Tuesday, April 22, 2014

When I pray for Ukraine, I am praying for Olga and Tonya

Tonya and Olga, at Tonya's Farm
Lunch with friends at Olga's, after I broke my arm. 


Whenever I saw Olga and Tonya, best friends, riding their bikes up the road, around Lenin Park, through the University, I fairly jumped for joy.  I knew we would have good conversations, updates on what's happening, happy times. We shared news and ideas, made project plans, visited friends at the Cultural Center, the craft fairs, the market.

These kids were fantastic.  Really, kids are the same everywhere.  
Olga and Tonya were French teachers. Olga was doing private tutoring, after several years teaching in France and in Starobelsk, her hometown. She's a community activist and I met her through her work with the human rights NGO Victoria. Tonya, born outside of Kyiv, taught at Korychevka school, on the outskirts of Starobelsk. She also farms and sells her produce in town. One day, she invited me to school to meet her kids; Olga got me a ride there. We were greeted at the door with Ukrainian welcome bread (Korovai, I think it's transliterated), and the kids, some in native dress, performed traditional songs.
Dr. Tonya, who played piano; Elena the voice teacher;
Alosha , her student who was also learning guitar. Incredible talent.
Olga and Tonya introduced me to lots of people, took me to lots of places, taught me about Ukrainian
culture, holidays and traditions. I accompanied Olga to a Krishenia dunk in the icy Aydar river in the dead of winter.  She introduced me to Marfa, a master embroiderer.  We had wonderful meals with many friends like Elena, voice teacher, and Dr. Natalia and her gifted son Alosha (who brought his guitar and sang at English club meetings). Olga helped connect me to Camp Sosnovy, where the kids' curiosity came through.  Olga and Tonya were big supporters of the English Club,  along with Natalia Dohadailo's English students at the university.


Olga was my tour guide on many walks through Starobelsk neighborhoods, able to tell me about the architecture and history of buildings, hidden treasures and hidden terrors, community schools and churches, stories about the Holodomor and WWII.

The idea of a Starobelsk calendar featuring the best of Starobelsk's built and natural environment was born on one of these walks.  I made sure it happened, with the help of Nikolay Molozhon, graphic designer, and others, because I wanted to leave behind a momento of the "sense of place" I had developed in Starobelsk, a booster for the town that everyone who lived there took for granted. Often they saw only the ugliness, but I also saw the beauty.

A highlight of our time together was a train trip to the Carpathian mountains and western Ukraine.  We went to places like Slavsky, Skole, Sokal, and Mookacheva, and since we were nearby, toured Lviv and environs. Glorious! We were quite the quartet: Olga and Tonya, me and Olga's niece Julia, a young woman from Russia who lived with her husband in a small town in the Ural mountains. I was the first American Julia had met.

Our common humanity bound us together as if we had known each other forever.  It transcended every barrier. The four of us became absorbed in a beautiful part of Ukraine, touring pretty towns and meeting the most amazing people, all through Olga's incredible connections across Ukraine--cultural ambassadors, a survivor of the gulags, the head of a modern dairy and seed farm, the mayor of Sokol, the directors of a cultural center, artists. musicians, and a famous sculptor, Ivan Brondi, who we just happened to bump into in the lovely town of Mookacheva.

Stefa and Olga with Ukrainian wreath
In Lviv we stayed with Olga's friends Stefa and Bogdan, who shared fantastic meals and regaled us with Ukrainian songs. They belonged to a chorus and knew them all.  Stefa was a member of Women of Ukraine, as was Olga, and I joined them at a special meeting to which they had invited a well-known bandura player. After that we went on a walking tour of Lviv, a fabulous city, ending the day at the Opera House. My heart swelled with gratitude. Stefa still lives in Vinnetsia, a Lviv suburb, but dear Bogdan has died. I think of them all the time.

Olga was also my tour guide on a trip to Prague and surrounding
towns.  It was a long trip by train and bus from Starobelsk, including a six-hour wait at the border. But stunning Prague was worth every effort. Olga was an expert, connected us to a small tour with a terrific guide, and  took me all around the town, up and down the hills, over the bridge, into the city center. She knew how to travel on a budget, and I did the same.  I think the only thing I bought was a little magnet!

