Scum of the Week – Cliven Bundy

Scum of the WeekGovernment is evil.  Personal responsibility?   Personal liability?  Federal Law?  Irrelevant, if you’re fighting against the federal government. Even when someone is clearly in the wrong, that’s the message those on the right would like you to believe.

Congratulations Cliven Bundy, you’ve received the prestigious “Scum of the Week” award.  In close second…Glenn Beck.  Who is Cliven Bundy?  A rancher from Nevada.  For over 20 years, Bundy has refused to pay grazing fees for his cattle that he’s loosed on federal land.  After other tactics to get him to pay failed, the feds recently rounded up Bundy’s cattle, on federal land.  Bundy’s response? Basically an armed rebellion, with a group of Bundy supporters, some armed, confronting BLM officials.  To avoid physical confrontation, the BLM relented and released Bundy’s cattle.

Bundy in the meantime appeared on Glenn Beck’s radio show, pleading for citizens to rise up and “disarm” the BLM and feds.  Wacko Bundy then goes on to claim that the “federal bureaucracy” is “overpowering us with guns” and ruling with “unlimited power“.  A curious claim, given that it was Bundy and his wacko supporters who confronted the BLM with guns, in order to get his cattle back.

There’s no disputing the facts.  Over the last 20+ years, Bundy has been grazing his cattle on federal lands.   Over the last 20+ years, he hasn’t paid grazing fees for using federal land.  In Bundy’s world, he’s allowed to use federal lands to make a personal profit, without having to follow the law and pay for the right to use those lands.  He’s clearly been in the wrong.  He’s clearly been openly defying and breaking the law for over 20 years, while 18,000 other cattle ranchers in the west have paid grazing fees to obtain access to federal lands.  And what does that make him in the eyes of those on the right?  A hero.

That’s what the right has devolved into, a group that by default defines the government as “in the wrong”, regardless of the situation.  Having a (gasp!) black Democratic President only has exacerbated the negativity towards government in general.  The clear message from the right…we will oppose anything that Obama does.  We will oppose anything the federal government does, even something as basic as collecting taxes and fees to enable government to operate.

The anti-government paranoia has been whipped up to an all-time high, and is to the point where armed confrontation, where physical threats, are now an accepted form of dissent.  Dangerous ground, particularly when those that feel the need to break even the most innocuous of laws are treated as heroes.  Cliven Bundy, you wacko, cheating, cheap, law-breaking son-of-a-bitch…YOU are hereby named as the Scum of the Week.

Life 1.0 – The Competition

I’m a nerd.  Surprising revelation, I know.  I’d rather read a book than go to a bar.  I used to play Dungeons & Dragons in high school.  I still like video games.  And, I like science fiction.  Of course, Star Trek is near the top of the list.  As a scientist/nerd, I can watch Star Trek and think/dream that most of it may NOT be “fiction”, but a vision of the future.  From a technical and scientific aspect, I can almost believe it, if you remove some of the scientific impossibilities from a Star Trek script.

But from a social aspect?  I’m not buying it for a second.  Sure, there’s always the bad guy to fight in Star Trek, but society as a whole is peaceful.  War is the exception, not the rule. People have evolved to such a state that even money isn’t used any more, for god’s sake.  Listening to a Captain Kirk or Captain Picard speak (especially the latter) is sometimes like listening to a preacher, although it’s not religion they’re expressing, it’s the inherent “goodness” of man.

Like I said…I’m not buying it for a second. If we ever reach a Star Trek level of technology, you can be damned sure things won’t be peaceful.  You can be damned sure money, greed, and the hunger for power will be there.  The Star Trek utopia, where everyone works for the common good?  A nice pipe dream, but a pipe dream is all it will ever be.

Think about your typical day. You get ready and head for work, only to find yourself in a drag race with the guy on his cell phone who thinks 5 mph over the speed limit is an insult to his manhood. You get to work, and in theory, are working towards whatever common goal your employer (or yourself) has established.  In reality? It’s more often every man for him or herself, with individual achievement, power, and money driving workers more than the overall common good.

