Two hundred and forty-three years after the not-yet United States declared its independence in a lengthy letter to England's King George III, the old enemies are, yet again, new allies. This time, however, it's an unlikely alliance of defiance; both are challenging international institutions like the World Trade Organization and the European Union (E.U.) which some lawmakers say interfere — and, worse, illegitimately overrule — their sovereign laws of state.
Epistemology is what we on the farm called "a $10 word." At $10, though, it's underpriced because epistemology — the study of what we believe, what is true, and the evidence we have to justify that truth and belief — covers a lot of ground. In short, epistemology is the study of knowledge. That topic sounds drier than last summer's straw until you test it on yourself. For example, is global warming real? How do you know? Are GMOs unsafe? What are your facts? Will soybean prices rally into spring? What's your evidence?
Man, that ended badly. December limped to an ugly conclusion as nearly everyone from Wall Street to Main Street took a year-end pounding not seen in three generations. Pick an investment sector (stocks, bonds, commodities); a nation state (the U.S., China, or the European Union); or a political system (a democratic republic, parliamentary, or single-party rule), and almost every one of them finished 2018 underwater, under siege, or under a cloud.
Tweeter-in-Chief, President Donald J. Trump, has been quite clear in his opinion of CNN, the cable television news network. Indeed, Trump's despise of the network — he thinks its initials stand for Certainly Not News — encourages supporters to use "CNN" as a slander. For example, when a reader of this weekly effort sends an email that includes the sentence "I think your views and the way you wrote [them] up was as good of a job as a typical CNN reporter," it's not meant as a compliment.
The Christmas tree was a scrub cedar hacked from the edge of the woods that bordered the farm. Big-bulbed lights, strung in barber pole fashion, generated almost as much heat as the nearby wood stove. Yellowed Christmas cards, saved over the years and perched like doves in the untrimmed branches, served as ornaments. "I believe this is the prettiest tree I've ever had," Howard proclaimed as we stood in its glow. "And it smells good, too." The only scent evident to me was a mixture of wood smoke and the remains of a fried pork supper. But I lied and said, "Sure does."
If the calendar was a baseball game, mid-December would be the bottom of the ninth. As such, and given 2018's crazy weather, banner crops, sloppy harvest, muddled export future, and skinny-to-no profit, mid-December finds farmers and ranchers now at bat with two outs and the opposing team's smoke-throwing relief pitcher on the mound. Yeah, it's been a tough year. Any help this late in the game is, of course, welcome but little will change the outcome of a forgettable season that will, unfortunately, not be easily forgotten.
Years ago, an enterprising neighbor operated a palm reading business from her home with just a secretary, fax machine, and telephone. Her business model was simple: After clients faxed their photocopied handprint and sent some form of payment (rumor had it was $20), our neighbor telephoned them with the results of the "reading." While no one called her a fortune "teller," it was easy to tell she was indeed earning a small fortune. In our town of 1,800, her chauffeured Cadillac and indoor swimming pool were dead giveaways. Did she really know the future?
Humanity depends on three critical threes: Without oxygen, most humans will die within three minutes; without water, life expectancy is three days; without food, we've got three weeks. Few Americans give three seconds thought of any of these life-ensuring elements because, here, food is safe and plentiful, air quality laws are in place and enforced, and water, for most of America, is safe, bountiful, and relatively cheap.
If war is hell, then trade wars must be a purgatorial stop along the way. For proof, just look where Election Day 2018 finds American farmers. Faced with ample production, stale commodity prices, and the lowest forecasted national farm income since 2002, U.S. farmers are now waiting for a winter of government "tariff mitigation" payments while competitors like Brazil and the European Union step into international markets — the Chinese pork trade, for one — that just a year ago favored U.S. firms and farmers. That's not fake news.
"February" is one of the finest essays in Sand County Almanac, the 1949 book of superlative essays on nature and mankind's role in it, by forester and conservationist Aldo Leopold. In it, Leopold, the father of wildlife ecology, tells the history of his Wisconsin "sand farm" and its natural "community" as he and a friend crosscut-saw through the story-holding rings of a still-standing, 80-year-old oak tree killed by lightning.