Author Archive

Bermuda is not for the poor

I decided to check out the dog friendly hotels in Bermuda.

While they may be dog friendly, they are not wallet friendly. We are talking 4 figures at the least expensive.

And that’s just for a night.

Of course, the Rosewood is near where the billionaires live. So, prices are commensurate with the neighbourhood.

I guess if you can afford the accomodation, you can probably afford the private jet to get you to Bermuda. Which also means that you can probably find some other place to stay as well.

Unless you want to stay in a hotel.

The rest of us have to leave the dogs back home.

Nordic Noir

Thought of Nordic Noir permeate my brain as I get ready to head off to Råfiskhavn. It’s one of my guilty pleasures. I could toss in some early Bergman films as well. But the thoughts of hygge with Sarah Lund are too seductive to avoid. Not at all Saga Norén: although Sofia Helin would be something else!

I would tell Birgitte Nyborg that her husband was a fool to leave her.

Scandinavian noir, also known as Scandi noir and Nordic noir, is a genre of crime fiction written from a police point of view. The language is plain and eschews metaphor, the settings often have bleak landscapes, and the mood is dark and morally complex.

Nothing like lighting up some candles, pouring wine, getting cosy, putting on a Faroese Sweater with a blue button down shirt, and watching Forbrydelsen.

International Political Spectrum

Wow, the recent US Supreme Court decisions have highlighted that there is NO WAY I can call myself a “conservative” by US standards. Which is weird since I am pretty middle of the road by standards in other countries. In the US, I find myself off on the far left. By contrast, I would probably be conservative in Holland since the social liberalism is accepted. Again, that’s strange since the Dutch come about by their social liberalism from the same school of thought that leads to the religious right in the US (Calvinism). The Dutch prefer to treat the social problems instead of punish them, which makes sense to me.

It’s amusing that a conservative paper, Le Figaro, has the following sort of comments about the recent Supreme Court decision on carrying firearms publicly:


le 23/06/2022 à 22:47

La Cour Suprême américaine vient de totalement se décrédibiliser en montrant à quelle point elle était politisée. Une honte!
Ce sont en effet les Républicains qui s’opposent depuis des décennies à toute mesure sur le contrôle des armes au nom de leur Constitution écrite à une époque ou les fusils étaient à un coup…

The US Supreme Court has just totally discredited itself by showing how politicized it is. A disgrace!
It is indeed the Republicans who have been opposing for decades any measure on gun control in the name of their Constitution written at a time when guns were single shot…

There are a lot of reasons I supported Bernie Sanders in 2016, but one of them was a hope for a change in US politics. Not sure if I want to get into the “Deep State”, but the US’s duopoly politics leaves a lot to be desired for me. I am also not sure if there will soon be a switch from the “three branches of government” to something which is more streamlined and democratic (e.g., a parliamentary system).

I’m not sure I buy into the fear on the left that things will become more authoritarian, but there is a definite need for change in the cities to enforce law and order.

Anyway, one of the issues that led to my divorce is that I made it clear I am going back to Europe. I am not very optimistic about US culture or politics these days.

And the Supreme Court doesn’t inspire much confidence.

Going to Bermuda???

I am seriously thinking about going to Bermuda for Lobster Season, which goes from the First of September to the 31st of March 31. I would like to take my dogs, which used to be impossible.

Now it’s only difficult.

Only a couple of hotels allow dogs: The Hamilton Princess & Beach Club along with the Rosewood Bermuda. I see which one I would go to if I do take my dogs. Unfortunately, both of them are away from civilisation. So, getting a Twizy would be a definite, but not a problem since the dogs would ride in the back.

Anyway, it’s still in the planning stages, but it is something I am considering. Also, considering Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine or the Gaspé. Those might be more doable with dogs


Beautiful Woman on the beach

I took this picture of a woman on Elbow Beach in Bermuda:

I love the image a woman looking out to sea at sunset. We can imagine the woman.

I like to believe that she is very attractive and charming. The love of our life because she is everything we ever desired in a woman: attractive, great company, the best travel companion, and …um….yeah…..

All I know is that she is a stranger to me.

Ukrainian heritage

Ok, my grandfather was born in Austria-Hungary and my dad in Poland, yet I can claim Ukrainian heritage. At least that was what I was told when I applied for Polish citizenship after Brexit: not sure if Ukraine agrees. As I like to say, I’m European if we are going into where my ancestors came from: Pretty much the map of EU members with the exception of Portugal and Spain. So…

The people who want to say Ukraine is part of Russia have no idea what they are talking about.

The people outside of Russia who say it are just ignorant.

