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Scottish vote is instructive of changing identities around the world; is PA ready? Is USA ready?

A majority of Scots voted yesterday to not rock their world, not screw up their currency, not throw 300 years of cultural, financial, and military entanglement with Britain into a complete mess.

So although there was a sizable groundswell of independent-minded identity, about 45%, more Scots (55%) believed that the change was not worth the inevitable costs.  That 55% may indeed share the same cultural identity and passion for change as the 45%, but they believe that the price was too high.

Fair enough.  It is understandable.  Reasonable people can disagree about these things. After all, Scotland will still be Scotland, with a common language, culture, and identity.  And British lawmakers made clear concessions in recent days that will only strengthen and enhance Scotland’s sense of separate identity and self-determination, so the mere threat of separation gained new, valuable rights.

But Scotland goes to show that there is a sweeping change around the world, including in America, where changing identities are tugging at frayed social fabrics.  Eventually, these frays will become tears, whether we like it or not.

A good indication of this cultural change happened right here in America this past Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Constitution Day in America, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that American students could be denied their First Amendment right to wear shirts with the American flag on “Cinco de Mayo Day” in California.

Citing fears that Hispanic gangs in certain California government-run schools would see the American flag as intolerant of their Hispanic identities, an instigation to violence, a school principal, and subsequently one of the highest courts in the land (ain’t that the truth) decided that American citizens must be barred from wearing the flag of our nation, America, on their clothes.

On just that one day.

Needless to say, that an American court would conclude such a violent attack on our free speech rights is OK in the first place is incredible, especially when it involves wearing our national flag.

That a court would cite potential violence by criminals, many of whom are not American citizens, as a reason to deny American citizens their free speech rights is a whole other thumb in the eye.  It is not legal reasoning but rather giving in to mob rule.

That the court decision was given on Constitution Day really highlights the symbolic meaning and significance of this event.  The court is either tone deaf or purposefully showing its disdain for our guiding light.

It really marks a widening cultural identity gap increasingly growing in America, as it is growing in parts of Spain (Basques), France (half the planet is still French-occupied), Syria (Kurds, Sunni vs Shia Muslims), Iraq (Kurds, Sunni vs Shia Muslims), Turkey (Kurds), Argentina (Falklands, occupied by Britain), and so on.

In each of these locations, there are large groups of people who believe that the present government is actually working against their interests, not for their interests.  They want a government that they believe is representative of them, their needs, identities.

Come what may of these various separation movements, many of which have turned into open civil war, what concerns me is what this portends for Americans.

One poll this week shows that one in four Americans support some sort of secession or breakup of America.

Some states, like Alaska, Montana, and Texas, already have large secessionist movements or large population segments who want Republic status either restored, or instituted.

At some point these different intellectual disagreements will result in actual, physical disagreements, usually known as civil strife or civil war.  As much as this terrifies me and anyone else who enjoys the relative tranquility and opportunity America now enjoys, it is a fact that such events are part of human history.  They are probably inevitable.

When the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals hands down a patently ridiculous ruling like this one, to satisfy some small group of people who threaten violence against otherwise Constitutional behavior, you can be damned sure that a much larger group of actual Americans take notice, and they begin to see their nation a lot differently than they did, say, on Tuesday of this week.

If threats of violence by alien invaders can suppress our Constitutional rights, then what the hell does our Constitution really mean? Has it now become meaningless? Will threats of violence by other groups, alien or native, gain sufficient legal traction to suppress other Constitutional rights, too?  Will or could threats of regional insurrection or violence against alien invaders result in similar court holdings that the Second Amendment no longer has standing there?

Can anyone imagine what that would then mean to tens of millions of law-abiding American citizens, whose otherwise legal ownership of plain vanilla firearms had suddenly overnight become criminalized.  Like people using the Internet to promote their ideas, those Americans would use their guns before they would lose them.  Surely here in Pennsylvania that is true.

America’s Constitution is what binds us all together.  It is the great equalizer, the super glue that keeps America’s different, pulsing forces together.

Behind this week’s 9th Circuit decision is a morally relativist, multiculturalist mindset that places first priority on vague feelings of separate ethnic pride above and beyond the limits on government and expansive freedoms for citizens granted in the Constitution.  To this court, government is an enforcer for grievances and hurt feelings; the Constitution is irrelevant in how that enforcement is carried out.

Pennsylvania is undergoing quiet but dramatic demographic change, similar to many other states, including California and New York.  These same sorts of issues and questions are about to descend upon us.  Do we Pennsylvanians have the quality leaders necessary to keep us bound all together in one identity?

Or do we have elected leaders and courts who are willing to inject anarchy and civil strife in the name of a perverted sense of justice, what Hell may come as a result?

Some Westerners still adore Imperialism despite their protestations

If there is one hotbed of kooky political extremism in Western Civilization, it’s England.

