Monday, November 28, 2011

The Eerie Trees Of Caddo Lake

Tour River Greys3
Some trees are as much as 400 years old

Caddo Lake could be described as less a lake than a permanent flood. Its formation was caused by the "Great Raft", a 100 mile log jam of the Red River. Exactly how or what caused the log jam has not been proven but the native Caddo Indians claimed it was from an earthquake in 1812. And while there are many areas of it like a traditional lake, much of the 25,400 acres it covers are like Venetian waterways through a forest.

And that's damn cool!

First, let me backtrack. A few years ago I attended a lecture by the Eagles' Don Henley, who grew up in the Caddo area, about preserving Caddo Lake from destructive development and keeping it in its natural state. Henley co-founded the Caddo Lake Institute, a self-described "non-profit scientific and educational organization with the mission of protecting the ecological, cultural and economic integrity of Caddo Lake, its associated wetlands, and surrounding plant and wildlife habitats." Henley was charming and persuasive in his presentment but what got me was the promotional video he showed of the lake, a lake like I'd never seen before!

I made a mental note to make that trip someday but I felt it was probably too far for a day trip and thus would require planning. Instead, I finally got tired of waiting and decided no matter what kind of effort it took, I would make the hike out there and back in a day regardless. Now I'm kicking myself I didn't go earlier.

The dotted line you see down the center is the Texas/Louisiana border. I just barely explored one tiny fraction of the far west Texas' side but I plan on exploring as much as I can over time. So take this as just step one in a longer journey. My first trip was to the State Park, a great place for camping out and fishing or just enjoying the peaceful scenery. It has a hiking trail I hope to traverse and document at some point. And there's also a boat dock for the lucky ones who can set out on the lake at their own leisure.

Family fishing at the State Park

After checking out the State Park, I blindly headed down the road uncertain where I would wind up - and Uncertain is exactly where I ended up! The city of Uncertain (don't know how it got that name) sits right at the lake's edge with a motley assortment of cabins, habitats and signs for lake tours, most of whom are out of operation. I did find one tour operator, the Graceful Ghost, still going strong and I vowed I'd come back.

State Park Road

The woman running the tour office did warn me of one thing though: the drought and record breaking heat of last summer. They had a devastating effect on the lake, even to the point of forcing their large tour boat to change its route because their usual path had become too shallow. Unfortunately, the long term forecast for rain doesn't look much better. Oh why-oh-why did I wait??


So while it may look all blue and watery on the map, from the tour dock of Uncertain it looks like this:

River Path 4

What a bizarre journey through the waterways that would be! But until I could actually go out on the water, I had settle for imagining the weird, wonderful sights of Lake Caddo. Here are a few of the pics from my recon trip:

Park Road2
Park road leading in

Lake Trees
Just oversized waterways until you
can get on the main lake area

Cypress Park
Caddo Lake is set in the largest Cypress forest in the world.
On land they don't seem so haunting.

Countless stubs waiting to stab you like pungee sticks

Cypress Ghosts
In the water, the trees take on a ghostly air

Hanging Close
A close up of the hanging matter

River Path Crop
Canoes were available in this area
if one is so inclined

Ghostly reflections

Dock View3
View from the tour dock. I don't know if the orange
area out there was land or marsh or what

Now if all this has you jonesing to head out on the lake, it did me too! Next weekend I made my way back, taking a powerboat tour I thought might be able to get into the more inaccessible areas damaged by the drought. Listening to my tour guide, the damage was far more severe than I expected. Still, it was a tantalizing taste of the lake forest in my way too short tour.

Tour Canoe
Tour calling card

Tour Boat
Heading out!

Tour River
Into the murk...

Tour Greys Close
The "Greys" closed in on us

Tour Inlet
Like entering another world

Tour Swamp6
Under normal conditions, this entire area would be under water

Tour Bog
Reaching the dark heart

Tour Bog Zoom
Eventually we reach some more open water

Tour Scum
Moody waters

Tour Sky2
The sun never made it all the way through

Tour Houses
The return to civilization. Most of these
abodes are for weekenders.

Tour Swamp5
I had to say goodbye to my ghostly friends,
but do not fear. I shall return!

Click here to see the entire set

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Into The Night

Winged creature both
Clawed and craven;
Black eyes as sharp
As the wicked raven.

In hovering sky
Its form shows clear;
Foraging hunter
Seeks living fear.

Its dreams are bold
Of Mankind's doom;
Fill hearts with hate
For the ancient rune.

Battlefield earth
Leaves wounds untended;
Creature swoops in
Where love's pretended.

Picks clean my bones
Snapping the tendon;
Scratching my brain
Beyond the mendin'.

Angel words cloak
Its bite of death;
Deceived souls hail
Its every breath.

