Today is Sunday, March 10. I’ve 486 days to go, 1,104 days done, now over 3 years done on this sentence. My Canadian transfer paperwork has arrived in Ottawa and my US transfer paperwork goes to Washington, Dc on April 8, the required two years after I was rejected for transfer to Canada by the US Department of Justice on April 6, 2011.
As of March 14, I’ll have spent three years in prisons on this sentence. I’m hoping that if my transfer application is accepted (say, by June 10 in Washington, July 20 in Ottawa), I’ll be back in the Canadian prison system in September and free at home by next January. Otherwise I’m in the US prison system until July of next year.
The ‘We The People’ website at WhiteHouse.gov now requires 100,000 signatures in 30 days for any petition to get an official response from the White House. Their responses thus far to any petitions have been very superficial and inadequate. Last year, when a petition urging a pardon for me exceeded the then-threshold of 5,000 signatures, the White House response was worse than negligible – it was insulting, a “No Comment” statement.
Then the level was raised to 25,000, and many petitions urging the federal government to legalize marijuana, or reschedule it from schedule 1 to 2, etc. met the threshold – and as a cynic would expect, all received canned propaganda repudiations from drug czar Gil Kerlikowski. If only US citizens would have rallied around Ron Paul as a presidential choice, how different the official White House response for legal marijuana would be!
So I won’t be encouraging a petition drive to ‘We The People’ regarding my transfer, though in January I thought that would be a good idea. What I really need my American friends to do is write their US representatives and Senators requesting a letter to the Department Of Justice endorsing my transfer back to the Canadian prison system. The person to contact is listed here; and myprevious blog has more info, here.
My band Yazoo performed our 12th concert in freezing-cold 5 degrees Celsius temperatures outside on the evening of Saturday, February 16th (Presidents Day concert). Though it was cold (I was wearing a t-shirt, two thermal undershirts, a shirt, my winter coat, a wool hat, and wool gloves when I wasn’t playing – I was nice n’ toasty in all that) and our audience small, it was our best performance as a band, and my best performance individually. We had a great time. Our set list was:
1) Hey Joe (Hendrix)
2) Boys are Back in Town (Thin Lizzy)
3) Running Down a Dream (Tom Petty)
4) Jumping Jack Flash (Rolling Stones)
5) Black Magic Woman (Santana)
6) Plush (Stone Temple Pilots)
7) Pride & Joy (Stevie Ray Vaughan)
8) Red House (Jimi Hendrix)
9) Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin)
10) Green River (Credence Clearwater Revival)
11) Kryptonite (3 Doors Down)
12) Purple Haze (Jimi Hendrix)
13) Little Wing (Steve Ray Vaughan)
14) Sweet Home Alabama (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
15) Blue on Black (Kenny Wayne Shepherd)
16) White Room (Cream)
17) Voodoo Child (Hendrix)
I am pleased to say I made virtually no mistakes performing (which I can rarely boast) and the tone on the Carvin bass was perfect.
As you can see, I was able to get some photographs done here at Yazoo with me holding the Carvin bass I play in the band. There are a few photos with Terry my best buddy and bandmate on lead guitar. My 13th concert is next weekend (March 16), and we’ll be adding songs Blues Deluxe (Joe Bonnamesa), The Last Resort (by Papa Roach) and bringing back Texas Flood by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Stormy Monday, Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid (Led Zeppelin) and a few others from the vault. Ten photos of the band performing Red House and Green River in the rehearsal room are on their way to Jodie and will appear soon on Facebook. They will be made into a poster with a band photo and individual performance shots. “The greatest rock band the free world has Never heard… YAZOO” will be at the top of the poster.
Last Friday I wrote Jodie an email about my friend and previous cellie Daniel having a massive bacterial infection in his whole lower right leg. On Tuesday, a boil appeared on his leg, his third in two months since he had a surgery here for a hernia. He squeezed it, which is dangerous to do. I know, as I contracted a massive infection on my left butt cheek when I was at D Ray James for-profit private prison in Georgia (prior to being sent here) and had a quarter sized hole in my cheek leaking pus and blood for two weeks after a week of intense swelling and inflammation in the area. Fortunately, the infection was not near any vital organs, which is when a MRSA infection is particularly dangerous. MRSA is a kind of aggressive ‘staph’ infection that starts very innocuously and rapidly spreads. Most modern antibiotics are no longer effective in defeating the infection. MRSA (stands for ‘Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus’) infections require immediate and aggressive treatment of still-effective antibiotics, or a person can get gangrene and lose limbs, have vital organs shut down, and even die. The creator of The Muppets, Frank Oz, died from a massive infection that could not be treated in time, for example.
