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Archive → March, 2014

Take a kid fishing

Tomorrow marks the beginning of trout season in Pennsylvania. It’s a big deal. Half the population is associated with it, either fishing, eating the fish, or cheering on the mighty hunters who bring home the bacon.

Our next generation needs a helping hand. Too many gadgets, electronics, virtual nothingness and digital pretend friends are separating kids from the beautiful reality surrounding them. They might grow up to think that water comes from the tap, heat from the wall thingy, and food from the grocery store. Fishing teaches crucial lessons about being a real human being, not the least of which is self reliance, a trait once quintessentially American and now considered quaint.

Fishing also teaches the importance of conserving natural resources for the future kids.

So take a kid fishing. You’ll be doing everyone a big favor, now and later.


Is our intraparty war “Mars vs. Earth”?

Scott Wagner’s crushing defeat of PA State Rep. Ron Miller (a very nice man, for those who do not know him) last week is just one more political race in a string of races over the past few years that have seen the Republican grass roots increasingly stand up to or defeat Republican establishment insiders armed with faux endorsements and tons of party cash (that should be used to defeat liberalism, not defeat conservative Republican candidates).

Here is an article from this week, in which Josh First is quoted about this sad phenomenon:  

(Although I am conservative, I don’t know how I became a “hardline conservative,” but in the context of the grass roots vs. the GOP establishment, I’ll take it, as I am passionate about politics being an open, accountable, and transparent process)

This present situation (hopefully to be ended soon) reminds me of this scene from the movie Mars Attacks!, where Jack Nicholson is the grass roots activist and the Martians are the GOP establishment insiders…   

What the heck is in EPA’s water?

Something bad is in the water the EPA staff are drinking in DC.  It is making them nuts.

EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency, a place I once worked, a job once fraught with much philosophical disagreement) has proposed new regulations on air and water that basically put the agency in charge of every breath you take and every glass of water you drink.  It is an unconstitutional power grab by regulation that flies in the face of existing law.

EPA now asserts control of every body of water in the country, and that includes farm ponds, man-made drainage ditches along your hunting camp road, little intermittent rivulets that run for a few days in the spring and winter and then sink into the ground all other times, etc.  It is a remarkable effort to control, control, and control Americans.  The stories now emanating from citizens clashing over this rule change with heavy-handed EPA staff are extraordinary.  What amazes everyone with a bit of knowledge of these issues is how little the new rules do to actually protect water quality.  In fact, they create incentives for private landowners to take matters into their own hands, before some bureaucrat shows up for a show down over an issue totally, completely outside the purview of federal government.

Of course, promoting centralized decision making and big government is what this is all about, not environmental quality.

Second issue: EPA’s new air regulations, basically putting a heavy damper on wood burning stoves.  Yes, it is true that EPA is trying to shut down America’s best source of sustainable, renewable, biodegradable, natural, native, cheap heat – firewood.  And firewood-burning stoves.

If you look at the new standards for wood burning stoves, the particulate emissions restrictions on new stoves are technically impossible to meet, and old stoves that are in stock are not grandfathered in; stove manufacturers might go out of business because they cannot sell off their existing wood stoves.

But like the water regulations, this is not about public health or air quality.  Rather, these new rules are about undermining those citizens who are most self-reliant, least dependent upon others, most off-the-grid.  You know, rural conservatives.

Even more than when I worked there, EPA has become a tool for inflicting harm on Americans, for advancing anti-American policies.  It is time to put this rabid animal out of its misery, and start over with a new agency that is devoid of the cultural residue that allows this sort of behavior to happen in the first place.  The role of government is to serve its citizens, not dominate them.

Relishing the win over GOP machine politics

Four years ago, I ran in the US Congressional Republican primary for the Congressional seat held by then congressman Tim Holden. It was a four-way race, between me, state senator Dave Argall, Frank Ryan, and Baptist Pastor Bob Griffiths.  From the get-go, different Republican leaders tried to get me to bow out.  Dave himself met with me at GOP headquarters and asked me to step out (Ah, the irony…I had asked him to chair my campaign).  Lots of heartache along the campaign trail as GOP insiders tried again and again to give Dave an artificial boost, an unfair advantage, and unequal opportunity.  Lebanon County GOP tried to endorse him, and the committee disintegrated as a result of the infighting that ensued.  Schuylkill County GOP did endorse him, and immediately afterwards lost its chairman and underwent radical changes.

