The Rogue Voice


October 01, 2006


The Downey Police made it known to me off the record that they did not want this club. They disliked the fact that it would bring in minority youth from the neighboring cities like Compton, Lynwood, South Gate.

At 5 p.m., Manuel called again with news that he would be 90 minutes late. Little did I know, FBI vans were parked three houses down, fitting a “wire” on him.

Life in the cage
Snared by an informant and a flimsy wiretap

By Tito David Valdez Jr.February 7, 1995
It was a cloudy, gloomy morning in Southern California. My father and I sat together at a courtroom table, side-by-side, inside a criminal courtroom.
Norwalk Superior Court, located on the east side of Los Angeles and dubbed by career criminals as “No-Walk,” was where the district attorney’s office had a 99 percent conviction rate.
Dressed in Los Angeles County jail-issue blues, with our defense attorneys by our side, we faced the final chapter in a courtroom drama that lasted nearly four weeks: A sentencing hearing before an empty courtroom, with no media present, not even court-watchers. Just my mom and younger brother, who sat faithfully through each day of the trial.
The Honorable Dewey L. Falcone, a middle-aged Italian, presided in his full, black robe. Behind him, the American flag, and Lady Liberty holding the scales of justice. Above him, a placard with the words “In God We Trust.” He pronounced sentence.
“I sentence you, Tito David Valdez Jr. and Sr., to 25-years-to-life: On Count I, Conspiracy to Commit Murder; on Count II, Solicitation to Commit Murder. I sentence you both to nine years to run concurrent to Count I. I order you both remanded to the California Department of Corrections, forthwith. This Court is adjourned.”
The prosecutor, Dinko Bozanich, a tall Caucasian in his mid-50s, smiled and shook hands with several Downey Police officers involved in the investigation leading to my arrest. They celebrated their victory, representing the People of the State of California.
I thought of how many peoples’ lives were changed every day in courtrooms like this all across America. The people employed by the courts yield tremendous power. In the hands of corrupt officials, such power seeks convictions over justice, perverts the search for the truth.
The bailiff, a 50s-something, balding Hispanic with beer belly, ordered me to push my father in his wheelchair out of the courtroom so the next case could be called. As I rolled my father out, I looked to the seating area, and observed my mother and brother in tears.
Back in the holding tank—where four Chicanos were beating up a white guy sentenced only to probation—I wondered if our privately retained attorneys would come speak to us to express some kind of apology or condolences. Hours passed by. They never came.
It appeared that our fate was predetermined. The trial was a sham, a mere formality, with actors playing out a script.
Our defense attorneys, Karen Filipi, from the law offices or Robert L. Shapiro, and Richard Leonard, an independent litigator, never visited us to discuss a defense, go over evidences; they never hired an investigation team, or filed motions to obtain discovery or suppress evidence.
Their excuse? Too busy with the O.J. Simpson case.
When I attempted to fire privately retained counsel to obtain new counsel, the judge denied the motion. When I attempted to represent myself, the motion was denied; and when I requested a three-month extension to prepare a defense, denied.
Despite a court-appointed psychologist who provided expert testimony that my father suffered from “organic brain syndrome,” a condition in which physical disorders can cause decreased mental functions, and that he was not competent to assist counsel in a defense, the judge found my dad competent to stand trial. The trial still went forward, with my dad being transported daily from USC Medical Center weighing a mere 95 pounds, wearing full hospital garb and a diaper underneath, with IVs hanging on a rack.
During the 20-minute bus ride back to the L.A. County Jail, I looked out the windows, shedding a tear, absorbing the reality of being sentenced to life imprisonment. I noticed simple sights, which I never took the time to notice before…a mother strolling her newborn to the local market…children buying ice cream and treats from the ice cream truck…a Mexican paisano with a leafblower in his hand….
My mind drifted off to memories of my dad…always available to help me with homework…and my mom…always encouraging me to do my best…my childhood….

I was born on August 24, 1970, in Artesia, California. Raised mostly by my grandma, because my mom and dad worked two jobs to make ends meet, I grew up poor. Potatoes and beans with powdered milk for breakfast every day. Same for dinner, but with a twist of Tang. I wore second-hand clothes from the local thrift stores.
By age 7, I moved to an affluent city, Downey, California, which was mostly populated with conservative whites. Some restaurants in the city still posted signs, which stated, “No Niggers Allowed.” It was a rare sight back then to see a black family living in Downey.
My mother, a Mexican national from Guadalajara, Mexico, came to California at the tender age of 16 to work as a maid in San Diego. With Caucasian features, light brown hair, green eyes, light skin, she easily blended in. She quickly learned English and obtained her U.S. citizenship.
My father, born and raised in Espanola, New Mexico, came to California at age 24 after a four-year stint in the U.S. Army. He worked in the booming aerospace industry. In his spare time, he exercised religiously at Jack LaLanne Health Spas and hung out with surfers in Malibu Beach. Eventually, he became an aerospace mechanic at Rockwell International, the company that built the space shuttles, and was located just 100 yards across the street from our home.
Growing up, I saw few Hispanics cast in positive roles on television. Freddie Prinze on “Chico and the Man,” Erik Estrada in “CHiPs.” Hispanics then were stereotyped and cast only as gang members, drug dealers, gardeners, and maids. Not identifying with television personalities, I took an interest in radio, and found inspiration in personality Rick Dees, who hosted mornings at 102.7 KISS FM in Los Angeles.
Using a toilet paper holder as my microphone and my dog “Tiger” as my audience, I practiced being a radio jock. Did my first phone bits by crank-calling people.
As a teen, I enrolled at Downey High School, where singer Karen Carpenter attended. Students were mostly Asian and white, with a few handfuls of Hispanics. Thirty percent of the Hispanics were pachuco swaying Chicanos from the barrios of South Downey who wore Dickies and Pendletons.
Seventy percent were assimilated—looked and acted white—wore Guess clothing and Reebok shoes. We viewed them as lowlifes. They viewed us as gabacho sellouts.
As an assimilated Mexican American, I got the best of both worlds. Attended kegger parties where there was an abundance of hot blonde-haired, blue-eyed chicks, or cruised Whittier Boulevard, scoring on hot Latina women, whose brothers were gangstas.
I noticed that in both scenes, cops were busy breaking up parties. Teens had no legitimate place to hang out. As a result of peer pressure and the desire to be popular and accepted, many, including me, drank alcohol, snorted meth, and ingested LSD.
I saw the tragic consequences of such juvenile behavior. Friends of mine, classmates, overdosed, were killed by teen drunk drivers, or went to prison for crimes committed while under the influence.
At Cal State University, Long Beach, I majored in marketing, and took courses in Chicano studies; I learned the history and struggle of my people, which inspired me: Men such as Cesar Chavez, who fought for farm workers’ rights, and spearheaded the UFW movement; the significance of the Zoot Suit riots; the untimely and mysterious death of prominent L.A. Times journalist and columnist Ruben Salazar, killed in a police action. I left college with great visions committed to making a difference in the world.

My childhood dream of becoming a radio disc jockey became reality in 1990. After selling a PC computer to Mucho Morales, a legendary Hispanic radio jock, he arranged an internship for me at K-EARTH 101 FM, an oldies format station. After four months there, I packed my bags and moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, with a demo tape—and a dream—in hand.
I was hired by 97.3 KISS FM, a Top 40 station, doing nights. Did live remotes at nightclubs, car dealerships, and movie premieres. Kicked it with celebrity artists, produced commercials for advertisers.
While there, I pioneered the popular rave culture movement, which was just gaining momentum in Los Angeles. Raves were all-night parties held in abandoned warehouses where drugs like Ecstasy and LSD sold like candy. Except my events were legal, legitimate, held in established venues. I experimented with the concept that teens, if given a choice and outlet, would prefer attending a legit club rather than driving to remote locations, where the potential to get into trouble is higher. The events were indeed successful and attracted media attention.
After a year in New Mexico, I packed my bags again and moved back to Downey, to try the same concept in Los Angeles.

It was the summer of 1992, just after the Rodney King riots when I held my first drug/alcohol-free events at different weekly locations, calling the event, “Club Jump.” Hundreds of teens from all over Los Angeles paid $10 apiece to get in, a very steep price in comparison to the $3 cover at the average keg party. The venues I rented could not handle the steady influx of teens. Fire marshals often complained that I was over capacity. Thus, I needed desperately to find a venue that could handle 600-1000 teens a week.
I reached out to the owner of an aging 30,000 square-foot roller skating rink in Downey with the intent of establishing a permanent teen dance club. Naturally, he embraced the proposal, since it made good business sense.
Unfortunately, I immediately faced red tape with the Downey Planning Commission and the Downey police to obtain the necessary permits. First, they complained of insufficient parking. The PTA and school district, supporting my plans, offered to rent me 350 parking spaces in an adjacent lot. Then, city officials complained the rink was not zoned for “dancing,” only for “skating.” After placing this issue on the council agenda because of media attention, the council quickly amended the zoning to include dancing. Despite the resolution, 40 residents showed up to complain about the club, saying it would bring in graffiti, excess traffic, and gangs.
I needed only one last permit, a “teen dance permit” from the Downey Police Department. Shockingly, the Downey Police made it known to me off the record that they did not want this club. They disliked the fact that it would bring in minority youth from the neighboring cities like Compton, Lynwood, and South Gate every week. Despite their blatant dislike for my cause, I submitted my fingerprints for an FBI background check, and paid the fee. The officer who took my prints said, “My advice, take your business elsewhere. You won’t get the permit from us, you can count on that.”
During the lengthy approval process, I continued to successfully promote the weekly rotating dance club. With the handsome revenues, I created a weekly half -hour cable television show, “Hollywood Haze,” which aired on leased access channels on six major cable stations, Mondays at 8 p.m. I obtained sponsorships and sold commercial airtime. The show featured rave culture, celebrity artists, and cast Latino youth in positive roles. Not long after, I landed a job as host of “Full Flavor,” a weekly mix show on 96.7 KWIZ FM, which featured the best deejays spinning house and techno music, airing Monday nights from 10 p.m. to midnight.
With the power of radio and television, I moved from promoting teen clubs in small venues to promoting commercial events in stadiums or arenas, attracting up to 5,000 people. I also promoted 21-and-over nightclubs since such clubs in Hollywood held a capacity of over 1,000 people.
Nevertheless, as a matter of principle, I never gave up the fight, to obtain that last permit from the Downey Police Department.

