Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Your Soul For A Widget

"I'll set up a meeting for 10 AM tomorrow," decided the voice over the speakerphone.

"OK, great," complied Johnson, terminating the phone line in disgust. The company needed a new widget (all companies make widgets) and he was put on the design team. But I don't give a damn about widgets!

Isolated in his cubicle cell, he ground his teeth in despair, detaching from reality. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! I'm being swallowed alive!

A crisis years in the making, volcanic in its eventual eruption. But the outlet remaining ever elusive. He'd had a relationship the previous year but that blew up on him like all the rest leaving one more woman permanently marking him on her enemies list. When would he learn and just stop trying?

But her arms had been a tragic respite, allowing him to further ignore the living hell of his money gathering ways. Now she was gone and his misery more burdensome than ever, choking on words in his mouth. The unreality stretched the limits of his imagination, wondering how his life could become so stripped of meaning. Surely life wasn't meant to be nothing more than a string of empty gestures until death and yet...here it was, exactly that.

What happens when I can't fake it any more, when my disgust finally shines through? I HATE this shit! I hate this fucking goddam world and I can't wait until we blow it up. I'm sick of it, SICK of it!

The corporate machinery is blind in its anger, reveling in the power of fear and loathing. It is a jealous god, suffering no allegiance to any master but itself. Millions flock to its safe haven, drawn to its protection and lure of pulled strings. And like a dysfunctional parent, any whining by the puppets stabs its artificial heart with intolerable anguish, lashing out in instant karma to snuff out any harbinger voice of doom. Appeals can be made in the afterlife...

Burned out, turned out and wiped out, Johnson saw no way out. He'd been selling off pieces of his soul for years, if goddam God gave a damn he never saw any evidence of it. God told him his feelings were as important as the sun, but the corporate god ruled otherwise, finding him in contempt of the common good. As a "free" slave any discontent on his part spoke to a presumed character flaw, as someone who didn't wish to contribute his fair share - but none of that was true for Johnson, even though the corporate god found everyone guilty by birth.

The night has been spent in sleepless dread and the morning whip was especially stinging, as if dipped in alcohol. One day! One day I'm going to take that whip and kill you cocksuckers! I'm going to whip you until you scream for mercy and then whip you again until your eyes see no more and your breath is stilled into blissful peace. But Satan merely laughed, for despite his window being short, he knew it was his time to rule the self-enslaving humans before they woke up at last, the whip driving them to glorious hell. In the whip do they trust!

This is how to run the world!

In the history of mankind, Johnson's meeting passed unrecorded and unnoticed into the slipstream of time - except by Johnson who remembered it as anyone would a firing squad. As usual he survived it by not surviving though the pain had him hopping mad, squelching his hatred by losing another piece of his mind, making him more unlivable with than ever, a circle of burning fire scorching him alive, a modern witch.

That evening, the hollowed human fantasized of global death and destruction, ending the beast's life once and for all. Trapped on a world spiraling silently out of control, his clarion call edged ever louder, unknowingly joined by billions of fellow planetoid inmates also demanding life. The chains of pride strained the human psyche to a greater and greater frustration with each passing day, anger boiling over like acid rain, killing random souls as it dropped. The galley slaves are chained to their oars, refusing to admit themselves freedom, holding onto mutual distrust to the miserable end.

But as the slaves sink their own ship in an inevitable break for freedom from despair, only those who unchain their souls will be able to safely swim ashore.

Don't worry, it's all in your mind - for now.


There is NO political solution

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Japanese Spring Festival 2010


Festivals are a huge part of Japanese culture, a safe outlet for social celebration amid the rigid hierarchy. And in Texas there is no finer place for one than the 7.5 acres of the Fort Worth Japanese gardens. This year they did it right due to the growing popularity over the years. No more long lines to get in through a single turnstile or poorly marked parking leaving patrons scrambling for spots. Instead, an entryway was created into the usual parking lot from the specially marked festival parking lot (which is about 20 times larger). This made for not only a smoother influx of people but gave another platform for events and booths. Smart thinking there!


I got there right as it opened. These chairs were set up for viewing events throughout the day. The tents were still setting up for the expected crowd, a good assumption considering the perfect weather for the day: breezy and bright.

