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talkin turkey

Spring Turkey Season is almost upon us here in Pennsylvania, and around the country. A great deal of the wild turkey breeding season is already behind us, and the significant challenge of calling in a “lovesick tom” at the tail end of the breeding period is now laid before several hundred thousand dedicated and novice turkey hunters alike, here in PA.

Couple of reminders, and one big observation:

  1. Please do not drive up and down country roads making hen calls out the window of your vehicle, waiting to hear a gobble in response. While it may bring some hunters a premature auditory orgasm to hear the lusty gobbler responses, all this activity really does is educate turkeys about fake calls by fake hen turkeys. And when tom turkeys get unnecessarily educated by guys peeing in their pants with excitement, said toms become a zillion times harder to hunt and bag. It takes the fun out of an already difficult hunt. Don’t do it. Please.
  2. Clearly identify your male turkey’s red or white head before pulling the trigger on its neck. If all turkey hunters only pulled the trigger when they had absolutely positively identified their target, there would be no heartbreaking hunting accidents during spring turkey season. And when you read the facts surrounding those hunting accidents or negligent shootings, you realize that some people are about to pee in their pants with excitement and so they shoot a human being “in mistake” of a turkey. By only putting our trigger finger on the shotgun trigger when the gobbler’s head is both clearly visible and in range, we bypass a lot of dangerous excitement.

Finally, in a certain nook up north, I have been enjoying the sounds once again of spring gobblers sounding off for probably six weeks now. Few have been the wild turkey gobbles there over the past ten to twelve years, an absence always correlated with the physical evidence of a resident fisher. In other words, fishers have eaten the hell out of our wild turkeys, and only after someone traps the local fisher do the turkey populations begin to rebound. This fact has been driven home for me year after year across southcentral, central, and northcentral PA; fishers have been real hard on our wild turkeys.

Not to say that fishers don’t have a place in Penn’s Woods, they do, of course. But the policy implications of widespread fishers should have been better considered before the giddiness of super-predator 100% ecosystem saturation overtook wildlife managers in the late 1990s and early 2000s. And now Pennsylvania is contemplating releasing pine martens into Penn’s Woods…..knowing already that they eat the hell out of grouse, and that PA’s grouse are in very bad shape.

I don’t mind having a decent population of fishers and pine martens up north in the Big Woods, where they will have the least amount of impact on other wildlife across the entire state. What I do object to is sacrificing the enormous wild turkey conservation success story on the altar of “more predators are better than few” mindset of some wildlife managers. Sometimes, we just have to accept that we can’t wind the clock back to the year 1650, or even 1750, because the few successes we have managed to rack up, like wild turkeys brought back from extinction, is as good as it can get.

Sometimes, good is good enough, and the rest we just need to leave well enough alone.

A fisher in New Hampshire, from wikipedia. Fishers are giant weasels. They eat everything.



Guys (men), don’t be an idiot

Emergency Room staff: “Hi there, what can we do for you tonight?”

Me: “I’m an idiot.”

ER Staff: “Yeah, we see a lot of those in here.”

Two hours before, the dry white oak board was very hard, and the cutter blades were very dull, and so that board was giving the cutter fits. Never mind that I had been running the cutter all day to fulfill a large order of oak, and that I had already sharpened the primary blade once, hours before. When the board end bounced off the dull blades, I leaned into it to force the cut. The last thing I remember is a flash of white in the dusk that was enveloping my worksite, and suddenly I knew I was hurt.

Reeling backwards and clutching my face, I first checked my teeth, my eyes, and unhappily noted the gushing blood pouring out of my face. The pain was overwhelming, and the copious blood told me it was serious.

After leaning on the order of banded lumber, hunched over  and collecting my wits, I again took stock of my injured face. All my teeth appeared to be in my mouth, and I could see through my heavy wire frame glasses with both eyes. A big pool of blood was congealing on the lumber below me, and blood was liberally dripping and splotching all around me, wherever I went.

“Broken nose, you idiot,” I said out loud, to no one in particular. Time was 7:40 pm and anyone who might have been around to help me during regular working hours would have been long long gone home by then. From March through October I work farmer’s hours, which means work only ends when there is insufficient daylight to work by. When you choose to work until dark and until after dark, which I actually greatly enjoy, you usually work alone. And if you make a stupid, idiot mistake, you will bleed alone. If you are really unlucky or a really big idiot, you will die alone.

So, guys, don’t be an idiot.

Here are the idiot mistakes I made, which you should learn from and not make yourselves:

  1. Working around machinery and powerful tools while tired is an idiot mistake. All week a cold had dogged me, and even before beginning to work very physically, I was already run down from it. Hinyucking huge gobs of nasty green mucus everywhere every five minutes is a signal that your body is not well, that it is fighting off some infection or cold, and that it needs rest. Take the hint and rest, even a little bit, here and there throughout the day. On top of being sick, I had worked hard all day, lifting and moving logs and lumber, and when the accident happened I was just deeply bone tired from the heavy physical labor work. Mistakes happen much more easily to tired people, because tired people have poor judgment and slow reaction time. I had all of this in spades, and paid for it.
  2. Don’t work with dull tools. That cutter was battering the last piece of oak, not cutting it, and yet I foolishly leaned in close to physically force the very last piece of wood through. Big mistake. The powerful motor kicked that wood back into my face before I had time to second guess my poor decision. And yes, I had just been telling myself that after this very last piece of wood, I would remove the cutter blades and sharpen them. Too late, idiot.
  3. Wear correct protective equipment. Gloves are a must around wood and power tools, but the job I was doing also required serious face protection. Because I wear large, rugged eyeglasses everywhere, every iteration of which shows the battle scars of years of hard physical work, I have become a little lazy about better protecting my eyes. That became apparent about ten years ago, when some grinding wheel metal incredibly ricocheted up under my eyeglass lenses at an impossible angle and stuck in my eyeball.  Took a while for that junk to work its way out. Just like with the safety event that prompted this particular essay, that day at the grinding wheel I had lazily neglected to simply slop my big clear face shield on my lumpy head and enjoy the benefits of complete protection from flying fragments, impacts, etc. Had I been wearing the face shield, hanging up on the wall just twenty feet away, while running the dull cutter, I probably would have had a good bruise across my face from the kick back, but nothing broken and no lost work time.

Last time I had a broken nose was my senior year in high school. Like the young idiots we were, a bunch of us were playing full tackle pick up football, in the dark. Heavily rushed, the opposite QB had lateraled the football to Rafael Richards, who, being athletic as hell, rocketed straight up the middle. Playing safety position, I put my head down and aimed straight for him. Rafael also put his head down to punch through the defenders, and the two of us woke up a bit later in the Chester County Hospital ER on two gurneys, next to each other. Naturally, we each had a mirror image injury, which included a broken nose and a deep gash in the forehead that required 17 stitches in the meat and another 15 stitches in the skin above.