I pity “management”…to a point.  Imagine a work group of 20 individuals tasked to work together towards a common goal.  In that group, you have the “Invisible 4“, those that do as little as it takes to continue getting a paycheck every two weeks.  You have the “Backstabbing 5“, the aggressive bunch who is working with, or against, each other, to ensure THEY achieve the recognition, the reward, for the group’s work.  Bob in the corner?  He just doesn’t give a shit, and is cruising towards retirement.  You have the “Naive Numbskulls“, 2 or 3 inexperienced youngsters who will end up doing 70% of the work but will get buried by the group and get no recognition.  The “Blabbing Blowhards?”  That’s the pair of idiots that have no idea how to accomplish the group’s goal, but are gifted at 1) monopolizing 90% of all discussion time, and 2) trying to tell others how to do a job they themselves are incapable of doing.

Yes, the exact proportions may vary from setting to setting, and there are a few other categories of folks, but out of 20 people, it’s almost guaranteed that at least half will fall into one of the categories above.  In general, that will leave maybe 5 honest, hard-working individuals, folks who DO generally believe in the overall goal, and will do an honest day’s work to reach that goal.  That’s the group I feel sorry for, for they are the ones who end up suffering due to the actions (or inactions) of the others.  The best and the brightest too often end up being the ones who are trampled upon.  Over time, they become the ones who are the most disillusioned.

I said I feel sorry for management, to a point, given that it’s an impossible task to try to build a perfectly effective team from such a group of individuals.  “To a point” is an important distinction, though, because 80% of time, management themselves falls into one of those categories.  Those that do reach management are often the most aggressive of the original 20.  The “common goal” becomes a means to an end, with the “end” being a promotion or other reward for the manager.  The process? The end product? The workers themselves? Secondary to the personal achievement that’s to be gained.

What, I’m being a little too cynical here?   There are undoubtedly exceptions to this general characterization of the workplace.  I’d take my own personal team at work to hell and back, as I think the world of them.  But it’s disheartening as hell though to see how the backstabbing 5, or the babbling blowhards end up affecting the workplace in general, and negatively affecting the individual recognition and rewards that the standouts deserve.

Life 1.0 – The competition.  Will we ever reach the Star Trek utopia?  Will we ever reach Life 2.0 – The Evolved?  Hell no….we’ll never even get to Life 1.01.  We’re biological creatures, the same as any other on the planet.  We have the same drives, the same instincts to survive and thrive.  Competition is biologically ingrained, and no matter your place in life, you can be sure that competition and the desire to “one-up” your fellow-man is driving one hell of a lot more of society’s behavior than is striving for the common good.

Cheery thoughts!  But sadly typical as one reaches the end of the work week.  Enjoy your weekend, rest up, and get ready for Monday Morning and the next week’s worth of competition.

Congressman kisses staffer, runs for re-election while staffer is fired

A Washington Post columnist has an article today stating that the GOP has just permanently lost the women’s vote . In a perfect world where voters were 1) halfway intelligent and 2) paying attention, the column should be right.  We don’t live in a perfect world.  Voters are 1) dumber than a box of rocks, and 2) are more concerned about the latest pop song than they are about the politicians that run the country.

The story in summary…male congressman kisses a female staffer. It’s caught on tape and released to the papers. Yes, there’s been blow-back in the press, and in the short term there will be condemnation against Congressman Vance McAllister of Louisiana (A Republican, BTW…shocking, I know).  This gem of a man ran on his supposedly strong Christian faith 2 years ago.  No worries though.  After this event, he’s already stated he’s going to continue running for reelection. Given that he’s a right-wing nut job from Louisiana, he’s likely to WIN reelection.

The staffer he kissed? She, of course, was fired.

If I were a single, very selfish man, perhaps I would thank my lucky stars I grew up as a white male in America.   However, I’m not.  It has to be as maddening as hell to be a woman in America and see this same kind of story repeated over and over again.

I have little doubt conservative wackos will forgive McAllister. God knows the GOP is full of lying, cheating, law-breaking SOBs, and there’s a long history of forgiveness for these losers. In today’s political climate, there’s little worry about repercussions for bad behavior, as the only thing that seems to matter is whether there’s a “D” or an “R” after your name. The female staffer? Obviously she too is in the wrong, given that she’s married and has a young son. But for her there will be no forgiveness.  She’s out a job, and what do you think the chances are that she could get another job on Capital Hill?