December 2, 1993
A new format of music hit the Los Angeles airwaves. Power 106 FM was the first to play a continuous play list of hip-hop/rap music from artists like Cypress Hill, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg. Gangsta rap, which was once distributed underground, was now commercial.
The rave culture scene was at its peak. Gone were the days of dancing in small clubs. Large-scale commercial events were in. A 1993 New Year’s event, called X-RAVE, put on by the top five promoters in California, attracted more than 20,000 teens to Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California.
Local law enforcement, the DEA, and FBI were on a mission to squash the rave culture movement because of a few highly publicized cases of teenagers overdosing on Ecstasy or from inhaling nitrus oxide. They were busy shutting down even legal raves to discourage promoters from planning future events. Being highly visible in this rave culture, I became a target of the feds the way leaders of activist organizations in the past, such as the Black Panthers, became targets and victims of COINTELPRO tactics. These illegal techniques included using paid FBI informants to trump up charges or to instigate a target to commit criminal acts.

It was a Thursday afternoon when I received a call from a business partner named Manuel Guerra, who had invested in several nightclubs I promoted. He was a buff, dark-skinned, tall Puerto Rican who spoke fluent Spanish. When he spoke English, he had an accent from the barrios.
“Hey Dave, my buddy Carl, the mechanic, he is going to pick me up, eh, in his G-Ride; we will head to your pad at 5 p.m. to chat. He will fix the problem you are having with your car.”
“Okay, cool. Does he have his own tools? Because if it’s the spark plugs that are bad, I may need to provide those.”
“Don’t trip, eh, he has everything. He will know what to do. I’ll see you soon!”
For two weeks, my car wouldn’t start. The local mechanic a few blocks away, changed the battery, the starter, the ignition system, but the problem persisted. With an earth-shaking sound system, which could be heard from blocks away, I figured the new amplifiers in my car were draining the battery.
At 5 p.m., Manuel called again with news that he would be 90 minutes late. Little did I know, FBI vans were parked three houses down, fitting a “wire” on him. They needed extra time to do sound checks. All phone calls he made to me were recorded as well. Manuel would later falsely testify that the dialogue in these phone calls was in “code.” “Mechanic” meant hit man. “Tools” meant gun. “Spark plugs” meant bullets.
Desperate and anxious, I tweaked the ignition wires to get the car to start and drove the car to the local mechanic, before they closed at 6 p.m. Unfortunately, the shop was closing early when I arrived so I obtained a work receipt and left the car at the garage. My father picked me up minutes later and drove me back to the house.
Around 6:45 p.m., my father and brother went to get burgers. At 7 p.m., Manuel arrived in a lowered Camaro IROC-Z with Carl, the mechanic, a tall, buff African American, who looked like a gangsta rap artist, wearing a Raiders jacket. We kicked back and talked about parties, chicks, and cars, while we drank tall-neck Heinekins. My mom was asleep in her room, so I told Carl to keep it down; he was talking loud.
In an effort to obtain a live confession, Manuel brought up my pending date rape case, filed in April 1993, in which a teen girl alleged I raped her at my parents’ house while my brother and father watched television in the room next door. The case was not based on DNA or any forensic evidence, just allegations.
“Hey man, did you fuck her? Come on, you can tell us, we are homies.”
“Nah, man. I didn’t do shit. Downey P.D. is after my ass. They brought up the charges to discredit me, to ruin my reputation. They are mad because the allegations actually fueled my popularity and status. I’ve got five times as many advertisers since I was on the front page of papers, charged with a crime.”
“No shit! You the man. Did she look underage to you?”
“She looked about 17. But she represented herself as 18. You know how it is. Do you ask every chick you meet how old they are? Do you ask them for an I.D.? Even if you did, it could be a fake I.D.”
“You had to do something to her, for her to get the police involved.”
“Here’s what I believe happened. I didn’t give her the job on the cable show. She got pissed, made up a story, and Downey P.D. ran with it.”
“So you think it was a set up?”
“For sure.”
Manuel continued to talk about the situation. I felt a strong buzz coming on as Manuel slipped me a tab of LSD, which fell in my beer. I soon became a little paranoid.
“Why are you asking so many questions, are you a cop?”
“Nah, man, we are looking out for your best interests. We like family,” said Manuel. They both looked at each other as if they got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Perhaps they thought I made them.
“You know, your trial is in 10 days. Check out Carl, he’s scary looking, isn’t he? He could go up to her and intimidate her into not testifying. The case would go away. He owes me a favor. What do you think?”
“Nah, man. I’ll be the first suspect. Downey P.D. has no love for a Mexican.”
“You’re right, a Latino or black man can’t win at trial when a girl gets up on the stand, cries, and says she was raped. My brotha, you gots a lot to lose. Shee-it. The whole empire you created will fall down if you go to prison. My homies tell me sex offenders got it rough in the pen, if you know what I mean. I’ll do whatever you want—for free. As a favor to Manuel. I’m from the old school, I won’t rat on you,” said Carl, with a confident persuasive tone of voice.
“Okay, let’s look at this situation as if it were a movie. How would you go about it? A carjacking? What about the mom and her together? How would it go down?” I asked.
“Just tell me what to do. If you want her whacked, do you want a head shot, a chest shot?”
“Ah…just whack her, bro.”
“What do you mean by ‘whack?’”
“I don’t like giving specific definitions. That’s up to you to determine.”
Minutes later, my father and brother arrived with burgers but none for the guests, they had no knowledge they were coming over. I introduced them and my brother went to his room to play Nintendo. We ate our burgers while talking to Manuel and Carl. My dad left the room to get another beer.
“Hey Dave, ask your dad if he still has that handgun you told me about. I need it for tomorrow, for security. I got to be packin’ tomorrow at the club. We don’t know who is bangin’ and who isn’t.”
“Hey dad, do you still have that handgun, which you don’t use? We are working a club in Hollywood tomorrow, a shady section.”
“No, I lent it to your uncle Fidel. If you need a handgun, there is a guy across the street who sells them. I’ll be back, bring him over.”
Shortly after, my dad arrived with the neighbor who runs the neighborhood “Homeboy Shopping Club.” He is the Hustle Man of the free world: televisions, radios, VCRs, anything’s on the market, even Uzis.
We inspected a .38 revolver that had six live rounds inside. The price: $200.
“Dad, I need to borrow $100. I have only $100 in cash on me. I’ll pay you back tomorrow.”
“Sure son, here’s $100.” I paid the neighbor for the handgun, and handed it to Manuel. We all laughed as the gun dealer, Felipe, a paisa, talked about how he obtained his merchandise, mostly from local dope fiends who needed quick cash.
Fifteen minutes later, Carl, Manuel, and I jumped in his low-rider IROC-Z, placing the gun in the trunk, and drove to the corner liquor store to buy more beer.
As we turned the corner, FBI agents and Downey Police surrounded the car, pulled all of us out at gunpoint, yelling, “Get down, get down!” We were all handcuffed and placed in separate police cars, transported to the Downey Police Department. Detective Bradfield, the same officer who took my fingerprints for the teen dance permit, the same officer who was lead investigator on the date rape case, was now interrogating me.
He was a tall Caucasian in his mid-60s with white walrus moustache, balding head, and beer belly.
“Mr. Valdez, you were inside a stolen car. Tell me, what was a handgun doing in the trunk? What were you going to do with that handgun, target practice?”
“The handgun was for security purposes. Protection. You should ask Carl, he is the owner of the car.”
“Alright, smart ass, you are free to go. Here’s a phone, call your ride.”
I called my dad. Within 10 minutes, he arrived with my younger brother, entering the lobby. Detective Bradfield arrested my dad. It was a cowardly way to lure him in, as my younger brother, just 15 years old, watched his old man get cuffed and taken away.
“Mr. Valdez, the papa, you are under arrest for conspiracy to commit murder.”
“Huh? What? What do you mean? Who was killed?” asked my dad, surprised, shocked.
Bradfield returned to the interrogation room, after placing my dad in a separate room.
“You sonofabitch, don’t you understand, I paid for this to happen. You fucked with us, now we are fucking with you. I told you to take your business elsewhere. Why did you have to get your dad involved in this? He is now going down with you, you piece of shit.”
My dad and I were booked together into the L.A. County Jail at about midnight. Carl and Manuel were nowhere to be seen. One of them, or both, I reasoned, was a rat who led us into a trap. A case of entrapment. At our arraignment, we made headline news on all the networks.

