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hear us


Legislators – Hear Us

by Bonnie Young

For years now the issue of criminal justice reform has been boiling on the back burner, in my state of Colorado and in this nation. Advocates for those held behind razor wire, in concrete buildings with tiny windows, have been using their voice to tell of the atrocities inside those buildings. Some have seen it with their own eyes, some have witnessed the despair, walked the echoing halls of cement and linoleum, seen the faces peering from behind iron doors. Others have taken up the cause for other reasons but the cry is the same from all of us. How can we, as a nation, stand by while millions of our citizens are destroyed in this system we call justice?
We have called on the legislators of this nation to begin these changes with the most vulnerable of all that we condemn, our children. We have asked legislators to consider if what we are doing is RIGHT. We have asked them to consider the morality and social justice of our current laws. When that went nowhere the brave freedom fighters of our time waged a battle in the courts fighting all the way to the highest court in the land. They heard the pleas, they heard the arguments and stories of these youth. They considered all the information from psychologists, behavior specialists and they considered the constitution and found that we were indeed a cruel nation. The highest court in this land declared that the practices of justice concerning juveniles offenders was cruel and unusual and the laws in our states were unconstitutional.
Still nothing changes, still our nation drags its feet. For some reason state governments are unwilling to let go of their power to condemn, to harm and destroy, to torture its citizens. In spite of the law, in spite of the constitution. Some of you may be thinking to yourselves that the statements made are unwarranted and a little over dramatic so let me paint a picture for you.
A boy endures 14 years of abuse at the hands of his parents, the ones responsible for his safety and care. His life has been filled with violence, hate, anger and his body bears the scars, his heart yearns for a safe place. The cries have gone out time and again for help, for someone to save him but no one hears. The evidence of these pleas follow him from place to place until finally one day he realizes his survival is in his own hands. He picks up a gun and commits murder. Then this child who has been terrorized his whole life is handcuffed, thrown into an isolation cell, pulled from this cell to courtrooms to interrogations rooms. He is terrified…again and again…not understanding what is happening or what will happen to him. The names he has been called all his life—worthless, disposable, useless—are written across his case files along with violent murderer but no one spoke words about the things he already endured. He is fitted with clothes too big for him, shackled and chained and left alone to try and navigate through a world doling out more abuse.  Finally condemned and sentenced he is left alone. Totally alone with an emptiness of soul, a void unbearable to imagine. The child is finally destroyed.
A boy of 16 is 10 foot tall and bulletproof. He has his drivers license, a car and some money in his pocket.  He is finally going to have the time of his life. Off to party with friends, take his friends for a ride  believing he has arrived. He turns the corner in his car, the music blasting, beer swirling in his brain, laughter and jokes filling the air and suddenly everything crashes in. An accident, a terrible accident and everything goes from bright colors to dark terror. His friends are injured, he is bleeding, the car is totaled and then he finds out that in the other vehicle someone died. Someone died. Oh God it can’t be true. The boy that was ten feet tall suddenly shrinks to a child, sobbing as he is yanked from the curb, cuffs slapped on his wrists, he is screaming for his dad wondering what in the world is happening. His father is helpless, his son ripped from him and he cannot save him or protect him. This child is treated as a monster, called a monster, ripped from life and shackled, thrown into an isolation cell. The lights are on all day and night, no understanding of time, no knowledge of the day, not understanding what is happening or where he will be yanked to next.
Terrorized, bewildered and confused he is brought into court. He cannot respond, he is in shock, the world spinning before him and a series of voices bouncing in his head, the prosecutor jabs a finger in his direction and shouts, “You see he shows no remorse!” Remorse? He doesn’t even know where he is or how he got there…it is all a nightmare…we have terrorized another child.
In this city there is a neighborhood where no one travels unless you know the streets. Poverty, violence, drugs and oppression can be felt in the atmosphere. Boys become men on these streets. They are given a different rite of passage than the rest of us.It is called survival. A boy is given a gun and he is told he will need this if he is to stay alive. He believes it. He has watched neighbors and friends die. He has seen his friends beaten, harassed and intimidated. He holds the gun in his hand and looks it over. It is heavy and he doesn’t like the way it feels but he carries it anyway as he leaves his house. He stands with his friends on the street talking about cars, girls and listening to music. A car rounds the corner and loud explosions come from inside the vehicle. He reaches into his pocket and finds the cold steel in his hand.
He pulls the trigger for the first time, he has never shot a gun before.  It kicks back against his hand and jolts his arm. As the explosions stop, as the crashing and screaming come to a halt, he looks and finds bodies on the ground, a car crushed against another vehicle and the screaming starts again. Mothers, families run to the streets wailing for the death that has just covered the street.
The boy is grabbed, handcuffed and whisked away. He is thrown in an isolation cell. What just happened? Surely he didn’t hurt anyone, he wasn’t even good with a gun. How could he have hit anything? Then he finds out his gun, his hand, took the life of another boy. His gun. Everything spins out of control. His mama weeping, cops yelling at him, chains on his ankles, and the finger of the prosecutor jabbed at him, “You see he shows no remorse! He is a violent young man! A danger to this city!”
No, he is a boy caught in a nightmare…we have terrorized another child. The destruction on the street that day claimed everyone, every family as it’s victim and took a piece of the soul of the city.It is true that the behavior of our children needs to be held in check. Yes, behaviors that are on a path of destruction need to be arrested by the authority of the adults in the community. Yes, children have a tendency to try everything once even when we warn them about the potential harm and sometimes the consequences are devastating. Sometimes they really screw up and there is no way to repair the damage. They are kids, they are impetuous, careless, adventurous and daring. They act without thinking, they follow without looking ahead, they believe they are immune to consequences and they try to fly without parachutes; drive without brakes and climb without ropes. As parents we have followed behind them with every step trying to prevent their falls and catching them when they do.
Then something unimaginable happens. Something beyond our comprehension. When these things happen are we not supposed to continue acting as the parents, as the adults and find a way to get these kids back on the right course? Or are we to look in their faces and tell them they are beyond our help, that they cannot be salvaged and therefore must be locked away for the rest of their lives.The governments of our states, at the encouragement of prosecutors, have sought the harshest punishment in the most inhumane conditions to satisfy a false justice. Justice without compassion is vengeance. Compassion without justice is unmerited mercy. A nation whose base moral value declares Divine Forgiveness takes retribution and vengeance into its own hands believing that the creator of the heavens and the universe needs a hand in meting out justice. The conditions inside of prisons, the dehumanization endured by men and women condemned by us are atrocities that will go down in the annals of time as barbaric.  The torture inflicted upon human beings not only destroys them but it destroys us. It takes us back to our base animal nature, our self-centered territorial possession and need to control and harm and brutalize anything that comes against us.

