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My 2019 resolution: Not going pee with the ladies

Last night we were celebrating the incoming New Year with friends at a hotel in New York City.  Lot of fun, beautiful time of year and place, great, friendly people and beloved old friends.

…and then I had to pee…

Discharging excess fluid is how a healthy mammal’s body works any day, and especially after copious intake. So, I feel the urge, stand up from the table, ask a friendly staff person about the location of the toilet, and receive clear directions. So far so good.

One of Western Civilization’s chief accomplishments is ubiquitous flush toilets. They even come with sinks and hand towels. They are generally clean, tidy, and hygienic, certainly compared to a hole in the floor like you will find the world over.  This particular hotel is quite nice, and had all kinds of nice little “extras” about for guests, and it stood to reason that my bathroom experience would be top quality.

Nope.

This is in NYC, a major locus of PC crazy, and it turns out that simply going pee in the homeland of PC crazy results in a crazy pee experience.

I approached the bathroom door and noticed beautiful and often scantily clad women coming and going through that door. Then a well dressed young man entered. The see-through door is labeled “EVERY BODY.”

My inner dinosaur screamed “No f*ing way!” as my feet reflexively stumbled backwards. I may have suffered a brief infarct. Maybe a meteor hit Earth or my head at that moment, too. Reality wheeled around me, and I had an out-of-body feeling.

The kindly young bathroom concierge standing nearby smiled knowingly and said, “there’s a men’s room downstairs, here let me show you,” and he accompanied me downstairs to a glittering bathroom that said “MEN” on the opaque glass and brass door.

This was what I had hoped for: Urinals for guys to stand over, breath mints and mouth wash on the spotless counter, stalls with doors giving enough privacy for guys going #2 or even amorous couples to do their business without interference or observation. A typical nice Men’s room. Natural boundaries. Privacy for men, to be men.

After emptying my body’s excess water tank, I washed up, went back upstairs, and walked past the Chaos & Bizarro anti-civilization bathroom, shown in these photos. Young men and women were still entering and exiting simultaneously, and as a result I made my first and likely only 2019 New Year’s resolution: I will not use a Chaos & Bizarro dual-sex bathroom.

Nope.

I like my high civilization and I intend to keep it. One pee at a time.

Fifty years of designated wilderness

Two weeks ago marked the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act.

It applies to federal designation of remote areas, not to states. States can create their own wild areas, and some do. States closest to human populations and land development seem to also be most assertive about setting aside large areas for people and animals to enjoy.

I enjoy wilderness a lot. Hunting, camping, hiking, fishing, and exploring are all activities I do in designated wilderness.

Every year I hunt Upstate New York’s Adirondack Mountains, in a large designated wilderness area. Pitching a tent miles in from the trail head, the only person I see is a hunting partner. Serenity like that is tough to find unless you already live in northern Vermont, Maine, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming or Alaska. It’s a valuable thing, that tranquility.

This summer my young son sat in my lap late at night, watching shooting stars against an already unbelievably starry sky. Loons cried out all around us. A gentle breeze rustled the leaves on the birch trees above us and caused the lake to lap against our rocky shore.

Only by driving a long way north, and then canoeing on a designated wilderness lake, and camping on a designated wilderness island in that lake, were we able to find such peace and quiet. No one else was anywhere around us. We were totally alone, with our camp fires, firewood chores, fishing rods, and deep sleeps in the cold tent.

These are memories likely to make my son smile even as he ages and grapples with responsibilities and challenges of adulthood. We couldn’t do it without wilderness.

Wilderness is a touchstone for a frontier nation like America. Wilderness equals freedom of movement, freedom of action. The same sort of freedoms that instigated insurrection against the British monarchy. American frontiersmen became accustomed to individual liberty unlike anything seen in Western Civilization. They enshrined those liberties in our Constitution.

Sure, there are some frustrations associated with managing wilderness.

Out West, wilderness designation has become a politicized fight over access to valuable minerals under the ground. Access usually involves roads, and roads are the antithesis of a wild experience.

Given the large amount of publicly owned land in the West, I cannot help but wonder if there isn’t some bartering that could go on to resolve these fights. Take multiple use public land and designate it as wilderness, so other areas can responsibly yield their valuable minerals. Plenty of present day public land was once heavily logged, farmed, ranched, and mined, but those scars are long gone.