Closer to home, I remember a bike trip to Tonya's farm.  I think it was about 5 miles from town, and I told Olga I wasn't sure I could bike it. You can do it; short trip! Ах, да, вы можете сделать это. Это в нескольких минутах езды велосипед. It was certainly the best way to see the countryside, which made the bike ride seem shorter.  At Tonya's, we walked about the farm, enjoyed a delicious lunch, got to know her chickens and pigs. Yes, those cute little pigs, who became our dinner a few months later. When Tonya and her husband came into town with the fresh meat, the neighbors of Natalia on Kyrova, where I was then staying, lined up, apparently an annual tradition. Natalia is a beautiful, generous and kind person who made me feel at home on Kyrova, right in the center of town. She now lives in Kyiv, closer to her 4 grown kids and her grandkids.

Olga and Tonya made me feel special in sharing their love of country on so many different levels.   They made Ukraine come alive.  They infused the journey with purpose and meaning. They embody everything that is wonderful and good about Ukraine. I will always remember.  Я всегда буду помнить.

A poem for Olga and Tonya, and for Stefa and Bogdan  
Bogdan died not long after I left Ukraine. Such a fabulous, talented man, whose spirit Stefa shared, and keeps alive. Stefa has a daughter and grandkids in NYC but can't get a visa to visit them.  They were among the many people I met, from the east to the west, who embody the essence of Ukrainian history, culture and traditions.   

Може, і пісня з вітром ходитиме, 
дійде до серця, серце палатиме;
може й бандуру ще хто учує,
й серце заниє і затоскує...
І бандуру і мене 
козаченько спом'яне...

АМБРОСІЙ МЕТЛИНСЬКИЙ (1814-1870)

Perhaps my song will dance with the wind,
and touch someone's heart, and set it afire;
perhaps someone will still hear the bandura,
and his heart will ache, and yearn...
And a young cossack will remember
both me and my bandura...

Ambrosij Metlynskiy (1814-1870)



Thursday, April 17, 2014

When I pray for Ukraine, I am praying for Luba




Luba's house and garden in spring.
One of the most wonderful things about being assigned to Starobelsk, in far-eastern Ukraine, was living with Luba on Panfelova road.  Luba had a pretty house and a fabulous garden, both meticulously and lovingly maintained.  She worked long hours as an accountant at a gas station company, then came home and worked in her garden until dark.  She'd stop every now and then to check whatever she was cooking on the stove for dinner or for the next day or for the preservation of the food that she stored for winter in her basement (a never-ending process).  She'd pop in and out of the house with fresh herbs, tomatoes, onions and cucumbers, or bunches of strawberries and raspberries. She absolutely loved working in her garden best of all.  Я люблю его.

She was the best cook in Starobelsk! Fresh food, fresh produce, a variety of wonderful salads.  Egg salad, beet salad, carrot salad, potato salad.  She had chickens, so we had fresh eggs.  She made all kinds of what I called "salsas" (she laughed), mixtures of finely chopped and slow-cooked vegetables with tomatoes, onions, eggplant, carrots, and whatever else she picked from her garden. She blended them all together to create the best tasting condiments and relishes in the world.  Her soups were amazing, too, especially her Borscht.  I loved her vereneky.

She made Ukrainian Paska bread for Easter, nасха хлеб, and colored hard-boiled eggs dark red. She'd put them all into a nice basket, with a small bottle of vodka, and we walked to the church to have them blessed by the priest with willows and water. We had a great meal afterwards, I can tell you that.

Her table always looked lovely, with nice linen and china and fresh flowers. Luba was an extrovert, funny and.gregarious; she laughed easily.  She loved cooking for family and friends. She'd often get me out of bed at 9:00 or 10:00 pm and force me to join her friends for a late dinner and lots of toasts.

Oh no Luba, I can't do it.  Yes, you can,and you will.  Come on.  О нет, Люба. Я читаю. Я иду спать. Да вы можете и вы. Пойдем со мной сейчас.  It was always interesting, even if I couldn't join in the animated conversations.  Usually her dear friend Iryna was there, and Luda, Tonya, and neighbors and friends I met at the market or in town.  We tried to talk, with limited success and to her frustration, and mine. I always made the tea and brought out the cookies. чай и печенье  I was often uncomfortable,because of the language barrier, but these remain memorable moments.

