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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Paul's Response to the Podcasts - Part 1

Reply All was a small upstart podcast program that premiered in 2014. The ratings were poor and producers struggled to increase the show's audience. I received overtures from the podcast as well as a few others and ignored them until Sruthi Pinnamaneni sent me a letter in mid-2015.  I appreciate people who take the time to write me directly at the penitentiary and will almost always respond. Sruthi initially came across as a genuinely nice person seeking an interview about my life and blog. The blog was supposed to be extinguished as my life had been long ago yet many people continued to express an interest in hearing those death knells. Thus, for blog readers and to some extent myself, I thought an obituary was in order. Although I was aware Reply All was produced by amateurs eager for media recognition, I did not expect the podcast to slip into tabloid journalism nor a malicious attack on my innocence.

Towards the end of my blog writing, I was informed a few radio broadcasts were interested in speaking with me. I inquired if any of them were Rush Limbaugh.  No, none of them were my favorite and most listened to conservative talk show in America. Unfortunately, they were all liberal news programs with niche or minuscule audiences. I had no interest in being a guest caller or the subject matter of a left-wing radio broadcast that I had never heard of. Eventually, however, I was told National Public Radio wanted to interview me for a show.  NPR is a station which can be heard across most of the country. It has a liberal slant, however, due to public funding has some programs which are objective and or just meant to be informative. Under those circumstances, I was open to being on their show.

In July of 2015, I received a letter from Sruthi. She introduced herself as a reporter for Reply All. She mentioned that a couple of people who work with her formerly worked on another show at NPR. She provided a phone number and said a prepaid account had already been established. I rarely listen to NPR and spent the next couple months trying to find the time her program was being broadcast so I could assess the quality, subject matters, and slant of the shows, if any. I tuned in days and nights at various hours, but found nothing. My cellmate stayed up very late watching television and I asked him to tune in periodically. He told me none of the shows introduced themselves as Reply All or were hosted by any of the names I gave him. I began to wonder what obscure time or day this broadcast was transmitted and if it ever was transmitted on the Chicago area affiliate.

It was autumn when I eventually spoke with Sruthi Pinnamaneni. Unbeknownst to me, the business card she sent had her own cell phone number on it and she asked if I could call her back at the studio. I informed her that this would necessitate having the new number approved and then entered into the prison's collect call system provider. She then would have to set up a new prepaid account with Securus. Instead, we just spoke on her cell phone and this is when I first learned she was not a reporter or host of a NPR program. In fact, her show was not even broadcast on the radio but the Internet. I had never heard of a podcast before and she had to explain it. Later, I asked a guard if he ever heard of a podcast. He said yes, but never listened to any. They were a low budget way for anyone to gain a public audience. My cellmate commented that the "news reporter" may actually be a pretender operating out of her basement. Maybe, he jested, she was just a blog fan.

In my subsequent conversations with Sruthi, I did sense she was intrigued by my blog. We spoke at length about how it was created, some of the posts and why I wrote them, as well as why I ceased to write them. She was very friendly and I liked to occasionally joke with her although she often missed my flat humor. I sensed the host of Reply All was an amateur and did not quite know what would be the focus of her narrative. I agreed to work with her to produce one half-hour program about the blog that would also lightly cover my life and injustice. Somewhere along the line, she or her colleagues at Reply All had different ideas. Possibly, their objective was malicious from the beginning.

With a name like Sruthi Pinnamaneni, I knew she was an East Indian before I called her. I was surprised when she didn't have that unique accent I encountered before my arrest when 7-11 employees took my order and inquired if I wanted a Slurpy. She said the reason she was without an accent was because she wasn't an East Indian but a South Indian. Sruthi was from Hyderabad, India. I never heard of anyone claim to be a South Indian and it amused me. In the U.S. there are only American Indians or Eastern Indians. This is how Americans distinguish between the natives and those actually from India. In jest, I inquired if she was a South American native. Maybe, I mused, she was a descendant of the Inca peoples. From then on I referred to her as a South Indian and that is where the short clip of me saying she was a South Indian socialist and Gandhi supporter in the first episode came from.

Most of our conversations occurred during the early part of the tumultuous Republican presidential primary. Much to Sruthi's displeasure, I spoke glowingly of Donald Trump. The style and messaging of his campaign was phenomenal.  It was not that of a polished career politician, but unfiltered, bold, and nationalistic. He exuded strength and leadership. His business acumen was also in dire need in the U.S.  Barack Obama's 8 year tenure had doubled the debt and led to anemic economic growth. America had the lowest workforce participation rate since the Great Depression and those with jobs had seen wages decline. In contrast, Donald Trump had turned a million dollars into over a billion dollar real estate empire. He also had a unique and brilliant prescription for decreased employment and earnings. All the Republican candidates supported lower taxes and government, however, Trump saw how international free trade agreements were harmful. He advocated for better trade agreements which put America and American workers first. The disaster of a Obama-Clinton foreign policy was obvious to all Republicans. Yet, again, Donald Trump deviated from the pack. He sought a policy where America's military and alliance network served real politik interests. Finally, Trump unabashedly rejected an open-borders cosmopolitan state overrun by foreigners, drugs, and terrorism. To me, the most dangerous existential threat to the U.S. is not Russia, China, N. Korea, or ISIS. It is the crumbling of the racial and cultural center of America. A house divided cannot stand. "Make America great again" is a powerfully appealing motto.

Sruthi Pinnamaneni loathed Donald Trump. She is a left-wing liberal who had spent most of her career advocating when possible for socialist and humanitarian causes. She was born in India but had traveled a lot eventually finding comfort in the polygot metropolis of New York City. She is a globalist and fails to see the importance of national sovereignty or U.S. exceptionalism. In fact, she once told me she thinks of all borders around the world as lines in the sand. Compare this with "I'm building a wall!" or Donald Trump's immigration stance which the East Indian reporter could be directly affected by. She is not a U.S. citizen and has two anchor babies. The podcast briefly mentions our political discourse, however, there were a number of heated arguments which at times led to her bitterly ending the conversation.

Considering Sruthi Pinnamaneni was creating the podcast, people may think it was unwise or even foolish for me to have such abrasive debates. However, I am not good at being anyone except my authentic self. As is mentioned in episode 1 of the podcast, I find most people as duplicitous. In contrast, I don't put on facades. Sruthi wanted a story about the blog and the blog is me and a quintessential part of me is my politics. I grew up fondly in the era of Ronald Reagan and quickly became a staunch paleoconservative. I believe strongly in rugged individualism, liberty, and nationalism. In my first and only election, I voted for the anti-establishment businessman Ross Perot over George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton because of his economic and America 1st messaging including his vehement opposition to NAFTA. Jeb Bush has been rejected and Americans have a chance to choose another Clinton or a new path. It is a monumental decision in the fate of this nation and more important I thought than my blog. Later, however, Reply All would change its focus to my criminal conviction.
To be continued.....