Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Hasta la Vista, Fidel/ Scranton Joe Is Running Again/ Christmas Plot?

Straight to Hell, Fidel --Mr. Gripes was handed an early Christmas present on November 25th: he woke up to discover that Fidel Castro had died. My immediate reaction: ‘The SOB is finally dead -- this morning there’s one less bastard on this earth.’

And, indeed, what a ruthless, cruel, heartless monster he was. And crazy, too: when Nikita Khrushchev and John Kennedy were attempting delicately to extricate their countries from initiating a nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, Fidel Castro’s persistent advice to Mr. Khrushchev was : ‘Go, go for it. Use the missiles to launch those nuclear weapons on the U.S. if America threatens Cuba.’  Castro was advocating the destruction of the planet, which would surely have followed any attack on the United States mainland. When I read this recently, I was immediately convinced: Fidel Castro was a demonic and murderous psychopath.

Mr. Castro did, miraculously, manage to survive 57 years in power, since 1959. That is astonishing.  But, readers, don’t be misled by the fools who still support the Castro reign. Don’t believe for a second it’s because there was a groundswell of love and devotion to Fidel. No, the Castros have maintained power through the very same means that all cruel despots use: a huge secret police apparatus that penetrates every aspect of Cuban society, eliminating any political opposition through intimidation and imprisonment, prohibiting a free press or free assembly, or simply through the barrel end of a gun, or the noose at the end of a piece of rope.

Cubans are a very gifted and beautiful people blessed with hard work-ethics, who reside on a gorgeous island that possesses bountiful natural resources. Fidel Castro essentially took these people and their magnificent country and ground them into the ground. Mr. Gripes laughs when he hears the apologists assert, ‘But Castro gave his people free medical care.’ Yeah, and the doctors, I bet, deal with a lot of malnutrition. The jobless economy is so dire, and has been for so long, that people struggle to eat. It’s an impoverished, tattered country.

Castro, when he came to power, had an opportunity to mold his country into one of the most envied nations on earth: his people, if they were treated differently, and if Castro had chosen a more benevolent path, could easily have achieved whatever they wanted. And let’s not forget that American investment and aid would have poured in. The country had everything it needed. But Castro didn’t hesitate to take another road: his ambition was one-man rule and domination, and if killing enemies and destroying the economy were the methods to get there, so be it. 

His supporters in this country never did accept Fidel Castro as the criminal he was. After all, he was a devoted Marxist, and the leader of a country that was a ‘workers paradise.’ Everyone would be treated the same, the doctor or the peon in the sugar fields. It was going to an egalitarian society. Castro promised this, and a lot of duped people in America and Europe believed him for a long, long time. 

Did you know that Cuban citizens, whose land is surrounded by the spectacular Caribbean Sea, are not allowed to keep their own boats! Why? Fidel Castro, a man of the people, was afraid his people would try to escape the ‘workers’ paradise’ and direct the ships to America, to a free life. Fidel Castro was a horrific, sorrowful catastrophe, who mistreated his own people right up to the end.

Jobless Man from Scranton -- At least he’s honest: Joe Biden, soon to be out of his job as court jester in the Obama royal court, admitted a couple of weeks ago, “I’ve done this [politics] since I was 26 years old; I can’t do anything else.’ Naturally, in the same breath he announces he’s running for President in 2020. Guys like him always are running for office, or getting ready to run. They’re like racehorses – lead them to a race track, and they witlessly run, and run, and run.

Mr. Biden, not a man of introspection, doesn’t realize he’s finished. His time has passed: he’s worked successfully the ‘I’m-from-scrappy-Scranton-and me-and-the-working-man-are-attached-at-the-hip’ crap for a long time. His supporters, however, extensively white, blue-collar, union, urban, and a bit long-in-the-tooth, have just rejected the Democrats and voted for Trump. He’s now a relic of the Franklin Roosevelt era.

