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Pennsylvanians deserve an open primary

“I don’t want some unaffiliated voter determining the nominee in my political party,” goes the overused and unpersuading assertion for why closed primaries, where voters can only vote for who is in their particular political party, and not across party lines. Independents cannot vote for Republicans or Democrats, only for Independents and so on etc.

Pennsylvania has a closed primary election.

If there is one thing that the two main political parties can agree on, it’s that they do not want to share power with anyone else; certainly not the voters! So many cozy deals between the Democrats and Republicans – dividing up the spoils of elected office – have been revealed over the years (the biggest most recent is the PA Turnpike Commission scandal) that is it any wonder why this happy and very lucrative lovefest between the two political parties is being protected at all costs…

The thing is, both the Republican and the Democrat parties are private organizations. I found this out first hand in 2009 when I ran for congress, against the wishes of the PA Republican Party. I was one of those first-in “Tea Party” candidates who declared after just six months of Obama’s treasonous communism and the GOP’s complacency. Except that neither I nor the other similar grass roots candidates knew that we were in the “Tea Party.” We were just mad as hell at both political parties, neither of which seemed interested in helping us, the working people of America, and were rather devoted to the constellations of money-sucking special interest leeches circling about each of them. Elected officials, party hacks, and party functionaries in both political parties did just fine in that scenario, even if the rest of America was falling apart.

And when we began to push our own GOP, we learned that they were accountable to no one, because they were and remain a private entity.

A couple years ago another independent-minded candidate ran in a Dauphin County Democrat primary, and learned the same lesson from his own party. Nope, no transparency for you, you little peon citizen!

Both political parties answer to absolutely no one in the public, because they are private corporations. They can play all kinds of money games, and rumor whispering games, and endorsement games, and information hiding games, because they can; and no one can do anything about it.

So why are we taxpaying voters footing the enormous annual election bills for these two private entities, so that they can hold on to power and keep us citizens at bay, fending off change and accountability?

Why do the Democrats and the Republicans alone get to determine so many important outcomes in our government, when we taxpayers are the ones who are paying for how these two political parties are elected in the first place, let alone all of the expenditures they feed to themselves and their chums? In other words, we voters pay for everything and are told no, we can get only a small portion of what we should get in return, in terms of determining the political outcomes that affect us.

If the two parties want to remain private, and also want to have closed primaries, then let them pay for all of the election expenses in Pennsylvania. We taxpaying voters owe these two private entities nothing, as they owe us nothing (they tell us).

It is well past time to open up our primaries. That flexibility is the true representation of freedom, the freedom to choose, which is the core of representative government. And in Pennsylvania’s particular case, that freedom to choose is about political parties sharing something with the taxpayers who pay for all of the elections of which the two parties are, so far, the sole beneficiaries. It is not right, it is not good, it is not fair.

Open up and let us in!

PA Farm Bureau & PA Grange thieving property rights and gun rights

Who would think that two organizations I have always revered would turn out to be the absolute biggest threats to private property rights and our Second Amendment rights?

Sadly, it is true that the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and the Pennsylvania Grange have gone on a crusade against private property rights, hunting, and gun rights that has shocked everyone to the bone, most especially the traditional opponents of these activities like the Humane Society and CeasefirePA, who have now joined with them.

When the PFB and the Grange shack up with the Humane Society, a group dedicated to ending farming and animal husbandry as we know it, and with CeasefirePA, and against the NRA, then you know both organizations have gone off the rails. But the fact is, both PFB and the Grange are in full crusade mode right now, and there is no end in sight.

It all started with their opposition to expanding Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania. Including small game, groundhogs, or big game in Sunday hunting (presently limited to coyotes, foxes, and crows), somehow ignited a firestorm of indignation among the octogenarians running both of these organizations. Canes were rattled, and the political war was on against anyone advocating for more hunting opportunities in Pennsylvania. Every bit of political and legislative capital these two groups can muster has been brought to bear in every avenue of political decision making. The net result is not just that they are on record being against other people hunting on Sunday, but that our existing hunting rights, gun rights, and property rights are now being diminished and in the case of Sunday target shooting, at real risk. Until now, no one outside of the anti-gun CeasefirePA had been opposed to target shooting, especially on private property.

Pennsylvania is one of just THREE states in America that has no big game hunting on Sunday. So it’s not like Pennsylvanians asking for expanded Sunday hunting are on the fringe of some crazy movement. The rest of the country is already doing it.

But PFB and the Grange have acted as if Sunday hunting will end civilization as we know it, and they went to war with a scorched earth approach. Both organizations are now on record trying to eliminate even target shooting on Sunday, even on private land, let alone archery hunting on private land on Sunday. This has been an all-out political assault on private property rights and on our Second Amendment rights. What private property owners do on their own land on any day of the week is of zero consequence to anyone else, but PFB and the Grange have made it their business to control what you do.

Didn’t Pennsylvania pass the right-to-farm laws so that farmers could do what they need to do, seven days a week, without interference? Turns out that the organizations dedicated to farming are not dedicated to the actual farmers and property owners themselves. Not really. Lots of farmers and farmland owners want to hunt and shoot on Sunday.