The Russians have an ulterior motive, which isn’t very good. And neither is their claim to Ukrainian territory (which I discuss in a few Penigma posts: this, this, and this). Russia didn’t control Ukrainian territory until the 19th Century. Even then, it was only a small part. It wasn’t until after WWII that Russian could claim to have all of what is now considered Ukraine.

Does that mean that Ukraine didn’t exist? No. People who believe that don’t really understand Europe or European cultures. European cultures aren’t ethnic fairs held once a year, something like Cinquo de Mayo or St. Partick’s Day. They exist and they deserve respect.

And yet another error on a data mining site

Imagine my surprise when looking up some information on my Uncle, that I learned my father was living with him on a couple of these sites.

My father has been dead since 2010. That’s 12 years.

Not as long as the other dead person (roughly 40 years), but my father is still dead as far as I know.

Part of the reason I am off social media since they make most of their money selling your information. Same goes for Amazon.

The US needs strong data protection laws, but don’t expect that to happen as long as there is big money in selling your information.

C’est officiel ! Je suis un francophone.


This test was as official as you can get. I had to provide a government issued ID to take it. The document was sent to the Embassy in my country. Not to mention I had to actually sign for this even though the administrator (administratris?) knew me.


The neat thing is that it is another qualification for French citizenship that I have passed.

I’ve got to stay off Twitter

The problem is that it’s the best source for news on Ukraine. Unfortunately, it’s also the home of Russian bots. I have to admit I never really saw one before, but they are out in force right now. They are actually easy to spot since they usually say things which are WRONG. Taras Bilous pretty much sums up most of their arguments in his letter to the Western Left from Kyiv.

I would add the charge of anti-semitism to his list though. Yeah, there are anti-Semites in Ukraine. They are pretty much everywhere, but its amusing to see WHO uses this argument. People who are against the state of Israel.

The issue is that there are enough arguments against Putin’s incursion that it is amazing anyone would defend it, or want to take action to prolong it. Especially for those on the left.

The faster the Ukrainian “David” slays the Russian “Goliath”, especially without the help of the United States, the better. That will wipe two of the countries that are pretending to be superpowers out of the game.

China is too cagey to play superpower: especially once it sees the fate of the US and Russia. They’ve been around for a while and have experience. Although, I would put money China as is will also meet the same fate.

My biggest frustration is that I am seeing young people being tossed into the meat grinder, whether they are military or not. The Russians are attacking civilians. They are destroying the village to save it.

Eastern Ukraine is the part with the most ethnic Russians, and it’s where most of the fighting is happening. In other words, they are attacking the people they claim to be saving and destroying their homes. It’s blatantly obvious there is resistance and the Russian soldiers are refusing to fight.

But those soldiers are being removed from battle whether its from being wounded, killed, or surrendered. Any luck the ones left over will mutiny, but I am not hopeful for that since Putin is alleged to be seeking foreign mercenaries to fight his war.

It’s very frustrating for me since one of my parents survived being in the WWII combat zone. I want peace in Europe. It’s my home.

Shevchenko? Bandera? They ain’t gonna shut us up!

With names like those, you would expect them to be speaking out about the situation in Ukraine.

Andriy Shevchenko is a Ukrainian football manager, a former professional football player and a former politician. Shevchenko played as a striker for Dynamo Kyiv, AC Milan, Chelsea and the Ukraine national team. He was most recently head coach of Serie A club Genoa. I’m not sure if he writes poetry, but his football playing is really poetry!

And the poet is Taras Shevchenko: who may or may not be related. Anyway, Andriy is a star on his own.

Although, I still imagine the poet playing football.

Andriy is asking people: “We ask for help to find funds: Ukraine lacks food and medical equipment is running low. We need everything, but also moral support: people must protest and talk more, Ukraine needs more humanity.”

“We must demonstrate to stop this war, try in every way to help my country win this battle, to end the war as soon as possible. We must cancel all human losses.

“War is the worst thing there is. My country, right now, is going through hell. I am trying to reach people’s hearts to raise funds and help: there are so many people in Ukraine who need help.”

PSG may be the club I support post-Brexit, but I’ll cheer for Shevchenko whoever he plays for.

He’s as much a symbol of Ukraine as the poet.

I’m feeling very Ukrainian right now

I’m European, but can’t get EU citizenship. As with a good portion of Western Ukrainians, I should qualify for Polish Citizenship, but can’t because they consider me Ukrainian.

I have relatives who are either trying to get out, or are fighting in the resistance. A close cousin’s ex-wife and daughter just escaped to Krakow.

I know way more about the situation than the media, and maybe even the politicians who have screwed up this situation.