So today we, as the citizens of this state and this nation stand and tell you no more. We do not care about your politics or your career or what your platform for election is. We care about our communities and the people who live in them. We care that there is poverty, violence, abuse, addiction and harm and we want to find a solution that brings healing, restoration and health. The laws and practices you have enacted have not worked and we don’t want them. We have raised our voices, filled your voicemail boxes, burned up your fax machines and filled your in boxes. You have not listened and instead you have continued the tired political arguments seeking to compromise justice at our expense. You continue to play politics as if the lives and communities and futures at stake are no more than poker chips in your hands to be bargained with and bet in a game of chance.

Juvenile Life Without Parole is unconstitutional. Mandatory sentences for juveniles, that do not take into account juvenile disposition, is unconstitutional. Treating a child as an adult and punishing him/her as an adult is immoral. The law has to change. You don’t have a choice. The law and the constitution stands. If you continue to ignore the law and the citizens, we will use our right in this nation to replace you with someone who values us, our communities and this nation.

Bonnie Young is a minister in Colorado, and passionate about this and related issues. Her son was caught up in a sensational crime and as a juvenile he was railroaded into prison for 68 years. She has website, “FreeJonny,” which I encourage you to visit.


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dorothea lange

lange 1.

lange 3.

lange 16.

lange 7.

lange 13.

lange 15.

lange 6.

Drought Refugees.

lange 2.

lange 10.

lange 4.

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lange 18.


lange 8.

The other night, I watched the PBS documentary, Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning, which was directed and narrated by Lange’s granddaughter Dyanna Taylor. I have featured Lange’s images before on this blog, but I was inspired by the film to collect more examples of her work.

Dorothea Lange (1895–1965) was an influential American documentary photographer and photojournalist, best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration and her depiction of the wartime internment of Japanese-Americans at Manzanar Internment Camp. Lange’s photographs humanized the consequences of these tragedies and influenced the development of documentary photography.

I think she was one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century. She has more than her share of iconic images to her credit. And she seems always to have been able to see the beautiful in the ordinary. She also had a very cool station wagon.



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The Tuesday night Missouri execution of Cecil Clayton without a hearing to determine his competency (despite evidence that he suffered from severe mental illness, dementia, and intellectual disability related to his advanced age—he was 74—as well as a severe brain injury he sustained in a sawmill accident) raises serious questions about the fairness and legitimacy of the death penalty and its imposition on mentally ill and disabled people.

It is my understanding that the brain damage he suffered in the sawmill not only sparked a massive personality change that may have turned him into a killer, but also rendered him mentally incompetent and therefore ineligible for capital punishment. But who cares about rules? Certainly not the state. Personally, I think in the end it was a matter of convenience and expediency—he was a difficult prisoner—as well as cost-savings to the state. But that is just my take on it.

How can politicians who say they want to foster a reverence for life support the death penalty?



The free-market case for opposing the death penalty

by Peter Weber, The Week

March 16, 2015

There are lots of ways to execute a prisoner. But in the US, at least, the 32 states that still execute prisoners have decided on lethal injection. On its face, lethal injection seems like a clinical, modern, hopefully low-pain, and usually low-key way to kill somebody. Except when it isn’t, as we saw in last year’s crop of botched executions.

The prolonged, evidently painful deaths of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, Joseph Wood in Arizona, and Dennis McGuire in Ohio were tied to experimental drug cocktails necessitated by a shortage of traditional death drugs. This shortage is due largely to a ban by European countries on exporting certain drugs to US states that practice capital punishment.

The Texas death chamber in Huntsville.The free market is making a case against capital punishment. So far, the states that actively execute prisoners have been willfully plugging their ears.

But now, Texas is down to its last dose of pentobarbital, the lethal injection drug it has used since 2012. As other states’ supplies of proven drugs dry up, they’re working toward dusting off old methods—firing squad (Wyoming, Utah), the electric chair (Tennessee), and even the gas chamber (Oklahoma).

From 1982, when Texas became the first state to use lethal injection, until 2011, the national three-drug cocktail was essentially the same: a sedative to numb the prisoner (sodium thiopental), a paralytic agent (pancuronium bromide) to immobilize him, and a drug (potassium chloride) to stop the heart.