One spring day I heard a scream from her garden.  Luba had gotten a phone call that changed her life forever, a tragedy involving a son.  I never got all the details, but I understood a mother's broken heart.  I heard her crying at night. A mother's grief.  I poured over the Russian-English dictionary to learn a few phrases of comfort.  It will be okay, Luba.  God is with you.  He will stay with you. He will give you strength. We all pray for you. Все будет хорошо, Люба. Бог с вами. Он останется с вами. Он даст вам силы. Мы все молимся за вас  I went to church with her.  She found solace in working in her garden, but even that took some time. Friends came and stayed with her.  A strong woman, Luba survived day by day, doing what she had to do.  She found some reason to keep going in her grandchildren, her friends, her cooking, the meals she loved to share.  She made me put on my winter clothes one cold day and prodded Iryna, her grandson and me outside to go sledding. She grabbed a colorful duster and the sled, and made it fun.  A part of her was always the exuberant Luba who loved life; a part of her was never the same.

I will always remember how she opened her home and her heart to a stranger. How she welcomed this Amerikanka on a journey into the unknown.  How she showed me around the town and helped me get from here to there.  How she shared her house, her food, her life, and made me part of her family and community. How she invited me on a joyous holiday with friends in Berdyansk on the beaches of the Azov sea.  How I wore my first bikini, which she insisted I must have.  How she helped me buy a bike and got me going (she was a whiz on hers).  How she made sure I looked okay when I walked out the door, covered my head in winter and wore skirts to meetings in the summer. How she fed me and regaled me with stories, whether I understood them or not.

It was hard to say goodbye. I will always remember. Прощай, дорогой друг. Я всегда буду помнить.
For me, Luba is eastern Ukraine.  When I pray for Ukraine, I am praying for Luba, and for all the wonderful people I met on my Peace Corps journey.
This is eastern Ukraine, the Starobelsk I remember: Luba's house and Panfelova road, upper and lower right; scenes from downtown, the library, the university,, the House of Culture (Christmas tree going up in front of it)  Lenin park and a little church nearby; interior of St. Nicolas cathedral. 




Monday, April 14, 2014

A Relic of the Past: Revanchism and Putin in Ukraine

AP story, April 13, 2014 (Yahoo). 
Yahoo images
The news coming out of eastern Ukraine gets worse and worse.  I asked my friend Yuliya, who is from Starobelsk, what she thought.  She worked with an outstanding Lugansk NGO when I was in Ukraine and is now studying in Boston, a lucky thing. “Looks like the Crimea scenario,” she said.  Russia will occupy, invade, and hold referendums to annex. There are armed men and thugs in government buildings, on rooftops, hoisting the Russian flag. Now there is violence and murder, and it will increase.    

I feel more and more hopeless, which is driving me to become more and more stoic, just like Ukrainians in the face of disaster.  What can you do?  The unrest is too deep.  The failures of the national government since independence in 1991 to serve the needs of the people too mired in corruption.  The intrusions, provocations and violence sponsored by Russia too damaging, insistent, and becoming entrenched. Russia has mastered the art of covert disruption and intervention and Putin’s 12-step program is working.  The Crimea Scenario.

The Civil War has begun, and there’s nothing anyone, any nation, can do about it.   Who wants another war? How can the EU impose the kinds of economic sanctions needed against Russia when they go against Europe’s own self-interest? How will US saber-rattling, such as re-positioning the navy, change anything? So western nations at the UN line up to condemn Putin's actions. So what? They finally see what's really going on, and can do nothing.   Putin knows this, delights in it, and will keep on implementing his 12-step program for the greater good of the Motherland. 

Russia will take over Ukraine bit by bit, town by town, oblast (county) by oblast.  My closest Ukrainian friends will be my new Russian friends.

That’s  how it looks now. The only positive thing to which I cling is that I don’t think the younger generations will stand for it forever.  But "forever" is a long time.

The Russian-induced and orchestrated crisis in Ukraine will play out, maybe past my time.  One day, some day, the dreams of a United Ukraine might emerge from the ashes of Russian imperialist intervention and the dustbin of Russian history.    

And it is the dustbin of Russian history that Putin is stirring up.  It’s odd. Putin’s language, posturing and behavior, his way of thinking, is from another time, another era. My sister Andy pointed this out.  Maybe a 19th century “law of the jungle” attitude, as German chancellor Angela Merkel put it.  Or a Post-World War II and 1950s Cold War mentality. All hail to Russia's "Sphere of Influence."  No matter that "spheres of influence" have changed and continue to change drastically in a super-interconnected, wired world dominated by economic inter-relationships. 

