I can’t believe how idle I’ve been with this account. I can certainly do better.
I enjoyed this segment from HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher. I have watched Maher’s show off-and-on for at least a decade. I appreciate the research he included with this segment. Corporate farms, backed by government regulation, have been decimating America’s farmland and regions for decades. I don’t mean in terms strictly adhering to America’s environment or ecosystem. I mean in terms of America’s position to secure its own people’s needs, namely food. Frankly, I’m not certain that the American people, myself included, understand the weight of this problem. For example, the bulk of corn that is grown on American soil is not consumed by America’s people. Rather, it is chemically altered to create corn by-products, then used to feed livestock, create ethanol for gasoline, and enhance food and industrial products.
About a third of America’s corn crop is used for feeding cattle, hogs, and poultry in the U.S. Corn provides the “carbs” in animal feed, while soybeans provide the protein. It takes a couple of bushels of American corn to make corn-fed steak; by some estimates, a beef cow can eat a ton of corn if raised in a feedlot. Both dairy cows and beef cows also consume silage, which is fermented corn stalks and other green plants.
Just over a third of the corn crop is used to make ethanol, which serves as a renewable fuel additive to gasoline. The Renewable Fuel Standard requires that 10% of gasoline be renewable fuel, but you can find E15 (15 percent ethanol) or E85 (85 percent) ethanol in some areas, particularly in the Midwest.
The rest of the corn crop is used for human food, beverages, and industrial uses in the U.S., or exported to other countries for food or feed use. Corn has hundreds of uses. It is used to make breakfast cereal, tortilla chips, grits, canned beer, soda, cooking oil, and bio-degradable packing materials. It’s the key ingredient in the growing medium for life-saving medicines including penicillin. Corn gluten meal is used on flower beds to prevent weeds.
The USDA website also states that the biggest consumers of America’s corn are Mexico, South Korea, Japan, and Colombia. Where does this leave the American people? This is most worrisome as a primary responsibility for any nation is food security for its people. The second largest crop in America is soybeans. Like corn, soybeans are not a primary food source for the American population. Soybeans are a great commodity to the pockets of the American government. Even in the throes of last year’s pandemic, soybean exports reached “a record $25.7 billion, up nearly 40 percent ($7 billion) by value and up 23 percent (11.9 million tons) by volume from the prior year” (Source). No wonder everyone in soybean farming was partying and making money! Here is the link to the USDA’s June 2021 report on the remarkable growth of oilseeds, specifically related to soybeans and China: Oilseeds.
Maher has plenty to gripe about regarding his home-state. However, I’m cautious in giving sympathy to a state that has voted for the degeneration of its land and continues to vote for failing and overly bureaucratic policies. Like Joe Rogan and Elon Musk, Maher has the financial resources to relocate away from California. Meanwhile, the bulk of California’s population that struggles to make basic ends meet will be left to breathe the air that Maher so vehemently disdains.
On a side note, someone at the USDA’s IT department has a great sense of humour. While I was researching soybeans, this error screen greeted me.
Wistman’s Wood on Dartmoor, pictured above, is easily the most famous example of temperate rainforest in England. But it’s far from the only fragment in existence.
Very few people know that England once supported large expanses of temperate rainforest, in a swathe across the western upland parts of the country – from the Lake District in the north, through the Pennines, Dales and Forest of Bowland, to Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin Moor in the Westcountry. They were felled by Bronze Age settlers, medieval tin-miners, Victorian charcoal-makers, and in the modern era by foresters who replaced them with high-yield conifers for timber. Blanket bog formed over large areas of the uplands, deterring the return of dense woodland, and overgrazing by sheep has prevented their regrowth on the hillsides and in the cloughs.
Yet despite all this, pockets of temperate rainforest cling on in England today…
“I’m not so much interested now in fishing. I don’t think there’s enough fish really to quarrel about,” Duterte said Monday.
“But when we start to mine, when we start to get whatever, it is in the bowels of the China sea, our oil, then by that time… I will send my grey ships there to state a claim,” he said, while also emphasising his desire “to remain friends” and “share whatever it is”.
President Rodrigo Duterte
My motivation to provide weekly links and news fell through over the weekend. I blame it on my reluctance to copy/paste (just for this past week) but also on thoughts that were deeply concerning regarding my nation of birth, the Philippines. This link provides a source of information on my frustrations: Duterte Prepared To Deploy Navy Over SCS Claim.
