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There is just one Election Day

Election Day is when democracies around the world elect their leaders.

Each free or supposedly free nation has its own Election Day, devoted to collecting and counting the people’s votes for various candidates at all levels of government. It is obviously a special day, even a sacred day, as it gives the power of running government to The People, a rare and unusual way for government to be run, if human history is our guide.

Tyranny and despotism are the usual means of governance. So electing our own leaders and representatives is a really big deal. It is a statement of freedom.

Election Day is just one day, always and for good reason, and it is so important that people take off from work in order to be able to vote. Unless you file an absentee ballot, if you miss voting on Election Day, then you don’t get to vote at all.

But Election Day is now under attack, because like almost everything else in America these days, the rules of this ‘game’ also have to be changed in the middle of the game in order for just one American political party to have a shot at winning something legitimately. And so now an entire American political party apparatus is devoted to making Election Day into Election Week, or Election Month, or even Election Forever Until We Win this damned Election.

Aside from the obvious phoniness of changing the rules of the game in the middle of the game, the problem with turning Election Day into a drawn out process is that the longer an election is drawn out, the more opportunity for fraudulent behavior and fake voting there is. And nothing undermines the value of voting than allowing false votes to be counted just like the real votes.

And again, there is just one American political party that has really gotten the fraudulent voting process down pat over the decades. Like with the new “ballot harvesting” laws in several states, why people can go out for days after the election and literally create truck loads of new votes, and voila!, their candidate miraculously wins…days after Election Day. This recently happened a bunch in California, where people kept running out to “find more ballots” until they had finally defeated various incumbent Republican officials in districts that almost always or always voted Republican. Never were enough “new ballots” found that actually favored the Republican candidates.

Funny how that works, how this rule change favors just one political party…every…single…time.

Here in Pennsylvania the state Supreme Court ruled last Friday that voting can be extended beyond Election Day, even though no court anywhere has the jurisdiction or the government role to determine Election Day. Only the state legislature and the governor have the job of setting Election Day. Here, the PA Supreme Court is engaging in just one more act of political activism in a long line of activist behavior devoid of actual jurisprudence.

Making things worse, the Pennsylvania Attorney General, Josh Shapiro, has incorrectly stated that people who vote by absentee ballot are actually voting by mail, which they are not. There is a world of difference between filing a single marked absentee ballot long before Election Day, and being able to file a flurry of multiple fake votes by mail even after Election Day, and thereby literally stuffing the ballot box to steal the election.

You would almost think that the Democrat Party majority on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and that Democrat Party member PA AG Josh Shapiro were deliberately supporting a corrupt election process that always seems to favor the Democrat Party….

Obviously Election Day must be protected, and you must help stop every attempt to corrupt the election process by extending ‘voting’ beyond Election Day.

There is only one Election Day. Vote once on Election Day, or don’t vote at all, and make sure everyone else plays by this same rule. It is just that simple and just that fair.

Quiet hero Jim Broussard moves on to next stage of being

Jim Broussard was one of those old school quiet, soft-spoken Southern gentlemen who could easily get by at a liberal cocktail party just because he was the nicest, most affable guy on Planet Earth. Unless you pressed him hard on politics, he would smile easily, laugh easily, tell some easy jokes, and make some subtly incisive social or political comments, and ask a lot of questions. But inside he was more than just quick political wit and analyst. He was probably my favorite guy in Harrisburg politics, and for a very long time he “sat in” for Dr. Krug at Charlie Gerow’s monthly public policy meetings downtown. Two weeks ago Jim left human life as we know it on Planet Earth, and if there is an afterlife, I am confident Jim is enjoying the best it has to offer. The man lived life to its fullest, left a huge footprint, without crossing any double yellow lines or cursing.

Jim and I first crossed paths at Charlie Gerow’s office, probably around 2009. He impressed me, which is difficult to do (observers of Josh know this, for better and for worse). He immediately asked me out for coffee, and ever after for a buck he would give the best political advice available around here. He sent the best Christmas holiday cards, because he used collectible stamps from decades past, and every card included genuine well wishes about things specific to the recipient’s life. Jim Broussard was a big positive force on Planet Earth, and I will miss him very much.

