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

Obamacare Lies

Sean Hannity

How can a smug POS like Sean Hannity live with himself? How can he look in a mirror and honestly believe he's providing a valuable service? How can he possibly believe he's providing "news"? In reality, all he is, is a highly-paid liar, a propoganda tool.

Salon.com today has a truly wonderful story about anti-Obamacare mania, and the truth behind what Fox News has been reporting lately. Recently Sean Hannity hosted three couples who supposedly represented the evils of Obamacare.  Obamacare is killing jobs!!  Obamacare is destroying the economy!  Obamacare is driving up premiums!!  Hannity’s guests told their supposedly personal stories about how Obamacare was ruining their lives.

Eric Stern of Salon decided to fact check the Hannity segment.  He personally interviewed the three couples shown on the show, and this is what he found:

- Paul and Michelle Cox – On Fox News, the couple claimed Obamacare was killing their business, and that they were forced to change employees to part-time to avoid the evils of Obamacare.  Stern’s interview revealed that the Cox’s business has a grand total of FOUR EMPLOYEES.  THERE ARE NO OBAMACARE REQUIREMENTS for employers with under 50 employees!! Stern pushed it, asking why Cox cut his employees’ hours, and if it were really related to Obamacare.  After pausing, Cox stopped the interview and said he’d call Stern back.  He never did.

- Allison Denijs – The self-employed couple said they were currently paying about $13,000 a year for coverage that didn’t even include one of their children.  Denijs told Hannity that Blue Cross, their current insurer, said their current policy was no longer compliant with Obamacare regulations, and that to get the same coverage their premiums would go way up.  Stern asked the obvious…have you checked out prices on Obamacare health exchanges?  Denijs replied that she was against Obamacare (surprise!) and hadn’t checked.  Stern himself entered the Denijs information onto the health care exchange, and found the couple could SAVE 60% on premiums, AND cover their uninsured daughter, thanks to Obamacare.

- Robbie and Tina Robison - They told Fox News that they too had received notice from Blue Cross that they’d need a new policy that was compliant with Obamacare regulations.  They claimed their prices were going up 50-75% because of Obamacare.  Again Stern asked if they’d checked the Obamacare exchanges.  They said no, they had not, and that they were against Obamacare and WOULD not check the prices.  Again, Stern entered their information and checked prices for the couple.  Stern found a plan on the Obamacare site that would save the Robinson’s over 60% from their current cost.

Republicans have reveled in the glitches in the Obamacare site, something that definitely is a black mark for the program to date.  However, they’ve also continually spouted the party lines that Obamacare is destroying the economy and driving up health care costs.  Fox News and Sean Hannity certainly tried to strengthen that storyline…even though the entire segment was incredibly dishonest.  Shouldn’t a supposed journalist, shouldn’t a supposed news organization (hah!!), know better than to purposely provide air time to these folks without checking their motivations, or even the basic truth of what they were saying?

Republicans are in a panic.  Other than the glitches with the website itself, prices for insurance on the health care exchanges are coming in LOWER than were predicted.  Massive demand for Obamacare coverage is one reason the website itself has had problems.  Couple this with the public popularity of Obamacare components such as the pre-existing condition clause and coverage for your children through age 25, and Republicans KNOW any window they have to stop Obamacare is rapidly dwindling.  As the shutdown clearly indicated, Republicans are doing everything they possibly can to stop the program before it becomes a popular, entrenched government program.

And “everything” obviously includes lying and trying to deceive people (not to mention flirting with economic disaster through the shutdown fiasco).

It’s not just Fox News, Ted Cruz, other Tea Party wackos, or right-wing talking heads who are lying through their teeth to try to destroy Obamacare.   In the last week, I’ve seen a LOT of evidence of the “e-war” being waged on Obamacare through the dissemination of false information and fake blog posts.  I have multiple blog posts on Obamacare, and in the past week have had many folks try to post blog comments about the program.  I typically will let ANYONE respond to one of my blog posts, but due to spam and the like, a poster must first have a message approved by myself.  I’ve had many attempts in the past week to post messages to my Obamacare threads, where, curiously, some of the 2 paragraph long messages are EXACTLY THE SAME, word for word, other than changes in the source email address and the name of the supposed poster.

