Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XVII Number 11, November-December 2009


  Thursday, December 3, 7:30 PM. Monthly 
Meeting. Caltech Y is located off San Pasqual 
between Hill and Holliston, south side. You will 
see two curving walls forming a gate to a path-- 
our building is just beyond. Help us plan future 
actions on Sudan, the 'War on Terror', death 
penalty and more.  

  Saturday December 12, 8AM to 2PM at Cafe 
Culture, 1359 N. Altadena Drive, Pasadena 
91107, 626-398-8654.  Letter writing marathon 
for International Human Rights Day.  Drop by 
and help us write letters and postcards and 
enjoy Cafe Culture's great food and drink!   

  Sunday December 20, 6:30PM. Rights Readers 
Human Rights Book Discussion Group. See 
coordinator's column regarding change of 
location.  This month we read "Amulet" by 
Roberto Bolano.

 Hi everyone,

Hope you are enjoying the crisp fall weather!

We are having our 5th annual Global letter writing 
marathon Saturday Dec 12th from 8AM to 2 PM at 
Cafe Culture in Pasadena.  Come join us as we 
write letters and postcards and enjoy Cafe 
Culture's great food, drink, and warm hospitality!  
This event replaces our usual "2nd Tuesday" of the 
month letter writing meeting.

Some of Group 22's members attended the 
Western Regional Conference in San Francisco in 
early November.  Robert and I were unable to go 
due to a last minute work situation I couldn't get 
out of!  Read Lucas and Joyce's thoughts on the 
conference later in this newsletter.

Also note that we are not meeting at Vroman's 
bookstore for our December book group as they 
are using our meeting space for Christmas 
merchandise!  The meeting will be at a private 
home.  Contact Lucas Kamp for more information 
at 626-795-1785 or go to our website at: 

Enjoy the holidays!

Con carino,

Human Rights Book Discussion Group
Keep up with Rights Readers at

Next Rights Readers meeting: 
Sunday, December 20, 6:30 PM

Amulet  by Roberto Bolano

Author Biography
   Roberto Bolano was born in Chile on April 28, 
1953.  For much of his life he lived a nomadic 
existence, living in Chile, Mexico, El Salvador, 
France and Spain. During the 1970s, he formed an 
avant-garde group called infrarealism with other 
writers and poets in Mexico where he lived after 
leaving Chile when it fell under military 
dictatorship. He returned to Chile in 1972 but left 
again the next year when General Augusto 
Pinochet came to power. 
   In the early eighties, he finally settled in the 
small town of Blanes, near Gerona in Northern 
Spain, where he died on July 15, 2003 of liver 
disease while awaiting a transplant. He is 
survived by his Spanish wife and his son and 
   Bolano received some of the Hispanic world's 
highest literary awards, including the 1999 
Romulo Gallegos Prize (Venezuelan) for his novel 
Los detectives salvajes, which was published in 
English as The Savage Detectives in 2007. 
   Six weeks before he died, his fellow Latin 
American novelists hailed him as the most 
important figure of his generation at an 
international conference he attended in Seville. In 
2004 he was honored by the First Conference of 
Latin American Authors as "the most important 
literary discovery of our time."
      He completed 12 novels during his life, 
published various poetry collections and left 
behind an almost completed 1,000 page novel,  
2666, about the unsolved murders of 300 women 
in Mexico over the past 10 years.  2666 (1100 
pages at publication) was published 
posthumously in 2004.  It is currently being 
translated into English by Natasha Wimmer, who 
also translated The Savage Detectives.  
Book Review
By David Flusfeder
Published: 6:00AM BST 28 Aug 2009