I am in contact with people inside Ukraine and with Ukrainians who are inside Russia.

I sort of understand the concern of people who are living there and dealing with the attacks.

I am very frustrated with the US and UK as well.

A Letter to the Western Left from Kyiv: Why did so many leftists turn a blind eye to Russian aggression?

This was published in a couple of places: Dissent and Open Democracy. I want to repost it since it is important to the debate, and really doesn’t just apply to the left.

I know why I was sort of silent on this topic. I didn’t have the information on the Donbass. I stopped hearing from the people I knew in that area after the takeover. And, he’s correct, as someone whose connection to Ukraine is the West (Lviv oblast) and the nationalists from that area, I could buy the fear of the Ukrainian nationalist segment by ethnic Russians in the east as a reason to be close to Russia.[1] Toss in that a lot of people couldn’t imagine that Putain would be insane enough to attack Ukraine. I was correct that there would be resistance, but I was surprised that the resistance would be as wide-spread as it has been. That said:

A Letter to the Western Left from Kyiv
Why did so many leftists turn a blind eye to Russian aggression?
Taras Bilous ▪ February 26, 2022

I am writing these lines in Kyiv while it is under artillery attack.
Until the last minute, I had hoped that Russian troops wouldn’t launch a full-scale invasion. Now, I can only thank those who leaked the information to the U.S. intelligence services.
Yesterday, I spent half the day considering whether I ought to join a territorial defense unit. During the night that followed, the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky signed a full mobilization order and Russian troops moved in and prepared to encircle Kyiv, which made the decision for me.
But before taking up my post, I would like to communicate to the Western left what I think about its reaction to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
First of all, I am thankful to those leftists who are now picketing Russian embassies—even those who took their time to realize Russia was the aggressor in this conflict.
I am thankful to politicians who support putting pressure on Russia to stop the invasion and withdraw its troops.
And I am thankful to the delegation of British and Welsh MPs, unionists, and activists who came to support us and hear us in the days before the Russian invasion.
I am also thankful to the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign in the United Kingdom for its help over many years.
This article is about the other part of the Western left. Those who imagined “NATO aggression in Ukraine,” and who could not see Russian aggression—like the New Orleans chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.
Or the DSA International Committee, which published a shameful statement failing to say a single critical word against Russia (I am very thankful to U.S. professor and activist Dan La Botz and the others for their critique of this statement).
Or those who criticized Ukraine for not implementing the Minsk Agreements and kept silent about their violations by Russia and the so-called “People’s Republics.”
Or those who exaggerated the influence of the far right in Ukraine but did not notice the far right in the “People’s Republics” and avoided criticizing Putin’s conservative, nationalist, and authoritarian policy. Part of the responsibility for what is happening rests with you.
This is part of the wider phenomenon in the Western “anti-war” movement, usually called “campism” by critics on the left. British-Syrian author and activist Leila Al-Shami gave it a stronger name: the “anti-imperialism of idiots.” Read her wonderful 2018 essay if you haven’t done so yet. I will repeat only the main thesis here: the activity of a large part of the Western “anti-war” left over the war in Syria had nothing to do with stopping the war. It only opposed Western interference, while ignoring, or even supporting, the engagement of Russia and Iran, to say nothing of their attitude to the “legitimately elected” Assad regime in Syria.
“A number of anti-war organisations have justified their silence on Russian and Iranian interventions by arguing that ‘the main enemy is at home,’” Al-Shami wrote. “This excuses them from undertaking any serious power analysis to determine who the main actors driving the war actually are.”
Unfortunately, we have seen the same ideological cliché repeated over Ukraine. Even after Russia recognized the independence of the “People’s Republics” earlier this week, Branko Marcetic, a writer for American left magazine Jacobin, penned an article almost fully devoted to criticizing the United States. When it came to Putin’s actions, he went only as far as remarking that the Russian leader had “signal[ed] less-than-benign ambitions.” Seriously?
I am not a fan of NATO. I know that after the end of the Cold War, the bloc lost its defensive function and led aggressive policies. I know that NATO’s eastward expansion undermined efforts directed at nuclear disarmament and forming a system of joint security. NATO tried to marginalize the role of the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and to discredit them as “inefficient organizations.” But we cannot bring back the past, and we have to orient ourselves on the current circumstances when seeking a way out of this situation.
How many times did the Western left bring up the United States’ informal promises to the former Russian president, Mikhail Gorbachev, about NATO (“not one inch eastward”), and how many times did it mention the 1994 Budapest Memorandum that guarantees Ukraine’s sovereignty? How often did the Western left support the “legitimate security concerns” of Russia, a state that owns the world’s second-largest nuclear arsenal? And how often did it recall the security concerns of Ukraine, a state that had to trade its nuclear weapons, under the pressure of the United States and Russia, for a piece of paper (the Budapest Memorandum) that Putin trampled conclusively in 2014? Did it ever occur to leftist critics of NATO that Ukraine is the main victim of the changes brought about by the NATO expansion?
Time and again, the Western left responded to the critique of Russia by mentioning U.S. aggression against Afghanistan, Iraq, and other states. Of course, these states need to be brought into the discussion—but how, exactly?
The argument of the left should be that in 2003, other governments did not put enough pressure on the United States over Iraq. Not that it is necessary to exert less pressure on Russia over Ukraine now.

