Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books



domingo, julio 31, 2011

A Failure To Communicate

”What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

There’s still no deal on the debt ceiling, so at least at this minute Grandma doesn’t have to write monthly checks to the Koch Brothers, and cat food futures are holding steady. That’s good. That’s stability. The breaking news shortly will be that Tweedle Dum has struck a big f*cking debt ceiling deal with Tweedle Dee. Rejoice! Or maybe it will be that Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen have struck a big f*cking debt ceiling deal. Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to determine which one is the dummy. Or is the real dummy watching? Nevermind. Let there be scripted rejoicing and sighs of relief. Let business return to the usual.

If I had written my opinion about economics and the debt ceiling in particular on the back of a $15,000 check, no doubt my Congressperson would have asked me my views. But I didn’t. And he didn’t. I wrote it on a blog and in an email. He replied with an auto response. And so I suspect that about 216 people in the House of Representatives, none of whom passed Economics 101 or has the slightest clue about macroeconomics, are about the make a deal without input from me. They are poorer for that, though they don't recognize it.

The upcoming deal will be the culmination of Republican strategies modeled after old James Cagney movies, “If you don’t turn over the money, the kid (or kitten or puppy or baby) gets it.” Only now it’s “If you don’t pass the cuts for the debt ceiling (or you try to restore taxes on the richest people), we kill Grandma and the economy gets it, too. Got that Shorty?” Very nice people. Shortly, the economy will turn up DOA at a breadline near you. When asked what killed it, the Trad Media will tell us with a straight face that the US never came to grips with excessive spending. They will play lugubrious music. I will laugh at this till I cry. Others will just cry out loud.

Satyagraha won’t work. I could stand on my head and hold my breath until I turned blue, but it wouldn’t stop the Congress from doing something idiotic with the debt ceiling. I could go on a hunger strike to try to stop the impending deal, but I suspect that the Republicans are going to put lots and lots of us on a fast with this deal, so they won’t care. They won’t mind if I get a head start. I could write another blog entry detailing my outrage. Do I have to?

You will forgive me if I change the channel and don’t watch the inevitable ending of this on TV. You will forgive me, also, if I don’t turn on NPR for a while. I’m thinking I’m about to be run over by an oncoming bus. The bus schedule is a little indefinite so far, but it will definitely arrive before Tuesday evening. After I am under the bus, I will attempt (yet again) to regroup. But I have to say, I’m really tired of looking up only to see the bottom on the bus as it passes overme I've been doing this since January, 2009. Repeatedly. This time, I fear, is also going to be déjà vu all over again.

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Joe Arroyo, RIP

The WaPo reports:

Colombian salsa singer Joe Arroyo has died at age 55 after a monthlong hospitalization....

Arroyo composed some 200 songs, including the hits "La Rebelion" and "Tumbatecho" and he had performed with singers including Celia Cruz and Shakira.

He first appeared in the 1970s with the orchestra "Fruko y sus Tesos," and he formed his own band in Medellin in 1981 called "La Verdad."...

the singer was to receive a career achievement Grammy in November.

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sábado, julio 30, 2011

The More Things Change...


1934 photo by Walker Evans (h/t Sam Pratt)


July 30, 2011 photo by your Bloguero

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viernes, julio 29, 2011

Demonstration In Rio To Protest World Cup Evictions


On Saturday, July 30, 2011,the day of the World Cup Draw, the Popular Committee of the World Cup and Olympics will have a public action in defense of “The People's Cup.” A march for the People's Cup will begin gathering at the Largo do Machado at 10am.

While the 20 million dollar party for choosing the qualifying groups for the 2014 World Cup is happening on the 30th of July in Rio de Janeiro, thousands of the city's residents are being removed from their homes in preparation for the tournament, street vendors are prevented from working and the vast majority of the population will not have enough money to pay for tickets to the World Cup.

Put simply, the World Cup has corporatized the people's game and now it will remove the people who love the game so that the Plutocrats may enjoy it. If the people will receive anything, and it's doubtful they will, it will be the trickle down. A disgrace.

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This Week In The Dream Antilles

Your Bloguero this week had an epiphany. Please. Your Bloguero heard that all the way over here. OK, you have a point. It’s a small one, your Bloguero thinks, but he will concede it. Maybe, as you say, his insight doesn’t really qualify for such a pompous, grandiloquent noun. But maybe it does. What was that? Nothing? Your Bloguero still hears you snickering. OK, maybe it’s just another passing, soon to be forgotten, exceedingly minor insight that your Bloguero is trying to palm off as something important. You’ll be the judge of it, sure. That’s fine. Your Bloguero doesn’t mind your having a joke (or a series of them) at your Bloguero’s expense. He can take a joke.

As your Bloguero was saying before he stepped on the cuff of his own pants because he was distracted by your unsolicited remarks, and stumbled awkwardly toward the gutter, your Bloguero had an insight. About clouds. Yes, the clouds you may see overhead, depending on where you are and when you look skyward. Yes, those clouds. And particularly the clouds in Patagonia. Stop that. Really. The epiphany was about clouds. Just give your Bloguero a chance, will you? OK? He will explain.

Maybe a quotation from Cesar Aira will help to convey this epiphany in all of its grandeur:

The actual winds, the air masses displaced between difference in pressure, always go toward the same place in the end, and they come together in the Argentinian skies; big winds and little winds, the cosmopolitan oceanic winds as much as the diminutive backward breezes: a funnel of stars gathers them all together, adorned with their velocities and orientations like ribbons in their hair, and brings them to rest in the privileged region of the atmosphere called Patagonia. That’s why the clouds there are ephemera par excellence, as Leibniz said of objects (“objects are momentary minds”: a chair is exactly like a man who lives for a single instant). The Patagonian clouds welcome and accommodate all transformations within a single instant, every transformation without exception. That’s why the instant, which in any other place is as dry and fixed as a click, is fluid and mysterious in Patagonia, fantastic. Darwin called it: Evolution. Hudson: Attention.

No, it didn’t help? Well, it’s not all that easy to convey epiphanies.

Look, it’s about the clouds. So your Bloguero this week has been looking up. At the sky. At the clouds. A lot. Why? This activity, as far as your Bloguero is concerned, is far, far more productive and far less disturbing than watching Congresspeople, all of whom obviously failed Economics 101, argue with each other about, of all things, Economics 101. They failed it years ago. They have forgotten whatever parts of it they actually knew back then. This is really upsetting. Especially when the primary argument appears to be that killing the economy dead as utterly flattened, unrecognizable road kill, so that nobody at all will be working and interest rates will be even more exorbitant and bank profits will be even more shameful, will prove something. What will it prove, you ask? It will prove that petulance is the new politics. And that stupidity rules in Washington. And that putting morons in Congress is the equivalent of unleashing weapons of mass destruction on the US. It’s that simple. You want to know where the WMD’s are? Look to your Congress.

But I digress. The clouds. Back to gazing at the clouds. Because of the abysmal quality of the current national debate about the debt ceiling, your Bloguero this week focused on the clouds. Your Bloguero loves to look at the clouds. He did that before, as well. Last time, the topic was Credit Default Swaps and the alleged necessity for bailing out porcine felines who were too corpulent to push themselves away from the public trough filled with your wealth. And nobody could move them either. They had to be fed more and more and more until they nearly exploded. Cue Monty Python. Now the same topic has morphed into whether grandmothers will end up homeless, eating cat food and being told that they should perform open heart and cataract surgery on themselves. And find home remedies in the woods instead of getting their prescriptions paid for. In other words, different day, same topic, same redistribution of wealth from grandma to exploding porcine felines. So your Bloguero, who has seen quite enough of this, thank you, looks instead to the clouds.

Cloud Hunter explores your Bloguero’s proposal for funding so that he may travel the world and photograph the clouds with his cell phone. This occupation draws your Bloguero’s attention and passion. The crazier the public discourse, the more your Bloguero seeks to emigrate to another place, another way of life. Is there intelligent life somewhere on this planet?

No doubt the cloud proposal was driven by Counting Down To Default And The End Of The World, a countdown clock, and Today’s Exercise In Participatory Democracy, a recounting of your Bloguero’s communications with his Republican Congressperson semi-T Bagger Chris Gibson, and Buddy Can You Spare A Dime, your Bloguero’s only serious look at the deficit ceiling debate before turning his attention skyward. .

In all important Futbol news (Futbol is far more important to your Bloguero than partisan politics or voodoo economics, a sign of your Bloguero’s sanity and resilience) your Bloguero noted that US Men’s National Team CoachBob Bradley was finally fired, a sacking for which the US defense and midfield and aging prima ballerina Landon Donovan should take full and ignominious credit, and an incredible goal scored by Uruguay’s Diego Forlan in the final of the Copa America, which Uruguay won. Note: Uruguay is a power for World Cup 2012. They will go to the finals, your Bloguero prognosticates.

