September 16, 2010 - The Constantine Report    
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

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March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading

Wickliffe Draper – Financier of American Race Science

This is a modified py-6 that occupies the entire horizontal space of its parent.

“… Draper took a keen interest in eugenics. … Draper secretly sent $255,000 to the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission to support racial segregation and anti-civil rights violence and intimidation. … Draper died from prostate cancer in 1972. He left $1.4 million to the Pioneer Fund. …”

Wickliffe Preston Draper, the son of George A. Draper, a wealthy textile machinery manufacturer, was born in Hopedale on 9th August, 1891. Draper graduated from Harvard University in 1913.

On the outbreak of the First World War Draper joined the British Army. Promoted to the rank of lieutenant he took part in the battles of Neuve-Chapelle, Messines Ridge, Somme and Ypres, where he was seriously wounded. When the United States declared war on Germany in 1917, Draper transferred to the U.S. Army. He was injured on the Western Front and invalided home to Hopedale, where he gave a talk at the Draper Memorial Church. According to the Milford Daily News (5th December, 1917) Draper “emphasized the prime necessity of absolute discipline in the army, as a requisite of victory, the sort of discipline that keeps the men at the guns, even though it means almost sure death to remain.” Wickliffe Draper spent the next year as an artillery instructor with the U.S. Army at Forts Sill. In 1919 he left the army with the rank of major. Later he was eventually promoted to lieutenant colonel in the Cavalry Reserve. When his father, George A. Draper, died in 1923, he inherited the family’s wealth. Draper moved to England where he studied archaeology and anthropology at the University of London. In 1927 Draper funded the team that discovered Asselar Man, the oldest known skeleton from Africa. The following year his achievements were acknowledged in Britain by being elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Draper took a keen interest in eugenics. A very wealthy man, Draper made considerable donations to the American Eugenics Society (AES). In August 1935, Draper traveled to Berlin to attend the International Congress for the Scientific Investigation of Population Problems hosted by Nazi Germany and chaired by Wilhelm Frick, the German Minister of the Interior. In 1937, Draper founded the Pioneer Fund “to advance the scientific study of heredity and human differences.” However, Draper told a geneticist that he “wished to prove simply that Negroes were inferior.” The Pioneer Fund was headed by the eugenicist, Harry H. Laughlin, an advocate for restrictive immigration laws and national programs of compulsory sterilization of the mentally ill and mentally retarded. He was also the director of the Eugenics Record Office (ERO) and was among the most active individuals in influencing American eugenics policy, especially compulsory sterilization legislation. Draper and Laughlin proposed a research agenda to assist in the enforcement of Southern “race integrity laws” by developing techniques for identifying the “pass-for-white” person who might “successfully hide all of his black blood”. Laughlin was also highly critical of Jews who he described as “slow to assimilate” and praised the Nuremberg Laws, arguing that the United States and the Third Reich shared “a common understanding of … the practical application” of eugenic principles to “racial endowments and… racial health.” The Pioneer Fund distributed two films from Nazi Germany depicting the eugenic programs in that country. Draper also developed a close friendship with Earnest Sevier Cox, who argued that the only permanent solution to America’s racial problems was complete and total separation of black and white. Cox also advocated the resettlement of African Americans to Liberia. In 1938 Draper published Cox’s book, White America. A personal copy was sent by Draper to Wilhelm Frick. On the outbreak of the Second World War Draper moved to London where he joined British military intelligence and was later transferred to the British headquarters in India. After the war, he returned to eugenicist and segregationist activism. Draper was outraged by the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision, Brown v. Board of Education. It later emerged that Draper secretly sent $255,000 to the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission to support racial segregation and anti-civil rights violence and intimidation. John Bevilaqua has argued that Draper might have been involved with James Angleton, Charles Willoughby, Gerald L. K. Smith, Ray S. Cline, Robert J. Morris and Anastase Vonsiatsky in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Draper also donated considerable funds to right-wing political organizations such as the World Anti-Communist League (WACL). Established in 1966 by the intelligence organizations of Taiwan and South Korea to provide anti-communist propaganda. Fascists played an important role in the WACL and at least three European chapters of the organization were controlled by former SS officers from Nazi Germany. Members included John K. Singlaub and Ray S. Cline. Wickliffe Draper died from prostate cancer in 1972. He left $1.4 million to the Pioneer Fund.

How the South’s fight to uphold segregation was funded up North

New Crisis, The, Sep/Oct 1999 by Blackmon, Douglas A.

Jackson, Miss. – On the afternoon of Sept. 12, 1963, a vice president of Morgan Guaranty Trust Co. sent a telegram to the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, the agency created by local politicians to fight the civil-rights movement and preserve racial segregation. A Morgan client, the telegram said, was “setting aside as an anonymous gift” stock valued at $100,000. There was one condition: “Donor would like the fact and amount of gift to be kept confidential. ” The matter was referred directly to Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett, who agreed to the terms and, that same day, sent Morgan instructions on where to send the cash.

