Butterfly Census

June 20, 2009

Today was the annual butterfly census here in Sewanee.  Every year the North American Butterfly Association sponsors hundreds of butterfly counts across the United States, Mexico and Canada as a way of gauging changes in the butterfly population.  Butterflies are considered indicator creatures — if global climate change or pollution or habitat destruction are going to have an impact on our ecology, it’s going to show up first in things like butterflies.

Anyway, this is an event that I run every year along with a colleague of Nancy’s in the University biology department.  It was very hot today and there weren’t as many butterflies around as we had hoped, although we did wind up seeing thirty different species of butterfly and over 160 individual butterflies.  I’m totally wiped — we start the count at about 8:30 am and finish at about 5:00 pm.  We log a good twenty miles in the car and another seven or eight on foot.  And it was 94 degrees here today.

But we saw some very cool butterflies, including a few dozen Great Spangled Fritillaries and several different species of hairstreak, including this little gem, the Coral Hairstreak.  

Anyway, fun, tiring day.  Time for a beer, me thinks.

A delayed BOW (Buffoon Of the Week) Award this week.  I was going to post it yesterday afternoon, but (this is a true story) just as I sat down to write the thing, a thunderstorm moved into the area and we lost power.  No computer.  No satellite, no internet.  Fortunately I hadn’t actually started writing, so I didn’t lose anything, but that’s why this is delayed by a day.

It had been a somewhat quiet week in the buffoonery realm, but you can’t keep a good buffoon down for long; a flurry of stupidity at the end of the week gives us several fine choices for this week’s award.

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This week’s BOW (Buffoon Of the Week) Award is a bit different from recent ones, in that we’ll be focusing in depth on a single issue question.  

I’ll begin by stating the obvious:  There was plenty of buffoonery this week — the staffers with Barack Obama’s Presidential campaign who refused to let two Muslim women sit behind the candidate during a campaign appearance because they were wearing hijabs (traditional head scarves) come to mind, as do the Republican operatives who have been pounding away at Michelle Obama for a remark she explained months ago.  And then there was Rep. Steven King (Wingnut from Iowa) who won the first or second BOW Award I gave out with his offensive comments about Obama.  This week, in questioning Scott McClellan, he asked, “Couldn’t you have taken this to the grave with you and done this country a favor?”  Apparently Rep. King doesn’t understand that while McClellan’s book might not have done any favors to the GOP or the Bush Administration, it has done a great service to our country.  But the man’s an idiot, so it’s not surprising that he doesn’t get this.

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Did anyone else hear Dubya’s comments today on his “new energy initiatives”?  Did anyone notice that he didn’t say a single word — not one! — about conservation?  Does anyone else find this deeply disturbing?  We could drill every inch of land and coastline in the United States and it wouldn’t change the fact that there is a finite amount of oil in this country, and most of it is gone.  It also wouldn’t change the fact that even if we find new oil reserves tomorrow, we won’t have them for ten years.  It also wouldn’t change the fact that the burning of fossil fuels is killing our planet.  And it wouldn’t change the fact that the big multinational oil companies will always — ALWAYS — find some way to make us pay through the nose for the oil and gas we use.  Oh, and by the way, we have plenty of reserves in accessible places right now.  The oil companies want access to the protected areas, so they’re not drilling where they currently can.  That’s right!  They’re not drilling in some places they’re currently allowed to drill, but they’re demanding that we open up protected waters off the California and Florida shores and protected land in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge.  Why?  Ask them.  Ask the oilman who currently resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

On the other hand, energy conservation (more efficient cars, better insulation in houses and buildings, lowering your thermostat 2 degrees in the winter and raising it 2 degrees in the summer, energy efficient light bulbs and appliances, etc.) will make those reserves we have right now last longer.  Conservation will lessen our imports of foreign oil.  Conservation will save you money and it will decrease the damage we do to our environment.  But conservation will also lower the profits that those big oil companies rake in every year.  And, sadly, that’s why you didn’t hear our President utter the word “conservation” even once today.

Expect to see more about this in the BOW Award posting this weekend.  I think we already have a winner….

January 20, 2009 cannot come soon enough.