Has the GOP “permanently lost” womens’ votes?  I certainly wish that were the case, but sadly it’s not. If I had a nickel for every time a male politician has done something similar, yet gotten away with it and continued on with their political careers, I’d be a rich man.

Putting down the camera…

Bufflehead

An inquisitive Bufflehead, doing pre-dawn surveillance of my blind.

Peace of mind.  Something that’s hard to find at times.  For me, it’s been something that’s been elusive over the last few months as I try to deal with the effects of Sjogren’s syndrome.  Dry eyes and mouth are something you kind of get used to, but it certainly makes me sure to always have gum and eye drops handy.  Achy joints…fine, I can handle that most of the time.  Fatigue is the toughest one to deal with, as there are days where it suddenly feels like you’ve just been “unplugged”.  One by one, they’re nuisances, but put it all together, and have it occur day-after-day-after-day, and it’s a downer.

It’s been enough of a downer that I haven’t really had much interest in the photography thing lately.  Probably a mistake on my part, to let that go.  If there’s one thing that can provide peace of mind for me, it’s one of those ‘magical’ days out in the field, taking photos.  My photography time is my chance to escape for a few hours.  It’s my release, it’s my chance to try to forget the Sjogren’s, forget any bullshit at work (of which there’s always some), etc.  It’s my chance to recharge.

Yesterday I dragged out the “chair blind” with the intention of using it to try to get close to all the waterfowl that are moving through as the ice melts. It’s a hunter’s device, what basically amounts to a very low folding chair, with legs a mere 4-5 inches long, and a camouflage shell that pulls over the top.  I’ve had it for a few years, but really haven’t used it much.  I’m not sure why, given that 1) it’s actually pretty comfy sitting inside it, and 2) I have one hell of a lot of patience, and can sit there for a while, waiting for birds to happen by.  I got up before dawn and headed to the wetlands and lakes west of Sioux Falls. I found a nice spot that was full of ducks when I arrived, and set up the blind about half an hour before sunrise.

There was already a little bit too much light at that time for me to get away with it, without the birds noticing.  The ducks all flushed as I set up, but that was fine…I knew they’d eventually wander back, forgetting there’s a weirdo in the camouflaged clamshell by the shoreline.  I was right, but ducks definitely wandered back, but much sooner than I anticipated.   The sun still hadn’t risen when a very inquisitive little Bufflehead approached.  It’s almost as if he suspected something was “wrong”, given the beeline he made right towards the blind itself.  He stopped for a moment, perhaps 15 feet from the blind, before moving closer.  TOO close, given that the minimum focusing distance on my long lens is 12 feet.

American Coot

One of the 30 or so American Coots milling around my blind. Common...drab plumage...but beautiful in their own right, especially when you get a chance to see them behaving naturally at close distance.

If I were obsessed with just “getting the photo”, as many photographers are, I probably would have wished he were a bit further away.  I’ll never understand that mentality.  It’s the same with birders who are obsessed with their “lifelists”, state checklists, county checklists, etc.  For many, it’s the list itself, it’s the photo itself, that’s the most important aspect of the respective hobby.  You’ll often see birders drive miles to see a rarity, some species they don’t have on their list.  For many, the quest seems to end the moment the bird is spotted.  Having mentally (or physically in many cases) checked the bird off their list, off they go, in search of the next checkmark.

For me?  The best moments, the moments where I do find that elusive peace of mind, is when the moment takes over, and I put the camera down.  The now too-close Bufflehead continued to poke around the area in front of my blind, seemingly half bloodhound, trying to sniff out the “trouble” inside.  I put down the camera, leaned forward, and watched this wonderful little creature parading around mere feet in front of my blind.  It’s not easy getting photos of truly wild ducks in South Dakota. They literally are “gun-shy”, equating human beings with trouble, and flushing as soon as someone comes within 50 yards of them.  The tiny little Bufflehead is one I’ve particularly had a hard time getting close to.  I certainly wasn’t going to miss the moment, and sometimes the camera just gets in the way.  It was only a minute or two that the gorgeous male Bufflehead paraded around the blind.  But it was a nice “put the camera down” moment, and one of those restorative moments that helps me find peace of mind.

