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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Midterm Elections -- November 4, 2010

This morning, the prison was placed on a level 1 lockdown. I was looking out my window trying to see past the prison buildings, fences, and razor wire simply to enjoy the autumn weather and natural world, when I heard inmates yelling about a lockdown. While in Seg without a cellmate, I have been trying to not think about prison and enjoy my solitude. However, I went to the bars to listen and see what was happening.

Inmate workers were being locked in their cages, and others were being sent out of the Roundhouse. Some workers live on the 4th floor, but others live in general population cell houses. F House was in the middle of passing out food trays, and only a few workers were left here to finish the job. During this time, inmates in their cells were yelling, trying to find out what caused the lockdown. I do not know who replied, nor if what he said was true, but a man said a counselor was attacked in E House.

I had my window open and heard the siren of an ambulance. I cannot say with certainty the ambulance was for whoever was injured, but Stateville is set apart from residential or commercial areas in Crestwood. There is little around the prison, and I must conclude the ambulance was here in response to the incident that caused the lockdown. There is a healthcare unit at Stateville, and whomever was hurt must have been seriously injured for an ambulance to be brought in from an outside hospital.

There are over ten counselors who work here. Most of them have a poor work ethic and care little for the inmates or are just indifferent. They do their jobs, and as little work required for them to earn their very handsome wages and state benefits. Possibly some get burned out working here, and I can see why they are not enthusiastic about their jobs. The inmates here are impolite, obnoxious, and unthankful, generally. They also bother the counselors about numerous petty matters. Furthermore, although I understand anyone who took a job as a counselor must realize they will be dealing with many low-lifes, scum, and various criminals, I am sure some may think the prisoners here are undeserving of assistance.

While I would say most counselors have a poor work ethic, there are a few here that are just the opposite. For a few years, I had a counselor who was always busy trying to help inmates assigned to her. She not only did her job, but always had a good attitude, even though I know she must have had bad days. This counselor impressed me from the very day she introduced herself to me. Although I heap praise on her, I will not mention her name because anyone who is an inmate advocate will not be liked by others who work here who see prisoners as "the enemy," including Internal Affairs. A man on my gallery last year threatened this counselor and later when I saw him, I spoke up for her. Unfortunately, prisoners can become very frustrated and lash out at people who are not to blame. There are a few other hard working and friendly counselors at Stateville, and I hope it none of them were attacked.

If I was not in Seg, I could have ascertained the details of what occurred today. Possibly it may take a few days to learn the facts. In Segregation, I am isolated and cannot witness events in general population or hear through the grapevine much. I rarely speak to anyone or even look out my cell. Internal Affairs may have been successful in silencing me to some degree. If I am kept in Seg, there is less I can report about. Indeed, my focus this week will not be events inside these walls, or even inside my cell house, but the midterm elections.

Tuesday evening, all I cared about was election results and political commentary. I tried watching NBC, ABC, and especially FOX and CNN. I knew CNN would have complete election coverage, and I may have spent much of my evening watching it. However, all these stations were out or almost pure static. I forced myself to listen through the heavy static on CNN to watch Rand Paul's victory speech. Rand Paul was the Tea Party backed senatorial candidate from Kentucky. His father is Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas who ran for President. They both share political positions I closely identify with. It was unfortunate Ron Paul lacked charisma or inspiration in the Republican primary for President. However, his son has much more appeal, and I knew he would win despite the liberal attacks and political pundits who said he would be defeated. After the speech by Rand Paul that I could barely discern, I turned off my TV. I had given up trying to get election coverage from TV with my terrible cable reception. I turned on an AM news radio station instead, and listened to the conservative reactionary wave sweep the nation.

I was very excited by the election news, but my fellow convicts at Stateville could care less even about the state's governor race. Polls had Bill Brady up 4% over Governor Pat Quinn. As the gallery worker walked by my cell sweeping the floor, I told him we have a new governor, just to see his reaction. He responded, "I don't give a fuck!" I tried to tell him how the governor's race would have a big impact even on us prisoners. However, he could care less. The gallery worker was on death row until former Governor George Ryan commuted all prisoners with death sentences to natural life without parole. One may think that someone whose life was so affected by a governor would care just a little about who was elected, but he did not. It is probably because a natural life sentence only extended his suffering. Regardless of who was elected, his outlook was bleak and he will die in prison. Prison is miserable, and toward the end of your life, what does it matter how you live out those last years? He continued to sweep the floor with a zombie-like quality.

I often have this same demeanor. It is no coincidence my former cellmate in general population would sometimes refer to me as "Lurch." I have a natural life sentence as well, and will probably continue to suffer in misery until I die in prison. There is no joy living a protracted death sentence in maximum security. If a guard were to put a gun to my head, I would not blink or beg for restraint. He would only be doing me a favor by pulling the trigger. Despite this, although I may be a dead man walking, I still care about the living, and politics has always interested me, even before my arrest when I was a teenager. In 1992, I helped with presidential candidate Pat Buchanan's primary campaign, and when he lost, I supported Ross Perot's candidacy as an Independent in the general election. After my conviction, I wrote political commentaries for various magazines and small newspapers.

I was hoping for Bill Brady to win the Illinois gubernatorial race. I did not like Brady's "get tough on crime" rhetoric, or his repeated criticism of Pat Quinn's early release program. In fact, I despised these attack ads. I heard them, time and time again, on WLS talk radio. There is no way Governor Quinn made Illinois less safe by releasing convicts, on average, a month early. Does anyone really think the recidivism rate would change if a person did an extra week or month? This program did not increase crime, and saved the state millions. Odd that Brady would criticize a cost-saving measure.

Bill Brady spoke of slashing government spending without raising taxes. This is exactly what Illinois needs. The Illinois government has a $15 billion deficit, the second worst financial position in the United States, second behind California. It also has pension liabilities that have the potential of costing the state close to an incredible $200 billion. Pat Quinn was given the power to cut several billion earlier this year, but instead waived this opportunity. He may have done so for political expediency and to not make unhappy constituents before the election. However, what will he do after the election? I know Bill Brady, if elected, would have used the full power of his office to cut spending, despite making some people unhappy. I also know he would use his power of veto to stop any new taxes or government expansion. Bill Brady may have prisoners eating bread and water, and cut what little programs or other spending is left for prisoners' benefit, but it would be worth it. Everyone must suffer budget cuts, and although Brady's campaign seemed to target convicts for especially hard times, the overall good would more than make up for my hardship. My life is already austere and miserable anyway.

Not only did I seek a Brady victory because of his fiscal conservatism and uncompromising resolve to shrink government and put the state's finances in order, but because Governor Quinn would be more likely to grant my clemency petition if he no longer had to be a politician. When Pat Quinn faced criticism for his early release program, he quickly ended it, instead of standing firm and defending the policy. If Quinn backed off of letting some prisoners go a month early, how could I expect him to commute or pardon a man, even an innocent one, with natural life? I had little faith in the Governor acting on much other than political interests, even for an injustice as great as my own. During my clemency hearing, the board chairman inferred positive recommendations had been made before to the previous governor, or governors. With four more years in public office, there is little doubt Quinn will act like his predecessors.

At 9 p.m., I turned on WGN news seeking more election coverage. WGN is one of the few stations where I can get decent reception. I learned that Pat Quinn was still up in the vote. However, as the night went on, Bill Brady closed the gap. When I finally went to sleep, the gubernatorial race was a toss up. Even in the morning, the victor was still uncertain, and Brady was only down 9,000 votes. As I write this journal entry, Brady has yet to concede, but it is obvious he lost. The vote discrepancy is now 20,000 and remaining absentee ballots are from Cook County. Brady amazingly won every county in Illinois but two. However, Cook County was one of them. Although Brady lost the governor's office in Illinois, I must take solace in the fact that fiscal conservatives across the country won.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Republicans picked up 63 seats. It was the biggest margin of victory since 1948. On Wednesday morning, the Rush Limbaugh talk radio show began with the Munchkins singing "Ding dong the witch is dead, the witch is dead, the wicked old witch is dead" from the Wizard of Oz, in reference obviously to the Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi, whose position will be taken over by Republican John Boehner. Republicans will control the House next year, and be able to set legislative agenda. No longer will the U.S. be at the mercy of Democrats, forcing their liberal and socialist agendas down Americans' throats. The best news of the Republican landslide was that half of the new congressmen were affiliated with the Tea Party. I did not care to see just any Republican victory. It was especially important to me that a new Republican party emerge. I did not want to see the establishment neoconservatives of the likes of George Bush and John McCain win. I wanted to see liberty, and true classical conservatism victorious.

Although Republicans swept the House, they were unable to take the Senate. After the election, Senate minority leader Trent Lott and some others blamed the Tea Party. Republicans gained seven seats, but fell three short of giving Republicans control of the entire legislature. The focus was put on Sherry Angle's loss in Nevada against Harry Reid, as well as Christine O'Donnell in Delaware. Both won their primaries against moderate establishment Republicans. Mike Castle was the Republican Party's choice in Delaware. He had broader support and was thought to easily win the state's senate seat. These Republicans that shun the Tea Party and see the movement more as an albatross than an asset, however, could not be further from the truth, and missed the forest for the trees.

The reactionary fire that swept the electorate was ignited by the Tea Party. It was only the excitement of the Tea Party and their true conservative principles that created the overwhelming Republican victory. The Tea Party motivated the base and inspired Independents. Certainly, a few seats could have been won if the Tea Party movement did not exist, but many more would have been lost without them. Furthermore, it is better to lose than win nothing. What change or difference would it make if the likes of Rand Paul were not elected?

I had the same argument with my aunt from Arizona when she came to visit me in September. I was aghast that she voted for John McCain in the Republican primary. I asked her why the hell would she do such a thing. She responded because McCain will win the general election while the Tea Party candidate may be defeated. I told her this was not true, and even if it did occur, what would be really lost? John McCain was another moderate career politician backed by the establishment. "He was in the same mold as George Bush and sought an amnesty bill for millions of illegal aliens. He will have your state be a part of Mexico just to get elected," I told her.

On talk radio programs since the election, there has been debate on what caused the reversal of the 2008 electorate. Some blamed the economy, and certainly this is true in part, but moreso how the Democrats and formerly fiscally irresponsible Republicans handled it. Some also blamed the Democrats, especially Obama, for not communicating to the people better and explaining policy. Obama is an effective communicator, and one of the more articulate presidents the U.S. has had in a while, however. In fact, it was Obama's charisma and ability to talk that was not only refreshing to voters after eight years of George Bush, but his ability to sell snake oil. The U.S. electorate wanted change in 2008. They did not want the stale old fart McCain to continue in the direction America was headed. McCain did not inspire the Republican base or anyone. Obama, however, was a new charismatic figure who energized the liberal base. The liberals' excitement brought with it independents. However, the independents did not want the socialist policy Barack Obama brought. They just wanted change. Unfortunately, they were misdirected. In 2010, they discovered the error of their ways.