Once the money arrived in Mississippi, it was funneled to an account in Washington, D.C., where segregationists were launching a fierce campaign to defeat landmark civil-rights legislation abolishing segregation in most public facilities. And in the ensuring months, the mystery contributor would follow up with additional, substantial gifts to help the cause. For nearly four decades, the role of that donor remained concealed in the files of the now-defunct Sovereignty Commission. But last year, a federal judge ordered the unsealing of more than 130,600 commission files. The documents triggered a painful examination of some of the South’s most heinous racial crimes. Little explored, though, was the trove of ledgers, invoices and correspondence recording the commission’s finances. Those records show large transfers of money by Morgan on behalf of a client who turns out to be a wealthy and reclusive New Yorker named Wickliffe Preston Draper. Mr. Draper used his private banker to transfer nearly $215,000 in stock and cash to the Sovereignty Commission for use in its fight against the Civil Rights Act. The entire budget for the effort amounted to about $300,000. Adjusted for inflation, Mr. Draper’s contributions would be worth more than $ 1.1 million today. The Sovereignty Commission files do more than simply document one man’s role. They show that some of the most virulent resistance to civil-rights progress in the 1960s was supported and funded from the North, not just the South. The files also highlight the ethical issues that confront an institution like Morgan Guaranty, the private-banking unit of J.P. Morgan & Co., when it is drawn, even unwittingly, into a client’s support for repugnant causes. Since the 1930s, Mr. Draper had been a client of Guaranty Trust, which became Morgan Guaranty when it merged with J.R Morgan in 1959. It isn’t clear whether he used Guaranty to help with funding some of his earlier race-related efforts, such as a program in the 1930s to encourage white military pilots to have more children, or research in the 1950s to prove the superiority of whites and dangers of mixed-race marriages. When Mr. Draper died in 1972, Morgan was an executor of his estate, overseeing distributions totaling about $5 million to two race-oriented foundations. The primary beneficiary was the Pioneer Fund, an organization Mr. Draper helped found and which became known in recent years for funding research cited in “The Bell Curve,” a book arguing that blacks -are genetically inclined to be less intelligent than whites or Asians. In his will, Mr. Draper instructed that after his death, the Pioneer Fund use Morgan for financial advice; the fund did so for two decades. Morgan today says that “racism is deplorable” and that the bank doesn’t “support institutions that further racist causes.” Moreover, the bank notes that it has been a consistent donor to AfricanAmerican causes, giving more than $3.3 million of its own money to civil-rights-related groups since the late 1960s. Morgan insists that the Sovereignty Commission transactions it processed for Mr. Draper were routine procedures carried out on behalf of a client, over which the bank had no influence or control. “A thousand times a day, somebody sends money to an organization that 30 years later looks really terrible,” says Morgan spokesman Joe Evangelista. “We can’t tell our customers how to spend their money.” Mr. Evangelista says the role Morgan played was no different from the way Wall Street banks today facilitate gifts to organizations that could be equally controversial. He cites donations made to Planned Parenthood (often criticized for its pro-choice stance), or to the Boy Scouts of America (which prohibits gays from becoming troop leaders). Morgan’s policy he says, is to pass no judgement on any client’s activities, except in the “rare situation” when “the wishes of a client…conflict with the principles that we stand for as a firm.” In those cases, the firm may close a client’s account, Mr. Evangelista says. Since the Sovereignty Commission was a legal, state-created entity, says Hildy J. Simmons, a managing director at Morgan Guaranty, the bank had no choice but to follow its client’s wishes. It would be no different today. “As long as the receiving party is legal, we have no discretion,” says Ms. Simmons. Morgan did close the asset-management account it maintained for the Pioneer Fund after the furor erupted over “The Bell Curve” in 1994, according to people familiar with the situation. The bank won’t give details on why it did so. That option is something banks should consider, says Thomas Donaldson, a business-ethics professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “Good bankers should have the words ‘Know thy client’ tattooed somewhere on their chests,” Mr. Donaldson says. “When the activities of the client or customer reach the point where they offend vital, deeply held values of the institution, you have to say no.” But many banks aren’t comfortable with that posture, and with good reason, says George J. Benston, a banking professor at the Goizueta Business School at Emory University in Atlanta. “One would like an institution to operate with its customers neutrally. You don’t want some bank officer making a judgment on whether a customer’s donations are moral.”

