They weren’t boys after all they were animals

When pain enters the room you have to respect it

The Welcome to Hell World book just went on pre-sale and you can purchase one right now for a discount and if you add in the coupon hellworld at checkout you can get another discount. It’s the best pieces from this newsletter compiled together in a pretty book but also some original stuff and some of my favorite writing I’ve done elsewhere over the past few years that fits into the Hell World theme. Also you can choose which cover you prefer! Maybe you want to get one as a gift for a friend who loves books but hates emails?

Subscribe now

I was very fortunate to have a lot of friends and colleagues I respect say nice things about Hell World and a bunch of them are on the page here but I’ll be throwing some more of them in the book and also into the newsletter down the line so thank you very much to all of them and to you as well.

Ok sales pitch over for now. See ya.

Subscribe now

Did you watch When They See Us? I watched the first episode of the drama about the Central Park Five last night or rather I should say I tried watching it because even as the guy who writes this fucking newsletter it was too hard to look at for more than a few minutes at a time so I took out my phone to sort of half watch out of the corner of my eye like you would when there’s a brutal scene in a horror movie and you don’t want to know about it. I don’t know if I want to watch this I said to Michelle let’s try something else I said and she said no I want to watch it so we did.

In one particularly devastating scene the young boy named Yusef Salaam tells detectives who approach him that he is fifteen but that his only form of ID is his bus pass which he had changed to make it look like he was sixteen in order to impress girls. Despite his being a minor they arrested him anyway. Close enough they said. He fit the description close enough they told themselves which was animals according to the prosecutor at the time Linda Fairstein who is a real fucking piece of shit in the show and in real life.

Then Salaam spent almost seven years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit with the rest of the boys because the authorities said he was older than he was. Fairstein who put them all in prison has had a decorated career as a best-selling author and has won Glamour Magazine's Woman of the Year Award and the American Heart Association Women of Courage Award and New York Women's Agenda 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award among other things.

In 2002 Fairstein spoke publicly about the case after the man who actually committed the rape came forward to admit to it. She talked about how hard the detectives had worked to make the fake case against the boys she and they falsely imprisoned.

“A kid would say something like ‘a dark-skinned guy who lives on 102nd Street,’” Fairstein said according to the New Yorker. “And these detectives would go out and find him. I think it was one of the most brilliant police investigations I've ever seen.”

I think that’s probably because it’s very easy to round people up brilliantly when you literally do not care whether or not they did it but I’m not a lawyer or a cop so I don’t know how hard those jobs are.

She said at the time she would testify again to their guilt despite someone else admitting to the crime because they probably did some other crimes that same night. They weren’t boys after all they were animals.

“The defense hasn't come up with anything to exonerate them from the rest of the attacks that night,” she said. “Because of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, they say they had nothing to do with anything that went on in the Park that night. You have to look at their statements in light of all the other evidence in the case.”

Read that sentence again about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and tell me what sort of person describes someone who’s had years of their life and their entire youth robbed from them as a greedy opportunist. If there were any justice in the world Fairstein would be forced to ah hold on my wi-fi is getting bad I can’t finish the sentence rwerkjwerejewrewr

“Fairstein understands that their convictions may have to be vacated,” Jeffrey Toobin wrote in 2002, “but she is adamant that such a finding shouldn't be taken as proof of their innocence.”

“I am probably responsible for exonerating more people falsely accused of rape than any fifty prosecutors in the country,” she said. “We all did here what we did every day…”

She’s right about that last part.

Someone said there’s a scene later on in the series with Donald Trump who is the president in real life calling for the boys to be executed which he also did in real life but I’m not sure if that’s true or not or whether or not they have an actor playing Trump I sort of hope not for some reason. In case you don’t remember Trump infamously wanted these boys dead for nothing and he still did during the election and probably still does today. I wrote about that particular aspect of the case on here a while ago which you can read here. It’s about how often Trump has called for people to be killed for nothing and part of it goes like this:

Trump also infamously called for the death penalty for the suspects in the Central Park Five case in the late eighties. Once they were exonerated for the crime and awarded $41 million by New York City in 2014 he called it “a disgrace,” and “the heist of the century.” I don’t have enough space to catalogue all the times Trump has wanted people killed here but that’s sort of a big one so I thought I should mention it since it’s like his killing minorities origin story. It’s like Bruce Wayne’s parents getting murdered for him but instead of becoming a fascist who … well actually there isn’t much difference between Trump and Batman now that I think of it besides one of them is very lazy.

