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Memorial Day, aka Thank You Day

How Americans came to take their success and security for granted is a mystery. It is also dangerous, because much was lost to gain what we now are giving away for free, as if it is ours to give away at all.

Our security belongs to future citizens.

Are so many of our citizens really eyeballs deep in TV entertainment, to the point where they ignore the real problems around us?

All of the happiness, wealth, success, security we enjoy are attributable to mostly men who risked and sacrificed their lives and limbs that the rest of us can BBQ in the back yard in peace.

Obama’s apology to Japan for the US winning the brutal war that Japan started is representative of the weak and shallow thinking dominant in America today. It passes for “thoughtful,” but it is disrespectful to our servicemen who sacrificed for us.

On Monday, Americans officially remember the many men, and a few women, who gave everything so that our daily lives can be enjoyed peacefully. I thank you, each and every one of you, for what you did for me and my family.

This weekend is devoted to those departed and wounded servicemen.

In their honor, fly the flag, or salute it, or have your family say the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag as part of our collective remembrance and thanks. These are tokens of respect and appreciation.

The spy on my trusty old laptop

Microsoft Windows may be the industry standard for personal computers, but with the advent of the much-hated Windows 10 operating system, the company has sought to join the data spying craze afflicting nearly every digital user.

This forced spyware is driving users batty.

Who wants to click the “YES – SPY ON ME” Windows 10 install button? Not many people. At least not people who value their privacy.

One of the reasons cell phone users are going back to flip phones is because they are tired of being spied on by the various software companies that run the “smart phones” like iPhone.

Likewise, I am joining the growing number of non-Internet-connected PC users.

A personal computer is a valuable tool, an effective tool, and between the spreadsheet and writing software on it, it does a lot for my life and business. However, once connected to the Internet, that same PC becomes a spy turned back on the connected user.  Some of the hacking involves using the PC’s camera to surreptitiously watch the user. For that reason a small piece of sticky note pad paper covers the never-used camera on my PC.

Now I have a cheap PC for Internet use, a PC with nothing on it but basic software. And then another PC with my data and files.

I found a way to stop Windows 10 from installing, and it’s actually easy to do. I highly recommend it. Reports over the past year about Windows 10 are not flattering. It is designed simply to turn your PC into a spy, to pick apart and report on not only your online habits, but your personal software uses and writing content.

And Microsoft is allowed to spy on you because you hit the YES – SPY ON ME install button.

Every action leads to opposite reaction

As anti-freedom gun-grabbers continue on in their march for government supremacy over the citizenry, they seem surprised when that same citizenry reacts.

Take Barack Hussein Obama, for example. Like Rapist-In-Chief Bill Clinton before him, Obama’s anti gun crusading has driven millions of Americans to either buy guns for the first time, or to buy even more guns and ammunition than they had before.

As the federal government and its Big Government allies in the mainstream media, academia, and activist groups amplify their assaults on citizen liberties, the citizens begin to coalesce into like-minded groups. In the beginning of America these were known as militia. Today they are simply loosely knit groups of advocates for the First Amendment, Second Amendment, and Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution. They are reacting to the illegal and unconstitutional pressures being brought to bear on them collectively and individually, pressures under the color of “law.”

Today I watched as Shira Goodman and a bearded man with her walked around the crowd in the Pennsylvania State Capitol rotunda, where the annual Second Amendment rally was held. Shira and I have debated on live TV before. She represents CeaseFirePA, an anti-freedom and Big Government group. I imagine she was counting the number of people at the rally. It is true that the number of people at any given rally are an indication of the political strength they represent.

The place was packed. From top to bottom, side to side, you could barely move. Between 1,000 and 2,000 people today. Contrast that with the 25 people who showed up for CeaseFirePA’s rally two weeks ago.

Shira looked sallow and grim faced. The bearded man with her looked frightened, and he tightly clutched some case he was carrying.

We rally participants were fired up, and when one of the speakers (Rep. Daryl Metcalf, I think) pointed out that today we had shown up unarmed, and rue the day when we do show up armed, we loudly roared our support.