Rafael went on to get his MD from Harvard Medical School, long before DEI and wokeness there rendered such a degree a question mark, instead of the world class achievement it should be. Somehow I just know that Rafael does not run the risk of getting his nose broken while being a fancy Harvard trained physician in an air conditioned office.

Me? I’m an idiot farting around with penny ante wood orders in the mountains. Because I like it.

But guys, regardless of doing what you like or don’t like, don’t be an idiot.

Cheap but highly effective face shields are sold everywhere for twenty bucks. Buy one and wear it. Don’t be an idiot

How was your eclipse experience?

How was your full solar eclipse experience today? I hope it was fun. A lot of Americans traveled long distances to be within the path of the full eclipse, which stretched across America for a couple hours. Though the actual full eclipse itself was just a couple minutes. My friend Jim drove all the way to Ohio from central PA to see the full eclipse, and yet his attention fell prey to a myriad of beautiful 1960s muscle cars lined up by car-and-eclipse enthusiasts. We men are so weak, so easily distracted. It’s great.

This morning I traveled a couple hours to the Pennsylvania-New York border for a business meeting, after which I drove a few minutes north and crossed into New York State. Right on the edge of the full eclipse. For two hours I did my best to enjoy the event, which was greatly hampered by heavy clouds. Like a tornado hunter there on the PA-NY border, I drove around and took up various positions along paved and dirt roads, a cemetery, a bar parking lot, a cow pasture, trying to beat the clouds or at least find a big wide open space that would give me an idea of when the clouds would open up and give a rewarding, clear view.

Was it seven years ago that we had another solar eclipse? That one we watched with friends at Cherry Springs State Park, and handed around our two welding helmets among our gang and also to other gawkers who asked to borrow them for a moment. That was a memorable day, most especially because it was summertime and the sky was blue. Boy was the eclipse perfectly visible on that day.

Gotta say, the welding helmet, turned up to 13, really saved the day today. The memento “Full Solar Eclipse 4/08/2024” glasses given to me by Chuck (thank you very much) were difficult to see through, and impossible to take photos through. The clouds were often heavy, and blocked the sun completely, forget the eclipse. Welding helmets have a pretty big screen, that is also adjustable, and a camera can be held up to it for a properly filtered picture. So not only was I often able to see the eclipse through the clouds with the helmet, some of my best photos came from light cloud cover.

What a miraculous and fabulous universe we inhabit. And no, we can’t blame this eclipse on “climate change.” Nice try, though.

Jim Eisenhart, Jr. may have been easily distracted by the pretty 1960s muscle cars today, but he did capture the best amateur full eclipse picture I saw

The best part of this photo is the little bit of ominous dark sky at the top. The eclipse turned daytime into a weird glow, a sideways light, not something that normally shines down. These signs lacked shadows, despite the bright sunlight (not sunshine) on them




My dream clothes washing machine is from 1999

In the past twenty years- plus, an aggressively misleading effort has been shoved down our American freedom-loving throats that the only home appliances we should ever want to own are so energy efficient and water efficient that they don’t actually achieve the results they are made to achieve.

Mostly we are talking about clothes washers (washing machines), although dishwashing machines, ovens, and even microwaves and toaster ovens have been bastardized on the false altar of “efficiency.”

What I miss most about washing machines are two things: A powerful agitator, and a manual override so I can select exactly the combination and level of functions I myself believe best fit the clothes I have placed in the clothes washing machine. I miss these two aspects that were basic to washing machines up until about 1999-2000, because absent them, it is now almost impossible to find a washing machine that actually and fully cleans my clothes.

All electronic/electric clothes washing machines sold today are extremely water efficient, and also extremely energy efficient. For those who struggle with what we are talking about here, neither water efficiency nor electricity efficiency will clean your clothes. You need lots of water and energy to clean clothes in a modern washing machine. Water and electricity efficiency means less of both key ingredients, and energy-efficient machines will not clean your clothes. High efficiency will result in your clothes being far less clean than they could be, were we using a real basic washing machine from 1999.

Today’s washing machines use so little water that the clothes bathing in it are essentially just getting dirty over and over again. Insufficient water is used to actually clean the dirt out of your clothes and hold it in suspension. And the low-electricity thing is just as ridiculous, because the impellers that have replaced agitators do absolutely nothing to actually clean your clothing. What agitators are available on the market are pathetic, limp-wristed little creatures.

Watch an old-fashioned agitator at work. The water is flying everywhere, the clothes are being pushed violently in the water, and your eyes can see that the clothing is being bathed in a lot of water that is also moving very aggressively. That is how clothes get clean.

Now go watch an impeller do its thing. An impeller kind of limp-wrists a pizza throw. It is a half-hearted effort to move whatever is on it. It hardly moves the clothing or the water. I have put folded clothing and sheets and pillow cases in our “deluxe” washer with an impeller, and with the alternative mini agitator, and after the longest possible wash cycle, the objects are removed just as neatly folded as they were when they were placed in the “washer.” Yes, they are wet, but they were not moved around, and the dirt that was lodged in them before they went into the washer is just as lodged as it was in the beginning. In other words, impellers do not work, and claims that they are just a more efficient type of agitator are BS. Your own eyes will tell you this, and probably your nose, too.

And today’s agitators are so small, with such pathetically short turns (guessing about ten degrees of arc) that they, too, do very little to wash the clothes surrounding them.

Why are Americans being fooled into buying electronic appliances that do not work? Because people who think they are smarter and better than us have strong-armed appliance manufacturers to provide “efficient” items that use less water and less electricity than prior models. Yeah, it is true that these dish and clothes washers use less water and less electricity, and it is also true that their amount of clothes and dish cleaning also drops about 90% for the same effort.

The Maytag washer we mistakenly bought takes an hour and a half to do a “Normal” load of wash, and when it is done, we are lucky if the clothes don’t require a second wash. Maytag is not alone; it appears that all of the washing machines made today are just as weak and pathetic.

In other words, “efficient” washing machines are such bad cleaners that they require much more use (= more time, more water and more electricity) to achieve even a modicum of result. The now old fashioned washing machines kicked the crap out of our clothes in a large amount of water, and in about fifteen minutes our entire load of laundry was done. And in fact the formerly dirty clothes emerged very clean.

So my dream washing machine today is one from 1999. It has simple analog turn dials, very few gidgety-gadgety electronics or computer chips, and the entire thing is one big manual override. Every choice I make is because I want that choice and that outcome. The machine makes no choices for me. It is also a top-loading drum that holds enough water to actually wash the clothes that are placed in it, and it has a powerful enough agitator that sweeps far enough (at least a 30 degree arc, and 60 degrees of arc is even better) and aggressively enough to actually knock the dirt off of my clothes and push it into suspension in the abundant water.

That is how we clean clothes with a washer. Anything else is just getting the clothing wet.

