Category Archives: current news

Denny Hastert And His Gentleman Farmer Aw-Shucks Persona

Dennis Hastert 109th pictorial photo.jpg

It was 1986. Seated next to my desk in an old oak armchair was Congressman Dennis Hastert. I worked for a Chicago suburban newspaper group that had just started another paper that was reaching a new readership area and the publisher put me in charge as editor and everything else that went along with starting a new paper. I had never met Hastert.  When he had been in the Illinois House he did not represent our coverage area but now we had expanded and so did he; to the U.S. House. He had just won a close election to replace a congressman who was battling cancer.

I couldn’t initially figure out why he wanted this meeting. While our newspapers were well known and had been around a long time, we certainly didn’t have the clout of the Tribune or Sun Times and besides, he  had already won the election. It appeared to be a simple meet and greet. He said he wanted to congratulate us on starting a new paper and meet the editor. I must say I was surprised, as most members of congress only bother with the big fish. His demeanor was so aw-shucks and laid back I almost forgot he was a politician. I said almost. He didn’t dress like the typical blue-suited red-tied politician either, brown suit, slightly rumpled. He said his friends called him Denny or coach.

He spent a lot of time talking about his humble beginnings doing farm work, his teaching career and wrestling. He didn’t seem in any kind of rush, as most politicians are prone to remind you how busy and important they are while rushing the conversation. He did not speak in political jargon or weigh his words carefully when I asked a few questions. We talked of Wheaton College, where he went to school and I occasionally gave talks on community journalism (I disliked public speaking) because I somehow could never say no to professor Arnold. It was really one of the more pleasant conversations with a politician I had ever had.  When he left my office he said if I ever needed information for a story etc. just give him a call. He said if he was in Washington a staff member at his local Yorkville office would answer questions or he personally would call back and not three days later, as I told him often we are on deadline and many politicians only get back to us after the paper has been published (he laughed).

I found myself thinking about the impression he made and what a nice guy he was. Just like countless people he worked with for decades thought. Just like the wrestling students he sexually abused first thought. They thought he could be trusted, he was a teacher and coach and mentor who they initially looked up to. And as a Federal Prosecutor said recently, his career was “marred by stunning hypocrisy.” But, in the end who cares about his career? What about the lives of the boys who are now men and still struggling with what Hastert did to them?

This is from the New York Times:

“While in Congress, Mr. Hastert also was an outspoken advocate for severe punishment of anyone convicted of abusing minors. He helped push legislation in 2006 that required states to expand sex offender registers, as he declared that “protecting our children from Internet predators and child exploitation enterprises are just as high a priority as securing our border from terrorists.”

Who knew we needed to secure our children from someone who would become U.S. Speaker Of The House for eight years, the third highest office in the land?  The gentleman farmer, aw-shucks persona wasn’t typical for a politician but it sure served as his cover up as a child predator for years. A wolf in sheep’s clothing is indeed an understatement.






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Trump, Cruz and Rubio are all small men after all


As I was watching  the Republican Primary (grade school) debate Thursday night I felt like I was watching a Saturday Night Live skit or maybe not even that good, more like a bad circus act. I figured pie throwing would be on the agenda at any moment. My mind could not comprehend that these were indeed real honest-to-goodness potential presidential nominees and bore no resemblance to what I grew up thinking was democracy in action. The antics of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were like the school yard bullies yelling “sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.” I’m leaving John Kasich out of the fray because he basically played nice. Boring but nice. In his case though boring was like a breath of fresh air on the political debate stage that can only be described as a circus.

While Trump kept calling Rubio “little Marco” and once again the size of Trumps hands and lower appendage came up (Rubio has claimed Trump’s hands and other “things” were small). Trump claimed he was fine in “that department” I found myself astounded that this was being discussed in a political arena (TMI). This debate was supposed to be about issues that are important to the American people that pertain to the economy, jobs, climate change, health care and more but our issues were secondary  to the circus clowns verbally knocking each other down as they told each other to stop talking, stop lying and at one point Cruz telling trump “breathe Donald, breathe.” This, as they all talked over each other just as children are inclined to do. A more stately sight would have been any man, woman or child anywhere across America or any of the “uneducated poor” (Trumps quote) with manners and class that the potential nominees lacked.