"Are you hurting, child?
"Does no one help?"
"My bite will save you
"If you do not yelp!"

Razorblade tooth rips
Soft human flesh;
Vampire betrayal
As death and life mesh.

"Hope is the enemy!
"Death is your friend!
"Bite unto others
"For life without end!"

Factory poison
Chokes nurturing air;
Winged creatures
Pick green forests bare.

In mirthless victory
Sainted blood stains;
Who hears love's voice
When truth's held in chains?

Winds of twisted times
Spin friendly word;
As foes speak kindly
Of cherished lies heard.

Into the night
I cry out for Thee!
Alas, no one is left
To set me free.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Do I Have To Fix Everything??

A nation turns its lonely eyes to you, Oda Nobunaga!

Clearly, God is going to do nothing. If justice is to be done it must be allowed to happen all by ourselves. But how can justice happen when everyone is corrupt? Well, folks, that's when we have to take a step backwards in order to take a step forward, meaning what we need is a Japanese warlord of absolute power: me! Don't worry about me becoming corrupt: I'm already there.

We have many wishful thinkers in this world, they are like feathers in the wind. I use them as a gauge of denial, knowing that the more they whine the more on target a proposal is likely to be. They merely want someone to believe in since they've chosen not to believe in themselves. And they shall determine their ultimate fate by how stubborn their desire to continue lying. Sweet!

But those are the lucky ones. For others there will be death without option. If they are honest with themselves, they will go gladly and willingly, realizing it is for the greater good of society as well as for their own good. The architects of doom will face their fate in broad daylight for all to see. You may think I'm being too harsh here but then I would ask: how much cancer do you want left in you?

First off, we need some people dead as a door nail. Just as was done to Jesus, we will cast lots to see who must die in the financial industry. Investment house CEOs - along with a healthy number of traders - will be forced to roll dice in a game of chance. Roll the wrong number and you die! These lovely creatures have long professed a fascination with gambling - when other lives were at stake. Why deny them now?

The traders who lose their bets will be summarily shot. For the CEOs - who always demand more! - we'll revive the old Japanese practice of burying them up to their neck until dead. Fun! Fun! Fun! We'll walk right past them in the public park without giving a second glance - just like we do the homeless today. If someone doesn't like this ugly sight we know they'll just shrug their shoulders and say, "Nothing I can do about it!" Ain't sheeple grand!

Currently, there is a dearth of workers for the mining industry. I will solve that by ordering the surviving traders into the dark pits for life. At least they'll earn a living wage if they work hard. Those who refuse will suffer the fate of the CEO's. One has to wonder how many of them will complain of an "interfering government" once they've learned how many safety regulations have been stripped away! HAHAHAHAHA! Good luck boys.

The bonus in this job is keeping your life!

For the surviving CEOs a variety of menial labor jobs at minimum wage will be offered. Look twice now, that new janitor may look familiar! Or, hey, look who's picking cotton! Or maybe that old chairman of the board wants to know if you want fries with that Whopper! All their assets will be seized and they shall work these jobs until death. No fat pension for you, bitch! And don't forget to keep voting Republican! It's in your "best interest".

And what of our useless President? I shall give him the job for which he has shown such a great aptitude: White House houseboy. Mr. Stepin Fetchet seems to enjoy that role so much for the bankers why not make him a happy boy? No spine required! But as far as his Wall Street advisors go, they will be hung on the White House lawn. Afterwards their bodies will be held in state at the Capitol entrance with a sign noting, "This is what happens to liars, thieves and crooks". People tend to have short memories, you know.

For those who complain on the harshness of the measures required to cauterize our wounds, I simply say those who defend death, disaster and destruction will be banned from our soil for life. There's simply no time left for talk like that. Hope you enjoy eating Chinese dog!

As far as the new group who come in to take the places of the dead and displaced, only one thought will be on their mind: "I sure don't want to fuck anybody over!" The fundamental tenet of capitalism is that one must be blackmailed into doing good. We'll see just how long everyone wants to bite into that bitter bit. By the time I'm done ramming their own garbage down their throats, it will be a world clamoring for socialism!


Further info for you special ed people:

Alan Greenspan: The Grinch who stole everything!

Used to be they called him "The Wizard". Now we know him as the Dumbest Man On The Face Of The Earth. Way to go, Greenie!

WHITE HOUSE ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, the recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Pres. GEORGE W. BUSH: Alan Greenspan is one of the most admired and influential economists in our nation's history.

DAVID WESSEL, Author, In Fed We Trust: More than one story was written about Alan Greenspan as "the wizard," the man behind the curtain, the Wizard of Oz. Everybody hung on every word [he said].

ARTHUR LEVITT, SEC Chairman, 1993-'01: Alan was a great wizard. No one understood what he said, but he said it in such a way that everybody bought it.

