A Washington Post story tells of a former elite force of anti-drug commandos in Mexico, called the Zetas, are now working for the drug cartels. In their periodic news and analysis mailing, the Mexico Solidarity Network adds that the leaders of the Zetas were trained at the School of the Americas in the U.S.
The Post article mentions again the State Departments warnings to U.S. citizens about Northern Mexico and the various abductions, as I wrote about a couple weeks ago. In my interview with Bill Conroy while I was in Austin, he stressed further the idea that the drug cartels don't do anything if it doesn't earn them money, and kidnapping gringos is not a big money-maker.
I just had a great idea. What if Mexico simply disbanded all of its law enforcement agencies? No one trusts or relies on police anyway, there, it seems. Why not just make an announcement that there is now no such thing as a Mexican cop? No more corruption, since you can't corrupt something that doesn't exist. No more drug thugs impersonating cops. If you're dressed as a cop, that would prove you're a criminal. Unrealistic, I guess, but an interesting thought experiment.
Perhaps of general interest is an entry to the other blog I write for over at Detritus.net, in which I detail what I was doing last Friday and some related events concerning intellectual property issues.
Lots of videos available from this Venezuelan public television organization. They contacted the Portland indymedia video group with a request for some of our stuff, including about 4 pieces that I worked on. I love the idea of working with them - trading videos and increasing connections. I especially am excited about their offer of translating en espaņol and subtitling the videos we send them.
Today I uploaded a bunch of media related to the Indymedia Conference: photos, audio documentation, and even a little video clip.
I'm in Iowa now, having arrived a few days ago at my mom and stepfather's place in Bettendorf. They have only dialup access to the Net, so I haven't been getting online much. It's just too frustrating trying to deal with such low bandwidth. Wow I am spoiled. But today I rode a bike down to the public library, which is pretty close. There's free wireless access there, so I'm uploading stuff and giving some long-overdue attention to my blog.
I've been thinking about the Indyconference on the train ride up here and in the last few days as I captured a bunch of the audio recordings I made. I think the conference was an amazing and wonderful thing...
The amazing level of face-to-face interaction and building of connections is bound to strengthen the US and global network. I hope it sets a precedent for regular annual conferences.
There was some talk of trying to have a global or at least an Americas conference in a couple years, perhaps in Quito, Ecuador, which I think would be a great idea. I don't know if Ecuador IMC is ready to mastermind something like that, but I hope something happens, at least some event which takes place in the south that is easier to get to for global south compaņ[email protected]
I also hope that future conferences aim to get more representation even from other U.S. IMCs. I've thought a lot about Portland's incredible turnout at the conference. I think it was great, and it made me proud, but I also feel like maybe there were too many of us.
At the video discussion I felt a little embarrassed, actually, because we Cascadians were doing a very large proportion of the talking. I spoke up, in fact, and suggested we give others a chance to talk. It's true that we've done a lot of great work, but I felt like we were not giving enough time for people from elsewhere to tell their stories and talk about their concerns. I think we are in danger of creating a hierarchy of efficiency or productivity, when that is not what indymedia should be about.
Just because a small group gets more work done doesn't mean they should run things. Most important in this consideration is that there may be some factors of privelege that enable certain IMCs to be more productive. I don't want to go into what those factors might be here, leaving that as an excercise for the reader - the point is that we should all be enabling others and each other to participate equally, at all levels and in all areas. It's not a competition. Besides, many people might have ideas we all could learn from, even if they have less downloadable video files on their site, or whatever other unit of measuring productivity we want to use. Even though we may be ahead of the game in some ways, and could teach others a lot, I don't want everyone to quietly listen to Portland IMC's wise advice and then do things exactly like we do. I want a diversity of ideas and tactics, and a truly democratic discussion of options that comes from a diversity of experiences and backgrounds.
