Julio 30, 2005

Juarez Doc Details

Well, the film is really coming along. Translations are slowly trickling in from various people helping out, thankfully, though there are still several clips left to do. Now I'm busy making subtitles from the translations I do have, and as I go, tightening up the editing. Hopefully I can still reduce the total length, but I've decided not to be so worried about that anymore. It's about 72 minutes, and I wanted it to be more like 57, but we'll just have to see. I thought it might be interesting to list here the different sections of the doc, not neccesarily in order:

  • intro
  • migration/border
  • impunity
  • poverty and violence
  • violence against women
  • negligence
  • torture of innocents
  • corruption
  • narcotraficantes
  • NAFTA/free trade
  • conclusion/solutions

    It's a complicated series of topics that are all interlinked into a web, conceptually, so it has been difficult to force them into a linear order, but of course this has to be done for a documentary. On the DVD I will of course have an index allowing viewers to get to and watch each section.

    Posted by steev at 06:45 AM | Comments (1)
  • Julio 29, 2005

    Broadcast Machine and ParticipatoryCulture.org

    Participatroy Culture's video publishing software, Broadcast Machine is a free and open source content management system that handles publishing of video content and even acts as an automated bittorrent seeder. Pretty cool. I've been looking for something like this. ibiblio also has something called Osprey that is simliar, it looks like.

    There's a lot of exciting "participatory" or "independent" web video projects sprouting up all over. Blogging was a first wave, then the podcasting wave, and that seems to have touched off a still-embryonic video casting/bloggin phenomenon. The interesting and scary thing is that the power of Hollywood and television is so great that some of these internet video sharing ventures are hybrid or not so hybrid tv networks, and some are closer to traditional distribution and business models than others. It's a weird time where it's hard to tell what will happen.

    Will "vcasting" make television irrelevant? Or will the television industry taint vcasting? hard to say, but it reminds me of when I worked for ZDTV during it's launch (later TechTV, and now I think it's called G4?) - I and some other idealistic employees thought it would make TV more like the Web, but it ended up helping to make the Web more like TV. Disillusioned again.

    Posted by steev at 07:00 AM | Comments (0)

    Julio 28, 2005

    CAFTA passes... oh, shit.

    Well, the republicans just barely squeezed CAFTA through the House last night, 217-215, apparently after lots of threats to reluctant partymembers. What a shame, after all the fighting and all the people standing up against it. 15 democrats even voted for it. To add insult to injury, I get this clueless email from this Guatemalan guy I met in Chiquimula, a celebratory message about how how great it is that CAFTA finally passed and how good it will be for his country. What a fool. I met this guy through a complicated connection I won't go into but suffice it to say he was interested in my efforts to get computers to Bolivia, and he wanted some computers for some schools in Guatemala. He works with Habitat for Humanity and his city is a sister city of Port Huron, Michigan and he's been up there a few times. He was a nice enough guy but now I'm really doubting his sanity, and the fact that he's an evangelical minister makes me sort of shiver, too. Here's what he said:

    All right!!!!!!!!! the CAFTA was finally aproved by the USA congress, this will bring more
    and better opportunities for both countries especially for ours.

    It just seems like such a no-brainer that CAFTA will be a fucking disaster for everyone. All you have to do is look at NAFTA. That's all you have to do. It's like a big 10-year old sore thumb, a big sign sitting there saying hey, look at this huge failure, this monster that's put 8 million people under the poverty line and destroyed millions of jobs, etc etc. I mean, how clueless do you have to be? You have to be either stupid, or rich and evil. I know this guy isn't rich.

    suspira....

    Posted by steev at 07:04 PM | Comments (1)

    Julio 26, 2005

    Juarez docu proceeds, but still need more translators

    Well, I am slowly but steadily progressing on my film about the femicides in Ciudad Juarez. Some days I feel like, yeah, sure, I can wrap it up in 2 weeks. Other days I think, omigod there's still so much to do.

    Definitely though, the big thing that is holding me back is translation. I still have several bits of interviews that I can't accurately, fully translate myself into english, and hence, can't really even make a final decision about what to use or how to cut. A few people have responded to earlier requests, and 2 have actually followed through, and it's been great to get back those translations and feel like I can now fully take advantage of the corresponding footage.

