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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Simple Pleasantries -- July 26, 2014

Time that passes while at a maximum security prison is very difficult. Austere and oppressive living conditions suppress most happiness. For me, the loss of freedom and ability to accomplish anything significant drain nearly all of my vitality making me feel like the living dead. In addition, I am surrounded with the most loathsome and obnoxious people. These convicts are incredibly annoying and I regularly seek to escape the agitation they cause. Finally, the bleakness of any future outside these walls can crush the spirit of anyone. At Stateville, most men will die in prison even if they delude themselves otherwise. Despite the grim circumstances, some inmates will attempt to seek solace in the penitentiary. During the week, I took notice of the small pleasantries men embraced and struggled to do the same. After 21 years of hardship, it is increasingly rare for me to find any laughter, hope, or serenity.

Monday morning, I awakened yet again to the horror of being doomed to a life in prison without any chance of parole. In my dreams I was young and free, but now I was old and captive in a cell. Lethargically, I began my day by first peeking into the breakfast tray sitting on a shelf across from my metal bunk. Inside was hash browns and friend imitation bologna. I tossed the food into the toilet, saving the bread. The bread was not made by prisoners at the penitentiary in Illinois River Correctional Center, but was donated. Donated bread is almost always better than the bread made in Canton and trucked to Stateville and this time was no exception. A prisoner must appreciate the little perks even if it is simply sandwich bread.

I believe the men were much happier to see what was being served for lunch. Kitchen workers had made pizza and the slices served were larger than usual. It was still early for lunch, and in a plastic bag I took my portion back to the cell to eat later. The plain cheese pizza needed some toppings. On the return, I noticed prisoners seemed happy, even those who were "slow walkers". Slow walkers is a term given to crippled old convicts who had difficulty walking. The guards working the movement team allow them to get a head start and I saw Joe Miller, "Mold Head," and even the old man who shot gunned off part of his face walking with a little more pep in their steps.

Standing next to me in line was Fat Jimmy and he did not look as happy as the cripples. Last week, he had been fired from his job. Despite being overweight and sweating heavily doing the lightest work, he enjoyed being out of his cell and being able to move about the cell house freely. I asked Jimmy why he was fired and he said it was due to his first homicide conviction. In the late 1960's, Jimmy along with a friend brutally killed and sexually assaulted another teenager. Apparently, staff or the administration did not want him having a job because of that. Prisoners do not have a right to a job and they are actually considered privileges in maximum security penitentiaries. They therefore can be given and taken away with little justification.

Towards noon, I was unlocked out of my cage for a health care pass. In a holding cage, I sat by a prisoner who goes by the name "The Alchemist" although usually people just call him Alchy. I asked the Mexican what all the fury in B House was about earlier in the day. Around 7:15 a.m., I could hear yells and the banging of bars coming from the quarter unit adjacent to the one I am assigned to. Alchy just said the prisoners were riled up and anxious to be let out for yard. Despite how men in his cell house seemed restless, he was contrarily tranquil and I thought I detected even a bit of cheerfulness. It was not long thereafter Alchy told me his conviction had been reversed on appeal. If the prosecutor does not recharge him, he would be released from custody.

The psychologist I see once a month or every other seemed very casual during our meeting. She periodically sipped on a cold soda and made some brief small talk. I tend to believe the mental health care staff are simply reviewing patients rather than trying to help them. I considered that because I am introverted and do not cause trouble or express my inner turmoil, that psychologists see no need for me to be a patient. While I was in the office I noticed another psychologist look in through the open door. She was in her late 20's and had long blond hair. Since the warden had made mental health care checkups mandatory and I was not receiving any treatment, I thought I may as well have small talk with a more attractive woman. Anyone can sip soda and make casual conversation.

Upon mentioning that pizza was being served, the psychologist left on her lunch break and I went back into a holding cage. Alchy was no longer present, but Spoon Cake gave me a fist bump. Spoon Cake was once in my cell house and I got to know him not only because he was a cell house worker, but because of his case. Adolfo Davis had been convicted of a double homicide and sentenced to LWOP despite only being 14 years old and not actively participating in the murders. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled mandatory natural life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional and states across the country have been trying to determine what to do. Spoon Cake told me Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez was stalling having him be re-sentenced to a term of years. The District Attorney is resisting the highest court's ruling until details of it are defined in appeals to federal circuit courts. He expects to be released with time served, however, anything could happen. Interestingly, he tells me that the court will not be allowed to consider any of his behavior while in prison for the last 24 years. I guess taking those creative writing classes and learning poetry will not matter.

My neighbor Leprechaun passed over a jar of instant Folgers coffee for my cellmate and me to try. The prison store just began selling the rand last week. Since tobacco has been eliminated from the IDOC, prisoners appreciate their coffee even more. Some men including my cellmate will drink it excessively. Hyped on caffeine, Anthony argued with me that his eyes were not brown, but hazel. Hazel is actually light brown, although many people think it refers to eye color which is multi-colored. I told my cellmate that even if his eyes had a couple of non-blended colors, they were still colors which create the color brown. To settle the matter, I told him to stand underneath the bright fluorescent light. For about 5 minutes he held his slanty eyes wide so I could inspect them. There were no other colors and eventually after I thought he played a fool long enough I told  him, "As I already knew, your eyes are....shit brown!"

Mail was passed out and my cellmate received a stack of newspapers to read and preoccupy himself. He sat at the table going through them with the fan angled up from the floor blowing air on his balls. I told him not to sexually molest my fan like that, but he simply pushed the fan closer. While "Quagmire" read the News - Gazette, I sat at the other side of my bunk farthest away from him and went over blog commentary. Sometimes, I like to have fun with readers' comments particularly those I suspect have political views opposite to mine. I wrote a few witty replies to feminazis, although I suspect they will be considered mean spirited and may not be published. Blog handlers can take all the fun out of commentary. They do not know how little joy I have writing about my miserable existence and the zingers brighten up my day.

Tuesday morming, I went to the small yard to work out. There was not much to do, but I made the best of it as a few other prisoners did as well. In between sets of bench presses, I listened to black men talk about all the flagrant homosexuality on the CBS TV show "Big Brother". I knew better than to watch the program, but it was popular amongst many convicts. Apparently, there is not only a couple of gay men but a radical left wing woman with blue hair who can go either way. A prisoner I was lifting weights with said he had no respect for women who act like men and in "the hood" would beat a bull dike up if she ever crossed him. From there, the conversation went to the Juvie Hall at Joliet where many of the men once were before committing other more serious crimes as adults and being sent to the IDOC. They spoke and joked about a black teenager who was a homosexual and went by the name Kool-Aid, however, when he was released he flipped and was dating girls.

As the sun rose, the temperature greatly increased. The heat and humidity caused a number of men to cease lifting weights. It did not bother me and I was glad there were less people. With the 220 pound barbell, I did a few pull overs with Kid spotting me to make sure I did not crush my face. There is a reason why they call these "Skull crushers". Kid was mad about the female guard who passed out legal mail. "The bitch" had written him a disciplinary ticket for threats and intimidation. I knew the woman had an antagonistic attitude, although what caused him to exchange words with her was that she was reading his mail. All regular correspondence can be read by staff, however, legal mail can only be checked for contraband and for that reason it was opened in front of inmate's presence.

After yard, I was not looking forward to going into the chow hall. It was stifling hot and sweat rolled off my body as if I was in a heat box. The food being served was also very unappealing. What the prison kitchen supervisors called Chicken-Ala-King was just chicken bones, broth, and noodles. The only thing I had that was appetizing again was the donated bread and I stuffed it into a sock to make a tuna sandwich later. In the meantime, I drank a chilled bottle of Gatorade I had brought to the yard with me. Prison workers will bring a couple of buckets of ice out to the yards during the summer and men place bottles of water, soda, or Gatorade in one of them. The other bucket is used to drink from.

After eating my sandwich in the cell, I switched places with my cellmate and bathed out of the sink. Although the sink was fixed a couple of months ago, the water pressure had already dropped back down to a dribble. To wash my hair, I scrubbed out the toilet and then used the water in it to rinse. The water was cold and refreshing. I had dried off and dressed when the counselor made rounds in the quarter unit. The counselor was actually a guard who was temporarily assigned the task of being a liaison. Many prisoners thought she could not be objective and was worthless. Fortunately, I do not expect them to be of any assistance. My cellmate wanted me to inquire about Securus not allowing me to make any phone calls, however, I knew better than to ask. New to the job, she would not know and indifferent, she would not care to find out what the problem was. Prisoners in my cell house now greatly miss the former counselor who was reassigned to a different unit.

By midweek, the hot humid weather had passed and it was back to pleasant 75 degree days. Despite this, I was lethargic and greatly annoyed by prisoners who shouted from their cells. I stuffed some ear plugs in my ears and as noon approached I nodded off only to be awakened moments later by my cellmate. He told me a guard had just announced my name over the intercom system for a visit. I dressed in my state issued blue clothing as I tried to wake fully. As I did so, I could not miss how happy my cellmate was. I asked him what he was so happy about. I was the one with a visitor. "Naked day!" Anthony said. I should have known my cellmate was happy to be without my presence for a few hours. It is uncomfortable being locked in a cell with someone all the time. Guards in the visiting room even gave me extra time which they almost never do.

My mother also seemed happy when I saw her. She had been contacted by the Illinois Innocence Project. The woman who spoke to her said the reason why they have not been in contact with me was because it was summer. Nearly all the students and faculty left the university. She assured my mother that they had yet to make a decision about accepting my case. In fact, a student has taken special interest in it and was reviewing it even during summer break. She wanted to know if I needed the copies of my appeals to be sent back or if she could keep them. She was also interested in what work Northwestern University had done and why they quit. My mother explained that the students investigating my case were threatened and therefore Professor David Protess dropped it. Hopefully, the IIP will eventually take over as counsel and hire private investigators because I am having great trouble just contacting people.

When I returned from my visit, there was a stack of magazines on the counter. My cellmate said they were all from Steve. I looked through them with disbelief. "Is Steve in fantasy land?" I asked. He had a subscription to "Esquire", "Cruise Travel," "Vanity Fair," "Bon Appetite," and "Forbes Opera". "Steve does realize he has two natural life sentences and is at Stateville Correctional Center?" I asked again rhetorically. I knew the prisoner continued to try to pamper himself and fantasize, but I did not know the extent of his delusion. I told my cellmate I was going to toss all the magazines. Even if I were free, I would not waste my time with such pretentious garbage. Anthony did not care to read them either, although he did want to look at the women in "Vanity Fair".

