Pyle on war

No journalist has ever captured the reality of war like Ernest Taylor Pyle, who lived – and died – among the soldiers he covered.
From his column Brave Men:

Even after a winter of living with wholesale death and vile destruction, it is only spasmodically that I seem capable of realizing how real and how awful this war is. My emotions seem dead and crusty when presented with the tangibles of war. I find I can look on rows of fresh graves without a lump in my throat. Somehow I can look on mutilated bodies without flinching or feeling deeply.
It is only when I sit alone away from it all, or lie at night in my bedroll recreating with closed eyes what I have seen, thinking and thinking and thinking, that at last the enormity of all these newly dead strikes like a living nightmare.

He reminds us that from the inside the view is very different.

In this one respect the front-line soldier differs from all the rest of us. All the rest of us – you and me and even the thousands of soldiers behind the lines in Africa – we want terribly yet only academically for the war to get over. The front-line soldier wants it to be got over by the physical process of his destroying enough Germans to end it. He is truly at war. The rest of us, no matter how hard we work, are not.

More here.

TWC: Giving up corporate pork

This week’s column is about my recent decision to give up corporate pork.

After I wrote the column, I had the pleasure of attending quite an event and hearing Carlo Petrini speak. There’s audio of his remarks and photos at The Carrboro Citizen’s new site dedicated to our area’s rich agriculture and food traditions. Please take a look at Land & Table and tell me what you think.

Here’s the column:

After a long weekend of negotiation between my conscience and my palate, I’ve finalized an internal agreement to give up corporate pork.

I know, I know, it seems impossible given the general pervasiveness of wonderful barbecue – not to mention that we are at the dawn of another grilling season. But based on a long-running concern about the economic and environmental consequences of massive hog operations and after spending a good deal of time of late hanging with farmers and the evangelicals of the Slow Food movement, I’m convinced that the price I’m paying for what’s coming from the packing houses of Smithfield, Hormel and others is far too high.

The amount on the package of those little Boston Butt steaks I’ve mastered may be $1.79 or less a pound, but the cost we’re all paying for everything from exploiting immigrant labor to the loss of small, family farms to the environmental impact of hog lagoons and what flows from the sluices into the Cape Fear and other rivers is dear indeed.

Politics and pollution have long led me to reconsider sending my dollars to the meat-packing industry, but it took walking the land with a farmer to push me into doing something about it.

My epiphany came about a month ago, standing atop a muddy row planted in kale with Stanley Hughes, a farmer still making a go of it on a hundred or so acres of fertile ground near the Orange-Person county line.

Hughes, owner of Pine Knot Farm, has converted most of the land he works from tobacco production to organic sweet potatoes, collards and other crops, along with some hogs, chickens and cattle. He’s performing exactly the kind of economic conversion the state says it wants and preserving family land and a way of life in an environmentally responsible way.

Most of us have forgotten what it’s like to have a deep connection to a piece of land. I got a quick reminder of that when I asked Stanley, whom I knew had grown up in the area, if he was from “around here.” I made a little circle with my hand when I asked the question and was imagining that to mean the general vicinity of Hurdle Mills, NC. Stanley replied “Oh, no,” then pointed to a house a couple hundred yards away. “I’m from over there.”

Driving away about an hour later that exchange stuck with me. Distance is all about perspective, and how distant most of us are from where our food comes from – distant in place and distant from responsibility for the consequences of what and how we eat.

Though there is plenty of talk about respecting our farm traditions, if consumers remain addicted to what Homer Simpson likes to call “cheap meat” all the rhetoric and good wishes in the world won’t help grow the ranks of farmers like Stanley. If we want to respect our land and farm traditions, we’ve got to change habits.

I’m fortunate to have alternatives and there are hopeful signs that a lot of other folks throughout the state will soon see them as well. In reaction to many of the concerns listed above, there is a growing trend in agriculture that is moving against the swift, corporate farm current. In our farmers’ markets we’re seeing more and more meat producers. A local meat club in which you order once-a-month directly from the farmer has also started up.

So, so long Smithfield. (My conscience even rejected a proposed “emergency barbecue clause” during drives to the beach.)

Yup, it costs more, but there’s something immensely satisfying about writing that check directly to a farmer. At least I know where my money’s going. Well, give or take a couple hundred yards or so.

TWC: Number crunching

This week’s column is a bit of a hodgepodge — numbers on ethics filings, the pace of legislation and a tidbit from the budget debate.

Number crunching
Word out of the State Ethics Commission offices this week that unlike Ivory Snow, 99 and 44/100ths won’t do.

