Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Zapatista Music and the Cancionero Zapatista

Thanks to the hard work of, let's call him Compañero Rogelio, the music of the Zapatistas is now widely available for musicians young and old to learn, play and teach to others. While CDs of the songs featured in the songbook, prepared by Rogelio using the songs played and recorded by Zapatista music groups in the Mexican state of Chiapas like Nuevo Amanecer, these disks are not widely available in the United States.

With the permission of the Junta of Buen Gobierno, the songs themselves are now available north of the border in the "Canciones Zapatistas" inspired by the "Little Red Songbook" of the IWW.

Schools for Chiapas are rumored to be bringing down many copies to be distributed to Zapatista schools for the benefit of the students there.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Indypendent Reader Release Party

The Indypendent Reader, a new publication by Baltimore Indymedia and Camp Baltimore, is having a release party this Thursday at the Contemporary Museum in Mt. Vernon. Though somewhat narrow in focus, the first issue was very deep in its analysis of the creation of the ghetto and gentrification in East Baltimore.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Interpreter Times: The Patient and Their "Comañeros"

My colleague Roig and I started a new interpreters' trade blog, Interpreter Times
An excerpt from my first piece on the new site:
For example, what if a patient is asked by hospital staff where he works and, instead of answering, looks deferentially toward a "compañero del trabajo" who advises him to say he is unemployed? Is this not a sign that the patient's "friend" may have a conflict of interest, violate the patient's confidentiality and compromise his/her care? The interpreter obviously cannot tell the compañero not to accompany the patient to the consultation, but should s/he inform a nurse or physician of the potential problem? Should the interpreter or some other hospital staff be prepared to share information with the patient about his/her rights in this situation?

This may not seem important, but what if the patient's friends informs him that work will only pay for the most basic hospital services or that subsequent visits could get him/her in trouble with immigration? The patient may not come to follow-up appointments or may skip/avoid therapy because the patient cannot afford it him/herself. In this sense, the health care professionals could very well be failing the patient if they allow a representative/friend/compañero from work to be present during all communication with the injured worker.... read more

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Baltimore Examiner

I am not an avid reader of the Baltimore Examiner daily tabloid newspaper. The paper does not go far into depth, the politics of the editorial staff are atrocious and its another cog in the syndicated Examiner machine. I first became aware of the Examiner's politics when they published advertisements for the San Francisco version showing a picture of a young white girl in school and a young Arab girl with an AK-47 with the words "PTA to PLO / No Local Newspaper Has Ever Delivered News Of This Scope." The original ad and an analysis are published here.

This ad caused quite a reaction, with local Arab groups pointing out that this undated, unsigned photo was likely taken in refugee camps decades ago. An anonymous photo with no context and strong comment amounted to a racist stereotype of Palestinians, in the eyes of San Franciscans. Since the photo was not new, it was hardly "news" as the ad claimed. The Examiner pulled the ad from the Bay area market, but republished it in DC when the Washington Examiner was started. If the ad was racist in San Francisco, it should have been racist in DC. But the Examiner was only interested in its PR campaign rather than questions about journalistic integrity of a newspaper. This was the reputation that the Examiner carried with it to Baltimore.

However, my grandmother points out that the paper scooped up some reporters from The Sun since its parent, the Tribune Company, has been increasingly using its syndicated columnists and reporters over local voices. The length of the paper also make it good bus and toilet reading material.

So I picked up a copy on my way to work on May 9th, and was not surprised to find an editorial calling for health care reforms based on suggestions from the American Enterprise Institute, without any mention of the neo-conservative ideology of the organization. The column, written by the editor of the Capitol Hill publication Roll Call Morton Kondracke is available here.

I wrote a response published, which was way too long for the 150 word max. I will publish it in full at the bottom of this post.

Most of my edited response was published by the Examiner here.

Though the following two key sentences were deleted.
"[Kondracke's] analysis is at best poor journalism, at worst rightist propaganda and it reflects poorly on the journalistic credibility of the Examiner."

