Yesterday as a comment to my previous entry here, my friend Carolyn made a good point about what the holiday is about - the veterans who died in our wars - but the media and our leaders certainly don't limit it to that in their rhetoric. Obama last weekend "called on Americans Saturday to tribute to the nation's veterans and service members" (UPI story) And veterans like our old highschool classmate Jeff Klaessy spent their valuable Facebook-time yesterday reminding everyone to think of their (still living) selves.
Meanwhile we have most people just thinking of the day as another chance to get off from work and drink beer in the park. Which is what most holidays get used for.
I'm sorry about your Uncle, Carolyn. I wish there was truly a day where people really just focused on those who died in wars. I wish every holiday still had its original focus, with laser-like precision. I wish Xmas was still about the winter solstice and not about buying and receiving presents. I also wish there was a holiday to honor all the slaves that this country was built on. And a hundred other holidays to focus on and honor all the other honorable people that have sacrificed or been sacrificed for this country, holidays that people really used for their intended purpose.
But that's not how our messed up society works these days. Culture has become a battleground where people fight over the meanings of things and what people will pay attention too, every moment of every day. And if, on Memorial Day, some feel the need to call attention to WHY some people were sacrificed, well... I don't know. Maybe I just don't get it because I don't have any relatives who died in a war - thankfully. I just really wish that nobody did, and ever will again. But sadly, that's not how our society works either.
On this day, Memorial Day, please take the time, just a minute if that's all you have, to not only think of those who fought in our wars, but also think about how few of those wars were really necessary, and how many of them were begun based on lies to the american people.
I don't have time to write much more. Antiwar.com has a wonderful Memorial Day message that pretty much covers everything else I would like to point out.
Today, we are told that we must fight the "terrorists" – defined as anyone who opposes the U.S. government and its plans to manage the world – and that this must be a war without end, without a definable enemy, and without the moral and legal constraints that have governed warfare and international relations in the modern era.
Last Saturday, Greta and I took part in a special tour of households in Tucson that have chickens.
Ours was one of 18 stops on the tour, and we had over 100 people stop by in 4 hours to look at our chickens and coop, as well as check out our garden and solar oven. (our friend Matt's house was also on the tour). It was pretty fun and it seemed like a lot of people were inspired and thinking about raising chickens themselves, or doing it differently if they already did, and/or inspired to garden more, or use greywater, or build/get a solar oven. It was encouraging to see that so many people are into these sustainable practices -- Apparently the food co-op sold 200 tickets to the tour, raising 1000 bucks for the community food bank, and they had to turn away 200 more people.
I'm in the middle of pre-production for a new project which I do not think I've mentioned before on this blog. Truth On The Line is a TV/web show which will be a hybrid of fiction and nonfiction, news journalism and drama. I like to say that it's a cross between "Slacker" and "Broadcast News", and the news will be real.
I first came up with the idea for this project almost 2 years ago, and have been gradually thinking about it and keeping it simmering on the back burner of my creative stove every since. It was this spring that I finally finished the script for the pilot episode and began.
I cast 5 of the 15 speaking parts first, people I knew. Then I did a casting call about a week and a half ago. Since then I've been working a lot on casting, sorting through the dozens of responses to my call and holding auditions. It's been incredible. Fun, but lots of work. It's great though just to meet some very creative actors, and I find myself wishing I could work with almost all of them, but of course, I can't and I have to make some choices. Hopefully a week from today, or so, I will have made those choices.
The other thing I'm doing is trying to decide if I should create a new blog for the project. It will eventually need a website. I'm tweeting in twitter about it using the #totl tag. But should it have its own blog?
I'm very inspired lately reading the blog of Christopher Sharpe. He's been diligently blogging and tweeting about his film, The Spider Babies, which is in pre-production too. He plans to ask his main castmembers to tweet from the set as well. That's a really cool idea. But he hasn't created separate site or blog for the film yet, as far as i know. So, maybe I shouldn't either. Yet, at least.
Anyway, stay tuned for more on this project as it progresses.
I got into a Twitter game/meme/virus yesterday - combining movie titles with common words to make crazy imaginary mashup movies that were pretty funny to think about. My tweets from yesterday show how into this concept I got:
click http://search.twitter.com/search?q=cmtpww to see even more from others...
This is great news. From Frontera Norte-Sur News:
Historic Femicide Trial Gets Underway
Thousands of miles and a continent away, it’s a long haul from Ciudad
Juarez, Mexico, to Santiago, Chile. But that’s where the road to justice
led Benita Monarrez, Irma Monreal and Josefina Gonzalez. Mothers of
murder victims, the three women from the Mexican border city pressed their
case last week against the Mexican government as the Inter-American Court
of Human Rights opened a milestone trial in Santiago, Chile.
Marking the first time the Organization of American States’ court has
heard a Mexican femicide case, the historic legal proceeding centers on
the slayings of three young women who were found with five other female
victims in a Ciudad Juarez cotton field in 2001. The three victims,
Esmeralda Herrera Monreal, 14, Laura Berenice Ramos Monarrez, 17, and
Claudia Ivette Gonzalez, 20, all went missing between September 25 and
October 29, 2001.