My father and I have served 13 years in separate California prisons. He is currently 69 years old, weighs 180 pounds, and is in good health. I am 36. We write each other letters, our only form of communication. We are both disciplinary free inmates with unblemished work records.
The appeals process has failed us. We are procedurally barred from appeals since 2001 because our former appellate attorney, Richard H. Dangler Jr., filed our briefs 280 days after the one-year deadline mandated by the Antiterrorism Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. In 2005, after a full-blown investigation by the California State Bar Association, Dangler resigned with charges pending. A 2005 3rd District Court of Appeals opinion, In re White, stated that Dangler ran a “writ mill” for pecuniary gain, employing inexperienced law students and disbarred attorneys to write and file writs that had no chance of success. His staff even forged his name on briefs, filed them late, or not at all.
“Simply stated, the attorney not only took money from these inmates and their families under false pretenses, he gave them false hope that they had some possibility of success—hope that we must now dash because, as even the attorney concedes, the writ petitions are doomed to fail,” the court wrote about Dangler.
At least a thousand prisoners’ appeals have been lost or procedurally barred by Dangler’s gross misconduct. The irony is he ripped off over a million dollars from prisoners’ families. Yet, he won’t do a day of prison time. He won’t pay a penny of restitution since he filed for bankruptcy.
Our claims, which the federal court won’t review, are persuasive and would have changed the outcome of the trial. The prosecutor failed to disclose that his star witness, Manuel Guerra, was a paid FBI informant with a prior criminal record. A tape expert analyzed the wiretap and rendered the tape an edited/altered version with more than 40 splices. In 2002, a juror in the trial came forward with serious allegations of juror misconduct. Under the Freedom of Information Act, the FBI acknowledges in my FBI file under the heading “Accomplishment Report,” that I was under investigation and surveillance in 1993. However, my dad was not.
People who have taken the time to analyze our case recognize the absurdity of the prosecution’s argument. Would anyone have hired a stranger hit man in their own home, a hit man with no weapons of his own, and who would kill someone for free? Should anyone believe a lying paid FBI informant who is a career criminal and has a motive to lie to get paid? If my dad was a co-conspirator with knowledge of an alleged hit to go down, why did he lend me $100 to purchase a handgun when he could have paid the full price of the gun himself? Why did the unintelligble wiretap only capture less than seven minutes of conversation during a 45-minute sting operation when the FBI van was parked just three houses away? If the government can put a man on the moon and get a clear “wire,” what happened in this case?
Supporters such as the Orcutt Republican Club of Santa Maria, Governor Bill Richardson (D-New Mexico), Senator Richard Martinez (D-New Mexico), and other professionals, have already written California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger letters, urging our immediate release via a commutation of sentence, or full pardon. It is a waste of taxpayer money to continue to house my father and me when there was no crime. We don’t even have prior criminal records.

The City of Downey has changed. Blacks and Hispanics are the majority. The skating rink was torn down. A new mall was built in its place. Rockwell International, where my dad worked for 33 years, is now a full-blown movie studio—Downey Studios, where Terminator III, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger was filmed. Downey Police still make headlines today for police misconduct against minorities.
Rave parties are now called “Festivals,” take place nationally, and attract 50,000-75,000 teens per event. Law enforcement now sets up stands where teens can test their Ecstasy or LSD to make sure it’s not bunk. As for gangsta rap, what most people thought was a fad, is now a billion dollar industry, still thriving, promoting a lifestyle of pimping, hustling, and drug dealing.
Our application for Executive Clemency has been pending before Gov. Schwarzenegger since March 2005. His office has yet to review our claims of innocence. §

Editor’s note: Readers can view the entire case profile for David at: (click on "David Valdez" link), and
Tito David Valdez Jr. resides at and writes from the minimum security Correctional Facility in Soledad, Calif. Listen to his radio segments on prison life on the nationally syndicated program, “The Adam Carolla Show.” For times, visit Tito can be reached by email at, or by mail: Tito David Valdez Jr. J-52660, CTF Central E Wing Cell 126, P.O. Box 689, Soledad, Calif., 93960-0689.
Read more of his "Life in the Cage" series:
  • Mischief in the prison chapel
  • Jailhouse pruno
  • A momentary breath of freedom
  • Breakfast Club

  • Go to the main page for this month's Rogue Voice

    Read more!

    A good day in hell

    Editor’s note: Nearly three years ago, publisher Dell Franklin wrote an article about his visit to inmate Tito David Valdez Jr. at the California Mens Colony, a prison on the outskirts of San Luis Obispo, where until recently he was serving a 25-years-to-life term for conspiracy to commit murder. David now resides at Soldedad Prison. Dell’s aritcle touches on racism, brutality and the rare simple pleasures found in prison life. Dell never submitted his article to the local papers, but feels now is the time to publish it in The Rogue Voice as a companion piece to David’s “Life in the Cage” column, which this month depicts the situation and environment in which he was sent to jail—unfairly.

    A good day in hell
    A rare moment of tranquility in the belly of the beast

    By Dell Franklin
    I received a distressing letter from David Valdez, an inmate in a state prison. We’ve been corresponding since around Christmas, 1999, after he wrote me about a piece I’d published in the local alternative paper, New Times.
    I found David’s letters to be incisive, witty, eloquent, alive with an undercurrent of street wisdom and anger. Despite his predicament, and the shafting he received from the system (see this month’s “Life in the Cage”), and the term he faces (another 15 years to life), David is consistently upbeat. But I sensed in his last letter that he was very down, and I was worried. I know he would never do anything drastic, but still, upon visiting him several times and listening to his detailed descriptions of life behind bars, I knew he was suffering badly and felt he was calling out to me for a visit, so he could pour out what was on his mind and in his heart.
    I am much older than David and he confides in me, perhaps finding me a substitute father figure, for his own father is imprisoned on the same charge and case that convicted David, and the two have not seen each other in more than 13 years. I know how much a three-hour visit means to David. I believe that David is a natural writer of depth, feeling, imagination and intellectual capacity. I have encouraged him to write, if for no other reason than to overcome in some way the misery of the confinement he faces daily: The boredom, claustrophobia, lack of companionship and sex, finding outlets for his frustrations, and just plain surviving. Yet, this is all food for writing, and because he can talk about it, and write it down, he is more than an inmate to visit out of sympathy, but also excellent company.
    I visited him on a Saturday afternoon before Easter. At one o’clock I was filling out a small form with personal information which I had to show a guard at the long front desk before I could be inspected. As I did so, I felt an immense presence looming beside me. I looked up and discovered a muscular, massive black man filling out a form. I nodded and said hello. He said hello back. We were the only two people waiting to get in.