As it was in the 1920s and 1930s, England is full of self-proclaimed “peace” activists and anti-imperialism yellers and screamers.

Their weak righteousness brought on World War II, and paved the way for massive treasonous infiltration of English government at all levels.

Many Soviet Russian spies were warmly welcomed by these activists to set up shop and undermine the individual rights and liberties that mark the strongest European democracy.

Anti-British sentiment ran and still runs quite deep in Wales, Ireland, Scotland, the Falklands, and many other far-flung places unassociated with England proper.

Yet where were those activists then, when those nations next to England yearned for their own self-determination? Sure, the activists accused everyone else (America, Israel, the actual anchors of Western freedom and tolerance) of vicious imperialism, but they themselves loved the unfair, artificial, imperialistic, forced notion of a UK. Scotland, Ireland, Wales were independent places with unique languages, cultures, and religions. They were hardly “united” with England by choice.

The Falklands? WTH?!

Why now that Scottish citizens are finally waking up to their own freedom are the British trade unions, left wing activists, and self-appointed bosses of equality silent on Scotland’s chance for true opportunity?

I’m not Scottish, Welsh, nor Irish, I am an American, but I do know that my country fought British imperialism many times, and that Americans greatly benefited from their Constitutional republic’s individual liberties.

It is time for Britons to act in a consistent, civilized way, and set aside their imperial self-interests.

As a former Scottish freedom fighter once said on film, FREEDOM!

Ken Matthews, local reporter extraordinaire

WHP580 AM radio has long been a source of news for those hungry for accurate reporting outside of the establishment media liberal agenda.

Bob Durgin was the lovable, garrulous, crotchety, cowboy hat wearing local man-on-the-street news guy from 3:00 to 6:00 daily, and his news items shaped a good deal of local, regional, and state politics.  Because Durgin worked in the state capital region, he was listened to by a population of political activists.  So when the PA state legislature midnight pay raise happened, Durgin was on the soap box, giving vent to his frustration.  He inspired an entire movement and generation of political activists; existing activists like Gene Stilp, Russ Diamond, and Eric Epstein were bolstered by having weekly access to his show as guests, and often sitting in for Durgin when he went on vacation.

After Durgin retired, Ken Matthews was hired by RJ Harris to run the 3-6 slot.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if Ken was going to make it during his first couple of months at the microphone.  His listeners missed Durgin’s style, and they missed Durgin’s local content.  It is a tough place to be, following three hours of Rush Limbaugh, and the natural inclination is to talk about national and international issues.  After all, these big issues best reflect the great principles and ideas that guide government, both good and bad.

So Ken’s callers were hostile towards him.  They didn’t like his style, his voice, or his views.  It was a rough transition, and it came through the radio like a sharp thumb in the eye.

But to Ken’s credit, he dove into the Central PA culture and took a crash course in our ways and our people.  There is a reason that this region is the most politically and culturally conservative area in America.  Our people here will always fight the good fight, and they want to be knowledgeable about politics.

Ken Matthews has now mastered the audience’s interests and passions, and he has really hit his stride.  Last week Ken reported on the frivolous but dangerous lawsuit against Perry County Sheriff Nace, by liberal county auditors seeking concealed carry permit holders’ information. Did the Patriot News report on it up front? No.  But, surprisingly, that liberal activist newspaper had an incredible interview with citizen activist Jim Lucas, after the fact.  So Ken is having an impact.

Ken’s reporting awakened a sleeping giant in otherwise pastoral, tranquil Perry County.  Ken is a hero.

Perry County’s tranquility is often seen as being simple and backwards by outsiders.  As a guy who grew up in very rural farm country, I can tell you that the outward tranquility masks a soul of steel and resolute commitment to American liberties.  City slickers do not understand that.  Here comes the political surprise, folks!  The hornet’s nest was knocked down with a broom handle, kicked, and then a swarm of angry hornets poured forth.  The implications for the 2016 state senate race in the 15th PA senate district are huge.  Perry County voters are now riled up.

Thank you to Ken Matthews, a friend of our Second Amendment rights, and a fantastic local reporter.  We are pleased to have you wearing Bob Durgin’s big cowboy boots.

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.

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.

*******UPDATE:

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.

Merry Christmas to one and all!

However it evolved into a fake insult, saying Merry Christmas is still the nicest thing one American can say to another.

Christmas is our national holiday. Religious Christians fret over its secularization, and certainly the commercilization and materialism surrounding Christmas stand in contrast to its roots.

But thanks in great part to 19th century British writer Charles Dickens, Christmas is, for all people, a time of cheer, good will towards one another, an abandonment of grudges, an embracing of love as the preferred force in human relations.

So, secularized as this all may be at this point, the message and culture now surrounding Christmas is good stuff.

