Putin’s Sochi mistakes: from wrong location to wiping out strays?

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PutinDogBy Patrice Greanville. Simultaneously posted with The Greanville Post.
-DISCLAIMER-
The Greanville Post hardly wishes to add its voice to those who make it a profession to denigrate Russia and its leaders. In our view, “that side” of the story is already amply covered by the ubiquitous American state media (read capitalist media) and its accomplices in deception around the world. They don’t need the tiny Greanville Post “to get the story out,” assuming such a story exists. Second, while the words that follow castigate some of Putin’s actions, this by no means implies that we hold him in less esteem than his smug Western counterparts, mostly a gang of corrupt neoimperialist thugs parading solemnly as great democrats and peacemakers. In fact, we like him a lot better, if for no other reason than he is much less accomplished in the art of smooth dissembling. And there’s another reason: If there’s a country we need to cut some slack to— it’s Russia. The land of Rus is still a wounded society for a multitude of reasons we have no space to detail here, but which are probably well-known to many in our audience, many factors that spring directly from nonstop Western aggression and intervention in her internal affairs for over a century.
Against this backdrop of turmoil, savage impoverishment of the majority following the overthrow of communism, it is remarkable that Russia has quickly found its footing again, and, at least over the last decade, managed to hold firm against the US/’NATO bellicose rampages around the world (in the name of human rights, freedom, democracy and the rest of the shopworn claptrap utilized by the neoimperialists to sell their dastardly agendas). What’s more, as suggested by events in Ukraine, US foreign policy is currently showing an ugly drift toward destabilizing Russia (and perhaps China) itself.  That’s beyond reckless, as anyone can see the consequences of toying with a clash of that magnitude. That makes Russian foreign policy in our eyes a damn sight preferable, and a lot healthier for the world than the home brew, or that of its pathetically cynical accomplice, the European Union. So, without further eloquence, here’s our take on the Sochi games—warts and all.
– END DISCLAIMER –
The Sochi Winter Olympics opening today may still come out alright, as its ambitious creators intended—the infrastructure holds; no ugly, embarrassing terrorist attack occurs (genuine or false flag); and the public around the world gets to see a revitalized Russia hosting a major global event with dignity and aplomb.  Problem is, just like prior events of this kind organized in other lands, and presently being prepared elsewhere (Brazil), a heavy undercurrent of criticism, some of it, granted, routine Russia-bashing propaganda,  and some of it perfectly valid, is putting a tarnish on what should have been a remarkably uncontested show of Russian capabilities.
Let’s begin with the two most obvious mistakes.
Sochi should have never been chosen for the Winter Olympics. The location is questionable. Sochi is a well-known spa for the Russian, a refuge from the harsh climes their nation is famous for. As some have already pointed out, putting the olympic games there is like staging a Winter Olympics in the US in Florida. Sochi is in fact the warmest spot ever to be chosen for a Winter Olympics. This means a perverse defiance of mother nature, stupid thing in itself (unless it was deliberate policy to enrich cronies close to Putin, more on that below) especially when we consider how many gelid spots that great country has.

The grand designs for Sochi have meant a huge logistical nightmare for the contractors, who have been compelled to build a large number of supporting and essential structures from scratch (Sochi is supposed to be Russia’s new permanent winter games training ground), from hotels and accommodations up to world standards to the olympic facilities, all in a comparative record time, a program enveloped from the start in accusations of shameless cronyism and runaway corruption. Again, this should be taken with a huge lump of salt. Putin’s government has many enemies, and as far as fleecing the public treasury who can compete with our own Pentagon contractors and their concubine politicians? No greater pimps the world has ever seen. So let’s keep ourselves on an even keel as we examine these issues, including gross incompetence. Here’s a typical  Western report by USA Today:
Sochi Olympics ‘used to enrich Putin’s friends’

alexiNavalnyThomas Grove, Moscow correspondent for The Scotsman, did an extensive interview with Putin’s nemesis, Alexei Navalny (left), himself a highly controversial dissident and ultra Russian nationalist, on the matter of Sochi-related corruption. Navalny’s accusations are not surprisingly in sync with those we find on many Western media.  CBS, for example, has been prominent in this regard. But before weighing his testimony on the topic at hand, it’s worth noting that a lot is lost “in translation,” which in this case goes way beyond mere literal meanings. Russia’s politics are muscular, with the players often fiercely outspoken, a culture where mealy-mouthed Western “PC” thankfully does not yet operate. People tend to speak their minds freely, the devil take the hindmost, and while the sordid wiles of marketing and public relations have begun to make inroads and “blandify” the language, and even “spin masters” are starting to crop up, candor is still very much the norm.  That said, since Navalny’s claims are so explosive, it’s somewhat remarkable that the BBC, while recognizing the usefulness of a fearless dissident capable of embarrassing the Kremlin, has also brought Navalny’s ultra-nationalism into question, chiefly for his endorsement of a political campaign called “Stop Feeding the Caucasus” and his willingness to speak at ultra-nationalist events.

