Had Enough of the Newstainment Industry? Come to Some Quiet Places

Well, have you had enough of the radio-egos? Enough of them trashing the people you are supporting in political races? Enough of them saying one thing and then saying the opposite? Enough of them playing with facts and making things mean what they want them to mean? Do you feel like they have jerked your emotional chain one time too many? Had enough yet?

Maybe it’s time for you to toss the newstainment and read/listen to some things that won’t be so rough on you. You can still keep up with what is going on without suffering. (Sorry if I sound angry. I am. I’m seeing folks who are upset and hurt by people they trusted and that ALWAYS jerks MY chain.) So, may I invite you to a few quiet places? Places that have good information and you can learn in-depth about the issues that concern you?

Take a look at The Future of Freedom Foundation at http://www.fff.org. There are several good writers whose work is found on this site. The Future of Freedom Foundation will send a daily email with links to articles of interest if you request it. Also, check out Mises Institute at http://mises.org/. If you want something to listen to as you go about your day, Mises has videos you can listen to. Another good one is Cato Institute (http://www.cato.org/). Campaign for Liberty (http://www.campaignforliberty.com/) and Reason Foundation (http://reason.org/) are two more good places to learn about current issues.

These sites all have very good writers who know their subject. They don’t appeal to emotions like the voices on the radio and TV, but instead will engage your reasoning abilities. Using our brains is the only way we won’t be led over the proverbial cliff that everyone is so worried about. And if I could, I’d fix you a cup of hot tea to drink while you relax and rest.

Another Bird Surprise

We just never know what’s going to happen each day. I have a cold so I didn’t go to church today. I thought I’d stay home, read a bit, listen to the sermon when my husband brings it home on CD…just a quiet uneventful day. Uneventful is welcome sometimes, but today’s unexpected event was great.

I was reading a book when I remembered I needed to take my vitamin C and echinacea for my cold. It’s a good book and I didn’t want to put it down, but when I came to the end of the chapter, I did. So, I was standing in the kitchen with pills in one hand and juice in the other and this bright yellow bird flew up outside the window. He landed in the shrub where I have the hummingbird feeder. (Yep. The feeder is up in February. We have had a Buff-bellied Hummingbird here since late December. We had never seen one, so this has been a real treat!)

The first thing I think when I see a yellow bird is “warbler” but this was not a warbler. He was too big and he wasn’t flitting about like warblers do. He had a little bit of orange on his face, black wings with two wing bars and a notched black tail. He also had black on his back but yellow just above his tail. I kept thinking one of my neighbor’s birds must have escaped from the big cage on his front porch. But he has parakeets and this was nothing like a parakeet. It was nothing I’d ever seen before either.

I wanted to run and grab a bird book, but I didn’t want to leave the window. I needed to keep studying him. I noticed the wing bars were two different colors. The top bar was yellow and the bottom bar was white. I figured that would be the really distinctive characteristic that would identify him. Turns out it was.

I had a Western Tanager. If you live where those birds live in abundance, you might think, “so what?” but we don’t normally see them here. I’m in Southeast Texas, not far from Louisiana and not far from the coast. Western Tanagers are way out in West Texas, about 900 or so miles away. According to my books, they only rarely show up along the coast in the winter. I learned that he eats insects and fruit. I have some dried fruit on my platform feeder and will put some fresh bits of pear out tomorrow. Sure would be great if he would come back so I can try to get a photo. If not, I have this awesome image burned into my brain. How cool!

Are the TEA Party Groups Libertarian?

My eyes just about popped out the other day when I heard someone say the TEA Party folks are libertarian. Not the ones I met.

The TEA Party seems to be about less government spending but not on everything. They use the Constitution to oppose bailouts, but they don’t oppose the Republican plan for healthcare spending. (They do have one, even though the Democrats say they don’t.) A libertarian opposes ALL government spending related to healthcare. Libertarians also oppose government meddling of any kind in healthcare. Government meddling is what got us into this mess in the first place.

The TEA Party supports the wars (undeclared wars) as well as torture. At least the individuals I spoke with think it’s OK to torture suspected terrorists. There was no convincing them otherwise, even when I pointed out that it’s against the law and we lose our moral authority when we tell others not to do what we are willing to do. A libertarian will support a war against a foreign government that attacks us, but not against a group of thugs that ought to be brought to justice by use of existing laws. Our military is not supposed to be used in a law enforcement capacity, we ought not OK treatment for a group that is wrong for individuals…there are just so many problems with all this!

The TEA Party members I spoke with would say that marriage is between a man and a woman. I say that, too, but I question why the state is involved in a spiritual covenant in the first place. Why don’t we allow any two people who want to draw up a legal contract to do so and let churches conduct marriage ceremonies? I pointed out that this takes the discussion – which is really an argument now – to a different level. We could talk to people about their soul and show a bit of love and care for them as human beings, rather than this whole thing being a matter of us telling them what we will allow them to do. That’s when their eyes rolled and their jaws dropped, and I began to think I was not in the company of like-minded folks.

