Sunday, September 07, 2008

Hutsul Project Travel Diary COMING SOON

Mykhajlo Mykolajevych Tafijchuk

Hutsul instrument maker and musician in the village of Bukovets, approximately half way between Verkhovyna and Kosiv.

Friday, July 25, 2008

American "democracy promotion" and the OR

This excerpt is from an article on openDemocracy site; full article here.

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Jonah Gindin: Is the promotion of democracy inherently imperialist?

William I Robinson: The promotion of democracy is inherently not imperialist; on the contrary, it is inherently revolutionary, progressive and wonderful! But the people who are promoting democracy are social movements in the global north and global south, solidarity movements in the north, mass movements in the south. What the United States is promoting, in Venezuela or elsewhere, is not democracy. United States foreign policy has absolutely nothing to do with promoting democracy; what it is doing is inherently imperialist.

But my argument in no way suggests that democratisation movements around the world are creatures of foreign policy; rather, it says that changes in US foreign policy and new modalities in US intervention are meant specifically to challenge, undermine, limit, and control the extent of social and political change in countries where masses of people – including the elite – are struggling for democracy.

In this perspective, US political intervention under the banner of “democracy promotion” is aimed at undermining authentic democracy, gaining control over popular movements for democratisation, keeping a lid on popular democracy movements, and limiting any change that may be brought about by mass democratisation movements so that the outcomes of democracy struggles do not threaten the elite order and integration into global capitalism.

If democracy means the power of the people, mass participation in the vital decisions of society, and democratic distribution of material and cultural resources, then democracy is a profound threat to global capitalist interests and must be mercilessly opposed and suppressed by US and transnational elites.

What is new about the strategy of “democracy promotion” is that this opposition and suppression is now conducted under the rhetorical banner of promoting democracy and through sophisticated new instruments and modalities of political intervention.

Jonah Gindin: How can one tell apart NGOs and human-rights groups genuinely dedicated to promoting social, economic, and human rights from the NED-fed variety?

William I Robinson: I think what’s going on is that as every country and community in the world is turned upside down by the penetration of capitalist globalisation, older forms of rule – authoritarianism, dictatorship – are delegitimated and challenged from below. At that point, the United States attempts to establish control of the type of political change that’s going to take place, and to make sure that certain groups get into power and others are marginalised.

Thus, if the US moves into a country like Kyrgyzstan or Ukraine, all the different groups involved in the democratisation struggle are going to come under US purview; some will be favoured by being brought into US programmes through funding, technical liaisons and advisors, while others will be excluded.

In no way are all these different groups stooges of US foreign policy; but those struggling for a completely different vision, one contrary to US and global capital’s interests are going to be marginalised if they can’t be bought (e.g, the more radical--and original Pora!--Chorna Pora, marginalized by Kaskiv's copy-cat and US-funded Pora!). US operatives, and their local allies and agents, will set up alternative or parallel organizations that are more powerful, more moderate, more centrist, more elite-oriented. These organisations and NGOs are going to receive international media attention and funding, and will be able to liaise with other forces abroad.

There are broadly three categories of groups. First, those that are clearly instruments of US foreign-policy objectives, groups trying to limit democratisation and control change; second, those pushed to the margins; third, those the US cannot or has no interest in marginalising or challenging, but which it attempts to co-opt and moderate.

Often there are well-intentioned people with a legitimate political agenda of democratisation, who – because structural or on-the-ground circumstances don’t allow anything else – become sucked into US and transnational elite foreign-policy operations (People such as the masses of Ukrainians who were duped into supporting one side of an intra-elite struggle that had little to do with improving non-elite lives in Ukraine).

continue reading here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Drunk on Power and Wealth: The Cult of Deregulation Capitalists

Obama and the Fall Into Tyranny (link to original)


As articles by John Pilger, Alexander Cockburn, and Uri Avnery make clear, by groveling before the Israel Lobby Obama has dispelled any hope that his presidency would make a difference.

Obama told the Lobby that in order to protect Israel he would use all the powers of the presidency to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon. As in the case of Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction,” the conclusion whether or not Iran is making a nuclear weapon will be determined by propaganda and not by fact. Therefore, there is no difference between Bush, McCain, Obama, and the Lobby with regard to the Middle East.

