Sunday, December 31, 2006

Latvian Winter Solstice 2005

This was filmed on a relatively crappy digital camera at Dievseta, a retreat center run by Dievturi in Wisconsin, USA. Dievturi refers to an organization of people who follow pre-Christian Latvian customs in a contemporary context that is active both in Latvia and the Latvian diaspora.

The Dievturi have a kind of formalized path for following these traditions, while there are also those who consider themselves followers of the old ways who do not call themselves Dievturi.

This is very authentic, i.e., an example of how Latvians in tune with their ancient traditions celebrate the Winter Solstice, in Latvia and in the diaspora.

These traditions are very similar to Ukrainian ones.

"Kalado" is the Latvian word for "Koljada."

Though there are differences, I am one to appreciate what is common!


Priecigus Ziemas Svetkus!
Happy Winter Holiday!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bolivarian Potential

Venezuela and the Bolivarian Dream

article from counterpunch.


In the Muslim world religious groups that are militarily effective, but politically limited dominate resistance to the American Empire. Asia is infatuated with capital. Europe lies buried deep in neo-liberal torpor, and the Left and social movements in the EU (Italy is the most recent example) are in an advanced state of decomposition. But in South America an axis of hope has emerged that challenges imperial domination on every level. Democracy, hollowed-out and offering no alternatives in the North, is being used to revive hope in the South.

The likely re-election of Hugo Chavez this weekend in Venezuela will mark a new stage in the process. His opponent, Manuel Rosales, described in the Financial Times (November 30) as a "centre-left" candidate was heavily implicated in the defeated coup attempt to topple Chavez in 2004. Rosales claims that "I will not sit on anyone's lap" but it is hardly a secret that he is firmly attached to the White House.

The wave of revolts and social movements spreading unevenly across the South American continent today are the inevitable result of the Washington Consensus, the economic enslavement of the world. Latin America was the first laboratory for the Hayekian experiments that finally produced the Consensus. The Chicago boys led by the late Milton Friedman, who pioneered neo-liberal economics, used Chile after the Pinochet coup of 1973 as a laboratory. It was a good situation for them. The Chilean working class and its two principal parties had been crushed, their leading cadres killed or "disappeared". Six years later, the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua was crushed by a US-backed Contra counter-revolution.

Earlier this month, the Sandinista leader, Daniel Ortega won the Presidency in his country. Blessed by the church, flanked by a former Contra as his vice-president and still loathed by the US ambassador, Ortega may be a sickly shadow of his former self, but his victory undoubtedly reflects the desire of Nicaraguans for change. Will Managua follow the radically redistributive policies of anti-imperialist Caracas or confine itself to rhetoric and remain a client of the International Monetary Fund?

There was even better recent news from Quito. The substantial electoral triumph of Rafael Correa, a dynamic, young, US-educated economist and former finance minister, who pledged in his election campaign to reverse Ecuador's participation in the US-backed free trade area for the Americas, to ask the US military to vacate its base at Manta, and to join Opec and the growing Bolivarian movement that seeks to unite South America against imperialism.
Correa's victory comes at a time when Latin America is on the march again. There have been some spectacular demonstrations of the popular will in Porto Alegre, Caracas, Buenos Aires, Cochabamba and Cuzco, to name but a few cities.

This has offered a new hope to a world either deep in neoliberal torpor (the EU, the US, the Far East) or suffering from the military and economic depredations of the new order (Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan, south Asia).The struggle spearheaded by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela against the Washington consensus has attracted the fury of the White House. Three attempts (including a military coup backed by the US and the EU) were made to topple Hugo Chávez.

Chávez was first elected president of Venezuela in February 1999, 10 years after a popular insurrection against the IMF readjustment programme had been brutally crushed by Carlos Andrés Peréz, whose party was once the largest affiliate of the Socialist International. In his election campaign Peréz had denounced the economists on the World Bank's payroll as "genocide workers in the pay of economic totalitarianism" and the IMF as "a neutron bomb that killed people, but left buildings standing".

Afterwards he caved in to the demands of both institutions, suspended the constitution, declared a state of emergency and ordered the army to mow down the protesters. More than 2,000 poor people were shot dead by troops. This was the founding moment of the Bolivarian upheaval in Venezuela.

Chávez and other junior officers organized to protest against the misuse and corruption of the army. In 1992 the radical officers organised a rebellion against those who had authorized the butchery. It failed because it was soon after the traumas of 1989, but people did not forget. That is how the new Bolivarians came to power and began to slowly and cautiously implement social-democratic reforms, reminiscent of Roosevelt's New Deal and the policies of the 1945 Labour government. In a world dominated by the Washington consensus this was unacceptable. Hence the drive to topple him. Hence the demand by Pat Robertson, the leader of political Christianity in the US, that Washington should organise the immediate assassination of Chávez. Venezuela, till now an obscure country as far as the rest of the world was concerned, suddenly became a beacon.

The majority of the people who elected Chávez were angry and determined. They had felt unrepresented for 10 years; they had been betrayed by the traditional parties; they disapproved of the neoliberal policies then in force, which consisted of an assault on the poor in order to shore up a parasitical oligarchy and a corrupt civilian and trade-union bureaucracy. They disapproved of the use that was made of the country's oil reserves. They disapproved of the arrogance of the Venezuelan elite, which utilised wealth and a lighter skin colour to sustain itself at the expense of the dark-skinned and poor majority. Electing Chávez was their revenge.

When it became clear that Chávez was determined to make modest changes to the country's social structure, Washington sounded the tocsin. Nowhere has the embittered bigotry emanating from this quarter been more evident than in its actions and propaganda against Venezuela, with the Financial Times and the Economist in the forefront of a massive disinformation campaign.

They are united by their prejudices against Chávez, whose advent to power was viewed as an insane aberration because the social reforms funded by oil revenues - free health, education and housing for the poor - were regarded as a regression to the bad old days, a first step on the road to totalitarianism.

Chávez never concealed his politics. The two 18th-century Simóns - Bolívar and Rodríguez - had taught him a simple lesson: do not serve the interests of others; make your own political and economic revolution; and unite South America against all empires. This was the core of his program, which is unacceptable to the supporters of the Washington Consensus.

The key to a serious Latin American challenge to the US lies in regional cohesion. This is crucial. When the cable channel Telesur was launched in Caracas nearly two years ago, one of their first programs revealed a shocking level of ignorance amongst South Americans. In virtually every capital city vox pop interviews revealed that people knew the name of their own capital and that of the United States. Very few could name even two or three capital cities in their own continent!