In prison here I read a very good novel about how antibiotics went from theory (pre-1929) to fact when Dr. Alexander Fleming discovered antibiotics in the late 1920s. He found that moulds cultivated on stale bread seemed to attack bacteria. But it was not possible for the next ten years to efficiently produce enough antibiotics to even save one person. Our generation has no experience with the kind of mortality that used to occur when people before 1943 got a bacterial infection, whether it was venereal disease, staph infections, and others. Healthy people could scrape their knee on Wednesday and be dead in hospital by Monday in the times before 1945, there was no effective cure for most infections. The book is called “A Brilliant Radiance” by the novelist Lauren Belfer (I also highly recommend her other novel about the first massive hydro-electric project, at Niagara Falls, providing power for the city of Buffalo, called “City of Light”). A Brilliant Radiance showed how a massive effort by the pharmaceutical industries and the US War Department made finding a way to mass produce antibiotics a priority of the war effort. It was so successful that in the five years from 1940 to 1945, antibiotics went from being the rarest of any medical resource to staggering abundance, such that antibiotics were sold for pennies a pill only five years later.
Antibiotics have cured the industrialized world of cholera, meningitis, tuberculosis, dysentery, E-coli, and dozens of other previously fatal bacterial infections. Antibiotics might be the greatest medical development in the history of mankind. But now, due to excessive and wasteful use, the bacteria are adapting, such that what are called methicillin-based antibiotics no longer work on a range of staphylococcus-type infections. And ‘staph’ bacteria is a plentiful presence on all skin surfaces and found everywhere in ordinary daily circumstances.
Last Tuesday night, Daniel had his third boil in two months on his right leg. Recurring boils on the body are a sign of MRSA, the boils come from festering infection in the body, but are not yet near major arteries or organs. He showed me his leg, and to me, this third boil was clearly indicative of MRSA, as the area around the boil was inflamed. His previous two boils, though open and weeping, had gone away with antibiotic ointment. He had hernia surgery two months ago, and it was obvious to me he picked up MRSA during the surgery. I told him to go see medical. They gave him Clindomycin, an antibiotic that may or may not be effective against MRSA. By Friday the whole leg was red with inflammation, the boil was weeping significant pus, and all the leg was swollen from the knee to the ankle.
I told Daniel the infection was spreading and getting more substantial and had to go to medical and insist they give him Bacterum, an effective antibiotic (used on me when I had my major MRSA infection in February 2011). I warned him that within days if the infection overwhelmed his leg, he could get gangrene and lose his leg to amputation, or worse. This made him feel very uneasy, of course. He went back to medical at 1:00pm. After looking at it, they said yes, it looks serious, but the earliest a doctor could see him was Monday. When he complained to his counselor, the counselor replied, “If you don’t see a doctor by next Wednesday,” (in five days!) “come back and tell me.” I told Daniel if he had to wait until Monday, he’d likely lose his leg, the infection was so obviously serious.
Then I wrote Jodie my concerns regarding Daniels extremely perilous health situation and she posted about it on Facebook, reaching tens of thousands of people who were quite concerned too. At 3:30pm an unusual call came to our unit from medical, requesting Daniel come to medical immediately. There was a doctor, the chief medical administrator, and the head nurse to examine him. They prescribed him Bacterum, and said the surgeon who performed the surgery would be here to see him Monday. His leg continued to be inflamed and swollen over the weekend. On Monday he was hospitalized, and 48 hours later, he was still there. I was grateful the medical department took the infection seriously, but I don’t know how Daniel is faring.
The worst fear any prisoner has in captivity is having a life-threatening medical emergency essentially around strangers (fellow inmates) and with largely ambivalent (and way overworked) medical staff. It’s at a time like that you want a loved one or someone who actually cares for you to be nearby. The thought of dying essentially alone among strangers who probably care not a wit for you is disconcerting. When an inmate gets hospitalized, they are shackled all the way to hospital, and to the bed at all times, which is humiliating, of course. Hopefully Daniel will return from the hospital fine.
[Update from the 28th: Daniel just got back, he looks glad to be alive and well, he very effusively thanked me. He was hospitalized for 72 hours and given antibiotics intravenously over that time, and was released back in to the custody of Yazoo here, on the mend and out of danger! I’m grateful for that. He was on two IV drips, one nutrition, the other antibiotic, the whole time. He leg is greatly recovered.]
The US federal government cuts in federal department budgets has me worried that life here will be worsened. All the C.O.’s (correctional officers) and staff here are going to be required to take a day off without pay (furloughed) every two weeks. I’m also concerned that the money spent on food will be cut back to make our meals even more dubious.
