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Shoot straight, Downton Abbey!

Downton Abbey is my favorite TV show of all time.

Every in-season Sunday night at 9:00 we eagerly gather round the big screen, home made spiced popcorn by the bucketful for each family member, and we drink in the beautifully done details and attention to form and grace we might otherwise mock, but which suddenly doesn’t look so quaint nowadays.

Everything Downton Abbey is done just right: The clothes, the rooms, the landscapes, the attitudes, the horses’ braided manes and cropped tails, the food, the historic cars, the cobblestone walks, the Upstairs Downstairs separate lives of the nobles and their low-born helpers constantly saying “Yes, m’Lord,” and deferentially bowing.

That awesome acting!

For an award-winning PBS Masterpiece Theater show that has so carefully threaded the yarn of social commentary through the needle of the dramatically changing times of the early Nineteen-Hundreds and Twenties, it is bizarrely deficient on one count: The depiction or even the meaningful presence of field sports at Downton.

Field sports, like pick-up, informal, cross-country steeplechase horse races, formal horse-back fox hunts, weekly and near-daily hunts for driven pheasant, partridge, rabbits, stag, and red deer that for hundreds of years  made up the lives of real-life Downton Abbey residents and their peers until the 1970s, but still lingering on in remote places.

Not to mention salmon fishing with spey rods and picnic baskets filled with bottles of phenomenal Scotch!

Field sports were core to the luxurious but physically challenging lifestyle of the English landed gentry and nobility (and also to their Welsh, Scottish and Irish counterparts), and generated significant economic, technological, and cultural evolutions across the planet.

Downton Abbey’s second season delivered on the natural expectation among educated viewers that accurate depictions of field sports would be part of the rural landscapes designed around them.  And then, in one evening, Downtown Abbey did it right, to the hilt, as we expected.  As we had a right to expect.

Indeed, upon his visit to Shrimpie’s Scottish family castle, properly stocked with historic arms and armor, the most pedestrian Matthew (now dead) successfully stalked Highland stag, using period-correct clothing, ponies, and best-quality rifles, complete with attentive Ghillies nattily attired in the Hebrides’ best men’s skirts.  And he enjoyed it.  A lot.  How true that would have been.  How accurate it was to portray Matthew that way.

How normal that experience was, in real life, at the time Downton Abbey is set in, not only among the Scottish castle dwellers, but among the Downton Abbey residents, as well.

So then, inexplicably, we must wait another year and a half before we see even a brief hunting scene.  Sure there is a steeplechase, and Mary’s galloping sidesaddle was impeccable.  Exciting to watch, and viewers around the globe worried that she might fall; I did.  Jumping sidesaddle is a rare skill, which a gentlelady like Mary would have time to perfect.  Seeing it was, in fact, perfect to my eyes.

Well done!

But the hunting scene this season is awful.  It is shamefully bad, I am sad to say.

This time Tom, Mary, and one of her suitors take a walk on the Downton grounds with best-grade shotguns to hunt up some hares for the house pot.  Incredibly, Tom hesitatingly walks out into the middle of an open field, where no self-respecting rabbit has ever lived or been shot with a gun or caught by a hawk, points his gun up at shoulder level, and pulls the trigger.

At which point we are supposed to believe, what, that a Monty Python-style King Arthur quest-rabbit-on-a-string slowly sailed up into the air and delivered itself to the careful arc of Tom’s staged, static, single shot?

Come on, Downton Abbey!  This is not right. Not only is it not technically right, it’s not naturally right, but most important, it’s not socially right.

Just think of the potential social commentary available to the writers about a radical Irish Socialist private limo driver who then becomes the family’s land manager.

From being against estates, he is now the arm of the Lord of the estate.  From opposing monarchy, he literally gets in bed with it and his (now dead) wife Sybil bears him a child born to wealth and noble high status.

Putting the equivalent of a $150,000 best-quality shotgun in Tom’s hands, and a $5,000 wool suit on his handsome frame, while he hunts on the estate with pure-bred gentry at his side, surely we could have been treated to some scenes of rabbits dying in the place of King Edward, in Tom’s mind’s eye, or some other subtle but visual tension as we have seen elsewhere in Downton, such as where Tom feels physically drawn to the material comforts of the life he once intellectually opposed.