When Mr. Biden confesses he can’t do anything else but run for office, he’s not kidding: I bet he couldn’t sell a chocolate bar or a comic book to kids on their lunch break in a candy store. Mr. Gripes, despite Mr. Biden’s jobless plight, sheds no tears for him; some fat-cat, liberal, Democratic tax-dodge foundation will give him a cushy $750,000 no-show sinecure for which Mr. Biden, flying first-class around the country while staying at $800-a-night, big-shot hotels, will attend well-heeled conferences to exhort crestfallen Hillary souls to keep the faith –2020 will be here soon enough.

Why is Joe Biden in such a hurry to announce a run at this ungodly early date? [Also, let’s not forget that challengers like Elizabeth Warren and, yes, Bernie Sanders, are growling about running, too]. Mr. Gripes has a theory. The Democratic Party, I suspect, is convinced that Donald Trump is going to fall on his face, fail miserably as President, and serve just one term, gift-wrapping a Democratic Presidency in 2020.

Beware, once again, my vanquished and wishful-thinking Democratic friends: Mr. Trump may turn out to be quite adroit at retail politics. In the interregnum before he takes office next month, for example, Donald Trump has already made some pronouncements that are broadly appealing to a majority of Americans: his caustic criticism of the ridiculous cost of the new Air Force One [$4 billion!], and his anger at the ongoing price overruns for a new military plane, the F-35 [$400 billion, and counting!!], are very shrewd ploys: no one is for extravagant waste. [Of course, nothing may come of his comments, but Mr. Trump is surely aware that first impressions in this country are usually all that’s remembered.]

Americans have known of outrageous overruns for decades, and nothing is ever done about them. I applaud Mr. Trump for at least announcing that the days of rubber-stamped approvals without real oversight are over. And if Mr. Gripes, who cannot conceive ever voting for Mr. Trump, is muttering, ‘Go get ‘em, Donald, beat on them like a drum,’ there are a hell of a lot of other potential 2020 voters out there, Republican and Democrat, thinking the same thing.

‘The War on Christmas’ – It’s bizarre that right next to the uproar these days about ‘fake’ news on the internet, Americans are simultaneously bombarded with the notion that this country is in the midst of a subversive ‘war on Christmas.’ Talk about a phony and spurious issue….

Mr. Gripes reasons that this is another ‘shot across the bow’ by the radical / evangelical right towards liberals and their media pals. It’s a slippery slope, the neo-Conservatives proclaim, when media and businesses instead of proudly asserting ‘Merry Christmas’, substitute ‘Happy Holidays’ as the greeting. Taking ‘Christ’ out of Christmas will be next, they say, then the elimination of Christ in public discourse and, ultimately, the banning of Christianity itself.

The fear is absurd on its face: Mr. Gripes took a stroll down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan a couple of weeks ago, enjoying immensely the Christmas decorations in department store windows, as well as the festive bonhomie of everyone walking down the avenue. Christmas, on 5th Avenue, is no different now than it was when my family and I took that same stroll 60 years ago.

‘They’re killing Christmas’ is a bold-faced lie. How does an obvious falsehood like this manage to endure for such a long shelf life? For one thing, it’s been promulgated by Bill O’Reilly for years, even though Mr. Gripes is convinced Mr. O’Reilly doesn’t believe a word of it. Let’s keep in mind, though, that Mr. O’Reilly is one terrific publicity engine for his endeavors, especially his books. [He did write one on Jesus Christ, in fact.] He knows that pushing this ‘dead Christmas’ idea, although patently untrue, arouses the conspiratorial tendencies of the Radical right, which always thinks liberals are out to snuff out ‘traditional’ American values and eviscerate our rights. Bill O’Reilly wants to create publicity, and a theory, however outlandish, about the demise of Christmas will have the media eating out of Mr. O’Reilly’s hands. And, voila, his books then fly out of the bookstores.