I think those were crucial sentences. While its always good to have a second paper in a market like Baltimore, I am not confident that the presence of one of the Examiner's many tentacles will make up for the declining quality of the Baltimore Sun. A better sign (however humble) is the introduction of the Indypendent Reader, a project of the Baltimore Indypendent Center and Camp Baltimore. The first quarterly issue focuses on the creation of the ghetto, gentrification, and community power. One highlight is an interview with McElderry Park community association president (and green party candidate for city council) Glen Ross.

Landon graduate from Bethesda indicted in Duke rape case

David Evans, a 23-year-old senior and team co-captain from Bethesda, Md., was indicted on charges of first-degree forcible rape, sexual offense and kidnapping.

He was a renter at the house where the party took place where an exotic dancer says she was beaten, berated and raped.

Evans, from Bethesda, is a graduate of the prestigious all-male Landon School in that Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C.

This new indictment comes in the face of increasing media appeals calling this a political prosecution by the DA Nifong, attacking the credibility of the rape survivor, and other assertions in support of the accused.

Though the Duke lacrosse coach quit and had the lacrosse season canceled because of the behavior (some of it documented through emails) of his players, Sports Illustrated is reporting that some graduating seniors Duke wore the accused lacrosse jersey numbers on their morterboards at graduation ceremonies.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Madness in Atenco

Despite little press attention north of the Rio Grande, the simmering tensions around the Mexican election campaign and the Zapatistas "Other Campaign" exploded in the small towns of Texcoco and San Salvador Atenco on the outskirts of the Mexican Capital (or Distrito Federal).

A massive police round up of unlicensed vendors in Texcoco caused a dramatic reaction in Texcoco.

Locals, armed with machetes, detained the police that had been holding the unlicensed vendors, though the captive police were later handed to the Red Cross. A massive police operation to retake the town resulted in 200 arrests, and up to 50 police injuries, according to official statements.

The people of San Salvador Atenco suffered an even greater loss. Javier Cortés Santiago, a 14 year old youth, was killed. According to the BBC, "Television images of police beating bound demonstrators caused a national outcry after the riots." While others are still reported as "disappeared," human rights groups have documented 16 rapes of women in police custody and sexual assaults (including the introduction of foreign objects into the bodies of both men and women).

A Chilean film maker told the BBC "They insulted me, groped me, anything they wanted. Whenn they jailed me that was when I saw the girls with their pants and underwear torn, sobbing." Her full letter is available on NarcoNews here

This seems like an insane escalation overvunlicensed vendors. The obvious question is, Why in San Salvador Atenco?

The populace of the area had already been radicalized and organized in 2002 when the local, state and federal governments wanted to confiscate the farmlands of Atenco in order to build a new airport for Mexico City. During that fight, the people waged a popular campaign of struggle when it became clear that all three levels of government were colluding against them. Their marches, yielding machetes as symbols of their rural labor, were met with police violence. After police detained, beat and arrested marchers, one slipped into a coma and died from lack of treatment in police custody.

Narco News has a two part series on the 2002 confrontations here and here. There is also a video at Salon Chingon.

Furthermore, activists from Atenco had been participating in the Zapatista's "Other Campaign," the attack on the vendors (who are becoming an important yet marginalized part of the new "post-Fordist" economy and have been important in other political organizing such as the Bolivian uprising that swept Evo Morales into power) came as Marcos was arriving in Mexico City.

While the Zapatistas' spokesperson Marcos (or Delegate Zero) is promising to remain in Mexico, D.F. until the detained people of Atenco are freed (even if it keeps him there through the elections). Meanwhile mass media like the BBC are forecasting more election violence based on the Atenco experience.

While perhaps attempting to marginalize the "Other Campaign," the Mexican government may be giving it legitimacy. As the Zapatistas call for all of its supporters to open a campaign of non violent resistance on behalf of the people of Atenco, their actions may be winning them alliances and earning them relevance beyond the indigenous enclaves of rural Chiapas.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Systematic Torture on Chicago's South Side

Democracy Now breaks a story that I am shocked not to have heard before.

