Archive for July, 2012

31
Jul
12

the bad guy’s trial

We have long suspected that Jefferson Sanders had more to do with James Prindle’s trial and conviction than is generally known.

Now we have learned from a knowledgeable source that the prosecutor’s office would never have taken the charges forward in adult court were it not for Sanders’ relentless pressure and insistence. Sanders’ alleged efforts to introduce false evidence and testimony into the trial (the “planted” second drawing and the “smile” from the back seat of the police cruiser) are consistent with Sanders’ presumed motive to get James put away behind bars where he would likely be harmed.

Our source told us that James’ mother Monica Sanders and her mother Pam Croft did not want to testify against James. They reportedly did so only as a result of being pressured by Jefferson Sanders.

Our source also told us that prosecutor Jennifer Nichols was always in favor of prosecuting the case, but prosecutor Teri Fratisi is said to have harbored doubts based on the lack of any solid evidence connecting James to the crime.

People with access to the water cooler scuttlebutt in the prosecutor’s office will know this to be true. People are talking about it among themselves. They know James received an ineffective defense in a flawed trial under ethically troubling circumstances. They know a miscarriage of justice was engineered.

What’s the best thing to be done right now? Keep up the public pressure!

A petition has been started at http://www.change.org/petitions/james-prindle-help-set-aside-the-verdict-pending-an-investigation. I encourage you to please go there and sign it. If you know people in Tennessee, please make a special effort to get them to sign, too. Judge Bobby Carter can try to ignore letters from outsiders, but not from Tennessee voters.

The more pressure we apply, the more people will talk and the whole truth will come out. Cracks are already beginning to show in the state’s case. People are seeing the trial and verdict for the travesty they are.

They can see that the only person who has “won” is Jefferson Sanders, the bad guy in this story. This is not justice, but the bad guy’s trial. No one will admit it, but Sanders was in virtual control. This isn’t right.

People with information want to come forward and tell what they know. With your encouragement through this petition, they will  summon the courage and speak up.

Sign the petition and help the truth set James free!

۞

Groove of the Day 

Listen to The Ben Miller Band performing “The Truth Will Set You Free”

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30
Jul
12

trust by the numbers

I am an optimist, and tend to think the best of people, but there’s a reason I live alone and apart from others. I always give people the benefit of the doubt until they prove that I should think otherwise. Yet I have no illusions about human nature. When it comes to trusting people I am not naïve.

Today there was a very interesting program on the radio in which experts were being interviewed about an epidemic of cheating which seems to be sweeping our schools, colleges, and the culture as a whole. More and more students are cheating because everyone else is doing it.

And it’s not just the students. Four former principals with the El Paso Independent School District recently said they were intimidated and retaliated against for refusing to participate in a broad cheating scheme cooked up by top administrators. Former superintendent Lorenzo Garcia has pleaded guilty to charges related to a scheme designed to make it appear the district was meeting federal requirements by forcing some students to drop out, preventing some from enrolling, stripping foreign students of credits, and sending false data to state and federal agencies.

In our lemming society, dishonesty is becoming the norm. We want what we want. The ends justify the means.

I have a rule of thumb about trust: 85% of the people in the world you categorically want nothing to do with under any circumstances whatsoever because they do not, and cannot, think for themselves. They lack a moral compass and go with the wind.

And the remaining 15%? It’s contextual.

If you are concerned about trusting people in that remaining 15% not to steal, 5% will never steal, 5% will always steal, and 5% will steal from you if they think they can get away with it. If you’re concerned about trusting people not to violate sexual boundaries, 5% will never do so, 5% will always do so, and 5% will cop a feel if they can get away with it. And so on. Name your context. Someone who would never steal might cop a feel. Someone who would never cop a feel might cut you a dirty deal. As I say, it’s always contextual.

And this is what makes trusting other people such a complicated proposition.

Trust involves a willingness to become vulnerable to another person—if you have confidence in your expectations about their future conduct. Trust reduces uncertainty about future outcomes, simplifies decision processes, and provides us with peace of mind. Trust evokes a feeling of hope and a willingness to take a chance on others.

Distrust, on the other hand, evokes fear and encourages defensive moves to buffer ourselves from others’ harmful conduct.