Let’s get one thing straight, by the way: the American Constitution guarantees religious freedom for all citizens. We’re free to belong to any religious order, whether it’s Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Atheism, Islam, even Paganism. Sure, we’re a predominantly Christian country, but religious freedom is a protected right for everyone, no matter how minuscule the number of believers may be.

What’s especially dismaying to Mr. Gripes is that our President-Elect has taken up the cause. The other day, he made it a point to emphasize the words ‘Merry Christmas’ repeatedly in an impromptu press conference, giving credence to those who think saying ‘Happy Holidays’ is all a conspiracy to delete ‘Christmas’ from our American lexicon. Doesn’t Mr. Trump have many more important matters to deal with, as he’s going to be President in less than a month? Maybe not.

It’s Mr. Gripes’ contention that Donald Trump revels in conspiracy-thinking. It fits him to a tee. First of all, if the theory is dramatic enough, it creates a lot of publicity – and good or bad publicity is all Mr. Trump is after. Second, there’s no need to be truthful: just create a ‘plausible’ fiction, throw it up against the wall, and see what sticks. Verifiable facts are bunk. Mr. Trump, with his Obama-birth fabrications [‘I have investigators over in Honolulu right now and they’ve come up with some real interesting stuff.’], knew it was a total lie, but that issue, I think, actually jump-started his campaign to the White House.

And, last, conspiracy theorists, like Trump, thrive on tumult, disruption – shake up the established order, and create noise. So, of course, Donald Trump is going to play up a Christmas conspiracy – it’s custom-made for him. 

Jim Israel, aka ‘Mr. Gripes’
December 31, 2016

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Premonition Moment/ Hillary’s Calamity of Missteps

Sweet Revenge…. It was seven or eight years ago, and a fair distance from home, that Mr. Gripes experienced the moment when a victory by a persona like Donald Trump became inevitable.

Reminiscing a bit, in those days I had a lot of free time, so I’d travel down South or into the Midwest to tour minor league baseball parks: for six or seven days, I’d drive from one city to another – usually small obscure towns – to attend one game per day, typically at night. A lot of driving ensued:  I opted to travel on roads no longer used much, essentially devoid of automobiles, as newer, brawnier federal highways had superseded the older, crumbling thoroughfares.

I was on one of these sojourns, probably in 2010 or 2011, motoring one early evening from South Carolina to Augusta. It was a typically beautiful Carolina summer night, with a full moon dramatically looming through my windshield, amidst gorgeous pines lining the road. Suddenly, I noticed through a thicket of brush and tall grass, a completely empty building – a factory, for sure – on the side of the highway. Nothing stirred, just that imposing structure – and an enormous deserted parking lot adjoining the plant. It was deathly quiet -- I parked and took it all in for several minutes.

It was a very somber, sad sight: the formerly frenetic business of the factory – it had been a ‘textile’ manufacturing plant – must have formerly employed hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals. Now? Nothing but a relic. It resembled a tomb.

Fifteen miles later, another empty factory, vines growing up its walls. I counted about ten or so factories along that road, within 50 miles, all idle.

And, then, in an instant, I was struck, as if I were slapped across my face, by an epiphany: these low-to- middle-income workers, undoubtedly loyal employees for years, after the decision was made to move the plants overseas, were discarded and cast aside as if they were used Kleenex. Bill Clinton with his misconceived NAFTA mess, the large corporations backing the free-trade pacts, and the uncaring political/plutocratic classes, didn’t give one sh_t about these people. Once their employers closed the plants, the laid-off workers were stranded and abandoned, as if they were road-kill. They were betrayed.

Yes, at that moment, I just felt in my gut – I knew! –someday these furious workers, and others in similar circumstances all over the country, eviscerated by very powerful, implacable forces aligned against them, would one day exact a harsh punishment on the perpetrators. It took a long time, and I had no idea in what form it would take,  but Donald Trump’s victory last week surely must have been sweet, sweet revenge to those forgotten workers.