Brahmin Roots

Wickliffe Draper, was, in many ways, a typical Yankee aristocrat. He was born in Hopedale, Mass., in 1891. His father was a top executive in the textile-machinery giant Draper Corp. His mother was from a blue-blood Kentucky family. An uncle was a Massachusetts governor. His younger sister married a nephew of President William Howard Taft. Mr. Draper reveled in adventure. At Harvard College, from which he graduated in 1913, he excelled in shooting. A volunteer in both world wars, he used the title “colonel” for most of his life. In 1924, he inherited about half of his father’s estate, which was valued at the then-enormous sum of nearly $11 million. In 1938, he reported to his Harvard classmates that his diversions over the 25 years since college included “shooting jaguar in Matto Grosso and deer in Sonora, elephant in Uganda and chamois in Steiermark, ibex in Baltistan and antelope in Mongolia;-pigsticking in India.” By the late 1930s, for reasons that still aren’t clear, Mr. Draper had also developed a fascination with racial genetics. In 1937, he helped found the Pioneer Fund. The foundation was devoted to supporting eugenics, a school of thinking which held that races can be genetically “improved” through mating practices, such as encouraging intelligent people to marry, or sterilizing handicapped individuals. Many eugenicists of the day, including some Pioneer founders, believed that whites were superior to blacks in intellect and other attributes, says Barry Mehler, a historian at Minnesota’s Ferris State University, who has studied the fund extensively. The charter of the Pioneer Fund said the organization would support research and programs aimed at “race betterment.” Scholarship programs would give special consideration to “children who are deemed to be descended predominantly from white persons who settled in the original 13 states.” (In 1985, Pioneer amended its charter, saying it supports programs aimed at “human race betterment,” and also deleting reference to “white persons.”) Today, officials of the fund deny that it seeks to prove the inferiority of any race and maintain that it funds only legitimate genetic research, regardless of its findings. The organization says its past and present leaders were not biased for or against any race. One of the first major projects of the Pioneer Fund under Mr. Draper was a program to encourage officers of the all-white U.S. Army Air Corps, predecessor of the Air Force, to have more children. Mr. Draper and other directors of the foundation believed that the Pioneer Fund should encourage a higher birth rate among the best of the white race. So the fund offered to establish annuities to pay for the education of any child born in 1940 to a pilot who had already fathered at least three children. Among the original Pioneer Fund directors who endorsed the plan was John Marshall Harlan II, a prominent New York attorney who would be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1957. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s secretary of war, Harry H. Woodring, personally approved the plan, according to justice Harlan’s papers, now stored at Princeton University. Memos to Mr. Harlan make clear that the plans were fulfilled, “During the calendar year 1940 there were 12 children born to officers in the Army Air Corps… eligible to receive scholarships,” wrote a psychologist hired to oversee the program. Mr. Draper made arrangements, according to records kept by Mr. Harlan, for an annuity to be established for each of the children at Guaranty Trust, the predecessor to Morgan Guaranty. After World War II, the never-married Mr. Draper became increasingly reclusive. He stopped submitting updates to his Harvard class and lived alone in Manhattan, in a spacious East 57th Street penthouse duplex, surrounded by hunting weapons and mounted animal heads. For several years, he paid young researchers to visit his apartment and teach him genetic theory. “For $10 an hour, I tutored Draper… every time I was in New York,” says Bruce Wallace, a retired Virginia Polytechnic University professor who adds that he disagreed with Mr. Draper’s views. “His contention was that the geneticists had all the figures but they were afraid to add them all up… He was quite set on the idea that there was superiority and inferiority. I don’t think he would have placed blacks among the superior.” The theories embraced by Mr. Draper fell out of favor after the war, and as the horrors of the Nazi regime became apparent, many of his old allies distanced themselves from their previous work. But through the 1950s, Mr. Draper continued to push for research to demonstrate white superiority; he also espoused sending American blacks, on a voluntary basis, to live in Africa, says the Pioneer Fund. In 1957, the state of Mississippi created the Sovereignty Commission. Operating on an appropriation of about 8100,000 year, the commission penetrated most of the major civil-rights organizations in Mississippi, even planting clerical workers in the offices of activist attorneys, it informed police about planned marches or boycotts and encouraged police harassment of AfricanAmericans who cooperated with civil rights groups. Its agents obstructed voted registration by blacks and harassed AfricanAmericans seeking to attend white schools. on occasion, the commission also took steps to discourage violence by the Ku Klux Man and other extremist groups. Precisely how Mr. Draper became connected to the commission isn’t clear. But the relationship appears to have blossomed shortly after a national address by President John E Kennedy in June 1963. The president proposed wide-reaching legislation to outlaw segregation in public facilities. Mississippi leaders scrambled to mount a vigorous fight. They turned to John C. Satterfield, a brilliant litigator from Yazoo City, Miss., and the immediate past president of the American Bar Association. By the end of the 1960s, Time magazine would label him “the most prominent segregationist lawyer in the country.” Within days of President Kennedy’s speech, Mr. Satterfield headed to Washington to meet with top politicians and leaders of major trade organizations and business groups. The response was encouraging. “We in the South now have new and important allies who never before seemed seriously concerned,” wrote Erie Johnston Jr., director of the Sovereignty Commission. “It was a thrill to me to see how the gentlemen at these meetings looked to Mississippi for leadership.” The result was a new national lobbying organization, called the Coordinating Committee for Fundamental American Freedoms. The Sovereignty Commission provided money to rent a Washington office and hire staff, and largely controlled the group from Mississippi. On July 22, 1963, Mr. Satterfield received the first private contribution to the cause, a $ 10,000 Morgan Guaranty cashier’s check drawn from Mr. Draper’s accounts. It was deposited into a special account in the Mississippi state treasury and logged into Sovereignty Commission records with a simple notation: “Morgan Guaranty Trust Co.” Over the next year, Mississippi leaders repeatedly claimed that the campaign was being financed by broad grass-roots support in Mississippi and across the U.S. In truth, contributions from Mississippi citizens never topped $30,000. A surviving partner of Mr. Satterfield’s law firm says the attorney obliquely referred to the source of the big money simply as “the Wall Street gang.” On Sept. 12, Mississippi Gov. Barnett received the telegram in which Morgan Vice President Arthur W. Rossiter Jr. said $ 100,000 in stock had been earmarked for the Mississippi commission. After the shares were sold, the gift totaled $98,612. it was entered into Sovereignty Commissions records as “Donation from Morgan Guaranty Trust Company.” Four months later, another telegram arrived from Mr. Rossiter, this time signaling the impending arrival of an additional $105,000 from Mr. Draper. The money was derived from Mr. Draper’s shares of Reynolds Tobacco, General Motors, Standard Oil of New Jersey and Addressograph-Multigraph. Morgan sold the stock at Mr. Draper’s direction, collected commissions on the sales, and moved the proceeds into what it calls a temporary Sovereignty Commission account at Morgan Guaranty. The Sovereignty Commission eventually forwarded the funds to Washington. Throughout, Mr. Rossiter insisted that the source of the money never be disclosed. “This represents an anonymous gift to your Commission and the donor has specifically requested that the fact and the amount of the gift be kept strictly confidential” he wrote in one letter. Mr. Draper’s money buoyed a sweeping attack on the civil-rights bill. The Sovereignty Commission’s Washington arm coordinated opposition efforts among less-organized groups, pushed trade associations to fight the bill and lobbied Congress. It sent ghost-written editorials to newspapers around the country and bought ads in 500 daily and weekly papers. By April 1964, the group had distributed 1.4 million pamphlets and mailings, Sovereignty Commission records indicate. The opposition effort was swathed in the issues of protecting states’ rights and reining in an overreaching federal government. The advertisements said the bill would create an “omnipotent president”and a “dictatorial attorney general.” But commission records make clear that the effort co-financed by Mr. Draper was grounded on bitterly racist notions. Citing several white-supremacist tracts, an internal memorandum by Mr. Satterfield said Americans had to be shown that the conditions of blacks in the U.S. were the result of “heredity… not discrimination.” At the heat of the matter, the memo said, were “the intellience, criminality and immoral@ity of the Negro.” The Sovereignty Commission campaign triggered thousands of letters. Despite that, Congress approved the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it into law. Frustrated by the defeat, Mr. Satterfield pressed Mississippi’s new governor, Paul Johnson, to help start a new national organization, designed to demonstrate that the plight of blacks in the South was the result not of “mistreatment and discrimination” but the “completely different nature of Negro citizens and white citizens, he wrote the governor. “Certain groups in the east who prefer anonymity’ were ready to back the effort with $200,000, Mr. Satterfield wrote, if the state would match the contribution. As a gesture of seriousness, an unnamed northern benefactor had sent $50,000. The donor was, again, Mr. Draper. His oft arrived via Morgan on June 2, 1964. Governor Johnson endorsed the plan, and the Legislature quickly appropriated $200,000. But the segregationists suffered another setback, this time at the hands of their most rabid elements. I(lan members abducted civilrights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney in the town of Philadelphia, Miss. The three were beaten, shot to death and buried in an earthen darn. Six weeks later, the workers’ 1963 Ford station wagon was found burned along an isolated road, still bearing Mississippi license tag H 25503, a number logged into Sovereignty Commission files by an informant a few weeks earlier. The national outcry brought an end to the new alliance between Mississippi officials and Mr. Draper. Gov. Johnson’s office was flooded with telegrams, many simply repeating the words “justice, justice, justice.” Increasingly isolated, Mississippi leaders took at least symbolic steps to halt violence. The state’s own $200,000 appropriation was quietly returned to the Mississippi treasury. Later, the $50,600 from Mr. Draper was returned to his attorney in New York, Harry E Weyher, who deposited it into the escrow account of his firm, records show. Mr. Weyher, who has been president of the Pioneer Fund for more than 40 years, says he doesn’t recall the flow of funds, though he did remember meeting with Mr. Satterfield in the 1960s. Mr. Draper maintained his interest in the fight to preserve segregation in the South. In the late 1960s and 1970s, he sent dozens of checks to private academies that had opened up to accommodate white families fleeing newly integrated public schools, estate records show. After Mr. Draper died in 1972, Morgan continued to manage his holdings while the will was being sorted out. Five years later, his assets were distributed according to Mr. Draper’s wishes. He gave about $1 million to family members, and also bequeathed $3.3 million to the Pioneer Fund and $1.7 million to the Puritan Foundation. (The Pioneer Fund isn’t related to the mutual fund of the same name.) The Puritan Foundation listed as its address the law firm of Mr. Satterfield, the Mississippi lawyer. In 1978, the fund was merged into another nonprofit called the Council School Foundation, according to Rutgers University Prof. William Tucker, who is researching Mr. Draper’s activities. That Mississippi group was created to support private schools that catered to white students.