Later in the evening I was somewhat regretting my decision to throw out all the magazines. For a third straight night, there was nothing on TV. I had some interesting books to read, but they were several hundred pages long and required deep thought. I just wanted something to preoccupy my time for an hour or two before I went to sleep. Turning stations on my television, I stopped at CNN to watch the funeral procession in Holland. Finally, some of the dead from Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 had been brought back home. The Dutch solemnly commemorated their lost citizens and even I was saddened by the event. More so, I was angered the U.S. and its NATO allies were not responding to Russian aggression. Russia was not barraging Ukrainian forces from across the border. They had also again amassed their army to invade their neighbor at a moment's notice. Nearly 20,000 troops with heavy weaponry had been assembled by week's end and all European leaders could do is reach an agreement to step up sanctions.

Thursday morning, prisoners were treated to shredded pork for lunch. Nearly everyone came out of their cells for the meal even those Muslims who were purportedly participating in Ramadan. I sat at a full table of men including Lunch Box, Otis, Bratcher, and Steve. Bratcher I called the "Gunslinger" because he walks with his elbows out like he is going to pull 2 six shooters out. He has a bad back injury but while this may cause someone to walk hunched over, there is no reason for his arms to bow. After making fun of the Gunslinger, he defected and spoke about how his cellmate is a biggest "bug." Purportedly, Jesus collects a myriad of insects. The Mexican was at Tamms for a number of years and prisoners believe he lost some of his marbles there. I do not know why, and would love the isolation.

Pork is rarely served in prison or for that matter any unprocessed meat. The IDOC is intent on feeding prisoners in the least expensive way. Steve who was sitting next to me tried to savor the food while at the same time eating it quickly. There was no way to tell how much time guards would allow us to eat before yelling for men to get out. I told Steve to stop pretending he was at a 4 star restaurant and just shove the food in his mouth like the common convict. To help him, out, I lifted his tray towards his face and said, "Let's go, piggy! Bon appetit!" Then I went on to sarcastically thank him for sending me all the magazines. Finally, Steve stopped eating to say that he saw how much I appreciated them when he saw them in the garbage.

I worked out for almost 3 hours on the yard Thursday. Guards usually only give us 2 hour Rec periods, but possibly they were feeling generous. It was a pleasant 70 degree day with sunny skies and slight breezes. While most other prisoners played basketball, table games, or just lounged around, I was determined to take full advantage of the time to exercise. Later, I was exhausted and with my cellmate sitting at the table wearing my Koss headphones, I jumped up onto his bunk. Anthony had just been given a new mattress and it was thick and fluffy. Compared to my old mattress, where I could feel the steel underneath, it was like lying on a cloud. I said to him, "This is the Serta pedic mattress I asked the prosecutor to give me," making a joke from the movie "Law Abiding Citizen". Anthony was even more amused when I said I was getting a T-bone steak next time and would share a little with him while he checks out my iPod. Personally, I suggest he plays Bach "Air on the G String".

I did not awaken until 6 p.m., long after dinner was served. I asked my cellmate where my T-bone steak was. He said the warden is never going to allow me to have the bone in the center so I could stab him in the throat. However, he did find some packets of peanut butter. Both Little Man and Leprechaun sent me a bag. After eating prison food for 21 years, peanut butter has become a favorite snack of mine and earlier I had complained of being completely out. With the sun setting in the west casting an orange glow on the prison wall, I ate a couple of peanut butter sandwiches on good donated bread and listened to a cassette tape of Steve's. It had Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata", Edward Greig's "Morning", and, of course, Bach's "Air on the G String". With my plush Koss headphones on, I did not hear the yells of convicts, and almost felt a bit of tranquility.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Malaysia Flight 17 -- July 20, 2014

On Thursday, Malaysian Flight MH17 crashed to the ground in Eastern Ukraine killing all passengers aboard. Deloris and nearly 300 mangled bodies were strewn across the countryside where Russian rebels are fighting government forces. The tragedy brought international grief and a demand for answers despite how the culprits were unmistakable. The Russian military has been providing the separatists in Ukraine with ever greater manpower, training, and weapons including surface to air missile systems. A Soviet made BUK obviously took down the Boeing 777 with separatists mistaking it for a Ukrainian military aircraft. The only question is how the West will respond. Russia seized Crimea and virtually nothing was done except verbal condemnation. After Russia continued to incite civil war to tear apart another chunk of the nation, Europe and the U.S. finally galvanized the courage to impose economic sanctions. The threat to increase them will not deter the Kremlin nor are they the least bit commiserate with the massacre of a few hundred innocent civilians. Western nations must commit full heartedly to Russian aggression even if it means the use of military forces.

Since Petro Poreshenko was elected president of Ukraine in May, the military has stepped up its offensive against Russian separatists in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. However, government forces have been using great restraint to avoid civilian casualties. The enemy is not the people living there peaceably, but armed separatists and Russian forces which are fighting a proxy war with Ukraine. Russia is the true source of the unrest in the east and is seeking to annex more territory. The Kremlin is looking for any justification to invade and in the meantime is providing massive covert support to the rebels. This support has increased as the Ukrainian military isolates separatists to a few enclaves and pushes them to the border. The rebels have grown increasingly desperate and it should not have been a great surprise they were to mistakenly shoot down a passenger jet. Incredibly, though, the denial of responsibility and subterfuge has caused some skepticism.

Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 left Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Four hours after take off, it suddenly burst into flames and crashed in the fields outside of Hrabove, Ukraine. Despite the airline losing a plane earlier this year, passenger jets just do not usually fall from the sky. On CNN, various theories were tossed about including terrorism and technical failure while the first images of the wreckage and plumes of smoke came in to the network. Initially, I was willing to entertain them until I saw the travel path of the airplane went over the war zone in Eastern Ukraine. The world media and public may have forgotten about the cauldron of fierce fighting in the area, but I did not. Nor for a second did I believe the Ukrainian military was to blame and that just left one suspect.

On the Rick Savage radio show, I was hoping to get more decisive indictment and commentary, but was greatly disappointed. Savage was actually accusing the government in Kiev of a conspiracy to frame Russia or their puppet insurgency. I can agree whole heartedly with some of the radio talk show host's opinions, however, occasionally he is just wacko. Furthermore, there is a divide between us on the use of America's military and influence abroad. Libertarians have excellent values when it comes to increasing individual freedom and reducing the size of government including the dismantling of the police and nanny state. However, they fail to understand these domestic laissez-faire tenets cannot be applied to foreign policy. Kentucky Senator and possible GOP presidential candidate Rand Paul also shares this same fundamental flaw in ideology which unfortunately buttresses the current president's disengagement with the world.

Largely ignored by the liberal mass media is Barack Obama's connection to radical left wing activists and ideas before his political career. The president's mindset can be gleaned from reading his article "Breaking the War" which was published for the student newspaper at Columbia University where he gained his Bachelor's degree in 1983. In the article, he blames Ronald Reagan for the Cold War. From his twisted perspective, Reagan was the antagonist fighting communism around the world as well as setting up nuclear missiles in Britain and seeking to add more in continental Europe. Interestingly, part of the reason Reagan sought to deploy tactical nukes in Europe was to counter the BUK surface to air missiles the Soviet Union introduced in the east in 1980. John Kerry who is now Barack Obama's Secretary of State also agreed Reagan was the problem and not the U.S.'s arch nemesis. The two were sympathetic to Marxist ideology and shared a belief there needs to be a bipolar world. They were horrified by the idea of a single global superpower much like the Rosenbergs who were tried for treason and executed for giving the Soviet Union assistance in creating the atom bomb. President Barack Obama's radical political beliefs did not change over time and this is readily apparent by his friendship with Bill Ayers, a former member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, at the University of Chicago in the early 1990's. Even now with the powers of the White House, he continues to press for socialism and to weaken the U.S. at home and abroad.

After 298 people were murdered above the skies of eastern Ukraine, I thought the U.S. President would be compelled to act strongly. Yet, I was again disappointed and reminded of his global world view where America is not a leader but just another partner in the international community. The president simply called the crash a tragedy and expressed empathy with the victims' families. Vice President Joe Biden was not much more reassuring when he said a team of U.S. experts was being sent at the Ukrainian government's request to help "determine what happened". To determine what happened?! The Pentagon knows exactly what happened. They eavesdrop on U.S. citizens pervasively and I know they have massive surveillance over war torn eastern Ukraine. Were top American officials not immediately given Intel or were they just stalling for time? The White House administration would not want to or even talk without all their peacenik thinking heads coordinating a plan to do nothing.

While the U.S. officials waited to respond to the crash, propaganda was quickly spewing forth from the Kremlin and Russian rebels to warp world opinion. A pro-Russian separatist commander even had the audacity not only to deny responsibility but to claim the Malaysian jetliner was stuffed with dead bodies and then taken down by the Ukrainian military. Igor Girkin AKA Strelkov gave his ludicrous version of events to Russian media and the pro-rebel news website "Russkava Vesna" which ran with the story. According to Girkin, soldiers under his command had notified him that numerous bodies found on the ground were drained of blood and had signs of lengthy decomposition. To cover up the ruse, Ukrainian authorities had planted large amount of blood serum into the plane. How Ukrainians carried out this conspiracy with the collaboration or without the knowledge of Malaysian Airlines, the Dutch, and various other officials was not explained, nor do I think it could be with any semblance of sanity. The former Russian military intelligence agent was apparently an idiot, nutcase, drunk, or all of the above.

Russian government controlled news outlets were better at deception, although not much more. Reporters from Russia claimed the separatists did not have the capability to take down the passenger jet which was flying at an altitude of 33,000 feet or over 6 miles and therefore only the Ukrainian military could have done it. However, this deduction was contradicted by evidence the rebels were equipped with the SA-11 or Soviet-era BUK mobile anti-aircraft missile system. The BUK has a range of 72,000 feet and Ukrainian police surveillance already provided proof of it being in the hands of pro-Russian insurgents before the plane's explosion. On Friday, one truck was also recorded fleeing into Russia with only 3 of its 4 missiles aboard. The Ukrainian government had even intercepted communications between rebel commander Igor Bezler and a Russian intelligence officer that his men had just shot down a passenger jet. He goes on to describe to Colonel Vasily Geranin the immense wreckage and human carnage. It is extraordinary Russian separatists would even attempt to deny responsibility when immediately after the Boeing 777 was obliterated at 2:15 GMT, rebels bragged of shooting down what they believed was a military transport plane on social media. These messages and film footage was quickly deleted after they learned their mistake, but were still stored online.

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin did not attempt to deny separatists struck down Malaysian Flight MH17, but astonishingly placed blame squarely on the Ukrainian government. They were responsible because it occurred over their territory and if they had not pursued taking back control of their own land, the death of 298 people would not have happened. This Orwellian double speak was difficult to comprehend and I had to take a moment to follow his words. Russia had wrested control of another part of Ukraine and because they fought to gain it back and it was still technically their territory, they were the guilty party. This was the most absurd, backwards logic I had heard in some time. Contrarily, it was Russia which was to blame and I was glad when U.S. and other national leaders officially condemned the Kremlin.