I guess I was embarrassed and couldn’t imagine Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or a host of other past presidents (some that I didn’t even like) acting like bottom feeders in a frenzy to get our vote and doing it on national TV. The office they are trying to attain somehow seems tainted by the mere fact that they are clawing for that brass ring that they have tarnished. None of these guys are presidential material. It is extremely hard to think of the word President in any kind of context that includes their names. These three clowns are all small men in every possible sense of the word.



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March 5, 2016 · 9:55 am

McDonald’s Thinks Leadership Not Product or Culture, Cause of Sales Decline

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The first McDonald’s in Illinois  circa 1955 was constructed in Des Plains, a Chicago suburb


I have a crystal ball here on my desk that predicts McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson stepping down and  their replacing him with Steve Easterbrook, the company’s “chief brand officer” will make no difference what-so-ever on increasing their bottom line. Nope, the new branding guy won’t really be able to convince us (the general public) that their luke warm burgers, rubbery chicken nuggets, their pretend lattes and everything under-the-sun- wrapped in a, you know, wrap, is really good food. Or even a facsimile. We know too much.

We’ve learned “fast food” doesn’t have to taste mediocre or not fresh. We’ve learned fast food doesn’t have to sacrifice taste to be healthy. And some of us have learned that we don’t have to give our hard-earned money to companies that we feel don’t treat their employees fairly by handing out low wages and/or shorter hours so they don’t have to pay benefits. They should really just hire me to run a focus group of “regular people” and they could save themselves a ton of money on executives and pass that money down to the “real” employees that do the work. Surely they understand “trickle down” right?

Sales at McDonald’s have been declining since 2013 so I assume Thompson will be the fall guy. His salary and perks are in the millions so gee, I’m sure he’ll land on his feet. Unlike many McDonald workers who can barely make ends meet and end up being subsidized by taxpayers in the form of food stamps, healthcare subsidies etc. when we know the CEO’s are walking away with golden parachutes and we are in essence subsidizing McDonald’s.  Could some of us just  be plain mad at McDonald’s and their apparent greed? Of course, but we also know we have many good options.

Many of us have been turning to chains like Panera, Five Guys, Smashburgers, Chipotle, In n’ Out Burger, and Chick-fil-A to name a few. These chains are not trying to be all things to all people. They specialize in fresh, made to order, reasonably priced food. What they prepare they do well. You won’t find 100 items on a Five Guys menu. They make fantastic burgers and hand cut fresh french fries. There is always a line and you don’t mind waiting a short time because you know it is being made fresh for you.  McDonald’s has up to 100 items on its menu and when you go to the drive-thru you better not take the time to read it because in three seconds they are asking you what you want.

But taste and freshness aside, McDonald’s recent 21% drop in profit in the most recent quarter compared to last year at the same time ( this according to their own stats) isn’t a fluke.  While they are busy playing around with their menu and firing CEO’s our culture has changed to putting our money where our mouths are, literally and figuratively. But McDonald’s and their so-called McFamily culture doesn’t really have a clue.

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Romney Doesn’t Know ‘Third Times A Charm’ Is An Urban Myth

