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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Last Samurai -- August 30, 2014

For centuries Japan had evolved into a powerful feudal system. During the era of the shogunate, the emperors were merely figure heads with warlords exercising authority over their fiefdoms. The power of the warlords derived from a warrior class known as the Samurai. The Samurai conducted themselves under a strict code which emphasized the values of loyalty, bravery, and honor. From early childhood, boys were trained in combat and their ethics were comparable to the ancient Spartans. They were not only the defenders of their lords but of a way of life. In the 19th century, however, a movement largely created through interaction with the U.S., caused a shift towards modernization. Feudalism was replaced with a centralized state under Emperor Meiji Tenna. Along with military technology developed in the West, Japan became a world power defeating China and Russia in two successive wars. Unfortunately, it then had the audacity to challenge the U.S. which led to its destruction; the Empire of the Sun had risen only to be quickly blotted out.

On Sunday, the highlight of my day was watching the Little League World Series Championship game. Jackie Robinson West had amazingly been given the national title after barely winning their last 3 games. It was doubtful they were the best kids baseball team in the U.S. considering that they squeaked by their competition and then tied with Las Vegas. Both teams had the same record in the regional playoffs double elimination round losing one game to one another. There seemed to be a need for a third game where either Jackie Robinson West or Las Vegas would have the opportunity to break the tie. However, this was never questioned by liberal media which adored the all black inner city team from Chicago. They never cared who was most deserving to succeed, but only in promoting equality.

Japan was ultimately brought to its knees in World War II when two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, the country was to rise from the ashes largely emulating past U.S. values and culture. Oddly enough, although baseball has ceased to be America's favorite sport, it remains to be in Japan and South Korea. Furthermore, unlike the U.S. which has moved away from a competitive meritocracy, the Japanese and Koreans still strive for excellence. Despite having only a third the population of America, I knew any baseball team they fielded in the Little League World Series most likely would win based on merit. When I turned on my television to watch the championship game I looked forward to seeing the South Koreans crushing Jackie Robinson West.

I surmise a quarter of prisoners in my cell house watched the game. Black inmates enthusiastically cheered for the inner city team throughout the series and they hoped Jackie Robinson West would be crowned world champions. I relished cheering for the Koreans as their pitcher struck out player after player and they tallied points when at bat. I thought the game was going to end by slaughter rule, but Korea played conservatively. I was reminded of the Samurais strict code of Bushido. Grandstanding was not acceptable and they played with strong self discipline and respect. The final score was 8 to 4, although this did not reflect how the South Korean team dominated.

After eating a "breakfast of champions" the following day, I began my cell workout. I was not a fan of karate which I did not think was as lethal as other martial arts. The Japanese sport relied too heavily on strikes regardless of how disabling or destructive they were to an opponent. Instead I had my own mix of martial arts which has served me well in prison. I practiced some of these movements in combination with my cardio vascular exercises. It was a hot humid day and by the time I finished my clothes were drenched in sweat. The sink in my cell had broken again requiring I wash with cold water. Getting a lather in cold water was difficult, but otherwise I did not mind.

The sergeant announced "chicken bones with noodles" for lunch over the cell house loudspeaker. I think he and other staff take joy in mocking the food prisoners are served. I did not intend to go to the chow hall, however, and would eat a package of sardines with Ramen noodles later in the day. South Koreans and prisoners in the U.S. apparently share the commonality of eating the instant noodles regularly. According to a newspaper I read, it is the most popular food in that country and they were upset that a college in America conducted a study which concluded it was very unhealthy. I have noticed it does have a high fat content, but assume the worst aspect is the level of sodium. In every seasoning packet is 4,800 mg. of sodium which is two times more than the FDA recommends in an entire day. This does not matter much to me, as I rarely use the salt.