Then, in 2011, Hospira, the only US company that sold sodium thiopental, announced it would “exit the sodium thiopental market” entirely, after its Italian plant refused to send any of the sedative to the US because of its use in capital punishment. When states’ sodium thiopental stocks ran out, they turned to pentobarbital, used to induce comas and euthanize animals—until its Danish manufacturer, Lundbeck, found out and barred its sale to states that employ lethal injection. Other producers of the drug have also prohibited its sale to US correctional facilities.

States then started using the sedative benzodiazepine midazolam—Lockett and Wood were midazolam guinea pigs—despite the wishes of its originator, Roche. States have also been ordering pentobarbital and other lethal-injection agents from domestic compounding pharmacies—but the details of those deals are extremely hazy.


life-after-death-row_145101_40With just a single dose of pentobarbital left and 317 inmates on death row, Texas is stocking up on midazolam. It’s not clear if Texas can’t get pentobarbital because the compounding pharmacies are refusing to sell it to them, or because they can’t get the raw ingredients—the Professional Compounding Centers of America told The Texas Tribune that it stopped providing pentobarbital ingredients to its customers in January 2014.

Most compounding pharmacies aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and their products are uneven. Which compounding pharmacies are Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio, Georgia, Missouri, and other states buying drugs from? They’re not saying.

Why not? “Disclosing the identity of the pharmacy would result in the harassment of the business and would raise serious safety concerns for the business and its employees,” Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark explained to The Texas Tribune last month.

Georgia passed a law shielding its lethal injection drug sources from the public, and Missouri won a lawsuit from death row inmates who wanted to know what was in the lethal cocktail they were to be subjected to, who made it, and who quality-tested the drugs. In December, a Texas court ordered the state to reveal where it obtained its lethal injection drugs. (TDCJ is appealing, and doesn’t have to name names during the appeals process.)

In April 2014, after Clayton Lockett’s 45-minute death, The Washington Post’s Brady Dennis and Lena H. Sun explained how states obtained their new drugs:

“In their scramble to carry out death sentences, prison officials from different states have made secret handoffs of lethal-injection drugs. State workers have carried stacks of cash into unregulated compounding pharmacies to purchase chemicals for executions…. ‘It looks like a street-level drug deal,’ said Dean Sanderford, a lawyer for Lockett. ‘And they’re keeping all the information secret from us.'” [The Washington Post]

Just ponder that for a moment.

Providing lethal injection drugs to state prisons is so toxic that no European country will do it and no American company is willing to do it openly. Gunmakers and abortion clinics advertise their services, but pharmacies and drugmakers won’t publicly associate with a form of punishment approved of by 63% of Americans.

That’s the market talking, and it’s saying it wants no part of this.


There are lots of reasons to oppose the death penalty. It is significantly more expensive than incarcerating prisoners for life. It doesn’t appear to deter crime.* There’s a good chance America has executed at least one innocent person. Capital punishment puts the state in control of life and death, and turns state employees into literal executioners.

The American Board of Anesthesiologists and the American Medical Association prohibit their members from helping administer capital punishment.

If you believe in free-market capitalism—and presumably a good number of the 76% of Republicans who favor capital punishment do—then the scarcity of lethal injection drugs should be a signal that life without parole may be a better option.

But, you may argue, what about the other forms of execution? Well, states are only returning to them reluctantly. And the reason seems to be that shooting people, hanging them, electrocuting them, and gassing them are too flamboyantly deathly for many Americans.

firingsquad-650x382Lawmakers in Utah “stopped offering inmates the choice of firing squad in 2004, saying the method attracted intense media interest and took attention from victims,” explain The Associated Press’ Brady McCombs and Lindsay Whitehurst. And in 2010, when Utah’s last prisoner “was put to death by five police officers with .30-caliber Winchester rifles,” the execution “drew international attention.”

If you take away the lab coats and the sedatives, capital punishment begins to look uncomfortably close to its probable purpose: State-sanctioned, ritualized revenge killings. (That’s largely why my colleague Ryan Cooper wants to bring back the guillotine, the gallows, and the firing squad—to remind us of what we’re really doing.)

Utah State Rep. Paul Ray (R)—the main proponent of bringing back the firing squad—says that when prison officials selected the five police officers to carry out past execution, they start in the areas where the crime happened. “We’ve always had a lot more volunteers than actually had spots,” he tells AP.

Revenge is a very human emotion, and people assigned the death penalty typically committed really atrocious crimes. But justice is supposed to be rational and impartial.

When the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to rehear a three-judge panel’s decision to stay Wood’s execution in July 2014, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, a Reagan appointee, dissented, arguing that Arizona “should and will prevail in this case” and correctly predicting that the Supreme Court would lift the stay. But his dissent turned into a history lesson on lethal injection, which he called a flawed “enterprise doomed to failure”:

“Using drugs meant for individuals with medical needs to carry out executions is a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and peaceful…. But executions are, in fact, nothing like that. They are brutal, savage events, and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality. Nor should it. If we as a society want to carry out executions, we should be willing to face the fact that the state is committing a horrendous brutality on our behalf…. If we, as a society, cannot stomach the splatter from an execution carried out by firing squad, then we shouldn’t be carrying out executions at all.” [Kozinski]

If drug companies refuse to sell state prisons lethal drugs—perhaps they object to “subverting medicines meant to heal the human body to the opposite purpose,” as Kozinski writes—the states may have no choice but to return to older methods, or risk subjecting their condemned wards to cruel and unusual punishment.

execution by elephant

* “Much psychological and sociological research suggests that many criminal acts are crimes of passion or committed in a heated moment based only on immediate circumstances, and thus potential offenders may not consider or weigh longer-term possibilities of punishment and capture, including the possibility of capital punishment,” says a February 12, 2015, report from NYU Law’s Brennan Center for Justice. “In line with the past research, the Brennan Center’s empirical analysis finds that there is no evidence that executions had an effect on crime in the 1990s or 2000s.”


Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008.


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charles lindbergh


Since becoming friends with Jim Newton (1905—1999), one of Charles Lindbergh’s closest friends, I have developed a fascination with Lindbergh. My first in-depth exposure to this man of ideas was an out-of-print book, Of Flight And Life (1948), which Jim had entrusted to me (even though it was personally autographed to him by the famous aviator, and hence, quite valuable).

In it Lindbergh said: “I have seen the science I worshiped, and the aircraft I loved, destroying the civilization I expected them to serve.” Unintended consequences. Second thoughts. 20-20 hindsight. As a slow learner myself, I can relate and learn a lot from this man’s experiences.

Charles Augustus Lindbergh (1902–1974) was a very complicated man, even though the world has preferred to think of him in very simplistic shorthand. No matter what he accomplished in his 72 years of life, he complained, “The old ladies keep flying me to Paris.” Their one-dimensional view saw him only as the world’s most famous aviator; but he took equal pride in being an author, inventor, environmentalist, explorer, military officer, and social activist.

His father was Charles August Lindbergh, a Little Falls MN lawyer, and Minnesota’s Sixth District Congressman from 1907-1917. Like his son two decades later with a different conflict, he was one of the few members of Congress who tried to prevent America’s entry into the First World War. His mother, Evangeline Lodge Land, was a chemistry teacher from Detroit and a graduate of the University of Michigan. Although he visited his father in Washington DC frequently, Lindbergh spent most of his first 18 years in Little Falls.

'Daredevil_Lindbergh'After completing high school in Little Falls in 1918 and spending another two years running the farm, Lindbergh enrolled at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1920. During his second year of studying engineering there, he succumbed to the long-felt attraction of flight and entered a Lincoln NE flying school in 1922. He first served as a mechanic, wingwalker, and parachute jumper. Then, after purchasing a war surplus Jenny trainer in 1923, he made his first solo flight and barnstormed himself for about a year. For Lindbergh, flight represented everything he loved: the outdoors, adventure and mechanics.

In 1924, Lindbergh entered a US Army flying school at San Antonio TX and graduated first in his class the following year. In 1926 he became the first air mail pilot between Chicago IL and St. Louis MO. While in St. Louis and looking for another challenge, he convinced a group of businessmen to back him in an attempt to win the $25,000 Orteig Prize which had been offered since 1919 for the first non-stop flight between New York and Paris.

Lindbergh helped design a monoplane, built by Ryan Airlines of San Diego CA, in which he would make his solo attempt. The plane was named the Spirit of St. Louis.

spiritOn the morning of May 20, 1927, Lindbergh took off alone from Long Island to Paris, carrying five sandwiches, water, maps and charts, and a limited number of other items he deemed absolutely necessary. He decided against carrying a parachute and radio in favor of more gasoline. On May 21st, 33½ hours later, Lindbergh set the Spirit of St. Louis down at Le Bourget Field near Paris. He had flown over 3,600 miles and became the first to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic.

Overnight, at just 25 years of age, Lindbergh became an international hero—probably the most famous and most admired man in the world. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and the first-ever Distinguished Flying Cross by the US government, and received high honors from many other countries. He and the Spirit of St. Louis were summoned home to the US by President Coolidge aboard a navy cruiser. After a ticker-tape parade and other initial accolades, Lindbergh made an 82-city US tour in the Spirit of St. Louis to promote the commercialization of aviation.

170px-CharlesLindbergh22Late in 1927, Lindbergh flew to a number of Latin American countries as a goodwill ambassador for the US government. While in Mexico, he met Anne Spencer Morrow, daughter of the American ambassador. The two were married in 1929 at the Morrow estate in New Jersey.

Constantly pursued by the media, the couple could only find privacy in the air. In 1930 Lindbergh taught Anne to fly. She became the first woman in America to earn a glider pilot’s license and later that year she earned her pilot’s license. During the next few years, Anne was not only his wife, but his co-pilot, radio operator, and navigator.

Although he was nicknamed “Slimby his original flying buddies, he despised all subsequent nicknames such as “Lucky Lindy” and “The Lone Eagle,” which were conferred upon him by the media which he came to despise. His wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh said, “He never wanted to be regarded as a hero or leader, and he never had political ambitions.”

An intensely private man when it came to his family, Charles Lindbergh became exasperated by the unrelenting press and public attention focused on them in the wake of the 1932 kidnapping of his first son, Charles Jr., and the trial of the kidnapper and murderer Bruno Hauptmann. Particularly concerned for the physical safety of their then three-year-old second son, Jon, by late 1935, the Lindberghs secretly came to the decision to go into voluntary exile in England, and later, in France.

From the mid-30s, Lindbergh worked at New York’s Rockefeller Institute with noted vascular surgeon and organ transplant researcher Dr. Alexis Carrel on the development of  the “perfusion pump,” which allowed living organs to exist outside the body during surgery. It was, in fact, named the “Model T Pump,” in obvious reference to Henry Ford’s game-changing automobile. The advance is said to have been a crucial step in the development of open-heart surgery and organ transplants, and to have laid the groundwork for the artificial heart, which became a reality decades later.

1101380613_400Carrel and Lindbergh co-authored a book called The Culture of Organs in 1938, and both Carrel and Lindbergh appeared on the cover of Time magazine that same year. For much of his life, Carrel and his wife spent their summers on the Ile Saint-Gildas, which they owned. After the Lindberghs moved to Europe, Carrel persuaded Lindbergh to buy a neighboring island, Ile Illiec, where the Lindberghs often resided in the late 1930s.

