I don't have the energy lately to post an entry for every little thing I want to mention here. I'm just going to write a little list of unrelated recent things:
that's it for now. have a good new year's eve.
Today on the NPR show Fresh Air there was an extensive segment about reggaeton - its 20-year history and how this year was its big break. All year long, especially when I was in Guatemala and Mexico, I've been hearing it and noticing what a big trend it was, and now I realize that everyone else has been, too. The penultimate nail in the coffin of any underground cultural development has to be mention on Fresh Air. Any day now there'll be a cover story in Time magazine.
It's funny also because the reviewer on Fresh Air sounds like just about the squarest, nerdiest, whitest, gringo-est guy to ever turn on a stereo. He's like Professor Frink from the Simpsons explaining the virtues of hip hop or something. Listen to it and you'll see what I mean.
my friend petr made this drawing on a card for my birthday. isn't that great? I wish i understood it. hah.
I have found my new favorite comic strip ever. What could be better than mention of anarchy and mojitos in the same frame?
Today is my birthday and I'm having a hard time deciding what to do with my day. If I had a car I think I would drive out into the country and take a hike. Maybe I'll take a long bike ride. But, I also might want to go to a movie. Or go to the Dry River space and mess with the sound system. I'm not really feeling that obligated to do something real special, since I had a big party the other night already. I dunno.
I found what I want for my birthday, though. or maybe christmas. or maybe the next 4 christmasses. heh.
Yesterday me and Jeff worked on the new indymedia computer lab at the space. We got a lot done. then Jessica and Walt showed up and we had an indymedia meeting. Walt told us the bad news about Bill. I just met Katie, his partner, on Monday. She was of course already suffering from Bill's arrest and the allegations against him. It's really really sad.
I just read a really great article about anarchism, mostly about the present-day form of "small-letter a" anarchism that is driving the global "movement of movements," and comparing it to historical Anarchism and to Marxism.
Another new project in development at Google has come to my attention, Google Transit (thanx, Seth). The idea is to tell you how to get from one place to another using public transit instead of driving. However, right now they only have Portland in the system, probably because Portland has the super cool Trimet website already, where you can put in points A and B, when you want to leave, and it will tell you what buses to take. Trimet is the regional transit authority in Portland and they've had that web app for at least a couple years. Is Portland just the coolest freaking city ever? except for the godamn fucking rain!!!! Oh cruel fate. Is it maybe because of the rain? Like people thought, this city is going to really suck unless we make it really great in spite of the rain.
Actually someone told me that back in the 70s Tucson and Portland weren't so different. Tucson was starting along the same path that Portland was, with an urban growth boundry and other enlightened urban planning, but the developers got the upper hand (like they keep trying and failing to do in Portland), and Tucson became the sprawl-o-rama that it is now. I'd like to learn more about that. And I'll write more about it soon....
Anyway, it's great that Google people are trying to subtly encourage use of public transit. yay! down with cars!
I just heard on NPR that the Shia represent only 10 to 15% of the population of Iraq, a clear minority, though they had been ruling Iraq for a long long time before the U.S. invasion. But the reporter mentioned that most Shiites that you talk to there believe they're not a minority and don't act like they're a minority.
Kind of like Americans.
I just have to post a link to Jim Schultz's morning-after take on the Bolivia election, and quote this great little anecdote:
...in October when I spent five days in a small Quechua Indian village three hours off into the mountains. On a sunny afternoon I sat with the village leader, Lucio, a man I have known for almost a decade. I asked him if the coming elections were big on people’s minds. “No, we are really more worried about whether it will rain soon.” I asked him if people were excited about Evo Morales and the prospect of electing an Indian as president. “Well, he is really just a politician.” Then I asked him whether the people of the village would vote. “Oh yes, we will vote. All 400 of us will walk together 45 minutes to the place where we vote and we will all vote for Evo.”
And so on Sunday, Bolivians by the millions marched distances short and far to give Morales the biggest mandate of any president here in half a century.
This is incredible. Everyone predicted that the Bolivian election would end with no one possessing a majority of the vote, sending Evo Morales and his U.S.-educated rival Quiroga to a vote in Congress, as mandated by their constitution. However, it appears that Morales has gone ahead and won 51% already. Amazing!
Of course as some experts have noted repeatedly, being president of Bolivia is pretty impossibly difficult. There were even theories that Evo, if he got into the congressional runoff, which always results in party coaltion-building, would have arranged to NOT be president in exchange for more power for his party, so that he wouldn't crash and burn as president.
Now he has to prove himself. Let's see if he's any different than other great leftist hopes of recent times in South America, like Kirchner and Lula. I j ust read that both Argentina and Brazil have finally buckled under and agreed to pay all their IMF debt in full.
