“. . . it was one of our most important tasks at the embassy in Kyiv to understand and act upon the difference between those who sought to serve their people and those who sought to serve only themselves.” ~ Amb. Marie Yovanovitch Opening Statement (October 11, 2019)

Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch arriving at Capitol Hill for Congressional testimony

“It was compelling, it was impactful, it was powerful and I just feel grateful for the opportunity to have received that information.” ~ Democratic Rep. Denny Heck commenting after Marie Yovanovitch’s 9 Hours of Testimony to Congress

Saturday afternoon, overcast with drizzle, 54 degrees.

I decided that before I try to clean this house, I would share the entire opening statement that Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch made to Congress. It’s an incredible, informative read, and I hope that eventually her entire testimony will be released. I am so impressed by this woman’s courage and fortitude. She is precisely the kind of person this country needs right now to help navigate these very troubled waters. Her statement is both restrained and powerful, a piece of discourse akin to The Federalist Papers, in particular, No. 51.


Opening Statement of Marie L. Yovanovitch to the
House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on
Intelligence, Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Committee on
Oversight and Reform

October 11, 2019

Thank you for the opportunity to start with this statement today.

For the last 33 years, it has been my great honor to serve the American people as a Foreign Service Officer, over six Administrations—four Republican, and two Democratic. I have served in seven different countries, five of them hardship posts, and was appointed to serve as an ambassador three times—twice by a Republican President, and once by a Democrat. Throughout my career, I have stayed true to the oath that Foreign Service Officers take and observe every day: “that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;” and “that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” Like all foreign service officers with whom I have been privileged to serve, I have understood that oath as a commitment to serve on a strictly nonpartisan basis, to advance the foreign policy determined by the incumbent President, and to work at all times to strengthen our national security and promote our national interests.

My Background
I come by these beliefs honestly and through personal
experience. My parents fled Communist and Nazi regimes. Having seen, first hand, the war, poverty and displacement common to totalitarian regimes, they valued the freedom and democracy the U.S. represents. And they raised me to cherish these values as well. Their sacrifices allowed me to attend Princeton University, where I focused my studies on the Soviet Union. Given my upbringing, it has been the honor of a lifetime to help to foster those principles as a career Foreign Service Officer.

From August 2016 until May 2019, I served as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. Our policy, fully embraced by Democrats and Republicans alike, was to help Ukraine become a stable and independent democratic state, with a market economy integrated into Europe.

Recent Ukrainian History
Ukraine is a sovereign country, whose borders are inviolate and whose people have the right to determine their own destiny. These are the bedrock principles of our policy. Because of Ukraine’s geostrategic position bordering Russia on its east, the warm waters of the oil-rich Black Sea to its south, and four NATO allies to its west, it is critical to the security of the United States that Ukraine remain free and democratic and that it continue to resist Russian expansionism.

Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea, its invasion of Eastern Ukraine, and its de facto control over the Sea of Azov, make clear Russia’s malign intentions towards Ukraine. If we allow Russia’s actions to stand, we will set a precedent that the United States will regret for decades to come.

Supporting Ukraine’s integration into Europe and combating Russia’s efforts to destabilize Ukraine have anchored US policy since the Ukrainian people protested on the Maidan in 2014 and demanded to be a part of Europe and live according to the rule of law. That was US policy when I was appointed Ambassador in August 2016, and it was reaffirmed as the policy of the current administration in early 2017. 

“. . . it is in our national security interest to help Ukraine transform into a country where the rule of law governs and corruption is held in check . . . a country where rule of law is the system, corruption is tamed, and people are treated equally and according to the law”

The Fight Against Corruption
The Revolution of Dignity, and the Ukrainian people’s demand to end corruption, forced the new Ukrainian government to take measures to fight the rampant corruption that long permeated that country’s political and economic systems. We have long understood that strong anti-corruption efforts must form an essential part of our policy in Ukraine; now there was a window of opportunity to do just that.

Why is this important? Put simply: anti-corruption efforts serve Ukraine’s interests. They serve ours as well. Corrupt leaders are inherently less trustworthy, while an honest and accountable Ukrainian leadership makes a U.S.-Ukraine partnership more reliable and more valuable to the U.S. A level playing field in this strategically located country—one with a European landmass exceeded only by Russia and with one of the largest populations in Europe—creates an environment in which U.S. business can more easily trade, invest and profit. Corruption is a security issue as well, because corrupt officials are vulnerable to Moscow. In short, it is in our national security interest to help Ukraine transform into a country where the rule of law governs and corruption is held in check. 