You can hike all day in a Gold Mine Creek basin and find one tiny miner’s shack from 1902. All other signs have washed away, been covered up by new layers of soil, etc. So there is precedent for taking once-used land and letting it heal to the point where we visitors would swear it is pristine.

Out East, where we have large hardwood forests, occasionally, huge valuable timber falls over in wilderness areas, and the financially hard-pressed locals could surely use the income from retrieving, milling, and selling lumber from those trees. But wilderness rules usually require such behemoths to stay where they lay, symbols of an old forest rarely seen anywhere today. They can be seen as profligate waste, I understand that. I also understand that some now-rare salamanders might only make their homes under these rotting giant logs, and nowhere else.

Seeing the yellow-on-black body of the salamander makes me think of the starry night sky filled with shooting stars. A rare thing of beauty in a world full of bustle, noise, voices, and concrete. For me, I’ll take the salamander.

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?

Happy Birthday, Pennsylvania!

333 years ago this week, Pennsylvania was born, when King Charles signed the Penn Charter, granting William Penn millions of acres of land in the New World.  Ever since then, Pennsylvania has been a leader in religious tolerance, democracy, and citizen liberty.  Contrast our liberties with, say, adjoining states New York and New Jersey.  ‘Nuff said.

Condolences to the Mowery family, who lost former state senator Hal Mowery this week.  Hal was a gentleman, cheerful, intelligent, thoughtful, charismatic, and without question the best looking man to ever serve in the Pennsylvania legislature.  He will be sorely missed.

State Representative Calls Police Twice Over Inquisitive Citizen Opposing Gun Vote

By Josh First
March 7, 2013

Just over a week ago, newly minted New York State Representative Didi Barrett (NY-106th) twice called police in a thinly veiled attempt to have an inquisitive citizen intimidated by Red Hook police for exercising his Constitutional right to petition the government. Nope, this is not made up, folks; it is real and it is real-time. It illustrates that the gun control debate is not about guns. It is not even about crime. It is about controlling citizens; that is its purpose and the goal of its proponents. When the police show up at your door or pull you over because someone in an official position said something about you, anything could happen.

Beginning in early January and extending into late February, Chris Stehling, a plumber from Red Hook, NY, visited Barrett’s local office several times to explain his opposition to her position on New York’s anti-gun SAFE Act, and then her recent vote in support of that law. This new law is so restrictive that even most on-duty police officers are non-compliant and potential felons. The heavily rushed and highly defective law must now be “fixed,” and it is already going through a new amendment process, facts that in Stehling’s view indicated a flawed legislative process begging a few more changes.

Stehling tells me that he was respectful and professional when he first visited Barrett’s office, requesting a meeting with her. Asked by staff what the subject was that he wished to discuss, Stehling explained his opposition to his state representative’s vote for the flawed law. Barrett was unavailable, he was told, and “Don’t call us, we will call you” was their parting response.

Several days after he left, a town detective, Tom D’Amicantonio, knocked on Stehling’s door, saying that Barrett had called the police because her office “had concerns” about him.

“I asked Tom ‘What concerns?’, says Stehling, who is a steady, jovial, and articulate guy on the phone, and on a friendly first-name basis with the small-town local police.

After a forty-minute “amicable” conversation, and taking a statement from Stehling, who wanted to see his representative face-to-face, the detective departed, and left Stehling with a feeling of now being victimized twice by Representative Barrett: Once by her careless vote for the poorly written law, and now by her attempt to persecute and intimidate him for daring to ask her about it.

Stehling called a friend, and they returned to Barrett’s office the next morning, calmly seeking both to schedule a meeting and requesting an explanation about why the detective had been called. In addition, Stehling had a friend on the phone who could hear the conversation in the office. Apparently while they were talking to a staffer, someone else in the office was on the phone, calling the police again, because when Stehling returned to his car outside and began to drive away, the town’s police sergeant, Patrick Hildenbrand, pulled him over.

“The sergeant came over to my truck, and he asked me what was going on with Representative Barrett, and we explained our experiences visiting her office, including my First Amendment right to talk to my elected officials,” says Stehling.

After talking with Stehling and taking statements from both of his friends, Sergeant Hildenbrand reportedly later called Barrett’s office, explaining that Stehling was well within his Constitutional rights to petition his elected officials, to visit their offices, and request a meeting with his representative. Is that not the role of an elected official in a representative democracy, after all? The US Constitution’s First Amendment gives citizens the right to petition their government, and to speak freely.