British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote an Op-ed in England's Sunday Times stating the growing weight of evidence suggests the separatists shot down the plane and if so it was a direct result of Russia destabilizing a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, and providing militias with training and armaments. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also finally weighed in saying the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine destroyed Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 and the Kremlin was complicit. Russia was supporting the insurgents with training and equipment including heavy weaponry like the BUK anti-aircraft missile system. All of the world leaders, however, parsed their words including Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans who demanded the culprits be found. "Once we have the proof, we will not stop until the people are brought to justice," he exclaimed. Proof? What more proof does the world particularly the Netherlands need? One would think that after an atrocity such as this where 192 of their citizens were massacred, the Dutch would be prepared to drop their tulips and pick up some rifles.

Although Vladimir Putin was to give the most insincere condolences, the Russian rebels who shot down the Boeing 777 were much more forthcoming with their ambivalence. These soldiers saw Holland as much of an enemy as the government in Kiev. Newly elected Ukrainian President Petro Poreshenko sought closer ties with the West and Europe was more than welcoming them into the fold from Russian nationalists' point of view. At the very least, dead Dutch civilians were simply collateral damage. The bodies were allowed to rot under the hot summer sun and periodic bursts of rain. Birds pecked at their eyes and other animals gnawed on their flesh. The personal effects were plundered or treated without concern. On CNN, I saw film footage of an insurgent twirling a child's doll before tossing it on the ground. When the bodies were finally collected, they were not treated much differently. Drunken separatists stacked bodies on the backs of trucks which were then loaded on cars of freight trains which I was surprised were refrigerated. Karlijn Keijzer, a pretty 25-year-old Dutch graduate was shown on television and I wondered if her decomposing corpse was on one of those first trains that left the rebel held town of Torez where the BUK missile was fired killing her and another 297 passengers.

A day before Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was blown up over the skies of eastern Ukraine, the U.S. imposed economic sanctions against Russia. For months, the Pentagon and other intelligence agencies have known Russia has been behind the insurgency and it is not a domestic uprising as the Kremlin would have the world believe. While Russian news outlets churn out propaganda, their military does little to hide their operations in Ukraine. Russian special Ops, technical advisers, and other soldiers are across the border leading separatists. Along with them is a free flow of military equipment, trucks, and heavy weaponry. Because of Barack Obama's opposition to engaging Russia like Ronald Reagan did in the 1980's, he instead is seeking the least confrontational approach.

The sanctions against Russia included its largest oil producer Rosneft and 3rd largest bank as well as some armaments manufacturers. Gazprom was also targeted and its stock share price fell 6% before rebounding partly the day after the airline disaster. The U.S. stock market seemed unperturbed by the sanctions and rose to record highs. The Dow Jones Industrial Avg. ended the week at 17,100. Interest rates are causing investors to pour into the market and the fear of a trade war with Russia is not daunting. The sanctions are not very touch and trade between the two countries only accounts for 2%. For Russia to be hurt economically, it will require Europeans to join the U.S. in totally shutting off trade with their menacing eastern neighbor. Russia is heavily dependent on selling the oil and natural gas to the West as well as their technology and finance. London banks and other financial institutions could squeeze billions of dollars in savings, capital, and equities in an instant. On Tuesday, European leaders will meet to consider further economic sanctions, however, I doubt they are willing to make the sacrifices necessary. I also believe more sanctions are not enough and military forces must be used.

Vladimir Putin strongly believes in restoring the former Soviet Union's territory and influence. These ambitions were encouraged by Barack Obama who wanted to "reset relations" and displaying weakness. Because of his radical liberal ideology, the U.S. president repeatedly missed opportunities to dissuade the Russian leader long before the Ukrainian revolution began. Now with his jaws clenched on another piece of Eastern Europe, it will be difficult to dislodge them. However, the Malaysian Airlines catastrophe gives Obama a chance to galvanize European support for not only economic sanctions but military actions. If Russia is going to aid the insurgents in Ukraine, the West can aid the legitimate government with all the heavy weaponry and manpower they need. The corrupt and precarious puppet government Russia has in Belarus can also be unhinged. If Putin fails to release Crimea, the little piece of Russia around Kalingrad can be seized. It should have been returned to Poland anyway a couple of decades ago. Finally, the Bosperus Straight which Russia's naval fleet in Crimea is dependent upon to get out of the Black Sea can be closed. If the U.S. had real leadership like Reagan who Obama so liked to criticize, there is no limit to what could be done, although America would have never been put in this situation to begin with.

Some Americans probably believe the U.S. does not have a duty to defend Europe. However, when Franklin D. Roosevelt allowed the Soviet Union to swallow up half the continent, there became one and it has never ceased. When Germany was crushed, it left a huge power vacuum that needed to be filled. Harry Truman recognized this and heavily supported the Marshal Plan and NATO. Over the years, the Truman Doctrine was wisely kept by succeeding presidents, most notably Ronald Reagan who saw his mission as destroying a maleavant communist empire. With its collapse this did not mean America could afford to walk away and NATO was expanded eastward. Furthermore, a treaty was signed with Russia guaranteeing Ukraine's sovereignty if it gave up its nuclear arsenal. Barack Obama has turned his back on this commitment and for that matter those around the world.

The geopolitical significance of Ukraine cannot be understated. It is the breadbasket of Europe and has vast undervalued national resources. However, more importantly, its inclusion into the European Union will create a balance of power. Having Ukraine as an ally or simply independent is a counterweight and check to possible Russian aggression. The country is pivotal and acts as a doorway to the European peninsula. Various Asiatic invaders have entered the continent going through the flat prairie Steppe from the Huns to Genghis Khan. Locking this gateway is vital to the national security needs of the U.S. and its European allies. Hopefully, the deaths of nearly 300 people on Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was not in vain and galvanizes the West's resolve to prevent a far greater tragedy.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Disruptions of Communication -- July 12, 2014

Prisoners have little ability to communicate with people outside as well as inside the penitentiary. They are trapped within prison walls and largely confined to their cells. For security reasons, convicts are kept segregated and mostly only have regular interactions with those on their gallery. This is commonly why they will yell to one another in the cell house, the chow hall, or in various movement lines. To interact with the outside world, prisoners are reliant on visits, slow mail service, and an increasingly restrictive collect call phone provider. Over the 4th of July weekend, Securus has prevented outside calls to anyone who does not have a prepaid account with them. The new policy has abruptly cut ties many incarcerated men have with friends and family. I am not a social person, however, I have also been greatly affected. Not only have I lost the ability to talk with family members, but reach out to lawyers and private investigators.

The last I heard, my attorney was on vacation in Thailand. It does not bother me that she has taken an excursion on the other side of the globe. She may as well have been in Southeast Asia for the last 5 years because she has yet to finish my appeal. However, her trip has reinvigorated my efforts to find legal help. On Sunday, I wrote a few more law schools and made an inquiry at the University of Illinois in Springfield. Their law school has been reviewing my case since the beginning of the year and I have not heard anything from them in months. It was a stark contrast to my dealings with the University of Chicago.

Not long after the University of Chicago began their innocence project, I wrote them. Within several months they had reviewed my case and lawyers contacted me. Mail service at Stateville is very slow and after just a few exchanges of letters, I was visited by Tara Thompson. Initially she came alone, but then I met with one of their private investigators. She and others at the school wanted to represent me on appeal, however, the father and son team at Loevy & Loevy make the ultimate decision. Apparently, one or the other, for reasons undisclosed to me, said no. In any event, the entire process occurred in under a year and there was regular communication via mail, phone, or in person.

Along with finding legal help, I am desperately seeking out a private investigator. Last month, I submitted additional phone numbers to be approved by the warden and entered into the phone service provider's data base. Prisoners are only allowed 20 numbers at any one time to be on their list and it can take a few weeks for them to be registered. If a number is dialed which is not in the system, the call will not go through. Inmates can check to see if a phone number has been approved by entering their PIN (prisoner identification number) and another digit which will then begin an automated listing. On Monday I did this to find out if the phone numbers for a P.I. I had written were permissible for me to call. The automated voice sped through numbers without identifying the person's name and it was difficult ascertaining who I could call. However, after several times, I discovered all three numbers I requested were added.

While I was playing with the phone a prisoner came by to ask me if I would send it down to him when done. Psycho is a kitchen worker who had just finished working his shift. He related a strange story of how security personnel marched into the kitchen and demanded all the plastic milk crates be collected for removal. Milk cartons are delivered to the penitentiary in one foot square baskets and are not only convenient transport containers but storage. Their confiscation was apparently due to an incident in Menard C.C. where a prisoner struck a kitchen supervisor and a couple of guards with one.

The ridiculous safety precaution reminded me of the one which was just announced by the TSA. All passengers boarding U.S. flights with phones must turn them on to demonstrate they are in working order. Phones that do not work will be confiscated. The new rule was created in response to an Intel source which claimed an Islamic terrorist group was working on a bomb that could be placed inside a small electronic device. Does it not occur to government security officials that an explosive could be put inside a working phone or various other electronics which would not be easily recognized? The knee jerk safety precautions employed by the TSA have the same redundancy and impracticality as those at maximum security prisons in Illinois. Even the least sophisticated prisoner can find a hundred other objects to hit someone with.

Before I called the private investigator, I wrote down a number of topics I wished to discuss with him. However, it was for naught. After dialing his number, I received a recording stating to stay on line while they sought to gain "acceptance information." This recording was repeated several times with intermittent music before I heard that the party I had called disconnected. I had never heard a message by Securus stating they needed to gain acceptance information. Already, I had filled out a form with the person's name, relationship, and address. What more did they want? As for the call being disconnected, I did not know if that meant the P.I. hung up the phone or his answering machine or voice mail terminated the connection. I assumed the latter because I wrote him a letter saying I would call as soon as I was able.

Since I had the telephone in my cell already, I decided to call my sister who I have not spoken to in months. I received the same recording. Possibly, my sister had mistaken the call for a telemarketer or was outside. For some reason, since Securus took over the collect call service for the IDOC, the person called is shown a number similar to that used by people trying to sell one product or another. I have been incarcerated over two decades before caller ID and telemarketers became pervasive. I am told they are rather annoying and many people do not answer their phone if they know it is a sales pitch. Thus, I called again and again. Then I tried calling my parents. There was no difference and I continued to get the same recording. Somewhat upset, I pounded on the wall to get my neighbor's attention. When Gavin did not answer, I yelled to his cellmate, "Hey, pedophile! Pass this phone to Psycho." The child molester was either asleep, playing opossum or ignoring me. Psycho is in a cell near the stairs where there is a lot of traffic and he simply asked a passerby to get the phone from me.