    “How’s it goin’?” I asked.
    “Man,” he said, “I just drove all the way from the redwood forest, up by Crescent City. Beautiful up there. I got some cool photos. I damn near fell asleep driving down here, 500 miles. I’m bummed out. I got a speeding ticket.”
    “Who you visiting?”
    “My brother. This is his third prison in three years.”
    “Man, he’s lucky to have a brother like you.”
    He shrugged, looking me over, a white man nearly 60. He wore wire-rimmed glasses and had a refined face and intelligent eyes. He asked me who I was visiting. I told him about David.
    “Good for you,” he said. We walked up to the desk and withdrew everything from our pockets for the guards to inspect. We took off our shoes, had our forms stamped and OK’d after they were run through the computer, and walked through the metal detector. We passed. We were given our shoes and turned over our keys and had our wrists stamped and stood at the iron door, until it buzzed open. We walked outside to another gate and waited for it to buzz open, and then we were out front by the picnic tables on a grassy lawn, where low-risk inmates were allowed to visit with family and friends.
    I dreaded this part of the visit. You see, once entering the visiting area inside, you go to another desk and hand the guards your form and then they page the inmate you are visiting. One usually waits half an hour to an hour before they come out. During this time, there is nothing to do but stand in the packed, noisy visiting room lined with vending machines, tables, and chairs, or you slip through a glass door onto a patio area with a few benches and picnic tables. The area is enclosed, and only a little sunlight hits the pavement and its few small trees. Here you sit, observing faces, the hand-holding, the checkers and chess and card play, wondering what drove each inmate to his fate. Such a different world than we know, or want to know. Yet, out here, there seemed a muted sense of joy, because at least for a few hours these inmates were somewhat free, though they could do no more than touch their loved ones in certain areas.
    David, who has female friends visit (all solicited through local papers), told me that if an inmate touched a woman in a responsive area, or vice versa, he lost his visiting rights for six months, and his life became more of a nightmare. David said the toughest thing about female visitors was going without sex. As a young man in his prime, it drove him half mad.
    I was lucky this visit. David’s mother and brother had visited him in the morning and were preparing to leave. Perfect timing. David was at the entrance and surprised to see me. I met his mother and brother. After they left, we drifted out to the patio, as we always did, the inside room forever crowded. It was chilly. I came prepared, bringing a long-sleeve shirt. The huge black man, Allen, stood in the middle of the patio, arms folded across his chest, shivering as he waited for his brother. I was about to call out to him when he walked back into the main room. I told David about him. We talked easily. Yes, he had been severely depressed, about as low as he’d felt in some time. His case, which was on appeal, was stagnant. The possibility of facing another 15 years in this place was corroding his sense of hope, which was about the only thing keeping him going.
    How does one cheer up a person facing such a situation? You can’t. You’re just there. What really disturbed David was that to appeal his case, a very viable one, he needed a high-profile,, high-powered lawyer, but to land such a rare commodity he needed twenty-grand and a headline case. He had neither.
    We talked a lot about women who visit prisoners. Observing an obese, rather homely white woman read the bible to a black man with the torso of an NFL football linebacker, who held her hand in his lap, David concluded, from studying his own website, that there is a culture of women who had “a thing” about visiting and forging romantic relationships with inmates.
    “These are not show-stoppers,” he said. He sighed. “They know they are all we really have. You sit and hold hands, like that couple. You can’t touch them. I think they know they have this power over you, because you cannot reject them as they’ve been rejected outside the cage. They must realize how horny we are, how horny I am, just bursting, ready to come in my pants…it’s been so long since I’ve been with a woman.” He looked around, continued: “I have my picture in my website (he’s a handsome lad) and I get feedback. Things are looking up. As you can see, most of these women are unattractive rejects, but a stripper from the Bay Area contacted me. She sent me pictures. She is a knockout. We’ve been corresponding. She’s coming tomorrow, Easter Sunday, and I can’t wait to meet her. I’m excited, been excited all week. A beauty right out of Playboy magazine, and let’s face it, man, all I got to keep me going is porno magazines, and the guards don’t allow much.”
    David has had three years of college. He’s no gangbanger. There’s no use going into his case. He’s not a hardened criminal or sociopath, but he will be the first one to tell you that everybody incarcerated in prison claims to be innocent, framed, sold out, entrapped. David never needed to be rehabilitated, which, in prison, is a joke.
    Allen re-entered the patio. Beside him was a tall, lanky man, much thinner, less muscular. I waved at Allen and they came over to where we stood near a bench in the shadows. I made introductions all-around and we shook hands. While Allen’s grip was strong but not overpowering his brother Wilson’s was a quick, light squeeze. He had wary eyes, but there seemed a swagger, a glow to him, and I was reminded instantly of a young Richard Pryor with his expressive face and emphatic hand gestures. Right off he was garrulous, taking center stage as we all stood and Allen rolled his eyes at me.
    “Man, you got to watch yo’ ass out there, ‘cuz you don’t know who you gonna run into, what they gonna do, you might end up in here, in this hole, like me.” He was addressing me, a person who’s never spent a minute in jail. “That’s the way it gettin’ t’ be. Can’t do nothin’, can’t trust nobody. Man, half the dudes in prison these days are here for political reasons, or drugs, but won’t nobody say it, especially the authorities. Man, it’s like, we don’t want these niggers and ‘spics on the streets, so we build a fence around ‘em.”
    I’d always believed you had to screw up pretty badly to get stuck in jail, but then I’m white, and most of the white people I knew who committed drug offenses got haircuts, put on suits, found good lawyers and ended up on probation after going to Mickey Mouse rehab programs. A joke. A game. A racket. “Sounds like Russia,” I said to Wilson, “you know, the Gulag Archipelago.”
    He smiled. “Gulag-mothafuckin’-Archipelago.”
    For the obvious reason that we were all fairly new to each other, there was a bit of tension in the air and we all started talking at once. Wilson had transferred from a tougher prison. As he and David exchanged areas where they were celled here, I sensed this tension. In the all-male world, men feel sexually threatened and paranoid. So Wilson exclaimed he was no homosexual, that he liked women. David nodded, very relaxed. He is always calm, engaging, never overbearing. We all stood shivering until Wilson spotted an empty concrete bench in a patch of sunlight and suggested we move there.
    We did. But before we sat down, I suggested, as always, that I buy David something from the vending machines, a ritual. David likes burritos, chips, cokes. He had already eaten with his mother, but, since it was cold, I bought us some hot chocolate. Inmates are not allowed to carry money or touch the machines, so Wilson pointed out two candy bars he wanted. We had everthing together and went back outside to sit on the bench with Allen, who refused any treats. David sat across from us in a plastic chair he had pulled up.
    We discussed how county jails in the L.A. area were rougher than state prisons. The gangs imposed their wills and sometimes a newcomer had to pay for protection, and often those who could not afford it urged their lawyers to move up their cases, suffering the consequences, so they could at least got the hell out of this murderous maelstrom alive or, at least in one piece.
    The conversation evolved fluidly from us. We were a small group separated from other groups, mostly families, an island among other islands. Allen mentioned that Wilson had an AA degree from a junior college down south. Allen was a collage graduate who taught grammar school down south. The principal was critical of his teaching methods, and accused Allen of losing control of his classroom, and never supported him, and showed him little respect. We discussed the bureaucratic obstacles he faced—principals, superindendants, parental groups, etc. Allen was insecure about his job. He was also engaged to an Irish Catholic woman (Allen went to Catholic schools until college), and because they were both deeply religious they remained celibate, and Allen, not one to seek sex elsewhere, was extremely frustrated. Wilson grinned at me, then talk of his recent conversion to Christianity and the New Testament. I asked him if he believed in heaven and hell and the afterlife.
    “You know it, man. Don’t you?”
    “No. I think we find heaven and hell here on earth, and all the other bullshit in between.”
    “Man, you soundin’ like an atheist.”
    “No,” said David, whose new cellmate professed around-the-clock passion for Christ. “He’s like me, an agnostic.”
    Wilson set off on a religious monologue. We all gave him room. He was not fanatical, or righteous, but sincere and prodedural in his explanations. He was knowledgeable. It seemed, suddenly, as we sat there in the sunlight, that this had turned into a very good day, like four people sitting around a table at a sidewalk cafe in Paris, discussing life and worldly problems. We all had something to say and listened politely. There was a lot of laughter and enjoyment and good fellowship. Most importantly, there was a feeling of trust among us, so that nobody held back. I felt blessed, high on life.
    During a lull, Allen said: “Man, this is cool. I mean, why can’t blacks and Mexicans and whites get together like this in the real world, out there, like we are here? Why’s there have to be this…separation, guys on different sides, all this fear and paranoia, hating each other?”
    “Because that’s the way they want it,” Wilson said, and David nodded.
    “Man, first thing they do in here, they want you on separate sides, at each others’ throats. They don’t want harmony. They WANT us to hate each other. Some of them prisons up north, some of the guards, they are nothin’ but sadists, wanna take hardcore black and Mexican gangbangers and turn ‘em on each other like fighting cocks, like pit bulls. They don’t give a damn if they kill each other. You got dumbass redneck guards with high school diplomas; they make more money than my brother, a school teacher, and they got more security because they got a stronger union. Prison industry. Keep our asses locked up in here ‘long as they can, so they can build more prisons and give more of these peckerwoods jobs. It’s bullshit!”
    Allen nodded. We talked about race. Allen was outraged that a man like Clarence Thomas had replaced Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court—a civil rights giant replaced by an anti-affirmative action pygmy, a man who did nothing for his people and in fact turned his back on his people.
    “Bush put him in,” Wilson said. “What you expect? Now his kid, George-junior, gonna put in another sorry-ass pygmy just like Thomas, only he be a Mexican kiss-ass this time.”
    “Thomas isn’t black,” I said. “He’s an Oreo. This was Bush’s dirty trick on the liberal establishment. Now his kid’s got a whole bunch of Oreos in his cabinet.” Wilson’s eyes brightened and he grinned. “You mean the cookie—black on the outside, white on the inside.” He winked at me. “Like my bro’.” And he laughed as he and Allen slapped hands.
    David was quieter than the rest of us. He seemed to savor just taking everything in, adding a nugget from time to time. David is seldom opinionated, irrational, illogical, despite the anger and resentment he feels each day. He is an excellent listener and observer.
    “This is great,” he said at one point. “This is one of the best times I’ve had since I’ve been here.”
    The visit, almost three hours, flew by. It was time to go. We all stood as a voice over the loudspeaker informed us visiting hours were coming to a close. We walked to the entrance of the crowded visiting room and shook hands all around, and David and I hugged, and soon Allen and I were walking out the gate together, back to the fence that buzzed and opened, and the steel door leading to the front desk that buzzed and opened. We collected our keys. Allen then mentioned the speeding ticket he’d received. “It was the cop’s attitude.” He, shook his head in a weary resignation. “Like I was a criminal. I wanted to to grab his ass and shake him up. I feel the same way every time I talk to my principal. That’s why I’m so religious. I have to be. It allows me to control myself and keep from hurting people who hold power over me, who treat me like a house nigger.”
    We talked about his brother on the way out to the parking lot. Allen wanted only that Wilson stay out of trouble. He wasn’t a criminal, just didn’t have enough sense and good judgment to stay away from the wrong people and bad situations, and keep his mouth shut around cops. Allen had to drive all the way to L.A. after coming from Crescent City. I sensed he wanted to keep talking. Under different circumstances, perhaps, we could have had a drink. I always need a belt at the local tavern after a visit to the prison. I told Allen I hoped to see him again. He told me he’d be back in a month. He felt very positive that his brother had told David WHY he had gone to prison, while David mentioned his own story.
    “Man, he doesn’t tell anybody anything. That’s a good sign.”
    I got a letter from David a few days later. Like me, he was high from our Saturday visit, but he felt a flood of despair the following day when the stripper never showed. He sat in his cell all day, unable to read or write, stoked with excitement, waiting tensely for his name to be called over the loudspeaker that blared throughout the prison grounds. Neatly dressed, freshly showered and shaved. He grew angry and bitter, wanted to lash out at something, anything, at the world, the stripper, the whole damn system, but was powerless to do so, and just sat there, his sole consolation being an Easter Sunday dinner that was a notch above the usual swill. §

    Dell Franklin is publisher of The Rouge Voice. He can be reached at

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    Washing windows across America: Clovis ain't Texas (episode 13)

    Two mannequins are in my way. The only way I can pick them up is by the breast and crotch. When the Texan mom sees me violating the mannequins, she shields her son’s eyes with a cupped hand.

    She is long-legged, and the kind of ranch-pretty that comes from a diet of steak, green beans, and raw milk.

