Help Me Reverse the Trend

Nine months ago, on the hottest day of July, at 2:47pm, I ran a 6:09 mile.  I had not run a mile at any reasonably respectable speed since the fall of 1993, when I ran a 5 minute mile on the tarmac at Goodfellow AFB.  Back then I was single, weighed 160 pounds, and had yet to discover alcohol, sushi, second breakfast, and a great many other vices that can impede performance.

Anyway, I would not have run nearly that fast last July had I not had a compelling incentive; there were 11 members of the Mexican Mafia of Marion at the track, ready to enforce the outcome of the event.  You see, I was racing against one of their own.  El Conejo was 22 and very eager.  I suspect he had never had the straight-up opportunity to beat a white man at anything.  He drank a contraband energy drink before the race and was bouncing around the track.  I was stretching and drinking water.

If I won, which they all deemed highly unlikely, then a friend of mine who had gotten himself into debt with the MMM (and had no easy way to repay), would be released from their grip.  If I lost, then this friend of mine would become the, how shall I say this, the ‘servant’ of the MMM.  It was imperative I win, and so I had skipped my normal morning weight-lifting and scheduled the run at the hottest time of the day.  You see, although El Conejo was much younger than I and undoubtedly quicker, I had regularly been running two or three miles a day in the heat.  Although I was running slowly, I thought for sure the endurance I’d built up would count for something.  El Canejo would steal a chicken from the kitchen and run to the dorms, or outrun virtually any throw to first on the softball field, but otherwise, he engaged in no physical activity I could observe.  He also smoked.  I thought I had a decent chance.  Besides, my friend had nothing to lose and due to his credit rating, no other hope.  His confidence in my performance was such that he didn’t even show up to watch.

There was one white man there as a witness, a politician, and runner himself, whom I had befriended.  I later learned he had bet heavily on me, but he was the only one there who did.  Although by the final lap there was a decent crowd of non-Mexicans there, at the beginning we were lonely, and it looked bad.

At the signal, we began, he in a full out sprint.  I ran the fastest pace I thought I could maintain for four laps.  He finished the first lap 100 yards in front of me and his gang taunted me.  At the end of the second lap, I had caught him and a growing group of white guys were cheering.  At the end of the third lap, he was 10 yards behind me and I knew he was finished.  I was gradually increasing my speed and he was breathing very heavily and coughing.  I gave it everything I had that last lap and crossed the line at just over 6 minutes.  He collapsed well short of the finish line about 30 seconds later.  When I left 10 minutes later he was still on the ground, motionless.  The MMM released the debt as agreed.  I was a little sore the next day; El Canejo never got out of bed.

The almost-six-minute mile was an anomaly.  My average three mile time, until four months ago, was about 24 minutes.  Nothing to be proud of unless you’re 38, white, high-mileage and have lost 100 pounds.  I had put a lot of work and more than a decade into that weight.  Shedding it required more work.

Regrettably, over the last four months I’ve not been able to maintain the same hour a day lifting weights and 3 mile a day routine that I had come to enjoy.  It’s caught up to me.  My three mile time, shown below, has slipped by four minutes and my pants have shrunk.  At this rate, by Christmas I’ll have trouble walking to the kitchen and back between meals without having to pause to catch my breath and I’ll be back to shopping at Nashville Tent and Awning for clothes.

My goal is to raise money for the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Gallatin by running in their 5k in July.  This is a more noble goal than simply running to lose weight.  There may even be an indulgence attached to it, although I haven’t found a direct mention of it in the Raccolta and Father hasn’t returned my phone call about it.  SVDP does great work helping out truly needy families who are facing emergencies.  I’d like to win my weight class, at least.  It would be nice if I could place highly in the Over 35 and Under 40 Sedentary Male category.  If I could finish in sight of the soccer moms who do Pilates, yoga, cross fit and P90X between visits to get hair, nails and skin done, that’d be even better.  Regardless, I’m posting this as a sort of universal accountability measure.  I’m sure you’ve heard of UAM before.  Now that I’ve put this out there, I’m much more likely to stick with my running plan.  Stay tuned.


