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?