Below is the email his wife sent out, which includes his obituary, and then some photos I took of Jim over the years while holding forth at Gerow’s place:

“Dear friends,
We wanted to tell you how much Jim appreciated your messages of concern during his illness. They brightened his days up to the very end.
Thank you,
–Margaret and family
James H. Broussard, professor of history at Lebanon Valley College, died peacefully at home from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, on August 10, 2020.  He was born in Houston on May 6, 1941, to Charles Hugh and Ethel Rollins Broussard.  In 1959, he graduated from Bellaire High School, where he participated in R.O.T.C., debate, and student government.  He majored in history at Harvard College, receiving an A.B. degree in 1963.  While there, he was a member of R.O.T.C., the debate team, and the Young Republicans.  He attended graduate school in history at Duke University and received his doctoral degree in 1968.

From 1968 to 1970, Dr. Broussard performed his active-duty military service in the Army Adjutant General’s Corps at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, reaching the rank of captain.  Subsequently, he served as a reserve officer in the Office of the Chief of Military History.  He taught American history at Clarkson College of Technology, Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State), served as the historian of the Indiana state legislature, and returned to teaching at Ball State University and the University of Delaware.  In 1983, he was appointed chairman of the history and political science department at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, PA.  His publications include The Southern Federalists, 1800-1816, and Ronald Reagan, Champion of Conservatism, as well as scholarly articles and book reviews.

In the late 1970’s, Dr. Broussard began working to start an historical society focused on the early national period of American history, which he thought a neglected field.  He founded the Society for the History of the Early American Republic (SHEAR), which is now a thriving and respected part of the historical profession.  In recent years, he came to view political history also as a neglected field, and at the time of his death was engaged in establishing the Center for Political History, based at Lebanon Valley College.

In 1989, Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey proposed a tax plan which required a constitutional amendment permitting different categories of people to be taxed at different rates.  Dr. Broussard believed this would not only raise taxes but would do it in an unfair manner.  He formed the group Citizens Against Higher Taxes (CAHT) and campaigned against the amendment across Pennsylvania.  It was defeated by a margin of three to one, the biggest defeat of an amendment in the history of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Broussard listening to immediate past PA Governor Tom Corbett explain why he lost the 2014 election

Dr. Broussard was a member of the Lebanon Country Club, the Steitz Club, Phi Beta Kappa, and numerous historical societies.  He is survived by his wife, Margaret; their son, David Broussard, and David’s wife, Sophie, and their children Elsa Rose and Samuel, of Atlanta; his brother, Thomas R. Broussard, of New York City; his sister, Nancy Leonard, of Kentucky; his sister, Dorothy Bell, of New Mexico; one niece and three nephews.  Arrangements for services will be announced at a later date.  In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Center for Political History at Lebanon Valley College, Annville, PA.”

Jim sitting next to PA House Speaker Mike Turzai, with his hands clasped. Political whiz Charlie Gerow has his back to the camera on the right.

Response to PA Gov. Tom Ridge on Conservatives & the Environment

On April 22nd this year, Earth Day, The Atlantic published an opinion piece by former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, about conservatives and the environment (https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/04/environment-gop-out-touch/610333/). The Atlantic solicited responses to Ridge’s essay, and so I submitted one to them, but received back no indication they would publish it. They did not publish it, because liberals like those at The Atlantic accept and publish only liberals, and reject conservatives.  So here it is, my response to Governor Ridge’s essay about conservatives and the environment.

I felt compelled to respond to Governor Ridge’s essay, in part because I worked in his administration, and in part because I have met few Republicans who can articulate a truly conservative view of environmental policy, which Governor Ridge failed to do. I was also afraid of being seen as attacking someone I hold in high esteem, and I need to say that while I may disagree with Governor Ridge’s essay and some of his recent public stances, like supporting PA governor Tom Wolf’s covid19 lockdown, I remain impressed by Governor Ridge’s high character. I am proud to have served in his distinctively excellent administration.

Governor Ridge’s  essay slightly opens a doorway that I am both pleased and also reluctant to push all the way open. But it needs to be opened, all the way, because for far too long establishment Republicans have claimed to be conservatives, while acting like liberals.

Governor Ridge writes his essay “as a conservative,” and despite boldly leading by example in placing highly competent gays, women, and minorities in senior government positions literally decades ago, long before most Democrats followed suit, Governor Ridge was, in fact, a true conservative. His achievements in conservative policy are legion, including Pennsylvania becoming a shall-issue concealed firearm carry state and his administration’s brownfield land recycling program.

Nonetheless, the emphasis today is on he “was.”

Governor Ridge was a conservative, and by today’s standard, he is not. This is not because Governor Ridge has changed, but because what now defines a conservative has changed so dramatically since the time he was governor. The same holds true for liberals, by the way, in their own way (we see the Democrat Party now a totally, openly, violent, racist, anti-America Marxist organization).

