Recent local blog posts

Arrington de Dionysio at Austin Psych Fest and art opening at Las Cruxes!

K Records - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 5:03pm
Las Cruxes Presents Arrington de Dionyso, ‘Dream You/Dreamed Me’ Exhibition April 7 – May 2, 2014 ‘Dream You/Dreamed Me’ is inspired in part by a short story by Jorge Luis Borges, “The Circular Ruins” dealing with idealism and the manifestation of dreams into reality, and the immortal nature of the creative process. The human/beast hybrid […]
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

KAOS Live Drive-A-Thon

OlyBlog Home Page - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 4:33pm
Event:  Thu, 04/10/2014 - 8:00pm - 11:00pm

kaos live drive-a-thon on april 10

 

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Fighting Over Beverley

OlyBlog Home Page - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 11:44am
Event:  Sun, 05/04/2014 - 2:00pm - 4:30pm

A love triangle between three septuagenarians begins when Beverley's ex-fiance Archie arrives unannounced at her Gloucester home. He intends to marry her and take her to England with him. The catch? She's still married to Zelly, the Yank she left him for at the end of World War II. "He's had you for 53 years," Archie claims, "Enough is enough."

WHEN:            May 1 – May 24 2014, Thursdays-Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 2:00 PM

WHERE:          The Historic State Theater, 202 4th Ave E, downtown Olympia

PRICE:            General: $31, Senior/Military: $28, Student/Youth: $20

Rush tickets available at Box Office ½ hour before curtain

SPECIALS:     Pay What You Can: May 7, Ladies’ Night Out: May 9, Pride Night: May 16

TICKETS:       Call for tickets and info: 360-786-0151 or visit www.harlequinproductions.org

 

 

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Fighting Over Beverley

OlyBlog Home Page - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 11:41am
Event:  Thu, 05/01/2014 - 8:00pm - 10:30pm

A love triangle between three septuagenarians begins when Beverley's ex-fiance Archie arrives unannounced at her Gloucester home. He intends to marry her and take her to England with him. The catch? She's still married to Zelly, the Yank she left him for at the end of World War II. "He's had you for 53 years," Archie claims, "Enough is enough."

WHEN:            May 1 – May 24 2014, Thursdays-Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 2:00 PM

WHERE:          The Historic State Theater, 202 4th Ave E, downtown Olympia

PRICE:            General: $31, Senior/Military: $28, Student/Youth: $20

Rush tickets available at Box Office ½ hour before curtain

SPECIALS:     Pay What You Can: May 7, Ladies’ Night Out: May 9, Pride Night: May 16

TICKETS:       Call for tickets and info: 360-786-0151 or visit www.harlequinproductions.org

 

 

 

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OlyBlog Home Page - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 11:41am
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Nick Adams, Author of The Uncivil War: Battle in the Classroom

OlyBlog Home Page - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 10:38am
Event:  Fri, 04/11/2014 - 7:00pm

Orca Books is delighted to welcome Lakewood author Nick K. Adams to the store.  Nick will be presenting his book The Uncivil War: Battle in the Classroom, a novel set in a modern day classroom in which students are encouraged to look for ancestors who were involved in some way in the American Civil War.  He will be giving his presentation in the period dress of Minnesota's 1861 governor, Alexander Ramsey, who sent Nick's great-great-grandfather off to war, and the presentation will be mostly from Ramsey’s perspective.

This presentation is FREE and open to the public. Orca Books is located in downtown Olympia at 509 4th Ave E.

Nick Adams is a retired elementary school teacher who lives in Lakewood, Washington with his wife, Carolyn Stover Modarelli-Adams, who created the interior artwork and cover design for The Uncivil War. He continues to research and write about the Civil War, volunteers as a CASA at Juvenile Court, and enjoys performing professionally as a storyteller.

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C&C Astrology* Factory 4-9-14

Olympia Power & Light - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 9:00am
(Correlation & Causation) When god, free will, and happenstance are busy, they call me: John Swamini**   Aries (Mar 21-Apr 19) It’s time to pamper yourself like an active baby....

Letters 4-9-14

Olympia Power & Light - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 9:00am
Dear OP&L, Paul Pickett’s article on the labor dispute at the county was terrific. His analysis of the County Commissioners’ positions on the issue of outsourcing the custodial positions at...

A new day for the Midnight Sun

Olympia Power & Light - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 9:00am
It happened quickly and quietly: Theater Artists Olympia (TAO) has taken over management of The Midnight Sun performance space. This landmark venue has been operating since 1993 and provided local...

The Meaning of Wood art exhibit opens at SPSCC

Olympia Power & Light - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 9:00am
Olympia serves as the next stop for an art exhibition with a few hundred board feet of regional relevance, The Meaning of Wood. Suze Woolf, the Seattle artist who brought...

The greenest investment you’ll make this year

Olympia Power & Light - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 9:00am
Cecelia Watkins, FIG Coordinator, GRuB (Garden Raised Bounty) The large room is full of people, standing and sitting, some with hands in pockets and others holding gently onto their kids. A...

New Biz Oly: Olympia Veterinary Cancer Center

Olympia Power & Light - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 9:00am
Introducing you to new locally-owned businesses.. Olympia Veterinary Cancer Center   Dr. Lisa Parshley is one of only 480 practitioners worldwide in the field of animal cancer treatment. And she’s...