One can only guess why this dearth of hands-on hunting, riding, and fishing is an elephant standing in the castle’s drawing room.

Is it that Julian Fellowes is like so many of England’s effete cultural elite, openly disdaining even rudimentary firearms like single-shot rifles and double-barrel shotguns, and so including them only of the barest necessity in Downton Abbey?  And what a shame this is, because even for liberals there is rich mining to be had, a wealth of opposites, a world of contrasts in the universe of noble field sports.

Reality is not scary, Julian, nor is it objectionable.  Reality is reality, and if you are going to be historically accurate for our viewing pleasure, reality must be shown and said.  And as your loyal fan, I am telling you that you can put rose tinted lenses on anything at Downton, and we will eat it up, including rabbit hunting and driven pheasant shoots.

I hope you do it right next time, and include more accurate field sports portrayals.  To be prosaic, make sure you serve the other course with our otherwise fulfilling meal, please.  It should be roast duck or pheasant, with a scattering of chilled lead six-shot picked out from the rear molar with a pinky nail or toothpick like any Lord or Lady would have happily done in 1927.

 

Justice in Palestine, by way of Harrisburg, PA

Palestine may never have been a country in history, and there may never have been a “Palestinian people” before 1968, but by God, there are a lot of calls for Justice in Palestine, and this past week, we finally got a good dose of it.

Benjamin Blutstein was the kind of young guy who pushed just about every button I have.  He wore his hair long, he had huge discs pierced into his ear lobes, he may have had a nose stud or nose earring, he wore frayed hipster clothes that mocked everyone around him, and he was a little arrogant, like I had been (maybe still am a bit?) when I was 20.

While I had watched him grow up, I did not know Ben well.  But I know his parents well, Dr. Katherine Baker and Dr. Richard Blutstein, an interesting and intellectual couple here in Harrisburg.  Katherine and I share an interest in environmental health, and Richard is our family pediatrician.  Richard has come a long way on the gun control issue, and many other political issues, over the past few years, and I enjoy his company a lot, while Katherine and I typically quickly deviate from environmental issues into taste testing Scotches and fine bourbons with many a toast and Brogueish “To Your Health”s.

When our home became one with the Susquehanna River and flooded in September 2011, Katherine and Richard took in our family for over a week.

These are great people, and while Ben may have been typical for his age and education, he was unusual in that he was a committed religious person who was also skilled with ear-splitting music that won him a surprising amount of respect among his peers.

A month after I had been sitting and talking with Ben, he was dead, killed by a large steel bolt blasted from a pipe bomb and which tore a hole through his jugular vein and killed him (and many others in his presence) instantly.

He had been sitting in a college cafeteria in Israel, with other American students.

Ben was the victim of a Muslim Arab terrorist affiliated with the Palestinian Authority, a successfully corrupt and semi-official terrorist organization backed by the European Union, Quakers, liberal Jews, American idiots, and bigots everywhere.

This past week a jury rendered a verdict in the murder case Ben’s family and nine other victims’ families had brought against the PA: Guilty as sin, you murderous bastards.

The award? Six hundred million US dollars, which even by today’s devalued standard is still a lot of money.

While much legal wrangling remains, the fact is that the scumbag terrorists at the PA are on the hook for a lot of money, much of it likely to come from US  and European taxpayers, ironically, to cover the costs of its peaceful religion.

In a region where nearly every single Jew was subject to the usual Muslim Arab Apartheid and forcefully ejected, between the 1920s and the 1950s, from their farms, their homes, their lands and their businesses — all still today under a violent, illegal, and uncompensated Muslim Arab occupation*, and can we now please admit that the regional Christians are also undergoing the same systemic Muslim Arab Apartheid treatment, we finally have a shred of justice.

For once, I say Thank God for Justice in Palestine!

__________________________________________

*The irony of the one million Jewish refugees from Muslim and Arab countries is pretty rich, because as soon as they landed in Israel, much of it purchased by Jews and Christians, the same people who had just torched their homes and stolen everything they had actually accused them of being guilty of the crime of occupation and, now rounded up into the Middle East’s only ghetto, named Israel, the Jews once again became a scapegoat and the sadist’s favorite target, an unjust political farce continuing to this very moment.