Take the Grange. Their motto is “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”

Their mission is “Pennsylvania State Grange supports the local Granges to help members grow as individuals, unify their communities and create opportunity through legislation and community service.”

And yet the Grange is taking hard political positions exactly opposite of their motto and mission. There is no unity, liberty, or charity in their opposition to private property rights and to the Second Amendment. There is nothing helping members grow as individuals when the Grange stands in our way of hunting with our families and friends, on our own private land, when our complicated schedules allow for us to be together.

Beware these two organizations. They are prime examples of how a few people can hijack an organization and destroy its credibility in one swift and foolish move, and take our most sacred rights down the toilet with them.

Asking PA Fish & Boat to protect our best trout waters

June 17, 2019

Mr. Tim Schaeffer, Executive Director
Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission
1601 Elmerton Ave, Harrisburg, PA 17110

Dear Tim,

This past weekend I listened to a presentation about making Pennsylvania’s best, most productive trout streams “all-tackle,” which includes bait fishing. While the presentation was primarily about the newly acquired stretch of Spruce Creek, a clear timetable was laid out for making all of our best trout waters all-tackle over the coming three years.

Traditionally, or at least for several decades in many cases, these few hundred miles out of 80,000 miles of Pennsylvania waterways, have been restricted to artificial lures and flies. Those limitations were installed to protect trout from being gut-hooked or gullet-hooked by swallowing bait left to sit on the bottom of the waterway. Once a fish is gullet- or gut-hooked, it is guaranteed to die. This is fine for a put-and-take waterway, or for panfish, or for private waters. But for expensive stocked trout paid for by the license-buying fisherman, or even worse, for native reproducing trout, using bait is almost always a death sentence that eliminates the re-use (through catch and release) of that limited and valuable resource.

The main representation of this all-tackle proposal is that using bait in moving waters does not result in nearly as much fish mortality as once believed. Several studies or carefully observed fishing situations over the late 1990s to 2017 were cited as evidence.

Not having had the time to review this evidence, or to compare it to other factors like increasingly improved water quality state-wide, which resulted in better stream conditions and more trout, my concern is this proposal is moving too fast and asking too much. We just do not really know all that is happening in our best streams. The consequences of being wrong about this could easily set Pennsylvania’s best trout waters back, and it would take years to rebuild them to their current productivity. Additionally, we must consider the long road we have walked to educate anglers that trout and other sport fish are worth much more being released alive than they are being hung on a stringer and then stuffed into a freezer for a year. The cultural progress we have all made on this point has strengthened the use of fishing methods that strongly enhance the success of catch-and-release waters. Would allowing bait on all our catch-and-release waterways be taking a step backwards, after slowly, painfully teaching fishermen that a dead trout is much less useful or fun than a trout slipped back into the water alive to be caught again?

I request that PFBC staff conduct and issue their own wide-ranging analysis of catch-and-release bait fishing in moving waters before adopting anything beyond the Spruce Creek all-tackle catch-and-release stretch. If PFBC staff are confident that, under the right conditions, bait fishing will not result in undue or excessive fish mortality and the degradation of our hard-won resource, then that will be enough for me to drop my opposition. So long as the proper monitoring is in place to ensure that the decision is correctable, should new information develop.

Separately, it made me happy to see you appear officially in public in casual clothes, including shorts. The stuffy formality that used to attach to these executive director positions was a barrier to effectively reaching and communicating with the user communities. Easy but professional informality speaks volumes that you are most focused on solving substantive policy issues, good government, and on effectively connecting with the public, not on self-aggrandizement. What a breath of fresh air, it is exactly what Pennsylvania needs, thank you.

Sincerely yours,

Josh First

PA wildlife: damned if we do, damned if we don’t

Like every other state in the Union, Pennsylvania protects, conserves, and manages its wildlife through a combination of user-pays fees like hunting and fishing licenses on the one hand, and a helping of federal funding collected from user-self-imposed federal taxes on hunting and fishing equipment like boats, guns, ammunition, fishing rods etc on the other hand (the same people who buy the hunting and fishing licenses).

Yes, 100% of the nation’s citizenry benefits from the self-imposed taxes and fees paid by just 1% of the population: the hunters, trappers, and fishermen.  Yes, you read that right: just 1% of the population is carrying 100% of the public burden.

And yes, as you are correctly about to say out loud, you and I will not see this bizarre and totally unsustainable arrangement in any other area of public policy. Not in roads, not in schools, not in airports, not in museums, not in anything else official and run for public benefit. And so, yes, it is a fact that wildlife agencies across America are perennially underfunded, and have been for so long that it’s now accepted as the way America does its wildlife business. Here in Pennsylvania, despite endless rising costs and endlessly more expensive public pensions, both houses of the PA legislature have long blocked the PA Game Commission from getting a hunting license increase in decades. So the PGC is even more behind the financial Eight Ball than most other state wildlife agencies. Hunters and wildlife managers in other states look at Pennsylvania and shake their heads. It doesn’t have to be this way, but it is.