Editorial: Downtown housing is a good thing, people!

Olympia Power & Light - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 9:00am
The one thing that would most help downtown Olympia right now is more people being there everyday. More people shopping, eating, drinking, making art, enjoying a show, or just walking...

Why did Olympia Planning Commissioners hold secret meetings with developers?

Olympia Power & Light - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 9:00am
…And why do they think it’s no big deal?  Members of the Olympia Planning Commission and their critics exchanged sharp words in recent weeks, after the public learned that commissioners...

I Guess You Can Call it "Work"

Mojourner Truth - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 11:16pm
Call it Shooting Star, Dodecatheon, or Curlew's Beak, it's blooming this week
Monday, 5:15 AM.  The alarm on my phone buzzes, ending the fantasy that my wake-state could be followed by more shut-eye. There's but a single working clock in the house--definitely not in my room--but it seems like on the rare occasions when I set the alarm, my body gets a jump on the electronics. Maybe because it's usually prelude to fieldwork, and I love fieldwork.

6:26 finds me on the road, half a pot of coffee in my belly, and the other half in various travel vessels. I used to hate driving, but back then a trip of any length involved Interstate 95, too many lanes, and essentially no variation in the scenery: shrinking forest, burgeoning burbs, and Cracker Barrels. Today, I face a couple hundred miles of I-90, but it will rise into grand stands of conifers, pass through snowy crags, descend into elks among pines, wind through smaller hills, blow past windmills and orchards, shoot along fields, and finally let me exit into a forgotten town just in time for lunch. Then, from arterial to lateral to a gravelly capillary, not another vehicle in sight.

12:12 PM, and I am standing by the women who planned the project and will operate the machinery. My job is to watch and see if any archaeology turns up. Monitoring, as this work is called, is an exercise in bi-polarity, similar to descriptions I've read about being a soldier at war. Mostly nothing (or worse yet, senseless fulfilling of duties with no plausible reward), and then MAYHEM! No incoming artillery for the archaeological monitor, just the skull rolling off the excavator bucket, and the prospect of being universally reviled while trying to navigate a path that will satisfy interests deeply at odds.

2:02 PM rolls around, and it's clear that this project will only have the monotony pole. They're digging through what turns out to be silt dug out of roadside ditches and dumped here, and will never get down to the original soil. I decide to go walkabout and check out what I can of the 1 square mile of property.

4:24 in the afternoon, and by all rights I could knock off and head for the hotel, having turned in more than the 8 hours I'm supposed to. But I keep walking. I've already recorded one site--just a collection of 100-year-old trash, but something beats nothing--and feel like walking further. So I meander out toward where a 19th Century map said there was a wagon road. Plenty of daylight left, and this far from Olympia, I am loathe to stop. Who knows when I'll be here again?

6:36, in what even in the post-Equinox period must be considered evening. Besides flushing out a coyote (every outcrop in this place has the gnawed bones of some creature eaten by a coyote, along with a celebratory poop), I found a site that seems to have been a rest stop on the wagon road. Bottles of booze and medicine (i.e., booze with an excuse), cans capped with solder, tobacco tins, and so on. The older the glass in the Northwest, the prettier: aqua with bubbles of 19th Century breath and air, once-clear glass tinted purple by the marriage of sunbeams and manganese.

7:27 PM, and I'm nearly back to the truck, having noted an oddly elaborate fence post and a culvert passing beneath an old rail grade along the way. Normally, there is nothing less fascinating than a culvert, but in this case, it was made with a beautifully glazed terra cotta pipe, frags of which I'd seen before dumped at the depot. Wondering what the hell that fine pipe was doing out here had been bugging me for the past couple of weeks, and now I know. The Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul railway did not skimp, even out here near the end of a decidedly minor capillary. Plus, this culvert seems like a nice den for some critter, and I am a big fan of the reversion of civilization to wildness. [Oh, and I did have time to check out the monitoring site, confirming that it would have been a waste of time to stay put.]

8:38, and it's pretty much dark. I've driven to the hotel (40 more miles of driving this day), and am in search of food. The options in Moses Lake for late dining are limited, and I end up at Safeway. Besides dinner, I now have tomorrow's lunch and some beer, in case I am awake enough to drink it when I get back to the hotel.

9:36 PM. I should be asleep, but instead I stay conscious for a while longer. I call the kids and learn about their day, enumerate the animals I have seen. No writing, but I check out my sister's blog. I even watch some TV, an exotic experience, and luck out with an episode of South Park about Haoles and "Native" Hawaiians. Yes, it is late and I am loopy, but it's hilarious, even though I forgot to drink the beer.

11:11 PM (plus or minus). I close my eyes and drift off, meadowlark song echoes in my ears, visions of purple glass and lines of shorn wheat on my lids.
So, that's one day, much abridged. Lots of driving with sub-par radio choices. Lots of walking while being whipped by winds carrying grit. Easily more than 12 hours of "work," but nothing I would change. I saw a lot, got to know some new ground as you only can at walking pace, and didn't have to deal with any monitoring emerencies. From my employer's perspective, I managed risk and kept them legal. For me, though, it was mostly fun.

I'm still amazed that I ended up this way, doing what I do. It's tempting to take credit and claim it was all the plan, but there are any number of junctures at which random chance changed my career path. The most I did was recognize the right times to pounce on opportunities. And now, whatever time of day, I find myself pretty happy with what I do for a living.