Towards the end of the run I noticed a gym employee watching me nervously from across the room.
Towards the end of the run I noticed a gym employee watching me nervously from across the room.

BLM Tactical Retreat

When the Feds backed off their siege on the Nevada ranch I posted on FB the following, “Nevada rancher beats the feds….for now.”  I don’t for a second believe his tangle with the central government is over.

One of the best quotes I heard while on my, er, sabbatical, was the following; “They [the Feds], can make lots of mistakes; we can’t

Humiliation is a powerful motivator.  You can bet they will try again.
Humiliation is a powerful motivator. You can bet they will try again.

make any”.  The man who uttered this was referring to the fact that if the Feds are after you, they only need one misstep by the target to justify an arrest, indictment and conviction.  They, on the other hand, might and usually do make lots of tactical and strategic mistakes along the way, but they have the time, resources and immunity from litigation or prosecution to recover from them.  In the end, they’ll get the target, one way or another.  They have the disadvantage of the burden of proof, but they have every other advantage in the “game”.

I knew a guy who had been under investigation for 20 years, and knew it, but had remained beyond their reach because of his caution, discipline and paranoia.  It only took one single phone call and violation of his own rules and it all came crashing down. In his mind, he had been so disciplined for so long and was seemingly beyond reach that he had unconsciously dropped his guard.  He thought he was invincible.  Like a black swan event, the prospect of his arrest had become unlikely, and while at any given moment it might have been, in the long-run it was actually almost certain.   He got 21 years for selling (lots of) marijuana.

Anyway, I thought of this because of a recent article which suggested the Feds will simply retreat, review, and pursue a different angle where victory is assured.  It’s basic military (and political theory); pick the battles you can win and then use overwhelming force.  So much was wrong about the BLM decision making (and I don’t mean wrong in a moral sense (although it might be, I mean, the political execution of it), my guess is the second stringers were making the early decisions.  You can bet the big leaguers will call the shots for round two.   By Mr. Grigg:

When the ATF attacked the Branch Davidians outside Waco in February 1993, the expectation was a quick and painless victory over an eccentric religious sect and a public relations boost for the scandal-plagued agency. This is why the assault was code-named “Showtime.”

The Davidians, however, refused to follow the script. When the ATF stormtroopers arrived at the sect’s sanctuary at Mt. Carmel, David Koresh – who had known of the impending assault, and released an ATF informant rather than holding him as a hostage — attempted to de-escalate the confrontation, only to be answered by a murderous volley of gunfire. Rather than allowing themselves to be shackled or slaughtered, the Davidians stood their ground, killing four of the assailants in a morally unassailable exercise of self-defense and forcing the ATF to retreat.

Because the Regime cannot countenance resistance, the FBI laid siege to the Davidians for 51 days before the final assault that left of scores of Davidians dead from fire, asphyxiation, and gunfire.

In 1973, a band of Sioux activists at Wounded Knee held off the FBI and the US military for 71 days, demanding respect for their rights under treaty law, accountability for the corruption of federally installed tribal dictator Dickie Wilson, and investigation of unsolved murders. The Feds replied with the largest domestic military deployment since the last confrontation at Wounded Knee in December 1890, an undisguised slaughter carried out by the vengeful Seventh Cavalry that amounted to an American Babi Yar.

In response to the 1973 protests, Armed FBI agents, U.S. Marshals, SWAT teams, and teams of Wilson’s paramilitary “GOON Squad” formed an iron ring around the village of Wounded Knee. Colonel Vic Jackson, head of the Pentagon’s Civil Disorder Management School, was called upon by the FBI to implement the notorious “Operation Garden Plot” martial law blueprint. The FBI’s plan called for the Army would invade and “pacify” the village before the FBI went in to “arrest” whoever might survive the onslaught. Armored Personnel Carriers were on hand to deal with what were described as “bunkers” (and were, in fact, root cellars). Phantom F-4 jets flew low-altitude reconnaissance runs over the town.

At one point…

Here’s the rest of it.

