Noviembre 30, 2004

Chumbawamba on Collective vs. Individual Anarchism

Interesting bit a friend sent me on Chumbawamba. I'm not sure where it came from but it seems to be part of a set of questions asked the group. Perhaps a FAQ on their site. Anyway, here it is:


My name is Grant. I am an anarchist in the U.S.. I
have a question, as you may have guessed. Are you guys
Individualist Anarchists or Social Anarchists? Thanx
for reading. Hit me back!

We are not 'individualists', generally it is the far
right that goes for that line, and they use it to
justify grabbing whatever the individual wants no
matter how selfish. I did not even know there was such
terminology as Individualist Anarchists and Social
Anarchists but I do think that human beings are
basically social and our lives are inter connected and
we are kidding ourselves if we think we can (or do)
exist alone. The concept of the 'self' is quite new.
Rosa Luxemburg said: "Freedom is always and
exclusively freedom for the one who thinks
differently." And I take that to mean, not that we
should act however we feel regardless of the effect it
has on society and the people around us, but that we
should respect the rights of others even if we don't
want to live in the same way.

Posted by steev at 02:34 PM

Noviembre 29, 2004

Stop AFTA

The Andean Free Trade Agreement is the latest in a series of free trade pacts that the U.S. is trying to force on Latin America. This week in Tucson, leaders from the Andean countries, Peru, Columbia, Ecuador (with Chile and Bolivia oddly missing) will be meeting with U.S. representatives to sign away their economic souls. Tucson activists have been showing their solidarity.
The NoAFTA site is a good resource, along with the FTAA-IMC.

Here in Portland we're trying to lend a hand to help cover the mobilization and resistance, in Tucson and in the relevant countries. It will be extremely interesting to see what happens.

I wish I was still in Tucson. Not just for this but also because it's super fucking cold here in Portland, and it's raining.

Posted by steev at 11:12 PM

Legacy of Pinochet

The BBC reports that the Chilean government will be paying 28,000 victims of torture at the hands of Pinochet's regime a pension of about $190 a month, for life. This is about 93% of the minimum wage there.

Meanwhile Pinochet may have lost his mental faculties just in time to avoid being prosecuted for his hideous crimes against humanity. And his former spokesman is objecting to the whole thing, saying the old wounds have "already healed"!!

What a horrible, grim joke.

Posted by steev at 08:18 AM

To Be Like Them

I few months ago I read an essay by Eduardo Galeano that was really incredible, called "To Be Like Them." The other day I found it on line. It's about the global South being promised it can be like the North, if only it follows the rules of free trade and structural adjustment which the North doesn't even follow for itself. It asks the question, even if it were possible, does the South want to be like the North, and is there a chance to say "no?"

Can everyone in the world live like North Americans? No. The earth would not support it. Can the South learn another way to "develop?"

Posted by steev at 08:12 AM

Noviembre 28, 2004

Friedman Underwhelms

A friend pointed me to Thomas Friedman's latest editorital (i'll cut and paste it below in case you don't want to register, and later, pay, to read it on the Times site.), as sort of a rebuttal, I guess, to my mention of the film End of Suburbia, which is all about the idea of peak oil production and the coming consequences of passing that peak, which we may have already done.

I read the piece and it is okay, has nice vitriol, but it's basically just a rant, and not a terribly original one. Are mainstream New York Times-reading people really responding to rhetoric like this?

But ok great tom's mad and its thanxgiving and he wants to go
home early.

But then i get to the end and he's thankful for the schools that
"manage to produce young men and women ready to voluntarily risk their lives in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to spread the opportunity of freedom and to protect my own."

...and i'm like WHAT?! i thought i had figured out his sarcasm
rhythm and it would seem he's serious here. if not, then ok, a
poorly delivered joke, but if he means this i'm aghast. Does he
really think the afghanistan or iraq adventures are or ever were
about spreading freedom or protecting ours? And as for the
schools and the military i have two words for him: poverty
draft.

And finally, does he really think that if only people drove regular cars and not hummers we wouldn't have mujahadeen in Falluja killing our kids? I mean, I'm sorry Tom but you've got more work to do. There are so few Hummers out there, do you really dream that even if your column somehow convinced every owner to renounce theirs and buy a Ford Explorer, or even a Honda Civic, that it would make a godamn bit of difference in the world? Holy shit.


November 25, 2004
OP-ED COLUMNIST
In My Next Life
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

In my next life, I want to be Tom DeLay, the House majority leader.

Yes, I want to get almost the entire Republican side of the House of Representatives to bend its ethics rules just for me. I want to be able to twist the arms of House Republicans to repeal a rule that automatically requires party leaders to step down if they are indicted on a felony charge - something a Texas prosecutor is considering doing to DeLay because of corruption allegations.

But most of all, I want to have the gall to sully American democracy at a time when young American soldiers are fighting in Iraq so we can enjoy a law-based society here and, maybe, extend it to others. Yes, I want to be Tom DeLay. I want to wear a little American flag on my lapel in solidarity with the troops, while I besmirch every value they are dying for.

If I can't be Tom DeLay, then I want to be one of the gutless Republican House members who voted to twist the rules for DeLay out of fear that "the Hammer," as they call him, might retaliate by taking away a coveted committee position or maybe a parking place.

Yes, I want to be a Republican House member. At a time when 180 of the 211 members of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Iraq who have been wounded in combat have insisted on returning to duty, I want to look my constituents and my kids in the eye and tell them that I voted to empty the House ethics rules because I was afraid of Tom DeLay.

If I can't be a Republican House member, I want to be Latrell Sprewell, the guard for the Minnesota Timberwolves. I want to say with a straight face that if my owner will only give me a three-year contract extension for a meager $21 million, then he's not worth working for, because "I've got my family to feed."

