White birds in the morning

May 11, 2015 -- We call it a “white bird event.”  It happens occasionally, when the tides are just right, and when the freshwater levels are low.  Because the rainy season has not quite started, this often occurs in May or June.  A “white bird event” is when we are awakened by dozens, sometimes a hundred or more, white birds who are noisily squawking and feeding in the pond in our back yard.


Not all of the birds are white.  We see the occasional blue heron and immature ibis participating in these feasts.  Once, we even saw an alligator swim right through the middle of the gathering, not even pausing for a bite.  

Last night, after sunset, we heard a little alligator out there in the pond snapping away at fish.  When the water levels are low, the pond is teaming with fish.  The water is so thick with fish that we decided to name it Chowder Pond. 

Chowder Pond is long and narrow, so it looks like a creek or bayou that goes somewhere.  But it doesn’t; each end of it is a dead end.  Chowder Pond does not directly connect to any other water, such as the somewhat nearby Sanibel River (which is not a river, but rather a slough).  So when the water level is low, the fish are trapped and ready for the birds to eat.

Tom slept a little too late to see the peak of the bird event, but I told him about it.  Morning is when we also share stories about interesting news items that we recently read.  He reads the New York Times, and I read the Washington Post.
After the bird event, this great white egret remained.


This week the Post published a couple fascinating articles that had to do with government spending on social programs.  I told Tom about them.

The first was about a man named Tsemberis who “accidentally solved chronic homelessness.”  The solution he found was simple:  simply give the homeless person a home.  Don’t expect homeless people to solve their other problems (e.g., addiction) first.  Just give them homes first, then proceed with counseling or treatment.  The counseling or treatment just doesn’t work too well when a person is homeless.  That makes sense, doesn’t it?  And it turns out that this saves taxpayer dollars.  My favorite part of the article was this paragraph:

 “We committed,” said Utah’s Gordon Walker, explaining how his state succeeded at eliminating homelessness — and saved millions. “It was costing us in state services, health-care costs, jail time, police time, about $20,000 per person. Now, we spend $12,000 per person.”

If Utah can do it, other states can do it.

The next piece was a commentary on “What it would really take to run the government like a business.”  The author, Catherine Rampell, finds that Ben Carson’s suggestion of making 10 percent cuts across the board does not make business sense.  What makes more sense it to recognize that “not all spending is created equal” and that “Sometimes you have to spend money to make money.”  All good business people know that, right?

So along those lines, Rampell suggests spending more on Medicare and Medicaid fraud prevention, where each dollar spent returns more than a dollar saved.  She says, “sequester-driven cuts to this program have therefore had the opposite of their intended effect.”  Those cuts were a poor business decision.

She goes on to point out that “Every $1 invested in publicly funded family planning services saves an estimated $7 in Medicaid and other public expenditures,” and that “These are exactly the kinds of programs presidential contenders should champion if they want to prune our bloated welfare state.”

High-quality early childhood education is another such program, she writes, and so is publicly funded research.  About research funding, she says, “Just as at a private company, the next American president should remind legislators not to eat the seed corn.”

You can read this gem of a commentary by clicking here

Tom told me about a New York Times article titled “FloridaManBeguiles with the Hapless and Harebrained.” 

Now this just might be the thing that finally makes me join Twitter.  I just might have to follow FloridaMan and FloridaWoman.  Florida is home for the weird, in high doses.  Florida weirdness provides great fodder for bloggers like me.

Contrary to what you may assume, I don’t easily go for social media.  Several years ago, it was my 85-year-old dad who finally convinced me to join Facebook, because “it is the best way to share photos with family.”  I’ve resisted Twitter because I can’t think of many meaningful things to say in 140 characters or less.  But I could join it just to follow FloridaMan and FloridaWoman, couldn’t I?  I don’t have to tweet, do I?

Here goes!

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