Tag Archives: Vladimir Putin

Putin’s Russia re-defines chutzpah

So far as gall is concerned, Russian government seems to have perfectly unlimited reserves of it, and then some.

The latest example: Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s minister of foreign affairs, demands “legal guarantees” (whatever THAT means) that Ukraine will remain neutral and will not join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

As a reminder: NATO is a military alliance, formed in 1949. Canada is one of its founding members.

Growing potential for Soviet post-Second World War expansionism, seen as a major threat by the West, was the original idea behind the treaty. The Soviets, having promised their wartime Allies they would permit free elections in countries they had “liberated” would end up holding elections that were anything but free. Thus, they created a group of countries, called originally “people’s democracies,” only to become a network of communist dictatorships. Since the Soviets were giving all kinds of signs it was not their intention to stop there, the West acted to instill a bit of fear in them and, at least, slow down (if not stop) the Soviet expansionist plans.

The Soviets hated NATO with a vengeance that would have deserved better things.

Now, NATO has committed an unpardonable act: considering Ukraine a candidate for membership, it told the Russians to stay within their borders and stop violating Ukraine’s borders.

On and off

What has happened is this: Ukraine became a NATO membership candidate in 2008. The pro-Russian government of president Viktor Yanukovych, elected in 2010, said it would rather that Ukraine remained non-aligned. Yanukovych’s party changed the country’s policy in an internal document dealing with its political orientation, but it never officially withdrew Ukraine from NATO.

The important thing to remember here: Yanukovych is the guy deposed from his presidency following his about-face when it came to the European Union (EU), and he is, at the same time, the guy who claims he’s Ukraine’s president still, making these pronouncements from the safety of Russian government’s security installations.

Russian government has been acting in the traditional way, maintaining what have been in fact Tsarist imperial policies. These have included hostility toward the West, in general, and the overwhelming wish to have secure buffer zones between the West and Russia proper, in particular.

These policies have existed under the Tsars, they flourished under the communists, and they are alive and well under Vladimir Putin. The fact that they are somewhat outmoded, indeed, stupid, even, now, doesn’t matter. What matters is Mama Rossia (Mother Russia), overseeing her holdings and making sure they are safe (and she is safe doing so).

That one needs to twist historical facts from time to time in order to do so? So what? That the claim that, for example, Crimea has been always Russian and today’s government is only restoring it to its rightful owner is a bloody lie? Who cares? We stole it in the 18th century from its previous owners, and that makes it ours. And if you don’t like it, tough.

But now NATO has mentioned that there is this Article 5 of the treaty. It says the Alliance will help any of its members in case they suffer an attack from the outside. The article makes no difference between full and candidate memberships. And NATO told Russia it is perfectly prepared to meet its obligations.

Whether it will, or would, now, that’s a different question. It could lead to a nuclear exchange. Who would win?

Neither Russia, nor the West, is the answer.

And who would lose?

Here, the answer is less clear, and you can make cases for at least three scenarios (one side loses, the other side loses, they both lose).

That humankind in general would lose, that seems to be nobody’s concern.

NATO and EU: different animals

Russia, in any case, sees that NATO is not as wishy-washy a body like the European Union. That group, formed originally as a body to support the good old continent’s economy, has become a centralized and bureaucratized fossil, run by aging Maoists, Trotskyites and other such political nobodies, with imperial ambitions of their own.

So, NATO – without any sign of diplomatic delicacy – is picking up the stick known as Article 5. That is giving Russia pause. But not much of it, obviously. If Ukraine says it wants no help from NATO, their goes the stick.

But how to achieve that?

Yanukovich seems like a spent force as a Ukrainian president.

But nothing beats using insurgents who say the West has devilish plans with and for Ukraine, stoking up all kinds of more-or-less traditional phobias and paranoias. These guys then attack legitimate Ukrainian government offices, proclaiming this or that region of the country independent and concluding their declarations with calls for help from Mother Russia. We have seen this kind of scenario played somewhere before: oh, yes, Czechoslovakia’s Prague Spring of 1968.

In any case, who is going to prove the insurgents were not, in fact, working for Russia’s intelligence forces? The West can refuse to recognize the referendum results in Crimea that said most of its citizens wanted to be Russian. The West can refuse to recognize Crimea’s brand new constitution that says the place has always been and will always remain Russian.

What else can the West do?

In theory, a lot, coming close to military confrontation but not crossing that fateful line.

In real life? Not much. It has lost its willingness and, as a consequence, ability to stand up and be counted. Whether it’s because the West’s hands aren’t too clean, either, that’s another question. It is true, for example, that the West has compromised a huge chunk of its integrity when it only tried to whisper that the atrocities the Russians had been committing in Chechnya were beyond unacceptable. Putin told the West’s leaders, in no uncertain words, too, that he is saving the world from what he termed was “green danger,” meaning Islam. To the extent that, indeed, all kinds of Islamic fundamentalist groups have been using the war in Chechnya as training grounds to prepare their men for sundry methods of combat.

Silence that deafens

What did Western leaders do? To their credit, they didn’t say, oh, ah, if that’s the case, then, pray proceed. To their discredit, they didn’t say anything else, either. Their silence confirmed what Putin had been saying (in Russian tradition) all along: the end justifies the means.

Not that the West hadn’t known this saying before, and from other sources, too. After all, it has been attributed to Niccolo Machiavelli. And he himself stole it from ancient Greek playwright Sophocles. In his play, Electra, Sophocles said (in verbatim translation): “The end excuses any evil.”

But Russian president Putin has taken his administration’s gall to new levels. He’s come close to chutzpah, which is gall to end all galls.

Putin wrote a threatening letter to EU leaders, telling them to mind their own bloody business, and he can turn off deliveries of Russian oil and natural gas to Ukraine any time he pleases, and then, where are you?

He said that Ukraine owes Russia money for some of the stuff that had been already delivered, and it would be only legitimate on Russia’s part to stop delivery until all accounts are settled.

Russian ITAR-TASS news agency published the full text of the letter Thursday, and, on that same day, a U.S. State Department spokesthingie announced that Putin’s threat bordered on blackmail.

Technically, it didn’t. You’ve got to pay your bills, or your phone company or energy suppliers are within their rights to deny you service.

Logically, it did: Putin’s timing defined it.

But, and that was the funniest thing, upon hearing about the U.S. reaction, Putin told all and sundry that nice people don’t read mail that isn’t addressed to them.

And this from a former Soviet KGB spy whose job it had been to do just that!

Combined with his foreign minister open interference in another country’s policies, this goes to show the West should have told Russia to behave or else long ago.

It’s getting too late now.

Putin’s expansionism might hit North America sooner than later

Nobody (except, perhaps, for its authors) knows who wrote it. Nobody knows (except, perhaps, for its authors) who’s behind it. Nobody (except, perhaps, for its authors) can say whether it’s all in fun or not: a petition is making rounds demanding that Alaska become part of Russian Federation.

There’s been a photo montage making Internet rounds these days. It showed Russian president Vladimir Putin in comversation with his U.S. counterpart, Barack Hussein Obama. So, what’s next? asks Obama in a text bubble. Alaska used to be Russian, too, replies Putin.

A joke?

In any case, the petition has landed in the White House, Washington, D.C.

Technically speaking, everybody and their dog can file a petition with the White House. All you have to do is have an e-mail address and know enough English to answer a basic skill-testing question. That’s all. You can be sitting in Timbuktu, for all the White House cares, and nobody knows whether you are a U.S. citizen or not, and nobody gives a hoot whether your name is really Baron Münchhausen, as you are claiming in your account application, or not.

Once you’ve got a White House account, you’re in petition-filing business.

Here’s the form: you have 120 characters (with spaces) to describe what your petition is all about. An enhanced subject line, so to speak. You mark up to three topics your petition is dealing with. Once the White House system finds there are no similar petitions around at the moment, you file another up to 800 characters (with spaces): that would be the actual petition.

Then, you click submit. You have to collect the first 150 signatures yourself. That’s when your petition becomes public and anybody can join in the fun. Once there are 100,000 signatures under your petition, the White House has to react one way or another.

The Alaska-back-to-Russia petition is about half-way there, having garnered somewhere between 40 and 50 thousand signatures. Quite a distance behind the petition that demands that Canada’s pop-music phenom (and public excrement disturber) Justin Bieber be deported from the Excited States, never to be allowed back again.

Of course, some of the issues on the current petition list are more serious than others. Opposition against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) has been growing by leaps and bounds, and so has support for making public washrooms a safer place to conduct your business.

Not that anybody would be abusing the system, mind, what with a few petitions written in Chinese, with no English translation attached.

There’s no need for anyone to sign using their full name. Initials would suffice. And, again, nobody really cares if the name you’ve submitted is your real name. If you decide to go far enough and add your zip code (we’re in the Excited States, remember), the system would add the name of the community whence you’re signing. If you made the zip code up, the space remains empty, but your signature still counts.

At last look, there was an interesting mix of people signing the Alaska-back-to-Russia petition. In quite a few cases, the signatures were written in Russian alphabet (Cyrillic). Several signatures consisted of digits, Chinese letters, commas, colons, semicolons, exclamation marks and question marks.

Some analysts went so far as to try to quantify the differences between the Alaska-back-to-Russia petition and other such files on the White House petition pages.

One conclusion: no other petition was so rich on Cyrillic. And no other current petition had seen so few identifiable zip codes. In fact, the Alaska-back-to-Russia petition had about one-tenth of identifiable zip codes when compared to the average of all other petitions currently available on the site.