Yes, I want to be Latrell Sprewell. At a time when N.B.A. games are priced beyond the reach of most American families, when half the country can't afford health care, when some reservists in Iraq are separated from their families for a year, including this Thanksgiving, I want to be like Latrell. I want to make sure everyone knows that I'm looking out for my family - and no one else's.

If I can't be Latrell Sprewell, I want to be any American college or professional athlete. For a mere dunk of the basketball or first-down run, I want to be able to dance a jig, as if I'd just broken every record by Michael Jordan or Johnny Unitas. For the smallest, most routine bit of success in my sport, I want to be able to get in your face - I want to know who's your daddy, I want to be able to high-five, low-five, thump my chest and dance on your grave. You talkin' to me?

I want to be able to fight on the court, off the court, in the stands and on the sidelines. I want to respect no boundaries and no norms. And when I make your kids cry, I want to be able to tell you to just "chill" - that my coach says "stuff happens" and that my union rep is appealing my punishment in the name of the Bill of Rights and the Magna Carta. Yes, in my next life, I want to be The Man.

If I can't be The Man, then I at least want to be the owner of a Hummer - with American flag decals all over the back bumper, because Hummer owners are, on average, a little more patriotic than you and me.

Yes, I want to drive the mother of all gas-guzzlers that gets so little mileage you have to drive from gas station to gas station. Yes, I want to drive my Hummer and never have to think that by consuming so much oil, I am making transfer payments to the worst Arab regimes that transfer money to Islamic charities that transfer money to madrassas that teach children intolerance, antipluralism and how to hate the infidels.

And when one day one of those madrassa graduates goes off and joins the jihad in Falluja and kills my neighbor's son, who is in the U.S. Army Rangers, I want to drive to his funeral in my Hummer. Yes, I want to curse his killers in front of his mother and wail aloud, "If there was only something I could do ..." And then I want to drive home in my Hummer, stopping at two gas stations along the way.

If I can't be any of these, then I want to be just a simple blue-state red-state American. I want to take time on this Thanksgiving to thank God I live in a country where, despite so much rampant selfishness, the public schools still manage to produce young men and women ready to voluntarily risk their lives in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to spread the opportunity of freedom and to protect my own. And I want to thank them for doing this, even though on so many days in so many ways we really don't deserve them.


Posted by steev at 08:18 AM

Noviembre 25, 2004

Accepted to Borderland Film Festival

I just found out that my rough-cut short video about the Caravan to Juarez will be showing at the Borderland Film Festival on December 3, at Coyote Studios,
2390 Mission St. 3rd Floor, San Francisco. I wish I could be there. The whole festival looks really interesting and great. But I can't afford to just fly down there next week.

At this moment I am logging footage from Juarez. I'm on tape #8 out of 12. I have a lot of footage but I'm starting to fear that I don't have enough of the right footage for my longer documentary - I need more interviews with certain people talking about certain topics. I'm starting to fear that I'll have to travel to talk to more people, which I can't afford, and I'm worrying that this project will stretch on, when I really would like to wrap it up in a timely manner.

Posted by steev at 12:07 PM

School of Authentic Journalism

Here's a Good article by a woman from Ohio who went to the NarcoNews School of Authentic Journalism conference in Cochabamaba, Bolivia this past August. Describes basically what happened and her personal take on the experience and the concept of what "authentic journalism" means to her. Very compatible with ideas about Indymedia, I think.

Posted by steev at 09:15 AM

Culture of Violence

Last night on the radio I heard an interview with a historian who studies the historical Jesus, the real person upon which Christianity is based. I don't identify as Christian but he said some things that were extremely fascinating to me. This researcher, John Dominic Crossan, used to be a priest, and is still, one can tell from listening to him, very devoutly religious, but his ideas are going against the grain of some standard Christian dogma. One idea he talked about I just remembered this morning and it suddenly struck me how incredibly profound it is, what a stunning analysis of our culture it is.

The idea is this: In our Judeo-Christian culture, we talk about "the end of the world," in which Jesus will come back and basically kick ass on evil. Crossan says this is an essentially violent worldview, and that many Christians, from the Apostle Paul onward, have wanted there to be a second coming because they secretly believe that Jesus didn't get it right the first time. He was meek and he allowed himself to be killed by his enemies and they can't accept that, so he has to come back and violently "win" next time. But Jesus never talked this way. In fact early biblical writings never referred to the end of the "the world," says Crossan, because it was inconceivable that God would destroy his creation. They talked about "the end of days" instead. A subtle difference, but a telling one.

Crossan said the question before Christians when interpreting the Bible and talking about the End Times is this: do we believe in a violent God, or a non-violent God? And sadly, Fundamentalists believe in a violent God, one who will bring down a hideous Apocalypse upon the Earth, and they're working to help bring it about.

Posted by steev at 08:44 AM | Comments (0)

Noviembre 24, 2004

U.S. on Brink of 'Civil War'

This election fiasco in the Ukraine is so ironic, with the U.S. reaction demonstrating such a level of hypocrisy as to make one want to vomit. I took this BBC story and did a quick search and replace of some person and place names to come up with a suprisingly familiar story:


BBC NEWS
United States on brink of 'civil war'
Both sides in United States's disputed presidential election have warned of a civil conflict, as tens of thousands of people continue to protest in Washington.

Opposition leader John Kerry rejected the official results declaring incumbent president George Bush as president, and urged a general strike.

Former President Bill Clinton called on world leaders not to interfere.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said London "cannot accept" the election result as legitimate.

Correspondents say the opposition supporters show no signs of ending their three days of protests in the capital, Washington.


DISPUTED ELECTION
Official result:
Bush (left): 49.46%
Kerry: 46.61%
Western observers report:
Abuse of state resources and "overt media bias" in favour of Mr Bush
State workers pressured to give absentee voting certificate to their superiors
Intimidation reported at some polling stations
Suspiciously high turnout in two pro-government regions

Calling for a general strike, Mr Kerry told a vast crowd of supporters in the central Independence Square that United States was on the brink of a "civil conflict".