During the evening, mail was passed out to prisoners and I received a few letters. At least I still receive mail service I thought as I opened the first envelope. Inside I was amused to read an Internet article by Gwendolyn Knapp at nola@eater.com about an Italian restaurant in Louisiana. Actually, the amusing part were the comments where my former friend Brian Palasz was mentioned and disparaged. One comment claimed the restaurant was taken over by Brian when his partner Leonardo fled. As the sole owner, he then ran the business into the ground while running an illegal gambling operation. My friend always loved Italian food, extortion, and gambling. Things never change.

The highest demand for the telephones in the cell house is at night and I was not surprised to hear Shaky yelling to our self-appointed phone manager that he wanted it. Shaky is always running his mouth. He has no TV and he will continually occupy his time by conversing with various prisoners or playing games of chess with them. He is extremely annoying and the only time he seems to be quiet is when he is asleep or talking with someone on the telephone. In any event, Shaky seemed to be going through withdrawals and yelled louder and louder. "Triple O.G.! Send me the phone!" Triple O.G. is prison speak for a super old gangster. Well, the black convict who has been incarcerated for over 3 decades was in no mood to deal with the hyper babble-mouth and told him he was shut down for the night. After some objection, Shaky quit yelling.

I almost never yell from my cell and save whatever conversation I may have until I am with that person. For a little while I spoke with Bone and Horse on the yard Tuesday morning after completing my workout. We sat on one of the rusted steel tables put on the concrete walk leading to two basketball courts. From them I learned D House was off lockdown but B House was continued to be punished because of how they greeted the warden the previous week. The two quarter units were on lockdown due to various suspicions Internal Affairs had mainly derived from a snitch. One of the things purportedly said was that there were bullets inside the penitentiary and Horse rolled around two AA batteries in his hand with their wrappers off making them almost appear to be bullet casings. Some incarcerated men speculated that guards must have lost a few casings from their rifles while in a gun tower or on the cat walk.

When the Rec period ended, I had some fun with a guard on the movement team. Instead of coming onto the yard as he usually does, he stood just outside the gate. I asked him why and then if he was scared. He jested it was because the administration thinks he can only be assaulted within the perimeter of the yard and he was safe just a step outside of it. The policy began two weeks ago and is due to either a weapon being found on a yard or suspicions that an attack may occur. At Menard, purportedly there was not only an assault with a milk basket but on guards who were lured out onto the yard by false pretenses. Later when I was returning from the chow hall, I saw a prison worker carrying a tray cart with a milk crate on top. The same guard happened to be nearby and I yelled, "Watch out! Milk crate!" He just laughed at that one.

After taking a mid afternoon nap, I made myself a cup of hot coffee to go along with some waffles and peanut butter. The snack was to tide me over until dinner, but also to eat while watching the World Cup Soccer semifinals. I had not watched any of the games because the sport of soccer generally bores me. However, this game was anything but boring. Within the first 30 minutes, Germany had scored 5 times. Three of them occurred almost consecutively. I was hoping Germany would go on to shut out Brazil, however, in the second half they scored once. The final score was 7 to 1 and the people of the host nation began rioting in the streets. Brazilian police even had to be called in to attempt to quell the mayhem.

Oddly, a Hispanic prisoner who lives a couple of cells down from me was cheering excitedly for team Germany during the game. Most Mexicans had quickly lost interest in the World Cup Soccer games after their country was defeated in the preliminaries. However, Vargas has a twisted love affair with Germany and their women as well. He brags to numerous prisoners that before his arrest he had a German wife or girlfriend. What he fails to mention though is that he killed her. Often I will notice the pervert stalking fair complected Caucasian women who work at the penitentiary. He is a little weasel and I have little concern he will assault female staff, but none-the-less, I loathe the convict. After the game, a cell house worker on the ground floor tossed up some instant coffee in front of my cell and told me to pass it to Vargas. Loudly, I said, "I'm not passing shit for him!" and left the coffee sitting on the gallery. My cellmate, however, reached out of the bars and gave the bag to Hooch who then gave it to the man. Convicts often feel an obligation to assist one another because they may need a favor in the future. I do not share the universal reciprocity and generally only speak to a few prisoners.

Steve also purportedly killed his wife. However, he is not a pervert and the motives in his case are very different. Furthermore, he is an educated man from the northwest Chicago suburbs. At dinner I spoke with him regarding my concerns that the Illinois Innocence Project may not want to represent me and my inability to contact them. The last I heard from the university was a few months ago. Steve confided in me that the IIP had rejected his case. I inquired how long it took them to make their decision and what was the reason given. He said after submitting the questionnaire, it was about six months. Their stated reason was simply that they already had too many cases. I hope that my case was distinguished from his and all the others.

Wednesday morning, a cell house worker brought me a birthday card. This was the third birthday card during the week I had been asked to sign. Many prisoners do not receive any mail from friends or family. If fellow convicts did not make birthday cards with messages, they would never get one. This birthday card had a mean looking pit bull wearing a studded black leather collar on the cover and was for a prisoner who goes by the name Little Man. Before signing, I read some of the commentary. One person wrote, "You are an old fart, but a good shit," and then went on to say how he hoped Little Man would not be flushed any time in the near future.

I skipped lunch to again try calling the private investigator while the noise level in the cell house was lower. Once again, I received the same recording, "Hold while we attempt to gain acceptance information" and then "Your call was disconnected." I tried another office number of his but the result was the same. When my cellmate returned from the chow hall, he said other prisoners were having the same problem getting through to people, even those they had no trouble reaching the previous week. There was a message printed on a TV station a month earlier that said Securus wanted to bill people directly if their current phone service provider did not forward the money to them. Furthermore, I knew the policy for most people with cell phones was that they pay upfront. However, I was calling land lines and previously there was never a problem with billing.

Later I went on a visit with an escort from a guard who serves on the SORT as well as movement team. He was in the unit with another SORT member searching cells. They confiscated a radio as well as a bag of miscellaneous other items including a photo album. I assume the radio did not belong to the prisoner and the photo album had pictures of people throwing up gang signs, but I did not ask the guard. A prisoner walking with us was talking incessantly. A small bee hive had been removed by a maintenance crew and this got him very excited. Honey bees are very docile, but he thought they were an immense danger.

The visiting room was very crowded and it made conversation difficult. I almost had to shout for my mother to hear me. She, my father, and sister were aware I had tried calling them. However, every time they pressed a button to address the issue of "account information" they were disconnected. She went on the Securus website to see what the problem may be. Securus clearly stated people did not have to set up a direct account with them if their current phone service was billing for them. My family had AT&T and the collect calls I made to them in the past were always listed on their monthly bill. Despite this, she also called a customer service number. She was never able to get a real person on the line but an automated voice said she did not have to prepay or have a separate bill sent to her house.

Thursday, prisoners in the quarter unit again had Rec. Generally, I avoid the small yards because there is little to do. A short pathway leads to two concrete basketball courts. To preoccupy men, a couple of tables, one bench, and two barbells were added. Mostly, I did calisthenics which I could have done in my cell. For a cardio workout, I thereafter ran sprints on one of the courts not being used. I felt like I was in a human dog run running back and forth. Eventually, I quit and pursued my real purpose for coming to the prison yard.

None of the small group of inmates I acquainted with had any information about the phone system. They either had long ago lost contact with friends or family or were having the same problems as I was. Instead of getting any useful information, I listened to Bone tease Trigger if he "got any money" from a female guard he went with on a court writ. Trigger had been transferred out from a different penitentiary because he was suspected of having an affair with a woman who worked there and now he gets plenty of jokes. Despite how Bone was just kidding, Trigger abruptly became upset. He denied even being the least bit flirtatious and claimed the guard was a "mud shark" with two black children.

Friday morning, I was determined to get through to someone on the telephone. Fat Jimmy had recently been given a cell house help job and while he was mopping the floor I told him to bring down the handset. Once again when I called my parents and sister I received the same recording before being disconnected. It did not look good for getting in touch with the PI, but I took out the notes I made earlier and made the call. Surprisingly, I finally was connected, however, just for 10 seconds. A recording then told me that was my free sample call and if I wanted to talk longer, the person I called had to set up an account with them. This made me furious. Because the cell house was so loud, I had only had enough time to confirm it was the P.I. who answered. Furthermore, from what I gathered during the week from prisoners, Securus was demanding people prepay $25. A 30-minute call costs $3.50 but to open an account they wanted 7 times this amount and they also will not let the inmate set it up. How am I going to reach out to lawyers or investigators if this company forces them to prepay a minimum of $25?

Later in the day I spoke with Steve in the chow hall. He told me if the investigator I was attempting to call did not set up an account, he knew someone else I could contact. Big John had given him the name of a man who not only investigated cases but had a law license. The person had come to visit him at the penitentiary and seemed like an ideal investigator to have working on my case. I asked him why he did not then hire him himself. Steve said he wanted a $15,000 retainer. Well, even if I had full trust in the man, I did not have that kind of money to front.

Communications at a maximum security prison in Illinois are very restricted. Information and messages are largely passed through the penitentiary by word of mouth. To reach people outside these walls, prisoners are dependent on the phone or letter writing. Letters, however, have become an almost obsolete mode of communication in modern society. Snail mail has been replaced by emails, texting, or the use of cell phones. Phone calls in prison are considered a privilege that can be taken away at any time. Regardless, IDOC's phone system, Securus, has effectively shut down many prisoners' phone access, at least temporarily. Disrupted phone service will likely strain relationships with friends and family if they still exist. For me and possibly others, my ability to secure a P.I. will become an even greater task. Increasingly, I find myself alone in a cell with only pen and paper to reach out to the world.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Death Knells of a Great Nation -- July 5, 2014

As time passes, Americans seem to have fewer reasons to be patriotic on Independence Day. Repeatedly, this week I was reminded of how the values of the early nation have been usurped or undermined. Freedom so valiantly fought for has been lost by Big Brother government and a judicial system that keeps millions of people in prison, jail, on parole or other forms of restricted release. The rugged individualism where men succeed and fail by their own merits is gone. In its stead, collectivism is pervasive and a nanny state has nearly half the population on the government dole. The strength of the elite republic has warped into a universal democracy where diversity and equality triumph over virtue and excellence. The inner decay and weakness within is projected abroad, inviting enemies around the world to fill the power vacuum left behind. A couple of small U.S. Supreme Court rulings and a stock market soaring to an all time high gave hope that America was not descending from its former greatness, however, even this news masked the immense fundamental problems with the country socially and fiscally. Even if I was not wrongfully convicted and condemned to a lifetime in prison, I would see little to celebrate on the 4th of July.