April 2014 (Volume 24, No. 12)

Works in Progress - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 10:03pm
Legislature goes nowhere with climate change: what must be done to motivate legislators to take action at the state level?

Maybe next year… 

It’s hard not to feel discouraged. In December 2013, Washington State’s Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup (CLEW), created by the 2013 Washington State Legislature to develop “a state program of actions and policies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,” presented their opposing sets of recommendations—and now that the session has ended, we can only hope that they will continue their agreement to keep talking. Maybe next session something will happen.

Author: Emily Lardner Making waves: our trip to Hanford, WA

That's right, friends, like all of our troubles, gravity comes in waves. For us earthlings they are so subtle that we don't feel them and so on Earth gravity seems comfortably stable. Far out in space though, black holes and neutron stars spiraling out of control produce waves in the gravitational field which astrophysicists believe we will soon be able to detect. In the fantastic realms of the universe, orbiting bodies and cataclysmic supernovae are causing the rubbery fabric of space-time to quivering.

Author: Russ Frizzell Water, water, everywhere

[Editorial note: Operation Uphold Democracy, lasting from September 1994 to March 1995, was a military mission authorized by the United Nations Security Council to return  elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power. Aristide had been overthrown by a military coup in 1991.]

Operation Uphold Democracy (part 2)

It had been three days of not being able to shower. This usually would not have bothered most of us, but because of high humidity and dust, it was causing some irritation.

Author: April Adams Ukraine: the enemy of your enemy is not always your friend

To progressives who have been celebrating the revolution in Ukraine: Be careful what you wish for. Ukraine now has the first European government in decades in which outright fascist parties have gained a significant role in the executive branch. In other European countries, far-right parties have won seats in the parliament, but not secured real power in the cabinet. Of course, not all Ukrainian revolutionaries are fascists or Nazis, as asserted in recent Russian propaganda.

Author: Zoltán Grossman Why the lawsuit against the OPD was settled out of court: the art of long distance running

“Awareness is two steps ahead. Paranoia is two steps behind.” —Kim Marks, forest activist; Beyond Bullets: The Suppression of Dissent in the United States by Jules Boykoff (2007)

Author: Paul French (aka Strife) Two years later… We are still Troy Davis

An interview with Kimberly Davis and Jen Marlowe

In 2011, the ACLU stood in solidarity with millions of people across the country in demanding clemency for Troy Davis. But despite our appeal, on September 21, 2011, Troy was executed.

Author: ACLU of Southern California Toilet paper and its discontents: class struggle and the Venezuelan Revolution

The power of symbols

A society without toilet paper is a society in trouble, we all agree with that. Not having access to such a basic commodity of modern life suggests an uncomfortable place where scarcity reigns, futile long lines at supermarkets with empty shelves, wide spread poverty, unhappiness on citizens’ faces, and that third world “je ne sais quoi” not recommended by Condé Nast Travel standards. But equally important, if we believe that a society doesn’t have toilet paper, the actual relationship between our beliefs and material reality becomes irrelevant.

Author: Enrique Quintero Rioting in the streets: what's going on in Venezuela?

Excerpts from a talk March 5th, 2014 at Forum on Venezuela and the Ukraine at the Evergreen State College. Olympia, Washington.

Author: Peter Bohmer Sink Hole

Sink hole.

The toothed smile of privilege - gleaning and glaring glances through restaurant

windows.

Glasses of clear liquid  -

at their table.

Hot tub myths.  Vacation gluttony.  Over another sea.

The beneficiaries carry mallets, axes, mauls tattooed at the back of the eye.

Sink hole.

 

Author: Patty Imani

Rioting in the streets: what's going on in Venezuela?

Works in Progress - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 10:02pm

Excerpts from a talk March 5th, 2014 at Forum on Venezuela and the Ukraine at the Evergreen State College. Olympia, Washington.

One year ago today on March 5th, 2013, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died of cancer. It is wrong to attribute all of the changes in Venezuela since 1998 to Chavez, whether pro or con, but he played an important and positive role in what has happened there. Hugo Chávez’s death was a major loss for Venezuelans and all people around world who are concerned about economic justice and a world not dominated by global capitalism. I am sure many people in Venezuela will express their support for him today. Hugo Chávez presente!

Changes to Venezuelan society

The popular classes in Venezuela, 80% of the population, have gained not just economically but also by their inclusion in society. There has been a drop in poverty by over ½ and extreme poverty by 70% since the 1998 electoral victory of Chávez. The access to education and healthcare has been huge. This is also true in terms of access to food and food security. There has been a major increase in caloric intake, from 2000 to 3000 calories per capita per day, while both the quality and quantity of food has increased.

 

An Olympia, Washington resident who recently spent two years in a low-income barrio in Barquisimeto, Venezuela recently mentioned to me that he sees more hunger in a nearby Washington state community, Shelton, where he works, than he did in the Barquisimeto barrio where he lived.

There are 40,000 communal councils in Venezuela. These communities democratically decide how to spend and manage a significant amount of public revenues. The formerly excluded are now involved in controlling their community and public resources. There has also been major land distribution in the countryside via the availability of affordable credit and also access to education and health in rural areas as well as in the cities.