First, let me tell you that the gardens were greeeen, very green. We've had a good amount of rain over the last few weeks and spring was bursting through the gardens in full blush. With or without us, the plants were rejoicing in their renewel.




I've never made it to the festival as it just opened, so it allowed me to capture it in morning light for the first time. There's a certain brilliance to the burgeoning light of the day as it grows to its peak, reminding me of the blinding whites of Mariko as she prepared to commit seppuku in Shogun.


Still shadows on the famous bridge in the morn.


Since I did decide to show up early, I finally got to see the great Taiko drummers performing their art. Drums are a huge part of any Japanese festival. Following the drummers were other performers, with events from martial arts to geisha dancing.


Jodo, the art of using a rod to disable without killing

Only samurai were allowed to bear swords after the unification

This was a husband and wife team, showing actual moves to deflect a sword.
I noticed she would hack at his wrists,
which would have caused him to drop the sword in real life.

The Zen rock garden was amazing. I could have stayed there the whole time and communed with the universe. The shadows, the angles, the art of watching rocks grow all provided a glimpse into infinity, a release from earthly illusions and peering beyond space and time.

I love this shot.
It could be at any temple anywhere on earth.

Morning draping still intact

Almost awake

At one with the sun

Next I traveled down to visit my oldest and dearest friend in the gardens, the legendary Gracia Hosokawa.


Always far stronger than she appears. Note her moody colors even
in the blossoming springtime, her sorrows branding her forever.

Her husband, Buntaro, resides far from Gracia as was in
their lives. He still rages with color.

The people watching was scrumptious as well. I found a thousand moments of beauty to capture.


Blurry because I took it on the sly but she simply radiates.

An absolute angel!

The parking lot events kept the entertainment nonstop across the gardens. I came up on some brick breaking.


Afterwards I went up to him in contempt, looking down my nose in disdain,
sneering out the words, "Brick don't hit back."
I walked away, uncaring of his reaction.

A bamboo stalk for tameshigiri , the art of test cutting.

Notice how far the sword is past before the
cut stalk even has a chance to fall off.

All in all, a great day in the sun. I only captured a fraction of the activities here. It's as close as you can get to Japan here in the states and the experiences are universal and timeless. The best part is seeing so many people dip their hand in Asian culture and finding it to their liking. See you at the fall festival, until then sayonara!

A day no one could resist!

Click here to see the full set of photos.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Weakness For War

[Never in human history had so many causalities been inflicted on one army in a single campaign. Over a half million corpses left in the grip of Russian ice, Napoleon wiped out along with his myth of invincibility. On his long, withering journey back, Major Louis Pattone suffered as never before - as he believed no human could ever be, scarred by his survival to the innermost reaches of his being. Had God granted him the power, he'd scream from the mountaintops of the futility of war and order it ended for all time.

The truth had been brandished before his eyes, he could close his mind no more: if war does not stop it will consume us all and mankind will be no more. It is the year 1812, time to come to our senses!]

How do I tell them - or do they already know? My secret thoughts haunt me here in the night - thoughts no one can know - and yet I feel them branded on my face in the daylight. No time machine exists to allow me to escape from responsibility, to go back and make things right. I'm just a stupid, lonely man lying in bed with my eyes awake and my wife asleep.

She pretends it's all the same - as do I. Thomas has grown so much since I left for the Cossack catastrophe. I sense their silent resentment. Is it for leaving or for failing? But I find myself defenseless - we did not fight the good fight. My god and idol, the madman genius Napoleon, has proven himself false. My dirtiest secret of all? I yearn to follow him still, that I can still somehow mine precious glory from the illusion of war.

And yes, illusion is what it is! How heartbreaking to see Thomas' eyes light up, eager for tales of battle. I oblige him, weaving words I know will sell, despising my weakness to portray the hero. Frankly, it all seems a vast, eerie conspiracy of pretense, each human desperate to please the god of war none of us truly wish to serve. We can't wait for it to end - or for the next one to begin. Our emperor has no clothes and we mutely agree to look the other way. What price in history will we pay for this?

Oh dear God, please help me here in the dark! It's not the same, it can never be the same. I feel as the autumn leaf, doomed to turn a lifeless brown, awaiting my inevitable fall. My body came back but I did not. My crippled left hand, bitten by the bear of the Russian wind, I hide in constant shame - not because of its deformity but because of how it got that way - in the folly of defeat.