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Word on the street and everywhere else that prints trilogies is that Mitt Romney is considering throwing his hat into the circus ring that is the Republican Presidential wanna-be tent. More accurately for him the “third times a charm” ring.  Those in the know, mainly his “advisers” who helped him lose the last election because they kept telling him how great he was doing, said in unison “but this time will be different.”
I was wondering what “different” actually meant to someone like Romney and  his ill-advisers.  Is it the kind of different that us 99% think of?  Is it the kind of different that will allow someone like himself who grew up isolated by wealth and privilege get a clue about the realities of life and economics affecting us “little people”?  Like when he said college kids should just borrow $25K from their parents for school as if we all have that kind of money sitting around or  do we forget that his car has an elevator and many Americans don’t have a car, job or food? What could this man possibly do “different” that would make me forget his remarks about 47% of the population being moochers and suggesting undocumented immigrants “self deport” or his paying only 13.9% federal income tax on 15 million in income, for the one year he was made to reveal his tax return?
He has been telling potential campaign donors (some of the same people Jeb Bush is courting) that his focus would be to help the poor and support the middle class. But poor or middle class people might be low on funds or assets but their memories are sharp enough to remember the effects of his Bain Capital sending jobs overseas, his offshore tax dodging accounts and his $60 million 401K. And it’s going to take more than a quick trip to Target or Costco to buy a shirt to prove he gets what it’s like to be middle class. And his wife is certainly way to uppity for such nonsense. Remember her famous pompous words “just stop.” As if she was more than a little used to people obeying her commands, like she thought she was  practicing for a Monarchy.
According to Politico, The Washington Post and a host of other media outlets his “this time will be different” campaign isn’t just idle interest. They claim he is “aggressively” seeking a route into the 2016 nominee field. Politico even reports that his fresh new campaign is devoid of substance. Imagine that,  it’s just like 2008 and 2012 all over again, kind of like that movie Ground Hog Day–every time he runs.
It’s like Mitt Romney wants to be president so bad, he will try to re-invent himself into the butcher, the baker or the candlestick maker but he doesn’t know who or what those things are. But, no worries, his advisers will fill him in.
P.S. Just in case you have forgotten Mitt Romney’s typical tone and style when speaking about and to the American people from his ivory tower, here is a direct quote from the last time he ran in 2012;
“There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what……who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it…..These are people who pay no income tax…..And so my job is not to worry about those people…”   Wow! Is this not a Presidential caliber statement or what?


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Wonderbag? I Thought This Was Some Kind of Joke

I recently read a short business news  blurb on the internet somewhere about a woman, Sarah Collins,  who had spent a good portion of her life trying to help other women in rural Africa help themselves. It just so happened I had been reading a fiction book series about Africa (The Ladies #1 Detective Agency) so Africa may have been fresh in my mind when I clicked on her story. Although the book I was reading was not serious in nature at all it was just a light hearted, won’t tax your brain mystery.

I started to look for more information on Sarah Collins and found  a lot. I must have been living under a rock. I found out out she had started small community businesses to help many women in Africa feed and clothe their kids. She helped out in clinics and aided the environmental conservation effort in primarily rural African communities, to help the people conserve what resources they had. This woman was relentless, kind of like a one woman band. I was duly impressed and feeling like a total underachiever in the area of helping others.

Evidently, starting back in 2008, rolling blackouts were a common occurrence in Johannesburg and ongoing energy shortages were everywhere throughout South Africa. In some cases homes, schools and hospitals etc. only had power for a few hours every few days. Sarah was trying to figure out a way she could help people feed their kids and families hot meals with limited fuel or wood. Many rural African kids didn’t attend school because they were needed to gather firewood daily which took many hours. It was necessary to do this for nourishment.

Then Sarah had an idea that grew from her memory of farm living as a child. Her grandmother would put blankets and cushions around a hot pot of soup or stew to keep it cooking slowly for hours. This was done to conserve limited fuel on the farm. Sarah decided that this simple idea was not much different than burying food in the ground while cooking which had been done for centuries.

Sarah then set out to make a prototype for a heat-keeping-cooker that could be used for hours with no electricity or fuel and cook for up to 12 hours. She came up with what she called “Wonderbag.” I must admit when I heard about this I thought it was a joke. The whole idea put visions of night-time infomercials dancing in my head so I looked further. But it is basically a large heat-retention bag made out of material on the outside and a thick lining inside. It’s actually cute looking and if you didn’t know what it was you wouldn’t know what it was, if you get my drift.