What if concerned citizens blocked the FCC vote tomorrow?

What if concerned citizens went to the FCC headquarters and blocked the five members from meeting there and holding a quorum?

What if the American citizenry decided that they had had enough of Obama’s lawlessness, and they determined the only way to keep the FCC from taking over the Internet was to #OccupyFCC?

What happens when the FCC takes over the Internet, the FEC begins regulating what is posted on the Internet, and the government continues to dispense “waivers” to its regulations like it has with ObamaCare, except that in the case of the Internet the establishment legacy media are allowed to continue on in their partisan way, and everyone else must obey or be severely punished?

Will armed citizens storm the FCC building and take it over, or destroy the hard drives controlling the Internet, to get their freedom back?

These are dangerous times indeed.  A lawless takeover of America is rapidly occurring on many fronts, with government coercion and control behind all of it.  Americans in the past have not responded well to this sort of power grab.  And by bringing in a tidal wave of illegal aliens to vote themselves more of our hard-earned tax money, well, that is the recipe for war.  In fact, there are historic precedents for this throughout human history, where alien nations used surreptitious control from behind the throne to take over a competing nation they could not vanquish through warfare.

Obama did not love the America he became president of in 2008, there is no question about that.  He is seeking to fundamentally transform America into something else, completely deviating from its founding principles, the principles that made our nation great and a beacon of freedom and hope.

To be fair, Obama is being aided by the weakest group of elected officials in our nation’s history.  The Republicans in Congress are obsessed with their own personal power and prestige, their long careers, not with staying true to our Constitution, or to good government, or freedom of speech.

To quote many of my good friends, this situation is “unsustainable.”

Medical cannabis – the time is now

Medical cannabis is the active ingredient from the marijuana plant, used in a responsible way for strictly medical purposes, like treating severe pain and seizures.

Presently the well-earned stigma of “weed” prevents medical cannabis from being used as an alternative to addictive, dangerous drugs from barbiturates and opiates.

Prescription pain killers are becoming a huge menace to American society, not just because of the addictions and ruined lives following in their wake, but because of the car accidents and violence that result from their over-use and misuse.

It is now time to allow medical forms of cannabis – NOT pot/weed/ dope/ hash/ MaryJane – to be used on a strictly controlled medical basis for pain relief and controlling seizures.

The risks of medical cannabis are known to be very low, the side effects are low, while the benefits are known to be very high.  When compared to the high risks, high side-effects of current prescription painkillers, medical cannabis looks positively like a miracle wonder drug.

Anyone with a shred of compassion for others in pain wants to give them safe ways to treat their affliction.

So, what the heck is the wait?

Let’s pass Senate Bill 3 and give our fellow Pennsylvanians the medical relief they need and deserve.

And no, I am not talking about legalizing the recreational use of marijuana leaf.  Recently a supporter asked me my position on this subject, and I believe it is a generational thing, with younger people more comfortable with recreational use of marijuana than us older folks.  Growing up in the late 1960s and 1970s, I saw marijuana used and abused recreationally, and while it may not have the negative side effects of alcohol or hard drugs, it still is not a great thing to have legally at hand.

America needs fewer recreational drugs, not more, but medical cannabis is not a recreational drug, and even if it were considered a drug, it would displace many much stronger, truly dangerous drugs.  Its time has arrived.

 

The end of the Internet as metaphor

As intriguing as the thought of artificial intelligence may be, the truth is always so much more prosaic and humble.

The last frontier and the only real outpost of true free speech, the Internet was never broken, it needed no fixing.  And yet the Obama administration, through the FCC and FEC,  is planning on regulating it like a utility and then regulating its content.

If you have a website, like this blog, you will have to apply for a license, just like a radio or TV station.  Imagine some government bureaucrat not liking the message of smaller, more accountable government on this or similar websites, and then not issuing the necessary license to have it in the first place.  Your free speech, my free speech, is shut off, shut down, by the very government that is supposed to guarantee the First Amendment.