Because trust and distrust exist in separate contextual dimensions, relationships are multifaceted and complex. In other words, we may trust another in some contexts, but not in others. Similarly, we may distrust others in some contexts and not others. Thus, within the same relationship elements of trust and distrust may peacefully coexist because they are related to different experiences with the other, or knowledge of the other in different contexts.

If you accept the premise of my rule-of-thumb—that only 15% of all people are trustworthy in some (but not all) circumstances–you might say that because the numbers are so overwhelmingly against trust, that just maybe you should trust no one. But that’s a losing proposition because it would doom you to a lonely life in which the only things you will ever accomplish are those things you can do by yourself—a starkly narrow range of possibilities.

Paleoanthropologists tell us cooperation and sharing have been foundational traits of being human for about two million years and differentiate us from the apes. Trust is often said to be the “glue” that holds relationships together and enables people to interact together efficiently. Without trust, human progress would be impossible.

Contrary to traditional, normative views that trust is good and distrust is bad, a broader perspective recognizes that trust is valuable insofar as it is appropriate to the context, and that a healthy amount of distrust can be good, too, because it can protect you against certain risks. Accordingly, conflicts can be more effectively managed or avoided when attention is given to managing the initiation and development of trust, as well as to tempering distrust.

This perspective has allowed me, unlike members of Congress and other polarized politicians, to work effectively with people with whose views and methods I adamantly disagree. For example, last year I needed to confirm whether a rumor we’d heard about someone in connection with one of our kids’ cases was true or not. We had been told the person in question was a Klansman. So I reached out to a prominent white supremacist and made friends with him. He did some checking around for me and learned that no one in the Klan had ever heard of the individual. I believed his answer because we had developed a sufficient level of mutual respect and trust. My core values—honesty, purity, unselfishness, love, and loyalty—provided a common ground sufficient to bridge our differences.

(Even though typically-PC folks may be scandalized that I would reach out to such a person and treat him with respect rather than disapprobation, I like to think this proves I am a true multiculturalist.)

The bottom line is that we run background checks before we put volunteers into contact with kids as mentors. If some adults reach out to our kids on their own and appear to be displaying odd behavior, we check them out. We have a high toleration and respect for the unique differences of individuals, yet we feel a responsibility to keep checking and verifying that their behavior is contextually appropriate wherever the welfare of kids is concerned.

We know that the odds are always great that wolves will present themselves in sheep’s clothing.

Доверяй, но проверяй

(Doveryai, no proveryai – “Trust but Verify”)

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۞

Groove of the Day 

Listen to The Josh Abbott Band performing “I’ll Trust You”

29
Jul
12

menagerie

I’ve got way too many animals in the house right now. 

This morning one of the chickens got out of the coop—I don’t know how—and was chased into the house by Maggie, who must figure chicken-chasing to be her Olympic event. I never realized what small spaces a chicken can squeeze into (probably a clue about how this chicken escaped in the first place. A few days ago I went out to the coop and half the chickens were missing. I was distressed and fearful that some fox or other predator had absconded with them until sundown, when the missing hens returned home from a day of free ranging.) I have not been able to get the hen out of the house. Right now she is hiding behind the refrigerator; she will probably come out and find her way back to the coop while Maggie is napping.

Tony the cat is asleep on my desk, his left front paw splayed out across my computer mouse pad. As it happens, a real mouse has just come out from behind the refrigerator, walking along the top of the stone half wall, and he has been observing us with little black beady eyes from less than two feet away. He seems well fed and quite plump. If Tony were awake, he might think “succulent.” I snapped my fingers at the mouse, and he skittled back to the space behind the refrigerator with the hen. Tony, of course, didn’t stir. His favorite sport and snack will keep until another day.

Maggie is asleep on Otto’s favorite spot, her head resting on the threshold in Otto’s old way. This is one of those moments when I notice how large she has grown since I brought her home a little more than two months ago. At that time I could hold her in the palms of both hands. Now I must strain with both arms to lift her into the car. If one dog year is the equivalent of seven human years, I calculate, she has grown to the proportionate size of a 2½-year-old child. The other night I was resting on the couch and her wagging tail hit me in the face.

There are more animals around here than first meet the eye.

Last night I saw a vinegaroon, a particularly creepy looking arachnid with pincers at the head, black body color, and 1½ to 3 inches long. These nocturnal creatures are carnivores that eat other insects and look more dangerous than they really are.