Sickening. What’s even more pathetic than Fox News, Sean Hannity, Ted Cruz, or those waging the online war against Obamacare are the complete idiots who BELIEVE the anti-Obamacare propaganda.  The three Fox News guest couples were obviously anti-Obamacare, were obviously anti-OBAMA, so much so, that they let their ideology stop them from even LOOKING at the health care exchanges that could save them thousands of dollars a year!  Obamacare is just another liberal “lie” right wingers and Tea Party wackos can add to their growing list of supposed liberal “lies”:  Obamacare, Evolution, Climate Change…ALL evil plots by elitist liberals!!

Even with the complete ignorance of such a large chunk of the American populace, the effort to stop Obamacare is doomed.  Ideology is a strong force, but not as strong a force as basic GREED.  Upon finding out that Obamacare could save the three Fox News couples thousands of dollars a year, do you think they might change their story?  Do you think they might actually buy health insurance through the exchanges?  You bet they will.  Basic greed, the basic desire to save money, will trump ideology over time.

Keep plugging those fingers in the dike, Repubs!!  But just like the shutdown, this is a war you’ve lost before you even began.

Was it worth it, Tea Party Wackos?

Ted Cruz

Yes, Senator Cruz...the Tea Party strategy to defund Obamacare DID stink.

Bravo, Ted Cruz.  Bravo, Mike Lee.  Bravo, House o’ Nutty Tea Party Republicans.  Your (mean-) spirited stand against the tyranny of Obama and the Affordable Care Act accomplished many things.   You’ve managed to disrupt government activities, even agreeing to PAY folks like myself to sit on my butt at home while you threw your temper tantrum. Ok, sure, with the agreement today, you weren’t able to even TOUCH Obamacare, after shutting down the government for 2 1/2 weeks.  Ok, sure, you didn’t get a SINGLE concession from Democrats.  But you’ve still done the country a great service.  How, you ask?

In one fell swoop, you managed to do what Obama, Harry Reid, and Democrats could not do…trivialize and marginalize the entire Tea Party movement.  Congratulations!  With a completely meaningless 2 1/2 week government shutdown, you’ve shown that the Tea Party has NO interest in governing.  You’ve shown the Tea Party has NO interest in the welfare of the American people.  What you have made quite clear is that you stand for IDEOLOGY.  What you have made quite clear is that you are only interested in opposing a sitting, Democratic, black President, no matter the issue.

It only took about 2 days of the shutdown to show that this wasn’t even about Obamacare.  After 2 days, Obamacare became a trivial component of the shutdown, an afterthought.  Republicans moved from wanting to defund Obamacare, to wanting other concessions…ANY concessions…that would inflict harm to Democrats and to Obama.  2 1/2 weeks later, a resolute Obama and Harry Reid have made fools of you.  Not only have you not inflicted an ounce of pain on Democrats and/or Obama, but you’ve committed political hari-kari.

Ted Cruz?  Now a laughingstock, other than amongst the fringe Tea Party wing of the Republican party, who are themselves laughingstocks.  John Boehner?  Once again you’ve done a masterful job at protecting your speakership at the expense of your own party, and at the expense of the American public.

Obamacare, on the other hand, has had approval ratings go UP since the shutdown started.  Tea Party wackos were so sure that the shutdown would swing public opinion into their favor, and Democrats would have to cave.  Sure, all logical political opinion warned you it was an approach doomed to fail, but what the hell…since when have Tea Party wackos listened to polls or experts (on pretty much any subject)?

