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Monday, February 10, 2014

A Thought on Sochi

I have never cared for the winter Olympics.

As a kid, I liked some of the summer Olympics' games, especially field and track where the US and the USSR competed in events I could understand and to which I could relate. I, however, soured on those Olympics, too, after seeing the limp reaction of the "world community" to the slaughter of Israeli athletes at the Munich games.

In sum, do away with the whole thing and I would not care. The Olympics remind me of the UN: full of anti-US and anti-Israeli sentiments and maneuvers, e.g., removing baseball, not dealing with Muslim countries anti-Israeli behavior at the games, biased judging by allegedly impartial judges, etc., at the same time that the US media market keeps the things alive. They are full of government intervention, which ensures cost overruns, corruption, cheap politics, and hypocrisy. I could never understand the desire to play host to the monster. When the games came to Los Angeles in 1984, we made sure to be on leave in Morocco.

Be gone!

So after years of campaigning and palm greasing, the 2014 winter games were awarded Russia and based in Sochi. I never have been to Sochi either under Soviet or Russian rule. I don't know for a fact if it's a genuine winter wonderland or a third-world socialist idea of one--I, of course, have my suspicions about which. Anyhow, the Russians apparently spent tons of petrodollars getting Sochi ready for the games, including hiring stray dog killers which gives some indication of the type of "wonderland." The web and other media are full of stories--Google them, I won't link to them--about how disastrous those preparations have proven. The journalists, having a blast, ridicule the Russians for lousy hotel rooms, bad water, a pillow shortage, erratic electricity, crappy food, lack of internet and phones, and all the other usual stuff that Western journalists go on and on about.

Is it true?

The press lies about so much that it proves difficult to tell. I, nevertheless, am sure that since the USSR morphed into Russia, et al, we have not seen an overnight burst of efficiency. I can believe that, and that corruption probably ate a lot of the money laid out for the games and the accommodations. I am taken aback, however, by the savagery with which the journos have attacked. It makes me wonder, and I am just speculating, if there is not an element of payback for the Russians being so politically incorrect. Putin--and I am no fan of his--has been quite open about his antipathy towards Muslim jihadis and gays. That seems an unforgivable "crime" in the eyes of the NY Times, the BBC, the wire services, etc.

This also ties in with another phenomenon I have noticed in the past 15-20 years. Russians and East Europeans, especially Serbs, comprise the last big group (along with Mormons) one can insult openly in movies and on TV. Slavs inevitably get cast as prostitutes, drug dealers, human traffickers, nuclear weapon smugglers, sadists, torturers, and murderers. When Hollywood needs a terrorist, it is likely a Russian or a Serb--you know, just like the ones who flew the planes into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. They are white, Christian (and Jewish), and anti-Communist (wonder why?) so, of course, they are despicable human beings. When Communism held sway, I don't recall seeing so many Russians portrayed as villains.

In closing, let me just note that the town in California where I sit much of the time, has lots of Russian immigrants. Maybe I just meet a select group, but the ones I have met are polite, kind, hard-working, well-educated, family-oriented, religious, knowledgable about the world, and--horrors!--very much enamored of the USA and worried about its future. We mustn't have those sorts around, now must we?

Maybe I am out to lunch, and still not fully recovered, but, that's how I see it.

41 comments:

  1. I'm from Sacramento, and the Russian and Ukrainian immigrants who've come there after the fall of the USSR have been among the hardest working people you could ever meet, much like the Vietnamese who came in the 70s. In essence, the best people are getting out of Russia and trying to get here.

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  2. Sochi is a pleasant enough town, I was there over the summer of 1990 and enjoyed it thoroughly. Accommodations at that time actually were not bad, for soviet standards.
    I recall being in Krasny Polanya (where they are holding the outdoor events) and people were saying that they wanted to hold the Winter Olympics there. Mind you, the only road into that area at the time was a two-lane reminiscent of a scene from an Indiana Jones movie - thousand foot sheer drops to raging rivers. I'm impressed they could do the civil engineering aspect of the games, as it was a rather remote spot.