Last Saturday, a guard passing out legal mail stopped by my cell. She had a large envelope in her hand and I thought possibly the attorney my parents hired 5 years ago had finally written my successive post conviction appeal. Instead, it was the petition for executive clemency I had sent to the Illinois Innocence Project to review. The petition describes my case in great detail and provides extensive documentation of my innocence. I had asked the university to return the plea to the governor because it was my only copy. Enclosed, I expected a letter telling me if they had accepted my case, but there was nothing except a stick-on note saying, "Return to sender," leaving me with the impression they did not want to represent me.

America flaunts itself as being a land of freedom and justice, however, I have found otherwise. Laws and regulations abound depriving men of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Approximately 1% of its citizenry is incarcerated in prisons or jails and I can only speculate how many more are on parole, work release, probation or have tracking devices bolted to their ankles. Amazingly, one quarter of all incarcerated people in the world are in the U.S. The criminal justice system sucks up both the guilty and the innocent stretching an already vast prison network to its limit. For 21 years I have languished in maximum security facilities with no hope for parole. Despite my innocence, I have been unable to exonerate myself. I struggle just to have my conviction brought before a court for review.

Sunday I missed chow and for lunch ate a couple of peanut butter sandwiches. Not being able to read or write while I ate, I turned on my television. A news channel reported about Chicago's gay pride parade. The event was being attended by the current governor as well as the one who hopes to succeed him. Governor Quinn was Catholic but desperately needed the support of the staunch liberals and LGBT community in Chicago. Bruce Rauner was opposed to homosexuality but he also could not afford to offend any voters and defended himself from a large billboard which attacked him as opposing gay marriage. He wanted to keep the focus on fiscal issues which was probably politically wise, although demonstrated how perverse social norms have become. Homosexuality is an abomination and yet it is glorified. The tiny deviant sexual minority was also given special rights and political clout over the rest of society.

I did leave the confines of my cell to attend dinner. The Snowman was working on the feed line and was apparently still on some kitchen supervisor's "shit list". Typically, he is in the back of the kitchen doing less monotonous and unpleasant work. The Snowman was my cellmate for a couple of years long ago at another penitentiary. I rarely see him anymore and take the opportunity to say a few words while he is unhappily scooping out slop onto prisoner's trays. On this occasion, I told him I want service with a smile. He retorted that I needed to go to McDonald's. The Snowman was sentenced to natural life without parole for the robbery and murder of a gas station attendant. The only remaining evidence against him is the very questionable testimony of jail-house snitches. I can see that the conviction and time in prison weighs heavily on him.

On the way out of the chow hall I had a brief conversation with a lieutenant who has a love affair with socialism and President Barack Obama. For weeks now, I have been telling him all the Central American immigrants should be sent back to their countries of origin. He thought it was appalling that I did not have any sympathy for the children. However, whether it was Mexicans, Guatemalans, or the children from any other 3rd world country, the U.S. is not a global refuge. There are not enough resources to subsidize all these people along with the crime, drugs, and infectious diseases they bring with them. Already, the government is subsidizing many Americans leading to enormous deficits. The country has also radically changed from a Caucasian, homogeneous nation to a cosmopolitan state lacking cohesion and identity. It may sound harsh, but large internment camps should be erected until all the illegal aliens can be removed. Laws bestowing citizenship on any person born on U.S. soil also should be changed. America has the weakest and most cockamamie immigration system.

Prison operations did not begin until late Monday morning. B and D houses were on lockdown and I thought this may have expanded to include the rest of the quarter units. I heard a rumor that a prisoner was violated by his gang and while being questioned by Internal Affairs he made a number of accusations. The administration, always paranoid about conspiracies, seemed determined to conduct a full investigation. This included talking to various prisoners and searching the cell houses. From what I was told by inmates who went to chow, a small group of Orange Crush went from B House to D House. I was not certain what they were doing, but later the vents were searched from the plumbing aisle behind cells. Then in the afternoon, 3 SORT members climbed a ladder to look on top of the sergeant's office. They pulled up some old plywood amongst other things during their search, but nothing was found.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., I listened to the Rush Limbaugh talk show on my Walkman. Two U.S. Supreme Court rulings were the topic of discussion. The most politically charged case pertained to whether the government could force incorporated businesses to provide contraception to employees. Companies such as Hobby Lobby argued the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, violated their 1st Amendment rights: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." The White House and various liberal and feminist groups countered the Bill of Rights only applied to individuals. They also claimed women would be denied access to contraception or bear a great financial burden. The Supreme Court rejected those claims in a 5-4 decision. Nothing prohibited women from buying their own birth control devices/pills or the government paying their cost without infringing on the religious rights of others. Oddly, the court relied in part on their ruling on a law signed by former President William Clinton in 1993 called the "Religious Reformation Act" which reinforced Constitutional religious protections from being usurped by government.

I was disappointed the ruling only applied to closely held family corporations and the court stated the government could cover the costs of contraception. The widespread availability of oral contraception in the 1960's is one of the major causes of the debasement of Western civilization if not its demise. Average family sizes have shrunk below replacement levels and if it were not for illegal aliens flooding across the southern border, America's population would be declining like many countries throughout Europe. Demographics aside, contraception has led to moral decay and disintegration of the family unit. Casual sex and single parent families abound to the detriment of not only children but society at large. Incredibly, the government encourages this destructive and irresponsible behavior by forcing health care insurance providers and employers to pay for contraception. It also does so by providing welfare and various other financial support to single parents and children that are a product of broken homes.

Monday was a hot and humid day, but I was pleased guards kept the blower on. Almost directly across from my cell is a large fan mounted to the wall which in the winter heats air from hot water pipes. These pipes have been turned off and now it just acts like a ceiling fan circulating the air. However, what I like about it most is the whir of noise it makes drowning out all the yelling and other clamor in the cell house. Without my headphones on, I read a couple of newspapers at the front desk including parts of my cellmates Marine Corps Times.

Military veterans have been very concerned about the lack of or delay of medical treatment and I am very sympathetic to their complaints. The government has a strong obligation to these men who served their country and I do not believe they are adequately compensated. However, the fact that nearly half of these veterans are on some form of disability and that includes many with purported post traumatic stress disorder is ridiculous. The system is being abused and overburdened. Only veterans with combat or service related injuries should receive the greatly discounted medical treatment from the VA. Furthermore, PTSD and other ambiguous maladies should not crowd out those veterans with serious medical needs. I am reminded of how General Patton visited a medical unit behind the front lines in WWII. He slapped a soldier who was crying hysterically because of the psychological trauma of war while other men were clinging to life. This man was just a coward and taking much needed attention away from soldiers that had severe combat injuries.

The article I read in the newspaper was a good complement to the segment on 60 Minutes I had watched the previous day about social security disability. S.S. was created by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the aftermath of the Great Depression which left many elderly Americans penniless and unable to earn an income. It was an incredibly small government program because very few people ever lived long enough to receive benefits. However, entitlement spending now makes up the largest portion of government expenditures. People are living much longer than they did nearly a century ago. Furthermore, like most socialistic programs, they have a tendency to expand and create greater public dependency. In 1974, S.S. was amended to include various other welfare programs including disability. The subject of the 60 Minutes program was the enormous fraud and growth of disability stipends since the beginning of Barack Obama's tenure as president. Numerous people after exhausting unemployment benefits seek disability and it has grown over 20% in the last 5 years.

At night I turned on my clear plastic television wedged between a cross beam and the upper bunk to watch the FOX hit show "24: Live Another Day". In this episode China's new aircraft carrier is torpedoed by a U.S. submarine. The submarine's commander had been given false orders from a rogue Chinese official with backing of the Russian government. Both sought a war between the U.S. and China. I wondered how the U.S. president in the TV show would handle the matter and speculated what Barack Obama would do. He has followed a policy of disengagement and pacifism in the world. American power has been allowed to wane across the globe and in its absence enemies abound.

Tuesday morning, the entire prison was on lockdown. For a moment, I thought it may be due to the strong thunderstorms which passed overnight. From television news I learned 300,000 homes in the Chicago metro area were without electrical power. Before I went to sleep, the power went out briefly, but there were not any further disruptions. I speculated Internal Affairs was expanding their investigation or the Orange Crush was conducting a larger search. Prisoners in C House were angry by the unnecessary lockdown and men screamed from their cells demanding Rec and commissary which were supposed to be run the previous day but were cancelled. I did not plan to go out anyway and exercised in the cell as I customarily do. While working out, I noticed Rob walking down the flight of stairs and gave him a look of puzzlement. It was a low level lockdown, however, almost all movement had ceased except for visits and some details. Later, I learned the skinhead checked himself into protective custody. I am not certain why but speculate he is trying to be transferred.

When I went to dinner, I learned the cause of the 1st shift lockdown was O.C. searching parts of the Roundhouse. Hooch had been permitted to go to his detail of scraping paint around the penitentiary and noticed the SORT dressed in their orange jumpsuits entering the building. It took a long time for chow lines to be run because there was a shortage of kitchen workers. Fewer than half of them were let out of their cells and there was only one serving line rather than two. Leprechaun expressed disappointment there was no pork being served as many prisoners were looking forward to. Instead, distasteful turkey-soy Sloppy Joes or what men call "Sloppy Soy" was dumped onto convicts' trays. The lieutenant who often gives Barack Obama credit for some reason when more edible food is served was not reciting K.O. or "King Obama" praises on this occasion. I told him as I left the chow hall that slop is representative of what the socialist tyrant wants to serve up to the American people. It may be free but is hardly good. Under his politburo, people would be standing in long lines for soup and stale bread.

Wednesday I awakened to find a sausage, two slices of bread, and still more potatoes on my breakfast tray. For three weeks, prisoners have been served the little spuds. I am not certain if they were donated or bought in bulk for a cheap price. However, I have grown tired of the food and dumped my tray into the nearby toilet which often acts as my garbage disposal unit. I did save the bread and made myself a peanut butter sandwich to eat while watching the first 20 minutes of news. The first news segment was about the U.S. losing to the Netherlands and being out of the World Cup Soccer Tournament being held in Brazil. Personally, I did not care and was not a big fan of soccer. Furthermore, the team the U.S. fielded did not strike me as quintessentially American. I actually identified more with the German soccer team and hoped they went on to win the cup.

I was glad to see a Polish nurse had returned to work this week after a short vacation. She was one of the few medical personnel at Stateville who did her job competently and had a strong work ethic. Many foreigners come to America with no skills and looking to sponge off government. They cross the border illegally and have no respect for the laws, culture, or founding principles of the republic. They are rather a growing multitude that seek to plunder and take down this country. When the nurse from Poland first began working at the penitentiary, I would question her why she would choose to work at this dump. Then I began to sarcastically ask her if she was having fun yet. Oddly, she would tell me she liked her job. However, finally she told me she was not having fun anymore. This is what happens when a few ants do all the work for the lazy and freeloading grasshoppers.

