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23
Jun
15

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.

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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.

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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?’ ”

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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.

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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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Groove of the Day

Listen to Tim Minchin performing “Prejudice”

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Weather Report

87° and Rain to Cloudy

22
Jun
15

collective guilt

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Ever since I was a little kid, I have felt a special self-identification—sometimes troubling in our postwar popular culture—with my Germanic roots. I don’t come from a purely German family. Only one out of my four grandparents was German. The other three were Anglos. But it was from my German maternal grandfather that I seem to have inherited my dominant physical, psychological, and behavioral traits.

My grandfather was a journalist, and then a bookseller. I am a writer. My grandfather and I have similar voices. Our temperaments are similar. Our sense of humor is the same. A great-uncle once told me my grandfather and I had identical gaits. A waitress told me I eat my food—even cutting bites of pie at right angles with my fork—the same way as my grandfather. My grandfather and I were very close, but these similarities have always seemed to me to have more to do with shared genes than learning or influence.

My grandfather was raised in a German-speaking family, the youngest son of immigrants, and my great-aunts, -uncle, and grandfather often joked at family parties in German. I remember one time we saw a newsreel on the TV of Hitler delivering a speech, and I had innocently asked: “Grampa, what is he saying?”

“I don’t speak that kind of German.” Subject closed.

He was 45 years old at the end of the war, and he must have felt a great sense of mortification at the revelations about the atrocities committed by people who had so recently been his kinsmen. Yet we never spoke of it. There was one time, however, when he alluded to what it was like growing up German during the First World War. He was a high school student during those years, and it was difficult for him to cope with the anti-German sentiment of the time, even though his older brother was serving with the US Army in France. I guess that he had been made to feel shame all his life for his parents’ country of origin.

I have conflated my grandfather’s sense of shame with the collective guilt (or Kollektivschuld) the German people were made to feel in the postwar decades. Having personalized this phenomenon to my grandfather and to the others like him who must have existed, I have always felt that the concept was factually wrong and unjust, even ridiculous.

How can an entire nation of people be saddled with guilt which should more rightfully be assigned to the individuals who committed criminal acts under the veil of secrecy? How can such guilt be assumed when so much of it has been shown to be supported by unreliable evidence and tainted eyewitness testimony? How can German identity be founded on the history of the Holocaust alone and on the assertion that one belongs to a tribe of murderers? How can the thousands of years of experience of a cultured people be negated by 12 years which produced more than just eliminationist anti-Semitism? How can you expect anything good from the progeny of a country whose national archives offer only murderers and no heroes?

This is not to dismiss or minimize the horror of anti-Semitism and its results, but to echo what so many parricides have told me: that they will not have their entire lives defined by a single, ghastly episode in their experience.

At a 1964 Harvard University forum, historian Hannah Arendt said that the concept of collective guilt (as opposed to individual guilt) is “senseless,”  and only serves as a “whitewash” for guilty individuals to hide behind. Those whose “consciences did not function automatically,” dared judge events for themselves, she said. Their choice not to participate was founded on the desire to “live at peace with themselves.” There is an urgent need to make known that thousands of Germans risked their lives to help Jews, or at least, to do no harm.

In preparation for his celebrated 1985 visit to the German military cemetery at Bitburg, Ronald Reagan described the alleged collective German guilt for the Second World War as “imposed” and “unnecessary.” That Reagan felt compelled to express himself so clearly demonstrates that the collective guilt of the Germans was—and is—still a burning issue. The president’s words, and the furor that attended them, are a clear mandate to examine anew the nature of this imposed guilt, and the persons and circumstances that imposed it.

Some would have us believe that not only did the SS Einsatzgruppen murder millions of Jews, but members of the Wehrmacht and Germans of all classes and regions happily cooperated. The most extreme form of this accusation is found in Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners (1996), released in Germany as Hitlers Willige Vollstrecker. The book was a German best-seller despite its insubstantial or invented evidence, a fraud methodically dissected by Jewish critics Norman Finkelstein and Ruth Bettina Birn in A Nation on Trial: The Goldhagen Thesis and Historical Truth (1998). According to Finkelstein and others, the Holocaust has been transformed into a giant extortion racket and a means of justifying human rights abuses by the Israeli state against Palestinians. In the words of a former German foreign minister, Auschwitz serves as the “founding myth for the German Federal Republic.” In one way or another, too many Germans still define their ethnic identity in the context of the Holocaust.

It has got to end. It’s now four generations since the Nazis ruled Germany. Beginning in the 1970s and ‘80s, a vocal group of German intellectuals expressed resentment at “being made to feel guilty” about crimes against the Jews, arguing that there should be a statute of limitations of sorts on moral responsibility. The persecution of individuals who refuse to abide with this mark of Cain must give way to a greater acceptance of expressions of German self-pride.