A state’s stigma

Citing bank policy, executives at Morgan won’t discuss whether the bankers who worked with Mr. Draper knew of his racial leanings or the true nature of the Sovereignty Commission. Still, Morgan was dealing with a prominent Mississippi segregationists at a time when the national media were focused on the state, and when some on Wall Street and in New York’s political community were concerned about maintaining business ties there. Mr. Barnett, the governor of Mississippi, had been pictured on the front page of the New York Times in 1962 during a bloody standoff with federal troops forcing the integration of the University of Mississippi. The Mississippi state treasurer at the time, William E Winter, said that Wall Street firms charged higher interest rates on the state’s bonds, due to the stigma of having ties to Mississippi. In 1965, one such issue was canceled due to a lack of bids on Wall Street. Morgan says none of that is relevant. The bank likely had clients supporting the civil-rights movement as well, executives say. And, adds Mr. Evangelista, “doing business with a particular client doesn’t mean that we endorse that client’s beliefs of actions.” It would be “offensive” for a bank to police how its clients conduct their affairs. “That’s a privilege of being rich in America,” says Ms. Simmons at Morgan. “You can spend your money the way you want to.”

Frank O. Sotomayor
L.A. Observed | August 27 2010

Two Mexican cousins are killed by Los Angeles police in a case of mistaken identity. A prominent journalist is cautioned by two LAPD officers about his coverage of the shootings. A short time later, the journalist meets with staffers of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and tells them he is being followed. He gives his Rolodex of news sources to a colleague and clears his desk. Days later, at the age of 42, he is dead. Killed by a 10-inch-long tear-gas projectile fired by a Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputy.

Is this the plot for a crime thriller? It could be. But it is just part of the tragic mystery surrounding Ruben Salazar. The Los Angeles Times columnist and KMEX news director was killed 40 years ago Sunday under very disturbing circumstances. Law enforcement officials had a chance to resolve the matter at that time but dropped the ball. A new generation of law enforcement officials now has a chance to come clean by releasing all records relating to the case. For the sake of history and transparency, they must not fumble this opportunity.

I first heard of Ruben Salazar in early 1970 when a friend mailed me a few of his columns. I was in the Army in Japan at the time. I was impressed by Salazar’s insight as he explored the often-misportrayed Chicano movement and issues involving education and justice. Salazar was the first Mexican American columnist for a major U.S. newspaper, following his career as Times reporter and foreign correspondent. For me, a young Mexican American during an era with few minorities in the news media, he became an inspiration. I vowed to go to Los Angeles and meet him.

On Aug. 29, 1970, I ended my military service at Oakland Army Base and looked forward to a job interview at The Times. Little did I know that on that same Saturday afternoon, Salazar would be killed. Though I never got to meet him, I have continued to celebrate his journalistic work and ponder his death.

A basic question haunts me, just as it disturbs Salazar’s children and many others. Was the fatal shooting of Salazar just a horrible accident that occurred under riot conditions nearby? That was law enforcement’s verdict. Or was Salazar assassinated to silence his reporting and the work of his KMEX news staff? That is what some Mexican Americans who were politically active at the time believe.

I don’t know the answer to that enduring mystery. Even the release of all relevant official documents may not provide a definitive answer, but such action will show that today’s officials have nothing to hide about a 40-year-old case.

In February of this year, Thomas A. Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, filed a California Public Records Act request to Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca on behalf of filmmaker Phillip Rodriguez and himself. In March, the Los Angeles Times also made a request for the Salazar files. In early August, Baca balked at releasing the eight boxes of department materials. But after some friendly persuasion from Supervisor Gloria Molina, Baca has now given the records to the Sheriff Department’s Office of Independent Review. The staff, led by Michael Gennaco, will prepare a report on the contents of the Salazar files.

That’s a good start. But for the sake of historical record, all of the Sheriff’s records relevant to Salazar’s death should be made public. Beyond that, any relevant files from the District Attorney’s office, the LAPD and federal Justice Department agencies should also be made public.

“Let the chips fall where they may,” Molina said in an interview. “We have a very different Sheriff today. For those who are nervous about what would come out, I think they will have to grin and bear it because that was the reality of the day.”

Lisa Salazar Johnson, the oldest of Ruben’s three children, said: “I am urging Sheriff Baca to release those files because there are so many questions. I want to know why I had to live without a father.”

Salazar died on a day that began with a large, peaceful march in East Los Angeles in protest against the Vietnam War and the disproportionate number of Mexican Americans being drafted and dying on the battlefield. The protest drew an estimated 25,000 Mexican Americans from across the Southwest, including young people who have since become leaders in politics, education and other fields.

After the marchers reached Laguna Park, a small group caused trouble at a nearby liquor store. When deputies responded, they were pelted by rocks and bottles. Things got chaotic. Tear gas was fired at the main crowd of demonstrators, which included elderly parents and young children. In a grainy scene recorded on film, a young woman flings a stone toward the authorities and gets clubbed by a deputy in the back of the head. Protest organizers later said that police had looked for any pretext to break up the event. Almost everyone went home, disappointed that they did not have a chance to express their disapproval of the war.

“All of us had lost friends in the war,” said Molina, then an East L.A. College student, who had left Laguna Park before the trouble erupted. “I was as angry as anyone about that war.”

Some young demonstrators responded violently, looting and burning businesses along Whittier Boulevard in L.A.’s worst disturbance since the 1965 Watts riots. Law enforcement moved in with strength. Before it was over, property damages would exceed $1 million, and dozens would be injured or arrested. Three people would die.

Salazar had been covering the day’s events for KMEX. A colleague, Guillermo Restrepo, later said that Salazar suspected they were being followed that afternoon. They went to a dingy bar to take a break and have a beer. Its location, 22 blocks from Laguna Park, seemed far removed from the rioting at the time. Sheriff’s deputies, however, suddenly appeared outside the Silver Dollar bar, located on Whittier Boulevard in unincorporated East L.A. The deputies went there, they later said, because a man told them of two men inside the bar with guns. Deputy Thomas H. Wilson fired twice into the establishment. But he used an unusual weapon: a torpedo-shaped tear-gas projectile that was designed to pierce wooden doors and to expel barricaded suspects. Yet, the Silver Dollar’s door was open, with only a small curtain hanging from the top. Salazar, the Sheriff’s Department said, was hit in the temple by a shell and died. The department, then led by Sheriff Peter Pitchess, insisted that it was just an unfortunate accident.