Even George W. Bush wondered about a man who made fun of his little dog and insisted his  dog was bigger, better and stronger, a stance, Bush said, that motivated his very fine portrait of Putin. "Mine is bigger than yours." 

Putin is just not “with it," not open or tolerant; not contemporary in his thinking and not wise in the ways of a changing world;  not fully cognizant of the role of technology in opening up and uniting the planet; unable to reform the economic system he created and that is failing;  incapable of seizing opportunities for economic growth, civil society, and modernization.    

Putin’s vision is dated, like that of the old apparatchiks  that now surround him and want to try Gorbachev for treason.  Putin’s vision stands on military might, not economic might for the 21st century, a concept that China grasps instinctively and that is powering its economic growth. 

Putin has an old and clouded vision, shrouded in ancient and past illusions, in perceived slights and historic offenses.  He wants some form of retaliation, revenge, redress for past wrongs.  Revanchism, as Robin Niblett called it in a special report to CNN (April 12, 2014). 

Putin is not a man of his times.  He’s a man from another time. Someone who has not grown in the largest meaning of the word.  A Luddite and naysayer.   A relic of the past.

No wonder a much younger president Obama, a man of the 21st century, doesn’t understand him.  

Meanwhile, the tragedy unfolds. 



Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ukraine On Edge




"What we see from Russia is an illegal and illegitimate effort to destabilize a sovereign state and create a contrived crisis with paid operatives across an international boundary," Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee . . . . Kerry called the demonstrations in eastern Ukraine a "contrived pretext for military intervention just as we saw in Crimea."

Jud's sunflower weeping
The mess in Ukraine today, with Crimea annexed and Russian troops on the eastern border, reflects in part the failure of Ukrainian governments, since 1991, to meet the needs of the people. 

The Yanokovich regime is the tip of the iceberg of corruption, injustice, lack of transparency, and lack of progress on the economic and social fronts.  Yanokovich ran off with billions of dollars he stole from the Ukrainian people; so did his son, and his justice minister, and his secretary of state, and most of his cronies. Billions. Money for roads, transportation, social services, jobs.   The will of the people and the Common Good be damned.

The Ukrainian people, across oblasts, west and east of the Dnieper, have had it.  They are sick of injustice.  They are sick of a bribery system of economic development, where, among other things, high taxes are imposed on small businesses, unless they can pay a bribe.  My friends Luba and Iryna in Starobelsk are victims of this system.  They are sick of top-down policies in which citizens have no say, and the Parliament is a joke.  Humor helps, but it drips with sarcasm. They are sick of the lack of jobs and opportunity. They are sick of human rights abuses.  They are sick of all these things, and the day-to-day struggle for survival, and especially in the face of rampant corruption whereby elected officials enrich themselves shamelessly at their expense.     It's been a long and painful transition since 1991, and it has gotten worse instead of better. 

This is why the Yanokovich government in Kyiv was toppled. 

Not because Nazis, fascists and super-right patriots caused trouble, but because the Ukrainian people themselves, ordinary people of all backgrounds and ages, acted on their pent-up rage and anger in the face of such obscene corruption.  

New York Times
The failure of Ukrainian social and economic policies (if they ever existed for the good of the many) created the unrest that led to protests in Kyiv’s Independence (Mayden) Square.   The EU issue was secondary, and became more so as protests grew. 

The Ukrainians are a patient people pushed over the top.   

Putin seized the opportunity.  He inserted himself onto the Ukrainian scene like some superman and made the situation worse.  In Kyiv, Russian-paid provocateurs, armed “special forces” and thugs deliberately provoked violence and whipped up the crowds.  It resulted in the deaths of over 20 protesters and many more injured.  At the same time, Putin moved into Crimea, implementing a stealth propaganda campaign, sending in unidentified armed forces and “security” people, ramping up nationalistic slogans and the emotions of Russian-speaking people, then invading and annexing through a trumped-up referendum.  It worked.  Many of us, with friends in Crimea, having experienced its beauty and special flavor, watched in horror.   

Putin is using the same strategies out of the same playbook in the rest of Ukraine, taking a bite out of the country bit by bit, as John Kerry and the Obama administration now realize.  