The concept of Kollektivschuld can only foster collective dysfunction, just as a retributive Treaty of Versailles justified the waging of a second world war to “correct” the excesses of hate arising from the first.

Hate only begets more hate.

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German-expellees

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Noel Coward performing “Don’t Let’s Be Beastly to the Germans”

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Weather Report

87° and Partly Cloudy, then Clear

21
Jun
15

summer

Today at 11:39 am CDT is the Summer Solstice, the longest day (and shortest night) in the Earth’s annual journey around the sun. The sun rose this morning (and will set this evening) at its northernmost points on the horizon, and will soon begin its journey to more southerly rising- and setting-points.

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The Solstice falls approximately midway in the fortnight (June 14-28) governed by the rune Dag or Dagaz. This fortnight is the “door” which lies at the meeting-point of the half of the solar year when daily light is increasing, and the half in which it is declining. It is interesting to note this rune’s physical similarities and differences with Jera, the rune of the Winter Solstice, which appears opposite Dag in the Runic Compass. It is interesting to note, as well, that Dag’s literal meaning is “day” while Jera’s is “year.”

The Summer Solstice is also that point in the ordinary calendar when we enter the summer season.

During prehistoric times, summer was a joyous occasion for people in the northern latitudes. The snow had disappeared, the ground had thawed, warm temperatures returned. With these changes, food was able to be grown and animals and wild food became easy to find. Flowers bloomed and leaves returned to the trees, and with these came herbal medicines ancient people could use to cure themselves of illness. Since their crops had been planted prior to the Summer Solstice, the people felt confident knowing that harvest was months ahead. They felt gratitude for the warm weather and for the relative ease and safety it brought.

This is also the traditional time for weddings. Originally holding weddings in June was a way to pay respect to ancient fertility rites.

Overall Dag is a beneficial rune of light, health, prosperity, and new beginnings. In the spiritual realm, it represents cosmic consciousness, with light as a source of strength and joy. It is a rune of clear vision, enlightenment, and total awakening.

Usually Dag is interpreted as the light of day and is linked with the sun cult. However, it is important to recognize that for the Germans each day began in darkness. Tacitus, the Roman historian who recorded the fact in Germania, found it very strange: “Instead of reckoning days as we do, they reckon by nights, and in this manner fix both their ordinary and their legal appointments. Night they regard as bringing on the day.”

The passage of the sun across the sky may be likened to the passage of the human soul through its earthly life. It begins in the darkness of the womb; birth is like the dawn; the fullness of manhood comes at noon; old age brings twilight; and death seals the eyelids on darkness once again. In this context, therefore, Dag and the Summer Solstice can signify the zenith of one’s vitality.

The rune’s form is directly related to a geometry derived from astronomical observation. One side of the Dag rune follows the path of the sun’s light projected on the ground at the time of the Winter Solstice. The other reflects the sun’s path at the Summer Solstice. The central cross marks the intersection of the diagonal axes of the solstice sunrises and sunsets. At the crossing point is the nowl, through which the Cosmic Axis runs upwards and downwards. The pattern is archetypal, and of great antiquity in northern Europe.

DAG-StonehengeFor example, Nigel Pennick notes that its form is inherent in the Station Stone Rectangle at Stonehenge, which marks the solstice sunrises and sunsets. Its appearance at Stonehenge makes Dag at least 4,000 years old, and maybe older yet.

In its shape, Dag symbolizes the balance between polarities. As a marker of the high point of the year, Dag expresses the seeming paradox of conjunction when apparent opposites are unified. It is a rune of the balancing of opposites—not as contradictions and opposition, but as compliments and counterbalances.

Magically, Dag can be used to complete anything that is ongoing or unfinished. It can be used to invoke a realization, a fresh start, an awakening of the senses, or greater understanding of the totality of existence. It encourages completion according to the natural laws of the gods and can be used to define limits and set amounts.

As the light of Nature, Dag can be used to summon an end to a period of darkness, confusion, or uncertainty and can banish the oppressive influence of a hostile environment. Dag may be used to summon clarity, or to reveal the hidden motivations and actions of an enemy. It may further be invoked to set aside past “bad blood” and begin with a clean slate.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Calvin Harris performing “Summer”

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Weather Report

92° and Clear

20
Jun
15

replace the battle flag

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It’s been nearly 150 years since the end of slavery in the US, yet one still sees the institution’s imprint everywhere in America.

In solemn tribute to the nine people gunned down at a Charleston church, two flags atop the Statehouse in Columbia SC were lowered to half-staff on Thursday and will stay there for nine days in honor of each victim.

But a Confederate battle flag on statehouse grounds is still flying high. And it isn’t an oversight. It’s because of state law, which says it can’t be changed in any way without a sign-off from the South Carolina General Assembly.

