Sunday, March 9, 2014

What Do We Do About Vladimir Putin and His Ukraine Adventure and Why Do We Have to Ask This Question?

Vladimir Putin, the former KGB head from the old days, is just an old school Russian Imperialist, trying to reestablish Russia as a player, following the devastation of the breakup of the Soviet Union. He is particularly interested in establishing a buffer zone around Russia, to keep the West as far away as possible. He will push and push to reestablish Russia's influence in the region, knowing that we have no stomach for military intervention, especially with nukes off the table.

So all that is left is diplomacy and economic pressure, and that depends on everyone else ganging up on him. Germany seems to be the key player here, due to his relationship with Chancellor Angela Merkel, who he considers tough and trustworthy. They speak each others language on multiple levels. So, we are largely dependent on her to get him to change his ways.

Modern diplomacy is such a bitch! How I miss the days of the Big Red Button. It was so easy, when the USSR understood that we would not hesitate to launch a preemptive nuclear strike, if they provoked us. Whoever came up with that "Nuclear Winter" scenario, anyhow?

 As much as we would like to go it alone, ala W, it just doesn't work that way anymore. And we are crippled in being able to build coalitions, especially because of W's legacy and the Democrats' unfortunate decision to go with Barack Obama, instead of Hilary Clinton in 2008.

W's arrogance in going it alone did immeasurable harm to our ability to build coalitions since then. H.W. understood the need for a coalition, and, despite the need for a quick response following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, he had the skills and took the time to build a beautiful one. And he recognized the difficulty that we would face if we took over Iraq, even though it was ripe for the taking following its expulsion from Kuwait.

 I think we all gave W a pass on his invasion of Iraq, thinking he must have a clear vision on rebuilding it after the war and on getting a model democracy set up and functioning. Iraq seemed to be the perfect place to plant that seed in the Middle East - not used to having an Islamic-based government, and with multiple cultural segments. It could be another Turkey. I think a big part of his motivation was hubris: he wanted to show up his old man by finishing what H.W. had failed to. We know W's administration started planning that invasion the day they were elected (sort of), and that 9/11 put an unwelcome hold on that plan. I think we all knew that the WMD issue was a pile of crap, but we got caught up in the excitement of planting the flag of democracy in Iraq, which would become a showplace for the rest of the region. And we all shouted down Natalie Maines for asserting that "the Emperor had no clothes", especially since she happened to be in England at the time. Perhaps we should have listened to this young lady from Texas!

The two things that subsequently shocked us were that W was unable/unwilling to build a coalition and the fact that his rebuilding team was not the best and most able people in their fields, but a bunch of totally unqualified "true-believers"! And they failed miserably. And then we thought, "This is the same thing that happened when he was President of the Texas Rangers. He brought in all this power, and he still could not deliver a winner."

Then, when Putin invaded Georgia, W again was unable to get the world behind him to do anything about it. Besides, it was toward the end of his administration, and he was very busy dealing with, or not, the devastation that his economic policies had wreaked on the nation. Just let the next girl deal with Putin.

But then the Dems' extremists managed to nominate another one of their own, knowing that whatever candidate the party put up would be a shoo-in against whoever the GOP offered up as a sacrificial lamb. Oh! My! God!

I will say that Obama showed some balls in getting Osama bin Laden. Otherwise, he has been hard-pressed to restore our position as the free-world leader.

So, we're reduced to letting this German lady lead our fight. Are we further diminished every time Putin goes off on another adventure? Absolutely!

Are you beginning to see why I call myself a Radical Centrist? The disastrous policies and actions of the Radical Left and the Radical Right and their entrenched refusal to work together are destroying the country!

With 2016 on the horizon, will Hillary Clinton be able to carry the day against a Radical Right opponent, which will certainly be the learning-disabled GOP's choice? Will she even get the chance, or will the equally learning-disabled Dems go with another Radical Leftist? One can always hope, but sometimes one feels so disenfranchised.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

How Do I Really Feel About Dallas, TX?

This post is to explain my feelings for Dallas, TX - aka Big D, aka Sodom-on-the-Trinity.