In the months before, then-LAPD chief Ed Davis had complained vigorously to the Times’ leadership about Salazar’s columns. Two police officers had talked to Salazar about KMEX reports about the fatal police shootings of the two unarmed Sanchez cousins, both Mexican nationals. The officers, Salazar wrote in his column, “warned me about the ‘impact’ the interviews would have on the police department’s image. Besides, they said, this kind of information could be dangerous in the minds of barrio people.”

All these events unfolded during J. Edgar Hoover’s reign at the FBI and Richard Nixon’s residence in the White House. It was a period when law enforcement across the nation took particularly harsh action against antiwar protesters and initiated surveillance of what they called revolutionary or subversive elements. Those circumstances have fed conspiracy theories, but by themselves, they are inconclusive.

One thing is clear: Salazar was no revolutionary, but he believed that his role as a journalist involved exposing cases of discrimination and injustice. He also gave credit to law enforcement when credit was due.

Los Angeles public officials had a chance to resolve questions about Salazar’s death. But instead, a rarely used proceeding was ordered – a coroner’s inquest. The hearings made for good theater – they were broadcast live on L.A. television – but they were a farce. Much of the questioning tried to link protest organizers to leftist causes. Wilson testified that he wanted to get the tear gas quickly into the bar because of the armed men believed inside and that he had aimed for the ceiling. After 16 days of hearings, four members of the inquest jury concluded that Salazar had “died at the hands of another.” Three others found the death to be an accident. The murky findings frustrated those seeking clarity about the case.

A week after those hearings, District Atty. Evelle Younger washed his hands of the case, saying he would not prosecute Wilson. Younger was running for state attorney general and it seems clear to me that he did not want to go against “law and order.” Younger, who died in 1989, rejected those allegations when they were first raised. At the same time, U.S. Justice Department officials failed to pursue any federal charges. To some activists, law enforcement’s collective non-action smelled of a cover-up, but Mexican Americans carried little political clout in 1970. Unlike today, there were no Latinos on the L.A. City Council or county Board of Supervisors. Nationally, Mexican Americans were dismissed as a small regional minority and were not a force.

Some time later, Los Angeles County paid Salazar’s widow and three children $700,000 to settle a lawsuit.

Officials in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Washington now have the chance to set the record straight by releasing unredacted copies of local, state and federal law enforcement records. Some FBI records previous released under FOIA requests have had large sections blacked out “for national security reasons.”

“I don’t want to believe that Ruben was targeted,” Molina said, “but I do know that law enforcement followed a pathway that was very anti-Chicano.”

Molina said the records dealing with the Sheriff Department’s handling of the events at Laguna Park should be disclosed too. “It was a terrible time,” she said. “The full information needs to come out for those events to be appropriately portrayed.”

For too long, what happened at Laguna Park and the Salazar case have been considered only of local interest. Rodriguez, whose documentaries have aired on PBS, believes the case is significant nationally, just as it has been important to resolve cases involving civil rights abuses in the South during the 1960s.

Rodriguez, a visiting fellow at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, is making a film on Salazar. “I have no preconceived ideas about what led to Salazar’s death,” he said, “but I do know how profoundly painful this episode has been for many people. It’s time to give scholars and journalists access to those files.”

This sad chapter of U.S. history needs some resolution that only complete transparency can bring.

Frank O. Sotomayor is a senior fellow at the Institute for Justice and Journalism and an adjunct faculty member at the USC Annenberg School for Journalism. He was an editor at the Los Angeles Times editor for 35 years, including 18 years as an assistant metro editor. He was co-editor of the Times series “Latinos in Southern California,” which won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. Sotomayor was a co-founder of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, the California Chicano News Media Association and the National Association for Hispanic Journalists. He authored “Para los Niños, Improving Education for Mexican Americans” and co-edited the book “Frank del Olmo: Commentaries on His Times.”

By Steven Harmon

San Jose Mercury News | August 23m 2010

SACRAMENTO — Welfare advocates are criticizing Meg Whitman for ratcheting up her rhetoric against welfare recipients as she rails against waste, fraud and abuse in state government.

In a one-minute radio ad that Whitman recently began airing, she touts her plan to create a statewide grand jury to root out waste, fraud and abuse, promising to send to jail anyone “caught robbing the taxpayers.”

She mentions a state Legislative Analyst’s report that found that 150 staffers in the Department of Education are working on programs that it no longer administers, and $3.4 million spent by CalTrans on a single rest stop on Interstate 80.

And then she lays into the meat of her ad: alleged welfare fraud.

“Welfare recipients were caught using cash benefit ATM cards in gambling casinos,” she says in the ad. “There are billions of dollars of fraud in MediCal, In-Home Supportive Services and welfare alone. Enough is enough.”

A Los Angeles Times report found that welfare recipients made about $1.8 million in cash withdrawals at casinos since October, leading Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to issue an executive order banning the use of the welfare ATM cards at casinos.

But with the state facing a $19 billion budget deficit, finding outlandish anecdotes of alleged fraud such as the casino withdrawals won’t come close to solving the budget crisis, welfare advocates said.

“It’s an unfortunate statement that for some politicians, there’s political value to be gained by demonizing the poor through unsupported allegations,” said Frank Mecca, executive director of the County Welfare Directors Association. “We have extensive anti-fraud mechanisms in place and we’re proud of rooting out fraud. Nobody wants to spend scarce resources on people cheating, but the fraud rate is small compared to what some politicians make it out to be.”

In a federal program meant to reduce the stigma of receiving welfare benefits, recipients in all 50 states are provided what are called Electronic Benefit Transfer cards that can be used to redeem food stamps at grocery stores or cash at ATMs.

The maximum cash welfare grant for a family of three — typically a single mother and two children — is $694; the average annual benefit for a welfare family is $4,733, at a cost of about $156 a year to the average taxpayer. Though welfare caseloads in CalWORKs have ticked up slightly in recent years, the 500,000 or so recipients are a far cry from the nearly 1 million who received benefits before federal welfare reform in 1996.

The California Performance Review, a 2006 audit looking into waste and fraud, found a fraud rate of 2 percent, and that “the big money savings identified were all in policy and program changes,” said Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project, a welfare-advocacy organization.

Schwarzenegger said, “We did not find the kind of abuse that I thought there is.”

Ross said Whitman’s claim that there is $6 billion in fraud in welfare, IHSS and MediCal services is a “highly unrealistic figure.”

Schwarzenegger has proposed eliminating the entire $1.6 billion CalWORKs program — a proposal most view as a bargaining position and unlikely to happen once lawmakers and the governor ultimately negotiate a budget. Whitman has said she would reform the state’s welfare system rather than eliminate it. But critics say her welfare reforms are more severe than Schwarzenegger’s.

In her 48-page policy pamphlet, Whitman says that California loses billions of dollars each year because “our welfare system rewards chronic dependency instead of requiring work.”