Two Wars
But change takes time, and the aspiration to instill rule-of-law values has still not been fulfilled. Since 2014, Ukraine has been at war, not just with Russia, but within itself, as political and economic forces compete to determine what kind of country Ukraine will become: the same old, oligarch-dominated Ukraine where corruption is not just prevalent, but is the system? Or the country that Ukrainians demanded in the Revolution of Dignity—a country where rule of law is the system, corruption is tamed, and people are treated equally and according to the law?

During the 2019 presidential elections, the Ukrainian people answered that question once again. Angered by insufficient progress in the fight against corruption, Ukrainian voters overwhelmingly elected a man who said that ending corruption would be his number one priority. The transition, however, created fear among the political elite, setting the stage for some of the issues I expect we will be discussing today.

Understanding Ukraine’s recent history, including the significant tension between those who seek to transform the country and those who wish to continue profiting from the old ways, is of critical importance to understanding the events you asked me here today to describe. Many of those events—and the false narratives that emerged from them—resulted from an unfortunate alliance between Ukrainians who continue to operate within a corrupt system, and Americans who either did not understand that corrupt system, or who may have chosen, for their own purposes, to ignore it.

It seems obvious, but bears stating, that when dealing with officials from any country—or those claiming connections to officialdom—one must understand their background, their personal interests, and what they hope to get out of a particular interaction before deciding how to evaluate their description of events or acting on their information.

To be clear, Ukraine is filled with many citizens and officials who want the very things we have always said we want for the United States: a government that acts in the interests of its people; “a government of the people, by the people and for the people.” The overwhelming support for President Zelenskiy in April’s election proved that. And it was one of our most important tasks at the embassy in Kyiv to understand and act upon the difference between those who sought to serve their people and those who sought to serve only themselves. Continue reading ““. . . it was one of our most important tasks at the embassy in Kyiv to understand and act upon the difference between those who sought to serve their people and those who sought to serve only themselves.” ~ Amb. Marie Yovanovitch Opening Statement (October 11, 2019)”

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If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .

Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Mississippi, July 10, 1935

Friday afternoon, cloudy and mild, 77 degrees.

So I sat at this computer for hours yesterday and produced absolutely nothing, not a single word. It’s not that I have writer’s block as I can think of at least four different things that I want to write about; it’s more that I can’t get my mind to focus enough to get started. I decided today that I’d just start and let it takes me wherever it takes me.

On Wednesday I had an appointment with my pain management group to find out the results of Monday’s MRI. So it turns out that I have a couple of bulging discs at the top of my spine, and they’re bulging towards my spine. Now I get to see a neurosurgeon for follow up. I told the NP that I’m not going to have another back surgery, not ever again. At least it kind of explains how doing these least little physical activity causes me to hurt like crazy by nightfall.

Too bad, though, as I had to dismiss the entire house staff for failing to keep my shoes polished and buffed satisfactorily. No wait. Sorry. That’s my Downton Abbey life rearing its head again. Damn. I guess that means that the laundry and housecleaning situation isn’t going to miraculously resolve itself. Corey and I had hoped to work on the whole bedroom situation once the weather cools more.

Hmm . . . things that make you go hmm . . .

Have some leftovers. More later. Peace.


Beautimous:

I miss having an intelligent, patriotic president who isn’t driven by pettiness and believes in the Constitution . . .

The more things change, the more they stay exactly the same . . .

Dr. Daniel Z. Gibson, President of Washington College, in the The Star-Democrat, Easton, Maryland, March 19, 1954

Sometimes there’s just too much to choose from:

Lisa was always my favorite:

Quick update . . .


Monday evening, drizzle and cooler, 69 degrees.

We were gone all afternoon, so of course, the dogs had a field day. Their latest trick is unfurling rolls of toilet paper and TP’ing the house. It’s adorable . . . not at all.

Had an MRI on my neck today. Wasn’t as bad as some that I’ve had in the past in that it didn’t take as long, and the machine had a wider opening so I didn’t feel as if I couldn’t breathe. The biggest surprise was that they wanted a $40 payment before they would do the test. Supposedly someone told me this, but neither Corey nor I remembered that, which is a sure sign that it didn’t happen as I always try to tell him in advance so that at least he’ll remember. This has happened before here, but never used to happen in Norfolk.

