Saturday, June 04, 2005

Light Weekend Reading

North Korea, Facing Food Shortages, Mobilizes Millions From the Cities to Help Rice Farmers
TOKYO, Wednesday, June 1 - To combat growing food shortages, the North Korean government is sending millions of city dwellers to work on farms each weekend, largely to transplant rice, according to foreign aid workers.

"The staff that work for us, the staff that work in the ministries, are going out to help farmers," said Richard Ragan, director of World Food Program operations in Pyongyang, referring to North Koreans who work for the program. Speaking by telephone on Wednesday, he said that in terms of food supplies North Koreans "are inching back to the precipice."

Comment: All this makes me wonder how long we have until this whole situation really gets out of control.

The Homeland Security Bubble
If you wanted to invent a bogus-sounding Washington company, the kind of ominous corporation that belongs in a subplot for next year's 24, you couldn't come up with a name or a business plan better than that of Fortress America Acquisition Corp. Fortress America is a scheme by a bipartisan group of Washington insiders, including a Rhodes scholar turned professional basketball player turned congressman, a former senator, and an offshore investment company with ties to the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, to capitalize on the nation's fear of terror. Fortress America Acquisition Corp. is striving to be a kind of mini-Carlyle Group.

Comment: You can't imagine how much money is flowing through the homeland security/emergency management community right now. Part of my job is to chase grant money for equipment and training, and I've spent a bundle of tax dolars. But, as a citizen and a tax payer, things like this make me uncomfortable. Beware the homeland security complex...

At least 20 killed in Afghan mosque blast
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - A bomb from a suicide attacker tore through a mosque during Wednesday's funeral for a Muslim cleric opposed to the Taliban, killing at least 20 people, and the local governor said an al-Qaida-linked militant was responsible.

Comment: Overall, I think this a stupid tactic for the bad guys. In the summer of 2003, the insurgents didsimilariar thing in Kandahar and went after some clerics who had come out in support of the Karzai gov't. It backfired. Funny how bad ideas have a way of coming back around.

One item in the article make me pause:

The attack which came on the heels of a major upsurge in rebel violence in recent months including assassinations, near-daily clashes with rebels and the kidnapping of an Italian aid worker further raised fears that militants here were copying the tactics of insurgents in Iraq.
What constitutes a "major upsurge"? Emergency management types have an expression "how big is big and how bad is bad?"

Unique hero missing from V-E Day ceremony
MOSCOW - As thousands of Russian war heroes and a handful of invited American veterans marked the anniversary of World War II's end in Moscow, there was a notable absence in the crowd: Joseph Beyrle, the only U.S. soldier to fight for the Americans and the Soviets.

advertisementBeyrle died in December on a visit to Toccoa, Georgia, the legendary training ground of his celebrated 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. At 81, he was planning to attend the V-E Day celebrations on Monday in the Russian capital.

For Beyrle, known as "Jumpin Joe", Russia was a country that took him into its heart and celebrated him as its own hero.

Comment: The truth is just stranger and more fun than fiction, isn't it?

Just For Fun:

Should GIs be allowed to drink at 19?
MADISON, Wis. - One Wisconsin lawmaker figures if the U.S. military trusts 19-year-olds with a $10 million tank, then the state should trust them with a beer.

State Rep. Mark Pettis, a Republican who served in the Navy, is pushing a bill that would drop the drinking age to 19 for Wisconsin soldiers but only if the federal government agrees it will not yank an estimated $50 million a year in highway aid.

Comment: Oh, hell yeah! That's the way to solve all our recruiting problems.

Flashback Friday:
The other night I caught some old-school "liberal" media at work. The 1960 documentary Harvest of Shame about the unfair treatment of migrant farm workers aired on the Discovery Times channel (which has some good stuff BTW). I watched this in junior high or high school, but had not seen it since. What an amazing piece of journalism. I wonder how the blogosphere would react to Edward R. Murrow today?

What really struck me was how Secretary of Labor James P. Mitchell (a Republican) spoke out against the farm industry's unfair treatment of migrant laborers. There is no way in hell thatcabinantn cabinent official (GOP or DEM) would do that today. It would be political suicide. I was also struck by what Mitchell had to say about the garment industry in the US. Fair union wages. Quality products at good prices. What happened in this country? Right now, I'm dressed from head to toe in clothing manufactured in 3rd countries. Fair wages? I doubt it.

I grew up in South Texas, and we had our share of migrant worker kids in school. They would be there part of the year, and then disappear only to show up the next year. They were poor, and most of them worked in the fields at one point or another. My interactions with them and my experience growing up on the border shaped many of my political viewpoints.

Are we still bringing in a "harvest of shame"? I wonder.


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