Tuesday, March 31, 2009


The Passa Porta literature festival is still ongoing in Brussels. The Writers in Prison Committee Flanders and the Writers for Peace performed to remember their colleagues who live in less tolerant regimes.

Dejan Anastasijevic is a journalist from Serbia and knows that there is no longer a free press.

Kamran Mir Hazar is an Afghan blogger who got into real trouble by speaking out about the corruption in Barzai's government.

Faraj Bayrakdar from Syria had a long time ago written a poem and the words 'bread' and 'flower' were used in that text. Two different secret services wanted him to explain what he meant (imagine a secret service knowing the meaning of a metaphor!)
He spend many years in jail and now lives in exile. So does Chenjerai Hove from Zimbabwe. Both poets spoke their poetry beautifully.

Here you see Hilde Keteleer, president of the WIPC Flanders listening to Marleen Decree reading the Dutch translation of a poem by Faraj.
I reminded the world of the plight of Leonard Peltier and added: Further more I am of the opinion that the Nato had to be abolished...

Saturday, March 28, 2009


A small group, five, six, sometimes seven with different challenges and lives meet about twice a year when everyone can be in the same place. We know each other, appreciate each other and are a loud and fun group dealing with life and its challenges, health, age and ailing parents, daughters, only daughters in this group, poetry, language, literature, travels and staying home by necessity, animals. It is a strange homecoming in the diversity of the other's life.

For the first time my mother asked my name. Our conversation though was a happy one. Smiles touched with melancholy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Walk to work

This morning in this water city I walked early to work and was carried by the stream of people and kids. In the flotsam I wondered whether to change my route, following the kids following the piper. But then I spied 'Occas' Livres' on my regular path: a secondhand bookshop. Closed at that time of day yet magnetic. I saw, thus will have to return to find it open: a nice edition of Les Feur du Mal by Baudelaire and a Boulgakov novel I haven't read. That is a translation, but since I don't read russian I don't care in what other language it is. Most russian authors I have read in italian. Then I saw swans in love, gliding on the river while behind me the trafic roared. They seemed so effortless and it was hard to keep up with them walking along the shore. There was rain, there was wind and also the breath of an old woman passing...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Working in the capitals of Europe it is often hard to get to where one needs to be. Where there is perceived power, there will be demonstrations of all kinds. The ones I do not brave are those by the metal workers and the farmers: they cause quite some 'debri'. This time the people from Sri Lanka ask the EU to stop giving money for genocide. The Tamil Tigers have quite a reputation as a fierce fighting force. This demonstration was non-violent and colorful. I walked through it to get to work taking some snapshots. Yes Stop the War...

Saturday, March 14, 2009


When people talk in set discourses and frames and then the listener reacts to it in the habitual way, you end up in a stalemate. that way also a honeymoon can go sadly wrong. Ian McEwan in On Chesil Beach: "And what stood in their way? Their personalities and pasts, their ignorance and fear, timidity, squeamishness, lack of entitlement or experience or easy manners, then the tail end of a religious prohibition, their Englishness and class, and history itself. nothing much at all."

Definitely a must read.

Friday, March 13, 2009

l'acte inconnu

In this city where I am too often, my pleasure is walking along the water noticing its eb and flow and speed. Also I enjoy looking at the copper roofs in the different lights trying to feel the texture with my eyes. The best thing however is stepping out of the political reality, exchanging it for an artistic one by going to the theater whenever MK and myself can swing it. L'acte inconnu was this weeks performance. I love the anticipation in the bar of the theater waiting for my friend to arrive, waiting for the magic to be done, waiting for the language to flow through the actors who embody it. I expected the play to yield an interesting visual experience. It did. It was well choreographed and, using puppets and gadgets. For the rest I can only say it was very French: a logorea with neologisms, the changing of logic and grammar at each instant, the small changes of repetitive music. There is also a play on perceived reality. Actors act, one also act at non acting, death present and being outwitted by make believe. Yes it was an intellectual philosophical, funny, challenging play on words. Did I understand it all? No! But the idea of cheating death by grammar is an appealing one, very Chomskyan who said that structure of a language and the meaning rendered by it are two separate things. His illustration for this was the sentence: Green ideas sleep furiously. In this play the ideas were multihued and well executed. Language once again, the all powerful protagonist.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


In the same room I was, saw and heard her.
Our Secretary of State knows her stuff, listens and is a great speaker.
Granted, I saw her from behind the camera line and a strong tele is not part of my camera.
Of course TV sets were organized for those who didn't have a chair.

The invitation was for youngsters and she impressed all ages. The economy, defense and peace were the main subjects. Europa has felt the new wind coming out of Washington... Change brings hope.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Black Mesa mine

I know the Mohave Generation Station. I also know it has been closed because for years and after many warnings they kept polluting the air along the Colorado river. Lung problems and allergies had risen dramatically in the area. The closing had as a consequence that the Black Mesa Mine was also closed. A good thing but then a coup at Hopi and the last bad deeds of the Bush administration made Peabody the owner of all the coal on Black Mesa whether they mined it or not. Then a petition came which mixed the mine issue with the land settlement issue

In part this petition is timely. And in part it is opportunistic and attempts to attach an old problem to a very real immediate problem. One element of the petition is timely because of the recent approval by the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) of Peabody's life of mine (LOM) permit. Linking this immediate concern to the efforts to repeal the Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act of 1974 is a bit like mixing apples and oranges.