When it comes to cleaning my clothes, I really don’t give a cr@p about water efficiency or electrical efficiency. I want performance. The job has to be done right, and whatever it takes to get the job done right is what should be put into the job. Lots of water? OK. Lots of electricity needed to push a powerful motor that churns a strong agitator? OK.

High efficiency? No thanks. I will take the very low efficiency and highly effective washing machine, please.

It is hilarious and also a little spooky that what used to comprise the most basic washing machine that cleaned the most clothing with the least amount of effort is now sold as a machine with “lots of bells and whistles.”

I can’t believe we consumers have to write things like this, because it all seems so self evident. Then again, literally everything surrounding us Americans has been hijacked for some “higher purpose” that ends up leaving us and our needs in the dust. Because the people who push this garbage are “better” than us and “smarter” than us, and they think we are dust, over whom they must exercise heavy manual control.

Funny how symbolically asymmetrical this all is. Like a washing machine that in the 1960s symbolized how advanced America was is now a symbol of how screwed up America has become, and all because of the Left’s extremist politics.

By the late 1950s and early 1960s, washing machines had reached their zenith of effectiveness

If I could get a “modern” and “high efficiency” washing machine to work half as well as this 1960 model, I would put on a dress and dance around, too

Imagine doing laundry dressed like you were ready to go out for dinner. Oh the painful irony that our grunge-dressing culture embraces crappy washing machines that in fact don’t get the grunge out of our clothing. Some things in Western Civilization were definitely much better in 1961 than now. Probably a lot of things.


Easter & Passover = Time for American Renewal

America as a representative, constitutional republic run by The People is being purposefully killed by the Biden Administration. In case the horrible inflation and scary economy and ATF cold blooded murder-execution of Bryan Malinowski in his bedroom did not grab your attention recently, maybe today’s headlines will: Joe Biden declared today to be a “transgender day of visibility,” despite today actually being Easter.

A more grotesque and purposefully evil statement could not be imagined, but then again, what evil haven’t we seen with Joe Biden. Sorry to the transgender people out there, but today is a major Christian holiday, and to flaunt hypersexual nonsense at the expense of America’s founding belief system is a major slap in the face of all Americans.

If Biden’s bizarre effort to outright ignore Easter and flaunt hyper sexuality seems to you like a big political risk for very little political gain, you are correct. What you are forgetting is that Joe Biden stole the 2020 election and has not felt accountable to voters ever since. This first-ever bizarre day of trans whatever nonsense is what politicians do when they believe they are not going to experience electoral pushback. And if you steal elections, you don’t feel accountable, and you just do whatever crazy crap you want to do. Like tyrants everywhere else.

America is in huge trouble. Enormous trouble. Who the hell ever saw a president so deeply committed to destroying the foundations of America, as well as its national defense, the rights of its citizens, its economy, etc? Joe Biden is not some aberration, he is being inflicted on America in order to destroy us as a people and as a nation. Joe Biden’s constant assault on America is not sustainable, and you should not think that America is too big to fail. You are watching America be failed on purpose right in front of  your face.

Easter is based on Passover, which is right around the corner. Easter is more theological and Passover is more about national identity, and I think this year, these two holidays can, and must, together, mark an American spiritual, cultural, and political renewal that is borne out at the ballot box this November. Christians can pray that a free constitutional America rises again, and Jews can pray that a lawlessly brutal and sadistic federal government is defeated by The People, so that The People can go free and live their American lives as was envisioned from the beginning in 1776.

Hopefully enough Christians and Jews recognize that Easter and Passover of 2024 are uniquely placed to prompt them, you, us, to have a spiritual and national renewal, and that such a renewal allows us to throw off Joe Biden’s slave chains, so that we Americans can be a free people once more. This renewal must be implemented at the ballot box this November. The rejection of Joe Biden’s bizarre un-American/ anti-American values must be so overwhelming that there is no hope of his election cheating again this November.

Avoiding payment scams is easy

Last year, some local person took a picture of a check I had written to a local business, and they used that picture to create several fake checks written against my bank account. Because I bank locally with a relatively small bank owned by local people I know and trust, and because I have personal relationships with the bank staff, the forged/fake scam checks were caught right away.

I looked at that check, and then the next one, and the next one, and just I knew that there was no way that Josh First was writing them. They are ridiculous on their face. I mean…flowers and gourmet cat food? No! No way. I knew that is not Josh. Chainsaws, yes, could be, I could be fooled by that if someone tried it, but gourmet cat food, no, flowers hell no“, said the local bank branch manager with a big smile.

Because the bank manager knows me and my business personally, he was easily able to discern the fake checks from real ones. He saved me a lot of heartache. And so I recommend to you that you use your local banks, that are owned and run by local people. Unlike the big banks like Chase, these local people get to know you, know your face, and are accountable and connected to the community around them.

A month later I got a call from a sweet and very distressed woman in Arizona, who had shipped off five thousand dollars worth of product from her small business based on a check written in my name. No, I assured her, I had nothing to do with it. I had no need for marketing products, and certainly not her particular products. This nice lady and I had a long conversation about how much America has changed in our adulthood, and not for the better. She said the scam had really hurt her financially.

Fast forward almost a year and I recently got a call from a nice young man in Alaska. A check bearing my business name had been used to purchase thirty-five hundred dollars of beauty salon hair and nail products from his friend in Florida, and the proceeds had been sent to Alaska to help him purchase a home there. Only days after he had deposited the check in his account was he informed that the check was bad, and that in fact he did not have the money. His friend in Florida was cheated out of her salon products.

I would say the common thread I have seen across all of these check scams is that the person getting scammed does not really look into the check they have received. For example, why would a buyer of beauty salon products in Florida pay with a check from a business in Pennsylvania that does land and timber work? This obviously makes no sense, and the young man admitted it.

And when I spoke with the nice lady in Arizona last summer, she too admitted that this same issue had given her pause. To which I asked her “Why didn’t you call us with your question before taking the check? We could have easily protected you from committing this mistake.”

Scams are everywhere: Email scams asking for money, phone calls asking for money, malware and phishing scams by email and text (DO NOT CLICK ON THEIR CONTENTS and links), phone calls about getting a low cost mortgage on your penis enlargement, updating your nonexistent home warranty/ extended car warranty/ computer warranty etc etc etc. We are inundated in this garbage.

You have to care about yourself enough to stay on guard and defend your interests. One little mistake can cause you a lot of grief and cost you a lot of money.

The best ways to protect yourself from being victimized are: 1) Ask yourself if this is a service or product I really have? 2) Is this phone call or email a normal way for a real bona fide service provider to communicate? 3) Why is there a company name from far away on this check? And you can always call that company whose name is on the check and ask them if they wrote the check.

Had that happened in the most recent scam, I would have said “I have nothing against dudes who use girl makeup, but I will also say that I am the last man on Planet Earth who would do so, and so there, you have your answer: The check is bad.”