After sunrise, most of the ducks seemed to leave the little wetland.  I packed up and decided to try another spot.  I ended up at Grass Lake, a large lake in western Minnehaha county that still was about half ice-covered.  As the ice melts, you often get gulls and other birds feasting on any dead fish that had become locked up in the ice over the winter, and Grass Lake was certainly full of birds yesterday morning, from massive American White Pelicans, to gulls, to ducks of many species.  I again found a little bay full of ducks, set up my blind, and waited for the now departed birds to return.

Again it didn’t take long.  One inquisitive American Coot came swimming back into the bay, and began poking along the shoreline.   It’s not often you see just one American Coot, as they’re a gregarious bunch, and sure enough, it wasn’t long before his buddies showed up as well.  About 20 minutes after setting the blind up, there were perhaps 30 Coots poking around the bay, and it wasn’t long before they returned to the same location they were before I arrived, which was right where I had placed my blind.

American Coots aren’t exactly a birder’s dream bird.  They’re not exactly a photographer’s dream bird.  They’re common, they’re rather drab at first glance, and they have a reputation as being, well…not the brightest bird on the block.  They’re not particularly difficult to get close to, at least close enough for a photograph if you have a long lens.  However, it’s one thing to “get the photo”.  It’s quite another to have an active flock of wild birds, behaving and feeding normally within feet of you, oblivious to your presence.  For half an hour, the Coots milled about the vicinity of my blind, often coming so close as to be practically touching it at times.  It when you get close to birds that you can see their real beauty.  Yes, they’re a rather drab dark grey overall, but American Coots have a brilliant red eye, a strange and contrasting light-colored beak and “shield” on their forehead, and some of the weirdest, massive floppy fleet of any creature on the planet.

Peace of mind.  Camera down.  Sitting in MY church on a Sunday morning, enjoying the moment.  It wasn’t a good morning from a photography perspective, as most other species stayed away and I got very few “good” photos.  However, it was just what the doctor ordered…

Sorry honey! I have a game today…

As the Murphy family found out this week, it's a man's world, and it's a sports world.

It’s a man’s world.  Women?  Eh.  They’re around for 1) “entertainment” for men, and 2) ensuring the contintuity of the human race.  At least that’s the message that men seem to have some primordial need to reinforce as often as they can.

Daniel Murphy is a second baseman for the New York Mets.   He also is married to…someone.  I’d provide a name, but given that Daniel Murphy’s wife is a woman, evidently the media didn’t feel it was necessary to even provide her name in the news stories about Murphy yesterday.  Surprising, perhaps, given that she is an oh-so-integral part of the story, but perhaps not so surprising, because again…she’s a woman and not worthy of referencing by name.  Thus we’ll refer to this mystery woman as “Mrs. Daniel Murphy”, a fitting moniker given that women SHOULD be discussed only in terms of their husbands.

Daniel Murphy and…Mrs. Daniel Murphy…were expecting their first child.  Mrs. Daniel Murphy was incredibly inconsiderate, offending 1) men, and 2) the collective sports world.  Evidently Mrs. Daniel Murphy procreated with Daniel Murphy approximately 9 months prior to the opening day of the 2014 baseball season.  Incredibly inconsiderate planning on her part (Daniel Murphy may have played a role, but in a man’s world, I choose to blame the woman).  Remember your birds and bees?  There seems to be some correlation between 1) having sex, and 2) having a child 9 months later.  An unconfirmed theory, but one with strong evidence.

The first child of Daniel Murphy and Mrs. Daniel Murphy was born on Monday, as 12:02 pm.  His name was Noah…a name provided by the media because, of course, the child was a male.  12:02 pm was, unfortunately, very close to the time of the first game of 2014 for the New York Mets. Poor planning, by, of course, Mrs. Daniel Murphy, who SHOULD 1) have made sure the baby was born prior to opening day, and 2) be able to do a woman’s duty and birth and take care of the child by herself.  That’s the  message/verdict given by a large proportion of the (male) sports world this week.

