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Editorial Comments

My, how time's fun when you're having flies. Here we are opening the new year with the start of our fourth volume of the PLN. It doesn't seem that long. Publishing the newsletter has been a good experience for Paul and me. We've already learned a great deal, and we have lots of good ideas for improving our looks of the paper. With luck you will be seeing some of these changes in the coming months. I say with `luck' because we are supposed to be getting our computers back shortly, and so will not have to rely on outside volunteers to do this aspect of the production process. And we can spend lots of time toying around with the paper, to make it look just right.

As I write this my fellow prisoners and I have just completed a two-meal boycott of the mess hall in protest of the poor quality of the food. The action was about 97 percent effective. It feels good to see such peaceful actions take place; it generates an empowering sense of solidarity. It's at times like these I feel best about my comrades in here; when I realize we are not totally under the government's thumbs.

It is true that our captors control every aspect of our environment, including physical custody of our very bodies. Even so, we are able to remain self-aware human beings with our identities intact. While lacking liberty, we nonetheless have certain freedoms as fundamental as life itself. We can decide for ourselves how this condition of existence (a condition of slavery) is going to affect us. And we can choose our response to this condition. Even as prisoners we have the freedom to choose between the criminal status quo and constructive change. This freedom is rooted in our collective power to say no. It is through the exercise of this freedom that we will find meaning in our suffering. It is the tool that will enable us to discover a measure of dignity, in spite of the prison experience.

The mess hall boycott exercised some of that freedom. And while the food certainly hasn't improved since the action, I think people at least feel better about themselves for having participated.

The other day Paul and I appeared on Channel 9 television, which is the Public Broadcasting Station in Seattle. We were appearing on a show dealing with jailhouse lawyers and why we sue. Before the TV crew came in, Paul and I got together to shape the message we wanted to get across to the public. During the taping of the program we did a pretty good job of communicating what a failure prisons were; how the courts are the only means we have of making our captors accountable for their actions; and that what they do to us today they will be doing to them out there tomorrow. Well, the message was totally gutted in the editing process, and instead some banalities we happened to make during the course of the taping were used. In short, our issues were trivialized. We were not all that surprised, though, as emptying the content from the message of the oppressed is something the bourgeois media is quite good at doing.

Last month we printed a correction in our `letters' department, and a reader wanted to know what took so long to print it. Letters are our lowest priority in terms of content, so we usually don't print as many of them as we'd like. This is in order to make room for other material--such as legal blurbs, news items, and various justice-related reports. Our readers, on the other hand, really seem to enjoy the letters section.

You may have noticed that the last issue of the paper was 14 pages long, four more than our usual 10 pages. Every once in a while we must do something right, for a larger than usual number of donations come in. When that happens (as it did when we were able to give you 14 pages in August) we try to get a larger newsletter out to you. So be sure to keep those contributions rolling in. And remember, a complete accounting of every cent we take in, as well as every penny we spend, is available to any prisoner-reader or family member upon request.

This seems like as good a time as any to remind you that subscriptions to the PLN are not like those to a bourgeois publication, with a one-time contribution or fee. Your financial support must be just as continuous as our commitment to regularly provide you with the best prison-related information we can gather--it must be ongoing. Paul and I make up any shortfalls in the production and mailing costs out of our own pockets, from our meager prison wages. While we are not hurting for money now, we don't want to wait until the wolf is pounding at the door before reminding you to kick us down something. If you have not assisted us lately, then do so now. We're here for you; be there for us.

I generally like to close my editorial comments off with an instructive quote. After reading about a survey in which Washington citizens said they would be willing to give up constitutional rights in order to be more safe from crime, I came across this little jewel by Benjamin Franklin. He said: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." See you next month.

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