Eh, it's easier than thinking. Shame so many people confuse the word intellect with intelligence. Unless of course you believe being an absolute amoral self-deceived sociopath is smart! (Hi, Newt!) In that case, just keep following that pied piper off a cliff. There's plenty of people willing to take you there! As for Greenie's fate: first thing I'd have him do is enter "Cocksuckers Anonymous". "Hi, I'm Alan Greenspan and I'm a cocksucker." Priceless!

AYN RAND: I am opposed to all forms of control. I am for an absolute laissez-faire, free, unregulated economy. Let me put it briefly. I am for the separation of state and economics.

Those damn pesky child labor laws are ruining this country! Don't see China fucking themselves by keeping 12 years olds out of the coal mines, making the little brats useful. Black lung for all! What's more democratic than that?

JOE NOCERA, The New York Times: Greenspan is a disciple [of Ayn Rand]. She is the great champion of government as a destructive force that just gets in the way.

NARRATOR: Greenspan talked about Rand in his autobiography.

[Alan Greenspan, The Age of Turbulence: "Ayn Rand became a stabilizing force in my life. It hadn't taken long for us to have a meeting of the minds - mostly my mind meeting hers."]

Pretty bold statement there! A meeting of the minds between two people without a mind! So they want to play hardball, eh? Fuck everyone and leave them to die? If these two are allowed to thrive it doesn't make much of a case for the natural selection theory.

Brooksley Born, chair of the regulatory CFTC agency tried to tell everyone long ago [circa 1996] what would happen with unregulated derivatives.

But all these "smart" men knew better - especially Greenie!

JOE NOCERA: [Greenspan] said something to the effect that, "Well, Brooksley, we're never going to agree on fraud." And she said, "Well, what do you mean?" And he said, "`You probably think there should be rules against it." And she said, "Well, yes, I do." He said, you know, "I think the market will figure it out and take care of the fraudsters."

Well, of course Greenie is pro-fraud being one himself. He and his buddies walked around seeing themselves as economic Aryans intent on purifying heresy eminating from the lower order of beings. It was a giant, mutual dick sucking fest where they walked around with cum covered faces congratulating one another on getting off. I'm telling you, rare is the soul that makes it out of high school.

NARRATOR: In 1993, Bankers Trust, one of the largest banks in the country at the time, had sold derivatives to Procter & Gamble.

JOE NOCERA: Procter & Gamble sued Bankers Trust, claiming that they had been sold products that they didn't really understand and that blew up in their face.

NARRATOR: The lawsuit set the stage for a stunning revelation. Bankers Trust employees took advantage of the fact that derivatives were too complicated to understand.

TIMOTHY O'BRIEN: It opened a window onto what was really going on in the derivatives market.

NARRATOR: As part of the case, Procter & Gamble discovered secret audiotape recordings of telephone calls among Bankers Trust brokers.

KELLY HOLLAND: There was one employee who described the business as a "wet dream." A Bankers Trust employee said, "We set them up."

TIMOTHY O'BRIEN: They had taped phone calls from people inside Bankers Trust who were sort of chuckling, saying, "Ha, ha, these idiots really think that this is in their best interests, but ha, ha, it's not. We're probably going to end up cleaning their clocks on these contracts."

Going to have a hard time hearing you laugh in those coal mines, you funny brokers you! Brooksley wanted to reel in the trading which at that time in the mid 90's represented a market value of 27 trillion. But that was before she faced the Axis of Evil Free Marketers: Greenspan, Geithner, Summers and Rubin.

NARRATOR: But at Treasury, things were about to change. The carefully calibrated inner tranquility was being disturbed by a small tremor. It quickly made its way up to Robert Rubin. Brooksley Born was contemplating the regulation of OTC derivatives.

JOE NOCERA: The pushback is visceral and immediate, and that's one of the striking things about this.

NARRATOR: This was a job for [thug] Larry Summers.

MICHAEL GREENBERGER: I walk into Brooksley's office one day, the blood has drained from her face. She's hanging up the telephone. She says to me, "That was Larry Summers."

RON SUSKIND: Larry basically reads her the riot act. He more or less tells her, my understanding, is that, "You don't get it."

MICHAEL GREENBERGER: He says, "You're going to cause the worst financial crisis since the end of World War II," that he has, my memory is, 13 bankers in his office who informed him of this. Stop right away. No more.

This perhaps is the greatest case of self-projection in human history! One of the very architects of "the worst financial crisis since the end of World War II" blames it on the one who's trying to prevent it! Clearly, he was looking into a mirror while speaking.

MICHAEL GREENBERGER: Each of the principals in turn that is to say, Rubin, Greenspan and Levitt take their shot at telling Brooksley that she shouldn't do what she's doing.