So regional unity---the Bolivarian Federation of sovereign states of which Chavez speaks incessantly----is necessary to move forward. Washington will do everything to prevent this since its own interests dictate dealing with countries unilaterally rather than as regional entities (this is even true of the European Union). Regional unity in South America could have a surprising impact in el Norte as well where the Hispanic population of the United States is growing rapidly to the great consternation of state ideologues like Samuel Huntington.

Tariq Ali's new book, Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope, is published by Verso

Saturday, December 09, 2006

very interesting

record of military service among us politicians and pundits:


  • John Kerry: Lt., Navy 1966-70; Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat V, Purple Hearts.
  • Tom Daschle: 1st Lt., Air Force SAC 1969-72.
  • Richard Gephardt: Air National Guard, 1965-71.
  • Al Gore: enlisted Aug. 1969; sent to Vietnam Jan. 1971 as an army journalist in 20th Engineer Brigade
  • Bill Clinton: Did not serve. Student deferments. Entered draft but received #311.
  • Jack Reed: Army Ranger, 1971-1979; Captain, Army Reserve 1979-91.
  • Leonard Boswell: Lt. Col., Army 1956-76; Vietnam, DFCs, BronzeStars,and Soldier's Medal.
  • Gray Davis: Army Captain in Vietnam, Bronze Star.
  • Chuck Robb: Vietnam
  • David Bonior: Staff Sgt., Air Force 1968-72.
  • Bob Kerrey: Lt. j.g. Navy 1966-69; Medal of Honor, Vietnam.
  • Tom Harkin: Lt., Navy, 1962-67; Naval Reserve, 1968-74.
  • John Glenn: WWII and Korea; six DFCs and AirMedal with 18 Clusters.
  • Charles Rangel: Staff Sgt., Army 1948-52; Bronze Star, Korea.
  • Ted Kennedy: Army, 1951-53.
  • Walter Mondale: Army 1951-1953
  • Daniel Inouye: Army 1943-47; Medal of Honor, WWII.
  • George McGovern: Silver Star & DFC during WWII.
  • Jimmy Carter: Seven years in the Navy.
  • Fritz Hollings: Army officer in WWII; Bronze Star and seven campaign ribbons.
  • Pete Peterson: Air Force Captain, POW. Purple Heart, Silver Star and Legion of Merit.
  • Mike Thompson: Staff sergeant, 173rd Airborne, Purple Heart.
  • Bill McBride: Candidate for Fla. Governor. Marine in Vietnam; Bronze, Star with Combat V.
  • Pete Stark: Air Force 1955-57
  • Howell Heflin: Silver Star
  • Tom Lantos: Served in Hungarian underground in WWII. Saved by Raoul Wallenberg.

· and Max Cleland: Captain, Army 1965-68; Silver Star & Bronze Star, Vietnam. Paraplegic from war injuries. Served in Congress.

REPUBLICANS -- and these are the guys SENDING YOUNG KIDS TO WAR:

  • Dick Cheney: did not serve. Several deferments, the last by marriage
  • Dennis Hastert: did not serve.
  • Tom Delay: did not serve.
  • Bill Frist: did not serve.
  • Rick Santorum: did not serve.
  • Trent Lott: did not serve.
  • John Ashcroft: did not serve. Seven deferments to teach business.
  • Jeb Bush: did not serve.
  • Karl Rove (Bush’s chief “architect” or “puppet master”): did not serve.
  • Paul Wolfowitz: did not serve. Neocon warhawk
  • Vin Weber: did not serve.
  • Richard Perle: did not serve. Neocon warhawk
  • Rudy Giuliani: did not serve.
  • George Pataki: did not serve.
  • Newt Gingrich: did not serve.
  • Don Rumsfeld: served in Navy (1954-57) as flight instructor.
  • George W. Bush: failed to complete his six-year National Guard; got assigned Alabama so he could campaign for family friend running for U.S. Senate; failed to show up for required medical exam, disappeared from duty.
  • Ronald Reagan: due to poor eyesight, served in a non-combat role making movies.
  • B-1 Bob Dornan: Consciously enlisted after fighting was over in Korea.
  • Phil Gramm: did not serve.
  • John McCain: Vietnam POW, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross. Remember how the Bush campaign trashed him in the Republican primaries in 2000?
  • Dana Rohrabacher: did not serve.
  • John M. McHugh: did not serve.
  • Mitch McConnell: did not serve.
  • JC Watts: did not serve.
  • Roy Blunt: did not serve.
  • Jack Kemp: did not serve. "Knee problem, " although continued in NFL for 8 years as quarterback. (Win one for the Gipper!!)
  • Dan Quayle: Journalism unit of the Indiana National Guard.
  • Spencer Abraham: did not serve.
  • John Engler: did not serve.
  • Douglas Feith: did not serve.
  • Eliot Abrams: did not serve.
  • Richard Shelby: did not serve.
  • Jon Kyl: did not serve.
  • Tim Hutchison: did not serve.
  • Christopher Cox: did not serve.
  • Lindsey Graham: National Guard lawyer.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger: AWOL from Austrian army base. (Our gift from Austria)

· and, Saxby Chambliss: did not serve. "Bad knee." This is the man who attacked Max Cleland's patriotism.

Pundits & Preachers

  • Pat Buchanan: did not serve.
  • Bill Kristol: did not serve.
  • Rush Limbaugh: did not serve (4-F with a 'pilonidal cyst.')
  • Bill O'Reilly: did not serve.
  • George Will: did not serve.
  • Chris Matthews: did not serve.
  • Paul Gigot: did not serve.
  • Bill Bennett: did not serve.
  • Kenneth Starr: did not serve.
  • Antonin Scalia: did not serve.
  • Clarence Thomas: did not serve.
  • Ralph Reed: did not serve.
  • Michael Medved: did not serve.
  • Charlie Daniels: did not serve.
  • Sean Hannity: did not serve.
  • Michael Savage: did not serve.
  • and, Ted Nugent: did not serve. (He only shoots at things that don't shoot back.)


· Jimmy Stewart (star of such liberal, anti-corporate movies like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life): From a family with deep military roots, nearly a year before Pearl Harbor, Stewart tried to join the US Army Air Corps and kept trying until they finally let him in, March 1941. He became the first major movie star to wear a uniform. While petitioning his superiors for combat assignment, Stewart aligned himself with the First Motion Picture Unit and starred and produced a number of training and educational films. Between 1942 and the end of the war, he appeared in nearly a dozen productions, some of which were screened theatrically in civilian theaters. Finally, in late 1943 he was assigned to the 445th Bombardment Group where he soon became its commander. While flying missions over Germany, Stewart was promoted to Major. In 1944 he twice received the Distinguished Flying Cross for actions in combat, and was awarded the Croix de Guerre. He also received the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters. In July 1944, after flying 20 combat missions, Stewart was made Chief of Staff of the 2nd Combat Bombardment Wing of the Eighth Air Force. Before the war ended he was promoted to Colonel, one of only a few Americans to rise from private to colonel in four years.