The political Left has been on an anti-America warpath for so long that it appears they do not realize how far they are pushing so many citizens. For decades normal Americans have conceded little and big victories to the Left, often with a sense of resignation that “things are changing.”

What is different about the gun issue, now, and different about now versus twenty years ago, is that an entire two generations of Americans have watched the Big Government Left practically swamp the average citizen.

The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen. The less our liberties and freedoms, the fewer our rights.

In a nation like America, based on laws and citizenship, the Left’s policy wins are increasingly perpendicular to the trajectory of America the nation and most of its citizens.

That is “the silent majority.”

Yes, it is true that millions of invaders have been ushered in by treasonous Federal servants, in an effort to tilt the vote balance forever in the favor of one Santa Claus after another, dispensing free things paid for by hard working taxpayers.

But the real result is a deep and building undercurrent of resentment. Call it the “Tea Party,” conservative movement, whatever, it is a groundswell of formerly free citizens fearful of losing the America they love and worked hard to create.

Statists like Shira Goodman and her friends at CeaseFirePA are so completely devoted to Big Government that they cannot comprehend a citizen rebellion. Like a horse, their blinders are so big that they cannot see what is happening around them. Sure, Marxists like Mark Potok at the Southern Poverty Law Center, another anti-freedom, anti-Christian outpost, are constantly cited by their Left friends in the Washington Post and other mainstream media outlets. But that cat is out of the bag, and putting it back in is not going to happen without a hell of a fight and lots of scratches.

One wishes that all these crusading pushers would leave the citizens alone, so that we can go back to our lives, liberty, and pursuit of our happiness. But it ain’t gonna happen. These guys will just keep on pushing until the citizens have nowhere to turn.

And then look out.

Our dear friend, Don Heckman

Don Heckman needs little introduction in the sporting circles of Pennsylvania and the East Coast.

A founding member and long time leader of the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Don’s cheerful, generous and kind personality and locomotive work ethic helped re-establish wild turkeys to Pennsylvania in the 1970s, when the conventional wisdom said it was impossible.

Don was also a powerful advocate for the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsman’s Clubs, the National Rifle Association, and many other similar groups to which he was a devoted life member.

He was a persuasive advocate for the continued success of the Pennsylvania Game Commission on the whole, and its land acquisition and science-based habitat management programs in particular.

Don was both an incredibly good hunter, and at times also exasperating to hunt with. This is because of his own unique standards: He refused to shoot a gobbler (male turkey), unless it was both strutting and gobbling at the same time. Sneaking toms, peeping toms, cautious toms, running or flying toms he would not shoot, no matter how close or in range of his gun. None of those were sporting birds, in his estimation. Only a completely unaware longbeard was worthy.

Don and I turkey hunted together a number of times over the years, mostly in the central Pennsylvania farmland we both love. While it would be easy to regale Don’s skill as a caller and hunter, two instances come to mind that sum up the attraction of having Don as your hunting partner.

First was his wry humor. He meant it with love, of course.

“Mmmmmm, uh huh. That sounds like a turkey,” was a frequent back handed compliment from Don as I was scratching away on a friction call, mostly slates.

He wouldn’t care that my calling had actually lured in a nice longbeard to within range. That was no inoculation against the compliment. For Don, it was important to remind me that my calling could always improve, whenever he had the chance. And he was right, of course, as much as I do not like to admit it.  That’s what good teachers are about. He was, after all, a many time champion caller whose skill I could only marvel at and never hope to replicate.

And just to prove his point by spiking the ball, Don might decide to stand up and switch locations even as the gobbler was determinedly marching across a cut corn field directly to us.

Watching the alarmed bird take wing and sail to the other side of the valley, the now standing Don said to my sitting figure, “Yeah, he must’ve seen you move.”

Movement is the biggest no-no of all in turkey hunting, and rookies move a lot. Even veterans get caught moving their eyeballs by wary gobblers fifty yards out. To attribute the alarmed and rushed exit of a wild turkey to a hunter’s movement is a gentle way of saying “Your hunting skill needs some work.” Even if it didn’t at that very moment.