    But I need more help! So if you are good at spanish and english and would like to help, go to the Backpack page I've set up to manage the task, and follow the directions there. If you're fluent it should just take a few minutes to do one clip, more if you want to do more. If you have questions email me at steev AT detritus.netNOSPAM or leave a comment here.

    gracias!

    Posted by steev at 07:39 PM | Comments (2)

    Julio 25, 2005

    War on Terror as a series of Unix shell interactions

    From Boing Boing we have a renactment of the first round in the War on Terror, Unix-style. And I'm so glad they spelled Unix right, not all in caps (it's not an acronym! - that's one of my pet geek peeves). Anyway, I'm trying to think how one could continue it, but they might have stopped just in time (avoiding the Saturday Night Live Syndrome where every joke just gets driven into the ground). Ooh, but one funny thing might be something like:


    $ cd Iraq/reasons_to_invade
    $ ls
    oil
    $ ln -s oil democracy
    $ ln -s oil WMDs
    $ ln -s oil regime _change
    $ ./saddam_connected_to_911
    ./saddam_connected_to_911: Command not found.

    ha ha ha. there's all sorts of other sub-jokes possible. like maybe the media could somehow be used as a compiler/linker to build the binary called "concensus." etc etc.

    but, like i said, it's probably gone on enough. or, wait, too far, now. i'm sure there's leftie geeks all over the world furiously thinking up more, but i can say i've spent enough time on it.

    (thanx josé)

    update: erp! i found the original blog where this was posted. They take it a lot farther, especially the commentors. still funny though, with some of the same ideas I just had above, basically.

    Posted by steev at 02:24 PM | Comments (0)

    Julio 24, 2005

    El Paso trying to stop teens from crossing into Juarez

    Interesting new article in the El Paso paper about how teenagers keep going into Juarez even though they know it's dangerous. Two El Paso high school boys were offed in the last 10 days. Meanwhile as usual we got Juarez officials saying, nah, Juarez isn't violent, it's about as violent as, say Houston.

    Uh, yeah, but in Houston the police probably actually investigate and solve some violent crimes.

    Posted by steev at 08:18 AM | Comments (0)

    Julio 21, 2005

    Commerce Department Stops Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba

    URGENT- PLEASE CONTACT
    THE COMMERCE DEPARTMENT
    YOUR CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVES,
    EMERGENCY NETWORKS AND PRESS CONTACTS:

    SPREAD THE WORD FAR AND WIDE!
    http://www.commerce.gov
    202-482-2000

    Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez
    [email protected]


    As of 1:30 pm EDT, The Pastors for Peace Friendshipment Caravan to Cuba
    is being held up at the US-Mexico border by US Commerce Department
    officials.
    They are threatening to search every vehicle and every item of
    humanitarian aid. They are telling us that "only licensable goods will be allowed to
    cross into Mexico."

    Pastors for Peace does not accept or apply for a license to deliver
    humanitarian aid to Cuba.

    There are 130 US citizens traveling with the caravan. They and the
    humanitarian aid are traveling in eight busses, a box truck and two
    small cars. It will take days to inspect the 140 tons of aid. We are prepared
    todo whatever we need to do to deliver our humanitarian aid to Cuba. Stay
    posted...

    Posted by steev at 01:29 PM | Comments (0)

    The Spoilers

    I just heard a great program on Odyssey, a public radio show that I've frequently found interesting, though suprisingly highbrow or academic - you don't often hear, even on public radio, phrases like "post-modern conception of representation," especially from a caller!

    Anyway, today's show was about Reality TV, and the 2 guests were both academics and cultural critics, one of them being the eminent Henry Jenkins, who is pretty well known for his study of fan culture and his book "Textual Poachers."

    There was a lot of great stuff about the role that reality television is playing in society, but there are 2 things in particular that I was most interested in. First, the idea that reality tv programs promote an idea of individual agency and responsiblity that is in keeping with the current rise of neoliberal ideology in politics. Where before people could look to government social programs or their community for support, they're encouraged now to be independent individualists and compete, like in Survivor and other reality contest game shows, and look to private sources of charity like the Extreme Home Makeover show.

    The other interesting thing that Jenkins brought up is the phenomenon of the spoiler community. These are viewers of a reality show who get together on the internet and investigate the show to find out what will happen before it goes on the air, or to find out extra details that don't appear on the show itself. They're like investigative journalists, only they don't investigate weighty things like corrupt politicians or corporate wrongdoing, they investigate whether Joey will be voted off the Island next week, or whatever. They even pool their money sometimes to send one of their group to physically investigate the filming location, interview people, etcetera.