Might wanna hit the treadmill there, mon empereur.

Never will I speak of that journey back! To my grave I take it! On the battlefield, I've witnessed the range of human behavior, from bravery to cowardice, but never the depravity I witnessed in that alien cold, starving us in both body and soul. Unmasked we were, revealed as animals of the lowest order. Dear God please tell me that's not I! How do I dare stand before my Maker? I'm back - but somewhere on the hell of those Russian steppes I died - and I've no way to tell my wife and child.

I must tell Thomas of the evils of war so that he may escape them, to keep our globe from spiraling further and further into insanity. His is the new generation, embracing the light of the revolution, not holding onto our prejudices for monarchies and inequality. Yes, they will pick up the banner of justice where we have failed! I hear him speak words of freedom never crossing my mind as a child. The age of war is ending and our children shall step out of the darkness.


I ran into my old comrade-in-arms Henri in the street last week and I can't stop thinking about it. Our Grand Leader speaks of a new army, he said, that France is not finished. I never thought that if I made it back home from the sacrificial snows I'd ever want to leave again. But as I feared, home is no longer here. I don't know where it is. Perhaps it's back with the regiment after all. Was I wrong or did I see a knowing understanding of my plight in Henri's eyes? It's his plight too I suspect.

Maybe no one survived the unspeakable horrors of cruel carnage we dare not mention. We live in bondage to that time; unclean spirits. We older generation are finished. We had our shot and blew it, betraying our revolutionary ideals, traded for the trinkets of war. Why am I so helpless to continue down this path? Why does my blood unbearably boil in my house, anxious to grab a rifle with the one good hand I have left? Someone explain this addiction of war to me. Is it really a mere extension of our lives?

I cannot stay, dear Caroline, so romantic in our youth. Where did it all go, when life seemed so endless and free! I carry more shame than any man can face and how can I not help but feel an everlasting fool? These thoughts, these feelings, these hopes, these fears, these torments and regrets in my life I can share with no one. I must not shatter the illusion of war that gives my life meaning. I must never admit it serves no noble purpose but rather sucks like shit from a peasant's ass.

[Napoleon managed to rally an army of 400,000 from his exhausted and war-weary nation, with a further 250,000 in allies. All to no avail. In the battle of Waterloo, Col. Pattone, as a member of Napoleon's trusted Old Guard, died as enemy reinforcements doomed the battle for the French. The Bourbon monarchy was restored, the French revolution imploding under the weight of its injustices done in the name of justice. The fatherless Thomas became an Ultra-Royalist, in favor of absolute rule by the king as in the horrid days of old. Thomas, wounded by life, declared his loyalty "this time for the winners" - for a father who would not leave.]


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hot Water Burn Baby!

Emily was the "quiet one" in the office, with her mousey brown hair coiled behind her head and her demure demeanor. She was the Good Worker and never defied the much reviled office overlord Nico who bullied them in his thick German accent. Nico's unofficial nickname was "Nein! Nein!", his common outburst upon discovery of even the smallest of mistakes in the paperwork. All the women in the insurance processing office hated Nico - and hated Emily too, for she never showed any signs of hatred for the tyrant.

Janet brought a thick stack of claims over to Emily's desk and plopped them unceremoniously in her In basket. "I don't know how you do it," Janet disdained, smacking her lips. "You let him heap more shit on you than anyone else."

"I'm here to work," insisted Emily's downcast eyes, hoping that was enough to ward off her attacker. Janet's eyes drilled holes into her for a moment more, making her point before wandering off. Emily wondered if her tormenter knew how much the use of the word "shit" bothered her. Such unacceptable language! But she must not force her values on others - no matter how much seethed to do so.

The commute home entailed the usual rude drivers illegally surpassing the posted speed limits, honking at her for her correct observation of the signs. But just as she forbid herself to ever be labeled a bad worker nor would she allow "bad driver" to be ascribed to her either. In fact, Emily didn't want to be a bad anything. She was a good person, she liked being a good person and she would remain a good person no matter what came her way. Period.