JOE NOCERA: Rubin says to her, "You don't have the legal authority to do this."

MICHAEL GREENBERGER: And Brooksley said, "Well, that's interesting. That's the first time I've ever heard that. All my lawyers at the CFTC have assured me that we have the exclusive jurisdiction to do this."

ROGER LOWENSTEIN: Rubin was condescending toward her. He said he would get his lawyer in the department to help her understand the laws better, or something like that.

But since she did have the law on her side, the unholy alliance then sought to change the laws. Sham hearings were held right away.

JOE NOCERA: She just gets pummeled on Capital Hill.

Sen. PHIL GRAMM (R), Texas (1975-'02): I see no evidence whatsoever to suggest that this is a troubled market, that fraud is rampant in this market.

LARRY SUMMERS, Dep. Treasury Secretary: The release has cast a shadow of regulatory uncertainty over a thriving market.

ARTHUR LEVITT: The CFTC's action has and will bring, I believe, significant disruption to this important global market.

ALAN GREENSPAN: Regulation that serves no useful purpose hinders the efficiency of markets to enlarge.

Ah yes, the plantation owners always speak out so forcefully and adamantly on the need for continued slavery. "There's money to be made as long as you don't interfere!" And nobody wanted to look the fool questioning men "who had a great deal of faith in their own intellects." As for sweetheart Gramm, he's soon to be the "bottom boy" in a gay house of prostitution - as much as I hate to give a job I know he'll enjoy.

We must get to Wall Street before they ruin everything!

Holy corruption, Batman, I wonder how all this turned out after they squashed all potential regulation??

NARRATOR: By 2007, the OTC derivatives market had grown to $595 trillion. That's $595 trillion.

NEWSCASTER: Stocks shot higher, giving the Dow its best day in almost...

NARRATOR: The hands-off approach seemed to be working. Wall Street had bet heavily on the real estate boom.

NEWSCASTER: The economy expanded at a robust 4.3 percent annual rate.

NARRATOR: Those derivatives were at the heart of that strategy.

JOE NOCERA: You have derivatives insuring derivatives which are based on derivatives. It's an almost an Alice in Wonderland kind of profitability.

TIMOTHY O'BRIEN: What, in fact, you essentially had was a big, creaking time bomb that needed some sort of event to disrupt all the assumptions everyone had.

Boy, did that bomb go off alright, blowing up lives around the world! Gee, I bet everyone was mad when that happened, right? Right??

NARRATOR: And the others? Robert Rubin left government to join top management at CitiBank. The taxpayers have pledged more than $100 billion to keep Citi afloat. Rubin's former deputies, Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner, have become President Barack Obama's chief financial advisers.

Neither Rubin nor his former deputy, Larry Summers, would speak with FRONTLINE about what happened to Brooksley Born. And Rubin's other top deputy, Gary Gensler, now holds Brooksley Born's former post at the CFTC. It still lacks authority to regulate OTC derivatives.

Alan Greenspan retired from the Federal Reserve just before the crisis hit in 2006.

But politicians (who I will require to dress in clown suits and makeup) looking for cover hauled Greenie back for a hearing. Like other famous Republicans Britney and Perry, he just said: "Oops!"

Rep. HENRY WAXMAN (D), California: [October 23, 2008] You have been a staunch advocate for letting markets regulate themselves. And my question for you is simple. Were you wrong?

ALAN GREENSPAN: Yes. I found a flaw, but I've been very distressed by that fact.

Rep. HENRY WAXMAN: You found a flaw in the reality.

ALAN GREENSPAN: Flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works, so to speak.

Rep. HENRY WAXMAN: In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right.

ALAN GREENSPAN: Precisely. No, that's precisely the reason I was shocked because I've been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.

Very considerable evidence??? My, what a skilled liar you are! So smart you is! Tell me, are you "distressed" enough to give back all your ill gotten gains? But he'll have plenty of time to think about that as I take all his assets and put him in an unregulated nursing home for dementia to spend his final days. Some dummies are just too dangerous to be left free.

The final upshot: nothing has changed. No one wants to challenge the the free market religion. We're in a more dangerous position than ever, lying to ourselves more than ever, sowing the seeds of doom while whistling past our graveyard. Do we really want to contend this is the ONLY way to live? Remember, you're betting your life on it!

Watch The Warning on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Her Pain Is Gone Now

"I'm feeling much better. Thank you." Her thin lips showed an appropriate smile. Her pain is gone now.

Those "moments" - times of intense pain squeezing her mind into compressed agony - had gone away, marooned on an island lost to the world. Now she sailed on the ship SS Serenity, eager for passengers to climb aboard. Floating, sailing, drifting - no more high seas of drama or raging storms of unquantifiable torment. She was a vessel of calm waters leaving nary a wake.

