Worser and Worser

In June, 2015, when Donald Trump declared his candidacy I laughed and said, “Well, it can’t get any worse than this!”
A year later, again in June, when Trump was nominated to run for President by the Republican Party I smiled and shook my head, and said, ”Well, it doesn’t get much worse than this.”
In November, 2016, when Trump secured the Presidency I unabashedly  claimed, “It’ll never get worse than this!”
But then as each week brought new issues: Access Hollywood; Charlottesville; Comey; Bannon; Russian election meddling;  “I’m rubber and you’re glue“ dialogue with Kim Jong Un; Cohen and Stormy Daniels; etc., I worried, “Could it really get any worse than this?”

And now each evening I watch the day’s news and go to bed saying, “It absolutely can’t get any worse than this?”
But by the time the morning tweets are posted it always has.


Oh, those wonderful guns!

I have to ask myself, “What is the most appropriate term to apply to GOP ‘gun facts’. Well, it didn’t take me long to settle on “BULL____!” Yet I’m amazed that apparently 38% of our citizenry either believe this drivel, or lightly pass it off as accepted philosophical rhetoric of the party. I’m equally amazed that the media representatives, who know better don’t just say,” BULL____!” when the legislators they’re interviewing come out with some of the most ridiculous defenses of prohibiting regulations on firearms. Here are some of the “facts” as provided by our learned GOP stalwarts with my comments:

Senator Don Young (R-AK): “How many Jews were put in the ovens because they were unarmed?”
Hmmm…seems to me the French and Poles had guns and they didn’t fare very well against the Nazis.

Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI): “Remember, it’s not guns we’ve deliberately removed all barriers to owning that kill people. It’s people to whom we continually deny basic care that kill people.”
And, yes, Mr. Speaker…who is it that continually cuts these programs from the federal budget? It’s not the Democrats!

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL): On his donations from the NRA: “The influence of these groups comes not from money; the influence comes from the millions of people who support the agenda.”
Really, Marco? Gallup polls indicate; 86% favor universal background checks; 83% want a mandatory waiting period; 70% of Americans want stricter gun laws; 67% want assault weapons banned; etc. So who are you swayed by, the majority or the money?

Wayne LaPierre , President of the NRA: “The constitutional right to bear arms is not bestowed by man, but granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright.”
Micah 4:3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly: “They (guns) are used to defend our property and our families and our faith and our freedom, and they are absolutely essential to living the way God intended for us to live.”
Donnelly must’ve quit reading the Bible after Exodus.

Congressman Steve Stivers (R-OH): “The only difference between an AK-15 and any other type of rifle is cosmetic.”
Does he really think everyone is that stupid? AK-15’s can have 30 shot (or more) clips and can be reloaded instantly; being semi-automatic they can shoot 30 rounds and reload in less than 20 seconds; the cartridge and caliber are designed to do the most tissue damage possible. My Sako hunting rifle has a 5 round magazine; it takes 2-4 seconds to chamber a second shot and at least 30 seconds to reload; it uses a cartridge and bullet to do the least tissue damage and penetrate into the vital organs. And, yes, cosmetically they don’t look much alike.

Congressman Louis Gohmert (R-TX): “I refuse to play the game of ‘assault weapon.’ That’s any weapon. It’s a hammer. It’s the machetes in Rwanda that killed 800,000 people, an article that came out this week, the massive number that are killed with hammers.”
From 2009 to 2013 there were 2,624 persons killed with “blunt instruments” (which included hammers among a lot of other things like baseball bats, tire irons and lead pipes) while there were 44,077 killed with firearms. But Louie was educated in Texas so his math is wanting.

Ben Carson, Secretary of HUD: “We Need Guns to Prevent Tyranny. The Second Amendment offers private citizens some protection should the government become overbearing or controlling.”
A group of people with muskets may have been a good defense against a group of people with muskets. However, considering we have the most powerful military in the world it’s unlikely that even a “well armed” militia would be able to stop any tyrannical acts carried out by the full force of our government. The weapons available to civilians just doesn’t compare to the tech and logistics that our military possesses.

George Washington, Founding Father: “A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies.”
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a move by the Republicans/NRA to remove “well organized militia” from the Second Amendment.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX): “On guns, do we surrender? Or do we stand up now? The Second Amendment provides that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. Now, what part of ‘shall not be infringed’ do they not understand?”
Senator Cruz apparently does not accept Washington’s definition of “a well-regulated militia” nor the Webster Dictionary definition of “arms” which is simply, “weapons collectively.” And, he is okay with the infringements on private ownership of automatic weapons, hand-grenades, F-81s and nuclear missiles…right?

