Last night, ABC News pointed out there was a dearth of Americans attending the Sochi Winter Olympics. They should be congratulated. After all, considering the hatchet-job accomplished by the US media in denouncing the games and its Russian hosts, I’m surprised even American athletes attended.
Ever since Edward Snowden ran off with the state secrets, not an opportunity’s been missed to have a go at Russia in general, and Vladimir Putin in particular. Did Putin put him up to it? Was he working for the Russians?
Then, along came the preparations for the “Games”, and suddenly terrorists were popping out the woodwork all over Russia. You could attend the games, at your own risk, but you’d best learn the Russian for, “Sell me some toothpaste, please,” because you’re not taking your tube of Colgate along.
Then came the US media’s catalogue of Russian defects: the hotels weren’t built; the stadium wouldn’t be ready on time; the village was a sea of mud; surely Russian workers were the laziest in the world(?); there were no locks on the bathroom doors, and – concealed video cameras in the showers.
The ultimate delight for those paragons of virtue in US newsrooms was during the opening ceremony, when a snowflake failed to metamorphose into an Olympic ring. Oh, my God! Could those doggone Ruskys get nothing right?
My personal ‘moment of Zen’ was a remark from P J O’Rourke (a journalist whose writings I greatly admire, though rarely agree with) on the Bill Maher show.
When asked by Maher what he, as a well traveled man, thought of Russia. O’Rourke’s responding monologue on the state of that nation included the phrase, “…a country very lacking in culture…”.
O’Rourke could possibly be forgiven for never having heard of renowned Russian classical painters like, Ivanov or Borovikovsky. His knowledge of Soviet history may not take in the father of Russian literature, Alexander Pushkin…
…born just twenty-three years after the signing of the US Declaration of Independence, or Nikolai Basov and Alexander Prokhorov who, with Charles Townes, shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics “for fundamental work in the field of quantum electronics, which has led to the construction of oscillators and amplifiers based on the maser–laser principle”.
O’Rourke, however, cannot be excused his deliberate denial of such great artists as: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Igor Stravinsky, Dmitri Shostakovich, Sergey Diaghilev, Anna Pavlova, Rudolf Nureyev, the Bolshoi Ballet Company, et al.. Maybe he believes the world’s oldest film school is in Hollywood? It’s not. It’s the Russian State Institute of Cinematography, in Moscow.
Or, is it possible O’Rourke’s definition of “culture” is merely to win a gold medal at the Olympics – for snowboarding?
Those who follow the BBC News may be aware of the floods presently engulfing much of England.
It’s no comfort to read that the UK’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, ‘suspects’ the possible cause to be global climate change.
This, from the BBC yesterday:
At Prime Minister’s Questions last month, Mr Cameron said he “suspected” that the recent storms to batter the UK and the extreme weather in North America were connected to global temperature changes – an argument challenged by some Conservative MPs and peers.
He subsequently clarified the remarks, saying that although “you can’t point to one weather event and say that is climate change”, many scientists were talking of a link between the two.
“The point I was really trying to make is, whatever you think – even if you think that (climate change) is mumbo-jumbo – because these things are happening more often, it makes sense to do all you can to… prevent these floods affecting so many people and that is exactly what we are doing.”
Mister Cameron, who’s never been known for his supportive stance on man-made climate change, may be in process of an embarrassing U-turn due to a recently published report by the UK’s Meteorological Office.
The BBC again:
Dame Julia [Slingo, the Met Office’s chief scientist] said the UK had seen the “most exceptional period of rainfall in 248 years”.
Unsettled weather at this time of year was not unexpected – but the prolonged spell of rain, as well as the intensity and height of coastal waves, was “very unusual”.
“We have records going back to 1766 and we have nothing like this,” she said. “We have seen some exceptional weather. We can’t say it is unprecedented but it is exceptional.”
The report links the recent extreme weather in Europe and North America to “perturbations” in the North Atlantic and Pacific jet streams, partly emanating from changing weather patterns in South East Asia and “associated with higher than normal ocean temperatures in that region”.
British weather records go back ten years prior to the US Declaration of Independence, and thirty-three years before Alexander Pushkin was born. Since then, at least, the winter of 2013/14 has produced the most catastrophic weather Britain has ever suffered. I wonder how much evidence Mister Cameron will require before he fires the man whom, in 2012, he put in charge of the environment – Her Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Owen Paterson.
Paterson is a known climate skeptic. His choice for the job had more to do with his backing for the expansion of Heathrow Airport, than any track record as a protector of the environment. Paterson is one of those dying breed of men: the would-be aristocrat. He has a passion for hunting foxes with hounds, describing those who campaigned against the cruel practice as, “Nazis”. His wealth is estimated in the region of $2.25 million. He supports GM crop production in Britain, and just loves the pesticide industry.
In January, as a sop to English farmers, Paterson authorized the slaughter of 70% of the badger population of two English counties by shooting and trapping. Badgers are known to carry TB and infect cattle herds. The cull was both unnecessary and counter-productive. Only 24% of the badgers were killed, and the pilot project “..designed to show how effective, humane and safe a cull could be…” was a total failure.
A more humane alternative, the vaccinating of cattle against the disease, has long been dismissed as too expensive by the politicians, even though it will prove the only option long term.
Today, we hear that Paterson has decided it’s time to dredge the Somerset Levels – the most flooded area of Britain at this time. It may have been a viable proposition ten years ago, but will have no effect on preventing flooding in the future, assuming climate change doesn’t do a convenient reversal. Once again, Paterson is merely assuaging his fellow land owners without prior consultation with expert scientific bodies.
No doubt he fervently hopes all these problems will eventually go away and he can return to a life of affluent leisure on his country estate.
It’s unlikely Cameron will remove him. After all, it’s jobs for the boys – and ‘the boys’ always stick together.
In a nutshell, the UK’s Owen Paterson is to the environment, what America’s P. J. O’Rourke is to Russian culture.
 “Alexander Prokhorov” Wikipedia
 “Met Office: Evidence ‘suggests climate change link to storms'” BBC, February 9th 2014