Update:  Ms. Kwiatowski has an interesting take on things.

Chaos, Complexity, Uncertainty and Control

I have found the study of chaos and uncertainty to be fascinating, especially as it regards human behavior, perception and decision making.  Chaos and complexity, or even the perception of them, have profound influence on the way we think and the decisions we make.  As I reflect on my life and judgments, I see how chaos can help to radically refine previously held assumptions and quickly narrow priorities.  It can also bewilder and paralyze.  Complexity can be equally difficult to consider.  I know that some of my worst decisions resulted in a failure to adequately contemplate every conceivable outcome from a decision.  In fact, that’s probably impossible to do, which ought to require an increased abundance of prudence in decision making, particularly where the risks and costs of failure are both high, or even if it is only the latter.  That rare event with catastrophic events shouldn’t be discounted.

It is interesting to me also, from a societal standpoint, how groups of people respond to these things.  Beyond chaos and complexity is the uncertainty of future (or even present) realities.  What we believe to be true about ourselves and others is usually wrong.  We tend to overstate our own strengths and others’ weaknesses.  This inability to accurately evaluate reality should frighten us and greatly undermine our confidence in making decisions.

After a few years on ‘sabbatical’, dealing with a rather closed society well-suited to extensive study and observation, and a great deal of ‘free’ time to reflect, I have reached some conclusions about how people deal with uncertainty and how much many humans seem to need a great deal of control (interior and exterior).  For all of our society’s talk of freedom and liberty, especially our individualistic culture, it seems that we are not well suited to it.  That is, we claim to like it, perhaps it is pleasurable, but it is not really consistent with our good.  More on that later.

Here’s a fascinating article if you are, like one FB friend described me, a ‘nerd’:

Before anyone jumps to the conclusion that I am insensitive to the fate of the 239 persons aboard Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, and to their families and friends, let me assure you that I empathize as much as others with the suffering inflicted upon these people. But there is something more significant about the presumed deaths of these 239 persons.

For a month, the mainstream media, government officials, and seemingly millions of other individuals, have been obsessed with finding not only the plane, but the explanation for its disappearance. Why such a highly energized interest? Is it the destiny of the 239 persons aboard the flight? During the same time period that this flight has been missing, some 682 military veterans committed suicide, a figure more than two-and-one-half times the numbers aboard this airliner. There have been prior plane crashes that claimed more victims, but without the preoccupation attending this one. Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and other natural events have taken more lives but, being “natural” occurrences, are understood to be part of the uncertainties that attend life on our turbulent spaceship. Wars have led to the deaths of millions of equally innocent men, women, and children, but most of us have internalized the insane proposition that wars are essential features of “civilization.” We are supposed to have wars, they are what make us “exceptional!”

The explanation for our obsession with Flight 370 can be found, I suspect, deep within our individual and collective psyches. You may recall The Twilight Zone episode in which an airliner full of passengers finds itself trapped in some fourth-dimension above New York City. The pilots try desperately to land the plane, only to discover that the city below them has no present existence, being as it was decades earlier. We are asked to imagine ourselves in such a dire situation, and to listen for the endless sounds of engines as those aboard this plane seek to overcome their apparent fate.

You can read the rest here.

Limbo Is Real

It used to be believed by Catholics that a place existed where souls who were destined for heaven but were prevented from the beatific vision remained, awaiting Christ’s Ascension, or in the case of those guilty only of original sin,  for some sort of divine indulgence (presumed).  Like so many other traditions of the Catholic Church this belief has been abandoned by laity and cleric alike.  But limbo IS real.  I live in limbo right now.

It is a component of the criminal “justice” system that when a convict is finished with the imposed sentence he will remain in a period of limbo for a period of time, in my case, three years.  The convict is no longer incarcerated, but is still subject to the full weight of the federal government.  Not that every living person isn’t already, but in a more particular way.  It is a quirk of the system that although I have retained my first amendment rights, and thus, I may write this post, and for the time being, practice my faith publicly, I have lost my 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th and 14th amendment rights.  For the 99% of you unfamiliar with the Bill of Rights and other constitutional amendments, here’s a link.