The "Church Incident" had triggered her downfall. Of all the places to have a meltdown! But perhaps because it was the one place she felt she could least afford to show her true face that also made it the flashpoint of her dire unhappiness. Suddenly, she resented everything, right in the middle of choir practice. Her voice turned cross and vexed with the announcement of her condemnation of re-rehearsing a song she felt they sang well enough already. At the time, she saw nothing wrong with her behavior. She was speaking honestly in her mind.

But the world values the mask, and despises the face beneath.

The "moments" came at the most unlikeliest of times: cutting lettuce while preparing dinner for the family, waiting in the school parking lot to pick up her youngest, even chatting on the phone in the middle of idle conversation. It was as if the minute she allowed herself to breathe the anguish came flooding in. She once had read of another who spoke of the unexpected happening while busy making other plans, but that was of a songwriter speaking of moments of inspiration. Was this all the result of a long, lost path not chosen?

Illicit toe sucking in public!
Stop them before it ends society!

It was exactly that thought that had preyed on her on the drive into Wednesday night choir practice and her resulting branding of infamy. Like a stilt carrying too much weight, she snapped, voicing her thoughts aloud in unvarnished emotion. She was unsparing in her sharp criticism of the organist's iron hand and in the heat of the moment felt no shame in airing her displeasure. It was if a ghost from her childhood had come alive and reached out for life. Ironically, many silent heads nodded in approval - and yet no one stood to defend her frankness.

As soon as she realized she'd done the unthinkable - tarnishing her image - she excused herself immediately leaving the room. Her racing mind panicked in the church basement lavatory. She stared at the faded white of the sink and its rusty stains dripping down from the faucet. What a vile and despicable thing that sink! The church has plenty of money. Why don't they change it out? Why don't they ever change anything at all? Everything just stays the same no matter what!

But it was that lack of change what had driven her to the church to begin with; safety from questions.

Like a torpedoed ship, damage control swung into full operation. She was pleasantly and gratefully surprised at the few who publicly professed sympathy and understanding for her. And those few also loved the rising in the stock of their image. But far more common were the pursed lips of those whose lies had yet to be exposed, they who maintained decorum and responsibility. To them she was an outlaw, an agent of chaos, a punk rocker refusing to conform. Condemnation was her just and holy dessert - if the accusers were to keep their lives allegedly holy anyway.

Grasping and flailing she needed a defensible defense - and here's where modern science came to her rescue. No longer was she at fault, her body made her do it. It was lacking chemicals that only an American pharmaceutical company could provide. She pitied those of yesteryear whose unhappiness was both unnamed and undoctored. She forced this face-saving explanation down her throat and carried on with a quiet, quivering lower lip. Her husband glowed at having help "fix" her with his scientific suggestion.

She worked quite hard on her act, telling the tale of illness discovered and cure found. "I was blind but now I see," she cooed. She spoke of how the Incident was actually a Blessing In Disguise, God speaking to her in infinite wisdom. It became the most prized possession in her life: her Success Story. And she used it like a force field against all possible criticism, both real and imagined. Putting effort into this new face became the new moral purpose to her life.

Used to be, she worried about everything to the point she could no longer function. Now the almighty functioning was back. Who could argue with that?? At her feet the family cat cried in pain on the kitchen floor but that too no longer pierced her heart as it once had. Yes, nothing could shatter the mirror-like stillness of her waters - neither life nor death. From flesh and blood she metamorphosed into crystal and glass, forever running from the hammer of life. The pain was gone now - just like all her feeling.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

She Wants A Job

They moved across the country to San Francisco to "start over" and "turn the page". Her husband had been swallowed up in the banking malaise following the 2008 financial crash. His bank got caught up in the preceding bubble fever and suddenly he found himself knee deep in "loss recovery" issues, enough to last a lifetime. He had to get out. Union Bank was the answer for him.

In her eyes, her husband was purifying himself, escaping the dirty money of "scandalous banks". His life had purpose, power and priority. She'd always been the dutifully gullible "good girl" - a moniker she greatly cherished - and swallowed every lie ever told her. She'd been used as a wife, a daughter and yes, even as a mother of two children recently flown from the nest. That's when the slow, unpluggable drip of panic began.

She felt caught in the raging river current of life headed for a cliff. Her eyes could only get wider as she was pulled to her fate by Nature's unreasoning and unhearing force. Given pause for the first time in her life, she realized the anger in her decisions, of how she furiously and fanatically shut out any word of self-worth - and therefore any inconvenient need that might need to be addressed. (A faithful leftist, she insisted everyone need watch "An Inconvenient Truth" to attain salvation. But it was her truths that needed hearing.)