Today I heard Nancy Pelosi, the socialist wicked witch of conservatives, will attempt to keep her status as leader of the Democratic House. I tend to agree with Rush Limbaugh and other conservative commentators that this is probably good. Nancy Pelosi is symbolic of radical liberalism, big government, and out of control spending that the electorate voted out of office. She will make a good Piniata for Republicans and cause greater political division. Today, I also learned that half of the Democrats who lost elections were moderates, and half of the Republicans who won are affiliated with the Tea Party. Finally, America will have a true choice in the direction they want this country to go in 2012, after two years of gridlock.

The day after the election, I learned the Federal Reserve plans to buy $600 billion in treasuries, and an additional $300 billion in other securities. This means the Fed will be printing close to a TRILLION DOLLARS in new money to add to the U.S. currency supply. Not surprisingly, the Dow Jones jumped 250 points on the news and closed at its highest point in nearly two years. However, what I did find interesting was the Fed waiting until after the election to make this announcement. I must assume the Fed sought to take the politics out of the decision, or to protect the White House and Democratic controlled legislature from facing further criticism about their handling of the economy. The trillion dollars added to the economy will definitely add liquidity to the system and give a boost to the stock market, however, the boost will mostly be only temporary, just like many of the other stimulous efforts of the legislature. It will also devalue the dollar and American's standard of living. I see the trillion dollar expenditure more of a sign of desperation than confidence in the economy. The government can throw trillions of dollars into the economy, but until fundamental problems are resolved, the economy will not strengthen and America will continue to lose its global dominance.

Although a trillion dollars poured into the economy will act as a stimulous, it will destroy the value of the dollar, American's living standards, and the savings of Americans. Along with the inflation, it will probably cause other countries and investors to sell their treasuries, or at a minimum, think of other ways to invest their money. America could lose its AAA credit rating, and be forced to pay higher rates of interest on its debt. Obama and the Federal Reserve have basically sold our souls for a temporary reprieve. The future has been sold for the present, and the present may be very short lived. There are fundamental problems with the economy that cannot be fixed by government spending. Throwing money at the problem seems to be the liberal way, however, this only exasperates the problem in the long run.

Governor Quinn has already spoken about raising taxes as the first order of business. I have heard some euphemism being peddled that it will be called an "education stipend." No question, education is important, much more important than locking up 50,000 people in over 40 prisons across the state. However, the education system's problems, especially in the inner city of Chicago, cannot be solved with more money. The poor education received in Chicago's public schools is not due to a lack of funding but the culture, values, and aptitude of the students, schools, and teachers. Just like you cannot throw money at the economy and see fundamental improvements, you cannot throw money at public schools.

It is unfortunate that the conservative wave that swept through the U.S. legislature missed the State of Illinois. Indeed, 10 of 19 U.S. Congress seats in Illinois are now Republican, the first time in a couple of decades. However, state government in Illinois remained largely intact. The state house and Senate Republicans picked up a handful of seats, though Democrats still solidly control the legislature. The only thing state Republicans can be thankful for is that they will no longer be totally impotent in the Senate any more and Democrats have lost their super majority. However, with a Democratic Governor, this will be mostly irrelevant.

News media have noticed how although Mark Kirk was able to win the statewide federal senate seat for Republicans, Bill Brady was not. Polling data indicates many people who voted for Kirk did not vote for Brady. The conclusion offered by many political newsmen was that Brady was too conservative, and no conservative can win a statewide election in Illinois. Bill Brady was attacked hard in the final days of the campaign on social issues, especially his deep held view that abortion is wrong in any circumstance. Certainly, I believe Brady's social positions hurt him to some extent in the election, however, what I see missing from Illinois was the failure of the state's Republican Party to ride the momentum of the Tea Party movement. I do not think the Republican party in the state motivated its base or independents like in other states. Some conservative pundits put the blame on Tom Cross and Cristine Rodagno, Republican House and Senate leaders, however, it went well beyond their offices. It is very difficult for Republicans to win in districts created by Democrats and the demographics presented, where Chicago always is a Democratic stronghold and its metropolitan area equals the population of the entire state. A grass roots Tea Party movement, however, could have helped Republicans overcome the imbalance. Liberty, freedom, less government and taxes created the U.S. and is a winning message anywhere.

For prisoners at Stateville and across the state, it is probably thought a Democratic control of government will be to their benefit. Democrats are typically less hostile toward the inmate population. However, I sometimes question this widely held opinion. It has been in the last ten years while the Democrats have held both houses of the legislature that the Illinois Department of Corrections has been the most oppressive and miserable. I look back to the years under the Republican administration with nostalgia. Is there a connection? I cannot say with certainty. However, I did hear Republicans are willing to reform the sentencing statutes if the next governor is on board. The draconian laws and sentencing statutes do need to be greatly revised. The current financial problems of the state also should encourage state government to dismantle some of the prison industrial complex. Hopefully, Governor Quinn will work on bipartisan legislation to fix the problems in the criminal justice system.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Halloween -- October 31, 2010

Autumn is my favorite time of year, and I especially like the time around Halloween. The hot summer days break to cooler pleasant temperatures. The nights are cold but not frigid, and before my arrest I would enjoy a campfire under an open sky with starlight or a Hunter's Moon. At Stateville, I do not have a fire to be warmed by, but the radiators in the cells were finally turned on. At night, I can look out through my window to see the black sky lit with a few stars and the moon as it falls on the horizon beneath the razor wire and prison buildings. Unfortunately, there are no trees outside my window or on any of the grounds of the institution. On the local weather news, however, I was able to see the autumn foliage of gold, orange and red leaves. After the intense storms early last week, though, I imagine they are now gone.

Last Sunday night, some powerful thunderstorms passed through. I was sitting on my bunk facing away from the cellhouse and toward the back of the cell watching a werewolf movie called "Blood and Chocolate." As I watched the movie, I could see the lightning out my window towards the west becoming brighter. Initially it was only small flickers and I heard no corresponding thunder, but eventually the storm produced lightning so bright it lit up my entire cell. I had the window open so I could hear and feel the storm approach, but I soon had to close it. The rain and wind was fierce, and although the prison walls are over a foot thick of concrete, the rain was easily coming into my cell. With the window shut, I watched as the storm went by. I thought that at any moment the power would go out, leaving the Roundhouse in total darkness, and prisoners screaming and beating their doors like madmen, but it did not happen. The power stayed on and I was able to watch the end of my movie.

Early Tuesday morning, an even stronger storm swept by. This storm did not produce the thunder and lightning as the previous one, but the winds were tremendous. Gusts of 50 mph whipped through the area all day, and even into the following day. I heard on the news they were so strong as to cause 15 foot waves on Lake Michigan and snap large tree branches. A woman in her car was incredibly impaled by one of these branches, and a tornado touched down in Peotone, a town near Stateville. The wind caused a howling sound and rattled my windows throughout much of the day. I like to feel storm winds and opened my window. It was not easy to push my window out with the wind beating against it, and once open, my cell became a wind tunnel. Having been caged in prisons half my life, I have a particular fondness for nature. I like the wind, but I closed my window quickly during this tempest.

With the violent storms that swept through, I felt the seasons shift for the year. There will be no more warm 70 or 80 degree weather. Halloween used to mark the end of the year for northern Europeans, and this year the transition was more apparent than most others. Autumn tends to bring change into my life. Certainly my imprisonment in Seg was life-altering, but I tend to believe other changes are to come. Being in the worst possible predicament, I can only believe any change will be for the better. I think about the mid-term elections and my clemency petition with optimism.

My cellmate, Tex, has been moved to another cell, and I have been alone the last week. Tex was a good cellmate, but an even better cellmate is no cellmate at all. I enjoy a single-man cell and the solitude tremendously. If Internal Affairs believes I am being punished with solitary confinement, they are mistaken. They are also mistaken if they thought I would be dissuaded from writing my blog. I now have even more time to write and be critical of the living conditions at Stateville, and the conduct of staff.

For the last couple of weeks, cell house workers have been thoroughly cleaning and renovating the Roundhouse. Jet washers were used by prison workers on electric scaffolding to blow off dirt and grime on the center gun tower, then the lights, stairs, bannisters, as well as the ceiling rafters. This took about a week to complete, and then prison workers began stripping, waxing, and buffing the concrete floors, until they now almost shine like a mirror. If there was no gun tower in the middle, the Roundhouse might look like a hockey rink and stadium. Although earlier in the year when I wanted to paint my cell, I was told there was no paint, staff apparently found a supply and the gun tower was painted inside and out. The paint, I believe, was also used to touch up various surfaces on the inside. However, nothing was done to fix, clean, paint, or fumigate the cells the prisoners live in. The plumbing still goes out regularly, and cells, other than my own, are nasty with old peeling paint, and broken water buttons, electric sockets, windows, and cable wires.

The cockroaches in this cell were not so bad initially. However, now that the heat is on, they are out at night in abundance on the back wall, unless I keep my window open to flood the cell with cold air. I can just imagine how my former cell on the second floor is now. It must be just like the old 1980's horror movie "Creepshow," where roaches came out during a storm in such numbers to overwhelm and kill the late night laboratory worker. This cell is relatively clean, but I know in other cells of F house, the roaches are crawling over everything, even during the day, and at night, they are even worse. Prisoners in some of these cells must be tormented during their sleep with roaches crawling into their bedding and over their bodies, maybe going into their ears and mouths as well.

All the cleaning, painting, and buffing of floors is unusual, especially in the fall. Typically, when this occurs, state representatives, the director, or the Governor is planning to visit. However, I have not witnessed any of these men or women of power come through. What I have noticed, however, is many tours. A tour of about 20 or 30 people have visited the Roundhouse almost every day this week, and the week before. I know there is a Stateville Haunted House not far from here that gets a lot of business in the weeks leading to Halloween. I do not think these people have confused the haunted house with the real Stateville Correctional Center. However, possibly there is an increased interest to see the prison from the inside by college students. Most of the men and women who came through are in their early 20's and appear to be with an older man, whom I presume is a professor of criminal justice or related study. A white female guard with a nice disposition usually brings in the tours. I tend to believe she was chosen for this task intentionally for good PR. She acts like a tour guide and talks to the group occasionally, pointing things out or answering their questions. I imagine the administration chose her intentionally to put a nice image on Stateville staff, and it probably greatly contrasts with the perception visitors have of the inmates. The prisoners often go berserk, yelling obscenities at them. Fortunately for the tours, yard has been run and a portion of the inmates are not present when they come through. I tend to think their visits would be met with more noise, rudeness, or hostility if the building was full with its close to 500 occupants. Possibly, however, these people are looking forward to such a greeting if they are here for Halloween thrills.