She’s Alive , a remarkable video, notes the martyrdom of environmental advocates.

Newark: Too Darn Hot recollects your Bloguero’s fabled boyhood in the boiling hot Newark of the 1950s and gives you the voice of Ella Fitzgerald who was utterly fantastic. The piece was inspired by the Eastern US heatwave.

And finally, from the local jail, is this crazy, Benny Hill pursuit of a prisoner by guards, which the authorities don’t think is funny. But your Bloguero does.


This Week In The Dream Antilles is a weekly digest. Sometimes, like now, it is actually a digest of essays posted in the past week. Your Bloguero always solicits your support. No, not your money. Just leave a comment so that your Bloguero will know that you stopped by. Or, even easier, just click the "Encouragement jar". Humor him. Your Bloguero likes to know that you're visiting.

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jueves, julio 28, 2011

Bob Bradley Fired

AP today reports that Bob Bradley, coach of the US Men's National Soccer Team, just got fired. It's hardly a surprise.

For U.S. soccer fans, the scene was tough to watch: Archrival Mexico celebrating a Gold Cup victory on American soil, cheered on by a largely pro-Mexico crowd at the Rose Bowl.

A little more than a month later, Bob Bradley has been fired as coach of the U.S. men's soccer team.

Bradley led the team to big moments during his tenure, including Landon Donovan's heart-stopping goal to secure a place in the round of 16 at last year's World Cup in South Africa and an unforgettable victory over Spain in 2009.

Bradley owes the firing to the non existent defense and defensive midfield and to that has-been prima ballerina, Landon Donovan. The US blew a 2-0 lead to Mexico. And lost 4-2. How did they do that? Well, they didn't play any defense. For the entire game. They watched Mexico move the ball around. They didn't challenge or press. And as if that wasn't enough, Donovan's first four (was it 6 or 7?) touches gave the ball away. And he didn't run. Ever. Yes, he scored in the early going. But where was he for the net 85 minutes? When you play that lackadaisically, it's stimple: you stink. And, of course, your coach gets fired.

I said before that US play against Mexico in the Gold Cup was a disgrace. As if it needed it, this confirms that assessment. See for yourself:

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This Guest House



This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-- Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

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miércoles, julio 27, 2011

Cloud Hunter


Julio Cortazar, to nobody’s surprise, had the right idea about employment (and so many other things). In “Sunset Hunter,” a story included in the collection, A Certain Lucas, he proposes that his job be finding and filming the perfect sunset. This, of course, will require world travel. And a grant. A big grant. Not just that. "I know that a good sunset doesn't last more than twenty minutes between climax and anticlimax, two things I would eliminate in order to leave only its slow internal play, its kaleidoscope of imperceptible mutations." The plan is to search the world for the perfect sunset and capture it on film. A perfect, creative occupation.


Personally, I don’t find sunsets all that fascinating. And I don't really know anything at all about making a film. No. But clouds. Clouds deserve my attention. I’d like to travel the world finding the perfect cloud and taking a still photo of it with a digital camera. Maybe even with a cell phone. I've already started on the project. Today I’m wondering what “rewards” I could give for financial support of the project so taht with the help of Kickstarter I could begin with the clouds of Patagonia. And Tanzania.

And I have a three-part Haiku as an inducement:
1.

To talk to the clouds
Climb the hill or tallest tree.
Open wide both your hands.


2.

A cloud has no feet,
just a face and two plump hands.
And wind for a voice.


3.

What stories clouds tell!
I cannot write them down here.
They are too fragile.

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martes, julio 26, 2011

Counting Down to Default/End of World



It's a three ring circus in Washington all right. But there's no lion tamer in the cage. And somebody's stealing the safety net. Maybe we can all get in a clown car and move to a less embarrassing country.

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Today's Exercise In Participatory Democracy

Last night after the President’s speech, I thought I would send a cheerful email to my Republican Congressman. The idea was simple: I want the debt ceiling raised without any preconditions so we won’t have a massive economic debacle. I’d ask him just to put the budget/debt/spending/taxation/deficit debate on hold to avoid a market and jobs and worldwide economic meltdown. It’s simple. Even the President didn’t ask for it though. So what. So I went to the trusty laptop, found Chris Gibson’s web site for Congress (and the ones that are still up from his November, 2010 election campaign) and tried to send an email. No can do. I get a message that says, “Server Too Busy.” No email page. Fine, I think. Millions of Americans are at this very moment trying to express themselves. I don’t care what they’re saying; it’s democracy at work. I’ll try again in the morning. I will be heard, I think. I will persevere.

It is now 8:30 am. First, because I have not had enough coffee, I mistakenly send an email to Chris Gibson at his site to be elected to Congress. After I send it I think, “That was great. And easy. On to today’s activities.” Then I realize what I did. I’m sure that was an utter waste of time and that nobody will retrieve, let alone read this email. I regroup. I again find his Congressional web page to send an email, http://gibson.house.gov/Forms/WriteYourRep/, and guess what? I wait. And I wait. And it doesn’t load. And I wait. And I wait some more. And finally after about 19 minutes I get the idea that it’s just not going to load. Ever. I’m just not going to be able to send this guy an email with my views about the impending default. The page will not load. Damn it, I say. I’m not going to let this obstacle prevent me from saying what I have to say. I’ve got too much invested in this project already. I’m going to have to use antiquated technology, the telephone, to call my Congressman’s local office.

Meanwhile, while I’m wondering how the United States Congress can have such crummy servers and whether that is in fact a metaphor for the entire US infrastructure, if not the alienation of the voters, I get a disquieting, automated response from the Chris Gibson Campaign which ended in November, 2010. It says:

Our campaign is dedicated to restoring a free, prosperous and safe America. We believe that by reducing taxes, spending and borrowing, we can unleash the private sector‚s ability to create jobs and provide economic security for local families.

Ut oh. It doesn’t sound like Congressman Chris Gibson is in favor of just raising the debt ceiling to avoid an economic meltdown. Sounds like he might have some other agenda, one that sounds all Tea Partyish. Is he an acolyte of the Orange Guy? Of the T-publicans? I shrug. I’m will not be deterred. I don’t care what he said when he ran. We all know that most of that campaign, just like very other campaign, was complete nonsense, just political garbage, no matter who the candidate was. Just look, for example, at President Obama. Yes, I say, just look. That turns out to be a very depressing, disillusioning idea to pursue. I stop thinking about it and tell myself to get back on task.

Undeterred, I try to shake off the bipartisan gloom and find the Congressman’s local phone number. Great idea. His web site still will not load the office information so I cannot get a phone number for the Hudson office from the web. I wait. Meanwhile, I wonder whether Obama is ever going to close Gitmo, or tax the fat cats, or do any of the other great Hope and Change mambo I enjoyed so much. I start to muse about Universal Health Care. Impeachment of Cheney I’m getting very depressed. After about ten minutes of totally dispiriting self talk, and trying figure out how to get a number, the website loads, and I find a number in Kinderhook, (518) 610-8133. Ah. The day will not be a complete waste, I think.

I dial. To my surprise, the number is answered. Immediately. I tell the woman on the other end that I’m a constituent, that the nation and I cannot afford a default, and that I want the Congressman to do whatever has to be done, including caving in completely to the President, hoisting the white flag of surrender, to avoid a default. The debate on taxes, debt, spending, the deficit, all of that stuff, can wait for another day. Just prevent a default. Just avert the economic disaster. Do whatever has to be done to prevent a worldwide economic collapse. She says she’ll tell the Congressman. I think her, give her my contact information, and hang up.

Thank goodness. I was beginning to think it was going to take all day to unburden myself and get this modest message through to my representative. I was beginning to reconcile myself to wasting hours to accomplish just that. This only took 45 minutes. Great. But now I’m thinking that what happened is that they have a score sheet at the Congressman’s office with two columns on it: Column 1 says, “Boehner,” Column 2, “Obama.” It took me 45 minutes to be a line, like “/”, in the “Obama” column. Yes, they’ll tell the Congressman all right. They’ll tell him at the end of the morning, 106 for this and 102 for that. Then he’ll do whatever the people who wrote their opinion on the back of a $1000 check told him to do.

This thought leads to frowning. Where, I wonder, where is all of the Hope. And the Change. And that strong safety net. And our caring about the people who most need assistance. I have no idea. And why, I wonder, isn’t the President on board with, “Give me a clean bill, one that avoids the default until 2013, and we can debate all the rest of this afterwards. This is an emergency.” Why indeed. Why is everything I want always, yes, always “off the table” before the discussions begin. How sad. It feels like electoral politics business as usual.

