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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

State of Fear -- Jan. 10, 2014

A mass of arctic air has dropped into the U.S. causing frigid temperatures across a great swath of the country. On Sunday, the cold front brought snow followed by extreme wind chills that had the potential to cause frost bite within 10 minutes on exposed skin. The penitentiary was once again placed on lockdown and only recently have normal operations resumed. Confined to my cell, I spent time watching the NFL Playoffs. Mostly, however, I read a novel by Michael Crichton which debunked the theory of global warming. Reading State of Fear seemed very timely after I heard a few news reports that seemed to attempt to attribute the brutally cold temperatures to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions. All types of inclement weather are commonly used to manipulate and scare the public to serve a political agenda. Ironically, the only truth is that climate change exists, but it has existed for millions of years and a warmer world is probably a better world.

Saturday afternoon, I watched the Kansas City Chiefs play the Indianapolis Colts in the first NFL Playoff game of the year. At the end of the first half the Chiefs led by 28 points. Most prisoners including myself thought the game was over and went to the chow hall for dinner. Outside the cell house snow was already falling, but the Arctic blast of cold air behind it had yet to arrive. Over a tray of soy-spaghetti, I listened to men talk about the blowout football game as well as a new vending machine service company. The visiting room's vending machines had been replaced last week with new ones that charged double the previous prices. To some prisoners the soda, snacks, and other food offered was a big treat and they were angry that family or friends who came to see them would be forced to pay much more. With a natural life sentence, however, I had greater concerns. If the prices were too high, I would simply not eat anything.

Upon returning to my cell, shower lines were immediately run. Although my cellmate left, I turned on my TV to watch the rest of the game even if it was going to be a lopsided victory for the Chiefs. To my surprise, the Colts were catching up. The game reminded me of some college football bowl games where there were many turnovers, little defense, and offenses racked up points with reckless abandon. In the end, there were over 1,000 yards of offense and an almost record breaking 89 points were scored. The Colts in the second largest comeback victory in playoff history won by a single point. Only inside a dome and on artificial turf did I think such an outcome was possible. Quarterback Andrew Luck was very lucky to overcome such a deficit. Tomorrow, he plays outdoors against the New England Patriots and he should not expect to do the same.

When I awakened Sunday morning, the cell house was quiet except for the whir of the hot air blower across from my cell. Through the dirty, opaque windows I could not determine how much snow had fallen during the night, but news programs reported over a foot. They also spoke of a "polar vortex" which was moving down from Canada and causing temperatures to plummet. Currently, it was 10 degrees but the lows Monday through Wednesday were expected to be between -15 and -20. Weather news reporters warned people of the dangers of frostbite and even hypothermia. I was not surprised later when an announcement was made over the cell house loudspeaker that there would be no movement for the day. All programs, religious services, health care passes, etc. were cancelled. I did not mind the lockdown. There was no where I wanted to go within these walls and I had another day of football to look forward to.

I watched all the playoff games over the weekend, but none were more anticipated than the last. The great media attention was mostly due to the brutally cold weather expected. The sports event was being held at Lambaugh Field nicknamed "the frozen tundra" and for good reason. The open stadium in northern Wisconsin was the coldest place professional football players in America competed at. At kickoff the temperature was a mere 5 degrees and it slowly dropped to just above zero. Wind chills were -10 to -20. The San Francisco 49ers had a formidable defense, but more than anything it seemed the frigid temperatures were constricting the explosive offense of the Green Bay Packers. Players on both sides regularly ran off field to huddle around heaters and assistants threw heavily insulated jackets over them. In the second half, however, the Packers began to overcome the cold and began moving the ball down field. They took the lead and seemed poised to win. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and other Packers looked confident on and off the field. Some did not even bother to warm themselves and were focused completely on the game. Unfortunately some lapses in defense caused them to lose the game by a field goal.

Afterwards, I wrote my father a letter. He had relocated to South Carolina for various reasons, but one was because he never wanted to deal with freezing weather again. I thought it was ironic that the first winter he was there the state was expecting snow showers. The polar vortex which was currently approaching Green Bay, Wisconsin was to continue to drop south and to the east. My father was physically impaired, but I doubted the weather would be much trouble for him. I was more concerned about my mother who continued to be very ill. Before I went to sleep, I gave her a call. She told me a neighbor had shoveled a clearing on the walkway and my brother-in-law stopped by to do the driveway. Despite this, she was very weak and did not intend to go anywhere.

Monday morning I awakened to discover the temperature outside was minus 16 degrees and there were -40 degree wind chills. Once again the penitentiary was on lockdown and except for a few workers, prisoners were kept confined to their cells. Unexpectedly, though, my cellmate was allowed out to make an unmonitored legal call with his attorney. Apparently, the lawyer had set up the call in advance and the administration generally tried to accommodate them. Anthony had the call placed through the counselor in the sergeant's office and was not gone long. Afterwards I asked him what his attorney had to say. The lawyer planned to file an appeal to the 7th Circuit, but as for his most important issue of involuntary intoxication, he would have to file a successive post conviction appeal himself. More than likely, I will have to do the same. My attorney has made little to no progress in over 4 years.