Despite the obvious imbalance and weakness inherent in such a unique and faulty funding arrangement, for fifty years this approach worked pretty well, nationally and in Pennsylvania, with some states occasionally putting new money into holes that opened up in the regular wildlife funding support. Those states with significantly increasing human populations tend to be forced into dealing with inevitable wildlife-human conflicts more than other states, and when Mr. and Mrs. America are increasingly hitting deer with their cars, you can bet that they will demand their home state do something about it. So more money is found.

So along comes the Pennsylvania Auditor General, to investigate the management and expenditure of money at the PGC. And why not, right? The PGC is a public agency, and hunting license revenue is a public trust. So sure, go ahead, look into it, audit the agency. And so it was done, and some interesting things emerged just a bit over a week ago.

In the “Atta boy” column is the fact that there appears to be no corruption, graft, or misuse of scarce sportsmen’s dollars at the PGC. By all accounts, PGC is transparent and well run. Given how much the sportsmen are always scrutinizing the agency, we all figured as much. But it is nice to have our beliefs and trust confirmed like this. We love the PGC even more today than before the audit.

In the “Aww shucks” column is the revelation that PGC staff do not immediately deposit oil and gas royalty checks when they are received, nor does the PGC ascertain for itself if those royalty payments are accurate in the first place, instead trusting the oil and gas companies to do what is right on their own. Hmmmm….This is a potential problem area, and we are all glad the auditors found it.  Anyone who knows the PGC can bet money on the fact that PGC staff are right now doing all of this payment followup with a vengeance. Look out, oil and gas companies!

But then there is the big weird issue, the biggest issue of all, where the auditors “discover” that the PGC is sitting on $72 million in the bank. And accordingly, the auditors immediately and erroneously ascribe this to bad money management. After all, they say, public money is meant to be spent. “If you got ’em, smoke ’em,” goes the ancient and totally irresponsible government approach to managing public dollars. After all, under normal budgeting culture, agencies that do not spend the money budgeted to them risk losing those dollars in the next budget cycle. Failure to spend money is correlated with a failure to implement an agency’s mission, and for senior agency managers, there is the usual ego factor; the bigger the budget, the bigger the…you know. This is the old approach to managing government funds, and it is wrong, and it certainly does not fit the PGC’s reality or targeted way of doing business.

Let’s ask you a question: If you knew your family was going to be receiving less and less money going forward, and yet your family costs would be held steady, wouldn’t you begin to bank any extra money you had, in preparation for lean times ahead? If your family is responsible, then yes, this is what you do, it is what we all do. And it is what the PGC has done, thankfully.

But as a result of the audit, this single fact is being used to beat on the agency, to coerce the PGC to adopt unsustainable policies and irresponsible money management, despite the agency sailing through ever less sustainable funding waters every day. Seems like now every elected official and every Monday morning quarterback sportsman has some variation on the foolish theme that PGC has more money than it knows what to do with. Wrong!

So the real outcome of the audit is that Pennsylvania wildlife are damned either way, because the PGC is the useful straw man whipping boy for every aspiring demagogue in Pennsylvania politics. No matter what the PGC does, our wildlife resources are going to suffer. If PGC carefully, frugally husbands its limited resources, preparing for rainy days and needy wildlife, then the agency’s critics say the agency is miserly and hoarding, and they seek to punish the agency. And on the other hand, if the PGC immediately spends every dime it has, and has no money left over to deal with yet more unfunded mandates like Chronic Wasting Disease, then critics say the agency is wasteful and ineffective, and they seek to punish the agency.

And either way, the net result is the PGC’s critics damn and condemn our wildlife. Because that is the true result of all this second-guessing and monkeying about with the PGC budget and funding streams. Plenty of elected officials use their criticism of the PGC to artificially burnish their “good government” credentials, when in fact they are demanding the worst sort of government, and a total disservice to the sportsmen and wildlife everyone enjoys.

Many years ago, sportsmen were organized enough to react strongly to political demagogues who threatened our wildlife resource (and PA’s $1.6 billion annual hunting economy) with their petty politics. This latest iteration of the politics of wildlife management indicates that we need to get back to the old days, where sportsmen were unified and forceful, even vengeful, in their expectation that their elected officials would not politicize or hurt our commonly held wildlife resource.

Trump got played by the PA GOPe this week

Pennsylvania Primary Election Day Tuesday this week was not an especially exciting time, as voting days can go, because few names and positions were on the ballot, anywhere.

Somewhere up north Mabel’s cow got more votes than the local township highway manager, which caused a brief fuss. A tie-breaker of sorts was held and the road master challenged the cow to mow the grass along the road margin faster and better than he could. The cow did eat along at a pretty good clip, but the three voters agreed that the fresh cow patties left behind were a detriment. Some Amish happened along, ate the cow, and that settled it.

