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Two private property rights bills before PA legislature

Pennsylvania private property rights are under the gun right now.

HB1565 would provide a small fix to a patently unconstitutional regulation issued by PA DEP four years ago. That regulation takes 150 feet of buffer land from property owners adjoining Exceptional Value and High Quality streams.  Pretty much nothing can be done inside that buffer.  No compensation is paid, no tax write-offs are allowed, no charitable contributions are allowed or facilitated under this horrendous rule.

Smart Growth tools have long called for rewarding land owners who give up usage of private land for environmental purposes. Increased building density on the non-buffer land is a big reward and an incentive for landowners to contribute protected land to the greater good.

But the current regulation is not focused on working with landowners. Rather, it treats landowners like a piggy bank, which can be robbed whenever needed.

Protecting the environment is easy to do. Old fashioned top-down, command and control, big government, one size fits all regulations like the 150-foot buffer rule don’t protect the environment any better than carefully tailored rules. It’s not like this is a choice between environmental protection or none at all.

So encourage your state senator to vote for HB1565.

The other issue is SB76, which will provide relief to property owners who are being taxed out of their homes by teachers unions. Government school taxes account for about 80% of the annual property taxes paid, so dealing with government pensions and government unions bargaining positions should help alleviate the pressure on home owners and farmers.

Encourage your state representative to support SB76, which will lower private property taxes and reshape the way taxes are allocated.

Private property is supposed to be sacrosanct. I’d suggest anyone supporting the 150-foot buffer rule simply give up their front lawn to the neighborhood as a public play area. Put your money where your mouth is, or quit demanding that other people’s money get spent in ways you think are superior than the owner would spend it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On just that one day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perry County Ground Zero, Round II

Perry County Ground Zero, Round II

By Josh First

Perry County, Pennsylvania, may be a deeply rural and tranquil place with just two traffic lights, but it is Ground Zero for the latest battle over your Constitutional gun rights.

The results of this battle have enormous implications for all Pennsylvanians, irrespective of where they live, because any legal holding will eventually apply not just to one county, but all counties and all citizens.

Unquestionably acting on political goals, the three county auditors recently sued the county sheriff, Carl Nace, demanding that he provide the names and addresses of concealed carry permit applicants his office processes. Nace refused, citing state law which seems crystal clear on the subject.

Much has been written here and elsewhere about this lawsuit and its genesis, so I will not re-trace those steps, but it is valuable to report back on where things stand as of yesterday.

Yesterday a hearing was held in New Bloomfield, Perry County’s seat of local government, on the auditors’ lawsuit against Nace. The hearing was intended to give both parties an opportunity to argue their case before a judge. The three county auditors are the plaintiff, and Sheriff Nace is the defendant.

I sat literally front and center in the court room, accompanied by Carl Fox and Jim Lucas, among many other wonderful citizens, activists, and concerned citizens. Carl Fox is president of the Duncannon Sportsman’s Association, and Jim Lucas is an engineer and well known political activist. Both Carl and Jim are involved in supporting Sheriff Nace and determining the background to the lawsuit. Both men believe the lawsuit has political purposes and goals, and is not some innocent procedural cause in the interest of perfect auditing everywhere.

Attorney Joshua Prince represented Nace, and attorney Craig Staudenmaier represented the three county auditors. The auditors were not present, either at the court house, nor at the hearing. Nace sat with his attorney in the court room.

Judge George Zanic sat directly in front of me with a clear line of sight between us, and I hope he wasn’t put off by my large prescription sunglasses, which I wear to keep summertime migraine headaches at bay, even inside. With my new, white, grizzled beard, wrap-around sunglasses, and unkempt end-of-summer hair, several people I already know approached me to learn who I was. One asked me if I was there for “the opposition,” and then laughed out loud when he realized who I was. That beard is coming off today! And yes, this is an indication that I am having a hard time letting go of the fantastic, if exhausting, summer I spent with my wife, kids, and friends.

