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Last Dance at Julia’s Auction

James D. Julia was in full-throated auctioneer mode when I hung up the phone earlier today, his voice rising high above all the other competing voices.

With a standing-room-only crowd at Julia’s Auction in Fairfield, Maine, the background noise was overwhelming, even on the phone. Today being Julia’s last-ever auction, the place is packed to the gills with people who just want to experience it and be able to say “I was there.”

“Please yell at me, like you are mad at me, OK?,” instructed Debbie, the Julia’s Auction employee assigned to handle my phone-in bid. She could hardly hear herself, much less her client on the other end of the line. I, too, could only hear a roar, a cacophony of voices, with the auctioneer’s voice occasionally rising above it.

I have been to Julia’s several times, and it has never been anything like this chaos.

Yes, it is a long drive from central Pennsylvania, but if you are into the stuff I am into, then the drive is worth it. If for no other reason than to inspect in person the various antiques (my wife calls it all ‘rusty junk’) of interest.

Julia’s firearms catalogues are phenomenal, presently approached in quality and accuracy only by Amoskeag Auctions, but there is no substitute for being there and seeing the items in person.

Please understand that Julia’s catalogues are more than just sales listings. They are historic repositories of hard-won information, useful to researchers of all sorts, as well as helping set some parameters on overall market prices.

Julia’s catalogue photographs set the industry standard. Nor have I ever seen an example where Julia’s mislead or provided an inaccurate description of some item. No doubt it has happened, but compared to the other auction houses, Julia’s descriptions are perfection. Gospel, really.

The Lancaster double rifle I was interested in came up quickly, and before I could indicate a number, it was already at double what I was prepared to bid. On quick second thought, I was ready to bid higher, but by then the auction price was already beyond double my highest bid, which was still forming in my mouth.

“Do you want to bid?,” asked Debbie.

“Nope. I’m out, it is already way beyond my highest” said I.

“But it was nice just to be able to bid one last time at Julia’s, a place I have come to love and fear,” I said.

Debbie laughed at my joke, and then after a few brief pleasantries she said goodbye, moving on to help the next phone bidder in what will probably go down in the history books as the most expensive, frenetic, chaotic firearms auction ever.

Fortunately or unfortunately, Julia’s has been purchased by Morphy Auctions here in central Pennsylvania.

I say unfortunately, because no one likes to see a good thing change, and Julia’s is not only a good thing, it has been the best thing in antique firearms auctions, bar none. So now that it is becoming part of Morphy Auctions, it is disappearing.

I say fortunately, because the merger will bring all the highest-end antique firearms to Morphy, which is much, much closer to my home. No more long, long drives to south-central Maine. But this may be too close.

And that is why I say unfortunately, because now that all these guns will be on display so close to my home, like less than an hour away, I will end up acting like a kid in a candy shop: Out. Of. Control.

Oh, my suffering wife. Yet more rusty junk, honey!

Which brings me to a much more poignant point: Don’t assume things will always be so, because in truth things are always changing. When you see something good, and it looks right, and it is going to bring you pleasure, or happiness, or a good investment, then strike while that iron is hot.

Just five months ago, Julia’s previous firearms auction had barely anyone in attendance. Hardly any bidding occurred on most of the firearms there. Maybe one or two bids per item, except for the especially rare or collectible, with most going for just one low bid, filed by absentee bidders. No one knew then that Julia’s was going to be merged with Morphy, and so no one showed much interest.

Had people known then what they know today…that October 2017 auction would have been a mad house, like today is, and the assemblage of fine, one-of-a-kind firearms would have been much more competitive.

For those of us who did participate, we reaped the benefits of low competition.

Goodbye, Julia’s! You will be missed. We welcome to central Pennsylvania the many outstanding firearms experts who have made Maine their home in the past decades. They will be happy here, surrounded by lots of natural beauty and an all-American culture that does not punish or stigmatize gun ownership.

My only hope is that Morphy carries on the same high quality catalogues that Julia’s produced, in style, substance, photography, and descriptive accuracy. That is one thing the industry cannot afford to lose.

My pickled egg recipe

Lately the raving feedback on my pickled eggs has inspired me to post here the home-made recipe I use.

What are pickled eggs?

They are a Pennsylvania Dutchy native food, originating from the pre-refrigeration time, when salting pork and beef, and soaking vittles in salt and vinegar, was the only way to preserve food, to keep it from going bad.  Only so much food could be kept cool in a spring house, or hanging cured in a smoke house.

So pickled eggs are hard boiled eggs that are soaked in a salty brine with various flavors tossed in to suit your own palate. One thing I have not tried are deviled eggs made from pickled eggs. I will bet they’d be mighty tasty.

You need a sealable one gallon glass jar; I re-use an empty (repurposed) pickle jar with a steel lid.

Into the empty and cleaned jar empty one can of sliced beets in beet juice. Brine or citric acid in the beets is fine, but just keep a running tally in your head or on a slip of paper of how tangy or savory the brine is going to taste.

Then either from the hot sink tap or on the stove top heat up four to six cups of water in a pot, and according to your own taste, add two to four tablespoons of salt and a table spoon or two of granulated white sugar. Mix in the salt and sugar in warming water until it is dissolved.

The hardcore Germans among us will want more sugar. A lot more sugar. A sickening amount of sugar. Don’t ask me why, it’s just one of those odd sweet tooths that people brought over from Europe. I myself like my eggs savory, not sweet.

Turn off the heat. No need to boil or simmer. Just get it hot enough to turn the salt and sugar into a solution, and then pour half to 2/3 of it into the big jar. Reserve the rest; it might be needed.

Then pour into the jar two cups of apple cider vinegar. You can spruce this up with balsamic vinegar, malt vinegar, a bit of white or wine vinegar, and you can always put in more or less to suit your own taste buds. But for the sake of starting out, let’s just begin with two cups of apple cider vinegar, which Heinz sells in gallon and two-gallon jugs.

Now add 12-18 hard boiled eggs (peeled!) to the jar.