During the 1930s, Lindbergh inspected the status of aviation in European countries. At the request of Truman Smith, the US Berlin military attaché (and later, personal adviser to General George C. Marshall), beginning in 1936 Lindbergh made five inspection trips to the German aircraft industry and the Luftwaffe.  Senior Luftwaffe officers discussed air tactics and operations with Lindbergh; he was even allowed to fly a Messerschmidt Bf-109. The trips produced valuable intelligence, but were misinterpreted by the American media.

82451351df7d65d4337e969c04660392Lindbergh’s public opposition to Roosevelt’s war policies, among other things, fueled suspicions that he was a Nazi sympathizer and disloyal to his country. Nothing was further from the truth. Accepting a medal from Hermann Göring (even though the gesture had been arranged by the US State Department) only added fuel to the fire. Ann Lindbergh sagely called the medal “that Albatross.” Truman Smith always maintained that Lindbergh’s visits provided valuable intelligence and warned the US government of Germany’s air power so the US could strengthen its air capability, which it did. But Smith was rumored to be a defeatist and was disregarded.

At this point, Lindbergh opposed the voluntary entry of the US into the European war. He would have preferred that the Nazis and Soviets be left to duke it out between themselves. As a member of the America First organization, he tried using his fame to campaign against US involvement. But it backfired. Like a lot of Americans at the time, he was also an eugenicist, and he was therefore unfairly labelled a fascist and anti-Semite by the media. Criticism of his position led to his resigning his commission in the Army Air Corps Reserve. He gave up public speaking.

220px-FordslindberghFollowing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Lindbergh went to work with Henry Ford on bomber production, and also served as a technical adviser and test pilot for United Aircraft (now United Technologies). Early in the war, he carried out high-altitude and lowered-body temperature experiments at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN in preparation for wartime service as a high-altitude test pilot.

Later, as a civilian adviser in the Pacific theater, he developed means to conserve fuel and increase the range of fighter planes, thus saving many lives, and actually flew 50 combat missions. In 1954, Lindbergh was re-commissioned in the Air Force Reserve and appointed a brigadier general by President Eisenhower.

Throughout much of his life, Lindbergh was involved in commercial and military aviation. He also championed the early rocket research of Robert Goddard, securing support for his experiments from the Guggenheim family. Lindbergh also chaired the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which was a predecessor to NASA.150px-The_Spirit_of_St._Louis_book_cover_1953

A prolific writer, Lindbergh authored seven books including Autobiography of Values, which was published posthumously. He is best known for the 1954 Pulitzer Prize winner, The Spirit of St. Louis.

Lindbergh’s roots in the Upper Mississippi country of northern Minnesota led to his passion for aviation when, as a young boy, he first heard an airplane fly over their home. But those many rural years also ignited the ember of environmental preservation.

By the early 1960s, Lindbergh’s concern for the preservation of the environment became greater than his desire for privacy. In the early 1960s, he began working to help primitive Philippine and African tribes, campaigned to protect endangered species like humpback and blue whales, and supported the establishment of a national park. His speeches and writings later in life emphasized his love of technology and nature. His philosophy was that the survival and progress of mankind depends on a balance between technological advancement and preservation of both the natural and human environment. He said that “all the achievements of mankind have value only to the extent that they preserve and improve the quality of life.”

1367357711899.cachedIn August 2003, almost three decades after his death of cancer on August 26, 1974 at his Maui HI home, three German siblings, Dyrk, Astrid, and David Hesshaimer made a startling announcement at a press conference in Munich: Charles Lindbergh was their father. Their mother was hat maker Brigitte Hesshaimer, who had lived in the small Bavarian town of Geretsried just south of Munich.

What’s more, they noted in a book they co-authored with a German journalist the following year, Lindbergh had also engaged in long-term relationships with two other German women with whom he had fathered four other children. Those women were Brigitte Hesshaimer’s sister, Mariette, a painter living in Grimisuat in the Swiss canton Valais with whom he had two children, and Valeska, an East Prussian aristocrat who was his private secretary in Europe and lived in Baden-Baden with whom he had two more children, a son born in 1959 and a daughter in 1961. All seven children had been born between 1958 and 1967.

anne-morrow-lindbergh-and-her-childrenLindbergh and Anne had six children: Charles Jr. (deceased), Jon, Land, Anne (also deceased in 1993), Scott, and Reeve.

As evidence, the three Hesshaimers, then ranging in age from 36 to 45, disclosed more than 100 love letters that the aviator had sent to their mother from the late 1950s until his death in 1974. A DNA test taken a few months later confirmed their assertion. This revelation turned out to be just one of many secrets that Lindbergh had kept from the world.

Ten days before he died, Lindbergh wrote letters from his hospital bed to each of his three European mistresses, imploring them to maintain the “utmost secrecy” about their relationships after his death. The three women (none of whom ever married) all managed to keep their affairs secret even from their children, who during his lifetime (and for almost a decade after), did not know the true identity of their father whom they had only known by the alias “Careu Kent” and seen only when he visited for a few days once or twice per year.

Astrid publicly disclosed who her brothers and her father were only after both Brigitte Hesshaimer and Anne Morrow Lindbergh had died.

older_lindberghIn April 2008, Reeve Lindbergh, his youngest child with his wife Anne Lindbergh, published Forward From Here: Leaving Middle Age and Other Unexpected Adventures, a book of essays that includes her learning the truth about her father’s secret European families and writing in her personal journal, “This story reflects absolutely Byzantine layers of deception on the part of our shared father. These children did not even know who he was! He used a pseudonym with them (To protect them, perhaps? To protect himself, absolutely!)” A year later, she traveled to Europe to meet all seven of her half siblings and understand an expanded meaning of family.