The reason I was thinking about that scene with the bus ID is that I just read a story about how the U.S. government is using dental exams to ascertain the “real age” of immigrants they apprehend at the border like one boy named “I.J.” from Bangladesh. I.J. said he was sixteen but the government agents who we trust to figure this sort of thing out didn’t believe him so they sent him for what he thought was a routine dental exam but instead what they were doing were checking his teeth like you would if you were Tony Soprano checking out a race horse or like when you cut down a tree and open it up and look inside its tree meat and figure out how many rings it has. I assume the procedure is like that.

Never mind that this sort of testing isn’t particularly reliable it’s still being done anyway to boys like I.J. according to the LA Times.

The use of dental exams increased sharply in the last year they said adding in what is a sentence that is going to crawl out of my closet in the middle of the night some day and eat me that “Federal law prohibits the government from relying exclusively on forensic testing of bones and teeth to determine age” because why would there have to be a law about that?

They found at least three instances of them doing it nonetheless to people including I.J.

In a case last year, a Guatemalan migrant was held in adult detention for nearly a year after a dental exam showed he was likely 18, until his attorneys fought to get his birth certificate, which proved he was 17.

For I.J., the results had serious ramifications. Based on the development of his teeth, the analysis showed an 87.70% probability that he had turned 18.

An 87.70% probability that you had turned 18 would get you kicked out of Trump and Jeffrey Epstein’s parties incidentally.

An immigration official reported that it was apparent to the case manager that I.J. “appeared physically older than 17 years of age,” and that he and his mother had not been able to provide a second type of identification that might prove his age.

The next month, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents took him away in shackles and placed him in a medium-security prison that houses immigrant detainees.

There are a couple of reasons why the police and the government and American society in general are happy to turn children of color into adults through the power of bureaucratic transubstantiation and that is because you can treat them worse after that. Ta-da! You just magically rob them of a few years of assumed innocence and then you can do what you want to them and you can put them in solitary confinement or beat them badly or deprive them of medical care and people at large won’t get all that red-assed about it. Not that our track record of taking care of children is particularly great as of late or as of ever but still.

The second reason we do it is that by depriving people of even the basic facts of their own life which is to say a sense of being grounded and living in reality is to keep them confused and alienated and easier to control which is a big reason why we separated the children of slaves from their parents and beat the knowledge of their own names and even birthdays out of them.

Think about two things you can say for sure about your life what are they they are your name and your birthday.

It was something I was reminded of today reading some testimonies given by former slaves in the 1930s which were printed in the Montgomery Advertiser on account of it is Jefferson Davis’ birthday. Davis was the president of the Confederacy and an owner of human beings and a traitor to boot may his grave and bones putrefy in fetid piss for eternity and did you know that his birthday is a state holiday in Alabama today? Right now in 2019.

From the Advertiser:

In a speech to the U.S. Senate in 1860, the then-senator from Mississippi said slavery was "a form of civil government for those who by their nature are not fit to govern themselves," adding "We recognize the fact of the inferiority stamped upon that race by the Creator, and from cradle to grave, our government, as a civil institution, marks that inferiority." After his inauguration as president of the Confederacy, Davis said "We recognized the negro as God and God's Book and God's laws, in nature, tell us to recognize him. Our inferior, fitted expressly for servitude."

Here’s one of the interviews they did with a woman named Laura Clark who was held in bondage in Livingston:

The overseer, Mr. Woodson Tucker, was mean as anybody. He’d whup you nigh about to death, and had a whupping log where he’d strip em buck naked and lay them on the log. He’d whup them with a wide strap, wider than my hand, then he pop the blisters what he raised and nint them with red pepper, salt and vinegar. Then he put them in the house they call the pest house and have a woman stay there to keep the flies off them till they get able to move. Then they had regular men in the fields with spades, and if you didn’t do what you got told, the overseer would wrap that strap round his hand and hit you in the head with the wooden handle til he killed you. Then the mens would dig a hole with the spades and throw them in it right there in the field, just like they was cows – didn’t have no funeral nor nothing.