Navalny once compared dark-skinned Caucasus militants with cockroaches. Cockroaches can be killed with a slipper, he said, but as for humans, “I recommend a pistol.”[85][86] Navalny’s defenders suggested the comment was simply a joke. (Wikipedia on Navalny). Well, here’s part of the interview:

Russian anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny has released a detailed interactive map that paints a vivid picture of corruption, cost overruns and conflicts of interest at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

The report, culling information from government budgets and data from companies involved in construction for the Games, is the latest to pour scorn on a project on which president Vladimir Putin has staked his personal and political prestige.

Mr Navalny, who led protests against Mr Putin in Moscow two years ago, said the information challenged the president’s figure for spending on the Sochi Games, which open in the Black Sea resort on 7 February.

“Russia’s overall expenses have already reached $50 billion (£30bn), which makes the Russian Olympics five times more expensive than the Vancouver [Winter] Olympics [in 2010,” the report said. “Officials and businessmen also took part in the Games and turned them into a source of income.”

The report said Mr Putin had helped enrich friends by awarding them contracts to build large-scale Olympic venues at a cost several times above those of similar venues elsewhere.

Mr Putin has dismissed claims of corruption and challenged those who made allegations to back up their claims.

In an interview earlier this month, he said: “We don’t see any large-scale instances of corruption during our preparations … in Sochi. If anyone has any information about corruption in Sochi, please hand it over, we will be glad and grateful.”

The president’s figure for total spending on the Games has diverged from those provided in other estimates, including one of $50bn from another Russian opposition figure, who accused contractors of stealing half the money allocated for the Winter Olympics.

Earlier this month, Mr Putin said Russia had spent only about $6.5bn on preparations for the Games, in sharp contrast with an estimate from deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak, who last year said Russia would spend some $50bn.

Mr Navalny’s report said more than $12bn in state funds had been divided between two companies, Olimpstroy and state monopoly Russian Railroads, to build venues and roads. It said $8.7bn had been spent to build a railway and motorway nearly 50km long that leads to the Rosa Khutor ski resort, the venue of the Olympic mountain sports.

Part of that, Mr Navalny said, went to friends of the president.

His report, which won little attention in Russia’s tightly controlled media,* also contradicted government statements that private companies’ money had made up for more than half of the investment in Sochi. It said private companies had put less than 4 per cent of the cost.

“In their statements, officials referred to investments of Gazprom, Sberbank, Russian Railways and other government-affiliated entities as private investments,” the report said, adding that under international accounting standards, such investments would be considered state money.

Subcontractors say that corruption has been endemic in the lead up to the Sochi Games. (Source: The Scotsman.)

* Please disregard the gratuitous bull about the “Russia’s tightly controlled media,” as if Western corporate media was really free from bias or systemic fealty.

Rulership in most nations but no real just or imaginative or compassionate leadership anywhere

I’ve observed before that much of the deplorable condition of the world is owed to the fact the masses are not properly led, neither by the standards of a Platonic “philosopher king,” nor —the Devil forbid—by a true “democracy,” however lacking in moral virtue. Our current phase closely resembles what the old sage envisioned as a global oligarchy, albeit one already marked with modern forms of tyranny. In this context, with the superpowers in the grip of the most degenerate forms of pseudo-democratic rulership, leadership of any acceptable kind is hard to find, and problems that should be easy to solve considering the massive resources at the service of the modern nation state, become festering wounds in the body politic.

This global paradox that now threatens to terminate our own planetary viability is aggravated by the seamless integration of the sociopolitical system in command —what brainy types call the prevailing paradigm—with its natural type of governance, in our era global capitalism with pseudo-democracy or outright fascism, as its overt political manifestations. By now, most of those who have not spent their lives sleeping under a rock should be familiar with the beast. This is the system in which, amid unmeasurable wealth in the hands of an obscenely tiny minority, there are people everywhere fighting for economic security or stuck in poverty (I’m speaking about capitalism in both its core and periphery).

