Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Return of the Cold War?

Vladmir Putin's Russia has been flexing her military muscles, lately, by violating the air space of Finland, with bomber flyovers.
This may seem like a threat likened to that of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, but it is merely a reflection of what is happening inside the political mechanisms of that country.
With the ongoing emergence of the new Democratic Russia, the goings-ons inside the Kremlin have not changed much from the Soviet days. You have the same kinds of power struggles among the various departments of the government, and the added struggles among the various political parties. As Peter Rutland writes in Business Week, the Russian President does not want to be seen as a "lame duck," in his waning months as President. He wants to show the world, and, especially, the Russian people that his United Russia party has allowed Russia to return to its status as a world power. It is all for the sake of the Russian elections coming up next year.
Russia is dependent on trade with other nations. The Soviet Union fell, because America and other nations in the West, refused to conduct trade in technological goods with that country. Already far behind the rest of the world in technological development, the Soviet economy could not compete in world trade, so the economy bottomed out and the Soviet government disintegrated. Even with Russia's oil wealth, today, trade is still very important in keeping the economy healthy. Russian economists and Putin's cabinet surely understand that.
The bottom line is that the show of force is more for the benefit of the United Russia party than for the rest of the world. Russia can not burn bridges with the rest world, and slow the advancement of an economy that was only recently devastated by corruption and bad policy. According to the Russian constitution, Putin is limited to three terms, after which he must step down. He is obviously intending to remain in power, either by proxy or by constitutional loopholes, so it is important to him to maintain the image of Russian power.
So, there does not seem to be a desire to return to the Cold War. It is only Russian politics in action.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Tribute to "NASCAR Debbie" (revised and republished)

I only found out about this Sunday morning--an old friend of mine, and of everyone else who knew her, passed away August 14, suddenly and unexpectedly.
NASCAR Debbie was a petite woman--four foot nine and weighing not more than 90 lbs, but she had a heart as big as the world. Her personality was absolutely magnetic, and she always returned friendship with friendship. In her obituary, she was described as "eccentric," in a positive way, and she certainly was off center--unique as no other person could be. She seemed to see life as performance art, and she was an excellent performance artist.
With an IQ ranging in the top 1 percentile, she loved to mingle with us "slow" folks, and being in her company felt perfectly natural. She was funny, not with the usual jokes or one liners, but with a running commentary on life in general, and NASCAR Debbie could always make us laugh.
NASCAR Debbie was always kind, sweet, and generous. She literally lit up the room when she walked in, adorning the bar with appropriate decorations for every race and every Broncos game. A New York Jets fan, herself, she would hand out tissues to the Broncos fans after Denver lost a game. On the warm and fuzzy side, she would freely give hugs to those friends that needed one.
NASCAR Debbie was special to every one of her friends and family. "To know her is to love her" was a phrase that could be applied to her more than anyone else we knew.
NASCAR Debbie lived and breathed NASCAR. Her home was filled, wall to wall, shelf by shelf with Tony Stewart collectables and NASCAR paraphenelia. With the enthusiasm and excitement she exuded, she made watching the races on TV at the local watering hole a total experience--with her in the crowd, it was almost like being there.
It was NASCAR Debbie who kept me from drifting away from the sport after Dale Earnhardt's death in 2001. She got me interested in Smoke, more than I already was, and was instrumental in making me the fan I am today.
We had a falling out after 9/11/2001. It was my fault, because I suffer from PTSD, the events of that day produced issues that made me unbearable for her to be around. But, I will always cherish the times that Debbie and I had as friends, and she will always be a bright, shining light in my life. I never stopped loving her as a friend, and I never will.

New: I am asking for your help. I have a very limited income, carry no plastic, and have no PayPal account. The on-line guest book memorializing our dear, sweet friend is due to expire this Friday, September 22, unless it is sponsered for a year. If you could find it in your heart to help, please visit this link. It is not at all expensive, I just have no way to do it.

Update: The guestbook has been sponsored anonymously by a very kind and gracious NASCAR fan. God bless the sponsor and thank you everyone for your sympathy and understanding.

Who never saw this coming?

From Reuters:
Venezuela's Congress on Tuesday gave
preliminary approval to President Hugo Chavez's proposed
constitutional reform, which would lift term limits to help the
leftist leader cement his self-styled socialist revolution
Sandmonkey's comment:
And since he is a leftist leader and his revolution socialist in nature, he gets a free pass. If it was anyone else, people would call it what it really is: A dictatorship in the making. But it gets better.
(Continue Reuters)
Chavez last week presented reforms to end central bank
autonomy, increase state expropriation powers and give the
president direct control over monetary reserves in a move
critics called a "coup" to keep Chavez in power indefinitely.

The legislature, 100 percent controlled by Chavez allies,
will hold two more votes to fully ratify the changes, which
must be finally approved through a popular referendum that
legislators say they hope will take place in early December.

"We are reforming the constitution to solidify … the
socialist nation, the socialist state, the socialist
democracy," said Carlos Escarra, a legislator and
constitutional lawyer who helped draft the reforms.

He has already secured a firm grip on key state
institutions including the court system, the state oil company
and most state and local governments.

Now El Presidente is planning on taking over the private schools so that he may indoctrinate all school children to his brand of socialism. This means that there will be no teaching of any economic or political philosophy other than that of which Chavez approves:
Venezuelan officials defend the program at the Latin American Medical School — one in a handful of state-run colleges and universities that emphasize socialist ideology — as the new direction of Venezuelan higher education.

"We must train socially minded people to help the community, and that's why the revolution's socialist program is being implemented," said Zulay Campos, a member of a Bolivarian State Academic Commission that evaluates compliance with academic guidelines.

"If they attack us because we're indoctrinating, well yes, we're doing it, because those capitalist ideas that our young people have — and that have done so much damage to our people — must be eliminated," Campos said.

I believe somebody predicted this would happen.