I asked one of the workers in F House why all the work was being done to make the place look nice. He told me there is a rumor that there are discussions in Springfield to have the cell house closed. F House and all of Stateville has been on the chopping block for years. I can almost guarantee it that if the Republican Bill Brady is elected, the prison will be shut down. The IDOC has a huge bloated budget, and Stateville is the most corrupt, inefficient, incompetent and expensive prison in the state. Only the power of the union and certain Democrats have kept this place open so long. I wonder if a new Republican administration concerned with enormous budget deficits will be impressed with the new paint and buffed floors.

Stateville is no longer the extremely violent prison that would scare the general public, but on occasion, violence does break out. This week, I learned more about the reason for the prison's lockdown last month. One of my neighbors was written a ticket for gang activity and inciting a riot. He has a big mouth, and although I did not want to hear him talking, I could not avoid it. Apparently, two opposing gangs were fighting on the yard. My neighbor was trying to convince a gallery worker his charges were not valid because nowhere in the ticket did it say he was actively involved in the fight; contrarily, the ticket says he was heard by sources telling people not to fight. I have also heard that someone was stabbed with a shank during the fight. If my neighbor is found guilty, he may be sent to Pontiac Seg. Although I overheard this conversation, I have been in my own world lately, intentionally, trying not to bother myself with the goings-on of the prison.

I have watched a few movies this week to pass my time in the evenings. I even disrupted my routine to watch a 3-hour James Bond movie on the USA network, which comes in relatively clear on my TV. I would not normally disrupt my routine for just any movie, but this was "Casino Royal," with the new Bond actor, Daniel Craig. I tend to think his movies are less far fetched than other Bond films, and he is the best actor since Sean Connery. I had seen "Casino Royale" once before, but I did not catch it in its entirety until last Thursday. There has been a Bond movie marathon on Spike TV, but Spike does not come in as well. I am less interested in those films, although I did watch "Goldeneye" one evening.

The remake of "Halloween" by Rob Zombie was on last night. I watched the movie, although there was plenty of static and I could barely see the final scenes that were filmed in the dark. I was surprised that the remake was pretty good. Usually, sequels or revisions are much worse than the original, especially horror movies. The movie, directed and acted in by the alternative-metal music singer, was more brutal and graphic than the original. I did not think Rob Zombie could put together a decent movie. Although the acting was not as good without Jamie Lee Curtis, the horror film kept my interest. I did not leave the TV or put down my headphones once, except during commercials.

Earlier this week, I sent a kite (prison letter) to a real Michael Myers (his real name is Steve) who happens to be in the Roundhouse with me. This man, while a teenager, stabbed a girl some 30 times. He was arrested with minimal evidence, and because he was ineligible for the death penalty due to his age, he was eventually given a bond. His parents paid 10% of the million dollar bond, only for him to beat his brother to death with a baseball bat, and then rape his sister. Despite how this man is obviously deranged, and some may say evil, one would never know it by speaking with him. I got to know him while I was at the Cook County Jail, and we were celled in the same living unit before he bonded out.

Steve was close in age to me, and we both came from the southwest suburbs of Chicago. In fact, I happened to know a couple people he knew from the area. In a jail that was almost entirely black, Steve and I were quick to make each others' acquaintance. Like the boy who played Michael Myers in Rob Zombie's "Halloween," he did not at all appear to be a serial killer. He also had the boyish looks of a young Leonardo DiCaprio. He seemed nonaggressive, if not a little shy. Steve did not come from "Haydenfield," Illinois, but a wealthier suburb, and from a good, nonabusive family. Despite knowing from television news that he was accused of brutally killing a classmate, I got along well with him, and he was one of the few people I spoke to at the jail. I suppose I was not judgmental. After all, I was on TV nearly every day for being the prime suspect in the Brown's Chicken murders in Palatine.

I sent Steve a casual letter discussing a little that was going on in my life, and asking how he was doing. I also asked him if he could help me out with some food or other things. He is not in Seg, and has all his property and can shop. He was recently transferred from Menard C.C. and is waiting for a cell in general population. At the end of my letter, I could not help myself from making fun of him. I asked him if he was going as Michael Myers again this year, and if he had made his mask already.

There are a number of people in Stateville with multiple homicides. People outside of prison may tend to think these people look and act like maniacs, but this is not usually the case. My former cellmate killed 3 people, and if it were not for his entire body work of tattoos, he would appear normal and civilized. Juan Luna works and lives back here. He slit a woman's throat and killed others at a Browns Chicken and Pasta restaurant. He does not act crazy or hostile, and he seems to fit in with everyone else. On visits, I have seen his wife and child come to see him. There are quite a few people with scary crimes at Stateville, but many of them are not scary men to be around or live with.

There is an older man who works and lives back here that does look a little creepy. He reminds me a little of Norman Bates in appearance. I am not sure of the details, but I do know he was one of the men who had their sentences commuted to natural life from death row. The justice system in Illinois is broken, but I do not agree with former Governor George Ryan's blanket commutations, especially to natural life. I do not believe in natural life sentences without the possibility of parole, and do believe many of those men should have been executed. Yesterday, I told this Norman Bates man he was a day early and he should take off his Halloween skull mask. He told me he was getting a head start on his trick-or-treating. I responded, "You're not going to get much candy working in Seg. We barely have food to feed ourselves." I should probably not have made fun of his ugliness because, having lost so much weight, I probably look like a skeleton myself.

The food we were served on Halloween was nothing special. Many years ago, I remember we were given some candy or special Halloween cookies for the holiday, with our lunch or dinner. This year, we were given soy gravy drool and a biscuit for breakfast. This gravy looks and tastes terrible, and I did not eat it. I tend to think canned dog food would taste better and be more nutritious. Lunch was not bad, and were given baked chicken, a prepackaged state cake, and broccoli stems for a vegetable. At Stateville, we rarely are served the tops of the broccoli. All we get are the stems. Dinner consisted of more broccoli stalks and spaghetti, made with soy meal kibble. As I write this journal entry, my stomach grumbles with hunger. I remember as a kid on Halloween having so much candy to gorge on. I walked a few square miles trick-or-treating until I came home with bags of candy. I had so much I could not eat it in one night, and it lasted for weeks. I wish I now had such treats, despite how health conscious I have become.

The other day, I watched the classic Peanuts cartoon "The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown." I used to love watching this cartoon as a kid. However, now as an adult, it was lame and silly. Despite this, I watched it anyway, attempting to catch a time in my life when I was happy and free. My favorite part was Snoopy pretending to be the Red Baron. My uncle was a WWII air force pilot who, like Snoopy, was shot down behind enemy lines and had to sneak across the French countryside to get back to safety. I also liked the part of Linus and Lucy waiting foolishly for the Great Pumpkin to arise. I always thought Linus was an idiot. Not because he missed the Halloween party or the trick-or-treating, but because he was in the pumpkin patch all night with that girl and did not even get a kiss. If I ever get out of prison, I am going to bring my girlfriend to the pumpkin patch, and I do not plan to just look for pumpkins. I think on Halloween I will also stuff my face with chocolates and candy, just like when I was a kid. As a matter of fact, I am going to take these prison cakes and cookies I have collected and spread some peanut butter on them to eat while I reminisce about my past and stare out into the night sky. Who knows? Maybe I will see the Great Pumpkin.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tex -- October 13, 2010

Yesterday afternoon a guard pounded on my door and yelled, "Cuff up--you're getting a cellie." For the last two weeks, I have enjoyed being by myself. Despite being in Segregation and the mayhem of the Roundhouse, I was beginning to think this was more of a blessing than a punishment. There is nothing like having a one-man cell. I can go about my day without having to coordinate my activities with another man in a 5'x10' space. Although I am in a small cage, I felt free inside it. I also did not have to put up with any of a cellmate's disruptions, obnoxious behaviors, conflicts, or hostilities. It is very difficult at Stateville finding a compatible cellmate, yet alone someone you can get along with and like. As I put my hands behind my back to be handcuffed, I dreaded who was going to be my next cellmate.

The door opened, and a moment later a medium stature white man in gray shorts, T-shirt, and gym shoes, entered. It was apparent he came off the yard when he was taken to Seg. I waited until we were both uncuffed and the door was shut before I said anything. The man indeed had just been on the yard. He was on one of the two small yards when guards came and got him, along with two other men. Usually I would expect fighting, but this man did not appear to be in any fight. Apparently, a guard in the gun tower noticed him giving someone a tattoo. The guards that came out onto the yard handcuffed them, and confiscated the tattoo gun, as well as the patterns.

Almost every inmate here has tattoos, but getting one in prison is against the rules. It is written up as a "402 - Health, Smoking, or Safety Violation," and includes smoking, body piercing, tattoos, or "disregarding the basic hygiene of any person, cell, or other area," although I have never heard of anyone being written up for not bathing or having a sloppy cell. I have, however, heard of it being used when prisoners smear the walls of their cell with excrement, and this is not as uncommon as one may think in here. Tattooing can spread diseases like hepatitis. My neighbor in general population was dying of liver cancer; I suspect he contracted hepatitis through jail house tattoos or using drugs. The people who do tattoo work in prison often do not take safety precautions to prevent the spread of diseases. However, prison administrators usually could care less about our health, and the rule prohibiting tattoos is used to prevent gang proliferation. Most men in prison get tattoos to demonstrate their gang affiliation.

Not long after he told me the story of how he came to be taken to Seg, a guard was at our door telling him he had to go talk to Internal Affairs. Once again, we were both handcuffed behind our backs before the door was opened. While he was gone, I looked around at my meager possessions to see what I could offer him. I knew what it was like to come to Seg without any property, and I wanted to make sure he did not have such a hard time. Although I.A. did not seize all his property as was done to me, he was unable to make a Seg bag and Personal Property would take a few days to bring him some of his possessions. I gathered a couple of tubes of toothpaste, a toothbrush, spoon, and a drinking cup for him. Most importantly, I found two bars of state soap that I hoped he would use soon, because he stank. He must have been working out or playing basketball before he started tattooing because I could smell him as soon as he came in the door. I intended to offer him a book, magazine, pen, and paper later. I wished I could be more generous, but I did not have too much myself.

My new cellmate returned about a half hour later, and I asked him if they put hot irons to his feet. He said no one talked to him, and for that time period he was kept in the shower waiting. In F House, the showers are regularly used as holding cages. Every floor has two showers at the front. These shower rooms were formerly cells, but have been converted. The bunk, toilet/sink, counter and stool have been removed. In their stead, a shower head has been put on the back wall and a floor drain. Since being in Seg, I have taken one shower and I will not be taking another. Although it is nice to shower alone in Seg, the shower head dribbled out water as fast as my sink, and I was stuck in there for over an hour before a guard came to get me.