This is a system where desperately urgent issues like global warming and massive species die-offs due to human activity meet with pallid responses and empty rhetoric, where unemployment proves intractable due to the sick (by design) social relations of the antinomic classes which enforce profoundly uneven income distributions, and where a failure of the administrative imagination is both scandalous and pandemic. Yeah, this is a system, a political culture, where idiocies like the bankruptcy of a whole city like Detroit is contemplated with sheepish acceptance, as if ordained by God instead of man made rules.

And now, suffer the dogs

The sins of Sochi —such as they are—have been detailed above, but now another terrible miscalculation threatens to put a different kind of stain on the project: the opportunistic “culling” of stray dogs by the municipal authorities.In this perhaps we witness yet again two very old and ugly partners at work: governmental bureaucratic incompetence, with its attendant lack of imagination and initiative, and a lack of institutional compassion, which should be a requisite for any instrument of civilized governance.
The wiping out of strays in the Sochi region is simply unwarranted.  For if a great nation like Russia is able to pour billions of dollars to create an artificial oasis for the winter games, it is damned well capable of building a few shelters where the animals can be placed until adoption or another way of humanely deciding their fate can be arranged. Sochi’s treatment of its most vulnerable creatures should have been a showcase of a new Russia measuring up to its best instincts. Unfortunately, this has not happened, and things on the ground are a bit more complex than just a question of choosing between black hats and white hats, for, frankly, if there is evil in the actions of the winter games organizers, it is more evil by dint of banality than active intent. Like the pervasive speciesism —a type of moral blindness—that permeates so much human thinking about animals around the globe, and the obtuseness that characterizes mediocre or nonexistent leadership at all levels, the unnecessary poisoning of Sochi’s homeless dogs is yet another avoidable tragedy that should have been avoided.  Their fate has been sealed by the mountain of complications, disorder, and social imperfections that still dominate every human culture. Good leadership could start to clean this up, but for that I’m afraid we’ll need a revolution.
•••
PATRICE GREANVILLE  The Greanville Post’s founding editor. In 1982 he founded Cyrano’s Journal, the first radical media review in the United States.
APPENDIX I

The New York Times (2/5/2014) ran a rather illuminating piece on this topic, focusing on the many shades of gray that accompany human action. I quote at some length:

Racing to Save the Stray Dogs of Sochi

SOCHI, Russia — A dog shelter backed by a Russian billionaire is engaged in a frantic last-ditch effort to save hundreds of strays facing a death sentence before the Winter Olympics begin here.

Already, hundreds of animals have been killed, with the local authorities apparently wanting the stray dogs cleared from the streets before Friday’s opening ceremony.

While the authorities say the dogs can be wild and dangerous, reports of their systematic slaughter by a pest removal company hired by the government in recent months have outraged animal rights advocates and cast a gruesome specter over the traditionally cheery atmosphere of the Games.

The handling of the matter has also sharply undercut the image of a friendlier, welcoming Russia that President Vladimir V. Putin has sought to cultivate in recent months.

“We were told, ‘Either you take all the dogs from the Olympic Village or we will shoot them,’ ” said Olga Melnikova, who is coordinating the rescue effort on behalf of a charity called Volnoe Delo (roughly, Good Will), which is financed by Oleg V. Deripaska, one of Russia’s billionaire oligarchs.

Dogs outside a snowboarding course in Sochi. Many of the strays are abandoned pets. Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

“On Monday we were told we have until Thursday,” Ms. Melnikova said.

A “dog rescue” golf cart is now scouring the Olympic campus, picking up the animals and delivering them to the shelter, which is really an outdoor shantytown of doghouses on a hill on the outskirts of the city. It is being called PovoDog, a play on the Russian word povodok, which means leash.

Lying past a cemetery, at the end of a dirt road and without electricity or running water, the makeshift PovoDog shelter is already giving refuge to about 80 animals, including about a dozen puppies. One is a chocolate-colored Shar-Pei and her two mostly Shar-Pei puppies. Another is a large, reddish-brown sheep dog named Kasthan, who likes to jump up and kiss the shelter workers, who are mostly volunteers.

Local animal rights workers say many of the strays were pets, or the offspring of pets, abandoned by families whose homes with yards were demolished over the past few years to make way for the Olympic venues and who were compensated with new apartments in taller buildings, where keeping a pet is often viewed as undesirable.

CBS News report on the poisoning of strays. Click on Page 2.

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