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An Incredible Goal By Forlan

lunes, julio 25, 2011

She's Alive

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domingo, julio 24, 2011

Sunday Funnies



h/t Gideon, Times Union

And of course, there's always a story.

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Buddy Can You Spare A Dime?


I thought I had sworn off writing fulminating about politics and economics, and, in particular, what I see as Republican ploys to transfer even more wealth to America’s richest people from those who can least afford to give it up. Instead, I find myself again pointing out that we’re being fleeced. Yet again. We’re being plundered. We need to be creating jobs. Instead, we’re talking about balancing budgets and redistributing wealth to rich people who are doing very, very well, thank you, from people who can ill afford cuts. This is disgraceful. And maddening.

The Republican insistence that taxes cannot be increased on the richest people and/or on corporations means that only spending will be decreased. Not on wars. Not on corporate welfare. Not on the many other boondoggles Washington so loves (Ethanol anyone? Petroleum subsidies?). That, they say, would be unthinkable. They’re talking instead about cutting the already miserable, frayed, inadequate social net. The one that doesn’t have Universal Health Care. The one that doesn’t have long term unemployment benefits. The one that provides for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. The one that provides food support for families. And funds for children. Where does this end up? It ends up eventually in death: if you cannot pay for your own necessities, health care, food, heating, or housing, you die.

The context for this plundering of the poorest people is vital. Income inequality is now where it was in 1910. All of the gains of the past century have been wiped out. America’s income distribution looks like Paraguay’s. And now the Republicans want to distribute the remaining 10% of wealth (held by 90% of the population) to the 10% who already have 90% of the wealth. And the principled, stated reasons for this? All eyewash. The wealthy have the best government their money can buy, and their Astroturf T-party minions in Washington are going to keep their promises.

As if that weren’t enough, the Republicans continue to insist and the media repeat as if it were credible, that tax cuts will lead to a resurgence of employment, and that increases in taxes will lead to more unemployment.

Hah. What a joke. All the Bush tax cuts have brought the US are hoarding by the richest and interminable structural unemployment. AP reports that corporations are hoarding almost two trillion dollars and they have no intention of using those funds to hire:

Strong second-quarter earnings from McDonald's, General Electric and Caterpillar on Friday are just the latest proof that booming profits have allowed Corporate America to leave the Great Recession far behind.

But millions of ordinary Americans are stranded in a labor market that looks like it's still in recession. Unemployment is stuck at 9.2 percent, two years into what economists call a recovery. Job growth has been slow and wages stagnant.

"I've never seen labor markets this weak in 35 years of research," says Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University.

Right. Forgive, if you can, that “looks like” about the labor market still being in depression recession. The unemployed know quite well that their misery continues and that their benefits are gone or shortly expiring. They know too well that there has been no jobs recovery. The unemployed are still living the employment recession and suffering.

And why is there a disconnect between the reported, strong corporate profits and employment? It’s eye popping:

U.S. corporations are expanding overseas, not so much at home. … U.S.-based multinational companies have been focused overseas for years: In the 2000s, they added 2.4 million jobs in foreign countries and cut 2.9 million jobs in the United States, according to the Commerce Department.

Back in the U.S., companies are squeezing more productivity out of staffs thinned out by layoffs during Great Recession. They don't need to hire. And they don't need to be generous with pay raises; they know their employees have nowhere else to go.

Companies remain reluctant to spend the $1.9 trillion in cash they've accumulated, especially in the United States….

It’s not a secret. Corporations aren’t hiring. And won’t. And giving them more tax cuts to spur them to hire is actually just giving them more funds to hoard. Or to build plants overseas. Or distribute as profits to their shareholders.

You want jobs? You need a stimulus program. A big one. You need more deficit spending. And you need to build infrastructure. Nothing else is going to work. And none of this has anything to do with balancing the budget. The state governments’ attempts to balance their budgets by cutting has only increased unemployment. And stagnation. Cutting jobs is antithetical to job creation. Tax decreases to people who will not hire are antithetical to job creation. Only Government spending will spur growth and hiring. Are Democrats talking about a new stimulus program and the need for new jobs? Crickets.

What’s the debt ceiling got to do with this? Everything and nothing. It’s just the latest hostage in the Republicans’ relentless redistribution of income (and wealth) from me and you to the richest, who hired elected them to carry out this piracy. And amazingly, yet again, the Republicans’ threat to destroy things, this time the Full Faith and Credit of the United States, seems to be working. There won’t be a default. No. That would hurt the wealthy’s investments. It would mess up the stock markets. Hurting them would be unthinkable. What there will be instead, as usual, is an even further rending of the already threadbare safety net. And it will be yet another Victory for those who least need one. The victory might even be gift wrapped as Bipartisanship.

I am pessimistic. If there is anything good happening in Washington at the moment, I have no idea what it might be. I’m afraid that we’re getting ready to witness yet another Republican rip off. And I’m afraid that there is no proposal that addresses the US’s urgent need for job creation.

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sábado, julio 23, 2011

Newark: Too Darn Hot

”He remembered. And he thought that a man’s memory was a pointless game created by idle gods.”
Paco Ignacio Taibo, The Shadow of the Shadow (Sombra de la sombra)


Yesterday, Newark, New Jersey, the city of my birth, set an all time heat record. It was 108. That qualifies as undisputably miserable. And ridiculously hot. And crazy making uncomfortable. And, as well, absolutely a danger to your health, both physical and mental. I’m sweltering somewhere else. But upon hearing on the radio that the record was set, my memory, that pointless game created by idle gods, took me back to the early ‘50’s in Newark.

I remember that particular record setting day well. A real scorcher. I think I was told it got to 103. It was unbelievable, even to a kid who had access to a kiddie pool and a garden hose. My mother was worried that it was far too hot for the kids to play outside. As if playing was something anybody felt compelled to do. But being inside was impossible: it was like a furnace. We didn’t have air conditioning. That was a luxury only for the well healed. It was like that other icon of wealth, color television: unattainable. Don’t even think about it. I think we had some box fans we got at Two Guys From Harrison, a store that folded before it could morph into a big box. That was about it for cooling the house. I don’t remember ever opening the distant fire hydrant: too much trouble with no tools, and too far away. I remember when we first got the fans. What a relief. What did we do before then when it got really hot?

I think we did nothing. Or as close to nothing as possible. I think we sat patiently in the shade. And drank iced tea. Or Royal Crown Cola. Or were supposed to. I remember my grandmother saying that it was far too hot for the kids to run around. They’d get all sweated up. Like we wanted to run around. No, they should sit in the shade too. Fat chance. I remember the day. I was wearing a bathing suit and sneakers. I went from hose to pool to hose to shade to pool. Repeat and start over again. The adults sat in the shade and moved as little as possible. Eventually, they would say, it will begin to cool off. Eventually. That qualified as wishful thinking. They’d say it was too hot to cook. The fact is that it wouldn’t really cool off. But you could lie down with the fan blowing right on you and eventually you’d fall asleep.

And then I heard the bells. The ice cream truck. Headed down Bond Street, through the glare of the heat rising from on the black street pavement toward us. If ever there was a day when Lester’s white truck was an anticipated relief. Yes, he had chocolate pops. And orange ice pops. And cherry too. Yes, but it’s so hot, kid, that they’re all kind of melty, you know what I mean? So what. We don’t care about that. We want some. Yeah, can we have them? Yeah, it sure is hot. See you tomorrow. So we sat in the shade and gobbled them down as fast as we could. And, of course, we got sticky chocolate and sticky orange all over us. Our faces. Our hands. Our bare chests. Our bathing suits. No matter. We were cool for an instant. And happy. And the mess was just another reason to sit in the pool. And get the hose.

It was just too hot for anything else. It was too darn hot:

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viernes, julio 22, 2011

This Week In The Steamy Dream Antilles

This was quite a bizarre week. And this will be a short digest. Your Bloguero was obsessed all week long with the California Prison Hunger Strike. Five essays. One every day. Monday through Friday. And because your Bloguero was convinced that the Trad Media TM weren’t giving the story any real coverage and that what there was, was simple stenography of the official half truths and maliciousness of prison officials, your Bloguero decided these essays should be cross-posted at various blogs. Good idea. Hard to carry out. Your Bloguero found himself involuntarily drowning in the fabled ocean of Java and html errors. Repeatedly. Let’s face it. Your Bloguero can tickle the keyboard, and maybe he can write the essays, but alas and alack, when that dreaded red warning jumps up when he hits “publish,” he freaks out. And curses. And gets impatient. And frustrated. And does not know how to fix the problem so the essay will actually publish. And so, it has been a week both of frenzied hammering away at the keyboard and the soaring agitation and frustration the red warnings elicit.