What does it say?

That somebody manipulated the whole thing?

But who? And why?

Or was it a premature April Fools’ Day joke? The Alaska-back-to-Russia petition was submitted midway through March, after all.

Who knows? Definitely not the White House.

Serious stuff

Except, and this is where it all gets serious, Putin’s former economic advisor told Swedish media a few days ago that the Russian president has now his eyes fixed upon Belarus and the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania). They all used to be part of the former Soviet Union, after all. And who cares that the Baltic states became part of the Soviet Union against their will, as a result of the Soviet pact with Nazi Germany.

Andrei Illarionov, who was part of Putin’s inner circle between the years 2000 and 2005, went on to suggest that not even Finland is safe from Putin’s grandiose plans.

Illarionov, who used to represent Putin at G-8 negotiations, explained that Putin has an ambition that includes “correcting historical mistakes” and returning Russia to her imperial might comparable to the country’s last Tsar, one Nicholas II, and to that of Josif Vissarionovich Stalin.

If that is so, then Finland would be a logical choice for annexation.

Breaking up the Soviet Union was the hugest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century, so far as Putin is concerned, Illarionov says. He is not revealing any secrets here: Putin has said so publicly on more than one occasion.

“Putin has been of the view he’s only defending what has belonged to him and his ancestors,” Illarionov said.

Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic states, Finland, they all belonged to Russia at one time or another.

Illarionov now works at the Cato Institute, an economic and political think-tank based in Washington. D.C. People in the White House, just a few blocks removed from this institute, should perhaps not only listen to what Illarionov has to say, but even try to hear it.

The only question: are they capable of such incredible intellectual effort? Or is Putin correct in his assessment of the current White House crew as a band of people whose intellectual abilities are perfectly negligible?

Just a reminder for those who don’t remember: Finland, a Grand Principality (Princedom) at the time, used to be part of Russia for more than 100 years. So, to imagine Putin saying that the Bolsheviks committed a howler to end all howlers by recognizing Finland’s independence as recently as in 1917 is not within the realm of the impossible. To the contrary.

Finland is not part of NATO, meaning if Russia invades, nobody’s bound to come to the Finns’ defence. That makes this situation even more threatening.

To get back to the Alaska Purchase. The Excited States bought the territory in 1867 for $119 million (U.S.) in today’s money, a bargain iof there ever was one. Russia, in war with Great Britain at the time, feared it might lose that part of the world: Canada’s British Columbia had been expanding and Tsar’s strategists felt they might as well get some money for the place. After all, to them it was an area where some fur traders were trying to eke out a living, and several missionaries were trying to convert native Alaskans to the Russian Orthodox church. Not much value, come to think of it, and getting real money for the wilderness was better than losing it.

Not many Russians (if any at all) stayed in Alaska once the contract was signed, sealed and delivered. Repatriation was part of the deal.

But Putin can always say that his predecessors made a dreadful mistake, and the price wasn’t right, either, given the riches found in Alaska since, and Mother Russia wants restitution. And she wants it now. If no other means are available, how does an invasion sound? Given what he thinks of today’s White House, he must be convinced the Excited States wouldn’t go to war. A tut-tut here and there, and that would be it.

And that is why the petition to return Alaska to Russia is not as funny as it looked at first blush.

Russia quite open about its Ukrainian “final solution”

 

Nothing beats giving away things that aren’t yours in the first place.

The Polish government has received a letter the other day. It came from Russian Duma (lower house of Russian parliament). It offered Poland five western Ukrainian regions: dear brothers, you’re free to go and get them.

To be precise: Russian Duma’s Deputy Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovskii has offered that Poland might as well annex the five western-most regions of Ukraine.

Not that such sentiment was unexpected: Zhirinovskii has been talking about the idea since the beginning of March.

But that he would send such a blatant invitation to the Polish government, on his office letterhead, to boot, to make sure the Poles treat it as an official offer, that’s what shocked the Poles no end.

Tomasz Nałęcz, advisor to Polish president Bronisław Komorowski, told the web site gazeta.pl his boss thought this must have come from a particularly sick mind.

Polish foreign affairs ministry spokesman Marcin Wojciechowski confirmed to the TVP network that, indeed, the letter had been received.

“It’s so weird nobody is taking it seriously,” Wojciechowski added.

Asked what reply might Zhirinovskii expect from the Poles, Wojciechowski told TVP that it would be a polite receipt that wouldn’t mention the topic at all.

Something like this:

Dear Sir,

Yours of … (fill in the date) at hand.

Thanks for your communication.

Sincerely, etc.

Here are the regions that Zhirinovskii describes as “non-Ukrainian”: Volyn, Lviv, Ternpyl, Ivano-Frankivsk, Rivno. All of them in Western Ukraine, all of them bound to other countries throughout their history.

A joke about these parts used to make rounds. Here’s how it went: there was a census going on, and officials knocked on an old guy’s door. Where were you born? Austro-Hungarian Empire. Where did you go to school? Czechoslovakia. Where did you get your apprenticeship papers? Poland. Which pension are you receiving now? Soviet. Man, said one of the census officials, you must have been moving all over the place, right? Me? asked the old guy. Not at all, I’ve never left Mukachevo in my life!

Call to vote

But, to get back to Zhirinovskii: in his letter, he suggested that Polish citizens ought to have a referendum to decide whether they want to annex those five regions. Not one word about asking the people who actually live there.

Democracy in action, so to speak.

According to Russian sources, Zhirinovskii didn’t stop there. He offered two other parts of Ukraine to Romania (Chernovtsy) and Hungary (Transcarpathian Mountains).

That would leave eastern Ukraine that would be annexed by Russia, and a basic rump that Zhirinovskii called “central Ukraine.”

Presidential advisor Nałęcz said Zhirinovskii’s letter is cause enough to have him thoroughly checked by a psychiatrist.

Of course, Poland is rather sensitive about any talk about annexations and redistributions. Her history is rich with such occurrences. The last one came courtesy Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. When Donald Tusk, Poland’s prime minister, had the gall to mention this in the presence of Russian president Vladimir Putin, he was in for a surprise: Putin went ballistic. He yelled, and publicly, too, that the Poles should keep their mouths shut, that they tore a piece of Czechoslovakia off on the day the Nazis invaded it. He bullied Tusk like nobody’s business.

So, it seems, the Russians are quite sensitive about this point, too, except, they take a dim view of anyone who reminds them of their past sins.

All of this follows, of course, on the heels of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The official explanation, one that resembled Adolf Hitler’s explanations about his annexation of the so-called Sudetenland areas of former Czechoslovakia, said Russia just wanted to keep the poor Russians who live in Crimea safe.

The funniest part?

Crimea , if the Russians want to pull rank based on their view of history, hasn’t been Russian in the first place. It was annexed in the 18th by Russian Tsars.

An excursion into history

For all we know, Crimea used to be known as Tauric Khersonese (Peninsula) and it used to be part of Greece. Note, for example, that even today many of its local names remind all and sundry of their Greek origins: Sevastopol, Simferopol, for instance.

It became a multicultural paradise by the Middle Ages: its population consisted of Scythians (Scytho-Cimmerians, Tauri), Greeks, Romans, Goths, Huns, Bulgars, Kipchaks and Khazars.

Following these happy times, Crimea fell to Kievan Rus and partly, to a remarkable degree, to Byzantium. It became victim to the Mongol invasions afterwards (remember the Golden Horde, anyone?).

The Venetians and the Genovese would enter the picture in the 13th century, only to be replaced by the Crimean Khanate and the Ottoman Empire in the 15th to 18th centuries.

Have you detected any Russian presence yet?

It would come only with the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Empire in 1783.

Uneasy locals

People in these areas remember their history as if it was happening today. So, no wonder Crimean Tatars want a referendum about their future in the region. After all, one of the new Crimean government’s first steps was to ask the Tatars to move from some of the areas they had traditionally considered theirs.

Considering the Tatars had been living in Crimea long before any Russians even heard of the peninsula, no wonder.

No wonder, either, that the Tatars recalled what Josif Stalin did to them, deporting them to some of the harshest parts of the Soviet Union (in the deserts of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan). Stalin suspected some of them might have collaborated with the Nazis when the Germans got to Crimea during the Second World War.

Proof? Who needs proof? The Vozhdj (Leader) said so. Proof enough.

So, even less wonder, then, that the Tatars want some reassurances. President Putin’s recent admission that what Stalin had done to them wasn’t really cricket does not sound like reassurance enough.

A photograph has been making rounds on the web in recent days. It shows Russia’s Putin and U.S. president Barack Hussein Obama in conversation. Obama asks his Russian counterpart: “So, what are your plans now that you have annexed Crimea?” And Putin replies: “Well, come to think of it, Alaska used to be Russian, too.”

Scared yet?

And does that Zhirinovskii letter still come as a shock out of clear blue sky?

Donetsk would rather move across the English Channel

Once British, always British. And that is why Donetsk, a major Ukrainian city, should secede from Ukraine and join Great Britain forthwith.

HUH?

Indeed. Thus a group of young Donetsk citizens. And they DO have a case.

A British entrepreneur named John Hughes founded the city in 1869.

Hughes hailed from Wales, and the place he considered best to expand to in Ukraine was right in the middle of a huge and rich coal mining region, with steel foundries all over the place.