She has proposed reducing lifetime welfare benefits from five years to two, requiring recipients to earn a GED and instituting more stringent penalties for recipients who, she says “refuse to work.” She doesn’t outline what those penalties would be.

Her positions reflect a harsh view of those in poverty, said Mike Herald, a lobbyist for the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

“These attempts to take advantage of the stereotypes of poor people really are a tool to enhance her candidacy and play on peoples’ fears and resentments,” Herald said.

Whitman’s campaign said she is not scapegoating the poor but looking for ways to make the system more efficient. Whitman’s campaign noted that the welfare advocates are “partisan” Democrats “who’ve only supported liberal Democrats and liberal causes.”

“This proposal will root out fraud, waste and abuse to protect taxpayers and make sure that social programs survive for the struggling Californians who need them the most,” said Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for Whitman. “The state has itself uncovered and helped prosecute expensive examples of fraud and abuse, but still independent reports confirm that much more exists.”

Fraud is clearly a problem in state government, said David Kline, research analyst for California Taxpayers’ Association, which produced a report this year showing $18.9 billion in fraud over the last 10 years based on media reports, government audits and court cases.

“We’re convinced there’s a significant amount of fraud that’s still in the system wasting tax dollars,” he said.

Contact Steven Harmon at 916-441-2101.

(Newser) – If you thought Glenn Beck’s habit of pimping Goldline on his show seemed a bit distasteful before, get a load of this infographic from Wall Stats, created for Barry Ritholtz’s The Big Picture. It alleges that Goldline, the gold provider Beck is in bed with, uses the Fox star’s name to prod customers into buying coins intended for coin collectors, rather than investors. Goldline pushes “collectible” European coins that, unlike bullion coins, are a lot harder for an amateur to value. It also sells them at a huge markup, charging 47% more than their competitors, according to a congressional investigation.

Money: The World of Deaknick

Time | Jun. 12, 1964

He lives in a Scarsdale mansion instead of a London flat, and never ever packs a shoulder-bolstered Walther PPK automatic. But there is more than a soupçon of the fictional counterspy in trim, urbane Nicholas Deak, who is the James Bond of the world of money.

Born in Hungary 58 years ago, Deak holds a doctorate in economics, can talk money in five languages, used to work for the League of Nations. A naturalized American, he spent World War II as an OSS agent parachuting into Burmese jungles to search for Japanese prisoners. On a postwar assignment, he sneaked Hungarian boxcars past the Russian occupiers to help rebuild West Germany’s railways. Deak still keeps in OSS trim with a vegetarian diet, daily sprints around his own suburban running track, and ski trips with his Viennese wife. From a paneled office (cable address: Deaknick) overlooking lower Manhattan harbor, he supervises more than 100 agents working for Deak & Co., one of the world’s biggest dealers in foreign currencies.

Gamble on Change. Last week lines of tourists bought up pounds, francs and yen from Deak’s Perera Co., busiest currency exchange in the U.S. and only one of Deak’s skein of 20 currency “stores.” The tourist trade is a small part of Deak’s business; his plumpest profits come from the active shufflings of currencies in crisis. “Whenever countries are not stable,” says Deak, “their currencies are heavily traded.” Currency speculators and companies operating in inflation-ridden countries such as Brazil or Italy try to conserve the value of their cash by buying or selling “forward contracts” for funds, similar to commodity futures; a speculator who sold Brazilian cruzeiros short a year ago could have doubled his money. Deak trades in the contracts, gambling that fiscal and political changes will work his way.

He also collects rents for owners of foreign properties, buys up blocked accounts at bargain prices, or, on occasion, the inheritance of an heir who has trouble getting his money out of a foreign country. In such cases, Deak is in effect betting that he can get the money unfrozen later or turn a profit by using the funds inside the country. He has the right connections for it. Occasionally, governments buy and sell their own currencies through Deak, creating an artificial demand that boosts the exchange rate and balms national pride.

Constantly operating on the fringe of politics, Deak often gets subtle warnings of impending events. In 1962 millions of dollars worth of Indian rupees that Deak held were suddenly scooped up in Hong Kong, Beirut and Kuwait. They were purchased by agents of the Red Chinese, who used the rupees for folding money when they invaded India soon after.

Holding the Bags. Privately owned Deak & Co. issues no earnings reports. But Nick Deak happily admits that he has more than made good his boast to a wartime OSS comrade that he would open a small foreign-currency exchange, steadily expand and become a millionaire. His route to riches was, and is, tricky. Dealing in all currencies except four that are proscribed by the U.S. Government (Cuban pesos, Red Chinese yuan, North Korean won and North Vietnamese dongh), Deak always risks being caught with funny money. But he rarely loses.

Deak once sat atop a bundle of old Israeli pounds that had been called in by Israel and were thought to be worthless. He managed to dispose of them in —of all places—Arab Lebanon. What happened to the money after it reached Beirut? In Deak’s business, one does not ask such questions.,9171,875916-2,00.html#ixzz0zinYi0hs

” … If anything smells like some kind of CIA-type hit jobs, these murders sure do. … “

By Robert Wenzel
Economic Policy Journal | September 11, 2010

Nicholas Deak was a New York based foreign exchange/gold coin dealer. He was one of the original gold coin dealers. I used to buy gold coins from his firm at his office near Wall Street. He had branches around the globe.

In 1985, he was murdered by what authorities called “a crazed homeless” woman. She supposedly stayed outside his office for days screaming Deak owed her money. In those days, I passed by Deak’s office on lower Broadway everyday, sometimes two or three times a day. I never saw such a woman.

I was always suspicious of this “lome nut” murder and wondered what actually went down.

Many years later, another international global money changer/banker, Edmund Safra was killed by a lone nut. Both Safra and Deak also had money laundering rumors spread about them (Some of Deak’s global offices were even raided and it severly damaged his business).

Safra was furious about the rumors about him and he had the money to find out who was behind them. Safra’s detectives were able to prove American Express was behind the rumors. American Express has always had close relations with the government. Henry Kissinger was on the Board of Directors at the time of the Safra rumors. Safra forced American Express to take out a full page ad in The Wall Street Journal admitting they were behind the untrue rumors. He also forced them to make a million dollar-size donation to a charity he designated.

If you overlay the businesses and deaths of Deak and Safra, they fit identically. A top Citi bank executive who knew Safra told me that there was no way Safra died the way news stories explained the case. If anything smells like some kind of CIA-type hit jobs, these murders sure do. Did Deak and Safra with their super wealth think they could operate on their own without dealing with their CIA handlers and wander too far off the CIA reservation? Global foreign exchange branches would most assuredly provide great cover for CIA-type operatives–so would American Express global branches.