I asked my new cellmate what name he goes by. The vast majority of men in prison go by a name other than the name given at their birth. He was no different, and he told me, "Tex." I thought I noticed a southern accent. Tex is a common name used by people from Texas. I have met Mississippi's, Kentucky's, and other states. Prisoners also go by cities such as Detroit, if they are not from the area. I tend to get along with Southern white folk, and although new cellmates are always very uncomfortable, difficult to adjust to, and stressful to me, I tended to think here was a person I could get along with. I did not know what to think of all his tattoos, however.

Tex was covered head to toe with tattoos. He had various types, but most conspicuous was a line of bugs that went up his leg, and most likely under his shorts and T-shirt to his neck and side of his head. I did not ask him at the time, but later he told me he got the bug tattoos just because they were something different he had never seen anyone else with. I know that certain types of drug users get the feeling of bugs crawling on their skin, and I wondered if he was once a drug addict. I do not like drug users. Even if they are no longer using drugs because they are in prison, I still do not trust them. I also look down on these people, and even in high school had conflict with a clique of students called "stoners."

Later that afternoon, showers were run on the first floor. I was surprised the guards were doing some work, for it was a holiday, and usually nothing is done on holidays. However, it seems this warden has stopped the policies of the past, and yard, shower, and other lines are run like normal operations. Tex had a bad body odor and I was hoping he would go to the shower. He did not, even after I gave him some soap and offered him my shower shoes, which I never do because of my concern of catching foot fungus. I thought I could just scrub my shower shoes with soap when he returned, however. When he told the guard he did not want a shower, I told him he stank and to at least wash up in the sink. He did that, but afterwards he still smelled because he did not wash his shirt as well. I would have offered him a set of my clothes, but I get so cold at night, and I needed my extra clothing.

When Tex was put in my cell, I was attempting to complete a long letter. I had been writing at the counter, but was now sitting on my bunk and using my property box to write on. With a cellmate, I had to give him some space and did not want to occupy the back of the cell in case he wanted to sit down, use the toilet, or maybe wash his shirt. Texas was restless, I could tell, and I told him he may as well settle in. He asked me what punishment I thought he would be given, and I told him, "One month." One month was the maximum punishment for a health and sanitation violation. However, they could write him a ticket for contraband for having a tattoo gun, and such a ticket carried up to three months. He mentioned gang activity because one of the patterns was that of a crown which is a symbol of the Latin Kings, but then told me he did not draw the pattern and his cellmate was willing to say it was his design. I told him I doubt he would then be charged with Security Threat Group Activity, which carried one year.

I offered him a book to read, and then a magazine when he declined. I doubted he would be interested in any of my financial magazines or corporate reports, and handed him a Men's Health and Fitness magazine. He just flipped through it with little interest. I had WLS talk radio on, and told him I watch very little TV. However, if I am not released from Seg in the next couple of days, I will take my TV down and put it on the counter for him to watch. Tomorrow, I told him, was my 30th day in Seg under investigative status. According to their rules, I should be let out of Seg.

Only a few hours passed after I said this when a guard appeared at my door asking for Modrowski. I told her that was me, and she began reading off a disciplinary report. Although it was the 29th day, I suspected they would serve me with a ticket. I could barely hear the guard through the plexiglass, and told her to just put it through the door so I could read it. I was being charged with gambling, trading and trafficking, and contraband/unauthorized property. The report was falsified in many respects, and I quickly wrote down a few witnesses' names to prove the allegations false. If you want to have the Adjustment Committee speak with witnesses, you must write it on the form immediately, although it says to turn it in later. If you send it in the mail, the Adjustment Committee will say they never received it. They will probably not talk to your witnesses regardless, but if you write their names on the report, you can prove they did not follow your due process rights. The guard was in a hurry, and she was demanding her report back, however, I had to digest all the bullshit and fill out my witness list. After I gave it back to her, I turned to Tex and said, "Well, now I know what I am in Seg for."

When dinner was passed out, I told Tex he had better put his food into the styrofoam tray they had given him for lunch to save some for later. It was a small meal and he did not heed my advice; he ate it all. Later, when I was eating the remainder of my meal, I knew he regretted his decision. After a couple of days, Tex was saving his dinners to eat later, although he still got up to eat breakfast at 3 a.m. just to go back to sleep. The first time he saved his food to eat later, cockroaches got into his tray. I told him to wrap his tray in a plastic bag or at the minimum, not to leave it on the counter; again, he did not heed my warning.

As customary, I waited until 7 p.m. to eat, and to see if there was anything on TV. Tex told me he was a huge football fan, and Monday Night Football was on the first night he was in the cell with me. Tex could not see my TV from where I had it, so I took the time to take my TV down and rewire it on the counter. This way, he could see the game from his bunk, or sitting on the toilet. The game tonight was the Minnesota Vikings vs. the NY Jets. Tex told me he wanted the Vikings to win because he liked Brett Favre, but on a football pool he picked the Jets. He then asked me if I bet on the football games. With some sarcasm in my voice, I answered, "Of course I do. Did you not hear the ticket Internal Affairs just wrote me?"

The Jets--Vikings game was delayed an hour due to thunderstorms. To fill in the time gap, sports reporters talked a lot about Brett Favre sending lewd emails to a woman, and how he may be suspended by the NFL. Tex and I thought this was ridiculous and the media was making more of the matter than need be. On the ticker tape it said "Brett Favre gave a tearful apology to his team for the distraction." The NFL has gone soft. Not only are there penalties for unnecessary roughness, celebrating for a good play, hitting a quarterback or other player a second late, petty pass interference calls, and numerous other penalties emasculating the sport, but now they are having the players wear pink for breast cancer awareness and debating whether or not to suspend a player for texting a woman on an Iphone. Who would have ever thought Brett Favre would cry over an email or anything in public? Maybe he should not be doing commercials for Wrangler Jeans, but for pantyhose.

While waiting for the game to begin, Tex told me how his two favorite teams were the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Longhorns. I told him that one of my cousins played ball for the Longhorns in the 90's, but I was not particularly fond of the team. Another cousin of mine played for the Wisconsin Badgers and I liked that team. I tended to like the midwest college football teams over others. I played football myself for years, and speculated I could have also gained a football scholarship if I had sought it out. My cellmate said he had attended a number of Longhorn college football games, and he was such a fan that he even tattooed himself with their logo. He showed me, and sure enough, he had the bull horns on his arm.

The following day, a guard came to our cell asking for my cellmate. Internal Affairs wanted to speak with him, and he would be back to get him in five minutes. Tex asked himself, or me, (I could not tell), why I.A. would want to talk to him. I told him they probably wanted to know who was the tattoo artist, whose tattoo gun was used, and probably to take photos of all your tattoos. Internal Affairs always like to catalog in detail all of a man's tattoos. They mostly do this to identify a person as being in a gang. None of my cellmate's tattoos were gang related, but I knew I.A. would want to photograph each and every one on his body, and may even demand he strip naked to do so.

Tex was gone for about two hours, and during that time I exercised and spoke with the cell house lieutenant. I told him on the last day of my investigation, I.A. served me with a ticket. He said he was already aware of this, and he would see if I could be released from Seg anyway. Afterall, I had already done a month in Seg, and gambling only carried a maximum of one month. I told him that, like everyone else, I gamble, but this ticket served me was almost entirely made up. He merely commented, "That's how they do things." I am not surprised by the lies of the guard who wrote up the report, and apparently, neither was the lieutenant.

When Tex returned, he told me how correct I was: I.A. wanted to photograph all his tattoos. I did not ask him if they made him strip naked, though I am sure he had a number of tattoos under his boxers. He told me the man who interviewed him was unexpectedly professional and polite. I asked him his name, and he told me. I knew this member of I.A., and he was probably the most respectable person who works on the unit. However, I told him that despite how friendly he may come across, he should not infer anything from it, especially in what I.A. decides to charge him with. Tex told me the man asked him if he would cease giving people tattoos if he was given an institutional job. Tex said he would. Then I told him what little prison jobs pay. Tex could make far more money doing tattoo work than any of the jobs at Stateville, except possibly an industry job, but good luck getting one of those.

After the Rush Limbaugh show, I asked Tex what kind of music he liked. I assumed either country or rock. He told me he liked classic rock mostly, and I told him if he wanted to, he could try to tune in an FM music station he liked. I would have never offered this to my prior cellmate with the long dreadlocks. He may have found some reggae music to drive me nuts. It is nice to have a cellmate that you share some common interests with. I have had some of the worst cellmates at Stateville, and I do not exaggerate when I say I dread being assigned a new one.

I have a cheap radio and it is difficult to get stations in, let alone get working properly. Possibly some of this is due to how my radio has been thrown around by guards when they have searched my cell, but it is also due to the difficulty of getting reception on the first floor of a building made of concrete and steel. I finally had to dial in a station. I put on the classic rock station RXQ, and Tex seemed happy. I showed him my collection of books, and he picked out a Dean Koontz novel to read.

At 7 p.m., I turned off the rock station and looked for something to watch on TV. There was not much of interest to me. The Texas Rangers were playing the Tampa Bay Rays, however, in a baseball playoff game. I played some six years of baseball before my arrest, but rarely ever watched a game on TV. I asked Tex if he wanted to watch the game, and he said, "Sure." I said, "I assume we are rooting for the Rangers," and he said, "Of course," but then added that he did not like their former owner, George Bush.

Before George Bush was president, he was not only the owner of the Texas Rangers, but Governor of Texas. Tex told me he had done eight years in the Texas prison system before his arrest in Illinois. I was informed George Bush radically altered the prison system in the state to make time for prisoners more difficult. I said it still had to be better than Illinois' prison system, and asked if he ever thought of trying to get on the interstate compact program. Tex told me the prisons in Texas were not nearly as petty about rules, and you only had to do a third of your time for non-aggravated offenses. There was also much more movement and freedom. However, he said Governor Bush made living conditions austere, and took away prisoners' televisions. Tex especially did not like his TV being taken. Tex went on to say the prisons there were much more violent, and I figured the violence in Texas was like it was in Illinois about a decade ago. However, in Texas, the prisoners did not group up in gangs, but by race, and 70% of the population in Texas prisons was Mexican. Illinois also had racial hostilities, but the races have always been organized in gangs.

Earlier today, a guard brought Tex some of his property. It amounted to a few sets of clothes, his fan, some soap and a few other hygiene items. Tex finally changed clothes after washing up. I am not sure if he washed his shirt, but I did not smell him anymore. When he had his shirt off, I asked him about a few tattoos, and why he had so many. He did not have any particular reason, other than he liked them. He asked me why I did not have any, as though I was the odd one. Perhaps it is unusual that I have been in prison half my life, but do not have a single tattoo. I do not have any because I do not like expressing myself by marking up or disfiguring my body. I also added that, in my circles, having a tattoo would not be thought of as cool. Tattoos are just not acceptable in my family or community, and furthermore, although I have been in prison about as long as I have been out, I still hold on to the roots of my past.