Counting only two months in Ciudad Juarez at the time of her
disappearance, Herrera was a domestic worker employed by Mitla Caballero.
A high school student, Ramos also worked for the Fogueiras restaurant. An
assembly-line worker for the US-owned Lear Corporation, Gonzalez was
turned away at the plant gate because she was a few minutes late and then
vanished. Relatives contend the disappearances and subsequent murders of
their loved ones were never truly investigated or punished by the Mexican
For example, Benita Monarrez has stated that two investigators from the
Chihuahua state attorney general’s office (PGJE), Ramirez and Miramontes,
personally knew two young men, “El Gato” and “El Perico” who appeared in a
previous photo taken with Laura Berenice Ramos. When pressed to explain
their relationship to the mysterious pair, the law enforcement officials
clammed up, Monarrez has asserted.
“This is the case to show the many failings there have been by the Mexican
government,” said Maureen Meyer, program associate for the non-profit
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a group which supports victims’
relatives. Meyer told Frontera NorteSur that the Inter-American Court case
could set a precedent for other femicide cases, including sex-related
homicide cases from 1993 or 1994 that are now falling into legal oblivion
because of Mexican statutes of limitations.
Mexican, US and European human rights activists are throwing their support
behind the mothers involved in the Santiago trial. Together with other
organizations, Ciudad Juarez’s Citizens Network for Non-Violence and Human
Dignity called the Inter-American Court case a “historic opportunity” for
femicide victims not only in Ciudad Juarez but in the rest of Mexico and
the Americas as well.
The Long Road to Chile
Many irregularities marked the Mexican government’s response to the
disappearance of the three young women, who vanished along with numerous
others in both Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua City during 2001. The
disappearances followed a pattern of young, low-income women suddenly
disappearing in the northern Mexican state since at least the early 1990s.
Several suspects were investigated or arrested in the cotton field
slayings, but human rights activists and other observers widely criticized
government legal cases as lacking any shred of credibility.
The grisly discoveries of the eight cotton field victims on November 6 and
7, 2001, set in motion a chain of events that culminated in the
Inter-American Court trial. In 2002, the mothers of Herrera, Ramos and
Gonzalez filed a complaint with the Washington-based Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that charged the Mexican government
with committing human rights violations and denying justice in the cases
of their daughters.
After finally determining that the Mexican government never provided an
adequate response to the petitioners, the IACHR pursued the next step in
the OAS human rights system and referred the case to the Inter-American
Court in late 2007. The international legal institution is considering the
cotton field case based on the Mexican government’s alleged violations of
the American Convention on Human Rights and the Inter-American Convention
on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women
(Convention of Belem Do Para), international agreements that uphold
popular access to the justice system and the right of women to live
without violence. Under the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court,
Mexico is obliged to follow any rulings the legal body will issue.
Last year, Mexico filed a preliminary defense but did not submit all the
documents requested by the Inter-American Court, according to a statement
from the legal body.
The mothers seek reparations of damages from the Mexican government, the
launching of a serious murder investigation and the dismissal and
sanctioning of officials involved in allegedly botching their daughters’
cases, among other remedies.
Showdown in Santiago
On April 28 and 29, 2009, the mothers and Mexican government mustered
their respective forces in Santiago, Chile, for a legal battle that will
be heard around the world. Supported by Mexican and international lawyers
and human rights activists, the mothers from Ciudad Juarez spent several
hours retelling their stories to the judges.
In her testimony, Benita Monarrez accused Mexican government officials of
covering-up the murders for other officials involved in the crimes.
“This trial proves we are right. The state has never approached us, always
acting with a lot of hypocrisy and nothing has changed,” Josefina Gonzalez
testified. “I don’t believe anything is going to change if the court
doesn’t help us in the name of all the women of Mexico.”
For its defense, the Mexican government flew in a team from the Foreign
Relations Ministry and the PGJE, including Chihuahua State Attorney
General Patricia Gonzalez. Chihuahua’s top law enforcement official said
she was satisfied to represent the Mexican state and its “tireless work of
changing the logic of gender themes and the murder of women in my
Gonzalez admitted that numerous irregularities characterized the cotton
field investigations during 2001-2004, but insisted authorities cleaned up
their act afterward, reordered the investigation and moved forward with a
statewide legal reform- a project supported by the United States Agency
for International Development. The PGJE stands ready and willing to
provide additional reparations and assistance to the mothers, Gonzalez
“There were omissions and irregularities before my service,” Gonzalez,
said, “not only in these cases but other ones too that have since been
resolved and the mothers left totally satisfied.”
Gonzalez’s comments were reminiscent of statements made by previous PGJE
personnel, including former Ciudad Juarez special prosecutor Suly Ponce
(1998-2001), who frequently accused predecessors for widespread disarray
in the femicide investigations only to be later blamed themselves by
Rodrigo Caballero, a special homicide investigator for the PGJE told the
Santiago courtroom that Chihuahua legal authorities know of two men
involved in the women’s murders.