Robert A. Heinlein, American science fiction writer: “An armed society is a polite society.”
Thus, Columbine, Newtown, Parkland and all the others were “acts of politeness”…right?

Representative John W. Patman (D-TX) : “The people have a right to keep arms; therefore, if we should have some Executive who attempted to set himself up as dictator or king, the people can organize themselves together and, with the arms and ammunition they have, they can properly protect themselves. “
See previous response to Carson.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN): “I think video games is a bigger problem than guns, because video games affect people.”
And, obviously, a bullet in the chest has no effect…right?

Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida (R) “A child drowns in a pool and the impulse is to pass a law that puts fencing around pools. The cumulative effect of this is you don’t solve the problem by passing the law, and you’re imposing on large numbers of people, burdens that make it harder for our economy to grow, make it harder for people to protect liberty.”
Seriously, Jeb? Does that pertain to seat belt and helmet laws? How about highway speed restrictions and stop signs? And then there’s the starving heroin dealers. You’re an idiot!

Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey (R): “The wide scope of a total ban (on military weapons), therefore, will not further public safety, but only interfere with lawful recreational pastimes.”
Well, Chris, it’s pretty obvious that tennis, cycling or jogging are pretty low in your schedule of “recreational pastimes.” How many calories do you burn shooting an AK-15 as opposed to a single-shot .22?

Mark Levin, show host: “Not a single gun was used at the Oklahoma bombing,”
Absolutely true. And not a single thoroughbred horse has won the Indianapolis 500! So…what’s his point?

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX): “Here’s the simple and undeniable fact: The overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats.”
There can be no comment for this utterance of stupidity.

Fact and Fantasy

There are really only two elements in assessment of issues: fact and fantasy.  Fact is defined as a thing that is known or proven to be true.  As an example, it’s impossible to argue that mathematics are not facts.  Two plus two equals four, there is no other answer, period.  Fantasy is defined as: The faculty or activity of imagining things, especially things that are impossible or improbable.  Maybe two plus two could really equal six?

Our American society has regressed into a country where a significant portion of the public advocate the acceptance of fantasy over facts.  This seems to be a result of the self-serving nature of a society that cannot be satisfied and has always been provided with more, often more than they actually need for a satisfactory existence.  Therefore, it behooves those wanting to ensure their careers as elected officials to continue to ensure the public that their fantasies are real and facts are just the devious results of “fake news” promoted by those who live in the dregs of society (and the media).

We have watched children irreversibly sickened by Flint’s drinking water but are told that there is no need for regulations prohibiting pollution, especially if it affects the bottom line.  We suffered the loss of 24 persons in Newtown and 50 in Las Vegas but are told that there is no need for regulation of firearms, even for mentally disturbed people.  We see the growing number of homeless and destitute people roaming or city streets and we are told that the problem is theirs and not society’s.  And, when we are told it’s not an issue that Senate candidate Roy Moore is accused by six women of sexual misconduct, we argue they are likely all liars and that Joseph wed Mary when she was a teenager anyway.

Another example of fantasy, a good number of people support Donald Trump’s recent denial that the Access Hollywood tapes were anything but forgeries, even after hearing his previous apology “I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more-than-a-decade-old video are one of them.”

Wolfhart Pannenberg (1928 -2014) wrote, “The real danger in faith lies in its estrangement from rationality.”  We are already there.

As Usual, I’m Confused

The latest polls indicate that 82% of Republicans support Trump and his actions.  Now I know a number of Republicans…used to know more before they dropped me due to my occasional forays into being a guest columnist in this paper and liberal essays on my web site.  Of the ones I still do associate with we stay far away from politics (and normally any issues related to science.)  But my impressions are these are pretty normal run-of-the-mill American citizens.  They send their kids to school; go on vacations here and abroad; obey our laws; go to ball games; and appear to love their children, grand-children, wives and friends.  But, the polls tell me that 8 out of 10 believe:

  • Lying is a virtue, not something to be condemned.
  • Abiding by the law only applies to the bourgeoisie and unskilled laborers. The rich can ignore it.
  • That it’s perfectly acceptable for males in positions of power to grope females of less stature.
  • That science is a scam, not to be believed especially when adversely affecting economic growth.
  • It’s better to pay fewer taxes than for their children to breathe clean air or drink clean water.
  • A nuclear war will be over quickly and they won’t be adversely affected.
  • That more military arms in the possession of an untrained citizenry is a God-given right.
  • The National Debt is nothing to worry about.
  • Only well-to-do people deserve health care.
  • That in some point in human history trickle-down economics really worked.