This could be crazy making anywhere. And it probably is. But because he is back from Mexico and is again in Upstate New York, the heat and humidity have fueled both the intensity and duration of your Bloguero’s massive freak outs. Let’s not mention his impatience. Or his irritation. Or his reactions to the comments your Bloguero took umbrage at. Or the epithets he muttered (but did not type).

Thank goodness that the hunger strike has now ended peacefully so your Bloguero can now attempt to re-establish his so often lost equanimity.

Here are the essays supporting the prison hunger strikers:

Friday, Thursday, Wednesday, Tuesday, and Monday.

Was there anything else in the Dream Antilles other than your Bloguero’s obsession? In what seems like a million years ago, your Bloguero actually wrote a piece on Sunday about Hoaracio Castellanos Moya’s book She-Devil in The Mirror. Moya is a wonderful writer, and this book is an unusual description of the pervasive corruption in post Revolution El Salvador, told by a very distinctive and unusual narrator. An interesting book that should be wider known.

This Week In The Dream Antilles is a weekly digest. Sometimes, like now, it is actually a digest of essays posted in the past week. Your Bloguero always solicits your support. No, not your money. Just leave a comment so that your Bloguero will know that you stopped by. Humor him. Or, even easier, just click the "Encouragement jar". Your Bloguero likes to know that you're visiting.

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California Prison Hunger Strike Ends Peacefully


(Note: This is my fifth and final essay in support of the California prisoners on hunger strike. The first is here. The second is here. OPOL’s wonderful treatment of the situation is here. The third is here. Yesterday’s is here.


SF Gate reports that after three full weeks the California Prisoners’ Hunger Strike has come peacefully to an end. Prisoners across California are now eating:

Inmates have ended a three-week hunger strike in the high-security Pelican Bay State Prison in Del Norte County to protest conditions in isolation units at the facility and what they said were oppressive gang-security measures by prison officials, California prison officials say.

Advocates for the prisoners said they got confirmation late Thursday from the inmates themselves. Meanwhile, some inmates in three other state prisons who were refusing to eat in solidarity with those in Pelican Bay were continuing their strike until they could also receive confirmation, state officials said.

"Most inmates at Pelican Bay started eating again last night, and as of 1 p.m. today they were all eating," Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said Thursday.

"Our staff is now consulting with the prisoners in the other institutions who are still refusing to eat prison-issued food, and we are hoping they start eating again soon," she said.

The hunger strike began at Pelican Bay near the Oregon on July 1 and spread to 6,600 inmates in 13 of California's prisons, according to the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition in Oakland. On the twentieth day, the number of strikers had fallen to between 160 and 400.
As a sign of its willingness to look further into the prisoners’ five core demands, and in recognition of the time it will take to enact structural changes, the Department of Corrections is initially easing restrictions in isolation units so inmates can make phone calls and get calendars and cold-weather caps, as well as expanded educational opportunities. Other reforms—the main demands of the prisoners-- are also being considered.

Inmate leaders said they do not consider their eating the end of anything. They consider it a beginning. Today would have been Day 22 of the prison hunger strike. This may have been the most significant act of prisoner resistance in 40 years, since the Attica Uprising in 1971. And, fortunately, unlike Attica, this phase has not ended in violence.

The main issues, of course, remain. Long term, 23-hour per day solitary confinement continues. But the prisoners managed to bring together Black and Latino prisoners who are normally set against each other. And they managed, despite restrictions on their communicating with each other and with those outside the walls, to assert their humanity and challenge others to reclaim their humanity by standing with them in solidarity.

Thank you for supporting this struggle so far. The march toward humane treatment of prisoners continues in California and across America.

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jueves, julio 21, 2011

Day 21: Support The California Prisoners' Hunger Strike!


(Note: This is my fourth essay in support of the California prisoners on hunger strike. The first is here. The second is here. OPOL’s wonderful treatment of the situation is here. Yesterday’s is here The take away: California prisoners on hunger strike for 3 full weeks have requested your support in their struggle to end long term, 23 hour a day solitary confinement in California’s Special Housing Units. I urge you to support their struggle to be free from torture.)

Today is day 21 of the prison hunger strike. This may be the most significant act of prisoner resistance in 40 years, since the Attica Uprising in 1971.

Yesterday, I had a conversation in which I was asked (I’m paraphrasing) what the big deal was. Why do I care what is happening to prisoners California claims are the worst of the worst, murderers, rapists, gang members? Why do I care if they are in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day for years at a time? And why do I insist on writing these diaries over and over again, asking for readers to support the Hunger Strikers? It was a fair question. And my answer to it is that nobody would ask what’s the matter if they really understood solitary confinement. If they really understood solitary confinement they would see that it’s torture, and that civilized people do not treat other people as vermin.

There are two ways I can explain solitary confinement. The first is this powerful video from the American Friends Service Committee:



The second is the words and links and photos in an essay I wrote in January 12, 2010, Torture In Your Own Backyard. I admit I was tempted to paste the entire essay here. I won’t. That will make today’s essay entirely too long and unmanageable. Please follow the link.

All of which brings me back to the Hunger Strike. Please forgive me for repeating myself.

There is a story that when Oscar Wilde was first transported to prison, he looked out the train window and said, “Well, if that’s how the queen treats her prisoners, she doesn’t deserve to have any.” How true of California. A rightwing Supreme Court recently ruled that conditions in California’s prisons denied the prisoners freedom from cruel and inhuman punishment. Conditions were that horrible. But the Court did not focus on California’s widespread use of long term solitary confinement. Or its insane policy of holding alleged gang members in solitary confinement for six years or longer if they did not snitch and/or renounce gang membership. And it did not consider the damage to prisoners’ bodies, minds and souls from unremitting isolation from other people. No. The prisoners themselves had to bring that to our attention. And they did so in the only way they possibly could: by starving themselves. This reminds of Bobby Sands. The prisoners had no other choice. And they knew when they began that they had little chance of forcing changes in the barbaric conditions of their confinement unless you, that’s right, you get involved and stand with them and support their struggle to be free from barbaric treatment.

In recognition of this, prisoners at Corcoran have specifically requested your assistance:

“Our indefinite isolation here is both inhumane and illegal and the proponents of the prison industrial complex are hoping that their campaign to dehumanize us has succeeded to the degree that you don’t care and will allow the torture to continue in your name. It is our belief that they have woefully underestimated the decency, principles and humanity of the people. Join us in opposing this injustice without end. Thank you for your time and support”

This is not about whether prisoners should be released. It is not about whether prisoners should remain in confinement. It is not about frivolous demands for country club treatment. This is not a general debate about correctional policy. This is about stopping the torture of brutal, long term, unremitting solitary confinement. We could understand that when we opposed it in Gitmo. We could understand that when we opposed it in “Black Sites” and Bagram. We could understand it when we opposed it for Bradley Manning. The task now is to recognize that these prisoners, too, deserve to be free from the torture of long term solitary confinement. And to take whatever steps we can to oppose it in California, just as we would anywhere else in the world.

To recap:
The core demands of the prisoners are here with a petition in support of the strikers. I urge you to read the demands, all of which are designed solely to protect prisoners’ from being harmed by abusive solitary confinement, and to sign the petition.

Please call and/or write the Governor and the Commissioner to support the striking prisoners:

Secretary Matthew Cate, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 1515 S Street, Sacramento, CA 95814, Telephone: (916) 323-6001

Governor Jerry Brown, State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814, Telephone: (916) 445-2841

Please speak up for the striking prisoners. Put their struggle on your blog. Put their struggle on facebook. Tweet it. Tell others about the strike. You, if you are reading this, understand the magic of the Internet and its ability to spread important information far and wide. The striking prisoners need you to do that for them. They need you to open your eyes and hearts and mouths and stand against domestic torture. They need your compassion. But they most need your voices.

Only your support can bring their struggle to a safe and humane solution.

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miércoles, julio 20, 2011

Day 20: Support The California Prisoners' Hunger Strike



(Note: This is my third essay in support of the California prisoners on hunger strike. The first is here. The second is here. OPOL’s wonderful treatment of the situation is here. The take away: California prisoners on hunger strike for almost 3 weeks have requested your support in their struggle to end long term, 23 hour a day solitary confinement in California’s Special Housing Units. I urge you to support their struggle to be free from torture.)

