Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Five Years into the New Journey

George Harrison sailed away from us five years ago today.

At 22, with all of the money, fame and success of being in the world's most popular band, George traveled to the mountains of India and literally sat at the feet of his elders to study the music and spirituality of an ancient culture. He had been an ordinary teenage bloke from a middle-class family in England who suddenly found himself on top of the world. How many people in that position would have gone off on such a quest? The story has always amazed me.

And his spiritual awakening was no trendy or fashionable phase. The path he began in 1965 was the same one he was on when he embarked on his new journey in 2001.

I've always thought that George's importance to the Beatles is too often overlooked. An Indian journalist who knew him in the 1960s said he was the most naive of the Beatles, but also the most sincere. Perhaps it was that sincerity, along with his spiritual exploration, that gave George's songs a certain resonance that helped create the lasting and unique magic that is the Beatles.

And his sense of joy and fun. He may have been earnest, but he was also friends with - and a producer to - Monty Python. A vegetarian and serious gardener, he was also a Formula One race car driver. In the end, he was a fascinating, complex and loving soul. He is missed.

I was lucky enough to see George perform live in 1992, at Bob Dylan's 30th Anniversary Concert at Madison Square Garden. When he stepped out on the stage, I couldn't help but be awed. Here I was, a Beatles kid from Austin, Texas, seeing George Harrison live on stage. It was a very memorable experience.

As a child, I loved Ringo and Paul. As an angry but idealistic teenager, I idolized John. But when I started listening to the Beatles again a few years ago, it was George who seemed to be a revelation to a tired but still searching adult soul.

A couple of nights ago, La Reina heard this song and said it always made her feel so joyful. Yeah. So I offer George singing "Here Comes the Sun" at the Concert for Bangla Desh.

"When you've seen beyond yourself - then you may find, peace of mind is waiting there - And the time will come when you see we're all one, and life flows on within you, and without you. "

"Everything else can wait, but the search for God cannot wait . . . Love one another."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

News Roundup

Rumsfeld's Growing Troubles

Less than a week after Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld left the Bush administration, he was charged with war crimes in a lawsuit filed in Germany by the U.S.-based Center for Constitutional Rights, on behalf of prisoners from Abu Ghraib. The story received some coverage here in the U.S., mostly about how "ridiculous" or "frivolous" the lawsuit was. Today, however, Madrid's El Pais newspaper published an interview with Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of Abu Ghraib at one time and is the only high-ranking officer to be punished for what happened at the prison. She claims that Rumsfeld authorized the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

Karpinski, who ran the prison until early 2004, said she saw a memorandum signed by Rumsfeld detailing the use of harsh interrogation methods.

"The handwritten signature was above his printed name and in the same handwriting in the margin was written: "Make sure this is accomplished,"" she told Saturday's El Pais.

"The methods consisted of making prisoners stand for long periods, sleep deprivation ... playing music at full volume, having to sit in uncomfortably ... Rumsfeld authorized these specific techniques."
Karpsinski is prepared to testify against Rumsfeld in the war crimes case in Germany. As The Nation and a few other media sources have said, the lawsuit may not be as frivolous as some thought.

Most of the English-language coverage today omits other interesting aspects of the Karpinski interview. If your Spanish is good, I suggest reading the full interview [the link above]. If not, I offer some quickly translated parts.

El Pais: When did the tortures begin at Abu Ghraib?

Karpinski: Everything started with the visit of Geoffrey Miller, commander of the prison at Guantánamo, in September 2003. He was sent by Rumsfedl or Stephen Cambone to teach members of Military Intelligence new harder techniques that they were using at Guantánamo. Before he left, he told me he wanted to take control of Abu Ghraib to convert into an interrogation center for all of Iraq, and that's what he did. From Guantánamo he was giving order and making sure everything worked according to what he wanted. . . .

In all of my jails, the Geneva Convention was followed. Now we know that they weren't followed in the interrogations, but I didn't know that because I wasn't in charge of interrogation.

EP: When did you realize the interrogations were using torture?