The cell house had a totally different group of staff working due to how many guards did not show up for work. A lieutenant who typically works a different shift and quarter unit was also present. I was not surprised the man I occasionally will debate politics with called up to my cell. He joked about my beard and asked if I was protesting something. I retorted I was protesting the removal of Phil Robertson from the reality TV show "Duck Dynasty." Until he was re-contracted, I was not going to shave. In reality, however, I grow a beard every winter. Usually, I keep it trimmed short, but due to the unusual cold, I was keeping it a little longer.

After talking to my political antagonist, I tuned into the Rush Limbaugh show. One of the subjects of discussion was the research vessel which was on its way to measure the thickness of ice on the Antarctic continent. Due to heavy ice in the waters, it became trapped and two other ships were sent to rescue the team only to be trapped themselves. An American icebreaker was now on its way to free all of the ships and environmentalists were complaining about all of the fossil fuels burned. They claimed 5,000 trees needed to be planted to compensate for the carbon dioxide emissions. This was just ridiculous but even more so was a theory they presented about why the U.S. was experiencing one of its coldest winters in many years.

According to their theory, strong winds circle the Arctic and generally contain the extremely cold air at the North Pole. Because of the warming of waters, however, the "polar vortex" has been weakened. Slower wind speeds permit Arctic air to escape and reach lower latitudes such as in the contiguous U.S. This conjecture of warmer temperatures causing colder temperatures reminded me of an absurd movie which has been being repeatedly broadcast on the USA network recently. The Day After Tomorrow is based on another theory that if too much fresh water empties into the Atlantic Ocean it will stop its clockwise current bringing warm air from the equator to the east coast of the U.S. and northwestern Europe. The idea is extremely farfetched, but the movie spins it even further. Scenarios of New York City and the U.K. being abruptly hit by air so cold people are frozen in place is preposterous.

After taking a nap, I decided I was going to finally read a 500-page novel that has remained in my property box for months. Michael Crichton's book State of Fear was a work of fiction, but it incorporated many facts exposing the myth of global warming. What I like most about the author is that he does comprehensive research before writing a novel. At the end of State of Fear is a long bibliography of sources he used to create his story. Crichton often studies a fascinating although usually obscure or complicated bit of science, history, or other topic to be the basis of a book. He has done it repeatedly in other novels of his I have read including Andromeda Strain, Eaters of the Dead, Sphere, and Rising Sun. His most famous work was probably Jurassic Park. While all of these books were made into movies, I doubt State of Fear will be. Not because it is any less entertaining but because Hollywood fully embraces the environmentalist movement and the theory of global warming, despite how much of a farce it is. Politics always outweighs truth.

With a hot mug of tea by my side I read the first chapter, Akami, which was 180 pages before I realized the premiere of the TV show "The Bachelor" was on. The novel was captivating and I may have continued reading but I wanted to learn more about Juan Pablo Galadis. If he was not a man I could relate to in some fashion, I did not plan to watch the show at all. The fact that he was Venezuelan made me think I may not. Furthermore, I had suspicions the producers did not seek reality but wanted to promote diversity. They seemed very pleased the last bachelor gave his last rose to a Filipino woman and were hyping their marriage which will be broadcast. Juan Pablo Galadis seemed to be of European lineage without black or aborigine heritage. However, he gave his first impression rose to a mulatto woman which made me question if I would watch any other episodes.

Tuesday morning, sunshine was streaming into my cell from a southeast angle, but from television news I learned it was still extremely cold outside. A town adjacent to Cresthill where Stateville is located was reporting minus 15 degrees. Temperatures were expected to stay below zero again the entire day. News reporters were in various locations, even outside the Chicago metro area, bearing the frigid conditions which had moved deeper into the U.S. and to the east. It made me think how news programs hyped extreme weather for ratings as well as how much more interconnected the world was. News was no longer local but national and even global. Even without liberal or other influence groups, this type of reporting was going to skew peoples perceptions of reality or their values. Fears of global warming, terrorism, or crime can be inflated along with the acceptance of homosexuality, miscegenation, and other foreign or valueless ways of life.

With the penitentiary on lockdown a third day, I intended to complete the rest of Crichton's novel. Lockdowns presented an opportunity to have fewer distractions. The day began quiet, but gradually became louder. By the time lunch trays were passed out, I had put on my headphones. This did not prevent me, however, from hearing prisoners screaming for toilet paper. Once a week, supplies are passed out. Inmates are given a roll of toilet paper and two small bars of soap. Sometimes, a little tube of toothpaste and a 3" toothbrush are also handed out. When prisoners continued to yell for their toilet paper, the lieutenant jokingly shouted back that a cell house worker was selling rolls for a dollar. After some jeering, he said they better pay up now because tomorrow the price goes up to $2. My cellmate and I never understood the urgency and always had extra toilet paper. I told Anthony that even if I ran out there were plenty of things I could use to wipe my butt with, including his wash cloth.

