Monday, October 31, 2011

Apple Harvest Disaster: There Are A Lot of Moving Parts To This Story!

TSB: Here is the email I got back from the reporter who went out to get the story. He agrees with you that immigrant workers are not the future here, which may mean (like you say) that much of the fruit industry will be lost. He disagrees though on the possibility of machines being able to pick fruit successfully. Pretty interesting commentary!  gwb

Hi Dan,

Thanks for your e-mail! There is no doubt some truth to what your friend writes. Apple growers do go through this picker shortage event nearly every year. It's much worse this year because of the harvest two weeks later than usual in the face of oncoming cold weather.

What's not true is that this work can or should be mechanized. Many foods can be picked by machine, but they haven't come up with anything that can even come close to picking an apple without bruising it. It's difficult to hand pick them without bruising them. The starchy, tasteless, leather-skinned Red Delicious hybrid apple of the 1980s is an example of what happens when you try to breed an apple that could possibly be picked by machine.

Anyone can pick apples, but it is very hard. Anglos did it for years. I followed farmworkers in the 1970s and 1980 when there were few if any Mexican immigrants doing the work in apples, pears and cherries. Many of the people I worked with descendants of people who came out from the Dust Bowl states in the 1930s. Many had regular jobs that they would take leave from each year just to bring back the romance of picking fruit. There were many orchards developed so they could be picked without ladders or very short ladders by retired people. Some orchardists built nice trailer parks for them and offered conditions that made the job more sociable. They wanted the older pickers because they worked slow and carefully and didn't damage the fruit.

Growers have been spoiled by the Mexican immigrants who are willing to work very hard for lower wages and in conditions that most Americans no longer want to do. There's also a stigma to being a farmworker that nobody wants. The new immigrants graduate to better jobs as soon as they can.

I think growers should improve conditions to make them more inviting to anyone who needs a part-time job during harvest. There's really no good reason why unemployed people can't do this work, but they have to be invited.


Rick Steigmeyer
The Wenatchee World
(509) 664-7151

Sent: Sunday, October 30, 2011 2:35:05 PM
Subject: Re: Picking Apples

Dear Rick:

Thanks for a great story about the apple harvest problems. It contained all the elements I was wanting to learn about. I have a "blogger friend" who works for the State Department in DC who has an interesting view about this problem. I'd be interested to know your thoughts on his comments. He is

The apple growers are doing their annual sympathy dance to maintain their essentially feudal business model. They exploit illegal Mexican peasant labor to do work that ought to be mechanized, and leave the taxpayer to pick up the very considerable costs for their serfs. I guess it's a hybrid of feudalism and socialism.

Mechanical harvesting is the right way to go, economically, politically, technically, and out of humane concern for the peasants involved. But the growers lobby, and the illegal alien lobby (which is welcomed by both major parties), have been able to impede efforts to increase mechanization.

For example, the last federal government engineer conducting research on mechanical harvesting of fruit crops retired in 2005, about 25 years after the USDA stopped funding research on mechanization.

Personally, I hope Washington loses its apple business to places like New Zealand. The growers have no regard for our national interests, why should the Feds do anything for the growers?
October 24, 2011 8:47 AM
I thought the work of the engineer who retired in 2005 was really interesting since I went to WSU 45 years ago and always loved the AG department. Keep up the good work Rick!
Dan Davenport MD Longview, Washington


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lady Kensington Blows The Whistle On Bush, Blair, Libya, BP

    Yesterday (4-20-11) Juan Cole (Informed Comment) did a great post about a leak of British documents
that show how the US was planning in 2002 to exploit Iraqi and hopefully Iranian oil resources through the Iraq war. This is all thanks to "Lady Kensington" who could  no longer abide the Khadaffi family when they
started using tanks against their own people in Tripoli. (Thank God for those wonderful British Christian
sensibilities!.. or maybe it just means we have to keep women out of sensitive positions?)

       So now we know why Blair was never going to be left behind in the Iraq thing and also that the Russians and the French couldn't be bribed to support a UN resolution for war. We know why Tony was in Libya
praising Khadaffi in 2007 and we know what BP means (Blair Policy). We also know how Blair has made $32 million since leaving office... and don't call that crony capitalism!! (Te He) Isn't it sad to think the UK
is the only place to go these days to find some sunshine? What am I saying?? When Andrea Mitchell gets wind of this it will be all over the airwaves!!  GWB

Debate Well Done.... Is Rare

       Yesterday (4/20/11) C-Span showed a debate in London on the question: Do Whistleblowers Make
the World A Safer Place?  It featured Julian Assange (Wikileaks), Aljazeera's new head of a similar service
and a third "Pro" speaker versus someone from the US Defense Security Agency and an MI-5 guy. The Anti-Whistleblower side had essentially nothing to say on the question and ceded about 3/4 of the time to the other side. It was an excellent debate with lots of fireworks and self-expression.

