The big news in the United States has been and still is what’s going on in our eastern states. Oppressive heat, drenching rain, a major hurricane looming as I write this, and a 5.8-magnitude earthquake in Virginia felt from Montreal to Georgia and as far west as Michigan.

That earthquake revealed a previously unrecognized earthquake fault. Naturally, it is now known as Obama’s Fault.

One reason these events — drought, heat, rain, quake and Hurricane Irene — are receiving so much news-outlet attention is because some 65 million Americans are in the hurricane’s projected path. Another reason is that the majority of media is located within the areas affected. When it affects you directly, it’s a bigger story.

Of course, Hurricane Irene truly is a big deal: a large storm impacting 20 percent of Americans, disrupting commerce and private lives.

Hurricanes make for good TV visuals, e.g., shots of people trying to stand in too-strong winds or pieces of buildings flying through the air. TV goes away when the tasks are to pick up those pieces. Whatever is happening in Libya or Pakistan?

I can’t believe that presidential-candidates and national politicians aren’t making speeches or trying to give interviews. Governors and mayors have the stage, concentrating on local situations. For now.

Hurricanes should command attention. Mother Nature needs to be respected. Too bad she gets it primarily when a hurricane or ice storm or drought or major forest fire happens. Mother Nature, after all, sustains us all.Ah, but back to politics and politicians. They’ll be back on the front pages and on TV momentarily. Which eventually got me thinking: What is — or are — politics, anyway? To find some answers, I turn first to a dictionary. There are several definitions, as might be expected.

The definition of politics I prefer states that politics primarily means competition for leadership in guiding governmental policy. How naive of me.

Why, politics in these United States nowadays (forever?) means the art of winning and holding control of a government. And that’s it. Not much consideration of running the government nor of guiding policy. Rather, political activity characterized by artful and often dishonest practices (still another definition of politics).

Definition No. 1 may be my personal preference, but I wonder if any human has ever lived under such utopian circumstances. In the past, family groups or clans? Not in empires. Not during our Constitutional Convention summer. And not since. We’re into raw examples of the secondary definitions of politics now.

As hard to get control over as a hurricane.

Politics is all “personalities” and charisma now. Does he/she “look like a president”? Does he/she “take the oxygen out of a room”? Can this guy/gal raise money in huge amounts? Is this a winner? Those are the measures for a candidate.

Can he/she govern? Who does care? Just so long as he/she is a winner.

Call make-up. Check the lighting.

Field Notes: August 2011 is ending with a green scene in Jackson Hole. A surprising overall green for this point in the year, this rather mixed-up season. It has been quite dry of late (creating a serious fire danger), but it still looks green. Some aspen trees are shedding dried-up leaves while still displaying green foliage. One anticipates changes soon.

Hummingbirds are leaving; some folks complained of a dearth of hummers all season. Canada geese are flocking up, practicing flight. Robin flocks are shoring up. Swallows should be, too, but don’t seem to be. Osprey chicks are fledging, and adult birds may soon migrate.

I’m tempted to say that pocket gophers are particularly active just now — but they’re always active. So the fresh mounds of dirt one may see are simply more of the same old.

A kestrel was spotted on Spring Gulch Road on Saturday (Mary Lohuis). Usually seen often, not mentioned much this year. Warblers are beginning to move out, along with tanagers and orioles.

© Bert Raynes 2011

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Bert Raynes writes weekly on whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways.

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