Weird. Even weirder? They gave me a 10 percent discount for paying on the day of the test, but I couldn’t get the test done unless I paid on the day on which it was scheduled. Now figure that one out

Still having major sleep issues. Maybe now that cooler weather seems to be here finally I’ll be able to sleep better at night. Who knows. Dreams have been wicked intense and detailed. Continuing issues with my prescription coverage, being told different things by different people working for the same place. That’s always fun, fun, fun.

Anyway, just wanted to do a quick note to try to get back into more regular posting once again.

Today is the birthday of an incredible poet, Amiri Baraka (October 7, 1934-January 9, 2014). You can read about him at the Poetry Foundation site. I’m including a beautiful poem that I used to feature in my American Literature classes. I liked to begin the discussion by asking the class about the implications of the poem’s title . . .

More later. Peace.


Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note

for Kellie Jones, born 16 May 1959

Lately, I’ve become accustomed to the way
The ground opens up and envelopes me
Each time I go out to walk the dog.
Or the broad edged silly music the wind
Makes when I run for a bus…

Things have come to that.

And now, each night I count the stars,
And each night I get the same number.
And when they will not come to be counted,
I count the holes they leave.

Nobody sings anymore.

And then last night, I tiptoed up
To my daughter’s room and heard her
Talking to someone, and when I opened
The door, there was no one there…
Only she on her knees, peeking into

Her own clasped hands.

~ Amiri Baraka


Music by Booker T & the MG’s, “Green Onions”

“Western medicine looks at the body from a mechanistic perspective, whereas healers highlight everyone has a spirit that intimately links to the body and emotions.” ~ Dr. Francesca Panzironi, CEO of ANTAC, an organization of Aboriginal healers

Indigenous Australians see the land as a “mother” and very much alive (Credit: Bonita Grima)

“And even if there’s no magic fix for mental illness, it seems indigenous Australians have much to teach us about developing greater awareness and reciprocity with our planet for our physical and emotional survival – if we only take the time to listen.” ~ Bonita Grima, from “A 60,000=year=old cure for depression”

Thursday afternoon, sunny and too warm, 90 degrees.

The other day I read an article about Australia’s traditional Aboriginal healers and their approach to treating illnesses of the mind and body. The article, entitled “A 60,000-year-old cure for depression” was published on the BBC Travel Site.

Because of my long journey with mental and physical ailments, I’ve long had an interest in alternative medicines—and would love to know more about the various uses of herbs and plants. As I’ve mentioned, I take various vitamins and supplements like eggshell membrane and cinnamon for things like my IBS, blood sugar, and arthritis, and while Western medicine tends to scoff at the effectiveness of supplements, I have seen improvements in some things. For example, my blood sugar levels are back to normal, and my thyroid levels are closer to normal as well.

Is it a placebo effect? Who knows, but I’ll take what I can get if it means that I can take fewer prescription medicines. I think that part of what I like is that I feel as if I have more control over my health. Anyway, much of what I know, and that is limited at best—comes from reading about Native American healers, but the title of this article caught my attention.

As the article points out, the indigenous Aboriginal people of Australia have the oldest living culture on earth. However, their numbers have substantially dwindled, in large part because of the influx of Europeans, who brought all of the negative effects of colonizatioin, such diseases, violence, and forced separation of Aboriginal families and removal from traditional lands. But as the article states, one of the traditions that has remained in spite of outside factors is the role of traditional healing:

For around 60,000 years, their intricate understanding of ecology ensured survival, and their physical, spiritual, mental and emotional well-being was achieved by maintaining healthy, balanced relationships with all living and non-living things.

At the heart of their communities were traditional healers. They have been respected and entrusted with the well-being of Aboriginal communities for as long as the culture has been alive.

For the mubarrn, or elders, the most important step in healing is a connection to the land, which is directly tied to listening. The term dadirri, which means an “inner deep listening and quiet still awareness:

For indigenous Australians, this spiritual listening practice provides a way to observe and act according to the natural seasons and cycles in a way the modern world seems to have forgotten.