Currently, the state’s prime suspect is Edgar Alvarez Cruz, who was
fingered by an old friend, Jose Francisco Granados de la Paz. The two
young men came to public light in 2006 when Tony Garza, then the US
ambassador in Mexico, made a sensational announcement that US authorities
were cooperating with Mexican officials in what could be a major break in
the cotton field case.
A former Ciudad Juarez resident who had been living in Denver, Colorado,
Cruz was deported to Mexico to face charges based on a “confession” made
by Granados to the Texas Rangers.
Alvarez has since been convicted of the murder of another cotton field
victim, Mayra Juliana Reyes Solis, whose slaying is not part of the
Inter-American Court case. Alvarez lost an appeal in a Mexican court last
month, and is serving a 26-year sentence.
Alvarez and his family vehemently deny the murder charges, pointing to
contradictions and irregularities in the state’s most recent cotton field
In past statements to Ciudad Juarez media, members of Granados' own family
questioned the credibility of their relative. Reportedly prone to abusing
drugs and alcohol, Granados was emotionally disturbed and overcome with
hallucinatory flights of fancy, according to relatives.
Abraham Hinojos, defense attorney for Alvarez, said his client’s rejected
appeal was also a loss to society since “we continue in the same (legal)
David Pena, attorney for Irma Monreal, ridiculed the Mexican state’s
defense in Chile as simulation designed to “make it appear they are doing
With oral testimony completed in Chile last week, the Inter-American Court
will review legal documents and deliberate the merits of the case. A
decision is expected later this year or early next year. Typically, the
OAS court conducts proceedings in countries not involved in a legal
complaint. Hence the trail setting of Santiago, Chile, another continent
and an entire season removed from Ciudad Juarez.
Local Fall-Out from the OAS Case
In Ciudad Juarez and the state of Chihuahua, the Inter-American Court case
reopened a huge can of worms. Purported PGJE documents leaked to El Diario
newspaper, contended the Mexican government had provided generous
compensation to the families of the three cotton field murder victims
involved in the OAS case.
In a detailed piece published on the second day of the Santiago trial, El
Diario said the mothers and other named relatives of Hererra, Ramos and
Gonzalez, received money for funeral expenses, educational grants, homes,
and businesses including a tortilla shop and small grocery store. The
state support surpassed more than one million dollars, according to El
Diario. State government assistance also consisted of providing medical
and psychological services for surviving family members, El Diario
Besides the very personal details reported in the El Diario story, the
newspaper account was unusual in that it included information that
reportedly will be used in the Inter-American Court proceedings. Mexican
officials routinely deny reporters access to sensitive legal documents
which are part of ongoing cases.
Whether the story is accurate or not, it could refuel disagreements
between different groups of victims’ mothers.
Before it was quickly yanked from El Diario’s website, the story drew
sharp comments from several readers. An individual identified as Tararecua
questioned when Guatemala (scene of thousands of femicides) and the US
would be tried internationally for murders of women, including the 11
bodies discovered in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last February. Another
writer identified as Esperanza applauded the Inter-American Court’s
action, but urged the OAS legal authorities to hold Mexican officials
accountable for allowing a violent criminal gang to run amok in the Juarez
Two other documents related to the cotton field case also grabbed media
and public attention in recent days. Portions of a PGJE report submitted
to the Inter-American court were challenged by a separate report from the
Argentine Anthropological Forensic Team, a group of investigators
contracted several years ago by the PGJE under pressure from activists and
relatives of disappeared women to identify the remains of unknown female
murder victims in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua City.
The PGJE report contended the majority of 447 women’s murders in Ciudad
Juarez between 1993 and December 2008 have been duly prosecuted, with more
than 60 percent of the cases solved and scores of murderers brought to
justice. The Argentine forensic experts, however, questioned several
aspects of the report. Media reports indicate the true number of female
murder victims during the time covered by the PGJE report is more than
Chilean Judge Cecilia Medina Quiroga, president of the Inter-American
Court, requested the Mexican government turn over an accounting of all the
women’s murder cases supposedly resolved in the 1993-2008 period.
Ticked off by the contradictory reports, Chihuahua state lawmaker Antonio
Sandoval proposed last week that the Chihuahua State Congress pass a
resolution demanding the PGJE provide a report on its femicide report and
explain how much money the state agency has spent publicizing the
While new battles brew over old but unresolved issues, three mothers of
Ciudad Juarez murder victims await a verdict from the Inter-American
Court of Human Rights.
“There was no justice done in Mexico, and this the last opportunity the
mothers have,” said WOLA’s Maureen Meyer.
Additional sources: Norte, May 3, 2009. Article by Nohemi Barraza and
Guadalupe Salcido. Lapolaka.com, April 29 and May 1, 2009. El Paso Times,
May 1, 2009. Article by Diana Washington Valdez. El Universal, April 25
and 30, 2009. Articles by Silvia Otero and Notimex. El Diario de Juarez,
April 25 and 29, 2009. Articles by Sandra Rodriguez Nieto, Gabriela
Minjares and Alejandro Salmon. Cimacnoticias.com, April 28 and 29, 2009.
Articles by Sandra Torres Pastrana, Nancy Betan, and editorial staff.