[Note: Eggs boil best when the water is a roiling boil and the eggs are added quickly, boiled high for five minutes under a lid, and then kept under lid for 30 minutes after the heat is turned off. Eggs boiled this way will peel easily and perfectly]

A table spoon of mashed or minced garlic, a quarter teaspoon of dill weed, and a dash of basil into the jar will together give a nice flavor.

At this point your jar should have some room in it before the liquid reaches the very top, just below the lid. You can throw in a couple sliced carrots and some sliced onions. Now, there will be a tiny bit of room left at the top, and you should fill this in with more vinegar and \or the reserved brine, depending on your taste buds.

Close the lid tightly, go to the sink, and slowly turn the whole jar upside down, then back, then upside down again. A few of those turns and everything inside is mixed up. In the winter time you can put the jar in the pantry or mud room for a few days to let the eggs pickle. In the summer you will have to have a very cool basement corner, or else put the jar in the fridge for a few days.

After 2-3 three days, the eggs and vegetables are pickled. The eggs will be colored reddish-pink throughout, even into the yolk. The vegetables will be yummy. Use a spaghetti strainer to reach into the jar and pull out a couple eggs and some vegetables. Put them on a plate and serve cold. We also put them sliced into salads.

Yum. Big treat.


The importance of Sunday hunting – come join us

Hunting is more than recreation. It is more than even “making meat,” so your family can survive.

Hunting is one of the few authentically human of activities left to us, we modern humans, shells of our former paleolithic selves that we are.

Today, in America, we hunt to be fully human, to demonstrate that we are still engaged with our ecosystems as the predator we became so many thousands of years ago.

Wild animals are still the cleanest, healthiest source of protein available. Getting your own meat through hunting is the most honest way to get food.

Sunday hunting here in Pennsylvania is nearly verboten. Somewhere in the 1860s a wave of religious commitment (a good thing) swept through America, and with it came “Blue Laws,” a very bad thing. Blue Laws are artificial contrivances to more or less force people to  stay away from commercial activity on Sunday.

Here in PA we still cannot buy a car on Sunday, nor can we hunt for anything more than coyote, crow or fox.

Using the force of law to deprive the citizenry of choice on something like hunting, when it is really a private property rights issue, is simply wrong. Blocking private landowners from hunting on their own land on Sunday is bad law, bad government, and it must be changed, for so many reasons.

Providing more Sunday hunting opportunities will open up about 50% more hunting time for Pennsylvanians, who typically can only hunt on Saturday, if they even have Saturday off from work. We are losing hunters, we need to recruit more hunters, and this is the biggest step we can take toward getting hunters back into the numbers where we are a measurable force for conservation and gun rights.

At 2:00 PM on March 11th at the PA Game Commission headquarters here in Harrisburg, a meeting is being held about how to get the Sunday hunting effort moving forward again. Some may recall I served as a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit several years ago. So much effort was put into that, and then RINO Yvette Kane struck. Kane, now a federal judge who openly accepts valuable gifts of jewelry and cars from law firms doing business before her bench, said that Sunday hunting was not a federal religious freedom issue, and sent us to state court, which said it was a federal issue.

We cannot get justice anywhere.

And this is the conundrum we face. Pennsylvania is one of the very last hold-outs on Sunday hunting in America. All but a few states allow full Sunday hunting, during hunting seasons, which are typically during the Fall and winter. Every state surrounding us is a commie state, and yet they allow meaningful Sunday hunting. Only PA is stopping a million of its citizens from fully realizing their recreational dreams and best family time.

Please come join us on March 11th at the PGC HQ, at 2:00 PM, to work on the political solution to this silly problem. Your grandchildren will thank you.

PA Supreme Court Magically Turns Itself into Legislature

In an anticipated 4-3 partisan decision today, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court majority rejected the original and heavily gerrymandered map submitted by the PA Senate Republicans, as well as three heavily gerrymandered maps subsequently submitted in the past week by the PA House Democrats, PA Senate Democrats, and even PA Governor Tom Wolf.

Instead of declaring none of the legislative district maps to be constitutional, because theoretically none of them have met the constitutional tests for compactness and adhering to existing political boundaries, and instead of declaring the governor’s map completely unwelcome because it is not his role to draw voting district maps, the PA Supreme Court has actually drawn its own redistricting map.

No court anywhere has the constitutionally derived role of drawing voting district maps, and no court anywhere can justify doing so. According to the US Constitution, drawing voting district maps is specifically a state legislature role.

I will say that the latest map, drawn by the PA Supreme Court majority, looks better in some ways than the other four maps recently submitted for review. This map is certainly tighter and breaks fewer county lines than the others. In that sense, it is a more reasonable map.

But that is not the question.

The first question is, should Pennsylvania just get on with voting, as we are now running out of time for the primaries, and just use the established map, deficient though it may be?

The second question is, should the US Supreme Court allow the PA Supreme Court to, in effect, turn itself into a legislature, by performing a key function that is specifically relegated only to the state legislature by the US Constitution?

Hopefully, the US Supreme Court will deny the lower court’s power grab, and direct Pennsylvania to go on with the previous voting district map, flawed though it was, the greater interest being in letting voters have a say at all, as opposed to political elites pulling strings to keep themselves in power.

As imperfect as the legislative process is, and as distasteful as the gerrymandering process is, it is what it is, meaning that this is what we’ve got. No court can magically turn itself into another branch of government. So let’s go with the existing map we had six weeks ago, and get on with elections.


Attack of the pussy weasels

Well, the Pennsylvania Grand Ol’ Party has done it again.

The PA GOP pussy weasels really knocked it outta the park this time, with their latest politicized voting map. As usual, this map protects PA GOP favorite candidates, spineless jellyfish all, and removes or undermines candidates threatening those favorites.

Gerrymandering seems to be the PA GOP’s best skill, their highest and best use, because Lord knows these guys can’t fight. They cannot take liberals head-on, nor can they allow conservatives to have a shot at talking to the voters. God forbid, the empty suit establishment hacks might lose!