A few nights ago, Tony was sitting outside the door in the dark watching something intently. I aimed my flashlight where Tony’s eyes were trained, and there I saw a snake climbing a bundle of 2’x4’s that were standing on end. When I lived in Africa, we were used to snakes being able to climb trees; but the idea of our desert snakes being able to climb had never before occurred to me. The scene was a little disquieting until I noticed there were no rattles on this snake’s tail.

If my identification of this as a “glossy snake” is correct, it is nonpoisonous. Yet it does mean that my vigilance must be expanded from the ground to higher places.

A couple nights ago, I was standing in the open doorway and a bat swooped past me, made a couple passes around the room, and then flew back out the door. Plus I haven’t mentioned all the flies, ants, spiders, centipedes, beetles, toads, etc., as well as the occasional bird, that are always showing up inside the house. It has become second nature to always watch where I am stepping for fear of killing something.

۞

It is nighttime now, and I never did succeed in getting the hen to return to the coop. She spent the whole day behind the refrigerator before she finally emerged. I did get her out of the house, but she is spending the night behind one of the shelving units outside the door.

Sometimes I think the animals want to be here with me more than wherever it is they belong. This is probably more information than you need to know, but I cannot even go to the bathroom without Maggie and Tony following me and invading my space while I am trying to do my business.

It brings new meaning to the phrase “herding instinct.”

۞

Groove of the Day 

Listen to The Carpenters performing “Close To You”

28
Jul
12

a capacity to give

Holly used to say that if I got a paper cut, I would freak out; but if my arm were severed, I would be a rock.

That was a long time ago. At this time nineteen years ago, we were dealing with the last months of her final illness and the truth of her assertion was being seriously tested. Somehow I survived the experience of having my “arm” hacked off, and I like to think I have progressed since then. I’ve since learned lessons I should have mastered when I was young. Now the paper cuts no longer matter so much.

I feel an abiding sense of gratitude that my own life is at long last in sufficient order that I have the capacity to help others deal with their problems. I am thankful that I have learned how to maintain a healthy sense of detachment so that the problems of others do not become mine.

I have little patience or acceptance for adults who cannot seem to grow up and move beyond their egocentrism. But kids—that is a different matter. (I was a mixed-up kid for a very long time and clearly remember what it is like. I empathize.)

I feel only contempt for abusive adults who impose their selfish cruelties and depravities on kids. I think this is why I am attracted to parricides. For me it’s all about sympathy, not pity. I admire those kids whose determination to survive moves them to act with a courage that few of us have—no matter how our hypocritical society may judge them. I choose to stand with them, even if few others will. In my opinion, they have made the world a better place by removing their abusers from it, even if the System which failed to protect them begs to differ.

Why am I going on about this today? Because our values and motivations are crucial to the efficacy of our work. I want you to please understand where I am coming from and why I have chosen this unusual path for the last chapter in my life.

If you are considering joining me as a fellow traveler—whether as a volunteer or donor—I ask that you please examine your own values and motivations as a first step. If your motives are not honest, unselfish and pure, please find another traveling party. If you have a capacity to give, we welcome and embrace you.

I began to see years ago that the stories of these kids—parricides especially—have a tendency to touch a lot of people’s hot buttons (I suppose because all of us come from dysfunctional families to one degree or another). I have seen a certain number of people attracted to this work who have unresolved issues that can create problems which endanger the work rather than advancing it. Even with diligent background checks, such people are often hard to identify and screen out.

For example, there is a woman who portrays herself as a youth justice advocate. Last year she promised to help in a significant way with the legal expenses of a couple of our kids as soon as she came into an inheritance. However, once she had the money in hand, she began traveling and inserting herself into the cases of children in ways that seemed self-indulgent and ego-driven. And of course, her promise to us was never fulfilled, even though she kept insisting she would send the money soon. It caused us to scramble at the last minute to meet obligations we had made counting on her pledge.

It would have been preferable if she had just been honest and said she wanted to spend her inheritance in wasteful ways that would get poor people fawning all over her. I would have respected that more. After all, people give for their own reasons, not ours, and that is perfectly fine. It’s her money, not mine. But I will never again trust anything she ever says.

