread across the state, and Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi has won designation as the research headquarters for all Texas sites. They are the Big Bend, south of Fort Hood, outside College Station, and several in South Texas outside Beeville and south of Corpus Christi.

After a packed public hearing in late November, Alpine’s City Council unanimously voted to reject Texas A&M’s proposal to launch drones from the Alpine municipal airport. Alpine’s triumph, however, is more symbolic than anything else. Unmanned aircraft will still fly over the Big Bend region because the take-off and landing requirements of drones are so forgiving and there is a proliferation of airstrips all along the Rio Grande.

Members of Congress and other politicians lobbied intensely to bring the work to their respective states. Representatives were jubilant about the likelihood that the testing will draw companies interested in cashing in on the fledgling industry.

An industry-commissioned study has predicted that more than 70,000 jobs would develop in the first three years after Congress loosens drone restrictions on US skies. The same study projects an average salary range for a drone pilot between $85,000 and $115,000. The FAA projects some 7,500 commercial drones could be aloft within five years.

Drones have been mainly used by the military, but governments, businesses, farmers, and others are making plans to join the market. Many universities are starting or expanding curriculum involving drones. The FAA does not currently allow commercial use of drones, but it is working to develop operational guidelines by the end of 2015, although officials concede the project may take longer.

The growing use of drones has sparked criticism among conservatives and liberals who fear the creation of a surveillance state in which authorities track and scrutinize every move of citizens. “I just don’t like the concept of drones flying over barbecues in New York to see whether you have a Big Gulp in your backyard or whether you are separating out your recyclables according to the city mandates,” said Senator Rand Paul, R-KY. Paul has introduced a bill that would prohibit drones from checking for criminal or regulatory violations without a warrant.

Before we are too quick to accept this technological innovation and integrate it as normative of modern life, I think it is important to remember that the granddaddies of today’s drones, the V-1 rockets (which were also unmanned), were used for much more sinister purposes than the benign tasks being touted by today’s drone proponents. They were used by the Germans to not only deliver bombs, but propaganda meant to scare the daylights out of people… purposes that can easily be accomplished by today’s technology.








Groove of the Day

Listen to Bobby Darin performing “Blue Skies”



Living alone, I am occasionally guilty of some fairly screwy experiments, and the latest is trimming my beard “by feel” without the assistance of a mirror. As you may know, I have been living at Estrella Vista without mirrors as a kind of gesture to promote “anti-narcissim” in my actions: being totally focused on the needs of others, and not on one’s self.

I was happy with the result until yesterday, when I took a shower at the motor lodge and briefly saw myself in the bathroom mirror and discovered that my latest attempt at beard-trimming had been a disaster. It is a reflection of the politeness of people around here that nobody had said anything. I can only imagine that most people who saw me thought my non-symmetrical beard was a further indication of my eccentricity and not a Midwestern penchant for self-effacement.

Well, needless to say I resolved this morning that something had to be done. After some rummaging around, I found a rear view mirror that had fallen off my old sports car and set up a makeshift vanity on my desk and re-trimmed my beard.

I took it as a sign that this morning there was coincidentally a report on the radio about the opening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art of an exhibition on the history of vanities in decorative arts. Such excessive interest in appearances!

My lack of interest in how I appear to others is definitely counter-cultural; with a once-again-symmetrical beard, I hope it will not be viewed as pathological.


mirror 16.


mirror 7.


mirror 33.

mirror 2.

mirror 3.

mirror 8.

mirror 11.

mirror 14.

mirror 5.

mirror 1.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Michael McDonald performing “Reflections”


redemption for everyone

rear view mirror 1

A couple weeks ago, a journalist friend told me she was working on a story about me called “My Friend Dan, The Parricides He Calls Family, and His Road to Redemption.” I wrote back to her that it should read “Their Road to Redemption,” because they committed the murders which society finds so hard to forgive.

But she had it right in the first place. Upon careful consideration, I realize it is through our work on behalf of others that we heal ourselves. I’m doing this work for me, not just out of the goodness of my heart—though that does play a part.