On Thursday, the Dow Jones broke 17,000 for the first time on a good jobs report bringing the unemployment rate down to just over 6%. However, behind this figure was a string of bad economic data largely ignored by investors. Although 288,000 jobs were created, there has been a rise in the number of people with part time work who are seeking full employment, almost 8 million. Then those who do have jobs have found wage growth stagnate or below the rate of inflation for the last 5 years. The labor force participation rate is also at a 36 year low at 62.8%. Interestingly, this coincides with another liberal president, Jimmy Carter. According to an analysis by Terrence P. Jeffrey, there are 86 million full time private sector workers in the U.S. paying taxes to support the government and its excesses, including 148 million Americans who receive some type of public aid or benefit. In retrospect, I wager a lot of people who voted for Barack Obama would rather now have Mitt Romney in office.

In this economy things do not look good for another public official. Governor Pat Quinn is losing in polls to businessman Bruce Rauner. In the last five years the governor has the stellar accomplishment of making Illinois have the highest unemployment rate and debt in the union. A court also just ruled that legislation passed last year to curb pension costs was in part unconstitutional. The state must abide by contracts with unions to pay for agreed upon health care costs. This will add $58 billion back onto the state's liabilities and give it the same credit rating as Kazakhstan. There will be a financial crisis if the entire pension reform bill is scrapped as a breach of contract. However, tax and spend Democrats will still have the support of unions even without the $20 million from dues they were collecting from non-state workers in Illinois.

On the prison yard, I heard convicts talk about how Internal Affairs was investigating some of the most preposterous claims of snitches. Men said they were looking for a hand gun and/or bullets purportedly brought into the penitentiary somehow. Another convict said they were following very questionable information there was an impending hit on a corrections officer. Trigger had in fact been brought to I.A.'s office along with some other gang or suspected gang members to be questioned. It did not surprise me they were pursuing such thin conspiracy theories. The guards union had successfully pressured administrators for an excess of security personnel and now with nothing to do they had to justify their existence periodically. At least the entire penitentiary was not locked down and harassed needlessly, although this was little comfort to those in B House who were on lockdown. They clamored for the warden so loud we could hear the pounding and yelling from the yard. The warden who actually showed up to listen to their complaints was thanked by a barrage of food and garbage being thrown at him. I am told he was even hit by a flying sausage.

Yesterday, on the 4th of July, I went out again to the yard. Occasionally, prisoners would hear the explosions of M-1,000s or quarter sticks of dynamite. However, there were no firework displays in the sky. It probably would have been ironic anyways if we had seen them over the 30 foot high maximum security walls. Since I had lifted weights the previous day, I finished my workout early and played a game of penalty kicks with Fat Pat on the lawn within the quarter mile track. Each of us took turns trying to score with the other acting as goalie. It was difficult getting the soccer ball past the fat man with a net the size used in hockey. Afterwards, a Mexican who barely speaks English asked me who won and to razz him I exclaimed, "USA 3, Mexico zero!"

In the confines of my prison cell as night fell and it became dark, I brooded about the irony of Independence Day. Mainly, I stared out the bars but occasionally I turned to look at my cellmate's television. He was watching some live show called "The 4th of July Jam Fest". I noticed an array of hip hop, R&B, and pop musicians playing music to the backdrop of fireworks and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. That may be where the Declaration of Independence was signed, however, I doubted modern America was what the founders of this country had in mind. Nearly all the values they so vehemently believed and fought for have been corrupted and usurped. The European culture and its people which settled the new world and created this uniquely exceptional democratic republic were also at a point of extinction. Many a night I go to sleep bitter and sad about my own injustice, but this time it was for the death knells of a once great nation.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Potatoes and Paranoia -- June 28, 2014

Prisoners at Stateville have been served potatoes for breakfast every day for the last two weeks. Storage rooms must be stacked to the ceiling from truckloads of the tuber. In addition to the excess of potatoes, there has also been an excess of paranoia at the penitentiary. Administrators from Springfield are snooping around and reviewing various operations. Their presence has put greater pressure on staff to over react to potential dangers. Prisoners in D House are on lockdown for dubious suspicions and mass pat downs during large movement lines are occurring. Guards have also been instructed not to go onto the yards to lessen the likelihood of an assault. Inmates, for their part, are spreading rumors about the cause of the lockdown and the new security measures. There is an abundance of paranoia and oddly potatoes at the prison, but I am trying to keep both in moderation.

Last Saturday, I began to notice an increased attention to security when at the Health Care Unit. All protective custody inmates were seen by doctors before those in general population. Prisoners in PC are kept separate, but it was odd they halted operations altogether at the H.C.U. While I was waiting for nearly two hours, a few prisoners had property taken from them at the door including a Walkman, a novel and a water bottle. A prisoner with a deformed face (caused from shooting himself after he committed a murder) complained about the matter. Thomas Miles said men can be locked in holding cages for long periods of time and may not come directly from their housing units. The guard working up front replied that prisoners are supposed to be sent back to their cell house and then brought to the H.C.U. despite how impractical this may be. Also, men should not have any property on them even if left with nothing to pass their time. He did return the items prisoners had brought with them, however, not until they were leaving.

I was at the H.C.U. for a regularly scheduled appointment to see the psychiatrist. I will usually meet with the doctor once every other month and she evaluates how prescribed medications are working. I was going to thank her for prescribing the melatonin which was helping me sleep much better, but nurses have chronically been failing to stop by my cell at night or do not have the pill. She brought me over to the nurses' station in the E.R. to inquire what the problem was. Nurses said there was no melatonin and possibly she had to renew the order every month because it was "non-formula". Non-formula simply meant it had to be specially ordered through the pharmacy.

On Sunday, I did not leave the confines of my cell; however, my neighbor told me an interesting story when he returned from lunch. Prisoners are sporadically patted down to and from the chow hall, but on this occasion, everyone was. The movement team, along with guards who work in the cell house, had the entire line of men stand facing the cyclone fences which follow the walkway. Prisoners with their arms and legs spread were then frisked. Initially, I thought the guards were looking for men who had brought juice back with them. Recently, the administration has been trying to stop the making of hooch in the cell houses. However, I was told that staff confiscated everything prisoners had. When they left, water bottles, napkins, cookies, and various other harmless items littered the concrete walk.

My neighbor's cellmate was given a special work detail to tide him over until he was permitted to have his cell house help job again. Many work details at the prison had a year on year off rotation to give other prisoners a chance to have a job. The intermittent job Hooch was given was not very pleasant, in my opinion, and consisted of scraping off peeling or chipped paint around the penitentiary. While he was gone, the sergeant as a practical joke sent him 10 trays of meat balls. Hooch hated the turkey-soy balls containing chips of bone and gristle. When he returned from work he was not very happy to find all the balls, but his mood changed when he won the NASCAR pool. The race at Watkins Glen New York was one of the few I watched because it was a winding road course rather than a track where cars went in circles.

Monday morning, I awakened to find yet again potatoes in my breakfast tray. It seems the prison has a never ending supply of them and they are now served daily in combination with some other food such as sausage, a waffle, or a pastry. Initially, some men liked the miniature potatoes that are sliced in half with part of the insides cut out. However, after two weeks, they are now complaining. My cellmate gives me his portion because the tubers are regularly undercooked. I will save them for later in the day or toss them in the toilet. The potato skins if prepared properly can make a good lunch. I happened to fill a bowl of potatoes with sardines in hot sauce and a little cheese when the director and the warden were touring the unit. A prisoner shouted out, "Director on 4 gallery!" and I thought I may joke with Tony Godinez and ask if he wanted some hors d'oeuvres, however, he never passed by my cell.

For dinner, I went to the chow hall to see what Stateville's version of mostaccioli was. When I returned to the cell house, the sergeant spoke to me about my medications. Recently, nurses have repeatedly failed to bring my medications. He seemed to be under the impression they were intentionally singling me out and spoke to health care staff. Some of them believed I was to go out with medical lines and he informed them they were mistaken. There were a number of new nurses filling in for those on vacation and I tended to think this was the cause of the problem. I thanked the sergeant and he said if they continue to skip me to let him know. Since my conversation with him, nurses have come to my cell, but they did not have any melatonin until later in the week.

Despite not sleeping well, the following day I went to the yard in the morning. Oddly, the lieutenant and guards on the movement team ordered everyone to put their hands up against one of the two cyclone fences. They then went about frisking everyone. Prisoners are permitted to take water bottles, a Walkman, and various table games with them to the yard or gym. The guards did not take any of these items and this time seemed to be just looking for weapons or contraband. None of this was found and prisoners were permitted to go on the small mostly concrete yard. Within its premises, I heard men speculate about the extra concern for security.

The previous evening, prisoners in D House were placed on lockdown just after their yard period. In fact, it was purportedly cut short leading inmates to think something happened. They speculated there was a fight and or a weapon was found. This seemed to be corroborated by the fact that blood was seen on the walk leading to the two small yards. The stains looked recent, but I could not tell how long they had been there.

While lifting weights, I occasionally spoke with Trigger. Trigger was a white inmate who I knew from the distant past at a different penitentiary. Just last week, he was moved into a cell with "KY". He knew about me telling other prisoners that KY was a homosexual and asked me to not say anything regarding him being in PC at one time. I did not know why he wanted to keep that a secret or even if it was one. It was not like he was in PC for being afraid or some other issue that I was aware of. Despite this, I said I would keep the information to myself.

On the other parallel yard was Rob and he wanted some advice on a pen pal. He was writing a woman from Oregon and they had developed some type of behind the wall, long distance relationship. The woman seemed to have many financial and emotional issues. She was contemplating moving to the area so she could visit Rob, but was also writing another prisoner in a different state. The skinhead had ceased writing other women and was angry that she was still corresponding as well as sending money to someone else. What should he do? I felt like I was some "Dear Abby" columnist giving relationship advice. I told him to grow a pair, and cease living in a fantasy world. A pen pal was not a real relationship.

The last time I had been at a prison with Rob, I had posted a few personal ads. I was writing a number of women romantically, although what he failed to realize was that I ceased writing them after a period of time when I thought they could no longer be faithful or before the correspondence became too serious. I was searching for a wife or long term committed relationship if I happened to win an appeal or a clemency petition. When these failed, I cut off all my courtship except for one Scandinavian  girl who was exceptionally pretty and promised to be faithful until I was released, whenever that may be. I held onto her for over four years until I realized I was being delusional. The next step was for her to move to the U.S. and complete her masters at a nearby university while living with my parents. However, where was this ultimately going to lead if I remained in prison as I have?

Rob asked if I was currently writing anyone and I mentioned a girl I went to junior high school with had recently contacted me. He asked if she was pretty. I told him I did not know because I had not seen her in about 25 years. At the time she had long dark hair, brown eyes, and a slender figure. She reminded me of the part American Indian girl in the move "Pale Rider" with Clint Eastwood. The skinhead disapproved and I said, no, she was not the Nordic-type of girl I was attracted to, but this did not matter. She was special to me because she came from the distant past, a time period I greatly value. I wish more people I knew from before my arrest contacted me.