As Israel has several hundred nuclear weapons, and a modern air force and missiles supplied by the US, the idea that Israel needs American protection from Iran is a fantasy. All Israel needs to do in order to be safe and to live in peace is to stop stealing the West Bank and to drop its designs on southern Lebanon. Obama is too smart not to know that US foreign policy has been Shanghaied by the Lobby not in order to protect innocent Israel but to enable Israel’s territorial expansion.

Obama has dispelled hope on the economic front as well. Obama has appointed two leading apologists for jobs offshoring as his economic advisors--Bill Clinton’s Treasury Robert Rubin and Rubin associate Jason Furman. These two are notorious for their justifications of policies that benefit Wall Street, CEOs, and large retailers at the expense of the economic well being and careers of millions of Americans.

As a result of offshoring, good jobs in America are disappearing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics job figures make it totally clear that the US economy has ceased creating net new middle class jobs in the private economy in the 21st century.

Stressing higher returns to shareholders, Wall Street pressures corporations to move their operations abroad. Wal-Mart tells its American suppliers to “meet the Chinese price” or else, a price that US firms can meet only by offshoring their operations to China.

Every job and product that is offshored increases the US trade deficit and lowers US GDP. It is a losing game for America that rewards the overpaid elite of Wall Street and corporate America, while dismantling the ladders of upward mobility.

By enlarging the trade deficit, offshoring erodes the reserve currency role of the dollar, the real basis of US power. Now that US imports exceed US industrial production, it is unlikely that the US trade deficit can be closed except by a sharp reduction in US consumption, which implies a drop in US living standards. If the dollar loses its reserve currency status, the US government will not be able to finance its budget and trade deficits.
Where is the hope when Obama endorses a foreign policy that benefits only Israeli territorial expansion and an economic policy that benefits only multimillionaires and billionaires?

The answer is that Obama’s election would signify the electorate’s rejection of Bush and the Republicans. Considering the cowardice of the Democratic Congress and its reluctance to hold a criminal regime accountable, electoral defeat is the only accountability that the Bush Republicans are likely to experience.

It is not sufficient accountability, but at least it is some accountability.

If the Republicans win the election and escape accountability, the damage Republicans have done to the US Constitution, civil liberty, and a free society will be irreversible. The Bush Regime and its totalitarians have openly violated US law against spying on Americans without warrants and US and international laws against torture. The regime and its totalitarians have violated the Constitution that they are sworn to uphold. Bush’s attorney general Gonzales even asserted to the Senate Judiciary Committee that the US Constitution does not provide habeas corpus protection to American citizens.

When federal courts acted to stop the regime’s unconstitutional practices and abuse of prisoners, the Republicans passed legislation to overturn the court rulings. The Republican Party has shown beyond all doubt that it holds the US Constitution in total contempt.

Today the Republican Party stands for unaccountable executive power.

To reelect such a party is to murder liberty in America.

The June 12 Supreme Court decision pulled America back from the abyss of tyranny. For years hundreds of innocent people have been held by the Bush regime without charges, a handful of which were set to be tried in a kangaroo military tribunal in which they could be convicted on the basis of secret evidence and confession extracted by torture.

The Court ruled 5-4 that detainees have the right to appeal to civilian courts for habeas corpus protection. The Bush Republicans claiming “extraordinary times” had created a gestapo system in which the government could accuse, without presenting any evidence, a person of being a threat and on that basis alone imprison him indefinitely. Justice Anthony Kennedy reminded the Republican Brownshirts that “The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.”

Bush’s current attorney general, Michael Mukassey, said he would proceed with his kangaroo trials.

President Bush indicated that he was inclined to again seek to overturn the Court with a law.

Brownshirt Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he would draft a constitutional amendment to restore the executive branch’s tyrannical power.

Republican presidential nominee John McCain said that the Supreme Court decision protecting habeas corpus “is one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.”

The four Supreme Court justices (Alito, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas) who voted for tyranny in America are all Republicans. They all came out of the Federalist Society, a highly subversive group of right-wing lawyers who are determined to elevate the powers of the executive branch above Congress and the Supreme Court.

The Republican Party has morphed into a Brownshirt Party. The party worships “energy in the executive.” If the Brownshirt Republicans are reelected, they only need one more Supreme Court appointment in order to destroy American liberty.