Pronounce the founder’s last name. Got it? Now, read the original name of Donetsk: Yuzovka. Sound similar? That’s because it was meant to be.

And that is why the Donetsk youngsters took to VKontakte (http://vk.com/), a European version of Facebook, to declare their intentions and start a petition for a binding referendum.

VKontakte says it is the largest European social network with more than a 100 million active users. It runs in three language versions: English, Russian and Ukrainian. Your pick.

Anyhow, organizers wrote (verbatim translation from the Russian version): “Donetskists! English brothers! This is the deciding moment!

“ONLY YOU WILL DECIDE WHERE YOUR CHILDREN WILL LIVE AND WHICH LANGUAGE THEY WILL BE SPEAKING!

“As is well known, Yuzovka (Donetsk) is truly an English town, founded by the great English entrepreneur John Hughes. The Russians have been lying to us for more than 100 years that this was originally a Russian town, while the Ukrainians have kept saying it was Ukrainian.

“We demand a referendum to decide that Yuzovka returns to her mother country, Great Britain.

“Hail John Hughes and his city! God save the Queen!”

Here’s the original version of their declaration, as published on a regional news site, Donbass.ua:

Дончане! Братья-англичане! Наступил решающий момент!

ТОЛЬКО ТЕБЕ РЕШАТЬ, ГДЕ БУДУТ ЖИТЬ ТВОИ ДЕТИ И НА КАКОМ ЯЗЫКЕ ОНИ БУДУТ ГОВОРИТЬ!

Как известно, Юзовка (“Донецк”) исконно английский город, основанный великим промышленником-англичанином – Джоном Юзом. На протяжении более сотни лет русские обманывали нас, что это исконно-русский город, а украинцы – что украинский!

Мы требуем референдума по возвращению Юзовки в своё исконное лоно – в состав Великой Британии!

Слава Джону Юзу и его городу! Боже, храни Королеву!”

Within a day of the referendum demand, some seven thousand Donetsk citizens cast their votes, with more than 60 per cent saying they were all for joining Great Britain, and about 16 per cent saying they would like to become something of an autonomous region under British mandate, with English as its official language.

Donbass.ua is of the view the entire matter has been meant as a satirical spoof on what’s been going on in and around Donetsk in recent weeks and months.

And there’s been a lot going on. According to the Russian news site, newsru.com, there have been demonstrations staged by some Russian nationalists. They want the southeastern Ukrainian region to join Russia, just like Crimea had. The pro Russian crowd clashed with the defenders of what they describe as “unified Ukraine” about two weeks ago. According to the latest accounts, there was at least one casualty, but nobody’s sure: news coverage is based on which side the particular journalist is reporting for.

According to newsru.com, the eastern  part of Ukraine has supported the recently deposed president Victor Yanukovich. In fact, the site reports, the Donetsk regional parliament has formed a working group to prepare a referendum about joining Russia.

Russian president Vladimir Putin’s office claims his government has no plans to invade and swallow eastern Ukraine. Nobody believes THAT statement. Everybody has grown up knowing they must not believe any rumours until those rumours have been officially denied.

Thus the movement to join Great Britain, instead. Funny, ridiculous, even, as it may sound to the uninitiated, there is a serious note behind the whole thing.

People of Donetsk remember their history, too. They are aware that Donetsk, now a two-million-citizen city, lost its original name (Yuzovka) in 1922, to honour Josif Vissarionovich Stalin: it was renamed Stalino. It got its current name in 1961, because Stalin’s name became anathema following revelations of his crimes against humanity in general and the peoples of what used to be the Soviet Union in particular.

People of Donetsk also know that their raw material resources and industrial base make their region a tidbit the Russians would be more than happy to welcome into their empire.

Russian KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) Vladimir Shalayev announced the other day that the Donetsk hockey team will not be playing its playoffs home games at home but, rather, in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. He cited unrest in the region. Players’, referees’ and audiences’ safety and security were of paramount concern, he said.

Consider the source: Shalayev used to be a high-ranking Soviet state security (KGB) officer. So was his country’s president, Putin. And if there is anyone Putin trusts implicitly and explicitly, it’s his former KGB colleagues.

So, little wonder some people of Donetsk would go to any lengths to avoid becoming part of the all-mighty Mother Russia.

Alas, no word yet from either the Buckingham Palace or 10 Downing Street. If they still believe the whole thing about Donetsk joining Great Britain is a joke, they should start thinking of beginning to think again.

The world takes Putin’s actions on the chin – and does nothing about it

Many, many years ago, in the first half of the previous century, a Dutch sea captain of Czech origin, Jan Van Toch, anchored his ship by a small island somewhere in the Pacific. His company ordered him to find areas where they could get some original pearls. These jewels were coming back into fashion, you see. And Van Toch’s Rotterdam bosses wanted to ride the wave, enhancing their own bank accounts in the process.

The good Captain found, to his genuine surprise, animals whom the natives feared and called black devils. They were intelligent newts. Captain Van Toch befriended them, gave them all kinds of equipment, including underwater guns so they could defend themselves against the local shark population, and convinced a captain of Czech economy who, accidentally, had been born in the same little town as Jan Van Toch, that this could become a business venture.

It did. Thus Czech author Karel Čapek. That, by the way, is the guy who gave the world the word “robot.” But that’s another story for another day.

Čapek wrote and published (in 1936) War with the Newts (Válka s mloky in the original Czech). It was also translated as War with the Salamanders.

This satirical science-fiction novel describes how modern industrialists first enslaved and exploited the newts, until the creatures acquired human knowledge and rebelled. They needed more shores for themselves. So, they started destroying the continents, enlarging the world’s oceans and thus creating more space in which they could live.

If it resembles Adolf Hitler’s demand for “Lebensraum” (space to live in) for the German nation by any chance, it is no accident.

The conflict between the humans and the newts led to a global war for supremacy.

As the war progressed, the author introduced an anonymous voice, known as Mr. X, who told humankind it was perfectly insane to continue developing and delivering all kinds of weapons and sundry equipment to the newts who were, all along, continuing with their operation to destroy that same humankind. Mr. X called on people to stop this. His call was met with derision: economists, politicians, labour union leaders, they all said humankind had never had it better, employment figures were reaching 100 per cent, in fact, people would need more workers to meet all the orders coming from under-the-sea level, and who was this Mr. X anyway to try to stop progress.

If you want to know how it all ended, run to your local library or a bookstore.

Cut to the chase

We are in the twenty-first century now, and the world keeps supplying another Hitler, one who goes under the name of Vladimir Putin, and is also known as the president of Russia. Putin’s Russia is getting all kinds of sophisticated weaponry, and the European Union goes on without stopping but once to think how suicidal this is.

Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas, writing for an Estonian web publication, ICDS (the abbreviation stands for International Centre for Defence Studies), of Tallin, that country’s capital, have exposed the world’s dark secret.

Before we proceed, a tip of the hat is due to Jan Maisler for a competent translation, and to Jiří Wagner, editor of the Czech news site, Neviditelny pes, for preparing this information jewel for publication.

If you don’t speak Czech, learn to. You would be able to read the story quoted from below in its fullness. And if knowing the language of the people who gave the world such beers as Pilsner Urquell and the original Budweiser (not the weak imitations as provided by Anheuser-Busch) is not important to you, where are your values, for crying out loud?

Back to the topic

The European Union (EU, for short, and it doesn’t deserve anything more, anyhow), says it’s upset about the Russian aggression in Ukraine and it’s going to impose sanctions.

Oh yeah? That’s the question posed by Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas.

How about weapons exports to Russia? And – more importantly, perhaps – how about the close co-operation between some EU countries and Russia, developing new weapon systems and transferring military technologies and expertise to Russia?

Strangely enough, most mainstream media all over the world keep their mouths shut when it comes to this topic.

But why?

Is it because speaking out would equal washing dirty linen in public? Is it because putting a stop to this shameful behaviour would (let’s go back to Čapek) slow down or, Heaven forbid, stop the flow of income that happens to turn into profit at a later stage? Is it because mainstream media never got a press release detailing these shenanigans?

Realizing that modern-day reporters seem to have never heard that what makes a reporter is curiosity, this could be as valid a reason as any.

Or is it hypocrisy, pure and simple?

A few years ago, Russia invaded Georgia. The reason, Putin said on the occasion, was to defend the poor, defenceless Russians in Ossetia (sounds familiar, does it not?). Shortly after that, Russia signed a deal with France. It would buy from the French amphibious vehicles of the Mistral class (a.k.a. “projection and command” vehicles). The Baltic republics, all of whom had known Soviet occupation, objected. The EU called their reaction “hysterical” and worse.

That, Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas write, was a clear signal: who cares about Russia’s aggressive behaviour, so long as France’s military economy prospers? It may even fill French government’s coffers with new taxes. So, what’s the big deal?

Everybody’s happy: Russia has got new killer toys to use in its future aggressions, France gets richer. What’s there to complain about?

Remember the Iraqi nuclear facility, Osirak? It used to be called by many “Ochirac,” after then-French president Jacques Chirac who allowed the transfer of his country’s sophisticated nuclear knowledge (and the training of Iraqi scientists in his country) despite clear warnings that something dirty was going on. In a daring air attack, the Israelis would obliterate the place, thus earning eternal hatred from France.

So, what’s new? Nothing much, really.

As Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas inform us, the Franco-Russian military co-operation now includes the development of a new generation of vehicles for the transport of Russia’s infantry, the development of a production line for building thermovision, equipment that would allow the Russian military to operate in the middle of the night, as well as a number of other similar projects. Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas also quote Dmitrii Rogozin, Russia’s vice-premier responsible for defence (read: military) industries, as saying that the two countries have launched a “new era of intensive Franco-Russian co-operation that includes intensive exchange of confidential information.”

God knows where all that is going to end. And if She knows, She’s not telling: it’s confidential information, after all.

Deutschland, Deutschland über alles

Since the EU includes two major weapons exporters (France and Germany), it was to be expected that the Germans would not be far behind their French brethren.

Germany’s Federal Security Council (Bundessicherheitsrat in German) is chaired by the country’s Chancellor herself (her office is equal to Canada’s Prime Minister, with the President serving as a figure-head, just as the Governor-General does in Canada). It has been issuing export licences for weapon sales like nobody’s business. Russia has been quickly making its way to the top of the list of countries that deserve getting Germany’s military technology.

One of the most alarming recent German sales to Russia: modern equipment to train units up to the size of a brigade. That, Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas document, happens to be first-class equipment to run an operations command post. Thus far, it has been available only to the most developed countries. Whether Russia is one of the most-developed countries remains to be seen, but it now has this equipment.

In fact, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has developed a doctrine that basically gives her country’s military industry a free hand. Thus Merkel: “I am convinced that it is in our interest to enable our partners to effectively participate in keeping or renewing security and peace in their regions.”

Which means that if Putin says that Russians in Ossetia or Ukraine (or anywhere else, for that matter) are in danger and he only wants is to ensure their safety and security, his word is gospel.

Konrad Henlein used this refrain in the Sudetenland regions of former Czechoslovakia, with Adolf Hitler’s enthusiastic support. It ended in a deal (the so-called Munich Agreement) signed by British Prime Minister Sir Neville Chamberlain, French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier, Italy’s Duce (Leader) Benito Mussolini and Germany’s Reichskanzler (Chancellor) Adolf Hitler.

Sir Neville Chamberlain returned to London, telling all and sundry he had secured “peace in our time.”

Indeed. We all know how it ended.

Lying through their teeth

The EU politicians claim that if they co-operate with Russia, they would have a say in what that country is doing.

A bald-faced lie if there ever was one, and they know it.

Vladimir Putin is much more realistic. He knows that, beside some tut-tutting that followed his incursion into Georgia, nothing happened and everything was business as usual even before the dust settled. So, he figures, and quite correctly, too, that if he annexes the entire country of Ukraine, not just Crimea, he’ll pass jail and will be free to buy, say, Pennsylvania Station, to use the language of the game of Monopoly.

Why Pennsylvania Station? Just a play on words: Putin received a phone call from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., the other day. The U.S. president himself, Barack Obama was on the line. They chatted for about an hour after which Putin told Obama he had other, more pressing, commitments to attend to and bid good-bye.

Would Putin change anything, pray tell, after this conversation? Are you kidding? Why should he? What can a president whom he considers a perfect weakling do to him? And besides, all of his military’s supply needs are met, courtesy France and Germany, so, who cares about the U.S., anyway?

So, Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas pose a legitimate question: who’s influencing whom, come to think of it? It’s obvious the EU (and the rest of the Western world) have practically no impact on Putin’s thinking and actions with whatever rhetoric they dare mouth. And not that the EU overextends itself in its condemnations of Russia’s aggressions, either. In fact, it seems that Canada is the only country willing to take at least some action, symbolic as it is. Expelling Russian military personnel and limiting Russian officials’ right of entry is nice, but if Putin had feathers, none of them would be ruffled.

What can be done?

Not much, really, if we decide to subscribe to what today’s Western politicians (and those of the EU in particular) call realpolitik.

Impose sanctions? To be effective, they would have to include all matters military, including an immediate stop to all military sales and knowledge transfers.

Is this going to happen? A rhetorical question.

EU politicians would tell you they haven’t got enough money to maintain their military and, besides, NATO isn’t that rich of an uncle as it used to be any longer, either. Pray tell, they would demand, where else are we going to get the finances to maintain our own defence? We’re taxing our own citizens beyond acceptable levels as it is.

Here’s a logical follow-up question: maintaining your defence means that you’re defending your sovereignty. Except, it seems everything the EU stands for is dismantling individual (and sovereign) European countries. So, how can you explain that contradiction?

Here’s the answer you’d get: silence. Overwhelmingly deafening silence.

The crux of the matter is that to maintain their military, EU countries are supporting someone who’s getting more and more aggressive. Putin relies on the shortsightedness of EU politicians because he knows he can.

To sum up: EU politicians are undermining their own security while helping a new Hitler along the way. In addition, some of the countries that have common borders with Russia (including some EU members) will lose their faith in EU’s ability to defend them against somebody who’s got that same military hardware (and software) as EU has. Where they will go to get their own weaponry is anybody’s guess. China? Korea? South Africa? Israel?

And where’s the U.S. on this list? you may ask. Nowhere is the answer. The Europeans mostly seem to share Putin’s assessment of America’s current administration. That’s one of the very few things they share with him.

Meanwhile, Putin will continue to test EU’s policy of appeasement and profit. It’s going to be his gain and, eventually, his trump card.

If you start digging a hole, you should stop digging once you’re inside, Tomas Jermalavicius and Kaarel Kaas say.

The question is: do the French and the Germans realize they’ve dug a hole that now has not only them, but their alleged EU allies inside, too?

Where is Karel Čapek’s Mr. X now when we need him?

And would we wake up and start listening to him?

Ukraine, Russia and the world: a powder keg

Russian president Vladimir Putin is deeply worried about what’s going on in Ukraine, and he plans to do something about it.

Like what?

Like remind humankind of Vladimir Lenin, Josif Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Nikita Khruschev and Leonid Brezhnev. All of them at once, rolled into a new guy: Vladimir Putin.

Here’s the story: Lenin created the Soviet Union, getting all kinds of independent nations sign up by hook and crook. In his cynicism he went so far as to say in the constitution that this was a voluntary union and individual republics would be free to leave whenever they felt like it.

Stalin went a few steps further. When Ukraine had the gall to merely hint it was (nationally speaking) a more or less independent part of the union, he created a famine (Holodomor in the Ukrainian language) that would teach the pesky Ukrainians a proper lesson. It did.

Stalin had a Russian poet, Sergei Mikhalkov, collaborating with an Armenian poet, Gabriel El-Registan, write words to Alexander Alexandrov’s music, to create the anthem of the Soviet Union.

The words said it all. Here they are, in verbatim translation: “The unbreakable union of free republics were united for ever by the great Russia, long live the united, mighty Soviet Union created by the will of nations.”

If anyone had any issues with that, Stalin would deal with them with his typical swiftness. Remember the Tatars whom he had accused of potentially collaborating with Nazi Germany and deported them from the regions they had been living in for centuries? Does the word Crimea ring a bell?

Then, along came Khruschev. On one beautiful day in 1954 he told his comrades he would gift Crimea, by then predominantly Russian (as opposed to previously predominantly Tatar), to Ukraine to celebrate the 300th anniversary of that country’s decision to join Russia in one state. That centuries-old decision didn’t mean that Ukraine would become part of Russia, literally, only that the two countries would present themselves to the world as one.

Did Khruschev ask anybody in Crimea for their thoughts and, heavens forbid, feelings about the plan? Are you kidding? Did he consult it with his Central Committee comrades? No. Thus spake the leader, and that was that.

Of course, Khruschev knew the Marxist definition of freedom: it is a necessity recognized by those it impacts. Tough to understand? You’re free to obey our orders, that’s what it means.

And just to show what he meant, when the Hungarians thought they’ve had enough of Soviet-imposed communism, Khruschev sent in tanks and showed them who the boss was: this is your freedom, you cheeky Hungarians.

Brezhnev followed Khruschev at the Soviet helm.

When some fools in the republic of Georgia figured the constitution allowed them to leave the union, they started meeting to debate how to go about it. The news somehow got to Moscow. Brezhnev sent a trusted KGB general, one Eduard Shevardnadze, to Georgia, to talk some sense into those heretics. Shevardnadze, yes, the allegedly progressive guy who would later become Mikhail Gorbachev’s foreign minister, became party leader in Georgia on that occasion. A few hundred (if not thousand) deaths later within a few days, there was peace in the valley (and mountains) in Georgia again.

And when the fools in Czechoslovakia came up with the brilliant idea of socialism with human face, whatever THAT was supposed to mean, Brezhnev did exactly what his predecessor had done: he sent in tanks. The idea, he said, was to normalize the situation.

Normalization: an ugly word to many

So, when Putin now speaks of normalizing the situation in Ukraine in general and Crimea in particular, it does sound quite ominously to those who remember even faintly the two decades of normalization in Czechoslovakia.

Putin speaks of making sure that Russians living in Crimea are safe from the hordes of the Ukrainian bandits. This eerily resembles Hitler’s concerns about the Germans who used to live in the Sudetenland region of former Czechoslovakia.

Of course, when Russians speak of Crimea as a traditionally Russian land, they’re lying through their teeth: the Tatars would be able to offer a bit of a dissenting opinion to that, if anybody asked them (and if they were still around).

What all this is supposed to say is relatively simple: the situation in Ukraine is not as black and white as our media (and politicians) try to portray it.

Yes, the development is perfectly undemocratic, when compared to Western-style democracies. And when has there been such democracy in Ukraine (and Russia proper), pray tell?