As much as I admire the man, I will not attempt to justify the deception. I will, however, say that Lindbergh was a man ahead of his time. Early last month, I read an article on “polyamory,” which seems to be a growing practice, thanks in large part to the looser sexual mores of the millennial generation. But for a man of Lindbergh’s generation, about the kindest thing a person can say about him is “complicated.”

It gives the nickname “Lucky Lindy” new meaning.


Lindbergh Trading Card

The image above is a 1927 trading card that was included in a collection that was given to us by reader Bill King for sale to benefit the King Brothers Trust (no relation). We are still trying to locate a buyer for the full collection, which features sports figures, movie stars, and other celebrities of the era. You can click on the image and view it larger.

If you are interested in buying this card—it is valued at $200—please contact me via the comment function of this website. If your contribution exceeds this amount, the trading card would make a great premium for making a tax-deductible contribution!


Groove of the Day

Listen to Nat Shilkret & The Victor Orchestra performing “Lucky Lindy”


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fake pot, real punishment, dumb authorities

A reader alerted me to this story. The kid is probably innocent, but at just 11 years old, he thinks his life is over. The importance of this case, however, is that it illustrates how our country’s misguided drug policy—combined with zero-tolerance in the schools and the lack of due process in the legal system—have combined to result in an intolerable situation for everybody.

I have refrained from saying much about it—but you’ve probably guessed my true feelings by now from the few things I have said. I think the “War on Drugs” is a crock, a fraud that benefits nobody but law enforcement (think asset forfeiture), the drug companies, alcohol and tobacco companies, private prison companies, organized crime, and so forth (think profits and greed).

I have seen too many people, including veterans, who suffer from pain and other maladies that could be easily and more cheaply alleviated by a more sane drug policy. I have seen too many people whose lives have been ruined by our insane policies. Marijuana prohibition is based on lies, encourages young people to use bath salts and other “legal” and more harmful substances, and fosters disrespect for all laws.

Enough is enough. The time for change is now.

To read a very interesting New York Times article about alcohol vs. marijuana, click here.



Now under a psychiatrist’s care

Not-pot leaf gets 6th-grader in big trouble

An 11-year-old boy at Bedford Middle School was suspended for 364 days after being caught with a substance that tested negative for marijuana.

by Dan Casey, The Roanoke Times

March 14, 2015

An 11-year-old boy at Bedford Middle School was suspended for 364 days after being caught with a substance that tested negative for marijuana.

At first blush it sounds like an open-and-shut school disciplinary matter in a zero-tolerance age:

Some schoolchildren claim another student bragged about having marijuana. They inform school administrators. An assistant principal finds a leaf and a lighter in the boy’s knapsack. The student is suspended for a year. A sheriff’s deputy files marijuana possession charges in juvenile court.

All of the above and more happened last September to the 11-year-old son of Bedford County residents Bruce and Linda Bays. He was a sixth-grader in the gifted-and-talented program at Bedford Middle School.

There was only one problem: Months after the fact, the couple learned the substance wasn’t marijuana. A prosecutor dropped the juvenile court charge because the leaf had field-tested negative three times.

Their son remains out of school—he’s due to return Monday on strict probation. But in the meantime, the events of the past six months have wreaked havoc on the formerly happy-go-lucky boy’s psyche. His parents say he’s withdrawn socially, and is now under the care of a pediatric psychiatrist for panic attacks and depression.

The couple—both are schoolteachers—have filed a federal lawsuit against Bedford County Schools and the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office. It refers to their son only by the initials R.M.B.

It alleges Bedford Middle School Assistant Principal Brian Wilson and school operations chief Frederick “Mac” Duis violated his due process rights under the US Constitution.

“Essentially they kicked him out of school for something they couldn’t prove he did,” said Roanoke attorney Melvin Williams, the Bays’ lawyer.

It also accuses the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office of malicious prosecution, because Deputy M.M. Calohan, a school resource officer, filed marijuana possession charges against the boy despite field tests that indicated otherwise.

“The field test came back not inconclusive, but negative,” Williams said. “Yet she went to a magistrate and swore he possessed marijuana at school.”

Filed February 3 in US District Court in Lynchburg, the lawsuit doesn’t ask for specific damages. “We intend to see what a jury would say about that,” Williams said.

Bedford Sheriff Mike Brown did not return my phone call Thursday (a woman in his office said he was off work last week). Wilson and Duis each declined to comment, and instead referred me to the school system’s lawyer, Salem attorney Jim Guynn. He’s also representing the sheriff.

Guynn has moved to dismiss the suit for a couple of reasons that we’ll get into below. One argument, he told me, is that under the school board’s anti-drug policies it may not matter whether the leaf was marijuana or not.

Even if the lawsuit is as meritless as he suggests, the case presents a cautionary tale about the current zero-tolerance drug climate in Virginia schools.

‘We have never seen the leaf’

The events leading up the boy’s 364-day suspension began September 22. The Bays said they’re still unclear about how or why school officials targeted their son—because they’ve heard three different stories about that.

“We know they relied on ‘tips’ that after the fact turn out to be less than reliable,” Williams said.

One was that R.M.B. was showing off the leaf on the school bus (which also transports Liberty High students) that day. The second was that it happened in a school bathroom. The third is that it occurred inside his homeroom class.