    Clovis ain't Texas

    By Ben Leroux

    A metal chair squeals under the weight of the quintessential Texan as he leans back behind the desk of his used-car dealership office. He sucks on an unlit stogie, and only the button-snaps of a western shirt contain the rotund gut that bowls over his Haggar slacks. A thin Mexican man in cowboy duds sits across from him, a wide-brimmed hat atop his lap. They stop talking when they see me in the doorway in denim shorts, baggy T-shirt, and worn sandals. A fan blows warm, dim air through the office.
    “What kennah do for ‘ya, young man?”
    “Your receptionist sent me in here to ask about windows,” I say. “I told her I’d clean them for twenty dollars.”
    Where the customary interruption or rejection usually occurs, a profound silence floats. My words are not seized from me, but instead left to hang in the musty air where they are tasted, slowly chewed, and digested. Only after a couple sucks from the stogie is the owner ready to respond.
    “Oh, no,” he says. “We don’t need our windas…”
    “Don’t you dare!” comes a voice from the reception area.
    The receptionist marches into the office, hands on hips, her little boot heels knocking against the hardwood floor. She stands in front of the owner and points a long, red fingernail at him.
    “Now don’t chyew dare let this window-washer get away. You know goll-darned well you’re never gonna do those windows. That is, unless I make you do ‘em.”
    She is long-legged, and the kind of ranch-pretty that comes from a diet of steak, green beans, and raw milk. Her brown hair is pinned up off her long neck.
    She prances out, a prized thoroughbred in high-hugging Wranglers and a tucked-in western shirt. She leaves the men to decide things.
    “Well,” says the owner sheepishly, chuckling, looking at me, and the grinning Mexican man. “If the woman says do ‘em, then ah guess you better do ‘em.”
    Cleaning the outsides, I am slowed down by a heavier heat than I’ve felt anywhere in New Mexico. And though I am still in New Mexico, I’ve slipped a couple times and called it Texas, only to be reprimanded by proud New Mexicans.
    But Clovis is, for all intents and purposes, Texas—Texas heat, Texas drawl, and Texas manners.
    After I’m done, I wait with the men in the office as the receptionist prepares a check for me. The two men politely avoid chiding me about California, even after I make a joke about Arnold Schwarzenegger. They chuckle uneasily, but refrain from possible insults.
    “Pretty country though, California,” says the owner.
    “Yay-ees,” says his friend. “Preety, preety country.”
    The receptionist brings my check in for the boss to sign, then leaves us again.
    “Now you be careful out there travelin’ around the country, young man.” The owner hands me the check. It comes across as more of a command than a suggestion, but I don’t mind. At my age, when someone calls you “young man,” you take it.
    “I will,” I say. “Thank you.”
    I’m bushed, and can barely stand as I comb downtown Clovis. There is something weighty and leaden about the sun here. But into my second day, I’ve done all right. The Plymouth sits in a service station, having the wheel bushings replaced. I’ve gambled that I’ll be able to afford the repair by day’s end. The wheel had gotten so wobbly that I became afraid it might fly off as I was rounding a canyon, and that would be the end of me.
    Clovis’ downtown streets are immaculate and expansive—as wide as some streets are long. The parking spaces along the sides of the streets are so huge that it’s not clear into which direction they are to be parked.
    After getting only the windows of Latina dress store, I move out to an area of shopping centers and mini-malls, where a dry-cleaners, a Mexican restaurant, and a women’s clothing store employ me.
    Doing the insides of the women’s clothing store, I have to squeeze myself and my equipment between the front glass and a display wall. A Clovis mother and small son, hand-in-hand, stop in front of the window to watch me. She is another Texan filly in jeans and boots.
    I have to move two mannequins out of my way, and since there are only a couple feet between the wall and the window, the only way I can pick them up is by the breast and crotch. When the Texan mom sees me violating the mannequins, she shields her son’s eyes with a cupped hand.
    But she nods at me knowingly. In the adult world, it is sometimes necessary to violate mannequins in order to get windows cleaned. Only after I set down the mannequins does she uncover the struggling boy’s eyes and let him watch me.
    Later, while cleaning the windows of a beauty salon, a plump white-haired client in a long, proper dress asks me to come to her house when I’m done. She writes down the address for me.
    I walk to her house, amazed and somewhat insulted that someone would ask a complete stranger from California to come to their home, knowing nothing about them.
    To get to her front windows, I have to fight with the branches of a spruce tree, and cobwebs, all while keeping my eye on an uneasy wasps’ nest under an eave of the house. While I am doing this, the woman tries to force a cold can of Coke on me. I hate Coke, but accepting it is the only way to stop her incessant kindness.
    We pause for proper introductions.
    “Ahm Vera Jean Brady. And you?” She extends her hand, very formal like.
    “What is your last name, Ben?”
    I tell Vera Jean and she chews on my French surname, trying to fit it into the genealogy tree of her mind. As Vera Jean and I chat, she too warns me to be careful out there traveling, because there are lots of weird folks around—lots of dangerous people and you never know when you might walk into the wrong part of town.
    “I’ve noticed since being in Texas that everyone is telling me to be careful,” I say. “Yet it seems very safe.”
    Vera Jean gasps. “Texas? Did you just say, ‘Texas’? Now, don’t you go around here tellin’ people you think you’re in Texas! Clovis ain’t Texas, Ben Leroux. Just be careful.”

    It’s nearing 5 p.m., and I am about twenty dollars short for my car repair, and on a dry spell. One more job ought to do it. I come upon a large paint store.
    Waiting at the counter, I see men in matching windbreakers gathered around a corner table where a microphone is set up. I ask the owner what it’s all about. He tells me it’s the weekly radio football show. The big game is tomorrow night. Then he tells me to go ahead and wash his windows.
    Outside, working on the glass doors, a squeegee in one hand, brush and towel in the other, hurrying to take the water off before the brooding sun dries it, I hear the sound somewhere behind me, of a woman clearing her throat.
    “Oh,” I say, turning to see her. “Sorry.” I step aside so she can go through the double doors.
    She doesn’t move. She tilts her head at me. She has a purse over a shoulder and a white donut bag in one hand. Like the receptionist at the used car dealership, her britches are hiked up high and tight, with a checkered rodeo shirt tucked in, and a Laura Bush hairdo.
    “It’s open,” I say. “It’s not locked.”
    I move further aside for her. She just stands and looks at me.
    “Mmmp-HHHMMM,” she says, daintily lifting the bag of donuts, waiting for something.
    “Oh,” I say. “Oh.” I set my equipment down and find myself opening the door for her. She dips and says, “Thang-kyew,” and goes into the paint store.
    I re-coat the doors with soapy water, and watch her take the donuts back to the men at the table, baffled at how she had gotten me to do that.

    The men at the garage have, as a courtesy, rotated my ugly rust-orange spare from the front to the back. The spare had come out of the trunk that way when I blew a flat back near Santa Fe. The orange spare hadn’t helped anything. It had just earned me a little more unwelcome attention and stares, and theorizing, as people tried to figure the Plymouth out. I think that in towns like Clovis and Tucumcari, an old car with California plates may be the closest thing to the rides seen in L.A. gangsta movies. So the youth like to cruise by me, bumping their gangsta hip-hop. They get a good look at the driver, hoping for a crip or a blood, but instead they get me. And they get the orange tire. They bump away thoroughly confused.
    With the Plymouth driving steadier now, and a few dollars in my pocket, I migrate naturally to the nearest drinking establishment.
    In this trendy bar and grill, another Texan princess struts behind the bar. She is terribly self-absorbed, and lifts and drops a phony smile as she picks up tips off the bar. Her clientele are the clean-cut, well-dressed cowboys and eligible businessmen of Clovis.
    The bartender ignores me, and a dirty old German man at the end of the bar named Franz. I have watched him trying to flag her down for a half-hour.
    “I vunda if we evva get a fucking drink?” Franz says to me, his accent strong and slurring, and his teeth and breath in bad shape. He is a scraggly eyesore of a human being that does not belong in Clovis, let alone this phony cowboy joint.
    “I don’t know.”
    “I buy you one if we evva do. Dis bitch, she nevva evva wait on me. She treat me like dis evvy time. Maybe I not klee-een enough for her to look at. Tell you what. Come to my house. I have beer. We drink all we want.”
    I follow Franz through a boring neighborhood to his house where he claims to have more beer. I take it as a nice offering. His house is one of many back in a square grid of square Clovis homes.
    It is a boring, lifeless house. His wife is gone, and I look around for a picture of her to see what kind of American woman would marry a dirty lush like Franz. But there are none.
    Franz and I sit at his kitchen table and drink cans of Old Milwaukee. He tells me about the big motel he and his wife own, and to prove it to me, he takes out the motel keys and grins and jangles them in front of me.
    “I bet you’d like deez, ay? Fifty-five rooms. You’d like a room, wouldn’t you? Den you wouldn’t have to stay in your car, he-he.”
    Franz is tolerable for a while, but the key taunting starts to get under my skin.
    “I gotta go now, Franz,” I say, killing my Old Milwaukee, crushing the can, and tossing it into the kitchen wastebasket. “I need to go stake out a spot at the Wal-Mart.”
    “But why go so soon? I like you, Ben. You are a hard worker, I can tell. You keep your goatee trimmed, and I like de peoples who work hard and keep klee-een. I like klee-een people. Come, I show you what I own.”
    I follow Franz out into his garage where he shows me his Hemmy truck, an elaborate tool set, and two antique printing presses.
    “Bet you’d like deez tools, ay? Or my Hemmy? What have you brought to smoke?”
    I tell him nothing, so he goes to his six-foot high toolbox on wheels and fishes out his hidden stash and pipe and we smoke a few loads standing in his garage.
    “Bet you’d like to take some of dis stuff wit’ you, ay Ben?” He dangles the baggie in front of me.
    “No, it’s okay Franz. I really gotta go.”
    “One more beer,” he says, taking me back into the kitchen. We sit down and have another.
    “Did I show you my computer? That’s her right there. I love her. When you leave, I will play on my computer. Bet you’d like deez?” He jangles the keys again, and shows me his disastrous fangs.
    “Alright Franz, that’s it.” I stand up.
    “Come here, I want show you one more thing.”
    I follow him into another room that has nothing in it but a couch and some reproductions of paintings stacked against the walls and in the closets.
    “Dis is our sitting room,” Franz says. “Me and my wife, we come in here and just sit.”
    He finds his favorite painting, which is a haunting pastoral of an old German church. He nearly weeps.
    We go back to his kitchen table and drink another Old Milwaukee together while he dabs his eyes with his shirt.
    “Dat’s our sitting room,” he weeps. “We don’t do nutting but sit in der.”
    The phone rings and it is his wife calling from the motel. Franz tells her he has a friend over—one of the guys from the bar, and I can hear her reaction from where I sit: “Oh, that’s wonderful, Franz! That’s just wonderful!”
    Franz’s tears dry, and he smiles like the child of a proud mother, then tells his wife that he has to go. He doesn’t want to keep his friend waiting.
    “Yah, you are a good person Ben—a good klee-een friend. You not like de people who come to get all de food stamps and you have to wait in de line behind dem. You work hard and have a klee-een beard. I bet you’d like deez, though.”
    “I’m leaving now, Franz.”
    “I’m going to put them away.”
    “I still have to go. I’m hungry.”
    “Okay, I’m going to play on my computer then. Goodbye.”
    Franz writes down his email address for me, and I get to the Plymouth and crumble it up and toss it in with a garbage heap of wrappers and receipts. I leave, and go find a nice spot in the Clovis Wal-Mart parking lot.
    I find a little light, and read the sports section of the Clovis newspaper and think about staying for the big game tomorrow night. One of the things I want to do is to see a good old-fashioned Texas-style high school game. I’m tempted to settle for Clovis though. I’ve heard good things about their program.
    But I don’t just want good football. I want Texas football. And just across the border tomorrow night, games will be played between teams with names like Lubbock, Amarillo, Plainview and Muleshoe. Clovis was close, but somehow it just wasn’t Texas. §

    Ben Leroux writes from a motel room in Morro Bay, and still plies his trade as a window washer. He can be reached at
    Read more of his "Washing Windows Across America" series here:
  • Evicted From Wal-Mart (episode 9)
  • Santa Fe Pride (episode 10)
  • Leaving Las Vegas (episode 11)
  • Tucumcari: End of the mother road (episode 12)