    The Chilean poet, novelist and provocateur 
Roberto Bolano died in Spain in 2003. He was 50 
years old and had already gathered a wide 
readership in the Spanish-speaking world. Death, 
though, can be a great career move. The response 
to the 2007 publication in the United States of his 
1998 novel The Savage Detectives, followed by 
2666, which was almost finished at the time of his 
death, has brought him into the international 
literary front rank. Both are large books, 
celebrations of poetry and a battered kind of 
urban heroism, written in Bolano's beguiling 
combination of concision and wordiness. But 
now, with the success of those, his smaller books 
are being translated into English for the first time. 
   Bolano's work is a roman-fleuve: characters 
and situations recur throughout his writings, and 
time is a watery element that the characters drift 
through. Amulet has its origin in a 10-page 
episode in The Savage Detectives. That novel was 
centred on two provocative young poets living in 
Mexico City in 1976: Ulises Lima and the author's 
alter-ego, Arturo Bolano. In one of the most 
striking episodes, a woman, Auxilio Lacoutre, 
"the mother of Mexican poetry" (and a "mother" 
is, in this context, a woman who sweeps and 
shops and listens and adores), is in a fourth-floor 
lavatory cubicle when the army occupies the 
campus of the Mexico City Universidad. She is 
stuck there for 12 days. In the original episode, 
the emphasis was on Auxilio's physical 
predicament. She drank water from the tap, ate 
loo paper and lived in a state of fear and 
heightened memory. 
   In Amulet, the emphasis is on the 
remembering rather than the predicament. 
Auxilio suffers from the blessing of being able to 
"remember" the future as well as the past. There 
are feverish prophecies about literary destinies: 
"For Marcel Proust, a desperate and prolonged 
period of oblivion shall begin in the year 2033... 
Jorge Luis Borges shall be read underground in 
the year 2045... Louis-Ferdinand Celine shall 
enter Purgatory in the year 2094... Witold 
Gombrowicz shall enjoy great prestige in the 
environs of the Rio de la Plata around the year 
2098... Max Jacob shall cease to be read, that is to 
say his last reader shall die, in the year 2059." 
   There is an endearing bookishness to all of 
Bolano's work. My favourite of his novels is Nazi 
Literature in the Americas (already published in 
the Americas and to be released here next year), 
an entirely fabricated, very funny, but straight-
faced biographical dictionary of invented 20th-
century poets and novelists. 
   One message throughout Bolano's work is 
that literature matters. The reason for his public 
contempt for writers he saw as mediocre (he 
attacked, for example, the work of Isabel Allende 
every chance he got) is that they are betrayers of 
the highest purpose. Time is likely to tell, 
anyway. "The truth is, young poets usually end 
up as old, failed journalists," Auxilio tells us. But, 
in young poets, heartfelt passion is equivalent to a 
kind of heroism, and adolescent verbal facility 
equates to a physical potency. 
   Arturo Bolano rescues a friend from "The 
King of the Rent Boys" with a borrowed knife and 
a fearless attitude. Sitting in her lavatory cubicle, 
remembering the brief heroic boys, the artist who 
goes mad, the poets who sacrificed their gifts for 
establishment positions, Auxilio is "choked by the 
brilliance and sadness of youth". We hear of 
characters who had the bad luck to attract the 
Muse when they were young, which they will 
inevitably betray. The outlaw poet becomes a 
corrupt hack: "The chubby little guy who, with 
the passage of time, had become a greasy, fat, 
obsequious man." 
   It seems likely that Bolano's posthumous fame 
will last. He wrote his long, beautifully balanced, 
digressive sentences with a precise sense of 
possibility and truth. It also seems likely that he 
knew he was going to die young. Such fervency is 
only possible when the author can feel exempt 
from the decrepitude of moral value that comes 
with age.
   From Lucas Kamp and Joyce Wolf

On Mon, 9 Nov 2009, Joyce Wolf wrote:
Hi all, 
    Here are some notes from the 2009 Western 
Regional in San Francisco.
   At the start of the Plenary on Sat morning, I 
was disappointed to hear that Banafsheh 
Akhlaghi, our Western Regional Director, would 
not attend because of illness. I remembered what 
an inspiring speaker she was at last year's 
conference and had been looking forward to 
hearing her talk again. [Note: On Nov 20, AI 
Western Regional Office announced that 
Banafsheh is no longer our Regional Director but 
has moved on to new opportunities in human 
rights work.] 
    Larry Cox established the conference theme 
("Free and Equal in Dignity and Rights") by 
reminding us of the risks AI took in the past by 
venturing into new areas. AI's work against 
torture and the death penalty and violence 
against women is the result of decisions made 
after much debate. So the new Demand Dignity 
campaign with its emphasis on ending poverty is 
really right in the AI tradition of taking on 
whatever new human rights issues that need to be 
tackled. He was very persuasive - pretty much 
had me convinced!
    The panel on Iran included Esha Momeni, the 
CSU Northridge student who was detained in 
Iran last year. She gave a very dramatic narrative 
of her time in Evin Prison in Tehran, describing 
what it was like to be blindfolded and led through 
a maze of corridors to be interrogated over and 
over again. Once she heard gunshots and was 
reminded of the mass executions of 1988 in which 
her uncle was killed, even though she knew that 
in Iran executions are carried out by hanging. 
"They kill us the way they want us to live, in 
silence, breathless, suspended." The audience 
gave her a standing ovation.
    Also notable was a panel about national 
security that featured a former CIA man and a 
former US military interrogator. Torture isn't 
useful, they said, speaking from experience. They 
repeated, "Intelligence is not evidence."
    The death penalty panel included a man who 
was released after 17 years on Florida's Death 
Row. The actual murderer had confessed on tape 
before the trial, but the prosecution withheld the 
tape. "You can release an innocent man from 
prison, but you cannot release an innocent man 
from the grave!"
    The Demand Dignity panel revealed some 
surprising statistics about maternal mortality in 
the U.S. After declining steadily until the late 
1980s, it is now back up to 1970 levels. One 
possible cause is that more women are sick at the 
start of their pregnancies because they have not 
been able to afford treatment.
   Regards,  Joyce