Today is day 20 of the prison hunger strike. This may be the most significant act of prisoner resistance in 40 years, since the Attica Uprising in 1971.

This morning’s LA Times Editorial calls for an end to the embargo the State has imposed on news of the strike:

Conditions in California prisons are so bad that a panel of federal judges ruled that they violate the U.S. Constitution's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, but until recently the ensuing protests came mainly from lawyers rather than the inmates themselves. That changed on July 1, when thousands of inmates at one-third of the state's prisons started a hunger strike.


A core group of at least 400 inmates in four prisons continues to refuse food, protesting the way the state treats prisoners deemed to be gang members. The strike began in the Special Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison, where 1,100 inmates are isolated in soundproof cells for 22 1/2 hours a day. Their sole reprieve: one hour a day outside in a small area with high concrete walls.

Prison officials say this treatment is necessary to discourage membership in prison gangs, to obtain information on gang activity and to prevent "shot-calling" — the passing of orders from gang leaders to members in other prisons or out on the streets. Moreover, they say the hunger strike is being organized by gang leaders, and some strikers who would rather not participate are being coerced. Prisoner advocates, meanwhile, say such prolonged isolation leads to mental illness and is tantamount to torture.

So who's right? We might have a better handle on that if prison officials weren't refusing requests by The Times to interview striking inmates. Oscar Hidalgo, spokesman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, told Times staff writer Jack Dolan that media weren't being allowed into Pelican Bay "due to security and safety issues." We'd be more inclined to believe that, and not that prison officials were trying to avoid adverse publicity, if California's prisons didn't have such an extraordinary history of shoddy medical care and inhumane conditions. As it is, we think the public has a right to firsthand accounts of what goes on behind the barbed wire.

That’s where you come in. The walls are keeping the prisoners in, yes, but they are also keeping you, your eyes, your ears, your nose, your heart and most important, your conscience out. This puts the prisoners at even greater risk because it fosters prison officials’ ability to act with impunity to break the strike however they choose, to force feed prisoners in secret and to impose even more excessive, even more punitive conditions to break the strike.
Permitting prison officials to control all of the information about the strike encourages further abuse by a prison system that the Supreme Court has already held imposes cruel and unusual punishment on its prisoners.

There is a story that when Oscar Wilde was first transported to prison, he looked out the train window and said, “Well, if that’s how the queen treats her prisoners, she doesn’t deserve to have any.” How true of California. A rightwing, conservative, ideologically driven Supreme Court ruled that conditions in California’s prisons denied the prisoners freedom from cruel and inhuman punishment. Conditions were that horrible. But the Court did not focus on California’s widespread use of long term solitary confinement. Or its insane policy of holding alleged gang members in solitary confinement for six years or longer if they did not snitch and/or renounce gang membership. And it did not consider the damage to prisoners’ bodies, minds and souls from unremitting isolation from other people. No. The prisoners themselves had to bring that to our attention. And they did so in the only way they possibly could: by starving themselves. This reminds of Bobby Sands. The prisoners had no other choice. And they knew when they began that they had little chance of forcing changes in the barbaric conditions of their confinement unless you, that’s right, you get involved and stand with them and support their struggle to be free from barbaric treatment.
In recognition of this, prisoners at Corcoran have specifically requested your assistance:

“Our indefinite isolation here is both inhumane and illegal and the proponents of the prison industrial complex are hoping that their campaign to dehumanize us has succeeded to the degree that you don’t care and will allow the torture to continue in your name. It is our belief that they have woefully underestimated the decency, principles and humanity of the people. Join us in opposing this injustice without end. Thank you for your time and support”

This is not about whether prisoners should be released. It is not about whether prisoners should remain in confinement. It is not about frivolous demands for country club treatment. this is not a general debate about correctional policy. This is about the torture of brutal, long term, unremitting solitary confinement. We could understand that when we opposed it in Gitmo. We could understand that when we opposed it in “Black Sites” and Bagram. We could understand it when we opposed it for Bradley Manning. The task now is to recognize that these prisoners, too, deserve to be free from the torture of long term solitary confinement. And to take whatever steps we can to oppose it in California, just as we would anywhere else in the world.

To recap:
The core demands of the prisoners are here with a petition in support of the strikers. I urge you to read the demands, all of which are designed solely to protect prisoners’ from being harmed by abusive solitary confinement, and to sign the petition.

Please call and/or write the Governor and the Commissioner to support the striking prisoners:

Secretary Matthew Cate, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 1515 S Street, Sacramento, CA 95814, Telephone: (916) 323-6001

Governor Jerry Brown, State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814, Telephone: (916) 445-2841

Please speak up for the striking prisoners. Put their struggle on your blog. Put their struggle on facebook. Tweet it. Tell others about the strike. You, if you are reading this, understand the magic of the Internet and its ability to spread important information far and wide. The striking prisoners need you to do that for them. They need you to open your eyes and hearts and mouths and stand against domestic torture. They need your compassion.

Only your support can bring their struggle to a safe and humane solution.

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martes, julio 19, 2011

Day 19: Support The California Prisoners' Hunger Strike!!


(Note: This is my second essay in support of the fasting prisoners. The first is here. The take away: prisoners have requested your support in their struggle to end long term, 23 hour a day solitary confinement in California’s Special Housing Units. I urge you to support them.)

Today is day 19 of the prison hunger strike. This may be the most significant act of prisoner resistance in 40 years, since the Attica Uprising in 1971.

The LA Times reports:
More than 400 inmates at four California prisons are in the third week of a hunger strike to protest long, punitive stays in isolation cells.

Prison officials, who refuse to allow reporters into the institutions to interview the strikers, said 49 inmates who have lost at least 10 pounds each are "being monitored closely," including seven at Pelican Bay, the maximum-security prison near the Oregon border where the hunger strike began. …

Inmate advocates say thousands of inmates have joined the strike, which began July 1. Many are beginning to show dramatic weight loss and collapse with the early signs of starvation, they say.

Dozens have been sent to prison infirmaries because of irregular heartbeats and fainting, according to a statement issued Monday by a group calling itself California Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity, which represents attorneys and family members of inmates. "Most have lost 20-35 pounds," the statement said.

And, of course, whatever is going on inside the prisons in response to the hunger strike will be shielded from direct, outside observation by disinterested parties. The LA Times reports:
Despite repeated assurances that the situation is under control, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation refused The Times' request to visit and interview striking inmates.

"At this time, we are not allowing media into the prison due to security and safety issues," prison spokesman Oscar Hidalgo said in an email. "This hunger strike signifies a disruption in normal operation of Pelican Bay and our operations staff are focused completely on resolving this issue."

That’s where you come in. The walls are keeping the prisoners in, yes, but they are also keeping you, your eyes, your ears, your nose, and most important, your conscience out. This puts the prisoners at even greater risk because it fosters prison officials’ ability to act with impunity to break the strike and to force feed prisoners and to impose even more punitivie conditions. And it permits prison officials to control information about the strike by preventing prisoners from being heard.

The strike has brought together Black and Latino prisoners who are normally set against each other. They are asserting their humanity and challenging others to reclaim their humanity by standing with them in solidarity.
Some of these prisoners are willing to die unless their demands to end inhuman treatment are met.

Inmates at Corcoran State Prison have issued a statement asking for your help:
“Our indefinite isolation here is both inhumane and illegal and the proponents of the prison industrial complex are hoping that their campaign to dehumanize us has succeeded to the degree that you don’t care and will allow the torture to continue in your name. It is our belief that they have woefully underestimated the decency, principles and humanity of the people. Join us in opposing this injustice without end. Thank you for your time and support.”

 Statement from inmates at Corcoran State Prison


The core demands of the prisoners are in my prior essay and can also be found here with a petition of support.

The prisoners are counting on people of conscience to act now and to show support for the Hunger Strikers.

You can do this by signing the petition.

You can do that by calling the Governor and the Secretary of theDepartment of Corrections (telephone numbers below).

You can do this by writing your own statement of support for the hunger strikers and sending it to the media or posting it on the blogs or the editorial pages. If you do that, please call send a hard copy to:

Secretary Matthew Cate, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 1515 S Street, Sacramento, CA 95814 (916) 323-6001

Governor Jerry Brown, State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814, (916) 445-2841

As important, call for the prison officials to permit the media to enter the prison and to report on the strike. If prison officials can keep the citizenry from knowing that is going on, they are free to act with impunity to end the strike however they choose.

Please speak up for the striking prisoners. Only your support can bring their struggle to a safe and humane solution.

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lunes, julio 18, 2011

Support The California Prisoners' Hunger Strike

As you read this, thousands of California prisoners are on a hunger strike. Today is the 18th day of the Strike. This may be the most significant act of prisoner resistance in 40 years, since the Attica Uprising in 1971.