Karl Rove, who backs Mr Bush, denounced the opposition protests and warned civil war "could well become a reality at the present time".

Mr Bush, who has now declared himself the winner, offered to hold talks with the opposition leader.

"We must improve our lives and we will do it together - all of our citizens and myself as president of United States," he said in a brief appearance on state television.

But a key member of the opposition team told the BBC that Mr Kerry would only negotiate with Karl Rove.

The opposition said it would challenge the official result in the supreme court on Thursday.

Refusing to accept defeat, Mr Kerry told his supporters: "We do not recognise the election as officially declared."

He called for a national strike that would shut down schools, factories and transport networks.

The pro-Choice Mr Kerry, who claims the vote was rigged against him, called the election commission's official declaration "their latest crime".

"With this decision, they want to put us on our knees," he told the crowd, which chanted: "Shame! Shame!"

Washington's warning

A host of celebrities have appeared on stage to show their support for the opposition.

They included United States's Eurovision Song Contest winner, Britany Spears, who announced she was going on hunger strike until the opposition leader was declared president.

A number of pro-government supporters were also visible on Washington's streets for the first time on Wednesday, though eastern United States saw pro-government rallies earlier in the week.

The two sides have been trading taunts and pro-government supporters celebrated the official results by drinking champagne.

Riot police have been on stand-by since the demonstrations began but there have been no reports of violence.

In Moscow, President Putin said United States was at a "critical moment" and had to decide whether it was on the side of democracy.

He warned of "consequences" for the Russian-United States relationship, but he added: "It's still not too late to find a solution which respects the will of the people."

The election commission said Mr Bush won Sunday's second round vote with a margin of almost three percentage points.

The commission had already indicated a win for Mr Bush, but exit poll results had put Mr Kerry ahead.

China and the European Commission had urged United States not to announce the result before reviewing the contentious vote.

The new head of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, earlier warned the United States there could be "consequences" for its relations with the European Union, unless there was a serious and independent review.

The Netherlands, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, said it would send an envoy to United States to discuss the disputed result.

Neighbouring Poland has also sent a top foreign policy adviser.

Western election observers and the American opposition have reported thousands of voting irregularities, including a near 100% turnout in some pro-government strongholds.

Earlier, Mr Kerry said he was prepared to have a re-run of the vote if it was run by "honest" officials.
Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/europe/4040041.stm

Published: 2004/11/24 22:56:33 GMT

© BBC MMIV

Posted by steev at 10:42 PM

Yay, It's "Buy Extra Stuff Today Cuz in 2 Days It's Buy Nothing Day!"

On Friday it's Buy Nothing Day. Which is a great idea that Adbusters had several years ago that I wholly support as a concept. The intention is right, but it's one of those ideas that is just a stepping stone, that feels now like it doesn't go far enough. There are, according to their site, "millions" of people who take part, who refuse to consume on the day after Thanxgiving, or Black Friday, as retailers call it. But I'll bet you my (unused) copy of Quicken that most of those people go out on Wednesday or even Thursday and make the purchases they would have made on Friday. Or just put it off till Saturday. They make sure they have enough coffee beans and milk, they check that the grinder still works, so they can make cappucinos at home Friday morning. Anybody can do that kind of stuff. It's not that hard. (The fact that it's something people actually have to make an effort to do, something that seems radical to most people in this country, is a sad indictment of our culture.) But how many of those people participating are actually reducing their total daily, monthly, yearly consumption? Isn't it about time to move on to Buy Nothing Week? And on further from there? Sorry, just shifting your consumption over one day is not gonna save the world. It's a nice PR stunt, but that's about it.

Posted by steev at 06:02 PM | Comments (0)

Homeland Security - some photo art

Here's a great set of photos by John Douglas called Homeland Security. Hilarious and a great subtle commentary, and just plain weird.

Posted by steev at 12:49 PM | Comments (0)

"Mob" Justice

Here's an interesting story by the BBC, entitled "Mexican mob burns officers alive." What's notable is the spin: words like "mob" and "vigilantism," and the background which they only touch on with the mention that people in Mexico are "frustrated by state corruption and soaring crime." Classic British understatement.

They don't go into the incredible depth of corruption, of police involvement with narcotrafficing, which is Mexico's biggest industry amounting to $US30 billion a year. They don't venture to guess that there's going to be more of this sort of thing in the future. More situations where the people, neighbors, communities, fed up with police and other agencies who fail to carry out their duties to society, will handle things more and more themselves. They'll take it upon themselves to organize and improve their communities themselves, because they will finally admit that the institutions aren't going to do it for them. This will start happening more and more, and not just in the "third world" - and there will be mistakes and clashes with official authority, and it will not be pretty...

Posted by steev at 08:35 AM

Noviembre 23, 2004

flickr

Just discovered Flickr. Is this old news? It's pretty cool. Makes me wish I had a digital still camera. This kind of stuff, along with phonecams, fotologs, etc, is really changing the way we as a culture look at images, at representation, at reality. I think I was just reading something by Frederic Jameson about this sort of thing, but he wrote before the internet or digital cameras. He wrote about how just the fact there is this HUGE number of photos of everything being taken everywhere has changed the way we look at the world and at life. Now not only are there tons of photos but theoretically anyone (anyone who can afford to be on the internet, somehow) can look at them, and search them and sort them. Totally insane.

And what's even crazier is that there are people growing up now who may never understand that the world was once not like this. Kind of like the friends I have who have never had a job that's not related to the Internet somehow.