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  3. From my interactions, Russians make great Americans.

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  4. The best Americans (yeah, I know, I'm generalizing, sue me) are ones who have escaped the dreariness and fear of a totalitarian regime. They are also the ones most alarmed at the current direction of the US.

    -Blake

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    Replies
    1. Like the attorney Orly Taitz who's filed hundreds of lawsuits against Obama's eligibility to be POTUS.

      Delete
  5. The Diplomad doesn't like the Winter Olympic?!!! What, the crashes of the ice dancing ... oh, wait ... that was NASCAR I was watching.

    Green Bear

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  6. I could not agree more with Diplo regarding the Olympics, both Summer and Winter. As for watching them, because my T remote excludes the local NBC station, I could not watch even if I wanted too!

    John

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  7. I too have been saddened by the US media orgy of put-downs etc.. Sochi I am told is 140km long, had no infrastructure worth talking about, possessed only a mountain and everything had to be done from scratch. For their $50bn (or really about $40bn when you take off the corruption premium), they created a full winter resort in a summer resort area in seven years. Presumably, another chunk of the $40bn is the security 'tax' imposed by 'terror' and the costs of self-interested demonstrators (when my town hosted the G8 that cost was many multiples of any 'true' costs). The mistake they made was having the world media there a week early with nothing better to do than bitch and think up snide comments. I hold no brief for Russia, but I thought their opening ceremony was terrific. And, I found the NBC presenter's astonishment to discover that Russia has a deep culture hilarous.
    Kirkbride

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  8. 1. The $50+ billion has not just been spent on the Olympics facilities.
    Read this
    http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/2014/02/sochi-adler-krasnaya-polyana-panorama.html
    Or if you don't want to read me because of some stupid "he's paid for by Putin" crap, just look at the panorama pictures.
    2. This blog, by a US athlete shows what a representative of the most important people at the Games feel about it. He's pretty impressed.
    noahhoffman.com/

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    Replies
    1. Not quite sure why you would think I would denigrate you. I think your point and mine are in line. Regardless of the accounting (olympics or intrastructure) I think the civil engineering and administrative achievement (a full winter resort in a summer resort area with embedded olympics) is terrific and it barely gets acknowledged. As to corruption my understanding is that it runs around 15% in Russia and is more or less an unavoidable cost of doing business so would be part of the civil engineering budget, and I also assume that the threat of terrorism etc is built into the construction designs so further inflating the cost over 'normal' building. These make the civil engineering effort even more impressive.
      As to the athlete my remarks were about the mass media intervention.
      Kirkbride

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    2. Another fake photo exposed. In Russian but the twit's tweets are in English.
      http://lique-bez.livejournal.com/1506.html

      Mr Anon, I don't know you, but I am well accustomed to be called pro-Putin when I attempt to counter the propaganda. Enjoy how he tries to weasel out of it (but I guess that's taught in "journo school").

      Delete
  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  10. I'll be first to proclaim "perhaps off-topic" but only because paraphrasing the old saw, "What has the amount of precip in Atlanta to do with the color of the water in Sochi?"

    It's just that I note "The Authorities" have declared much of Georgia under [USA - not Russia] A State of Emergency.

    After seeing that I wondered, "Just how much snow/ice has to fall for a State Government to declare such a thing? At what cost?"

    Here's the past three days (72 hours) weather history of Atlanta

    http://w1.weather.gov/data/obhistory/KFTY.html

    look to the column under 'precip'

    (Leaving aside my befuddlement that here in Arkansas - where we have few snowplows too - nevertheless take it upon ourselves, and not the Government, to decide whether to venture out. Our schools for instance, have self-announced closures over the passed six days.)

    I'll not feel bad Diplomad Sir should you remove this comment too, as I'll be aware you've noted the ridiculousness of what "Bad Press" is capable.

    Arkie

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  11. I make no bones about being a diehard anti-Communist. Regan got it right when he called the Soviet Union the Evil Empire; and he should've said the same thing about Communist China rather than letting the grossly overestimated Henry Kisisnger tell him what a wonderful guy Deng Xiaoping was (in reality, imagine a Danny DeVito role stripped of all warmth, pathos, humor, decent core, and whatnot--just a nasty little man, but with power).