The entire upheaval was touched off by a sudden about-face committed by the Ukrainian government concerning the question of Ukraine’s potential participation in the European Union.

The reasons for this change of mind remain murky, suspicious, even. While it would be relatively easy to think of either the EU’s or Russia’s hidden hand, the fact remains that the pro-EU demonstrators were solidly equipped and financed. There’s no real proof whence the equipment and money have come, but this is not as important.

What is important is the stance that those who object to Russia’s military provocations say Ukraine’s territorial integrity must be maintained.

An illusion if there ever was one.

Western Ukraine became part of Ukraine proper only after the Second World War. So far as people in those parts are concerned, THEY are the only real Ukrainians. Those who’ve lived in eastern parts of the country have been so profoundly inflitrated by the Russians, one can freely speak of colonization or fifth columns, even, western Ukrainians believe.

Whether they are right or not does not matter, really. It’s the perception that counts.

Who cares about the West?

The U.S. reply to all this was as wishy-washy as to make it laughable.

Putin has been quite openly of the rather dismissive view that U.S. president Barack Obama is a perfect example of a weakling who likes going off half-cocked, without knowing anything about the real issues. Obama, thus the view from the Kremlin, is more concerned about public relations and his standings in the polls than about what’s going on. And he’s too unsophisticated to really understand, to boot. Lightweight, both mentally and emotionally.

Besides, the Kremlin has a ready answer if Obama just dares mention that armed invasions of other countries are unacceptable: look at yourself in the mirror. How many times have YOU interfered in internal matters of countries that are not part of the U.S.?

Specious argument, if there ever was one, but effective for the masses.

The Russians might also throw in the undisputable fact that Barack Obama’s government has a peculiar knack of siding with the wrong side 10 times out of 10. Care to remember the so-called Arab Spring, anyone? That was the development that strengthened the Islam fundamentalists’ hand in no small measure, with Obama’s administration egging them on all along.

Canada’s government goes about things a bit differently: while it does mention Ukraine’s territorial integrity, it’s more concerned about the lack of democracy and potential for international conflict if Putin does invade fully. Not that the presence of several thousand Russian soldiers in Crimea does not constitute full invasion, but that would be peanuts when compared to the real thing.

In any case, Putin showed the rest of the world the full meaning of the French expression: fait accompli. Here I am, and what are you going to do about it? Oh, you are upset?

One huge danger in Ukraine: this is the place that gave the world the word “pogrom.” What we’re talking about are indiscriminate attacks on anybody who ever so slightly resembles a person of Jewish origin. While it is difficult to generalize, anti-semitism happens to be an integral part of Ukraine’s history and social fabric.

Now, it’s the bloody Jews from the EU who are upsetting the applecart, so far as many Ukrainian protesters are concerned. The fact that the EU bends over backwards to keep the non-existent nation of Palestinians happy, going so far as supporting an unrealistic boycott of Israel and its products, does not interest these protesters one bit. In fact, who knows whether they are even aware of it. To them it’s the bloody “Zhidy” that should feel the wrath of the people in the first place.

What’s going to happen?

Nobody knows the answer to that. The only hope is that cooler heads will prevail. Not in Washington, D.C., or Ottawa, for that matter, or Brussels (the European Union capital), even. In Moscow and in Kyiv.

While it doesn’t seem like it from the outside looking in, the situation in Ukraine can develop into a perfectly terrible conflict, using live ammunition as a preferred and accepted method of persuasion.

It creates a precedent that territorial integrity, as recognized by international community, isn’t worth a figue. Can you imagine if others use this precedent to try to push their ancient claims, real or perceived?

One of the things Putin must have realized: the world was silent when some native tribes from the Caucasian mountains claimed the area where Putin would waste billions of dollars on Olympic Games was theirs. That silence must have been music to Putin’s ears.

Vladimir Putin seems to view the rest of the world with a smirk: ah, the dogs are baying, but the caravan keeps moving on. He’s aware that should, for example, Western European governments continue to bother him, he’s one turn of a switch on oil and natural gas pipe lines away from throwing them into darkness and letting them freeze. Used to their comforts, how long will Western Europeans let their governments pretend they stand up for principle? They may be pipped beyond belief, but what’s the price? Are they willing to pay?

Putin must be aware, too, of the fact that in August 1968 Anatoli Dobrynin, then-Soviet ambassador to the U.S., went to see then-president Lyndon Baines Johnson to tell him, oh, by the way, Mr. President, we’re about to invade Czechoslovakia within the next 48 hours, but not to worry, we’re not going to cross into your (and NATO’s) sphere of influence. What did LBJ do on that momentous occasion? He thanked the Soviet envoy for the heads-up and didn’t even direct his diplomats to warn their Czechoslovak counterparts about what was cooking.

Has Putin gone too far? Will he think withdrawing from Crimea and sitting down at the negotiating table would mean a loss of face?

Would the Ukrainians be willing to negotiate?

Some, including the Canadian government, said that if Putin doesn’t back off, they might consider sanctions. Like: what sanctions? The same they imposed on selected Ukrainian leaders, telling them they wouldn’t be permitted to enter Canada? Big deal.

If there’s a vote in the United Nations Security Council, and it goes against Russia, guess which country is one of the five that have the power of veto?

This is a tragic situation. Innocent people suffer (while the former president of Ukraine proclaims to all and sundry he’s president still, but does so from the safe haven in one of Russian government’s dachas near Moscow).

Putin has done exactly what Hitler has done: you’ve got problems with what I’m doing? Congratulations, you’ve got something I haven’t got. And don’t tut-tut me, or I’ll tut-tut you back. After all, Putin has shown he’s a past master of demagoguery. He’s done so on live TV, too, in a clip that’s gone viral on YouTube shortly afterwards. In a news conference, Poland’s prime minister Donald Tusk mentioned some past points of friction between his country and the former Soviet Union, including the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between the communist Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. That pact, among many other things, allowed the Soviet Union to grab the eastern part of Poland, while the Germans attacked and destroyed the other part.

Putin went ballistic. He accused Poland of collaboration with Hitler and, also, of grabbing a chunk of Czechoslovakia right after the so-called Munich Agreement stripped that poor country of its frontier regions, to placate the Sudeten Germans (and, by extension, Hitler).

Some of what Putin had to say could have been true, but he neatly sidestepped the main issue: it was the Soviet Union that had actually triggered the Second World War, by attacking Finland and then by participating in the dismantling of Poland.

In any case, even Putin’s manner didn’t differ that much from that of Hitler.

We all know how it ended then. At the cost of tens of millions of human lives, too.

Have we not learned anything?

Olympic voyeurism drags humans to an incredible low

Humankind is going to hell in an 18-wheeler, laughing and cheering all the way.

Need a proof?

How about everybody and their dog watching the shameful spectacle a.k.a. Olympic Games?

That’s how low we’ve sunk.

It’s become a regular, continuing pastime to list the many scandals the Olympic movement has gone through since its inception in ancient Greece. For a comprehensive list, check out the works by Scottish reporter Andrew Jennings (The Lords of the Rings: Power, Money & Drugs in the Modern Olympics, 1992; The New Lords of the Rings, 1996; The Great Olympic Swindle, 2000). To get closer to home, to Vancouver 2010, that is, here’s another well-researched documentary book: Christopher Shaw’s Five-Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games, 2008).

To sum up: greed, bald-faced lies, cheating, abuse of taxpayer money for private gain, turning blind eyes on all kinds of human rights abuses while awarding the games to the worst of dictators and authoritarian governments, the list is almost endless, and it keeps getting longer with each passing day.

A sampling: the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Not only is the event taking place in a region whose ownership is under violent dispute (and has been for a couple of centuries), thus sending costs for security skyrocketing. That would be peanuts compared to the fact staging of the Games in Sochi cost at least $51 billion (all amounts in U.S. currency). For comparison: not only has it exceeded the budgeted amount five-fold, it is also $10 billion more than the Summer Olympic Games of Beijing, China, 2008, and about three times as much as the 2012 Summer Olympic Games of London, England. A note: summer events are somewhat larger than their winter siblings. There are more sports taking place in environments other than on snow or ice. And there are more countries taking part in the summer games, too.

Olympic help? Don’t be funny

All the talk about helping the host communities are bald-faced lies. The number of people displaced because the Olympics take precedence keeps growing with each passing Olympic cycle.

And the environmental concerns are covered just beautifully. Another perfect example: when it seemed snow on the slopes might begin to melt (Sochi is a sub-tropical city, after all), Russian organizers used all kinds of chemicals to accommodate the athletes. HUH? Ever tried to salt your driveway and then push the resulting mix off it all the way on the lawn? No? Try it. Once spring and summer come, there will be no grass in the area where you put contaminated snow.

Olympian supporters keep talking ad nauseam about sports promoting peace.

Here’s a definitive answer: “I am always amazed when I hear people saying that sport creates goodwill between the nations, and that if only the common peoples of the world could meet one another at football or cricket, they would have no inclination to meet on the battlefield. Even if one didn’t know from concrete examples (the 1936 Olympic Games, for instance) that international sporting contests lead to orgies of hatred, one could deduce it from general principles.