The Venezuelan economy is still dependent on oil, but unlike earlier periods of Venezuelan history the oil money is now being used to meet people’s needs; and to a limited extent to build infrastructure and increase new production—agriculture, clothing, communication, aluminum, transportation, oil, and farm equipment, etc. Venezuela has gone from being one of the most unequal countries in the world in the 1990s (in terms of wealth distribution) to the most equal country in the Americas. Its Gini coefficient, which measures social inequality, is around 40. This is the significantly better than the United States coefficient of 57. (see CEPR.net)

The next stage

Nicolás Maduro was elected President of Venezuela in October, 2013 in a very close election. Previously, he was a labor organizer, foreign minister and Vice President after the 2012 election. His politics, perspectives and vision for Venezuela seem similar to Chavez—“Socialism for the 21st Century”, the synthesis of socialism and democracy with a strong anti-imperialist politics. Maduro is taking crime seriously and for the most part, demonizes the opposition less than Chávez did. He has majority support but not the same love from the people that Chávez had.

There are some serious problems in Venezuela. The problems that the U.S. mainstream media focuses on are real but overstated. They are:

Inflation—this is a real problem; it is not new. Inflation was 56% last year yet poverty has still continued to decline in spite of high inflation. Poverty averaged about 25% since 1998 but was even higher in the 1990’s. Most, but not everyone’s wages increase at the same rate as inflation. This means that the real wage is maintained. This is certainly true of the minimum wage. Most people in the informal sector, still about 40% of the labor force although much less than the pre-1998 percentage of the labor force, can raise prices of goods they sell as prices rise, thus maintaining their real income.

Fundamentally, inflation in Venezuela is caused by an economy organized around oil; where oil generates significant income both for workers in oil and related sectors and also funds social programs. This general spending of oil revenues is inflationary because production in other sectors has not grown sufficiently to match increased demand so prices rise. This leads to a constant overvaluation of the Venezuelan currency which the government has tried to control.

The government just decided to make more dollars available at a close-to-market determined exchange rate. This action may break the speculation against the Bolívar and substantially lower the black market price. Someone recently back from Venezuela told me that if one uses the official rate of 6 Bolivars to 1, when buying local currency. Venezuela is the most expensive country in the world. However, when using the black market foreign exchange rate to change dollars for Bolivars, Venezuela is the cheapest country.

Shortages—there are some increases in shortages of goods, e.g. flour, cooking oil, toilet paper. People often have to wait in lines many hours to purchase needed consumer items. It is a real inconvenience but there is no hunger or generalized shortages of food as a whole.

Crime is a real and serious problem. There is a high murder and robbery rate. This is not new and it is not clear if it has risen significantly in the last few years. As I mentioned, Maduro is taking crime seriously. A new national police force has been formed, hopefully to replace a violent, inefficient and often brutal and criminal force. The new police universities are stressing respect for human rights and more effective policing of violent crime. In those barrios where there are a lot of cultural activities for youths, violent crime, which is mainly committed by young men, has decreased.

All three of these social and economic problems cannot be blamed solely on the destabilization caused by the Venezuelan elites and by U.S. intervention and encouragement. Certainly the United States has done this type of destabilization in the past. For example, Chile in the early 1970s and Nicaragua in the 1980s. A partial cause of the problem of shortages and inflation stems from holding back supplies of consumer goods by suppliers and retailers, either waiting for the price to rise further or to further dissatisfaction with a government they bitterly oppose. This is also likely true of some of the violent crime, including those crimes related to drug dealing.

Causes of the protests

The street protests in Venezuela began about a month ago, in early February, 2014. There are some legitimate grievances of many of the protesters (see above). There are also the continuing problems of nepotism, corruption, bureaucracy, and government inefficiency. The university students, who are protesting and are getting so much attention in US social and mainstream media, are not from the universities where the popular classes and their children attend, but from those that draw primarily from middle income and upper class Venezuelans and there are strong student movements there opposing the ongoing social changes in Venezuela. Their grievances are primarily about the society although most of the protesters also oppose opening their universities to the popular classes.

Students have been part of the anti-government protests including the more violent ones. The leadership is the right-wing of Venezuela; even to the right of Henrique Capriles, the governor of Miranda, who was the 2012 and 2013 opposition candidate for President. They include Maria Corina Machado and Leopoldo Lopez, both active in the failed April 2002 coup against Chávez. Machado and Lopez and the new party he leads, the Popular Will Party, have made it clear their intent is to overthrow the government and move Venezuela far to the right, to an authoritarian neoliberalism. A February 12, 2014 protest that Lopez spoke at turned violent. He was arrested a few days later and has been held in prison since. His arrest and detention are understandable, although charges should be filed against him and he should be released to face trial.

The protests and the barricades are in the better off, wealthier parts of Caracas and in other cities such as Mérida and San Cristóbal that is in the State of Táchira. They are in all the major cities of Venezuela but almost all are in the middle income and richer communities, not in the barrios.

U.S. role in unrest

The U.S. is definitely playing a role in supporting the anti-government protests. The National Endowment for Democracy (which does not promote democracy nor respect self-determination for other societies) contributes at least five million a year to student and other right-wing groups that called for the overthrow of Chávez and now call for the overthrow of Maduro and the PSUV. The NED supported the groups involved in the April, 2002 military coup against Chávez.