    But I'm also PO'd at the common Russia-bashing and Slav-bashing going on. If Russia wants to be a normal country rather than a false Messiah, I respect that. And, just as BIsmarck once said that the whole of the Balkans wasn't worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier, I don't think that ex-Yugoslavia was worth the taxpayer dollars spent bombing the Serbs. Part of me (which I hope is wrong) also thinks that our bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade was a dirty and cynical deal betwixt the Billary and their Beijing backers to give Beijing something to rally pro-regime sentiment when it was getting dangerously close to a new round of political dissidence which might well have succeeded where the 1989 movement failed.

    However, the Russians also poked the O in the eye for his making homosexuals prominent in the US delegation. I understand that the Russian skater who lit the cauldron posted a manipulated photo of the O and Moochelle looking like a pair of hungry monkeys eyeing a banana and hasn't been censured (indeed, she got chosen for the job AFTER posting the pic, I gather). Now, this is something of which I disapprove, seems how a Greek female athlete got barred for something less racist a couple years back. But I just wonder if it isn't Russian payback.

    Further, I sympathize with Russia's anti-LGBT position. As vice consul in Bangkok, I didn't look for the sex industry, but it was just too prominent to miss; and was it ever sordid. May God save us from anything like it. It included too many men who knew they were dying of HIV-AIDS, but they went to a poor country for one last fling with partners the younger the better, and told themselves that they were helping the world's poor by throwing some money around. BTW, I condemn the hetero sex toursits, too.

    I strongly suspect that Russia fears that its most vulnerable people (orphaned children) might end up commoditized for the lusts of the West's sickest people (remember Frank Lombard, anyone?), and wants to do what it can to prevent it. If this is indeed the case, my sympathies are 175% with the Russian government against my own. Having handled foreign adoption cases, I can easily foresee how a very horrible kind of human trafficking might grow up under the cover of oh-so-lovey-dovey-and-sweet foreign adoptions. I've already seen the Roman Catholic diocese driven out of adoptions in DC over the demand that homosexuals be given consideration, and when people who truly care for orphans are driven out of adoptions by a lawyered-up pressure group and a government and judiciary that has lost touch with fundamental realities it is simply disgusting. Indeed, I can see how with adoptions, the LGBT agenda could easily corrupt domestic adoptions as social workers go against their better judgments out of fear of anti-discrimination lawsuits.

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  12. I have to agree with you Bob, there a lot of ludicrous Olympic events now both Winter & Summer. For instance:
    Synchronised Swimming - WTF? Two chubby chicks with clothespegs on their noses doing pirouettes in the pool
    Diving - 'look at me look at me!' I can do a reverse pike with pelvic thrust before I bomb into the pool
    Beach Volleyball - I'm sure this was included just for the prurient value. Flat chested girls leaping about showing plenty of ass cleavage
    Handball - Give me a break. Why not include Hackeysack as well?
    Rythmic Gymnastics - Ridiculous. Girls leaping about waving ribbons or clutching hoops, that is definately NOT sport
    Ice Dancing - now this is a competition for conceited airheads. It is not sport but a skill
    Dressage - A thundering 50km cross-country perhaps but watching a horse prance about is mind-numbingly boring
    You get the idea. The Olympics is all about running various distances, swimming same-same, throwing various objects and wrestling, the rest is just tosh. Any event that has to be judged should be dropped. Competition means winners and losers, clearly defined. If you don't win or place you weren't good enough, try again next time, if you make the cut.

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    Replies
    1. They're not all "flat-chested" - granted not well-endowed in that department.

      So I've "been told" most assuredly of course.

      Ark

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    2. You're right Arkie, i must stop generalising.

      Delete
    3. Strong disagreement on rhythmic gymnastics. These "girls" like any gymnast or ballerina, have superb training that would make Marine Corps boot camp look like child's play. Beyond the age of 25, these feats are no longer possible for the human body. It's much more than mere ribbons and hoops.

