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?