For me, this was driven home the other day when I was working on the Estrella Vista Trust, and included as a beneficiary the daughter of some people from whom I borrowed some money for a nonprofit venture but was never able to pay back. This unpaid debt has bothered me for more than a decade, and the inclusion of their daughter as a beneficiary of my current work makes me feel a little better.

One of my wisest and best correspondents with parricides uses his current devotion to their needs to work out the residual damage of abuse done to him as a boy. One of my most loyal donors uses his financial support of the Redemption Project to address the wrongs done to him in his life. It goes on.

Life for all of us is filled with regrets. As learning beings, we will always figure out better ways we would to do things today than we did them yesterday. A lot of us address these regrets with drugs, alcohol, and other things which cement regrets into monuments to failure. One man who tried to block my entry into today’s work has never grown up and begun acting as an adult. He is a control freak, just like his father. But others use these regrets as learning steps to assure we never make the same mistakes again.

To transform a regret from your life into growth and healing, please consider giving now.

donate hands

Make a contribution to the Redemption Project by clicking the link at the top of this page or clicking here.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Jens Wennberg performing “In Hindsight”


don’t rain on my parade

fortune cookie

fortune 001.

I am not a superstitious person, but I have a faith in the uncanny ability of fortune cookie fortunes to give the correct guidance in most situations. Maybe there are fortune cookie schools where writers are coached in writing wisdom that is so general that it always applies. I don’t know. But the fortunes always work for me.

Lately I have been taking a great deal of comfort from the above fortune. The other day I called a friend—a fellow youth justice advocate—and reported a string of almost universally disappointing news, yet inexplicably I can see the realization of our vision more clearly than ever.

I don’t know how this works, yet I have been through enough “impossible” projects in my years to know that I am fulfilling a role which is absolutely necessary to the “impossible” being accomplished. Someone has got to hold the vision, no matter what.

One important thing is seeing the difference between setbacks that you have absolutely no control over, versus setbacks that are the direct result of your screw-ups. My disappointments of late have been the former: people getting sick and going on leave, etc. Another important thing is finding the advantage in every setback.

This depends more on just being a glass-half-full person; what I am talking about is a creative, strategic act that few people take.

Years ago my friend Paco taught me that there are numerous ways to accomplish a desired outcome. He was single-handedly trying to get a 4’x8′ piece of plywood onto a roof, but it could have been anything. The other day I was talking with a very smart attorney (listed as one of the 150 best in the nation) who said the same thing: “There are many ways to skin a cat.”

Most people conceive of only one solution, and when that doesn’t work out, they give up. That is why so many projects are “impossible.” A lack of imagination and sticktoitiveness. Most people sell themselves short.

I caught my youth justice advocate friend on a particularly bad day. She had just left a meeting with a politician and had learned that her latest lobbying efforts had gone up in smoke. Thankfully my positivism in the face of adversity had an infectious effect.

She wrote yesterday saying that she had adopted a plan for “guerrilla” tactics and had abandoned the direct approach.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Bobby Darin performing “Don’t Rain On My Parade”


missed in the news

While researching a post to express my displeasure with some obstructionists who are trying to block my work (and there have been several over the years), I ran across this news item which had escaped my attention earlier this month.

I know this will be of particular interest to some expressive types amongst you.


shutterstock-Jesus Cervantes finger

Court upholds right to give police the finger

A New York man can seek damages following a disorderly conduct arrest when he “flipped the bird” at police

You cannot be arrested for giving the finger to police, according to a January 2, 2014 ruling in a federal appeals court.

A New York man, John Swartz, was followed by police, arrested, and charged with disorderly conduct in 2006 when, according to court filings, he saw police officers with a radar detector at an intersection and “expressed his displeasure … by reaching his right arm outside the passenger side window and extending his middle finger over the car’s roof.”