The quote above, from the linked article, is a quote from the sitting President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte. While he has made a global and notorious name for himself since the start of his helm in 2016, what has been most pressing to me has been his resistance to set the Philippines as priority over China. Instead, Duterte has embraced China and in turn China has asserted claims over disputed territorial areas such as Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands. China’s territorial claims are strategic and structured: since China has built structures on these islands, then these islands must belong to China. China repeats these territorial claims, and continues to build structures on the islands. The world will eventually nod in full agreement that China has not been lying after all but is simply asserting control of it’s territories. This is China’s Long Game. And it has been ongoing since before Duterte.
According to the Central Intelligence Agency ‘s (CIA) World Factbook, the Paracel Islands were annexed by the French to become part of Indochina (now Vietnam). After declaring independence from France in 1945, Paracel Islands was to remain under the jurisdiction of Vietnam. However, “China has occupied all the Paracel Islands since 1974, when its troops seized a South Vietnamese garrison occupying the western islands” (Source). At this time, disputes over Paracel Islands has continued since the Chinese occupation. But why has nothing changed? Why does China continue to hold Paracel Islands as part of its territorial reach? Is “occupation” defined differently for China? And why so?
The Spratly Islands have too many cooks in the kitchen. Rather, too many unwanted cooks in the kitchen. The 100 or so islands have six nations staking territorial surface and sub-surface claims: Brunei, China, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam (Source). Spratly Islands sits south of the South China Sea (a name in contention to Vietnam’s East Vietnam Sea) which reportedly holds “80 percent of global trade by volume and 70 percent by value” (Source). Fishing and reefs are notable for the Spratly Islands. Although land mass is not substantial on Spratly Islands (prior to China’s dredging), the reason of the claims cannot be seen by aerial photos or presently substantiated: oil (Source).
Now this is not the first instance where territorial claims have shifted boundaries to generate the most for the lead in a long game. Take Iraq’s boundaries set by Great Britain after the First World War. Peter Frankopan, author and historian at Oxford University, provides an abridged account of the factors surrounding the importance of Iraq’s boundary to Great Britain. Geological surveys since the 1850s had produced substantial evidence of black gold beneath the sands of what was then called Persia. Acquiring strict access to these fields of promise was imperative for Great Britain. Enter Baron Paul Julius de Reuter (yes, that Reuter) and an “exclusive and definite privilege” to extract “the mines of coal, iron, copper, lead and petroleum” across all of Persia (Frankopan, p.314). Reuter was a British-born German but his ancestry did not matter to Great Britain even after the First World War. Great Britain’s military-complex knew that without oil, war ships and military vehicles would suffer against future battles. Coal, what currently fueled Great Britain’s war vessels, needed to be replaced by oil. Although setbacks were numerous, and local hostilities rife, the birth of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, now known as British Petroleum, was worth the persistence for control of oil in Persia.
“the Allied cause had floated to victory upon a wave of oil.”
A leading French senator agreed jubilantly. Germany had paid too much attention to iron and coal, he said, and not enough to oil. Oil was the blood of the earth, he said, and it was the blood of victory.
Frankopan (p. 321)
So, why the persistent claims to Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands by China? It turns out that the world’s industrial and manufacturing epicentre is without a consistent supply of energy that can sustain its enormous appetite. An article by Yale’s Environment 360, found that 80 percent of China’s electricity is fueled by coal (Source). The article note’s that the greatest energy needs for China are found along it’s eastern seaboard where large metropolitan areas coupled with manufacturing complexes absorb much of the country’s energy. While western China holds a few cities, non compare to the vast energy needs that Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou require. China is known for having the greatest number of natural resources and is also depleting those same resources faster than the rest of the world (Source). For China to hold its position as the leading manufacturer of all things consumption, it must source and obtain a steady supply of energy. Yale’s article states that mining operations in western China have created dust bowls out of prime farming land in Mongolia. Water has also been depleted from western China as mining requires vast amounts of water to sustain operations. An article from the United Nation’s Environment Programme, states that a report “underlines the effects of China’s massive urbanization, and related infrastructure investments. As a proportion of total domestic consumption of materials, the proportion of biomass dropped from 63 per cent to 15 per cent between 1970 and 2008, while consumption of construction minerals increased from 8 per cent to 63 per cent and metal ores and industrial minerals doubled their share from 4 per cent to 8 per cent” (Source).