        The "security guys" tried to emphasize that elections the free press and the rule of law were the public's recourse against harmful, criminal or excessive secrecy. This was countered by probably the best example of the night: The story of the soldier who was handed the DVD's of the Abu Ghreib pictures and had to decide
what to do with them. He did "the right thing" and turned them over to his superiors. As a "snitch" in an army sense he soon had to be hustled home to keep his "mates" from killing him. At home he required an armed guard for months or years because Pennsylvanians didn't much care for a guy who would expose military wrongdoing in Iraq. Of course the Army did it's best to both protect him AND cover-up the scandal.

         This leads me to the Bradley Manning case. He also "did the right thing" with a video showing a helicopter gunship team mowing down innocent civilians in Baghdad. For his trouble he was harassed
and threatened. But if you ask the question: Did Bradley Manning's actions make the world a safer place
there is a lot of evidence that it did. (for Iraqi civilians)  Wikileaks in 2007 published the US Army
secret rules of engagement in Iraq. It showed that US forces were allowed to enter Iran. Iran thought that was a big deal. A couple months later the rules had been changed in that regard and the Neo Con  push
for war with Iran was stymied. Did that make the world a safer place? Probably.

          It is rare that the secret war makers venture into an open debate about their record of lying us into
secret wars for secret purposes but April 20th was a great example of that rare thing. Thanks C-Span!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

TO TSB: Afghanistan, 20 Year War For A Pipeline ? Bad Idea!

            I loved "Charlie Wilson's War" (the book... I won't watch anything with Julia Roberts) because it explained what I had been rooting for in real time. What I disagreed with to this day was keeping
US troops in Saudi Arabia after the war for Kuwait. Why not respect the Saudi government and leave?

            Until recently I didn't understand that the real money in oil is in the contracts the oil companies make with the government. Of course our government works to promote those interests and our military works to promote it's interests. Pepe Escobar's 2007 book "Liquid War" describes a long term war over
oil and gas that the US and it's allies seem to be losing. I'm against the whole thing mainly because it's
NOT in our best interest and it was done behind my back. As far as I can tell the one thing we MIGHT gain from 20 years in Afghanistan is a pipeline to INDIA? .. and China?   Why don't we just pull out of there so Karzhai can make peace with the Taliban and they can both protect out precious pipeline and profit from it? Then the Taliban can stop the heroin trade like they did before and we can get it from Mexico.

            Dick Cheney was the real genius with his secret "Energy Task Force", I suppose modeled after Hillary's secret "Health Care Task Force". Have you noticed you've never heard a peep from anyone who participated in either??   Now we have health care And oil nobody can afford and a President who can't negotiate successfully with even his wife!!   I don't know about you but this reminds me of the time I was
3 years old and our housekeeper was cooking SPINACH with a PRESSURE COOKER. I still remember the explosion and the spinach hanging down from the ceiling. I've tried to stay out of the kitchen ever since. (Too dangerous!)  Dan

Saturday, March 26, 2011

lilGWB Predicts Next Phase of World Wide Meltdown: April 19th 2011

       Having predicted the big Japanese earthquake just hours before it happened, based on peculiar
animal behavior he himself was exhibiting,
  Jim Berkeland and California "Earthquake Fish" lilGWB
took some time in yesterdays afternoon sun to give an in depth interview to visiting journalists.

       "W", as he likes to be called thinks people should be asking what comes next, and when? As we
(2) settled into our chairs "W" uttered the date April 19th. He is a great believer in the world
acclaimed futures trader Eric Hadik Insiide Track Japan Earthquake Prediction who uses unique
cycles to predict wars, earthquakes, volcanoes, grain prices etc. Eric has long noted how many
catastrophic world events have occurred on or around April 19th. (2010 saw the Deepwater Horizon
disaster on April 20th). Hmm we said... So what do you see happening around April 19th?

       "Just look for logical extensions of what has already happened. We already see that gasoline and food is disappearing in Tripoli. The foreign workers are gone who harvest the produce and without
gasoline it is going to be hard to run those toyota pickups to fight the war. The Libyan economy could
collapse soon, the dinar already has. And isn't hunger and high prices what started this whole thing?
A humanitarian disaster in Libya is a pretty good bet. And how about Egypt? The stock market just opened back up this past week and about half the money left the country in a little over 2 hrs. Stock market crashes always cause trouble. The army just imposed a ban on demonstrations and sit-ins.
That should/could start some trouble soon."