And then there was that truly exasperating standard of his, the one where he would only shoot a gobbler in full strut AND gobbling. That performance is like looking up in the sky and seeing the sun and moon align, because a longbeard gobbler that is both strutting and gobbling is completely in the moment. He feels no fear or wariness that usually accompanies most alluring hen calls by hunters.

As I am not ever going to approach Don’s skill as a turkey hunter (he has racked up more annual grand slam turkey hunts species-wise and across multiple states than anyone else I know), I feel fortunate to shoot any gobbler, strutting or not.

And it is a fact that my poor skill as a turkey caller usually results in birds sneaking in, peering in, or darting in for a quick look before running like hell to get out of Dodge, or “putting” (turkeys make a putt-putt alarm call when they are suspicious enough to flee) from 40 yards out, so that most of the gobblers I have killed were shot mid-stride to the next county.

Not in full strut AND gobbling, like Don would have.

One morning in Dauphin County about four or five years ago, Don and I were lying in a field while I called to turkeys below us. They came well within range, but the lead gobbler, a huge bruiser boss bird, stopped gobbling and was “only” fanned out and puffed up, strutting. Such an impressive performance was insufficient to move Don’s trigger finger backwards, despite my harsh whispers of expletive-laced encouragement.

Nope. Instead, Don stood up in plain view of the flock, maybe thirty yards away, with his shotgun trained on the head of the strutting gobbler, and he began simultaneously calling with his mouth diaphragm call.

Wild turkey hunters know that at the sight of a man standing up within two hundred yards, let alone thirty, wild turkeys scatter like dust in a hurricane. They are gone in the blink of an eye.

Not these birds. Don’s calling was so good, so realistic, so enticing that the entire flock turned to look at us with concern for the grossly misshapen hen addressing them, and then they calmly walked away.

Don never shot, though he would have easily bagged any of the gobblers there. He just said “Oh, well, let’s go try another spot.”

Don is now in another spot, a turkey chaser’s dream spot, I am sure. He was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor in late January this year, and he rode it out with the help of his devoted wife, Sandy, for the next few months, until he died on the night of May 17th, in the central Pennsylvania region he loved so much.

Like all of his friends and acquaintances, I will miss Don Heckman enormously. Sitting in a turkey blind I cried yesterday, thinking about his loss. Don died way too young, barely into his retirement, and not in time for me to prove to him that really, I can get a gobbler to strut AND gobble in range. But that is what I will continue to do, to aspire to, in Don’s memory, as representative as it was of one of the last great generational wildlife conservation leaders in Pennsylvania and in America.

Bye, old friend, boy do I miss you.

 

Invasives & Sustainability

Invasives present a challenge to sustainability because they quickly fill gaps where natives take longer to grow and thrive. Natives evolved in their environment over long periods of time and they perform certain key services and functions that are necessary for the overall system to function properly.

As non-native invasives proliferate, they choke out the natives and reduce their ecosystem services. Almost always, the non-native invasives perform limited or no services, despite showy appearances. Their presence is totally unsustainable and is ruinous if left unchecked.

A day or so ago while walking on my favorite rail-trail, it was impossible to ignore the sickly sweet smell of Japanese honeysuckle, a huge invasive nearly everywhere in Pennsylvania. For whatever reason, Japanese honeysuckle has spread like wildlfire in the past few years. My only neighbor’s property is like Ground Zero, so whatever fight I am carrying on at my place is limited in effect by the invasive sanctuary across the boundary line. Like a shrub explosion.

Sure, the ruby throated hummingbirds benefit from honeysuckle, and who doesn’t like watching the gentle, delicate little birds flit around?

But this much honeysuckle is quickly crowding out native trees that benefit our native wildlife. Occasionally deer will browse the tender tips of a honeysuckle shrub, but after the first inch it’s just tough woody debris that deer won’t eat. So it grows pretty much unchallenged. And boy does it ever grow!

Along with Japanese honeysuckle comes barberry, multiflora rose, and autumn or Russian olive, often all popping up unannounced in large clumps. Interesting, isn’t it, that they all appear together? Once in a while a nasty ailanthus (“Tree of Heaven”) will push its way in among the other invaders.

