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Cyclopath
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PostTue Nov 05, 2019 11:30 am 
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I heard this on Saturday while driving home from the Mountain Loop.  Fascinating, well presented.  It's political but not partisan, and the politics are historical.  I think most people in here would enjoy listening.  Note that you can download the podcast version and play it later without access to the internet, so it's good driving to/from the trailhead material.

Text version:

https://medium.com/s/freakonomicsradio/how-the-supermarket-helped-america-win-the-cold-war-59c788def3eb

Audio version:

http://freakonomics.com/podcast/farms-race/
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Cyclopath
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PostTue Nov 05, 2019 5:38 pm 
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Not from the story/podcast above.  But it's the same theme.

https://www.chron.com/neighborhood/bayarea/news/article/When-Boris-Yeltsin-went-grocery-shopping-in-Clear-5759129.php

In 1989 Russian president Boris Yeltsin's wide-eyed trip to a Clear Lake grocery store led to the downfall of communism.

It was Sept. 16, 1989, and Yeltsin, then newly-elected to the new Soviet parliament and the Supreme Soviet, had just visited Johnson Space Center.

At JSC, Yeltsin visited mission control and a mock-up of a space station. According to Houston Chronicle reporter Stefanie Asin, it wasn't all the screens, dials, and wonder at NASA that blew up his skirt, it was the unscheduled trip inside a nearby Randall's location.

Yeltsin, then 58, "roamed the aisles of Randall's nodding his head in amazement," wrote Asin. He told his fellow Russians in his entourage that if their people, who often must wait in line for most goods, saw the conditions of U.S. supermarkets, "there would be a revolution."

Shoppers and employees stopped him to shake his hand and say hello. In 1989, not everyone was carrying a smart phone in their pocket so Yeltsin "selfies" weren't a thing yet.

Yeltsin asked customers about what they were buying and how much it cost, later asking the store manager if one needed a special education to manage a store. In the Chronicle photos, you can see him marveling at the produce section, the fresh fish market, and the checkout counter. He looked especially excited about frozen pudding pops.

"Even the Politburo doesn't have this choice. Not even Mr. Gorbachev," he said. When he was told through his interpreter that there were thousands of items in the store for sale he didn't believe it. He had even thought that the store was staged, a show for him. Little did he know there countless stores just like it all over the country, some with even more things than the Randall's he visited.

The fact that stores like these were on nearly every street corner in America amazed him. They even offered him free cheese samples.

By contrast, this is what a Russian grocery store looked like at the same time.

According to Asin, Yeltsin didn't leave empty-handed, as he was given a small bag of goodies to enjoy on the rest of his trip.

About a year after the Russian leader left office, a Yeltsin biographer later wrote that on the plane ride to Yeltsin's next destination, Miami, he was despondent. He couldn't stop thinking about the plentiful food at the grocery store and what his countrymen had to subsist on in Russia.

In Yeltsin's own autobiography, he wrote about the experience at Randall's, which shattered his view of communism, according to pundits. Two years later, he left the Communist Party and began making reforms to turn the economic tide in Russia.

Maybe you can blame those frozen Jell-O Pudding pops he's seen marveling in those Chronicle photos.

"When I saw those shelves crammed with hundreds, thousands of cans, cartons and goods of every possible sort, for the first time I felt quite frankly sick with despair for the Soviet people," Yeltsin wrote. "That such a potentially super-rich country as ours has been brought to a state of such poverty! It is terrible to think of it."

The leader himself stepped down on the last day of 1999 after years of trying to bring a new system to Russia. The cronyism in place only managed to stifle Yeltsin's dream for his country. Corruption and perceived incompetence plague his final years in office. Leaving the Kremlin voluntarily is said to have kept him from criminal prosecution.

His successor was Prime Minister Vladimir Putin took over as acting president. Putin had been an aide to Yeltsin in the years previous.

Yeltsin died in 2007 at the age of 76.