· Norman Jewison (In the Heat of the Night and other liberal nasty work) - Served in Navy during WWII and in the early part of the 1950s when on shore leave in southern US was appalled by the open racism and inequality. This experience gave him a lifelong concern with racial issues and discrimination and spurred his liberal activism.

· Oliver Stone (maker of evil liberal propaganda such as Platoon and JFK): Served in US Army in Vietnam (Apr.’67 – Nov.’68) where he specifically requested combat duty and was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division and the 1st Cavalry Division, and was wounded twice in action. Awarded the Bronze Star with "V" device for valor for "extraordinary acts of courage under fire", and the Purple Heart with one Oak Leaf Cluster.

· John Wayne: did not serve

Thursday, December 07, 2006

more professionalism or more pillaging?

hi. haven't been in the ukrainosphere for a while, and this isn't really a break in that abscence, but. . .

from RFE newsline:

December 6 adopted a budget bill for 2007, Ukrainian media reported.
The bill envisages government spending at 161 billion hryvnyas ($32
billion) and revenues at 147 billion hryvnyas, thus setting a budget
deficit at the equivalent of some $2.8 billion. The bill projects $2
billion in income from privatizations in 2007. The bill also sets the
monthly subsistence minimum at 492 hryvnyas ($97) and the monthly
minimum wage at 400 hryvnyas ($79) as of 1 January 2007. JM

...AND PRIVATIZATION PROGRAM. The Verkhovna Rada on December 6 passed
a privatization plan putting dozens of potentially attractive
state-run enterprises up for sale, Ukrainian media reported. The bill
was supported by 226 deputies, the minimum required for approval. The
most valuable enterprises for sale include minority stakes in the
Ukrtelekom telephone communications provider, the Odesa Port Plant
producing fertilizers, and 12 regional producers and distributors of
electricity. JM
greater professionalism or more pillaging? Jan Maksymiuk (JM) once wrote that members of the regions have more experience and professionalism than orangists. they are more professional at doing what, exactly?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Ukraine: A Hutsul Wedding, Part III

Here is the third and final installment to the Hutsul wedding video. Parts I and II were posted earlier.

Part I had footage of the rituals that take place in the morning just before the actual wedding ceremony at the church.

Part II had footage of the wedding ceremony and the rituals that precede the start of the wedding reception. It also has footage of the feasting (eating and drinking) and singing during the reception meal.

Part III is of the dance after the meal.

Notes to Part III:

The reception dance began with music and dancing that is the typical fair for weddings in contemporary Ukraine (a singer with a synthesizer who is also a DJ). After an hour or two of polkas and waltzes, etc., began an hour of traditional Hutsul music and dance.

The band of Hutsul musicians took over from the dj, and started up with an arkan. Arkan is a men's dance that is said to have its origins as a Hutsul shepherd's dance. Hutsuls traditionally practiced transhumance, with many of the younger and older, still-able men moving livestock from lowland villages up to mountain pastures for the summertime. The men would spend much of the summer in the mountains with the livestock, coming only occasionally down to the villages. Arkan is one dance iwithin a world-wide genre of such dances engaged in by shepherds as they bide their time watching their flocks.

After the arkan followed some traditional Hutsul couples dancing.

Much of the footage here wasn't filmed by me (I was dancing!) but by my second cousin, who was using a videocamera for the first time. She managed, actually, to take some rather artsy shots!

Watch the people dancing in the big circle in pairs at the back of the hall. This is where you will see some really authentic, contemporary Hutsul dancing in addition to the arkan danced by the men at the start of the clip.

Note on Ukrainian Folk Dancing as Performed Today by Most Ensembles:

What one sees here of the arkan, for example, is how it is really danced. I don't understand why most Ukrainian folk dance ensembles add so many elements to their performance of arkan that are totally foriegn to the real thing. To my mind, a staged or choreographed performance of a folk dance should have the goal of transporting the audience to a real village. One should feel like one is watching real people dancing in a village at some event. (Or if the dance in question originated as, say, a palace dance, then one should feel like one is sitting in a courtroom watching the performance, etc.) The Hungarian and Bulgarian State Ensembles are the best examples of groups that perform in this authentic, village-based style. Most Ukrainian ensembles that I know of are stuck in the character- ballet style that was invented in Soviet times. The arkan, for example, as performed by many a Ukrainian folk ensemble is only loosely based on a real arkan. Much of Ukrainian folk dance performance needs an infusion of a back-to-the-village mentality/approach.

To read a bit more about the Hutsuls and modern-day Hutsulshchyna, or the region of the Carpathians in which Hutsuls still live, read the comments to A Hutsul Wedding, Part I.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Notes of Caution on the US Elections; Comparing Elections USA 2006 to Ukraine 2004

compiled below are some short, excellent cautionary notes addressing the significance of the US elections, all from counterpunch.

the main points these articles convey are as follows (and these points are also relevant for a discussion concerning the failure of the OR to ignite a process of real, progressive change in ukraine):

1) voters in the US have called for sweeping changes, or rather, sweeping reversals of what repulicans have done in the last 6 years; furthermore, a significant proportion of the electorate have passed judgment on years of deregulation, free-trade, the dismantling of the welfare state, and on the rightward drift of the democratic party and american society in general.

2) however, establishment or clintonite democrats (the majority of democrats in congress) are making every effort to reduce the significance of the elections to a referendum on republican conduct of the iraq war and perhaps on conservative stances on the rights of same-sex couples, and otherwise are eager to get back to business as usual.