Eventually Stehling was granted a meeting with NY Representative Barrett at her distant Albany office, which he conveniently visited after a pro-Constitutional rights rally at the NY state capitol that same day.

“She was dismissive about our concerns, even when we presented the fact that the new law criminalizes most on-duty police officers [because of their higher capacity guns] and it punishes law-abiding citizens but not criminals,” says Stehling.

Three weeks ago I debated Shira Goodman of CeaseFirePA (http://video.witf.org/video/2335658815), a gun prohibitionist group, on a WITF live call-in TV show. Several times during the debate Shira earnestly exclaimed her avid support for Second Amendment rights, which she is working overtime to destroy. It is now a common tactic to proclaim support for something you obviously despise and undermine. And thus America spawns people like Representative Didi Barrett, the Cuomo-endorsed New York State “Assemblyperson” who believes in getting elected to office, but not in being accountable to the citizens whose consent places her there; in fact, she evidently believes in using the police to intimidate or jail her political opponents.

Gun rights advocates have long worried that their opponents were seeking domination and control of the citizenry, and not control of crime. Representative Didi Barrett’s actions just showed us that concern is valid and true. But Didi Barrett tilted her hand too soon, though, because this kind of heavy-handed response from government should be more common only after Americans have been disarmed, and not before. Those citizens on the fence about this issue can now make an even more informed choice about which way to vote. Vote for freedom, folks, not for the un-American abuse of power that motivates people like Didi Barrett.

Listen to Chris Stehling’s other interview, on Sheryl Thomas’s radio program, at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/sherylthomas/2013/02/28/ny-gun-owner-harassed-by-assemblywomans-office

Stay involved in the conversation at www.joshfirst.com and on our Facebook page

Breezy Point, NY, Hit Hard by Sandy

Some places are just off the radar, and sometimes the closer they are to large metropolitan areas, the easier they hide in plain view.

Breezy Point is such a place. A slice of Heaven in an otherwise old, somewhat decrepit New York metro area, Breezy Point is a small seaside village nestled in the dunes between Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

About 99% Irish Catholic, it’s utterly safe, pleasant, and home to several welcoming real Irish pubs. For years, Breezy has been my main fishing destination. Its proximity to public land, private beaches, normal people, excellent fishing, and many friends makes it a natural venue to introduce my kids to surf fishing, beach bonfires, and rare friendly exchanges with urban strangers.

Sadly, Breezy took a big hit from Hurricane Sandy. Between unprecedented flooding and a huge fire that has eaten at least fifty homes now [UPDATE: 100 HOMES, developing], the place is really hurting. If nothing else, Breezy’s residents are hearty, able, and unwilling to move into “The City.” So it’ll be rebuilt. This coming Easter I may finally be able to organize the first seaside service with bagpipes that also kicks off the start of the striped bass run. I’ve raised the subject and been met with warm welcome by some locals. Given the state of things there now, it might be a good start.

To my many Breezy friends:
May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

Is Islam Compatible with American Freedoms?

Watch this interview with Imam Rauf, the best known advocate for Islam in America, and you’ll come to the same conclusion all other freedom-loving Americans have reached. http://www.jihadwatch.org/2012/07/michael-coren-exposes-ground-zero-mosque-imam-rauf-robert-spencer-gives-postgame-analysis.html

Racing fast to the next red light: where not to buy used cars

New York City would be the last place on earth I’d want to buy a used car, because drivers there universally rip from one red light to the next. Stragglers like me drift up behind them or up next to them in the adjoining lane about fifteen seconds later. Same red light, but they got there first.  What they got out of arriving at a red light first, before anyone else, it’s closely held knowledge.  I don’t understand it.

Call me Grandma, whatever; the need to accelerate my vehicle in that environment seems unnecessary.  It’s not like I am going to get somewhere faster by going faster and arriving at one red light after another before most other drivers.  The lights are timed to turn red in a row.  Unless a driver can do 0-60 in half a second, by the time he arrives at the next light, he’s pretty much guaranteed it’ll be red.

Ultimately, aggressively accelerating just burns more gas and stresses the engine more than driving slowly and deliberately.
Perhaps it’s a mindset thing.  Beating everyone to the next light gives the impression of being ahead, even if you’re all even.  Well, that’s weird.

New Yorkers apparently have it in for their vehicles, because they beat the heck out of them with this intense driving business.  A New York car may look shiny on the outside, but under the hood, look out. It’s gonna be an ugly mess.

I’d rather buy a vehicle from Amish country.
Josh