The charges against Swartz were dismissed on speedy trial grounds, but he then brought a damages claim against the police—a claim that was tossed out in a lower Albany court when the judge sided with the police’s account that they had followed the man believing his hand gesture to be some sort of distress signal. (Oh, really!)

On January 2, however, the appeals court ruled against this conclusion, noting “the nearly universal recognition that this gesture is an insult.” The ruling highlights the ancient history of the insult in its footnotes, pointing out that Aristophanes wrote of Strepsiades flipping off Aristotle.

There are a lot of people who will be relieved at this ruling (just a few of which are shown below… and yes, yes… I know some of them are dead).


Obama finger 2.

Princess Diana finger.

Maher finger.


heidi klum finger.

Hillary finger.

kid giving the finger.

mr rogers finger 2.

venus de milo finger.


gorilla finger.

Willie finger.

fuck y'all, i'm from texas.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Damien Rice performing “Fuck You”


incorrigible or victims?

black in prison

Juveniles Facing Lifelong Terms Despite Rulings

by Eric Eckholm

The New York Times, January 19, 2014

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In decisions widely hailed as milestones, the United States Supreme Court in 2010 and 2012 acted to curtail the use of mandatory life sentences for juveniles, accepting the argument that children, even those who are convicted of murder, are less culpable than adults and usually deserve a chance at redemption.

But most states have taken half measures, at best, to carry out the rulings, which could affect more than 2,000 current inmates and countless more in years to come, according to many youth advocates and legal experts.

“States are going through the motions of compliance,” said Cara H. Drinan, an associate professor of law at the Catholic University of America, “but in an anemic or hyper-technical way that flouts the spirit of the decisions.”

Lawsuits now before Florida’s highest court are among many across the country that demand more robust changes in juvenile justice. One of the Florida suits accuses the state of skirting the ban on life without parole in non-homicide cases by meting out sentences so staggering that they amount to the same thing.

Other suits, such as one argued last week before the Illinois Supreme Court, ask for new sentencing hearings, at least, for inmates who received automatic life terms for murder before 2012—a retroactive application that several states have resisted.

The plaintiff in one of the Florida lawsuits, Shimeek Gridine, was 14 when he and a 12-year-old partner made a clumsy attempt to rob a man in 2009 here in Jacksonville. As the disbelieving victim turned away, Shimeek fired a shotgun, pelting the side of the man’s head and shoulder.

The man was not seriously wounded, but Shimeek was prosecuted as an adult. He pleaded guilty to attempted murder and robbery, hoping for leniency as a young offender with no record of violence. The judge called his conduct “heinous” and sentenced him to 70 years without parole.

Under Florida law, he cannot be released until he turns 77, at least, several years beyond the life expectancy for a black man his age, noted his public defender, who called the sentence “de facto life without parole” in an appeal to Florida’s high court.

“They sentenced him to death, that’s how I see it,” Shimeek’s grandmother Wonona Graham said.

The Supreme Court decisions built on a 2005 ruling that banned the death penalty for juvenile offenders as cruel and unusual punishment, stating that offenders younger than 18 must be treated differently from adults.

The 2010 decision, Graham v. Florida, forbade sentences of life without parole for juveniles not convicted of murder and said offenders must be offered a “meaningful opportunity for release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.” The ruling applied to those who had been previously sentenced.

Cases like Shimeek’s aim to show that sentences of 70 years, 90 years or more violate that decision. Florida’s defense was that Shimeek’s sentence was not literally “life without parole” and that the life span of a young inmate could not be predicted.

Probably no more than 200 prisoners were affected nationally by the 2010 decision, and they were concentrated in Florida. So far, of 115 inmates in the state who had been sentenced to life for nonhomicide convictions, 75 have had new hearings, according to the Youth Defense Institute at the Barry University School of Law in Orlando. In 30 cases, the new sentences have been for 50 years or more. One inmate who had been convicted of gun robbery and rape has received consecutive sentences totaling 170 years.