Tex said he came from a middle class family from Austin, but he was just attracted to a different lifestyle. Not long after he was moved into the cell, I asked him how much time he had, but did not ask him about his case. He told me he had natural life, and this almost certainly meant he had a murder. Today, I learned he did not just have one homicide, but three. He confided that a member of his family was sexually assaulted by a man in Illinois. However, the man was acquitted of the charges, and Tex came to the state to kill him. The other two people happened to witness the murder and so he killed them as well. I told him I could understand how he could be compelled to go after the man and I would have probably done so myself. However, I would not have killed him, and I especially would not have killed two innocent bystanders. He told me the details (omitted for obvious reasons), and said that man got everything he deserved. He seemed resigned to spending the rest of his life in prison. I do not agree with what Tex did, but I can respect his honesty, and his strong, unwavering conviction with no regrets.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Segregation - Week 2 -- September 25, 2010

Editor's Note: Internal Affairs recently decided to release the following journal entry, one of the many things they confiscated from Paul in September.

The first week in Segregation was terrible. From the moment the steel door was opened and I heard the deafening roar of the Roundhouse, I knew it was going to be an unpleasant experience. I had no property to keep my mind preoccupied, only 500 prisoners screaming, pounding their doors, and acting like they were insane. My initial cellmate was mentally unstable, but at least he was quiet. My second cellmate was friendly and generous, but the new cell was infested with cockroaches. It has been difficult adjusting to Seg, but I am better now than I was two weeks ago. Possibly the flames of Hades cease to be as tormenting the longer your skin is torched. There is some solace knowing that my life cannot get much worse.

On the fifth day in here, I was brought all my property that had been sent to the Personal Property Office, minus my investment newspapers. I am in Seg under "investigative status" and thus, I am entitled to all my property. However, Internal Affairs took my two boxes and left very little in my cell to be sent to personal property. I was given my radio, Walkman, television, and a few papers, a book, and a corporate report that I.A. had missed or did not bother to take with them. My cellmate, R.C., was jubilant I had a TV and was anxious to hook it up, but I was in the back of the cell where the cable hook-up was, bathing in the sink with a sheet up for privacy. I told my cellmate I did not watch much TV, but he could watch whatever he wanted most of the day. I asked R.C. if my Koss stereo headphones were in the bag, and I was glad when he confirmed they were. Those headphones are no longer sold and have a habit of being stolen. Headphones were my most valuable possession and with them I could block out a lot of the noise in the cell house. I do not understand why Personal Property did not send me the financial papers I had. These were not just any papers, but had recorded data on hundreds of stocks going back a year on which I had made numerous notes and meticulous evaluations.

After I washed my set of underclothes and cleaned up the back of the cell, I set up my television. We only had one extension cord, and I had to rearrange how it was being used. While I did this, R.C told me I could have the bottom bunk. I asked him why, and he said that was just the way it was done. The man with the TV gets the bottom bunk. In prison, the lower bunk is prized among most inmates. It is much more convenient, and when you have the bottom bunk you indirectly have more control, as well as space. My lower back has been bothering me more so than usual, and not having to climb up and down would have been beneficial, however, I told R.C., "Thanks, but no thanks." He asked me how I was going to watch TV and change the channels from the top bunk. I told him he will soon discover that I watch little television. While I eat my breakfast and watch the morning news, I will sit on the toilet, and at night if I watch any TV, I can see it just fine from the top bunk. I also mentioned how I preferred to be farther away from the roaches' reach, although they could easily crawl up the walls and bunk. In my mind, I also thought how R.C. liked to talk with various cell house workers through the crack in the cell door, and I would rather be out of his way.

The discussion about the bottom bunk was a waste of words. When I finally connected the cable and power cord, I discovered the TV did not pick up a single station. R.C. was very disappointed when he saw the blue screen and told me that many cells in Seg did not have working cable. Prisoners in Seg are not allowed TVs and radios at Stateville. It was only because I was under investigation and not written a ticket that I received my audio-visual property. Because prisoners do not typically have TVs in Seg, the cable wires are never repaired when they go out. My TV is many years old and is not digital. If it were, I could have stuck a wire out the window and picked up stations without the cable connection. The prison is charging inmates close to $300 for a 13" flat screen digital TV, and I never considered discarding my old one for it, however, now I see how it could be advantageous.

I had spoken to R.C. on occasion when he was a cell house worker and in passing, however, I never bothered to get to know the man. While he was in the cell with me I learned he was in prison for murder and concealment of a homicide. Like myself, R.C. had an aggravated sentence of natural life without parole. This gained my curiosity and I asked what caused him to get the enhanced sentence. He told me the victim was burned after he was shot dead, and the judge determined the murder was brutal and heinous, indicative of wanton cruelty. My judge also made this determination because the victim was dismembered after he was killed. Although I was convicted under a theory of accountability, the law states that accountable parties are liable for all of their co-defendant's actions. What I spoke to R.C. about, however, was that the law was meant for people who torture their victims while still alive, not for disfiguring the corpse afterwards. If possible, this will be one of my successive post-conviction issues, but I did not tell this to R.C.

Before his arrest, I learned that R.C. had been an active gang member, and this was his second arrest for murder. The first time he was prosecuted, he had been acquitted. R.C. lived in one of the many gang dominated areas of Chicago's inner city. I asked him about his name and he told me it stood for Rastafarian Congo. R.C. read from the Koran, and had recently just finished the Islamic practice of fasting during the day, called Ramadan. However, he most closely identified with the faith of Rastafaria. I am not very knowledgeable about the religion, and I asked him to tell me about it. R.C. did not seem to be able to articulate it well, but basically said it came from an Ethiopian leader who defeated Benito Mussolini's invading army. Although I do not know about his faith, I do know history very well, particularly military history, and I know Italy's forces swiftly crushed the Ethiopians and other North African peoples before the British and U.S. troops came. I still remember watching the black and white war footage of Africans throwing spears that bounced off Italy's tanks before they rolled over them. Despite this, I let R.C. continue, and he told me how his faith is one of rebellion and of the oppressed. His long dreadlocks somehow symbolized this. I told him I thought his dreadlocks were to add to his mystique as a voodoo witch doctor, and when we ate chicken later that day, I told him to dry out the chicken bones. He could earn some money telling fortunes with them at Stateville. R.C. does not have the persona of a witch doctor, but of a marijuana smoking, Reggae music fan.

At about midnight, a black female guard woke me up to ask if I had received my property. I was half asleep and just told her I was brought some of it. In the morning, R.C. told me the woman worked for Internal Affairs. Had I known this, I would have told her I only received my audio-visual property, and you still had all the rest. Late the following night, a couple of guards woke me up again to give me my small box that held all my papers, books, magazines, pens and pencils. I did not sort things out until the morning. I am very picky about how I have my boxes arranged, and I went through it and put it back in meticulous order. I discovered that everything was there except for my journal papers, some Internet articles and emails, as well as all my stamped envelopes and correspondence. I also noticed my phone/address book was gone. This led me to believe that possibly the lieutenant I spoke to earlier may have been correct.

The day after I had been moved to the second floor, a lieutenant I have known for over a decade was making his rounds in F House. He happened to see me and in surprise asked, "What the hell are you doing in Seg?" I told him, "I.A. took all my property and put me under investigation. As of yet, I am uncertain what for." He commented that possibly they were messing with me because of my blog site. He said it in such a way, though, he could have been joking. A number of guards at Stateville seem to be aware of my blogsite, although he never said he had read it. I do not mind if the staff knows about my blog, although I hope that it does not become known among the prison population. On a visit once, however, an inmate approached me and said, "You're that guy with the website, aren't you?" I could not deny it, and confirmed his suspicions. He told me his girlfriend reads it all the time to see what is going on in Stateville. She was just on a visit with him and apparently pointed me out. My blog is not meant for the people who work or live here and know what it is like to be here, but for those outside these prison walls. I am not particularly pleased that I.A. is interested in my blog, but it is a public forum and anyone in the world can read it.

I was listening to Rush Limbaugh and I noticed my cellmate gazing at the blank TV screen. I told him he could use my Walkman if he wished to listen to Reggae or anything he wanted, but he said he was fine. It seemed he really wanted to watch TV and earlier he had mentioned how he is addicted to certain soaps. I told him if the lieutenant does rounds again today, I will ask him if we can both be moved to an empty cell. R.C. did not think there were any empty cells, but I reminded him that my old cell was still vacant. Guards removed both occupants the day before, and prison workers had cleaned up all the blood on the floor and walls.

The lieutenant, as expected, made rounds in the cell house and I caught his attention as he walked by. I told him about the cable being out, and asked if we could be moved to another cell. Normally I would not bother asking for a favor, but as I mentioned before, I have known him a decade and he seemed to be sympathetic to my predicament in Seg. He told me he would check if there were any cells open and get back to me. Normally when a prisoner is told this, it means do not hold your breath. However, he came back to the cell and yelled at me to get some pants on. He was going to have me check the cable in my former cell. I went downstairs and connected my TV quickly. The TV picked up a few stations, but they were filled with static. The lieutenant said I will probably have to scrape off the paint on the wall coupling. However, after R.C. and I moved all our things into the cell, we discovered it was not the paint. The cable wire in the wall was bad, and most of the stations came in poorly, if at all. Regardless, I was glad to be back in my former cell which was cleaner, and not infested with as many cockroaches. Plus, I had my old window and view back again. As I write, the sun is setting in various gold and red colors.

Over the weekend, yard is run for inmates in Seg. Because of a federal mandate, all inmates must receive five hours outside of their cages, regardless of their status. However, the courts do not define how much space, or the conditions of the "recreation" area. At Stateville, there are several Seg yards which consist of half a basketball court surrounded by fencing and razor wire. It was a cool 60 degree day and the news said there was a possibility of showers. Even if there was no threat of rain and the weather was great, I doubt I would have gone out. There is nothing for me to do out there and I cared less to socialize with anyone in Seg. My cellmate went out, though. An hour later I looked out my window to see rain coming down heavily. I could see two Seg yards from my cell, and the people out there did not look too happy. I noticed a couple of them were wise enough to bring plastic garbage bags and were using them as raincoats.

There have been a few nights when temperatures fell into the low 40s. I have been miserably cold on those nights. I sleep on my blanket and I do not have many clothes. Before I go to sleep, I put on all of my socks, T-shirts and underwear. I also put on my tattered jumpsuit and for what it is worth, I wrap a sheet over myself. R.C. was able to get an inmate worker to bring him a new jumpsuit, but it is a 7XL. He has given me this jumpsuit made for a giant, and despite how big it is, I wear it on cold nights.