It's also interesting to imagine how technologies like this could be used for activism. What happens when virtually everyone has a camera with them at all times and can snap pics, in a relatively clandestine, easy way, and get them online, of whatever fucked-up shit is happening wherever they are? I am reminded of the excellent "Spiders" web cartoon, which tells an alternate history of the U.S.-Afghan War, one in which Gore is president and tiny camera robots roam Afghanistan, accessible by anyone with an internet connection...

Posted by steev at 10:59 AM

Liar

Great flash animation about the election fraud. Excellent use of the Sex Pistols' song "Liar"...

Posted by steev at 01:40 AM

Noviembre 22, 2004

inifinte cat project

Apropo of nothing, this is just totally hilarious. The Infinite Cat Project.

Posted by steev at 06:08 PM

Noviembre 21, 2004

Anniversaries

A year ago yesterday I escaped from Portland for 4 months, I suceeded in my plan to exempt myself from the worst time to be there. Of course I have to state once again, I love Portland for so many reasons but I just can't stand the climate. I remember the day before I left it snowed, like it was Portland's weather god getting one last parting shot at me. It basically NEVER snows in November here. Maybe sometimes in January but never November.

I'm sad because this year I'm stuck here, at least for a month or two, and winter has descended. A plan is forming to permanently escape, but it will be awhile before I can make that happen, because of finances (if you'd like to make a donation to the Steev Escape From Portland Fund, click here. hah.) . So I'm stuck, and it's REALLY COLD here.

I know, it's tough all over. I know, it's cold where you are too, that's what happens in winter. Yeah but did you ever think about how you COULD live somewhere ELSE? Why do you stay? I just don't get why so many people put up with shitty winters. Please add your comments and tell me why you do, if you do.

Also about a year ago, or 13 months ago, Elliott Smith stabbed himself in the heart and died. I remember the extreme sadness people felt around here. He's from Portland. Now his new album is out and I'm downloading the mp3s from Gnutella. I felt a reflexive twinge of guilt and then I thought, no, wait, he's dead, there's no way my $15 would do him a godamn bit of good. I bought 4 of his records when he was alive and I sure hope some of that cash went to him, but now I feel no obligation to help out his record label and other beneficiaries of his celebrity.

Posted by steev at 08:13 AM | Comments (1)

Noviembre 20, 2004

Juarez Caravan Final Report: Steps Forward?

As I explained in my last report, The International Caravan for Justice in Juarez and Chihuahua City reached Juarez on October 31, 2004. This group of activists, teachers, students, researchers, and journalists from around the U.S. and Mexico had finally reached its destination, and we now had 5 days of activities and meetings to attend. As I mentioned before, on Saturday, the 31st, after our border crossing march and rally and the press conference at the cotton field where 11 murdered women had been found, we went to our ironically named lodging, the Hotel Colonial. After settling in at this very un-mexican, Holiday Inn-like establishment, we had a short orientation conducted by staff of the Mexico Solidarity Network. The purpose of this was to brief us on the situation in Juarez, for those who were not already familiar with it, and to make sure that everyone was aware of the reasons we were there and how we should deal with the Mexican press and officials. The basic rule or idea was that we were there as observers, to put quiet but noticeable pressure on the authorities, but we were not in charge of the campaign for justice in Juarez and Chihuahua - the family groups and other Mexican organizations were in charge; they know what they want, they are organized, and it's not up to us gringos to come down and lead the charge or show anyone what to do. We were there simply to be present, to learn, and stand in solidarity and witness the events and meetings with the Mexican officials, and then go back to our own communities and organize further solidarity efforts there. This, in my opinion, is a very enlightened attitude, and is the only way to conduct an international solidarity campaign.

Next, we attended a meeting that night at the hotel between the family groups and 4 deputies from the Mexican Federal Congress, who were on a special congressional committee to investigate the murders. The small conference room filled rapidly with the families, our delegation, and the media, all waiting till the congresspeople finally showed up. The meeting commenced with long speeches by the deputies, but they finally gave the floor to the mothers who were there, who took turns telling their stories and voicing their demands, displaying a variety of different levels of emotion and outrage (from tired disillusionment to fresh anger).

In the end, the deputies made conciliatory remarks, mentioned a new resolutoin in Congress, but seemed bored during most of the meeting. We were told afterward that this seemed to be the usual runaround. The families had been experiencing this sort of thing for 10 years, with a parade of different politicians pretending to care, appointing special commissions and prosecutors and investigators, saying nice things, but nothing ever really getting done. So the local groups did not have a lot of optimism for this evening's meeting.

On November 1, the next morning, we attended an all-day conference, also at the hotel, organized for our benefit, in which each local organization in Juarez involved in the this fight for justice gave a 90-minute presentation, with english interpreters provided for us dumb spanish-impaired types. firsts were the two main family groups, Para Nuestras Hijas Regresso a Casa (So that Our Daughters May Return Home), and Justicia Para Nuestras Hijas (Justice for Our Daugters). Several mothers of the murdered women spoke, including the 5 who travelled with the 5 legs of the Caravan through the U.S. Also the lawyer who represents many of the mothers, Lucha Castro, gave a speech. Needless to say, the morning was an intense experience, listening to these women talk about what they had been through, struggling for up to 11 years with the corrupt and inept police and government.

After lunch was Mujeres de Negro, or Women in Black (not the same as the U.S. group Women in Black), who formed specifically to address the murders in Juarez and Chihuahua. At the conference they showed a video about their work, called Ni Una Mas!, which showed many actions and protests they organized. One thing that they do that I feel is very visually and symbolically powerful is when several of them wear one huge black tunic, which looks like a giant tent or drapery with holes in it for the women's heads and arms to stick out. As they march in this tunic the viewer quickly realizes that there are several empty holes - this symbolizes the missing women, and the tunic itself stands for the unity of the women who remain and struggle.