Word apparently made it through the school grapevine to Wilson, who took the Bays’ son out of gym class that day, along with his knapsack, which had been in an unsecured gym locker. They went to Wilson’s office.

There, Linda Bays said, Wilson asked their son “if he had anything he shouldn’t have. He said, ‘No.’ ”

Wilson then asked the boy to empty his knapsack. As their son did, the assistant principal personally unzipped a small pouch on the pack’s exterior, and found a crumpled leaf and a lighter. He summoned a school resource officer, Bedford County Sheriff’s Deputy M.M. Calohan.

Next, Wilson called Linda Bays at work. She’s a teacher at Stewartsville Elementary School.

“He told me [her son] had been seen in the bathroom with a marijuana leaf and lighter and that I needed to come to [Bedford Middle School] quickly,” Linda said. She called her husband (a retired schoolteacher in both Bedford and Pittsylvania counties) and they met in Wilson’s office.

“He had us sit down and he proceeded to tell us [our son] had been seen in the classroom with a lighter and a leaf,” Linda said. Wilson added that their son told “several students” that “we had marijuana growing in our back yard and that his dad knew about it and didn’t care,” Linda said.

“It’s farfetched,” Bruce said. “Anybody who knows me knows that’s not true.”

The assistant principal also told the couple that their son had told Wilson a high-schooler on the bus had given him the leaf. (The couple said their son has told them repeatedly he has no idea how the leaf got in his backpack, that he didn’t know it was there, and that he never showed it off to anyone.)

“I asked, ‘Can I see the leaf?’ and the deputy said, ‘No, it’s already in evidence,’” Linda told me. “We have never seen the leaf. He’s been out of school for six months.”

The boy was immediately suspended for 10 days pending an administrative hearing. That happened before Duis on September 29 at the Bedford Science and Technology Center.

Wilson was there but the deputy was not, the Bays said. In the meantime they’d hired Bedford attorney Emily Sitzler to represent their son for that hearing and his later one in juvenile court. They paid her $1,500. (She didn’t return my phone call Thursday.)

Bruce Bays said: “During the hearing I asked Wilson, ‘What about the field test on the marijuana leaf?’”

The assistant principal hemmed and hawed “and finally he got around to it and said ‘I’m not qualified to interpret the results of the field test,’” Bruce Bays said.

The couple said Duis ultimately rejected Wilson’s recommendation for expulsion, but instead suspended their son for 364 days. The reason Duis cited in a letter he sent later was “possession of marijuana.”

The juvenile court hearing happened late in November. When the Bays got there, Sitzler informed them that the commonwealth was going to ask for a continuance because they had neglected to send the leaf off to a state lab for testing.

Linda Bays told Sitzler they wouldn’t agree to a continuance. Sitzler went back to the prosecutor, “and she came back and said they were going to drop” the charge. That’s when the Bays learned the leaf had field-tested negative three times.

The lawyer “said the assistant commonwealth’s attorney told her they were going to have problems with this case anyway,” Linda Bays told me.

After that, “I immediately sent a letter to Dr. Duis requesting a new hearing,” Linda Bays told me. His response: “The court system and the school system were two different entities.”

Schooled at home

Duis’ suspension letter also made an allowance for R.M.B to attend Bedford County’s alternative education program. Basically, that’s a school full of students who are in trouble for all sorts of infractions.

When Linda Bays looked into that, she discovered her son would be searched before and after school every day. Besides that, he’d be going to school with the problem students from every other school. And she didn’t want that.

Williams compared it to when a person with no criminal background is sent to prison. They end up getting educated in all kinds of nefarious conduct, the lawyer said.

Instead, the Bays worked out a deal with the school system. They would not appeal the suspension to the Bedford County School Board if their son was allowed to complete the alternative school’s online educational program at home.

It’s called Edgenuity. However, that program is strictly timed and if their son could not keep up with it, he would have to attend the alternative school in person, Linda Bays said.

With that hanging over his head, their son was unable to concentrate on the online program and he fell behind. So the Bays worked out another arrangement allowing them to home-school their son. But that has meant he missed out on band practices, performances and the social aspect of school.

The school system also required the boy be evaluated for substance abuse problems. So the Bays took him to his longtime pediatrician in Lynchburg, who referred them to a pediatric psychiatrist.

They said the psychiatrist told them he didn’t believe their son had a substance abuse problem. But by then, the boy had other problems. After the disciplinary hearing, “he just broke down and said his life was over. He would never be able to get into college; he would never be able to get a job,” Linda Bays said.

Now their son is skittish about going out in public, suffers from panic attacks and is depressed. The psychiatrist is treating him for that.

In a letter to the school system, Linda Bays said, the doctor has recommended the best thing for their son would be to go back to school. The school system has agreed to allow him to resume attending another school beginning Monday.

But their son will remain on strict probation until next September, under the terms of the original suspension letter. A minor infraction could get him kicked out again.

Lookalike drugs prohibited

I spoke about this case Thursday with the school board’s and the sheriff’s attorney, Jim Guynn. He said he’s filed motions to dismiss the malicious prosecution claim against the sheriff’s deputy because it’s in the wrong court.

“Malicious prosecution is a state claim,” Guynn told me. “If you want to make a malicious prosecution claim you need to be in state court.” But beyond that, he argued, the deputy’s filing of the juvenile court charge against R.M.B was not malicious. That’s because she visually identified the leaf as marijuana, Guynn said.

“The young man was telling people on the bus that he had marijuana that was given to him by someone from the high school,” Guynn told me. The attorney added the leaf was not dried, as marijuana typically is, but that “it was a little sprig” that looked to Guynn exactly like a photo of a marijuana leaf he found on the Internet.