An Obvious Mistake 

Imagine for a moment that, in 2003, when the United States was preparing for the invasion of Iraq, Russia had behaved like the United States has in recent weeks: with threats of escalation.
Now imagine what the Russian left might have done in that situation, according to the dogma of “our main enemy is at home.” Would it have criticized the Russian government for this “escalation,” saying that it “should not jeopardize inter-imperialist contradictions”? It is obvious to everyone that such behavior would have been a mistake in that case. Why was this not obvious in the case of the aggression against Ukraine?
In another Jacobin article from earlier this month, Marcetic went as far as saying that Fox News’s Tucker Carlson was “completely right” about the “Ukraine crisis.” What Carlson had done was question “Ukraine’s strategic value to the United States.” Even Tariq Ali in the New Left Review approvingly quoted the calculation of German admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach, who said that giving Putin “respect” over Ukraine was “low cost, even no cost,” given that Russia could be a useful ally against China. Are you serious? If the United States and Russia could reach an agreement and start a new Cold War against China as allies, would that really be what we wanted?

Reforming the UN

I am not a fan of liberal internationalism. Socialists should criticize it. But this does not mean that we have to support the division of “spheres of interest” between imperialist states. Instead of looking for a new balance between the two imperialisms, the left has to struggle for a democratization of the international security order. We need a global policy and a global system of international security. We have the latter: it is the UN. Yes, it has plenty of flaws, and it is often the object of fair criticisms. But one can criticize either to refute something or to improve it. In the case of the UN, we need the latter. We need a leftist vision of reform and democratization of the UN.
Of course, this does not mean that the left should support all of the UN’s decisions. But an overall reinforcement of the UN’s role in the resolution of armed conflicts would allow the left to minimize the importance of military-political alliances and reduce the number of victims. (In a previous article, I wrote about how UN peacekeepers could have helped to resolve the Donbas conflict. Unfortunately, this has now lost its relevance.) After all, we also need the UN to solve the climate crisis and other global problems. The reluctance of many international leftists to appeal to it is a terrible mistake.
After Russian troops invaded Ukraine, Jacobin’s Europe editor David Broder wrote that the left “should make no apologies for opposing a US military response”. This was not Biden’s intention anyway, as he said multiple times. But a large part of the Western left should honestly admit that it completely fucked up in formulating its response to the “Ukrainian crisis.”

My Perspective

I will finish by briefly writing about myself and my perspective.
Over the past eight years, the Donbas war has been the main issue that has divided the Ukrainian left. Each of us formed our position under the influence of personal experience and other factors. Thus, another Ukrainian leftist would have written this article differently.
I was born in the Donbas, but in a Ukrainian-speaking and nationalist family. My father became involved in the far right in the 1990s, observing Ukraine’s economic decay and the enrichment of the former Communist Party leadership, which he had been fighting since the mid-1980s. Of course, he has very anti-Russian, but also anti-American, views. I still remember his words on September 11, 2001. As he watched the Twin Towers falling on TV, he said that those responsible were “heroes” (he does not think so anymore—now he believes that the Americans blew them up on purpose).
Then the war began in Donbas in 2014, my father joined the far-right Aidar battalion as a volunteer, my mother fled Luhansk, and my grandfather and grandmother stayed in their village, which fell under the control of the “Luhansk People’s Republic.” My grandfather condemned Ukraine’s Euromaidan revolution. He supports Putin, who, he says, has “restored order in Russia.” Nevertheless, we all try to keep talking to each other (though not about politics) and to help each other. I try to be sympathetic toward them. After all, my grandfather and grandmother spent their whole life working on a collective farm. My father was a construction worker. Life has not been kind to them.
The events of 2014—revolution followed by war—pushed me in the opposite direction of most people in Ukraine. The war killed nationalism in me and pushed me to the left. I want to fight for a better future for humanity, and not for the nation. My parents, with their post-Soviet trauma, do not understand my socialist views. My father is condescending about my “pacifism,” and we had a nasty conversation after I showed up at an anti-fascist protest with a picket sign calling for the disbanding of the far-right Azov regiment.
When Volodymyr Zelensky became president of Ukraine in the spring of 2019, I hoped this could prevent the catastrophe that is unfolding now. After all, it is difficult to demonize a Russian-speaking president who won with a program of peace for Donbas and whose jokes were popular among Ukrainians as well as Russians. Unfortunately, I was mistaken. While Zelensky’s victory changed the attitude of many Russians toward Ukraine, this did not prevent the war.
In recent years, I have written about the peace process and about civilian victims on both sides of the Donbas war. I tried to promote dialogue. But this has all gone up in smoke now. There will be no compromise. Putin can plan whatever he wants, but even if Russia seizes Kyiv and installs its occupational government, we will resist it. The struggle will last until Russia gets out of Ukraine and pays for all the victims and all the destruction.
Hence, my last words are addressed to the Russian people: hurry up and overthrow the Putin regime. It is in your interests as well as ours.