That is what is at stake in the November election. As bad as Obama is on important issues, his election will signal rejection of the tyranny to which the Republicans are committed.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at:

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

You Tube Vids: Il'inskaja Pjatnytsa and Someone Else does очи чёрные

First, I posted this recently to my You Tube site:

This is the text I wrote to go along with the video:


I filmed this one year ago on March 25, 2007, which was Easter Sunday. A number of folk ensembles performed in the Old City of Riga (Latvian: Vecriga) and on top of "Bastion Hill ( Bastejs Kalns)" just outside of the old town. (Bastion Hill is what remains of the ramparts that once protected the city of Riga).

This is footage of the ensemble Il'inskaja Pjatnytsa performing on top of Bastejs Kalns. Actually, singing here is not the full ensemble, but just 2 of its members. . .what incredible voices these young women have! Leading participants in some dances to these songs is a middle-aged fellow who is the director of the ensemble.

Il'inskaja Pjatnytsa is a gem of Riga. Truly one of the best ensembles dedicated to presenting Russian folk music in an authentic or village-based style, Il'inskaja Pjatnytsa is admired by folklorists everywhere.

On that note, I am not that interested in commenting on the ironies of one of the best Russian ensembles being based in Riga, other than to say that within the folklore community of Latvia, they are highly admired and beloved. Love of folk culture should be (and often is) a source of transcendence beyond nationalism.

This time of the year is positively magical, anywhere where there is such dramatic change in season. I found it to be an especially wonderful time to be in Riga. For anyone very interested in folklore and folk culture, there always is a lot going on (around the time of every major holiday, for that matter). Throughout the Spring Equinox/Easter season are a number of opportunities to see folklore groups performing songs and rites welcoming the Spring. Participating in all these events was the perfect way to come out of Winter and into the Spring.

Happy Spring Equinox!

Then a video of an acquaintance, Dylan Fresco, performing очи чёрные recently in Mpls as part of a local, weekend-long Anton Chekhov Festival. Dylan adds great, line-for-line English translations as he sings the song; it's fun, take a look. Dylan is a fellow Mpls. resident and a fellow fellow with East European roots:

Saturday, February 09, 2008

BABA MARIJKA: Vichnaja Pamjat. . .

My paternal grandmother, Marija Iwaskewycz has passed away this past Th evening at 5:45 PM, US central time.

My brother Mark and I were in the room with Baba at the very moment that she passed away. She was in the process of dying from old age and advanced dementia for the past few months.

The following is the obituary that will appear in tomorrow's paper. It is the product of many minds--I typed it up, but just about everyone in our family has had their input into it:
Iwaskewycz, Maria (maiden name Chovhana), age 87, passed away 2/7/08. She is preceded in her death by her husband Mykhajlo (“Mike”), daughter Katya, and in Ukraine by her parents and 4 siblings. She is survived by her children Ivanna Rebet (husband Andrij), Robert (wife Lydia) and Leo (wife Chris), her grandchildren (Taras, Stefan, Mark, Michael, Lana and Katya), her great-granddaughter (Julija), her brother Evhen (wife Zhdana) and his family, and in Ukraine by her sister Slavka (husband Ivan) and other family. Maria was, and her family will be, ever grateful for the opportunities provided by life in America after WWII. In the U.S., Maria and her husband were able to continue in the struggle for a free and independent Ukraine while free to live, make a good living, and raise a family without the political persecution they had known in their homeland. With her husband Mykhajlo and other community members Maria was co-founder of the Ukrainian American Community Center of Minneapolis and was a lifelong member of St. Constantine’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, where she was active in parish life. Also with her husband, Maria funded a variety of Ukrainian organizations--including the Ukrainian Free University in Munich--and after Ukrainian independence, funded construction of three churches in Ukraine. MARIA HAD A PASSION FOR FLOWER GARDENING and in her final days rediscovered a youthful love for singing Ukrainian folk songs. The family wishes to thank all of our mother’s friends who visited and helped during her illness, with special thanks to Mrs. Olha Lytvyn and to her nurse, Lucille. Memorials preferred to St. Constantine’s Church.
There is so much that I really want to say, but little I feel able to, for now. For now. More later.

For now, here is a link to a YouTube video of a Ukrainian-Canadian woman singing Vichnaja Pamjat (they, for some reason, disabled the "embed video" function, so this only just a link): here.