And under the school system’s anti-drug policy it may not matter whether the leaf was actually marijuana or a similar-looking leaf, such as from a Japanese maple tree.

That’s because the policy treats “lookalike” and “imitation” drugs the same as the real thing. Here’s what it says:

“The unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensation, possession, use or being under the influence of alcohol, anabolic steroids, or any narcotic drug, hallucinogenic drug, amphetamine, barbiturate, marijuana or other controlled substance … [or] imitation controlled substances or drug paraphernalia while on school property, while going to and from school, or while engaged in or attending any school-sponsored or school approved activity or event, is prohibited, and will result in an automatic recommendation of expulsion.”

Guynn called that “a pretty standard rule across the commonwealth.”

“It’s the same punishment and exactly the same result” whether the leaf was marijuana or not, he said. For that reason, the Bays’ due-process claim should be tossed out, too, Guynn said.

Williams countered: “If the school argues now that they were justified in suspending him for possession of lookalike marijuana, that’s disingenuous because they’ve never argued that prior to the suit being filed.”

Guynn responded: “I understand what he’s saying. I disagree with that.”

A possible prank?

In our interview Wednesday in Williams’ office, I asked the Bays if they thought it was possible their son had showed the leaf to other students and joked about having marijuana.

Back when I was in the sixth grade, I did something similar. I scratched the raised letters BAYER off an aspirin and told another student it was LSD. I think my parents ended up getting a phone call from the school. When they asked me about it later, I told them it was a joke. That was true.

There were no consequences because this happened in 1969, long before an anti-drug fervor had gripped this nation to such an extent that school drug policies covered schoolboy pranks.

The Bays are adamant that’s not what happened in this case, however. They said their son has no idea how the leaf or lighter got in his knapsack, and that he wasn’t joking around.

But there indeed have been consequences. The Bays are out money for lawyers and doctors, and they’re out the time they’ve taken to homeschool their child. Meanwhile, his psyche is very fragile now compared to its state before Wilson found the leaf in his knapsack.

Linda Bays said that based on scuttlebutt she’s heard since his suspension, she believes one or two students who dislike her son put the leaf in his knapsack, probably on the bus, and then informed school officials about it.

That’s left a situation in which, Bruce Bays said, “any kid can tell on another kid and set that kid up. And a principal or assistant principal could potentially push a kid out of school.”

Linda Bays added: “Why would you want an 11-year-old gifted-and-talented student out of school for 364 days?” That’s a good question. It seems out of proportion to the offense.

Thursday, US District Court Judge Norman Moon ordered the lawsuit be referred to mediation with US Magistrate Robert Ballou. That hasn’t yet been scheduled.

Stay tuned.


Dan Casey is the Metro columnist for The Roanoke Times. He says he knows a little bit about a lot of things but not a heck of a lot about most things—but that doesn’t keep him from writing about them.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Brewer and Shipley performing “One Toke Over the Line”


Weather Report

60° Rain and Cloudy


why bother?


A friend of mine from Seattle once told me that the barristas of that town call a drink consisting of decaf coffee, skim milk, and artificial sweetener a “Why Bother.” Give me high-octane coffee with whipping cream every time. I go through at least two carafes of the stuff each day. If I needed sugar (which I don’t), I would use the real thing—no high-fructose corn syrup for me.

From time to time, upon hearing the latest news about grandstanding US congressmen, greedy corporations, art-defiling terrorists, mean-spirited prosecutors and judges (or lazy, incompetent defense attorneys), I feel a twinge of despair and wonder if the nihilists might not have a point when they say that in the end life is meaningless and not worth the effort?

The notion usually passes as quickly as a belch or fart, but when presented with the underbelly of human nature with all its flaws, it can seem pretty demoralizing at first.

So why do we do it?  Why do we tackle issues and problems with seemingly insurmountable odds?

The first thing I would say is that it’s guaranteed there will be no progress if we don’t even try. You have to create your own meaning in life; it is never just handed to you. Meaning and satisfaction will always elude the lazy. People who don’t try are rarely surprised and delighted by the things that can and will be accomplished if they would only take the first step.

Last Friday’s post about Jordan Brown got over 7,600 views in only three days—and the traffic is still continuing today. This kind of response would have been unimaginable in the dark days long ago before you began following Jordan’ s case through this blog.

A couple weeks ago I announced an initiative we are undertaking with our law firm, Kutmus, Pennington and Hook, on behalf of four young men in Texas who were convicted as adults for acts committed when they were juveniles. In Texas v. Cameron Moon, the juvenile court was found to have erred in failing to conduct an individualized assessment of a 16-year-old’s circumstances before ordering that the youth to be tried for murder as an adult. The Texas high court affirmed a ruling vacating Cameron’s transfer to adult court, finding the record factually insufficient to justify the decision. We intend to use this ruling to vacate our young men’s wavers into adult court and initiate an appeal for each. They are languishing in prison for terms of 40 to 99 years.

It is time now to get started. I estimate that about $40,000 will need to be raised in order to cover the legal fees for the four young inmates—though the ultimate goal will depend on what we find through our research and experience, and is hence unknowable. In the meantime, we need to continue making deposits to their commissary accounts and continue to provide a safety net for the young people who have been—and will be—released from prison.

The fact remains that it is up to us to make the first step. Will you begin making this journey with me?

Will you please make it possible for us to try?

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To make a contribution to the Redemption Project, please use the link at the top of this page or click here. Thank you!


Groove of the Day

Listen to Noah Francis Johnson performing “Try”


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67° and Cloudy with Sporadic Showers


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