Sometimes that meant pain. Her thin lips compressed in lingering remembrances of wounds past, never healed or admitted, her fate to suffer in order to make the world a better place. But each wound was like a steady drip of despair, driving her closer and closer to the edge. "This I must endure," she'd scold herself, misery only hardening her stance.

But she had a drug for her misery.

In counseling with her abusive husband Leroy, she assured the therapist she was "perfect - I do everything he wants." Emily couldn't understand how that was not enough to make her spouse happy. What more could he want? If he's not happy, I must be doing something wrong. I need to take on more burdens and prove myself. She inquired to the counselor, "Don't you think I'm a 'good person'?"

To hear those two words soothed all her constant agonies into submission, the rush of the high she'd lived for ever since she was a child. She'd even liked it when the other girls would snarl, "You always have to be a goody two shoes, don't you!" And now twenty years later in her cubicle cave they hated her still. Emily knew that simply was her cross to bear.

Whenever she was asked how she could take all the burdens of her life, Emily's stock reply was, "God helps me with my burdens. He'll help you too if you ask." She loved having God on her side, it's what made all the denial worthwhile. Those sharp tongued vixens will never make it into heaven! They don't try to do right - they just do what they want! Someday they'll regret that with all their life. Emily knew that beyond a shadow of a doubt. Someday...

Eric, her first born son, was diagnosed as "semi-autistic", a borderline functioning 12-year-old she fought to not have institutionalized - especially with her buried guilt. Leroy had inflicted a couple of savage bouts on her while pregnant and she always wondered if that's why Eric came out the way he did. Of course, the topic was beyond unmentionable, off limits even to God. If the beatings had caused it, she obligingly blamed herself for inducing her man to do it.

Leroy, as usual, was not home as she arrived at the house after work. He preferred to stay out drinking with his buddies, complaining to them how his wife has to have the truth beat out of her and how he despised her for never standing up to him - thinking that's actually what he wanted. Stupid bitch. Marriage is hell and only through liquor could he grease the wheels to keep it going. But he was going to be a good father and husband and stick it out. C'est la mort.

Eric ran from the car into the house, happy as always. Perhaps he was blessed not be fully aware of the home he lived in - or was his heart in full understanding of everything? No one knew - no one wished to know. But Emily secretly fretted over him despite his happy-go-lucky ways. He was too free spirited to suit her, fearing her boy would fall into the same trap as the women at work - those who were blind to the will of God. But she considered him damaged goods, unreachable and sorely tasked God with the responsibility of his outcome.

Timothy, her new child, was a different story. It took over ten years for her to get over the fear of another pregnancy and this one came out perfect. She carried her little bundle of joy inside, secretly labeling him her "final hope". Through him she'd pass all the goodness she'd worked for her entire life. She'd raise him right in her eyes, knowing her eyes were aligned with God's. Through Timothy she'd make all amends!

As she drew the baby's bath, Eric passed by munching on a cookie. Damn him! I've told him a thousand times! He's going to end up rotten! His mind retains nothing! Once again in the familiar compression of her lips, she vowed to exact the hallowed perfection of her baby. But she'd just used a forbidden expletive! This is just too much. Too damn much! snapped her mind. And she twisted the bathtub faucet far over to the letter "H". This is going to sting somewhat, little Timmy, but I've got to make you "good"! I can't let you turn out like the others! The pain will save you!

Eric heard the screams from his room, shredding his soul in instant terror. He rushed to the bathroom repelled by the red-faced look on his mother's face, grabbing his little brother. "Hot water burn baby! Hot water burn baby!" At first his mother wildly resisted him but he tore the baby away and closeted the squalling creature in his room, barring the door.


The hospital workers were suspicious and Eric didn't have the capacity to "know" to lie, telling them everything. Both the children were taken away. Eric happy in his institution, Timmy growing up distrustful of his foster homes and hating the barbaric world into which he'd been thrown. For Emily, the "someday" she swore would come true for the hated heathens had raptured her world instead, losing her mind as she forever failed to grasp the wrongness of her deed. Leroy died an early, unlamented death from liver failure.

Being "good", more complicated than it seems.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

For Me, Writing Is Like...

The wagons are circled, an arrow zips by my head.

"Jesus fucking Christ that was close!"