Sure there are some people born when Ukraine was a Soviet Socialist Republic, who might prefer the old days and the old ways. Babushkas. Grandparents and great-grandparents.  There is a generational divide, but it's not consistent. Mayden was full of older Ukrainians, people of all ages. But those with a nostalgic inclination toward returning to Russia are not the majority. Many of them remember the Holodomor, an enforced starvation, and the Stalin purges. Many have relatives or know of people sent to the gulags--writers, artists and intellectuals.  

Ukraine is a large and diverse country. It is beautiful, it’s plains and farmland, its fields and mountains.  Its industrial cities are a mix of ugly Soviet-style buildings and factories and historic architecture and parks.  It is full of art galleries and museums, theaters and opera houses. The smaller white homes with green or blue shutters that dot the Ukrainian landscape have beautiful and bountiful gardens.  Even among the Soviet apartment buildings, people plant lilac bushes and flowers. Newer shops, book stores, cafes, and gathering places add sparkle and an upbeat modern feeling. The Ukrainians I knew actually loved MacDonald's; it was a favorite meeting place. Of course there are plenty of indigenous restaurants and businesses, too, along with colorful markets where people sell fresh produce and crafts and everyday items.  I especially loved the markets, in every town I visited.

Ukraine is not a backwater, although it would certainly benefit by putting thousands of people to work building roads and strengthening infrastructure.  The money for these projects went into the pockets of the few, like Yanokovitch. Stolen. 

Most of the country is wired.  Everyone has cell phones.  More and more people have access to the internet, access to knowledge, access to what’s happening in the world. Even in small towns and villages. They google and research, read international news and newspapers.  The people are educated, talented, thoughtful, contemporary in their outlook.  They are not stupid puppets; they know about censorship; they are aware of media accessibility issues; they communicate online and are good at using social media.                 

The majority of Russian-speaking Ukrainians understand that they are citizens of an evolving independent country with great potential.  They are aware of its problems, and gripe about it, but they are also aware of the possibilities. The people born in Ukraine since 1991, and 10-20 years before that, are emerging leaders in local communities across the country, and so are many of their parents. They lead NGOS, a new sector in post-Soviet societies.  The NGOs are serving the public interests and addressing many urgent social needs: poverty, HIV/Aids education and prevention, human rights abuses, elders and orphans, transparency in local government.  These are the NGOs that Putin has attacked as being "the shock troops" of fascist protests in Kyiv and elsewhere in Ukraine. Many friends in Lugansk and in eastern Ukraine are in danger because of this.   I worry about stunning Odessa and the southern regions nearer Crimea, too.
The Amerikanka with friends on the street, in Starobelsk.

Maybe if the world saw Ukraine through a different lens, not defined by Putin or those he thrusts before cameras, but by the people themselves, there would be more interest in its well-being.   I lived in Ukraine for two years, in the east, near Lugansk, not far from Donetsk and Khargiv.  I know something of its greatness, its indigenous culture (always under attack), its complexity, its kind and generous people most of all.  That’s why I’ve been ranting about what’s happening in Ukraine since Mayden.  If only my brother Loren were here now, he would urge me on, rant with me. 

It’s a helpless feeling knowing that the country I came to love, and many friends, are in danger.   

It was heartbreaking to watch the Russian takeover of Crimea. 

It is heartbreaking to learn what is happening there now, thousands of people leaving everything behind and moving North. My friend Serdar left to finish medical school in Lviv. Crimean Tatars are leaving in fear, remembering their expulsion by Stalin, their shattered dream of returning to their homeland. Others are leaving because they want "to live as Ukrainians, in peace." This in itself is becoming a huge problem, a refugee problem, and it is slowly making the news, making the headlines. 

It's frustrating, because it takes a while for the media to catch up with the realities on the ground, realities which friends share everyday on facebook and emails, social media and skype. We know, some of us, and can do nothing.  

So I will continue to rant because it's all I can do. 


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Putin's 12-Step Program for Taking Over Another Country

yahoo image, www,blesk.cz
Vladimir Putin has created a 12-step program for modern conquerors, a step-by-step guide to invading, occupying and annexing another country or parts of it.   

This "Twelve Steps to Conquer" is a good starting point for any supermen out there who would like to flex their muscles, stop being pansies, and learn to love war.  

The main purpose is to get people to admit they are powerless over invasion, that their lives have become unmanageable, and that they should turn their will and their country over to the conqueror. 