It was a great race, we did very well (26% overall in a four-way race, with about $20,000 spent, and the highlight being the 51% we got in rural Perry County, which has my kind of people), and we got kudos all around for the excellent pick-up campaign we ran.  Dave went on to win that primary by a few hundred votes, and then he got crushed by Tim Holden.  All of the smart GOP consultants and insiders who told me that Dave would win, and that I should get out, well, they never called me to acknowledge they were wrong.  Apparently losing races is OK so long as it is a GOP insider, but the consultancy insider class is terribly afraid of grass roots candidates losing.

In 2012, I ran in the GOP primary for the PA 15th state senate district, but only after I had  cleared a bunch of artificial hurdles the GOP set up to keep me out of that race.  First, the new district was not released until very late in 2011, and only then after former state senator Jeff Piccola had retired one week into the one-year residency requirement period (imagine that!), so that I could not get an apartment over the new district line just a mile from my house and thereby qualify as a resident of the district.

In January 2012, the PA state supreme court threw out the GOP redistricting plan, calling it unconstitutional and deeply flawed, and I found myself back in the old district.  But even then, we were several days into the ballot petition process, with no volunteers, no committee, no paperwork, no money, up against two establishment candidates, one of whom was hand picked by the party, John McNally, our Dauphin County GOP chairman.

We got 850 signatures, got on the ballot, and started campaigning, grass roots style.  Within weeks, the GOP-controlled PA senate had developed a new redistricting map and presented it to the court.  Not surprisingly, I was once again outside the senate district.  Making things worse, the GOP establishment staff began telling voters that I might win, but then be outside the district, and therefore unable to serve the people who had voted for me.  Thankfully, the PA supreme court rejected the map as just as flawed as the first one, and the GOP had to live with my candidacy, which proved to be incredibly popular.

In other words, I know exactly what senator-elect Scott Wagner went through until this week.

What was refreshing to me as I worked Wagner’s district’s largest poll (Manchester 5 & 7) was the voter sentiment that came pouring out as they poured in to the polling place to write in Wagner’s name on the ballot.  Voters were vociferously rejecting the contrived hurdles that the GOP had arranged to stop Wagner, they rejected the artificial support the GOP had thrown behind milquetoast career politician Ron Miller, and they strongly opposed the $700,000 in negative ads run against Wagner.  That was $700,000 that the GOP could have spent, should have spent, to beat liberalism.

I do intend to run for the 15th state senate district again in two years.  And I guess I will be facing a GOP hand-picked cookie cutter empty suit of a candidate, someone the party expects to be a rubber stamp, who will not pursue right-to-work legislation.  And folks, I intend to win this one.  Hope to see you there with me at the barricades.


Dangerous waters ahead

Does the right hand know what the left hand is doing at the Corbett campaign?  Are the very young people working there really up to it, do they have the background to successfully carry this off?  Trying to knock an unknown candidate off the ballot looks weak. Trying to pick a fight with sportsmen is just plain foolish. Good grief, people!

Historic win in York, Pa

Tonight, candidate Scott Wagner beat all the odds and won a contrived special election by write-in. The Pa-28th state senate district is in his hands.

As I’ve experienced myself, when your own party decides you’ve served enough of a purpose, or not enough, the people you were loyal to can try to dump you overboard. Such happened to Scott.

But tonight, Scott bested both the Democrats and the Republican establishment. It’s a historic win by any standard, especially by write-in.  Congratulations to Scott Wagner and to his campaign manager Ryan Shafik.

Freedom of opportunity reigns.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kane actually drops investigation against her political buddies

An overwhelming number and percentage of Pennsylvanians voted for a new PA Attorney General in 2012, to the point where a record spread was achieved.

