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In this issue, a critic offers a couple of articles, a selection of one of mine (without permission), and a few observations worthy of comment. Some of these we have already addressed in previous articles, as much of this has already appeared on his website.


Someone, somewhere, has spoken of Skeptic X as a "thorn in my side." To make the analogy accurate, a better phrase would be "fly in my soup". Skeptic X is as much a nuisance as a flea on an elephant's rump in terms of intellectual stimulation; and now having been squashed a bit, he's feeling somewhat put upon. In this last issue Skeptic X pens some prose under the title, "Seasoned with Salt?" in which he whines and cries over our allegedly "un-Christlike" treatment of him. He hints that such behavior makes him not want to be a Christian. Heck. Roger Hutchinson has been treating Skeptic X with kid gloves for years on end, and I don't see Skeptic X edging any closer to the Kingdom because of it. That's just an excuse for Skeptic X to whine and cry some more.

Does Skeptic X think I'm doing something un-Christlike? Wrong. See here. Does he think I am not showing "love"? Only if we define love as "mushy sentimentality" -- which it isn't. He asks, would I be willing to turn the other cheek? I would -- if someone actually insulted me personally first as opposed to deceiving others and leading them astray. Do I see myself as salt and light? Yes -- and note what salt does to wounds, and light to cockroaches. Do I love others as I love myself? Put it this way, and this is probably too hard for the fundaliteralist in Skeptic X to grasp. "Love" as in agape means that if Skeptic X is leading people astray, my commitment requires me to fight for the sake of the collective whole when he upchucks his nonsense onto the printed page. The same agape, however, means that if Skeptic X needs a life-saving kidney transplant, and I'm the only viable donor, that kidney is his free and clear. Can he figure that one out? Probably not. Skeptic X has been spending too long in the CoC fundaliteralist dungeon playing the freewheel exegesis game, as shown for example by his appeal to Col. 4:5-6:

Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

Well, Skeptic X humphs, I don't see much salt from Holding! Hold on, Skeptic X -- are "those without" enemies of the church or the truth? No -- Paul speaks here of the "man on the street" one encounters in daily life. There is no contextual holding here for the man who rips apart the spiritual lives of others. Does Skeptic X think that Paul wanted the Colossians to say to the man stabbing another on the street, "Have a nice day! Nice form!"? Skeptic X's "hermannootic" is such that he simply can't envision this as anything but an "always, everybody" command with no variations -- simply because, he would snuffle, Paul made none. Did he need to? Only for a lazy and low-context reader like Skeptic X.

Skeptic X adds that he thinks we act this way for money -- "fleecing the sheep" he says. Hear that of yourself? How that links up, though, he doesn't explain. I doubt if he can. It's much easier to throw around vague accusations devoid of contextual realities, which has been the procedure for his newsletter for the duration. One question: Does Dan Barker want nothing but money, too?

Final note on this subject. Skeptic X mutters that he thinks I call him (a former nickname) out of frustration. Yep -- that's also why I call John the Baptist "Johnny B" and Abiathar "Abby", right? No -- I use such names the same way Nast used his cartoons of Boss Tweed -- to emphasize editorially that despite the catfight between them, X is no different in his methods than C. Dennis McKinsey. And in fact, between the two, McKinsey is the far more consistent.


Prison Popovers. Despite likely never having been behind a prison gate in his life, Skeptic X has continued to snort expertly about how he thinks I have been exaggerating the dangers of my former employ with the prison system. Indeed. Now he thinks he has the trump card, as in a previous issue he queried inmate readers of his newsletter (the most credible readers in the ranks, no doubt) and asked them what they thought. He may as well have asked Bluto what he thought of Popeye. In spite of the pointed example of Madalyn Murray O' Hair which should have knocked a boatload of sense into Skeptic X, he hasn't learned a very simple lesson: As a whole, inmates are liars. And from the looks of things, one of the two inmates who responded to Skeptic X's queries seems to have taken him for a ride into the sunset.

Skeptic X's first letter came from an inmate in Pennsylvania who claimed to have spent "27+ years in a maximum security penitentiary." He says, "In all my time of incarceration, I have never witnessed an inmate with a misconduct report from a librarian." [emphasis in original] Presumably in PA a "misconduct report" is the same as a "disciplinary report" here in FL. Well, if the jailbird never saw this, it's either because he's been in solitary, had his eyes closed, or lived among wimps, or is lying -- and I'm betting lying from the get-go. Why? The inmate went on: "A prison librarian, is perhaps, a more peripheral program in a prison [a person is a program?], having little or nothing to do with security."