BOW Award Time

April 19, 2008

BOW (Buffoon Of the Week) Award time again, and as always, we have no shortage of nominees.

First on our list of possible winners is Bob Johnson, founder of BET (Black Entertainment Television) and a Hillary Clinton supporter, who said this week that Geraldine Ferraro was right in saying that Barack Obama had an easy path to the White House because he’s black.  (Some of you may remember that Ferraro won a BOW Award for her comments.)  Here’s what Johnson said: 

“What I believe Geraldine Ferraro meant is that if you take a freshman senator from Illinois called ‘Jerry Smith’ and he says I’m going to run for president, would he start off with 90% of the black vote? And the answer is, probably not.”

What’s wrong with this you ask?  Well, first of all, I don’t care who you are or what color your skin is, making broad race-based generalizations is just a bad idea.  But it’s a particularly bad idea when you have your facts wrong.  If you’ll remember, Obama didn’t start with 90% of the black vote.  He didn’t even start with 50% of the black vote.  Early on, Hillary Clinton was attracting overwhelming support from the African-American community, which still thought of Bill Clinton’s Presidency as a high water mark for racial enlightenment in the White House.  (One has to wonder if Bill’s legacy has survived this campaign.)  People were asking (ridiculous though this might seem) whether Obama was “black enough” to win over African American voters.  It took his victory in Iowa and his strong finish in New Hampshire (both of which are overwhelmingly white) to convince black voters that he could win.  That’s when African American voters started supporting Obama in big numbers.

Our second nominee is none other than George W. Bush, who admitted in an interview given last Friday that the next attack on the United States was probably being planned by terrorist networks in Afganistan and/or Pakistan.  This despite the fact that his Administration has been neglecting the war in Afganistan so that it can pursue its failed policy in Iraq.  I refer you to http://www.crooksandliars.com/2008/04/16/president-bush-probably-true-that-next-attack-will-come-from-neglected-afghanistan/ for more on this one.

Third, we have Senator John McCain, the GOP nominee for President, who unveiled his “economic plan” this week.  Turns out his economic plan should have been listed in the papers with an “(R)” around it for “Repeat.”  His plan consisted of preserving the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy (which McCain once characterized as “irresponsible in a time of war”) and instituting a Federal gas-tax holiday (which would encourage people to drive more, thus adding to greenhouse gases which he claims he wants to reduce, increase demand for gas, thus further increasing the price, add billions to the budget deficit, and deny much needed funds to Federal infrastructure repairs).

But this week’s winners (and really, this time around it wasn’t even close) are the goons at ABC who gave us the Debate-from-Hell the other night.  Yes, I speak of Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos.  I blogged about the debate on Thursday and will not go back over that material again, except to say the following:  Not only were their questions irresponsible, not only did they play to the worst aspects of our political system, not only did they demean the candidates, the voters, and the process, several of the questions were based on false reasoning (the capital gains question) or, in the case of at least one of the questions from “real voters”, they were utterly contrived.  I urge you to go to www.crooksandliars.com for more on this.  And for those of you so inclined, please go to www.MoveOn.org to register your disgust with ABC by signing MoveOn’s petition.

This week’s BOW Award winners are Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.  Take a BOW, boys.  You’ve earned it.  You should be ashamed of yourselves.

An Appalling Debate

April 17, 2008

Imagine being held responsible for the actions of every person you’ve known.  Imagine applying for a job and as part of that application having to justify the stupid things every person in your life has done and said.  Sounds pretty hard, doesn’t it?

Okay, let’s make it easier.  Same suppositions, but this time it applies only to your family, your work associates, and the people you consider close friends.  That makes it a bit easier, but not much.  I know that I wouldn’t want to have to answer for all the things my family and friends have done.  I love these people, but still, I have enough trouble meeting my own obligations and not making a fool of myself.

But if you watched the Democratic debate on ABC last night, you saw Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos (whose name I now know how to spell) and, of course, Hillary Clinton, trying to impugn Barack Obama’s character based on the associations of his past.  Personally, I thought it was ridiculous, and I was appalled by the questions from Gibson and Stephanopoulos that dominated the first hour of the debate.  We are a nation at war.  We face a global environmental crisis.  Our economy is in terrible shape and getting worse by the day.  And Chuck and George are asking questions about lapel pins and whether Obama thinks that Rev. Wright loves America?