That is the FCC role.

And then if I write things that are supportive of one candidate over another, it’ll count as an in-kind contribution to that candidate’s campaign.  Imagine an army of government bureaucrats monitoring free speech on the Internet, and writing down and tabulating what people say and write on their blogs as campaign contributions.

That is the FEC proposal, and it is none too supportive of free speech, either.

And mind you, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, CNN, NPR, MSNBC and other establishment and legacy media will all get passes.  They can continue to be active arms of one particular political party, and their writings, their endorsements, will not count as in-kind campaign contributions.

While all this government interference and control in our private lives seems insane to the normal freedom-loving American, it is, in fact, what is happening right now.  “Net neutrality” sounds, well, neutral, and it is anything but that.

Tempting as it is to say “And then add this to the IRS political suppression and NSA spying scandals…,” the truth is that few people seem to care, no matter what Obama does.  Americans are willingly giving up their freedoms, their control of government, their tax money, their security, to a man who clearly does not like America as it has been founded and run since 1776.

Apparently, government control of Internet content and our individual personal lives fits into that general malaise.  Sad.

What is even sadder is that so many people so much want one particular party to have complete control that they will do all of this, plus grant amnesty to illegal aliens to overrun the established voters who built the nation.  None of this is sustainable.  No nation can withstand this.

 

PA Office of Open Records – the battle for control

Erik Arneson is never going to win awards for public relations savvy, but he does deserve to hold on to the job of director of the Office of Open Records he was appointed to by outgoing governor Tom Corbett back in December, 2014.

Incoming governor Tom Wolf immediately “fired” Arneson and sought to put someone else in his role.

Arneson and the PA senate Republicans sued Wolf, claiming that the job holds a six-year term and that’s it.  It is not a political appointment to serve at the whim of whichever governor is in office at the time.  To do so would place the office squarely in the middle of politics it is supposed to be above.

Showing up to his January lawsuit press event in a Green Bay Packers-marked ski cap and satin jacket, Arneson alienated every Steelers and Eagles fan around, not to mention us PSU Nittany Lions fanatics.  Plus, he did not look real professional, either, dressed up like he was going to a November football game, and not into a high stakes legal battle.

Maybe his rumpled look and out-of-synch team clothing choice represent a kind of idiot-savant mentality, which I would find refreshing.  You know, a guy who is so focused on doing his job so utterly professionally that he walks around with his zipper open, his hair touseled, his head involved in important things, not mundanities.

More likely is that Arneson has spent so long in the ultra-insulated world of the professional party functionary system (Republicans and Democrats alike have this alternate dimension), that he is unaware that his appearance in public matters to the public.   He may not even care.  Accountability in that party functionary world is non-existent, and professionalism is not always what taxpayers would or should expect from the people they pay.

But the fact is that Arneson was duly appointed to a six-year term, which itself strongly indicates an independent position above the whims of politics, such as incoming new governors wishing to make government in their image.

Nearly all of Pennsylvania’s commissions and boards involve six or even eight year terms; some are four years, but they tend to be the ones where the governor alone makes the selection.  At least that is my sense of things, having been involved in the selection process for the PA Game Commission and the PA Fish & Boat Commission.  Both of those commissions had eight-year terms until last year, when they were changed to six years, which is still sufficient time for a board member to ride out political changes that might corrupt their otherwise professional and detached judgment.

For those people complaining about Arneson’s politically partisan credentials, ahem, we did not hear your voice when the first occupant of the office was selected, Terri Mutchler.

Terri Mutchler is a very nice person whom I knew a bit when we were students at Penn State, way back in the 1980s.  She was professional and diligent, way back then, and again during her tenure as the first director of the Office of Open Records.  And in that new role she feuded just enough with then-Governor Rendell to lend credibility to her claim of being above partisanship.

But recently Mutchler has come forward and admitted that she was a tool, literally, for partisan politics in past jobs, even in one of her most sensitive jobs as a senior reporter and news editor.  [those of us already long ago jaded by the mainstream media are unsurprised by her admission; we just wish current political activists posing as news reporters at NBC CBS ABC NPR NYT etc. would be as honest]

In other words, Mutchler was a nakedly partisan Democrat, perhaps like Arneson would be a partisan Republican.