“I’m accepting 100 percent, it’s just a matter of when that happens,” Kathleen Edwards, assistant director and compliance chief for the commission said this week when asked how many of the state’s roughly 4,300 officials she expects to comply with new disclosure rules.

Read more

Sunday Morning Post

Good morning. Happy Mother’s Day.

Bit of flooding here in the Piedmont. Been a rough spring for the coast. Still is.
Big political story making the rounds is the indictment of one of Rep. Patrick McHenry’s top organizers for felony voter fraud.
– Church and state mix it up
– Edwards ratchets up anti-war effort
– Offshore storm fans wildfires

Round here:
N&O says Wake Co at a critical juncture — this is the kind of story you see every now and again, but the fact that it’s 1A on a Sunday and well-written is a clue there’s something afoot. (Hey Matt). If it means Wake gets behind the transfer tax, that could be a big boost for its chances.
– Ted gets some feedback on anonymous comments
– Asheville Symphony does Moog tribute
– Ken Moore on Blackberry Winter

Budget countdown

Tonight, in order to meet the constitutional requirement that the budget be voted on in two separate days, the state House is staying past midnight. One standout on the bill – a sustantial increase to the rainy day fund.

The budget just passed on second reading 68 to 51.

Third reading is a little more than an hour away.

Bill and the PCS on the NCGA home page

AP on the debate.

Also right after midnight: Gerry Cohen’s birthday.

Beginning of the end game

Round Two. House passes Iraq funds bill Bush would veto.

This WaPo story reminds me of something I heard last month during a discussion about the war.

House Republican moderates, in a remarkably blunt White House meeting, warned President Bush this week that his pursuit of the war in Iraq is risking the future of the Republican Party and that he cannot count on GOP support for many more months.

A few of weeks ago I covered a discussion between Rep. David Price and several precinct chairs and active Democrats opposed to the war.
Price says showdown looming over war funding (Carrboro Citizen, April 18, 2007

At one point — one of those ‘look, this is the deal’ moments you have during such roundtables — Price said the end will come when GOP representatives pay a visit down the street.

“I don’t know what the tipping point is,” he said. “[The war] probably will end when a bunch of Republicans march down Pennsylvania Avenue and tell him he’s going to end it.”

And the congressman added: “We’d like to hasten that day.”

Perhaps that’s what we’re starting to see. There’s an interesting few comments about polling data shared in the meeting with Bush.

Davis, a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, also presented Bush dismal polling figures to dramatize just how perilous the party’s position is, participants said. Davis would not disclose details, saying the exchange was private. Others warned Bush that his personal credibility on the war is all but gone.

Sunday Morning Post

Election 2008: America Changes the Channel

With all the horserace coverage outside of Kentucky you have to imagine that the major media — the 24-hour-feed-the-beast machines — are going to get bored pretty fast. This isn’t just going to be an ugly election, it’s going to get very weird, too. Abandon your television now.

(clears throat) OK, well then, here’s some stuff to read:
What journalism looks likeNYT on the trail of medicine poisonings
Al Kamen on the chief-of-staff ties to the political wing of the White House
The other Monica. Times editorial this am:

The Justice Department opened an internal investigation last week into whether Monica Goodling, a former senior adviser to Mr. Gonzales, applied a political screen to applicants for assistant United States attorney positions. That kind of political test would violate department policy, and possibly the law. Ms. Goodling, who has invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, was also a key player in the United States attorney firings.

The National Journal brought to light an “internal order” in which Mr. Gonzales gave Ms. Goodling and his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, the power to hire and fire many of the department’s top officials. His willingness to hand this authority off to two young, highly political staff members is further evidence that partisanship and not professionalism was the driving force in hiring and firing.

Meanwhile back at the ranch,
– Smoking Ban recap from Winston
Fay-O talks about it with Rick Glazier
– The final days of the menhaden fisheries
– Good golly chill out
Char-O gives Kevin Geddings a warm fuzzy
Fire in Linville Gorge fading

TWC: Maybe we should all go pro

Maybe we should all go pro.

When it comes to sports, this is that time of year I most dislike. This is when those thin walls that separate college and professional athletics come down and we start seeing dollar figures instead of majors and year in school in the descriptive clauses of individuals who’ve played loyally for our chosen schools.

I don’t begrudge anyone a bit for going pro and totally understand where they’re coming from. I was anxious to get into the professional world myself and left after my junior year for a six-figure salary. Of course, a lot of those figures came after the decimal point.

Given the circumstances, it seems perfectly sane for many of these young men to go pro. Less balanced is the fact that the rest of us haven’t. Under the circumstances, holding on to the ideal that all collegiate sports are an amateur enterprise, while certainly high-minded is both bizarre and expensive behavior.
Read more