    Hmm. sounds sort of like Indymedia.

    Jenkins basically explained that he sees this as an activity motivated by a desire to use new information tools to learn more about the world than what is being told to them by the media, and he mentioned how this is connected to some forms of activism going on now or that will go on.

    Wow. Isn't it incredible, there's people out there put time and energy and money into being amateur investigative journalists, but their subjects are completely useless, unreal elements of constructed corporate mass culture. Just imagine if they could be swayed to participate in Indymedia instead!

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

    Border Border Border

    My friend José writes in his blog today about the latest Mexico-U.S. border shenangians. He mentions the idea floated by the U.S. of having volunteer border patrols, and makes the point that the border problems are about economics and labor, about immigrants making a "costs-benefits analysis," not about sovereignity. Yes! Of course. It's suprising how little this is discussed in mainstream media, though. How often does CNN or even the NYT mention that minimum wage in Mexico is about $4 a day? Or that paying 40,000 quetzals (about 5,000 dollars) to have a coyote take you from Guatemala to Texas is a good deal?

    Parenthetically, I can't help notice José doing that "I told you so" thing - he's one of the smartest people I've ever met so I forgive him - but it's something that I see bloggers doing all the time and it's just sort of funny to me: "I've been saying that for years here on this blog." Well, yeah, and I've been yelling at the TV since I was 10 but that doesn't mean anyone has been listening. Face it, if you're someone with real mass visibility (maybe Paul Krugman, Bono, Alan Greenspan) you have a right to say "hey I already said that," but otherwise, c'mon. To mutate a famous old jazz saying, It ain't what you say, or when you say it, it's how many copies of it are being sold.

    Posted by steev at 06:58 AM | Comments (2)

    Julio 20, 2005

    Gringoton

    While in Chiapas I learned of a film called "Grington" (or "Gringothon" in english) by an expatriate from the U.S. living in Mexico, Greg Berger. I recently found it available for download from the excellent Salon Chingon site (which is connected with Narco News), and last night I finally watched it. It's really great and really funny. The film is all about Greg feeling helpless as a gringo living in Mexico during the start of the Iraq War, and so he decides to start a campaign to raise money to fund an insurrection in the U.S. to oust George Bush. He goes around D.F. dressed as a tourist, speaking purposely really badly-pronounced spanish, and trying to get people to donate to the cause. I recommend downloading and watching it, and if you ever have a chance to see any of his other work, do so - I obtained some DVDs while in Mexico of a few of his other pieces, and they're really excellent. He has a website at gringoyo.com.

    Posted by steev at 07:35 AM | Comments (0)

    Julio 17, 2005

    Latest News from Juarez

    A story in the Houston Chronicle tells of a bus driver in Juarez who was just released from prison because a judge found him not guilty after being tortured into confessing to the rape and murder of 8 women in 2001.

    It's a mostly pretty good article overviewing the torture side of the Juarez situation. What I continue to find interesting is the way such a huge variety of numbers for the killings keeps being reported. Somebody says 300, somebody else says 360, somebody else says 400, the government says, oh, only 100 of them were sexually motivated so there's only 100.

    This has always been a problem with this issue. It's not a surprise that there would be different counts, given the many layers of incompetence and corruption, and attempts by the government to minimize the problem by creating different categories for the murders. However what annoys me is that the media seldom mentions this problem. It would only take one extra sentence. Instead of saying, "the total is X," it would be easy to say, "the total number of killings, according to the government, is X, but other sources put the amount at over Y." The number I'm probably going to go with in my film is "over 410", but I'm going to acknowledge that this is just one of many counts. The other disputable thing in this article is that they mention the count since 1994, but everyone else I've talked to always says this problem started in 1993. So that shaves a bunch of murders off right away (I think about 19 in that first year).

    Posted by steev at 06:35 AM | Comments (0)

    Julio 15, 2005

    Jonesing for Freakishness

    My good friend Jay is hanging out in Detroit for a month, where she's from originally, and near where I lived for 6 years during my college days. She told me the 4th Street Fair was happening this weekend, and I looked it up on the web. It looks pretty cool - I never knew about such freaky things in Detroit when I was in Ann Arbor. It reminds me of all the whacky street fairs that happen in San Francisco every year, like Folsom Street Fair.