Several years ago, Derek King and I attended an annual meeting of people who had first organized in 2002 in support of Derek and Alex. While there we met a man who regaled us all with exciting stories of his life as a private investigator. About a year and a half later he died, and my close friends attended his funeral where they learned that this man’s whole life as he had portrayed it was a complete fabrication. He was not who he claimed he was. He had been a houseguest of my friends, an intimate to them and their children, under false pretenses. They had trusted him. He never did them any harm but it creeps them out that, to this day, they still do not know who he really was.

Our work is focused on young people who have been wounded by some of the most devastating acts of dishonesty, perversion, selfishness, indifference, and betrayal imaginable. Our motives and methods must be honest, pure, unselfish, loving, and loyal, otherwise there is no hope that we will provide the support and example these kids need to redeem their lives.

Unless we hold ourselves to the highest possible moral standards, whatever we do cannot provide an effective antidote to what these children have suffered. Unless we give our time and treasure with the right motivations, we will fail to carry out God’s will.

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www.redemptionforkids.org

Thank you!

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۞

Groove of the Day 

Listen to Mady Mesplé and Danielle Millet performing the “Flower Duet”

(from Delibes’ opera Lakmé)

27
Jul
12

olympic hymn

Today as the opening ceremonies for the XXX Olympiad took place in London, a cherished tradition was played out for an estimated 62,000 people in the Olympic Stadium and millions of spectators all over the world: the lighting of the Olympic Flame.

The Flame was lit on May 10 at the Temple of Hera in Olympia Greece, flown from Greece to the UK in a specially painted British Airways A319, and then carried by relay runners all over the British Isles over a 70 day period with 68 nighttime celebrations along the way.  With its highly anticipated entry into the stadium, the Olympic Cauldron was ignited, signaling the start of the Games.

The tradition of the Olympic Torch relay comes not from antiquity, but rather was invented 76 years ago by Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda  ministry for the 1936 Berlin Olympics and famously idealized and documented in Leni Riefenstahl’s 1938 film Olympia.

Here is a link to the film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TI6yIo-tcc. The opening sequence including the lighting of the Cauldron runs about 23 minutes. It may seem a bit slow-paced to today’s eyes and ears, but it is worth watching because the so-called “Nazi Olympics” were the birthplace of today’s spectacle.

Yet it is ironic that while the torch relay has become a cherished institution in our modern Olympics, a composition by Richard Strauss (which was also performed at the opening ceremonies of the 1936 Olympiad) has become a taboo work due to its association with the Nazis.

In 1932, before the Nazis came to power, Richard Strauss was approached by the German Olympic Committee’s representative to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The German committee desired that an anthem be composed for the 1936 Summer Olympics to be held in Berlin. Early in 1933, Strauss agreed to compose an Olympic Hymn, with the condition that a suitable text be found to set to music.

A competition was held and resulted in 3,000 texts submitted. From fifty possibilities, four were sent to the composer. Strauss chose a poem written by Robert Lubahn, an unemployed actor at the time. Strauss said he was “extraordinarily satisfied” with it.

Olympische Hymne
by Robert Lubahn
 
Völker! Seid des Volkes Gäste, kommt durch’s offne Tor herein!
Friede sei dem Völkerfeste! Ehre soll der Kampfspruch sein.
Junge Kraft will Mut beweisen, heißes Spiel Olympia!
deinen Glanz in Taten preisen, reines Ziel: Olympia.
Vieler Länder Stolz und Blüte kam zum Kampfesfest herbei;
alles Feuer das da glühte, schlägt zusammen hoch und frei.
Kraft und Geist naht sich mit Zagen. Opfergang Olympia!
Wer darf deinen Lorbeer tragen, Ruhmesklang: Olympia?
 
Wie nun alle Herzenschlagen in erhobenem Verein,
soll in Taten und in Sagen Rechtsgewalt [Eidestreu] das Höchste sein.
Freudvoll sollen Meistersiegen, Siegesfest Olympia!
Freude sei noch im Erliegen, Friedensfest: Olympia.
Freudvoll sollen Meistersiegen, Siegesfest Olympia!
Olympia! Olympia! Olympia!
 
(rough translation)
 
People! The people, our guests, are coming in through open gate!
Peace to the festivities! Honor will be the fight saying.
Youth wants to show courage, hot Olympic games!
Your glory in deeds be praised, pure goal: the Olympics.
Pride and prosperity of many countries came forward to fight hard;
All the fire which burned there, along proposes high and free.
Strength and spirit approaches with trepidation. Sacrifice Olympia!
Who can wear your laurels, fame’s sound: Olympia?
 