One bright spot here in Central Pennsylvania is where Senator Rich Alloway retired, kind of abruptly, if you ask me, and a special election was held between a hard-bitten retired Army colonel and long time entrepreneur, and a young, sweeeet, gentle as the morning breeze airhead of a Millennial Democrat who just wants to play Santa Claus with your money, goshdarnit her intentions are just so good.

The Army colonel won.

Three cheers for Central Pennsylvania.

One truly sad aspect of the day was the outcome of the most watched and only state-wide election for Pennsylvania Superior Court judge. With three beautiful and practically identical looking Republican women running for two open seats, a lot more interest was garnered.

Of the three primary contestants, former Montour County District Attorney Rebecca Warren is the most qualified for that seat. Articulate, forceful, experienced, principled, poised even with a kid on her hip, Warren has a well-deserved strong state-wide following. She was no shoo-in for one of the two seats, but it appeared she had a very good chance.

Too good of a chance for the Pennsylvania GOP, which is made of people who dislike conservatives even more than Democrats. So the PA GOPe ran a team of two candidates, Ms. Peck and Miss King, against the lone conservative, Warren.

As a plausible candidate for even township road master, let alone the very high court she aimed for, Miss Meghan King is only slightly more believable than the airhead who ran against the Army colonel in Alloway’s former district, and is probably less knowledgable than the cow up north. Seriously, the highly inexperienced, young, and dumb-of-tongue King was not up to the task of running for much of any public seat, and yet here she is, buoyed up by the good ol’ boys of the PA GOPe. It’s a lot of horsepower behind a newspaper sailboat, which is intriguing almost as much as why Alloway abruptly flew the cuckoo’s nest.

Serious forces are at work here, folks, “a dark and powerful magic,” to quote my favorite magician.

Peck stands on her own merits, and I’d be proud to have her on the Superior Court. But King? For real?! She sounds and looks like a child, and her public speaking is hesitant, halting, uncertain, because, goshdarnit, she was hand-picked to be a puppet or a parrot for the good ol’ boys, and she has not one clue about what it is she is saying or doing up at the podium. King is going to get check-mated by some kookus mongus leftwing Democrat in November. It won’t take much.

So Tuesday’s election came down to the amazing Rebecca Warren vs. the GOP good ol’ boys’ puppet, Miss King, and at the last minute, President Trump was duped by the GOPe guys into tweeting his support for Miss King after his wonderful rally in Montour County, here in central PA. And sure as shootin’, next thing ya know, Miss King obtained more votes than either of the other two candidates, and the cow to boot. Sure, Warren came very close to winning a seat, but King did not earn what she got through both the party establishment support and from the president’s tweet.

What bothers people like me about this election outcome is we work for years to find and get behind solid, conservative, independent-minded, constitutionally-based grass roots candidates like Rebecca Warren, and then the GOPe comes along and snatches away the victory and replaces it with a dishrag of a human being. It’s why the Republican Party, nationwide, is full of so many lame human beings, with no gumption, no vision; they just have a desire for power and to do what they are told by party bosses. They connive their way through all of these elections.

If President Trump actually knew how much damage he just did by supporting Miss King, and how badly he was duped by the PA GOPe, he would swear off primary endorsements forever. He did the same thing in Alabama two years ago and got stung. Winning primary elections by conniving simply places unqualified losers in positions of power, which works great only for those pulling the puppet strings.  We don’t get great people, like Trump. When will Trump learn that he would never get the PA GOPe endorsement, not even for township road master, if he were in King’s shoes. The PA GOPe strongly opposes strong, independent – minded candidates.

Those of us who admire President Trump are hopeful that he will learn to ignore the same GOPe guys who have screwed him over since 2015 and who will continue to interfere with his agenda until 2025 (unless there is five bucks to be made; then they will come flocking). Otherwise he is simply shooting himself in the foot by helping zeros like King get elected over people who admire him, who share his values, and who want to fully implement his agenda, like Warren.

Dear PA GOPe: We know you guys care only about holding power, but you should know that with every stolen election like this where a grass roots Rebecca Warren loses, you chip away at the base’s commitment to the GOP and you make us dislike you ever more.

A naturally close race was artificially influenced by a well-intended tweet from our President. Under normal circumstances, in rural Tioga County Warren should have received 50% of the votes cast.

Vote for Rebecca Warren for Superior Court

Rebecca Warren is the most qualified candidate for Superior Court of three candidates for two open seats, and she deserves our vote. In fact, she is the only candidate you should vote for, which ensures she will take her position on the court.

Herself a former District Attorney (and a mom, wife, and community volunteer), Rebecca is a classic high quality, highly educated, highly professionally experienced (27 years), independent-minded grass roots candidate, up against a corrupt political machine whose members want puppets and parrots in political positions so party bosses can pull their strings and make them say and do things the party bosses want, as opposed to doing the things that We, The People need and deserve.

What does it say about the Pennsylvania Republican Party when it takes sides with the politically extreme, anti-conservative Pennsylvania Bar Association? In this race, both the Pennsylvania GOP and the PBA are supporting a grossly unqualified young woman who has almost no professional experience, never held elected office, and who has publicly spoken against our sacred Second Amendment rights, Miss Megan King.