3) the only way the democrats will even partially struggle for a wide range of grassroots demands is if they continue to feel real, grassroots pressure to do so.

now compare to ukraine:

there were important elections in 2004 in which people were promised a lot and expected a tremendous degree of change. the liberals that came to power, however, were not equal to the task and struggled to reduce the full significance of the elections to a few issues, mostly to the exclusion of truly popular demands. politics in ukraine for the most part returned to business as usual. and in ukraine--as i fear will be the case in the US--the grassroots was not up to the task of remaining organized, committed, and militant in effort to pressure the liberals to do more. significanlty, after the OR, the grassroots and most of its ngo-champions fell apart (in no small part because, at the time of the OR, there was not yet a real, sustainable and wide-spread level of grassroots organization and solidarity, and because the ngo sector did indeed depend greatly on US funds).

note: i don't mean to suggest that nothing has changed in ukraine under yushchenko and that nothing will change in the US under the democrats. however, where the Orange Revolution promised a full struggle of dekuchmization, what ukraine now has is kuchma-lite; and i think that the best one can hope for in the US at this point is a bush-lite that as bad as the beer by a similar (busch) name.

both ukrainian and american society today lack real alternatives to their respective ruling cliques and problematic forms of capitalism, and absent within both is anything resembling the level of grassroots organization and power that exist today in a number of latin american countries.

read on:

democrats, born to compromise. here
The Democrats will not deliver an end to the Iraq war without substantial pressure from below. And that requires large-scale, grass-roots struggle. This should be a wakeup call to everyone who wants an end to the Iraq war, a raise in the minimum wage, a step forward for immigrants' rights-and an end to politics-as-usual in Washington. The door for social change is opening, but we must take action to achieve it.
you call this a sweep? here

democrats can be neocons, too. here

a socialist in the senate? here

election postmortem. here

count your blessings. here

blood on the tracks. here

the democrats and civil liberties. here

the repudiation of one-party rule. here

the return of tom lantos. here

rahm's loosers. here

the roots of corruption. here

other good stuff from the counterpunch site, a daily must-read:

in nicaragua, a chavez wave? here



I'd also like to suggest the following, excellent book:

The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America

the authors, two british journalists who have resided in the US for many years, do an excellent job of explaining how and why the center of american politics has always been much to the right of the european consensus, and how it swung even further to the right in a process that lasted a number of decades. they make excellent clarifications, such as explaining that howard dean--considered today as one of the more "progressive" members of his party by establishment democrats--would have been considered an "eisenhower republican" in a different era in US history, and a conservative in many parts of europe today.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

What Dems Must Do to Matter

This is from here; copied below is most of the article that matters. . .

Will the Demcrats Become Part of the Problem?

After the years of illegal war and the overnight destruction of civil liberties that were 800 years in their creation, the United States stands at a watershed. If the legislation that has been put on the books permitting spying on Americans without a court warrant, legalizing torture and self-incrimination, and repealing habeas corpus and the right to an attorney remains on the books, the United States will be a police state regardless of which party is in power.

If the Democrats are to make a real difference, their first task is to repeal the Orwellian-named "Patriot Acts," the torture legislation, the detention without court evidence legislation, and the right-to-spy and invade privacy without court warrant legislation. The White House tyrant needs to be quickly told that one more "signing statement" and he will be impeached, convicted, and turned over to the War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague.

The notion that Americans can be protected from "terror" by giving up the Bill of Rights is absurd. Democrats are complicit in this absurd notion. Many were intimidated into voting for police state legislation, because they lacked the intestinal fortitude to call police state legislation by its own name. The legislation that has been passed during the Bush regime is far more dangerous to Americans than Muslim terrorists.

Indeed, the prime cause of Muslim terrorism is the US interference in the internal affairs of Muslim countries and America's one-sided stance in favor of Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When Jimmy Carter was president, his even-handed approach made the US respected throughout the Muslim world (and was one element that made him so dreadfully hated by fundamentalist freaks in the US). 9/11, if it was actually an act of Muslim terrorism, was the direct consequence of US one-sided meddling in Middle Eastern affairs.

When, and only when, the Democrats have erased the Bush administration's police state legislation from the books, thus restoring the Constitution, they should clear the air on two other issues of major importance. The Democrats must convene a commission of independent experts to investigate 9/11. The 9/11 Commission Report has too many problems and shortcomings to be believable.

Recent polls show that 36 percent of the American people do not believe the report. Such a deficient report is unacceptable. 9/11 became the excuse for the neoconservative Bush regime to launch illegal wars of aggression in the Middle East. The 9/11 Commission Report is nothing but a public relations justification for the "war on terror," which in truth is a war on American liberty. As long as politicians with a police state mentality can cling to the cover of the 9/11 Commission Report, the Bill of Rights will remain endangered.

The other issue is the blatant corruption in the Bush regime's contract practices. So many contracts are tainted with their connections to Republican power brokers, including Vice President Richard Cheney, that the taxpayers are being fleeced on the level of the Grant administration. Indictments and long prison sentences are in order.

This leaves the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both are lost. Both invasions were illegal. Those responsible must be held accountable.
The American prosecutors of the Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg emphasized, as Robert Jackson put it, that Germany's crime was not in losing the war but in starting it. Under the Nuremberg standard, to launch a war of aggression is a war crime. It is punishable with a death sentence.


The US and Britain no longer have any role to play in the Middle East. As the King of Jordan predicted, there is now a Shiite crescent that runs from Iran through Iraq into Lebanon. This Shiite crescent is the most powerful force in the Middle East.

The Iraqi Sunnis can come to terms with Shiite power or be destroyed. The American puppet states of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the oil emirates are faced with the instability that comes from being allied with the "hegemonic" West against their own people. It is up to their own wits whether they can make the transformation.

The US has neither the resources, the finances, nor the credibility to intervene.

The Israelis have isolated themselves with their genocidal policies against the Palestinians. Intelligent Israelis are already sending their children out of the country. Israeli peace groups have thrown up their hands in the face of the persistent intransigence of the Israeli government and the disregard of common sense. It remains to be seen if the Israelis can learn to care about anyone but their own kind. Israel can save itself if its political leaders will stop pushing Palestinians off of their own land by destroying their homes and orchards and murdering their children, thus turning more Palestinians into refugees. It would be easy for the economically talented Israelis to pull the Palestinians into prosperity, thereby ending the conflict. Are Israelis capable of the humane leadership required to create a place for themselves in the Middle East or are they forever wed to Mao's dictum that "power comes out of the barrel of a gun"?

Republican rule in the 21st century has devastated American civil liberties and American prestige and leadership capability. Can Democrats restore American liberties and leadership, or will a lust for power corrupt them, too, and cause Democrats to retain the police state powers Bush has created?

If the Bush regime's police state legislation is still law in 2008, the Democrats will have failed.

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:


and now they can shut up about their silent majority.

however, i do not mean to suggest that the silent majority is liberal to left leaning instead.

the silent majority is a myth.

my breakdown of the american electorate/population would go something like this:

30% commited liberal to left
30% commited conservative to fascist
40% commited to fickleness and trend-aping

and now let's see if the dems can become praiseworthy. can the meak become wolves again?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Hutsul Wedding, Part II

Watch the video

Here is the second installment to the Hutsul wedding video. Part I was posted earlier, click here. There will also be a Part III.

Part I had footage of the rituals that take place in the morning just before the actual wedding ceremony at the church.