The 12-steps:  
1) Take advantage of any signs of the yearning for self-determination. An example is the protests that took place in Kyiv's Mayden after the Yanukovich regime passed laws denying citizens' rights to protest,etcetcetc. This is your opportunity to exploit unrest, and make it worse. Have your eyes on a prize. Step right in.  Go for it. 

2) Send in provocateurs. These can be mercenaries, Cossacks, local motorcycle gangs, anyone who would welcome a fight, a shot of vodka, or a few rubles to go out and create disturbances in the street, pick fights, start violent confrontations, and the like. Give them lots of your country's flags and slogans (good to wave in front of cameras).  
  
3) Stifle the media, by intimidation, blocking TV outlets, shutting off contacts. Silence (your choice) a few journalists. Start in your own country; slowly escalate and expand.  Don't worry about the internet and social media. These 12 steps are designed to circumvent their influence.

4) Keep talking about fascists and Neo-Nazis taking over and destabilizing elected governments. It doesn't matter if these accusations are true or not. Just make them. If presidents and officials must flee their countries for their own safety, welcome them in yours. Make sure they bring their bilions with them. 
A mural in Simferopol, a fine example of good PR. 

5) This is a good time to ramp up the Newspeak: Neo-fascists force out good leaders; war is peace; invasion is safety; occupation is freedom. Keep at it. 

6) Send in the troops. Don't be too obvious at first. Initial contingents should have no insignias, no overt IDs. They are simply armed people with dark glasses, assault weapons, and preferably dark green uniforms. This will fool the media. They will report that "There are people here with weapons but we don't know who they are." Take it from me, this works. 

7) Keep sending in more troops, until you get up to about 30,000. In addition, welcome malcontents or gangs who like guns to patrol roads. They are undisciplined and unpredictable, which is a good scare tactic. Under this cloud of confusion, aided by the media, position your troops to block roads and access routes, cut off communications, and take over government buildings. Cruise neighborhoods where known opponents live. Don't shoot. Intimidate. Your aim is a peaceful (orchestrated) change. The media will note that the place is being taken over without a shot. By then it is too late. You're in. 

8) Take strong advantage as you implement these steps of the people who are for you. Again, the example is Crimea, where it was easy to whip up pro-Russian sentiment. Really wind them up. Encourage public demonstrations. Have those flags and slogans ready. It will look like a Beatles concert. 

9) Now is the time to take over the local government. Install a new president and parliament.  By this time, local officials see the writing on the wall, realize the support the invaders have in their own country, and do your bidding. Here's is where you script their invitation to invade their country.  

10) Now you are on a roll. The people are inviting you to come in and take over. How can you turn away? You have established a need and justification for the fait accompli, the occupation.  All this can take place in a matter of weeks, not months.
This is what a good vote looks like. 

 11) Okay. Good work.  Now you have these local puppets stage a referendum for annexation. That's right. You stage a vote. Your own Parliament approves this action, and helps design the ballot. The only option is "yes to annex." You can add another "yes" column to give the illusion of a democrative vote, if that makes you feel better. Meanwhile, ensure that only supporters vote. Intimidate opposition. Mark their houses. Remind them of "the power of the state" to retaliate and deport. In Crimea this worked well against the Tatars, as well as ethnic Ukrainians. Scare the hell out of them, and the press. This won't be hard if you've done a good job with the first 10 steps. 

12) You have engineered a 100% vote for annexation. Congratulations. The people have voted, and they "welcome you with flowers." The press will report that 100% of all the people voted for annexation, when in fact it was 100% of those who voted (you can always tweak the facts). Ignore threats from America and other countries, by the way, because their outrage is no match for your brilliant execution of these 12 steps. 

Now you are set to take over more territory, even a whole country, city by city by city. You can strengthen this goal by ensuring your Parliament passes a law that "authorizes" your country "to annex territories of countries where central authority has collapsed and the local population expresses a desire to secede."  The fact that you have orchestrated this outcome is what makes this 12-step program so successful. 








Monday, March 17, 2014

Crimea Vote Reflects Orchestrated Takeover

My friend Suz said it best: What I don't get is why the media headlines are screamng "Crimeans Vote to Join Russia," when the rest of the articles go on to say that it's all fake and illegal.  So why bury the true story? Why don't the headlines say words to the effect: Crimea Vote is Fake, Vote to Annex to Russia Orchestrated Takeover, Crimea Vote Illegal.    