"Help me!"

The good girl had gotten her college degree in useless English, but pretending to have a career had proven too much, instead settling into the role of dutiful housewife after a few meaningless receptionist jobs. Now, after twenty years of age and fifty pounds of fat she wanted a job. It would prove her first peek into the door of reality since the day she said, "I do."

She didn't realize her husband's "purification" was a complete sham, that the business of money is always dirty. She only knew she felt left behind now she lacked the distractions and vicariousness of her day-to-day motherly duties. The demons won't allow her to sit idly at home! Pitchforks in hand, they laughed as they pushed her into the pit of her own making.

Publishing her meager and humiliating résumé online continued her long tradition of falseness of desire. What truly puzzled - and deeply perturbed - her was the fact that doing this "good thing" only increased her guilt, not lessened it as she had supposed. First there's the guilt of doing nothing and now there's the guilt of doing something! Dear God, have You no mercy? She recalled the words she read of a child molester who told the police he "just wanted to die."

"No, no...don't let that be me. It can't be!"

"Keep your hands off me you damned, dirty hippies!"

The demons hunted her in ruthless and obliging disdain. So she obliged them by this walk of denigration. She had her argument down pat: getting a job could only be a good thing. She had to feel useful after a lifetime of rot. What she refused to admit - at any and all costs - was that she had rotted. People who make righteous decisions don't end up mired in swamps of misery. The trick was to pretend she'd been on the mark all along, get a job based on that assumption and come out smelling like a rose.

But how can a weed smell like a rose?

Lying had always worked before. But that had been with her firmly at the reins, veering off any course that brought her into the light of day. Putting herself at the mercy of the cold, objective eye of the marketplace was another story. Twenty years ago she had a svelte figure and the energy and blind optimism of youth. Those charms were long gone. But to be good and dutiful she must pretend otherwise.

With a secret hatred of his own career, her husband faithfully encouraged her even as his own inner business eye told him she had no chance and she'd only be making a fool of herself. Without admitting that to himself, that was exactly what he wanted. What better way to make her more dependent on him? And he could push her off the cliff all in the name of helping her! He too suspected what would happen if she finally threw off her demons: The End. "They’re going to laugh in her face and she'll coming running back to me. Same old story since the day I broke her. Don't you ever again think you're too good for me, bitch!"

"Ain't such hot stuff now, eh bitch?"

Just as the wars of the world increased, also escalated her battles within. She hated pretending she had any self-belief. The postings, the interviews with employment agencies, the reporting back to her husband afterwards crucified her in torment and yet she could not say a word. Her human voice told her to stop. Stop hurting yourself. Stop pretending. Stop bending yourself to the breaking point. But as always the same hound of fear reared its gnarling teeth, freezing her: what explanation could she defend? Stopping now she'd sound a lazy, selfish, pathetic loser.

Her husband noticed the dark circles under eyes in the early morning sun. "Honey, look, if this job search is causing you this much stress you can just quit," urged the sincere and caring spouse.

He'd slyly used the word "quit" to trap her regardless of her answer. Either she had to admit she was a quitter who was nothing without him or she had to carry on the unsustainable beating of the hunt. As expected, she said she was doing fine and eager to find that right job. He hugged her and smirked his way to work. Devastated by her own betrayal, she spat at herself when seeing her image in the bathroom mirror - and then hurriedly wiped it off. She coughed in exhaustion as she sunk to the floor.

In her core she knew her life had meaning and purpose. She'd never doubted that and it had carried her through her youth like the stars in the sky. She never bothered to define it, she'd know it when she saw it. Not only that, it would be a flower among flowers, sparkling with beauty that shines across the universe. Everyone would see it and be proud she had nurtured such a glowing gift. She dreamed of the accolades without end but she wouldn't do it for the praise. She'd do it to fulfill her contract with life.

How much does this job pay?

But to say now she wanted "something dreamy, something artsy, something timeless" like when she was a bright eyed teenager was a step too far too reach. Eyes would roll and if anything were said it would be for her to "grow up" - knowing what they really meant was to "give up". She couldn't go forward, she couldn't go back. What a horrible, horrible mess she'd made of her life. If only anyone knew! If only anyone could know.

[A job could have at least given her some tangential feeling of usefulness, she remembered that from before. But she'd been far too starved over the years for that to work now. Furthermore, she completely refused to admit her resentment against her husband whose industry had created the dire circumstances for employment she now faced. Being forced to expose her hidden life was her worst nightmare - especially to eyes young and fearless like she once had. Nobody wanted her.

At last, the humiliating silence broke her. She was useless shit. There had been a time when she had orgasmed when called a useless shit - and harvest time had come. How very bitter its taste. She'd been hiding for all these years. Why stop now? But her illusions of hope had disappeared like gold dust in a high wind. How could she ever gather it back? The prison door of fear clanged shut, her decades long crime spree come to an end.]