Now, as I said, we don’t talk politics so I don’t ask them their opinions on these issues.  I know most of them are church-goers so I’m curious just what values the churches are teaching their parishioners these days.  It sure has me confused.


Portraits are a different way of looking at birds.  These are from my recent trip to Brazil.

Toco Toucan

Yellow and Blue Macaw

Southern Lapwing

Gray-necked Woodrail

Crimson-headed Woodpecker

Guira Cuckoo

Hyacinth Macaw


Great Black Hawk

Red-breasted Toucan

Rufescent Tiger Heron

Amazon Kingfisher

Southern Crested Caracara

Buff-necked Ibis

Muscovy Duck

Bare-faced Currosow


Maroon-bellied Parakeet

Roadside Hawk


Greater Ani

Ferruginous Pygmy Owl

Wood Stork

Cocoi Heron

Black-collared Hawk

Bald-faced Ibis

Labor Day Rant

WE HAVE TO STOP HIM!  The subject line of a recent plea from the Democratic Governor’s Association appearing in my internet in-box.  If I were to click on the Add Your Name box I’ll likely get forwarded to a site asking me to donate.  Add this to the myriad of daily requests for funding from Donna Brazile, Tom Perez, Bold Progressives, and a bunch of Senators and Congresspersons and you’ll find that if only I’d kick in $50 (better yet, $50/month) all will be well but, if I can’t, how about $5?  Remember, it only takes money to win elections, right?  Money, money…lots of money!

I wonder if Jeb Bush supports this concept anymore?  Or Hillary?  Maybe the problem is the Democratic “Platform(?)” of “All things good…” does not resonate with Middle America.  It sure doesn’t with me.  Maybe we would like to see a more detailed plan for resolving our deteriorating infrastructure; a detailed plan to fix the imperfections in ACA; maybe we’d even like to see a detailed spread sheet on trade-offs such as taxation and public services (how much less police and fire protection are we willing to live with for more money in our pockets?)  Maybe we’d like to see our kids get out of college without making loan payments the rest of their lives (and maybe we’d like to see how it could possibly be paid for!)

I’m no longer a Democrat…haven’t been one since Clinton’s second term (I left the Republican party when Nixon did).  I realized that partisan politics was destroying the country and I bowed out.   I don’t hang my head in shame admitting I’m a Progressive as that’s not a party; it’s a philosophy that believes advances in science, technology, economic development, and social organization lead to the improvement of the human condition.  Money is simply a small piece of the issue.  And for all of you who will say, “A Progressive is really just a Democrat” than I can assume you don’t buy into ANY of the tenants of this philosophy so tell me yours.   (No…please, “more money” is not a philosophy, it’s a disease.)  I can’t say I’ve ever met a “conservative progressive” but there are a few (Joe Scarborough comes to mind) that come close.

Our problem is simple…we’re spoiled brats!  We want all the good things; nice beaches, National Parks and Forests to recreate on; fresh clean drinking water; cheap electricity and gasoline; cheap (large) homes; and enough money in our pockets and plenty of time to enjoy all these things…it’s just that we want someone else to pay for it.  We want to drive a nice new car (but dump it as soon as BMW comes out with a really great new sound system).  We want McDonalds to go back to 25 cent hamburgers and the minimum wage of their employees to fall accordingly (unless, of course, that’s where we work and then we want higher wages, health coverage, retirement benefits, and lots of paid vacation time).  We hate insurance but always want someone else to cover for us when weather, health or accident problems arise.  But, we sure as Hell don’t want to pay any taxes!

Well, folks…you’re in luck because Trump has told us all this is possible…just give him carte blanch to run things his way.  We’ll build a wall so there will be plenty of jobs open for the middle class picking fruit, mowing lawns and pumping septic tanks.  We’ll eliminate the illegal immigrants so that if you can’t land a $100K/year white-collar job after graduation there’ll be plenty of janitorial and housekeeping positions open to you.  We’ll warm your home and create electricity with bigger and better coal-burning plants so there will be a few jobs left in the coal mines tending to the mechanical technology that replaced most of the laborers of the 40’s plus a large increase in production the anti-pollution mask industry.  And, best of all, we’ll eliminate all abortions and come up with unique methods for disposing of the unwanted children that we definitely do not want to feed, clothe, house and educate.