Next was a presentation by CETLAC ( Center for Labor Studies and Workshops), an organization devoted to workers in the maquiladoras, the border factories in Juarez where many of the murdered women worked. These factories and the underlying free trade conditions that brought them to the Mexican border (and especially Juarez) are heavily linked to the murders. In Juarez there are roughly 315 maquilas ("maquila" is short for maquiladora, and the 2 terms are used interchangeably), with over 200,000 total employees, and over 57% are women. The common myth is that more women are hired at the maquilas because they have smaller, more nimble hands for working on delicate tasks, like assembling car stereos and other consumer electronics for Delphi Corporation, Lear, and RCA. However, the real reason is more likely to be that women are more easily exploited, less likely to resist and organize, and attractive to factory supervisors who would like an easy extramarital affair with a pretty young employee. The director of CETLAC, Beatriz Lujan, spoke first, followed by women who work or recently worked in maquiladoras. They told their personal stories that confirmed all the accounts that one reads about the maquilas: the long hours, the low pay, the exposure to toxins, the sexual harrassment... detailing all the statistics and details is beyond the scope of this article, but there is a lot of information out there.

The final presentation was by Esther Chavez Cano, the director of Casa Amiga, the only battered women's clinic in all of Juarez, a city of almost 3 million people. This was a truly moving talk, and here is where I will repeat some of the numbers: every 7.42 days, a woman disappears in Juarez; every 12.8 days, a woman is assinated; every 40.34 days, a woman is raped, tortured, and assasinated. Doctor Cano confirmed a horrific story that I had heard before: in recent years, the shelter is hearing more and more from women that their husbands, while abusing them, mention the femicides as a threat, saying things like "If you tell anyone I'll dump your body in the desert like those others and I'll get away with it." And yet in response to this situation the Attorney General of Mexico once said, "To be a woman in Juarez is like wanting to go out in the rain and not get wet." Since opening its doors in 1999, Casa Amiga has served a total of over 134 thousand women. Their website has more statistics and information.

The next day, November 2, we were released from our captivity in the hotel. (the hotel, I learned later, would soon be host to a very different group, some of the attendees of Maquila Expo 2004, foreign businessmen being persuaded to move their companies' manufacturing to Juarez!) It was election day, but to us it was Dia de Los Muertos. We had all voted before leaving home, and now our attention was here, on the border. We started the morning with a visit to Casa Peregrino, a shelter for women and their children. One of the staff there talked about the kinds of women that they served and then we met one of the mothers staying there with her 5 children. Many of the women at Casa Peregrino are either on their way to crossing the border, or are one their way back, having failed to get across. Many are also victims of domestic violence.

Our next appointment was at noon at a Day of the Dead Mass at the border, in a poor neighborhood on the edge of Juarez called Rancho Anapra. Anapra is a shantytown, basically, a chaotic jumble of shacks made from pallets, cardboard, and other scraps, scattered over the desert between dirt streets, built by people who moved to Juarez and couldn't afford anything better. In the midst of this sqalid environment that literally squatted at the edge of the "Third World," the mass we attended was truly inspiring. I'm not a religious person, at least not in the sense of organized religion, but this catholic ceremony was extremely moving to me, because of its unique circumstances: first of all, it was here where "Los Muertos" included hundreds of people whose deaths may never be explained or met with any closure.

Second, it was right on the border, which is moving enough: I had never been to the U.S. Mexico border prior to 3 days ago. crossing a bridge is one thing - bridges are a symbol of free communication and movement, but here we were at the opposite symbol - The Fence. Here is what I had seen many photos of and heard a lot about, but what nothing prepared me for actually seeing in person: The Fence, the fine-meshed chainlink metal barrier, about 15 feet high, stretching in a straight line in both directions for as far as the eye could see. Here I was, on the Mexican side, looking through a steel screen into my country, and thinking about the fact that even if I decided to climb over and jump to the other side, I could be arrested and prosecuted; trying to imagine what it was like for those who could not legally cross, even at the bridges a few miles away, who had family on the other side who they were now talking to and touching fingers with through this fence.

The third amazing thing about the Mass was that it was an incredible example of, literally, international cooperation. The ceremony happened on both sides of The Fence, with Texan and New Mexican priests and activiststs on one side, Chihuahuan ones on the other. The level of organization and cooperation was incredible: the priests and other speakers took turns, back and forth, speaking in Spanish and English, and musicians on both sides took turns providing music for the hymns, which were sung by all in unison. There were probably a couple of hundred people on each side, and the event truly made the fence seem to be what it represented - an imaginary and unjust line in the sand. As if to underscore this point, after the ceremony, as people began to pack up and leave, several young boys on our side scrambled over and dropped to the U.S. side. We franctically looked around for any sign of Border Patrol, but no immediate consequences of this transgression appeared, and the kids melted into the crowd.

The next day we got up early to get on a bus to Chihuahua City, capitol of the state of Chihuahua, where we had meetings planned with various government officials. Six hours later we found ourselves at the Palace of the Governor, José Reyes Baeza Terrezas, who had just recently taken office. Amongst us were several mothers of murdered women from Juarez and Chihuahua City, as well as Lucha Castro and Alma Gomez of Justicia Para Nuestras Hijas.

We filed into an ornate meeting room, along with the usual host of media people, and waited around for quite a while till the governor and 2 minions arrived, wearing the finely tailored wardrobes I had come to expect from Mexican officials but which seem so fancy compared to U.S. counterparts. The mothers gave their testimonies one by one and the 3 functionaries sat there and occasionally took notes - each of them had one tiny piece of paper, about the size of a post-it note, on which they were, incredibly, writing names and details of the 6 or 7 cases that were being discussed. Most of the time the advisor to the governor's left was tapping his fingers and twiddling his thumbs, while the female assistant to his right was totally impassive, like some sort of Stepford wife.