With only a few breaks and distractions, I read almost nonstop. As the novel progressed it became increasingly more informative and I highlighted facts I found interesting or important. For example, Antarctica is 1-1/2 times the size of Europe and holds 90% of all the ice on the planet. Greenland, in contrast, has only 4% and if current trends continue it may lose its glacier mass albeit in a thousand years. Ice levels all the while on the South Pole are growing and are well over a mile thick. Carbon dioxide which many environmentalists believe contribute the most to the "greenhouse effect" represent less than a half of 1% of the atmosphere, or 375 parts per million. Records of carbon dioxide in the air do not correlate with temperatures. Furthermore, trends of temperature readings going back to the 1800s vary greatly globally and even between cities and their suburbs with some going up and others down. The most important fact to take away from the book, however, is that for millions of years, long before industrialization or even humankind, climate change has occurred. Scientists still do not understand all the factors which cause it and any long term projection is purely speculative. In fact, in the 1970s, there were worries of another ice age.

For fun, I boldly highlighted a sentence that read: "The American Indians were responsible for the extinction of the mammoth and other large mammals." The issue has been a matter of contention between my cellmate and me. Like many people, he has this misconception of the aborigines being peaceful, environmentally symbiotic people. Upon my showing him the highlighted area, he exclaimed it was a lie. The entire book was a lie to support the energy industry and my Lex Luther plan to destroy the planet while buying up oceanfront property in Alaska. Going along with his joke, I sinisterly laughed as if I was "Dr. Evil" in an Austin Powers movie. However, the truth is just the opposite and there are many groups which are trying to manipulate the public to believe in global warming even in the midst of what may be the coldest winter in decades. In the novel State of Fear, the villain with the diabolical plan is a radical environmental group, similar to the Earth Liberation Front.

I was glad to finish my reading before I went to sleep because the following day the penitentiary began most normal operations. The relative peace and quiet I had enjoyed was gone. Furthermore, I no longer had the benefit of room service and had to go out for my meals. Outside temperatures were just above zero and snow was piled up two feet on both sides of the walk bordered on both sides by cyclone fencing topped with razor wire. The path left only a small clearing wide enough for a double line of men to pass through. It made me wonder if I was not better off skipping meals. However, even in my cell I could not get away from annoying prisoners. One man stopped by my cell bars to ask me if I had been given any of his newspapers by mistake. The question insinuated I was keeping his mail, although he denied it. After he left I said to my cellmate, "Yes, they always give me your mail and I have been writing your mother for months. She hasn't told you?" The mail at Stateville is even more behind due to the holidays and winter weather.

In the evening, I watched the reality TV program "Survivorman." In this episode Les Stroud was in Grenada, an island in the Caribbean I did not think was much of a challenge to survive on. During commercials, I skipped through Crichton's novel reviewing segments. A part where an environmental group strategizes how to spread propaganda and move the public was interesting because it corresponded with what these groups do. All types of inclement weather is linked with global warming, even frigidly cold temperatures, so it is thought of as pervasive and so it is repeatedly reinforced in people's minds. Furthermore, it must be seen as catastrophic and imminent to instill fear. The fact that carbon dioxide emissions could increase to 500 parts per million and temperatures may go up a global average of a few degrees over the course of a century was not very frightening. It did not take an expert survivalist like Les Stroud to make it through any infinitesimally small gradual warming. In fact, it was like him taking a vacation in the Caribbean.

Finally, yesterday, the ominous "polar vortex" was beginning to recede back to its northern lair. Despite this, though, temperatures remained very cold and the day began at zero degrees. On the news, I learned parts of Lake Michigan and Lake Erie were beginning to freeze over. Meteorologists speculated that if the frigid weather persisted through the winter, most of the Great Lakes could ice causing shipping and other problems. The news made me think about the Pleistocene Epoch (last ice age) when a quarter of the Earth was covered in glaciers including most of North America and Europe. This was a very harsh and desolate time period unless one lived along the equator or the Fertile Crescent. Many plant and animal life died. It was not until 12,000 years ago when the glaciers retreated, leaving the Great Lakes they had carved out, that humans began to populate the northern latitudes. A greener, warmer world has been a benefit to not only mankind but to all life on this planet. Even if all ice melted as has happened before multiple times, there would be no catastrophe and more than likely the world would be a better place. Climate change is nothing to be feared. What people should fear are groups which try to manipulate public opinion to support their destructive political agendas.