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    Rogue of the month: Mandy Davis

    Hunting whalers
    Morro Bay activist Mandy Davis returns to sea

    Mandy Davis makes Morro Bay fishermen and hunters cringe. They call her an “eco-terrorist,” but she fires right back and says the real eco-terrorists are destroying the environment. Mandy Davis is a warrior who poses a threat to livelihoods drawn from limited resources, like Japanese whalers who cull threatened species from protected waters.
    Davis, who has challenged the rights of hunters to take kills from Morro Bay’s already stressed national estuary, an area designated as a bird sanctuary, loves to tip the scales in favor of species and “game” that stand little chance of survival.
    Davis confronts her opponents with the same readiness and fearlessness for battle as Samurai who put their lives on the line to protect the defenseless.
    Last year, she joined the crew of the Sea Shepherd captained by Paul Watson to aggressively pursue Japanese whalers flagrantly violating international law. The crew, drawn from countries around the world, dogged the violators by dispatching boats, and nets and propeller-destroying obstacles.
    The Sea Shepherd’s efforts, whose mandate “is to assume a law enforcement role as provided by the United Nations World Charter for Nature,” have been recognized throughout the world, including a recent article in National Geographic, for its daring and harrowing runs in the dangerous, bone-chilling waters near Antarctica. After nearly a year of traveling the world, Davis returned to Morro Bay more ready than ever to take up her cause against hunting, renewing afresh her defense of the estuary. After frustrating attempts to deliver some sense to Morro Bay’s “good ol’ boys” network, as she calls it, Davis finally decided to “close up shop” and return to sea.
    She left Morro Bay last month to begin another journey with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, where, she says, she can have more of an impact through her activism, protecting endangered and internationally protected whales.

    — Stacey Warde

    Rogue Voice: It seems like you just got here, just got back from your voyage with the Sea Shepherd. And, already, you’re going back?
    Mandy Davis: I’m closing up shop here. I’ve had enough. I’m just spinning my wheels trying to get anything done here, so I decided to pack everything I own and spend another season at sea where my actions will actually have an impact on protecting the environment.
    RV: How were you spinning your wheels?
    MD: Well, for example, I was voted unanimously to the Morro Bay Harbor Advisory Board with hopes of turning the board towards a more environmental stance. I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t get anything accomplished. I felt like I was fighting, spinning my wheels, against the good ol’ boys, who really don’t care at all about the environment. Eventually, I quit in protest to the board’s position on the Marine Life Protection Act, and decided to go back to protecting whales.
    I’m really ready to get on the ship. I’m serious. I’m really ready to be proactive.
    RV: What do you hope to accomplish?
    MD: One of the reasons I’m doing this is to get the word out, to let people know what’s really going on with our oceans, with the horrible things that are being done to the whales, whales that are internationally protected. The Japanese are running these huge ships—floating factories, really—that process the whales, on board the ship. There’s an international moratorium on some whales but the Japanese whalers still go after them and try to destroy them. And the majority of the whaling there is in protected waters, sanctuaries for the whales. But not many people really know about it, there’s so little media coverage. We usually have people on board who write stories about what we’re doing. [Mandy offers a copy of an article, “The Whale Warriors,” written by National Geographic’s Peter Heller who voyaged with the Sea Shepherd.] We’re definitely getting the word out, but a lot of people still don’t know what’s going on down there.
    RV: What did you do when you were at sea?
    MD: I was on the deck crew. And I was a navigator on one of the zodiacs, which we used to chase down the whalers. They ran from us every time they saw us. They know that if we can stop the mother ship, we can stop them from whaling. We’d throw nets and beams out and try to foul their props, which is an ideal way of disabling the mother ship.
    When we weren’t in the zodiacs, I liked being on deck where the action is. There are a lot of jobs on the ship, some of which are below deck and I just don’t think I could do that. I tried the bridge, but the bridge is too sedentary. I’m more active. I need to be out where the action is. I’d rather be busy doing something than sitting by helplessly waiting for things to happen.
    Once, the Japanese tried to run us down, a huge ship that dwarfed us, in high seas and frigid waters. The whole crew was ordered below deck and all we could do was sit there on pins and needles and wait and watch them headed for our midships—we stayed our course, a dangerous game of chicken, as it were, is what the Japanese seemed to be playing. It was terrible. If they’d rammed us, cut us in half, we wouldn’t have lasted but a few minutes, if that, in those waters.
    RV: Why did you choose this work?
    MD: I’ve been aware of Paul Watson for a long time, and I’ve known that this organization is very much about conservation and keeping animals from being killed. It’s an organization that gets things done, and I’d had just about enough of not getting anything done while trying to stop, or even regulate, hunting in the estuary. I learned that “compromise” in Morro Bay had about a snowball’s chance in hell. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society succeeds because it’s all about enforcing international law. There’s no compromise.
    I totally believe that one person can make a big difference; it’s better than complaining about how bad things are and not doing anything about it. If you’re going to complain and wring your hands, you’d better be willing to do something, to come up with a solution.
    I’m doing this, really, for very definite, spiritual reasons, which is hard for some people to understand. I believe in the sacredness of all creatures, and I think that our connection to them is really important. We need to get back to more “biocentric” ways of thinking, rather than the “anthropocentric” mindset, which thinks we can excavate and dominate the earth at will, without any consequences. It’s not just about us dominating the earth. Unfortunately, most hunters think that way; most extracting industries are that way, too. They think you can just take whatever you want.
    RV: What else did you experience while sailing with the Sea Shepherd?
    MD: I got to witness first-hand the horrible environmental devastation that we’re causing to the oceans. It’s one thing to read about it in the newspaper but quite another to see the terrible depletion of once-thriving ecosystems, which we’re now beginning to pay for. It’s a truly disturbing picture of an inconvenient truth, as [Al] Gore pointed out, and the inconvenient truth is that the marine and coastal ecosystems are in terrible condition. I want to do something about it. §

    For more information on the mission and mandate of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, visit their web site:

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    Cabby's corner: The good lawyer

    ‘I have a very hysterical client. Somebody tried to rape her in Morro Bay. She was at the police station. I’m her family lawyer.’

    She looked at me. Her red-rimmed eyes welled up and a look of absolute despair, almost terror, took hold of her eyes. ‘I won’t be able to go out there anymore! My yard…it’s my favorite place in the world…and I’m afraid to go out there now!’