And this is why the PA GOP is made of pussy weasels. They are pussies, wimps of the worst sort, not fighters or brawlers, and they are weasels, sneaky, devious, conniving little men. Pathetic excuses for men. Few of these guys have it in them to be men, to act like men.

Pussy weasels. Cheaters.

Though the GOP is supposed to be the “hawks,” with these kinds of weazly weaklings running things, it is no wonder America is in so much trouble.

For those who don’t know, gerrymandering is setting up voting districts to favor a particular political party for candidate. It is how you protect your hold on political power without having to actually compete for it, or allow your opponents (within and without the party) to challenge you in a meaningful way.

Granted, the Democrats will do the same thing, given the same opportunity. But what is especially frustrating about the PA GOP is how aggressively and openly they target independent-minded conservatives for elimination from consideration.

Look at this redistricting map. This is the voting district map the Pennsylvania legislature (Republican dominated) sent to the governor last Friday, as a result of the last one being thrown out by the PA Supreme Court.

 By the US Constitution, all US voting maps are supposed to be compact. That means counties are supposed to be held together as much as possible, communities are held together, and regional cultures are supposed to be held together. Political districts are supposed to be as compact as possible, not spread all over the landscape.

Here we can see several political districts that are obviously all over the landscape. Zig-zagging their way from the Poconos to Central PA. Or gutting certain counties. Or  targeting specific candidates in ongoing political races right now.

Note the three red circles.

See what is in them, the little municipalities? These are cut-outs, not where counties have been gutted, but where specific candidates live and have been targeted for removal from current ongoing races. Not a whole lot of them on this map, and believe me, these three are significant.

These three red circles are classic targeting by the PA GOP establishment of conservatives who the pussy weasels believe are a threat to their spineless, principle-free, money-oriented, power-based political club.

The red circle on the upper right is where candidate Joe Peters lives. Peters is an awesome candidate for the US Congress, and he was going to cost GOP establishment hack Dan Meuser the race, because Meuser lives just over the line from where Peters lives. Peters was going to pull votes from the same community, the same region, the same culture, which would make it oh, so hard for Little Danny Meuser to just win the danged seat.

Well, the new map has Meuser in, and Peters out.

And two other active candidates for the same seat are now also out in this map, Steve Bloom in Cumberland County and Andrew Shektor in Columbia County.

Race for US Congress now looking much better for Meuser, and he didn’t even have to go make a speech or go to a debate!

Now let’s go to the middle red circle. Guess who lives there? Another candidate in the same congressional race Meuser is in!

His name is Andrew Lewis, another awesome candidate for the same congressional seat as Meuser and Peters. Lewis is popular in this vote-heavy Dauphin County, and also in the adjoining ultra-conservative Perry County, which is now suddenly and totally out of the newly redrawn district.

This is where gutting the county also comes into play. As one might expect of the county seat of political power in Pennsylvania, Dauphin County holds a lot of political activists, including yours truly. By halving Dauphin County, the county becomes much less of a political base for the enterprising would-be candidate, as primary voters everywhere vote first and foremost for candidates from their same county.

So the PA GOP pussy weasels killed two birds with one stone here. They took away Lewis’s voter base, and also undermined the potential future opportunities of anyone else from Dauphin County.

So Meuser gets to stay in the redrawn district, his one toughest opponent (Peters) has now been completely removed, two others were removed, and the other tough opponent (Lewis) completely undermined. Odds are looking good!

Pretty nice work for a pussy weasel, right?

See, a real man would be embarrassed to have other people do all of this for him, to pretty much guarantee him a seat in Congress. A real man would want to get out and compete, be challenged, and stand up for his beliefs. Like a man.

But not here. Here we have pussy weasels, like Meuser.

And that last red circle, up on the left. See that? Guess why that remote little outpost of super rural Pennsylvania is mysteriously cut out from the enormous political district surrounding it?

If you guessed that it is because a political activist lives there, you would be CORRECT.

We are talking about an area there in northwest Lycoming County that has more bears than people, and yet, the PA GOP pussy weasels can’t stand the thought that the guy up there might actually run for office, and have a chance to spread his charismatic message of conservativism. Why then, the pussy weasels would not know what to do. Their power might be threatened!

God forbid.

One hopes that Governor Wolf, no big winner himself, refuses to sign this monstrosity, and that it then goes to the PA Supreme Court.

We deserve a government Of the People, By the People, and For the People.

Not a government of, by, and for pussy weasels.

Our Wildlife Management Comments Submitted to the PA Game Commission

Dear PGC Commissioners,

In so many ways the Game Commission is on an exciting path, really moving forward on policy, staff culture, and scientific wildlife management. It is an exciting time to be a hunter and trapper in the great state of Pennsylvania, thanks to you. Hunting and trapping are supposed to be fun, and the PGC should be able to maximize opportunities without sacrificing the natural resource base. If anything, the agency has been perhaps too conservative, too cautious.  In that vein, here are some small suggestions for improving hunting and trapping in Pennsylvania:

a) Make all small game seasons concurrent, start them in late September or early October and run them unbroken until mid February. The current on-again-off-again schedule is silly, an artifact from many decades ago. Our current small game hunting schedule leaves kids and oldsters alike out in the cold with nothing to hunt if they can’t get to deer camp, or if they do kill a deer and want to keep on hunting. Hunters deserve maximum opportunities that do not degrade or put wildlife populations at risk, and adding a few extra days won’t hurt anything, but they will help hunters tremendously. Put another way, the risk of changing this is very low to non–existent, and the benefits are huge. Well, what is the risk, really?

b) Allow the use of snares in rural WMUs and/or on private lands. Cable restraints are an important trapping tool under any circumstances, and especially so as we experience ever-increasing freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw winters, with rain no less. These weird winter conditions render traditional footholds nearly useless both early and late in the season. Cable restraints can function better than footholds under those conditions, but they just are not sufficient for the big coyotes we are encountering. Getting coyotes into cable restraints is tough enough, and holding them there is even tougher. Chew-throughs of our cables are common, where a snare would positively catch the coyote and hold it, bringing it to hand and into the bag. In rural areas (or on private land) there is a far lower expectation or risk of a pet or feral dog or cat being caught. We are ceding too much to the anti-trappers by prohibiting snares where they can do the best good. A pet is an animal that lives in a home. Eliminating a very useful tool because of some vague or low-probability worry is not good policy. We can do better, and snares are much better than cable restraints in general, and particularly in the northern Big Woods areas. Also, CR certification can only be done right in person, through hands-on training. This online certification is going to lead to problems, especially where CRs are used like snares.