I'm seriously pissed, fond of my head that I am. I'm seething in anger with the attempt on my life. Who do these fuckers think they are? And yet, what can I do? The Indians are endless, I'm outnumbered a million to one. And if I lose my cool...I'll die for sure.

I spend the day mining the earth for metal I can fashion into bullets, my need for them as endless as my attackers. It's tedious, menial labor and it rots my brain, causing me to chastise my life in idiomatic Indian phrases. When I know I've made enough to survive another day, the curse of freedom's kiss scorches my lips, testing my desire, knowing I can never have it, forever encircled by mindless but dedicated tormenters.

I look at my six-shooter and wonder if it's friend or enemy, an overwhelming desire to fling it to the gods wells up inside every time I see it. I do not wish to live by the gun. I see no future in it. Often, as frustration's dagger twists in my gut, I think of the gun as my only escape. I know Jesus threw his gun away...and I know there's no true freedom with it in my possession.

Another arrow punches my water bag and I immediately fire back. And sigh. Then I get an idea. If I'm doomed by all paths then by God in Heaven I shall die on my own terms you cocksuckers! Taking the arrow from the water bag, I wrap a sincere note around it: "My water bag says, 'Fuck you, asshole!'", and fling it back at the hooping and hollering know-it-alls who so unjustly determine my fate.

Then I hear something I haven't heard in a very long time: silence. The Indians are gathered around my note, intently reading it. Good! Let 'em be pissed! I spit on your goddam war paint! I brace for the final killing attack to end it once and for all. A bullet between my teeth, I look forward to it. How many can I kill before I die? We shall see!

But instead, I get my same arrow returned - note intact! Unscrolling it in curious confusion I find this comment scrawled at the bottom: "Keep us entertained and we'll let you live."

"Hey Hobbes, write a sensitive and rhythmic poem
and I'll let you live!"


Friday, April 16, 2010

Tulia Texas: Kangaroo Kourts and Kinky Karma

You don't know fear until a kangaroo
court is deciding your life

I don't get upset when people badmouth Texas despite living here most of my god forsaken life. After all, there's plenty to badmouth! And if someone says, "Everyone in Texas is a goddam idiot!" I consider that more a reflection on the author of said statement than myself. But in the tale I have to tell today we see the very worst of Texas stereotypes come to life (along with a few shining lights), sending us over the rainbow and into a land of surreal hell where Alice herself would not dare to tread.

Excuse me a moment while I gather myself before my blood boils over so I can maintain a level of detached sarcasm. (OK, maybe not so detached.)

Here's a list of players in tonight's passion play:

Undercover Secret Agent Man Tom Coleman: Think of an evil Barney Fife with the lying pathology of a white trash Texas Ranger wannabe, the man with a mythic imagination.

District Attorney Terry McEachern: Now here's a prosecutor not even a mother could love - but a Soviet dictator sure could! He never met a truth he wouldn't deny - or a self-interest he'd deny either.

Swisher County Sheriff Larry Stewart: It's people like this that give snakes a bad name. Part snake and part snake charmer he never gives a direct answer to anything. "Is the earth round, Sheriff?" "You could say that." Why go on the record if the facts are just going to be used against you, huh?

Cvil Rights Attorney Jeff Blackburn: The Amarillo lawyer so disgusted by the Tulia Kangaroo Kourt system he took a leak on the courthouse monument to "Christian principles". He'd been fighting these backwater rural types for years. Click to read my hagiography of him I wrote last year.

Activist Attorney Vanita Gupta: A young, idealistic lawyer fresh out of law school itching for a fight. She joined the Legal Defense Fund and helped rally support across the country.

Tulia Farmer Gary Gardner: Tulia rabble rouser extraordinaire who created the Friends Of Justice group who got the initial word out. A man who can drop the word "nigger" without an ounce of hate but with a fierce devotion to truth and justice.

Freedom fighters: God bless all those who rallied to right the wrongs of dark minds bent on shattering lives - ranging from national figures to the Texas ACLU and even a hardy few citizens of Tulia - some of whom suffered excommunication for their efforts. As you will see, passions ran high on both sides and I suspect some of the wounds will never heal.


People often mention the friendliness of Texas and when driving the farm-to-market roads on any given day will find you're waving back at complete strangers as they pass by on the road. See a car headed towards you and you better move your hand to the top of steering wheel so you can raise your fingers in acknowledgment lest you be deemed rude. It's a folksy little ritual and I have to admit I love it because I know there's a genuine feeling behind it - as long as you're one of "them", of course.