This set the tone for 2 of the 3 other meetings we had the following day. First we saw the Mayor of Chihuahua City, who came out and greeted everyone in the room with a handshake and a smile, speaking in impeccable English to those of us who were obviously from north of the border. But when the meeting began he gave no sign that anything was really going to change. Like the governor, he kept saying things like "We're on the same team" and "I'm on your side." We left this teammate and moved on to our next meeting at the state congress, where 5 representatives of different congressional committees sat behind a raised table and invited the mothers to tell their stories again. Again, boredom and indifference were the dominant vibe, though some deputies were better than others at acting concerned and emotional. I was beginning to get discouraged. I wanted to stand up and ask each of them how much money they accepted per year from the drug cartels. Of course, for most of these mothers, this was something they'd been through for close to 10 years and a rotating parade of different politicians.

At our third meeting it seemed at first as if we would receive similiar treatment. We went to the Supreme Court of the State of Chihuahua and met with its president, José Chávez Aragón, who had been newly appointed by the new governor. Out of all the officials we had seen, he seemed the most nonchalant and openly disrespectful, often interrupting the women and repeatedly shrugging, as if to say "this is not my problem." Indeed, that's what his main point was, that the investigations and cases that had been mishandled before were the jurisdictions of other judges - and yet the fact remained that those judges were now his subordinates.

However, as the mothers and other activists continued to pressure him and give him more details, he gradually warmed to them. They focused on 2 cases where innocent people had been tortured into confessing to 2 of the murders: David Meza, accused of killing his cousin, and Cynthia Kiecker and her husband Ulises Perzábal, also the subject of a very weak prosecution for another killing. Eventually Aragón said that he could review these cases in his office with the family members. "Vamanos," he announced several times. He left with Lucha, Alma, and relatives, and the rest of us went to lunch. In a little while they caught up with us at the restaurant with good news: the judge had talked with them about the details of the cases and had admitted that if tortured confessions were the only evidence, the cases should be thrown out. He made 3 calls, apparently to judges under him who had tried these cases. We must hope that he will follow through and make sure righting these wrongs continues, but this was very possibly a very positive development. The women who had talked to the Aragón were excited, and Macrina, from the Mexico Solidarity Network, told us "You are lucky to be here at a historic moment." Score one for the Judicial Branch, zero for the Executive and Legislative!

And so concluded the Caravan, on this positive note. At this point, it is still not known what the long-term effects of the pressure we placed on Mexican officials will be. In the United States Congress, house and senate resolutions on the femicides are still working their way toward a vote. Meanwhile, we know that the murders continue; in fact, there was another femicide on November 3, the day we travelled from Juarez to Chihuahua City. Dealing with this problem is a huge task that will require international cooperation and major changes in policy on both sides of the border, but with increasing awareness and pressure on the part of people in the U.S., Mexico, and elsewhere, one can be optimistc that justice will one day be achieved.

[As a videographer I documented the Caravan, and now that I'm back in Portland I'm starting the laborious process of going through the 12 hours of footage I shot and creating a documentary. While still travelling I already produced a brief 5-minute piece that summarizes the Caravan and the situation, which will appear in the December edition of the Indymedia Newsreal, which airs on Freespeech TV and is screened by indymedia centers around the U.S.]

Posted by steev at 08:00 AM

Noviembre 19, 2004

Protests Against APEC in Santiago de Chile

For the last few days thousands of activists have been protesting the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Santiago, Chile. There is lots of good reporting on CMI-Santiago's site.

This should be featured on the global indymedia site, for sure. There's been molotovs thrown, rocks hurled at police by hundreds of protestors, with police using tear gas and water cannons. This is big news, especially for Chile - when I was there I got the impression that open protest was still quite self-repressed (and of course repressed by the police as well), apparently in the wake, culturally, of the Pinochet years. This is pretty radical stuff!

Posted by steev at 11:21 PM | Comments (0)

Noviembre 18, 2004

yo regresso a Portland otra vez

Well, just like magic I flew from Tucson yesterday and now am back here to chilly and moist Cascadia, dealing with catching up on things and "normal" life again. My laptop broke down on my trip so i'm dealing with having no computer, and i need some work and my camcorder needs to be cleaned or repaired or something, etc etc blah blah.

I'm also catching up on email and other blogs and stuff and i have finally gotten up to date on my brother's blog, which is really quite entertaining. I also still need to finish my last Juarez story, which is very close to being done.

Posted by steev at 08:12 AM

Noviembre 15, 2004

Tucson

Yesterday I caught a ride down to Tucson from Tempe with Jessica of Arizona Indymedia. She happened to be driving from Flagstaff back to Tucson so just swung by and picked me up on the way. I was very grateful for that because the Greyhound, for some bizarre reason, takes 7 hours to travel what is a 2-hour drive.

I just passed through Tucson during the Caravan about 2 weeks ago, and now I'm back and I still think it's a pretty cool city. MUCH better than Phoenix, for sure. Today I rode Jessica's bike around, mostly in the University area. There's a few blocks of hipness on 4th Street, and a cool bike collective called Bicas which I went to but they are closed on Mondays (I'll return tomorrow).

The city is subject to constant overflights of military jets, because of the nearby airforce base. I've seen F-15s, A-10s, and some big cargo planes. Ah there goes some now. it's been pretty constant, at least a pair of them every half hour or so. It kind of made me try to imagine what it would be like in Fallujah, what it would be like to multiply those numbers by what, 100? And then add the fact that some of the planes would be dropping bombs nearby and the bombs would kill people I might know or destroy stores or restaurants or homes that i had been to.

Anyway, other than that I like Tucson, so far. It's a warm mostly sunny day, probably about 70, though there was some very light rain for 2 15 minute periods early today. I think people here loved it. It rains so little that they smiled as they walked through the light mist. Tonite is my screening here, the last one of my tour, and then on Wednesday I fly back home to Portland.

In the waning hours of this afternoon I am working on my last report about Juarez. So I'll hopefully be posting that in a little while yet today.