Part II has footage of the wedding ceremony and the rituals that precede the start of the wedding reception. It also has footage of the feasting (eating and drinking) and singing during the reception meal.

Part III will be of the dance after the meal. Turns out I had more footage than could be incorporated into two 10-minute clips!

Notes to Part II:

The footage of the church ceremony is not very good and I was tempted to leave it out, but it was necessary to include something from the ceremony.

The rest of the scenes should be self-explanatory. However, one thing I did not clarify in the video: Toward the end of this footage, during the reception when people are singing, there is a song during which people sing/shout the word, "Hirko!" In Ukraine--but also in much of Eastern Europe--people do not cling their glasses in order to prod the bride and groom to kiss. Instead, they sing a song whose verses are usually humorous and then shout, "Hirko!", which means "bitter," for the refrain. The idea is that when the couple kisses, the bitterness turns to sweetness. Also, it is not only the bride and groom who stand and kiss; others that are part of the wedding party or who are relatives of the bride and groom can be prodded to smooch, too.

To read a bit more about the Hutsuls and modern-day Hutsulshchyna, or the region of the Carpathians in which Hutsuls still live, read the comments to A Hutsul Wedding, Part I below.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

On the 6 Year Experiment with Republican One-Party Rule

not about ukraine, but i had to post it. . .

what follows below aspires to good, old-fashioned, muckraking political journalism. no, it is not an h. l. mencken piece, but it is great. of course, its detractors will focus on the insulting descriptive language and namecalling--on the rhetoric--and will pigheadedly, or cleverly/cynically, ignore the issues raised in the article--just as they ignored the real issues raised in chavez's un speech.

fascistic right wingers are right to complain that things have become too weak in the u.s.--the american opposition (wait, is there one?) needs to regain its lost militancy and to flex some rhetorical and real-political muscle. it must stop being so damn polite or careful. . .

The Worst Congress Ever

How our national legislature has become a stable of thieves and perverts -- in five easy steps

MATT TAIBBI Rolling Stone Magazine

There is very little that sums up the record of the U.S. Congress in the Bush years better than a half-mad boy-addict put in charge of a federal commission on child exploitation. After all, if a hairy-necked, raincoat-clad freak like Rep. Mark Foley can get himself named co-chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, one can only wonder: What the hell else is going on in the corridors of Capitol Hill these days?

These past six years were more than just the most shameful, corrupt and incompetent period in the history of the American legislative branch. These were the years when the U.S. parliament became a historical punch line, a political obscenity on par with the court of Nero or Caligula -- a stable of thieves and perverts who committed crimes rolling out of bed in the morning and did their very best to turn the mighty American empire into a debt-laden, despotic backwater, a Burkina Faso with cable.

To be sure, Congress has always been a kind of muddy ideological cemetery, a place where good ideas go to die in a maelstrom of bureaucratic hedging and rank favor-trading. Its whole history is one long love letter to sleaze, idiocy and pigheaded, glacial conservatism. That Congress exists mainly to misspend our money and snore its way through even the direst political crises is something we Americans understand instinctively. "There is no native criminal class except Congress," Mark Twain said -- a joke that still provokes a laugh of recognition a hundred years later.

But the 109th Congress is no mild departure from the norm, no slight deviation in an already-underwhelming history. No, this is nothing less than a historic shift in how our democracy is run. The Republicans who control this Congress are revolutionaries, and they have brought their revolutionary vision for the House and Senate quite unpleasantly to fruition. In the past six years they have castrated the political minority, abdicated their oversight responsibilities mandated by the Constitution, enacted a conscious policy of massive borrowing and unrestrained spending, and installed a host of semipermanent mechanisms for transferring legislative power to commercial interests. They aimed far lower than any other Congress has ever aimed, and they nailed their target.

"The 109th Congress is so bad that it makes you wonder if democracy is a failed experiment," says Jonathan Turley, a noted constitutional scholar and the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington Law School. "I think that if the Framers went to Capitol Hill today, it would shake their confidence in the system they created. Congress has become an exercise of raw power with no principles -- and in that environment corruption has flourished. The Republicans in Congress decided from the outset that their future would be inextricably tied to George Bush and his policies. It has become this sad session of members sitting down and drinking Kool-Aid delivered by Karl Rove. Congress became a mere extension of the White House."

The end result is a Congress that has hijacked the national treasury, frantically ceded power to the executive, and sold off the federal government in a private auction. It all happened before our very eyes. In case you missed it, here's how they did it -- in five easy steps:

read the rest of the article here.

see interview with author, rolling stone magazine editor, here.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Ukraine: Wedding Procession in Pidhajtsi, Ternopil State

Watch the video

this is footage from august, 2005.

in many parts of ukraine, as in many other parts of the world, it is traditional that on the day of a wedding, the family and friends of the groom will gather at the groom's house for a small ceremony, after which they will proceed through the village to the home of the bride. at the head of the procession usually is a band playing a wedding march.

at the bride's home is gathered her family and some friends, and another ceremony takes place. then the two groups head together through the village to the church. after the ceremony, those in attendance will head to reception--or home for brief spell, if there is time.

wedding receptions literally go all night. i recall being asked at 4 am by some babas what we--i was with some cousins--were doing going home already.

take a look at my footage of a hutsul wedding here and compare this wedding march tune to that of the one played just outside the home of the groom in that videoclip.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

our ukraine in opposition

is our ukraine attempting a pathetic takeover of the opposition from BJuT? are they still that arrogant and intent on being counterproductive/mucking things up? realizing how almost hopeless the situation of their party has become, are their egos driving them toward an attempted takeover of the opposition as a last-ditch effort to save their own asses?

i sure hope not.

but i fear that a future shevchenko may just have to write about yushchenko and our ukraine similar lines as those about ol' khmel' (a cousin of mine and i refer to that section of the poem as "khmelnytskyj pizdetskyj!" meaning to convery something kind of like, "goddamn it, bohdan!"). . .

roman bezsmertnyj said:
Regarding our proposals in today's situation, we call on opposition forces in parliament and outside parliament to form a European Ukraine [opposition alliance] as a confederation, to work out an action plan that would be aimed at creating an alternative to the actions of the anticrisis coalition and the current government.
rfe's jan maksymiuk comments:
However, judging by Bezsmertnyy's announcement on October 17, Our Ukraine is set to reformat the configuration of opposition groups in Ukraine according to its own taste rather than join the Tymoshenko-led group.
rfe article here.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bolivarian Revolution and the Orange Revolution?

i am working on a post about comparing venezuela and chavez with ukraine and the miserable failure that both the orange revolution and yushchenko are turning out to be. i guess my mistake was to have believed in the or in the first place!