Towards 11 a.m., I was allowed out of my cell and I walked down several flights of steps to the front door of the quarter unit. Steve was at his cell bars and asked me where I was going. Before I could answer, he said, "Crazy doctor?" Indeed, the high functioning autistic prisoner had a pass to see the psychologist. This time the doctor seemed more engaging and tried to be constructive. I was asked about my case and mentioned how I was convicted largely because the jury was misled to believe that I knew the victim was going to be killed. Members of the jury later remarked how awful they thought it was that I did not attempt to intervene or just warn him, allowing him to go to his death. I was impressed the psychologist remembered they also held me accountable for purportedly lending my car to my roommate. Occasionally, I do not know how much mental health care staff care or pay attention to their clients in prison as long as they are not hearing voices, about to kill themselves, or kill someone else.

Before my arrest, I had fewer problems dealing with the idiosyncrasies of autism. In prison, I cannot escape my environment and the persistent aggravations accumulate and prove to be greatly disturbing. The psychologist told me that the IDOC was considering opening up a ward in what once was the juvenile penitentiary in Joliet. The details have yet to be worked out but if appropriate she would recommend that I be transferred there. Because of my natural life sentence, I can never be eligible for a medium security prison where conditions would be better. However, it was clear to her that I should not be at Stateville.

In a Barron's newspaper which I read recently, there was an editorial condemning Germany for not returning all the artwork, property, and other valuables or assets taken during WWII. The editorial greatly annoyed me because never before in the history of warfare have countries been held liable for the seizure or expropriation of property. War is raping, looting, and killing. Furthermore, no other country has been held accountable for their conduct including the Soviet Union which by far committed the most horrendous and wide scale malevolence. On the yard while waiting for my turn to bench press, I spoke to Steve about the matter. He eventually receives my newspapers with the angry comments I made in the margins. Steve readily concurred with the hypocrisy and for a few minutes we also discussed the atrocities the U.S.S.R. committed in eastern Europe yet are commonly ignored by the media and writers of history.

The serious nature of our conversation was interrupted by prisoners around the bench. Another inmate, Horse, had gotten everyone's attention talking about the VH1 show "Dating Naked". According to him, there was an episode where a woman's genitalia and anus were shown without being blurred. She was suing the program for the indiscretion and claiming her current boyfriend dumped her after seeing the show. Apparently, he did not have a problem with her being on a naked dating TV program, but he did have a problem with the gaping expanse of her orifices. The Elephant, yet another inmate, stupidly asked me if there was a correlation between how big a woman's mouth was and the size of her "box". I would not entertain the silly question and told him to ask my cellmate "Quagmire".

The talk of prisoners abruptly ended when a torrential rain began to pour down. There is no cover on any of the yards and men did not know how to escape it. The Elephant took the top off of an ice bucket and put it over his head. Others seeing him with the improvised umbrella tried to get under the lid or his enormous 350 pound body. However, not everyone could get under The Elephant and they complained bitterly about being soaked. Amusingly, on the parallel yard a prisoner dumped ice water over another man's head. Inmates on the yard threatened to give Dr. Smith the ALS challenge as well but simply joked that he could not avoid a shower today. Smith was an old disheveled and filthy black man who was often the butt of jokes or ridicule. Personally, I did not care if it was pouring rain and lightning zigzagged across the sky. I continued to work out and was pleased I no longer had to share the two barbells. Unlike many people, I have a tremendous amount of self-discipline, fortitude and after 21 years, enhanced perseverance. A thunderstorm only had the effect of invigorating me.

Typically guards will take prisoners off the yards at the first sign of lightning. However, later I learned they were distracted by a fight in the chow hall. From what I was told, two men housed in the Roundhouse began to exchange blows and would not disengage. Guards had to subdue, handcuff, and take them to segregation. Since segregation is in the lower two galleries of the Roundhouse, they were simply sent back to the same unit but separated by placing them in different cells without their property. Eventually, they will be given their books, clothes, and hygienic items. After a month they will be moved yet again to the upper floors. Fighting is only disciplined by one month in Seg, although they could be cited with assault if anyone was seriously injured; assault carries more Seg time.