Oh, and also I just found out about this book that sounds really interesting called Confessions of An Economic Hitman, by this guy who used to work for a financial consulting company, and he would fly around the world doing the World Bank's dirty work. Now he's sort of a New Age shaman wannabe, it seems. Wow.

Posted by steev at 03:16 PM

Noviembre 13, 2004

Arizona

I arrived in Phoenix very very early this morning to do another video screening this afternoon. Actually, I'm in Tempe, the college town on the east side of Phoenix. I woke at 3 am this morning in order to get a ride from Flagstaff to here, since Carly, my host in Flagstaff, was heading to Phoenix airport to get a plane to L.A. It's a beautiful day now that the sun is up and I am killing time, wandering around Tempe till the show, which is at Gentle Strength Coop at 3pm. All the people here in town who set up the show for me are not available.

Last night's screening in Flagstaff was really great, at least compared to the last 2 shows, and it raised as much cash as did the one in San Francisco. I'm really impressed with the strength of the activist community in Flagstaff, which is a pretty small town. I guess there are a lot of progressive students, and a lot of issues people are passionate about there: water issues, native american issues, the public land fee demo thing, which is or was also a big deal in the Northwest, nuclear stuff, and more.

I guess maybe the timing is right, too. It's been over a week since the election and people are perhaps starting to snap out of their shocked depression and starting to get active again, starting to stir out of the disillusioned lethargy which perhaps was the cause for low turnout at my shows in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Some people in Flagstaff seemed excited, looking forward to people radicalizing even more in the wake of this latest fraud-ridden election fiasco. Learning about the resistance to opressions in Bolivia and elsewhere fits right into this mood, as people start to really consider that more drastic measures than get-out-the-vote campaigns are needed to save our country.

Many of the Flagstaff folks are in the grip of a horrible local situation that I think I should mention here. When Kerry came to Flagstaff in August, several of them showed up in wacky costumes, chanting and singing, to excercise their free speech rights and remind people that Kerry wasn't neccesarily the wonderous answer to all our problems that the DNC would have us believe. They ended up getting attacked by local police and 3 of them were actually arrested and charged with various ridiculous felonies like assaulting a police officer. One of them is still in jail because bail was set at $15,000 that he didn't have. This kind of repression at Kerry campaign events is not a surprise, and we saw similar things in Portland, but not, I think, to this degree. Rudy, one of the people who arranged for my screening in Flagstaff, was one of the others charged, and he has had to change his whole life in order to deal with his legal defense. He's gone from a very simple lifestyle, basically supporting himself through dumpster-diving, to doing 12-hour shifts waiting tables in order to pay for his lawyers, extra rent (his housemate is the guy still in jail), and other expenses incurred as fallout from the arrests. This kind of thing is just infuriating. I'm sure that eventually they will prevail, because the police don't have a leg to stand on, but it just sucks to have to deal with this kind of totally undeserved bullshit. I guess Flagstaff cops are as bad as Portland's.

Anyway, it's really exciting and great to be meeting all these great activists in the Southwest and learn what struggles they are involved in, and share with them what's happening where I live and what the common concerns are. I feel once again that I'm an agent of network-strengthing again, like I was in South America, a contributor to the complexity and emergent behavior of the global progressive movement.

Posted by steev at 10:59 AM

Noviembre 12, 2004

Bolivia Video Tour Continues

Greetings from Flagstaff, Arizona. Tonight is the third show in my rather relaxed 5-city Southwest Tour of my "Bolivia In Crisis" videos. The shows in Albuquerque and Santa Fe were good - the turnout could have been better, but the people who were there were great and there were great discussions. Plus, even if I'm not making tons of money for the Computers for Bolivia Project this trip has been really a great success just for all the cool people that I've met.

Another thing I'm really happy about is that on tuesday I had enough downtime staying with a friend in Chimayo (out in the country near Santa Fe) to produce a short summary video about the Juarez Caravan for Indymedia Newsreal. I was lucky that my friend there had a Mac with Final Cut on it, and though it was an ancient version of Final Cut that I'm not used to using, i still managed to bang out a pretty decent little piece, though not as polished as it would be if i had more time. I just sent it off in the mail this morning to the Newsreal folks in Boulder. I love that I'm travelling but I can still get a piece of videojournalism done less than a week after the delegation in Juarez ended!

Speaking of Juarez, I still have a lot to write about it, but I just do not have time yet. I need to go get some Flagstaff-style Food not Bombs lunch, and then get ready for the show tonite. Chao, from the office of my very helpful and gracious hosts, Flagstaff Activist Network.

Posted by steev at 01:03 PM

Noviembre 07, 2004

Crossing into Juarez

Here and now I'm going to continue to catch up on describing events during my time in Juarez and Chihuahua. But first, I need to mention a little bit about where I am right now.

I just arrived in Santa Fe, New Mexico and I'm sitting at a beautiful little café called Longetivity which has wireless access. The place is obviously heavily influenced by eastern philosophy, new age mysticism, and money, but oddly enough the other customers here right now seem pretty down-to-earth, non-yuppie, and almost scruffy. Places like this in Portland and the Bay Area are usually inhabited by upscale pretentious hipsters and such, but the kind of people here would more likely be found at a crusty worker-owned hangout like the Red and Black Cafe in southeast Portland. So, yeah, New Mexico is different. I feel like it's a weird mix of cultures: Mexico, California, Texas, and a little Colorado.

