Newt Gingrich: Clowning Around for the Presidency

Thanks to my former neighbor and all-around creative guy Ben Prisk for this incredibly accurate portrayal of Newt Gingrich: Presidential Candidate Clown.

Newt Gingrich: Clown
Newt Gingrich: Clown by Ben Prisk

If you care about the politics of Presidential campaigns, please consider spreading/sharing this image (with attribution to Ben, of course).

Happy (Early) Campaign Season!

I should point out that I once shook Newt’s cold, clammy hand on the campaign trail. He was vying for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. I was browsing CDs at Town Center Mall and he urged myself and a friend to “have our parents vote” for him.

Even creepier now that I reflect on that exchange. Gross.

Bird Blogging

I’ve become quite the birdwatcher recently, even going so far as to install a new shepherd’s hook in the backyard complete with Finch Feeder and a new dual-use suet/seed feeder.

I first got the bug hard when we hung our initial seed feeder and Hummingbird feeder over the Summer to fantastic results.

I never got any pictures or video to rival this guy, but still worth the time.

Here’s a recent tally (the past two weekends) of the avian visitors to our yard.

We’ve got a great location for all the birds: running water into our pond, ample brush in the form of native rose bushes and azaleas and good tree cover from Pine, Weeping Cherry & Bradford Pears. Among other reasons that I’m grateful for the approach of Spring is the promise of more (in number & species) birds visiting the feeders and trees of our back yard.

One of our most consistent visitors (apart from the Sparrows, Cardinals & Towhees who seem to always be about) is a particularly conspicuous Brown Thrasher. This guy (or gal) can be seen throughout the door – rooting around the leaf litter with the Towhees & Sparrows, up on the seed feeder with the Cardinals or, most often, perched precariously on the suet feeder waiting for a Wren, Warbler or the ornery Mockingbird to make him move.

I’ve considered his presence a teachable moment, annoying my kids (especially Raelyn) by updating them on his every move. A bird that big (easily 10-11 inches) on a 6-inch suet feeder is kind of ridiculous. Plus, it’s a great time to show off the State Bird of Georgia to an eager First-grader. What kind of parent would pass that up?

Unfortunately, while searching for some additional information on the Brown Thrasher I came across a recent, ongoing campaign by Georgia’s Poultry industry to petition the State Legislature to change the State Bird to the Cornish Chicken. They’re calling it “Flip The Birds“. Needless to say, I was unimpressed.

Because I fancy myself a hot-headed do-gooder I quickly found a counter-petition, signed it and then fired off the following email to the person who appears to be in charge of the Cornish Chicken brigade:

To whom it may concern,

I find your site,, misinformed and misleading due to the lies it is spreading about the State Bird of Georgia, the Brown Thrasher.

On the Brown Thrasher page ( you state two things which are DEMONSTRABLY FALSE:

1) You state that the Brown Thrasher is migratory to Georgia, when in fact it is a year-long, endemic species, occurring in every Georgia county all 12 months of the year:

2) You state that Garden Club of Georgia petitioned the state to change our State Bird to the Brown Thrasher in 1970. This is MISLEADING AND INACCURATE. According to the Secretary of State’s website (

“On April 6, 1935, the Brown Thrasher was first chosen as the Georgia state bird by official proclamation of the Governor.”

There’s also this story from Nature Magazine (

“In 1928, the school children of Georgia selected the brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) as the state bird. According to Nature Magazine (April, 1932),

“The Campaign was inaugurated by the Fifth District of the State Federation of Women’s Clubs and was sponsored by the Atlanta Bird Club and kindred groups.”

Proposals were made to the Legislature and bills to adopt the brown thrasher as the state bird were introduced, but no action was taken.

On April 6, 1935, the brown thrasher was declared the state bird of Georgia by proclamation of Governor Eugene Talmadge”
Additionally, we have this beautiful bit of description from the pen of the most famous birdwatcher and naturalist in U.S. history, John James Audobon, on the Brown Thrasher:

“The Brown or Ferruginous Thrush is the strongest of the genus in the United States, neither the Mocking-bird nor the Robin being able to cope with it. Like the former, it will chase the cat or the dog, and greatly tease the racoon or the fox. It follows the Astur Cooperii and the Goshawk, bidding them defiance, and few snakes come off with success when they attack its nest. It is remarkable also, that, although these birds have frequent and severe conflicts among themselves, yet when the least alarm is given by an individual, a whole party of them instantly rush forth to assist in chasing off the common enemy.”

Does that sound like a “lowly” or “undeserving” bird?

While I can appreciate a dedicated campaign by the poultry industry in this state to affect this kind of change for their own narrow economic reasons, it does not need to resort to the usual crass qualities and attacking tone of political campaigns. It’s also rather silly, since the state bird has more to do with the natural wildlife of a place than it does commerce.