In brief, because of my conviction for mail and securities fraud, I may not posses a firearm (or even be in close proximity to one, lest I be deemed to have potential control over it), I may not refuse any search, reasonable or not, of my being, property, or the space I may occupy in private or public, I may not move about as I wish or need, I may not seek the best possible employment, I lack the freedom to remain silent, I do not have the right to a speedy trial or to confront my accusers, I may suffer, as I have already, cruel and unusual punishments or unreasonable bail requirements, and I do not benefit from the Due Process and Equal Protection laws of the 14th amendment.  The central government refers to this condition as ‘Probation’.  Probation infers a time of testing or trial, but since this period seems to me to include also a punitive condition-the denial of certain benefits accorded to others, albeit not perfect union with God, I think limbo is more appropriate.

I am told I will remain in this state for three years.  There is nothing I can do to help myself.  There is nothing that anyone else can do to help me.  I am not truly suffering in limbo, at least, not at the moment, and if I were, I suppose that would prove purgatory rather than limbo.  It is possible that at the end of three years, my time in limbo could be extended, even indefinitely, if the court is not pleased with me.  It is very likely that if the court looked hard enough, it would definitely NOT be pleased with me, because I hold many thoughts in my mind which would likely to be offensive to God and any number of people, modernists, yankees, communists, et al, and because most of us commit a felony every day anyway.  Sometimes more than one.  So it’s merely a matter of choosing to get you, not whether they can.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no plans to commit a crime.  I do not wish to leave limbo and return to purgatory.  It is just that I am both aware of the reality of my vulnerability-unlike, probably, you-and, perhaps more importantly, I no longer live in fear.  I am not indifferent to the future or to suffering, but somewhat more accepting of realities which I cannot change, and which, while unpleasant, and perhaps even unavoidable, may actually work for my good.  You don’t need to be a Catholic, or even a Christian to believe these things, although being one for many does not lead to this truth.  You need not even be a Buddhist, who practice a form of detachment which to me seems detached also from virtue.  I’m not that fond of virtue myself, vice always being more enjoyable, but I do hold virtue in my mind as something good and desirable.  It is inescapable, however, that suffering can be good for you.

It is ironic, to me, and I do love irony even when it is the hammer and I the anvil, that I retained this most potent civil protection of the 1st Amendment.  Is it because my expression of thought and faith are not dangerous, and thus the courts have found no cause to restrict them?  That surely cannot be, because I admit freely that both my thoughts and faith are dangerous to the status quo.  (Clarification, it is not ‘my’ thoughts but rather those beliefs which I adhere to which are dangerous to tyrants and modernists and their way of life, so before you report me to the thought police, reflect carefully, please).

Is it then, that I retain these first amendment rights because the courts have recognized that, however dangerous my expressions may be to society and the government, they are so fundamental to a free society that even for me, the lowest and most dangerous of society’s members, they must remain unimpeded?  Odd, isn’t it?  The pen is mightier than the sword, and there has never been a time when this adage was more true.  Surely the war of ideas is bringing about greater consequences now than in any previous generation.

Or is it that the most helpless members of a society are always the first to suffer as rights dissolve generally, and this should be seen by the rest of you as a warning about the erosion of rights? As a convict, I am certainly in that class of the helpless, stripped of the most basic forms of self defense, for even my conscience is not safe from examination and I lack the protections seen by the founders as being most important for the promotion of individual liberty.  Does the way in which we treat the untouchables and the unwanted in a society act as prediction of the future of of our culture?

Read Animal Farm, if you haven’t lately, and then write me about your thoughts.

Now I Can Speak

On my first day in federal prison, I was offered sex, drugs, alcohol and a cell phone, but it would be months before I had the opportunity to see a Catholic priest.