Now allow me to relate to you, my readers, some of my post-election impressions:

Mr. Gripes understands perfectly well you’re as fatigued as I am regarding the length, idiocy and vituperation of this past Presidential campaign, but there’s no way in hell it’s going to change: the networks, i.e., CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, MSNBC, every one of them, benefit financially so extravagantly from an elongated campaign cycle, and because the networks are the main disseminators, by far, of political news to citizens, they will never advocate anything shorter. The manner in which our political campaigns play out is a disgrace to the American democratic process, but we’re stuck with it for a long, long time.
Donald Trump, early in the cycle, complained after a 2-1/2 hour Republican debate that CNN should have shared in the advertising profits coming out of that network telecast. He was absolutely right: CNN broadcast that ridiculously long debate, for one reason: to boost its advertising dollars, knowing that Donald Trump was a ratings bonanza. Overall, CNN, incredibly, made an additional $100 million during the 2016 election cycle, compared to a non-Presidential cycle.  It would serve a network like CNN no fiduciary purpose to shorten campaigns, even though it would serve the national interest to in fact truncate the whole process; but it just isn’t going to happen. As always in this country, the harsh realities of the markets rule.

Now to the actual campaign: 

The most trenchant analysis post-election that Mr. Gripes ran across?  ‘Hillary Clinton forgot that 70% of this country is still white.’ What the hell were Ms. Clinton and her acolytes thinking? Why did the Clinton campaign spend so much time beseeching voting blocs she already had locked up? For example, going around and speaking to women’s groups about shattering the ‘glass ceiling’ must have seemed like gorgeous music to her female supporters, but let’s face it, not one of those affluent, educated, upper-class ladies was ever going to vote for Donald Trump. Hillary was invariably treated as if the coronation were only days away. Singing sisterhood encomiums to adoring female audiences turned out to be a gigantic waste of time. She should have been in Wisconsin or Michigan, communicating with disappointed and angry residents. Sure, everything looked swell for her right up until Election Day: then we were treated to a rendition of the fairy tale, ‘The Emperor – in this case, The Empress – Wears No Clothes.’

The media – and I include every one of the most prominent newspapers and networks [except Fox] – were victims of wishful thinking. Their fervent hope was that Ms. Clinton would win, and their advocacy coverage, often without a shred of impartiality, led them to presume some notions that turned out not at all to be true: what about, for instance, the huge ‘get-out-the-vote’ advantage that Ms. Clinton would unleash on Election Day? That didn’t happen. The huge advantage of Hillary’s advertising ad ‘spend’ over Trump’s? All those dollars didn’t help in the end. [Mr. Gripes’ take on political ads? Viewers either ignore them or tune them out very, very quickly.] 

A tsunami of Hispanic voters for Ms. Clinton would guarantee victories in some of the swing states? Again, an overstatement: in Florida, 30% of Hispanics supported Trump, giving him the state. I suspect the media was not out in the field actually talking to prospective voters, but basically chatting with only Democratic operatives, who knew the press wished for a Clinton win, and so suckered them with overly optimistic projections that were treated as the Gospel truth.

And let’s not forget the damage that Bill Clinton inflicted: the tape revealing Mr. Trump bragging about his predations on women hurt him certainly, but the Republican ploy to bring back before the 2nd debate all the women that Mr. Clinton had preyed upon was a brilliant counter-punch to the gut: after all, Hillary, to save her husband’s and her own political careers, had savaged these same women back in 1992. A lot of undecided women leaning to Trump but upset with the tape revelations and consequently more open-minded about Hillary, might have reasoned, ‘Yeah, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump are pigs, but is Hillary really that much better?; she was her husband’s enabler.  It’s a wash. I’m voting for Trump.’

The campaign was just one misstep after another after another….what a colossal screw-up.