    Seeing this fit right into my mood that kicked off earlier today wheen meeting some old friends for lunch in Iowa City, a sort of wistfulness. I realized that I still love college towns and that I've been missing friends and counterculture. I think the last counterculture I experienced was El Chopo in Mexico City.

    What a strange several months it has been...

    Posted by steev at 02:28 PM | Comments (0)

    Julio 13, 2005

    Sobering Maps & Flags

    This really well-done map by the Palm Beach Post let's you zoom and click on various locations in the U.S. to find details of who has died during our government's latest imperial military ventures abroad. It's a great visual demonstration of the effect the "War on Terror" has had here at home.

    It looks like its pretty evenly spread out with population, to my naked eye, but it would be interesting to see a statistical analysis to see if some areas are disproportionately hit.

    Also interesting, and even more effective, are some charts by a Brazilian artist that use various national flags to illustrate statistical facts.


    (thanx jose')

    Posted by steev at 10:17 AM | Comments (0)

    Julio 12, 2005

    The Road Ahead Is Still So Long

    I've been working for so long on this documentary about Juarez. I have a month left, exactly, till the deadline I set for myself to finish it, but it seems like there's still so much to do. The enormity of the task is just incredible. Working the new interviews that I shot into it is the big problem. There's a lot of excellent material and it's a huge task figuring out how to fit it into what I already have, what old material to chop out to make room for it and that sort of thing.

    And the task is made harder by the fact that all the new material is in Spanish. I still have trouble with some people talking. In fact a few of the interviewees, even if I spend an hour playing 30 seconds of an interview over and over I still can just barely make out what the hell they're saying. Others, it's totally easy and clear, like as easy as listening to someone talk in English. Totally amazing how there can be that much variation. And it's not even regional accents. It could be 2 people both from Chihuahua, one talks nice and slow and clear, the other talks like insanely fast and all slurred together.

    Luckily I think I might be getting some help. Jacob from San Diego IMC has sent out a great callout to his peeps there. Maybe you'd like to help, even, if you know spanish. I wish there was some sort of global Indymedia mechanism for translating stuff that is audio. The Translation Tool is great for written text. Maybe it could be tweaked by some tech people so you could upload an mp3 clip and people could work from there.

    While working on this project I took a short detour last weekend and did a small video for Indymedia Newsreal about deportation, which I've just uploaded to Vimeo. Vimeo is a neat little site, sort of like Flickr for videos. Lots of college kids with camphones just throwing up random silly shit, but whatever. I guess if I wasn't so old and bitter and serious I wouldn't mind that, but para mi, ahora, el toda parece tan .... priveleged. Dude, while you're in Mallorca on spring break taking videos of wet t-shirt contests there are people starving to death right over the next hill... suspira...

    Well, back to work...

    Posted by steev at 12:22 PM | Comments (0)

    Fox a Complete Failure

    In the wake of the PRI's victory last week in the election of governor for el Estado de Mexico, the country's most populous state, The Council on Hemispheric Affairs gives us this detailed account of just how terrible Vincente Fox has been as president of Mexico.

    Posted by steev at 05:56 AM | Comments (1)

    Julio 11, 2005

    Seen in a photo of some art on the street

    Wow, someone has some strong opinions about street art.

    Posted by steev at 09:46 PM | Comments (0)

    The Usual

    I feel like I have 2 different readerships of this blog. There are my family and friends, who are interested in following what is happening in my life, for whom the blog is sort of a surrogate for actually seeing me every day and asking "hey, what're you up to today?" Then there's others who read it because they are colleagues in some way, from the activist world, the videography world, the art world. They are interested in what I write that has a direct bearing on those worlds - my thoughts on current politics, a link to an interesting art project, etc. The first group though is probably just as happy to see me mention little mundane things I do each day.

    Yesterday I was thinking about blogging about the fact that I made a really good omlette for lunch. I thought about how silly that was but then thought how there must be hundreds or thousands of blogs filled with nothing but mundane, banal details of daily life. One can be contemptuous of this or not. Nevertheless, one possible project linked to this fact that I thought of is to make a sort of agregator/searchengine that looked for all the blogs each day that mention doing the same thing you mention doing that day. So in my example it would go find all the other people that blogged about making an omlette too. That would be an interesting experiment and perhaps an excellent demonstration of the common ground shared by so many people. Of course some activities you would rather feel are unique. If I blog about working on my Juarez documentary I would want the search engine to not come up with very many others who did that as well. (In a selfish sense, at least. Idealistically, it would be great if there were 20 people all working on using the medium of video to raise awareness of the femicides in Juarez.)