Nearly all the sports practised nowadays are competitive. You play to win, and the game has little meaning unless you do your utmost to win. On the village green, where you pick up sides and no feeling of local patriotism is involved. It is possible to play simply for the fun and exercise: but as soon as the question of prestige arises, as soon as you feel that you and some larger unit will be disgraced if you lose, the most savage combative instincts are aroused. Anyone who has played even in a school football match knows this. At the international level sport is frankly mimic warfare. But the significant thing is not the behaviour of the players but the attitude of the spectators: and, behind the spectators, of the nations who work themselves into furies over these absurd contests, and seriously believe — at any rate for short periods — that running, jumping and kicking a ball are tests of national virtue.

Thus George Orwell in his 1945 The Sporting Spirit. He was commenting on a series of football (soccer to North Americans) matches between the Soviet club Dynamo and several British clubs shortly after the Second World War.

Orwell didn’t mention in his fine commentary that both nations had suffered enormously during the war that was barely over by the time the games were staged, and that the money spent on these events would have been better spent elsewhere. But you do get the point.

Whose money is it, anyway?

Meanwhile, to get back to the here and now, Russian megalomaniacs, obviously, have no issues with starving their nation white. They are staging their games in their traditional Black Sea playground, and the cost be blasted.

Why, by the way, in Sochi? Ah, but that’s simple: because Vladimir Putin loves the place. And because his friends, a.k.a. Russian oligarchs, love the place, too, besides having all kinds of commercial interests there.

But these are NOT the real issues.

The real issues are much more simple. How is it possible that this shameless and scandalous abuse of human curiosity not only still exists, but that it also shows all signs of continuing?

Many will say it’s the good old voyeurism in all of us. Well, they may have a point. After all, history tells us people in the Middle Ages loved attending public executions. In fact, there have been entries in all kinds of chronicles mentioning that women would succumb to the excitement so much they would indulge sexually while the convicted criminal was drawn and quartered.

Yes, but haven’t we moved ahead from the Middle Ages?

No, it seems we haven’t. We only have better means of spreading the nonsense, and there are more of us available (and willing) to watch.

Canada’s CBC television trots out Ron James with his take. He is a comedian but even so, some of his stuff is perfectly unacceptable. Especially when he aligns the Olympic torch and its relay with the ancient Greek games. Not so fast, old boy, not so fast: the entire torch and relay idea comes from Adolf Hitler’s Germany.

And millions of Canadians watch this drivel and come to think of it as gospel.

But, speaking of history, where did the sporting spectacles get those who’d indulged the most in the past? Ancient Greece ended up in ruins whence it hasn’t recovered till now. Good old Romans with their gladiators fell to barbarians before you could say (in proper Latin) Veni, vidi, vici (I went, I saw, I won). The only thing we’ve got to remind ourselves of those glorious times are the ruins of the arenas and the gladiators’ cry (again, in proper Latin): Morituri te salutant, Caesar (Those who are about to die greet you, Emperor). Come to think of it, even the proud Latin language has suffered. It’s the generally accepted language of physicians and some legal terms come from the Roman legal code, too.

But that’s about it.

That was then, this is now.

Dirty deals all over the place

Even if we forget about the criminality of it all, we still ought to be in shock.

Criminality? Absolutely. Organization of bidding for the right to apply for the right to stage the Olympic Games, then the bidding itself, then the construction of venues most of which would be left to decay once the Olympic flame is extinguished, and the actual operation of the event, all of these stages of the process are so riddled with wink-wink, nudge-nudge, I’ll-scratch-your-back-you’ll-scratch-mine shenanigans, it would take scores of forensic accountants to untangle the web. But were it to happen, prisons would be bursting at their seams.

How about the promise British Columbians received? It won’t cost you a penny. Indeed, it’s not costing them a penny. It’s costing them (and the rest of Canadians) billions.

Some of the more moderate critics say they would have no issue with staging such extravaganzas and with entrepreneurs behind them raking in profits as if there’s no tomorrow if only those entrepreneurs invested their own money into it, rather than the taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars.

Fine, except that’s not how it works. Governments of all political shades (left- or right-wing), linked in one way or another to those who stand to gain, appeal to our patriotism and whatnot, just so we can gape in excitement over feats nobody not on some kind of stimulants would be able to achieve.

Besides, and that’s one of the major points, it’s worse than shocking to see people, some of them well-educated, too, who spend time watching slick marketing shows called Olympic Games coverage. This or that event is brought to you by McDonald’s, official restaurant of the Olympic movement. Now, there’s a symbol of healthy eating for you! And how about Coca-Cola, another major sponsor? We should rather die of thirst than consume their products. But the message we get is perfectly straightforward: look at all these healthy and fit-looking people, performing such incredible feats. They wouldn’t come close if they didn’t drive Chevrolet cars, munching on whatever they call the substitutes for meat at McDonald’s these days, washing it all down with Coke.

Yes, Olympic boosters and most of the participating athletes will say, but then again, Olympic Games is one of the few occasions where the best can compete with the best.

Questionable, at best, this sentiment. Perhaps the only sport in which regular tournaments and world championships do not pit the best against the best is hockey: the best are still in Stanley Cup playoffs when world championships are taking place. Neither the NHL nor the International Hockey Federation (IIHF) would agree to adjust their schedule. Thus, as it is, the Olympics are, indeed, the only chance to see the best playing the best.

Besides, just looking at the most recent games at Sochi, one Canadian speed skater relinquishes his position in a race to another, because that another skater has a better chance of winning. The relinquishee made the team because he had been better at races where Olympic positions were decided. It doesn’t matter that the other guy was generally better at that particular distance. He didn’t earn his spot. If the relinquishee did not give his spot to the other guy, would we have seen the best against the best?

Do these athletes and their supporters have a point?

Not really. Yes, it’s all about competing. In fact, life is a competition, too.

Nobody’s denying professional athletes their existence and their livelihoods. If someone insists they want to see the best so they can take up this or that particular sport and they want to know how to get better at it, fine.

But would that minuscule number sell an arena out? Would these athletes be just as famous if only those keenly interested in taking part themselves came to see them? Here’s the clincher: if ordinary people abstained from watching sports and, instead, indulged themselves, would these athletes be famous enough to help sell products they’ve signed up to help sell?

Ignoring reality

A recent news item mentioned that while some Canadian employers encourage their employees to watch Olympic coverage on television on company time, others ban such entertainment outright.

The story didn’t say so, but its tone suggested its writer was surprised that anyone can be Grinch enough to deny their employees such an opportunity.

That the cruel employers might have felt they’re paying their employees to show up at work on time and do their jobs, providing services or manufacturing products that they can sell, using that income to pay their employees, that, it seems, never crossed that writer’s mind.

But that’s nothing compared to the following story: years ago, in 1972, the British film director John Schlesinger (Far From the Madding Crowd, Midnight Cowboy, The Marathon Man, etc.) was invited to join a group of outstanding filmmakers to help make a movie about the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. The film was called Seen by Eight, and Schlesinger chose to concentrate on the marathon.

Just as he was getting ready to tell his camera guys to start their equipment rolling, Arab terrorists attacked the athletic village. A pitched battle took place. It would cost several Israeli athletes their lives, and the terrorists would pay dearly, with their lives, too. Schlesinger asked the athlete he was about to film what he thought of the events. The answer was telling: the athlete has never thought about the tragedy, he told Schlesinger, and he meant it. If he did think about it, he wouldn’t be able to compete.

That, by the way, was that athlete’s own explanation.

And that about sums it all up.

Top-notch athletes, Olympians and sundry champions, world or otherwise, live in an artificial bubble. And humankind is moronic enough to not only watch them living in that artificial bubble, but to get exercised about watching them living there, to boot.

This is called terminal stupidity.

And most of us are stupid enough to cheer and laugh about it.

Prince Potemkin alive and well in Putin’s Olympic Russia

Uniting the world, thus one of the popular Olympic slogans. That would be something citizens of a small village in the neighbourhood of Sochi, Russia, have a pretty good reason to dispute.

Akhtyr has been cut off from the rest of the world. New sporting venues, new freeways, new railway line (the latter two items apparently the most expensive in the world, in metre-by-metre calculations), and no access to water of any kind, including fresh and drinking for the poor citizens of Akhtyr.

Not only that. Akhtyr has no access to the new freeway, and it provides no access to Akhtyr, either. The old road, one that has served faithfully for ages, is closed. A formerly simple trip to a bus station that used to take a quarter of an hour when going slowly, has now become a two-hour military march.

Speaking of the military: army personnel have taken over a footbridge the locals have been using, and nobody’s allowed to approach it (never mind cross it) without a proper permit. Since nobody had told the locals they would be needing a permit, nobody bothered to apply. Given the Russian officialdom’s speed in solving matters, the poor Akhtyr citizens won’t see any permits until long time after the Olympic Games are over (and the military sentries gone).

In a civilized country, you could complain.

In Russia?

To whom?

All the authorities are concerned with is that nobody sees Akhtyr from either the slopes or any other venues, or the freeways, never mind the railway line. Who cares that construction crews changed the roads inside the village into impassable canyons? Who cares construction crews destroyed their wells and, thus, their water supply? From time to time, you can see a truck delivering water to Akhtyr in a tank, except: it can’t get in because the village has been cut off from the freeway access – and so on, and so forth. The villagers either make the two-hour trek to get some water, or they are out of luck.

But, as mentioned, the rest of the world won’t see any of it.

Welcome to the Prince Potemkin country.

That, if you care to remember, was a Russian noble during Catherine the Great’s time (18th century for those who like their information detailed). His full name was Prince Grigory Aleksandrovich Potemkin-Tavricheski. As legend has it, he created a ruse by building painted façades to mimic real villages, full of happy, well-fed people, for visiting officials to see and enjoy.