Karpinski: When I saw the photos for the first time, at the end of Jan 2004. Today I know that the photos weren't taken during the interrogations, because they would have shown other installations, outside of Block 1A, which is where the photos were taken. The photos were taken to use as a method of persuasion in the interrogations - to convince the detainees to talk. I assure you, if someone had taken photos during the interrogations, they never would have seen the light of day.

Karpinski also says that Sanchez removed her from her position at Abu Ghraib, because he and Thomas Pappas, head of Military Intelligence, and Miller knew that she was following the Geneva convetions and were concerned that she would raise an alarm if she found out what they were doing.

She also relates a case where a detainee wasn't registered, though this goes against Geneva convetions as well. When she found out, she went to the legal asst. of Gen Sanchez and said that if Sanchez didn't take reponsibility to register the prisoner, she would release him. She was assured that Sanchez would register him. A week later, she received a message from Rumsfeld to hold the prisoner without registering him in the databasae.

EP: Why do you think things got worse when the civil intelligence contractors arrived?

Karpinski: Miller sent them . . . . The law didn't matter to them; they operated in a realm without law.

EP: Why do you want to testify against Rumsfeld in this case?

Karpinski: I don't have anything personal against Rumsfeld. I think the people who were ultimately responsible for what happened haven't been held accountable for this responsibility. It's bad to accuse someone of something, but to accuse someone that you know had nothing to do with it, while you yourself haven't taken any responsibility, that to me is a sign of cowardice; and that's what I think of Sanchez, Rumsfeld and all the others are - they're cowards. I'm going to continue telling what I know because the whole world, not just Americans, should know what happened so it doesn't happen again.

EP: Have you received any pressure not to testify?

Karpinski: I received an email from someone at the Dept of Justice that advised me not to testify because I would be seen as anti-American and that this wasn't going to help Rumsfeld. I responded that no one was going to shut me up because I'm protected by the Constitution, and furthermore, Rumsfeld, Sanchez and Miller have never done anything to help me.

Did the CIA Kill Bobby Kennedy?

The Guardian has an interesting story on the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. Irish Filmmaker Shane O'Sullivan has "uncovered new video and photographic evidence suggesting that three senior CIA operatives were behind the killing." The story also portrays Sirhan Sirhan as a real-life Manchurian Candidate. O'Sullivan's report was done for BBC's Newsnight program and aired last week.

As far as I can tell, there hasn't been any coverage of the story in the U.S., despite obvious tie-ins with Emilio Estevez's new motion picture, Bobby. I know Emilio's production was a low-budget thing, but doesn't he have any PR people?

I'm not sure how much of the Guardian story I believe, but I've always had a gut feeling that we weren't told everything about his death. I grew up in a house where Bobby Kennedy was the big hero, and it just seems unfair that his older brother gets all the conspiracy theories. Heck, now we're told that the FBI was behind the assassination of Martin Luther King. So I think we have to at least consider that Bobby may have been done in by invisible forces from the Dark Side.

Unidentified U.S. Counter-Terrorism Officials

Abbott & Costello and the War on Terror

Is the Bush administration trying to set records for ineptitude? Scotland Yard and MI5 must think so:

A team of suspected terrorists involved in an alleged UK plot to blow up trans-atlantic airliners escaped capture because of interference by the United States, The Independent has been told by counter-terrorism sources.

An investigation by MI5 and Scotland Yard into an alleged plan to smuggle explosive devices on up to 10 passenger jets was jeopardised in August, when the US put pressure on authorities in Pakistan to arrest a suspect allegedly linked to the airliner plot.

As a direct result of the surprise detention of the suspect, British police and MI5 were forced to rush forward plans to arrest an alleged UK gang accused of plotting to destroy the airliners. But a second group of suspected terrorists allegedly linked to the first evaded capture and is still at large, according to security sources.

The escape of the second group is said to be the reason why the UK was kept at its highest level - "critical" - for three days before it was decided that the plotters no longer posed an imminent threat.
Read the full article here.

I wonder if we can get Daniel Craig in a trade for Madonna? Surely, he could tackle the bad guys better than the Bushies.

Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)

Barack Obama's Larger Strategy to Court Hispanic Voters

Rock Star Barack Obama seems surprised that Latinos are upset that he voted for the 700-mile fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Obama has met privately with Hispanic leaders in an effort to convince them that his vote is part of a larger strategy.