I also feel like we may have actually had too many people come from Portland. It was awfully fun and gratifying to have such a big pdx posse, but to be honest, I would rather have seen a few less of us there, if that meant a few more could have come from other IMCs. There are over 50 US IMCs, but only a dozen or so were represented at the conference (Portland, Austin, Houston, North Texas, Arkansas, Arizona, New Mexico, Talahassee, Las Vegas, NYC, Chicago, Richmond, Baltimore, Seattle, Bay Area... who else? am I forgetting someone?). To be sure, you can bet that many did not come because of economic factors. When you take the 12 or so Portlanders, who came further than almost anyone else (other than Clara in Amsterdam and GDM, who is on his way from Oz back to the UK), and add up how much we all spent to get to Austin, we're talking at least $3000. There were more of us even than from Austin itself, or Houston or North Texas, which were the closest.
What if each IMC sent only a maximum of 3 people, and accepted cash from others from their collectives that could afford to go, and pooled that into a travel grant fund to pay for transportation of poorer IMCistas from other places that weren't represented? That would be truly a great thing, and I hope ideas like this get discussed when planning future conferences. Of course it's hard for an individual to sacrifice their own participation in something so inspiring, invigorating and just plain fun, but if we are to be real about the things we talk about like global solidarity and mutual aid, then these kinds of things have to be seriously considered and acted upon.
Well, I have precious little calories left after that extended polemic. But I will sweep over some specific projects or topics addressed at the conference that inspired me and have me thinking about places to extend my participation: improving journalistic skills; video archiving; strengthening the global network of indy videomakers; blogging and how it relates to indymedia; and helping with the US-IMC site. It's all very heady and a little overwhelming, especially because I can barely stay sane with the projects I'm involved with now. So we'll have to see how things end up. I'm hoping that in the next 5 weeks I can wrap up some big things and move on to new things.
It's absolutely beautiful weather today here in Austin, which is perfect because I'm now done with sitting in conference rooms all day. All during the Indy Conference is was overcast and even a little rainy, but that was fine. If it was as nice as today, I would have been tempted to skip out on some of the conference and go outside.
here's a photo i just took of my friends' pack porch where I'm sitting.
I'm exhiliarated by the weekend and now the weather. The conference wrapped up last night rather late because of an extended closing discussion that turned very heavy. Then there was much eating and drinking, till I got tired at about 2:30. I'm sure the partying went on till the early hours because some people had to be at the airport at 6 or something, so they were planning on just staying up.
Anyway, I can't write more, its too nice, but i'll blog more about the conference and stuff later.
This is a nice little flash slideshow thing that give statstics for various things that happen around the world every 10 seconds. Deaths, births, money, food, etc. You probably know it, in general, already but it's a poignant reminder.
I'm sitting in Mojo's cafe as other IMCistas hang a sheet to prepare for screening indymedia videos. This is a wonderful environment. I like Austin a lot. The only problem is that the weather has been pretty much exactly like Portland for the last 3 days. Only a little warmer. Anyway, before I babble on I should refer you to the other blogger who has been writing about the conference, the very smart and knowledgable Chris Anderson of New York City's IMC.
He's written a few very thoughtful entries about the conference on the Indypendent blog.
Chris was actually supposed to be facilitator for one of the workshops at 10 am this morning, but he was late because his ride slept in... It turns out that many conference attendees stayed up till 5 or 7 this morning. (I myself decided to catch up on sleep, since sleeping on a stone floor for 2 weeks in Tucson has reduced my immune system.)
Anyway, the session Chris was supposed to lead was about Blogging and Indymedia. I recorded audio of it, but I have yet to encode it. The discussion was extremely interesting and we batted around several URLs and ideas.
Over lunch I met with Bill Conroy, who writes for Narco News Bulletin. In fact, he just wrote a new article about the 'House of Death' in Juarez. Anyway, he drove up from San Antonio, partially to visit his daughter who is attending UT-Austin, but also to give me an interview for my Juarez documentary. He offered some great insights on the Drug War and corruption, and I'm really happy that I got to talk to him, and I'm very happy with how the documentary now is shaping up. I look forward to hunkering down for the next month and getting most of it edited.