Judge Zanic boiled down the entire argument to two points, one in each set of motions filed by each party. Zanic appeared most curious and skeptical about attorney Craig Staudenmaier’s assertions and claims about the need for the information, and the deficiency he says the county audit suffers from without the applicants’ names and addresses. More questions were asked of Staudenmaier than of Prince, and those questions for Staudenmaier were more pointed than those posed by the judge to Prince.

The judge was clearly having trouble understanding the plaintiff’s demand, or the need for the demand in the first place.

Citing general auditing standards, Judge Zanic referred to his own experience as a professional and as a former district attorney. Zanic disagreed with Staudenmaier about what information is necessary for any audit, let alone a county audit that was successfully completed by another firm when the auditors failed to do their own.

Prince did an excellent job in all respects, demonstrating a clear and quick knowledge of the governing statute, related laws, and the facts. Prince was articulate, clearly well prepared, and he stayed with Nace after the judge departed; both men answered questions from citizens and reporters.

Staudenmaier was often halting in his explanations, seemingly confused at times, and he argued in circles, often failing to directly answer the judge’s pointed questions. Some of his answers were rudimentary and elicited grumpy mutters from the audience. As soon as the judge left, Staudenmaier shot out of his seat, grabbed his papers, and fled out the back of the court house, through a hallway and door off limits to the audience. He took no questions from anyone in the court room, nor from anyone outside the court house.

Channels 43 and 27 were there, as was the Patriot News. Kudos to reporter Dennis Owens for pointing out that the auditors were not present at their own hearing, which is unnecessarily costing the county taxpayers a lot of money.  Their absence raises questions about just how seriously they take all this mess they have created.

Uniformed sheriffs and deputies from at least 15 counties were in attendance, in support of Sheriff Nace.

The court room was about 85% full.

“I hope to have a decision for you very soon,” said Judge Zanic.

Here is my take-away:

1) A person can draw their own conclusions about the quality or necessity of elected officials who take taxpayer money, who initiate unnecessary and expensive litigation, and who then do not show up in public or even at their own hearing. You cannot kick the hornet’s nest without getting stung, and then complain about it, but that is what these three auditors are doing. What they have said, and what their spokesman attorney Craig Staudenmaier has said, is that these three feel unhappy about the negative reactions their citizens have had over this lawsuit. Some counties do not have auditors, and it seems that the three in Perry County have proven they are either unfit or not needed. Perry County should either eliminate the office of county auditor, or vote these three out of office.

2) Perry County should do everything it can to determine who is behind the auditors’ lawsuit, including determining who paid Staudenmaier. This should be done to determine what political forces are in play (CeaseFirePA? Bloomberg? Soros? The Democratic Party of Pennsylvania? A local elected official?), and why they are present, and also let’s see if the people who started this expensive mess can then be held accountable and pay for it out of their own pockets.

3) Perry County should prepare to recover any costs or legal fees associated with this lawsuit, whether from the three auditors or from someone else who may be accountable. I think that Joshua Prince is representing Sheriff Nace for free, but no one should have to spend time defending someone from a frivolous lawsuit at their sole expense.

 

 

And finally, Hillary Clinton’s War on Women

If there is or ever was a “war on women” in America, it was lead and perpetrated by Hillary Clinton and her many supporters, men and women alike, and the media sources who went along with her.

When the most powerful man in the world, Bill Clinton, sexually assaulted, blackmailed for sex, sexually harassed, and coerced dozens of women from Arkansas to the White House and back again for sex, who defended him?

Hillary Clinton.

When there were a dozen easy opportunities to make an example of sexist, cruel, abusive behavior, who stood in the way?

Hillary Clinton.

And Hillary Clinton did not just block justice.  She also impugned the reputations of her husband’s many victims.  She attacked them, disparaged them, damaged their reputations, made them out to be the aggressors, the ‘sluts’, etc.  Not once did Hillary Clinton defend these poor female victims from her predatory husband.  Not once did she stand up for these women’s rights.  Not once did she stand up against the evil patriarchy perpetrated by her husband.

These innocent, vulnerable women had the entire Clinton Administration and their media supporters slander them, undermine them, shortchange them, mis-report their facts, under-report their facts, and plain make sup stories about them.