In its 2012 decision, Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court declared that juveniles convicted of murder may not automatically be given life sentences. Life terms remain a possibility, but judges and juries must tailor the punishment to individual circumstances and consider mitigating factors.

The Supreme Court did not make it clear whether the 2012 ruling applied retroactively, and state courts have been divided, suggesting that this issue, as well as the question of de facto life sentences, may eventually return to the Supreme Court.

Advocates for victims have argued strongly against revisiting pre-2012 murder sentences or holding parole hearings for the convicts, saying it would inflict new suffering on the victims’ families.

Pennsylvania has the most inmates serving automatic life sentences for murders committed when they were juveniles: more than 450, according to the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia. In October, the State Supreme Court found that the Miller ruling did not apply to these prior murder convictions, creating what the law center, a private advocacy group, called an “appallingly unjust situation” with radically different punishments depending on the timing of the trial.

Likewise, courts in Louisiana, with about 230 inmates serving mandatory life sentences for juvenile murders, refused to make the law retroactive. In Florida, with 198 such inmates, the issue is under consideration by the State Supreme Court, and on Wednesday it was argued before the top court of Illinois, where 100 inmates could be affected.

Misgivings about the federal Supreme Court decisions and efforts to restrict their application have come from some victim groups and legal scholars around the country.

“The Supreme Court has seriously overgeneralized about under-18 offenders,” said Kent S. Scheidegger, the legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, a conservative group in Sacramento, Calif. “There are some under 18 who are thoroughly incorrigible criminals.”

Some legal experts who are otherwise sympathetic have suggested that the Supreme Court overreached, with decisions that “represent a dramatic judicial challenge to legislative authority,” according to a new article in the Missouri Law Review by Frank O. Bowman III of the University of Missouri School of Law.

Among the handful of states with large numbers of juvenile offenders serving life terms, California is singled out by advocates for acting in the spirit of the Supreme Court rules.

“California has led the way in scaling back some of the extreme sentencing policies it imposed on children,” said Jody Kent Lavy, the director of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, which has campaigned against juvenile life sentences and called on states to reconsider mandatory terms dispensed before the Miller ruling. Too many states, she said, are “reacting with knee-jerk, narrow efforts at compliance.”

California is allowing juvenile offenders who were condemned to life without parole to seek a resentencing hearing. The State Supreme Court also addressed the issue of de facto life sentences, voiding a 110-year sentence that had been imposed for attempted murder.

Whether they alter past sentences or not, some states have adapted by imposing minimum mandatory terms for juvenile murderers of 25 or 35 years before parole can even be considered — far more flexible than mandatory life, but an approach that some experts say still fails to consider individual circumstances.

As Ms. Drinan of Catholic University wrote in a coming article in the Washington University Law Review, largely ignored is the mandate to offer young inmates a chance to “demonstrate growth and maturity,” raising their chances of eventual release.

To give young offenders a real chance to mature and prepare for life outside prison, Ms. Drinan said, “states must overhaul juvenile incarceration altogether,” rather than letting them languish for decades in adult prisons.

Shimeek Gridine, meanwhile, is pursuing a high school equivalency diploma in prison while awaiting a decision by the Florida Supreme Court that could alter his bleak prospects.

He has a supportive family: A dozen relatives, including his mother and grandparents and several aunts and uncles, testified at his sentencing in 2010, urging clemency for a child who played Pop Warner football and talked of becoming a merchant seaman, like his grandfather.

But the judge said the fact that Shimeek had a good family, and decent grades, only underscored that the boy knew right from wrong, and he issued a sentence 30 years longer than even the prosecution had asked for.

Now Florida’s top court is pondering whether his sentence violates the federal Constitution.

“A 70-year sentence imposed upon a 14-year-old is just as cruel and unusual as a sentence of life without parole,” Shimeek’s public defender, Gail Anderson, argued before the Florida court in September. “Mr. Gridine will most likely die in prison.”


Groove of the Day

Listen to a 1927 recording of William & Versey Smith performing “Everybody Help the Boy Come Home”