Rebecca Warren has been endorsed and recommended by Firearms Owners Against Crime, the only pro-Second Amendment organization in Pennsylvania we can rely upon for honest analysis of our political candidates. She is also endorsed by the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association.

Rebecca is no one’s parrot puppet. She is too smart for that, and she cares about you, me, the Us that comprises the other 99.99% of Pennsylvanians who are not in the hidden back rooms of the PAGOP or the PBA, who support candidates like Megan King because they will make the two organizations more wealthy and powerful.

Next Tuesday, May 21st, vote only for Rebecca Warren for Superior Court, vote for no other candidate. Vote this way because she is and has been endorsed by actual voters, not by 50 political boss guys in those hidden back rooms who you have never heard of and who never want to hear from you.

Rebecca Warren for Superior Court! Rebecca Warren for you, me, the citizens of Pennsylvania.

Re: Disaster Named Harrisburg, Kudos to Judge John McNally

Dauphin County Judge John McNally made me feel so proud the other day, because he held the City of Harrisburg liable for all the major bullhooey it has poured onto mere citizen Mike Brenner. Brenner has literally been fighting City Hall because City Hall brought the fight to him.

Brenner made the mistake of leasing his property to the Harrisburg City Public Works Department, where men and machines are stored. After the city stopped paying rent to him for the use of his property, but nonetheless occupied the premises and allowed it to fall into disrepair like the rest of Harrisburg has, Brenner went to court.

Who wouldn’t go to court in these circumstances? The law is the law is the law, and no one is supposed to be above the law. The law is supposed to apply to everyone equally, and especially to government agencies and entities.

Well…the temerity of this citizen! Who is he to expect just compensation from the City of Harrisburg?! Who is he to expect the city to live up to its legal obligations?

So instead of being a standup guy and paying Brenner what he has been long owed, Mayor Eric Papenfuse decided that the city would not only renege on its signed lease with Brenner, but then commence eminent domain proceedings against him to take the property by force.

So here we have a county judge who recognizes corruption and evil when we and he sees it, as personified by the sweaty faced lump of Jello that is Eric Papenfuse, and he issues a decision that the city must actually live up to its lease terms and pay Brenner what the city owes him. Never mind that what the city is doing, what Eric Papenfuse is doing, is downright evil and the very definition of abuse of official power.

Does anyone wonder why Harrisburg has fallen to pieces over the past four decades, with most taxpayers fleeing to better locales? All my life I have either visited my family here, or lived here, and it just keeps getting worse and worse.

Thanks only to Judge John McNally, Harrisburg City’s mayor is getting the comeuppance he has long been due to receive. Now let’s see the citizens of Harrisburg wake the hell up and begin voting for better human beings to make our city’s official decisions for us. We cannot afford losers like Papenfuse to continue to bankrupt Pennsylvania’s capital city with petty coercion and minor league control games.

p.s. When first elected as mayor, Papenfuse swore that people would go to jail for the fraudulent incinerator debacle that bankrupted the city. Several years later he has swept it all under the rug. Eric, you are an incompetent, lying sack of sh*t, and you cannot go back to running your used bookstore soon enough. Then let the federal charges begin to rain down on his sweaty, greasy head.

p.p.s. I am a plaintiff in an ongoing lawsuit against my beloved city over its patently illegal anti-gun ordinances it passed several years ago. Papenfuse has also engaged in a lot of virtue signalling with that unnecessary lawsuit, while costing us taxpayers yet more money. The guy is a disaster.

The Prayer Heard ‘Round the World

About a week ago, a Pennsylvania state representative dared to make a Christian prayer in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, a building filled with beautiful religious symbols and statements from the Bible writ large upon the walls and the ceilings.

The world then exploded around her, condemnations filling the empty spaces at every corner of her life and space. Her prayer was labeled “Intolerance” by the fake news PennLive/Patriot News (which published a viciously anti-Christian article and then deleted every online pro-Christian comment afterwards, which is going to be our next essay here).

What is strange about all this anti religion sentiment is that mere minutes before Rep. Stephanie Borowicz made her public prayer, in the official time and place allotted to her, a fellow Muslim representative was sworn in. By an Imam using the Koran. No boos or hisses followed that religious event. The negativity only resulted from and surrounded a Christian speaking as a Christian in a building built by Christians in a state founded by Christians in a nation – the world’s freest and most successful- founded by Christians, and based on the Hebrew Torah and the Christian Testament, together or separately otherwise known as the Bible.

Everything about America, from our concept of law and order to our stop signs and street lights to our universal education and safety net for the destitute to free speech and tolerant free religion, are based on the orderly rules laid out in the Bible by God. Simple as that. Without Christianity, there is no America, no freedom, no big opportunity, no tolerance. Yes, Christianity started out as an offshoot of Judaism, but it is its own religion. It is the repository of all of America’s basic, founding principles and values. America has always been about shared values, shared goals, despite different theologies among its citizens.