While my cellmate's wet clothes and my own dried in the cell, I took a nap and then watched news on CNN. The television station had on Bernard Sanders, a socialist congressman from Vermont. He was ridiculing U.S. companies like Burger King for moving their headquarters out of the country to avoid paying taxes. The practice of buying a foreign business and relocating is known as an "Inversion". I did agree inversion laws should be narrowed, however, a company's first loyalty is to its shareholders and they cannot maximize profits while paying the highest tax rate in the world. As former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan proposed, tax rates need to go down while closing loopholes. Strength through fair competition was not understood though by socialists like Sanders or Barack Obama. They appear to despise capitalism and most everything the U.S. once represented.

While not winning the Little League World Series, Jackie Robinson West was still given an enormous salutary celebration in Chicago. All local television stations broadcast the event and even CNN gave it some live coverage. Many of the prisoners at Stateville tuned in Wednesday to listen to the undeserved praise and tribute. Although I had my headphones on, occasionally I would hear them yelling to each other from their cells about the superiority of the black athlete. One convict claimed the only reason why the Asians beat them was because they cheated. He accused the South Korean Little League players of being older. This was preposterous and also ironic. All the players in the Little League tournament were between the ages of 11 and 13 and if there was any favoritism it was towards Jackie Robinson West. The Urban Initiative and other affirmative action programs or charities gave millions of dollars to advance baseball for inner city children. Also, the support given the team went well beyond financial aid and reminded me of how pervasive liberal ideology was in America.

Marxism sought a utopia where all people were equal despite how this was inherently false. Thus, the weakest groups of people had to be uplifted while the strongest were pushed down. They wanted to invert the natural order and along with it the values and culture which came with it. This was a great contrast to free and traditional societies where the strong prevailed and their ethics were emulated. During the era of the shogunate, it was the Samurai who reigned and their values were passed down within Japanese culture. The founders of the American Republic also sought a hierarchical order but without the rigid caste system. They created a Constitution which divided government to help secure liberty. It was a system where the individual was not only empowered but succeeded and failed on their own merit. The ideals of meritocracy are now embraced by conservatives and fought by liberals.

I left my cell to go to the chow hall. Had I known I would be waiting almost an hour for some plain turkey-soy tacos, I would have stayed inside. The reason for the delay was a prisoner in the line in front of me was knocked unconscious. I watched as guards gathered around him laying on the concrete bleeding. What I did not see was him being blindsided. Apparently it happened so quickly that guards did not know what occurred either. Later, in the chow hall, they collected all the IDs from inmates who were in line with the man who needed to be helped to the Health Care Unit. I believe they later used video footage to learn who struck him. Cameras are almost everywhere at this prison and although they may not be all monitored 24-7, they are always recording. In the serving line an inmate whispered to me that the man who was struck was a snitch. The code of convicts has deteriorated over the years I have been in prison, however, snitches still risk being the target of violence.

Later, mail was passed out and I received an old email from a private investigator I had been attempting to reach on the phone for a couple of months. Apparently, one of the blog processors misplaced it or had forgotten to forward it to me. John, the investigator, said that he would be willing to help investigate leads which will further corroborate my innocence except he was very uncomfortable seeking evidence which will demonstrate that my trial attorney was ineffective. The P.I. worked with William Von Hoene at Jenner and Block many years ago and he continued to feel a loyalty towards him. This is a problem I am beginning to realize. No one wants to cross the lawyer whose failure to contest the lies of the interrogating officer caused my conviction. However, I respected his sense of loyalty and will appreciate it if he is willing to work on other matters.