    A good friend I got to know well when I lived in San Francisco has recently moved to Spain, and I've been enjoying his blog, which he started at about the same time that he moved. It's a way to keep up on his everyday life, his adventures in his new country, and also to practice my spanish (he's been blogging about half in english and half in spanish), and also to read his political and philosophical insights. He's one of the smartest people I know.

    Today he blogged about his family history and his visit to the town in Spain where his mother's father and grandfather are from, which they left to emigrate to Cuba long ago.

    I was happy that I only had to look up about 4 words:

  • bisabuelo - great grandfather
  • malagueña - native of Malaga (another place in Spain)
  • plazo - time period
  • antepasados - ancestors

    Other things I did yesterday:
  • helped my father mow the lawn.
  • wrote a long email in english and spanish that was intended for indymedia activists in the u.s. and bolivia. I haven't sent it yet. I'm waiting to find out some crucial information before I decide whether it has to be sent.
  • finished Charles Bowden's new book, "A Shadow in the City." It's an incredible read. And it makes me want to read "Man's Search for Meaning," which is a book by holocaust survivor Victor Frankl and is an important learning experience for Joey O'Shay, the subject of Bowden's book.
  • listened to some "old time" radio shows, which my father is really into; bob hope, "the shadow," etc.

    Posted by steev at 06:29 AM | Comments (1)
  • Julio 08, 2005

    Fllanos

    street art in ChihuahuaI keep meaning to blog about this. When I was in Chihuahua City a few weeks ago, I saw some stickers and wheatpasted flyers that indicated there was some political/artistic/countercultural undercurrent going on there. Which I was surprised about because it seems like a pretty sterile city, all about business and state government and very little culture, except for lots of cowboy boot stores. Anyway one of the most interesting things turned out to be a poster with the url fllanos.com on it. It turns out to be the well-designed site of an interesting video artist from Mexico City named Fernando Llanos. No idea why his url would be plastered on walls in Chihuahua City, but I'm glad they were.

    He has a mailing list that he uses to send out little videos he's done, and I found it interesting to see that he sends to the list every Tuesday because that's the day he can't drive in Mexico City. In D.F. to cut down on pollution everyone has one day a week that they can't drive their car, depending on your license plate number. I often wondered about that when I was there, if many of the people I saw enjoying leisure time were not at work because it was their own "car free day."

    Posted by steev at 08:06 AM | Comments (0)

    Julio 07, 2005

    "We"

    So today Tony Blair said this, referring to the attacks in London:


    "We know that these people act in the name of Islam but we also know that the vast and overwhelming majority of Muslims here and abroad are decent and law-abiding people who abhor those who do this every bit as much as we do," he added.

    I think he probably means well with this statement. He's trying to defuse acts of vigilantism against Muslims in England in retaliation for the bombings. However, I think if he questioned some basic assumptions and language, he might be more successful. If you look closely at the words he uses, you'll notice how, probably unconciously, he sets up a polarity between "Muslims" and "we." Shouldn't he be including the Muslims in the "we", if he really wants to instill a sense of togetherness and good will? they are a "decent people" who "abhor those who do this" as much as "we do." Why not say something more like "The vast majority of Muslims here stand today together with other Britons in a deep condemnation of this atrocity, apparently committed in the name of Islam by a small, extremist Muslim minority." Or something like that. Why all the "we"s and "those"es?

    Posted by steev at 10:55 AM | Comments (1)

    London Attack Flickr Photo Pool

    There's a photo pool on Flickr for photos from the London bomb attacks today. A pool is a place where a group of flickr users can all post photos on a certain subject. This pool makes me realize that Flickr, and/or its users, need to be utilized by the independent media movement. There are now about 200 photos on the pool, which is more than I've been able to find on the UK indymedia site. Admittedly a lot of them are screen grabs of mainstream television coverage, but this is still helpful.

    In other related news about news, I just heard that Canadian TV is making a much smaller deal out of this than CNN is. I don't even want to look at CNN, mush less Fox. But this makes total sense. Of course the pro-Bush, pro-fear media here would be pumping this up as big as it can be, as further proof of the importance of a the War on Terror, a futher justification for an increase in security and stripping away more civil rights.