I recollect Mammy said to old Julie, ‘Take care my baby child (that was me), and if I never see her no more raise her for God.’ Then she fell off the wagon where us was all sitting and roll over on the ground just a-crying. But us was eatin’ candy what they done give us for to keep us quiet, and I didn’t have sense enough for to know what ailed Mammy, but I know now and I never seed her no more in this life. When I heard from her after surrender she done dead and buried. Her name was Rachel Powell. My pappy’s name I don’t know cause he done been sold to somewhere else when I was too little to recollect. But my mammy was the mother of 22 children and she had twins in her lap when us drive off. My grandmammy said when I left ‘Pray, Laura, and be a good gal, and mind both white and black. Everybody will like you, and if you never see me no more, pray to meet me in heaven. Then she cried. Her name was Rose Powell.

All things considered this is hardly high on the list of problems we’re thinking about today but here’s what the website I read a bunch of that on looks like.

Sometimes when I’m feeling particularly manic and distracted and I can’t concentrate on anything at once there is a voice or two in my head arguing like you are worthless no you’re not you deserve to die no I don’t and I guess they figured out how to turn that feeling into a design template for web pages.

Things are better in America now and racism is cured as we all know but every now and again one or two bad apples gets a little out of hand and next thing you have immigrant detainees dying for nothing but the sheer incompetence and cruelty of the people we’ve put in charge of their lives.

For example documents just uncovered by The Young Turks found that multiple deaths of immigrants being held by ICE were preventable.

“IHSC [ICE’s Health Services Corps] is severely dysfunctional and unfortunately preventable harm and death to detainees has occurred,” an ICE supervisor wrote to then Acting Deputy Director of ICE Matthew Albence in December of last year in a memo TYT found.

One of the cases identifies ICE “negligence” in handling a medical incident that resulted in a detainee’s death at ICE’s Eloy Detention Center in Arizona.

“Suicide victim, Mr. Efrain De La Rosa, could have been saved,” the memo says of the victim. The document goes on to state that ICE “received a total of 12 SEN [Significant Event Notifications] reports prior to his death, depicting suicidal ideation and psychosis.”

Key components of ICE would not even review the SEN reports, according to the memo.

“Moreover, Mr. De La Rosa was not being treated with psychotropic medication; instead, he was remanded to segregation.”

“Mr. De La Rosa’s suicide closely mirrors the previous suicide of Mr. Joseph Jimenez at Stewart Detention Center,” the memo adds, referencing the second fatality that was allegedly preventable.

Another case referenced in the documents involves a detainee identified as a suicide risk having been prescribed an anti-histamine at the Stewart Detention Center.

Feeling suicidal? Here’s a Claritin.

You may remember Albence who was recently chosen by Trump to lead ICE from when he testified in front of Congress saying that detention centers were more like “summer camp.”

The best way to describe the family detention centers he said “is more like a summer camp. These individuals have access to 24-7 food and water... There're basketball courts, exercise classes, soccer fields... In fact, many of these individuals, the first time they've seen a dentist is when they've come to one of our FRCs.”

Seeing a dentist you say?

This isn’t really apropos but like three people told me I should go to the dentist this weekend because I guess my teeth are getting stained from smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee which is not gross at all. Those people were my mother and my aunt and my wife all of whom I stayed with in our dearly departed but still domineering from beyond the grave grandmother’s cabin in Maine for a wedding which is a Freudian psychodrama in the making if I’ve ever heard of one. Turns out we had a nice time after all and the closest thing to a fight was when I thought I heard my mother say the words “personal responsibility” across the wedding dance floor and I ran over to save the day with a gallon of Dewars in my belly but it turns out I was mistaken.