Umm, anyway, the IndyConference is really great. I don't know how to really meaningfully write about it write now as it's still happening, other than to simply list the events. So anyway, after the interview with Bill, we went to get coffee and ran into the New Mexico IMC folks, who I met in Albuquerque back in November. They were with some Talahassee IMC guys. We chatted for a bit and then went over to the auditorium to see Amy Goodman from Democracy Now give her keynote speech.
It was great and moving seeing her speak, but I felt a bit like how I often feel, and that is that there was a lot of preaching to the choir going on. Her talk was not really focused on Indymedia in any way, it seemed to be her standard talk about how important independent media is. Which is great, but like, hey, we already know how important it is. I didn't know her Sally Jesse story, or her story about almost being killed in East Timor in the 70s. But although all that stuff was great, what I really wanted to hear was her specific thoughts about the Indpendent Media Center. How does it complement what Democracy Now is doing? What strengths and weaknesses does she see in it? Where should it go? These are the kinds of questions that her presence at an Indymedia Conference should address, not her schpiel she gives to middle american moderate liberals.
Anyway, next were more workshops. I went to a 2-hour session about IMC Video that was very useful. I took lots of notes and I plan to post those on the wiki soon, which is on the docs.indymedia.org site. Then I went to a little of the "how to do a mobilization," and then a little of the "underserved communities" workshop, but then I had to play hookie again and go see my friend's band Brekekekoaxkoax, a sort of free improv experimental quartet that was playing across town.
And now I'm here, watching IMC videos. Fun!
It's the second day of the Indy Conference here in Austin Texas. Indymedia people from all over the U.S., and even a few from abroad, have gathered here to learn from each other and discuss the many concerns related to this amazing thing we call the Independent Media Centers.
Here's a photo of John Downing giving a keynote speech last night to a room of about 150 imcistas and other interested folks. Downing is the author of "Radical Media" and had a lot of interesting things to say. He's obviously someone who, though an academic, is familiar with how Indymedia really works and what it is. In fact, he made an allusion to a discussion that's been going on in the global video list, so he must be paying pretty close attention.
I rode with 3 Tucson compaņ[email protected] the 14 hours across Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas and arrived Thursday evening, stopping only for a brief 4-hour nap at Balmhorea State Park in West Texas. Once we arrived we were greeted with great hospitality, and the Austin IMC folks have been nothing but friendly, efficient and organized in setting up this amazing event.
I'm excited to get down there for another day of it. Today, also, I'm meeting with Bill Conroy, who writes for Narco News and knows a lot about the drug war in Mexico. I'm going to interview him for my Juarez documentary. Then back to the conference, at which Amy Goodman will be speaking this afternoon. Then my friend Josh, who I'm staying with, has a show tonight with his band.
Getting on the road to go the Indy Conference soon.
I've gone to 4 musical events here in Tucson in the last 8 days, and 3 of them have been at the same club, Club Congress. Sunday I saw an awesome show featuring the Tokyo band Polysics (sort of like a japanese Devo), and 4 amazing opening bands. I took lots of photos, and even a few video clips.
In other news, I'm going to leave Tucson and head for Austin tommorrow for the Indy Conference there. I'm riding with focus, also from Portland IMC, and 2 Tucson IMC people, Walt and Jessica. I'm looking forward to the conference, seeing a bunch of indymedia people from all over, and seeing Austin again. Out of the many places I've lived I think Austin is the only place I felt like I didn't want to leave when I moved away, and that I could envision living there again.
An article by Al Giordano, publisher of Narco News Bulletin, and another by Bill Conroy, point to the U.S. State Department's recent warning to U.S. citizens about Mexico border kidnappings and murders. The warning appears dubious - misguided at best, politicking at worst, and we see politicking in response coming from Mexico City, as Giordano points out. Apparently every time the U.S. gets too tough on Mexican drugs, the Mexican government responds with hints of legalization, to get the gringos to back off. It's happening again in this case.