If you take away Christianity, you no longer have America. No doubt, that anti-America goal is behind most of the negativity surrounding Borowicz etc et al. People complaining about Christianity are essentially declaring war on America. They no longer share values, goals, or a common vision of what it means to be an American.

Today, in the establishment media and its one political party, God is out, the US Constitution is out, the First Amendment freedoms are especially out, Christians are very, very out, and fake victims and even fakier minorities are forced in and falsely elevated and valued above everyone else (how can a group of people 1.3 billion strong be considered a minority anywhere on our planet?). This situation is not right, but it is the fight we find ourselves at this time and place. Freedom is never free, world-wide it is uncommon, and every generation has had to fight to hold onto it. America is still a majority Christian country, and if those Americans wake up, there is still time to save the nation from the physical and cultural onslaught exemplified by the negative response to Rep. Borowicz’s simple prayer.

Whether Christian theology speaks to you, or not, and whether or not a person believes that Christianity will save your soul, or not, is a matter of a particular faith.  One thing here is absolutely certain, and that is only Christians and Christianity can save America. Whether America’s Christians are up to the task is the question before us. Our nation’s armed rebellion against British tyranny started quietly in a church pulpit. Rep. Borowicz made a prayer heard ’round the world; pray that it resonates further.

Still the chief of Celtic music: The Chieftains at 57

Local York Scots Bagpipers Brigade joined local York Chorale members and then audience members with The Chieftains and the Piltazke Brothers in a long snake dance that ended the performance

The local York, PA, bagpipers all dressed up in their Scottish tartans, participating with The Chieftains in a typical sharing of Celtic culture and music, to the audience’s delight

Last night the Princess of Patience and I ventured not too far down the road to the Appell-Strand Theater in York, Pennsylvania. It is a venue we have visited over the years for a variety of music types for the adults, and high-end children’s entertainment for the kids. It is a clean, pretty, historic place right in historic downtown York, easy to access, lots of free parking, and when you are done, it is easy to leave. Fellow patrons are easy, chatty, friendly, happy, and the lady I sat next to, a Lori Sims of Hanover, PA, cheerily shared gardening tips with me and disclosed her yearning for Spring to finally arrive so her garden could get under way. Then again, no wonder: she has a TWO-ACRE GARDEN.

What we witnessed last night is one of those rare moments where, if you have been lacking in faith in humanity for whatever reason, it would be restored immediately. We watched The Chieftains do what they do best: Play sweet Celtic music combined with amazing Irish dance, and incorporating local talent in a pub-like atmosphere of fellow music chums just kind of jamming along with each other in the spirit of the moment. It would be the best of what you would find at the Temple Bar today.

So here is Chieftains founding father, Paddy Moloney, who must easily be in his 80s, alternately playing both the chipper and then humorously gruff oldster commenter, as well as his own penny whistle and Irish pipes: “Oh sure, ya show-offs,” as the Pilatzke Brothers perform amazing amazing amazing Irish tap dance routines that leave the audience exhausted from the intensity and skill. Serious world-class talent.

Now in 2019, The Chieftains are celebrating their 57th anniversary. Think about that. Fifty-seven years as inspiring performers of not just music, per se, but keepers of traditional culture, Gaelic language, ancient musical instruments, and the music and the rural, undeveloped, natural Irish landscape that binds all that together. It is quite a gift to all of us that they provide. At 57 years of live musical-cultural performances, The Chieftains are an institution, a world heritage institution.

Despite having a stack of Chieftains CDs, I can never really get enough of them, and last night my mind drifted back to one evening in the summer of 1992, during the Celtic Festival at Wolf Trap, in Virginia. The Princess of Patience and I were about to be engaged to be married, and our long-time friend Lori encouraged us to join her at Wolf Trap for that evening. The weather was perfect, the music was perfect, the musicians and performers were perfect, our snacks and wine were perfect, the audience was rapt and enthusiastic. It was all quite perfect. And there they were, now 27 years ago, The Chieftains up on stage, looking a hell of a lot younger than now, and probably having a few more teeth then than now. But still flawlessly performing the same beautiful, inspiring music.

That was the same evening I heard the best-ever joke about the bagpipes, and it is a surprisingly unknown quip, because whenever I pass it along, people respond with great mirth, as if they have never heard it before. I will disclose it here, because I know the three people who read this blog have zero interest in Celtic anything and they will immediately forget this secret to being the star at any dinner party attended by Irish or Scots.

This joke arose as an Irish pipes player dueled with a bagpipes player on stage that evening at Wolf Trap. When played correctly, the Irish pipes are of course the most heart-tugging sound the human ear will encounter. Squared off against the blaring, loud, military-oriented bagpipes, the Irish pipes are like a gentle, sweet whisper versus an aggressive, loud shout.

So after their duel on stage, during which he had played the most mournful, beautiful, inspiring sounds, the Irish pipes player said to his Scotsman counterpart: “You do know, the Irish gave the bagpipes to the Scots. And the Scots never got the joke.”