    Of course what has happened in London is horrible, and I know people who live there and I am truly worried and sad for them, and for everyone there. But let's step back and look at the the fact that casualties at least so far are much less than the Madrid attack and of course hugely less than 9/11. (Right now mainstream media that i've seen is only reporting 2 or 3 confirmed deaths, though UK IMC is saying 20 or more, citing the BBC but I don't see any BBC report online that says that.) It's a coordinated attack, it's in a major financial center, and it's during the G8, so that's why it's getting so much attention. But the G8, the World Bank and the IMF make very coordinated attacks on poor countries all the time that cause many many more deaths. Not deaths with flashy explosions, but deaths by starvation and disease.

    I hope I don't sound callous or insane - I condemn these attacks, but they're going to keep happening unless the rich countries stop stomping on the poor. And it's only going to get worse. And since they're going to keep happening, I just wish that the terrorists would use some intelligent and convincing articulations of their position (or I wish they had a more intelligent position), when they claim responsiblity. The Al Queda announcement for this one is full of religious bullshit that just makes them sound like the insane fanatics that they are. But what if a terrorist attack was accompanied by a really rational anti-capitalist, anti-neoliberal analysis? What if Osama Bin-laden was more like Subcommandante Marcos?

    Posted by steev at 07:57 AM | Comments (0)

    Julio 06, 2005

    Charles Bowden and Joey O'Shay on the Radio

    By amazing luck, I happened to have the radio on, tuned to NPR, and heard an interview with none other than the mysterious, pseudonymous Joey O'Shay, the undercover DEA agent who's the subject of Charles Bowden's new book that I just blogged about the other day. I went online and found the archived show, and found out it's the second part in a series. In the first part, they interview Bowden. He sounds exactly the same as he sounds when I interviewed him in February, the same as in the dozens of clips that I am needing to watch over and over and over on my computer as I edit my Juarez documentary.

    It's really quite amazing how Bowden does what he does. He's managed to get so deep inside this drug agent's head that he can tell his story like Joey was a character he invented in a novel. And the agent, when he speaks on the radio, sounds like a made up character. His voice is like everyone's fantasy stereotype of the classic Texas redneck, sort of like Nick Cage in "Wild at Heart." It's incredible how sometimes the real is so real that you think it might be artifice, that it resembles illusion. Or maybe my perception of that reality is warped by my conception of the ideal that I've received from viewing so many fictions. Just as Baudrillard said.

    Posted by steev at 12:48 PM | Comments (0)

    CAFTA vote coming soon!!! Act Now!

    The U.S. Senate has already voted on and passed the Domnican Republic and Central American Free Trade Agreement, and the House is set to vote on it next week. This is the time to make your voice heard, that approving CAFTA will be disasterous for everyone, from Costa Rica to Connecticut, Guatemala to Idaho. Here's what you can do:


    Take Action During the July 5-10 Recess to Pressure Representatives and
    call attention to the Hunger Strike in El Salvador
    Call your Representatives Today! Capitol switchboard # is (202)
    224-3121 (see below for toll free option)

    ACTIONS

    1. Contact your Representative and tell them to vote NO on
    DR-CAFTA! Also, call their attention to the Hunger Strike taking place
    in El Salvador and tell them that a vote for DR-CAFTA is a vote against
    human and labor rights.

    To contact your Representative call the Capitol switchboard at (202)
    224-3121 or visit or
    for the local contact information for your Rep.
    The United Steelworkers have also provided this toll-free number for
    general use to call Congress about CAFTA: 866-340-9281. It will connect
    you to the Capitol Switchboard, and at that point you simply ask the
    operator to be connected to the Congressional office of your choice.

    When you talk with your Rep:
    1. Ask to speak to the trade staffer, chief of staff or legislative
    director.
    2. Tell them you are a constituent and want to know your Rep's
    position on CAFTA.
    3. If the Rep is opposed to the agreement and will vote against it,
    thank him/her. Ask if your Rep has made his/her opposition public and
    encourage him/her to do so. Always ask for a letter to you stating
    his/her position.
    4. If the Rep is undecided, ask your Rep (or staffer) why and when
    they are planning on taking a position. Let them know that you oppose
    CAFTA (any personal stories related to how NAFTA hurt your region are
    helpful) and urge them to vote no when CAFTA comes up.
    5. If the Rep is planning to vote for CAFTA, urge them to reconsider.
    Inform the office that you intend to spread the word that the Rep is
    voting against their constituents' interests.
    For sample call scripts and suggestions on concerns to raise, please
    visit www.stopcafta.org .