for now, reproduced below is a portion of an interview with writer/activist/filmaker tariq ali about the situation in venezuela from the democracy now! website.

but a few things about my orientation toward the bolivarian revolution and venezuela under chavez:

the opposition in venezuela is absolutely hysterical. chavez is not immune to criticism and there is much to be criticized, but the opposition is absolutely hysterical, as is the guy who writes on venezuela at publius pundit.

second, and i will write more about this later, if the orange revolution was going to succeed, then it would have had to result in efforts the likes of which are going on in venezuela. ukraine needed a chavenko, not a weak or "pinko" yushchenko--which, by-the-way, if you know any spanish dialects, is not necessarily meant to be a homophobic comment, but a manner of speech meaning "weak."

when chavez called the orange revolution "pinko," he wasn't necessarily intending to be homophobic, as some suggested. talking in this way is like when someone says, "i got gipped at the store," and what they mean is, "i got cheated/i was robbed." the person saying it usually doesn't realize the origin of the phrase--i got gypsied--and probably did not mean to be putting down roma. chavez might be homophobic--but i don't know that and no one else listening to that speech should assume that. the blogosphere went ridiculously wild over that comment. i feel i can comment on this because i speak pretty good spanish--though mexican spanish--and have some really close friends in minneapolis from various parts of latin america with whom i converse only in spanish.

the result of the orange revolution has been weak. also, when chavez calls idiots like lukashenka a friend, it is clear to my mind that he is merely playing realpolitik, which is in practice if not by definition the policy of the enemy of my enemy is my friend. i don't like one bit chavez's turn toward such realpolitik; however it is absurd, hysterical, to claim that what is happening in venezuela under chavez is the same as in belarus' under lukashenka, or russia under putin, or even cuba under castro (though it is clear that chavez has real affection for this latter figure on this list). to claim that venezuela is belarus', russia, or cuba and that chavez's comments about having friends in these places are proof of this is. . .hysterical. hyperbole.

ok, more on these themes later. . .i am bringing them up because the successes of the bolivarian revolution in venezuela teaches us what an opportunity was lost with the weak outcome of the orange revolution.

here's the interview:

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, the film that was made in the palace during the attempted coup. Tariq Ali, your response?

TARIQ ALI: Well, I was there a year later, Amy, when they were celebrating the victory and the defeat of the coup, and I saw the first viewing of this film in Caracas with 10,000 citizens of that city, and they were going absolutely wild. And, of course, what the film showed is that it was popular support for Chavez, both amongst the poorer sections of the community and amongst rank-and-file soldiers, which made the coup impossible for the United States and the Venezuelan oligarchy. And this, of course, has been Chavez's big, big strength in that country. He has now won five elections in a row, and he’s probably going to win the next one, too, with a big majority.

And what people do not seem to understand, within the establishment in the United States and its state media hacks, is that you can have political leaders today in parts of the world who are extremely popular because they give the people what they promised to give them. And politics elsewhere has become so isolated and alienating from the population that people just don't expect this anymore. And I think this is what explains the popularity of Chavez. And, of course, using oil money to push through mega-spending on health, on education, on building homes for the poor, free universities for the poor, this is not permitted in this world. He does it, and at the same time he challenges U.S. foreign policy in a very sharp way.

AMY GOODMAN: What about those who say he’s increasingly authoritarian?

TARIQ ALI: Well, they’ve been saying this from the first time he won the election. You know, if he were increasingly authoritarian, how come that not a single private television station or newspaper, who denounce him day in and day out, have been touched? I mean, I cannot imagine, by the way, Amy, any Western country, this country or Britain, where you had the bulk of the media against you, which denounced you, which slandered you, and the governments would just sit back and take it. I think, you know, it’s crazy to say that he’s authoritarian. Some of the criticisms made by him from within the Bolivarians is that he’s not tough enough with the opposition. So it’s exactly the opposite.

AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of his speech at the United Nations?

TARIQ ALI: Well, that was a historic speech. I mean, the images weren’t fully shown. But in other parts of the world, they were shown, and you saw the bulk of the delegates applauding him. It was like a breath of fresh air. And he took on the Bush administration's foreign policy, and lots of people came up to him afterwards from the Arab world, from other parts of the world, and said, “You say something which we can no longer say. We are just too frightened.” And that is what gives it its support.

I mean, I think he went over the top a bit. I’m personally opposed to attacking Bush personally, in personal terms. Whether he’s an alcoholic or what is not significant. But I think the administration has been attacking Chavez so hard, trying to get rid of him, telling lies about him, as we saw in that clip from the White House press secretary, that he’s a very spontaneous guy and lost his cool a bit. But overall, the speech had a tremendous impact, and it made him a cult figure globally. And then, of course, it made Noam Chomsky a bestseller in this country, Amy, which is the other side of it.

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, I think Noam Chomsky´s book Hegemony or Survival has hit number five on the New York Times bestseller list, the one that he held up.

TARIQ ALI: But, you know, this is a very interesting development, that a foreign head of state comes to the United Nations, denounces the American government, advises U.S. citizens to read Noam Chomsky, and they flock out and buy his book.

AMY GOODMAN: The New York Times had to issue a correction, by the way, because they reported twice that afterwards Chavez said he wished he could have met Noam Chomsky, but unfortunately he was dead. And that’s what the Times reported twice.

TARIQ ALI: It was not true, because Chavez was talking about Galbraith.

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, that he wished he could have met Galbraith, but that he had not said that about Chomsky.

TARIQ ALI: He wished he could have met John Kenneth Galbraith. Yeah, but he certainly knows Chomsky is alive. I think Chomsky at the moment is probably on his way to Venezuela, as we speak. But there’s no question about that, but that’s very interesting, because this is a president -- the other thing about him is he genuinely reads books. There are very few politicians who do. He reads books.

AMY GOODMAN: Evo Morales, the Bolivian president?

TARIQ ALI: Evo Morales, I have met once. I met him in Caracas. Incredibly honest, sincere, devoted politician. The first Native South American to be elected president of a republic.

AMY GOODMAN: Indigenous.

TARIQ ALI: Indigenous American. And I think that’s had a mega impact. I’m nervous about the situation in Bolivia, because there's a lot of talk going on. The oligarchs there are incredibly unhappy and [inaudible] with the army. But again, if they try and topple Evo, you will have a very, very fierce resistance, because he came to power on the basis of gigantic social movements, which I try and explain in this book, that it’s not that these people suddenly emerged. They have been part of social movements, both in Venezuela, where the first big revolt against neo-liberalism took place in 1989 and 3000 people were killed -- that´s what produced Chavez -- then in Bolivia, where you’ve had giant social movements taking place.