Jud's sunflower weeping. . 
Right.  What a farce.  This vote does not reflect the will of the people. It reflects the will of Putin.

The media once again gives a wrong impression.  They might get to the truth eventually, but why hide it in paragraph 3 or 4, or at the bottom of the story? Why bury the main story?  Most people read only the headlines, and then form strong opinions. Someone messaged me to more or less shut up: The people have voted. Get over it.

A "vote" at the barrel of a gun. 30,000 Russian troops, militia, and thugs.  A  fake "referendum" with only yes and yes options, followed by a well-organized propaganda celebration, at which the Russians excel.

What happens next? What will happen to the people of Crimea? To the Crimean Tatars. To the ethnic Ukrainians and others who oppose Russian occupation and annexation, but whose voices were silenced?

Putin has his eyes on Ukraine, and he is executing his successful plan in other places:  Take over Ukraine city by city by city, starting in the east and south.  And oh yeah, be sure the Russian Parliament passes a law saying it's necessary to  occupy and annex territories where local governments are in disarray and the people want to join Russia.  That's supposed to happen on 21 March.










Saturday, March 15, 2014

On the Eve of Russia's Enforced Annexation of Crimea

EuroMayden image
It's the eve of the Russian-imposed "referendum" in Crimea.  Beautiful, wonderful, fantastic Crimea. I feel like a character in Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot," like Vladimir and Estrogon, waiting without end, in vain, for God knows what. But an axe is about to drop, a bomb is about to explode, a tragedy is unfolding, and there's nothing we can do.  

Russia's language, action, and posturing about its take-over of Crimea, Ukraine, evokes anger and fear, memories of the mass Crimean Tatar deportation in the dead of one dark and terrifying night, and shades of surreal Cold War propaganda.   

So we have Vladimir Putin and his cronies talking about "self-determination" while sending some 30,000 troops to Crimea.  Russia has taken over Crimea's parliament, government buildings, army bases, towns, and neighborhoods; it has physically blocked Black Sea access, as well as communications and transportation into and out of the pennisula.  It is doing all of this in the name of freedom.  
"Strongman Putin Playing a "short game on Ukraine," AFP article by
Luc Perrot; photo of mural in SImferopol by Flippo Monteforte, 15 March 2014.

Russia is "allowing" Crimeans the option of voting yes or yes to join Russia.  It continues to block international monitors; meddle with the media; stifle dissent by force; and claim it is offering free elections, freedom of choice.  Putin is shamelessly using the language of democracy to justify invasion, occupation, and annexation.  


It's the Theatre of the Absurd but not on a stage, in real life. Playing with language, in a Joseph Heller "Catch 22"  and George Orwell "1984" sort of way. It turns the truth on its head, and calls it lies. It tells lies, and calls it truth.  It's "Newspeak."  It's ironic, sarcastic, ludicrous, outrageous.

The West of course is not immune to the same antics: Fighting wars for democracy when in reality we are fighting for oil, to take one example.  Putin is shoving it in our faces, rubbing it in, I think with glee.  I didn't realize how much he hated America and our current president, or how deep his vision of a Russian economic union. He's long had his eyes on Ukraine, his eyes on the prize.  And the opportunity presented itself, as it were. Putin's calculated invasion, his cold indifference to American and European opinion, his bold occupation, are having the effect he wants. He is not going to back down.   He is a master conductor. 
yahoo image.  Putin is not going to STOP.
He has brilliantly, one might say, created a situation in which violating the territorial integriy of Ukraine is justified. He invaded Ukraine in order to save it. Save it? Yes, save it from the "neo-Nazis" overunning Kyiv after Yanukovich fled to Russia. Putin the superhero is not invading anything or breaking international laws. He is saving Crimea and helping Ukraine. He doesn't say it, but Yanukovich made a mess of it.  On the other hand, Yanukovich also created the setting for Putin's latest absurdity.  Putin walked right into it, and made it his own.

Most nations, and of course most Ukrainians and Russians themselves, see right through this.  They say they won't recognize the results of a "referendum" Putin has orchestrated in Crimea, ensuring and enforcing its outcome at the point of many guns.  But Putin is playing this card for all it's worth.  And for him, it's a win. 

Crimea will turn itself over to him, in this scenario, and he will embrace it.  The consequences be damned.  
Jud's Ukrainian Sunflower made sadder.

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