"It's a done deal, he did it. You know, what am I going to say? Well , I know you made a mistake and we were told it was part of a bigger strategy. What strategy?" [Hispanic leader Carmen] Velasquez said.
"We had to destroy the village in order to save it." Oh, wait, wrong war. Wrong story.

I, too, want to know, what Obama's "larger strategy" is, so I wrote him a long letter this week, asking him to fill me in on the details. I'll let you know what he says as soon as he gets back to me.

Perhaps, Obama didn't realize the powerful symbolic nature of the Fence. Hey, what's a symbol anyway? It's not like the Statue of Liberty holds any powerful meaning for immigrants.

Or, perhaps, Obama is simply courting conservative "Hispanics" who've been here a while and don't like those damn Mexican immigrants messing up their image, rather than courting "Latinos," who probably don't donate much money to presidential campaigns.

Or maybe Barack just doesn't like immigrants, period.

Oh, wait, that's right, his father was an immigrant. Well, the fence shouldn't affect any of his relatives from Kenya.

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY)

Hillary Clinton Surprisingly Disliked

[FYI: This is not an actual photograph of Hillary Clinton. It's simply used to illustrate the accompanying article. It is not meant to reflect in any way my personal feelings about the Senator from New York.]

Speaking of Presidential candidates, this article appeared in the Boston Herald back in August. It re-appeared last week on a political blog, though in all the post-Thanksgiving travelling and tryptophan, I can't remember now which one. I've talked with various people about Hillary as a candidate in 2008, and it's interesting how many Liberals dislike her. I wondered if it wasn't just certain people in New York, but this article and its poll numbers suggest otherwise.

Just for the record, she voted for the Fence as well. But I haven't seen any articles about Latinos being upset at her.

HATIN' ON HILLARY; With friends like these: N.H. DEMS lambaste Clinton. By BRETT ARENDS

MANCHESTER, N.H. - Dick Bennett has been polling New Hampshire voters for 30 years. And he's never seen anything like it.

"Lying b**** . . . shrew . . . Machiavellian . . . evil, power-mad witch . . . the ultimate self-serving politician.''

No prizes for guessing which presidential front-runner drew these remarks in focus groups.

But these weren't Republicans talking about Hillary Clinton. They weren't even independents.

These were ordinary, grass-roots DEMOCRATS. People who identified themselves as "likely'' voters in the pivotal state's Democratic primary. And, behind closed doors, this is what nearly half of them are saying.

"I was amazed,'' says Bennett. "I thought there might be some negatives, but I didn't know it would be as strong as this. It's stunning, the similarities between the Republicans and the Democrats, the comments they have about her.''

Bennett runs American Research Group Inc., a highly regarded, independent polling company based in Manchester, N.H. He's been conducting voter surveys there since 1976. The polls are financed by subscribers and corporate sponsors.

He has so far recruited 410 likely voters in the 2008 Democratic primary, and sat down with them privately in small groups to find out what they really think about the candidates and the issues.

His conclusion? `"Forty-five percent of the Democrats are just as negative about her as Republicans are. More Republicans dislike her, but the Democrats dislike her in the same way.''

Hillary's growing brain trust in the party's upper reaches already knows she has high "negatives'' among ordinary Democrats. They think she can win those voters over with the right strategy and message.

But they should get out of D.C., New York and L.A. more often, and visit grassroots members.

Because we're not talking about "soft'' negatives like, say, "out of touch'' or "arrogant.''

We're talking: "Criminal . . . megalomaniac . . . fraud . . . dangerous . . . devil incarnate . . . satanic . . . power freak.''


And: "Political wh***.''

(Note: I don't usually like reporting such personal remarks, but in this case you can hardly understand the situation without them. I have no strong personal feelings about the senator.)

There are caveats. Any survey can be inaccurate or misleading. And 55 percent of ARG's sample was either neutral or positive about Sen. Clinton. Thirty-two percent currently say they plan to vote for her in the primary.

But Bennett says he's never before seen so many N.H. voters show so much hatred toward a member of their own party. He's never even seen anything close.