It is possible that the right-wing in Venezuela decided to organize militant street protests, including the use of Molotov cocktails against government buildings and public centers such as health clinics because of their weak showing in the December 2013 municipal and governor’s elections. They realized they were not going to win and retake power through the electoral path. From my reading of Chilean history, the decision to overthrow Salvador Allende was made after the Allende’s party Unidad Popular (UP), increased support in the 1972 municipal elections from their 1970 showing. The Chilean right-wing and Chilean military decided elections were not going to return them to power so they decided on a coup. Machado, Lopez and the right-wing may have reached a similar conclusion for Venezuela.

The class divide

The central issue in Venezuela is that there is a fundamental divide over the nature of Venezuelan society. For the most part, as has been clear since 2002, the large majority of middle income and wealthy Venezuelan do not accept a society where they no longer call the shots, culturally and politically; where they no longer are at the center of Venezuelan society. Racism is also connected. Those who do not accept this move towards a more socially and economically society are disproportionately “white” in a country where the large majority of people are of indigenous, African or mixed European, African and indigenous origin. The historically well-off have done well economically since the 1998 election of Hugo Chávez but have lost much of their political power and fear any direction towards a democratic socialist society—although Venezuela is still a capitalist society. Of course, many poor or near poor people oppose Chavismo, and there are people who were wealthy before 1998 or have become wealthy and powerful since 1998, who support the PSUV led government or are part of it. My point is that class and the class divide is the key; the issue of class is essential to understand Venezuela today and the current anti-government protests and barricades. Currently, there are few protests or even signs of mass protest against the Venezuelan government in the barrios, in low-income and working class communities, and rural areas of Venezuela.

Media

The U.S. and Venezuelan mainstream media have painted a picture of Venezuela as a place of massive popular protest with government suppression of the media and murderous repression.

The majority of the media in today’s Venezuela are private. Many of the TV stations were actively involved in 2002 coup attempt. Today, the majority of Venezuelans still watch TV stations owned by private corporations. The majority of these stations and most of the main newspapers, although a little bit more diverse politically than in 2002, are anti-government and anti-Chavista. They have not been taken off the air or prevented from printing, and the social media has not been shut down. Social media like Facebook and Twitter have been particularly active and inaccurate in portraying Venezuela as a repressive police state with total suppression of the media.

The mainstream U.S. media (e.g., CNN, Washington Post, New York Times, NBC, etc.) have a very strong anti-Chávez bias and a continued hostility to the building of 21st century socialism in Venezuela. For example, pictures that supposedly showed violent police brutality and repression in Venezuela were actually old photos from police repression in Bulgaria, Egypt and Chile. The New York Times, while generally hostile to the Venezuelan revolution with very biased reporting, has been slightly more balanced recently, even admitting that in the poorer areas of Caracas, there are no signs of protest,

Repression

As far as I have been able to research, 18 deaths over the last month have been linked to the protests. Of these, four anti-government protesters were killed by government security forces. Of the others killed, some have been pro-Chavista and a few have been accidents, not directly tied to protests.  There has been some over use of force by police and other government security forces. The government has arrested some police and National Guard for use of excessive force and violence, thereby indicating that murderous repression is not government policy.

 

President Nicolás Maduro called for a national day long dialogue on Feb 27, 2014. Community organizations, government officials, the main business associations, Fedecamaras attended. So did the owners of Polar, the largest food corporation in Venezuela and some opposition groups. The meeting was televised. It was also boycotted by the main opposition coalition, the MUD, Mesa de la Union Democratica and its Presidential candidate in 2012 and 2013, Henrique Capriles. He has supported the protests but not the violent ones. Not much came from this dialog but it may have been a start towards an ongoing discussion of important issues even the divide is huge. I think it would be a mistake to move the economics and politics in Venezuela in a more conservative direction to appease the right. The opposition is divided between those like Leopoldo Lopez and his Popular Will party who want to overthrow Maduro via escalating protests, and those such as Capriles, the 2013 opposition candidate for President, who is calling for a 2016 recall referendum that, if passed, would force Maduro to step down as President.

The future of Venezuela

A national dialogue about some serious problems in Venezuela is needed. However, the solution is not to bring the rightwing into the government in order to rule as a unity government. Rather, what is needed is the opposite of what the right-wing leadership of the protests wants. What is needed is a deepening of the revolution– the growth of the social economy and the growth and deepening of participatory democracy.

What Should We Do Here?

We should demand the end of U.S. funding of the opposition in Venezuela and an end to all forms of U.S. intervention in Venezuela. Imagine if China, Iran or Russia openly supported the overthrow of the U.S. government. Kerry and Obama have been open about their support for the opposition to Chávez and Maduro. The U.S. supported the attempted 2002 military coup in Venezuela. Demand that the United States government not intervene in any way; oppose U.S. government resolutions that condemn the Venezuelan government!

Learn more what is going on in Venezuela and write letters to the editor; post alternatives views to the mainstream portrayal of Venezuela on Facebook, social media, etc.

