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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic -- August 5, 2011

People often think I have an abundance of time without anything to do. I do spend the vast majority of my time in a cage inside a maximum-security prison. I also have a sentence of natural life without the chance of parole. Despite this, I am incredibly busy usually doing one thing or another. This week has been an almost nonstop marathon of reading, writing, and making thousands of calculations. I have read 15 newspapers, several corporate reports, a couple of magazines, voluminous legal materials and a number of letters. I have also written several letters, made notations to numerous financial articles and made a few financial charts. The charts help organize data, but to make specific judgments on companies' stocks, I must use various mathematical equations.

Most of the torrid temperatures of the previous weeks have passed. However, I have still had to contend with continuous distractions inside and outside my cell. My cellmate has ceased playing his hip-hop music but annoys me greatly by yelling and talking to various people outside the cell or in cells on the upper galleries. Prisoners and guards alike often are continually walking past, loitering, or being loud and obnoxious just outside my work area. I typically sit by the bars where there is a steel stool and table. I do this because it is convenient to write on and to give my cellmate space, especially if he wants to use the sink or toilet. Being by the bars makes my work very difficult no matter how I try to block it out with headphones. However, I have pressed on knowing how financial markets were going to plummet soon.

Many people thought disaster was avoided when the U.S. Congress was able to pass legislation raising the debt ceiling. However, raising the amount of money the country can borrow did nothing to change the fundamental problems in the economy. Just because the government was given another credit card does not change the fact it is already drowning in debt. It also does not change the enormous debt carried by local governments or individuals. Furthermore, unemployment, declining salaries, and foreclosures on homes have not eased. This is not an environment where consumers or businesses want to spend money. If this was not enough, European sovereign debt is beginning to topple onto itself with Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and Italy seeming to follow after Greece. Government spending that has recklessly continued and enormously accelerated in the last couple years is finally being reigned in. Although this is good for Western Civilization in the long term, in the short term, it will create much pain. One form it will take is in the stock market and I wanted friends and family to be prepared for it, especially if they had allowed themselves to feel a false sense of security when the markets recuperated much of their April highs, or to take advantage of any opportunity.

I receive a subscription to the Wall Street Journal, which I read almost from front to back. In order to digest all the information and make notes, it will often take me a couple of hours to read. The following week, I began to allow my papers to stack up. I was focused on writing a short story for a friend's birthday. In addition to writing a nonfiction book about my case, I have considered in my years of incarceration writing novels. Although my verbal skills may not excel, I am a good writer and have a good imagination. However, what I planned to be a brief work of creative fiction began to become the start of a novel. I became consumed in the details of the story and had to cease writing after several chapters. If I did not, I would have been unable to turn my attention to other matters and may still be writing to this day. I also would have missed the birthday deadline.

Between my bunk and the wall is a space I have slowly been adding newspapers to because I have no room in my two boxes for the papers. They are filled with clothes, food, hygienic items, books, magazines, and an assortment of 9" x 11" envelopes filled with various paperwork. Not having the papers put away bothered me immensely, but not nearly as much as all the clutter my cellmate leaves out. I am often tempted to take all his belongings that he leaves out and toss them in the garbage. I have already rearranged some of his property and discarded certain items he will probably never realize are missing. I hate living in disorder.

The stack of Wall Street Journals between my bunk and the wall was almost two week's worth. This week, I began forcing myself to read at least three plus the one I received in the mail. I often thought how I wish I could digest information faster. I also thought at various times how I wish my cellmate would shut up. The man seems to have this need to socialize, and he cannot do so in a considerate fashion as to not bother me. I felt blessed when he would take his afternoon nap or leave the cell.

I always make notes when I read the newspaper. I do this for my own retention and to benefit others. I regularly will cut out articles for people I correspond with. I do so especially for my parents because they always trust a journalist's writings over my own. After I am done with a paper, I send it to one of the very few people I speak with in this cell house. He enjoys reading the paper as much as my notes. Although other people have asked me to share my subscription I have told him to throw them out when he is done. At Stateville, very few prisoners will appreciate my political commentary. Plus, I care not if they have the benefit of my papers or notes.