But if you don’t like Arneson for this reason now, where were you for the same reason back then, when Mutchler was appointed?  Critics of Arneson cannot have it both ways – happy to have Mutchler’s partisan role back then, but opposed to Arneson’s presumed partisan role now.  That is inconsistent, and therefore undeserving of respect.

Inconsistency is the hobgoblin of good government,and if there are two words that define what Americans expect from their government, it is good government: Professional, a-political, non-partisan.

So, Arneson must stay on, despite his frumpy appearance, his poor taste in football teams, his deafness to Lion Country’s football preferences, and despite the nakedly partisan calls for him to step aside for a Wolf Administration selection.

But I will say this: His beard, that damned scraggly beard, it looks incredibly unprofessional and unkempt; if he keeps that for one more day, then he does deserve to be fired immediately.  And tie your shoes, Erik, dammit.

Gosh dang, all these headlines about violence…gotta change the subject

While our planet has descended into a frenzy over epic Islamic violence threatening Western Civilization, or least just all of the Christians remaining in the Middle East, it is important to take an escapist break from it all and look back to the distant past.

Better times, right?

Well, a history lesson is now in the works in 2015, because it is the 100-year anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, a milestone that no one is going to forget, no matter how much the perpetrators try to sweep it under the rug.

One and a half million Christian Armenians were starved, executed, enslaved, tortured, exiled, children were turned into sex slaves, families were broken apart, homes were taken by force, men were beaten to death in front of their families, women were raped in front of their dying husbands, eventually ancestral land was taken and occupied, and the first modern genocide was under way.

Who conducted this outrage against humanity, and surely they been held to account, we ask.

Why, it was the Turks, as in Turkey, as in the Ottomans, as in the leaders of the Islamic World, as in…dare we say it…will Obama approve?…Muslim Turks.

The Religion of Peace.

Of course, the Turks also still illegally occupy half of Cyprus, have committed genocide against the Kurds, and still illegally occupy their homeland.

The Religion of Peace….leading the way. Invading Europe. Invading Spain. Murdering the Armenians, because they were Christians.  Bombing infidels.

Now, back to these pesky headlines about Christians getting their heads cut off we’ve been dealing with the past few weeks. You know, the news, as in what is new.

Couldn’t have said it better meself

My sympathy to those murdered in Chapel Hill. But it’s not a hate crime.

Hate crimes seem to end up being thought crimes, per George Orwell’s book about all-controlling government, 1984.

There’s a piece at Breitbart about it, here , and at uncommonsense66.

A Severance Tax, now?

Talk about an addiction to spending other people’s money.

Yesterday in southeast PA, far away from the communities where this issue is most important and the citizens might not be so welcoming, Governor Tom Wolf staked out his position on creating a new 5% “severance tax” on natural gas from the Marcellus shale feature.

Right now, natural gas is selling at historic low prices, especially here in Pennsylvania.  The financial incentive to drill more or spend more money to get more gas is very low, and drill rigs have been disappearing from across the region for a year.

The Saudis began dumping oil months ago, in an effort to punish competing oil producers Iran and Russia, with the secondary effect of dropping gasoline prices so low that the natural gas industry got hit from that side, too.

So now is not only a bad time for the gas industry, it is also a time of greatly diminished returns on investment and on royalties received.  Scalping 5% off the top of that is punishing to everyone, including gas consumers, who will see their rates increase proportionally.

Here’s the biggest problem with a severance tax: Pennsylvania already has a 3% impact fee on Marcellus gas, and a Corporate Net Income Tax of 9.99% (let’s call it ten percent, OK?).  Most of the other gas and oil producing states have no such additional taxes; their severance taxes are the one and only tax their oil and gas producers pay, not the multiple high taxes and fees drillers in PA pay.

Pennsylvania government is therefore already reaping much higher revenue from the gas industry than other gas producing states.  That means that the companies doing business here are already burdened much more than elsewhere.

So adding a severance tax now, at this economically bad time, without commensurately lowering other taxes, or the existing Impact Fee, makes no sense.  Unless the people promoting this have an infantile view of how America and business work.