He believes top national Democrats are missing this grassroots intensity. Instead, he suspects, they are blinded by poll numbers, which give Hillary a big early lead based on her name recognition.

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, agrees.

"There is far more anti-Hillary sentiment in the Democratic Party than the pollsters understand,'' he says. In the race for the nomination, "she is ripe for plucking,'' he says.

Sen. Clinton's team could not be reached for comment.

New Hampshire is small, but it's a bellwether state with clout.

Its primary probably holds the key to the Democratic nomination. And New Hampshire, alone, swung from Bush to Kerry in '04.

It's hard to see any Democrat winning the White House without carrying the state in the presidential election. And it's hard, right now, to see Hillary carrying the state.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Gone To Texas

I've journeyed back to mi tierra this week, visiting family out in West Texas. Won't be able to blog again until I return.

Meanwhile, here are some morsels from the Lone Star State . . .

Roy Orbison hailed from nearby Wink, Texas, which is just the other side of Notrees, Texas. (No, there are no trees in Notrees, Texas.) My father and aunt saw Roy play at their high school dances back before he became famous. Here he's doing "Only the Lonely," which goes out to La Reina, who I cry out for like a coyote when she's so far away.

A genuine Texas tumbleweed.

We saw one on the road from the airport to the house. Felt like a cosmic, "Welcome Back, Son."

Another West Texas boy, Buddy Holly (from Lubbock), sings "Peggy Sue." (Ah, Buddy, you died too soon.)

And just to show the range of Texas culture, here's a clip of Kilgore boy Van Cliburn playing Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No.12. In 1958, at the heighth of the Cold War, Cliburn won the First International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, a stunning accomplishment at the time. He was welcomed back to the USA with a ticker-tape parade in New York City and made the cover of Time, with the headline: "The Texan Who Conquered Russia." According to Wikipedia, Cliburn's "subsequent recording of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, became the first classical album to sell a million copies. It was the best-selling classical album in the world for more than a decade, eventually going triple-platinum."

Since my own experience is a Tex-Mex one, I thought I'd include some Tejano music, courtesy of Flaco Jimenez, Freddy Fender, Doug Sahm and Augie Meyers, better known as the Texas Tornadoes: "Hey, Baby, Que Paso?"

Gonna go heat up some tamales and open a Shiner Bock. See y'all real soon. . . .

Sunday, November 05, 2006

News Stories I Haven't Seen in the U.S.

One of the greatest aspects of the internet is the ability we have now to read news from all over the world. There are a number of international news web sites that I check regularly. I just wish I could read more than English, Spanish and a touch of French. How interesting, for example, to read Hindi, Chinese, Arabic or Russian, to see what they're saying about global events. One can get English-language news from most of these areas, and it's interesting, but I always wonder how it compares to the native press. When La Reina and I returned from living in Spain for several years, one of the biggest culture shocks we received was to see how soft and incomplete news coverage had become in the U.S. In the lead-up to the war in Iraq, it became even more clear to me how important it was to get news from around the world. American Journalism reached a nadir, I believe, between 2000 and 2003. While it's gotten somewhat better since then, I still find it lacking.

One web site that particularly impressed me in the lead-up to the war was The Guardian, from the UK. I can't remember now how many important stories I saw there that eventually made it across the Atlantic - after 6 months to a year. They still offer interesting stories that don't get covered here - at least right away. Here are some bits and pieces I found recently that I haven't seen over here:

CIA tried to silence EU on torture flights
Richard Norton-Taylor

According to a secret intelligence report, the CIA offered to let Germany have access to one of its citizens, an al-Qaida suspect being held in a Moroccan cell. But the US secret agents demanded that in return, Berlin should cooperate and "avert pressure from EU" over human rights abuses in the north African country. The report describes Morocco as a "valuable partner in the fight against terrorism".

The classified documents prepared for the German parliament last February make clear that Berlin did eventually get to see the detained suspect . . .

After the CIA offered a deal to Germany, EU countries adopted an almost universal policy of downplaying criticism of human rights records in countries where terrorist suspects have been held. They have also sidestepped questions about secret CIA flights partly because of growing evidence of their complicity.