By the prison authorities’ own figures, the hunger strike, which began on July 1, has involved 6,600 prisoners at 13 prisons. As of today, many prisoners are continuing the hunger strike at Pelican Bay and other prisons. The hunger strike comes in response to conditions in the Security Housing Units (SHU) of extreme isolation, brutality and deprivation.

The strike has brought together Black and Latino prisoners who are normally set against each other. They are asserting their humanity and challenging others to reclaim their humanity by standing with them in solidarity.

Some of these prisoners are willing to die unless their demands to end inhuman treatment are met.

The prison authorities are meeting with the prisoners, but so far there has been no agreement about anything. The strike continues.

According to Dr. Robert Rosenbloom, an emergency physician,

“It’s typically believed that after two or three weeks without any sugar source, any food source, you start entering a dangerous zone, that you’re actually doing enough damage to the body, that the body may not recover.

You’ll become, weak, disoriented, have trouble moving and breathing. You’ll risk damage to your liver or heart.

"When you digest, for example, heart muscle, obviously your heart is an incredibly vital organ…and so when you start damaging the heart and the muscle wall gets thin, then you can have some pretty serious consequences."

That’s the outcome the hunger strikers are facing, but they insist they won’t eat until they win changes in prison policies that govern Security Housing Units (SHU). Inmates in SHUs spend 23 hours a day locked up, with an hour outside alone for exercise. It is an extremely bleak, isolated, and mind destroying confinement that may continue for decades and irretrievably harms those so confined.

Many of the 3,900 inmates in SHUs are killers or rapists, but most of them – 2400 or so – got “indeterminate” SHU detention for ties to gangs. The hunger strikers say any link to a gang, such as a tattoo or a card sent to the wrong person, could land an inmate in a SHU and keep him there for decades. Many of these people are hardened criminals. But their treatment by California’s prisons, particularly in SHU, amounts to nothing less than torture: 23 hour a day solitary confinement, no contact with other prisoners or staff, no access to sunlight. An unremitting regimen designed to destroy the body, mind and soul of the person confined.

Many of the Strikers at Pelican Bay are already progressing toward organ damage.

The Five Core Demands of the strike are:

1. End Group Punishment & Administrative Abuse – This is in response to PBSP’s application of “group punishment” as a means to address individual inmates rule violations. This includes the administration’s abusive, pretextual use of “safety and concern” to justify what are unnecessary punitive acts. This policy has been applied in the context of justifying indefinite SHU status, and progressively restricting our programming and privileges.

2. Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria -
▪ Perceived gang membership is one of the leading reasons for placement in solitary confinement.
▪ The practice of “debriefing,” or offering up information about fellow prisoners particularly regarding gang status, is often demanded in return for better food or release from the SHU. Debriefing puts the safety of prisoners and their families at risk, because they are then viewed as “snitches.”
▪ The validation procedure used by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) employs such criteria as tattoos, readings materials, and associations with other prisoners (which can amount to as little as greeting) to identify gang members.
▪ Many prisoners report that they are validated as gang members with evidence that is clearly false or using procedures that do not follow the Castillo v. Alameida settlement which restricted the use of photographs to prove association.

3. Comply with the US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 Recommendations Regarding an End to Long-Term Solitary Confinement – CDCR shall implement the findings and recommendations of the US commission on safety and abuse in America’s prisons final 2006 report regarding CDCR SHU facilities as follows:
▪ End Conditions of Isolation (p. 14) Ensure that prisoners in SHU and Ad-Seg (Administrative Segregation) have regular meaningful contact and freedom from extreme physical deprivations that are known to cause lasting harm. (pp. 52-57)
▪ Make Segregation a Last Resort (p. 14). Create a more productive form of confinement in the areas of allowing inmates in SHU and Ad-Seg [Administrative Segregation] the opportunity to engage in meaningful self-help treatment, work, education, religious, and other productive activities relating to having a sense of being a part of the community.
▪ End Long-Term Solitary Confinement. Release inmates to general prison population who have been warehoused indefinitely in SHU for the last 10 to 40 years (and counting).
▪ Provide SHU Inmates Immediate Meaningful Access to: i) adequate natural sunlight ii) quality health care and treatment, including the mandate of transferring all PBSP- SHU inmates with chronic health care problems to the New Folsom Medical SHU facility.

4. Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food – cease the practice of denying adequate food, and provide a wholesome nutritional meals including special diet meals, and allow inmates to purchase additional vitamin supplements.
▪ PBSP staff must cease their use of food as a tool to punish SHU inmates.
▪ Provide a sergeant/lieutenant to independently observe the serving of each meal, and ensure each tray has the complete issue of food on it.
▪ Feed the inmates whose job it is to serve SHU meals with meals that are separate from the pans of food sent from kitchen for SHU meals.

5. Expand and Provide Constructive Programming and Privileges for Indefinite SHU Status Inmates.
Examples include:
▪ Expand visiting regarding amount of time and adding one day per week.
▪ Allow one photo per year.
▪ Allow a weekly phone call.
▪ Allow Two (2) annual packages per year. A 30 lb. package based on “item” weight and not packaging and box weight.
▪ Expand canteen and package items allowed. Allow us to have the items in their original packaging [the cost for cosmetics, stationary, envelopes, should not count towards the max draw limit]
▪ More TV channels.
▪ Allow TV/Radio combinations, or TV and small battery operated radio
▪ Allow Hobby Craft Items – art paper, colored pens, small pieces of colored pencils, watercolors, chalk, etc.
▪ Allow sweat suits and watch caps.
▪ Allow wall calendars.
▪ Install pull-up/dip bars on SHU yards.
▪ Allow correspondence courses that require proctored exams.

Not one of these demands is frivolous. All of them are consistent with avoiding the deterioration, mental, physical, and spiritual, that results from long term, indefinite solitary confinement in the bleak conditions in SHU in California.

Inmates at Corcoran State Prison have issued a statement asking for your help:

“Our indefinite isolation here is both inhumane and illegal and the proponents of the prison industrial complex are hoping that their campaign to dehumanize us has succeeded to the degree that you don’t care and will allow the torture to continue in your name. It is our belief that they have woefully underestimated the decency, principles and humanity of the people. Join us in opposing this injustice without end. Thank you for your time and support.”
-- Statement from inmates at Corcoran State Prison

The prisoners are counting on people of conscience to act now and to show support for the Hunger Strikers.

You can do this by writing your own statement of support for the hunger strikers and sending it to the media or posting it on the blogs or the editorial pages. If you do that, please send a hard copy to:

Secretary Matthew Cate, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 1515 S Street, Sacramento, CA 95814

Governor Jerry Brown, State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814

Please speak up for the striking prisoners. Only your support can bring their struggle to a safe and humane solution.

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domingo, julio 17, 2011

The She-Devil In The Mirror

Horacio Castellanos Moya

Partly because my new novel, Tulum, is told by a fictional, first person narrator, I’m particularly interested in fiction with similar narrators. I didn’t initially know that Horacio Castellanos Moya’s 2000 novel The She-Devil In The Mirror (La Diabola En La Espejo) was in this category. I was reading it because of my enjoyment of another book by Moya, Senselessness. I wrote about Senselessness in May.

Imagine my delight. The novel’s narrator is female, privileged, Salvadoran ruling class, obsessive, garrulous, intuitive, and ultimately not reliable. Prompted by excitement and panic, she talks faster and faster, a mile a minute. She babbles on and on. But, alas, she’s headed for a crash. In post-civil war Salvador, her friend is killed, the hit man is arrested, but then the real search begins: who is the "mastermind," who put out the contract. Why was her friend murdered? There will be no spoiler here. The book is short, fast paced, very funny, very dark, and ultimately, quite frightening.

As Francisco Goldman notes in a blurb, the narrator “reveals more about intractable corruption, impunity and pure eveil in her country than the usual narrators of such stories – terse, noirish, knowing detectives or journalists, for example -- ever could.” That's a surprise. Ordinarily, the reader expects corruption, impunity, and abuse to be exposed by the victims. Or the investigators. But it turns out surprisingly that Moya's narrator is uniquely situated to reveal all of it. It becomes immediately clear why so many people have fled the country.

Highly recommended.

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viernes, julio 15, 2011

This Week In The Midsummer's Night Dream Antilles

Oh goodness. It’s Friday. Again. And your Boguero finds himself trying to readjust to the continental United States. That is a difficult task. A week ago your Bloguero was in gorgeous Bahia Soliman, just north of Tulum in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Now he finds himself (forget whether it is reluctantly) in Upstate New York. And, oh my goodness, it’s time for the weekly Digest. Ready or not. Your Bloguero is in the “not”.