And, finally just before I ride off to a Thanksgiving feast in northern New Jersey, a few words on what a Trump presidency might look like:  first of all, I’m not going to prejudge Mr. Trump; let’s see what he’s got to offer.  A couple of things are in his favor: he’s a pragmatist, not a prisoner of ideology; I think he’s an adaptive person. Second, he’s appears not to be another double-talking, dissembling, devious, pusillanimous politician the likes of which we all are sick of. He’s a builder, so he revels in ‘big’ works; that spirit of audacity is something this country needs desperately in its leaders. So, we’ll just have to see what transpires.

Now to some of Mr. Gripes’ doubts and fears: Mr. Trump apparently is going to proceed with a ‘trickle-down’ stimulus to the economy – you know the drill: huge tax reductions will lead to increased business profits, which will lead to increased tax revenues, and, voila, lower deficits. It doesn’t work: Reagan tried it, and deficits soared. George Bush 2nd tried it, it failed then, too, and we were saddled with huge deficits again. And, Trump is going to try for a third time? Moronic. 

Mr. Gripes prays that Donald Trump does not take the muscular interventionist approach to international disputes. Again, we’ve tried this, in the Korean War, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and it’s been a complete failure: not only has America lost prestige and power across the world, but, maybe worse, its own citizens have lost faith in the American system as well. All of us have been beaten up by asinine and wrong-headed Presidential presumptions about the world. President Trump, please show some forbearance, judiciousness and caution before you meddle and bomb. 

Jim Israel, aka ‘Mr. Gripes’
November 24, 2016

Friday, September 2, 2016

Alas, The Olympics Again/ Money, Money, Mr. Trump/ A Rio Gas Station at 4 a.m.

The Olympics: Same Old, Same Old – Finally, the Olympic Games are over, concluding with a cliché-riddled speech by the head of the International Olympic Committee – ‘every four years, athletes from all countries come together in peace and harmony, blah, blah, blah’ – that kind of empty-headed bull crap.

Mr. Gripes, to his astonishment, watched the competitions much more than he envisioned: I did have ground rules, though, that probably tamped down a bit my incandescent anger at the whole concept of present-day Olympics: I watched no swimming events-- ‘splish-splash, I’m taking a bath’, to me, is monumentally tedious;  I tried to avoid events that were taped, only live events [online, everything was available live, thank God] and I generally avoided most of the star-spangled NBC coverage at night. 

Actually, to be honest, I’m in favor of abolishing this entire extravaganza: shut it down for good.

What do the Games actually accomplish? It forces the selected host countries to essentially bankrupt themselves erecting structures and stadiums that -- you can count on this – will never be utilized again. A colossal waste of money for a nation like Brazil, which is in the midst of an enormous recession, as well as simultaneously dealing with political unrest and scandal [the President of Brazil was impeached a month ago.] What will they get ultimately out of these Olympics? Nothing but huge financial debts that will plague them for decades.

And, the competition is, to use a very au currant word, ‘rigged’. No, races are not fixed per se, but the competition is invariably the ‘haves vs. have-nots.’ The ‘haves’ – and the United States is far and away the leader of the ‘have’ pack – can hire the best coaches, buy the latest equipment, erect state-of-the-art facilities to train individual sports, ‘pay’ the athletes with corporate marketing dollars allowing them to train full-time, and basically outspend by tens of millions what  the poorer countries can afford. Do my readers actually think the swimming competition, for instance, proves that Americans are inherently superior to other countries? Of course not. They just have far more resources at their disposal.

A couple additional comments and then I’ll tiptoe my way out of Rio: Mr. Gripes posited this identical question four years ago during the London games: why must America, the most powerful country ever on Earth, constantly be reassured that we’re the greatest? Is the national psyche that fragile? Can we ever show some humility towards our vanquished opponents? It was bad enough that announcers [especially on NBC at night] never let up on the ceaseless shilling for America. It seems we’re incapable of ever displaying real sportsmanship. We have to dominate and humiliate. For instance: the American women’s Olympic basketball team won all of its games by an average of 40+ points…40+ points! 