Of course one of the first things in the corporate press about Evo's victory will be how unstable and unattractive to investors this will make Bolivia:
Morales's victory may ``add new risk to investments in many emerging markets that lack political consensus,''
Paul Theroux writes in the New York Times a great critical op-ed piece about Bono, Africa, and Ireland.
And because the NYT is going to time out free access to this piece i'm going to just paste it here:
The New York Times December 15, 2005 Op-Ed Contributor The Rock Star's Burden By PAUL THEROUX
THERE are probably more annoying things than being hectored about African development by a wealthy Irish rock star in a cowboy hat, but I can't think of one at the moment. If Christmas, season of sob stories, has turned me into Scrooge, I recognize the Dickensian counterpart of Paul Hewson - who calls himself "Bono" - as Mrs. Jellyby in "Bleak House." Harping incessantly on her adopted village of Borrioboola-Gha "on the left bank of the River Niger," Mrs. Jellyby tries to save the Africans by financing them in coffee growing and encouraging schemes "to turn pianoforte legs and establish an export trade," all the while badgering people for money.
It seems to have been Africa's fate to become a theater of empty talk and public gestures. But the impression that Africa is fatally troubled and can be saved only by outside help - not to mention celebrities and charity concerts - is a destructive and misleading conceit. Those of us who committed ourselves to being Peace Corps teachers in rural Malawi more than 40 years ago are dismayed by what we see on our return visits and by all the news that has been reported recently from that unlucky, drought-stricken country. But we are more appalled by most of the proposed solutions.
I am not speaking of humanitarian aid, disaster relief, AIDS education or affordable drugs. Nor am I speaking of small-scale, closely watched efforts like the Malawi Children's Village. I am speaking of the "more money" platform: the notion that what Africa needs is more prestige projects, volunteer labor and debt relief. We should know better by now. I would not send private money to a charity, or foreign aid to a government, unless every dollar was accounted for - and this never happens. Dumping more money in the same old way is not only wasteful, but stupid and harmful; it is also ignoring some obvious points.
If Malawi is worse educated, more plagued by illness and bad services, poorer than it was when I lived and worked there in the early 60's, it is not for lack of outside help or donor money. Malawi has been the beneficiary of many thousands of foreign teachers, doctors and nurses, and large amounts of financial aid, and yet it has declined from a country with promise to a failed state.
In the early and mid-1960's, we believed that Malawi would soon be self-sufficient in schoolteachers. And it would have been, except that rather than sending a limited wave of volunteers to train local instructors, for decades we kept on sending Peace Corps teachers. Malawians, who avoided teaching because the pay and status were low, came to depend on the American volunteers to teach in bush schools, while educated Malawians emigrated. When Malawi's university was established, more foreign teachers were welcomed, few of them replaced by Malawians, for political reasons. Medical educators also arrived from elsewhere. Malawi began graduating nurses, but the nurses were lured away to Britain and Australia and the United States, which meant more foreign nurses were needed in Malawi.
When Malawi's minister of education was accused of stealing millions of dollars from the education budget in 2000, and the Zambian president was charged with stealing from the treasury, and Nigeria squandered its oil wealth, what happened? The simplifiers of Africa's problems kept calling for debt relief and more aid. I got a dusty reception lecturing at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation when I pointed out the successes of responsible policies in Botswana, compared with the kleptomania of its neighbors. Donors enable embezzlement by turning a blind eye to bad governance, rigged elections and the deeper reasons these countries are failing.
Mr. Gates has said candidly that he wants to rid himself of his burden of billions. Bono is one of his trusted advisers. Mr. Gates wants to send computers to Africa - an unproductive not to say insane idea. I would offer pencils and paper, mops and brooms: the schools I have seen in Malawi need them badly. I would not send more teachers. I would expect Malawians themselves to stay and teach. There ought to be an insistence in the form of a bond, or a solemn promise, for Africans trained in medicine and education at the state's expense to work in their own countries.
Malawi was in my time a lush wooded country of three million people. It is now an eroded and deforested land of 12 million; its rivers are clogged with sediment and every year it is subjected to destructive floods. The trees that had kept it whole were cut for fuel and to clear land for subsistence crops. Malawi had two presidents in its first 40 years, the first a megalomaniac who called himself the messiah, the second a swindler whose first official act was to put his face on the money. Last year the new man, Bingu wa Mutharika, inaugurated his regime by announcing that he was going to buy a fleet of Maybachs, one of the most expensive cars in the world.