Now, about Juarez:

The 5 legs of the International Caravan for Justice in Juarez and Chihuahua arrived in Las Cruces, New Mexico, about an hour from the border, on Friday, October 30. A variety of non-governmental groups are involved with addressing the problem of the hundreds of murdered women of Juarez and Chihuahua, on both sides of the border, in Las Cruces, New Mexico; El Paso, Texas; and in Juarez and Chihuahua. Las Amigas de las Mujeres de Juarez were our hosts in Las Cruces on that night. The following morning we joined with members of Justicia Para Nuestras Hijas, Nuestas Hijas Regresan a Casa, CETLAC (a Juarez labor organization), and many other activists, along with other members of the Juarez delegation who had just flown in to El Paso on Friday. We all had breakfast at an El Paso YWCA and then headed to one of the several bridges that cross the Rio Grande and the border.

We assembled at the bridge (see stills from my video footage), the 5 mothers who had accompanied the 5 legs of the Caravan (west coast, east coast, east, southwest, and midwest) standing in front. Hanging from each of their necks was a sign with the photo and name of their murdered daughter. Behind were local Mexican activists holding banners and signs. Behind them were gringo Caravanistas and delegates. The corporate media mobbed the mothers and the cameras, competing for the best shot, making it nearly impossible to actually see the assembled marchers. Eventually the press backed off and the march began, taking up one whole lane of the bridge as it progessed slowly toward the Mexican customs booths on the south side. Gathered there was another huge mass of Mexican activists from a variety of organizations showing their solidarity (labor groups, Bracero groups, human rights groups, etc) with signs and banners, chanting and yelling things like "¿Que Quieremos? ¡Justicia!" ("What do we want!? Justice!") The mothers and caravanistas reached this group and the whole mass continued marching, turning onto the main street that runs along the river. The scene was very chaotic, with reporters and cameramen running around, people shouting into various megaphones, cars honking at the blockage of the street, and everywhere pink signs with black crosses.

The march ended at Puente Santa Fe, another border-crossing bridge where a huge sculpture had been erected months ago by the family groups. The sculpture consisted of a cross built out of railroad ties with a pink background into which hundreds of railroad spikes had been hammered. Hanging from each spike was the name of one of the murdered women. A simliar, smaller cross had been built in this location earlier, but was destroyed one night. The family groups built this larger one and announced publicly that they would continue to build even bigger versions each time one was removed. After that this second cross remained, unbothered.

When the march reached this spot, speeches began by the mothers and other activists, demanding justice and an end to corruption and impunity. Interspersed with these announcements were various songs and chants, and the honking of cars trying to get by the crowd so they could cross the border. After an hour or so, the rally ended and the crowd slowly dispersed. Those of us on the delegation got on a bus which took us to a press conference at the spot where 11 of the murdered girls were found, in an overgrown cotton field. On the way, we passed through many industrial parks full of maquiladoras, the border factories where many of the killed had worked. Across the street from the cotton field was the huge building that housed the headquarters of AMAC (in english, The Association of Export Manufacturers), the organization that represents and lobbies for the maquiladoras. At the press conference were more speeches informing the public of the demands of the allied groups and the plans for the delegation. This was watched closely by the press and by a squadron of Mexican Federal police. One officer even videotaped the whole event with a tiny camera, for some reason.

Returning back toward the center of Juarez, we checked into our hotel, a nice business-class establishment ironically named "Hotel Colonial." After a short rest and an orientation, we attended a meeting in one of the hotel's many conference rooms between the Juarez family groups and representatives from the Mexican Federal Congress. All 4 deputies seemed bored during most of the proceedings and mostly responded to the mother's demands with empty rhetoric that was identical to what they'd been saying for many years.

This concludes the first day in Mexico. Stay tuned tommorrow for more...

Posted by steev at 02:36 PM

Noviembre 06, 2004

Back in The Divided States of Gringolandia

Yesterday I returned to my sadly screwed-up homeland from the sadly-screwed up Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. I am now in Albuquerque, New Mexico, staying at the house of a participant in New Mexico Indymedia.

After a week without accessing the internet I have a lot to catch up on (even though we were in a pretty nice business-class hotel in Juarez, which had a computer room, the computer would not connect to the net for some reason). I think I will take it gradually and chronologically, starting with Tucson where I last connected from. The morning of the 30th in Tucson our caravan to Juarez met with some car troubles, as documented by our main driver, Swaneagle. Sadly, we were forced to leave her, her daughter Taina, and Luma, in Tucson. Luckily the breakdown did not happen earlier in the trip. We were done with all of our events, but we still needed to get to Las Cruces so that the next day we could cross into Mexico with the rest of the Caravanistas and Delegates. Jessica rented a car and she, Ramona, Nicole and I drove to Las Cruces across the beautiful desert.

Once there we were immediately plunged into the hectic excitement of the dinner and meeting of all the different caravan legs from all over the U.S. and Canada. We were hosted by local activists Amigas de las Mujeres de Juarez, a Las Cruces group that works to assist the mothers of the murdered women in Juarez. It was an exciting time, a flurry of activity in a small house in suburban Las Cruces as people planned for the next day's border crossing and other events.

I will stop here for now. This is just a first return entry to say "I'm back safely."

I will add that being in Mexico during the election was strange and oddly comforting, like being shielded from the grief and outrage and anger that I would have experienced had I been home (don't worry, I voted early before I left Portland). Now that I am back, the full impact of the horrendous results of November 2 is still hitting me. I'm especially disturbed by the sweeping success of the bigoted anti gay marriage measures across the country, even in Oregon. I am truly ashamed for my nation and people.

I'll blog more as I get time. Today should be pretty relaxed, as I don't have much to do till my screening of Bolivia videos here in Albuquerque tonite (Saturday Nov. 6th 7pm at the Center for Peace and Justice, 202 Harvard SE).

other dates on my tour:
--Monday November 8th 7pm at Warehouse 21, 1614 Paseo de Peralta, in Santa Fe.
--Saturday November 13th in Tempe, AZ at Gentelstrength Coop, 7pm
--Monday november 14th in Tucson at Sexto Sol(?? not sure of the name of the venue)

Posted by steev at 08:28 AM | Comments (0)