Prisoners were taken from the yard directly to the chow hall where meat balls were being served again. It was a humid day and in my sweaty clothes I wanted to return to the cell to bathe. However, inmates were left in the chow hall for a long time and then stopped on the way back to the cell house. Once again, we were all frisked. Guards had a small pile of cookies and even a bag of meat balls. I thought it was odd and amusing that a prisoner would want to take back a bag of balls. To my cellmate I said, "They (guards) took someone's balls. That was cruel and unusual punishment."

Wednesday there were few people in the visiting room. I assume this was due to prisoners in D House not being allowed visits and it being the end of the month. Inmates are only allowed 5 visits per month at Stateville. Despite being able to converse easily without the noise, I did not enjoy talking with my mother. She brought up how she learned online that Robert Mueller was in his late 30's when he had sexual relations with not one but two girls at Hinsdale Central High School. She was under the impression he was in his 20's and there was only one 17-year-old. I told her Bob disputed when that relationship turned sexual and never mentioned a second girl to me. As for his age, it may come as a surprise to her but I am now in my late 30's and still find girls in their late teens to be attractive. Regardless, 8 counts of criminal sexual assault run concurrent for a total of 32 years was ridiculous. At least my mother agreed the punishment in no way fit the crime.

When I returned to the cell, I was exhausted and lay down with a cloth over my eyes to take a nap. Not long after, my cellmate put his knee on my chest and his hand around my throat. I could not see him, but reached out to poke him in the eye and when I failed, I punched him in the balls with my other hand. Cringing in pain, I was able to take off my blind fold and kick him off me. We were just play fighting. After the incident with KY, I told Anthony I still could not put my guard down. Realizing he could not square off with me, KY may wait so he or someone else can attack me while unprepared. I must be continually vigilant and I told him about the movie "The Pink Panther" where comedian Peter Sellers has an Asian man attack him periodically when he least expected it to keep him on his toes. After rough housing with my cellmate, I told him it serves no function to attack me in my sleep. Even the goofy eccentric detective played by Sellers had some ground rules.

At night, I watched the last season episode of "Dual Survivor" with my cellmate. During commercial breaks, we questioned how real the program was. In a previous episode, Matt Graham caught a wild turkey with his bare hands after sneaking up on it. In this episode filmed in New Zealand, Joe Teti killed a buck with one shot through the heart. I am certain the former Special Ops soldier could do this, but he was using a rifle that had purportedly fallen down a rocky embankment and because he only had one bullet was unable to align the scope. I doubted the scenario presented in the show and assume Teti was given a perfectly aligned rifle and the camera crew may have done retakes or editing.

Thursday morning I awakened to another breakfast of miniature potatoes sliced in half. I noticed my cellmate had dumped his onto my tray also. I put them in a zip lock bag and thought I may eat them later. Along with the potatoes, there was something unfamiliar in the breakfast tray. Upon closer inspection, it was a cinnamon pastry. Prisoners at Stateville have not been served one of these in numerous years and I wondered what the occasion was. Perhaps the donated food was being served this week because IDOC administrators from Springfield were present. I did not know but was going to eat it until I discovered the carton of milk was spoiled. Since the cell house was going to be fed first for lunch, I just went without breakfast.

Later in the day I left my cell to attend a health care pass. While waiting in the holding cage for an escort, I spoke with Fat Pat whose cell is across from the cage. Ironically, Fat Pat shares a cell with Fat Jimmy. Jimmy had gone to yard, but Pat stayed inside to enjoy some time alone and draw. Usually, Pat would be at his work assignment, but during the week the prison store was closed for inventory and to be scrutinized by Springfield auditors. There was a great deal of theft at the commissary and their books never add up. Fat Pat seemed to think auditors would have a lot of questions but ultimately nothing will change. Stateville is and always has been the most corrupt and dysfunctional penitentiary in Illinois.

At the Health Care Unit, I waited almost an hour before I was told my pass had been cancelled. In fact, my doctor had not even come in for work. I told the guard I had just seen the medical director walk by whereupon I was told my appointment was not for the doctor but a medical practitioner. This news puzzled me because my pass clearly had a check mark next to the letters "M.D."  I came to the conclusion my appointment was not to address my lower back injury, but the requests I had made over a month ago when I was sick with a cold. Whoever filled out the pass made an error. I was able to return to the cell house quickly, however, I missed a pleasant sunny day on the South Yard.

My cellmate had gone to the Rec period and informed me of a new rule. Prisoners, before being let onto the yard, were told by a sergeant that guards will no longer come out on the premises to gather them to the gate. The guard in the gun tower will notify convicts when their time is up and they will have a certain amount of time to leave or will be given a disciplinary ticket. One prisoner yelled out, "That's bullshit, sergeant!" and later various men talked about why there was a change in policy. Some people speculated a weapon was found on the yard that D House was on earlier in the week and administrators did not want guards wandering about on the yard where they may be attacked. I told my cellmate the policy was not actually new and before the turn of the millennium, guards never went out on the prison yards.

At 4 p.m., I made some hot coffee to go with my breakfast cinnamon pastry while watching Wolf Blitzer on CNN. On the show was the IRS chief defending the government agency from targeting Tea Party and other groups. Congress was conducting an investigation and it seemed apparent there was a coverup. Emails and servers important to the investigation had been "lost" and six IRS computers just happened to all go down at the same time. Paul Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin, did not believe the coincidence and called the IRS chief a liar. In a secondary story, Republican Chris McDaniel accused Thad Cochran of intentionally undermining the senate primary. Cochran who has held the Mississippi senate seat since 1978 was going to lose the election to the Tea Party candidate, but had his campaign target black Democrats to submit Republican ballots for him. It reminded me of how the union sought to defeat Bruce Rauner for the Republican nominee for Illinois governor by having many Chicago Democrats vote for Kirk Dillard. The union was unsuccessful, but Cochran won by a slim margin.

Yesterday and early today, I watched Wimbledon tennis while eating breakfast potatoes with fish and some trimmings. Two matches were of interest to Stateville prisoners. Venus Williams played Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic and then her sister, Serena, played Alize Cornet of France. Black convicts cheered loudly for the two black female tennis players. They were very unhappy both of them lost. Contrarily, my cellmate and I were pleased by the outcome. Possibly, it is the end of the Williams sisters' dominance in professional tennis.

I recently spoke with Psycho who works in the kitchen. According to him, potatoes are likely to be served for breakfast daily. There are still enough spuds piled up in storage to feed 2,000 prisoners for a couple more weeks, if not longer. He also mentioned that there were now two quarter units on lockdown. Earlier today, kitchen workers prepared Styrofoam lunch trays to be brought to both D and B Houses. There were various rumors floating about to explain the expanded lockdown of the institution, however he could not be certain of their validity. It seems the only certainty is that potatoes and paranoia will continue for some time.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Preparing for War -- June 21, 2014

Sunday, blood was found splattered on the floor and wall of the shower room. There was speculation that someone was beat to a pulp or possibly bludgeoned with a weapon. No one was taken to the prison hospital that I am aware of. However, it was a reminder to me of how violent and brutal a maximum security prison can be. I was in the penitentiary when it was a gladiator school and fighting often with crude weapons was a regular part of life. Menard was nicknamed "The Pit", Stateville "The White Man's Graveyard", and Pontiac "Thunderdome" after the Mad Max movies popularized in the early 1980's. Fortunately, I was mentally and physically conditioned for the concrete jungles I was to enter. Times have greatly changed since then, but I continue to be vigilant. During the week when faced with a violent encounter, I was not taking any chances and prepared for war.

On Tuesday, prisoners on the lower galleries of the quarter unit were permitted to shop. At the commissary building, I sat by Bone in a holding room. He spoke almost incessantly about an appeal he filed which was dismissed by the state courts. The issue revolved around an improper criminal indictment. Certain procedures are supposed to be followed when the grand jury is impaneled which prosecutors regularly do not bother to strictly abide by. It is a technicality many desperate prisoners who have lost all their regular set of appeals are challenging. They hope some court will eventually overturn their conviction, however, I knew this was not going to happen. They were going to die in prison.

Before I was sentenced, I knew the judge was going to give me the maximum amount of time. Rather than spend decades suffering and languishing in prison, I attempted to kill myself in various ways. By fluke and a strong instinct to survive, these attempts failed. I ended up in a holding cage waiting to be transferred to the IDOC with a single black man. While I stood there sulking, he paced excitedly. He asked eventually how much time I was sentenced to and where I was headed. When I told him, he said I needed to own it and say it with pride: "You're going to the Thunderdome and when people ask you, tell them you have a natural ball!"Having not committed suicide, I chose a fate of never ending strife and hardship which I had to embrace.

When I returned from store, I noticed property boxes in front of the sergeant's cage. The prisoner who people simply called "Big" was being transferred to a medium security penitentiary. For a moment I wondered if he was not the same black man in the holding cage with me 19 years ago. However, that convict told me he was sentenced to 50 and under the old statute, he would still need to do another 6 years before he was eligible to leave maximum security. I also recall Big telling me he was arrested in the 1980's and would not have been in the Cook County Jail when I was there. Despite having a hulking muscular build, I doubted he would live to see freedom. Like Bone and many of us at Stateville, we were doomed to die in the penitentiary.

At night, I watched the brutal, vigilante movie Law Abiding Citizen. The main character played by Gerard Butler is the victim of a home invasion where his family is butchered and he is left for dead. An assistant states attorney concerned only with his conviction rate makes a deal with the killer to testify against his co-defendant. The result is lopsided with the man who merely committed a burglary getting the death penalty and the murderer getting a 3 year sentence. Incensed by the injustice, the sole survivor kills him along with his attorney, those in the prosecutor's office, and the judge. The actor Gerard Butler also stars in another violent film called 300 where he is a Spartan king who holds off a million man Persian army with only 300 soldiers. He knows it is a mission which will ultimately lead to his death, but not before all of Greece is united to defeat the eastern invasion.

The following day, the chow hall was packed for lunch. My cellmate and I ended up sitting at the only remaining table where an old deformed man sat. The prisoner, from what I am told, killed his wife in an act of mercy before putting a shotgun in his own mouth. Amazingly, he lived, but half his face is missing including an eye. I tried speaking to him, however, he is largely deaf and is unable to pronounce words. Later, I asked my cellmate, "What are the chances of surviving a shotgun blast at point blank range to the skull?" If guards gave me the weapon and just one slug after my conviction, I would have gotten the job done right.