When I looked into where I could get a Wonderbag,  I was limited to Amazon, at least in the U.S.  Africa has had them available since about 2008 where 700,000 of them have been sold or given away, but they are relatively new here. I love the idea that for every single one purchased, one is given away in Africa to someone in need. My next quest was to find out exactly how to use it and see if there were reviews from people who have used them (there are many reviews on Amazon both pro and con).

I ordered one because my family calls me the crock pot queen. I am hard pressed to bypass a new type of crock pot and I thought it would be a great conversation piece. I also thought it would be fun to write about to more or less see if it worked or not. Yes, I had to pay full price of course, but I figured it was for a good cause. You have to have something boiling or simmering first before you place a metal or cast iron pot into the Wonderbag but it really does cook. I’ve done rice and it turned out perfect. My chili turned out great too.  I could see this being utilized for camping, RV’s, tailgating, food shows and well, anywhere you didn’t have or didn’t want to use electricity but needed to keep something slow cooking.

For many of the African women that Sarah helped by giving them these Wonderbag’s,  the affect on their families has been profound; their children only have to look for firewood once a week now so they could return to school, the women who do their cooking to sell to others make more money for their families because they don’t have to spend time and money on fuel. In the meantime, I’m reading the recipe book that comes with my Wonderbag;  to see if I can master a bag that cooks.  I am an Amazon affiliate and receive a small commission if you purchase through my link.




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September 29, 2014 · 5:55 pm

Abercrombie & Fitch Has Become Totally Uncool Boo Hoo

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It’s pretty funny that Abercrombie & Fitch, home to giant logos and egos is now closing down stores left and right, getting rid of their logos, slashing prices and trying to appeal to the masses instead of just the “cool” people it has been vying for since 1992.

Their last few earnings reports have been as dark and gloomy as their once shuttered-windowed stores that reeked of cologne and uber’ preppy-ness (probably not a word but you get the picture). Their 70 year-old flip-flop wearing plastic-faced CEO Mike Jeffries, has evidently seen the light. The shutters have come off the windows, which were intended for a closed/club atmosphere, the cologne that was sprayed everywhere is supposedly gone and the logo clothing will be gone in U.S. stores sometime in 2014.

Abercrombie & Fitch was the “cool” brand a decade and a half ago. Sales of its preppy clothes was in the billions. Teens had ranked it as the sixth coolest brand, and its then newly launched surfer-lifestyle line, Hollister Co., was an instant hit when it opened.  But now, with stores like H&M and Zara  among many others offering trendy clothing at cheap prices,  Abercrombie wants to win back its base,  according to Jeffries. This could be hard because their base was the “cool” I love logos and overpriced clothing people. Shoppers today (even if they are using their parent’s money) aren’t going to pay $70 for a pair of Abercrombie jeans when they can get a pair they like for $10 elsewhere.  They also have a decade of bad PR and exclusionary hiring practices to overcome.  And parents have always hated their overtly sexual ad campaigns for teens, they have stopped such ads but the memory still lingers for many.

Abercrombie settled for $50 million in 2004 after being sued for discrimination against racial minorities. Last year, quotes made by Jeffries during a 2006 interview resurfaced; he had said the brand targeted “cool, good-looking people,” a statement that generated heavy, even viral backlash. (And earlier this year, researchers suggested that its crowded, cologne-filled stores may actually cause anxiety.) I don’t know if I’m actually buying-into the anxiety stuff but hearing issues about keeping what were deemed less attractive workers in the back storeroom stocking and actually asking customers who “looked the part” to apply for a job after they just told someone else they had no openings was certainly blatant discrimination and cause for anxiety for those who had to deal with it.

In usual CEO-speak fashion here is what Jeffries said a few days ago at the earnings disclosure meeting; “We are confident that the evolution of our assortment will drive further improvements going forward, we remain highly focused on returning to top-line growth and driving long-term value for our shareholders.”