Boomer (What a manly name, ’tis Boomer) Esiasan chastisted Mrs. Daniel Murphy on WFAN radio this week, stating the obvious…that Mrs. Daniel Murphy should have “had a C-section before the season starts“.  Daniel Murphy, in the meantime, foolishly took the oh-so-generous Major League Baseball paternity time of 3 days, excusing himself from the Mets to be with Mrs. Daniel Murphy, and to stay with the family for a couple of days after the birth.  The reaction to Murphy’s decision to miss Opening Day and be with his family? Outrage, of course!  This is BASEBALL we’re talking about, opening day to boot, which obviously trumps the birth of your first child.  Mike Francesca, also on WFAN radio, eloquently stated what I think all men were thinking.  “You’re a Major League baseball player.  You can hire a nurse”, said Francesca, chastising Daniel Murphy for missing Opening Day.  The ever-so-sensitive Francesca went on, shaming Murphy for using his entire 3-day paternity leave by exclaiming “What are you going to do? Sit there and look at your wife in the hospital bed for two days?”

Damn straight!  You tell ‘em, WFAN radio hosts!  As basic meat bags around for men’s sexual pleasure, and for subsequently raising children until they’re of an age where they’re not such a bother for fathers, SOMEBODY needed to put Mrs. Daniel Murphy and women in general in their place.  And SOMEBODY needed to explain to Daniel Murphy that sports trumps family.

Good…fucking…god.

My son is now almost 11.  For my wife Lauri and I (yes, wives DO have actual names), he’s been our pride and joy, the center of our universe.  When he was born, Lauri took her full allotment of maternity leave, and undoubtedly would have stayed home many more weeks (months? years?) if it were possible.  As a U.S. citizen with testicles, I’m evidently not allowed, either by tradition, or by actual employer standards, to do the same, and take paternity leave for several weeks (months? years?).  After all, raising a child is strictly women’s work, right?

As our son rapidly grows up before our eyes, what I wouldn’t have given for a long paternity leave when he was born.  Daniel Murphy was allotted a pittance of a paternity leave in 3 days, and took full advantage to be with his wife and first child.  To be crucified for it by a certain segment of the sports world gives you a good idea of the neanderthal world of men in which we live.

Check out the current front page of the Sports Illustrated / CNN Sports site (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com).  This is the world folks like Boomer Esiasan or Mike Francesca live in, one where sports (MALE sports) dominates, and women are simply around for objectification, with women’s bodies being treated as their own “sport”.  When I say check out the CNN/SI sports page, I’m not worried about WHEN you check it out, given that the basic content never changes.  This morning as I look, there are 20 headlines/features at the top of the page, every one of which focuses on men’s sports.  Par for the course, even though the women’s Final Four is also going on right now, as are, I presume, other women’s sporting activities, given that unscientific polling of mine indicates that there are approximately as many women out there as there are men.

Look just below the top headline/feature section, and what do you find?  First, there’s the permanent “Swim Daily” section, devoted to the “sport” of women in swimsuits or body paint.  After all, what says “sport” more than seeing a 19-year old girl with nothing on but a bit of spray paint?  CNN/SI also has the permanent “Extra Mustard” section, with twice-daily updates of “sports” highlights and human interest stories.  Contained within EVERY “Extra Mustard” installment?  Photos of half-naked women in the “Lovely Lady of the Day” segment.  Why bother covering sports stories, if you can’t also gratuitously throw in a photo of a scantily-clad woman?

Sports, testosterone, and sex.  THAT’S the world neanderthals like Boomer Esiasan and Mike Francesca live in.  In their world, “Mrs. Daniel Murphy” is a side show, someone who does the dirty work of raising a child, so that her husband can focus on the more important job as a professional athelete.

I’m a sports fan, but find myself caring less and less as I mature (OK, get old), and as the sports world in general stays in that adolescent, high-school, testosterone-driven view of the world.  As for Daniel Murphy…BRAVO for making what should be a no-brainer of a decision, and realizing that NOTHING is as important as family.

Why Bother?

Why bother?  That’s what I often ask myself when extending even the most basic of courtesies to my fellow human beings.  Why bother, if there’s clearly no intention for (many) others to return the favor?