You just gotta ask a question or two if you want to stay out of scam trouble.


Pitfalls and pratfalls of primary elections for candidates and volunteers alike

While digging through old stuff in my office recently, I encountered a bag in a corner with a bunch of campaign tee shirts made for volunteers who had helped me run in the 2010 primary race for congress here in central PA. Seeing the pinned-on names on each shirt, I felt embarrassed that somehow I had neglected to get these tokens of appreciation into the hands of those dedicated volunteers. They had donated their time to me, to a campaign they believed in, and it is absolutely incumbent upon all candidates to express appreciation, and show it if they can, to their volunteers, win or lose. Here was evidence that I had failed to do that fully with these several people whose names appeared on the tee shirts, and it made me feel badly.

Fast forward fourteen years, and I have just learned by doing an internet search that a political candidate I had contributed real time and effort to had dropped out of the race last Thursday. This person and I had exchanged many emails and texts for the past month, I had drafted a press release for her, and gotten her about forty ballot petition signatures to help get her on the April 23 ballot. Despite all my time and effort on her behalf, I did not qualify for the email the media says she sent to her supporters, announcing her bowing out of the race. I felt like all my time and effort dedicated to this person was not appreciated or valued, which makes one feel badly.

Dear political candidates, you have to express your appreciation to your volunteers! Volunteers are how every campaign runs, whether it succeeds or fails, and showing your appreciation to the people who make up the campaign is your duty to those people who take time away from their families, their businesses, jobs, etc to help you get ahead. Failing to express appreciation hurts not just your own reputation, but it also leaves your volunteers wondering if they should ever volunteer on a campaign again for anyone else.

I have seen other candidates cold-drop their volunteers when the campaign ends, and even drop their campaign staff. This is usually due to the exhaustion a candidate feels at the end of the race. Campaigns are all brutal exercises, all-out sprints over a relatively short amount of time, and at their end usually everyone involved is feeling tapped out and emotionally drained. It is tough to sustain that high energy after the race ends, but again, dear candidates, you absolutely owe it to your volunteers to say Thank You. An email, some text messages, some cards to the people who put in the most work and hours. Tee shirts if you made them.

What took out this latest candidate I was helping was Pennsylvania’s archaic ballot petition process. Depending upon the office sought (state house, dog catcher, US senate, congress etc) candidates for office in Pennsylvania are required to collect hundreds or even thousands of registered voter signatures on complicated forms where the slightest mistake, mis-spelling, or poorly written word can result in a disqualification. There is an entire arcane process surrounding the screening, challenging, and defending of the ballot petition signatures. The only people who benefit from this are the attorneys who specialize in this arcana, and the two main political parties.

If enough of the candidate’s ballot signatures get disqualified, then the candidate does not achieve the minimal threshold of signatures, and does not qualify to be on the ballot. A lot of hard work and volunteer hours can get flushed down the drain if insufficient signatures are obtained to keep the candidate on the ballot.

PA’s complicated ballot petition process is designed by and for the political parties, which have the experienced volunteers, lawyers, and updated voter lists necessary to get far more signatures than are needed. It is designed to keep political outsiders out of office, and political insiders in.

According to this now un-candidate’s statement in the news article, the attorney who challenged her ballot petition signatures had also threatened to bury her campaign in a pile of legal costs if she tried to fight her way through all the nit-picky challenges. All indications are that US Senate candidate David McCormick is behind this challenge and threat. This is really about a billionaire bully booting pesky candidates out of his way on his path to self-serving elected office.


Pennsylvania voters want choice, and we do not benefit from the current ballot petition process, which was once described to me by a Dauphin County Republican Committee Woman as a necessary precaution to prevent “unqualified people” from running for office.

Said I, “Why don’t we just let anyone run who wants to run? Shouldn’t all citizens have a right to run, aren’t we all qualified?  Isn’t that the heart and soul of the democratic process, to keep it as open and accessible to The People as possible?

Said she, “That sounds like too much democracy to me.

And so we see yet another victim of this ridiculous gatekeeper process, which both political parties can agree must be kept intact so they can retain maximum control of who gets to run, and who does not. It is really about control, not democracy.


These are some of the pitfalls of running for political office here in Pennsylvania, and while some are unavoidable, it is best to work hard to avoid the pratfalls: Campaign volunteers and supporters will always appreciate and fondly remember a kind word, a nice email or text message saying thanks. And also will they remember that their hard work went unnoticed and unremarked in the end, and so they will feel used.

Double yuck.


Tucker Carlson’s interview with Putin

I have watched the fascinating interview with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin by journalist Tucker Carlson, and if you have any interest in world politics, you should watch it too, right here.

So the mainstream establishment politically partisan leftwing activist media, and their political members like Hillary Clinton, have all piled on Tucker Carlson for doing this interview. I don’t see why, except that the establishment media is jealous, or maybe afraid. Unlike the establishment media people, Tucker Carlson doesn’t ask softball questions or act like a fawning stooge.

He asked logical questions of Putin that visibly provoked Putin quite a few times. In fact, Tucker Carlson asked questions I would not necessarily have thought of, like if it is OK to carve up modern Ukraine among its former occupiers, as Putin stated, then is Putin advocating for giving northern Ukraine to Viktor Orban’s Hungary? Would Putin be ok with Poland taking a big piece of Ukraine, too?

Putin did not like those questions! He oh-so-very-clearly dislikes being challenged and is not used to it.

For his part, Putin was fascinating. He gave an impressive recitation of Eastern European history, beginning at the year 862, from memory. While I have studied the history of Europe a lot, I do not think I could give you all of the “who kicked Mary and who hit John” moments that make up the chaotic past and present of Eastern Europe, much less Western Europe, from memory.

One area that Putin was clearly not being truthful about was this “Denazification” of Ukraine justification-excuse for invading Ukraine. Yes, there were Nazi collaborators in World War II. There were also Ukrainian Communists in World War II. Russia also committed a genocide-by-forced-starvation against Ukraine, called the Holomodor, in great part in retaliation for atrocities committed by Ukrainians against Russians not too long before. There is indeed a long history of blood and feuds here.

Putin also stated that Poland collaborated with the Nazis in World War II. Yes, the same 1939 Poland that was invaded and crushed by the German Nazis, supposedly did it on purpose to help Germany. Despite the fact that it was the Soviet Russians who committed the Katyn Massacre of the Polish elite. Obviously Poland did not welcome or collaborate with the German Nazis, but Putin says they did, and moreover, that the Poles were themselves Nazis.

This is nonsense. It is not factual.

But, like I say, you have to hear this interview yourself to understand how the Russians really think, or at least how they want you to believe they think.