At least the two issues should be separated into two petitions. It's always best to have a petition deal with one very specific issue. Dual or multi-purpose petitions run the risk of discouraging potential signers because they may embrace one issue while having concerns about one of the other issues on the petition The LOM permit is improper and contrary to the best interests of the tribes, especially the Hopi Tribe. But, the current powers that be at Hopi do not agree with this assessment because they have been, once again, led down a primrose path by Peabody, by OSM, and even by their own General Counsel, Scott Canty. Peabody is and always has been a sinister organization that thrives on exploiting the resources of the tribes and paying very little (in comparison to what they would have to pay off reservation) to the tribes in return.

A former Chief of Staff to one Hopi Chairman and Special Assistant to the most recent Hopi Chairman believes and I quote: that it would have been in the best interest of the tribe to block the LOM, at least until it could be fully and carefully reviewed and understood and presented to the Hopi people. It would seem appropriate for the tribe to take back control of its own natural resources and if it was going to be in the coal business to do it as a competitor of Peabody instead of as a victim. Or, at least it would have been better to gain a negotiating advantage and be able to be competitive...make Peabody compete and pay fair prices for Hopi's coal.

As it stands now, under the LOM, Peabody would control all of Hopi coal and won't have to pay Hopi hardly anything unless they start mining again. They have enough coal at the Kayenta mine to last 20 to 30 years. So, they don't have to mine at Black Mesa again for 2 or 3 decades. That's why it was clear to us that OSM's rushing of the LOM was only to get this in under the wire before the Obama administration took over.

The petition attached to the email is a misleading and opportunistic attempt to combine two issues. It distorts and/or distracts from the potential serious impacts of allowing the LOM to survive so they can promote the repeal of the settlement act. Yes, it is important to "REVERSE THE DOI/OSM DECISION TO GRANT PEABODY COAL A LIFE OF MINE PERMIT ON BLACK MESA" but I don't agree that this is directly connected to "THE METHODS OF GENOCIDE BY POPULATION REMOVAL AND COAL MINING EXPANSIONS" or that it is justification for reviving the plea for the "REPEALTHE NAVAJO-HOPI LAND SETTLEMENT ACT OF 1974 P.L. 93-531)."

They've mixed apples and oranges. They should separate the issues. For one thing, since the closure of the Mohave Generating Station a few years ago, the mining at Black Mesa has, to the best of my knowledge, stopped. Granted, the LOM would incorporate the unpermitted Black Mesa Mine into the permitted Kayenta Mine and thus authorize the re-opening of the Black Mesa Mine...that is if Peabody can find a customer for the Black Mesa coal.

I will not deny, however, that there always has been and remains a direct connection between Peabody's dominance and control on Black Mesa and the plight of the people at Big Mountain. The entire fiasco for the last 150 years has been all about exploiting natural resources on Black Mesa. And it remains today as a great cause of the factionalism in Hopi tribal politics. Peabody must go.

Anyway, it's very complicated and the Black Mesa Project Environmental Impact Statement is an 800 page highly technical document that no normal person, including the tribal council representatives, can understand. It was railroaded through by OSM with the support of the tribe's General Counsel, the Hopi Energy Team, and their consultant/hack. OSM steadfastly ignored the pleas of the Chairman of the Tribe to delay a decision. They repeatedly claimed they had appropriately consulted with the "Tribe" by virtue of "consulting" with the Energy Team's paid consultant who was NOT an official of the Tribe and who was marching to the drum beat of Scott Canty and the Energy Team. There has never been an official position taken formally by the Tribal Council as a legislative body, only by the General Counsel, their consultant, and individual members of the Energy Team.

So, if the LOM is left to stand as is, the tribe has just had all rights to their coal stripped from them forever with no assurances of this sell-out even generating any real revenue.

Once again the Bush administration pushed through another 11th hour project for the singular purpose of fattening Big Energy at the expense of the tribes.

There are current actions being taken in federal court, evidentiary hearings being scheduled, etc., in an orchestrated attempt to reverse the LOM. So, we have to hold our breath until 2010.

And remember, there is no such thing as "clean coal."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Gran Torino

Since 'Unforgiven' I have been a fan of Clint Eastwood, not withstanding his stand on the Iraq war. Although in 'Gran Torino' he and the two young Chinese/American actors do a wonderful job, the real protagonist in this movie is language. From the rude and angry to the rude and jovial to tenderness, the whole range of emotions is expressed by scores of racial slurs and other epithets. The strength of the movie is showing the code switching and and through that expressing the growth of the characters. In my desert hide-away the guys in the bar definitely talk like Walt. In private some talk like that but then it sometimes takes on a different meaning, rolling their eyes and saying: oh you're such a feminist, pacifist, liberal... I'll have to stop talking to you. In 'Unforgiven' I loved the scene where the protagonist, bathes and shaves, puts on clean clothes before going on a killing spree to settle old scores. Here Eastwood reenacts a similar clean up scene with confession, close shave, new clothes and all and works out a interesting non-violent path for himself. He never cleans up his language nor outward attitude, but by now he knows something about life and death... He also has learned as a Korean War Vet about the results of conflicts years later... Is the language offensive? Yes. Does it convey the change in attitude in the main characters? Yes. Is it funny? Moving? Yes and Yes. Does it teach about the weight of killing and how not to go about conflict resolution? Sure... I had to think of Lenny Bruce who during a performance used all the racial slurs asking 'Are there any niggers in the here tonight? Spics? Wops, Polaks...' and all the others and then goes on to explain: 'The suppression of the word gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness...'