I’m a hell of a nice guy.  I’m a hell of a courteous guy.  I try to live as “moral” a life as possible.  I also happen to be a hard-core atheist (yes, bible-thumpers, you can (gasp!) be an atheist and still be morally sound).  If you throw out the “god” part of the equation, I do happen to believe in most of the basic tenets of Christianity.  Do unto others…right?  Seems like it should be a pretty universally accepted credo, regardless of your personal beliefs.

In reality though?  Not so much.  Again…Why bother?  Why bother being kind to your fellow human beings when so many others clearly couldn’t care less about anyone but themselves?  I don’t care what your personal belief systems as, as long as you maintain basic civility and respect for others.  I do believe the true “heart” of a human being is pretty evident when you observe their every day interactions in society.

This morning, as with every other weekday morning, I dropped my son off at school.  There’s a loop where parents drive through, drop their child off, and continue through the loop.  It’s a busy area in the morning, and I always try to be courteous by quickly moving through after my son exits the car.  Three times this week (twice the same person), someone has parked their car in the drop-off lane, gotten out, and walked into the school with their child, rather than parking in the parking lot mere yards away. In the meantime, cars behind the parked car in the loop must wait or maneuver around.  Where’s the consideration for others?  Is it worth inconveniencing others, just to save yourself from walking an extra 10 yards from the parking lot?  Do people like this carry the same sort of “me first” attitude in all their other human interactions?

Why bother?  Why bother with basic courtesies when so many ignore them?  After dropping my son off this morning, I needed to go through the ATM.  There was a car in front of me, and after her transaction was complete, she gathered the receipt, closed the window…and proceeded to sit there for at least a full two-minutes before finally pulling away.  Putting materials away, I assume, then a cell-phone conversation that started, all while she was oblivious to the (now) 2 people in line behind her.  If I’m in line in that situation and see people behind me, when the transaction is complete, I’ll take my receipt/money, pull ahead a bit so the next person can start their transaction, and then put my money away, put my seatbelt back on, etc.  A basic courtesy, but again…why bother?

I sometimes wonder if we’re headed towards a society straight out of H.G. Wells, with two separate races of human beings.  It seems like I’m forever running into more and more of the “Morlock” race, inconsiderate, nasty human beings without a shred of consideration for their fellow human beings.  Meanwhile, we “Eloi” continue to live in the light, continue to extend the most common of courtesies, and continue to somehow believe that “doing unto others…” is a credo worth following.

I’ll continue to be an “Eloi”, and despite my monstrous atheist ways, I’ll continue to live what others would likely say is a “Christian” life, in terms of ethics and morality.  But at the same time, my cynical side reserves the right to occasionally scream out WHY BOTHER?!?!!?

 

Cosmos – Best Repudiation Yet of Creationists

Crab Nebula

The Crab Nebula, about 6,500 light-years from earth. See the twinkling celestial features in the background? If the earth were truly 6,500 years old, as young-earth creationists claim, then the universe wouldn't be old enough for the light from those features to reach earth.

I admit I was pretty skeptical when it was announced Neal deGrasse Tyson was rebooting Cosmos, with shows to air on Fox.  It definitely wasn’t Tyson himself, who I think is just the kind of charismatic, down-to-earth science “spokesman” that can relate to the masses.  While scientists may be wonderful at explaining the universe, we’re not always so wonderful at translating that explanation to the public as a whole.   My concern wasn’t for the host, it was the fact that it was being aired on Fox.  What would Fox allow? Would those at Fox try to use Cosmos to push the right-wing version of “science”, complete with anti-evolution and anti-global warming fallacies?

Thankfully the answer has been a resounding NO, and Tyson and Cosmos have taken on evolution full-on in the first few episodes. This week’s episode provided a wonderful, and oh-so-straightforward repudiation of the “young-earth” creationists.  Obviously the fossil record, radiometric age dating, and other methods have been widely used in the past to refute creationists. From a scientific standpoint, there’s obviously no refuting the evidence in these records, but particularly for methodologies such as radiometric dating, it’s enough of a “black box” that the public as a whole has little understanding of how it works.  It’s therefore easier for creationists to dismiss.