The flag—as well as other historically named icons and places—is legally protected under the 2000 South Carolina Heritage Act. The battle flag continues to draw criticism from South Carolinians who say it keeps the symbol of slavery and the Civil War alive.cornell-brooks_wide-877b4231af8dc771aec5268a172a6cf37be3e194-s1100-c15

The head of the NAACP says it’s not appropriate for South Carolina to keep flying the battle flag at its Statehouse. “The flag has to come down,” NAACP President Cornell Brooks told a crowd gathered for a midday news conference last Friday. “This was not merely a mass shooting, not merely a matter of gun violence,” Brooks said. “This was a racial hate crime, and must be confronted as such.”

A symbol of the Confederate battle flag was on the car that police say Dylann Roof, 21, drove to Charleston’s historic Emanuel AME Church Wednesday, before opening fire on those gathered for a Bible study meeting. A photo of Roof on social media shows him wearing symbols of the flags of apartheid-era South Africa and white-ruled Rhodesia.

Roof was captured Thursday and arraigned Friday afternoon, in a court proceeding that included emotional statements from the victims’ family members.

Speaking in Charleston Friday, Brooks acknowledged that some people view the Confederate battle flag as part of history and regional heritage. But he said: “When we see that symbol lifted up as an emblem of hate, as a tool of hate, as an inspiration for hate, as an inspiration for violence—that symbol has to come down, that symbol must be removed from our state capitol.”

Arguments over South Carolina’s display of the Confederate battle flag have raged for decades. The Charleston City Paper describes the most recent developments: “The NAACP has been calling for tourists and businesses to boycott the state for years due to the flying of the flag. In 2000, activists won a small compromise by having the flag removed from the Statehouse dome and placed atop a memorial to Confederate soldiers on the Statehouse grounds. However, the flag remains highly visible; it is the first thing you see as you approach the Statehouse from the north on Main Street.”

Flag_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America_(1861-1863).svgHow about a little more compromise? Replace the battle flag with the first flag of the Confederacy—the “Stars and Bars”—on the Statehouse grounds and elsewhere. This would be a way to honor Southern heritage without seeming to condone the racism that the battle flag implies. If White Supremacists want to continue displaying the battle flag on their pickup trucks and at Klan rallies, let them do so. This is still a country which defends everyone’s right to free speech, however offensive.

But state governments need not be gratuitously offensive under the cloak of ‘honoring Southern heritage.’ This would be like requiring that a swastika flag be flown over Tel Aviv. Anyway, the American Civil War ended 150 years ago. Isn’t it high time that we stop glorifying that fratricidal carnage and make peace among all Americans?

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PS: When I decided to do this post over the weekend, I had no idea the question of the Confederate battle flag would so dominate Monday’s news. As I reviewed the furor, one of the most illuminating pieces was this interview of a North Carolina professor who said that the use of the battle flag originated in the ’50s and ’60s as an act of defiance following the Supreme Court’s order that the schools be desegregated.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Waylon Jennings performing “I Am A Rebel Soldier”

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Weather Report

95° and Clear

19
Jun
15

my little red book

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The 1966 radical reworking of the Burt Bacharach – Hal David song by the Los Angeles-based band Love. The song title is likely a tongue-in-cheek reference to Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Love performing “My Little Red Book”

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Weather Report

93° Fog in the Morning, then Clearing

18
Jun
15

dedicated to rachel

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This song is dedicated to Rachel Dolezal, whose story of passing for black has so dominated the media for the last several days.

The song is so black, yet the band is so white. Their performance is excruciating to anyone with an ounce of racial pride.

I saw these guys performing in Boone IA in 1966, and the only thing more embarrassing than their performance is the fact I thought they were cool until I recently found this mp3.

Well, it just goes to prove that if you are white, you can get away with just about anything… until you can’t anymore.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to the Fabulous Flippers! performing “The Harlem Shuffle”

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Weather Report

92° and Clear

17
Jun
15

despicable “justice”

austin eversole 3.

Austin Eversole is in trouble right now (that is, placed in solitary confinement), and it is very difficult to present a definitive  account of the situation because the administration of the Texas prisons (TDCJ) is stonewalling me about what is really going on. So the information I am sharing with you is necessarily one-sided; that is, The Free World vs. TDCJ. With officialdom resorting to secrecy, cover-up, and possible fabrication, this post is “biased” in favor of those facts and conclusions which I have been able to ascertain from sources other than TDCJ.

That said, these are the facts as far as I have been able to establish them.

On or about May 20, Austin was instructed not to report to his job at the library of the Clemens Unit prison by education officers Atkins and Calvillo on the orders of principal Simon. The next day, officer Calvillo told Austin he had been ordered by Simon to write up a disciplinary report on Austin for “unauthorized use of state property” (code 18.1) for allegedly downloading music to it. The following day, Austin was moved to A-Row from the privileged “tanks” living area, where well-behaved inmates are allowed to reside. Normally, to do this an inmate’s custody status must be lowered, the inmate goes to “court,” and then attends a “Unit Classification Committee” (UCC) meeting. None of this was done in Austin’s case.