c) Allow the use of body-grip (Conibear) traps outside water courses, specifically on running-pole sets for fishers, bobcats, and raccoons. Like the snare situation above, our trapping regulations are unrealistic, they are too conservative, penalizing law-abiding trappers because of vague fears that under reasonable circumstances will not happen. Securing body-grip traps up off the ground is well out of the reach of dogs and domestic cats. Separately, if a pet owner lets their animal out the door to run free, where it can trespass, be hit by a car, be eaten by a coyote or fox or hawk, or get hurt in a fight with another animal, then they do not truly care about it and it is not a real “pet.” Pennsylvania trappers do not deserve to be hurt because of others’ irresponsible behavior. Elsewhere in America, the use of bodygrips on running pole sets is very effective and humane. We can stick with the #160 size as the maximum.

d) Extend the fisher trapping season and areas. Trappers in Berks and Lebanon Counties have told me of catching fishers in their sets, and we are seeing them in Dauphin County. There is no good reason why we cannot extend where and when we trap these abundant predators. Incidentally, they eat bobcats and turkeys, and it would be silly to expect fishers to simply harmoniously co-exist with other animals. They are a voracious predator and they will have a disproportionate impact on predator and prey populations alike if allowed to expand unchecked. Fishers are cool animals and I am all for having them in our ecosystems. What is lacking now are the mountain lions and wolves that in the distant past would have eaten them, and kept them in balance with other wildlife. We humans now fulfill the role of lions and wolves. Let us at ’em.

e) Make sure bobcat populations can sustain these long trapping and hunting seasons. We are seeing a lot less bobcat sign and fewer bobcats on our trail cameras. This was the first year we did not get a bobcat through either trapping or calling in 2G and 4C, and while this may be just our observation, we are concerned. If bobcat harvests must be reduced, then we prefer that it come out of their hunting season. There is a ton of hunting opportunities in Pennsylvania, and not a lot of great trapping opportunities. Heck, muskrats are practically extinct, coyotes have eaten most of the red fox in the southcentral, and possums are clogging nearly every trap. Let us keep our bobcat trapping intact.

f) Reinstate concurrent buck and doe deer hunting. We are seeing a high number of deer nearly every place we hunt (WMUs 2G, 4C, 3A, 5C, 5D). Deer populations are definitely lower than in 2001, and deer are harder to hunt now than then, but the quality is unbelievable, and the herd can sustain both doe and buck hunting. Pennsylvania is now a real trophy destination, so keep up the scientific management, which would include allowing hunting on Christmas Day.

g) Expand the bear season by one day in WMUs 2G and 4C, or rearrange the season entirely. There are an awful lot of bears everywhere, especially in 2G and 4C. On the Friday before bear season starts, we see loads of bears having tea and crumpets in the back yard. They are watching football and hanging out leisurely in reclining chairs. Come Opening Day through Wednesday, we might see the hind end of a bear or two, or we might occasionally harvest a bear, if we work hard enough. By deer season opening day the following week, the bears are back to having tea and crumpets in the back yard, hardly disturbed by all our hunting efforts. Another way to address this is to make bear and deer seasons concurrent, at least for one week, and perhaps start that concurrent season the week of Thanksgiving.

h) Do more to end wildlife feeding. We continue to see mangy bears, and deer baiting under the guise of “helping” wildlife through artificial feeding. It’s not good for the animals, and can actually be bad. People also feed wildlife to entice game animals away from (other) hunters. This is a cultural practice that PGC needs to do more to end, through education and enforcing the bear feeding regulation.

Thank you for considering our comments. We do love the PGC and admire your field staff, especially.

Josh and Isaac First (father and son)

Harrisburg, PA

Why I am a Political Activist

Over the years I have been asked why I am so involved in politics, particularly as an unpaid activist representing my own sense of justice and fairness (as opposed to them being determined or set by corporate or union interests).

More recently, like yesterday, the opening salvo of a campaign to find and elect a primary candidate against incumbent state senator Jake Corman has prompted some citizens to ask me why. And not always so nicely.

That’s OK, because it is rewarding to see any American give a damn about politics, even if their favored elected official is a self-serving creep like Corman.

Folks, it is real simple. I am an activist so that you can enjoy your liberty and freedom, because that is what I believe in. No one pays me to do this. Rather, I take money out of my pockets and spend it so you can make a more educated decision, even if you don’t think you want that information. And believe me, after decades of the Corman clan hoodwinking the good people of central Pennsylvania, a lot of work is needed.

While I am not a member of the Armed Services, I am a member of the American citizenry, where individual political activism is part and parcel of our cultural fabric.

For me, political activism is a love of liberty, inspired by the freedom and promise of America. I feel inspired when I think of these things, and I am willing to fight for them, for you. Even if you don’t agree with my specific views.

Think about it: Most of the people on this planet live under tyranny, with no freedom, no choice, no opportunity, no liberty to express themselves or seek redress for bad political choices. China alone has over a billion serfs. Russia has several hundred million disenfranchised citizens, who are daily watching what vestiges of democracy they had cobbled together crumble.

What we have in America is rare, but here in America we also have so much material wealth and tranquility that our success is now putting people to sleep. People take everything we have for granted, forgetting the incredible amount of work and sacrifice it took to build this nation up to where it is.

We cannot take America for granted. America is not on autopilot, though to a lot of people it sure looks that way. Too much is at stake to have this attitude.

The hard fact is, you simply cannot outsource or delegate your role as a free citizen. No one else cares as much about your freedom and liberty as you care, and no one else will advocate for you as much as you yourself can, or will.