Hillary Clinton sacrificed many innocent women in her own quest for power and money.  Hey, a few eggs have to be broken in order for Hillary Clinton to make (not earn) $2,777 per minute, you know?  That is her cost of doing business.

Apparently the self-designated women’s rights organizations that would be so quick to jump on a sexist man could not bring themselves to criticize either of the Clintons.  So these feminist groups, too, were aiders and abbettors of the Clinton War on Women.  All for convenient, cheap political gain, as measured by the absence of political loss.  So much for standing on principle!

So whenever you hear about some “war on women,” you know exactly where it started: Hillary Clinton, her sexist, sexually harassing husband, and her allies.  The hypocrites.

Remembering neat people, Part 1

A lot of neat, interesting people have died in the past year or two, or ten, if I think about it, but time flies faster than we can catch it or even snatch special moments from it. People I either knew or admired from afar who changed me in some way.

There are two men who influenced me in small but substantial ways who I have been thinking about in recent days. One of them died exactly ten years ago, and the other died just last year. Funny how I keep thinking about them.

It is time to honor them as best I can, in words.

First one was Charlie Haffner, a grizzled mountain man from central Tennessee. Charlie and I first crossed paths in 1989, when I joined the Owl Hollow Shooting Club about 45 minutes south of Nashville, where I was a graduate student at the time.

Charlie owned that shooting club.

Back before GPS, internet, or cell phones, the world was a different place than today. Dinosaurs were probably wandering around among us then, mmm hmmmmm. Heck, maybe I am a dinosaur. Anyhow, in order to find my way to the Owl Hollow club, first and foremost I had to get the club’s phone number, which I obtained from a fly fishing shop on West End Avenue. Then I had to call Charlie for directions, using a l-a-n-d l-i-n-e, and actually speaking to a person at the other end. You’d think it was Morse Code by today’s standards.

After getting Charlie on the phone, and assiduously writing down his directions from our phone conversation, I had to use the best map I could get and then drive way out in the Tennessee countryside on gravel and dirt roads. Trusting my directional instincts, which are good, and trusting the maps, which were pretty bad, and using Charlie’s directions, which were exactingly precise, I made my way through an alien landscape of small tobacco farms and Confederate flags waving from flagpoles. Yes, southcentral Tennessee back then, and maybe even today, was still living in 1865. Not an American flag to be seen out there by itself. If one appeared, it was either directly above, or, more commonly, directly below the Confederate flag. The Confederate flag shared equal or nearly equal footing with the American flag throughout that region.

Needless to say, when I had finally arrived at the big, quiet, lonesome gun range in the middle of the Tennessee back country, the fact that I played the banjo and was as redneck as redneck gets back home didn’t mean a thing right then. Buddy, I was feelin’…. Yankee, like…well, like black people once probably felt entering into a room full of Caucasians. I felt all alone out there and downright uncomfortable. And to boot, I was looking for a mountain man with a deeeeep Southern drawl, so it was bound to get better. Right?

Sure enough, I saw Charlie’s historic square-cut log cabin up the hill, and I walked up to it. Problem was, it had a door on every outside wall, so that when I knocked on one, and heard voices inside, and then heard “Over here!” coming from outside, I’d walk around to the next door, which was closed, and I would knock again, and go through the process again, and again. Yes, I knocked on three or four of those mystery doors before Charlie Haffner finally stepped out of yet one more doorway, into the sunshine, and greeted me in the most friendly and welcoming manner.

Bib overalls were meant to be worn by men like Charlie, and Charlie was meant to wear bib overalls, and I think that’s all he had on. His long, white Father Time beard flowed down and across his chest, and his long, flowing white hair was thick and distinguished like a Southern gentleman’s hair would have to be. And sure as shootin’, a flintlock pistol was tucked into the top of those bib overalls. I am not normally a shy person, and I normally enjoy trying to get the first words in on any conversation, with some humor if I can think of it fast enough. But the truth is, I was dumbfounded and just stood there in awe of the sight before me.

Being a Damned Yankee, I half expected to be shot dead on sight. But what followed is a legendary story re-told many times in my own family, as Charlie (and his kindly wife, who also had a twinkle in her eye) welcomed me into his home in the most gracious, witty, and insightful way possible.