I am continually reading corporate reports. I read those that people I know invest in, or those I think would be good acquisitions. This week, however, I read about companies that I think should be sold by their stock owners. One of them was Prudential Financial. Repeatedly, I have told the owner of these stocks to sell. I told her to sell before the market crashed in 2009, and take the $115 a share. After the crash, she did not want to sell because of all the money that had been lost. This year when Prudential shares went up to $67.50, I told her to put in a sell order for $65 and be lucky to get out. No, she did not listen. She does not understand the company's share price would not go back to its previous highs for probably decade. By next week, I would not be surprised if it is selling below $50. Many people do not know when to take a loss.

In prison , many rumors about new legislation, case law, or ways to get back into the court system fly about. Many men are desperate to grasp onto any hope, despite how incredible the source is or how far fetched the information is. Because of draconian laws in Illinois, many convicts will never be released. They have sentences of natural life, 100, 80, or 60 years that must be served in totality. Many of these men are going to die in prison, but they refuse to believe it and live in denial. I have such a sentence and despite my innocence, I do not have any delusions. Life is not fair, and I will probably never be exonerated. My fate is most likely a grave just outside of Stateville, or some other prison in Illinois. Despite this, I read a packet of case law this week on the newest legal rumor to go through the prison.

According to rumor, if the prosecution did not properly impanel the grand jury who indicted the prisoner for the offense he or she is being incarcerated for, the conviction must be vacated. Some naive men believe that the prosecutor cannot even retry the case due to laws forbidding double jeopardy, and they must be set free, regardless of guilt. Of course, a "get out of jail free card" is of enormous excitement amongst prisoners, especially those who will die a slow death in the penitentiary and have no hope of appeal. Prisoners have been flooding the circuit clerk of the court with requests to see if their transcripts contain the certification, and many have discovered it does not exist. Many prosecutors failed to retain the formal document.

This week, I read the case which is the source of the excitement. It is a short decision by the Illinois Appellate Court stating that even a man who pled guilty could not waive irregularities of indictment where the error was a fundamental defect taking away the jurisdiction of the court. The record must show that the grand jury was properly impaneled, a foreman appointed, and sworn in. Because this did not exist, the appellate court reversed Edward Gray's convictions for burglary and larceny. However, what struck me is the date of the ruling. It is December 17, 1913. Men are getting their hopes up on a case that predates World War I.

I read Illinois code of procedure regarding grand jury procedure. Sure enough, it states plainly "The grand jurors shall be summoned, drawn, qualified and certified according to law." It also goes on to describe the number of jurors which must be present, the selecting of a jury foreman, and the swearing of the quorum. However, despite this, it does not say what shall occur if procedure is not followed. I shepardized the case People vs. Gray (261 Illinois 140) and found other more recent cases. I read these cases this week but none were as powerfully and specifically worded as the 1913 case. Since I have nothing to lose though, I am considering filing a 2-1401 Void Judgment petition, although I am skeptical the court will overturn my conviction.

My attorney has been refusing to accept my collect phone calls. This week, I received a letter from her citing a number of reasons for failing to take my calls. I do not know if I believe her. I also do not know if I can trust her to diligently pursue my appeal. I wrote her back and did not mention the failure of the prosecutor to properly impanel my grand jury. Instead, I went over various other issues I believe have more merit, and various work I needed done to file a successive post conviction appeal.

Yesterday, I took a break from all my writing and reading to go to the gym. Fortunately it was not the sauna it was two weeks ago. I was able to get a good workout and was glad there was not many people using the broken and in disrepair machine weights. On the lower gallery of C House are many old men who do not use weights. The average age on the lower floor is probably close to 50. At the gym, I heard about one of the old men who was wheeled out bleeding profusely earlier this week. His arm that is repeatedly punctured for dialysis began to bleed out, and by the time med techs arrived, there was blood pooled heavily in his cell. I also heard about a man upstairs who had a stroke and was rumored to be on his death bed.