The following day I visited with my mother. She informed me that she spoke with the Illinois Innocence Project's case coordinator. The coordinator said they never received my Petition for Executive Clemency and suspected Stateville staff of tampering with my mail. The mail room staff is very slow and can occasionally mix up mail, but they did not open up my package, drive to Springfield and remail my petition using the unique return address sticker of the IIP. The only conclusion was that faculty or a student had mistakenly sent the petition back to me without making a copy for themselves. The confusion upset me. I will remail the thick brief. I think it is important the IIP sees my request to the governor for a pardon or commutation of sentence because it is very comprehensive and contains all the exhibits that show my innocence.

Before my visit with my mother I was listening to the John Kass and Laura Cohn radio talk show. It was amusing hearing them make fun of Governor Quinn's reception at the Jackie Robinson West celebration. When he was introduced there was dead silence and even when someone said, "Please give it up to our governor!" you could hear a cricket chirping. The humor of the show was disrupted when news reported thousands of Russians with tanks were crossing into Ukraine. This was reprehensible and can be fully blamed on the weakness of the Obama administration. Incredibly, he later addressed the nation beginning with an upward revision of the country's 2nd quarter GDP before talking about the crisis in Iraq and Ukraine. The country of Iraq was falling into chaos due to the withdrawal of U.S. troops. He responded that he had not yet developed a strategy. As for the invasion of Ukraine, perhaps he will increase economic sanctions against Russia. The incompetence and aloofness of the U.S. Commander and Chief was amazing.

The U.S. had to retake Iraq not because people had been decapitated or any humanitarian mission. It also was not necessary to react to ISIS because they were a significant threat to the U.S. The purpose is to control a strategic position in the Middle East and oil. America cannot be a dominant power using solar panels and wind mills. NATO needs to be beefed up and expanded to counter the power of Russia. The most significant purpose of the military alliance with European countries was to counter the power of Russia after Germany was defeated in WWII. It is very similar to the military presence the U.S. has in Japan and S. Korea. When Japan surrendered, it left a power vacuum. The Empire of the Sun was a counterweight to Chinese and, to a degree, Russian hegemony.

The centralization of feudal power and advanced Western weaponry made Japan a military juggernaut. It quickly came into conflict with Asia's historically dominating authority, China. In 1894, war erupted over influence in Korea. The superior Japanese forces easily decimated Chinese troops despite their far greater numbers and they were forced to grant the penninsula independence. After Japan defeated Russia a decade later, Korea was annexed and it remained a part of the Empire of the Sun until the end of WWII when Soviet forces flooded into North Korea as in eastern Europe. Their communist allies attempted to take full control, but U.S. General MacArthur retook Korea and sought an invasion of China. Unfortunately, President Truman relieved him of command and a peace treaty was signed leaving Russia and China ominous threats to this day.

Having not secured a new lawyer to represent me on appeal, I asked someone to contact a few on my behalf. Yesterday, I was informed this was done but their responses were not very promising. One said he would look into the matter which I took as a polite way of saying he was not interested. Another wanted a minimum of $50,000 up front which I also took as a rebuff as it was well beyond my means. The last attorney had the most haunting words for my former classmate and they continued to reverberate in my thoughts into the night. He suggested that she quit chasing ghosts. Often I think of myself as a dead spirit from a bygone era.

Before I went to sleep I watched the film "The Last Samurai" which is what gave me the inspiration to write this post. The movie takes place in the late 1800's when a young Emperor Meiji Tenna was influenced to dismantle the feudal system. U.S. military equipment as well as some personnel were sent to help the emperor consolidate power. In one of the ensuing battles an officer played by actor Tom Cruise is captured by the Samurai. Because of the courage and skill he displayed, they allow Cruise to live. In the Japanese village, he begins to admire the warrior class and that of their traditions and values. He knew modern society was going to vanquish it and later he battled alongside them as a Samurai. They fought gallantly, but were vanquished in the end. The Japanese troops were armed with the same weapons which had created fields of blood in America's Civil War. The Samurai knew they would be defeated. However, as I learned over the decades, it was better to die with honor than live an empty and sorrowful existence.