For nearly two decades a part of the city’s jails known as Area 2 was the epicenter for what has been described as the systematic torture of dozens of African-American males by Chicago police officers. In total, more than 135 people say they were subjected to abuse including having guns forced into their mouths, bags places over their heads, and electric shocks inflicted to their genitals. Four men have been released from death row after government investigators concluded torture led to their wrongful convictions. ...[W]ith the abuse of detainees in US custody are getting renewed attention at the United Nations this week, where the UN Committee Against Torture is holding hearings on U.S. compliance with its international obligations. But there is one name expected to arise this week that few people in this country will have heard about – and it’s the one that’s closest to home. It’s called Area 2... Read More

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Broken Arm, Death Squads and the Salvador Option

Though I would write more on this, perhaps, if I didn´t have a broken arm,

John Pilger is arguing that the increase in militia and death squad activity is the effect of the so-called "Salvador Option" in Iraq in a piece in the New Statesman.

BBC reported at the beginning of the year that "US officials [have been] talking about a "Salvador Option" in Iraq, not only for democracy-building, but also for a more aggressive campaign to eliminate Iraqi insurgents and their supporters."

With so many executed bodies appearing everymorning, the newspaper al-Hayat refers to "the war of corpses," (qtd. juancole.com) the recent arrest of Iraqi Interior Ministry officials for running a "death squad" makes one wonder what roll the Department of Defense, the CIA and (former ambassador of Iraq last year and Honduras during the Salvadoran war and now current head of US intelligence) John Negroponte had in creating these reincarnated death squads.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Study Tsotsil (or Spanish) in Liberated Territory

Several of the few comments I have received on my blog have been about the Mayan language Tsotsil because of several posts I made while in the Mexican state of Chiapas. So I just want to let you all know that you can actually study Tsotsil (or Spanish) with native speaking "promoters" in Oventic. For more information, see the home page of the ZAPATISTA REBEL AUTONOMOUS EDUCATION SYSTEM OF NATIONAL LIBERATION OF THE HIGHLANDS OF CHIAPAS.

Web folk, can you help us figure out how to make this page come out higher on google for "Zapatista Language School," "Chiapas Language Classes," "Tsotsil Classes," etc.

A Broken Arm, the Death of Damu Smith, and Other Bad News

I have been almost a month without writing because of several reasons, the most recent of which is a broken right wrist which has made it difficult to write.

The Death of Damu Smith
I met Damu Smith when he spoke at the University of Maryland in 2004 against the invasion of Iraq. He came across as not only intelligent and outspoken, but thoughtful and sincere. Unfortunately, he was also uninsured. According to Democracy Now
Legendary peace activist Damu Smith died Friday morning in Washington, DC of colon cancer. The founder of Black Voices for Peace and the National Black Environmental Justice Network, he spent years fighting environmental racism, particularly in the South.

He was a key leader in the anti-Apartheid movement and fought police brutality in Washington, DC and around the country. Damu was diagnosed with colon cancer last year while on a peace mission in the Occupied Territories. He then not only fought for his life, but against racial disparities in the health care system. Damu is survived by his daughter Aisha and his legacy lives on in all those who fight for justice.

Listen to the May 5th Democracy Now. In addition to an audio clip of Damu Smith talking about race based health disparities and global apartheid, the show features a recording of Rumsfeld being interrupted by protesters including former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, as well as an interview with the same.

Biology Student Murderer in College Park
University of Maryland Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics student was arrested for the arson and murder of Michael Scrocca after a party last year. This murder always disturbed me because the landlord was the same as our landlord at the time. In fact, when it came out that the burned house had more than the legal limit of residence, we also had to get some people out of our house to comply with the housing code.

The house was also around the corner from the Leonardtown Apartments where I lived for years, and the Sigma Chi abandoned fraternity house that I always meant to take over with other students and turn into a base of student progressive activism. The frat house is now almost as decrepit looking as the burnt out house of the late Mike Scrocca before the latter was bulldozed to the ground.

What can I say, it gives me a sense of missed opportunities and a realization that "This is madness!"