Another way of saying it is that democracy is where you get the form of government you deserve or have earned.

If you the citizen do not stay involved in civics, politics, and voting, then we will all lose what we have. Corporate interests, union interests, corrupt political interests, control freaks will all happily take over running the country for you, dividing it up amongst themselves, and increasingly edge you out of the picture while using you for your tax money.

Examples include Obama’s trillion-dollar Porkulus bill that enriched his allied interest groups; or Solyndra, the fake solar energy company to which Obama gave nearly $500 million of taxpayer money, your money. And then there is the Clinton Foundation, whose principals used government access and influence to generate kickbacks construed as charitable donations. In the Bush II administration, US VP Cheney helped steer a $400 million no–bid contract to his former employer Halliburton to help clean up Iraq.

As an ongoing enterprise, America takes constant vigilance by its beneficiaries – you, the citizen.

In 1787, at the end of the First Constitutional Convention held at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Benjamin Franklin stepped out from behind the closed doors into the throng of citizens waiting outside.

There, on the same cobblestone streets so many of us are familiar with today, a Mrs. Powel asked him “Doctor Franklin, what was decided, shall we have a monarchy, or a republic?”

To which our good doctor Benjamin Franklin quickly responded “A republic, if you can keep it.”

And that is why I am an activist, because it takes constant citizen activism to keep our republic. It is what our great nation is built on.

Won’t you take my hand, or lend a hand, and help out?


PA 11th Congressional District race: Joe Peters or Andrew Lewis

Pennsylvania’s 11th congressional district stretches from well southeast of the southcentral PA capital city of Harrisburg to the farthest reaches of northeastern PA, near the New York border. It is one of those crazily gerrymandered districts created to protect a certain congressman, a certain party. You have to try really hard to create a political district this convoluted, and it is as twisted as the power-hungry thinking that went into it.

I know, because according to the PA Supreme Court, I was the primary victim of the gerrymandering that created the 2012 Pennsylvania state political district map, released at the same time as the congressional map.

Apparently my then-candidacy (as an independent-minded conservative) for the 15th state senate district was a threat to the political establishment (self-serving careerists surrounded by a constellation of special interest groups feasting upon the taxpayer host body), and so they placed my Harrisburg home in a tiny political pocket. Our home was barely in one congressional district that is mostly based in Adams County to the south (Gettysburg). It was just one small part of Dauphin County mixed in with much larger portions of other counties, and we were also suddenly a couple blocks away from the 15th state senate district.

The gerrymandering was announced just as our 2012 campaign got under way.

The PA state Supreme Court threw out the state district map, calling the area around our home “an iron cross…” designed to exclude someone from participating in the political process. But the court kept the congressional map, which is being challenged now.

So that is where we got these crazy district lines, and it is how we now have a four-way contest to replace outgoing Congressman Lou Barletta.

Candidates who have officially announced are Joe Peters, Andrew Lewis, Steve Bloom, and Dan Meuser. Their home bases stretch from the farthest reaches of southcentral to far northeastern PA.

I know all of these guys, and I would like to share some thoughts with you about their candidacy.

Let’s start with Joe Peters.

Joe has the most impressive resume of any of the candidates here. He has been a successful professional crimefighter, and a wonderful political outsider. Joe is the stuff of legend, a tough cop surrounded by bad guys, but always doing the right thing.

Peters is the Serpico of political candidates.

A former cop and prosecutor who put away really bad men in jail, Joe took real risks, and earned real enemies. He has been tested many times over many decades, and has proven uncorruptible.

So naturally, Joe has earned the enmity and fear of politically powerful shadows now supporting the other candidate from his region, Dan Meuser.

We would be lucky to have Joe Peters in Congress, though I fear he lacks the funds to get his message and impressive personality out to the voters. When he ran for PA Attorney General a few years ago, I gladly, even eagerly voted for him. Really impressive guy. Total underdog.

Then we have Andrew Lewis.

After more or less forcing me out of the last primary race for the 15th state senate district (2016), by undercutting my base of support in Perry County, Andrew nonetheless earned my endorsement in his subsequent man-to-man primary run against John DiSanto, our current state senator, who thankfully went on to defeat incumbent Rob Teplitz (a Marxist who was outstanding at constituent services).

What I liked about Andrew then is probably his biggest weakness now, and that is his youth.

Andrew must be the most energetic candidate to ever run for any office. He is physically tough, tall, good looking, earnest, religious, conservative, and a combat veteran of the US Army operations in Iraq. And boy is he positive. This kid has the best demeanor and personality you are likely to meet in your lifetime. He is from a rural farming background, salt of the earth family, smart as hell, and highly educated. He has an impressive resume by any standard, and especially for someone so young.

People asked me in 2016 why I endorsed the guy who stole my dream of serving in the state senate. My answer was that Andrew was a really impressive young man, the kind of person America needs in politics and in leadership roles. I stand by that now, and if for some reason you can’t vote for Joe Peters, Andrew Lewis is your  man. You cannot go wrong voting for Andrew, who has probably the best geographic reach (political base, or likely voters) of all the candidates.

Then we have Steve Bloom, a sitting state representative from Cumberland County.

There is nothing negative anyone anywhere can say about Steve Bloom. And there is a long, long list of very positive things about him.

And that is the problem here.

Steve, why are you in this congressional race?  You are needed in the PA State House of Representatives, where you already serve with great distinction! You are WAY too good to lose from the state house.

Steve has worked hard and smart in the state house. He has amazingly, surprisingly worked his way up into junior leadership. He is on the cusp of breaking into actual leadership, which is amazing because he is a straight-talking, no BS conservative. Steve is not a weasel, he is a force for good…in the PA State House. The fact that he is moving up is cause for celebration.

Steve is very conservative, religious, and as pure as the driven snow. Steve is exactly what we need in politics, and in fact he already IS in politics. Now that he is in the state house, it would be nice to keep him there. If you vote for Steve Bloom in the upcoming primary, no one can fault you. But the fear is that Steve’s southcentral PA base is too small for him to leverage into winning this congressional seat, and that voting for him will divide up the vote, resulting in the worst possible outcome in this race…

Dan Meuser.

