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.



Dictator in Training

There are basically two principal steps in the establishment of a successful dictatorship.  The first is to ensure that your supporters need not abide by existing laws as long as they continue to support your objectives.  The second is the imprisonment and/or disappearance of those who do not support your objectives.  We have now noted the first principal has been implemented, both in the selection of the cabinet and now in the courts; can the second be far behind?

It is laughable to see the hand-picked crowds at the political rallies holding up posters (obviously handed out at the door), t-shirt slogans, and a plethora of “Make America Great Again” ball caps acting like trained seals, barking on cue.  And they are too stupid to realize they are the very people who will get the short end of the stick when the dictatorship gains its full power.   As our future dictator likes to Tweet…”Sad!”

To Brazil for the Birds!


“So how big is Brazil?”, someone asked me.  I had also wondered when I decided to venture there.  Having been to several Central and South American countries and I knew it was bigger than any of them but I didn’t know how much.  I wondered if it was as big as Texas.  Big surprise!   It’s a little bigger than the ENTIRE CONTIGUOUS 48 STATES COMBINED.  Over 900 miles of coast; almost 210 million people; 8th largest economy in the world; and it’s hard to find anyone who speaks English!  But my interests lay elsewhere than the human altered areas (and there is a lot).  My interest was in the birds of the Amazon and Atlantic forests and the Pantanal, the largest wetland in the world.  Birds, birds, birds!  And a lot of other things too.  So, I signed on with a group of bird watchers on a tour run by Jim and Cindy Beckman (Cheepers Birding) and traveled for 36 hours via United Airlines to Sao Paulo, the largest city in the southern hemisphere (and 12th in the world) where we began our tour.

As I ended up with good images of over 110 species (and a lot of bad ones of many more as I shot almost 10,000 frames , I’ll have to do this blog in 2 parts to let you have time to rest your eyes.  Thus, it will begin with the Atlantic and Amazon forests and then on to the Pantanal.

Atlantic and Amazon Forests



Initially we traveled on freeways equivalent to those in the USA; then onto local roads where the government has significantly reduced urban and sub-urban traffic deaths by requiring speed bumps between 100 and 400 meters apart (you just never know until you see the sign).  The max here is 40 km (25 mph) and you basically come to a stop over the bumps.  Therefore, it’s very slow going.

Speed Bump 1

Of course, no trip is complete without a few misfortunes and we had one or two.

Tire Repair 2

Tire Repair

Blown Tire

 We began at the Ype Lodge in Itatiaia National Park where there were a large variety of forest birds and mammals.  The lodge maintains several fruit and nectar feeders that attract a variety of birds.

Hotel Ype


Some of the species I was able to photograph at the lodge and vicinity included:

Green-headed TanagerGreen-headed Tanager 3

Brazilian Tanager

Brazilian Tanager 1

Red-necked Tanager

Red-necked Tanager 3

Olive-green Tanager

Olive-green Tanager 1

Magpie Tanager

Magpie Tanager 1

Golden-chevroned TanagerGolden-chevroned Tanager 3

Maroon-bellied Parakeet

Maroon-bellied Parakeet 7

Saffron Finch

Saffron Finch 2

Chestnut-bellied Euphonia

Chestnut-bellied Euphonia 3

Blue Dacnis

Blue Dacnis 1

Red-breasted Toucan                                                                     

Red-beasted Toucan 4 copy

Brazilian Ruby

Brazilian Ruby 1

Gray-necked Woodrail

Gray-necked Woodrail 2

Red-rumped Cacique                                                                     

Red-rumped Cicque 2

Golden-winged Cacique

Golden-winged Cacique 3

Chestnut-collared Sparrow

Chestnut-collared Sparrow 1

Tufted Capuchins

Tufted Capuchin 7

Tufted Capuchin 2

After 3 days we traveled to the coastal city of Ubatuba that reminded me of the Southern California beach cities where I grew up; lots of surf board and dive shops and many bars, restaurants and tourist lodges along a beautiful beach.  (But it was weird as THE SUN ROSE OUT OF THE OCEAN!!!!)

Ubatuba, Brazil



Following our time in these  coastal areas  we returned to Sao Paulo and boarded a plane for Cuiaba, capital city of the state of Mato Grosso and considered the geographical center of South America.  From there we headed north to the edge of the Amazon rain forest.

Our first lodge was the adjacent to Chapada dos Guimaraes National Park.  But the weather turned rainy and cold so we had limited success there.  We did go to Veu de Noiva waterfall, the face on which red and green macaws roost but none came close enough for images.

Veu de Noiva Waterfall


But, there were a few cooperative birds around,  such as:

Orange-winged Parrot                                                           

Red-shouldered Macaw 6

Peach-faced Parakeet

Peach-faced Parakeet 2             

Ruddy Ground Dove

Ruddy Ground Dove 1

Blue and Yellow Macaw                                               

Yellow and Blue Macaws 4

White Woodpecker

White Woodpecker 2

Rufous-bellied Thrush

Rufous-bellied Thrush 2

On to Gardens of the Amazon, a lodge on the Rio Claro River.  I spent my time on the lodge grounds while the birders went up the river in a boat.

Gardens of the Amazon


Birds I found included:

Rusty-margined Flycatcher

Rusty-margined Flycatcher 1

Amazon Kingfisher

Amazon Kingfisher 1

Muscovy Duck

Muscovy Duck 1

And then it was on to what had drawn me to Brazil,  the Pantenal!  That’ll be chapter 2 in a few more weeks.