Tuesday, February 26, 2008

February 20, 2008

Dear Sis~
Just before 10:00 pm tonight I was standing on my bunk, posted up in my narrow, horizontal slit window, trying to catch the rare, full lunar eclipse, which was supposed to be preceded by a blood-red moon. The eclipse was supposed to last about 30 minutes but I never got to see it, either due to excessive cloud cover or, more likely, I simply could not view the moon from the narrow field of view offered by my window. At any rate, all I saw was a noticeable darkening of the night sky, as well as one of the prison's feral cats creeping across the yard to investigate some trash bins. I enjoy watching the night sky from my window, but due to the glare of the high-intensity fence lights, I can't do any real star gazing. Sometimes I catch the full or partial moon, sometimes I could see Venus or a particularly bright star, but more often, late at night, all I see is an occasional skunk, possum or cat, or some of the rats that race along the foundation walls. During the warmer months I'll sometimes see, around 2am, some strange-looking ground birds, nervously racing around the yard, silently stabbing their long, thin bills into the ground. I don't know what they're looking for, probably earth worms or crickets. Anyway, that's the extent of my night gazing ... not exactly a wildlife safari! (Somewhere, in the deepest reaches of my mind I'm probably hoping that a UFO will come cruising by and beam me up. That would sure make for an interesting headline when they found my cell empty...)
Obama won the Wisconsin and Hawaii primaries very convincingly yesterday; that's ten in a row Obama has won over Hillary; he's on a real roll and I think he's going to pull this off to become the Democratic nominee, and thereafter become president. (If the Democrats can't win the presidency this time, they can't ever win it. It should be a cake walk given how King George has screwed up our country over the last 7 years).
Love, Bill

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine's Day

Dear Sis~
Valentine's Day in the there's a bummer. I received the neat pics of the doggies; I like the one of Natasha "pointing" out in the yard (she's probably tracking a grasshopper) and the one of Harley lollygaggaing on your bed-he's a real ham. You've got two, good looking dogs for sure & they're obviously great pals now. I can't identify the purple flower on a tall stalk, the stalk looks sort of like a small banana plant; is that some kind of lilly? Anyway, it's beautiful, it looks tropical so I'm sort of surprised to see it in your back yard.
Well, the so-called "Potomac Primaries" are over and Barack Obama swept all three of them. I'm beginning to believe he's actually going to pul this off & win the Democratic nomination. Hillary has now gone all-in, especially betting everything on the Texas and Ohio primaries in a few weeks. If she loses those to Barack, I think she's through dealing. In fact, if she even loses one of those two, she'll be in serious trouble. I've been routing for Obama from the beginning, even if he's a little long on rhetoric and short on details, but I doubted his ability to defeat the Clinton machine. That machine is now proving to be vulnerable and Obama has the momentum (never underestimate the importance of momentum in politics, which depends on the heart more than the intellect). If Obama is the Democratic nominee, he'll be our next president. I, for one, welcome some serious change ...
Last week the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that execution by the electric chair was unconstitutional (i.e., cruel and unusual punishment). You may recall that, of the 37 states with capital punishment, Nebraska was the only one that stuck with the electric chair as a "back-up method" which the condemned prisoner can voluntarily choose over lethal injection. This puts Nebraska in a real quandry: they now have no legal means of execution. I doubt they'll rush to pass a law imposing lethal injection, given the constitutional debate going on over that form of execution. The US Supreme Court will rule in a few months on the constitutionality of the lethal injection procedures. Anyway, all this is just another reminder of the unseemliness of "tinkering with the machinery of death" as one ex-Supreme Court Justice once described it, as he announced he no longer believed in capital punishment (unfortunately, he waited until he retired from the bench before reaching that conclusion). Hopefully, one day enough Americans will become tired of figuring out ways to kill people.
Light & Love,

Sunday, February 10, 2008

February 5, 2008

Dear Sis~
The Chinese New Year is upon us; this is either the year of the Pig or the year of the Rat, I forget which, though I don't see either one as being particularly auspicious ...
As you can see from the enclosed confirmation letter, one of my short stories, Fake Identity, will be published in a book-length anthology of short stories, all written by prisoners from around the country. The book will be titled: Exiled Voices: Portals of Discovery, and will be published this Spring by the New England College Press, up in New Hampshire. My only remuneration is a couple of copies of the book, which I've asked to be sent to you, but I didn't write this for money anyway. There are some really, really excellent writers being included in this book (I'm familiar with the work of several of them) and hopefully, this book will open some eyes and educate the public to the fact that not all convicts (even most convicts) are mindless, violent brutes, notwithstanding the best efforts of the media to stereotype us as such.
There are so few positive stories coming out of the prisons, but this is one of them... There's a guy here on the row named Morrisette, been here about 7 years. Well, about 2 years ago the Court vacated his death sentence and ordered that a new penalty phase be conducted. Since then, his case has been in slow motion, with the State not being in any hurry to put another death sentence on him. So, for about 2 1/2 years, he's been sitting here on the row even though he is not sentenced to death. (he remains convicted, though). He's about 60 years old, very rarely leaves his cell and is pretty comfortable where he's at. Well, a few weeks ago, the warden started making noise about getting him sent to a regular prison (he has another regular sentence to serve besides his vacated death sentence), even bringing him some papers to sign, which he refused to do. He went into a flurry of activity, calling his lawyers daily to get them to stop his imminent transfer. He's almost in a panic and it struck me as more than a little humorous because, while the rest of us are fighting to get off death row, here is Morrisette, battling like Hell to stay on the row. I've never seen anyone scrap so hard to stay here! (See, he knows he'll be sent to a maximum security joint, probably Red Onion or Wallens Ridge, and he'll be held in solitary under harsh conditions, simply because he's ex-death row. (That's the fate of anyone who gets off the row here, although very few ever do get off in Virginia).
We finally went to outside rec today; we've only been going about once every 5 or 6 days since we moved to this building, even though the rules mandate rec five times per week. Anyway, it was beautiful outside, the sky was clear, very blue and sunny, perhaps 70 degrees. I fed my crows (hot dogs) and sparrows (cornbread); they followed me to our new building (they come when I call them). I enjoyed the day very much, and that counts for a lot; as the cliche' goes, I take it one day at a time & savor each moment above the ground.
Love, Bill