Sunday, June 27, 2004

Published on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 by
Remembering Guatemala, 1954: It’s the Impunity, Stupid

by Rosa Maria Pegueros

The photographs of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib will haunt our political
landscape for a long time but the one that will not leave me is that of the
elated 300 prisoners, innocent of any crime or terrorist act, who were the
first to be released. It has awakened a frightful memory of the time when I
first learned about political violence.

In 1955, I was living in my native city of San Francisco, California. My
mother, a Salvadoran immigrant, had left behind several younger brothers
then living in Guatemala. One evening, the phone rang with terrifying news:
My beloved Tio, uncle, C├ęsar Homero Mendez, had been abducted on the stairs
of the University of San Carlos of Guatemala, where he was studying law. No
one knew why my uncle, a gentle, scholarly man who had never been involved
in politics or activism of any sort would be kidnapped, although it seems
that everyone knew that it was more than a common crime.

During those terrible days, my mother and her sisters who lived nearby,
waited with rising dread for the phone to ring again. Their anxiety was
heightened by the difficulty of telephone communication with Guatemala. No
one in the Guatemalan branch of the family had a telephone at home, so we
could do nothing but wait for them to call us. Even at the age of four I
understood that something awful was taking place.

He was gone for three days; it seemed endless at the time. By the time the
call came, we had resigned ourselves to the inevitable. The news was good
and bad; Tio Homero was alive, but barely.

The torture he had suffered left him frail and broken. During his
detention, they had held his head under water until he had fainted; they
had beaten him. They had used electrodes to shock him. There were other
punishments that I overheard in whispered conversations but did not fully
understand the nature of until I was much older. Heaven knows what else
they did to him. It would take years for him to recuperate. He never
recovered completely.

My poor uncle was a victim of mistaken identity. The democratically-elected
leftist president, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, had been overthrown by a
CIA-sponsored coup in 1954. Following Arbenz’s ouster and exile to Mexico,
Guatemala fell into the clutches of a string of dictators before it
dissolved into its long civil war.

The men who kidnapped Tio Homero thought that he was a leftist guerrilla
named Cesar Romero Mendez who was thought to be connected to Arbenz.
“Mendez” is as common a surname in Latin America as “Smith” is here. They
realized that they had the wrong man only when a judicial official visiting
the jail recognized him as the college professor and vouched for his
innocence. Naked, half dead, he was put into a taxi and sent home.

My uncle eventually became a family law judge in Guatemala. My aunt says
that the terrible physical injuries he suffered were dwarfed by the
spiritual and mental damage that the experience left behind.

In the sad history of Guatemala, my uncle’s story has a fairly happy
ending. After all, he had a relatively long life in a country torn apart by
a CIA-sponsored coup and a 36 year-long civil war underwritten by the
United States. He paid a terrible price but he was lucky; many others did
not escape with their lives.

Many Latin Americans, Guatemalans, Chileans, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, to
name a few, harbor a deep and abiding hatred of the United States because
of our interventions in their internal affairs, our sponsorship of their
dictators, and our unblinking disregard for the “collateral damage” we
leave in our wake. Some, like my uncle, had the education to recognize our
shameful role in their sorrowful history.

Although we present ourselves as fighters for freedom and justice, our
actions in Guatemala and many other Latin American countries do not bear
out these boasts. As forensic anthropologists exhume the bodies of the dead
from the mass graves in which they've lain for a third of a century, the
evidence of our misdeeds is there in the bones, most of which contain
American bullets. Amnesty International, Americas Watch, and even the
American Associate for the Advancement of Science have compiled a sickening
record of our part in these abuses.

Guatemalans, citizens of a poor and powerless country, cannot raise a hand
against America: we should be grateful for that. Their guerrillas never had
the money to organize a 9-11-style attack on the United States but the
bitterness is there. The families of the dead will remember who killed
their countrymen and women; who was ultimately responsible for the
disappearances, torture, and killings.

Iraqis, too, will long remember the murderers of their innocents. Yes,
Saddam Hussein gassed and murdered his own citizens, but we dropped bombs
on innocent civilians, destroyed the infrastructure of their cities, and
now want to take credit for bringing them freedom and peace. It’s like the
guy who rapes your sister and impregnates her then wants credit for having
married her.

America must face the fallout of Bush’s misadventure in Iraq with humility;
with the honesty to acknowledge what really happened; and with the resolute
will to punish those who are responsible for the deaths of more than 846
dead American troops in Iraq (combat and combat-related accidents), and an estimated 8000 Iraqi civilian dead George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft,
Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and all of their henchman
should be impeached but any move in that direction would be squandered
energy since it would be summarily squelched so long as both houses of
Congress are controlled by Republicans.