Now as heart beating in a raised club,
Right-violence should be the highest in deeds and in legends.
Joyfully will champions win, Olympic victory celebration!
Joy is still in a standstill of peace: the Olympics.
Joyfully will champions win, Olympic victory celebration!
Olympia! Olympia! Olympia!

(The version sung at the 1936 opening ceremonies differs by only one word from Lubahn’s original submission. Lubahn’s word Rechtsgewalt in the fifth-to-the-last line was replaced by Goebbels, over Lubahn’s objection, with the word Eidestreu, because Goebbels found Lubahn’s usage ambiguous and possibly democratic.)

Composition of the Olympische Hymne was completed by Strauss on December 22, 1934. The principal music theme was derived from a major symphony Strauss planned but never finished.

During the 1936 Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Strauss invited members of the IOC executive board to hear the hymn sung by an opera star from Munich. In February 1936, the IOC declared Strauss’s composition as the Olympic anthem “for all time,” but their declaration did not survive the war.

Hitler’s troops eventually retraced in reverse the route of the 1936 Olympic torch relay. The route from Olympia to Berlin passed through seven countries that would later be occupied by Germany and its allies. The Nazis’ doctrine of Aryan superiority, ably sanitized and put across in the 1936 Olympics, was exposed by subsequent events as the evil and murderous abomination that it is.

Strauss’ Olympische Hymne, though never a favorite of the composer, was consigned to the ash heap of history along with all the other detritus of the Nazis’ failed dreams.

I tried to find a recording of a modern performance of Strauss’ hymn and came up empty handed. So this 1936 recording will have to do.

۞

Groove of the Day 

Listen to the Berlin State Opera Orchestra and Chorus performing Richard Strauss’ “Olympische Hymne”

25
Jul
12

paranoid

For the last three days, while I have been posting pretty pictures and music (and probably appearing to you as someone taking a sleepy break), I have been experiencing a particularly frustrating time in our work.

Deep Throat has provided physical evidence which will prove that his allegations about some of the people involved in the James Prindle case must be taken seriously. At the same time, our volunteers have been under sophisticated cyber-attack, which has hampered our ability to evaluate and easily share that evidence among ourselves (let alone with you, James’ new lawyer, or the authorities).

The other thing which heightens my frustration is that, while we have every intention of turning over this evidence to the authorities, we do not know which of them we can trust.

We have reliable information that elements of law enforcement in Tennessee are themselves being investigated for participating in child sex trafficking, as are elements of federal law enforcement. Having failed so far in identifying absolutely trustworthy cops, all of them are our potential enemies as far as we know. (I trust our local deputies out here, but that doesn’t help us outside this jurisdiction.) I am haunted by the possibility that whatever we do turn over to the police or federal prosecutors will be buried, lost, or destroyed like in that last scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

This puts us in a perilous position. The laws surrounding the kinds of crimes with which we think we are dealing require us to report those crimes to the authorities, otherwise we might find ourselves being charged with obstruction of justice. At the same time, other laws prohibit us from coming into possession of certain types of evidence, otherwise we might find ourselves charged with possession of contraband. All the while, there is the distinct possibility that we are being set up by someone, whether within the government or outside it, to be charged with crimes we have no intention of committing.

So far we have avoided falling into any of these technical traps, but it really frustrates me that the laws and the true state of affairs are making it so difficult for us to be good citizens.

I have had to keep reminding myself that you’re not really paranoid if everyone truly is out to get you.

۞

Groove of the Day 

Listen to The Black Keys performing “No Trust”

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Warning

I have been contacted by two readers who received e-mails purporting to be from WordPress, which hosts this blogsite, asking these individuals for their e-mail addresses and other information. As I said above, we have been under very sophisticated cyber-attack from malevolent persons. If you receive such an e-mail, DO NOT RESPOND. Trash it. It is not from WordPress.

24
Jul
12

dreamscape 3

۞

Groove of the Day 

Listen to the Orchestre Philharmonique de Rome performing Antoine Rubinstein’s “Kamenno-Ostrow, Opus10” (Rêve Anglique)