A fat white man decided to work out with me while at the gym. He is a man I have briefly spoke with before at chow and on the yard. I told him he is a good candidate for the TV show "The Biggest Loser," after he expressed a desire to lose weight. He followed my routine for about a half hour and then quit. I called him a loser, but this did not encourage him to return, so I finished my exercise all by myself.

On the return from the gym, I saw the Dow Jones Industrial average had fallen 512 points. The meltdown I had predicted was already beginning to occur. After bathing in my sink and washing a few articles of clothing in my toilet, I went back to work on my stock charts. There are thousands of stock companies listed on the NYSE and I quickly looked over their main fundamentals before focusing on a few hundred. In order to rate these stocks, I must chart numerous amounts of data: earnings per share growth, profit growth, price to earnings ratios, dividend yields, debt, profit returns on capital, and other data. It takes an enormous amount of time to make my charts and graph all the statistics using a small pencil.

I knew I did not have time to make evaluations on all the stocks I had selected, and therefore I selected four economic sectors to complete this week. These sectors were energy, mining, agricultural, and machine equipment manufacturers. I will go over technology, health care, financial, and the various others later this month. It will probably take me a few weeks to make judgments on the complete spectrum of companies I think are worth my focus. Some companies have yet to come out with their 2nd quarter reports and I will have to wait anyway. Possibly, I will just estimate their figures.

My charts go back several years and I have papers upon papers filled with organized data. Since I sit near the bars, I draw the attention of people passing by. A black man with a large mole on his chin has been attempting to get my advice on investments. He saw my charts and began to look over them. I was considering putting them away or at least the ones I was not immediately working on. However, I knew this data would not make sense to anyone but myself. He began to ask me about various things, and I told him I did not have time to talk to him. He still persisted asking me if I thought it would be good to buy this or that stock. I told him he would be a fool to buy anything right now, and then turned the volume up on my Walkman headset. Another gallery worker who goes by the name "Smiley" tried talking to me, but I could not hear him. Eventually I took off my headphones and asked him what he wanted. He asked if I was making a mint through gold investments. A few years ago, I told him how I thought gold was an excellent investment when it was only $750 an ounce. However, this week I said to him, "I am a broke prisoner who will die penniless, old, and in captivity." I then told him to take his smiling ass to disrupt someone else. He was not the last person to disrupt me in my stock chart designs and mathematical formulas.

After having set all of my statistics in their charts, I began to make calculations. The formulas I use to make evaluations for stocks is complicated, and it is good I do well with numbers. Unfortunately, the noise and movement around me is highly bothersome. Eventually though, with music blaring in my ears and angling my body into the cell, I was able to get into a zone where I could have tremendous focus. I went through numbers almost as quickly as the Rain Man counts fallen matches or cards at a Las Vegas casino.

I finished with my analysis of energy stocks earlier today. A few of my favorites in this sector are Crestwood Midstream Limited Partnership, Vanguard Natural Resources, Alliance Resources, and Western Gas Partnership. Most people have probably never heard of these, but I also regard Exxon Mobile, Chevron, and El Paso Pipeline as very good investments. My favorite stock in the agricultural sector is the high yielding fertilizer company called Terra Nitrogen. After completing this journal entry, I will write a letter to my family and enclose my list in chronological order of favorite to least liked stock companies. Hopefully, they have sold off a large portion of their portfolio already. This list is mainly a buy list when the Dow falls to about 10,000. That may or may not occur this month, but I want them and others to be prepared to seize an opportunity if it presents itself.

This week has been an almost ceaseless drive mainly to help advise friends and family about investments. I have struggled to process more and more information at a quicker pace, even drinking coffee and pushing myself to mental exhaustion. I feel quite strained and stressed by what I have tried to accomplish in a very difficult environment and in a short period of time. My life is predominantly miserable and without meaning, however, I am glad to be able to be productive in some meager way. Hopefully, although I may die in prison, my efforts will not all be in vain.