We, the people, can throw the bums out of the White House and out of
Congress. We can rebuild our tattered relationships with our allies, and we
can offer more than hypocritical rhetoric about honor, freedom and justice
by changing our foreign policy and our comportment in the world
accordingly. The Middle East, long a tinderbox, has exploded; the fire is
fed by our government’s treachery and misuse of the noble military men and
women who serve our country honorably. If we truly believe that we are a
good people, then we must ferret out the corruption that is poisoning us
and our place in the world.

In memory of Cesar Homero Mendez, Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, and the victims of
the CIA coup in Guatemala, June 27, 1954, on its fiftieth anniversary.
Dr. Rosa Maria Pegueros is an associate professor of Latin American History
and Women’s Studies at the University of Rhode Island. She may be reached

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Make Radio More Local Again – Support Low-Power FM

By Steve Macek and Karen Young.

As educators who teach college students about media, we hear a lot of complaints about the sorry state of commercial radio.

When our students are assigned to listen to the radio and report what they hear, horror stories abound. Earlier this year, one student reported that his station, Chicago rock outlet WZZN The Zone, had played approximately 13 minutes of commercials, one song, and then another 12 or so minutes of commercials. Many complain about how the best new rock bands are missing and about the violent and misogynist content of the hip-hop selected for airplay. Even those who hope to land a job in the industry can’t muster much enthusiasm about what they hear.

Why is radio today so terrible, and what can be done to make it better?

Ownership changes have a lot to do with the problems. Companies used to be limited to owning one AM and one FM station in each market, and seven stations nationwide. In those days, there were many local owners deeply tied to their communities, and dozens of radio companies around the country. Through the 1980’s and 90’s, regulations were relaxed, until they were all but abolished through the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Since 1996, ownership of many of the nation’s 10,000 radio stations was rapidly consolidated in the hands of a few companies, some of them the same companies who dominate all media. In the major cities, where most of the population lives, most of the viable stations are now owned by Viacom, Disney, and the largest radio owner, a company called Clear Channel.

Clear Channel owns more than 1,200 stations and takes in at least 20% of all radio revenues. In Chicago, it owns six stations, including all the leading stations targeting African Americans (WGCI-AM and FM, WVAZ, and WNUA). In Rockford, Cumulus – the company best known for banning the Dixie Chicks after one of their members made anti-Bush comments – owns four leading stations. More than half the population tunes to at least one of their stations.

Clear Channel and conglomerates like it have improved their profits by slashing local jobs, replacing unique local elements with standardized programming created at regional and national headquarters, and sharply increasing the number of commercials. There’s just not enough diverse voices or local content in commercial radio anymore. That’s bad for our culture, and bad for our democracy.

Fortunately, our students aren’t the only ones who’ve noticed how bad radio has become.

Since 1996, community voices agitating for more alternatives to commercial radio have become louder and louder. In 2000, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided to allow hundreds of new low-power FM (LPFM) radio stations to go on the air. With a broadcast radius of up to 10 miles, these non-commercial stations could serve their neighborhoods with local public affairs and news programming and a wider array of music. The plan seemed like an ideal way to offset some of the losses caused by media ownership consolidation.

But the big corporate broadcasters lobbied against LPFM, claiming that low-power transmitters would interfere with their signals and had to be sharply limited. Under pressure from the National Association of Broadcasters, Congress blocked the FCC from giving licenses to many stations. In several areas, especially large cities, there were no channels left after the Congressional action.

Now the time has come to revisit LPFM. A recent FCC-commissioned study found that in fact, LPFM stations don’t interfere with high-powered signals. Senator John McCain has introduced legislation in Congress that could bring LPFM back. According to Hannah Sassaman of the Prometheus Radio Project, a low-power advocacy group, if the bill passes Illinois would be likely to gain dozens, if not hundreds, of new low-power stations.

Low-power radio helps restore diversity and localism to the airwaves. For example, WRYR is an LPFM station owned by South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development (SACReD). With their station, SACReD can publicize their efforts to control sprawling development in the Chesapeake Bay area in Maryland.

In Chicago, the Southwest Youth Collaborative—a group that works with youth from some of the city’s most poverty-stricken neighborhoods—had hoped to start an LPFM station. But because of the limits on LPFM imposed by Congress, the group was unable to secure a license.

Congress should act to give groups like the Southwest Youth Collaborative a voice by passing the McCain bill. Low power radio may not solve all the problems with radio, but it would be a huge step in the right direction.

Steve Macek is an Assistant Professor of Speech Communication at North Central College in Naperville, IL.

Karen Young is an adjunct professor at Columbia College in Chicago, IL, and a founder of local media activist group Active Voice.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Author: U.S. faces a reality check over oil

By Steve Raabe
Denver Post Staff Writer

Gasoline at $2 a gallon may be just a pleasant memory in a few years as energy prices continue to surge, warns author Paul Roberts.

"There's still plenty of oil, but it's getting harder to find and it's not going to be the cheap oil we're accustomed to," said Roberts, author of "The End of Oil: On the Edge of a Perilous New World," which hit bookstores last month.

