Saturday, March 22, 2008

March 19, 2008

Tomorrow is the spring equinox, a time of renewal, with Easter Sunday right behind it. It's hard to believe that this year is about to enter the second quarter. The older I get the faster the years fly by, a commonly shared observation I know, but curious nonetheless...
About 10 days ago when I was out in the rec cages, we saw a dozen deer just outside the fences, along the edge of the woods; they were totally unafraid, just grazing on the long grass, unconcerned with us prisoners in our cages as we watched them mosey along. They were young deer (certainly small ones, as whitetails go) and rather frisky, occasionally kicking up their heels and skipping around, happy to be alive under a gloriously blue sky and radiant sun. Two young bucks squared off with each other, rearing up on their hind feet and briefly battering each other with their front hoofs. All of us stood silently, raptly watching this rare & unexpected display of nature, until the deer finally trotted off, leaping one by one over a low wire fence behind a guard tower disappearing back into the woods. These deer were smart enough to know that they were in no danger, even with humans just 100 feet away, that this was safe territory (being state property they are not at risk of being hunted here). Now each November, when deer season opens, I hear the dogs baying and the guns booming not far off, just over the tree lines, every day for weeks on end, yet the deer somehow know that they are safe if they stay right up against the prison grounds. Our deer never appear skittish even when the guns are banging a few hundred yards away...
Today, all the news programs marked the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq and President Bush gave a speech where he confidently declared that the war had been a great success and that he'd do it all over again if he was given a chance. He specifically said that "the sacrifices have been worth it," said by man who does not know the meaning of sacrifice. (you can bet none of his friends or family are dying in Iraq). This is the same president who announced that America is not in a recession. ("It's just a rough patch") and that the government has "a strong dollar policy". It's sad how clueless our fearless leader is.
Tonight I received notice that one of my short stories, The Man From Far Away won third place (short fiction category) in the 2008 PEN Prison Writing Contest. I usually enter a story in this contest (I've won before, a couple of times in past years). The PEN American Center is a prestigious association of well-known writers and poets and one of the neat benefits of winning is that they allow you to participate in a mentoring program where an established writer/author will critique some of your work. Some of these writers/playwrights/poets are very famous and it's a unique opportunity to have one of them give you advice & critique your writing...well, time to go, Sis. Give the doggies a hug for me!
Love, Bill

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

March 10, 2008

Dear Sis~
I guess I was guilty of excessiuve hubris when I assumed that Obama would win either the Texas or Ohio primary and would thus effectively sew up the Democratic nomination. Clearly I underestimated Hillary's ability to successfully fight and claw her way back from the brink of defeat. Now it looks inevitable that this battle will go all the way to the August convention, with Hillary & Obama attacking each other all the way, while John McCain sits on the sidelines smiling like the Cheshire Cat, looking presidential. This internecine warfare will be mutually destructive and may implode the Democrats' chance to win the White House if their eventual nominee comes out of a brokered convention with all the hallmarks of a back-room deal (especially if Hillary gets the nod over Obama if Obama enters the convention with the lead in delegates, which is a virtual certainty). This general election shopuld be the Democrats to win, but they may well snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. At least McCain is a decent and honorable man, with common sense and integrity, so if he prevails, it won't be a total disaster...
Gold closed at $980 an ounce last week, up 17% since January 1st. Platinum closed at $2,240 (up 48% since Jan 1st), while silver closed at $21 (up 38%) Virtually all commodities are up double digits (petroleum, copper, wheat aluminum, coffee, etc...) which will only continue the rest of the year. I think gold has the most upside, though, as an investment vehicle. I expect it to hit $1,000 an ounce very soon, and to be at $1,500 to $2,000 by years end. Gold has different dynamics than silver and platinum (i.e., it responds to different market forces) and an investor can buy into it easily by purchasing a gold ETF (Exchange Traded Fund), which trades like a stock on the stock market. I know there are also silver ETF's and probably a platinum-based ETF. Anyway, normally I'd never recommend investing in gold (it is terribly volatile) but the economy is in a very unique situation now (recession, inflation, stagflation) which makes gold a good bet for substantial gains. If I had a big chunk of money to invest, I'd put it all into gold. Another big reason for the rise in gold is because of the falling dollar. Gold, like petroleum, is priced in US dollars, so as the dollar falls, gold must rise (as must petroleum, which closed at a record $107.20 a barrel today). A bet on gold is a bet against the dollar, and unfortunately, a bet against the dollar is a safe bet. The dollar has been sinking like a rock for over a year and will continue to do so for some time to come due to the fundamental weaknesses in our economy and our fiscal/economic policies. Our economy is going to get a lot worse before it improves, believe that. (Preisdent Bush is about the only American who still believes we are not in a recession. Hell, we were in a recession back in December). So, if you hit the lottery or fall into an inheritance, my recommendation is to put it into gold!
Love, Bill

February 29th Leap Day

Dear Sis~
Here it is, Leap Day (oh boy, an extra day on death row!) and we're one day closer to the March 4th Democratic primaries in Texas and Ohio which, I believe, will mark the de facto end of Hillary Clinton's campaign to become the first female president, and the beginning of Barack Obama's fight to become the first black president. A lot can happen between now and November, but my money is on Obama over John McCain. McCain is a good and honorable man, but his time has come and gone; his time was eight years ago when Bush beat him out for the Republican nomination. The country in hungry for real, substantive change, away from the same-old-same-old, the status quo, and only Obama offers that. There will be a significant Democratic majority in both the senate and the house after the upcoming election, allowing Obama to push through the legislation necessary to bring about those changes. One thing this country needs to address is its addiction to incarcerating its citizens at the highest rate in the world. In today's USA Today is an article announcing that the "ratio of Americans behind bars tops 1 in 100." There are now 2.3 million American adults in jail or prison, "documenting the nation's rank as the world's No. 1 incarcerator." This is a trend that's been gaining speed for the last 30 years, with no end in sight. Americans (through their legislators) believe that prison time (and lots of it) is the answer to everything. It's like we have zero imagination (not to mention compassion or understanding) when it comes to addressing crime. Incarceration has become an incredibly huge and profitable business in America (the entire "criminal justice system" is big business in America, from the beginning (the police, lawyers, prosecutors, judges and jails) to the end (the construction and staffing of many, many prisons). We spent 49 Billion dollars on jails and prisons alone last year, which is serious money, and which creates a need to perpetuate itself. It's basic economics...
Alright, Sis, I'm going to hit the hay. Give the doggies a tummy rub for me!
Love, Bill