Friday, October 10, 2014

5 Things on a Friday: The Curious Case of Kim Jong-Un

I feel like I’ve been waiting all week for the coming weekend, and it’s made the week drag badly.  We have a lot going on this weekend.  Sally and the kids and I are going up to West Point for the game against Rice, and after that, it’s a three-day weekend.
But we still have to get through Friday.
“Almost 30 percent of the country never touches alcohol…  [A]nother 30 percent do so only on special occasions—at most once every couple of weeks. And then there are the rest of us, the inebriate winos like me and all my friends and almost everyone we know.”
I like beer and occasionally review
new beers on this blog.
The article claims that my personal drinking—around 8 or 9 drinks per week, comprised of a glass of wine on most week nights and two beers each on Saturday and Sunday—puts me in the top third of alcohol consumers.  I guess that’s right, but I find it mind-numbingly difficult to believe that fully 1/3 of Americans abstain completely.  
What’s much more likely, I think, is that folks surveyed aren’t reporting accurately.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I have met very few people in my life who don’t drink at all.
Anyway, the article is interesting for two reasons.  First, the top ten percent of drinkers drink nearly all of the alcohol that gets consumed nationally.  Those folks average more than ten drinks per day!  I’ve seen that in person, and let me tell you, it is depressing as Hell when it’s one of your loved ones doing the heavy drinking.  And then, too, drinking apparently spreads like a social disease.  So if your friends are drinking a lot, you personally are at higher risk for alcohol-related problems.  That’s scary.  It makes sense, but it’s scary.
“’The situation became very complicated before there were any sanctions,’ Andrei Nechayev, who served as Russia’s economics minister in the early 1990s, told [an interviewer] this week. ‘The main reasons are internal problems of the Russian economy: low competition, low protection of property, a bad investment climate. In 2013 we were like a falling jet fighter…
‘Russian businesses face two taxes… the legal tax and the corruption tax.’”
The country may be in trouble, but Russia’s leaders don’t seem to care.  In many ways, Russia looks less like a superpower than it does a very big version of North Korea.  It’s reminiscent of a 1930’s-style fascist propaganda machine.  Considering that Russia is also looking to expand its military spending by $80B next year—even at the direct cost of its peoples’ welfare—and that its leaders have recently said that they want to start denominating energy sales in either rubles or yuan rather than dollars or Euros, that is a potentially significant problem.  Bottom line, it shows a complete willingness to divorce policy from reality that can only end in pain.  At the end of the day, the West has to decide how best to limit that pain to Russia and its unfortunate citizens.  
Deterrence and containment would seem to be the order of the day, but lately the West can barely rouse itself to a halfhearted defense of its allies’ borders.  That bodes ill for the long term.
3. Hair Metal Interlude

“The 17,336 new applicants in the 2014 fiscal year make up the largest field of candidates since 1992, when 17,438 applied.
“‘This milestone reminds us that Americans today want to serve others and make a difference, and we are making great strides to reduce barriers to service and modernize the Peace Corps,’ director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said in a statement.”
Sally and our girls during a
hike up in Maine this past summer.
The Peace Corps is a great organization for which many outstanding Americans have volunteered.  My wife is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, having served more than three years in the hinterlands of Paragua, and she is very proud of her service.  After Paraguay, Sally got her Masters in Elementary Education from Columbia University and went on teach in a public school in the South Bronx, primarily in Spanish.  Between you and me, I think her service in the Bronx was tougher than her service in Paraguay.
Perhaps because of its surge in recruitment, the Peace Corps reached out to Sally recently to begin lecturing on her experiences and on the recruitment process for potential volunteers from the University of Bridgeport.  She’s super-excited about it.
Personally, I just like being reminded that there are still young people out there that care about service and about helping their communities and the world.  This country makes poor use of the bounty with which it’s been blessed in that regard, but this is not the fault of the kids, though they are often the ones who pay the price for bad and short-sighted decisions.
“North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, who normally revels in the oddities of his profession, has not been seen by the world for 37 days, and the Internet is about to explode. But it’s nothing compared to what will happen Friday if he’s a no-show at the celebration of North Korea’s 69th anniversary.
“He was last seen attending a concert in Pyongyang on Sept. 3, nestled in a cushy chair, smoking a cigarette, beside his demure wife, Ri Sol Ju. At the event, he was reported to have ‘labored on,’ while ‘braving’ the hot summer weather, giving way to a torrent of chatter that some mystery ailment had befallen Dear Leader.”
Is it wrong that I hope he dies?  He and his asshole family certainly have it coming after having enslaved and tormented an entire nation for more than half a century.
North Korea is a state that’s held together by the personal interests of a small but privileged class of political elites.  The irony is that it’s an ostensibly Communist country that has become the ultimate expression of wealth consolidation amongst a tiny, privileged caste.  This is why deaths at the top can be so important.  I’ve read speculation saying that Kim’s younger sister might be running North Korea now, in which case perhaps she is the reason why relations with the South warmed so markedly last week.  Korean reunification is going to happen eventually.  If the North really has become a hereditary monarchy—and it seems like it probably has—then perhaps Kim Jong Un’s death is the catalyst we need to finally see some real change.  
The ROK Army fields the KM-1 tank.  It's a smaller version of the M-1
with a diesel engine.  It is an excellent solution to the problems of
armored warfare on the Korean Penninsula.
Having served in Korea, I fervently hope that I’m alive to see the eventual downfall of the regime and the end of its tyranny.  It seems clear to me that even the most hard-headed North Koreans must now realize that they can never succeed militarily in an invasion of the South, but then, I thought that back when I was actually there, too.  It didn’t bring us any closer to peace.  We even had the beginnings of the “Sunshine Policy” towards the end of my tour, and I thought then that Korea had a decent chance at ending things.  
In retrospect, I suppose that was only my wishful thinking.
I don’t want to say that this weekend’s game against Rice is a must-win for Army because it’s going to be a tough contest against a very good football team.  I will say, however, that this weekend’s game is very important.  
Army has two wins.  They have an excellent shot at beating Kent State, currently ranked dead last in the NCAA’s FBS, and I expect them to beat FCS Fordham in Michie Stadium on November 22nd despite the fact that Fordham has been excellent this year.  Thus, if Army wins this weekend, and they follow that up by playing as expected against Kent State and Fordham, they will then need to beat either Air Force or Connecticut to qualify for a bowl game.  Air Force has a good team, but this year’s game is at Army, and that’s a substantial home field advantage.  Connecticut, meanwhile, is currently 1-4, having barely survived 19-16 against Stony Brook early in the season.  Army can win one of those two games.
Ads for Army vs. UConn at Yankee Stadium are
all over Metro-North these days.
Bottom line, despite blowing leads against Wake Forest and Yale, a win this weekend will still set up a potential breakout season for Army’s new head coach Jeff Monken and his new look, new attitude team.  There’s not much we can do about it as fans besides cheer our heads off, but from here on out, I plan to be doing that in full.


  1. I have to point out that I went to Columbia University on half of the Peace Corps dime and got my Masters in Bilingual Education. This is important because Peace Corps does more than just send folks overseas. They help place your experience to further your career, your education and most importantly your life experience.
    On another note I heard that North Korea shot down a balloon because it had South Korean propaganda.

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Matt. A couple of other people have said that to me this week as well, and I really, really appreciate it. I know folks read the blog, but it sure is nice to get positive feedback on it.