Democrat Kane beat Republican Freed by 15%, an unheard of, unimaginable number.

The primary reason that so many Republican voters voted for Kane was that she was seen as clean, fresh, a new antidote to the deeply insider Freed and the same-old-gang of Good Ol’ Boy Republicans who had controlled that office since its creation in the early 1980s.  The Penn State – Sandusky scandal really hurt the Republicans in so many ways, and Kane was seen as the snake oil potion that would solve all of the problems, aches, worries, unfairness, baldness, and gout that was then plaguing Pennsylvania and Penn State.

Enter Kane the politician.  Wow.  If you had any questions about her political abilities and inclinations, wonder no more.  She has proven herself to be as adaptable as a chameleon, and as trusty as a rake left tines-up in the grass.

Last Friday (never a strong day for media, so always a strong day for government news releases seeking minimal coverage of their actions), Kane officially terminated a three-year-long investigation of a bunch of obviously corrupt elected officials in Philadelphia.  Caught on tape and camera taking bribes, these officials set the gold standard for how to make a great city fall to pieces.

But only days after she announced an indictment against a black state senator from the Philly area, Kane determined that there are “too many African Americans” involved in this sting, and that it is therefore racially biased.  No kidding.  Obviously, any future mob take-downs will be thrown out because too many white guys are involved, right?  This is both an embarrassing example of the bad government caused by Political Corrrectness, and an embarrassing example of the corruption of AG Kane.

Look, lady, either someone behaves legally, or not.  Either someone breaks the law, or not.  Skin color has zero to do with it.  And if skin color becomes the new standard for applying laws, then the country is going down the tubes, quick, because there’s a lot more Caucasian people overall, and more crime committed by Caucasians, than anyone else.  Allowing all that crime to move forward because we want to apply some vague, bizarre notion of “fairness” will allow crime to take over.  What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

Kane has proven herself to be just as political, just as capable of bad decisions as anyone else could have been in the AG seat.  That honeymoon was short.


PA House Bill 1576 pulled, for now

Pennsylvania House Bill 1576 would have dramatically changed the way PA regulates and manages endangered, threatened, and rare species of plants and animals.  It went overboard in so many ways, too numerous to recount now, and missed an important opportunity to actually bring a needed level of professionalism and accountability to the way the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission interact with and serve citizens.

Legislation setting timetables for the agencies on permits and regulatory actions is a good start.  Allowing citizens to recoup legal costs from successful lawsuits against the agencies would be fair, as the agencies occasionally get that bully’s “Go ahead and sue me” attitude, so inappropriate for any government agency.

HB 1576’s proponents bit off more than they could chew, probably a result of making an emotionally charged effort, rather than a carefully calculated and strategic effort at reining in government behavior that is sometimes seen as failing to serve citizens in the ways they deserve.  Advocates for the two agencies, myself included, should be asking how HB 1576 came up in the first place – what kind of agency over-reach, or failures to serve – resulted in elected officials from both parties becoming so frustrated that they decided to drop that bomb.

Now, HB 1576 is not on the next list of proposed legislation to get a vote.  There is talk in both parties about getting more finely tuned and focused legislation passed, and I certainly support that.  Government’s role is not to dominate citizens, but to serve them.  Protecting vulnerable plants and animals is a way of serving citizens’ interests, but there is also a way to do that without unnecessarily damaging the people who are supposed to benefit.  That includes ensuring that the two agencies have sufficient funding and staff to implement their respective missions.

Questions you’re not supposed to ask #3

Why is Penn State University exempt from state open records laws?

Yes, PSU lobbied for this exemption, but who cares?  Who would actually grant that?

And I ask as a faithful, loving, loyal PSU alum.

PGC: Great, Old Agency Unused to Modern Limelight

If there is one take-away from my many years in federal and state government jobs, it is that agency staff cultures change slowly.  In Pennsylvania, a great example of this is one of my favorite agencies, the Pennsylvania Game Commission.  PGC is an agency that is used to doing things the way it wants, often relying on its impressive history as evidence for its present day independence and independent culture.