And what they’ve also done is broken the isolation of the Cubans. You know, there’s no doubt about that, that Cubans are less isolated now than they’ve been for a very, very long time. And the human capital that Cuba, this island of 12 million people, has produced in terms of doctors and teachers now flooding into Venezuela and Bolivia to help people there. So there are good things going on.

AMY GOODMAN: What’s happening in Cuba now with President Castro sick?

TARIQ ALI: Well, I think he is ill. I think, you know, of course, Fidel, being a total atheist, has no illusions about where he’s going to end up after he dies. He knows he’s going to be six foot under the ground. There’s no hell or no heaven. He doesn't believe. He’s never been a believer.

The question is: what will happen to Cuba? And the big question dominating discussions behind the scenes is: what will Miami do, what will Washington do? My own view is that they will try and flood the island with money and buy it. That’s what they will do, after all 12 million people. But from that point of view, I think the Cuban leadership has really to push through certain reforms themselves -- they’ve been very lax in it -- but, I mean, you know, proper reforms, not neoliberal reforms, but actually make available to the population a media which reflects criticism and discussion, opens up the country to diverse thought processes. It’s important for that government to do it, and I have said this to them, and at the same time, opens up the economy to a certain extent, learns some of the lessons, positive lessons, from Venezuela, etc., and try and keep Miami at bay.

It would be a total disaster for Cuba if Miami really reentered Havana, because with it would come everything that existed before, and all the gains that the revolution has made, which even people hostile, like Colin Powell, admit that Castro has done a lot for the people of his country, that would go if it became a neoliberal island. And so, the Cuban leadership now needs to discuss how to stop that happening.

AMY GOODMAN: Tariq Ali, thank you for joining us. His book is Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope.

read the whole interview here.

get ali's book here.

and two other decent books on chavez and the bolivarian revolution in venezuela here and here.

if only the orange revolution had been modeled on the bolivarian. . .

Monday, October 09, 2006

Who killed her?

I saw Myroslava Gongadze on the tv last night talking about Politkovskaja. She didn't say anything too terribly original, but she of course is one to be saying something about the matter.

Here' are links to two articles about Politkovskaja's murder and to her books:

From RFE:
According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists,
Politkovskaya is the 42nd journalist killed in Russia since the collapse of
the Soviet Union in 1991, and the 12th in a contract-style killing since
President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000.

Full article here.

From a discussion on the Democracy Now! website; the speaker is Katrina Vanden Heuval, editor of the Nation and (supposedly) an expert on Russia:

. . .it's important to see this as a span since ’92, and so much of it is
connected to the corruption of this brutal war, what Anna wrote about, the
brutality of a war that is a cancer in Russian society and that betrays what
Putin claims is his ability to bring security and stability to a country,
because since 2002, over a thousand Russians have been killed in terrorist
acts, direct responses to an occupation of Chechnya. . .

. . .I knew her a little. I met her in Moscow. I met her in New York. And she was intense. She was aware of the risks she faced, but she was never fearful, because she believed it was the duty of a journalist to report on the truth and reality. And she had a sense of a higher mission. Some journalists in Russia, I fear, felt she was obsessed, had become fanatical in her crusade. But as you see on the streets, the hundreds of people protesting her death suggest this could be a tipping point of sorts, because what's so crucial -- and we were talking earlier -- is that Russian journalists unify, organize that there be some solidarity. That may be very hard to accomplish, but it's going to be needed if Russian journalism can retain some independence in the face of a growing authoritarianism.

Listen to or read a full transcript of the discussion here.

Links to her books:

here, here, and here.

I have not read any of them, but I have perused the pages of one of them in a book store and struggled with whether to buy it or some other book I had in the other hand at the time. . .

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

thought for the day

been catching up on some reading about current events in ukraine:

yu i ljubi druzi really prefered to work with ya and deal with all the crap that he and his ljubi druzi would inevitably pull--and that they are now predictably pulling--than find a way to work with tymoshenko?


Saturday, September 30, 2006

remembering harvest season in ukraine

i have been in the u.s. for the past three weeks, doing some contract jobs. yesterday i was driving along one of those shopping-mall-strip-mall-fast-food-starbucks-coffee-shop-novelty- store oases that dot the american landscape when i caught a whiff of something that took me back to fall harvest in pidhajtsi. i have spent most or all of september and october the last two years in pidhajtsi, helping family bring in the fall harvest. it must have been the smoke from the hood and ventilation system of some restaurant cooking with a mesquite fire that triggered this memory. this time of the year, in pidhajtsi and all over ukraine, people burn some of the biomass left over in the fields from the harvest. western ukraine is hilly--pre-carpathian foothills--and the smoke from hundreds of fires burning in fields on valley floors and hilltops tends to settle and hover above the valleys, and thus over pidhajtsi and the surrounding villages (of sil'tse, stare misto, and halych). it smells delicious, a bit like mesquite, but it can be a challenging time for anyone who suffers from respiratory ailments. i have asthma and needed to use my albuterol inhaler more often than normal while in pidhajtsi during harvest season.*

nonetheless, i have really missed being there for the fall harvest this year.

here are some of the posts i did last year during and after the fall harvest season with pictures: here; here; and here (this last link begins with a lot of rambling about things unrelated to harvest time; scroll down to the second picture for some really interesting images from the fall harvest).

also take a look at the videoclip and text here.

unforuntaly i don't have pictures or videoclips of the fires burning in the fields. the small fires look really cool at night, with the valley floors and hillsides dotted with hundreds of still-burning or smoldering piles of biomass that look like they are just out there, floating in the darkness (especially when the moon is new).