If you have something positive to say about Dan Meuser, would you please contact me directly?

Honestly, if you have something truthfully good to say about him, I will publish it here, unfiltered. No lie.

Dan is from the same northeastern coal country that Joe Peters is from, and he has played the strangest role in politics for a long time.

Dan has the distinction of having blown the hugest wad of cash on a losing primary race of anyone in living history. About ten years ago he ran against Chris Hackett, a religious hillbilly who no one had ever heard of.

And Dan lost.

He didn’t just lose, he lost spectacularly, hugely, phenomenally. Dan spent literally millions of dollars on a primary race, and lost to a guy who spent, what, a hundred thousand dollars? Maybe a bit more?

What Dan lacked in charisma and character, he made up for with money. He just kept tossing that cash around, trying to buy votes that never materialized. When the dust settled, in a two-person primary race, mind you, Hackett had crushed him with his folksy man-on-the-street candidacy. The empty suits lost to the citizen revolt that became known within a year as the Tea Party.

Dan Meuser eventually served in the Tom Corbett administration as Secretary of Revenue, the Mister Moneybags of PA government.

The Corbett administration was the worst run administration in modern Pennsylvania history.

A tone deaf governor with zero loyalty for those who put him there, and a taste for private flash, Corbett was surrounded by an army of self-directed, self-interested political hacks embodying the very worst of political patronage. God it was a freaking disaster, and it brings me no happiness to write it here.

I worked hard to get Corbett elected, very hard, and I served on the transition team, only to sit back and watch in slack-jawed amazement as the entire enterprise slo-mo crashed and burned after it was in place. Like a bad dream.

How many people went into the governor’s office, pleading for Corbett to take control and right the ship of state…it was like a nightmare, where your hand is on the wheel, and you keep turning it, but your car heads over the cliff.

Anyhow, if you are like me and four years ago you said “thankfully that pain is behind us” about the departing Corbett Administration, well, Dan Meuser is here to revisit that pain upon us, once again, but this time as a congressman.

As Secretary of Revenue in the Corbett administration, Meuser oversaw, masterminded, and approved the largest state government sexual harassment settlement in Pennsylvania history. And it may be the largest state government sexual harassment settlement in the country’s history.

You understand, this is nothing to brag about. This settlement was probably unnecessary and in any event, it was a colossal waste of limited taxpayer money. At a time of tight budgets, this is no way to spend The People’s money. At a time of flush budgets, it is going to be the butt of late night comedy jokes, because it is bad policy but at least humorously so.

And speaking of The People’s money, do you know another fantastically bad public policy idea Meuser implemented from his perch in state government? He put the squeeze on Pennsylvania businesses, like the Mob would do to extract cash from innocent people.

We PA business owners, great and small, all received these ridiculous notices from Meuser’s Dept. of Revenue saying “Prove to us that you don’t owe this tax money below, and while you are mulling that over, pay this bill for what we think, but cannot prove, that you owe to state government.”

Meuser’s assault on PA businesses for fast cash to prop up bloated state government spending was so shocking that whatever bit of good will the Corbett Administration had left, was squeezed out of his remaining voting base. Nearly 100% of these phony tax bills ended up resulting in zero owed, but it was the kind of expensive and anxiety-inducing government red tape we expect from liberals. Not from business people. With people like Meuser in senior positions pulling these kinds of cheap stunts, it was  ever harder to see Corbett as a pro-business Republican.

And this is the GOOD stuff about Dan.

Believe me, there is plenty more bad stuff. Like, recall the politically powerful shadows pulling his puppet strings mentioned above. He is the stultified establishment candidate. Good grief, aren’t we so beyond that now? Most Republican voters now know how failed that is, a party inward looking, without direction, barely distinguishable from the Democrats.

Dan Meuser is the last person Pennsylvanians need in office. He is representative of everything bad about politics. You cannot vote for him. You just cannot. That is a terrible choice. My gosh, you have three other good candidates to vote for here, and if you really want one of the good guys to win, you will vote for Joe Peters or Andrew Lewis.

Voting for Dan Meuser is voting for an empty suit with no principles, with a history of proven failure on one of the seminal issues of our time, sexual harassment.

Voting for Steve Bloom is effectively dividing up the good-guy vote and pretty much ensuring that Dan Meuser wins. We need Steve to stay in the PA House of Reps. Stay there, Steve, stay! Not voting for Steve Bloom is actually helping Steve stay right where we need him.

Voting for Joe Peters or Andrew Lewis is what you want if you want an outstanding congressman. You cannot go wrong with either one.



My Morning Drive with NPR

Early yesterday morning’s two-hour drive involved a sparse radio channel selection in rural Pennsylvania.

Northern Schuylkill County is, after all, The Skook, and thus devoid of radio signals or much else emanating from the early Twentieth Century.

In a world of handheld oblivion, to some, including me, this insularity is a charming reminder of the rural good life. Rural people are largely content, and contentment is its own form of riches.

However, this long drive through raped coal fields also necessitated taking what I could get on the radio to help keep me awake, and that fell to the many taxpayer funded National Public Radio “public” radio signals along the way. Not even country stations had staying power beyond thirty seconds before fuzzing out and melding with some other vague music sound.

Having once been a fan of NPR, and still occasionally listening to NPR out of morbid fascination, I decided to open my heart and give another open-minded listen to what has become a notorious gateway for All-Things-Leftist propaganda.

“What the hell, it’s a long drive, might as well listen to these guys. They are the only stations coming through strong, anyhow,” I mused, while sipping the other second coffee.

Coffee quickly became passé, as I choked halfway through a sip and then involuntarily devolved into increasingly animated banter with the various NPR personnel as they were successively trotted out with the morning’s news items.

Within seconds, a skyrocketing heart rate, eyes bulging, and spittle flying meant caffeine was no longer needed to get me awake and keep me alert. I was there.

