Here are a few news clips that have larger implications than one would expect.

֎ From Nate Silver’s website the following quote suggests that the economy will rebound to a lower standard of living than before the virus:

“The surprisingly large drop in last month’s unemployment rate is seen by our survey as not being a temporary blip, but as reflecting a more permanent decline,” said Allan Timmermann, an economist at the University of California, San Diego who has been consulting with FiveThirtyEight on the survey.”

֎ Already a widespread issue across the planet, the use of facial recognition presents a serious confrontation to personal freedoms and abuse by governments, commerce and politically charged private interests. China already uses facial recognition in an oppressive manner to control freedom of speech, including religious affiliation. US governments have done nothing as yet to deal with this culture-changing technology until recently. Newsy reports:

“The City Council in Portland, Oregon, has voted in favor of banning the use of facial recognition technology — both by private citizens and city departments. That includes the police. Other cities, such as Boston, San Francisco and Oakland, California, have also passed facial recognition regulations, but this one is the first to ban it for private users. Facial recognition software has been criticized for being racially biased.”

֎ Recent news has revealed China’s aggressive behavior in militarizing the South China Sea. Once a neutral fishing zone, China has frightened sharing nations away – including Taiwan and Viet Nam among several Asian nations. This report from Politico suggests escalation is imminent – including the United States:

“There could be major movement re: Taiwan or the South China Sea. Asia Society’s Orville Schell tells China Watcher “what I fear in the next two months is a ‘Gulf of Tonkin’ like incident — trumped up or real — in the South, East China Sea or Taiwan Straits that leads to a military clash and enables Trump to declare a national emergency.” Evan Medeiros of Georgetown University says to look for “a naval clash in the South China Sea” while Gordon G. Chang of Stanford University votes for Trump making “a dramatic move to highlight his support for Taiwan.””

֎ WEIRD (“Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic”) The non-western world has reduced the West to an acronym. Ironically, ‘weird’ is the enemy of Trumpers as well.

Ancient Mariner

Stirrings in the South China Sea

Okay. This headline has Chicken Little running around the backyard:

The U.S. Navy has dispatched a small armada to the South China Sea.

The carrier John C. Stennis, two destroyers, two cruisers and the 7th Fleet flagship have sailed into the disputed waters in the last 24 hours, according to military officials.

The mariner spent some time in Taiwan in the early nineties. The entire South China Sea was an officially declared war zone even then. The western beaches of Taiwan were (and still are) cluttered with anti-tank and anti-landing craft concrete cones. The new jet fighters built in the nineties are kept inside mountains. Taiwan’s only defense if China invades the island is to counterstrike, making it painful for China to consider an invasion; Taiwan will be obliterated in such an invasion.

In the last few years, China has assumed ownership of the South China Sea all the way down to Brunei not far from Singapore. The South China Sea wraps around the coastline of Vietnam on the west and the Philippines on the east. Not only does China desperately need the fishing rights, it has decided to turn the Spratley Islands into a military zone to protect its southern coast. As recent news headlines have reported, China is creating new man-made islands with air and naval bases. Further, China has its eyes on the rich oil region off the coast of Thailand.

China has numerous ways to escalate the confrontation. Once protected by the vast Pacific Ocean, the US has small islands and atolls, many uninhabited, spread around the western Pacific. China easily can harass these islands. Obviously, China will continue its militarization of the region.

Mariner suspects that any escalation will be between surrogate nations and territories. The US forces will be playing in China’s backyard far across the Pacific. Calling on allies like South Korea and Japan has its own set of anxieties. Imagine China turning loose North Korea on South Korea, Japan (700 miles away) or nations bordering the South China Sea (1,700 miles away). Kim Jong Un would leap at the chance.

The US has little choice but to show some kind of presence. Aside from China’s mainland, the South China Sea is bordered by US allies and trading partners. Certainly, these nations are anxious about the Chinese extension into the primary ocean resource for several nations.

The mariner put Chicken Little in the hen house for now. But his squawking can still be heard.

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On a more pleasant note, the mariner reports to his family that all the cacti and succulents brought back from the Sonora Desert are thriving under the grow lights. Woodland plants retrieved from the backwoods of Arkansas have survived and show new growth. A Nandina shrub retrieved from Maryland has healthy bark and looks ready to burst forth.

The mariner is in the midst of planting seed trays for the vegetable garden and flower beds. Rabbit fence will surround the backyard perimeter in another few days. Rabbits are the mariner’s nemesis and all his neighbors save one think they are cute, semi-wild pets; his sister-in-law actually tames them and feeds them by hand.

Each warren produces three batches of six rabbits – eighteen all together from spring to fall – from one nest. The last thing the mariner wanted to do was ruin the landscape with fence but even with military reinforcement including rifles, pistols, compound bows and chemicals, the mariner is losing to his neighbors’ willingness to let rabbits breed as, well, as rabbits will do. It’s a fact that in a year one doe’s offspring can produce 800 pounds of rabbit meat. The only predator in town is the king of predators: Homo sapiens. Where are they when you need them?


Reader Becky has forwarded a website that has information about the fight to save the monarch butterfly. See:

Some good news on the environmental front: For the first time this year, more California Condors were born in the wild than have died. In 1987, the remaining Condors were rescued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Releasing young ones into the wild began in1992. In 2015, more young were born in the wild than older ones that died, suggesting that the Condor population was capable of sustaining its numbers. For more detail, see:

Ancient Mariner