The disclosure is among fresh revelations about how the CIA flew terrorist suspects to locations where they were tortured, and Britain's knowledge of the practice known as "secret rendition". They are contained in Ghost Plane, by Stephen Grey, the journalist who first revealed details of secret CIA flights in the Guardian a year ago. More than 200 CIA flights have passed through Britain, records show.
So the Bush administration is not only trying to silence U.S. critics of its torture and rendition policies, but it's trying to shut up the Europeans as well. And though the CIA may no longer host annual dinners for New York Times reporters, they obviously have other methods of influencing the press here and abroad.

If we miss this last chance, then our soldiers will have died in vain

Timothy Garton Ash
Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has estimated that the total, eventual costs of the Iraq war, "including the budgetary, social and macroeconomic costs, are likely to exceed $2 trillion" - that's $2,000,000,000,000. That would be $2,000 a head for each of the world's poorest billion people, who live (and die) on less than $1 a day.
I thought $400,000,000,000 was bad enough, but I've never seen a figure like this in our media. Ash's column is actually in favor of keeping the U.S. and the U.K. in Iraq, but he doesn't pull any punches on how bad things have been up to this point.

Blair-Bush ties hamper Europe, says Schröder
Jess Smee
Former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder has written a damning critique of Tony Blair's special relationship with the United States, saying it hampered Britain's links with Europe.

In his memoirs, Decisions: My Life in Politics, which were launched yesterday, Mr Schröder examines Mr Blair's relationship with George Bush. . . .

"In the foreseeable future, Britain will not give Europe any momentum," he said. "Quite the opposite, the country will continue to protect its role as a transatlantic mediator, even if that is to the cost of the European decision-making process."

He described how signals from Washington that they were "not amused" by a European bid to hammer out its own security policy prompted Britain to swiftly distance itself from the plans.

Both Bill Clinton and Mr Bush found that their national interests were best served by a fragmented Europe, Mr Schröder commented, which gave way to America's "divide and rule" approach to Europe, especially in relation to military, trade and economic affairs.

"But the United States could always count on its special relationship with Britain," he wrote.
I found this interesting because it's the first time I've seen a major European leader discuss an issue that's only going to become more important in time. The creation of the European Union as an economic and political power must lead eventually, it seems, to the development of their own military and a reconsideration of their relationship with the United States. The invasion of Iraq forced a crisis on the EU as most countries were against the war, while a few became part of the Coalition of the Willing. Imagine if California and Kentucky decided to join the Chinese Coalition of the Willing to invade Country X, while the rest of the U.S. seriously opposed the war. You cannot have a successful "kingdom" if it's divided against itself. And I don't think the Eruopeans have spent several decades and gazillions of dollars establishing the EU to have it split apart so easily. Schröder's right to be concerned. What will England do once Blair is out of office? How long will NATO exist as it does now? How will the EU handle another situation like the invasion of Iraq? Will the significant cultural and historical differences between some of the countries in the EU eventually cause it to fall apart? How far will the U.S. (or China?) go to continue its "divide and rule" approach to the EU? England will be the key battleground in this geopolitical struggle. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next 10-20 years.

La Reina Reads Her Poetry

La Reina reads three of her poems on, a weekly video reading series on the web. She said she was nervous reading for the camera and under the lights, but I thought she did well.

To coincide with the reading, I've updated her web site. There are some new poems available, and one can now order her chapbooks online. Her interview with former Poet Laureate Billy Collins is also available - in the Prose section.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Autumn in Oaxaca

A surreal experience on Thursday afternoon. Stony Brook University was gorgeously autumnal, trees flaming into bright reds or yellows, with fallen leaves crackling underfoot. The day was sunny, and the campus unusually peaceful. All Souls Day. A time for reflection and meditation. I sat in my office, sipping coffee and trying to work as I listened to a live radio broadcast (via the internet) of all-out war in Oaxaca, as Federal forces attacked the State University with tear gas, small tanks and high-powered water cannons laced with pepper gas. The protesters responded with Molotov cocktails, firework rockets, and large stones. It sounded like Paris in May 1968. I learned that Coca-Cola not only functions as a cold, carbonated beverage but also as a remedy for tear-gassed eyes. Students were throwing bags of shit, oil and other material onto the windshields of the tanks so the drivers couldn’t see. Vehicles were burning. People were getting injured. I went downstairs to the quiet Reference Room and worked at the desk for a while, reading English transcriptions of the radio broadcasts now and then to keep up with the action. I stared at the Stony Brook students working so diligently on their papers, as other students were fighting in the streets. One more bizarre juxtaposition in the new global village.