Was this some sort of Skook Zone reaction to news I couldn’t accept because of partisanship or unwillingness to consider inconvenient facts?

Categorical denial right here, no, it was not.

My sudden screaming match with the radio was a result of profound disgust and a sense of grating unfairness. A feeling of being violated by snobby DC Swamp dwellers who have no sense of propriety for factual accuracy or for the proper use of public tax dollars coerced from American citizens, and then turned against them.

To wit, Exhibit A, NPR news anchorman interviewing former US State Department career official and Washington, DC, insider Nick Burns about the situation with North Korea: Burns accuses Trump administration of “hollowing out” the US State Department, the US EPA, and the US Department of Interior, in an effort to undermine these agencies and their effectiveness. The notion being that failing, bloated federal agencies filled with unaccountable bureaucrats are what the American taxpayer really needs most.

The focus of Burns’ complaint was on the US State Department and how “enough” career foreign service personnel are not being hired to “adequately” represent the United States abroad. No alternative perspective was presented, no alternative view was sought. It was simply a careerist DC bureaucrat complaining to a sympathetic NPR employee about how the new administration was altering decades of government mismanagement. One long anti-Trump bitch session.

Exhibit B followed on the heels of Exhibit A. NPR reports that the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau leadership role is being contested by a holdover from the past administration, a woman who was appointed to lead the CFPB by the former administration in its last days. This woman has filed a lawsuit (already appealed because she lost the first round) challenging the new administration’s right and ability to appoint someone else as the head of the US agency.

Nowhere in this “report” is it mentioned that this is at best a symbolic contest, or at worst a leftist shopping around for a leftist federal judge who will throw the rule of law out the window in the search for political dominance. Thereby granting said former federal employee the right to unilaterally override the President of the United States on selecting senior federal employees.

Nowhere is it mentioned that the new administration has full authority to hire, fire, and appoint senior staff to executive branch agencies, and that decisions made by past administrations are null and void.

Nowhere is the rule of law mentioned.

Nowhere is this growing activist federal judge phenomenon mentioned.
Instead, it is reported as apparent support for an Obama-era employee and Obama-era policy (“under assault” by the Trump administration) with no alternative view offered, and no factual view presented, such as such a lawsuit would be baseless.

This report is a live, on-air anti-Trump bitch session.

Exhibit C followed on the heels of Exhibit B. This involved an NPR anchorman interviewing an NPR “foreign correspondent” about the current tensions with North Korea. NPR’s anchorman categorically states that President Trump uses “bellicose language” that antagonizes NK’s homicidal dictator into being even more homicidal.

The “foreign correspondent” replies that President Trump uses “antagonistic” words because anything else would require America to “make concessions” to NK on its threats to use nuclear weapons against America.

Nowhere in this anti-Trump bitch session is it asked how America is supposed to concede to North Korea in a way that preserves American security.

Are we supposed to allow NK to bomb us just a little bit?

Maybe only California and Hawaii, but nowhere else?

What parts of American security are less valuable than other parts, and which ones should we concede to North Korea?

Nowhere is it mentioned that “bellicose language” is often used by national leaders everywhere when warning off other nations that have threatened them with annihilation.

I mean, isn’t it the responsible thing for a president to do? Or is he supposed to play nice, like Neville Chamberlain did with Adolf Hitler, hastening Hitler’s rise to power and enabling his genocidal wipe-out of Europe?

The on-air discussion between the two NPR employees comes across as sympathetic to North Korea and hostile to President Trump.

Exhibit D followed on the heels of Exhibit C, and involved another discussion between NPR staff about Project Veritas.

Project Veritas is James O’Keefe’s response to a corrupt media-political industrial complex protected by organizations like NPR, the Washington Post, the New York Times, etc.

Project Veritas conducts inside sting stories where media personnel and politicians, including NPR staff, openly and often gleefully disclose on hidden camera that they are hypocrites, liars, politically partisan, and that they happily use their supposedly neutral and professional reporting roles to advance a partisan and extreme political agenda.

When they become public, these private disclosures are bombshells, because the lid comes off the corrupt media-political industrial complex, allowing the Great Unwashed to peer in and see what a corrupt cesspool is being funded with their tax dollars.

Establishment media like NPR don’t like Project Veritas, because it has taken over the role of investigative reporting that places like NPR, the Washington Post, and the New York Times used to do and which they still claim to do, but do not do.

In this discussion between NPR personnel, project Veritas is simply alleged to have edited its videos in “misleading ways,” without describing how they are misleading, and thus is just a bad outfit unworthy of consideration.

Over the years I have watched many of these Project Veritas tapes, and they don’t seem misleading to me. People like NPR’s former CEO are caught on hidden video saying things that fly in the face of their public claims about being balanced, fair, accurate, neutral, professional.

Part of this NPR on-air discussion about Project Veritas is really a defense of the crossover of overtly partisan and political agenda-driven editorial roles into news reporting at organizations like The Washington Post.

Not that this is surprising, given that NPR openly crossed that professional line decades ago, now openly serving as a communications arm for one political party and Leftist ideology.
Noah Rothman at Commentary Magazine is interviewed about this, and he provides another fascinating view into the Washington DC Swamp.

Rothman is represented as a political conservative, and therefore as an outsider source lending credence to the NPR allegation that the fruit of Project Veritas has been poisoned, because… it is just so mean. And edited.

But instead of lending credibility, Rothman comes across as a bitter clinger to the Never-Trump mantra, a guy who cannot let go of his DC Swamp allegiances in the Age of Trump & The American People.

If anything, Rothman reaffirms what many people like me already believe, which is that Washington, DC, is full of self-important nitwits who have self-selected a small circle of similarly minded people from both major political parties to reinforce an artificial and meaningless debate between Leftists and Moderates while they mutually feast upon the carcass of the American People.

That artificial debate is really about how fast or slow to grow the American juggernaut government, and how quickly or slowly it should erode, grab, undermine and other remove liberties, rights, and Dollars from the forgotten American taxpayer.