My translation of this is simply; We took the stupid logos off so the overpriced made anywhere but in the U.S.A. clothes will at least look different. We want our sales in the billions like we used to have but we burned too many bridges and pissed off to many people because we weren’t playing fair or even legal let alone politically correct, ethically, or with an ounce of sensitivity. We really only care about our shareholders and the long-term value for them.

The customer? Jeffries never even mentions the word which is a very telling omission for a business. He and his company have become “uncool” and they probably don’t even know it. For Jeffries this has to be his worst nightmare. (the links in this article are just some of the other blogs I have written about Ambercrombie since 2009.  Just click on them if you want more background on their “uncool” behavior over the years).

(Ever since I published my first short-read on Amazon “Widows Like Me”  I have had some readers ask me why I went digital with it and not published it as a “real book.” The short answer is it was cheaper for me and I had total control. An e-reader doesn’t have to break the bank, I own the cheapest one Amazon carries; . its the 6in.  non-glare touch model. I’m an Amazon affiliate so if you click through this link to buy this e-reader or anything on their website through my link I get a very small commission.




September 1, 2014 · 10:07 am

Robin Williams Made us Laugh, Cry, and Remember What He Left Behind

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Actor Robin Williams died Monday morning at age 63. According to all media reports it was an apparent suicide.

Everyone is talking about him — and that alone says volumes about what an enormous loss this is. The fact that everyone has something to say about this comic genius shows what an impact he had on the lives of people, most who only knew him through his body of work. This news has everyone in shock. It is gut-wrenching and beyond sad. We all have Robin Williams moments that we remember in particular, whether it was a performance that made us laugh or one that made us cry or one that teetered on the edge between the two. Author and humorist Erma Bombeck once said, “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy and humor and hurt. Obviously, not a new theory but sheds light once again on someone laughing on the outside while masking their troubled inside.

What is amazing about the response online and everywhere, is not just the countless number of people who want to get together and express their feelings about him but how many different things they remember. He spanned decades and generations of fans. There’s the Robin Williams who made kids and families laugh with Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire and RV and the Robin Williams who inspired us to get up on desks and shout “O captain my captain” in Dead Poet’s Society. There’s the Robin Williams who made us laugh when we were adults with Good Morning Vietnam and Birdcage. And of course, Good Will Hunting, his Academy Award winning performance showed off his dramatic skills. His stand-up acts were like a whirlwind of comedy leaving one almost breathless watching his rapid fire humor.

It feels personal to us because he made something for everyone. He gave us so many choices. “He put 150 years of laughter into 63,” NPR’s Scott Simon tweeted.

My son Jeff was in the Marines for 20 years and saw Williams many times in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He told me he even got to meet him once. He said he considered it an honor to meet someone who thought so much of the troops that he would regularly go to the chow hall and eat with them. He said Williams knew who all the officers were but didn’t really want to hang with them. Jeff said he would ask the guys stuff like where they were from, about their families etc. Jeff added that he was truly interested in these guys and would just plop himself down in the middle of a bunch of guys eating and start talking. Williams didn’t stick around for a short time either, Jeff said “He would be around for a month going from base to base.” A great personal memory for my son about someone who we all wish would have stuck around longer.

(I don’t own many movies, I usually just wait around for them to come on cable etc. but I do own; The Birdcage. I’ve watched it more than I care to admit and even though I can by now recite the lines myself, I still laugh like crazy. I am an Amazon affiliate so I get a tiny percentage off of anything you purchase though my link.


August 13, 2014 · 3:41 pm

In Estes Park CO The Elk Are Celebrities

Photo by Cathleen Shaffer

Photo by Cathleen Shaffer

(The elk mating season in September and October brings bugling and sometimes sparring elk and of course, curious onlookers)

There is a traffic jam in front of my house again. People hanging out of car windows with cameras, standing in the driveway, the bolder few trying to cross the fence into our yard. Some even approaching my front porch. It is the elk paparazzi.