PGC is presently in the headlines because of a $200,000 payment to its former executive director, Carl Roe, now very recently departed of the agency.

I thought it was an amicable departure; maybe not.  PGC staff say this is a settlement to avoid a possible lawsuit.  Critics of the payment include the governor’s office, the PA Comptroller, the PA attorney general, and many elected officials.  They say this is a sidestep around the state’s prohibition of severance payments, made between a board of directors and an executive director who were actually very cozy with one another.

This is sad, because PGC is a storied agency, a trend-setter in the area of wildlife management, wildlife science, habitat management, and public land acquisition.  Something I like is that PGC has uniformed officers who stand in front of Hunter Trapper Education courses filled with 10-18-year-old kids, and tell them that they have a Second Amendment right to own firearms.  Few states in America have such a wonderful role for their uniformed law enforcement officers.  We are fortunate to have this agency with this culture, and it is for this reason that I oppose merging PGC with DCNR.  Ranger Rick and Smokey Bear are not going to purvey that valuable message.

The flip side of the culture is what is often described as a “bunker mentality” among the agency’s staff, and this payment to Roe probably fits in with that view.

Most agencies are careful to avoid controversy, especially controversy that does not have a strong basis.  This payment does not appear to have a strong basis, so it is an unnecessary controversy that is likely to damage the agency’s standing among lawmakers and executives, as well as the general public and hunters who otherwise happily buy hunting licenses to support their favorite agency.  It comes at a time when the agency is already under the gun from oversight legislation (HB 1576, which does not address actual problems, but rather imagined problems unrelated to PGC and PA Fish & Boat Commission).

Don’t get me wrong, I like Carl Roe, and PGC has also driven me nuts at times.  I clearly recall the day he was brought on to the agency as an intern.  Me, then PGC executive director Vern Ross, PGC biologist Gary Alt, Carl Roe, and senior PGC staffer Joe Neville drove together up to Bellefonte to participate in the swearing-in of a new PGC commissioner.  Carl struck me as a bright, quantitatively-oriented, inquisitive, experienced manager.  Over the years since that day I have had many opportunities to meet with Carl, and he has always impressed me as a stalwart and intelligent promoter of PGC, hunters, trappers, and wildlife conservation.  This huge payment lightning rod situation just does not make sense in that context.

But on second thought, this payment does make sense if the insular agency culture managed to eventually penetrate into Carl’s otherwise solid judgment.  That has been a phenomenon witnessed among other new PGC staff; the broad “something-is-in-their-water” observation that people’s personalities changed dramatically once they joined PGC. Other evidence of an insular culture was recently brought to my attention: Four of the agency’s biologists (all of whom have some or all of the deer program’s oversight) have graduate degrees from the same school and they studied at the same post-graduate field station.  And no, they ain’t from Penn State, or any Pennsylvania university, for that matter, dammit.

I fear for PGC, because at a time when the agency is already under scrutiny from HB 1576, this new payment debate threatens to add fuel to the flames, and add a straw onto the camel’s back.  Part of the culture driving these problems is the same kind of culture that can cause the roof to suddenly come down.  Careful there, boys, careful.


So, as has happened before, these essays get read, and I get phone calls and emails.  People calling me usually do not want to post on the blog, being afraid of attribution, and frankly, what some other people want to post here is not always worth keeping.  So here is the gist of what came over the transom in the past half hour: Things between Carl Roe and the PGC board were not chummy.  The payment to him is seen as a real money-saver.  I am unsure how an at-will employee like an executive director has any real legal recourse, unless he is fired for his religion or political views, things that are a) hard to prove and b) unlikely.  Also, I neglected to mention that Roe had, indeed, given away about $300,000 in agency funds to Hawk Mountain (GREAT PLACE, but not necessarily deserving of big PGC money) and other groups. This unaccountable and unapproved largesse caused real friction between Roe and the board, not to mention the rest of the stakeholders whose donations to and purchases from PGC are expected to be spent in a pecuniary fashion.