      Delete
    4. Anon, I am by no means mocking their athletic prowess. I know they are very fit but my point remains about being 'judged' in their disciplines. If the contestant is judged then I don't see it as a sport, just a skill.

      Delete
    5. Too Anon,

      You might send a note to SecDef, closing San Diego & Parris Island replacing those installations with Soviet era gymnastics coaches would go a very long way toward cutting the defense budget. & if the, as you say, the "superb training" could enable the graduates of such a regimen to perform the requisite more than 3 chin-ups ... well I'd admit that would be a boon to our infantry.

      Ark

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  13. Further, I sympathize with Russia's anti-LGBT position.

    Just a quibble Kepha.

    I've not seen any evidence (granted, I've not looked for any) of "anti-LGBT" sentiment/frenzy resulting in either the suppression of or arresting any individuals of the LGBT community. The law was voted in (I think if not unanimously, at least overwhelmingly) by both of Russia's chambers.

    I suspect if, rather than our pols making our population's choice, the US voting public was given it's usual balloting mechanism at the polls - meaning "secret ballot" (& very likely especially were the usual 'likeliest to vote') a US version of a strictly "anti-propaganda law" would enjoy passage by a rather decided majority.

    But that happening stands as much chance as the proverbial snowball ...

    I can't "know" but I suspect the average Joe/JoBeth Russian trembles at the spectacle across the Bering and doesn't wish to be constantly barraged and beaten over the head with, the constant din. Heck, I don't much care for it either. Wouldn't want to get taxed to build more prisons though, and I doubt Putin's got any gulags reserved for the purpose.

    Your ending sentence says it all - for me. For an agenda to be normalized it must first be, propagandized.

    Ark

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    1. Frankly, I quibble with an anti-propaganda law. It smacks too much of violating the First Amendment. But, frankly, I'd not lose any sleep if America re-criminalizes sodomy.

      Delete
    2. Well yes Kepha, it's for the best our pols have "some things to lord over" [what I suspect nevertheless is] the majority here in the US.

      But so far as I know, Russia has no equivalent to our First Amendment. At least that's what I took from the Pussy Riot Incident.

      Ark

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  14. Lots of comments on this. :)

    The IOC could certainly teach the UN a thing or two about corruption.

    While I would have liked to have seen baseball retained, the replacement sports (golf and rugby) are simply more universal (played in more countries) by any measure.

    The 1984 Los Angeles games (which nobody wanted) were one of the great successes in Olympic history (okay, expectations were really low, but still...).

    Sochi is more of a summer resort, with enough mountains nearby for the outdoor events (and the indoor events could be held in Qatar in August if desired).

    Russia isn't known (except for Moscow at absolutely ridiculous prices) for their hospitality industry.

    "It makes me wonder, and I am just speculating, if there is not an element of payback for the Russians being so politically incorrect."

    Absolutely (not to mention the U.S. government is trying to milk the Snowden asylum for all of the propaganda points that it can).

    Love the Russian people, hate the Russian government. There are a lot of jerks in Russia, but part of that is due to so many good people having emigrated.

    Speaking of jerks...

    http://www.cnbc.com/id/101396199

    While i am not a big fan of team handball or beach volleyball, at least those are "real" sports (there are handball leagues in Europe, and beach volleyball is quite popular - and lucrative for the top players). What I don't like is the addition (especially recently) of so many subjective "sports" (including many mentioned by Popular Front). This year we have "snowslope" which seems like like another fairly random event (anyone can win on the day, and there little consistency in an individual's performances). My favorite winter Olympic sport is biathlon (among other reasons, it involves guns :) ).
    You race, you shoot, and officials seldom have any effect on the outcome.

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  15. Looks like The Walking Dead beat the Olympics in the ratings (8.2 vs 6.9).
    Lesson learned: When Zombies invade the Olympic Village, bet on the Zombies.

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  16. My memories of the Olympics seem to track with that old Val Kilmer film "Top Secret." There's a scene where the East German womens' gymnastics team comes out and they are clearly all guys made up as women.

    Hey, we don't use steroids....