Moving to current day, none other than Deak’s son turns up as the principal funder behind Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is behind the Ground Zero Mosque.

If anyone sounds like a CIA operative, Deak the son sure does. According to the New York Observer:

In addition to serving on the group’s board of advisors since its founding in 2004 by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Deak was its principal funder, donating $98,000 to the nonprofit between 2006 and 2008. This figure appears to represent organization’s total operating budget—though, oddly, the group reported receipts of just a third of that total during the same time period.

Deak describes himself as a “Practicing Muslim with background in Christianity and Judaism, [with] in-depth personal and business experiences in the Middle East, living and working six months per year in Egypt.” Born into a Christian home, Deak became an Orthodox Jew and married a Jewish woman before converting to Islam when he married his current wife, Moshira Soliman, with whom he now lives in Rye.

Leslie Deak’s resume also notes his role as “business consultant” for Patriot Defense Group, LLC, a private defense contractor with offices in Winter Park, Florida, and in Tucson. The only names listed on the firm’s website are those of its three “strategic advisers.” These include retired four-star General Bryan “Doug” Brown, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command until 2007, where he headed “all special operations forces, both active duty and reserve, leading the Global War On Terrorism,” and James Pavitt, former deputy director for operations at the Central Intelligence Agency, where he “managed the CIA’s globally deployed personnel and nearly half of its multi-billion dollar budget” and “served as head of America’s Clandestine Service, the CIA’s operational response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.”

Besides Pavitt, Brown and a third advisor, banker Alexander Cappello, the Patriot Defense Group is so secretive it doesn’t even name its management team, instead describing its anonymous CEO as a former Special Forces and State Department veteran, the group’s managing director as a former CIA officer experienced in counter-terrorism in hostile environments and the group’s corporate intelligence head as a “23-year veteran of the U.S. Secret Service who worked on the personal security details of former Presidents Bush and Clinton.”…

Interestingly, during the same three-year period during which the Deak Family Foundation was financing the Cordoba Initiative, Deak also donated a total of $101,247 to something called the National Defense University Foundation. The National Defense University is a network of war and strategy colleges and research centers (including the National War College) funded by the Pentagon, designed to train specialists in military strategy. The organization recently announced a November 5 dinner gala in honor of Defense Secretary and former CIA chief Robert Gates. Sponsors include Northrup Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and…the Patriot Defense Group.

Just to add a little more twist to this bizarre story. The firm, Goldline International, which is a major sponsor of the curious Glenn Beck, traces its roots back to the original gold coin firm started by Nicholas Deak.

I’m not sure exactly how all these pieces should be put together, or if they should be put together at all. But one way you can put the pieces together is that Leslie Deak is a CIA operative and that the Ground Zero Mosque is a CIA operation to incite anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States. It’s either that or an awful lot of odd coincidences.

By John Byrne
Raw Story | September 16th, 2010

Also on list: Royal Caribbean, Deutsche Bank, Chevron

Almost three years ago exactly — Sept. 17, 2007 — a cadre of guards from the security firm then known as Blackwater shot and killed 17 Iraqis at a public plaza in Baghdad.

The company, long in the public eye, has been known for brutal tactics and as a mercenary for the US State Department in countries where the US has boots on the ground. What hasn’t been known, however, is that the same company was handling intelligence ops for publicly-traded US companies.

Atop the list is Monsanto, the biotech giant, who The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill revealed Wednesday accepted a proposal through a Blackwater subsidiary which “offer[ed] to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.”

Monsanto doesn’t stand alone. Through a network of 30 subsidiaries and shell corporations, Blackwater-linked entities provided “intelligence, training and security services” to a cache of major multinational firms, including: Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to documents Scahill obtained.

Blackwater’s owner and founder, Erik Prince — who has himself been linked to the CIA — helped train companies through two other firms he controlled: Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism Research Center.

Not surprisingly, no one responded to requests for comment.

Monsanto topped the list of firms using Prince’s services, Scahill writes.

“According to internal Total Intelligence communications, biotech giant Monsanto—the world’s largest supplier of genetically modified seeds—hired the firm in 2008–09,” the reporter writes. “The relationship between the two companies appears to have been solidified in January 2008 when Total Intelligence chair Cofer Black traveled to Zurich to meet with… Monsanto’s security manager for global issues.”

“After the meeting in Zurich, Black sent an e-mail to other Blackwater executives…. saying that Wilson “understands that we can span collection from internet, to reach out, to boots on the ground on legit basis protecting the Monsanto [brand] name…. Ahead of the curve info and insight/heads up is what he is looking for.” Black added that Total Intelligence “would develop into acting as intel arm of Monsanto.” Black also noted that Monsanto was concerned about animal rights activists and that they discussed how Blackwater “could have our person(s) actually join [activist] group(s) legally.” Black wrote that initial payments to Total Intelligence would be paid out of Monsanto’s “generous protection budget” but would eventually become a line item in the company’s annual budget. He estimated the potential payments to Total Intelligence at between $100,000 and $500,000. According to documents, Monsanto paid Total Intelligence $127,000 in 2008 and $105,000 in 2009.

….In an… e-mail to The Nation, Wilson confirmed he met Black in Zurich and that Monsanto hired Total Intelligence in 2008 and worked with the company until early 2010. He denied that he and Black discussed infiltrating animal rights groups, stating “there was no such discussion.” He claimed that Total Intelligence only provided Monsanto “with reports about the activities of groups or individuals that could pose a risk to company personnel or operations around the world which were developed by monitoring local media reports and other publicly available information. The subject matter ranged from information regarding terrorist incidents in Asia or kidnappings in Central America to scanning the content of activist blogs and websites.” Wilson asserted that Black told him Total Intelligence was “a completely separate entity from Blackwater.”

Walt Disney?

The Walt Disney Company hired Total Intelligence and TRC to do a “threat assessment” for potential film shoot locations in Morocco, with former CIA officials Black and Richer reaching out to their former Moroccan intel counterparts for information. The job provided a “good chance to impress Disney,” one company executive wrote. How impressed Disney was is not clear; in 2009 the company paid Total Intelligence just $24,000.

How about Deutsche Bank?

Total Intelligence and TRC also provided intelligence assessments on China to Deutsche Bank. “The Chinese technical counterintelligence threat is one of the highest in the world,” a TRC analyst wrote, adding, “Many four and five star hotel rooms and restaurants are live-monitored with both audio and video” by Chinese intelligence. He also said that computers, PDAs and other electronic devices left unattended in hotel rooms could be cloned. Cellphones using the Chinese networks, the analyst wrote, could have their microphones remotely activated, meaning they could operate as permanent listening devices. He concluded that Deutsche Bank reps should “bring no electronic equipment into China.” Warning of the use of female Chinese agents, the analyst wrote, “If you don’t have women coming onto you all the time at home, then you should be suspicious if they start coming onto you when you arrive in China.” For these and other services, the bank paid Total Intelligence $70,000 in 2009.