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Feeling Good About Texas Innocence

The Innocence Project of Texas is dedicated to overturning wrongful convictions and securing freedom for men and women wrongfully imprisoned for crimes that they did not commit. Our organization, which is comprised of devoted volunteers, students and experienced legal advocates, constantly strives to provide hope and reconciliation for those lost in a broken criminal justice system. We also seek to educate students, citizens and public officials on why wrongful convictions occur and how they can be prevented. By working together with the common goal of aiding those who have lost their freedom to wrongful convictions, we ultimately assist in seeing that true justice is served.


Last Thursday I had the chance to attend the Innocence Project Of Texas (IPOT) annual conference in (luckily) downtown Dallas. I debated going, not sure what I was going to run into. I mean, a roomful of lawyers and young Turks and highbrow legal talk could be a tad intimidating and I didn't want to feel like I was crashing the party. After all, I really had nothing to offer as far as legal strategy or knowing the finer points of the latest court rulings.

So that put me in a bit of a spot, forcing me to put what intelligence I might have on the line if I were to contribute anything and I've spent a lifetime playing things close to the vest. To say I have problems opening up is an understatement of epic proportions. It's like the time I tried to set up a session with a dominatrix and I told her my safe word was "blancmange", but she had such trouble getting her head wrapped around the word we ended up arguing and the session never took place. See, I have a certain genius for self-sabotage.

I can't say I didn't fully escape my syndrome that evening but I'm still very glad I went.

Entering the lobby of the hotel hosting the event what do I see but my old partner in crime Jeff Blackburn animatedly discussing legal crap with a bunch of dark suited kids looking like they were ready to tear up the world with all their eager smartness. My initial reaction: "Seems I'm going to be crashing this party after all!" But another voice told me just to go with the flow and wait until Jeff was alone to introduce myself after 25 years.

Jeff Blackburn, Chief Counsel

Jeff Blackburn handles criminal defense and civil rights cases throughout Texas. He also represents the wrongfully convicted. In 2009, he represented the family of Tim Cole, a young man falsely accused of rape who died in prison, and got the first posthumous exoneration in Texas. He also represented 38 people falsely convicted in the infamous Tulia drug bust, eventually obtaining full pardons and civil damages. He is the founder of and chief counsel to the Innocence Project of Texas. He was named criminal defense lawyer of the year by the State Bar of Texas for 2002/2003. He has received the Frank Spurlock award, the Henry B. Gonzales award, and the Maury Maverick award for his civil rights work. He is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

After about 10 minutes my chance came.

"Jeff Blackburn, I bet you don't remember me." I extended my hand with a nervous smile.

We shook hands with him looking directly at me. "No, I'm afraid I don't."

"Amarillo, 1986. You remember Glen Parkey running for mayor, campaign vandalism - "

"Oh, it's you!" Jeff's face lit up and I have to admit that felt mighty good. He had read my posting about him and loved it. He talked a little bit about the article, ending with, "And you know the best part about it?" That's when we both spoke in unison: "That it was true!" He wanted to step outside for a quick smoke so he pointed me in the direction where the meeting was to take place and I awkwardly made my way downstairs.

There were several round tables covered in white tablecloths set up around a podium. I was alone in the room. I was like, "Fuck, where can I sit and not stick out?" In situations like these my natural tendency is to find a spot where I can observe and quantify, not caring to interact. But I did not want to engage in such bad behavior on this occasion. This is a cause near and dear to my heart.

I'm active in IPOT and two other prison related organizations. I'm a legal moron and don't intend to be anything other than that but this is a passion of mine and I'm deeply interested in what is and can be done. Also, people with far more positive attitudes than mine are attacking the problems of social justice in our penal systems so I mostly keep my mouth shut, listen, and learn.

An elderly woman with her husband and another female friend sat down at my table. I'd brought a weekly paper to read to kill time but she accosted me anyway, perhaps sensing my feeling of being out of place.

"Are you a lawyer?"

No, but I have watched Perry Mason on TV! That's what I felt like saying anyway upon being immediately busted. "No, 'fraid not," I eeked out with failed smile.

"Oh, neither am I." I could have kissed her! "But my husband is." Argh.

But really, I was grateful to her for breaking the ice and we began to talk about our common interest in IPOT and related endeavors and I started feeling good about my presence there. But inside I still had a tug of war in trying to open up. Our conversation was interrupted by Jeff taking the microphone to start things off.

The main thing Jeff wanted to stress was the legal strategy IPOT wanted to take, that yes, they still wanted to take up individual cases but with the reality that even individual cases can take up huge amounts of resources, a smarter approach would be to set legal precedents that lay the groundwork for releasing dozens or hundreds or possibly even thousands of people wrongly convicted over the years.