"Them" for the most part being white, Christian, conservative, gun totin', football lovin' denizens of darkness. These are people who live in fear of being "slandered" by the truth. They've pretty much got their minds made up on how the world is and what it should be and anything that destroys that illusion is simply ungodly and the work of the devil, a.k.a. liberals. So you can just imagine what happens to a black man accused of dealing cocaine by the son of a legendary Texas Ranger. Think "maximum sentence".

I've just finished reading Nate Blakeslee's outstanding book Tulia: Race, Cocaine And Corruption In A Small Texas Town. An Investigative reporter for the lefty magazine Texas Monthly, Blakeslee was one of the first to write about the Tulia scandal and lays out a thorough and riveting tale of the struggle to bring light to a dark corner of the world. It's a tale both heartening and disheartening and we'll start with the morning of the tragedy.

At dawn on July 23, 1999 the entire Tulia police force - all seven of them - along with every deputy in the Sheriff’s department conducted a sweeping raid on 46 alleged cocaina dealers - 40 of them black, arresting one of every three adult black males. And although caught by surprise and rousted from bed, no drugs or guns or signs of illicit profits were ever discovered. What was had that day was a delicious moral victory the pigs of the white establishment planned to feast on for years and years to come. This dream raid fed into every single hate, fear and prejudice of their tarnished hearts and pulling such a rich trough away from the feeding frenzy would prove a very difficult task - almost impossible actually.

Local farmer Gary Gardner already had a beef with the powers that be and smelled a rat right off. He mercilessly taunted the enforcement agencies with harried letters to the area papers trying to garner attention to the plight of the defendants. Meanwhile, the Tulia Kangaroo Kourt had a field day playing on the emotions of the white jurors describing horror stories of unattended babies as the hardened criminals plied their craft and reveled in their evil. As the cases flowed in, maximum sentences flowed out - 20 years for first time offenders. And God help you if you were accused of selling within 1000 feet of a school with sentences of 99 years doled out.

Many troubling questions were obvious besides the lack of evidence gathered during the arrest sweep. With so many dealers, who the hell were they all selling it to? And why were the charges for powdered cocaine and not crack, the actual drug that could be had in black Tulia? And from where did this huge influx of drugs come from? The answer to all that was in one Tom Coleman, described by one former supervisor as having "possible mental problems". Like a perverted James Bond, Coleman ran a loosely supervised undercover operation for the local area drug task force and it was on his word alone the arrests were made.

But Coleman was neither the super-lawman he fancied himself to be or a man of his word. His identification was sloppy, his documentation oftentimes a laughable paragraph scrawled in jabberwocky nonsense with many of his facts emanating solely from his imagination. But his father was a revered Texas Ranger and that pedigree was enough for Tulia law enforcement despite the fact Coleman left a trail across Texas of lies, disturbed notes and gross incompetence forcing him out of one town after another. (One town even called a meeting to decide how to get rid of him he was so loathed.)

But here is where something needs to be said of the whole drug task force concept which hands out monetary rewards for the number of arrests made. The incentive is to trump up charges and although the Tulia raid was an extreme example, false cases were being made across the country to beef the coffers of local law enforcement agencies. It's not that what happened in Tulia was a case of a few rotten apples, it's that it was inevitable a case of corruption like this would come along. Though not as high profile, many other incidents are also documented where rural prosecutors knew to feed the fears and false outrage of juries more concerned with self-justification than truth or justice.

The blanket arrests divided Tulia like never before and with the resulting publicity and influx of "Yankee lawyers", a bitter resentment welled up in the white community, leaving festering scars to this day. The more the unflattering facts came to light the more defiant the white partisans, desperately wishing for it all to just go away. Especially since the law-and-order persecuting attorney was a well-known drunk driver and even suffered a DWI conviction in Colorado. And a prominent local white farmer was caught on tape making homosexual advances to a teenage boy - probably the only sin worse than drug dealing. Yes indeed, they wanted that hated spotlight off of them and fast!