        " The European debt crisis seems to be getting "twitchy" like the NATO alliance. This Benghazi
uprising could also turn into a jobs program for al Quaeda and the muslim brotherhood. Now that Hillary has hornswoggled the mideast and europe into this humanitarian mission there might turn out
to be a lot more than a military cost to saving Libya and Egypt. Oh, did I mention Isreal, Syria, Gaza
and Lebanon? Something could break out there. Add to that a big west coast earthquake and radiation spreading everywhere and there could be some big problems."   At this point "W" called an end to the
interview due to a need to mow "his" backyard before it starts raining again!    GWB

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

lilGWB asks How Did Ollie North Ever Get Away?

      Dear TSB: The difference between a book and "the news" is that "the news" can be easily
erased. You can't erase a book. And if it is well documented with facts and people who were
actually involved it can be pretty much indisputable. THE DARK ALLIANCE by Gary Webb
is such a book. I read it because I'm trying to better understand the drug business.
         I want to start with a quiz. Things I never knew til I read this book. They are also things you
would never have learned from the original news story that prompted the book.

  1. Iran-Contra made Oliver North famous. Do you know what agency he worked out of during that  episode? (NSC) 
  2. What was he accused of in 1996 by a story in the San Jose Mercury News? Using a Nicaraguan drug ring based in San Francisco to distribute crack cocaine in LA to buy guns for the Contras. 
  3. Who investigated this story exhaustively and found that there was no CIA wrongdoing in the whole matter??   (THE CIA!... i mean if you can't trust the cia who can you trust?)Most of the facts of Webb's story were not contested but it was turned into a question of whether Webb was trying to defame the credibility of the USG... and make it look like they didn't care about poor black people. They succeeded and the story went away..... for 2 years. 
  4. Declassified papers from what Senate Hearing helped clinched Webb's story as true? (Iran-Contra)
  5. Why haven't you probably heard about it? (Our media is a joke! They are totally in the bagfor our fearless leaders.. who by the way haven't much changed since the 1980's and 90's)
But TSB: The best part about this book for me was reading about how Freeway Ricky Ross of south LA
created a completely new drug marketing scheme in 1983 that caused all that "Crips and Bloods" stuff
and established the model for today's drug distribution networks in this country. One young businessman
with no education and a unique product was able to outsmart all the government agencies (CIA, DEA, 
LAPD, LA COUNTY SHERRIFF) for 13 years until they turned on him and put him away for life. 

       It is a real page turner with lots of double crosses, a huge cast of characters, murders, plane loads of cocaine landing in San Francisco (no problem) etc. I bet you would be impressed with the documentation and
much more familiar with most of the players than I am.   lilGWB

Monday, March 21, 2011

Same Questions Asked/Answered: 15 Years Ago:"Down By The River"

      In his 2004 book "DOWN BY THE RIVER" Charles Bowden delves into the events of 1995 surrounding
the murder of a top DEA agent's brother in El Paso. The murder happened the weekend before that agent
was to take over the top DEA post in El Paso. He was called back to that job precisely because the
previous DEA head in El Paso could not keep his mouth shut about the total corruption of the Mexican
government/state police/army/judicial system. The same thing that got our most recent US Ambassador
in trouble! It is a fascinating read that clearly took years to write, with the author familiarizing himself
with hundreds of key people in the process.

       I recall particularly the time this new head of the DEA office at Ft. Bliss briefed a visiting Janet Reno
on the situation in Juarez. She obviously knew nothing about it and took furious notes. When she went
back to Washington it was only a few weeks before the investigation was completely shut down. (Too
Sensitive!)  There are many great stories within the book but one of the best is the one of how that
DEA agent became so successful in his career... he had put thousands of Mexican drug dealers behind
bars through the use of a single man he met by chance in Arizona and recruited as a double agent. Through
that experience he came to realize how hopeless the drug war was. The combination of corruption
and the drug guys in Mexico simply could not be matched by the DEA. In the end it cost him his brother.

      Charles Bowden clearly shows that business interests on both sides of the border played a big part
in keeping this story quiet. The DEA was a complete joke in the war on drugs. Even in 1995 any amount
of drugs could be brought across to El Paso by paying the the right customs people. Nothing has really changed these past 15 years unless it is that the quality is up. As Bowden says.. the drugs still arrive on
time and the quality keeps getting better. Of necessity murder is the price of being a player in the drug
game. You play by the rules or you die. One of the rules is you have to kill them before they kill you. Most
participants use drugs themselves which anyone knows will shorten your lifespan.

       The questions asked by the Skeptical Bureaucrat are great ones and timely because Juarez is
essentially dead already. Like Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Lebanon, Gaza, Pakistan, the rapidly
growing younger population of Mexico is uneducated and unskilled. Drugs is by far the only thing
floating the Mexican economy. If you read this great book I think you will enjoy it and conclude as
I did that the drug war was lost about 30 years ago.   GWB
PS: "Murder City"   his latest book brings things up to date. Just as well written but a lot more depressing.