Here in Tucson the border is way high on the list of important issues, with good reason. Nogales is only 90 minutes away. It's just fascinating how much spanish is spoken/written here, and how the border influences almost everything. My friend Shawn is having tooth problems and a tucsonian friend, when asked where a cheap dentist is in town, said "in Mexico." To us Northwesterners this seems totally bizarre, driving 90 minutes to go see a cheap Mexican dentist. But tons of folks do that. now are they going to stop because some bureacrat in Washington tells them the narcos are going to grab them for ransom? I doubt it.
Related news is that today, in a few hours, I'm going to go over to the house of Charles Bowden to interview him about narcotrafficking and corruption. He is a longtime resident of Tucson and has written many amazing books about the border and Juarez and the drug war which have been very inspring to me.
Most notably, he wrote the amazing book "Down by the River" (which I thought I had written about here last summer but I guess not) which is a nonfiction account of an El Paso family and how the drug war effected them, when one brother is killed and another, who is a DEA agent, thinks it's a message to him from the Juarez drug cartel. He proceeds to try to investigate the crime on his own time, since the agency forbids him to do it on the job, and his life gradually falls apart.
Anyway, I'm really pleased that Chuck agreed to an interview and am looking forward to meeting him.
Well, I definitely have not been blogging much lately. That's because I've had pretty limited access to the net, since I'm staying in a house that's pretty primitive conditions, at least for this pampered country. There's no phone and no heat, I'm sleeping on the stone floor, and shower takes hours to drain and leaves sediment on the floor. so of course it's not suprising there's no internet. Luckily there is a really cool cafe a pretty short bike ride away (I rented a scrappy but nice bike from BICAS on tuesday, for cheap!) which has wireless. So here I am drinking tea and looking out the window at the rainy street.
Rain? you ask incredulously. Yes. It rains a little bit in Tucson in the winter. And this year, a little more than usual. Apparently the rain is coming from the Gulf of Mexico, which is even more unusual. But this means that at least the rain and the air is warm (unlike in Portland, where rain this time of year usually means ice-cold rain). In fact, before last night, the nights were pretty chilly, but because of the weather change it was much warmer.
Luckily, Shawn looked at the weather forecast and saw that the rain was coming, and planned to go the desert yesterday while it was still nice. I went with him, and it was a lot of fun. We went to Saguaro National Park, which is split in half by the city of Tucson. The east half is just on the east edge of town, so it was relatively easy to get there. We took the bus to get past the nasty miles of strip malls, and then biked the rest of the way.
Once at the park we biked halfway around the 8-mile loop drive, and then took the dirt multiuse trail that cuts across the loop. Neither of us are big mountain bike enthusiasts, we're urban, everyday bikers, not recreational weekend lycra-wearers. But the trail was pretty easy for most of the way, though at some point it got to where only skilled rockhoppers would have felt comfortable. we walked past those spots. Anyway, I took lots of nice photos and it was a lot of fun. And the return trip was relatively easy, being mostly downhill, back into stripmall land where we caught the bus back downtown.
I was going to write some further, more pensive things about what I think of Tucson but I'm going to wait, as it's getting late, and I need to think some more. The rain, the nightly chill, the city, the house... there are many things to meditate on and write about. But that will have to wait. If you're been waiting for this kind of stuff, thanks for your patience. In the meantime, enjoy those photos.
Well I made it to Tucson, after 48 hours of travelling on 3 different modes of transit (car, bus, train), and am now ensconced in a very basic dwelling with my fellow portlander, Shawn. I'll blog more details later, but for now, look at some photos.
I started really packing today. Packing what I will store here in Portland, what I will take, and what I will ship to my Dad's house in Iowa. I hate packing. I hate finding enough boxes. I hate organizing. Mostly I hate seeing all the stuff I hardly ever use, even some stuff I've never used. Like books I've only barely looked at. I have way too many books in general. It's incredible. I've actually sold quite a few over the last 10 months, but I still have a lot. I have too many CDs too. I hate seeing the stuff I was planning to do something with. Books that were going to be the start of some project. Videos I was going to use as source material. Footage I still haven't logged. Piles of CD-Rs and DVD-Rs of data that I've backed up, that need to be organized. The bittersweet sting of potentials unrealized.
In other news, I got a notice in the mail today that my last semester of undergrad tuition is 2,955 days late. That is hilarious. Somewhere a computer actually keeps track of that. I've been slowly paying off the University of Michigan like 10 or 20 dollars a month for the last 13 years, but this is the first time I've seen that days overdue count. Hee hee. wow.
A new film made in Austria about Toywar, Rtmark, The Yes Men, and other internet-based conflicts is finally done. I remember being contacted by the filmmaker at least 2 years ago, but had sort of forgotten about it tilll he emailed me tonite. I was involved to some extent in several of the projects documented in the film (I used to host Rtmark's website, and basically taught them Perl (no really!), I helped write software with members of The Yes Men, and was part of the community helping out Etoy during the Toywar, as well as a contributor to the Toywar CD). I even have some music on the soundtrack CD of the film.
I can't wait to see the film. It looks like it could be very cool.
Well, I'm definitely leaving Portland this Saturday. The plan is to ride with a friend who is driving to the bay area, stay the night in San Francisco, then catch a bus to L.A. in the morning, then get the train out of L.A. sunday night to arrive in Tucson monday morning. It will be approximately the same amount of time as if I had taken amtrak the whole way, which is now impossible because of track repairs and resulting overbooking. The good thing is that I will see more people I know on my way down.
So this week is the usual craziness of getting packed. I'm packing things into 3 groups, actually: things I'm taking, things I'm mailing to my Dad's house in Iowa, so I'll have them when I'm there in March, and things I'm storing in the basement here till I return to Portland this summer. And of course there's a pile of stuff I'm trying to get rid of.
Meanwhile I'm trying to getting what I can done on the Bolivia project. The good news is that another quote I got today for the shipping is much less than the others, though still higher than the super low one we thought we were going to be able to use. So there is hope that we are closer than I thought. Maybe we'll only have to raise another $1000 or so, intead of $3000.
Also today while I should have been working on that stuff, or other things, I spent 4 hours fiddling with Exim, the mail software I use on my server. It was super fucking annoying. I had to figure out how to exempt just ONE of my users from the new greylisting scheme, which for ALL my other users is working fine now, but for some odd reason, he is losing mail. So fucking frustrating. Why does EVERY MTA have to be like fucking black magic? Why does delivering email have to be so arcane?? Just makes me furious.
I was just directed to a page that lists 70 things to say when you're losing a tech argument. Pretty funny stuff, I guess mostly in wow-that's-so-real way. Some of them you actually hear all the time. Some are hilarious.
The most all-around useful one, IMHO: "Yes, well, that's just not the way things work in the real world."
The funniest one contest, for me, is a tie between: "What? I don't speak your crazy moon-language." and "Yes, yes, we've all read DJB's RFCs on the subject." (mostly cuz I hate Daniel J. Bernstein and all his software and all his rants about why his software is better)
oh boy, here I am posting 2 "geekness" entries in a row, within an hour. sigh.
Great, so now there's trackback ping spam. Fucking A. I get up this morning and my email is full of notifications that various blogs I run received 19 trackback pings, all of which were just links to some online gambling site. Luckily I have an MT plugin that allows me to pretty easily delete these. However, this is no doubt going to become a continuing problem. Take warning, fellow bloggers, if you haven't seen this already! What bullshit. I've only ever received like 2 pings in the lifetime of my blogging. I don't think many folks use them, or even understand what they're for. In searching for a good FAQ about them, I found a pretty entertaining thread on a discussion board where people made up funny explanations. I think I'll leave it at that.