Oh, really? That's odd, because security here ALWAYS asked me to be active in helping them. Did I search the library for contraband? Did you write a report on that fight those inmates had? Indeed, one of the first lessons in orientation was to remember that whether we were librarians, teachers, or whatever, security was our first and paramount concern. We were expected to be both security officers and what we were -- not trained to the same extent, of course, but showing the same sense of our surroundings and being responsible for what went on in our area.

I rather doubt that prisons in PA tell librarians or other civilian workers not to worry or do anything about it if they see suspicious or rule-breaking activity. Skeptic X's jailbird disciple mumbles that if I ever "wrote up" anyone, "it was for failure to return books and other such rule violations of that ilk." Like he knows, especially a system in another state? He doesn't. I suggest he has Selective Memory Syndrome or has been in the hole for too long. But in case PA has had a lot of peaceful libraries in their prisons for the past 27 years, here's a list of some of the offenses that I "wrote up" in my 7 years of prison work:

  • Lying to staff
  • Theft -- of library materials, of course, but not just books: Also office supplies, and a nice metal object that was sharpened into a knife. Indeed one of our little issues during my employ was with inmates taking the metal rods out of old card catalogs and making weapons out of them. We were told to get rid of these and put them in a safe place, then be on the lookout for any already taken.
  • Manufacture of gambling materials -- I caught one of my own clerks "red-handed" using a library typewriter to manufacture football tickets
  • Verbal threats -- including one who said, "If I see you on the street when I get out, I will kill you."
  • Verbal threats -- another inmate who told me, when I asked him to leave the library, to perform a feat of anatomical acrobatics that I will leave to your imagination
  • Possession of contraband -- I caught an inmate "red-handed" (and "red-faced") in possession of a pornographic videotape

    That's all I can remember for the moment; with more time I could also tell you about the offenses some of my colleagues wrote up, like for finding inmates doing hanky-panky in the stacks. I never got that "lucky". It's enough, though, to reply that Skeptic X's PA jailbird has had his head between the bars for too long and has apparently cut off his oxygen. As a final note, three things.

    First, the bird mixes up threats to myself on the outside from released inmates, with threats from inmates inside (as does Skeptic X, yet again). Though actually, he sticks his foot in his mouth and Skeptic X's by saying, "Except for the genuinely mentally imbalanced, all prisoners know the punishment for hurting a prison staff member is simply far too severe." It's enough of a deterrent, he says, which would probably be comforting to the security officer who was stabbed when I was at Lake C. I. And as it happens, both camps that I worked at were, for almost all of my tenure, camps to a good extent reserved for inmates who were mentally imbalanced.

    Second, the bird claims that in his state, "even salaries are posted, along with home addresses and other information." I'll inform Skeptic X on his ignorance: Florida does NOT do anything like that, on their website or anywhere.

    The bird closes by hypothesizing that my use of a pseudonym is designed for "hoodwinking unsuspecting people into sending [me] money." How that works logically, isn't explained. It's also rather funny, since my most generous supporters knew what my real name was before I legally changed it. Scratch that leap of illogic from Jailbird Junction.

    That leaves Skeptic X's other jailbird, and this one wrote from Texas, and ended up only supporting my point. He admits that in Texas, "you do have some prison employees who work under a pseudonym." [!] In other words, they do what I do, only in reverse! Working under a pseudonym was never offered as an option to me -- I would be intrigued to know if it was possible -- but the bird somehow doesn't grasp that both my measure and this one are in pursuit of the same purpose. Neither does Skeptic X. And like the PA jailbird he suggests that it is a "huge red flag" that I use my pseudonym in the context of a fundraising environment. Sure is funny, again, then, that my best supporters all know me by the real McCoy.

    I suppose now would be a good time to round out this issue with some comments. As we have noted several times, Skeptic X has no authority to speak on this matter, having apparently never gotten closer to an inmate than grading one of their papers from the safety of his home or office. It is the height of nerve for him (to say nothing of gullibility) to suppose now in getting letters from just two inmates -- incarcerated in different states -- he has the "straight dope" from an authority. He trusts them at their word? I can well imagine Skeptic X working in a correctional facility, and would predict that he would fall to one of the fates that befell those who succeeded me in my position. My first immediate successor was a gentleman Skeptic X's age who ended up being escorted out of the front gate by security, hat in hand, for not being capable of policing the inmates -- one of the clerks was found to be using a computer for illegal purposes. (So much for only being responsible for overdue books!)

    It took several months to find my second immediate successor, who lasted all of 18 minutes on the job, which is all it took for the inmates to come into the library and for her to see that she didn't want to deal with being surrounded by such people. As of this editing in 2009, the job has had at least 8 successors -- none staying longer than a couple of years.