After six or seven hours of battle, the students, aided by professors and residents of Oaxaca, succeeded in driving back the Federal police. But what were the Federales doing there to begin with? It is against the law in Mexico for police or Federal troops to enter a "Universidad Autonoma" without explicit permission from the Rector. The next day, the government claimed that the troops were only trying to clear the barricades from the street outside the university. (The barricades went back up that same evening.) But an unidentified source within the administration said that the troops had been trying to get the University administration to let them in. Instead, the Rector stood on the front lines with the students so the troops could not advance through the gates, making him a hero to the students, at least for the moment. The government went on to say that there were no winners or losers in the battle, which I took as idiot-politician-speak for “We just got our asses kicked.”

The reason the Federal Police Force attacked the university was because many students and protesters had taken refuge on campus after being driven out of the main plaza in Oaxaca the previous weekend, when President Fox finally sent in troops to "bring peace" to Oaxaca. Also, students were doing the unthinkable - actually broadcasting from Radio Universidad in favor of the protest movement. They let people know where to go, what equipment to bring, how to deal with tear gas, etc. And they broadcast to the entire world. The Federal police wanted to shut them down. It’s the only media left to the protesters. But the attack was an enormous mistake, if you ask me. It made the government look as violent and stupid as everyone suspected. It has emboldened the students and the protesters. Now the conflict has started to spread. Thanks to instant communication in the internet age, at the same time that the students were fighting the troops in the streets of Oaxaca, their compañeros in Mexcio City immediately marched to the administration building of the Federal Police and blocked off major traffic arteries in the area. The Zapatistas sent out an emergency call to their supporters, who responded by blocking roadways in Chiapas and in the north of Mexico. And today I read: Leftists from across Mexico flood Oaxaca, as people in “rickety buses and cars” (a nice, neocolonial observation about the restless natives) head to Oaxaca to march with the students tomorrow. I can only imagine that university students in other parts of Mexico and in the U.S. may begin to respond on their own campuses as well. There were 21 cities in the U.S. last weekend that held protests against the Mexican government over Oaxaca, and that was before the bright idea of attacking the university.

Google Video has an 8-minute video summary of the "Battle of Radio Universidad."

Federal Troops. Water cannons. Anarchist with molotov cocktail. Tank on fire. Man on bicycle watching it all. What's he doing there? And with his pant leg clipped up so neatly.

It’s been almost impossible for me to figure out what’s really going on in Oaxaca the last few weeks. The teachers and protesters reached an agreement with the government, only they didn’t, then they did, then the teacher’s union and the APPO were fighting each other, then classes were going to re-open, only they didn’t very much, and the paramilitary kept killing protesters until they slipped up and shot down a New Yorker covering the situation for IndyMedia, along with two other people. Obviously, since it was the paramilitary who killed an American citizen, it made perfect sense – at least in that unique way of corrupt governments everywhere – to attack the people getting killed by the paramilitary. Let’s take it out on the victims, since they’re obviously causing the poor paramilitary to kill them. So President Fox finally sent in the troops, who drove the protesters out of the main plaza in Oaxaca. The corrupt Governor, whose resignation had been demanded by the protesters and even encouraged by many in the government, now felt justified and refused to quit. Only the protesters didn’t give up, if you can imagine such nerve on the part of the troublemakers. I don’t know where things are going to go from here, but it continues to get interesting.