I suggest we, as people, activists, and concerned human beings critically support the Venezuelan government against the attacks on it. Alternatives to capitalism and current global capitalism are urgently needed; let us support and be in solidarity with radical social movements but also more than that. Venezuela is a positive example of a society where the lives of the majority are improving and of a government that is supporting with its resources and policy the building of power from below. These are the communal councils, the communes, community media, and (even though very slowly) self-managed workplaces. The growth in access to health care and education is inspiring. There is too much reliance on oil and oil money but more than any country in the world the revenues from oil are being used to reduce and end poverty. There is a growth of indigenous rights written into the Constitution, and growing economic and social rights, although insufficient, for women and for LGBT people. There are small steps forward towards food sovereignty and an anti-GMO policy. All of this is imperfect but what other country is doing more? We should practice critical support as opposed to condemnation, indifference or uncritical support.

We should learn about Venezuela and be humble and modest in our criticisms. Let us not idealize and romanticize Chávez and the Venezuelan government but don’t let cynicism dominate our understanding and actions.

Also very significant has been Venezuela’s role in Latin America and internationally. By playing a major role in the formation of group such as The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Venezuela has challenged and is challenging United States and transnational capital’s domination of Latin America and the world. That and “the threat of a good example” is Venezuela’s “crime “to the rulers of the United States and the global capitalist class in Venezuela. Don’t fall for the CNN perspective on what is going on in Venezuela.

 

Peter Bohmer is a longtime antiracist, antiwar and solidarity activist. He teaches political economy at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and has spent several months in Venezuela including taking Evergreen students with another faculty member, Anne Fischel, to study there for two months in  2009 and two months in 2012. 

 

Peter Bohmer

Ukraine: the enemy of your enemy is not always your friend

Works in Progress - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 9:59pm

To progressives who have been celebrating the revolution in Ukraine: Be careful what you wish for. Ukraine now has the first European government in decades in which outright fascist parties have gained a significant role in the executive branch. In other European countries, far-right parties have won seats in the parliament, but not secured real power in the cabinet. Of course, not all Ukrainian revolutionaries are fascists or Nazis, as asserted in recent Russian propaganda. But it is equally wrong and irresponsible to assert that the presence of fascists and Nazis in the new government is merely Russian propaganda.

When the far-right Freedom Party became part of Austria’s cabinet in 2000, the European Union issued sanctions against Vienna, and the New York Times was full of exposes of party leader Jörg Haider. But when the far-right Latvian National Alliance joined a conservative government in 2011, it was barely noticed in the Western media. And because the fascist party Svoboda (Freedom) and the Nazi shock troops of Pravy Sektor (Right Sector) played a vanguard role in Ukraine’s anti-Russian revolution, their role in the new revolutionary government has been glossed over in the Western media, with no serious exposes so far.

So it may be controversial for far-right parties to join governments in the West, but it is permissible in the East if they are mainly opposing Russia. These same Western media commentators take any hint of criticisms of Israel as “anti-Semitic,” and then support a new government with parties that use World War II-era imagery, such as the Wolfsangel logo of Svoboda, and the White Power symbol of Odin’s Cross used by Pravy Sektor (ditto the Aryan Nations). The phrase “Never Again” takes on a hollow ring when the entry of real fascists into a government is minimized and excused.

Maidan Revolution

Certainly the majority of protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square, or Maidan, were motivated to join by the massive corruption and oligarchical rule of Viktor Yanukovych, and particularly his unleashing of the brutal Berkut riot police. The Maidan protesters included backers of European Union integration, leftists (who question both Russia and the EU), ecologists, LGBT activists, and ethnic and religious minorities (including Jews and ethnic Russians). But Anti-Fascist Action Ukraine estimated that 30 percent of the protesters in Kiev were far-right ultranationalists, and that was before the shooting began, when more of them joined the street battles.

Although the Maidan protests have been depicted as “Pro-EU,” Svoboda has joined forces with far-right parties that are actually Anti-EU. It holds Observer status in the Alliance of European National Movements, which vehemently opposes the EU (including Jobbik in Hungary and the British National Party). Pravy Sektor’s key slogan has been “Against the Regime and [EU] integration.” Perhaps they both want to join the EU so they can later oppose it?

Much like Al Assad and Al Qaeda in Syria, Yanukovych and Ukrainian ultraright nationalists fed off each other, and actually needed each other to buttress their own legitimacy. Yanukovych’s brutality polarized the country, and reinforced the farthest right-wing factions of the nationalist opposition. Also like in Syria, moderate democratic groups were caught in the middle of the polarization, and lost significant ground to the better-trained militants. So you’d think that the toppling of Yanukovych would reduce the power of the fascists who had gained support by fighting him. But even before Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Crimea gave the ultranationalists new grist for the mill, their representatives were named to the new government in Kiev, led by the U.S.-backed Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Svoboda

Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok is well known for his comments that Ukraine is victimized by a “Muscovite/Jewish mafia,” and references to Jews as “Zhydam” (Kikes).  One of his deputies established a “Joseph Goebbels Political Research Center” in 2005. The Centre for Eastern Studies in Warsaw commented in 2011 that “Svoboda’s success illustrates the growing demand of Ukrainian society for a new right-wing party with anti-democratic, xenophobic, pro-social and pro-family views.” http://www.osw.waw.pl/sites/default/files/commentary_56.pdf  Svoboda won only 10 percent in the October 2012 parliamentary election, and about 40 percent in parts of the heavily Ukrainian far-west. Yet last December, Tyahnybok was one of two opposition leaders visited and extolled by visiting Senator John McCain.