Tom Coleman's life was a nightmare wrecked by insecurities and inadequacies, his favorite tactic was to first accuse others of his own crimes in order to kill their credibility. How ironic. But in the vast, flat plains of west Texas, his Quixotic endeavors in Tulia paid off, earning him "Lawman of the Year" honors for engendering this brutal miscarriage of justice. As media examinations began to reveal glaring discrepancies in his accusations and the fact the cases were convicted on his word alone, a legal "dream team" assembled to uncover the truth.

The genius of Coleman's incompetence was that with so little documentation, what was there to refute? It was all a Texas Ranger's son versus lazy, gangsta darkies confrontation. A slam dunk for the persecutor. Extracting facts from the ensuing cover-up was a slow and agonizing teeth pulling process. But as facts surfaced, a picture formed of corruption, negligence and a blatant disregard of due diligence by all parties involved. Even then, without hard evidence, what could be done?

The cocaine turned in by Coleman from his drug buys was finally tested and revealed to be cut so many times as to have a purity rate of between 3 and 12% - virtually useless unless you wanted to get high on the cutting agent. This fit the theory of why the busts were for powdered cocaine: it gave Coleman the chance to cut his samples many times over allowing him to be compensated multiple times for the same alleged buy. Since most of the charges were for "eight balls" - an eighth of an ounce - he stood to reap thousands of dollars - this for a man chronically in deep debt. But it could never be proven.

A similar conundrum was faced by the defense team as each case always boiled down to a he said/he said argument of which they were bound to lose. In fact, seeing the harsh penalties laid out in the first few trials caused the rest of the defendants to plead out. It had taken a full two years to get the appeals rolling and without concrete proof their cases were sunk even with a mountain of evidence uncovered on Coleman on his highly suspect credibility - evidence previously disallowed in the original trials. Then a couple of breaks in the clouds came to turn the tide.

One female defendant had been working in Oklahoma on the day Coleman accused her of delivering cocaine to him. But she had no foolproof alibi. She finally returned to fight the charges, her case having never been adjudicated. But through the extreme thoroughness of Blackburn's assistant, a signed check receipt was unearthed in Oklahoma, providing the first hard proof of a Coleman lie. For the first time, persecuting attorney McEachern was forced to back down and dismiss a case. He knew he could bluff his way through any accusations against Colemen but now he was finally cornered.

The second victory was the recusal of the presiding judge in the original cases. This allowed the shocking evidence against Coleman's credibility to be entered into the record along with providing proof of knowledge of Coleman's character was hidden by the wayward Sheriff and persecuting attorney, thus invalidating the original convictions. Even so, an eleventh hour tactic was devised of foot dragging by the Swisher county team to test the will of the defense lawyers, many of whom had flown in from the east coast and were expending large amounts of money. However, outraged by the proceedings and the shocking conduct of the persecuting team, it was related in no uncertain terms the dream team would fight it out even if it took "years" to do it.

Finally, the dam broke. The rulings were reversed, 35 pardons were issued and the charade crumbled as a cause celebre in headlines across the country. In a widely quoted line, Evil Fife Coleman was described by the judge as "...the most devious, nonresponsive law enforcement witness that this court has encountered in twenty-five years on the bench." He was later convicted of perjury. Blackburn also successfully sued for a total of $6,000,000, but the process had left him with ulcers and the need for a long, healing retreat to Ireland. All's well that ends well, right?

Well, not so much.

The tragic and devastating War On People In The Name Of Drugs is still a huge machine of devastation despite the enormous victory scored in this one battle, causing state evidence laws to be changed as a result and moving the task forces under DPS supervision. A human court system is a fragile thing and without those with the integrity to see justice through, no amount of safeguards can keep a Tulia-like situation from happening all over again. Justice comes not from words on paper which can be discounted as so much ink if we deem it so, but from a reverence for life and from the realization that to falsely imprison our neighbors is to imprison ourselves. True justice serves the common interests of everyone and weaves the fabric to hold a society together in peace.


If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.


All we have to do is dream...


Further links:

In 2001, a protest rally was held in Tulia in support of the wrongly accused.

For a more in-depth read see this lengthy article from TruTv.

Here's a great recap on the tenth anniversary of the arrests and the lasting effects on Tulia, from the Amarillo Globe-News.

To see how abuses continue to this day, check out: StopTheDrugWar.org