If I’m Obama or a Harry Reid right now, I’d have one hell of a time hiding my shit-eating grin as I talked about the agreement emerging today. I’d have a hell of a hard time not giving the proverbial (or literal) middle finger to Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and House Republicans.  Thank god Democrats finally grew a backbone, and prevented the hostage taking and crisis-management style of governing that Republicans have fostered since Obama was first elected.

HELL YES (Many) Repubs are Intolerant Bigots

It’s just been too much to provide any kind of regular commentary on the ongoing shutdown. Repubs continue to insist on “negotiation”, where the only concessions are given by Democrats. It doesn’t matter whether it’s been an attack on Obamacare, or on budget issues, ANY “deal” from Republicans includes only items Republicans want, with Democrats ONLY getting an open government in return. What’s even more ridiculous is that most of the proposed deals would only kick the can down the road for a few months at most. Yeah, sure Repubs…Democrats will give you Republican-favored concessions just to keep the government open until January…all so you can throw yet ANOTHER temper tantrum and we can go through this all over again.

The hostage taking has to end. I applaud Obama and Democrats for hanging tough and trying to put an end to governance-by-crisis. While there’s an host of topics to potentially blog about regarding the politics of the shutdown, one tangential issue has simmered in the background, with occasional stories popping up that reference it. I believe it was on Politico a few days ago where someone penned an article entitled “The Race Card Gets Played”. The article was written by a Republican operative and decried Liberals for daring to suggest that racism plays any role in the anti-Obama hatred from the right.

It’s fucking laughable when those on the right periodically bash liberals for “playing the race card”, acting completely aghast that libs DARE suggest conservatives were anything but tolerant, fair-minded folks. In the meantime, these are just a very small sampling of some of the “tolerant” statements coming from the right in the last week…

- Larry Klayman, speaking for a tea-pary affiliated conservative group, called for Obama to “put the Quran down” during a shutdown rally on the National Mall today.  Prior to the election last fall, 17% of all Americans and 30% of conservatives said they believed Obama was a Muslim.    If Obama were a WHITE christian rather than a black christian, do you think those on the right would continually accuse a sitting president of being a Muslim?  At an even more basic level…WHAT THE HELL WOULD IT MATTER even if if he WERE Muslim???  The very fact that conservatives think that calling someone Muslim is an insult is one hell of a good indication of just how fair-minded and tolerant they are.

- “Joe The Plumber” from Ohio evidently needs another 15 minutes in the spotlight.  This week he says it’s time for Americans to “admit they want a white, Republican President.”

- Zeeda Andrews, the nutjob who organized the (largely failed) “Trucker Rally” in D.C., claims Obama and Osama bin Laden are the same person.  You can understand his confusion…both of them DO have skin that’s not lilly white.

- At the “Voter Values Summit” attended by Ted Cruz, Ron Paul, and a HOST of right-wing wackos, Paul stated “The truth is, a worldwide war on Christianity is being waged by a fanatical element of Islam”. Paul then goes on to blame Obama for facilitating that “war” on Christianity.

It’s rather shocking to read about the Voter Values Summit, as it almost becomes a contest to see who can make the most outrageus claims.  Another speaker, talk-show radio host Sandy Rios, gave a lengthy tirade against homosexuality, even claiming that the infamous murder of Matthew Shepard was a “fairytale”.

Hate for a black president?  Check.  Hate for any religion other than Christianity?  Check.  Hate for homosexuals?  Check.   What’s even more pathetic…I don’t even think many conservative politicians ARE bigoted by nature, but they sure as hell use bigotry for political gain.  Romney’s entire (failed) campaign was designed to capture the white vote, the “southern strategy” used by Republicans for decades now.  Especially now that the Supreme Court has struck down part of the Voting Rights Act, Republican state legislatures across the country are falling all over themselves passing laws to make voting more difficult, with voter ID and other laws designed specifically to limit the minority vote.

So…pardon me for laughing at your indignation for being called racist or bigots, Repubs.  The evidence speaks for itself.