Your Bloguero cannot do it. You will, he hopes, pardon his lack of enthusiasm for the assigned (by himself) task, but if you want to know what was in The Dream Antilles this past week just follow the link and, lo and behold, you will see what there is to see. If anything. Please just click and look. Your Bloguero cannot lay it out for you. He is too lazy. And apathetic. And possibly alienated. He has been rendered slothful and nearly comatose by PBR and the recognition that he will not return to Mexico until the Fall. Until Octubre. That is too long. Too far away. Too remote. That means he is stuck here in the US until. Oh nevermind.

Meanwhile, your Bloguero is focused on Prospero’s speech in the Tempest:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirit, and
Are melted into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’ tow’rs. the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind.
We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

Yes. Such stuff as dream are made on. That‘s you. That’s your Bloguero. Where are our dreams? What are we dreaming? What is our yearning? What do we want? Enough of practicality. Enough of the limiting beliefs about what one can and what one cannot do. Enough of excuses. Forget all of that. Please. The question on the floor is this: What are our dreams?

Your Bloguero is with Satchel Paige on this. “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.” Let’s get going ahead, on the dreams. Let’s find out what they are. Let’s pursue them. The rest seems irrelevant. And depressing. Let’s go for the dreams!

(Note to Readers: If you want quicker notification of new essays published at The Dream Antilles than this weekly digest, just scroll down the right margin of The Dream Antilles. There you will find the "Networked Blogs" logo. Click "Follow this Blog" and, presto chango, you will begin to receive notifications of new essays as soon as they are posted.)

This Week In The Dream Antilles is a weekly digest. Sometimes, like now, it is not a digest of essays posted in the past week. Your Bloguero always solicits your support. No, not your money. Just leave a comment so that your Bloguero will know that you stopped by. Humor him. Or, even easier, just click the "Encouragement jar". Your Bloguero likes to know that you're there.

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Where We Have Gone Astray

Today, we have the last official warnings before the dreaded onslaught of "Carmageddon". MSNBC reports the road closing in Los Angeles as if it were an impending visit from Rodan:



The City of Angels is on edge as the hours tick off until "Carmageddon" — the shutdown of a 10-mile stretch of one of the busiest highways in the United States, on one of the city's busiest summer weekends.

Will it bring traffic to a standstill like a scene out of a summer disaster movie? Or fail to come to pass, like other apocalypse predictions?

Everyone will find out soon enough as authorities prepare to close Interstate 405 for 53 hours beginning Friday night.

Cue the scary music. Cue the voiceover. "Will it bring traffic to a standstill? Will the city be destroyed? Will this be the end of the world... It's Carmageddon!"

Meanwhile, we've come a long way from simple roads, like the potholed road between Highway 307 and Bahia Soliman. And maybe it's that we've gone completely astray:


Is it too much to ask that people not drive, that they stay at home, relax and barbecue? I guess.

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jueves, julio 14, 2011

Midnight In Paris

A lovely movie. It inspired lovely reviews, like AO Scott’s in the New York Times.

One part deserves a special comment here. The protagonist (Gil) is writing a novel about “a guy who runs a nostalgia shop.” Your Bloguero has written that he “lives in a museum.” Your Bloguero knows this terrain well.

The question is where these dreams of Paris with Scott and Zelda, or your Bloguero's dreams of Buenos Aires with Borges and Macedonio take the dreamer. Your Bloguero doesn't go back. He can’t. No magic car picks him up. No. It’s that those people have somehow arrived here. And they’ve only temporarily left. Maybe they were just sitting at the next table having a Malbec. Maybe they just left the bar and were walking down Serrano. They're around here somehow. Somewhere. All your Bloguero knows is that having them in the immediate proximity, not necessarily in one's company, makes the city and the world richer. They're around until they are forgotten. Or ignored.

Your Bloguero does not go to Paris to visit Cortazar. No. Too late for that. He recognizes that he’s not physically there at the moment. But he's there nonetheless. The City and your Bloguero are richer for remembering him.

Marcel Proust put it this way:

People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It is as though they were traveling abroad."

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martes, julio 12, 2011

Same Old, Same Old


Once again, I find myself riding a crowded, very large beer can as it hurtles through the stratosphere. I am headed for Chicago. This particular can does not allow me to determine where I might be on the progress of my journey. All I know is that at about 4 pm I will open the window shade, respectfully closed now so that others may watch the small screens, and see before me the Second City, hog butcher of the world. Until then, some of the passengers will stare at the screens hanging from the baggage compartment. Others will sleep. And I, I will try to understand the ocean of my present negative judgments.

It’s all very simple. I went for a walk one morning. On my walk on the road that borders the mangrove of Bahia Soliman and the backs of the houses on the Bay, I pass some very elaborate, very luxurious vacation villas. I have discussed them and what I consider their ostentation before. Anyway, on my walk I saw, waiting to be picked up by the basureros, a very large, in tact carton from a 53” flat screen television. The television itself was probably at that moment in the house being comfortably cooled by the air conditioning. But the carton led me to a stream, no, not a stream, an avalanche of negative judgments. About the person who brought such a thing to Bahia Soliman. About the thing itself. About the state of affairs in Bahia Soliman. About the course of human destiny. About why our environment is in such terrible danger.

Was this person flaunting his monstrously large TV? Was this person trying to incite whatever burglars might be around? Was this merely thoughtless, a failure to think to break down the box? Was this the start of a test for the Security Service for which my neighbors and I all pay? Why am I paying the same security fee as somebody who has installed such a burglar magnet, something that clearly needs serious protection? I don’t have anything like that. And why does somebody want a ginormous television on Bahia Soliman anyway? On and on and on.

I’ve discussed before my love of Estilo Robinson Crusoe. Maybe my negative thoughts about this carton and, as important, its contents are an extension of that. Maybe it's the shadow of that. First, I wrote about my house, and what a marvel it is, with no glass and only wooden louvers, and how it invites the natural world of Bahia Soliman in and itself belongs to it. I love the house. Then, I wrote about the palaperos, those indigenous artisans who make millennia old roofs that withstand hurricanes and heat and last so very long. I love indigenous architecture. But I’ve also complained that my neighbors have left ERC far, far behind, and have instead embarked on what can only be called Akumalificacion: overbuilding their lots, tons of glass to shut out the breezes, lots of air conditioning, a plethora of distasteful homage to Spanish colonial architecture, including red tile roofs, faux mission motifs, and encircling walls and gates, and, of course, as if Bahia Soliman itself were not the reason for building a house there, lots of swimming pools, to be used instead of swimming in the very Bahia that brought all of these people. This is their taste. They are doubtless entitled to it. And I am entitled to react to it. And to my judgments about it. It saddens me. And it also angers me.

The carton for the 53” television, sitting shamelessly in front of the rest of the basura, signals the culmination of the change from ERC to overt Akumalificacion. Why else is there a 53” television in Bahia Soliman? Presumably, instead of sitting at the shore and watching the stars over the Bay, instead of listening to the glorious night sounds and the breeze and the rumble of the waves on the reef, instead of the hushed conversations and shooting stars and the playing of guitars and singing, instead of reading, instead of just going to bed early, instead of all of that, someone will shut all of that beautiful nature out. And watch television. Just as if he or she weren’t in Bahia Soliman. Just as if he were somewhere else in the world. In fact, anywhere else in the world. As if it does not matter where he is. I repeat: As if it doesn’t matter where he is.

And if the windows are open— an increasingly unlikely scenario given the unfortunate trend— you will hear above the hum of the air conditioners and mixed with the sounds of breeze and wave and wildlife and human voices, of all things, the horrible braying of television.

Tan vergonzoso! So shameful! What have we done?

I fear we have lost our way. Do people really want everything everywhere to be the same? Do we really want homogenization and standardization of everything everywhere? Blandness all the time everywhere? Complete, overwhelming, inescapable consistency? Do we really want television and music and ear buds and games all of the time no matter wherever we are? Is all of this “entertainment” (read: distraction) necessary to our being comfortable? Do we have to have all of this to transform new and different places and situations into the ones with which we are already so utterly, so boringly familiar?

And when we do this, isn’t it a fact that the importance of wherever we actually are on the planet is diminished? It becomes so unimportant. Wherever it is, is just like everywhere else. Everywhere is utterly the same and bathed in the same things that we use to make it all quite familiar. And ordinary. Your dwelling in magical, remarkable Bahia Soliman becomes the same as one in any standard, well equipped suburbia.