Whether or not Putin actually believes his own propaganda, it doesn’t matter. He says it, and to me it sounds crazy, but I will bet that a lot of other Russians believe the same things. Which is why these interviews and dialogues are so important.  We humans should strive to understand one another. Or at least lie to each other, mutually. Some sort of understanding emerges, and if it prevents bloodshed, cruelty, and crying children and destroyed civilizations, then probably for the good.

Putin very clearly has a passion for the region and for Russia, which is to his credit. Because the one thing that has caught the fancy of a lot of Americans is that Putin loves his homeland Russia. If there is one thing that at least half of America admires it is an appreciation for one’s nation, and so Putin’s clear love of Mother Russia resonates with them.

Putin’s love of country, to the point of waging an illogical, incredibly destructive, and probably illegal invasion-war against Ukraine, is something we no longer see in America’s politicians.  No, America’s politicians are largely fat globalists, citizens of the world, moral relativists who enter Congress worth fifty cents and who are then worth $29,000,000 three terms later. American politicians love money, not America, and they are allowing America to be invaded. American politicians are selling America to the highest bidders, most especially Joe Biden, whose literal name Joe Biden is all over illegal bribe and graft checks and money wires written by Chinese businessmen to him and his son Hunter Biden.

Putin doesn’t put up with traitors, which a lot of Americans find refreshing and wish would be the norm once again here in America.

Putin gave his perspective on his region’s history, which is obviously from his own view. I know for a fact that asking a Ukrainian citizen will result in a different view on a few of those same exact facts. Same goes for people from Poland, Lithuania, Finland and many other nations around there. For the past few hundred years at least, that big grizzly bear Russia has had its grip tightly on so many of its neighbors. And from the Russian perspective, this is normal and perfectly fine. If you are Kazakh, or Tajik, or some other ethnicity, you probably disagree with Russia’s actions.

One of the regions that Russia invaded and absolutely stomped to pieces in recent times, unarmed civilians and all, was Chechnya. Back before YouTube became all censorship oriented, you could watch actual video footage of Russian soldiers laughingly executing unarmed Chechen civilians in their ragged clothing, mothers and fathers, grandmas, and then walking on to the next rustic stone farmhouse and doing it all over again. I really defy anyone to try to justify this barbaric behavior. Same goes for Ukraine now.

And Putin complains that the CIA was responsible for Chechnya’s response…

Other items that fascinated me are Putin’s view on his experience squaring off against and sometimes trying to work with the CIA and American political leadership over the decades. He seems genuinely flummoxed why American leaders and bureaucrats alike do not trust Russia, even post-Soviet Russia. It is helpful to me to closely watch Putin’s face as he voices his disbelief, and his reluctant acceptance of realpolitik, over the proxy wars and NATO maneuvering along Russia’s borders.

Maybe he really does believe what he is saying.

Long ago, a friend of mine who taught Russian history and military doctrine at the US Army War College in Carlisle, PA, pointed out that over its long history Russia has never had democracy or representative government. Russian culture has always favored some sort of headman, dictator, Tsar, whatever, and so, believe it or not, today’s Russia with all of its obvious problems, and its journalists being thrown out of windows, is still relatively open and free compared to its history and its potential now and future.

In other words, as ruthless dictators go, Putin is not so bad. He could be a lot worse.

In any event, Tucker Carlson has done a good deed here. He sat down and had an honest-to-goodness real and very long interview with a head of state that no one in the American political-media establishment wants us to hear from.

You should ask Why the American political-media establishment wants us to be shut off from Putin’s perspective. Is it because so many American bureaucrats and politicians have been privately and very illegally benefiting from Ukraine’s oil and gas business, and from its illegal bioweapon labs set up at the behest of Dr. Mengele Fauci and American Big Pharma companies? These illegal relationships have been coming to light in the past few years, mostly now as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Watch the interview, and be thankful that a free America still exists in part, despite the Biden Regime’s best efforts to turn America into a violent police state, and freedom never being free and having to be occasionally renewed by the blood of patriots and tyrants alike.

UPDATE: Tucker Carlson goes food shopping in Moscow. Whoa.

Reviewing the Marlin 1895 SBL

I have had some Marlin rifles, and what American deer, bear, or small game hunter doesn’t have one or two along the way in a life in the woods. But I never got so excited about one of them that I needed to join an online forum to discuss them and compare notes on handloads (handloads are non-commercial ammunition loaded by hand by the end-user, on a personally owned loading press, allowing the shooter to tailor ammunition to exacting tolerances and specific uses). This changed with the purchase of a new Ruger-made Marlin 1895 SBL, which I am really liking (after sending it back for much needed warranty work immediately after taking possession of it brand new in the box from the factory – ahem).


The new Ruger-made Marlin 1895 SBL (https://www.americanrifleman.org/content/2023-rifle-of-the-year-marlin-1895-sbl/) is a rugged, well designed firearm that I bought for two reasons and for two uses: It is fast shooting and unusually hard hitting within 50-60 yards for a sporting rifle, and I cannot think of a better rifle to hunt with on our bear drives here in PA and on bear hunts in Alaska.

After several months of ownership, here are my experiences with this gun.

Despite purchasing it brand new from the factory, I returned it to Marlin one day after picking it up from the gunshop, because the lever screw backed out, the action kept binding up, it was difficult to cycle the lever, had lots of sharp metal edges, and proud wood around the tang. This gun should have never been allowed out of the factory in the first place, and yet the buyer demand is so high that there must be pressure on the factory to just sling them out the door. According to reports made by other new owners, my experience is not unique. Ruger Marlin is going to kill their golden goose if they keep up this sloppy behavior. The gun is being sold on its presumed high quality.

The “Improved, slimmer” Forearm

While Marlin touts that the new, improved 1895 SBL forearm is slimmer than the old one, it is still too fat. This forearm is hardly easy to handle, and is not slim by any definition. It can easily use another 1/8” shaved off each side, or more, and tapered, like a shotgun forearm. That is, if you mean what you say about the forearm being easier to handle, dear Marlin.

Floppy Trigger Syndrome

The SBL’s factory trigger is pretty good, though it could be better. It is almost crisp, with a very defined and short step of creepy travel, and no stacking, but is a bit heavier than I and other users would like. It works well as a hunting trigger, which is all it really has to do anyhow. I don’t think this trigger was designed by a liability-minded lawyer. Other reviewers have reported that their 1895 SBL triggers were coming in between 5.5 to 8.5 pounds pull weight, and I am just guessing that this particular gun’s trigger is around 5.5 pounds. My preference would be in the 2.5-4.0 pound pull weight range, but I do not believe this factory trigger is adjustable. So “it is what it is,” as that tired old cliché goes, though there are superior aftermarket triggers available (https://www.wildwestguns.com/product/trigger-happy-kit/). One thing I do not like about the factory trigger is that it flops around and can make a tiny metallic sound. It would be preferable that it be stationary, locked in place, and not make noise. Because it’s on a hunting gun, and hunters require stealth. Nonetheless, the factory trigger works well as-is, and it certainly could be a lot worse.

