Monday, May 09, 2005

April 21, 2005

Dear Sis,
I just returned from the "Yard" ( a real misnomer inasmuch as our outside recreation consists of being placed in a series of fenced-in cages, or "dog runs" as I call them, each one about the size of our cells) and I'm in a good mood. The weather was beautiful, about 70 degrees, clear, blue skies, the air clean and fresh, and I threw bread to the gang of little sparrows that always seem to be waiting for me. They know me by sight & know they're going to be fed, the fat little suckers. We've got 3 or 4 large crows, though, that hang about & when the crows show up the little birds hide. Anyway, as I always do, I spent my 2 hours pacing back and forth, mostly talking with my neighbor, Bill. He's an ex-colonel in U.S. Army Military Intelligence, and a very interesting character. His case is very unusual and intriguing; I seldom say this about guys I meet on the row, and I don't say this lightly, but I'm pretty certain that Bill is totally innocent. Any thinking person who objectively examines this guy's case has to entertain the same thought. It's the kind of story you expect to see on 20/20 or Datleine or 48 Hours. He's very fortunate in that now he has a powerful and prestigious law firm out of Seattle representing him in his post conviction proceedings. The firm is Preston Gates & Ellis, and the Gates is Bill Gates, Sr. the father of that Bill Gates. If he would have had quality lawyers at his trial he wouldn't even be here; I just hope it isn't too late for him. At any rate, I'm relaxing for awhile, waiting on our supper tray (I heard it's hot dogs tonight). It's interesting how happy a couple of hours of "yard" can make me. It really doesn't take a whole lot to please me (or anyone) when you're on the row; life is reduced to the simplest of pleasures, a sunny day, a fresh breeze, a chirping bird, the swaying pine trees off in the distance. On the flip side, other than the state trying to kill me, I don't have a lot of worries either. No mortgage payments to sweat, no stressing out about bills, or insurance, or traffic jams, no moaning about a lousy job & an obnoxious boss. So, it all balances out, right. Here, like everywhere, there's a certain equilibrium to be found and maintained.

I thought I was reasonably knowledgeable about this type of thing, but I was surprised to read about an incident in 1958 where a B-47 accidently dropped an atomic bomb in a rural field in South Carolina. The high explosive content of the 4-ton bomb exploded, injuring a family and destroying their farm house and out buildings, while leveling an acre-sized circle of pine trees. The nuclear core remained on the plane, luckily. It fell while a crew member was tugging on a strap, trying to unjam a switch, and he accidently hit the "emergency release" button. It just goes to show you that no matter how many precautions you take, there's always the element of human error, and when the consequences are so severe it makes you wonder what we were thinking about in the first place (flying training missions with live nuclear bombs hanging by straps in the bomb bay). The whole world immediately learned of the incident & the Russians astutely pointed out that had there been an actual atomic explosion, it probably would have precipitated an all out atomic retaliation by America against the USSR, because we would have believed we'd been attacked by them. (That was the height of the Cold War and all sides had itchy trigger fingers back then). Wouldn't that be something, to have a simple accident like that initiate a nuclear holocaust? The end of the world because someone tugs on the wrong strap? That's a pretty good definition of insanity.

They say there's no education in the second kick of a mule, and that certainly seems to be the case with this nation when it comes to our gasoline/energy situation. Apparently we learned nothing from the gas shortages of the 70's which I still vividly recall. I watch the news and see everyone complaining about the high price of gas, but they better get used to it. We will never again see the bottom side of $2.00/gallon of gas. (Actually even @ $2.00 a gallon gas is now priced at historic lows, when inflation is factored in). The Europeans regularly pay $4.00 to 5.00 per gallon, which is one reason they're so far ahead of us on conservation and energy efficient technology. We Americans are so spoiled & shortsighted. In reality high gas prices are a good thing, a necessary cattle prod to make us change our energy-ignorant and energy-foolish habits and policies. The truth is that cheap oil has been our biggest problem for the last 30 years 'cuz it makes us complacent enough that we've not needed to (nor had the foresight to) make the necessary technological investments to wean ourselves away from oil. And of course that's just fine with the big oil companies who, along with OPEC, has America by the short hairs ( and apparently we like it, given our lack of a response or coherent energy policy). Hey, it's no accident that none of the oil companies have built a single new refinery in America in some 30 years. That self-imposed "lack of refinery capacity" is their twice-a-year excuse for their predictable price hikes (which generate billions in extra profits during the weeks these "spikes" last). Nobody ever questions why the industry refuses to build more capacity. Right about the time the crying gets really bad & questions begin being asked, the "crisis" suddenly eases and the spike falls back to relatively normal ranges & everyone changes the subject. It's a real dog & pony show done right in front of us, twice a year, like clockwork. I'm not a knee-jerk anti-business guy; I know that business is what makes this nation run. But I also know a hustle when I see one, especially one that's been running for decades, with a wink and a nod from politicians, and abetted by incredible public apathy & general ignorance of the subject. The oil compaies understand just where the equilibrium is, where the pain threshold is, how to keep prices high enough to reap major profits without angering the public enough to make them rebel and demand solutions and changes. You know, the best thing that could happen to America, in the long term, is to see permanent $100/barrel oil prices. It would be a bad blow to the economy but it would be the kick in the teeth we need to force us to take the necessary steps. Our lack of foresight and our unwillingness to sacrifice for a greater good is sad. Cowardly politicians are at least partly to blame; nobody wants to tell the public what they need to be told; they'd rather tell the public what they want to hear (Low gas prices! Drive big cars! Everything is fine!) Where the hell are the leaders?? But ultimately the weight is on the public's apathetic shoulders. We're the ones who vote these people in. When it comes to energy policy we've failed to understand the most basic laws of the Universe: you reap what you sow, and eventually all chickens come home to roost.

I didn't mean to preach! I'll wrap this up and post it. (I got the pics you sent, including Toby the tortoise! The house looks good & the red rock desert is beautiful!)

Love & Peace,

P.S. Did you ever watch the Extreme Makeover Home Edition? It's on ABC every Sunday evening; it's a program where a building crew finds a very deserving & needy family and they build them a new house in 7 days. It's really the best show on TV, period, and I dare you to watch an entire program without shedding tears.

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