A Given Definition of Exceptional: Choose Your Own


Among neoconservatives, there is a movement to characterize the United States as “exceptional.” We are different. We are special. With an emphasis on its divine origin (Christian gods only need apply). In a series ofirregular posts, WC is examining the credibility of this claim. WC has taken flack in comments and emails for disputing that…

What Have We Done: All of the rest


WC has had some private email deploring the What Have We Done postings. The series, you will recall, have been honoring birds species in the U.S. that have gone extinct since the country was created. The emails argue that agonizing over the losses serves no purpose. WC disagrees, but admits the pieces are depressing to…

Patent Trolls, Redux


WC has railed about Patent Trolls before, specifically Paul Allen’s silly claims. WC has even written a modest field guide to trolls to assist his readers. But the Paul Allen silly claims benchmark has been surpassed by the recent claims of Lodsys, LLC: that every app developer for the iPhone has violated Lodsys’s patents, and…

What Have We Done: Numenius borealis


At one time, the Eskimo Curlew may have been one of the most numerous shorebirds in North America with a population in the millions. As many as 2 million birds per year were killed near the end of the 19th century. The last confirmed sightings were in 1962 on Galveston Island, Texas (photographed) and on Barbados in 1963 (specimen).…

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast


WC has concluded that, like the White Queen in Through the Looking-Glass, a successful Republican candidate for national office must be prepared to believe six impossible things before breakfast. As an aid to aspiring presidential wannabes, WC offers the following checklist: Most Republican politicians are intelligent enough to understand that with federal revenues at 14.4 percent…

The Cubs Are Really Bad Awful


As many readers know, W is a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan. The Cubs have already slid to next-to-last place in the National League Central, with a record of 20-25. They are actually worse than the Pittsburgh Pirates. The statistics-loving Sabermetricists, who analyze (and over-analyze) every aspect of baseball stats, have concluded the Cubs now, a…

Palin: Ursus arctos horriblis


In a recent interview, Alaska’s Shame avoided confirming she was running for the Republican nomination for President, saying: It’s a matter for me of some kind of practical, pragmatic decisions that have to be made. One is, with a large family, understanding the huge amount of scrutiny and the sacrifices that have to be made…

Israel: An Excellent Metaphor


The Daily Beast’s Peter Beinart‘s has a perfect metaphor for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s rejection of President Obama’s proposals: A sailor throws a drowning man a life preserver. How dare you, screams the man. Because of you, people are going to think I can’t swim. The rest of the article is pretty darn good, too.

Too Wonky for WC


The explanation is too wonky for even WC to attempt, but the next time you are at a party and someone blames the Great Recession on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, tell them they are simply wrong. And make them read this article if they disagree. If they don’t read it, you win the argument…

Private Prisons and the Illusion of Savings


WC admits from the start he has always had a problem with private prisons. First, WC believes that the state should have a monopoly of force. When the state can contract away that monopoly, you enter a dangerous area in which private citizens, not subject to classic government constraints, can hold other private citizens against…

Peeps and Pipes


Among the last arrivals in spring migration are the shorebirds. Peeps and Pipes in birder slang. Small, mostly inconspicuous and difficult to identify, they are nonetheless among WC’s favorites. Here are some recent shots, in no particular order: One of the smallest of the Sandpipers: And one more, one of the more commonly seen plovers…

What Have We Done? Conuropsis carolinensis


Most Americans are unaware that there even was a kind of parrot that was native to the U.S. But there was. From John James Audubon’s Birds of North America: Our Parakeets are very rapidly diminishing in number; and in some districts, where twenty-five years ago they were plentiful, scarcely any are now to be seen.…

A Quiet Snack


Like humans, Bison and a few other species, American Beaver, Castor candensis, have the ability to alter the landscape. Parts of the floor of Yosemite Valley are layer upon layer of former beaver ponds. Some beaver lodges are larger than an Alaska dry cabin.  But this fellow was simply gnawing bark off a tree root,…

What Have We Done? Ectopistes migratorius


From John Muir’s autobiography: I have seen flocks streaming south in the fall so large that they were flowing over from horizon to horizon in an almost continuous stream all day long, at the rate of forty or fifty miles an hour, like a mighty river in the sky, widening, contracting, descending like falls and…