I received a pass to see the psychiatrist and I was expecting to be sent to the Healthcare Unit. However, I discovered that because there are so many people in Seg who take medications, the psychiatrist had an office in the cell house and came here to see patients. While waiting my turn to see the doctor, I was placed in the shower with R.C.'s former cellmate. (Apparently, the showers act as holding cages in F House). He had bandages across his arm and his face. I asked him what happened to cause my former cellmate to snap on him. He said he did not do anything to provoke him, and when he jumped off his bunk to rotate a T-shirt on his fan, he just sliced him across the face with a razor blade. He tried to get away, but the man cut him again across the body and arm. He then asked him if he wanted to die, and told him they could not be cellmates. Although the man told me he did not provoke my former cellmate, I tend to believe his obnoxious, loud, or inconsiderate behavior had something to do with it. The man rambled incessantly, and when I did not engage him, he began rapping to himself and moving about restlessly.

For the two weeks I have been in Seg, we have been fed beans at least once a day, sometimes twice. The prison commissary does not sell Beano or Gas-X, and even if they did, I.A. still has the vast majority of my property. I have been throwing most of those beans away. I also have not been eating all of the soy-turkey meal we are regularly served. There are days we have been served processed soy-turkey for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They make almost everything with this filler, including spaghetti, sloppy joes, tacos, stew, cheeseburger or cheesy macaroni. I despise this poor quality and poor tasting food and typically I would pass on most of it. However, I have been eating more of it lately because I have no choice. R.C. gave me a handful of peanut butter packets along with three Ramen noodles and two cheese sticks, but I have to make these last. Already, I have eaten all the food R.C. gave me except five packets of peanut butter. I am losing weight quickly without any of my commissary food. If I am written a disciplinary ticket, I will probably lose 20 or more pounds.

Monday, I was awakened in the middle of the night to be told I was going on a hospital writ. I was happy about this development because it meant the medical director finally authorized a cortisone injection. I have been waiting for this treatment for my lower back pain for a couple years. However, at about 7 a.m., two guards came to my door with boxed handcuffs. I have nerve damage in my wrists due to being put in these restraints for long periods of time, and the doctor finally made out a medical permit restricting their use on me. Problem is the doctor never sent me a copy, and the guards demanded to see it. I told them they will have to stop at the Health Care Unit to get verification, however, they had a bad attitude and told me they will do no such thing. I was not going out if that was the case. I was told "Fine," and the chuck-hole was slammed shut and locked. About 10 minutes later, one of the guards was back and he wanted me to sign a form stating I was denying medical treatment. "Sure, I will sign that," I said, and on it I wrote "I am not going on this hospital writ because the guards refused to honor my medical permit prohibiting boxed handcuffs." About an hour later, two different guards were at my door to take me to the hospital in a different type of restraints.

While waiting in a room before we left the prison, there was a man sitting on a table facing away from me. When he turned around, we recognized each other. This was a man I knew when I first came to prison. I was told he was dead, but as he explained to me, he almost died because of prison doctors who continued to dismiss his medical problems and did not diagnose his lymphatic cancer until it had spread to various parts of his body. He was now being treated with chemo therapy and he seemed to be optimistic about a recovery. I was skeptical he would live much longer, however, and my opinion was not just on how terrible he looked, as he seemed to presume. Lymphatic cancer was almost always fatal. To temper what I said, I told him many people who knew me over a decade ago told me I looked like I had cancer because of all the muscle mass I lost and my gaunt appearance. He said I did not look too bad, and he was glad to see me.

At the University of Illinois Hospital, my appointment at the pain clinic was for noon, but I spent a long time waiting in a doctor's office with two escorting guards. I was not paying attention to their conversation and was off into my own thoughts when I realized the female guard was complaining about injuries she received when training for the Orange Crush special tactical squad. I was surprised that a woman, especially one who was so small, was interested in such a job. Already she had broken a couple of fingers, and injured her ankle, hip and ribs. I had seen this female guard for a few years while at Stateville. She was formerly a member of Internal Affairs before becoming a part of the writ team. It seemed like she was driven by excitement and could not be content working a regular shift as a "turn-key" like the other guards. I felt like asking her to find out why I.A. continues to harass me, but I did not approach the subject.

The University of Illinois is a hospital where students learn through watching other doctors, or practicing on patients. The person to give me my cortisone injection was a student, and several others stood in the room listening while an experienced doctor gave instructions. I was not particularly fond of being some student's guinea pig. Why could they not practice on someone else? For the injection, an x-ray machine was used and the doctor took maybe 50 x-rays while the student jabbed a needle in my back at various angles to get to the correct position where the nerves came out of the spinal column. It was difficult to get the needle at the right spot because my last lumbar disc had deteriorated to such a great extent and the vertebrae were fusing. Afterwards, my lower back felt strange and a little tender. As I write this journal entry, I can tell the injection was successful to a certain degree and my level of pain has been significantly reduced.

When I returned to the prison, I was given a dinner tray. It was a small serving of soy-turkey scrap meatballs on noodles with a side serving of canned peaches and lettuce. All day I had nothing to eat but the bread I peeled off two imitation bologna sandwiches. There was a donut in the bag lunch surprisingly, but I took mine out and put it in the bag for the man I knew undergoing chemo therapy. He will be dead soon, and he will certainly get more enjoyment from a donut than I will. I dislike the meatballs served at Stateville and did not eat. I would rather set up traps to catch mice, like I see on reality survivor programs. More and more, I find similarities between those programs and living in Seg -- difficult environment, little food, and need to improvise on a continual basis.

This week, R.C. was moved, and I am currently in the cell alone. It is nice to have a cell to myself and solitary confinement does not bother me at all. In fact, it is very peaceful and makes my life much better. It is very difficult to live in a 5'x10' cage, 24 hours a day, even with someone you get along with. The downside of R.C. leaving is that he took with him our only extension cord, his two fans, and various other things that made life easier and more convenient. Before he left, I had to ask him if he would leave me a little bit of shampoo because I did not have any. It will probably be some time before I.A. gives me the rest of my property and I have no idea what they will take from me. Another thing I lose with R.C. is his ability to get commissary food. Not all of F House is Seg. The top floor is "kickout," or those people waiting for a cell to open up in general population. These people have all their property and are able to shop for food. A few of these people have been sending R.C. supplies on occasion. I am not in a gang, and I have no friends in this cell house. No one will be sending me anything in this crazy house, except grief.

The continual noise and movement of the cell house is very disturbing. I notice some men standing at the front of their cells all day, yelling or watching the going-ons in this huge round domed building. No wonder they are mad, or maybe they were mildly crazy before and that is why they act the way they do. Lately I have been trying to avoid looking out of my cell. Along with using my headphones or earplugs, I have found that my time in Seg is much better. Without a cellmate, I can withdraw almost completely into my own world. I do not want to be in Seg. I do not want to be in prison. Blocking out this place is the best way to escape from it. I hope I am not given a cellmate for a long time, but this is probably temporary and odds are the evil outside will be brought inside my cell to torment me.

During my time alone, I have been studying stock charts and investments. I am not looking for investments to purchase, but on the contrary, those to sell. The stock market has taken an upturn that is unsustainable. The Federal Reserve and Obama administration are intent on making the economy appear better before the mid-term elections. The Fed is again putting more liquidity into the system. The Democrats have also passed more stimulous packages including easy small business loans. The government cannot continue to spend more and more money. Eventually, these checks will come due, but this does not bother the President, apparently. I have been advising family and friends to sell some investments the closer the DOW gets to 11,000. Hopefully, they will listen to me this time.

On Thursday, F House was put on lockdown when a large fight broke out on the yard. While Seg inmates go to yard on half-sized basketball courts, men waiting placement in population and court writs go on a large yard with telephones, weights, basketball and handball courts. It also has an impressive field of grass that is lumpy with groundhog holes. When the yard line returned, a number of people were in handcuffs. Later that day, they were moved downstairs with the Seg inmates. What does lockdown mean to Segregation inmates that are locked in their cells 24 hours a day anyway? Not much. Inmate workers are not let out, and we lose our once a week yard and shower. Guards are now passing out the trays and picking up trash, as well as other labor normally done by prisoners.

Yesterday, the guards began to search the entire cell house, cell by cell. They began on the first floor and today are working on the upper galleries. I am not sure if they are looking for weapons which may have possibly been used in the fight, or if it is routine to search the cell house whenever it is put on lockdown. My cell was searched yesterday, and it did not take long. I do not have much property. I saw another lieutenant I have known since I was at Joliet CC. Like the other one, he was surprised I was in Seg, and asked me what I was doing here. I told him that I.A. had put me here while I was being investigated. "Investigated for what?" he asked. I told him, "I do not know. It is a mystery." The lieutenant said that sounds a lot like them, and as I was locked back into my cell, he began to tell some guards that he had never seen me in trouble before, and he had known me for many years.

This may be the last journal entry posted for a while. I am using my last stamped envelope to send this out. Until I receive my property or am allowed to shop, I will not be able to mail anything. Possibly if we come off lockdown, I can get an inmate worker to give me some envelopes. I will continue to write regardless. My writings will just remain in my folder until then.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Long Emergency -- October 9, 2010

I have been through over 17 years of calamitous events from my arrest, trial, conviction, appeals, and various difficulties during my incarceration, including a recent placement in Segregation. However, The Long Emergency is not about my life, but the name of a book I have been preoccupied reading most of this week. The book's full title is The Long Emergency - Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century, and was written by James Howard Kunstler in 2004. The book has nothing to do with the criminal justice system or the trials and tribulations of criminal defendants. It is a book about the depletion of fossil fuels, most notably oil, and the author's cataclysmic vision of the future.

This book was sent to me by a pen pal a few years ago, and I never got around to reading it until just now. My pen pal has sent me a number of books over the years that he thought were of profound interest. I have read all of them soon after receiving them, and discussed them at length in long letters, except for this last one. For the last several years, I have been absorbed in other interests and preoccupations. I have also not been so motivated to write my friend I met through an online website seven years ago. Other than family, I have corresponded longer with him than anyone else, including my former girlfriend. After so many years, however, I suppose the motivation to keep in touch has diminished, and this has been a mutual progression.

The Long Emergency is a hardbound book, and one of the few I have. Over the years, it has been stored in my correspondence box only to be taken out to be used as a writing board or an exercise accessory to do one-leg calf raises on. Sometimes I have even used it as a lid on a bowl to allow some type of instant food to cook. Unfortunate that I have abused this book, because it was a rather good read. Quality constructed hard bound books that I have read and valued, I send home to be kept for me. Although I did not agree completely with the author, it is a book I would have liked to add to my collection. At home, I have a bookcase filled with books I have read and sent home. This book could have been a nice addition, but over the years it has become shabby looking and the corners are now bent.

The Long Emergency is over 300 pages long, and I read about 50 pages a day. I could have completed this book in 3 days if I just read through it without contemplation. However, with all nonfiction books I spend the time to read, I underline parts and take notes. After reading a section, I will review my notes or highlighted areas. People with autism are thought to possess photographic memories. I suppose many who think this have watched the movie The Rain Man too often. I do not have a photographic memory, only an acute observation and sometimes obsession for detail. While reading the book, I wrote 12 pages of notes, and my note taking and my musings took far more time than the actual reading.