    Sometime in the past, Skeptic X got himself online and found the public description of my former institution, which he apparently thinks tells the whole story. He is right about it not being Pelican Bay, though inmates do transfer there from the Florida equivalent of Pelican Bay (places like Union C.I.) if they behave themselves for a while. As noted, it also houses inmates who are of a medical grade which take psychiatric medication; if they go off this medication, their behavior diminishes and they become violent. Somehow I don't see a waif-like figure like Skeptic X being able to stare down an inmate who is off his meds. I do see him hiding under the desk.

    Sitting in his armchair in an air-conditioned office, Skeptic X no doubt thinks himself expert enough to comment, just as he thinks himself expert to comment on any subject he reads a few lines about. But it's my assessment that he'd be the victim of an inmate con game within 30 minutes, and out the front gate with his hat in hand within an hour. Beyond that Skeptic X could perhaps enlighten himself with a "field trip" to his local facility, and ask to see a collection of homemade inmate weapons which most facilities will have. (You used to be able to see a small collection here. In an article I formerly linked to, now defunct, there was a salute at the end about jail staff: "These brave men and women risk their very lives every day to protect and serve the citizens of their communities." [So much for Skeptic X's informer in PA!] You will also find that correctional officers are regularly included among lists of those who "risk their lives" for the public, along with firefighters and police officers; "civilian" prison staff, as I was, face only slightly lesser risks.)

    These weapons are generally designed for use on other inmates, not on staff, but few find comfort in that when they see something like the bar out of a paper hole puncher sharpened to a deadly point and affixed with tape to a wooden brush handle, and know that this sort of thing is being carried by the inmates they work with. Inmates can be quite ingenious. I recall a homemade tattoo machine made out of a tape recorder motor, the husk of a ballpoint pen, and a guitar string. Weapons can be made out of anything from metal objects to toilet paper.

    If Skeptic X really wants an education, I can also perhaps get him a copy of an item titled How to Down a Duck, a first person account by an inmate who used various manipulation tactics to force a gullible security officer to give him a uniform and allow him to escape. And how did it start? He asked the officer to give him a piece of gum...

    Some more stuff for those interested: The state of Texas has this little blurb honoring correctional officers killed in the line of duty. It doesn't happen often, but comfort the families of one of the fallen with that line and see what happens.

    I'll close with two points. First, it should by no means be said that I am implying that every inmate was a foaming-at-the-mouth hardcore out to find out where staff lived, pillage their house, and rape their women. My concerns are, and have been, with only a small portion of that population.

    Many inmates made a one-time mistake and were anxious to get back to their families. A few, based on their court documents which they shared with me, had clearly been convicted on inadequate evidence and did not belong in prison. The man who said he would kill me if he ever saw me in public is counter-balanced by the man who was deeply grateful for my help in filling out his 1040EZ form. The danger should neither be overstated nor understated. Each person who does this kind of work has difficult choices to make, and a man sitting in his chair at home who has never so much as entered the gate has no wherewithal to make an assessment for me.

    Second and last: In an earlier issue of his newsletter Skeptic X had a letter from an inmate at one of Florida's prisons. I did not know the inmate in question. According to public records on the Florida DC website, that inmate was in for sexual battery and kidnapping, and was due to be released July 4, 2007 as of my last check. In 2001, when I first wrote this response, I said:

    "If he thinks there's no danger from such people, perhaps Skeptic X would like to invite him for a July 4th family barbeque and have his grandchildren and niece(s?) present."

    Needless to say, I was not taken up on this offer.

    In closing, I think it is enough to point out Skeptic X's cavalier attitude, fostered by his own presumption, speaks for itself. He is losing the battle badly, and his constant refrain on this subject shows him to be the first to throw a frustrated punch. Skeptic X has harped on this subject for no other reason than to support his premise that I had some other "ulterior motive" for using a writing name (which begs the question of why I was open and honest with him and other Skeptics about it from the very beginning) and for his own polemical purposes, as he is clearly frustrated by his inability to answer actual arguments on this site and needs the distraction to draw attention from his inability. And that is well-illustrated by this comment he posted on his website after I made a legal name change (Warning: Profanity not edited):

    On or about July 16, 2007, Turkel made this fraud complete through a legal name change. For reasons that are probably too painfully stupid for normal people to think about, Turkel supposes that we will all now bow from the ankles and refer to him as Jimbo Pat Holding. Yeah, that'll happen. No, it won't. To us, he'll always be Robert Turkel: Fat-Assed Manbitch.

    I think that speaks for itself in terms of Skeptic X's rationality.

    See more on this issue here.

    -JPH