President Vladimir Putin’s officials have gone one step further: they didn’t build any new façades, they just made Akhtyr disappear from sight. In fact, they could have made Akhtyr disappear altogether, and there would be no complaints about lacking water, period. Josef Stalin, whose well-preserved museum is located in Sochi, right inside the building he used to use as his vacation home, would have done it without a second’s hesitation. Times, they are a’changing, what?

Why didn’t they think of it?

This is the question many keep asking themselves as they arrive in Sochi. Mainstream media tends to avoid such unpleasant topics as Akhtyr or, heaven forbid, the business of unfinished buildings, from hotels to venues, the grass that hasn’t grown yet (and crews, in a typical Potemkin fashion, had to go around and paint the soil green). The stray dogs of Sochi are a topic that would make SPCA cry in despair.

Thanks to social media we now know that wild dogs have made hotels their new homes. Thanks to social media we now know that water in those hotels – when it runs, that is – stinks like early-morning urine.

What do the Russian authorities do? They follow their leader. Their president was a high-ranking official with the KGB espionage and political police service.

An example? A reporter who had the gall to complain about the quality of water in his lodgings was told he was using too much of it anyway, and when he asked how did the authorities know, they showed him a video of him in his hotel room bathroom. So there.

Nothing beats good surveillance, eh?

Here’s a brief list of some more complaints:

  • As washingtonpost.com has noted, out of nine hotels allegedly reserved for journalists, only six have opened their doors by the opening day.
  • CNN has reserved 11 rooms for its staff; they got confirmation everything was fine five months ago. They have got but one room upon arrival. A digit must have gone AWOL.
  • A reporter for The Guardian had to wait several hours for his room “to be finished,” only to find out there was no central heating, never mind a link to the Internet. He was happy he had a bed, at long last.
  • Speaking of water, Stacy St. Claire of the Chicago Tribune reports that first there was no running water in her room, but they told her at the front desk it would start running shortly (meaning an hour later) but, please do not use it to wash your face, it may be dangerous. How? None of your business. It may be dangerous, you’ve been warned.

The terrorists have been promising to give the Russians a terrible black eye if they dare stage the games in the area Islamist insurgents consider theirs. No need to: the Russians took care of it themselves.

Here come the U.S. Marines? Sochi goes on military footing

Two American navy ships are moving into neutral waters off Sochi in the Black Sea.

Sounds like a report from a military exercise, does it not?

Except it’s news connected to the forthcoming Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

The two vessels come equipped with torpedoes, cruise missiles and H-60 Seahawk helicopters.

Should North Caucasian terrorists attack the Olympic Games, as they have been promising to do the last few years, U.S. navy will do their best to evacuate American athletes to safety. In fact, a Boeing C-17 Globemaster, its crew at the ready, is on stand-by at a U.S. airbase in Germany. It could land in Sochi within about two hours of takeoff from Germany. It would take care of those American athletes who couldn’t be accommodated aboard the ships.

According to a CBS television broadcast, the Pentagon has consulted its operation plans with the Russian defence ministry and received no objections.

So much for the peaceful Olympics. The Islamic insurgents have achieved their first objective. When people talk about the Olympic Games in Sochi, the first thing they mention is the security concerns. Maria Sharapova, breaking away from her tennis duties to serve as the Games’ promoter, gets but a scant mention. Even perfectly unsanitary living conditions in what were supposed to be first-class accommodations for foreign guests have taken a backseat. Debates about who is going to win what now seem perfectly irrelevant.

Who cares about medals if the main question becomes: are we going to get out of this alive? In one piece?

Big Brother in action

The Russians have got used to the fact that their authorities know about their every move.

Now, everybody who flies into Russia will have to get used to the same treatment.

This is not science-fiction. This tidbit comes straight from the horse’s mouth. According to Russia’s transportation minister Maxim Sokolov, all airlines whose flights land anywhere in Russia (or near it) have been obligated to supply Russia’s government with information about their passengers. To be more specific, Sokolov added that this information is passed on directly and completely to the secret police (FSB, Federaljnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti, a direct progeny of the infamous KGB).

All of the 113 international airlines that fly into Russia have been supplying this information as a matter of fact, said Sokolov, adding there were some issues with the European Union but those have been straightened out, too. Meaning: the EU now toes the line, too.

That Russian airlines had to fall in or else remains an unsaid fact.

And just to be on the sure side, everybody who travels anywhere in Russia (or into Russia, or from Russia, for that matter) ends up in the FSB database. That includes railway and bus passengers and even those whose cruise ships stop but for a few minutes anywhere close to a Russian port.

Also, with the exception of direct flight corridors into and out of the Adler airport, the air above Sochi has been declared a no-fly zone.

That the Russians have been monitoring all telephone and Internet traffic not only inside their country, but outside of it, too, hasn’t been a secret, either.

Not that they are paranoid. The danger exists. But it also gives President Vladimir Putin’s government a unique chance to introduce draconian measures from the past. A past many had hoped they would not live to see ever again.

“If you behave, nothing’s going to happen to you,” runs the official line. Of course, it would be a government official’s job to decide whether you’re behaving or not.

Come to think of it, Putin wasn’t a high-ranking KGB official in an earlier incarnation for nothing. This experience has come in handy.

No bad news permitted

It’s difficult to credit this story out of Southwestern Siberia, but Russian journalists insist it’s true.

All of the Kuzbass mines in the Kemerovo region were ordered to stop all and any operations that could be dangerous.

This is one of the largest coal mining areas in the world. Found in the so-called Kuznetsk Depression between Tomsk and Novokuznetsk in the basin of the Tom River, bordering from the south with the Abakan Range, Salair Ridge from the west, and Kuznetsky Alatau from the north, it’s far enough from Sochi to fear any explosions under the ground could or would endanger the Olympic Games directly.

But they can. Indirectly, that is. Accidents killing scores of miners, mostly because they would be ignoring basic safety measures, have been rampant.

“In order to prevent extraordinary situations as the Olympiad opens, I am hereby ordering the suspension of all mining activities where accidents can happen.”

Thus a cable sent out to all whom it might concern by the region’s governor, Andrei Gammerschmidt, as quoted by local media.

Will this cost be included in the Olympic budget? Kidding, right?

Where are we looking?

Most Canadian media have been busy telling Canadian hockey poohbahs whom to name as replacement for Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos, a.k.a. Serbian Assassin. He fought a futile struggle, hoping against all odds to be able to rehabilitate his right tibia, broken last November, in time to be able to join Team Canada.

Of course, if he asked any orthopedic surgeon, they would tell him that while admirable, his heroic effort would be wasted. Come the time to hop on the Sochi-bound charter plane, he would be nowhere near to being able to put in one period of competitive hockey. But it gave Canadian sports journalists the chance to talk about tibias as if they knew where to find them, learning even how to pronounce the word properly.

In any case, the important stuff never made Canadian headlines.

What stuff?

Greediness that would make the Vancouver Olympiad of 2010 look like a Boy (and Girl) Scouts’ picnic. Shady deals that would put all of the Olympic Games since ancient Greece to shame. Militarization of the entire enterprise to the point where civilians need not apply.

The wastefulness of it all. The abuse of primitive nationalism to the point of dangerous jingoism.

All the way to putting U.S. navy on alert just outside Russia’s sovereign waters in the Black Sea.

The Olympiad stinks to high heaven

Do we really, but REALLY need Olympic Games?

If you decide to be frank, honest and sincere, your answer will be biblically simple: NO.

Yes, yes, yes, Olympic Games is an event that celebrates sports, all that’s so good about us as humans, and so on, and so forth.

Drivel, all of it, of course.

We could, too, adjust the question: who needs Olympic Games?

The answer is going to be simple: those who make money off it.

Let’s be serious here: do we as taxpayers really need the new stadia and sundry highly specialized buildings used by top-notch athletes – and nobody else?

Granted, supporters of the Olympian idea will tell you that, for example, sites built for the 1988 event in Calgary, or the more recent one, 2010 in Vancouver, will serve numerous athletes for decades to come. Which athletes? Your everyday Marys and Joes who want to try, say, a bit of speed skating on a perfect oval? Absolutely not. They serve (if they do serve anybody at all) only those athletes who are at the top. Rank amateurs need not apply.

Speaking of which: if it is somebody’s hobby to, say, swim across a bay, hop on a bike, ride for another while, and then finish the course running, why should taxpayers support it? Those willing to pay for the privilege of watching it, would pay. But why the rest of us?

To cut to the chase: most (if not all) national Olympic committees survive on government-granted money. Yes, they do a bit of fundraising among private businesses, but they would not survive without taxpayer money.

Should it be so? And should it remain so?

The answer, again, is an unequivocal no.

A bit of history

Modern Olympics were conceived by a French aristocrat. Baron Pierre de Coubertin noticed his country’s nobles were bored stiff each and every summer. You can only go through so many drinking binges a year. They needed a bit of recreation. The good Baron summoned some British aristocrats because if anyone knew how to write rules, it would be the British.

Voila, and here is your distraction.

To make sure none of the unwashed join in, the rules insisted on strict amateur status. After all, the original participants didn’t need more money. They were swimming in the stuff. It was the glory that they were after, and the chance to break the tedium.

To drive the message home, Olympic poohbahs would strip American Jim Thorpe of his gold medals. He won them in 1912 in both pentathlon and decathlon. Alas, he played two seasons before the Olympics for a semi-professional baseball team. Compared to today’s circumstances, he only got a pittance. But it was enough for the guardians of Olympic purity.