The Randall's he visited, just off El Dorado Boulevard and Highway 3, is now a Food Town location.
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Backpacker Joe
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PostTue Nov 05, 2019 6:37 pm 
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In 1992 I was working for a nuclear services company that did business in Eastern Europe.  We brought over three nuclear plant workers (bosses) from a plant in Romania.  The first day they were here I volunteered to take them to lunch.  We walked into the Issaquah Safeway and before I knew it they weren't behind me.  I finally found them in the produce department.  All three of them were crying!  I tried to get them to explain what was wrong.  All they could tell me was that they didnt believe this store was real!  They were told back home they would be exposed to "This kind of Government propaganda!"  So I took them down the street to the QFC.  Then I took them to the Albertsons.  Finally I drove them over to the Larrys market in Bellevue.  That was my ace in the whole.  Back then Larrys was the Cadillac of grocery stores. I was finally able to get thru to them that this was NORMAL throughout every town in every state in the United States.  They told me they still stood in line for hours a week just to get one cup of sugar!

Kind of opens your mind a little bit.  To bad young people today are CLUELESS about the realities of Socialism.

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"If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide."

Abraham Lincoln
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Slugman
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PostWed Nov 06, 2019 5:28 am 
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Opens minds? Clueless? Hahahaha!

Funny how you guys love Putin so much that you let him run the country.

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"There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore. There is society where none intrudes, By the deep sea, and music in its roar: I love not man the less, but nature more..."  Childe Harold
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alpendave
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PostWed Nov 06, 2019 5:51 am 
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Well, this thread is on its way to being locked

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Like a ray of sunshine in a drought stricken land.

What we do does far more than what we think others ought to do. Inspiration is a far greater power for good than coercion. In your own life, show others the good that you wish to see in the world.
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neek
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PostWed Nov 06, 2019 7:06 am 
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Forgetting history is indeed a risk we face today.  But an open mind is no good if you simply fill it with sludge.  I worked with a Russian guy who lived through the collapse.  It was interesting to hear his stories about the bleak Soviet times, but what stuck with me most was how people were more or less content until the curtain fell and they saw how the rest of the world lived.  But don't mistake Soviet communism with the social democracies that have been successful in northern Europe.  Completely different animals.  (Hopefully this is sufficiently non-political; I'm not suggesting the US should follow any particular model.)
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Backpacker Joe
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PostWed Nov 06, 2019 7:48 am 
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Well said Neek.  But dont mistake Denmark, Sweden or Norway as socialist states. I have relatives in Denmark and Sweden and they resent the assumption people make.

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"If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide."

Abraham Lincoln
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PostWed Nov 06, 2019 12:48 pm 
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I've worked with engineers that had grown up in the Soviet system.   Stores in Moscow might not have much in the way of fresh vegetables -- but they did sell vodka in six packs.   

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/study-suggests-vodka-leading-cause-death-among-russian-men
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Pyrites
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PostWed Nov 06, 2019 1:37 pm 
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Solzhenitsyn maintained the CCCP encouraged vodka consumption partially for economic reasons. It costs almost nothing to produce. The state taxed it heavily.

He rued that his editor was a practitioner of the drunk by vodka to celebrate anything custom.

Best.
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Navy salad
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PostThu Nov 07, 2019 3:12 pm 
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Fascinating -- my new favorite Saloon thread!
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Cyclopath
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PostThu Nov 07, 2019 3:23 pm 
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I found this chain of cause and effect fascinating:

US government pays for research to develop higher yield farming, to best the Soviets.

We wind up with a corn and grain surplus.

Food pyramid recommends you carb out like crazy on grain.

High fructose corn syrup invented to use surplus corn.
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coldrain108
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PostThu Nov 07, 2019 4:12 pm 
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Cyclopath wrote:
Food pyramid recommends you carb out like crazy on grain.

High fructose corn syrup invented to use surplus corn.

and Diabetes levels spike...

Long term trends

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"The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch and do nothing"  - Albert Einstein
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Backpacker Joe
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PostThu Nov 07, 2019 6:39 pm 
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Watch the HBO special Chernobyl.  There's vodka everywhere, and its served in glasses WAY bigger than one ounce shots.  If you pay attention, nobody ever pays for it either.  LOL.

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"If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide."

Abraham Lincoln
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Bedivere
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PostSun Nov 10, 2019 12:10 am 
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Backpacker Joe wrote:
Well said Neek.  But dont mistake Denmark, Sweden or Norway as socialist states. I have relatives in Denmark and Sweden and they resent the assumption people make.

up.gif

The word "socialism" gets thrown around an awful lot these days by people who really don't know what it means.  Makes me cringe to hear young people say they'd prefer socialism to capitalism, and then point to Northern European countries as examples of successful socialism.

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Cyclopath
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PostSun Nov 10, 2019 7:58 am 
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Along those lines the US isn't a democracy, it's a republic.
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