    The good lawyer
    Taking care of unpleasant business

    By Dell Franklin

    I had just gotten to work around four in the afternoon and was at the airport, waiting for some flights to come in, when my fellow cabbie, holding the dispatch phone, informed me I had to go downtown to the city hall building and pick up a fare and drive them to Morro Bay.
    When I arrived at the designated spot, nobody was there. I parked in the yellow zone in front of the old ornate Fremont Theater and sat, keeping my eyes on the city hall building. I waited five minutes, growing angry. I do not like to wait for people. If you say you’re going to be there, well, be there. I got out and paced. Finally, a short, fireplug of a man who filled out a beautiful suit like a weight-lifter, scampered across Monterey Street from the courthouse and signaled for me. We met on the sidewalk, beside the cab.
    “Sorry I kept you waiting,” he said right off, offering his hand, introducing himself, “but I have a very hysterical client. Somebody tried to rape her in Morro Bay. She was at the police station. I’m her family lawyer. She’s still in the courthouse. Be patient, please. I’ll take care of you.”
    I said OK, and he hustled back across the street, obviously a one-time athlete, possibly a football fullback. Usually, I ran the meter when I had to wait for people, demanding the fare pay for my time, but this guy was obviously concerned about his client, trying to calm her down, and so I didn’t press it. Five minutes later, he shepherded her across the street, an attractive but ragged-looking thirty-something woman with long, mussed up honey-colored hair, dressed in work shorts, and a man’s long-sleeved shirt.
    The lawyer introduced me to her, but she was in a state of extreme agitation and perhaps shock, and she did not look at me as the lawyer helped her into the shotgun seat and continued talking to her. I waited for him on the sidewalk, and when he was finished comforting the woman, he handed me his card.
    “I don’t have any cash on me right now. Can you come to my office up the street when you return to town?”
    “Well, we don’t like going out of town without collecting first. And I don’t like coming across town when I can be at the airport.”
    “I can go down the street to my ATM if it’s that urgent….”
    “No. It’s OK. I’m being a little short. It’s just that I run into a lot of deadbeats, but I’ll come back for you.”
    “Thanks, pal. Please be good to that lady, ey? She’s been through hell. Right now the police are trying to hunt down the bastard who attacked her. This lady is in a lot of distress. She’s very fragile.”
    “I’ll take good care of her. That’s a promise.”
    “Thanks.” We shook hands. I got back in the cab. Drove through town in the rush-hour traffic, headed for Highway 1. I decided not to try and talk to the sniffling figure beside me, who was curled into the side of the door, as if trying to make her self smaller. I fiddled with the radio, left it on NPR. Out on Highway 1, we oozed into the flow of’ traffic, picking up speed. I nodded at her.
    “Thanks for driving me home,” she said in a small voice. “I don’t know what I would’ve done without my lawyer. He’s a great guy.”
    “He seems like a good guy. I liked him right off.”
    She sat up a little.
    “So,” I said, “you live in Morro Bay. You I like it?”
    “Well, I do…I mean, I’ve lived there a while. In North Morro Bay. I guess I like it. But after today, I don’t know.”
    “Uh-huh.” I knew she wanted to talk about it, but it had to be on her terms. “You look familiar. I used to be a bartender at Happy Jack’s in Morro Bay. Were you ever in there?”
    “Yes. I used to go in there in the early ‘90s, before I met my husband. I don’t go to bars anymore.”
    “That’s probably where I saw you.”
    She sat up a little more. She put her handkerchief in her purse.
    “Somebody tried to rape me,” she said. “I was out doing, yard work. I do a lot of yard work. I have a really nice yard and garden. I love working in the, yard. My husband, he really loves the way I keep things so beautiful and tidy. I was watering some plants, and out of nowhere this guy just jumped over the fence and tried to rape me, right in the yard. He just grabbed me!”
    “What did you do?”
    Her voice cracked with a slight sob. “I fought him. I fought for my life. I kicked him. I threw the hose at him. I scratched him. I fought and fought. He threw me down and tried to rip my clothes off. I punched and scratched at him, and I screamed…my God, I screamed, but there was nobody around, everybody was at work, and finally, I was crying so hard, and fighting so hard, and screaming so loud, he just took off.”
    I glanced at her. There were scratches on her cheek and bruises discoloring her arms and legs. She started to cry again.
    “Go ahead and cry,” I said. “It’s good for you. You need to cry.”
    “I’m so worried about my husband,” she sobbed louder.
    “But why?”
    “What if he doesn’t believe me?”
    “What do you mean—doesn’t believe you? There’s a police report, isn’t there? Look at your bruises and scratches.”
    “Yes I know but maybe he’ll think…well, that I…invited it?”
    “How can he think that, for Chrissake?”
    “I don’t know. He might, though, think I asked for it.”
    “No way. What kind of guy is he?”
    “He’s real macho. He’s a contractor. I’m just so ashamed, so worried he won’t believe me….”
    “What you do is you don’t try and convince him of anything. You direct him straight to your lawyer and the police.”
    “He’s already talked to my lawyer.”
    “Have you talked to your husband?”
    “Yes,” she sniffled. “I don’t think he believes me. I don’t know what to do.”
    We were approaching Morro Bay. “You need a drink,” I said.
    “Yes, I think so. I’m not much of a drinker anymore.”
    “Just get a half pint, enough to take off the edge, and relax you a little. What do you drink, normally?”
    “I guess, bourbon.”
    “What do you like to mix with it?”
    “Seven-Up, I guess. Or Coke.”
    “OK, we’ll stop at a liquor store. You get a half pint of bourbon ans a bottle of Seven-Up. Go into your living room, lock up the house, turn on the TV, and have a quiet drink or two, and wait for your husband.”
    “If he doesn’t believe me, I don’t know what I’ll do,” she wailed.
    “If he doesn’t believe you, leave him,” I said. “It’s none of my business, but how the hell can you have a relationship if your husband doesn’t trust you?”
    “I’m so screwed up,” she admitted, as we pulled into a liquor store parking lot. She sniffled.
    “Listen,” I said, “you’ve just been through a very traumatic ordeal and so you’re not thinking too clearly. You’ve been humiliated and made to feel dirty…by some animal, a criminal. It is NOT your fault. Don’t let this incident rob you of your self-worth and your confidence. You fought for your life, and you’re here, and you won. It took a lot of guts to fight off that guy. None of this was YOUR fault. You’re a victim. Your husband will understand. Now go in there and got yourself a nice stiff drink to calm your nerves and don’t worry about your husband. Everything’ll be okay.”
    Still shaky, she entered the liquor store. A few minutes later she returned with a package. I drove her through the neighborhoods to her modest house. The yard was tidy and in full bloom.
    “I wish I could tip you,” she said.
    “Don’t sweat it. Go on in there and relax. You didn’t invite this. You’re a nice gal. Have faith in yourself. It’s been a bad, nasty day, but you’ll have good ones after this. Hang in there. Good luck. Now go on in there.”
    She started to leave. “Look at my yard…my garden…isn’t it beautiful?”
    “Very much so.”
    She looked at me. Her red-rimmed eyes welled up and a look of absolute despair, almost terror, took hold of her eyes. “I won’t be able to go out there anymore! My yard…it’s my favorite place in the world…and I’m afraid to go out there now!”
    “Listen, that was a one-shot deal. He’ll never come back. All this will pass. In no time, things’ll be back to normal.”
    She was facing me, trembling. She seemed to lean toward me, ever so slightly, and I took both her hands in mine, gave them a little squeeze. “Hang in there, kid; sometimes that’s all we can do. It’s not the end of the world. That’s what my mother always told me, and it’s true.”
    I let go of her hands. She got out of the car and opened the gate of her short, white picket fence and walked up to the porch and front door, opened it, then turned and waved at me, still distraught, and disappeared into the house.
    Since there were no fares, I drove straight into downtown SLO and found her lawyer’s office. I heard somebody shout, and looked onto Marsh Street and saw the lawyer, still in his beautiful suit, skimming along the asphalt on a skateboard. Hauling ass! He zoomed right up to me, curled to an abrupt stop and hopped off his board with the skill and agility of a teenager. He wore tennis shoes. He was grinning. “This is my therapy, man,” he explained. “How’d it go?”
    “I got her to do a lot of talking. I think she’ll be OK.”
    “Crying always helps. What do I owe you?”
    “Call it forty bucks.”
    He pressed three fresh twenties into my palm and told me to keep the change. “Thanks for your trouble. I appreciate it.”
    “Well, I hope she’ll be OK.”
    He shrugged, rolling his eyes in a helpless manner. “We do the best we can, man.” Then he smiled and we shook hands, and he zoomed off on his skateboard, expertly dodging traffic. §

    Dell Franklin is the publisher of The Rogue Voice. He can be reached at Read more of his Cabby's Corner series here:
  • Ode to Tobias Wolff
  • Sisters from South Central
  • A soldier's story
  • First fare (hair of the dog)

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    Ethnic cleansing in America

    The people running the government value wealth and property, and disdain those who have neither. Witness what happened to New Orleans’s poor in the aftermath of Katrina.

    Ethnic cleansing in America
    How the Bush administration showed its true colors

    By Charles Sullivan
    It was little more than one year ago that Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast region of the United States, and left a path of death and destruction in her wake. Well over a thousand human beings lost their lives in the floods that followed the tempest.
    Who can say how many people lost hope in the aftermath of that terrific storm?
    Had Katrina hit an area of the country crowded with golf courses and country clubs, the government’s response would have been different. People with wealth and property matter in America; those without, do not. America is a land where sharp divisions of class play an important role in deciding one’s fate. People are not treated equally here, although few will openly admit it in print. We are not supposed to bring up class warfare and other embarrassing traits stemming from capitalism. After all, we call ourselves a democracy, don’t we?
    America’s imperial leader, George W. Bush—the murdering thief who stole two elections, was playing golf in Arizona on that fateful day one year ago. The cadaverous vice president was fly-fishing in Wyoming. Condoleezza Rice was shopping for shoes in New York—a single pair of which cost more than a typical welfare family’s entire monthly budget.
    A year later the commercial media was dutifully revisiting the story, as if to sell the public on the notion that they—a defacto extension of the government—actually care about America’s poor; they do not. America remains a racist nation that was built upon slave labor, and the exploitation of immigrant workers. Racism can be found anywhere but, thankfully, it does not exist everywhere. Not all Americans are racists. However, racism flourishes in the White House, and every branch of government is poisoned by the malignancy of bigotry.
    The truth is that wealthy white plutocrats are in control of the government, and they don’t give a damn about anyone they cannot exploit; and that is the observation of a white man.
    Because of my race, I know that I enjoy advantages and privileges that black men and women do not. I neither ask for nor expect preferential treatment, but I know that I am accorded them on the basis of my skin color. It should not be like this.
    The Civil War was fought in the 1860s to settle the race question in America—once and for all.
    History tells us that the South lost the Civil War; however, the evidence suggests otherwise. The battle for equality is without end. In the good old days of Jim Crow and segregation—and before that, Negro slavery—the South’s economy was built entirely upon slave labor. In those days, rich white men ruled the country and lived in mansions, while their slaves lived in broken-down shacks; and they still do. No longer is racism as overt as it was in the days of chattel slavery, but it continues to flourish and multiply.
    Racial bigots continue to control the government, especially in the South, while forging both domestic and foreign policies. The people running the government value wealth and property, and disdain those who have neither. Witness what happened to New Orleans’s poor in the aftermath of Katrina.
    Hurricane Katrina provided the federal government a long-sought opportunity—to radically alter the demographics of New Orleans. Thousands of poor black families—those who did not drown—were forced from their homes and will never be allowed to return. Throughout the Gulf Coast region, bulldozers and earth-moving machines razed the homes of the poor to make way for developers. It is out with the black, in with the white, in with the rich and out with the poor. Out with affordable homes for low-income families, in with lavish gated communities, shopping malls and resorts for the wealthy. We do not ordinarily hear about this on the network news, nor do we read about it in the daily newspapers or magazines.
    In effect, New Orleans was ethnically cleansed by the government, which abandoned the poor and went on vacation when Katrina made landfall. New Orleans’s mostly black, low-income population was scattered across the nation and left to fend for themselves like seeds from a dandelion dispersed by the wind. They were treated like criminals and punished for being black and poor. But what does one expect from a government that evokes imminent domain to demolish low-income housing across the country, and turns it over to developers for private gain? When has privatized wealth ever served the public good?
    It is becoming more apparent that only those with high incomes and property have inalienable rights. Everyone else is subject to eviction and refugee status at a moment’s notice. Money matters, people do not.
    Those who know their history will recognize the familiar patterns of plutocracy at work. That is how the government has always treated the poor, just as it has always exploited the working class and sent them to die in wars not of their making.
    How could any but the ignorant and foolish dare call this democracy?
    Katrina was a category three storm when she came ashore on August 29, 2005. Thousands of poor people lost their lives; millions more lost the little faith they had in their own government. The truth is that the poor have no representation in government. That same government wastes $1.9 billion of our tax dollars every week in an illegal war and occupation in the Middle East—and there are more of these wars to come. Can there be any doubt where its priorities are?
    George W. Bush, ever vigilant to exploit a good photo op, recently boasted that he has visited the Gulf Coast region eleven times since Katrina struck. Bush so loathes the working poor that he thinks they cannot tell the difference between a photo op and genuine concern backed by thoughtful action. In his response to the nation’s worst-ever natural disaster, the world saw Bush’s cavalier disregard for America’s poor; and they have seen it every day since. A few rounds of golf in Arizona meant more to him than the lives of all of those suffering people.
    But the poor are not Bush’s people; they contributed nothing to his presidential campaign or to the Republican Party. Neither are they the demographic that cast their votes for him on election day. The people of New Orleans know whom Bush represents. We see with clear eyes that poor people are disposable, while the rich are indispensable.
    By contrast, when Hurricane Ivan, a category five storm struck Cuba—not a single human life was lost—not one! And Cuba is a nation, thanks to U.S. economic sanctions, that has only a fraction of America’s resources.
    The commercial media, of course, will allow Bush his photo opportunities; they will do a few feel good human interest stories about rebuilding New Orleans for a day or two, leaving the impression that the people are being taken care of; but they will not tell you the story that most needs to be told. They never do. §

    Charles Sullivan’s commentary first appeared on the web at Information Clearing House on September 07, 2006, and is reprinted with his permission. Sullivan is a photographer and free-lance writer living in the hinterland of West Virginia. He welcomes your comments at

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    A homeless woman's gift

    ‘You can’t take money from a homeless person!’ he exclaimed. ‘Here,’ he said, taking a dollar bill out of his wallet, ‘give her this dollar.’