On Tues, 10 Nov 2009, Lucas Kamp wrote:
   I only have a few tidbits to add to Joyce's 
   One is from the same National Security panel 
that she attended. The former CIA operative 
made what I thought was a memorable quotation:  
"The FBI catches bank robbers, the CIA robs 
   In the same panel, the comment was made 
that Brandon Mayfield, the Oregon lawyer who 
was falsely arrested by the FBI for the Madrid 
terror bombings on the basis of fallacious 
fingerprint identifications, was paid $2 million 
compensation for improper imprisonment for 2 
weeks.  Based on this rate, what should we pay 
those falsely imprisoned in Guantanamo for 8 
   The other is on a workshop on the Sri Lanka 
DP crisis.  AI is trying to focus world attention to 
this problem.  One of the organizers of this 
workshop showed images taken from spacecraft 
and airplanes, which were used by his group to 
document bombardments of camps and other 
abuses.  I went up to him afterwards and told him 
that I'm the business of image processing with 
NASA and offered to try to help.  He seemed 
   - Lucas
   End Date: 02/01/2010

   The Obama administration is closing GTMO 
and wants to bring the 911 conspirators to trial in 
US federal court. It wants to move other detainees 
to a maximum security federal prison in Illinois. 
The prison is currently almost empty and could 
easily be renovated to accommodate detainees 
safely. The move is supported by Illinois Senators, 
the Governor and the local Mayor. Senator 
Lindsey Graham - a Republican has said that the 
idea that we cannot put detainees in prison in the 
US "not rational". But the fear mongering has 
already started; Mark Kirk has said "The move 
would make Illinois ground zero in the war on 
terror". Closing GTMO is a national security 
imperative supported by national security and 
foreign policy experts including General David 
Petraeus, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and 
five former Secretaries of State from both parties. 
Support GTMO closure by calling your Senator to 
support the move of detainees to federal prisons 
in the US and charge them in US.
Dear Senator:
   We urge you to support the decision to close 
Guantanamo and the option of bringing detainees 
to the maximum security prison in Thompson 
Illinois. We need to bring those responsible for 
911 to justice. We should charge detainees in 
federal court and move detainees to federal 
facilities in the United States. Congress should not 
seek to tie the hands of the administration in 
carrying out the will of the American people. The 
US should close the detention facility at 
Guantanamo which has become an international 
symbol of human rights abuses.
   Only three days ago, the Attorney General 
announced the transfer of the alleged planners or 
conspirators in the September 11, 2001 attacks to 
regular federal courts, which are the same federal 
courts where the Department of Justice regularly 
tries and convicts defendants charged with 
international terrorism crimes. These federal 
courts have successfully convicted 195 cases since 
911, compared to military commissions which 
have dealt with 3. Why would we want to take 
our best tools off the table when we are trying to 
deal with terrorists?
   Guantanamo should be closed and the 
detainees should be brought to federal detention 
facilities in the US. The best way to keep the 
American people safe is to convict those 
suspected of crimes and detain them in the 
strongest maximum security prisons in the US.
   There is consensus among serious national 
security and foreign policy experts including 
General David Petraeus, Secretary of Defense 
Robert Gates, and five former Secretaries of State 
from both parties-that closing the Guantanamo 
Bay detention facility is essential to U.S. 
counterterrorism efforts and to repairing the 
standing of the United States as a country 
committed to human rights and the rule of law.
   Many people can and do disagree about the 
how the detainee cases should be treated, but we 
should agree that they should be brought to 
justice. Allowing them to slip through the cracks 
of partisan politics is not an appropriate way to 
deal with a crucial national security issue.
    your name and address
   [Note: you can find contact information for 
California senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne 
Feinstein at 
Sri Lanka Cards    6                                                                            
UAs               14                                                                  
Total             20
To add your letters to the total contact

Amnesty International Group 22
The Caltech Y
Mail Code 5-62
Pasadena, CA 91125