Over the following two years, I shot as much as a full-time graduate student could shoot out there at Owl Hollow Gun Club, which is to say not as much as I wanted and probably more than I should have. Although my first interest in guns as a kid had been black powder muzzleloaders, and I had received a percussion cap .45 caliber Philadelphia derringer as a gift when I was ten, I had not really spent much time around flintlocks. Charlie rekindled that flame in me there, and it has burned ever since, as it has for tens of thousands of other people who were similarly shaped by Charlie’s re-introduction of flintlock shooting matches back in the early 1970s, there at Owl Hollow Gun Club.

Charlie died ten years ago, on July 10th, I think, and I have thought about him often ever since: His incredible warmth and humor, his amazing insights for a mountain man with little evident exposure to the outside world (now don’t go getting prejudiced about mountain folk; he and many others are plenty worldly, even if they don’t APPEAR to be so), his tolerance of differences and willingness to break with orthodoxy to make someone feel most welcome. Hollywood has done a bad number on the Southern Man image, and maybe some of that negative stereotype is deserved, but Charlie Haffner was a true Southern gentleman in every way, and I was proud to know him, to be shaped by him.

The other man who has been on my mind is Russell Means, a Pine Ridge Sioux, award-winning actor, and Indian rights activist who caught my attention in the early 1970s, and most especially as a spokesman for tribal members holed up out there after shooting it out with FBI gunslingers.

American Indians always have a respected place in the heart of true Americans, and anyone who grew up playing cowboys and Indians knows that sometimes there were bad cowboys who got their due from some righteous red men. Among little kids fifty years ago, the Indians were always tough, and sometimes they were tougher and better than the white guys. From my generation, a lot of guys carry around a little bit of wahoo Indian inside our hearts; we’d still like to think we are part Indian; it would make us better, more real Americans…

Russell Means was a good looking man, very manly and tough, and he was outspoken about the unfair depredations his people had experienced. While Means was called a radical forty years ago, I think any proud Irishman or Scottish Highlander could easily relate to his complaints, if they or their descendants stop to think about how Britain had (and still does) dispossessed and displaced them.

Russell Means played a key role in an important movie, The Last of the Mohicans. His stoic, rugged demeanor wasn’t faked, and he was so authentic in appearance and action that he easily lent palpable credibility to that artistic portrayal of 1750s frontier America by simply showing up and being there on the set. Means could have easily been the guy on the original buffalo nickel; that is how authentic he was.

Russell Means was representative of an older, better way of life that is disappearing on the Indian reservations, if that makes any sense to those who think of the Indian lifestyle that passed away as involving horses and headdresses. He was truly one of the last of the Mohicans, for all the native tribes. Although I never met you, I still miss you, and your voice, Mr. Means.

[Written 7/23/14]

Simple things

America’s Second Amendment is not about hunting.

It is not about target shooting.

It is not about shotguns, single-shot twenty-twos, and bolt-action deer rifles.

Incredibly, it is about an armed citizenry being able to stand up to its own government.  It is a crazy idea, right? So crazy that only America, the world’s bastion of liberty, has it.

How frustrating is it to get into one Facebook debate after another with adults who not only have not bothered to research the Second Amendment, but who deliberately refuse to be educated once they are well into the debate.

Feelings are not a substitute for facts.  Debates about Constitutional law require facts, historical quotes, Founders’ intentions, etc.  Sure, I understand that lots of people are afraid of guns.  Why not?  They are dangerous.  But your fear cannot dictate my rights.

US Supreme Court tells us what we already know, and ignores the obvious

If the rule of law requires both mutual consent and contention between America’s three branches of government, our modern inclination to simply look to an authority to tell us what to do, what we may do, is a sign that Americans have grown tired of the hard work of running a republic.

The US Supreme Court has little authority but what moral authority it can muster through reasoning based on our Constitution. Yet increasingly, the court is used as a policy center to impose laws that otherwise failed in Congress.