James Kunstler's book is not ordered very well, and he goes over various subject matter repetitively and in a haphazard way. Nonetheless, the book was very intriguing and filled with numerous facts. The author may not be a great writer, but it was apparent that he spent a lot of time researching. As a person interested in history, politics, and investments, particularly natural resource companies, I was engrossed from cover to cover. Although I disagreed with a number of deductions and the author's prediction of an apocalyptic demise of modern civilization, as a survivalist with a disdain for this "progressive" society, the book captured my imagination. I wish I had read it a long time ago.

In Segregation without any cell mate, I was able to devote my full attention to reading. To block out the noise and goings-on of the Roundhouse zoo, I often read with earplugs in my ears or with headphones on listening to music or WLS talk radio. Segregation is a good time to have a supply of books to read because there are less distractions. It is for this reason I have hoarded a number of books and novels. Years ago when I first came to the penitentiary, it was easy to avoid Seg because only people that committed serious crimes were sent here. However, now that the guards have strict control over the prison and have made numerous petty rules, an inmate can go to Seg for almost any reason. Even when you have not done anything to break the litany of rule infractions, a prisoner can end up in Seg. Prisoners are sent to Seg on falsified charges, or the mere suspicion of violating a rule. This is my fourth week in Seg under investigative status for suspicion of an act I am still uncertain of. In any event, it is a good policy to have a collection of books ready for the inevitable trip to Seg.

Chapter 1 is called "Sleepwalkers Into the Future," and is a preview to the rest of the book. The title refers to how the vast majority of Americans do not realize the impending doom just over the horizon brought on by the end of cheap fossil fuels, and ultimately all fossil fuels. Current modern society is centered around the abundance of oil, natural gas, and coal, and when it ceases to exist, or becomes too expensive to extract, our way of life will cease to exist, bringing cataclysmic changes. If this was not enough, James Kunstler writes about how global population levels have reached unsustainable levels and a population of 7 billion has had a disastrous effect on the planet. The author predicts the depletion of natural resources, diseases, famines, strife and war, as well as global warming. Free trade, the out-sourcing of U.S. manufacturing jobs, along with a ridiculous spree of government and consumer spending will, and is already, crushing the American economy. All these things will converge together in the 21st Century to bring about the collapse of society.

The author writes at length about the history of oil, and is inundated with numerous facts. Much of this I was already aware of, but not nearly in such depth. Oil first began to be used in earnest in the mid-18th century when it was discovered in Pennsylvania with a drill used for wells of water. The power and enormous potential of oil was not initially realized, and Pennsylvanians used the oil as a replacement for whale oil in lamps. In cities, kerosene replaced gas lighting from coked coal which was dangerous, hot, noisy and could not be moved around. Kerosene lighting was a new technology highly valued in the Civil War. Oil was also quickly used as a substitute for animal lard lubricant to run machines. It was not until John D. Rockefeller in the late 1800's that the oil industry took off in the U.S. Elsewhere, oil's production, refinement, and marketing capabilities soared by the likes of the Rothschilds and the Englishman, Marcus Samuel. Rockefeller created the giant corporation, Standard Oil, which was eventually broken up by Theodore Roosevelt into several companies that are still around today: Exxon Mobile, Conoco Philips, and Chevron. Marcus Samuel created Royal Dutch Shell, the logo of which is seen on many corner gas stations to this day in America and in Europe.

From such small beginnings, oil has taken over to be essential to our modern industrialized society as the author comprehensively describes throughout his book. Oil is used to create all the plastics, rubber, and many chemicals we use on a daily basis, whether these are personal computers, lipstick, tires, or the Sony Walkman I am listening to as I write. Asphalt, paint, artificial fabrics such as polyester, and various pharmaceuticals require oil to be manufactured. Our factories are run on oil, and steel is produced with this fossil fuel as well. Skyscrapers, along with most modern housing, could not be made without oil. Many things people would not even think of are products made with oil, including batteries, artificial hearts, hip replacements, and motion pictures. Oil is necessary for almost all the production of commodities and manufactured goods in the 21st century, but what oil is predominately used for is transportation fuel. Gasoline or some other oil refined product is used in our cars, trucks, boats, and airplanes. According to the author, without oil our economy and society would cease as we know it and there is no substitute for it.

To James Kunstler, almost all momentous events in the modern era and the supremacy of the West are based on having abundant and cheap oil. Even the world wars and their outcomes he attributes to oil. Before WWI, wars were typically quick, and involved relatively few casualties. Then came trench warfare where millions of combatants were killed, aided by trains, machine guns, artillery, and rapidly motorized militaries. Britain is described as having only 800 motor cars, and 15 motorcycles at the beginning of hostilities in 1914. At the end of the war, they had accumulated 60,000 trucks and over 50,000 cars and motorcycles. Winston Churchill had changed the fuel of the British navy from coal to oil just before the onset of war, and this gave them a tremendous advantage over the coal powered German fleet. Germany's only response was diesel fueled U-boats which only led America, with their super abundant access to oil, to enter the war. The author surmises Germany's lack of oil caused them to lose not only WWI, but WWII. He also believes WWII was fought for access to oil, and while I agree Japan attacked Indonesia and then Pearl Harbor when F.D.R. cut off their access to American oil, Germany's invasion was not precipitated by a quest for oil. Nazi Germany sought an ideological war against communism, and to expand its empire on European soil so it also could be a world power. The author writes about the invasion of S. Russia to secure oil fields, but this was only a secondary thought and not the motivation for war. Furthermore, what caused Germany's defeat was not a lack of oil, but the massive resources, both human and otherwise, that the U.S. brought to the battlefield, which were dismissed by German leaders. After the war, the U.S. did not become a superpower dominating global markets due to cheap and abundant oil, but because of a world that was brought to its knees. America was the only nation able to reap the rewards of victory.

Most of my days this week were spent reading The Long Emergency and note taking, but at about 7 p.m., I usually sought out some entertainment on TV. With only a few channels that come in, I did not have much to chose from. However, ESPN comes in clearest, and on Monday night I watched the N.E. Patriots play the Miami Dolphins. Coach Bill Bellichick and the N.E. offense minus Randy Moss is one of my favorites to root for. It was mostly Miami's mistakes and the Patriots' special teams that led to the root, but I was glad with the N.E. victory. I was also glad to hear the next day that Randy Moss was being traded to the Vikings. He can now give Brett Favre grief, although he is in desperate need of receivers.

The following night, I watched NOVA on PBS, as my evening excursion from reading. The NOVA special was about the initial plans of the U.S. military to have manned spy satellites. It was an interesting program of the developing space technology and competition with the Soviet Union. However, PBS came in poorly, and I had to watch it through much static. There are over a hundred spy satellites circling the earth, able to zoom in on a license plate from outer space, but I cannot get clear TV reception. All this technology, but just like the author of The Long Emergency, I feel it is precariously predicated. Society and technology have advanced in so many ways, but the quality has deteriorated. That, and the tremendous amount of rocket fuel used in the manned space race which was ultimately abandoned by both countries went through my mind as I watched the show.

According to James Kunstler, U.S. oil production peaked at 10 million barrels a day in 1970, and has been decreasing ever since. Now, America produces less than half that amount. In fact, new discoveries of oil would diminish after 1930 during the Great Depression when the glut of supply and absence of demand made oil 10 cents a barrel. Although the U.S. was acquiring more oil than ever before in the early 70s, America still had to import an additional 6 million barrels a day. In 1973, the OPEC oil embargo would not be just an inconvenience for the U.S., but a major body blow. The price of oil shot up almost 500% and caused massive supply disruptions. I was not born at the time, but I remember seeing taped TV news of long lines of cars at gas stations, fights, and the rationing of gasoline. Absolutely everything in the industrialized economy was either made or transported with petroleum products. Not only did the price at the pump jump, but prices throughout the economy. The stock market dropped 15% the first month and ultimately 45% from the pre-embargo high. There were layoffs, cuts in salaries, and enormous inflationary conditions which cut off lines of credit. America had entered an economic anomaly dubbed "stagflation," which stood for a stagnant economy and high inflation, that lasted many years. The effects are small compared to what could happen to the U.S. today.

The U.S. economy stalled until the mid-1980's during the Reagan administration. The author, however, denies Reagan or Margaret Thatcher's policies of free trade, deregulation, or lower taxes contributed to the recovery in America or Britain. He attributes it to a surge in the supply of cheap oil. When oil prices soared, there was a boom in exploration and drilling with improved technology, especially from deep water sites. The Soviet Union, desperate for cash to shore up its dysfunctional, decrepit, and bankrupt communist economy, also produced record amounts of oil. Saudis and other Middle Eastern states also broke ranks to reap high profits. These developments took place, furthermore, when the Alaskan pipeline and North Sea oil were bringing large amounts of new oil supplies onto markets. While I agree with the author that low energy prices helped, so did lower taxes and certain deregulation. Furthermore, although Reagan has become symbolic for less government, his administration spent massive amounts of money on national defense which stimulated the economy.

Bill Clinton was able to ride the wave of cheap oil, and a vibrant economy and with a fiscally conservative legislature turned U.S. debt into a surplus. He rode this exuberance until the Internet bubble burst at the end of his second term. Clinton did nothing to address America's oil dependence, but both Bush presidents would address the matter through war. When Iraq invaded Kuwait because they were caught stealing Iraqi oil through horizontal drilling, Operation Desert Storm pushed the Iraqi forces out. This made Kuwait, and indirectly Arabia, indebted to the U.S. -- and they increased production. The attack on the Twin Towers in 2001, gave the 2nd Bush ample excuse not only to invade Afghanistan, but Iraq as well. The Iraqi war was sold to the world to prevent their development of WMDs and after none were found, to liberate Iraq. However, the true goal of the U.S. was to establish a base in the Middle East to control radical Islam and oil. James Kunstler does not mention this, but there was a reason why the U.S. built the largest embassy in the world in Iraq. Although Obama may try to undo the policies of previous administrations, the plan was to stay in Iraq for a long period of time. The contracts to British Petroleum, Exxon Mobile, and Shell Oil to produce Iraqi oil fields also speak volumes. Most of the world's remaining oil reserves are in the Middle East, and while Barack Obama may want to crimp the U.S. economy with a carbon tax, the Bush administration sought to control foreign oil while the U.S. developed its own fuel sources.

