In the forest vs. trees discussions over why the Republicans have become a frantic, hysterical party of “No!”, it helps to get some historical context. When Franklin Roosevelt was elected, and began trying to get the country back to work with unprecedented national programs funded by taxpayers’ money, the Bolshevik Revolution (which overthrew the first Russian Revolution that overthrew the Russian monarchy) was less than twenty years old, and the Soviet Union was not only openly dedicated to overthrowing the rest of the (Capitalist) world, but was working hard to export the revolution anywhere it could. ‘Anarchist’ bombings were still vividly remembered in the United States, and it was commonly understood that WWI had been started by just such a revolutionary assassination. Workers’ uprisings, including labor union strikes and battles with the forces of Law and Order, had for decades terrified the Right Sort of People, and caused them to fear for their lives, and more importantly, their fortunes and their grasp on power. That the President of the United States (and supposedly one of the Right Sort of People) could be helping to turn God’s Country into another Bolshevik hellhole angered and terrified the Ruling Class beyond words. Ever since then, the drive to put the genie back into the bottle has been waged as, increasingly, a religious jihad. We are now several generations from that point – the people who tried to overthrow FDR by a military coup are largely dead, but their children and grandchildren still control vast fortunes, and have been raised as fervent acolytes in the Church of Mammon. They are the modern Republican Party, and their fanatic need to destroy every vestige of Roosevelt’s legacy (including LBJ’s expansion pack) and “take our country back” has become an unexamined and knee-jerk reflex religious doctrine. The goal has always been to finish off FDR’s legacy, which now is mainly Social Security – almost all the rest having been destroyed over the years. Having found that voters will refuse to dismantle it, because “getting free stuff from the government” is inexplicably popular, the religious fatwa against Social Security led to a new tactic under Reagan. It’s been known for some time that “guns vs. butter” is a real problem for a nation, especially one with limited resources. Accordingly, the Reagan people decided to use that tactic (cleverly named “trickle down economics”) to destroy Social Security by driving the nation into debt and then triumphantly announcing that the US could not pay for both the military and the hated social programs. This proved surprisingly difficult to bring to a successful end, so the next step was to try again, but this time increasing the pressure by having the country be at war. Still not successful, the Republican Party worked to drain the nation’s money by destroying the vast job base of the middle class and sucking the money up to the top of the food chain by cutting the taxes on the very wealthy, and also going to a state of almost permanent war, vastly increasing the military spending while ensuring that the spending could not be stopped (by making sure that every Congressman and Senator had Important Jobs in his or her district) and mounting a massive PR campaign to convince voters that (a) Liberals and Democrats were trying to destroy the US, (b) that Social Programs sap and impurify all our nation’s precious bodily fluids, and (c) that putting everyone’s retirement money (Social Security, as well as pension funds) in the hands of Wall Street speculators would make everybody rich. Amazingly, this worked far better than could have been expected by anyone other than Mencken, Twain or Barnum. Incredibly, we are now at a place where lots of people are willing to hurt themselves as long as they think that they’ll be hurting their Enemies more. Many of us would rather the government not do anything than that it help American citizens, because we’ve been told that American citizens aren’t Real Americans. All too many of us prefer to believe what we’re told over the evidence of our eyes. Nobody could have predicted this except anybody who knew a little history.
I’d completely forgotten I had this blog! However, since I’m slowly and painfully learning the ins and outs of WordPress blogs by putting together a separate one as a website for a different purpose, I suppose it would be a good idea to cast off the shackles of laziness and try to start posting here again. Facebook is just so much easier. However, this place lets me find my posts fast. Plus I have a camera now, and so can stick photos up here for archival purposes. Let’s see: news on the nature front: the first two Youth Birding programs went well – no kids on the first one, 1 kid on the second, but good weather and nice birds (and spiders!) both times. I shall have to append some photos when I get the chance. One spider in particular is a very snazzy orbweaver that I haven’t seen anywhere else but around Loch Raven. When I look up the name I shall include that with the photo. My goldenrods actually thrived this year after last year’s difficult establishment – the graminifolia in front was huge, and attracted a very good diversity of wasps – two different kinds of thread-waisted (Potter and Organ-pipe?), a couple of different Polistes paper wasps, at least 4 kinds of Pompilid spider wasps, including the big, pretty mahogany-barred species I don’t know the name of, and a couple of types of Vespid paper wasps along with the usual dribs and drabs of miscellaneous hymenopterans and syrphid flies. No spider or bug predators (yet), but a big, crafty mantis was hunting in the ‘underbrush’ one time – hard to see in the green shadows under the flower sprays…
In the back, the rugosa unfortunately got cut back just before the earliest sprays were set to open, but we still had a decent (if late) flowering season; On the good side, it turns out that my rugosa pot also contained what I think is canadensis roots, so I had a big, fragrant popular addition to the patch. I have to put up supports for next year, though – everything flopped over the patio when it rained. There were several spiders hunting the area, but all I saw were web-based, not ambush or jumping spiders – some Theridiids and a couple of agelenid types. The dogbane struggled – one of the two flowered out twice, but the other (which never was that strong) gave up the plant ghost by June. It was a very dry year, so maybe next year will be better; more mulch and periodic watering might help. On the other side, the asparagus patch looked very good. This was the second year, so soon it will be eatable.