    ** When phone calls and meetings aren't enough, staging a direct
    action is a powerful tool. For ideas on local actions and assistance in
    organizing in your community please visit the Stop-CAFTA website at
    www.stopcafta.org **

    Posted by steev at 08:45 AM | Comments (0)

    Julio 05, 2005

    Starving Children Really Do Sell Records

    As an update to my entry a few days ago about Live 8, today I see that in the wake of the concerts Saturday, sales of the albums of artists who performed at Live have skyrocketed. Commendably, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd has pledged to give the increased profits to the cause, and with good reason since his latest album has increased sales by 1343%. Now let's see what Floyd's record company does. Yup, What a cash cow global charity concerts can be.

    Posted by steev at 07:02 AM | Comments (0)

    Julio 04, 2005

    Various Juarez Items

    I've been working away on editing my Juarez doc, and when I take a break I've been reading one or the other of 2 books, both of which are related to Juarez: either the brand new book by Charles Bowden, "A Shadow in the City: Confessions of an Undercover Drug Warrior", or "Cosecha de Mujeres," by Diana Washington Valdez.

    The first is a difficult yet tantalizing read. a sort of impressionistic biography of a real DEA agent, all names and places changed to protect the innocent/guilty, describing his long career in the depths of the underworld of narcotrafficking. Bowden's prose has inspired and enthralled me before, and this is no exception, yet I'm not sure what to make of this book - it's written perhaps like if Faulkner wrote crime thrillers, extremely nonlinear, but gritty and noir-ish, dreamy or nightmarish, vague and disturbing, and yet we are told that it is all true. I find myself wishing for the interludes filled with raw statistics that alternated with the real life stories in his earlier book, "Down by the River."

    The second book, which I blogged about before when I first found out about it, is a detailed and disturbing account of the Juarez femicides. It's written in Spanish and published in Mexico just a month ago. I bought it in Mexico City and have been gradually working my way through it. I've found it easier to read than, for example, most articles in La Jornada, but harder than, say, the emails I've been getting lately from Peruvian and Bolivian and Mexican activist [email protected] The grammar is fairly straightforward, but I still find myself needing to look up unknown words quite often. There are still so many words to learn... suspira... However, many times I'm only looking something up to confirm my guess that I've made based on context, and I've realized that I'm expanding my Spanish vocabulary in the same way that I accumulated, starting from a very young age, such a prodigious (in all modesty) English vocabulary - by reading, and picking a lot up from context.

    Anyway, in addition to being good spanish practice the book is a really good work, and a great source of statistics and reference data about the murders. It's also frequently the source of really disturbing, even horrifying, information. For instance (Warning: the rest of this paragraph is not for the squeamish!): At one point in the book Washington describes how several of the women murdered in 2003 were found with their necks broken, all in the same particular way. Unless I'm getting the translation wrong, forensic experts told her the theory that the killer or killers were purposely breaking the victims' necks in that certain way because it causes convulsions in the victim that increases the sexual pleasure of the killer, who is raping the victim at the moment of death. How sickening. I find it hard to imagine how anyone could be that evil and sick.

    Also of interest, I've just seen in the El Paso Times that:

  • The Mexican government recently requested that the U.S. government conduct an inquiry into "Cosecha de Mujeres" because it contains information that is considered confidential by both governments.
  • The request came from the office of Carlos Borunda Zaragoza, Mexico's liaison to the U.S. government in Washington, D.C. The office also has lobbied Congress against resolutions that call for a binational commission to investigate the border murders.
  • That's pretty sick, too.

    In other somewhat related news, I just read that the Mexican government claims they've caught the leader of the Juarez drug cartel, Vincente Carillo. Carillo is the brother of Amado Carillo, who was discussed extensively in Bowden's "Down by the River" that I mention above. Amado supposedly died during plastic surgery, but there are rumors, according to Bowden, that he actually faked his death so he could retire and that he's actually living safely in Chile now with his family.
    This is fascinating stuff. Is it any wonder that there's a whole subgenre of music, the narcocorrido, about the drug lords?

    Posted by steev at 08:04 PM | Comments (0)

    Julio 01, 2005

    Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records

    David Stubbs, reviews editor of The Wire music magazine weighs in on the BBC News site with a sharply critical editorial about the upcoming Live 8 fame-famine-fest coming up next week.