Many of the schools where we taught 40 years ago are now in ruins - covered with graffiti, with broken windows, standing in tall grass. Money will not fix this. A highly placed Malawian friend of mine once jovially demanded that my children come and teach there. "It would be good for them," he said.
Of course it would be good for them. Teaching in Africa was one of the best things I ever did. But our example seems to have counted for very little. My Malawian friend's children are of course working in the United States and Britain. It does not occur to anyone to encourage Africans themselves to volunteer in the same way that foreigners have done for decades. There are plenty of educated and capable young adults in Africa who would make a much greater difference than Peace Corps workers.
Africa is a lovely place - much lovelier, more peaceful and more resilient and, if not prosperous, innately more self-sufficient than it is usually portrayed. But because Africa seems unfinished and so different from the rest of the world, a landscape on which a person can sketch a new personality, it attracts mythomaniacs, people who wish to convince the world of their worth. Such people come in all forms and they loom large. White celebrities busy-bodying in Africa loom especially large. Watching Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie recently in Ethiopia, cuddling African children and lecturing the world on charity, the image that immediately sprang to my mind was Tarzan and Jane.
Bono, in his role as Mrs. Jellyby in a 10-gallon hat, not only believes that he has the solution to Africa's ills, he is also shouting so loud that other people seem to trust his answers. He traveled in 2002 to Africa with former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, urging debt forgiveness. He recently had lunch at the White House, where he expounded upon the "more money" platform and how African countries are uniquely futile.
But are they? Had Bono looked closely at Malawi he would have seen an earlier incarnation of his own Ireland. Both countries were characterized for centuries by famine, religious strife, infighting, unruly families, hubristic clan chiefs, malnutrition, failed crops, ancient orthodoxies, dental problems and fickle weather. Malawi had a similar sense of grievance, was also colonized by absentee British landlords and was priest-ridden, too.
Just a few years ago you couldn't buy condoms legally in Ireland, nor could you get a divorce, though (just like in Malawi) buckets of beer were easily available and unruly crapulosities a national curse. Ireland, that island of inaction, in Joyce's words, "the old sow that eats her farrow," was the Malawi of Europe, and for many identical reasons, its main export being immigrants.
It is a melancholy thought that it is easier for many Africans to travel to New York or London than to their own hinterlands. Much of northern Kenya is a no-go area; there is hardly a road to the town of Moyale, on the Ethiopian border, where I found only skinny camels and roving bandits. Western Zambia is off the map, southern Malawi is terra incognita, northern Mozambique is still a sea of land mines. But it is pretty easy to leave Africa. A recent World Bank study has confirmed that the emigration to the West of skilled people from small to medium-sized countries in Africa has been disastrous.
Africa has no real shortage of capable people - or even of money. The patronizing attention of donors has done violence to Africa's belief in itself, but even in the absence of responsible leadership, Africans themselves have proven how resilient they can be - something they never get credit for. Again, Ireland may be the model for an answer. After centuries of wishing themselves onto other countries, the Irish found that education, rational government, people staying put, and simple diligence could turn Ireland from an economic basket case into a prosperous nation. In a word - are you listening, Mr. Hewson? - the Irish have proved that there is something to be said for staying home.
Paul Theroux is the author of "Blinding Light" and of "Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town."
Ok, this installment of the continuing series of my observations of Tucson will cover a few things you see or experience while riding around on a bicycle:
First, biking conditions: In Tucson it's mostly pretty flat, but a lot of the streets are really, really, really bumpy and cracked. It's usually so rough that when you're biking it's like a sweet drink of cool water to find yourself on a stretch of smooth street. I think the streets are so fucked up because of the constant daily extremes of temperature causing expansion and contraction. There's also tons of broken glass on the sides of a lot of streets. What's up with that? I've heard Tucson is a "high property crimes city." Maybe there's lots and lots of cars being broken into. but also see lots of glass that is obviously from broken bottles.
Strangeness: There are lots of "for rent" signs that don't say exactly WHAT it is that's for rent. Is it a one-bedroom? a studio? a 4-bedroom? Who knows? Waste some cellphone minutes and find out. Waste the owner's time, too. I've never seen this anywhere else i've lived. what the fuck?
Yesterday I was biking along and actually saw a car accident 2 blocks ahead. A young woman stopped at a stop sign, then pulled out into the intersection, evidently not seeing that the cross traffic did not have a stop sign and that the cross street contained a very fast-moving pickup truck, which proceded to hit her. no one was hurt but her car was pretty much totalled, i'm guessing. I hung around, let her use my phone to call her mom, and told the police what i saw. It was clearly her fault but the other guy was clearly going way to fast for a residential street. she was only 19 and pretty upset, by the way. and she forgot to bring her license or her most recent insurance card with her. dumb! cars just suck. maybe she will learn this and get a bike.
ok, more coming up soon... oh and despite all these observations that seem like complaining, they're not. I'm happy here. These are more like descriptions of curious sightings rather than things I'm really pissed about. Next: Sprawl, the U of A, and the Air Force.