Prince, now the owner of Blackwater successor Xe Services, now has his eyes on another target: the Democrats.

He’s now writing a book alleging that officials in the Clinton and Obama administrations “approved of his most sensitive and controversial operations,” according to a report by veteran intel reporter Jeff Stein published in The Washington Post earlier this month.

The Post‘s Jeff Stein cited two unnamed sources who say Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, is hurrying to sell his company before he can go public with a book that takes aim at the Democratic Party. One of the sources told Stein that Prince and his friends “think this will destroy the Democratic Party in the elections.”

The source, who is described as having a “business relationship with Xe,” said Prince had “given his people three weeks to complete the sale of the company and the book will be released then,” in time for the November elections.

To read about the firm’s work for Barclay’s, and the companies network of “black op” subsidiaries, click here to read Scahill’s full report.

Also see: “The Jimi Hendrix Political Harassment, Kidnap and Murder Experience” 

“Hendrix was traumatised by an impoverished upringing and stung by the systemic racism that dogged him as the child of African-American and Cherokee parents.” Photo:

By David T. Rowlands GreenLeft | September 12, 2010

September 18 marks the 40th anniversary of the death of US musician Jimi Hendrix, widely regarded as one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time.

Hendrix’s identification with progressive politics embodied the ferment of the late 1960s, with songs like “If Six Was Nine” (“I’m gonna wave my freak flag high”), “I Don’t Live Today” (about the plight of Native Americans) and the visceral anti-war tone poem “Machine Gun”. Hendrix spoke out in favour of the radical anti-racist Black Panthers and criticised the US war on Vietnam. He played free at a benefit concert for the Chicago Seven (activists charged with conspiracy to riot over the protests outside the1968 Democratic National Convention) and famously performed a radical deconstruction of the US national anthem, “Star Spangled Banner” at the 1969 Woodstock festival. The FBI considered him a dangerous subversive and targeted him for surveillance and harassment. Forty years on from his death, a web of intrigue continues to surround the legacy of this visionary guitarist and composer. Hendrix may have been a musical genius, but he was a babe in the woods when it came to the hard commercial realities of the music business. This is often attributed to factors such as Hendrix’s easygoing nature and drug use, but it flows a little deeper than that. Psychologists would call it “learned helplessness”. Traumatised by an impoverished upbringing in Seattle and stung by the systemic racism that dogged him as a “half-caste” child of African-American and Cherokee parents, Hendrix was exceptionally vulnerable to the rankest forms of exploitation. In 1965, Ed Chalpin (who specialised in producing cheesy cover versions of Top 40 hits) coaxed the up-and-coming guitarist on the Chitlin’ Circuit (as US venues open the Black performers were known) into signing an exclusive recording contract — for an advance of US$1. The next year, Hendrix picked up a contract with British management outfit Yameta. Chas Chandler, ex-Animals bassist, knew Hendrix’s transcendental amalgam of blues, rock, jazz, funk and soul had the potential to revolutionise the music scene. Hendrix re-located to London, where his band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience was formed in late ’66 under Chandler’s direction. Hendrix harnessed the sonic potential of modern amplification to saturate the ears and minds of stunned audiences with head-trips of three-dimensional tone and colour. There was an element of avant garde exploration in Hendrix’s emerging psychedelic sound — the creative process, not the end product, was what mattered to him. Following Hendrix’s spectacular rise to international fame after his performance at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967, Chandler’s shady Yameta partner, Mike Jeffery, stepped in as the controlling force. The Experience was the hottest act around, regularly earning $50,000 per show. But the band members (Hendrix with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell), received a minimal share. Most of the takings disappeared into offshore Yameta bank accounts, never to be seen again. To make matters worse, Chalpin initiated a law suit claiming prior rights to the proceeds from Hendix’s releases. Years of stressful litigation ensued, and Hendrix found it impossible to terminate an increasingly abusive professional relationship with Jeffery. As an ex-military intelligence agent with reputed links to MI6, the FBI and organised crime, Jeffery was sly and manipulative. Jeffery was widely rumoured to have planted the vial of heroin that appeared in Hendix’s luggage at Canadian customs. The resulting legal hassles made Hendrix even more dependent on his manager. Desperate for some creative down time, Hendrix was coerced into non-stop touring by Jeffery. Allegedly, Jeffery was behind a bizarre 1969 kidnapping in which the guitarist was abducted, held for days and threatened with death. The episode of extraordinary rendition was supposedly a charade designed to intimidate Hendrix, who told friends on many occasions he feared for his life. Towards the end of his life, Hendrix was making moves toward a new start — but too late. He died in London on September 18, 1970 — a few months after breaking off all contact with his manager. Inhalation of vomit due to barbiturate intoxication was the official cause of death. The toxic Yameta agreement had almost expired, and Hendrix — eager to step back from power-rock to pursue jazz-inspired fusion projects — was counting the days. Former Hendrix roadie, James “Tappy” Wright, claimed in his 2009 autobiography Rock Roadie that Jeffery drunkenly confessed in 1971 to murdering Hendrix. Wright said Jeffery told him he stuffed pills into Hendrix’s mouth and poured “a few bottles of red wine deep into his windpipe”. Jeffery allegedly said: “I had to do it. Jimi was worth much more to me dead than alive. That son of a bitch was going to leave me. “If I lost him, I’d lose everything.” Circumstantial evidence adds to the mystery. Hendrix’s clothing was saturated in red wine, but the post mortem examination revealed little alcohol in his bloodstream. Such evidence is intriguing, but the absence of conclusive proof makes it impossible to verify the murder conspiracy theory. At the very least, however, it is clear the insane pressures inflicted on him by the profit-driven music business machine contributed to Hendrix’s untimely death. In a sense, Hendrix’s death amounted to a slow execution by the corporate capitalist music machine. Hendrix died intestate and the question of who owns his work has been in and out of court for decades amid claim and counter-claim by competing factions bidding for exclusive rights. In the mid-1990s, multi-billionaire Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, underwrote a successful campaign by Hendrix’s father Al (who died in 2002) and stepsister Janie to wrest control from controversial producer Alan Douglas. Hyped as a progressive development at the time, the Experience Hendrix company (operating in silent partnership with Allen) has since acquired a reputation for aggressively bullying any other potential claimants — including Hendrix’s children and his brother Leon. What would Hendrix have made of it all? Perhaps he would ruefully conclude that the confining “plastic cage” he sang about in “Stone Free” was not so easy to break, after all.