    Note: The following story first appeared in the Tribune, July 18, 2005, one week after Sharon Ostman was found murdered in San Luis Creek. The story was later recognized by the online publication, In Character, as one of the best editorials that year on human virtue. This month Stacey Warde will attend a ceremony at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., to be honored for the story he wrote about Sharon, whose murder remains unsolved.

    A homeless woman’s gift
    No matter how poor, we can always offer a blessing

    By Stacey Warde
    With no money in my pocket, less than $200 in the bank, and feeling a little bleak, I recently pleaded hardship to a homeless woman asking for a dollar in front of the post office.
    “I’m sorry, but you’re probably better off than I am right now,” I said. I climbed into the passenger’s side of the car, parked next to the curb.
    “Oh,” she said with concern, “would you like a dollar?”
    I didn’t really know what to say, but felt so good about her offer, I laughed.
    “No, thank you,” I said, warmed by her generosity. “I’m sure I’ll be okay.” I smiled at the woman as she sat on the bench next to her various cardboard signs expressing need, hoping that I really would be okay.
    With little prospect of steady employment, and only a few sporadic cash jobs to squeak by, I didn’t know if I was going to be okay or not.
    Sharon Ostman’s genuine concern made me feel I might.
    She got up from her place on the bench, and came up to the window on the passenger’s side of the car.
    “Here,” she said, handing me a beautiful shiny gold dollar coin, featuring the Shoshone mother with child, Sacagawea.
    “She’s one of my ancestors,” Sharon continued. “Give it to a child, if you like.”
    “Thank you,” I said, grateful and delighted. I examined the gold coin as she went back to her place on the bench.
    Sacagawea’s youthful face, head turned and baby strapped to her back, peered over her shoulder, expressed calmness and confidence. Her image suggested forward movement.
    Had it not been for Sacagawea, it’s said, the historic Lewis and Clark expedition to the Northwest (1804-1806) would have failed. She was smart, resourceful and diplomatic.
    None of that really mattered to me at the moment. I was more enthralled with the coin’s gold brilliance, and the homeless woman who gave it to me. I also basked in the kindness she had just shown me.
    My companion, with whom I had washed windows that morning to earn some much-needed cash, seemed aghast. He didn’t recognize Sacagawea.
    “Is that a Susan B.?” he gasped. “Is that a silver dollar?” he added with emphasis on the “dollar.”
    “No, Bob, it’s a gold coin. Susan B.’s not gold.”
    “You can’t take money from a homeless person!” he exclaimed. “Here,” he said, taking a dollar bill out of his wallet, “give her this dollar.”
    “What do you mean I can’t take her dollar? Are you kidding? That was pure generosity,” I responded.
    She saw the exchange in the car and returned to the passenger’s side and stooped down as I passed the thin paper dollar bill into her hand.
    “Thank you,” she said.
    And we were off.
    Since then, I’ve been much less stingy with my spare change, even when I don’t have much to spare. What does it hurt?
    Actually, I feel so much better extending my hand to pad a homeless person’s pocket than I do refusing to offer anything.
    Until I met Sacagawea’s descendant in front of the post office, I had grown sour with my own bleak circumstances, living hand to mouth, and with bums who wanted to take what little I had.
    I’ve heard stories of homeless people standing by the side of busy freeway exits, raking in dollar bills and larger from rush-hour commuters.
    “Those guys make more money than I do,” a friend once said. “They pull in as much as $50,000 a year.”
    “Right on!” I responded. “It’s not the way I want to make a living, but if they can do it, more power to them.”
    Lately, I’ve been thinking: What’s the difference between the homeless woman at the post office and me? Not much, really, except her kindness and generosity.
    I want to be more like her.
    I feel better when I’m willing to give than when I’m hoarding what little I have.
    And in this day, when the predominant “business” models taught in the university are little more than methodologies of greed, it’s revolutionary to give.
    In that sense, Sharon Ostman revolutionized my thinking and my connection to people in the street. I have nothing to fear, and no need to respond with anger, when I’m willing to give.
    And I don’t need to buy into the greed and blind hunger rampant in our culture. All of the great spiritual treatises and traditions we cherish point to a different path anyhow. A few seem to truly follow that path, like Sharon at the post office.
    I’ve learned that no matter how little we have, we always have the option to bestow a gift, a blessing. In my mind, that’s the best and highest good we can pursue in this life.
    Thank you, Sharon, for blessing me. §

    Stacey Warde is editor of The Rogue Voice. Anyone with information that will help solve Sharon’s murder can contact the San Luis Obispo Police Department’s 24-hour hotline at 805.783.7800 or CRIMESTOPPERS at 805.549.STOP (805.549.7867).
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    America's Cro-Magnon mindset

    A Cro-Magnon mindset sees all the world’s resources as means of private profit, to be selfishly plundered in the moment rather than as a collective common to be shared judiciously for generations to come.

    The weak and the hopeless will always resort to acts of terror when all else fails. And no amount of counter-violence will stop it.

    America’s Cro-Magnon mindset
    The 21st century is leaving the U.S. in the dust

    By Donald Archer
    Our national political representatives, and the interests who support them, are trapped like dinosaurs in a Cro-Magnon mindset, and they’re taking all of us with them.
    They confuse intransigence with integrity, corporate interest with national interest, military might with security, and negotiation with weakness. If we are observant and honest, we will see that this confusion is making the world increasingly dangerous.
    These individuals are so obsessed with, and blinded by, their twisted idea of how the world should be, that they can’t see how the world is, how it works, or what it needs. In their own skewed vision of entitlement, only the very wealthy—those who have profited from the infrastructure that all of society has provided—are entitled to healthcare, education, opportunity, and economic security; everyone else is simply entitled to the misery they find themselves in.
    A Cro-Magnon mindset sees all the world’s resources as means of private profit, to be selfishly plundered in the moment rather than as a collective common to be shared judiciously for generations to come.
    A Cro-Magnon mindset does not believe in constitutional government—government that protects the interests of the people against the tyranny of concentrated power and wealth, and founded on the authority of law, not dictatorship. From a Cro-Magnon point of view, power and violence take the place of reason and compassion.
    A Cro-Magnon mindset has contempt for the democratic process itself. It sees authority as supreme: “I’m the decider!” It considers the citizenry as dependent and immature, as vassals who need continual guidance and control, and who must be manipulated by constant fear.
    A Cro-Magnon mindset sees no ethical contradiction or moral lapse in putting others in harm’s way while evading such vulnerability itself.
    A Cro-Magnon mindset believes that ends justify means. For example, a this archaic, unevolved consciousness will finance and support terrorist groups and terrorist activities if it perceives that such actions will further its interests or weaken its enemy; and it will undermine legal and democratic processes that it believes hinder its efforts. It will then deny that its actions have led to the calamities it faces.
    A Cro-Magnon mindset is incapable of seeing the complexities of reality; to it everything is black and white, good and evil. When it sees the violence of a terrorist act, it only asks “who,” not “why?”
    A Cro-Magnon mindset, despite the evidence, is incapable of seeing that the violence of terrorism is the way that the politically weak and powerless get the powerful to acknowledge them and negotiate because no other means have worked.
    And a Cro-Magnon mindset doesn’t acknowledge its own brand of indiscriminate violence—war—as an act of terrorism.
    A Cro-Magnon mindset refuses to see and remedy the legitimate grievances that lead to terrorist actions. And once such ignorance and callousness provoke a terrorist response, a Cro-Magnon mindset sees negotiation as weakness, and might as its only resource, military action its only solution: Of course, it was not bombing the IRA into oblivion that brought peace and stability to Northern Ireland; that was achieved by the British negotiating with a group that had used terrorism to get to the negotiating table. The same is true of Israeli negotiations, however clandestine, with its adversaries. The weak and the hopeless will always resort to acts of terror when all else fails. And no amount of counter-violence will stop it.
    A Cro-Magnon mindset does not learn from the past, lacking curiosity about and interest in any historical event that doesn’t bolster its own preconceptions. A Cro-Magnon mindset prefers the Dark Ages to the Age of Enlightenment.
    A Cro-Magnon mindset does not understand or acknowledge the interconnection of all people and all nations of the world—except as consumers and producers who can be exploited to generate the wealth of a few.
    A Cro-Magnon mindset cannot conceive or understand that human beings can and often do things for the sheer joy of doing them, and not for profit, or ulterior motive, or self-aggrandizement, or fear of punishment, or anticipation of reward.
    A Cro-Magnon mindset does not understand that wealth is not generated indefinitely by moving money around; in the end, something of intrinsic value has to be produced.
    In the pursuit of a frozen vision and immediate, transitory private profit, a Cro-Magnon mindset is willing to sacrifice the future of the United States, and the future of the world.
    As much of the world clearly sees and understands, this Cro-Magnon mindset doesn’t work; it destroys the very things it seeks: peace, and political and economic security. The world is moving in a new direction and the 21st century is leaving this Cro-Magnon mindset, and this nation, in the dust.
    Note: “Cro-Magnon” is being used for poetic effect to convey the sense of an outmoded and archaic mindset. My apologies to the real Cro-Magnons who were undoubtedly more civilized and civil than the current mindset. §

    Donald Archer is an artist and commentator who lives in Cambria. His art can be viewed at

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