Well, I don’t want Bahia Soliman to be like everywhere else. It isn’t. I resent those who would attempt to make it so (their motivations in this don't matter). And I worry that this pervasive ignorance (read: ignoring) of where one is, is extremely dangerous to the environment. Not just to Bahia Soliman. But to the earth generally. Because the place in which we appear to live is no longer a specific place on the earth that needs and deserves specific kinds of our attention. No. Now we will live in the generalized, imagined space we have created with incessant media. And we will persistently shut out the real world and its murmuring what it needs out.

(Note: a special h/t to the woman from Belize who talked to me about her community there and inspired this essay.)

(Note: Your Bloguero is back in the states. He has brought some weather with him.)

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sábado, julio 09, 2011

Facundo Cabral, RIP

Sad news from MSNBC:

Argentine singer Facundo Cabral, one of the stars of Latin American folk music, was shot dead in Guatemala City early on Saturday when gunmen riddled his car with bullets, authorities said.

Cabral, who rose to fame in the 1970s as a protest singer, was on his way to the airport when three vehicles boxed in his white Range Rover and opened fire, killing him and injuring his driver, Guatemala's Interior Minister Carlos Menocal said.

Police earlier said the driver was killed.

Born to a poor family in 1937, the outspoken Cabral was best known for his 1970 song "No Soy De Aqui, Ni Soy De Alla," ("I'm Not From Here, I'm Not From There Either") which was covered by many other artists including Julio Iglesias.

Cabral went into exile in Mexico during Argentina's 1976-1983 military dictatorship. His songs later turned more spiritual and he continued to fill concert halls across Latin America. He had been in the Central American country on tour.

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Mr. Kaan's Visit(s)


A very rainy stretch in Bahia Soliman. First, the precursors to what would eventually become Tropical Storm Arlene. After that, the turbulence from an Invest just northeast of here. Sun in the morning, then all of a sudden, showers. Then partially cloudy. And showers. Repeat and repeat again. It is now overcast.

All of this unusual, inclement weather has brought certain creatures out that one does not usually see. They are here all of the time, rest assured of that, but they stay away from people. Three days ago I opened the door from the beach and startled a nice sized snake (3 to 4 feet) who was until then enjoying the coolness of my tile floor in solitude. The snake ran away, making that wild sidewinder motion. In the induced mutual freak out and massive adrenalin overload, I lost sight of it. And as a result, I have no idea where it may have gone. It may still be in the house. I doubt it, but it could still be here hiding. Somewhere. Also, sorry to report, I am not entirely sure whether it was green or black or black and green or some other color. It was long. It was thin. It was quick. This passes for the best description I can give. Naturally, I asked Obdulio, who is my expert on matters herpetological, about this event and he assured me that said visitor may have fallen from above (from the roof? from a tree? surely not from the sky) but that it was probably harmless. There. The freak out was unnecessary. Fine. I put the matter behind me. Obdulio who is also my consultant on the Mayan language informs me that the word for snake is “kaan.” “Cancun” is the Mayan word for the Place of the Golden Serpeant.

Time passes. The pounding heart and shallow breath Mr. Kaan brought me as a surprise disappear, and they are soon mercifully forgotten, tiny droplets in a vast undulating ocean of relaxation. In other words, life continues.

This morning I went out for my usual early morning walk. As I strode down the road in bright sunlight and a gentle breeze, listening to the birds’ inventive songs and approaching my house, a long stick in the road decided instantaneously to transform itself into a snake and to beat a hasty, side winding, rapid retreat from the dirt road into the thick brush. I only got within 10 feet of it. This Mr. Kaan was also between 3 and 4 feet long, similarly thin, and today was wearing a coat of bright green and dark green, which on reflection seems to be what the other Mr. Kaan may have been wearing when he called at my house. Was this the same Mr. Kaan who had visited me before? His impertinence, his rapidly absenting himself, possibly twice, without the courtesy of even a single calling card, leaves the important question unanswered. One should not assume that bad manners in the form of an abrupt departure reveals whether it was one Mr. Kaan or two.

Interestingly after this second Mr. Kaan made his abrupt departure from the road, I noticed that there were in fact a large number of similar thin sticks between 3 and 4 feet long lying in the road as well. I inspected them carefully as I walked by, hoping that one of them might in fact be a camouflaged snake, a relative or friend or acquaintance of Mr. Kaan. Alas, none were. They were all just sticks.

I have been aware while I am walking in Bahia Soliman of the vast, interconnected web of life here. Sometimes I see animals on the road, sometimes not. After today’s brief interlude with Mr. Kaan, however, I have begun to think that while I am walking down the road, various animals watch me go by and then rapidly cross the road behind me. They are surreptitious. Silent. Move quickly. They know that I will probably not turn around, that I will not see them as they run across the road behind me. Today I imagined that a whole pack of coatis silently crossed the road behind me as I was headed toward Hiway 307. I wish they wouldn’t do that. I would really enjoy seeing them.

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viernes, julio 08, 2011

This Week In The Dream Antilles


Greetings from Paraiso! For the past week, your Bloguero has been in Bahia Soliman, a sheltered bay just north of the famous ruins at Tulum, Mexico. Your Bloguero spends as much time here as he can. And as you can probably see from the essays at The Dream Antilles this week, from here the world of politics and government seems remote, so your Bloguero tends to stick to writing a “lit blog,” which is how The Dream Antilles began almost 6 years ago.

How, you might ask, can politics and the narco war seem remote? Is not your Bloguero in narco-war dominated Mexico? Short answers abound. Mexico is a big country. The violence has concentrated in the states bordering the US and on the west coast of Mexico. Tulum, about an hour and a half’s drive south of Cancun, is on the east coast, near the Belize border, and hasn’t really had anything to do with any of that. So in a way, staying away from Tulum and the rest of the Riviera Maya in fear of impending narco violencia is like staying away from Philadelphia because there is a crime wave in Pittsburgh. This is a fact that the US State Department and the US Department of Homeland Security have done little to clarify. And their lack of explanation and the seemingly well founded fear it has nourished have badly hurt the tourism industry in this part of Mexico. And that, in turn, has badly hurt all of those many people who came to the coast of Quintana Roo from the interior in the past decade to work in construction and tourism and the numerous service industries. It is a shame that ignorance of the US’s neighbor to the South has these consequences.

Up On A Roof continues your Bloguero’s love of Estilo Robinson Crusue and Manayn, indigenous construction. This essay is an appreciation of the palaperos, whose skill and artisanship is making and fixing palapa roofs, traditional roofs thatched with palm. OSHA would never permit this to continue. But these are skilled professionals. Don’t try this at home.

Your Bloguero welcomed the July new moon with a Haiku.

Two Gathas For A Potholed Road is your Bloguero’s appreciation of the potholed road that leads to Bahia Soliman from Highway 307. Gathas are tools for mindfulness; the slow drive on the road so that the driver won’t flatten the tires or destroy the suspension is a perfect opportunity to bring one’s focus to the present. Two Gathas, one for coming, one for going.

Your Bloguero noted July Fourth. It’s not a holiday in Mexico. No matter. Your Bloguero extended holiday greetings to readers in the US.

In Sweet Rain your Bloguero notes that Chaucer had the right adjective to describe the sweet, summer rains in Bahia Soliman.

Your Bloguero finished the manuscript for his second novel, Tulum, and he immediately launched an attack on the conventions concerning the use of italics to indicate foreign words in Italics Be Gone! Scram! Beat It! and in Italics Part Deux in manuscripts. The conclusion of all of this is probably that your Bloguero will not italicize any English or Spanish words in the new novel, so as to facilitate the continuing cross-pollination of these languages. Latin, on the other hand, is a dead language and probably deserves the salute.

The Sky Over Bahia Soliman features two incredible photographs of the twilight sky taken with a cell phone.

This Evening’s Caress is your Bloguero’s appreciation of the gentle summer rain in Bahia Soliman. Having written that last night, your Bloguero went out for a morning walk on Friday, and immediately was showered with kisses. And drenched. Mama-kocha has a wonderful sense of humor.

(Note to Readers: If you want quicker notification of new essays published at The Dream Antilles than this weekly digest, just scroll down the right margin of The Dream Antilles. There you will find the “Networked Blogs” logo. Click “Follow this Blog” and, presto chango! you will begin to receive notifications of new essays as soon as they are posted.)

This Week In The Dream Antilles is a weekly digest. Sometimes, like now, it is actually a digest of essays posted in the past week. Your Bloguero always solicits your support. No, not your money. Just leave a comment so that your Bloguero will know that you stopped by. Or, even easier, just click the “Encouragement jar”. Your Bloguero likes to know that you’re there.

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