One Rugged Beast

The SBL is one well made and tightly built rugged beast, and I think this is one of the main reasons for its popularity. Stainless steel and high tech laminate wood on anything, especially a firearm, mean it is made for southeast Alaska, at least, or anywhere else that is physically challenging and frequently wet and/or loaded with salt air. This is a rugged gun that should take all the wet and salty environment that could ever be encountered under normal hunting or camping conditions. The stainless steel does result in a shiny, reflective presence, however, and maybe too shiny for a hunting gun. Someone out there is going to bead blast their SBL for good reason, and thereby start a trend.

OK, I Guess Modern Hunting Guns are High Tech

Because I am a devoted black powder shooter and hunter, and because the year 1895 was the pinnacle of firearm development for people addicted to antiques and history like me, and because I prefer break-action single shots and double rifles over all other types of sporting guns, and because nicely blued or blacked steel with figured walnut make the most attractive firearms, I have heretofore been positively allergic to stainless steel and plastic modern guns. Everything about them just irked the crap out of me. Modern sporting firearms are just not appealing to me on any ground, most especially because nearly all of them are just plain ugly as hell. But in recent years I came to recognize that the most beautiful sporting arms can and likely will be destroyed by extended visits to places like Alaska, and so I came to a form of détente on this conundrum by recognizing the unique abilities of the SBL, and only the SBL. Its traditional lever action form is recognizable as quintessentially American, even in stainless and epoxy laminate.

The SBL is not only stainless steel and laminate wood that you can dig out a fox hole with, it also comes with a screw-off end cap for attaching a sound suppressor or a muzzle brake. Neither of these make any damned sense to me on this gun in the relatively quiet out-of-the-box 45-70, but whatever. People who are already crazed about suppressors and high tech gear-queer technical gobbledygook like muzzle brakes on deer cartridges will have all the joys of toys their little flaming hearts desire with this rifle’s little bells and whistles. Leave me out of it. To me, this is just a reliable, fast action mechanical gun in a caliber I can rely on in close-quarters grizzly country, end of technical story.

However, the factory attached Picatinny rail is pretty intriguing, even if it is also downright fugly as sin. It blows up and sets on fire whatever nice lines the 1895 SBL had to start with, but it is a valuable addition for those who use scopes and red dots and other training wheel tubular sighting contrivances on guns that don’t need them. I myself have not yet needed to use a scope on any gun I own, much less this lever action, and so this Picatinny rail is of no use to me. But in the interest of not “fixing” things that are not broken, I will leave it attached to my rifle and just hope it stops jabbing me in the proverbial eye every time I look at the gun.

This Gun Can SHOOT

Accuracy out of the box indicates these are being roughly sighted in at the factory with a laser bore sight, which is a good place to start shooting it in for hunting accuracy after you take possession of it. Do not take your 1895 SBL hunting out of the box! A fair amount of adjusting the rear peep sight for windage and elevation was necessary to get this one dialed in point-of-aim at 70 yards, which is the likely range I will be using it (see below for the deer I took with it this week at a measured 151 yards). Four shots were needed to get it centered, using the Hornady LeveRevolution 325 grain FTX, which is pretty much the standard factory ammunition designed for this gun.

Reloaders be aware that the loaded Hornady FTX brass is trimmed back shorter to accommodate the long ogive on their polymer-tipped FTX bullet that comes with their factory ammunition. You might be able to reload the Hornady factory ammunition FTX empty brass, depending on which bullet you use, and I certainly will try. If you are reloading with the Hornady FTX, then the empty brass can be reloaded without any fussing or fooling around. Other bullets, I don’t know. The 45-70 brass of any manufacturer is expensive enough to warrant trying to reload each one as many times as possible.

Accuracy is excellent after dialing in the open sights. Surprisingly good. Actually, amazingly good. This is, after all, a lever action with a short barrel, and historically these kinds of guns were mostly utilitarian 3” MOA (achieving three-inch groups at 100 yards) hunting weapons. The 26” barrel Henry 45-70 I hunted with in Alaska last year was achieving 3” groups at 100 yards with both Federal and Hornady ammo, so accuracy better than minute-of-deer in this thumper cartridge is a welcome surprise, emphasis being on the surprise. The SBL is very accurate, with surprisingly tight groups. I have read about many shooters getting MOA and even sub-MOA accuracy out of the 1895 SBL. Apparently even the old problematic “Remlin” 1895s had outstanding barrels. The new Ruger Marlin barrels are apparently just as good, if not better. This lever action gun provides accuracy expected of high quality bolt actions. Impressive and most welcome.

Its Open Sights

Yes, I like open sights, as you might guess. They are all I use and have ever used, and the factory supplied rear peep sight and neon yellow front sight work very well for me, especially at the fairly close distances I intend to hunt at with this gun. The sights are light years better than the Henry 45-70 I hunted with last year. That Henry had a cheap and flimsy rear sight that would constantly readjust itself out of true, which is downright dangerous in the grizzly country I was in. And yes, I was constantly surrounded by grizzlies, and so I kept checking and fidgeting with the Henry’s flimsy rear sight. This Marlin’s rear peep sight is more rugged, but it really sticks out and so it is vulnerable to catching on things and hard hits. It could use some sort of protective arch or band, which given how ugly the Picatinny rail already is, I don’t see how such a protective piece of steel could hurt the gun’s looks any more.

Built for Speed and Comfort

The SBL is fast shooting, and despite lobbing huge hunks of ballistic lead downrange, it is also comfortable to shoot. Probably due to its weight and the purposefully big and soft butt pad, I did not notice any real hard kick from this gun. But then again I am a very large framed guy with not only a lot of muscle but also a generous helping of blubber, which is like a giant shock absorber. Consider that I also shoot a .577 NE comfortably, so don’t be looking for reports of “the 45-70 kicks like a mule” here on this blog. I find it quite pleasant at the range and also hunting.

The 45-70 is No 50-110, OK?

Due to the SBL becoming so popular, much has been made about the 45-70 as some sort of atomic cartridge. Well, it’s not. The 45-70 certainly is no 50-110, which with modern smokeless powders really is a powerful stomper, and it is no .50 Alaskan, either. The 45-70 Government cartridge is not a “Jurassic” dinosaur killer, and in most ways it doesn’t come close to “boring” 30-06 performance.

For God’s sake and Goodness Gracious, it is not anywhere close to something so powerful. Yes, this 1870s black powder case is big compared to the modern bottle-necked cases we hunters mostly use today, and it has a lot of room for powder. And yes, it holds large bullets that are double or even triple the size of the typical 120-180 grain bullets we typically use for big game these days.

But way too many, if not almost all, the online video reviews of the 45-70 cartridge and this 1895 SBL rifle are done by young men wearing cool guy sunglasses and tight short sleeved shirts that showcase their pumped up biceps, bragging up how monstrously “powerful” this “howitzer” cartridge supposedly is (accompanied by the inevitable macho heavy crunching rock guitar musak). The implication being that they are powerful and macho as heck, and you can be, too, if you just own this rifle.

So powerful, so awesome, so macho. Barf, puke. No.

Wrong, guys. Holy smokes, people, calm down. Put down the new toy and get a grip on reality.  Stop and back up to the technical reality that simple science imposes on this 45-70 cartridge and on every other cartridge, for that matter. Put away the emotional nonsense, the ego, the lame desire to be seen as cool, or tough, or macho. The 45-70 is not that powerful, nor is it macho. Owning a lever action 45-70 won’t make you cool or make your you-know-what bigger.

We Americans do like our big trucks, big engines, big homes, big landscapes, and big bore firearms, no doubt. And I am all for all of that. But the 45-70 is just nowhere near what so many people promote it as, some kind of crushingly, overwhelmingly powerful “Jurassic dinosaur killer.” Even its modern loadings in the updated Speer and Hornady manuals pale in comparison to the apparently boring old .30-06 and even the .308. And 45-70 brass is prohibitively expensive, not to mention the high cost of better factory loads, which are somewhere about two fifty per round.

In short, an American deer and black bear hunter can get much better performance and value with any off-the-shelf 30-caliber rifle than with the 45-70. The 45-70 requires an awful lot of tweaking and handloading to get it into the realm of impressive. And even at its most impressive, it is still overshadowed by the boring old .30-06 for general duty. And the .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, and proprietary Marlin rounds like the .338, too, for that matter.

Sorry to all the macho strutting young bucks on YouTube, but your new toy is not that big or impressive! Please don’t cry!

Where the 45-70 shines these days is with just a few modern smokeless powders married to just a couple really modern solid bullets, in a fast handling, fast shooting, high quality lever gun like this 1895 SBL, at relatively close range, for fast follow-up shots on tougher-than-average critters that can stomp and eat you if they get too close.

That’s it.

That little description above is the narrow application for the 45-70 cartridge that is superior to most other sporting cartridges. Put a big, heavy 50-caliber hunting round in a Winchester Model 71 lever action, or in a Winchester 1886 lever action, and the 45-70 again falls into a far distant second choice for big and dangerous game.

But neither the old Model 71 nor the Model 1886 are made in stainless steel by one of the best gun makers.

And this reason above is why I have selected the 1895 SBL in 45-70 to be my new bear hunting rifle in Alaska and for bear drives in Pennsylvania: It is rugged, fast shooting, and potentially very hard hitting at close range with solid bullets.

If I am sitting on a hillside calling to black bears, which might require a 100-150 yard shot, then I will use a longer range bolt gun or double rifle with a flatter trajectory. One guy I know of has used the 1895 SBL for big game in Africa, but again, using a very narrowly designed combination of powder and high tech solid bullet at short range (see below).

If I were simply hunting black bears in open country, at ranges up to 200 yards, with occasional grizzlies around, like southern Alaska, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, the 1895 SBL would not be my choice. Not even in my top five choices. Rather, a more powerful rifle with a flatter trajectory would be my first choice, such as a .300-.338-.375 magnum bolt action. If I were hunting black bear way down the southern Alaskan coast, like on the islands from Juneau south, where brown bears (grizzlies) are far fewer and black bears are much more numerous, then I would take a .308 or .30-06 and dispense with the need to cover myself in case of short range ambush charges from the really dangerous bears in heavy Alaskan jungle cover.

Summed up perfectly by a federal wildlife employee who hunts big game and also dangerous game with the 1895 SBL in Alaska and Africa, who goes by the online name Tundra Tiger, “It is true: [the 45-70 Govt.] comes with a shorter effective range than some other calibers. However, if one chooses to recognize its limitations and work within them, I don’t see what the issue is [with hunting dangerous game with it].” He has taken some dangerous game in Africa with his Marlin lever action 45-70 using just one bullet, the Cutting Edge Bullets 325-grain solid brass bullet (https://cuttingedgebullets.com/458-325gr-lever-gun-safari-solid).

In Closing

I am sure that plenty of people can and will find a way to make the 1895 SBL in 45-70 round their home defense gun, their everyday big game hunting round, whatever, and that is fine. Why not, it’s a gun, which is better than nothing for self defense. It is far better than a baseball bat, which like all striking or stabbing weapons requires you to close with your opponent. And it is far better than calling 9-1-1 and waiting for your spirit to watch the EMTs zipping up your corpse in a body bag while the police show up to write a report about the crime scene. Lever actions are fast, and being mechanical, they are reliable and theoretically less susceptible to jamming problems than semi-autos, which are notorious for jams.

And lever actions have always made good hunting guns.

For most of my big game hunting, I prefer old guns shooting black powder at relatively close range that pack the same punch as the modern 45-70, or more, or more modern but still old centerfire guns of blued steel and aged walnut shooting modern bullets at woods range, in calibers like the 7x57R, 243, 308, 270, and 30-06. Like within 100 yards, without all of the unnecessary hard work trying to figure out how to make my short barreled lever action firing huge hunks of 45-caliber lead and brass with rainbow-shaped trajectories into performing like a flat shooting bolt action in a caliber nearly half the size of the 45-70.

AGAIN, this gun was purchased for just three reasons: 1) It is constructed of the most weather-resistant, durable materials possible in a firearm, stainless steel and high tech epoxy laminated wood, 2) the lever action is extremely fast, much faster than a bolt action and even than a pump action, and finally, 3) when properly loaded with the proper high-penetration solid bullets propelled by generous and safe amounts of powders like R7 and IMR4198, this modern 45-70 lever action provides the best combination of a practical stalking rifle for black bear in Alaska with a practical emergency short range defense weapon against grizzlies.

Loaded hot with the proper (heavy high quality solids going 2,000-2,100 fps) bullet, the 45-70 does its best better than most calibers within 50 yards. Only a short-barreled 12-gauge pump shotgun accurately shooting high tech heavy slugs is a superior, equally reliable defensive long arm than the properly loaded 45-70 lever action. But I would not take that same 12 gauge short barreled shotgun bear hunting, because it is really limited in range, even more limited than the 45-70.

AGAIN, I bought this gun only for a) hunting in Alaska, which is brutal on firearms, and, thus, where a stainless steel gun will do best, and b) for bear drives in northcentral Pennsylvania, where fastest-possible shooting (i.e. lever action) at short ranges in thick laurel are the norm. Our PA bear drives are brutal on guns, boots, clothing, and every other piece of gear you have. One of my friends broke his brand new Remington 7600 pump action 30-06 stock in half on one of our bear drives. Alaska is also known for eating firearms alive, especially the southeastern coastal strip, where endless rain and salt air will corrode and rust blued metal, and mildew and rot traditional walnut stock wood, in just a few days. So the Marlin 1895 SBL really fits the bill in these two tough hunting environments.

I am presently testing my own hand loads using 16:1 and 20:1 alloy cast bullets and the Cutting Edge Bullets 325 grain solid brass bullet at 1950-2100 fps. Field reports from Alaska to Africa indicate that this CEB load in the 1895 SBL is more than adequate for both hunting black bears and also for defending against attacking brown bears at powder-burn range (and yes, grizzly attacks happen frequently).

Readers interested in understanding how modern (i.e. last ten to fifteen years) bullet technology in an 1870s cartridge like the 45-70 creates a lot more flexibility and dangerous game ability (i.e. grizzly/ brown bears in Alaska) should read the following online discussion threads:



And for those hunters and bystanders interested in what a properly loaded 45-70 lever action rifle can achieve against dangerous game, Vince Lupo’s reports about his African safaris are amazing: https://www.leverguns.com/articles/lupo/lupo.htm

p.s. Men and Their Personal Weapons

Men have always cherished certain weapons. A boar spear that saved your life once, a sword that swings just perfectly in battle, a custom hunting knife made specially for us and used to gut and butcher our hunted game many times, or a well-made trusty poniard on the hip in case of trouble while at market. For thousands of years we men clutch these things close, reflexively place our hand upon them when at rest, and stare at them lovingly from across the room, because they reliably work for us daily and we can always rely on them in a tight spot. And because these weapons speak to us, us men, through their beauty, and because very often they speak for us, they come to represent us. To stand for us. We identify ourselves through them.

And so I say, you men on YouTube and elsewhere are in really good company, in your admiration for the stainless steel and laminate Marlin lever actions, like this 1895 SBL. Their robust build, certain mechanical reliability, and extremely durable materials are all big draws in a world of semiauto jams and broken parts and surprise rust at just the wrong moment. This gun is the equivalent of a good heavy steel-tipped spear a thousand years ago, and it just feels right, hefts right, in our hand.

Deer I stalked and shot at 151 yards this week with the Marlin 1895 SBL. The 325-grain FTX bullet passed through lungs and stomach without slowing. Custom knife by JRJ John Johnson.

Beautiful Central PA landscape in winter

Winter sunset over the Susquehanna River

Exhibit A in macho gun reviews. Joe Cool shades in the shade. Biceps. Etc. Unfortunately, this rifle will not make his or your you-know-what bigger.

A 45-70 dangerous game round I loaded, using the 325-grain solid brass bullet by Cutting Edge Bullets. This is for stopping a grizzly

A tale of two fallen icons

Two icons have fallen today, one human and one a statue of a human. One event is good, the other is bad, and both represent the radical and opposing political forces pulling America apart.

Let’s start with the human icon, that being Wayne LaPierre, the now former executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (NRA). LaPierre became a human icon by his own hand, because for many years he placed pictures of himself everywhere he could in NRA literature, publications, TV programs etc. LaPierre did everything he could as the NRA’s senior executive to make his face and name synonymous with the NRA, and in many ways, superior to the NRA name and logo.

LaPierre did not rise to icon status by virtue of his own great skill and the resulting earned adulation by NRA membership and leaders. Rather, LaPierre artificially nurtured an almost Communist Party image of “Our Great Leader” by simply shoving his own face into everything he could that the NRA put out from 1991 until last month.

This high-visibility self-promotion activity picked up after LaPierre had ousted longtime NRA-ILA lobbyist Jim Baker in 1998, then brought him back in 2011, only to oust him again in 2012, and then it picked up more after LaPierre ousted longtime NRA-ILA lobbyist Chris Cox, and then the self promotion pretty much had maxed out when LaPierre ousted short-time NRA-ILA lobbyist Jason Ouimet, and installed a grandpa used car salesman-looking guy named Randy Kozuch in 2023. Kozuch looks like Father Time and has a fixed and perpetually unnerving entre nous wink. LaPierre’s truth is crazier than any fiction we could write; you can’t make this stuff up.

In other words, LaPierre has been in a constant power struggle and self-promotion mode since becoming executive vice president, with an iron fist that served his own personal power and not the NRA membership. Not only did LaPierre spend millions of NRA members dollars on himself, his family, his wardrobe, and other trappings of a self-indulgent communist party ranking official, he plastered his likeness everywhere he could to such laughably grotesque levels in recent years that no online hunting or gun-related chatboard was free of ridicule for LaPierre.

That emperor may have been dressed in the most expensive suits, but to NRA members he had no clothes. LaPierre may have long ruled the NRA headquarters like a cruel and petty tyrant, but a lot of his own members hated his guts. LaPierre represented everything wrong in Washington DC politics. So when LaPierre announced that he was stepping down yesterday in the face of a lawsuit over his illegally spendy habit, it came as a great sense of relief to those who have the most riding on the NRA – its members and donors.

The crashing of this (false) icon to the floor and shattering into pieces is a good thing.

Pivot to the City of Brotherly Love, the cradle of American freedom, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the National Park Service is removing the statue of William Penn from a riverfront park (ironically called Welcome Park) owned by the citizens of America and managed by the NPS. The removal of this iconic statue of the most tolerant and accepting man of the 1600s-1700s, William Penn, is destructive.

William Penn was not just some European guy, he penned the Penn Charter, which outlined many of the open minded individual rights and government duties that we find a hundred years later in America’s founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. William Penn was a broad minded, open minded, tolerant, kind, generous person. He sought to financially compensate the native Indians who lived and hunted in Pennsylvania, rather than use violent force to oust them and outright take their lands.

The reason why Pennsylvania had only one Indian reservation (which was eventually violently stolen from the Cornplanter Senecas by the US Army Corps of Engineers so the agency could make a new recreational impoundment lake for happy white people to drive their motorboats in the 1960s), was that most of Pennsylvania’s Indians were bought out and firmly moved westward as the frontier moved westward. Pacifist Quaker William Penn wanted to live in harmony with the Indians in his new colony, as much as he could, and his actions showed a humane approach that was unique in that period.

So removing the iconic William Penn statue from its position at Penn’s own home is a rejection of a tangible and meaningful symbol of peaceful coexistence and reconciliation. By people who claim to be all tolerant and peaceful. It is a bad thing.

(Thankfully, it was announced late today that the NPS had “prematurely” stated that it was going to remove the William Penn statue, which is going to stay in place for the foreseeable future. Apparently public resentment about this racist decision overwhelmed the NPS and the PA state government.)

As we can see, icons come in all shapes and sizes. Some are good, some are bad, some deserve a wrecking ball and others deserve flower garlands. One thing is certain about icons, as these two icons discussed here show, they bring out tremendous political and cultural passions because of what they represent. This is why they become such useful political tools, to the detriment of The People.

Josh and Wayne LaPierre of the NRA in 2016 at the Great American Outdoor Show. See? Wayne even showed up to argue about his tenure with me eight years ago.