Tyson’s argument on Cosmos isn’t “new”, the same argument has occasionally been used before to refute creationists.  It was the presentation and the popular venue that I think really brought it home and made it one of the most effective repudiations of Creationists.  The argument is devastatingly simple.  The Crab Nebula is approximately 6,500 light-years away.  Young-earth creationists claim the earth is about 6,500 years old.  Given that by definition, a light-year is the distance light can travel in a calendar year, if the earth were only 6,500 years old, then ALL celestial objects further than 6,500 light-years away would be invisible to humans on earth. There simply wouldn’t have been enough time for light to travel that far, so that humans on earth could observe it.  Simple!  Straightforward!

And devastatingly effective in repudiating young-earth creationists.  Creationists have a long history of creating complete fallacies to counter the fossil record and other evidence of an “old’ earth…it will be interesting to see what laughable explanation they come up with to refute the latest Cosmos episode.

Success!

The sign-up period for Obamacare ended yesterday in much the same way it began…with massive demand resulting in website issues.  Republicans have continually pointed out the troubles with the website as an example of Obamacare’s failure.  While there have undoubtedly been some rocky times for the enrollment sites, both at the national and state level, one thing that doubters can no longer deny…that the program has been a raging success in providing access to health care to millions of Americans.

With the website issues upon rollout last fall, enrollment grew at a snail’s pace for the first few months, leading experts and detractors alike to spout that the program would never meet the goal of enrolling 7 million Americans by March 31st.  With the incredible surge in signups over the last few weeks and days, it’s now being reported that signups are likely to meet, if not significantly exceed, the original 7 million goal.  In addition to those enrolling directly, several million more have successfully enrolled in the Medicaid expansion component of the program.

Republicans, predictably, have been spouting in recent days that the White House has been “cooking the books”, seemingly unable to grasp that Americans want and NEED access to health care.  Despite the negative spin, it’s becoming incredibly difficult for detractors to bash the program.

The only losers?  Citizens in red states, where bitter, politically motivated Republican governors have refused to accept FREE Federal dollars to expand their states’ Medicaid programs.  Putting politics over the welfare of their own citizens, millions that COULD have had access to health care have been denied, all for the sake of right-wing politicians boosting their conservative “cred” for the next election.

Nonetheless, today is a day to celebrate!  Obamacare is a success.  Obamacare is here to stay.

Has CNN gone nuts?

March 8th.  23 freakin’ days ago.  That’s when Flight 370 disappeared.  It also marks the date when CNN completely lost their collective minds, and decided that the only story on the planet that anybody cares about is this flight.

The “big” headline of the day today on CNN?  That the last few words heard from the cockpit were a bit different than originally reported.  Originally, the reported last words were “All right, good night“.  Now, in a SHOCKING revelation, CNN broke the story today of how the last few words were actually “Good night, Malaysian 370“.

SHOCKING.  No, not the “story” that has been on CNN’s front page all day.  What’s shocking is that the headline story on CNN has been flight 370, for over 3 weeks straight now.  Today was ”deadline day” for ObamaCare signups, and while other news organizations have talked about the trials and tribulations of ObamaCare, CNN’s primary coverage has focused on the slight differences in words supposedly uttered by flight 370′s cockpit.

CNN has certainly seen its share of criticism in recent months.  However, evidently CNN’s prime time ratings have doubled in the last couple of weeks, going from catastrophically miserable, to merely dreadfully miserable.  Good for you CNN, you’ve discovered what it takes to become successful as a cable “news” station.  The key to success…sensationalize everything and completely ignore the news that really matters.  In other words…stop even trying to pretend you’re  serious news organization, and instead focus on the sensational and trivial.

There is SOME hope for CNN.  Their secondary story today, found in very bold headlines right below their coverage of flight 370?  A piece on the last episode of “How I Met Your Mother”, which evidently ran tonight.  Whew…thanks for that hard-hitting piece, CNN.  You’ve now restored my faith in CNN as a serious “news” organization.

New 2014 (free) Bird Calendar

As I always do, I put together a free, downloadable and printable bird calendar for 2014.

Each month’s download is a PDF, set up to be sized and printed on letter-sized paper.  It should be pretty easy to download and print.

For the first time this year, I went beyond just bird photos, and also have a few months where I have my bird artwork.

The calendar pages can be downloaded and printed from the following URL.  Enjoy!

http://sdakotabirds.com/calendar_main.htm