Many of those who read this blog don’t share my political beliefs.  I think that’s great.  We’ve had some wonderful dialogues in recent weeks and I hope they’ll continue.  But I’m wondering if we can’t all agree that our political candidates ought to be talking about issues rather than gaffes, about solutions to our problems rather than something that Obama’s pastor or Clinton’s husband said, or, for that matter, about the “plagiarized” recipes that Cindy McCain posted on the campaign website.  This stuff is meaningless.  It doesn’t give health insurance to one child.  It doesn’t take a bit of carbon out of the atmosphere.  It doesn’t save a single soldier from an IED.  We deserve better than this, and we ought to demand more of the media.

Why is it that white politicians only get in trouble when they tell a lie, and even then it’s only 50-50 that they’ll be caught, but African-American politicians get in trouble when they tell the truth?

Anyone who doesn’t think that Barack Obama was speaking the truth when he referred to the bitterness in rural small-town America, is either hopelessly naive or cynically seeking political advantage (Senators Clinton and McCain take note).  The economic dislocations of the past few decades have engendered resentments that manifest themselves in a variety ways including not only closer ties to religious communities, but also racism, homophobia, and hostility toward hispanic immigrants.

Did Obama phrase his statement perfectly?  No, probably not.  But war rages in Iraq (did anyone happen to notice that 17 American soldiers died in Iraq this week?), we are in the midst of a global environmental crisis, our economy is in shambles, our health care system desperately needs reform, and dozens of other important issues beg for our attention.  And instead, our political leaders and televisions talking heads are parsing the meaning of the word “bitter.”

I am SO sick of this process.

A Walk With A Dog

March 6, 2008

After going on a bit yesterday about how glad I was that I no longer had a dog, I was reminded this morning that dog ownership does have its benefits.  As I mentioned in my previous post, we’re caring for our friends’ dog, Violet, a medium-sized, short-haired mutt. She’s sweet as can be, but because she’s just barely out of puppyhood she has A LOT of energy.  So this morning, instead of going to the gym for my usual workout, I put Violet in the car, drove out to a trailhead at the edge of the plateau, and took her on a hike.

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A Bit of Snow

December 16, 2007

We’re actually getting snow today!  Yes, all you northerners and midwesterners, I know.  You don’t want to hear about it.   But down here snow has become so scarce that it’s always a treat when we get any at all.  This is a very light snowfall — a faint dusting on the leaf litter in the woods around our house; a thin coat on rooftops and cars and the swingset out back.  It looks beautiful.

Today’s music:  “Studio 360” on NPR

Kudos to newly elected Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who yesterday followed through on one of his main campaign promises.  Rudd, the leader of Australia’s Labour Party, which swept to power in November’s national elections, ousting the utterly misnamed “Liberal Party” and its leader, John Howard, vowed throughout the campaign to add Australia to the list of signatories of the Kyoto Protocol on Global Warming.  Yesterday in Bali, at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, only a week after he took office, Rudd delivered the ratification papers.

In many ways, it was a symbolic act, since Australia was already basically in compliance with the Kyoto Protocol’s carbon emissions targets.  But it was a powerful statement nevertheless; an acknowledgment that the previous government had been wrong to keep Australia out of the agreement, and a none-too-subtle reproof of the Bush Administration’s continued refusal to sign on to Kyoto or to pledge support for the treaty that will eventually emerge from the current meetings.

Look, before my friends to the right jump all over me, let me say that Kyoto was not a perfect document.  Not by a long shot.  And we can only hope for the sake of the entire planet that whatever agreement comes out of Bali will recognize that China and India can no longer be considered “emerging nations” when it comes to manufacturing or carbon emissions caps.  But the failure of the current U.S. Administration to take the lead on global climate change should be an embarrassment to every American.  We are sacrificing the future of our children and grandchildren, and risking the survival of the entire planet, all out of concern for corporate profits and the preservation of un unsustainable way of life.  News flash:  if we continue to lay waste to the planet, corporate earnings and the price of the newest Hummer model will be the least of our concerns.

Today’s music:  Michael Hedges (Breakfast in the Field)