The players understood perfectly well that they faced essentially no competition in their games. Massapequa Junior High would have given them more of a contest. Yet, in the team photo taken after the gold medal game, every one of them is ‘vamping’ for the camera, making faces and gesturing for the picture. I found that image obscene. You observe the photograph, and one word comes to mind: bullies. Men, with their raging testosterone issues, can be counted on to act stupidly. You women don’t have to mimic the activities of those idiots. Just be humble and gracious to the opposition.

I’ll leave now with a few things I did like: the long-distance running races, from the 1500 meters to the marathon, were always entertaining [the Africans offered great competition against the big boys]. And, I had the privilege of watching perhaps the most exciting tennis match I’d ever seen: del Potro vs. Nadal in the semis. Great drama. Finally, and definitely not least: the rugby matches were sensational. Speed, power, toughness, and intelligence predominated: that’s rugby. The gold medal was won by Fiji, which had never won a medal of any kind prior to the Rio games. Hooray for the have-nots.

Money, Money Makes Donald’s Head Spin ‘Round ‘n Round…Of all his malevolent personality deficiencies – egomania, cruelty, lack of compassion, obsessive self-love – that would disqualify him for the Presidency in a more rational country, Mr. Trump’s insatiable lust for money stands out.

Money, money, money: I think, after all is said and done, that’s the end-all and be-all of the Trump overweening ambition. His pathological – and it is pathological – thirst for money is what propels him every waking moment. Even the power that would accrue with a Presidential victory is subsumed by his obsession for more and more money.  Everything about him – the pathological lying, the dissembling, an inability to focus for more than a few minutes, a disdain for anything not material to him – stems from a primal and insatiable need to amass as much as he can. And his history demonstrates he’ll do anything – legal or illegal – to achieve his goals.

I’ll give you an example: Mr. Trump establishes Trump University. I suspect everyone connected with the ‘university’ at its onset, including Trump, knew the concept was a scam: naïve and probably not particularly bright individuals, bedazzled by the apparent glamour and success of Trump, sign up for courses purportedly designed by Trump himself – he might say, ‘apply the lessons I impart to you, and you’ll be on your way to incredible wealth.’ Well, as you know, from the start, it was a total rip-off. The courses turned out to be worthless -- but the misery and deception didn’t stop there: there were additional, higher-level courses to enroll in, at increasing cost. 

In fact, ‘students’ of the university are encouraged to max out on credit card loans to take additional courses that cost up to $35,000! And most of these students were probably not in a position to carry that kind of debt. In a just environment, that fraud by itself is a criminal act perpetrated by Donald Trump, and he’d probably go to trial and jail ultimately. He knew his university was a total sham, but you can bet that he took tuition money from essentially ‘innocent’ students gleefully, with absolutely no regrets. He’s a thief, and a rotten bastard.

Let’s look at the bigger financial picture of Trump and his university. At its most profitable, what would it really yield in terms of profit for Mr. Trump? $25 million? $50 million? Why does someone with a net worth of billions bother with a puissant business like Trump University? It’s basically peanuts on his bottom line. But, that’s Donald Trump in a nutshell: a greedy, money-grubbing scoundrel, out to screw people out of every penny they possess.

One can only imagine how much he’s salivating over the donations coming into his campaign coffers now: during July for example, his campaign raised $64 million, which he will split 50/50 with the Republican National Committee – that’s $32 million under 100% control of Trump.. And we’ve got 3 more months to go:  $125 million total could enter the Trump coffers. Do any of my readers actually think that’s going for campaigning solely? No way. He’ll figure out a way to monetize a large part of that sum to his personal account. That’s the way he works. ‘Hand that money over – I raised it; it’s mine.’

He’s already doing it: Mr. Gripes read somewhere that the rates for the suites in Trump Tower that are being rented out to the campaign are much greater than a normal rental would cost. One can only imagine: 8x, 10x. Who knows? But Donald screwing somebody, that’s for certain. And what about his private plane that he jets around in to make campaign appearances? Donald Trump is paying himself an enormous fee to rent his own plane. Count on it.