I step out of the house, cup of coffee in hand as a gentle reminder that this is my home, my yard and my private sanctuary. Most don’t take the cue. However, since this is a tourist area I don’t want to be rude. I know their motivation is pure curiosity and of course, getting the best up-close and personal shot of the elk for their Estes Park vacation photos.

I live in the Colorado Mountains along a highway that is the gateway into Rocky Mountain National Park and the town of Estes Park. My backyard is the Big Thompson River, a great water source for many species of wildlife. I have seen everything in my backyard from a mother bear and her cubs to a mountain lion. And yes, I am still in awe of what I get to see but also respectful and mindful of their habitat. I figure, they were here first.

The four elk in the yard, casually eating my buffalo grass have become regulars. So used to the sight of me, they barely look my way as I walk to the back of the house, out of the line of sight of the elk paparazzi.

“Please don’t feed the elk that Oreo cookie”

While elk are a common sight to those that live in Estes Park Colorado , they are unique to many people, thus the crowd. I am compelled to occasionally intervene when someone tries to cross our fence or lead children close for a picture.

Elk are wild animals, I explain to one family that is just too close for comfort. They look docile enough when relaxing but believe me when provoked or scared they will charge you, I add. And please, don’t feed them that Oreo cookie, they are vegetarians. People often try to entice the elk with whatever snacks they happen to have on hand, not a wise decision and totally illegal in Colorado.

Most people move on in due time to another location hosting the elk. For the stragglers who have worn out their welcome, we turn on a very far-reaching sprinkler system and we water the grass. We fashioned it out of an old fire hose and a generator. It’s really loud, spews forth a really heavy shower and very effective for dispersing crowds. And it’s definitely our laugh of the day.


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Ugly Americans Whine About Petty “Olympic Problems”

I can’t believe what crying babies some of these Americans are at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Now, I do feel that the International Olympic Committee made a poor choice, but not because hotels don’t have enough pillows or light bulbs or toilet paper. I would be far more concerned with the safety issues than the complaints of bees in the honey. Of course Russia is going to spy on us everywhere, that is what they do best, it’s not like our own government doesn’t spy.
We will never know if Putin strong-armed the IOC with wads of cash or whatever, but if you are already there you may as well make the best of it and quit whining about the lack of amenities typically found in the U.S. The egotistical reporters are the worst, they post selfies next to a broken light fixture or brown water coming from a hotel faucet. We get it, guys/gals but what is your point? Can’t you hack it on an Olympic assignment without whining? It’s not war its games.
One of the many roles of the International Olympics Committee is to “Encourage and support initiatives blending sport with culture and education.” Now, this is what they state on their website so I guess it is part of their mission statement which certainly is open to interpretation but we do know the Russian culture appears to be nothing like that of the U.S. But, it is still their culture and maybe making a mockery of  it on Twitter and Facebook etc. isn’t necessarily the classy thing to do. We don’t need to put other countries down in order to elevate ourselves we are already on top.
No, they are not enlightened about gay rights and that is deplorable to us of course, but it wasn’t that many years ago we weren’t so “open” either. We can’t push our values on other countries by name calling and admonishing them because they don’t think or act like us. Believe it or not, many other countries in the world could really care less what we think or how we operate, they have their own internal and external problems.
So, 60% of the world doesn’t have access to flushing toilets. People in the U.S. that own RV’s often throw toilet paper in a trash can every day depending on what location they are hooked-up to.  Almost everyone living in Latin America does also. In some areas of Mexico in public restrooms there is no toilet paper, but for 10 pesos a guy standing near the door will give you a small sheet of (one ply) toilet paper. I had no coins once and didn’t know of this practice. I now always carry tissue in my purse, it’s called innovation. . But the lack of this at hotels in Sochi doesn’t take away your athletic advantage at the Olympics, but people are still Tweeting their shock and dismay at lack of toilet paper in Russia. What idiots.
Evidently Russia kills stray dogs, we find this abhorrent but I have witnessed a pack of wild dogs in  Mexico go after a woman who ultimately ran into the ocean as her husband valiantly tried to fight off the dogs and almost lost a leg before help arrived. Not all countries have animal shelters because they are too busy trying to find shelter for humans. And, many countries don’t treat their dogs like members of the family because they are having a hard enough time feeding their own family.
This may not be “right” by our standards but who are we to make Russia or any other host country adopt our standards pertaining to animals?I mean, we are insulting the people of Russia, who just happen to be proud of their country too. I don’t give a hoot about Putin and I’ll bet many Russians don’t either as he has spent a sickening amount of their tax money to try to make himself look good hosting the Olympics.. He used cheap Russian labor to construct the huge venues, used some of their nearby towns and land to dump construction materials and God knows what else. He ruined local roads with heavy trucks during construction and made the already low electric supply of neighboring towns near Sochi barely operational and in many cases nil. This is how these people have to live, Americans and others get to go home to their plush toilet paper.
It’s embarrassing to see the Twitter comments, Facebook posts and Instagram photos of some of these “Ugly Americans” as they whine about bees in their honey and are not genius enough to take a spoon and remove the bee. They do know bees make honey right? It’s as if some of these people have never been out of their own comfort zone and think the world revolves around their wants and needs. It’s a Global world out there and nobody else cares that some U.S. visitors/reporters/activist groups etc. might boycott or can’t/won’t try to go with the flow and make the best of it. The Olympics is about the athletes and our U.S. pride is with them as they compete. We hope they will be safe. The whiners need to go drink some Russian Vodka and lighten up.