    The blatant bias of the old Comm Bloc judges was also something to behold.

    I was quite young when Munich happened. But I have never forgotten it. Nor have I forgotten that we've gone from films that documented the heroism of the atheletes--the rather well done miniseries "Sword of Gideon" to rank apologia & moral equivalence with the terrorists (Spielberg's "Munich").

    These are sad days and they aren't getting any better. I'm trying to be optimistic, but the cranial rectitus evident with the GOP isn't encouraging me that we will have anything to look forward to beyond an Empty Pantsuit administration in 2016.

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    1. "East German womens' gymnastics team" Gave the name "Olga the shot putter" a whole new meaning.

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  17. I myself have never been much of a fan of the Olympics- warm or cold weather. In school we saw old news reels of the 1936 games with Hitler's face all over them. We enjoyed Jessie Owens making a hash of Hitler's propaganda. Also, less remarked on after the years went by, was the opening procession of teams and their respective flags parading past Hitler's seating and how the flag bearers dipped their flag as a gesture of something. It was emblazoned in my mind that the American flag bearer did not dip our flag one bit. That detail seems lost in time.

    I was in Munich during early August 1972 and visited the stadium where tragic history was soon to be made. I had just returned home when the massacre of Jewish athletes took place right where I was.

    I also remember the basketball officials double crossing the American Team and awarding the Gold to the Soviets. That burned too. I knew it wouldn't be long before the US decided to send pros to the games instead of amateurs and end this best at basketball nonsense for good. Finally, while I am no fan of ice hockey, I did enjoy the run the historic hockey team made against all odds against the Czech and Soviet teams. I enjoyed it right down to every hard check and hard elbow dealt.

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  18. My experience is that there is a great difference between Russian emigres to the US. Perhaps it is due to folks from different segments of society coming at different times? At any rate there are the wonderful freedom-loving and freedom-appreciating folks (think of the Volokh brothers, or Ilya Somin, or Oleg Volk, or--not Russian but from the Soviet bloc--Alex Kozinski.)

    But the there are those who, despite being ones who left Mother Russia, seem to have internalized the message that "the state will take care of you and tell you what to do". A more passive, dispirited group I have never met.

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  19. Mr DiploMad,
    I can understand your lack of interests in Olympics, and as you I can not care less if they ever take place again.
    I was in a cheering squad of two with my late Father, but than I came to States in 1980...when I have learned about the business of money and politics behind the noble sports I was done!
    Sochi.
    I never was there or in Russia and have no desire to do so, but I did grew up in communist Poland and I have hard time to believe things are as bad as proclaimed by some newspersons.
    There is just no way Putin being on a center stage for 2 weeks would allow an empty elevator shaft unprotected for one of our sportsman walk almost into it..and yes the lack of pillows, jamming doors, nasty food...
    There no such thing as nast russian food, different but not nasty, so maybe the persons reporting all the calamities are missing their Upper Manhattan nests?...

    Back, when I was in school we painted grass green, hang apples on appletree branches, yellow autumn leaves on surrounding trees for a big shot communist party visit...
    Putin is younger than me but grew up in some very indoctrinated world...and he would never give obama and the West the satisfaction of less than perfect!

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    1. The whole Sochi press uproar is odd. I agree with this point "Putin is younger than me but grew up in some very indoctrinated world...and he would never give obama and the West the satisfaction of less than perfect!" It seems to me a 'narrative battle' being carried on by the western press on behalf of the Obama administration.

      Delete
    2. True,
      Since I wrote my first comment, I was talking to a schoolfriend of mine while we met at a grocery store.
      Lets call him Joe.
      He is a semi truck driver and many of his trips were to the area of Black Sea.
      He said that over his trips for the past 25 years (give or take couple) to this very region of Sochi (Georgian Region of Russia)
      he never experienced anything but great hospitality.
      He was reliving the super-sized portions of food served for dinner, and accomodations beyond average person expectations.
      I suppose a little expl would do:
      My friend did not grow up in a shack with Out-John in a back of the property...his Family was well-to-do and common comforts were every day news to him...
      For Joe to be impressed with Russian restaurant/hotel accomodations years before Sochi speaks volume, and to me (knowing all of the backgrounds of communistic ways) means that I was right in the first place:
      There is no way, no how Vlad Putin would allow something, anything go wrong
      NO WAY!!!!
      He portrays himself as a Karate master, dives, skies, parashutes, builds his body and works on his best to be
      the best...
      HIS Winter Olympics to be the "fish bowl" of the Worlds attention for 2 weeks being taken down by missing a bed pillow?...
      NO WAY!
      NO HOW!