After years of battling these non-native invasives, I have come to rely on pulling up the barberry by hand, usually with the aid of a length of re-bar, and spraying the smaller olives, honeysuckle, and multiflora rose with glyphosate. Sawing substantially into the larger honeysuckle shrubs and spraying the cut with glyphosate usually does the trick; it works much better than trying to spray the whole big shrub.

Intriguing, don’t you think, that the biggest advocates of fighting non-native invasives are the ones most aggressively pushing non-native invasives in the form of lawbreaking illegal border crashers?

Recently I was on the West Coast, in an area in the grip of a Biblical-size drought. Water scarcity is becoming a serious problem. Public demand for water far outstrips supply. A drive through the Central Valley revealed apocryphal “Dustbowl” conditions, with signs everywhere warning about the consequences of poor water management.

It is not a sustainable situation. Yet this area also holds the greatest number of illegal invaders in America, who put an unsustainable demand on other public services besides water. Public transportation, public schools, roads, highways, sewage treatment, public spaces like parks, police, fire and hospital services are all stretched way beyond capacity by the presence of the non-native, non-tax-paying  invasives.

And yet the voting citizens of Los Angeles and California continue to aggressively vote for unsustainability.

Boggles the mind.

The spy in my pocket

So after a year of prompts and warnings and threats, I updated the operating system on my iPhone. According to Apple, my iPhone was no longer a member of the 21st century, but had begun to operate in the Stone Age.

More concerning to me, being a happy Stone Ager myself, was the increasing likelihood that Apple would simply detonate the phone from afar, as it had become a liability for THE SYSTEM. Whatever that is.

So I updated. Using our home wifi, I babysat my blinking, chirping brilliant iPhone for about eighteen hours, until it demonstrated it was no longer brachiating, but in fact was walking upright, like all modern bipeds.  Good, so far so good, I thought.

When I turned it ON, what eventually emerged from the long sleep was a totally different animal than the one that had been so cheerfully helpful just a day before. What we had now was a failure to communicate, as I realized too late my mistake in allowing my pet to morph into a nattering little nabob of negativity, full of admonitions that deleting worthless photos could easily lead to the loss of all my photos, good and bad, desirable and deletable.

Also turned out that the phone was set to “spy” mode from the get-go.

That is, everything in it that could be used to share my information, track my location, disseminate my photos, and otherwise divulge everything about how I use the phone was set to GO. It took me dang near a week to figure out which switches and buttons to throw in order to eliminate the most egregious spying, but I know there are still parts of the iPhone dedicated to watching me and reporting back to Apple on all my choices. Especially the regrettable ones.

So here I have what was once a friendly and useful pet, and now an annoying little North Korean minder in my pocket. It watches everything I do, type, and say, and although I have done all I could to not share certain things with people who have no business seeing what is on my phone, it nonetheless threatens to destroy everything if I change one photon of how it is now set up.

I don’t know about you, but I lead a pretty simple life, and I really don’t have a lot to hide. But what I do have to hide I really want hidden. No, I do not want to link the iPhone directly to my bank accounts. No, I do not want to automatically share with the world via snapchat, facebook, twitter and etc every photo I take. And so on.

At some point I will tire of being spied upon by Apple, and I will throw this thing into a fire with lots of gasoline to help it along into the dark hell from which it came. And then I will go back to the Stone Age, that happy time when your flip phone simply called people from a list who you wanted to talk with, and it could text them, too, in really important moments, if need be.

Oh, how I long for the days of the antique Flip Phone. It was not a spy in my pocket, but a useful tool, like my pocket knife, also from the Stone Age.

Neil Young’s 1970 Protest Song REWRITTEN for 2016!

Following the 1970 fatal violence at Kent State University, Neil Young of Crosby Stills Nash and Young fame performed a song dedicated to his perspective of that sad event. It was written by Patricia Griffin and Robert Plant and published by Universal Music.

Neil Young named his song “Ohio,” a “protest song and counterculture anthem” representative of the Left at that time, and probably today, too. If you remove the lyrics, or replace them as I have here, it’s actually a good song.