Following the initiation of this punishment, Sgt. McRory  questioned Austin about Austin’s access to the library equipment and supplies:

• McRory asked Austin about printouts sent to him by John Likens, a reader of this blog and one of Austin’s correspondents, for Austin’s use in a Toastmaster’s presentation. McRory’s questions belied his suspicions that the printouts may have been produced on library equipment. He said that his “evidence” was that the printouts sent by John had no creases; they were sent in catalog envelopes to eliminate the need for folding, and passed through the mail room censors. Austin explained the source of the printouts and explained they couldn’t have been produced by the library’s equipment anyway, because the printouts were in color and the library does not have color printers. Even though the prison did not follow up on McRory’s suspicions with a call to Mr. Likens, John sent McRory a letter confirming that he was in fact the source of the “incriminating” printouts.

• McRory then questioned Austin about a subject to which most computer users don’t give a second thought unless they are troubleshooting a specific technical problem: spare computer cords and circuit boards that had been stored in a supply cabinet. Austin explained that for all he knew, the cords and extra circuit boards were still in the supply cabinet.

• McRory asked Austin about an Epson scanner which appeared to be missing. Austin was unaware of this piece of equipment’s existence and told McRory there was no documentation that an Epson scanner had even been in the library.

These questions having failed to indicate any wrongdoing, Austin was released.

A week later, on Friday May 29, McRory summoned Austin to question him about an external hard drive that he said was “missing” from the library. Austin replied that he did not know it was missing, and that he had nothing to do with it. He suggested some places to where the hard drive may have been moved. McRory was not satisfied, and presented a piece of black-and-white pornography which had been found elsewhere in the prison and which he suspected had been scanned and had come off the missing hard drive. Austin explained that this was technically impossible because the library computer is a “thin client” (not a full CPU) and was missing a CD drive necessary for downloading the software and drivers necessary to use a scanning device. This was not the answer McRory wanted, and he kept pressing. He produced an interoffice memo that Austin had typed for the principal (Simon) in connection with the duties of his job, and claimed this memo would somehow provide a connection to the porn, the missing hard drive, and everything else the authorities want to prove against Austin.

Austin has yet to be actually “served” with a case that will stick, and he has been placed on “transient” status and illegally isolated from the general population. Sgt. McRory’s questioning of Austin suggests the prison authorities are looking for anything that can be construed on paper as an example of “wrongdoing” by Austin. But the problem is, in taking on Austin Eversole, they are trying to besmirch the record of a model prisoner who has conscientiously tried to comply with everything that was expected of him.

So what is going on?

In December 2012, I put a New York-based filmmaker, Gigantic Pictures, onto Austin’s story. They subsequently interviewed him, and then the project was put on hold while the producers attended to other projects. Now they want to reactivate the project, and have secured permission from TDCJ to conduct a followup interview with Austin (even though the Ombudsman for TDCJ claims she is unable to locate the approval paperwork). This interview was originally scheduled for late this month, but in the light of present circumstances, it has been pushed off to early July.

I can’t prove it, but the fact that TDCJ has no evidence of wrongdoing, the fact that its investigations are ongoing (and can be continued as long as the authorities need them to be continued), the fact that Austin has already had his status changed and has been placed in solitary confinement (despite any actionable charges being identified), and now the Ombudsman’s claim that the approval cannot be verified, give every appearance of the authorities’ attempt to interfere with Austin’s access to the media.

There is a new warden at Clemens, Cornelius Smith—different from the one who originally approved Gigantic Pictures’ interview—and it is he who apparently instructed Sgt. McRory to find something to justify Austin’s being isolated from the media.

If this were a one-time thing, my conclusion might easily be dismissed as wild conjecture. But in 2013 and 2014, MSNBC wanted to do a story about Austin. They thoroughly researched his account of having been abused by his father, and determined that Austin’s story is truthful. They determined that he should not have been charged and sentenced as an adult. However, TDCJ’s interactions with MSNBC were so difficult and unreasonable, MSNBC eventually folded and cancelled their project. The reporter was so disgusted with TDCJ and MSNBC, she has since moved to another network.

I think what is going on is that the state of Texas is trying to obfuscate the fact that it subscribes to a particularly cruel and harsh sense of justice against juveniles, a view that is rapidly losing favor in society today. Rather than embracing the change, Texas authorities are continuing to drag their knuckles and to even resort to the frame-up of a model inmate to avoid admitting that the official policy is to punish the victims of parental abuse.

۞

Groove of the Day

Listen to St. Vincent performing “Cruel”

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