Hypocritical beyond belief. Especially because the founders of what is now known as modern-era Olympics cited the ancient Greek Olympiads as their example.

Here’s an uncomfortable fact: massive cheating on a scale unheard of in our times (at least, publicly, that is) was rampant during the ancient Greek Olympiads: “Let me win this race, and my sponsor will give you a job, so many drachmas a year, room and board included.”

And, yes, ancient Greek Olympic athletes were professional. Each and every one of them. The only difference: they had private supporters, sponsors in today’s lingo, and there was no government support.

But such revelations would tarnish the purity of the Olympic flame!

First, forget that incongruity: truth will tarnish something. Anything.

Secondly, as importantly, Olympic torches (and torch relays) were not, and have never been, part of the ancient Greek Olympic history. Yes, an ancient Greek winner could drop by at a temple of his choice following his victory. He didn’t have to, but most of them did. He would light a torch to honour his (not her, mind you) god (or goddess), offer a sacrifice and, if spirits moved him thus, join in a general orgy.

Olympic torches and torch relays come to us courtesy Adolf Hitler’s Reichskanzlei (Imperial Chancellery). Torches, after all, have always been an integral part of what we know as a Teutonic tradition. And the relay idea came from the Reichskanzlei, too. Hitler’s propaganda operators were imaginative enough to suggest that the last runner remain a mystery until the moment he (again: no she involved) picks the torch up to light the flame in the cauldron. An interesting aside: the first such last runner was a ranking member of the Hitlerjugend (Hitler’s Youth), as sporting an organization as any group can get.

So much for the historical purity of the Olympic Games.

Today’s realities

It depends on your view to decide whether to be proud of Dick Pound’s Canadianism.

In any case, the guy is responsible for changing the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and, by extension, the entire Olympic movement into a giant corporation. It was Pound who got the Olympians such sponsorship deals as McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Visa and many others. The cynicism of it all is beyond pale: are you sure McDonald’s is the best provider of healthy food? Are you positive Coca-Cola’s beverages are precisely what the doctor ordered?

Besides, these sponsorships have never been meant as replacements for money coming to the national Olympic committees (and, again, by extension, to the IOC) from their own governments. Meaning from the taxpayers: governments do not own a cent of what they give away to causes they consider worthy of their attention.

Speaking of which, it took three decades to pay off the 1976 summer extravaganza in Montreal. Domestic sponsorship amounted to $7 million. The debt: $1.5 billion. With interest payments included, the final amount was staggering.

If you think it would take less time to pay off the debt generated by the Vancouver Olympics of 2010, think again. The British Columbia government is trying its utmost, taxing everything its citizens consume or use (including the air, by the way), and yet …

Living better?

Speaking of something Olympic supporters call “improving the overall quality of life,” here are a few stimulating numbers. Since the 1980s, economists have estimated the Games have displaced over three million people. They have also contributed to massive increases in homelessness. In a study compiled in connection with the 2012 Olympics in London, England, economists cite Vancouver as one of the prime examples.

To quote directly: “This has contributed significantly to gentrification, securitisation and surveillance in the host cities.”

Do you think these changes have come about without any cost? And do you think local organizers have included these costs in their budgets? Yet, the money had to come from somewhere.

Where? You’re allowed three guesses. A hint: look at yourself in a mirror.

Some economic analysts would go so far as to suggest the entire event ought to be renamed from Olympic to Corporate Games. Judging by the number of sundry business deals, they seem to have a point. Still, considering how much public money goes into the entire hoopla, the games would be better served if they were called Fascist Games. Why? Simply because fascism happens to be a brand of socialism that combines state intervention and corporationism.

The IOC’s official site, (www.olympic.org) proudly tells the world about the movement’s marketing achievements. It doesn’t dwell on the history of scandals driven by pure greed. It avoids mentioning the percentage of public money that goes into staging events that each demand new and newer and newest facilities, in a perfectly and shortsightedly stupid competition to hear the IOC president saying these were the best games ever as he closes yet another extravaganza.

To quote the British analysts one more time:

Late 1990s – corruption nearly destroyed the IOC and many people were expelled. For example, in 1999 there was widespread bribery going on in the IOC regarding the decision to give the 2002 Winter Games to Salt Lake City. An investigation lead to ten IOC members being expelled or resigning. Since this period of scandals that nearly brought down the IOC, it has improved its PR, but any issues that do arise are pretty much left unchecked by the mainstream press.

2008 – The Beijing Games saw displacement on a massive scale and a pre-Olympics systematic round-up of political activists, involving imprisoning, beating and torturing dissenters, showing that the Games continue to facilitate and reinforce repression wherever they go, yet the IOC still pretends to be apolitical.

2012 – The London Games have seen pre-emptive arrests and evictions across London and protests being held in July against, amongst other issues, the failure of the IOC to take action against the discrimination of women athletes, corporate sponsorship, mass surveillance and the restriction of the right to protest that the Host City Contract enforces.”

If you wish to get more details, get C.A. Shaw’s book titled Five-Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games, read it, and weep.

To find out even more, check out works by British journalist Andrew Jennings. He was the co-author of The Lords of the Rings and author of The New Lords of the Rings.

Missing billions

And lest you think anything has changed for the better since then, here’s an unsurprising tidbit: about $30 billion (in US money) of the about $50 billion designated for the Sochi games has gone AWOL. If anybody has seen it, nobody’s saying.

Thus former Russian cabinet minister and now opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. Together with an outspoken opponent of the Kremlin (meaning: president Vladimir Putin, his cohorts, and all their works) Leonid Martynyuk, Nemtsov said he tried to check all of the numbers, and $30 billion was missing.

“The Winter Olympic Games in Sochi have turned into a monstrous scam,” the Nemtsov-Martynyuk report said.

Considering Putin has been on record recently as saying he was frustrated over the rising costs of the Games, this is a strange coincidence, indeed.

The Sochi games are now on track to become the most expensive event in Olympic history, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reports.

Here’s more from that same British paper: “The money is supposed to be spent on the construction of new Sochi sports facilities as well as the repair of everything from roads and hotels to the laying of new railways and the creation of a bullet train system.

“Almost all of the projects have been assigned to giant firms that are either directly owned by the government or run by billionaires who are on close terms with the Kremlin.

“The two authors wrote that their conclusions came from a six-month study of data and analysis of various cost overruns.

“They said they also compared these overruns with those seen in previous Olympic Games to estimate how much was in fact embezzled by senior managers at the various firms,” the paper added.

The Nemtsov-Martynyuk report comes to a conclusion that was to be expected: “The Olympic Games are Putin’s personal project. And it is clear who stole this money – those who are close to that same Putin.”

Now, Nemtsov has been known for his critical observations, and it comes as no surprise, either, that the Kremlin – while remaining silent on the most recent report – keeps insisting that Nemtsov relies on hearsay and speculation too much for his own good.

Of course, this is a country that gave birth to the following bit of wisdom: do NOT believe any rumours until they’ve been officially denied.

And Nemtsov himself admitted that he was hard-pressed to find actual government data for his latest study because information about contracts remained largely secret, the Daily Telegraph reports.

No matter how much of the $50 billion that was budgeted for the Sochi games was spent legally or stolen, Russian analysts took the lowest figure ($20 billion) and came up with interesting results: that lowest amount would be enough to build a new school, a new hospital, and a new community sports centre in 20 Russian cities each.

What is more useful? Another rhetorical question.

Role models?

Yes, Olympic supporters would tell you, yes, sure, not everything is as rosy as many thought it would (or could, or should, even) be, but still, Olympic champions attract youngsters to sports. More youngsters doing sports means a healthier nation.

Certainly. Compared to the inescapable fact that youth obesity has been growing in leaps and bounds all over the North American continent, the logical question pops up: Oh yeah?

The only thing the Olympic Games cause is a dangerous increase in jingoistic nationalism. A group of well-paid athletes defeat another group of well-paid athletes, and the victors’ nation goes literally bonkers.

By the way, have you ever noticed? When it’s your country’s team that wins, everybody identifies with it and says: WE WON! When they happen to lose, it’s: THOSE GOOD-FOR-NOTHING (lazy bums, whatever, choose your insult) LOST.

In any case, while it is questionable whether the Olympic Games ever meant more than the simple “bread and games” for the masses of the unwashed, it is now perfectly obvious: the Olympic Games are a waste of time and money, pure and simple.

You could hardly expect the mighty of the world to give the Olympic Games up. They are becoming richer with every passing Olympian cycle, after all. Giving up the Olympic Games would equal killing the goose that lays golden eggs.

So, is there a solution? Of course there is.

Given how many athletes use all kinds of performance-enhancing products (how many of them dope, to put it simply), the Olympic movement should stop forthwith rolling their eyes in a staged show of horror and disbelief. And, again, speaking of tarnishing the cleanliness of the classic ancient Greek Olympiad is a perfect lie: those guys used doping to an extent that would be shocking even in today’s lax times.

Here’s the plan: drop the national Olympic committees with their shameless feeding off their countries’ taxpayers.

Drop the Olympic motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius, Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger.”

Here’s the replacement: put the Olympic Games into the hands of pharmaceutical companies, and the motto would be: “My drugs are better than yours, nyanyanyanahnah.”

Cynical? Absolutely. Truthful? Absolutely, too.