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Ralph Lauren’s Design Wins Ugly Sweater Contest For U.S. Olympic Athletes

Ralph Lauren got another shot at the Olympic Rings this year to design the U.S. Olympic Athletes’ clothing, or as I like to refer to his “designer” duds for 2014; costumes.  After the 2012 London Olympics fiasco which declared Lauren, or maybe he just declared himself “The Official Outfitter of the U.S. Olympic Teams for London 2012” but neglected to tell us the clothing was made in China, I thought maybe they would just choose J Crew or Gap or Old Navy who already get their stuff from China and other places I can’t even pronounce, pre-designed.

Most of the world already views the U.S. as conspicuous consumers and Lauren’s design does little to dispel this. Americans are also thought to be loud and brash in some circles and in particular, the design of the over-the-top patriotic red, white and blue sweater is as loud and brash as they come. There are so many stars and stripes and red, white and blue things on this sweater you expect it to start singing Bruce Springsteen songs. The hat is equally as garish looking but I suppose the idea was a plethora of sweater knit stuff that kinda-sorta-almost matched, like a patchwork quilt–but not. Oh yeah, white sweatpants complete the outfit. Those snooty French are still snickering. I don’t  think they even allow sweatpants in France.

Lauren has long been thought of as the purveyor of understated elegance. His designs used to typify what most called “the classics.” In the 2012 Olympics his clothing for the opening and closing Olympic ceremony for the athletes was navy blazers and berets. The berets looked decidedly French and the blazers looked like the athletes just came from the polo club. Oh yeah that’s right, his signature brand is the polo pony. Nice way to get your brand in the Olympics Ralph, by way of China.

While the Olympic sweater design would surely win the ugly sweater contest hands down we have much more serious potential problems for our athletes. The Olympic Committee (the bright stars that chose Sochi, Russia) and the U.S. State Department are telling the athletes not to wear any conspicuous U.S.A. clothing while traveling or anywhere outside the Olympic Village as a safety/security measure. I hope these terrific athletes and their families will be safe wearing whatever they feel comfortable in as our athletes don’t need a red, white and blue ugly sweater to stand out, they do it with their American spirit, dedication to their sport and talent.  Maybe a new younger designer with those same qualities can design for the U.S. Olympic athletes next time.

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