I don’t think the TEA Party is as concerned about the Constitution as they may think they are. The impression I get is they want Washington to follow it as far as they want to go with it. Just ask them to refuse FEMA¬† disaster assistance, or any entitlement they are entitled to, and see what their reaction is. Their support of candidates is also mixed. They like some good ones, and they like some doozies. I realize there are 387 TEA Party MeetUp groups with 31,688 members, and I only have spoken with a handful. But that handful was not libertarian. Someone suggested that folks like the ones I spoke with are neo-con plants, but I don’t think so. I think it’s probably a pretty mixed group. Until it all shakes down and we can see exactly what they stand for as a group – they are only about a year old – let’s not call them libertarian.

For the curious readers here, I’ll offer this bit of advice. When I want to know more about the libertarian views, I don’t go to the Party website. As we have all seen in recent years, parties can lose their way, and I am not a member of any party. I go to The Future of Freedom Foundation website. (www.fff.org) This is a think tank that advocates libertarian ideas and was founded in 1989 by Jacob Hornberger, who said, “I believe in individual liberty, free markets, private property, and limited government. Period. No exceptions.” If this idea scares you, you ought to ask yourself why. This is, after all, what this country was founded on.

How My Family Took Up Birdwatching

This morning when I woke up I was thinking about how I was introduced to birding. I have a friend who would come to our house when we were homeschooling and do fun things with us. This friend has watched birds for a long time and she taught us. Before I learned from her, I knew there were blue jays, cardinals, mockingbirds and Sonic birds and not much else. I learned the Sonic birds – you know, the ones who hang out at the hamburger joint and eat french fries?– are grackles and there are three different kinds of them. I also learned not all bird watchers are like Miss Jane on “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Have you ever seen her? She looked like she was dressed for a safari with her knobby knees sticking out between her knee socks and her long shorts. Her pith helmet topped off her strange outfit. Oh, and she was always babbling about a Prothonotary Warbler. Sounds like a made-up name, but it’s not. I had one here in my yard several years ago. It made a nest on my neighbors’ front porch. I’ve never seen a bird watcher dressed like Miss Jane, by the way.

There are different levels of involvement with this hobby. Some folks buy or make a feeder and put out black oil sunflower seed and simply watch what comes to dine without ever cracking open a field guide or picking up a pair of binoculars. Others are up before dawn to drive to a particular location so they can participate in a bird count. And still others take trips to exotic places hoping to see a bird they have never seen before. I’m somewhere between the first and second group. It’s hard to convince me to leave a nice warm bed in the dead of winter to go to a Christmas Bird Count. That is the only one I know of around here and maybe one day I’ll go for it. The main thing is this is supposed to be fun. If you are happy watching them eat without knowing ‘who’ they are, then that’s fine. If anyone bugs you about it, just remind them you are feeding the birds and you and they are happy.

I think bird watching is an excellent hobby for children. Even toddlers like to watch birds if you put some seed on the ground outside near a window. Don’t worry about fingerprints on the glass. You will have them! It’s a sign of life in your house. Bird watching teaches children to care for animals and to be observant. Kids usually want to know all they can find out about a thing, so they end up learning about different birds’ feeding habits, migration patterns (a bit of geography gets tossed in there), seasonal plumage, their songs and more.

One day when my youngest son was about 6 or 7, he was showing his two friends, who were brothers about his age, the birds that were in our backyard. All three boys were sitting shoulder to shoulder in front of the screen door, passing the binoculars back and forth, as my son explained the differences in Boat-tailed, Common, and Great-tailed Grackles. He still watches birds when he sits on the front porch and occasionally comes in for the binoculars when he can tell–sometimes by behavior, sometimes by color–something is different from what he usually sees.

My oldest son carries binoculars and a field guide in his car. All the time. When he had a sun roof, he kept it open so he could see birds through the window on top of his car. Out of all of us, he’s the one who has the most complete bird list. He’s been to more places and is the most disciplined about keeping that list. He has also found online groups that watch birds and report to each other what they are seeing and where they are seeing them. He has run across a fellow group member or two this way as they were out in a park in Houston looking for the same bird.

My husband became interested in birds as a result of being exposed to the rest of us. He has been to some classes with me and our oldest son and looks for birds when we hike in the Big Thicket or go to the beach. He also wants to add some feeders to our backyard this year and hopes to draw in an Orchard Oriole that he saw in the woods in back of our house last spring.

If you are not currently feeding and watching birds but want to know where to start, it’s really simple. The easiest and cheapest way to make a bird feeder that I know of is to just cut the sides out of a plastic jug or bottle and hang it in a tree with a wire coat hanger. You can also sprinkle a bit of seed on the ground. Birds usually prefer to feed close to shrubs or trees so they have a place of protection nearby in case of predators, so you might keep that in mind when choosing where to place your seed. Black oil sunflower seed is the most inexpensive feed and draws the widest variety of birds. Plus, it has more meat inside than the plain sunflower seed. If your bird seed draws squirrels and you aren’t thrilled with that, you might as well put some out for them in a different spot. Maybe they will at least eat where you want them to. And maybe they won’t. No promises about the squirrels, but I can tell you that if you try bird watching, you may find it to be a very relaxing and educational hobby.

Addendum, February 13, 2010: I just found out my middle son, who just moved to a new place in Canada, now lives in a bird sanctuary. He’s looking forward to seeing the eagles that live there. How exciting!