Upon returning to the cell, I made myself a pair of shorts from sweatpants I had purchased the day before. The prison commissary sells shorts, but they are made for short fat people. I needed a pair with a smaller waist and longer legs. Cutting the fabric with toe nail clippers and hemming it with reused threads to a professional standard was not easy. I spent a few hours on the project and then another hour sewing fabric on my shoe which was tearing apart. After I finished, my cellmate told me I should sew up his torn gym shoes as well. Apparently, his needle was too small and thin. I replied that it sounded like a personal problem.

While watching the DVD 3 Days to Kill, I almost missed the male nurse who was passing out medications. When I yelled out to him, he kept on walking and ignored me. However, a guard told him he needed to come back to my cell. Later, he eventually returned. I asked him who was responsible for not filling my prescription. Other female nurses are usually friendly and will apologize for making an error, but this man gave me some attitude which upset me. I was thinking of grabbing him through the bars and yanking him into the cell bars, yet he moved away. Repeatedly, new hires in the H.C.U. were bungling prescriptions.

Thursday lunch lines were run at 9 a.m. I was not hungry, but because I heard kitchen workers made the spaghetti with sliced pepperoni instead of turkey-soy, I went out. Although I am not a fan of pepperoni, the meal was an improvement. Upon my return to the unit I noticed Big John had been moved in the cell vacated by Big. He waved and gave me a happy greeting. He had been moved out of cell house a year ago and seemed glad to be back. My cellmate made fun of all the prisoners who went by the name "Big", but we both got along with John. By happenstance, I encountered him again later in the day.

While I was waiting to gain an escort to the visiting room, John was placed into the holding cage with me. He acknowledged how he had repeatedly requested to be moved back to the unit. Now, he was hoping he could regain his former cellmate from F House. Puzzled, I said I did not think he would get along with KY. Stunningly, he claimed KY was the best cellmate he ever had. I asked him if he knew he was a homosexual whereupon he looked like the one shocked. Immediately, he said I did not know what I was talking about and should keep my mouth shut. A couple of other prisoners in the cage who were nearby also defended KY and scolded me. For a moment, I thought a 3 on 1 brawl was going to erupt in the crowded holding cage. A guard opened the locked gate, however, to let me out for my visit. Before leaving I told John that I had known his former cellmate for two decades and he was definitely as I said.

On my visit, I did not want to mention the subject with my mother, but I had to tell her I may be in Segregation or transferred to Pontiac in the near future. Of course, she wanted to know why. I told her I may have caused a chain of dominoes to fall that inevitably would lead to a fight or worse. This was not an adequate explanation for her and thus I explained what happened. What I had said was eventually going to get back to KY and with his reputation at stake he would have no choice but to retaliate. The odd thing was that I was telling the truth and thought most everyone already knew. My mother wanted to know why the matter had to lead to violence. She did not understand prison and this was not something I could explain to her.

After my visit, I took a nap and refreshed I exercised for an hour. My workout regimen was even more intense and deliberate than usual. I emphasized speed and explosive force with mixed martial arts keeping in mind my most likely opponent. KY was a large stature Caucasian man who was once very violent in the 80's and early 90's. He had wicked tattoos over his entire body, even over his bald dome. However, he was now in his 50's. Muscle had turned to fat and he was slow. Without a weapon, I would quickly overtake him. Despite this, I was not taking any chances and pretended he was the UFC's heavyweight champion. I also trained for having more than one attacker.

My cellmate came back from the chow hall saying Big John had said, "What's up with your cellie?!" Anthony told him I had known KY for years, yet he only knew him for one. He also commented that he saw no reason for me to lie about the matter. I had no ax to grind and am always brutally honest with him, maybe a little too honest for my own good. When my cellmate related his conversation, I was in the back of the cell bathing out of the sink. It was humid and after my workout, my sweat actually rinsed off the suds before I filled the basin again with water. I kept on hitting the cold water button, but it only momentarily changed the temperature. For over a month, the sink has been broken and slowly dribbles hot water.

When KY was moved to the cell house, I had told Anthony about him. In the 80's and 90's, prisoners were largely judged by how violent and powerful they were. It did not matter if one of these men had sex with a sissy or was a sexual predator. Convicts did not abide by any traditional ethical codes and the gangs had a Lord of the Flies mentality. I always thought KY was a sexual deviant as I am sure others did, but in this environment particularly when white prisoners were outnumbered 10 to 1, he was accepted if not respected. There was only one time when I had a problem with KY and that was when he got blitzed on moonshine and psychotropic drugs. He lost his marbles and tried attacking me. When he sobered up, he barely remembered the psychotic episode, but strongly apologized. To Anthony I said with emphasis, "Never trust someone drunk and on psychotropic drugs. They are capable of doing anything." I was being serious, but also making fun of his own criminal conviction.

Friday morning, I ate a makeshift breakfast while watching the news. The president was finally sending 300 Special Forces into Iraq. They were to assess the situation on the ground and possibly help assist the Al-Maliki government. Barack Obama was continually too late and too little when it came to using military force. Did he not realize he left a huge power vacuum in Iraq when he pulled U.S. troops out? All of Iraq was in chaos due to him being aloof or asleep at the wheel. It is always better to be continually vigilant and prepared for war than to let it sneak up on you.

After the news, I wrote a "kite" to Big John. A kite is prison slang for a brief letter. In it I told him I was glad he was back in the unit and looked forward to making him look foolish again on the basketball court. Then I repeated what I said to him in the holding cage and if he wanted to talk further about it he should come out for lunch. Big John did go to the meal and sat next to me. Speaking lowly, I told him how I knew KY was a homosexual. He never made a secret of it 20 years ago and had a sissy as a cellmate. I was about to tell him a story when he stopped me and said he heard enough. He asked why I had to announce to the entire bull pen that he was gay. Had I told him privately there would not be a problem, but now the word was already repeated back to KY and he would be forced to respond.

Big John hated homosexuals and regularly would express this to KY when they were cellmates. Oddly, I told John that KY does not think of himself as gay. He thinks that only the man who is playing the role of a woman is queer. Even if he realizes his conduct is homosexual, he believes it is acceptable, or not sexually perverse. Numerous times when I would be with KY on the yard or elsewhere and he would comment that since he cannot have a woman, he had the next best alternative: a man who acted like one. Of course, while this reasoning may have been overlooked decades ago in the Thunderdome or other maximum security penitentiaries, it did not have any merit today. Homosexuality may be more tolerated in society outside these walls, but inside almost a reversal has occurred  particularly amongst certain segments of the inmate population which KY belongs to.

Back in the confines of my cell, the plumber finally came to the cell to fix the sink. He was in the tunnel behind the cell and made his presence known by hitting some pipes with a wrench or other tool. Anthony ducked down to the vent to talk to him. After a moment, the hot water stopped dribbling out and he yelled to push the button. The water ran briefly and still had little pressure. I told my cellmate to tell him to raise the pressure and timer. When he did, the plumber remarked, "You're asking for steak on a hamburger budget." However, he did as we asked him to.

It was nice to have both sink buttons working properly for a change, though I did not know if I would be able to enjoy it. Friday evening, the lower galleries of the cell house had yard and I knew KY would be there to confront me. I packed up a Seg bag which is basically a few things prisoners are sometimes allowed to take with them immediately to segregation. It included a bar of soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, towel, wash cloth, and some underwear. I told Anthony that I did not know if they would do so, but to ask a guard if he would bring the bag to me. They had no obligation and many prisoners will be in Seg a week or longer without any property. I also told Anthony that if I happened to be transferred he should keep various things of mine I knew would be taken. KY, knowing he cannot take me one on one, may attack with a weapon or with the help of others. In prison, the administration does not make a distinction between aggressors and those simply defending themselves. Regardless, whatever KY starts, I planned to finish.

Before going out to the yard, I practiced various strikes and self defense techniques. It was important they became instinct and not requiring any forethought. Furthermore, I went over specific movements which were meant to inflict the most bodily injury in the least amount of time. Unlike a boxing match or the UFC, points were irrelevant. Also, there were no rules and rendering your opponent incapacitated with strikes to the knee caps, genitals, and throat were all fair game. We both had protracted death sentences, and although I hoped one day to have justice, I had to own this life without parole. As the black convict told me before I was sent to the Thunderdome, I had a "natural ball"!

I was one of the first prisoners to go through the gate onto the yard. I rushed to the other side where I undressed until I was only wearing my gym shoes and shorts. I tied my t-shirt around my forehead tightly like a bandanna. In a brawl, a fighter wants the least loose fabric. They also want their body slippery, and along with sun block, I glazed Vaseline on parts of my skin. Then, I grabbed a handful of sand which was going into the eyes of my first attacker. If I had wanted, I could have secured or crafted a weapon. However, this was unnecessary. I had faith in my physical abilities unless I was caught off guard.

KY approached me directly while I was on the basketball court. I was thinking sand to the eyes and then take down or a kick to the balls. Actually, he left himself open to numerous attacks. However, I was going to wait until he made the first move and he started by saying, "Hey, Paul, let me talk to you for a moment." I walked back with him whereupon he asked, "What is this about you calling me a homosexual?" "Are you telling me you are not?" I replied, and thus began the most ridiculous conversation I have had in some time.

I noticed a lot of eyes upon us as well as some convicts who may want to get involved and thus I told KY to walk the track with me. Many people walk around the track and it is inconspicuous as well as private. KY tried convincing me he was not a homosexual despite living with a sissy and telling me he had both anal and oral sex with various men. He even had the gall to ask, "Did you ever see me?" and of course I had to say no. "Well, there you go then," KY replied. I said, "Just not long ago you told me a man sucked your dick." "No," KY said. "I said I saw that man suck dick." Finally, I said to him that I did not care if he wanted to be in the closet. I will agree not to speak of it again to anyone in the prison. However, it will be his task to try to put the cat back in the bag.

Later, I spoke to Big John and told him we came to an agreement. I see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Oddly, John seemed happy about this arrangement. He told me when we were on the basketball court he really thought I was going to romper stomp KY and was concerned when we went out on the quarter mile track. There was no one to break up a brutal beating and the gun tower did not have the range to be dissuasive. I said that was in part why I did this, but I also wanted to diffuse the situation. There was no need for the matter to go beyond me and KY and hopefully this is the end of it.

For the rest of the yard period, I worked out while KY and his cronies stood talking by the showers. KY is respected and well liked in the prison. He has many more friends than I have or probably ever will. It was much more important for him to preserve his reputation than for me to impugn it. Actually, I never cared. Almost two decades have passed and I have been largely indifferent if prisoners knew he was a homosexual. The problem is I am not the only one who knows and there are no secrets in prison. Indeed, at the end of the Rec period, a worker came out on the yard to collect the ice buckets. He was totally oblivious to what had occurred earlier and yelled out to prisoners, "I'm surprised you let KY stand by the showers!"