I had already spent nearly a year in a county jail, waiting to be sentenced and shipped to a federal prison, sharing a 15’x18’ concrete cell with 12 violent, career criminals, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  During that 11 months, I believe I saw a Catholic priest on three occasions.  It might have been four, but it’s tough to remember those kinds of details when so much of that time was spent in adrenaline fueled survival mode, a bag of batteries in a sock in one hand for defense and a sharpened toothbrush in the other.  The Priest, pastor of the local Catholic church, came after tiring of my mother’s calls begging for him to visit me.  Or perhaps it was her prayers and not calls that were efficacious.

I was glad to see him.  His liturgy was not exactly the Missa Cantata I had frequented with my family prior to my arrest, but he brought with him forgiveness and compassion-as rare in prison as in the world.

Over the course of my 40 months in federal custody, Catholic services were rare.  In contrast, evangelical protestants had frequent-as often as daily-services.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Nation of Islam were also very active, both in their evangelization and their activities.  It was not at all unusual for the Catholics to go months without any services at all, and even when they were scheduled, they were often as not cancelled.  “Security concerns” were usually the reasons offered, although I was in a minimum security camp with no fences or guards, with access to cars, knives, heavy machinery and chain saws, and these same ‘security concerns’ never impeded the protestants from worshiping, studying the bible, or just gathering for fellowship.

The Bureau of Prisons operates more than 119 prisons holding more than 200,000 men and women and is institutionally anti-Catholic.   During my time in the BOP, I experienced constant harassment, discrimination and retaliation for my attempts to practice my faith.  I made no attempt to lead a crusade, become a martyr, or make ‘waves’ within the system, or even to gain the same level of rights the other inmates had to practice their faith; rather, I wanted access to the sacraments on a semi-regular basis.

For respectfully expressing these opinions at the lowest levels of the BOP, and gradually working my way up the chain of command during my time at United States Penitentiary Marion, Satellite Camp, I was threatened, had my locker tossed, given extra duty, forced to work multiple jobs, watched my personal property stolen by staff and was retaliated against in ways small and large.  I was in no way unique, as dozens of Catholic inmates who transited through Marion during my time there shared identical stories of discrimination over the course of their 5, 10, 20 or 30 years in federal custody.

The consequence of this hostile environment towards the practice of the Catholic faith is for many men, despair, depression and abandonment of the faith altogether.  The very men who most need the opportunity to examine their consciences, hear the message of forgiveness and redemption, repent and experience the forgiveness of God and experience the graces which flow to us through the sacraments given us by Christ are denied them.

Worse, the hostile environment created by the BOP is not solely to blame.  The protestants have frequent services because they have the people, whether professional ministers and preachers or volunteer laity.  Their numbers and enthusiasm create an environment within the structure that offers a sort of protection from hostility-if the system offered it, which it does not.  (At USP Marion, the entire staff of chaplains and religious services personnel are protestant).

In my 40 months in custody, I received only three visitors who I was not related to by blood.  One was an ordained Presbyterian minister, the other an agnostic who refers to himself as a heathen, and a Catholic priest.  The Priest came once to hear my confession.  The other two came a few times a year.  They cared about how I was doing, and asked how they could help.  If a man zonq9who was raised in the faith and has been an active member of the Church for his entire lifetime does not get visits from his fellow Catholics while in prison, who is it that does?

In fact, I know that my experience was not unusual.  The more ‘religious’ the family and friends of the imprisoned, the more likely they are to be abandoned, shunned and ignored.  In contrast, for those inmates who are career criminals, their families, friends and associates view incarceration as an unpleasant, but necessary ‘cost of business’.  Incarceration is a badge, a sign of credibility, proof of success and rising importance in the criminal world.  For the white collar christian, it is akin to catching leprosy.  Letters, calls and email are ignored as if they could transmit the contagion.  Often as not, the “good” christian relatives of the incarcerated deny their kinship or disavow them entirely.

Before I went to prison in chains, I visited a few times as part of a Christian ministry.  I wish I had done more then.  I wish I had stayed in contact with the convict I befriended.  I wish I had sought out the families of incarcerated men to help them with hope, friendship and prayers.  I wish I had recruited others from my then-extensive network of Christian friends.  I wish I had given a small part of my life to these untouchables.  Now, I’m one of them and can’t help them, except by telling this story.