I want to return to Duterte’s quote at the beginning of my writing.
“I’m not so much interested now in fishing.” This is a betrayal to the people and tribes that call the Philippines home. We are a proud people of the sea. Fish, while regarded as a cheap option for food in other countries, is considered a staple of the Filipino diet. The poorest of the poor can make an effort to catch fish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My grandfather showed me how to catch fish on a beach in Boracay, for just in case I didn’t have a fishing line and hook. This was how he caught fish in a river where he grew up, so as to sustain himself and his family. While some might not regard this line in Duterte’s speech as of importance, I find it as hurtful as the entirety of his quote.
“I don’t think there’s enough fish really to quarrel about.” From what I now know of China’s cavernous appetite for natural resources, this might ring true for the Philippines should China gain control of the waters west of the Luzon region. I am also concerned for the region of Palawan as this is a UNESCO heritage site (Source), one of the earth’s greatest marine biodiversity locations (Source).
“But when we start to mine, when we start to get whatever, it is in the bowels of the China sea, our oil, then by that time…” I’m interested to know about the individuals representing “we” and “our”. How long has this agreement been in place? Since 2016? I am led to believe that an agreement has been made between China and Duterte as he refers to the region as “the China Sea”. The region Duterte refers to was named the West Philippine Sea by his predecessor Benigno Aquino III in 2012 (Source).
“I will send my grey ships there to state a claim.” File this under political theatre, Exhibit A.
As for the remainder of his quote, “to remain friends” and “share whatever it is”, I will resort to criticism as statements of friendship are a cover for under-the-table deals when in politics. I am not the only one to harbour this kind of criticism towards Duterte as politicians in the Philippines have vocally criticized his behaviour (Source 1, Source 2, and Source 3). I understand that China has more resources than the Philippines, however, I also understand the importance of a nation standing up for its sovereignty over its territories and resources. That Duterte has bent the knee in subservience to China, bodes fraught implications for the Philippines. National security is an utmost concern, as are resource, economic, and political securities. Duterte’s lackadaisical attitude towards China has been criticized for over five years yet his response has (disappointingly) been more hot air than fire. I am concerned with how Duterte’s actions, or lack thereof, displaces the certainty of the Philippine’s future and her people. Rather, does the Republic of the Philippines hold the future of the nation within the hands of her people or in the pockets of China?
Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.
How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.
Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.
Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Thought this might take me a little time.
O liepa, o draga, o slatka slobodo,
dar u kom sva blaga višnji nam Bog je dô,
uzroče istini od naše sve slave,
uresu jedini od ove Dubrave,
sva srebra, sva zlata, svi ljudcki životi
ne mogu bit plata tvôj čistoj lipoti.
Fair liberty, beloved liberty, liberty sweetly avowed,
thou are the treasured gift that God to us endowed,
all our glory is thy true creation,
to our Home thou are all the decoration,
no silver nor gold, not life itself could replace
the reward of thy pure and sublime grace.
“Miss Sarajevo” was the first and only commercially released single from the Passengers album Original Soundtracks 1. A second single, “Your Blue Room” was readied, and promotional copies were released, but a commercial single never materialized—possibly due to the low performance of the album and the first single. Passengers was a group made up of all four members of U2, along with Brian Eno and a variety of guest artists (listed on promotional materials as “extra passengers”). Eno took on a much bigger role for Original Soundtracks 1 than he had on previous U2 albums, actively participating in writing and performing in addition to production work. Because the group was dubbed Passengers, the album received considerably less notice than a typical U2 release might have. “Miss Sarajevo” featured a guest vocalist, Luciano Pavarotti. The Italian tenor had been asking Bono for a song for a while, and when “Miss Sarajevo” was being developed the band felt that it would be a perfect opportunity to bring Pavarotti in to sing. The title and lyrics of the song refer to a beauty pageant held in war-torn Sarajevo.
Man is the one who desires, woman the one who is desired. This is woman’s entire but decisive advantage. Through man’s passions, nature has given man into woman’s hands, and the woman who does not know how to make him her subject, her slave, her toy, and how to betray him with a smile in the end is not wise.