I thought being in Maine at the house near the coast in the tiny little town with no stop lights that I wrote about here in this piece about drinking would have been really resonant for some sort of meandering memoir-like Hell World material but I didn’t really have much of a chance to reflect on time gone by or pick metaphors out of the deteriorating cabin’s bones because I was in so much pain from a nerve that’s being pinched in my neck right now that makes my hand feel like it’s constantly on fire. Sentimentality is a luxury for people with nothing else to worry about.

It’s painful enough that I think about chopping the hand off at least a couple times a day but then how would I write and even more importantly how would I jack off due to it’s my jacking off hand. Take everything you want from me but don’t take that.

Here’s a chunk of that piece about Maine and some of you have already read it so you can skip the next few paragraphs but some of you haven’t so here you go. It starts like this:

My sister who doesn’t drink anymore wrote a story a few years back about our grandmother all of which was true. Shirley Madden had grown up vacationing in a little lobster town called Round Pond, ME, and she and my grandfather bought a cottage there after they were married. My grandfather died relatively young like most everyone who came before me so I don’t have too many memories of him but when I try to think about him I remember a day when I was sick as a boy. He’d gotten me a can of ginger ale to settle my stomach and I fell asleep on the couch in their old sprawling farmhouse near the fireplace where the crows flew in. I woke to take a sip and the can was filled with ants. It took me a minute to realize what was happening and I spit out as many as I could but it was too late for some of them they were inside me now.

I think my grandfather was the second man she ever loved. She would tell us about the first guy that she didn’t marry sometimes until she was like 80 and she died on a hospital bed in our house near where she’d spent the past decade drinking gin. I think she wondered her whole life how things might have been different. I don’t have a picture of my grandfather on me but I have one of my grandmother and her old boyfriend right here in a little frame she sent me which feels like a sort of betrayal so sorry about that. They’re both holding ukuleles and she’s got a flower in her hair. I don’t think she ever got the chance to travel much but I think she went to California one time and maybe this was it. That was how far she made it.

On the back of the frame there’s a piece of paper attached that she must have cut from Reader’s Digest or something and it reads “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, totally worn out and proclaiming: Wow, what a ride!”

She always sent me horse shit like that, positive affirmation magical thinking type stuff and I never paid attention to it because I never appreciate anyone in my life until they’re gone.

Sometimes I talk to people who’ve lived to a ripe old age the same way you would when someone has just finished a marathon or climbed a mountain. Oh wow that sounds like a lot of work. And then they tell you how hard but rewarding it is and you say how you think you’re going to handle it the same way some day but you know probably you won’t but you say it anyway.

We’d visit Maine in the summers when we were young and I’d go there throughout most of the rest of my life. I haven’t been in years though and my mother and aunt tell me every time I see them how my wife and I simply must go it’s so different now and I say we will but we don’t and I don’t have a particularly good reason for that.

One year they filmed a movie there called “Message In a Bottle” starring Kevin Costner which was very exciting for them you can imagine because they had no stoplights in town and now they had a guy who knew Julia Roberts. My grandmother would encourage my sister for years after that to try writing a message in a bottle with her own kids like they did in the movie but she never did because no one listens to their grandparents until they’re gone.


The thing about the hand pain is that I went back to my acupuncturist in the fried meat smelling house for the first time in many months today to see what he could do about it and it was particularly busy in the pain waiting room and I paged through an issue of Glamour magazine he had out not the one where they gave Linda Fairstein the award but still a pretty old one and I sat there silently with all the other people suffering and waiting to get their turn to suffer a little less and then a woman walked in or rather was carried in by her family and it looked like her leg was really fucked up or something and we all got even quieter as she tried to settle in and find a place to lay down in the pain waiting room on the bad pain waiting room chairs.

It’s weird how the presence of someone else in serious discomfort can make an already quiet room even more silent as if coughing or even breathing out loud would be impolite to someone who feels worse than you do. How do you turn the pages of an old Glamour magazine when someone is crying nearby?

When pain enters the room you have to respect it and hope you don’t catch its eye like it’s a bear you spot just off in the distance in the woods. Don’t make too much noise or any sudden movements or else it will stop what it’s doing and come running at you and maybe if it gets its way it will steal the years from your life and there is nothing you can do about it because who can stop the bear when its comes for you.

Subscribe now