It's a sad day. The trial I've been covering for the past week for Arizona Indymedia has ended in a verdict of guilty on all counts for both defendants, Rod Coronado and Matt Crozier. That link is to a story I co-authored this evening, which is pretty "objective" and "standard journalism." Here's where I go off and get personal.
I was somewhat surprised at the verdict - I really gave some of the jury more credit, thinking that some of them would be smart enough to see past the crude emotional manipulation enacted by the prosecutors, especially since I was there for a lot of the jury selection so I kind of knew what sort of people many of them were - and some were psychologists, software engineers, professors - not your average numbskull middle-americans.
It's just sad, too, knowing Rod and thinking that he could get 6 years or more in prison, and he's about my age, and has a 4-year old child. They wanted to lock him up right away because the prosecution thinks he's a flight risk, but Rod's lawyer convinced the judge that that wasn't necessary.
Now he has till March to be sentenced.
Tommorrow, I have to go back to that same courthouse, to cover a hearing to dismiss charges in yet another trial, this one being the No More Deaths case, in which 2 volunteers last summer trying to help 3 undocumented migrants dying in the desert were arrested and are being charged with felonies. I'm helping another videographer from Pan Left to try to get interviews on camera with the defense lawyers as they come out of the building after the hearing.
It's just courtroom overload lately...
Everyone's favorite mainstream english-language paper to read while abroad, the International Herald Tribune, brings us an interesting sweeping look at the leftist tide sweeping Latin America, concentrating on the likely victory of Evo Morales in Bolivia.
Well, it's been about 5 weeks now since I moved to Tucson. It's about time I wrote something with some observations about the place. I will post it in several short, topical parts.
1. In Tucson, as expected, it rarely rains, especially this time of year. It has not rained once since I got here. yay!!! I think I've seen a total of 2 days where it's overcast, and even then only part of the day. Of course, in January or February it rains, which I witnessed the last time I was here. And in the summer there are what they call the monsoons. But for now it is dry, dry dry. I really notice it in my nose, my hands, and getting thirsty faster, especially as it gets colder and I tend to forget to drink as much water (heat makes reminds you to keep hydrated, but if it's not hot, you forget.) Also the dryness means there's lots of dust everywhere.
2. It's been pretty warm during the days, but at night it definitely cools down, desert-style. Lately it's been even dipping below freezing a couple nights. But it still gets up to the 70s during the short day and is pretty darn pleasant.
Okay, that was not too exciting, but stay tuned for the next installment, when I will discuss conditions for bicycling in Tucson.
There is so much to write about, I barely know where to begin, but it strikes me that most of what's interesting happening around here has to do with representatives of the federal law enforcement or justice system.
First of all, I spent another afternoon at the federal courthouse, listening to the beginning of U.S. vs. Coronado and Crozier. The prosecution spent a long time talking about how the trial was not about activism or environmentalism or animal rights or wildlife management or politics, and then spent the rest of the afternoon making it be all about that. They wasted tons of time establishing that, yes, there are mountain lions in the Sabino Canyon area. duh. oh, and that Matt Crozier once had a job in Tucson. This is something tax money is paying for, folks.
Second, the judge in the No More Deaths case, U.S. versus Shanti Sellz and Daniel Strauss, has decided to push back the trial from December 20 to January 10, because he wants 3 weeks of vacation. So one of the defendents, plus witnessess, family, friends, and other supporters who had been planning to come and had plane tickets purchased so they could be here December 20 are now fucked. Thanx, judge. Of course, we're all hoping the case is dismissed anyway, or that the prosecutor drops the charges, anyway.
Third, it has come to the attention of activists here that the Catalyst Infoshop in Prescott, Arizona has been raided this afternoon by over 15 FBI agents and JTTF officers and at 8pm they were still there, going over everything, confiscating anything to do with the ALF, ELF, eco-terrorism, and the like. Bill, one of the founders of the infoshop who lives there, has been arrested and will be arraigned tommorrow at 10 am in Flagstaff. Prescott people are still trying to figure out what to do, find Bill a lawyer, etc. At our weekly meeting the Dry River Colletive discussed for a while what to do. We mainly want to be there to help as soon as Bill and the Prescott folks know how we can help them. Apparently there was some police raid of a school today in Flagstaff that may be related too, with officers ripping down posters that had to do with the SnoBowl issue - something I'm not even really that aware of, but I think it has to do with a Flagstaff-area ski place that is doing things will desecrate some mountains that are holy to an native american tribe.