And that right there is the problem.  Way too many advocates for tax-and-spend policies like an additional severance tax have a Marxist view of business; essentially, to them, business exists to pour money into liberal schemes.

And speaking of spending, who believes that spending more and more and more taxpayer dollars on public schools, public teachers unions, and public teachers’ pensions, actually equates with better education?

So many studies disprove that (see the Mercatus Center), but it is a liberal mantra that taxpayers must spend ever more of their money to support public unions that support political liberals.  And both parents of students and taxpayers alike now correctly see that system for what it is – simple, legalized political graft to fund one political party.

Public schools are mostly a disaster, yet teacher’s unions and their political buddies continue to pound on the table for more and more money.  Homeowners are essentially now renting their houses from the teacher’s unions, and proposed laws like Act 76 seek to fix that unfair situation by removing the vampire fangs from homeowners and letting the larger society pay for its expenditure.

Going door-to-door for political races year after year, property tax has been the number one issue I have encountered among elderly homeowners.  So many of them can no longer afford to pay the taxes on their houses, that they must sell them and move, despite a lifetime of investing in them.  This is patently un-American and unfair.

So Tom Wolf is moving in exactly the opposite direction we need on this subject, and instead of trying to fix the tax situation, he seeks to make it worse.  To be fair, Wolf campaigned on raising taxes.  He just needs to remember that he did not get elected by voters who want higher taxes, they wanted to fire former governor Tom Corbett.

 

Great American Outdoor Show is in Harrisburg, and it is Fantastic

The Great American Outdoor Show, which used to be called the Eastern Outdoor Show until the former promoter turned anti-gun and tried to block vendors from showcasing their modern sporting rifles, is on and happening in Harrisburg through Sunday.

I have been volunteering a bit for the PA Federation of Sportsman’s Clubs, not nearly as much as I have in the past, but still contributing and selling raffle tickets to friendly people who visit the booth.

Last year the Federation raffled off a Bushmaster AR-15, and this year we are just doing cash.  Right now the pot is a few thousand dollars, and by the time the raffle is drawn it’ll be much more.  Some of the proceeds go to support the Federation, so it’s a good cause.

I stopped in to visit the Unified Sportsmen booth the other day, but the person I sought was not there and the volunteers were just leaving, but I am looking forward to hearing their perspective on sportsmen’s issues.

The River’s Edge canoe and kayak sales by Neill and Evelyn Andritz  sold me on a Hobie kayak.  But let me tell you, these kayaks today are not your Nanuk of the North kayaks of old.  My friends, these things might as well be on the space shuttle for when our guys find water on Mars, because they are nothing like the sloppy, floppy, tipsy, floating death traps we used to squeeze ourselves into.  Today’s Hobie kayak is a blended hybrid, using the best qualities of canoes, surf boards, and kayaks to bring small-craft fishing into the 22nd century.  The Mirage Pro Angler 14 and the Mirage Outback were the two I had to choose between in the end, but being a “Big Guy” means that the 600-pound capacity of the Mirage Pro Angler is a must-have.

And beyond the fat-guy-and-all-his-gear capacity, the technical bells and whistles are amazing.  Stand-up stabilizing bars, leg-driven flipper drives that look and power like an orca tail, bait coolers, adjustable seats that would be at home in a Maserati, sleek rudder controls you can use with your elbow, hand, or foot, storage lockers running the full length for stashing kit so big you can harpoon the shark of your dreams, rod holders everywhere, holes for masts, and so on.

And all this above is about just one vendor with two small self-powered boats I liked in the Farm Show complex that is loaded to the gills with gear, knives, guns, outfitters from around the world, specialty clothing and footwear, trophy services, archery gear so sophisticated I feel like I am Stone Age when I handle it, RVs, ATVs, camping gear, bug-out survival gear, and so on and on for much more.

The Great American Outdoor Show is worth visiting if for no other reason than to say you went and witnessed one of the wonders of the world.  It is the biggest show of its kind in the world, and even if our new governor, Tom Wolf, isn’t interested in attending (incredibly that is true), you definitely should.