Georgians should be honored to have such a unique bird as the Brown Thrasher as the symbol of their fair state. No other state can lay claim to this bird, while Rhode Island already has the Blue Hen Chicken as their official bird. Do Georgians really want to emulate the residents of Rhode Island?

Georgia doesn’t need a pedestrian, plain chicken as their state bird, they need the Brown Thrasher!


Seth Miller
Smyrna, GA

So, yeah, there’s that. A wonderful weekend of bird-watching and cataloging tempered with the harsh realities of a Monday Morning missive fired off from behind the safety of my keyboard.

I hope this week gets better and that you (and I) see more beautiful birds as we make our way towards Spring.

Happy Monday!

On Healthcare and Death Panels

I very nearly wasted a lot of time and (digtital) breath last week on a post about the townhall meetings and the swastika painting that occurred in my current homebase (Smyrna), but I didn’t.

My post was full of ire and invective and vitriol; the same kind of stuff I was condemning and I don’t like wearing the hypocrite hat any more than anyone else.

So, instead of bringing a torch to the already burning pyre of “debate” on the topic of healthcare and “death panels”, I’ll share a couple of pertinent (in my mind) anecdotes.

First and foremost, my mother-in-law is a hospice nurse. Has been for 20-some years.

She’s kind and nurturing and knowledgeable; the perfect person to help people transition to whatever lies beyond this earthly life.

In knowing her for over 14 years, the overriding thesis I have gleaned about hospice is this: we put so much emphasis on conception (and contraception) and birth and abortion and other issues related to children/infants/fetuses, it’s a travesty that so few of us plan for the eventuality of our own ultimate demise.

Sure, no one wants to talk about death, but it’s coming for all of us whether we want to admit to ourselves and our loved ones or not.

But hospice and end-of-life counseling are incredibly misunderstood. In the reductive world of soundbites and political football, weighty issues are ultimately reduced to either “fighting” for your life or “giving up”.

I don’t want to talk about Kervorkian or Schiavo here, I want to talk about the rest of us. You and me. [If you truly want to jump down those rabbit holes, be my guest]

Yesterday’s New York Times has an incredibly in-depth article on doctors who provide palliative care and a profile of both the healthcare professionals and patients involved. It’s worth your time to read the whole thing.

For my own part, Jenn and I have both affirmed to one another (though we need to get a real will and a living will on paper) that neither of us want to be kept alive on machines as a long-term solution. If the quality of my “life” is determined by a machine keeping my organs humming while my brain is dead that’s not really “living”, that’s being undead.

Additionally, we’re trying to live our lives with as few regrets as possible so that when the time comes, we can say goodbye gracefully and with dignity, not at the whim of some resident surgeon all too eager to play God when he/she doesn’t really know us or our families.

We haven’t been shy about saying this out loud, during family gatherings and holiday time, to either of our families and we’ll discuss it with our kids as they get old enough. It’s that important.

If we took the time to plan out how we told the family we were pregnant with our kids and who we invited into the delivery room to welcome our kids into this world, don’t we owe them the same courtesy to discuss how we’d like to leave this world: who should be there, what we’d like said and done afterwords?

Anyhow, I’m off on a rant, and I’m sorry. The point here is the discussion and that you (and everyone you know) have it.

If you’d like to see some more substantive debating about the actual proposed laws and whether or not they constitute “death panels” see last night’s Daily Show [via Andrew Sullivan].

And for a funnier (in my opinion) take on the whole enchilada, see Dana Gould (on Bill Maher) (embedded below):

Oh and here’s my mother-in-law’s take on that NYT article, copied with her permission via email:

Wow. What an article. I found myself wanting to talk to Mrs Magliore. I met people like that all the time and almost always they knew exactly what was happening and just needed someone to say it out loud for them and then give them the OK not to persue treatment. It’s the opposite of what you would think. You are not taking away hope at all, you are acknowledging what the person already knows and letting them know you are not going to run away but that you will walk with them the rest of their path.

Lastly, this napkin presentation is pretty cool (Thanks, Thomas!)

Stay healthy!

Playing politics

Political opinions: I have them.

Many of you who know me personally probably already appreciate my bent/affiliation/allegiances. Or you’ve read my previous endorsement. 😉

Today’s lazy-blog treads similar territory.

First, a great little “which candidate is right for me” quiz/test from ABC (they call it Match-o-Matic). It re-confirmed my suspicions but was very informative and fun. I didn’t try to game it or cheat; I answered honestly.

If picking your choice gets you jazzed to follow the numbers religiously, check our perspctv and get some perspective. And buy a vowel.

Now that the serious stuff is out of the way, two pieces of funny.

First, the always-inspiring, insightful and humorous Ironic Sans takes a look at a different kind of hopeful campaign: A New Hope.

Second, some pre-season political sketches from Frank TV (which airs on TBS, one of the networks I work for):

Whitey McCain:

Obama’s Secret Bar:

YMMV on all of this, but if you’re following politics this cycle one of those has to stick.

Oh, and here’s SNL’s Palin/Clinton opening sketch too: