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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.

Junk social science drives bad policies

Another fake social study has poor ammunition and even worse aim, but it is indicative of the purposefully low quality “studies” used by politicized “academics” to pursue certain social policy goals.
Go ahead and read the report on the “youth suicide” “study,” and then read the analysis I wrote below.
Analysis: It is an utter crap study with a 100% political goal.
First of all, Gallup and other sources demonstrate huge gross and relative increases in gun ownership among Americans over past thirty years, not decreases or moderate stability, as the study asserts.
Second, the anti-gun editorial at the end is a dead-giveaway that the study is about guns and gun ownership, not suicide.
Third, if suicide rates are stable in rural areas but dropping in urban areas, then it seems the story is that they are dropping in urban areas.  Is that because more urban youth are dead from homicide before they can commit suicide?
Fourth, after 17 or 18 years of age, a person is no longer a youth.  Counting 24-year-olds as youths is another hint that the researchers were hunting for the right mix of numbers to serve their political goal, and could only get them by warping the definition of their study population.  I am willing to bet that the actual youth numbers are way down.  But that would defeat the purpose of having a good anti-gun study.  So the net is widened.
Fifth, the study apparently does not identify or quantify the relative amounts of suicide by type – firearm, hanging, suffocation, poison, etc – so that it is impossible to make a logical connection between the study’s results and firearm policy, but the policy result of the study is nonetheless all about guns.  What would be really interesting to see is the method type among actual youth – including 17-year-olds and excluding anyone older.  I am willing to bet that firearm use is down among youth.
These anti-gun junk “studies” are epidemic.  They are funded by anti-gun foundations, completed by politically active anti-gun academics who do not pursue excellence, but rather particular policy goals at any cost, and these studies are then marketed by anti-gun media in a cycle of self-reporting that becomes its own story.
The Left has this stuff down very well.  A compliant liberal media plays right along.

Forget sexy issues like “climate change,” let’s solve real environmental threats

By Josh First

Pennsylvania’s forests are suffering from a one-two punch-out by both invasive bugs and pathogens that kill our native and very valuable trees, and then by a following host of invasive vines, shrubs, trees, and other plants that are filling the void left after the big natives are gone.

Today yet another bulletin arrived from PSU plant pathology / forestry researchers, noting that ‘sudden-oak-death disease’ was detected on a shipment of rhododendron from Oregon.

Oregon got it from Asia.

Pennsylvania’s forests are becoming full of non-native, invasive plants, bugs, and pathogens. Each of our valuable tree species now has its own specific attackers. God knows what our native forests will look like in ten years.

The Asian emerald ash borer is literally making ash trees go extinct as a species. I see whole stands of forest, hundreds of acres, where not one ash tree is healthy. Dutch Elm disease killed off most of our elms in the 1980s. An Asian fungus killed off the once incredible and mighty American chestnut tree. Forget pathogens and bugs, because lots of aggressive, fast-growing invasive plants are taking up room on the forest floor, pushing out and overwhelming needed native plants. Few if any animals eat the invasives, which are often toxic and low value.

Human-caused climate change?  It is a sexy political issue, and it is highly debatable. But forest destruction from non-native invasives is a real, tangible, non-debatable, non-politicized issue we need to address immediately. So many people and wild animals depend upon our native forests, that without them, our rural economies could dramatically fall and our wildlife could disappear.

Forester Scott Cary had this to say, tongue somewhat in cheek: “With the 1000 cankers disease in Walnut now in southeast Pennsylvania, that area is quarantined…maybe we shouldn’t be so hard on black birch and red maple [low-value native species long observed to be acting like aggressive, non-native invasives, and therefore harvested aggressively by responsible forest managers], that may be all we have left to choose from. Of course, Asian long-horned beetle may get the maple, so that leaves us black birch, the tree of the future.”

That is a sad place to be, folks.  And to think that so much money is wasted selling the phony issue of human-caused climate change, while real environmental disasters are actually happening…it shows you just how dedicated the environmental Left is to political dominance, not useful solutions to environmental problems.

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]

A brief Thank You to Janice Creason

Janice Creason is the Dauphin County treasurer, and in the summer she and her staff have to scramble to process doe tag applications.  I know Janice works hard ahead of time and in overtime to get our applications processed as fast as possible.

Hunting is a big part of my life, and it is a multi-billion dollar annual industry in Pennsylvania.  Hunting is a crucial sector of the rural economy, and it is renewable and sustainable, and very safe.  People who help hunting are helping Pennsylvania taxpayers and PA jobs.

Thank you, Janice!

Wile-y Coyote, knows the way

On my way out the door this morning, a call came in: “I think you have a coyote,” he said.

Knowing how wiley those coyotes are, I was skeptical and hopeful.

Surely enough, when I arrived the sets were undisturbed, and a second call went like this: “Yeah, we figured out he was mousing, you know – pouncing on mice under the snow,” and then eating them with great pleasure.

So what had appeared like one behavior was in fact something else, entirely.  The coyote had not been trapped, but rather had merrily and quite freely zig zagged his way across the snowy field, chasing tasty mouse morsels.  Human perception has misunderstood things of far greater consequence before, and will again, but the symbolism was instructive.

Once again I am surprised to see how entrenched most people are in a single perspective, as if their own living place, their own community, their own home, their own food, whatever surrounds them, is in fact (and must, must be) a true reference point for everyone else.  As if rural citizens relate to land the same as city slicker flatlanders, whose use for open land is a place to casually watch for deer as they serenely drive to their next appointment.  As if the flatlanders exist for the sole benefit of the rural folks….

How often do we hear activists and religious leaders invoke “peace,” as though what they are doing will actually bring peace, or that they would even know what someone else would call peace.  The take-away for me today was how entrenched in self most individual people are, and how they often (mistakenly) believe that their world view is dominant, “normal,” and correct.  And I’d say that this applies across the board, to all people, and most assuredly to me.