Ain’t it funny how what comes around goes around, Mr. Young. Yesterday was the 46th anniversary of Kent State.

Four Dead in Benghazi

(Sung to the tune of Ohio)

A Parody by Josh First

Tin soldiers and Clinton coming,

we’re finally at the “T.”

This summer I hear the drumming,

Four Dead in Benghazi.

Gotta get down to it,

Government letting us down,

she should’ve been gone long ago.

What if you knew Chris,

and saw him in the compound,

How can you run when you know?

Tin soldiers and Clinton coming,

we’re finally at the “T.”

This summer I hear the drumming,

Four Dead in Benghazi.

ISIS soldiers and Clinton coming,

We’re finally able to see,

this summer I hear the drumming,

Four Dead in Benghazi

Four dead in Benghazi,

Four dead in Benghazi

Four dead in Benghazi….

Information on the Bowlby family sought

Information on Edward Salvin Bowlby is being sought for a research project, especially photos from the late 1890s. Please contact Josh if you have knowledge of this interesting man.

Cruz Quixote

Ted Cruz was my candidate until he was clear he’d rather be used by the GOPe to block Trump than stand on his principles, do or die.

Now with another Super Tuesday primary election behind us and boosting Trump, with zero chance of a Cruz win, Ted Cruz has decided to go on a Quixotic anti Trump jihad.

Cruz has made damaging Trump his top principle. Not defeating Hillary. Not promoting an overhaul of the GOP. Nope. Hurting Trump is now Cruz’s raison d’etre.

Pathetic. And unpatriotic.

At this point, a real American would step aside and cheer on the front runner. A real American would consider the national interest before his own.

Not Cruz. Being an obstructionist is now his highest and best use. This is sad to me, as I had thought he was bigger than this juvenile behavior.

It’s so bad that some Pennsylvania Cruz -aligned delegates are talking openly of going to the Republican convention just to work against Trump.

Donald Trump still does not represent my values very well, nor do I trust him to be the warrior in office he is now.  But Trump is a damn sight better than Benghazi Billary, and he’s now our standard barer, for better or worse.

Time to let go of personal ambitions in the greater interest of America. Or maybe move to Canada and just get out of our way.

Our Future Belongs to the Young

After spending years running for office and fighting many political battles on behalf of the common citizen, I was excited to run for State Senate in 2015-2016. It was supposed to be “our time.”

Enter Andrew Lewis, a young guy newly back in the area after a ten year period of service in the US Army.

Some already know the story: In late November hunting season I fell, injured my left knee, and headed in to surgery.

Competing against wealthy land developer John DiSanto was going to be a battle royale I nonetheless felt confident of winning. But with Andrew undermining our campaign base in rural, wonderful Perry County, and with him making up for a lack of money with an abundance of energy and hard work in the door to door arena, it made sense to cut my losses and see if Andrew could get my own agenda done.

After all, I did not relish the prospect of a 33/33/33 result decided by a couple hundred votes in the end.  Our family time and money was worth more at home than on that uncertain kind of a campaign trail.

Andrew had already adopted a great deal of our campaign platform, and when he agreed to term limits and not taking unconstitutional perquisites, I endorsed him.

Here we are, a day out from Election Day.

I am asking you to vote for Andrew Lewis in the Pennsylvania State Senate 15th District race.

Andrew Lewis is a young conservative who represents the future of American leadership.

John DiSanto is a fine man I’ve enjoyed getting to know on the campaign trail, but he has two liabilities: First, his business by its nature has left a trail of unhappy people. That’s not a great selling point in an election where the same people’s votes are needed.

Second, John’s toughness may be an asset in the land development field, but it’s not a great skill set in politics. John’s performance during and after debates demonstrates he is uncomfortable being challenged. If he easily gets testy among a friendly Republican forum, how’s he going to come off in a death match with sitting senator Rob Teplitz?

The 15th senate district should be in traditional American hands, and Andrew has the charm, background, and articulate policy interest necessary to demonstrate to citizens of all political leanings that he has their interests at heart first and foremost.

Please vote for Andrew Lewis on Tuesday.