    Absolutely right, David, thank you, and thank you BBC for publishing this. Just before I found Stubbs' editorial I was reading a BBC article about Live 8, and thinking back to Live Aid (I was 15 at the time - just think, a lot of young activists and music fans today weren't even born yet), and I was also thinking of the first album of one of my favorite bands, Chumbawamba. The album came out in 1986 , shortly after Live Aid, and was called Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records. It was a concept album criticising Live Aid, Bob Geldof's first global guilt gala that featured dozens of pop stars from around the global north singing "We are the world" and was the predecessor of Live 8. (Of course back then I was nowhere near "aware" enough to offer an analysis of culture and geopolitics like that of Chumbawamba - I had still 5 years or so to go in 1986 before I even found out about them. At the time I did have contempt for most of the bands playing at Live Aid, but only on aesthetic grounds, though I cheered for Peter Gabriel and wept as I watched him on TV sing his song about murdered, black, South African activist Stephen Biko. Admitedly I still have great artistic and political respect for Gabriel, but that doesn't change the point that I'm trying to make here.)

    Because it's still so true and so relevant today, I've uploaded an mp3 of the first song on that Chumbawamba album, "How To Get Your Band On Television". Some of the excellent lyrics:


    David Bowie - The Price Is Right!
    A suitful of compassion and a gobful of shite
    Still the voices of those who doubt
    Coca-Cola for the peasants to end this drought

    Jagger and Richards - Game For A Laugh!
    Dancing us down the garden path
    To a place where money grows on trees
    Where cocaine habits are financed by hunger & disease

    (Ask the puppet-masters who pull the strings
    "Who makes the money when the puppets sing?"
    Ask the corporations "Where does the money go?"
    Ask the empty bellied children "What are we singing for?")

    [...]

    ...Ladies and Gentlemen, just imagine it - Someone comes along, takes everything you own, your space, your house; separates you from your family: and then hits you in the face if you say anything different. Well, that's what we've been doing to the Third World for the past 400 years. That's YOU and ME. You and the viewers at home, me in the studio, the pop stars, everyone. That's how we make the Third World, today and every day. [emphasis added]

    These charity concerts get guilty Northern white folks together for a brief moment, give them the illusion that they're helping, get them excited, but then ultimately do nothing. They ultimately do not challenge the status quo, or even educate the crowds of adoring fans about the orgins of the status quo, or question how it is that all these blonde rich kids can afford to pay 50 pounds for a ticket to the concert when billions in the global south don't earn 50 pounds in a month, don't earn even what it costs to provide enough calories for their families. As Stubbs says of the pop icons assembled for Live 8, at the end of his article, "These people will not solve the problem. They are the problem."

    I know there must be more
    Than giving just a little bit more
    When half of this world is so helplessly poor
    Starved of a real solution -
    Only charity and tradition
    And the cycle of hungry children
    Will keep on going round...

    Posted by steev at 09:16 AM | Comments (1)

    Bicitekas

    This morning I woke up to the smell of fresh air and the sound of birds and breeze, coming in the open windows. This is rare here, Iowa summers are such that if folks have air conditioning, they keep it on and the house sealed up, June through August or so. But last night it was wonderfully cool and we opened up the house. It's great to have that impermeable membrane with the outdoors become permeable.

    Lago de Atitlan - 15Anyway I woke up and was thinking a little bit, a little sadly, about all the great bicycle culture I have been missing in Portland. Perhaps the cool, dry breeze reminded me of Portland and riding its streets at dusk. Suddenly I was then reminded of the glimpse of Mexico City bike culture that I got, the night I gave my talk at the H4TCH gallery. After my presentation we were sitting out on the front steps, me and about a dozen of the people who'd attended, talking about art and politics and things, and I saw out the front gate about 100 bicyclists ride by on the street, followed shortly but patiently by a police car. It was like a critical mass! But it wasn't friday and it wasn't the end of the month, either. I asked what it was and it was explained to me that they are a group called the 'bicitekas,' and they ride every 2 weeks or so, very similar to Critical Mass, though it sounded like they were a little less confrontational. I was told that a Mexico City CM was tried before and was supressed, but somehow, this biciteka thing keeps going. 100 riders every 2 weeks?! Si, mas o menos. Wow! Cool! Chido!

    Posted by steev at 07:17 AM | Comments (1)