This week the court held – gasp – that prayer is allowed in government meetings. Never mind that America’s founding fathers prayed together before working on governance. Never mind that for at least 200 years, Congress convened in prayer before convening in policy. In chambers. Never mind that our federal and most state founding documents recognize God, not government, as the source of human rights. In other words, Americans have been invoking and praying to God as part of official duties since our founding. There’s nothing new here. There’s nothing to question.

If it was done then, then yes, it can (and should) be done now.

Today’s general legal wranglings involve questions that ought not even be asked. But because there’s a group of people at war with America’s culture, institutions, and Constitution, these questions get asked as if they’re serious, legitimate, worthy. They’re none of those. But they serve the Left’s purpose of advancing an anti American agenda.

The Court also declined to hear a contested New Jersey law prohibiting the carrying (“bearing”) of handguns in public without proof of necessity. The Second Amendment means what it says, the court has held twice that it means an individual right, and since our founding Americans have, like prayer in government, been carrying guns in public.

There’s nothing new here except the liberals in NJ, whose war against America goes unchecked.

Here’s the thing: Laws are only as good as the potential to force their adherence by threats of force, incarceration, fines etc. It’s one of the great ironies of the pacifist Left that they enjoy, nay, require, the full coercive force of government to achieve their policy goals.

But citizens can disobey. And citizens can challenge authority. Will the Left feel bad for jailed gun-bearing conservatives, or government leaders invoking God before sitting down to business, as the Left felt bad for civil rights protestors once  jailed by anti- black police and politicians?

Don’t count on it. Logic, consistency are not hallmarks of the Left. But we can overcome, nonetheless.

Beating that dead horse? You bet

Religious freedom is specifically protected in the US Constitution’s First Amendment. It is one of the hallmarks of American liberty, one of our claims to fame.

Enter liberalism AKA fascism.

If you are Brendan Eich, founder of Mozilla, and you believe in the Bible and you vote that way, and you donate money to causes and candidates who represent that view, why…you are FIRED. Yes, fired for your religious and political views.

If you are Elaine Huguenin of Elaine Photography in Albuquerque, New Mexico, you are now in violation of a state law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual behavior. So Elaine was sued because she didn’t want to photograph a gay wedding. Our super lame US Supreme Court refused to stand up for Elaine’s rights.

Wedding cakes for same-sex couples have also become cause celebre.

So apparently it is now against the law to believe in the Bible, to follow the Bible, and to follow your religious conscience.  It appears that it is now illegal to be against gay behavior.  And it appears that you can be fired for being insufficiently supportive of gay behavior.  Is it against the law to be against gay behavior?

My question is, Can a gay baker be compelled to make a birthday cake for an anti-gay activist? Like, say, anti-gay Westboro Baptist members?

Like so much of this issue, the whole thing stinks to high heaven of double standards. Tolerance for one should be tolerance for all. First Amendment rights are clearly under attack by the very fascists who proclaim themselves to be the most tolerant and open minded of all.

American rights are being lost, and I will keep beating on this dead horse, until it gets up and starts running like it used to.  Giddy up!

Guns – Your individual right

Gun ownership is an individual right, not a “collective” right.

There is no such thing as a “collective” right in the American liberties enumerated in our Constitution.

If you think otherwise, you really must study the Constitution more.  Local to the Harrisburg area is an organization that provides classes on Constitutional issues: http://reclaimliberty.com/

The “collective right” idea was ginned up out of thin air in the 1970s by anti-freedom activists.  The US Supreme Court has rejected it twice, and there is not an honest scholar anywhere who believes in it.

The Bill of Rights is exactly that – a list of individual rights and liberties that belong to American citizens.  No one can take them away.  Whether you choose to exercise those rights, or not, is your choice.

Thank You to PA Leadership Conference

A big Thank You to the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference organizers, its speakers and moderators, and the hundreds of attendees who are taking time out of their days, livelihoods, and family commitments to gather together and work on rebuilding American and Pennsylvanian liberties.

I got a lot out of it today.  Big Thank You to PA state senator Mike Folmer, whose passionate advocacy for individual liberties inspires so many other citizens to work twice as hard.  Even those who disagree with the traditionalist movement respect the commitment we have to protecting EVERYONE’S rights, the opposite of the Left, which is constantly undermining civil liberties.