In related news, Subcomandante Marcos, of the Zapatistas, was at the U.S. border on Wednesday as part of the Otra Campaña Tour of Mexico. He spoke to thousands of supporters on the bridge connecting Juarez to El Paso, Texas. The El Paso Times has a video clip and article. The Zapatistas have issued a Call to Action in support of the protesters in Oaxaca. Meanwhile, bad blood continues between the Otra Campaña Left and the Not-So-Left Still-Operating-in-the-Absolutely-Corrupt-Mexican-Political-System PRD. One of the PRD politicians from Chihuahua said that Marcos coming to his city was like Bin Laden being invited to a city in the U.S. No wonder so many leftists in Mexico refused to support Lopez Obrador.

Subcomandante Marcos speaking to supporters on the bridge between Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas.

The U.S. media continues to be a mixed bag in terms of coverage of what’s happening in Oaxaca. Since Bradley Will, the Indy Media reporter from NY, was killed, coverage has increased. Most stories, however, give little or no context to the situation. And many stories really do slant the coverage against the protesters. A good example of this: Many reports in the U.S. said that Will was killed in “crossfire” between protesters and others, implying that the protesters were armed and exchanging gunfire. That’s not true. The video Will was making when he was killed [Warning: it's pretty intense at the end] is now on YouTube, and it clearly shows that only one side was doing all of the shooting. The protesters are armed with rocks. (I've never actually heard of the protesters using armed weapons. Molotov cocktails and fireworks, yes, but never firearms.) Two local officials and two policemen - i.e. typical members of the paramilitary thugs in Mexico - have been arrested for the murder of Bradley Will. In general, the Mexican press focused on the paramilitary involvement from the beginning. U.S. coverage, however, continued to repeat the “crossfire” story for days and days, until it became increasingly clear that they were wrong. Also, stories tend to either downplay the number of people killed – several articles this week have said 5 or 7, when it’s well over a dozen now. Or, they state the number of dead in such a way that it sounds like they may have been killed BY the protesters. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a U.S. news story say clearly: Over a dozen protesters have been killed by paramilitary. No, they usually say the “unrest” is responsible for the death of at least 5 people, or something like that. The “unrest” doesn’t pull the triggers. People pull the triggers. The people who pull the triggers are paramilitary. The people killed are protesters. It’s not that difficult to explain. I’ve only read of one death that was being attributed to the APPO, and even that was never confirmed.

I find it interesting, too, that there’s very little national coverage of the protests now taking place here in the U.S. This is a relatively new development, however, and it IS the week before important mid-term elections. But I think the numbers are only going to increase after the attack on the university, so it will be interesting to see how the coverage goes. There are ongoing protest “camps” in front of the Mexican Consulate in San Diego and in Houston. Twelve people were arrested in the Manhattan protests and five in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Saint Paul! (Been listening too much to that notorious radical who does Prairie Home Companion, I guess.) The few references to the protests I’ve seen say there have been “perhaps” a dozen across the U.S., but I found local news stories for 21 protests. (Do reporters not take the time to do a few Google and Yahoo News searches and count the articles?) Many have been in California, where there are large numbers of Oaxacans. According to one article, there are close to 25,000 living in San Diego. Protests have taken place in Sacramento, San Francisco, San Bernadino, San Deigo, San Jose, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Tucson, Phoenix, Austin, Houston, Lawrence (Kansas!!!), St. Paul, Chicago, Raleigh (North Carolina!!!), Philadelphia, Boston, Cambridge, and New York.

Ironically, one of my least favorite newspapers, the reactionary New York Daily News, actually had a good story by Juan Gonzalez about Bradley Will and the situation in Oaxaca: Camera his weapon vs. injustice. That’s where I found out about his video being on YouTube. Gonzalez says the Oaxaca story: "is one our own national media somehow managed to ignore for five long months. . . . Not since China's Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989 had a Third World nation witnessed such a massive and intractable public protest. But you couldn't tell that by watching network news reports in this country or reading the national press. Here was Mexico, our next-door neighbor and one of the world's most populous nations, in the throes of a huge crisis, and the big American media paid no attention."

Don't know about the Tiananmen Square analogy, but it's the first time I've read a U.S. journalist who mentions the lack of coverage.

The New York Times, after playing the “crossfire” game themselves for several days, did come out with a decent article on Will on Wednesday.

If Fox and Calderon were hoping this would all go away, I’m afraid they’re sorely mistaken.