I agreed wholeheartedly (for what it's worth) and was pretty excited about that idea. Not only does this serve a greater number of people but it also stops the bleeding, where authorities literally use dogs to sniff out one's guilt or innocence and base incarceration upon that "evidence" (it's scary here, folks). Bringing law enforcement out of the dark ages would be a huge step here in Tejas.

Following speakers talked about various other aspects of IPOT, of the number of student organizations involved, etc., and I was duly impressed all around. I really enjoyed hearing Scott Henson who runs the widely read Grits For Breakfast blog which tracks all things Texas justice (or what passes for it). We'd exchanged emails a few times and he even did a posting on my posting about Jeff!

One very moving moment for me was listening to Cory Sessions, the brother of Tim Cole who was falsely convicted using rigged evidence from the police and died in prison before he could be cleared. This isn't philosophy we're talking about here, folks, but real lives and real consequences. Shooing away skeptics who believed nothing could be done to change Texas' railroading of justice (cough), Cory told the story of his personal efforts to lobby for reform. Thus, the Tim Cole Act was born:

The Texas Senate passed legislation to exonerate Tim Cole. The Texas House of Representatives bill passed through committee and then the full house. After that, it went to Governor Rick Perry to be signed into law. Another bill, named after Cole, was passed by the legislature and sent to the governor on May 11, 2009. It made those who are falsely convicted of a crime eligible for $80,000 for each year of incarceration and provide them with free college tuition.

The bill also established the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions. A panel set up to study the causes of wrongful convictions and to devise ways of preventing them is to report to the Texas governor no later than 2011. While Rick Perry stated he wanted to issue a pardon, he felt that he was not legally able to do so. However, on January 7, 2010, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued an opinion which cleared the way for the governor to pardon Cole.

On March 2, 2010, Governor Rick Perry granted Timothy Cole the state's first posthumous pardon.

In a bit of rare and delicious irony, it may be because of the fact the track record in Texas is so over the top bad the embarrassment enables reforms to be enacted that might not seem so necessary in more moderate states. What this allows us to do is set the foundation that can then be used to pave the way for clearing other bad laws off the books around the country.

That's right, precedents for justice coming from Texas! That's the power of people who care, fight the good fight and keep shining the (mostly unwanted) light of truth into dark holes. I was really damn proud to be in that room.

After the conference ended, I was too shy to acknowledge the lady at the table who had befriended me and I'm still kicking myself for it. I lost that tug of war. Instead, I immediately ran off to talk to Scott (aka Grits). He told me an interesting tale about the Texas ACLU and it's fall from grace from when he had been part of it.

The organization was doing yeoman’s work in enacting reform legislation that shocked me in its efficiency. Turns out Grits was a huge part of that, telling me about his approach of reaching out to the ruling conservatives and showing them how these changes were in their best interests even though oftentimes law enforcement was wanting to cling to their old and thuggy ways. Finding that commonality is a tough thing to do in someone you otherwise oppose but it has the advantage of being based upon truth and reality.

When he told me this I thought it was the obvious tack to take.

However, regardless of actual results, the more dogmatic and fanatical elements of the Texas ACLU got Grits canned because he was working with the enemy instead of pointing fingers at the enemy. Freaking morons. Like a Bolshevik purge, all other effective leaders were rushed out and now everyone asks what happened to the clout of the ACLU in Texas. Let this be a lesson that left or right, one need always keep an open mind.

I then spoke a few more words with Jeff, laughing a little bit more over the Amarillo exploits and my telling him how I'd tracked him over the years in a few of the more famous cases. But in the back of my mind, something was bugging me something fierce, even distracting me during our conversation. But I couldn't get to the bottom of it as we shook hands once more before departing.

I think anyone who reads my blog would know I've pretty well established my bone fides as a misanthrope. So let me you it's with no small measure I say I didn't see one jerk the whole time I was in the room (of about 30 people). These weren't political fanatics (Hi Texas ACLU!), but rather people of passion and conviction and I got good vibes from everyone I came across. Fucking amazing. When I walked out onto the street afterwards I was walking on air, on a great high and feeling inspired to do more, wanting to tell the world what I just experienced.

Yes, there are times I too say let's just blow up this damn state of ours and start over. But out of the tears of sorrow sometimes come the flowers of life that make tomorrow a better day. Praise be to the gardeners.

(Oh, and the thing bugging me with Blackburn during our final conversation: I forgot to ask about his Japanese sword collection I'd heard about! DAMN!!!!!!!!! Oh well, maybe next year. When it comes to discussing my beloved Japans, I can't get enough!)