Cue uproarious audience response and a big grin from the Scotsman. Audience participation in Celtic music is expected, and it is given, as is good-natured banter among the performers.

So, on that same beautiful summer eve 27 years ago, into this good-natured banter with Celtic music and culture stepped The Chieftains, playing with humble passion on the stage at Wolf Trap. And literally over twice as many years later, The Chieftains are still chief, tops among Celtic bands. Thank you for a wonderful night of happy moment after happy moment, guys. Cheers to you, Paddy Moloney, may you see a hundred years, ’cause God knows, why not, you about look it already.

 

Rendering bear grease, Round II

Last year was a first try at something that has beckoned for a long time, and that was making bear grease out of bear fat. If you search here in the blog you will see the kind of double boiler approach that effort started with, and you will see that it took too long, though it did provide a good product.

Why would someone want to make bear grease from rendered bear fat? Fair question.

To begin with, in the natural world, fat is a major and valuable commodity. It is important to survival and is hard to come by; under normal natural conditions, it is a sign of high health. Only in modern, materially successful, over-consumptive Western countries has high human fat become a liability, a health problem. Just a couple hundred years ago, heck even a hundred years ago, most Americans could not eat enough to make up for the energy they spent during their daily lives. Today we Americans are overfed and sedentary, eating ourselves into early health problems. We do not move enough. So we look at fat and think fat is “bad.”

But bear fat is especially good. Because they hibernate from late November through March, bears usually pack on a tremendous amount of fat starting in July and August. The fat reserves they build up will feed their sleeping bodies over the long cold winter in a specialized and not totally understood way. Bear fat is very different from any other kind of fat you will ever see, and some people have said it most closely resembles whale blubber. While whales do not hibernate, they are warm-blooded mammals that occupy freezing cold oceans and dive to unbelievable depths for food. Such a hostile surrounding requires a wall of natural fat that both protects and feeds the whale’s body. So bear fat is supposedly a lot like whale fat, which means it is unique and performs unique tasks that most other animals do not require.

[Sidebar here: Think about the Canada Toad, which survives in frozen tundra by having its body freeze solid over the winter, while a special hormone keeps its blood thinned, liquid, unfrozen, and moving slowly throughout its body to keep its organs alive. Some of these adaptive traits are things we humans can benefit from for medical purposes, if we but care about the animals’ habitats so that they are around when we get around to wanting to study them]

Think about Inuit and Inupiak (“Eskimos”) in the Arctic Circle and North Pole region. Even today, many of them will sit down and eat raw seal and whale blubber as a snack, usually warm right off the carcass. Clearly this is not a bad thing, as these impressive and hardy humans have thrived on this natural food for at least 15,000 years in the most brutal conditions. So again, bear fat is closely related to these other sources of needed fat and thus it is a good fat. If you were to consume mostly bear fat in your daily diet, your body would probably function a lot better. I am willing to bet that bear fat is far easier for human stomachs to break down and for human bodies to metabolize than dairy butter, deadly chemical margarines, and beef and pork tallow.

So why would I make bear grease from bear fat? Because I want to, that’s why. I am drawn to natural living and natural things, and getting back to basics is what a healthy life is all about. While I myself will not eat bear fat or grease (or whale or seal blubber for that matter), there are many people who I care about who can and will eat it. Plus there are other uses for it, which I have experimented with and found it to be amazing. Those uses are as a leather preservative, and bear grease is AMAZING at this, far better than anything you can buy. And then there is the lubricating function on a patched round ball rammed down the barrel of one of our flintlock rifles. So far I have seen bear grease provide a longer lasting, better lubricating film on the metal than any other bullet lube I have used. And I use all the best commercially available bullet and patch lubes on the market. Finally, I have begun experimenting with bear grease as a rust preventative on steel, like shop tools and machine parts. I am in the middle stage of this experiment, so right now I have nothing to report back with. But if it is anything like the patch lube effect on our rifle barrels, it will be excellent.

And again, yes, if you want to bake pastries with bear grease, you can. People say it is absolutely delicious and the best of all oils for that use. Some of the recipients of the bear grease I have created will probably do that. If I hear from them, I will report back here.

So this time around, I used an antique cauldron. A big one, on a tripod, over a propane burner. The fat came from a 611-pound male black bear killed by Travis Dietrich here in Dauphin County, on ground I manage. Travis was able to get about 40 pounds of bear fat into a cooler, and it has sat in a freezer or outside in the frozen cold, since Travis dropped it off at my home a month ago. The cauldron could have held a lot more bear fat, probably a few hundred pounds of it, but we puny humans could only remove and store that one big hunk this time, and so that is what we had to work with. Last year I had about five pounds to work with, from a young, tender bear killed by Kenny Youtz, actually very close to where this year’s bear was taken.

Maybe the next time a bear is killed, we will just move the cauldron and burner to the bear and start tossing the fat right into the pot. That way we can get all of it used, at its freshest, and waste nothing.