Of course the other choice seems to be “All things good…”


To the Pantanal!

Leaving the Amazon and back on the bus we headed south to the Pantanal for the remaining days.   The pavement ended quickly and it was 100 miles of dusty abraded dirt road to the lodges and the Cuiaba River



The speed bumps were replaced with bridges that humped over the numerous sloughs and water areas that made up these vast wetlands.  These were filled with a variety of bird species and caimans, thus the slowing down provided much desirable viewing.


In the more elevated areas that are not prone to annual flooding, large termite mounds rose from the surface of the ground. Most of these were abandoned as the colonies grew in numbers requiring more and more sustenance and then, when energetics required more energy to acquire the food than to maintain the colony, it collapsed and the remaining animals sought new areas where food was plentiful.  Maybe we, as humans, should take heed to the termites’ plight.

Termite Mounds 4


Our first lodge was Pousada Pival on a 7,000 acre cattle ranch.


There were good numbers of birds on the open cerrado, flooded wetlands, and in  patches of tropical forest.

Wood Stork 1

Wood Stork

Bald-faced Ibis 1

Bald-faced Ibis

Sunbittern 1


Limpkin 2


Wattled Jacana 1

Wattled Jacana

Rufescent Tiger Heron 1

Rufescent Tiger Heron

Red-legged Sireinna 2

Red-legged Seriema

Rhea 1


Shining Cowbird 1

Shiny Cowbird

Ferruginous Owl 2

Ferruginous Pygmy Owl

Chaco Chachalaca 3

Chaco Chachalaca

Rufous-tailed Jacamar 1

Rufous-tailed Jacamar

A highlight was a trip on a tractor-pulled wagon through the wetlands to a major roosting area for many species of birds.

tractor ride


Caimans were everywhere where there was water



Caiman 1

…as were Capybaras, the world’s largest rodent.  I wrongly visualized these critters to be the size of beavers but found that the adults weigh upwards of 150 pounds.

Capybara 3

Capybara 1

Roost Tree 1

Heron/Black Vulture Hotel

Snail Kite 1

Snail Kites were the most common raptorial species in the wetlands…

Savannah Hawk 2

…the Savannah hawks frequented drier sites…

Roadside Hawk 1

…and the Roadside Hawks took advantage of both.

Crab-eating Fox 2Crab-eating Foxes were regularly seen in the area…

Red-capped Cardinal 2

and Yellow-billed Cardinals were everywhere!

After two days at Piuval we were back on the road to Pantanal Norte and the Ciuba River.



Panatal Norte 2

Here we found so many birds right on the lodge grounds and it was the jumping off spot for the boat rides up the river looking for jaguars, otters and lots of birds.

Buff-necked Ibis 1

Buff-necked Ibis

Southern Caracara1

Southern Crested Caracara

Hyacinth Macaw 6

Hyacinth Macaws

But it took a boat to look for the critters along the river; jaguars, otters, etc.



The critters we found was a group of Giant Otters who swam along the banks catching the numerous fish in the river.

Giant Otter 9

Giant Otter 6

Giant Otter 4

Then coming around the bend we encountered an armada of boats…


A Jaguar had been found!

Jaguar 2

He as pretty bored with all the too-doo…

Jaguar 3

And finally decided to leave.

Jaguar 13

Back at the lodge the bird-life was incredible.

Southern Screamer 2

Southern Screamer

Hyacinth Macaw 5

Hyacinth Macaw

Rufous Cachalote 1

Rufous Chachalote

Toco Toucan 2

Toco Toucan

Bare-faced Currosow 1

Bare-faced Curassow

Guira Cuckoo 1

Guira Cuckoo

Purplish Jay 1

Purplish Jay

Black-fronted Nunbird 2

Black Nunbird

Our last day was at the Mato Grosso Lodge where raptors, kingfishers and jaribou stocks waited along the river for the guides to toss out fish.

Great Black Hawk 3

Great Black Hawk

Gray Hawk 1

Gray Hawk

Black-collared Hawk 4 - Copy

Black-collared Hawk

Ringed Kingfisher 2

Ringed Kingfisher

Jaribou 7

Jaribou Stork

Jaribou 8

Local patches of forest had several additional bird species.

Rusty-margined Flycatcher 1

Rusty-margined Flycatcher

Little Woodpecker 4

Little Woodpecker

Crimson-crested Woodpecker 1

Crimson-created Woodpecker

But. like all good trips, it was time to leave the Pantanal and go home.