      Delete
  20. For the important questions: What's the prognosis getting back into the Vette? I bet the bathroom is a challenging place now.

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  21. Joanna, James,

    I didn't think there was any need for me to place a certain link here on Dip's site simply because I thought my calling "our media" agitprops would be both unnecessary and redundant.

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/sochi-olympics-media-los-angeles-1984/

    Arkie

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    1. "For his part, President Obama announced he will avoid Sochi and demonstratively appointed openly gay athletes to the U.S. delegation to the games. Among those appointed is sports legend and lesbian icon, Billie Jean King. King aspires to be Obama’s “big gay middle finger” to Putin."
      Arkie: When you claim agitprop you're right. What I will say though this dust up really has nothing to do with gays, gay rights, etc. Putin has been making a fool out of Obama and his administration for a while now. The problem for O and crowd is their agitprop narrative weapon which has been so successful domestically is the only thing they have and cuts no ice in foreign affairs, at least with Putin.
      But the Olympics is different in that it is a giant PR deal for Russia/Putin so they roll out the weapon and the gay agenda that worked so well in the US then hit Putin with it. Well they're fools, for it makes Putin look good to the home crowd and makes us look whiny and arrogant to the rest of the world.

      Delete
    2. Arkie,
      propaganda was and it is going to be a major gun to bring down the other side.
      Just two nights ago I was watching a program showing huge debris piles and building left overs shoved to the outskirts of Olympic village, covered with a blue tarp for strangers to look like a construction side.
      I have no doubt it is true.
      Like James said, obama showing Putin a middle finger with his gay 'sport legends' is not hurting anyone but Americans and making obama for the fool that he is.
      It is not about Putin. Russian society does not take to gays well and their acceptance level on a scale 1-10 is about -2.
      I am not in Putins corner by any means, but he can take obama down being tied down and gagged.
      As far as ridiculing 1984 LA and Reagan...I actually enjoyed the article. Thank you.
      Reminded me of all the evils of CAPITALISTIC AMERICA and Western Countries in general we were exposed to in school, showing us all the poor citizens (mostly black) hanged for their skin color, inequality for average family being robbed of their well deserved equal rights by employer, used as a robots by evil owners, supressed in their fight for freedom...
      I shall stop right here before I go too far and write a novel of communistic ways I lived under and see them take over United States of America ...
      reminds of a horror movie I watched years ago..'Pod People' (?)

      Delete
    3. Joanna, I thought you'd appreciate enjoy that article, precisely for the reasons you have stated - and to both yourself and to James, I thoroughly understand which audience Obama's gestures are aimed at. Only in the US would it be possible to get a fish to swallow such a bait hook, line and sinker.

      Joanna? The following link is aimed more for James but, I'd appreciate you making anything you think needs to be made more clear.

      http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/02/what-americans-dont-get-about-putin-103449.html

      Arkie

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  22. My son is an independent contractor as a TV sports producer. he was doing the Super Bowl and had been asked to do Sochi for NBC but declined...too far..he spends all this time on a plane..doing NFL and MLB.and it would have meant going right from NJ to Sochi..but he was/has been in contact with his NBC buds..and he said, that they said..that their accomodations were pretty good..However, they could have been up near the skating, skiing venues...which I suspect were a bit fancier...I have a client in Russia who is playing hockey there right now...I asked him if he was going to Sochi..he said no...it was too far..12 hours by plane!!!! Yikes!! and he said there was going to be so much military there ,altho needed..he didn't think it was going to be tons of fun...

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