Learning from last year’s experiment, the double boiler method was just too damned long. So this time four gallons of well water were poured into the cauldron and heated to a boil, and then chunks of trimmed and cleaned bear fat were tossed in. Remember last year: Include zero meat, and I mean none, not even a tiny sliver, if you want a smell-free grease to result. Even the tiniest pieces of meat impart a pleasant but very meaty aroma to your leather preservative.

Fat chunk sizes ranged from fist to finger, and one of the lessons learned in this trial is that size matters. Actually, smaller is better when it comes to rendering bear fat. Most of the people who do this regularly use a meat grinder to get the bear fat broken down into strands that really truly cook down, quickly, and give up as much of the fat content as can be had.

And let us take note: Bear fat itself is kind of…a meaty consistency. It is not like any fat you have handled before, unless you work on a Japanese or Russian whaling ship, or you are a whale or sea mammal biologist (studying cetaceans). So cutting up the fat with a knife takes time. Use a clean cutting board and be prepared to resharpen your knife along the way.

What was learned this time is that the initial boiling water does buffer the process. It starts gently melting the bear fat and creating a pool of rendered liquid that will itself become the direct rendering agent for the bulk of the fat chunks after the water has steamed off in a great billowing mass. And when the water has boiled off, which you can tell because the steam is reduced and is becoming replaced with light smoke, turn down the heat, or the grease will quickly scald and burn, and then you have just about ruined it. The pool of grease that has been rendered so far will then get to work on rendering the rest of the fat remaining in the pot. It is like deep frying fat chunks.

The resulting chittlins (or cracklings as some people call them) are supposed to be really tasty, and I saved mine for friends to eat and for my own trap bait. Yes, some people will eat trap bait. Or, some people will use gourmet cuisine as trap bait. Strange world we live in. Take your pick.

This has been a lengthy post and I am about out of time and words. Here were my takeaways this time:

  1. Render your bear fat as fast as you can. The longer it sits, the more you will get some faint rancidity on the surface that must be trimmed off.
  2. Cut your bear fat chunks as small as possible, using a meat grinder if possible.
  3. Do not over heat or overcook the bear fat. This year it was on the slightly over-cooked side, because I was operating in the dark and did not notice just how deeply brown the chittliins had become. A slight brown shows they are cooked. A deep brown shows they have been completely deep fried and the oil has become super heated. The oil/ grease will then become brown from the high heat. We are aiming for a creamy white grease that solidifies easily when refrigerated or frozen.
  4. You can strain your bear grease through a cloth or coffee filter, but I did not. As I am not eating it, I just left the cauldron outside overnight in the 25-degree cold, which caused the grease to congeal. In the early morning I scooped up the best fat first, which is easily identifiable as the hard white tallow. Below the surface was the slightly brownish grease with a slightly grainy texture, and then below that were the fine particles that were not scooped out with the strainer. I took everything, each with its own use and purpose. The bottom of the barrel, so to speak, was taken for my friends’ dogs, which will probably enjoy the tasty treat and get a super glossy coat of hair. The creamy white, hard tallow is best for leather preservative. The brownish, unfiltered grease will harden up and is best for greasing ball patches and preserving steel surfaces.

Pictures and captions below should help, and I do hope this helps. Last year’s bear grease post was right up there in the top two or three on all the search engines, so people are really reading up on this neat process.

NOTE: WordPress has recently been “improved,” and it is now much less user-friendly, very hard to use. Especially with posting photos. When I went to the WordPress online forum today, a lot of other users are complaining. I have already spent a lot of time on this essay and lost half of what I put in. The new editor is terrible, and simply deletes a great deal of text. I apologize for the poor photo formatting, but I am not yet used to whatever “improvements” were made to the software. Believe me, I am trying to edit these, but the straight forward commands that WordPress had before are now gone. Like so many things digital today, “improvements” are made that eliminate the simplicity and ease of use of prior generations. Maybe this is a job guarantee for coders. Please bear with our technical difficulties…

These bags of bear grease are not all of the final result, but account for about 90%. About two quarts were bottled for friends and are set aside outside of this photo.
The water is boiling off in a billowing cloud of steam. The white fat chunks are visible

 

The bear fat chunks are now really starting to cook down in the rendered oil. They are being deep fried. I should have stopped it at this point, but instead allowed the process to go on another 25 minutes.
In the dark of night, using only an overhead porch light, the chittlins looked fully cooked at this color. Fact is, they had indeed become fully cooked, but the grease around them was overcooked.
Literally the bottom of the barrel. Not a whole lot of grease was rendered from that forty pounds of fat. The different layers and different qualities of resulting grease can be seen, with that creamy white, pure, hard grease at the very top, and the brownest bottom material held the fines and smallest chittlin bits. Had I cared to strain all of the grease through a cloth, I am sure it would have been cleaner and whiter as a result. But for my needs, this was good enough.

Chittlins. I saved these as trap bait and for friends who like wild game cuisine. The newspaper underneath is the Patriot News, and this is the highest and best use for that partisan propaganda Fake News publication.