This whole narrow circle of likeminded Republicans and Democrats is euphemistically known as the DC Swamp, which candidate Trump pledged to drain, and which President Trump is mostly draining. Rothman is one of these Swamp people and he shares much in common with the interviewers at NPR, much more than he shares with the average American.

Listening to these people bitch and moan about how unfair it is to see their swamp drained is annoying. That they argue for the failed status quo is annoying. That they never mention the interests of the American People is startling, and indicates just how insular and out of touch they really are.

After all, American government runs by the consent of The People, not unelected bureaucrats and self-adulating pseudo intellectuals who sit around DC cocktail parties and politely, mildly debate the speed of our nation’s ruination.

During my morning drive through The Skook, NPR comes across as a farce. It is clearly not a news organization. From what I could tell, NPR is just one long anti-Trump bitch session.

CLICK! goes the OFF button, and I drink the remainder of my coffee, lost in my own thoughts of how far America has fallen and how lucky people are to live in such rural places where the simple things are still the best things in life.

My impression of Paul Mango, candidate for PA Guv

Three weeks ago I spent half an hour on the phone with Paul Mango, newly declared candidate for Pennsylvania governor.

We talked about his candidacy, his background, political issues, economics, hopes and challenges, etc. We then followed up with several back and forth emails, each one of his expressing specific appreciation and thanks for how the exchange had benefited him in a certain way. He is a new candidate, new to politics (other than as a very generous donor to Republican candidates), and he is digesting a lot of new information and ideas, new ways of thinking.

Last week I met Mango at his formal campaign announcement at the Twin Ponds sports and fitness center in Camp Hill\Mechanicsburg.

Twin Ponds previously served as the region’s HQ for primary and general election candidate Donald Trump, who won Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes by a margin probably accounted for just by the simple dedication of Central PA’s “normal Americans” in both political parties. The big facility is run by a pretty, petite firebrand of a woman, Mrs. Patton aka General Patton.

Here are my impressions of Mango (and yes, I know, he’s just getting started):

He is impressive in several key ways: His family background and values, his education and military service, and his high level professional work experience.

Paul Mango is a very smart, confident, and empathetic man, who comes across as a reserved, reflective, nice person, and a responsive, good listener.  He is positive and genuine.

I questioned him in person about how he will compete against candidate Scott Wagner, who has spent years battling in the trenches with a lot of conservative voters and activists, against entrenched establishment political hacks in politics for personal financial gain, and who has thereby built up credibility with many politically active citizens who value bravery and honesty.

When I pointed out that Wagner has also alienated a lot of people (including many of his former supporters) in that process (because Wagner seems selfish, arrogant, and unappreciative), Mango responded that he will not say anything negative because he has never seen valuable leadership succeed except through “inspiring people.”

That is a very high bar to set for one’s self, much less one’s political competitors, but it is worthy because it says Mango has integrity. The Wagner campaign has already criticized Mango for supporting Cruz first, and then Trump later, though I got the impression that is what Scott Wagner did, too, like a lot of us did in last year’s Republican primary. Here we go, the mud is already flying!

Well, to start, if Mango is going to inspire voters, then he needs to increase his positive speaking energy, his intensity, his passion. The other night he came across as a little nervous, and definitely way too deliberative, almost plodding, at his formal announcement. His prepared speech was long and the delivery was very, very slow.

Recall that Abraham Lincoln’s speech at Gettysburg is so hard hitting because it was not long and plodding, but brief and hard hitting.

Despite serving in the 82nd Airborne and actually being a warrior, Mango’s even-keeled demeanor does not seem warrior-like, while his main competitor, Wagner, did not do military service and yet is a proven culture and fiscal political warrior.

Though he wore jeans, work boots, and an Oxford shirt, Mango is the very definition and personification of “corporate,” which will probably look or smell like moderate RINO to the trench warfare grass roots conservatives. Time will tell if that first impression is accurate.

His approach to fixing government is his approach to fixing businesses, about which it is best to just quote my activist friend Ron:

The problem with these guys [corporate/business/ Chamber of Commerce GOP candidates who compare running government to running business] is they all have plans to fix government by running it like a business. This is not a unique viewpoint and it has never worked. This is politics, not business. Took me a while to accept that.  He can have the greatest plan ever but it won’t matter because politicians don’t care [about people, policy, economy etc.].  They care about themselves and getting re-elected.”

It is a fact that careerist politicians in BOTH PARTIES do not act like corporate employees, because there is almost no accountability in politics. The old quip about the only accountability in politics resulting from being “found in bed with a dead girl or a live boy” probably doesn’t even apply today.

Like him or not, candidate Scott Wagner goes right to the key policy battles: Corrupt blood-sucking unions, ridiculous regulations that violate our federal and state constitutions, wasted and stolen taxpayer money.

That is where the rubber meets the road in the culture war for America’s soul and the war for a middle-income economy.

This is the battle front between America as it was founded and as we knew it, and America as a bastion of totalitarian socialism and politically correct thought police, envisioned by the Left.

Candidate Mango will probably arrive here at the same battle front, eventually, because the leftists’ violent street battles across America tell us that nice words alone don’t work, and Trump’s improbable win says it all (JEB! was also the quintessential corporate nice guy, and GOP voters utterly rejected him).

Mango’s steady personality seems to avoid conflict, which though commendable and reassuring in so many other settings, can send the message to some voters that he may be like a zillion other mainstream RINOs who are unwilling to dive into the bar room brawl that needs to happen for America to be set right. These careerist RINOs don’t want to get their hands dirty waging political war, which tells voters that they really just don’t care very much about political or cultural outcomes.

Mango is smart enough to see these facts and voter trends. Whether he arrives at that messy policy battle front sooner or later is the question. If he finds a way to comfortably voice his quiet intensity, his passion, his compassion for working Pennsylvanians, then he will overcome the potential impression that he is another empty GOP suit (I was told that PA GOP kingmaker Bob Asher has NOT supported Mango, which appeals to the conservative, independent-minded base).

I like the guy and I am looking forward to seeing him develop over the next six months, because, again, he is new to politics and just getting started.