Since the revolution, Svoboda parliamentarian Oleksandr Sych has been named to the post of Vice Premier for Economic Affairs, and Svoboda has taken control of the ministries of education, agriculture, and the environment. Svoboda co-founder Andriy Parubiy was named Secretary of the Security and National Defense Committee, a significant post with control over police and military forces. Playing to a western audience, both Pravy Sektor and Svoboda have tried to reassure the Israeli ambassador that they are not anti-Semitic, and defenders of the Ukrainian Revolution have highlighted the very real anti-Semitism in Russian nationalist groups.

Two years ago, Svoboda led violent protests in Kiev against a new language law in Parliament, which allowed bilingualism in regions with more than a 10 percent non-Ukrainian population. Its first order of business in the new revolutionary parliament was to roll back the bilingualism law, which gave Putin one of his justifications to “defend” Crimea, where Russian-speakers make up a majority.  A similar 2003 “democratic” revolution in Georgia installed a strongly nationalist government, which five years later moved militarily against ethnic secessionist enclaves, provoking a successful Russian invasion. But few such aggressive signs were seen in Crimea before Putin moved in.

Putin’s invasion of Crimea has relegitimized the ultraright in the eyes of many Ukrainian nationalists, and (not insignificantly) prevents about a million Crimean Russians from voting against Ukrainian nationalist parties in the next election. A pro-Putin biker gang that has supported his Crimea invasion, and pro-Russian rioters in eastern Ukraine, play as Russian “young tough” counterparts to the Ukrainian nationalists. Just as Svoboda uses Putin’s actions to frighten Ukrainians, Putin needs Svoboda to frighten Russians, and the polarization intensifies.

Pravy Sektor

Pravy Sektor is even to the right of Svoboda, but that has not stopped its leader Dmytro Yarosh from being named as Paruby’s Deputy Secretary of National Security. Since the revolution, Pravy Sektor militants have begun tearing down statues of Soviet soldiers who liberated the republic from the Nazis. That’s because they are themselves Nazis, with a view of the world influenced not only by Ukrainian nationalism and German national-socialism, but by the global white supremacist movement.

Like Svoboda, Pravy Sektor looks back with fondness to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), led by Stepan Bandera, who backed the 1941 German invasion of Ukraine. It soon became clear that Germany did not back his vision of a pro-Nazi Ukrainian puppet state--because Hitler viewed Slavs as subhuman, and coveted their fertile land for German settlers-- so the UPA had to later defend itself from the Germans. But somehow you don’t really count as a resistance movement if you wanted to join the Nazis, but the other Nazis wouldn’t let you play.

In the meantime, the UPA was involved in massacres of Jews in parts of Nazi-occupied Poland now within western Ukraine. It also slaughtered at least 50,000 Catholic Poles who stood in the way of Bandera’s vision of a purely Ukrainian state. Far-right groups have recently backed the reburial (with honors) of members of the Galician Division of the Waffen SS, which also used the Wolfsangel symbol later adopted by Svoboda.

Last January, Svoboda led a huge Kiev rally marking Bandera’s birthday, and his portrait and uniforms were common sights in the Maidan protests. On one Nazi’s shield in Maidan could be seen the White Power symbol “14/88,” standing for the “14 Words” by David Lane of the U.S. terrorist group The Order (“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”), and “88” for “HH” (“Heil Hitler”). Like other fascist groups in the region, the Ukrainian ultraright has also violently opposed LGBT rights, forcing the cancellation of the 2012 Kiev Gay Pride march.

In the Pravy Sektor video “The Great Ukrainian Reconquista,” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Inu_-0dcSU) Yarosh highlights many common Nazi themes, “against corrupt marginal democracy, against degeneration and totalitarian liberalism, for traditional national morality and family values, for large Ukrainian family, physically and spiritually healthy young people, against the cult of illicit gain and debauch[ery].” The video counterposes images of masked street fighters (with “Vikings” shields), and beautiful heterosexual couples, with Berkut riot police, Russian civilians, EU bureaucrats, and multiracial dancers.  Another Pravy Sektor video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJmHIXVK95Y) shows different far-right factions marching, training, and fighting. These videos aren’t Russian propaganda about alleged fascists—they are the fascists’ own propaganda.

And by “fascist” I don’t loosely mean authoritarian conservatives, such as George W. Bush or the Koch Brothers. They may be right-wingers, but they uphold a global capitalist status quo with the U.S. at its center. Real fascists are extreme right-wing populist revolutionaries who want to overthrow the present system, and replace it with a dictatorship guaranteeing absolute rule by their own ethnic, racial, or religious group.

Fascists often sound like leftists in their opposition to corporate globalization and banks, NATO militarism, and environmental destruction, but have opposite motivations, usually revolving around racist and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. (Some elements of the Tea Party--such as Glenn Beck and Rand Paul--do seem to straddle conservative and fascist ideologies.) Having experienced World War II, Europeans understand better that fascism is a specific political movement, and not just another way to say “meanie.” They are less likely to ignore a growing fascist threat when they see one.

Good guys vs. bad guys?

U.S. media coverage of the Ukrainian Revolution tends to place it only in a West vs. East context, with the EU and NATO inherently good and Russia inherently evil. In this simplistic framing, the Ukrainian far-right is an inconvenient reminder that evil can emerge from the West as well, so it has to be minimized as Russian hyperbole.