That should do for the moment. With luck I may update this more frequently down the road.
Beautiful weekend, nasty cold. Bad combination, but at least on Sunday a big flock of Cedar Waxwings stopped off in the trees around the back yard most of the day. I estimate at least 30, maybe much more, given the noise and the amount of constant movement. Migration’s pretty much over, I’m guessing. Used to be we’d know the end was in sight by the half-dozen Blackpolls that would go through in ones and twos over a half-week, but no Blackpolls for several years now. Hardly any warblers at all, in fact; Parulas seemed to be common, but relatively few Yellow Warblers, and almost none of any others, even Yellow-rumped. Depressing.
There seemed to be a sort of warbler wave going through this morning; several Yellow Warblers, a Redstart or two and a couple of Black-and-Whites were calling around the house (no Parulas, though – unlike yesterday). It was a cool, damp, overcast/high fog kind of morning, which I remember as being a good time for migrants. No thrushes or other birds, though. Last Saturday up the road at Cromwell Bridge we had both Orioles, numerous nesting Gnatcatchers, lots of Parulas, lots of Bluebirds and Tree Swallows (+ Barn and a couple of Rough-winged Swallows) and a bunch of other odds and ends. The usual nesters have settled in: Robins, Catbirds, Mockingbirds, Cardinals and House Sparrows. Goldfinches, House Finches and Carolina Wrens are nesting in the vicinity, but not the yard this year. I think I need to put up the Hummingbird feeder, since they’re back in the area and we should be able to entice them to nest. I think it might be an idea to put up an owl box as well, since we have loads of owl food in the area and lots of dense cover with all the vines.
The day after that last rant, the White-throats had all pulled out for nesting spots. Since then, some nice migrants moving through. Thursday evening, as I was firing up the grill for the spring season, I heard a Brown Thrasher singing around the side of the house, and was able to watch him go for several minutes until he took off down the street. Then, this morning, a Redstart was singing just outside when I got up and a Red-eyed Vireo sang us off from down the street. Tomorrow morning, it’s another birding workshop, and perhaps the weather will be better then. To cap the evening, my birthday present (from me, of course) finally arrived a month late – the cast recording of Peter Pan which I remember so fondly from my childhood. I’m wallowing in the great Cyril Richard’s Hook as I type these words. The rest is somewhat forgettable, but Hook’s songs are about the best Broadway has to offer, in my opinion.
So, the White-throated Sparrows finally (finally!) pulled up stakes and headed North, eh? Haha! Came out of work last evening only to be surrounded by maybe a dozen of the little clowns, whooping it up in the bushes, marching in formation as a brass band, dancing around doing juggling routines and forming human pyramids and the like. OK, I know when I’m licked. I give! Uncle! Stick around all year if you want – shoot, I’ll make room in my basement for you if that’s what you desire. First the infuriating House Mouse that has decided that he (she?) is one of the family and joins us at dinner and during the evening, each time casually trotting past the half-dozen lethal (set, and baited, but unsprung) traps and equal numbers of sticky Tanglefoot pads, not to mention the several containers of D-Con poison. I’m just waiting for it to hop up on my sholder and start making cooking suggestions. And now, the White-throats That Wouldn’t Leave! What, they think they’re Canada Geese now? I’m drifting into Mugato-land; soon I shall be attempting to brainwash a male model into assassinating the Prime Rib of Propecia. I feel like I’m taking crazy pills! It’s May 1, for goodness’ sake! Will no-one rid me of these turbulent sparrows? Argh; I think I’d better go and lie down for a while..
No White-throats yesterday, none this morning; I think they may finally have headed north, despite the rather Canadian weather we’ve been having this week. A real first yesterday, though – a Great Crested Flycatcher calling down the end of the block when I came home last night. I just put it it down to one of the local talented Mockingbirds until it gave both the ‘wheep’ and ‘brrreeeep’ calls and kept calling for several minutes. Still no warblers, though, although I’ve heard that other people are getting some in the region. In other news, an orchard spider was set up in one of the front holly bushes (presumably since the large forsythis bushes down the side were reduced to little more than ground cover last fall by the wife) and the Cowbirds have stopped courting, so presumably the local nest hosts are well underway. There should be some more news after the birding thing on Saturday. Even though nobody signed up for it, I talked Marty into showing up anyway just in case. Given Marty’s usual history and luck, it will start pouring rain and he’ll lock his keys in the car.. Should be a fun time anyway!