I grew up in west-central Texas, born in Hamlin and moving to Olney when I was nine. This area was in the Fort Worth hemisphere of influence. We subscribed to, and I devoured, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which was owned by the city's biggest booster, Amon Carter. Now to say that Amon Carter had an antipathy for all things Dallas would be a severe understatement, and all us folks in west Texas were undoubtedly influenced by him. We loved the TCU Horned Frogs (Texas Tech was not yet a part of the Southwest Conference), Will Rogers Coliseum, the Stock Yards, Bob Wills, and Jacksboro Highway. Fort Worth is, indeed, "Where the West Begins". 

Dallas, on the other hand, considers itself to be an eastern style cosmopolitan city - a financial (banking, insurance, corporate headquarters), commercial, and manufacturing center. There are no oil wells in the county, and only in 2004, with the introduction of fracking, did the first gas wells go into production. 

In a way, I am reminded of the rivalry between L.A. and San Francisco - San Franciscans hate everything about L.A. while Angelinos barely acknowledges San Francisco's existence.

When I was 14, we moved to Gainesville and the next year, 15 miles further east to Whitesboro, where I went through high school. Now, Whitesboro is at the apex of an isosceles triangle sixty miles north of both Dallas and Fort Worth, which are 35 miles apart. So, we started taking the Dallas Morning News, in addition to the Star-Telegram. And our tv coverage was by both Dallas and Fort Worth stations. So, geographically and in media coverage at least, we were in a neutral location vis-a-vis the Dallas - Fort Worth rivalry.

Whitesboro is a small town 10 miles south of Lake Texoma, which is a large lake on the Texas-Oklahoma border, formed by the Denison Dam on the Red River. Completed in 1943 primarily as a flood control project, the Denison Dam was at the time the "largest rolled-earth fill dam in the world". Texoma is a tremendous recreational lake for all kinds of water sports and fishing, and draws lots of people from all over north-central Texas, including the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, and south-central Oklahoma.

My Dad was a pumper for Texaco at the time, and he was responsible for six leases, consisting of about 18 oil/gas wells which made up about half of a big cooperative between Texaco and several other companies, called the Sandusky Oil Sands Saltwater Injection Recovery Project. He was also responsible for the salt water injection system, which consisted of several deep salt water wells, which supplied water which was injected into a number of wells located around the edges of the oil sands, with the idea being to float the oil toward the middle of the sands, where the producing wells were. His basic responsibilities were to make the rounds of all the wells twice a day, gauge the oil storage tanks daily, coordinate with the pipeline gauger, who was responsible for buying the oil from the filled tanks, perform first-level maintenance on the wells, and maintain the grounds at the wells and the tank battery sites. So this typically left quite a bit of time between the morning rounds and the afternoon rounds for squirrel hunting and fishing and water skiing, especially since his job was only five miles from Texoma. Except for the morning founds, including the gauging and coordinating with the gauger, it was the ultimate flex-time job. I spent many days helping him out with the grounds maintenance, particularly, in order to maximize our time at the lake. We had a 14-foot Arkansas Traveler boat with an 18-horse Evinrude, which we kept at Big Mineral Camp. We kept two 50-hook trotlines in the Big Mineral arm and typically ran them twice a day. Of course, that called for harvesting or buying a lot of bait - minnows, perch, crawdads, grasshoppers, katydids, and crickets, mostly. We always had plenty of fish in the freezer. My point being, we spent a lot of time on the lake and were well positioned to assess the activities of others on the lake.

It didn't take long to make a generalization that there were Dallasites - loud, rude, drunken, unmindful of others rights - and then there was everyone else. I'm sure there were exceptions, but we were never made aware of them. Amon Carter was right.

After getting out of the Army in 1973, I ended up working for Texas Instruments in Dallas, and we lived in the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch for 12 years, before moving to Southern California. We experienced Dallas to be the most hedonistic place we have ever lived in. Oh ! My ! God ! If the Love of Money has a home base, it's Dallas, TX. And to make matters so much worse, so much of that avarice is cloaked in religion. Where is the best place in the world for a salesman or corporate executive to network? Easy, the First Baptist Church of Dallas, TX. Hypocrisy, what is thy name? Dallas, TX. 

Am I being hyperbolic? Now, really, have any of you ever known me to go off on a rant? At least one that wasn't justified?