*important note for any american with asthma who is planning to live/travel outside the us: albuterol is known as salbutemol in the rest of the world, just like most of the rest of the world uses the metric system. american exceptionalism once again had me panick stricken when, during my first harvest season in pidhajtsi, i lost my albuterol inhaler and started a desperate search for a new one. i encountered many confused looks from pharmacists in pidhajtsi and then ternopil as i searched for the right medicine by the wrong name: "albuterol? we don't have that here. i've never heard of such a medicine. but we have salbutemol. that's the typical medicine for asthma." i started wondering whether salbutemol was another name for albuterol because of how often pharmacists insisted that it was the regular drug for asthma. so i finally went to the post office in pidhajtsi and called up my doc in the us. yup, they're the same, he said. what a relief. but why do american doctors and pharmacists have to use a different name from that used by the rest of the world?

update: just read that the WHO (world health organization) recommends use of the name salbutemol.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Babyn Yar

now that i have broken my month-long leave from the ukrainian blogosphere with the clip of my daugher below, i feel like continuing. . .

but first: the left-hand shift-key was recently ripped from my laptop by one curious little girl and i haven't yet fixed it; it is not my regular style to write without capitalization. . .

at the end of september, 1941 began the massacre at babyn yar, which continued throughout the nazi occupation of kyiv--you can read more about it
here at wikipedia, just to scratch the surface. i finally made it to the site of this massacre last month. as usual, when it comes to seeing how tragic and traumatic events of the past are handled/commemorated/memorialized-in-monuments in ukraine, i was quite disappointed. what does it say about a nation's relationship to its past when people are allowed to make campfires, hang-out, party, etc., on the very grounds of a mass murder? there was no solemn feeling to the site--for example, there was nothing like the heaviness and spirituality of visiting a former concentration camp site. whatever of that feeling was there i brought with me, and thus it was present at the site mostly just from within. externally. . .well, there were the monuments, but when i approached the monument specifically to commemorate kyiv's jews that died there (a large menorah), i saw a bunch of young, kyivan punk rockers hanging out on a bench, drinking and laughing within a few meters of the monument. right behind the jewish monument was a christian one (a large cross) to which the kids having a nice afternoon were in equal range. i then walked down the ravine along a path that i think was the one told to me by a local friend--a history buff--who had said that if i went that way, i would walk right on top of the very earth where the massacre occured. there, on what should be regarded as hallowed ground, i discovered a campfire and shashlyk being cooked by other locals. it was a saturday, indeed, a day to relax with friends. such campsites were scattered all over the ravine. as i stood there thinking or just feeling about the massacre, a jogger ran by.

because of all this, all the memorials/monuments felt to me superficial at best.

of course, there are lots of reasons for all of this. the soviet government downplayed the significance of the massacre and of the site, and people got used to it just being there without much or any specific relevance. without government support in maintaining the site as a hallowed place, and in the context of poverty/shortages and authoritarianism that breeds indifference/apathy, it is very easy to understand how such a site--truly a beautiful area perfect for how locals do indeed make use of it today--would come to be used as it now is.

but i would favor efforts to engineer a change in orientation/attitude toward the site.

see similar thoughts as per the holodomyr

see my photos of the babyn yar site here.

update: just noticed that veronika at neeka's backlog has also published yesterday similar thoughts about the babyn yar site here and some fotos of her own here. she mentions how it was a pain to find the menorah memorial that is closer than the main soviet-era monument to where the actual killing took place, mentioning that it is "well hidden." also read here her piece about the 65th commemoration of the massacre.

Dyki Tantsi Juliji--Julija's Wild Dances

Watch the video

My daughter Julija is becoming evermore agile on her feet and is well into the start of her career as a folklorist! She is 15 months in this short clip that was recently filmed by her vecmama (Latvian for "grandmother;" Julka also has a baba) and assembled by her mama, Zinta, who is also in the clip, playing the accordion.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Fotos of Chornovil Monument

Go here to see the rest of the fotos from the opening of the new memorial in Kyiv to Vyacheslav Chornovil that took place on Aug. 23, 2006.

Read the post below for info about it, if you haven't already. . .

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

New Monument in Kyiv: For Vyacheslav Chornovil

Well, I was going to post some pictures, but the battery on my camera just died. I am writing from an internet club in Kyiv.

I arrived today, and will be heading tomorrow to Lviv and then to Kolomyja, locale of this year's annual Festival of Hutsul Music and Dance.

Earlier today I was strolling downhill from the Arsenalna metro station toward European Square, past the Rada and Marijinskyj and CabMin and the hill on which we once had banged oil-barrel drums, when I came upon a spot where a bunch of people were gathered. Turns out that today was the unveiling of Kyiv's newest monument--in honor of Vyacheslav Chornovil.

Unthinkable before the OR.

I arrived just in time to see a black mercedes limousine pull up and a fellow with highly recognizable silver hair get out--Moroz. He got out of his car about 30 paces from where I was standing with a bunch of others, across the street from where the new monument is located. The area around the monument to be unveiled was cordoned off with fences. There were metal detectors at the entrances to teh area, and plenty of security guards, as well as lots of nonuniformed but menacing-enough looking guys standing alongside the road, all in formation. I noticed Yanuk already standing there, kind-of off to the side of the monument but still front and center enough. Yushchenko arrived shortly thereafter, and I heard someone nearby ask, "Is he late?" I didn't hear the answer and had no idea myself for what time the unveiling was scheduled.

The people standing across the street outside the protected zone were of various sorts, but a lot of them were holding Narodnyj Rukh signs. They were a mellow bunch. I was surprised that no one shouted hin'ba (shame) when Moroz arrived. A lady was walking around handing out a poster with faces of current political and business figures making up the shape of Ukraine and with the title, "Our Ukraine?" She also handed out a newspaper that had on the front cover a picture of Yu giving a lecture. In the image, Yu is pointing to a board on which is written, "Bandits will sit in jail." However, at some point in the lecture, he apparently had crossed out bandits and written "coalition."

There were speeches--Tarasjuk, I think made the first speech. Actually, I don't remember who made the first speech, but I do remember Tarasjuk's arrival, 'cause he was late and some of the folks I was standing among (the spectators and journalists/fotographers who had no press passes) were commenting. Yu made expected, uninspiring comments delivered in a dry manner. Then they unveiled the monument, which looked nice enough. I will have to go sometime and get a closer look at it. I am rather happy that Lviv is now not the only major Ukrainian city with a monument to this important figure.

Moroz left after some very brief mingling, and right after him went Yanukovych. Moroz went by car, while Yanukovych headed off uphill on foot with his retinue--apparently walking back to work in the building outside of which so many people had banged drums, hoping to forever drive him out of any high-level steering position in Ukraine's political system.

I turned to my neighbor and said, sarcastically of course, "The Ukrainian nationalists have left so soon!" Someone else overheard, and said back, "Well, what is Yushchenko still doing there?" That started people debating. Yu good, Yu bad. I listened for a while to the debate among spectators and also, Yu at this point was answering questions from the press. However, I was extremely hungry for lunch, and so I decided to hit the road for a Dva Husja when the fellow standing next to me started complaining that the trouble with Yu is that he has let all the Jewish oligarchs back in power. He said this while holding open that image of Ukraine with the 100 faces (the poster doesn't have that many faces, but Korrespondent's "100 most influential Ukrainians" issue is selling at newstands) the lady had handed out earlier. I am pretty sure that they are not all Jewish on that poster.

Off to Lviv and then to the festival.