Roberts, along with other analysts and energy producers, will address supply, demand and pricing issues during events in Colorado this month.

U.S. crude oil consumption is currently 20 million barrels a day, which is roughly one-quarter of the world's daily production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The U.S. imports slightly more than half its oil, with Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Canada, Venezuela and Nigeria the top five suppliers.

Domestic U.S. oil production peaked in the early 1970s and has fallen eight of the past 10 years, according to the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) in Washington, D.C.

At an IPAA conference this week in Colorado Springs, one conference session is titled, "Is the U.S. Running Out of Oil?"

The answer is "yes," said Roberts, who is based in Leavenworth, Wash. "Oil depletion is arguably the most serious crisis ever to face industrial society."

Roberts estimated that global oil production will peak within 30 years and then decline. Roberts said non-OPEC production - preferred by the U.S. because it is more politically secure - could peak by 2015. Meanwhile, the booming economies of China and India - and other industrialized countries - are competing with U.S. demand.

North America has large reserves of oil sands and oil shale, which are sources of petroleum that require special technologies for recovery. Suncor, a Canadian oil company that owns a refinery in Commerce City, claims that by 2010 it will produce 500,000 barrels a day from oil sands. That would be equal to about one-third of the average daily imports from Saudi Arabia.

Conventional oil fields in the U.S., however, are becoming harder to exploit.

Drilling for natural gas is at a three-year high nationally, but U.S. production has been flat over the past several years.

"We are working harder and harder just to keep production levels constant," said Joseph Blount, chairman of the Washington-based Natural Gas Supply Association. "There is little short-term relief ahead for customers."

Not all traditional oil reserves face the same rates of decline. Non-OPEC oil, chiefly from the U.S., North Sea, Russia and Mexico, may tap out sooner than OPEC sources because the non-OPEC fields generally are smaller and have been exploited for longer periods, according to Roberts.

Roberts is an advocate of quicker development of alternatives to oil and natural gas, including hydrogen, wind and solar, coal gasification, and possibly more nuclear power.

Conventional energy producers say alternative and renewable energy sources are costly and less reliable than fossil fuels.

But Roberts said the fossil-fuel industry is not taking into account the eventual economic costs of carbon emissions and global warming from burning oil, gas and coal.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Pending Draft Legislation Targeted for Spring 2005

There is pending legislation in the House and Senate
(twin bills: S 89 and HR 163) which will time the program's initiation
so the draft can begin at early as Spring 2005 -- just after the 2004
presidential election. The administration is quietly trying to get
these bills passed now,while the public's attention is on the elections, so
our action on this is needed immediately.

$28 million has been added to the 2004 Selective
Service System (SSS)budget to prepare for a military draft that could
start as early as June 15, 2005. Selective Service must report to Bush on
March 31, 2005 that the system, which has lain dormant for decades, is
ready for activation. Please see website:
; to view the sss annual
performance plan - fiscal year 2004.

The Pentagon has quietly begun a public campaign to
fill all 10,350 draft board positions and 11,070 appeals board slots
nationwide. Though this is an unpopular election year topic, military
experts and influential members of congress are suggesting that if
Rumsfeld's prediction of a "long, hard slog" in Iraq and Afghanistan [and a
permanent state of war on "terrorism"] proves accurate, the U.S. may have no
choice but to draft.

Congress brought twin bills, S. 89 and HR 163 forward
this year,
entitled the Universal National Service Act of 2003, "to provide
for the common defense by requiring that all young persons [age 18--26] in
the United States, including women, perform a period of military service
or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national
defense and homeland security, and for other purposes." These active bills
currently sit in the committee on armed services.

Dodging the draft will be more difficult than those from the Vietnam

College and Canada will not be options. In December
2001, Canada and the U.S. signed a "smart border declaration," which
could be used to keep would-be draft dodgers in. Signed by Canada's minister
of foreign affairs, John Manley, and U.S. Homeland Security
director, Tom Ridge, the declaration involves a 30-point plan which implements,
among other things, a "pre-clearance agreement" of people entering
and departing each country. Reforms aimed at making the draft more
equitable along gender and class lines also eliminates higher education as a
shelter. Underclassmen would only be able to postpone service
until the end of their current semester. Seniors would have until the end of the
academic year.

Even those voters who currently support US actions
abroad may still object to this move, knowing their own children or
grandchildren will not have a say about whether to fight. Not that it should
make a difference, but this plan, among other things,
eliminates higher education as a shelter and includes women in the draft.

The public has a right to air their opinions about such an important

Please send this on to all the friends, parents, aunts
and uncles, grandparents, and cousins that you know. Let your
children know too -- it's their future, and they can be a powerful voice for

Please also contact your representatives to ask them
why they aren't telling their constituents about these bills -- and
contact newspapers and other media outlets to ask them why they're not
covering this important story.