The article quotes Dr Francesca Panzironi, a human rights academic from Rome. Panzironi is the  CEO of Australia’s first organization of Aboriginal traditional healers,  Anangu Ngangkari Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation (ANTAC). “For indigenous people, it’s about reconnecting to culture and accessing healing techniques that are different from Western medicine,” Panzironi said. Ngangkari are the healers of Australia’s central desert areas.

Now that I live here on the ridge, I find myself observing and learning each time I venture onto the land. Corey and I joke with one another about preparing for the zombie apocalypse, but truthfully, I want a greenhouse so that I can raise herbs so that eventually, I can learn how to make things like soap and my own tinctures, especially for treating the animals when they have small wounds or inflammations. For now, I settle for ordering things like an ointment made from Manuka honey, which is native to New Zealand and has been shown to have several healing benefits.

I’m featuring this article for those of you who may share my interest in learning what the land can provide for us. I’m including a link to a similar article about the Ngangkari healers, which can be found here, as well as an article here about some of the medicinal plants used.

Just a quick aside: I’ve been trying for almost a week to write this post, but my brain is overloaded with a bunch of stuff, so I cannot focus on one thing well enough to write about it. I hope that the above is linear enough to follow.

More later. Peace.


Aboriginal Healing Music (uncertain as to performers) composed by Giordano Trivellato and Giuliano Sacchetto

” . . . never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion; against injustice, lying and greed. If you . . . will do this, not as a class or classes, but as individuals, men and women, you will change the earth.” ~ William Faulkner, from a commencement speech (1952)

From the play The Cocktail Party

Thursday thoughts . . .

When everything around me begins to fall apart, I often find comfort in the words of others. Bukowski’s poem below seems especially relevant at the moment:

Aside: I’m really impressed by the YouTuber who makes these poem companion videos.


Happy Birthday to T. S. Eliot (September 26, 1888-January 4, 1965), poet, literary critic, essayist, and publisher (“The Waste Land”)

Belated Happy Birthday to WILLIAM FAULKNER (September 25, 1897-July 6, 1962), Nobel Prize Laureate and author whose work I always have to read at least twice to really understand (The sound and the fury).

“Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.” ~ Samuel Johnson, from The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia

Wordless Wednesdays . . .

Wednesday afternoon, cloudy and cooler, but humid, 80 degrees.


Happy Birthday to English critic, biographer, essayist, poet, and lexicographer Samuel Johnson (September 18, 1709-December 13, 1784)—noted aphorist, known for The Vanity of Human Wishes (1749), and A Dictionary of the English Language (1755).

“. . . now, at this moment, in this soft green twilight, this soft green Sunday evening, when the heart of the world seemed to lie beating in the palm of his hand, he sat in that huge house upstairs terrified that he would never live.” ~ Andrew Holleran, from Dancer from the Dance

Sunday Afternoon by amir appel (FCC)

“Days pass here, weeks slip away,
and even when it isn’t,
it seems to be Sunday,
irreal, subdued, the queer, slowed-down
feeling of late afternoon
spreading through the hours
of an entire day.” ~ Elizabeth Spires, from “Letter from Swan’s Island”

Sunday afternoon, sunny, warmer, 85 degrees.

Out of sorts today. I was awakened before 6 by one of the dogs, and then for the next two hours, there seemed to be an ongoing parade of dogs and a cat going in and out the front door. Most days, I open the front door early in the morning to let in the cool air, but lately I haven’t been doing so because of the swarms of flies; hence, I have to let the dogs out and in and out and in and . . .

Corey rolled over around 7 and asked me what I was doing. I replied that I was letting the dogs out over and over. He rolled over and went back to sleep, and I continued to watch YouTube videos, all while wishing for more sleep, which I finally got sometime around 8.

What a strange morning. Anyway, my timing is completely off today.


Today’s birthdays of note:

  • Richard the Lionheart (1157-1199), king of England
  • Patsy Cline (1933-1963), country singer born in Winchester, Virginia
  • Bernie Sanders (1941), U.S. politician
  • Aimee Mann (1960), musician born in Richmond, Virginia
  • Martin Freeman (1971), English actor (The Hobbit, Sherlock)
  • P!nk (1979), singer

So I thought that I’d post songs by these three incredible female vocalists. Enjoy.


Music by Patsy Cline, “I Fall to Pieces”

Music by Aimee Mann, “Drive”

 

Music by P!nk, featuring Chris Stapleton, “Love Me Anyway”