So, whether you are Christian, Buddhist, Jew, Muslim, Baha’i, Zoroastrian, or pagan, I wish you a very Merry Christmas. You’re an American, you’ve earned it.

President George Washington said it best

George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation:

“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.
–George Washington”

The challenge of properly managing Pennsylvania’s endangered species

Managing Pennsylvania’s endangered and threatened species: Are we going from bad to worse?

By Josh First

Democratic government is by its nature slow and difficult. It’s designed to be inefficient. That’s why less government is better than more government. 

House Bill 1576 is being voted on Wednesday, sponsored by legislators responding to legitimate complaints from their constituents and stakeholders. HB 1576 would change the way Pennsylvania manages threatened and endangered species, by adding IRRC, the heavily politicized arm of regulatory government as the final arbiter of scientific reviews originating in our wildlife agencies. 

Here’s my three reasons for opposing HB 1576:

1) It’s more bureaucracy, which in this case is designed to hamstring the current regulatory process overseen by the PA Game Commission and the PA Fish & Boat Commission. Careful what you ask for, because if Pennsylvania lets endangered species management become a political issue, the US Fish & Wildlife Service will take over. If you think our state agencies are a pain in the butt, wait til distant, unresponsive, politicized federal bureaucrats take over and are making the decisions about our wildlife issues. You’ll get gridlock up the yinyang then.  And Pennsylvania will lose the annual +\- $30 million in self imposed excise tax money from sporting goods that is distributed to PGC and PFBC by the Feds each year.  

2) It emasculates the two independent agencies, setting them up for further questions about their function and role in state government. The ultimate goal by some people is to fold PGC and PFBC into DCNR. Emasculating the agencies is a step in that direction. 
My opposition to that is strictly cultural: PA is more like Idaho or Wyoming, and unlike every other state surrounding us, in that we have uniformed PGC officers teaching kids how to use firearms safely, and teaching them that firearms ownership is their constitutional right. State personnel in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, etc don’t do that. Those are Commie states where leftist governors have politicized the line agencies. Due to the extremists running their governments, these states actively deprive their citizens of their Second Amendment rights. That could happen here, say, under a Governor Allyson Schwartz, an extreme leftist now in the lead to be the Democrat nominee for Pennsylvania governor.  

Let’s not let Pennsylvania become a Commie state, or let our traditional hands-on culture at PGC and PFBC get overrun by the next governor who flits through the office. Let’s hold onto this old, beautiful aspect of our culture, and let our qualified authority figures teach the next generation about the beauty of individual liberty. 

3) It’s a sledgehammer when we need a scalpel.  With HB 1576, I think the PGC and PFBC just got the message that their process isn’t working for everyone. But it must work for everyone. So let’s sit down and hammer out a new, better process that meets the worthy stewardship goals of PGC and PFBC, without undermining those agencies. 

Sure, there are other reasons to oppose HB 1576, but those three are enough for me. 

Entertainment with Meaning

Embarrassing perhaps to admit that Barry Manilow and I agree on anything, but his opinion that people should listen to music that makes them happy, instead of angry, is a hard-edged opinion that’s hard to beat. To that end, I submit to your ears a song, style, and band that speaks to me in all its historicity.

Wisconsin Sikh Temple Murders: What The…?

If you have not had the opportunity to meet a Sikh, you should go out of your way to do so.

I have yet to meet a mean, unpleasant, surly, or disrespectful Sikh.

In my experience, Sikhs are like all other Indians: Universally pleasant, friendly, gracious. They work hard, contribute enormously to American culture, our economy, to family life, and small business. Sikhs are exactly the kind of immigrants Americans want, because they are both religious and tolerant of others. They have great values that are 100% congruent with traditional American values, culture, and lifestyle.

Sikhs are a net gain for America, not a threat.

And please, spare us any debate on Sikh or Hindu theology. Not one of us has a theology that someone cannot poke some holes in. Sikh theology is not mine, but it is very American in terms of its values.

My heart goes out to the poor Sikhs in Wisconsin, those who have experienced the downside of American freedom and liberty. Our Second Amendment requires citizens to be responsible, mature, and free of psychosis. It also requires other citizens to be on the lookout, so that they might defend themselves, if need be.

Sikhs are fine citizens, and I wish we had more of them here in Central Pennsylvania. Hopefully, the damaged temple in Milwaukee will be fixed, enlarged, and visited by people of all other faiths as a demonstration of solidarity with fellow good citizens.

What amazes me is that white supremacists believe they are superior, and yet they always behave in such obviously inferior ways. If you are so superior, start a business, make money, run a solid family, and pass on your values, whatever they may be, to your children. The thing is, racial and religious supremacy of all sorts is so deficient, so broken, that its practitioners almost always blow themselves up or run afoul of the law long before they can act civilized and healthily participate in a free democracy, thereby passing on their values.