Why is it that Americans of all political stripes--including progressives--can only see “good guys” and “bad guys” in a conflict, even in a situation that pits “bad guys” against “bad guys”? Maybe it’s our binary good vs. evil religious tradition, our “white hat” vs. “black hat” Hollywood films, or our two-party electoral system, which suppresses nuances and ignores other third-party alternatives. We want to view all protesters against oppressive regimes as “people power” heroes, without understand that today’s oppressed can (and do) become tomorrow’s oppressors.

As Yugoslavia broke up, all Western media attention was on ethnic cleansing by the Serbs, but almost never on the ethnic cleansing by the (U.S.-allied) Croatians or Kosovar Albanians. In Afghanistan, the Taliban oppressed Afghan women, but the U.S.-backed mujahedin warlords who had earlier ousted the pro-Soviet government were the first Afghan government to restrict women’s rights. In Libya and Syria, revolutions against secular Russian-backed dictators have likewise strengthened Islamist militias.  The West’s double standards eventually work against its own interests, by generating “blowback” from the very monsters it helped to create.

The revolutions in Libya, Syria, and now Ukraine should show us that the enemy of your enemy is not always your friend. In a contest between Ukrainian and Russian ultranationalists, we do not need to pick sides. We can defend peace and the democratic rights of civilians, and all minorities on both sides of the divide, without contributing to the polarization and strengthening the rise of fascism. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

The next time you’re influenced by a facebook meme or a heart-wrenching youtube video about human rights violations by an “enemy” of the West, think about the atrocities by the pro-Western side that we are not seeing. Study the history of country, to learn that parts of the so-called “democratic” opposition today might draw their lineage to militant   groups (such as the Ukrainian Insurgent Army or Venezuelan right-wing parties) that have massacred ethnic, religious, or political minorities in past decades. If the U.S. continues to back these crazies just because of they attack the West’s enemies, some kind of blowback is again going to be inevitable.

Dr. Zoltán Grossman is a political-cultural geographer who teaches at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin, focusing on topics of interethnic conflict and cooperation. He has taught courses on Central and Eastern Europe, and is a son of Hungarian immigrants. His faculty website is http://academic.evergreen.edu/g/grossmaz and email is grossmaz@evergreen.edu.

Zoltán Grossman

Sink Hole

Works in Progress - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 9:56pm

Sink hole.

The toothed smile of privilege - gleaning and glaring glances through restaurant

windows.

Glasses of clear liquid  -

at their table.

Hot tub myths.  Vacation gluttony.  Over another sea.

The beneficiaries carry mallets, axes, mauls tattooed at the back of the eye.

Sink hole.

 

Patty Imani

Water, water, everywhere

Works in Progress - Tue, 04/08/2014 - 9:55pm

[Editorial note: Operation Uphold Democracy, lasting from September 1994 to March 1995, was a military mission authorized by the United Nations Security Council to return  elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power. Aristide had been overthrown by a military coup in 1991.]

Operation Uphold Democracy (part 2)

It had been three days of not being able to shower. This usually would not have bothered most of us, but because of high humidity and dust, it was causing some irritation.

Then the eve started to slowly come upon us and the rain began.

A sergeant and I started to discuss how to use the water to clean ourselves.

I noticed the water coming out of the corners of the bay across from us, and we decided to see this as an opportunity.

Keeping our PT (physical training) tops and shorts on, we went with our shower gear and started cleaning up under the falling water spouts. This caused others to do the same at various locations at the corners of the buildings.

The morale boost led to talk about creating make-shift showers in our “new” bay.

Another situation was the latrines. I found a sergeant from another company building a simple toilet. I asked if I could use it. He responsed, “I am making it for ‘our people’.” I nodded and turned to my buddy and said, “Well, it looks like you are standing guard while I take a sh*t by the wall down there,“ pointing to the bottom of the hill. Which, I unfortunately did.

The realization that being on the same team though does not, for some, mean we take care of each other caused sadness and anger within me. I set the feelings aside.

Shaking it off, we moved on to go check on our parked equipment at the front gates of Port-au-Prince.

Later on that day, a colonel came by to speak with us troops. We had just come back from chow and were chilling out in our bay playing scrabble.

He asked us how we were and I quipped up about the latrine incident.  He looked solemn. We talked more about good and bad issues and he left eager to get to work on fixing what he could.

That evening, an announcement was made: “No one will say no to another soldier for their basic needs--latrine, food, bed, shower or water.”

The sergeant who turned me away was dealt with.

The experience was good in a place of bare necessities, which we take for granted in a rich country like the United States.

By the end of the week, the make-shift showers were ready. Simple wood boards with 5 gallon drums up top of each stall and a shower head coming off of the drums.

We each grabbed a water jug and filled it up with treated water (the ocean area was full of human and animal feces). That wasdisheartening, no hope where that resides, frightening, the cause of the sickness and no one educating the masses how to keep themselves healthy.

We climbed to the top of the open wood planks, picked a stall, filled up a drum, climbed down and took a cold refreshing shower.

What was interesting to note, there was not a covered wall. No one cared. We just wanted to be clean and were thankful for the opportunity to have water, clean water.

April Adams, an Evergreen alumna, is a member of the Inter-Tribal Warrior Society, the secretary for Veterans For Peace Rachel Corrie Chapter 109 Olympia, journalist, photographer, artist, and political activist.

 

April Adams
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