On Wednesday, I did not get much reading done because I went to the prison's Health Care Unit. I was not let out of my cell until late, and not until I had Juan Luna, who is a cell house worker in F House, notify guards of my pass. Although I have been in Seg a few weeks, this was the first time while here that I spoke with the man convicted of the Palatine Brown's Chicken murders. I have been meaning to speak with him, but he does not work on my floor, and it was only by chance he happened to be walking by. Whenever Segregation inmates have movement, they are put in chains and handcuffs. It was no different for me earlier this week. I did not enjoy the restraints, but it was a nice warm day outside and I did not mind the walk. I spoke with the medical director who asked me if the cortisone injection helped. He authorized another one to be given to me. The best part about my trip was being able to talk with a kitchen worker. I told him I was starving in Seg, and asked him to "throw a dog a bone." Later that evening when dinner trays were passed out, I was given a diet bag which had about 20 little packs of peanut butter in them. I am very appreciative. I have lost over 10 pounds.

There was nothing on TV Wednesday evening, and I continued reading my book. The major theme of The Long Emergency is the depletion of oil, not only in the U.S., but worldwide. According to the author, worldwide discoveries of oil peaked in 1964 and has followed a firm trendline downward. This does not mean production peaked at that time. Production has increased, however, the amount of oil being consumed has risen exponentially due to America's increasing appetite, and also from emerging markets such as China and India. At the time this book was written, global consumption was about 30 billion barrels a day. According to geologists' estimates there is less than a trillion barrels of oil left, and this oil is the most difficult and expensive to reach. In 1916, the ratio of energy expended to the amount of energy obtained from drilling oil was 2 to 1. In 2004, it was 28 to 1. The day when Jed Clampett of the Beverly Hillbillies accidentally discovered oil by shooting the ground with a rifle is over. Also, much of the oil remaining is of the lowest quality, and difficult to refine. The author makes the startling claim that even if we were able to extract every drop of oil left, the world will run out of oil in 37 years; a claim I believe is exaggerated but will happen in time.

Chapter 4 is entitled "Beyond Oil: Why Alternative Fuels Won't Rescue Us," and in it he dismisses other fossil fuels, one by one, and so called renewables. While I agree with his criticisms of solar, wind, biofuels and hydrogen, I disagree with his assessment of natural gas and coal. He claims natural gas reserves are being rapidly depleted in the U.S. and Canada, but the fact is North America has an abundance of the fuel. In fact, the U.S. has more natural gas than any other country in the world, and it could be used solely as an energy source for over 100 years. I must conclude that the author conducted his research before advancements in technology allowed U.S. drillers to produce natural gas trapped in shale rock. Natural gas is the most environmentally friendly fossil fuel and releases the least amount of pollutants or particle matter when burned or refined. I do not believe manmade carbon dioxide emissions are contributing to global warming, but natural gas releases less than half the amount of CO2 than oil. The best thing about natural gas though is it can give the U.S. energy independence without oppressing the economy with new cap and trade taxes and without the necessity of government subsidies. Drillers, however, must be careful not to contaminate ground water when breaking up shale rock.

Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel and causes more pollution in its burning than any other energy source. Burning coal releases heavy metals such as toxic mercury or other particulates into the air, poisoning groundwater, contributing to asthma, and also causing acid rain. However, coal is also very abundant and cheap. It is so cheap that extra expenses needed to develop and use clean coal technology make it well worth its use. Kunstler dimisses coal as an energy source because it is not as versatile as oil. Coal can and already does produce over a quarter of U.S. electricity, but it cannot be sent through pipelines and pumped into cars, trucks, and airplanes. This is true, but there is a way to make synthetic oil from coal. In fact, Nazi Germany used this technology to fuel its military conquest of Europe. A few years ago, I learned about a company that was converting coal to oil, but at the time only had contracts with the U.S. military. I told my family about this company because I thought it was an investment opportunity. Sooner or later, this oil will be used by the American consumer. Clean coal and conversion to oil will add to the expense of the energy, however, with oil prices over $50 a barrel, it is profitable. The U.S. can rely on natural gas and clean coal for hundreds of years and not give our current or potential future enemies a cent.

The author of The Long Emergency believes the best alternative energy source for the U.S. is nuclear. The energy potential from nuclear fission is enormous. One single atom of uranium produces 10 million times as much energy as burning a carbon atom, and has 20 million times more energy than oil. Two pounds of uranium, a quantity that could fit into a beer can, can supply all the electric power a family of four uses in a lifetime. This same amount of uranium only costs $30 on the market at the time the book was written. Nuclear energy could also make hydrogen fuel cells economical. However, James Kunstler believes the U.S. will not act soon enough on nuclear to prevent the collapse of society and government. Nuclear power plants require over ten years to be built, and they also require oil not only to build them, but to maintain them. The U.S. has not built a single nuclear power plant since the 1970s because of the public's lingering fear from 3 Mile Island, and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster which immediately killed 31 people, and thereafter killed thousands. Twenty square miles in Russia are uninhabitable, and possibly for a hundred years. No one wants spent nuclear fuel in their state, and the proposed Yucca Mountain site has been abandoned. Spent nuclear fuel is presently spread out across America, sitting at its originating plants. The author does not mention this, but from my own research, I know nuclear power plants require massive federal financing to be built, and are overzealously regulated by the government. Private companies are unwilling or unable to put up the capital for building plants and they are not a profitable business. Thus, without government initiatives, increased nuclear power will not happen.

There is a chapter in the book entitled "Nature Bites Back," which I found was greatly exaggerated and alarmist. The part about global warming I thought was an irrational worry. The author initially says he does not take sides on the global warming debate, but from his writing, I believe he does think manmade CO2 emissions are causing temperatures to rise. This global warming will cause enormous problems for mankind, he states, which will cataclysmicly mix with the depletion of oil. Personsally, I believe that even if temperatures do rise, it could very well be a benefit, especially in colder North American and European countries. I also believe that it is impossible to predict or change, and trillions of dollars spent on CO2 prevention, sequesturing, or the oppression on the U.S. economy would be foolish and would be more wisely spent otherwise, even if true.

The author also writes about other problems to come in the 21st Century, including the evolution of viruses to create epidemics, the inability of modern science to keep up with these and bacteria increasingly immune to antibiotics. The increasing global population that is exposed to poor sanitation, animals, or environments never encroached upon were also mentioned. Kunstler goes on to explain how much global travel there is now and how the world is due for a supervirus worse than the Bubonic Plague or the 1918 Influenza that killed over 40 million people and infected 1/5th of the world. He also mentions bioweapons, which to me are more frightening than nuclear annihilation.

Although I did not appreciate the Chicken Little warnings about global warming, I did very much agree with his condemnation of free market globalism in Chapter 6, "Running on Fumes." He writes that free trade required the breakdown of all prior restraints: logistical, political, moral and cultural. It maximizes the material present at the expense of the future. It privatized the profits of business while socializing the costs. Free market globalism became the reigning orthodoxy of both political parties, and was sold to the public as a way to make everyone rich. However, it only managed to move U.S. manufacturing jobs and money overseas, leaving us with McDonalds, Walmarts, and a massive debt. Our communities, local economies, future generations, and the social-cultural fabric of society were sold out for some cheap Chinese goods. Huge international corporations have no loyalty to the U.S. and systematically destroyed our nation without government leadership and regulation. Most conservatives are adamant about free trade, but the first U.S. conservatives believed in tariffs and a government that protected, and fervently advocated American industry, jobs, and livelihoods. This neoconservativism and liberalized free trade will cause enormous hardship for the West, especially in America. American power and wealth will dissolve at a moment of crisis in The Long Emergency, when we need it most.

James Kunstler also writes of how globalism, and what he refers to as suburbia, will cause much more of a problem in the U.S. because of the country's dependency on cheap oil. He states that only from cheap oil have Americans been able to spread out across the nation. Homes are now built far away from friends, family, employment, energy sources, and markets. The U.S. relies more so than any other country on commuting in cars or trucks. When the price of fuel becomes enormous, suburbia will experience a tumultuous retraction. Our goods that are shipped, flown, or trucked from other countries or over great distances in the U.S., will become uneconomical. The good news is that free trade globalism will wither and die; the bad news is America is so dependent and invested in suburbia and long distance trade, the retraction will cause great social upheaval and possibly the breakup of the Union. Although travel may retract while transportation fuel is changed from oil to electric, synthetic oil, or otherwise, and trains become more important, I believe the author greatly exaggerates the problem.

Toward the end of the chapter "Running on Fumes," I was greatly impressed with Kunstler's insight into the mortgage fiasco and prediction of economic collapse from a real estate bubble. This book was written in 2004, however, the author goes into great detail how the government- backed mortgage corporations Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were buying up huge amounts of housing debt. These were private institutions, but were backed by the government, and the government pressured them to buy up high risk mortgages in the subprime market. Liberals promoted the mortgage buying as an affirmative action and social policy. Moderates did not oppose it because they thought more home ownership would bring the marginalized poor segments of society into the mainstream. Home ownership could bring more responsibility and pacification to these people. Then there were the other big banks that wanted to cash in on this profitable venture. Homes were thought to only be able to go up in price, and if a person or business defaulted, they would just seize the property and the debt, and still profit. Mortgage debt was pooled together in bundles with good and bad debts, and then sold to various banks, and the more complicated the debt, the better. Banks also knew they could always unload debt on Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

There was a terrible disconnect between the lender and borrower. Local, small banks which have mostly been overtaken, knew who they lent to and weighed the risk. Big banks, however, did not know and did not care. At the time of the book's writing, the combined debt of just Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae was $3 trillion. When the house of cards began to fall, there was over $10 trillion in mortgage debt held by banks. James Kunstler predicted its collapse and surmised the economic wreckage would make the S & L fiasco of the 1980s look minuscule, and the investment in suburbia the greatest misallocation of resources in world history.

The Long Emergency is very critical of suburbia, the spending on the infrastructure of it, and all superlative consumer spending based on cheap oil and foreign goods which will all end this century and make such things obsolete. The author also mentions government policies that contributed to this squander of wealth, including the reduction of interest rates and devaluation of currency. I wonder what the author would think of the present Fed rate of 0% and the dollar's collapse from the printing of trillions, and the enormous debt accrued. I also wonder what his opinion is of the unsustainable social entitlements and other government spending made much worse by the Obama administration. In my opinion, the "emergency" is not from the depletion of fossil fuels, but the irresponsible spending spree and mismanagement of government. I do not see a cataclysmic scenario of events the author envisioned, but I do see the Decline of Western Civilization as Oswald Spengler, and more recently, as political pundit, Pat Buchanan, has written about.

Today I finished my reading and during the evening I watched the movie The Titanic with lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio. The Titanic was very symbolic of the doom that seems to face the West. Here was the most grand and powerful luxury liner in the world. The ship was lavish with ornamentation and decor. It had the best available technology, and was said to be unsinkable. Many of the people on board were filthy rich, decadent, and living fat off the wealth they inherited. They had arrogant egos and thought they, like the ship they were on, were immortal. I watched how violins were still being played as the ship was sinking. Clearly, the U.S. is also deluded about its fate. Like the Titanic, America may eventually find itself at the bottom of the ocean.