Taras Bilous is a Ukrainian historian and an activist of the Social Movement organization. As an editor for Commons: Journal of Social Critique, he covers the topics of war and nationalism.
This article was originally published in openDemocracy.


[1] I have a nationalist Ukrainian flag (trizub in upper canton). I told my Polish neighbours that I wouldn’t kill them in their sleep. They laughed. My Ukrainian nationalist connections preclude me from getting Polish nationality.

Remember Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 !?!?!?

I do. It was a scheduled passenger flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur that was shot down by a Buk surface-to-air missile launched from pro-Russian separatist-controlled territory in Ukraine on 17 July 2014.

That meansa this incident happened during the Obama-Biden administration.

Of course, this was lost and most of the coverage of the low level fighting in the Donbass was not mentioned. Not even during Donald Trump’s impeachment, but Biden’s taking bribes has never been mentioned.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday there was no blackmail involved during a telephone call with President Donald Trump that has since set in motion an impeachment inquiry.

Yeah, of course, I am pissed. The US didn’t give a shit about Ukraine, and probably wouldn’t if Putin hadn’t threatened to use nukes.

But, my real problem are people in the US who want to bring up partisan US politics instead of serious issues: US election reform, Energy Independence, Why Putin was able to be in the position he was to start this.

I do not believe Putin would have dreamed of this incursion if he knew there would be a unified response from the west, but he knew that wouldn’t be the case. And he didn’t need to fix the US election: they are rigged enough as is.

Part of me wants to do a post on “Could Russiagate have led to the Ukraine invasion?”, but I don’t want to be partisan. Especially since both US parties are pretty much the same to me. And both were culpable in creating this situation.

But the bottom line is that most people couldn’t find Ukraine on a map and have no fucking idea what has been going on there. I have a much better knowlege than the average American. Europeans are a little more informed since they lived through the wars.

The US is its own planet. And it needs to leave its politics at home to deal with this situation.

Why I am more European than North American

I remember saying how much I liked Europe when I was young and a woman said to me: “But they take dogs into restaurants…” I have no problem with that. As one guide book said about that in France: “If one restaurant doesn’t allow dogs, the one next door does…”

Yeah, that’s not true of all Europe, but I’m watching as people evacuate Ukraine, taking their pets with them.

That makes me feel somewhat good about all this.

Ukrainians abroad…

Euronews has an article about Ukrainians abroad: Lost and frightened but desperate to help. My Ukrainian connections are distant, but close enough to feel uncomfortable about the situation. I do have Ukrainian family members, but they are distant.

The closest would the the ex-wife and daughter of a cousin who is trying to leave Lviv for Slovakia. That same group of cousins has cousins fighting in the Ukrainian resistance. I would probably be on my way there if I wasn’t in my 60s (ages are 18-60 to serve). This is the best page on what the requirements are for the Ukrainian Foreign Legion. I might pass for younger, but you need a passport or government issued ID, which would be my giveaway.

I would like to think this will be over soon, but given the fact that it happened in the first place doesn’t give me too much hope for that. Putain has already shown he is crazy and foolish by doing this. Add in the threat of using nuclear weapons. I have a hard time being optimistic despite the good news.

I have to admit to thinking that people who talk about starting a civil war have to be crazy, foolish, or ignorant. They are definitely not patriots. No one would want to see their country in the state that Ukraine has gotten into because of this. True patriots would hunt you down and kill you anyway if you did something that stupid.

Whatever, I am feeling very frustrated right now.