All the money spent on music equipment, pool tables, televisions, cable TV programming, arts and crafts, the leatherwork shop, sports and exercise equipment, all inmate activities of every kind (except education) are paid for by inmate trust funds. The taxpayer doesn’t pay for anything to do with my band Yazoo, our equipment, or any of the recreation equipment like exercise bicycles, poll tables, basketballs, etc. So that is not affected by any federal government cutbacks. The 1,700 inmates here spend approximately $150,000 a month in the commissary (inmate store for hygiene items, extra food, etc.) so about $45,000 a month of those sales (items are all costs plus 30%, which then goes to the inmate trust funds) goes to pay for everything the inmates do on the rec yard, in the rec hall, all TVs and TV programming in the unit day rooms.
In addition to a reduction in staff starting Friday, the airports will have fewer people working from the Transportation Safety Authority (TSA) and air traffic controllers, meaning Jodie’s flights to see me will likely go through delays. And there will be fewer staff here at the prison, so I’m concerned visitation processing will be slower. Yesterday and today all prisoners have been locked in our units, and not allowed outside. And it’s a gorgeous day outside today. There is no explanation why. [Note from Jodie: The US federal government announced that prison lockdowns may become more common simply to deal with the spending cuts, but this lockdown was likely the result of a prison employee being killed in another state, which results in lockdowns at all federal facilities.]
I slept terribly the other night because being cooped up, all I do is read and do crosswords, but that is not enough to make me tired enough to have a good sleep. I’ve always been a difficult sleeper, most of my life not getting tired until 4:00 or 5:00am, and often shaking my legs violently. But a month ago I started a personal program of not eating anything after 5:30pm – I mean nothing at all, drinking only water and absolutely no coffee or tea, and I never drink sodas. That’s been working very well. I’m sleeping well if I go to bed on an emptier stomach feeling somewhat hungry (hard to resist the urge to eat something). That will be a hard discipline to maintain when I’m in the free world at home. Smoking pot always stimulates appetite and so I typically ate things in the evening and late at night. Plus it stimulates other desires and wants. What cannabis has never done is make me sleepy. So I didn’t really ever get tired until 5:00 or 6:00am in the morning, I’d sleep till 10:30 or 11:00am and get up.
I’ve sent thank you cards to the three Americans who sent me the four issues of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. They are circulating widely in our 120-man unit. And thanks to Dana Larsen for putting a book wish list for me at amazon.com where anyone can send me a book off that wish list. Already I’ve received ten books off the wish list, some graphic novels, Rex Stout mysteries, Ann Rule true crime stories, guitar tab music books. I’ll send a note out to anyone who sends me any book via the amazon wish list, but receipts don’t have the name or address of the payee, so feel free to tell Dana or mail me a note saying you sent me a book. In the last three weeks I’ve sent out 50 cards (with wee small lettering to get as much in there as possible), trying to catch up on my correspondence, on one side is a photo of me in prison, or a photo of Jodie and I in the visitation room here, and the other side is blank, and I found I can get four or five of those done every day in about two hours.
My wonderful wife Jodie is again running for a seat in the British Columbia Legislature. The provincial election is on Tuesday, May 14. Jodie needs money to run her campaign, and any individual or corporation in the world can donate any amount to her campaign. All British Columbia residents who donate between April 15 and May 14 get a tax-creditable receipt; a portion of your donation (if you are a BC resident) is good for a refund off your BC provincial income tax. All others can donate anytime from now to May 14, and in any amount, and you’ll get an official receipt, but it’s not tax-creditable in your jurisdiction. Jodie needs to raise $5,000 to $15,000 to do phone electioneering, pay for signs, literature, and advertising. Make checks and money orders to “The Campaign to Elect Jodie Emery” (you must include your name and address along with donation) and send to: The Campaign to Elect Jodie Emery, 307 West Hastings St., Vancouver, BC, Canada V6B 1H6. PayPal donations can be sent firstname.lastname@example.org and more information about donations can be found on her website www.JodieForMLA.ca
On that final note, be sure to support Dana Larsen’s extraordinary Sensible BC campaign to put decriminalization to the voters of British Columbia with a ballot initiative signature drive. It’s at www.SensibleBC.ca. Jodie’s BCMP vapor lounge is donating 50% of proceeds from Tuesday’s open mic jam nights to the Sensible BC campaign. Dana also has a patron (Bob Erb, the marijuana activist winner of a $25 million lottery and a former BC Marijuana Party candidate) who is matching all contributions dollar for dollar, so please contribute money to the Sensible BC decriminalization ballot initiative drive to keep the anti-prohibition conversation going strong.