A successful trip.
And, as a corollary to his money fixation, he’s cheap, too – that’s the other side of the coin. Mr. Gripes recalls when Mr. Trump chose not to appear for one of the Republican primaries, and instead asserts triumphantly that during the time of the debate he’ll raise money ‘for the vets.’ Afterwards, he insists he raised $6 million for the veterans, of which he’ll contribute $1 million dollars to the cause.

Well, after a month, veterans groups start complaining that they have not received the money that they were promised by Mr. Trump. The press gets hold of this, and all hell breaks loose. I doubt the $6 million Trump promised was ever raised, of course, and I suspect he hoped the whole debacle would simply disappear from public view. It didn’t, and he had to – very begrudgingly – finally contribute his million dollars to the vets.

The whole deal speaks so eloquently of the Trump personality: the grandiosity, the deceit, the ‘never will I be sorry’ attitude, and the naked selfishness. He had no intention of forking over that $1 million to the veterans. He didn’t give a damn about his promises. He’s thinking, ‘That money belongs to me, not to those losers.’

The Swimmers and Rio – For his last piece, Mr. Gripes would like to pivot back to Rio and the Olympics and discuss – briefly, I promise – the American swimmers and their 4 am ‘event’ at a Rio gas station.

I would imagine most of you know the basic details of what occurred: Ryan Lochte, the most well-known of the four – and three other team members had attended a party hosted by the French team, and were heading back to the Olympic Village very early in the morning. The taxi stopped at a gas station, where the four men, certainly inebriated, ‘vandalized’ the restroom a bit – broken mirror, kicked-in door, ripped-up wall poster, that kind of petty damage.

They then return to the cab to resume the ride to the Village. While in the car, getting ready to leave, still at the pumps, a ‘security guard’ runs out and sticks a gun through a front window, and makes everyone get out of the car. Apparently, the athletes were then coerced to hand over $70 to cover the damage. And back to the Olympic Village rooms they went.

Initially, Mr. Lochte reported that he and his friends were robbed at gunpoint, and their wallets emptied of cash. Wallets were returned, sans cash, but nothing else was taken. Never happened like that. The Rio police force and prosecutor’s office were absolutely incensed that the Americans besmirched the fine name of Rio – Ha! – with their false charges of robbery.

At first blush, yes, Mr. Gripes was angry with the Americans carrying on like louts – idiots, actually. It’s insane to be drunk, then damage an establishment in the middle of an extremely violent city, where you don’t know the language, and you don’t have the foggiest idea where you are. Besides it’s the middle of the night. They’re very fortunate they were not robbed and killed.

Not exactly.
But my sentiments eventually began to side with the swimmers. Perhaps that sounds incredibly hypocritical, considering my criticisms of American athletes at these Olympic Games – all the showboating and ‘we’re-the-greatest’ boorish behavior that was on display during the two weeks.

But, for this incident, I back the Americans. Oh, sure, the Brazilians make a big stink about the rumored ‘robbery.’ No, no, they insisted, there was no robbery. Nothing happened.

Well, Senor Police Chief, in the United States, where there are real laws, that absolutely was a robbery. You can’t, in Philadelphia, say, stick a gun in someone’s face, and force him to hand over money, for any reason. That’s armed robbery, Big Shot. Or, two days later, the last of the American swimmers still remaining in Brazil has to pay $11,000 to a ‘charity’ to pay his way out of the god-forsaken country. Where I come from, that’s extortion. ‘Charity,’ my ass.

Sorry, you boys from Brazil, despite all your protestations about how Brazil’s honor was defiled by the American athletes, and despite your hope that Rio will now be viewed as a safe city for tourists to visit, no one with half a brain who examines what occurred at 4 am at the gas station that morning is headed for Rio any time soon. It’s a very dangerous place. Cross Rio off Mr. Gripes’ bucket list.

By Jim Israel 
aka ‘Mr. Gripes’
September 1, 2016

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