(oh and parenthetically, a fellow videographer here in town launched into a mini-rant at me today about how an air force helicopter was surveilling his house and some people he knew were getting similar attention and that we had to do something soon or the world was going down the tubes, basically.)
So, basically, the federal government is really messing with Arizona activists today.
Luis Hernandez is a Mexican artist who participated in a recent border art festival in San Diego and Tijuana called inSite. Last week when flying home from Colorado he was stopped in the airport, searched, and ended up being deported to Mexico and barred from returning for 5 years. A message from him with many details, including a dialog with an FBI agent, is on the blog of fellow artist Ricardo Domiguez.
Absolutely crazy. Make a video game about border tunnels, get deported? This cannot be allowed.
Today I spent a big chunk of the afternoon at the Federal Courthouse here in Tucson, because Rod Coronado and Matt Crozier are on trial for interfering with a mountain lion hunt.
Today was the preliminary pre-trial hearing and jury selection. I was there for the jury selection and it was extremely interesting. only 6 of the 31 potential jurors had NOT heard about the incident in the media. This surprised the lawyers and the judge, and they ended up clearing all the jurors out of the room, and bringing one at a time back in and asking them where they had heard about it, what they remember hearing, what opinion if any did they form from the news, and whether they thought they could put that opinion aside and be objective in the trial. About 7 or 8 were excused, I think.
I've been called for jury duty a couple times but never for a criminal case, much less one this controversial. Still, all jury pools are amazing cross-sections of humanity, and this was no exception. Of course they tend to be skewed toward people that have been at the same address, and are registered to vote, I think. (isn't that the database they use? I'm not sure but I think so.)
The judge is kind of funny. Sort of a gentle, self-deprecating old fart who kept joking about how he was getting old and losing his hearing.
The whole thing was actually pretty entertaining, and I kept thinking it's no wonder so many court/lawyer based TV shows are and have been so popular. The legal and judicial system are how things get done in our society, and they're actually really interesting social systems, too. The whole thing is steeped in ritual, or one might say bureacracy, but think about it: the court system works because people are confident in its consistency and reliability. Though ruled mostly by old rich white men, it's general pretty uncorrupt compared to some nations, and people trust it and live (or sometimes die) by its results. Part of the confidence comes from things being utterly aboveboard and having the appearance of trustworthyness, impartiality, etc. So that's where those rituals come in. Like the whole ploddingly slow jury selection process, bringing in 70 people, giving them numbers, calling out the first 31 numbers, slowly, having them sit in order, etc etc. this is all unneccesary from a strict efficiency perspective, but it inspires confidence, because it's so rock-solid and consistent. or at least it appears so.
Tommorrow are opening arguments, which I will probably be at, too. more as it happens.
The kidnappers who took the 4 Christian Peacemaker Teams members are threatening to kill all of them by Thursday, December 8 unless all prisoners in Iraqi and American prisons in Iraq are freed. There's an online petition, in Arabic and English, with over 15 thousand signatures.
Whatever your view of the Iraq situation or religion-based NGOs, it's so horrible and horribly ironic and sad that they would be singled out by the terrorists.
After he ordered the military to use force to crack down on street protests in October 2003, causing many deaths, then-president of Bolivia Gonzalez Sanchez de Lozada fled the country with his cronies and has been comfortably ensconced in Miami ever since. Human rights organizations and the Bolivian government have been trying to get him extradited to give testimony and possibly be tried, but the U.S. is not cooperating so far.
Now there's an online petition you can sign, asking the U.S. to serve the subpoena.
Tuesday I went to Nogales, just across the border and just an hour's drive south of Tucson. I went with a friend, Jonathan, who works for a cool organization called Borderlinks. He was going there for work, and I tagged along, since I'd never been there before. It was a great trip, I learned a lot and met some of the people Borderlinks works with there. I took a bunch of pretty interesting photos. The second Mexican/U.S. border town I've been to, It was interesting comparing Nogales to Juarez/El Paso. Nogales is definitely smaller (around 280,000 compared to Juarez's 1.5 million), and Nogales seems a little more "Mexican" - less "gringoized," though it still has that unique borderland feel that is a mix of both cultures. Nogales, though less contaminated than Juarez with gringo brandnames and businesses, seems to have grown in an even more disorganized way, being really just a long thin strip of buildings lining the highway south toward Hermasillo, following the maquiladoras. And it has no zócalo, no central square.
Anyway, look at the photos!