And like so many, if not all other political elites, especially Republicans, and most especially establishment Republicans from the hide-bound, bunker-mentality Pennsylvania GOP, Governor Ridge has not changed with the times. Governor Ridge was a conservative, and today he often speaks like a liberal, and sides with liberals on policy disputes. He is not alone in this, but each Republican who does so still causes pain to us conservatives in the political trenches. It is frustrating as hell to experience a former Republican appointee or elected official try to speak with authority as some sort of representative of conservativism, when in fact, they are simply liberals. Or RINOs for short (Republican In Name Only – not conservative).

Probably the biggest indication that Governor Ridge is out of synch with today’s conservatives is how he encourages us to adopt a laundry list of liberal environmental policies in his The Atlantic essay. This means that his solution for conservatives to succeed is for us to adopt liberalism. Even though most of the “environmental” groups are simply employment offices for Democrat Party operatives pushing Marxist, partisan policies. Very few environmental groups today are even seeking solutions, because they are busy dreaming up new problems.

Most of the policies pushed by environmental groups today are by definition Big Coercive Government, Small Defenseless Citizen, anti-Constitution, disregard for private property rights, mountains out of mole hills, and so on. These groups are not about the environment, they simply use the subject of the environment as another avenue to push Marxism and the Big Government necessary to force it down our throats. Governor Ridge should know this, of all people.

What Governor Ridge failed to address is: How can we conservatives embrace the very same failed and inferior liberal policies that drove us to becoming conservatives in the first place? If we adopt liberalism, then we are abandoning conservativism, and failing as conservatives.

Every single environmental policy recommendation that Governor Ridge lists in his essay directly contradicts core conservative principles, like small government, less intrusive government, less spendy government, less activist government, less regulatory government, accountable government and accountable taxpayer-funded government employees. Literally every single policy he lists requires the government to intervene in a big, coercive way, often over trifling differences or demonstrably false premises.

Governor Ridge’s environmental ideas are not conservativism; they are quintessential big government liberalism.

Perhaps the centerpiece of his essay is that conservatives must concede at least a bit on “climate change.” Yet, for conservatives, this particular issue, more than any other, highlights the distinction between us and liberals. For conservatives to agree with the Marxist, disproven, and notoriously phony climate change religion would be to abandon basic, solid, conservative principles altogether….like Capitalism 101, solid math and science, and transparency. Again, we are unpersuaded the climate warming-cooling-change-whatever issue even exists, let alone that a government solution consistent with America’s Constitution could be found.

Governor Ridge writes “The Republican Party has largely abandoned environmental issues.” To which I and a host of other conservatives would respond, No, but many Republicans have abandoned the citizen voters and the forgotten taxpayers of America. Many careerist Republicans have embraced popular culture and its feel-good-now bubblegum policies. For Republicans to respect openly partisan “environmental” groups and embrace liberal nonsense like so-called ‘climate change’ and similar policies would only be one more betrayal in a long line of policy and political betrayals committed by the Republican establishment. Conservatives have perfectly sound environmental policies based on perfectly sound, all-American principles. If you but ask us, we will explain them. We conservatives didn’t abandon environmental issues, nor did we leave the Republican Party. The Republican establishment abandoned us.

Josh First is president of Appalachian Land & Conservation Services, LLC. He has worked at the US EPA in Washington, DC, The Conservation Fund, the Central Pennsylvania Conservancy, and was Director of Environmental Education and Information at the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources in the Governor Tom Ridge administration.

Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day, the day we celebrate our dads, the people who helped us grow into young men and women. For thousands of years, fathers have been the protectors and providers for their families, and they have traditionally been the source of life-saving wisdom and decision making. The lessons and skills they teach their children, especially their sons, are essential for living life properly.

Thank you to my dad, for teaching me to use a chainsaw and an axe from a young age. For giving me the childhood chore of splitting and stacking firewood all summer long, so that our family would have heat and comfort all winter long. Other chores included weeding the garden and shooting pests like chipmunks, squirrels, and groundhogs, all of whom could easily do tremendous damage to the garden in just minutes. And while these chores trained me in self-reliance, hard work, and planning ahead, it was the one thing that dad would not let me do that probably shaped me the most.

Although my dad comes from a hunting family, he himself did not and still to this day does not hunt. Oh, he appreciates wild game and will eat it over everything else, given a choice. But when I started taking my BB gun on deer hunts with neighbors at age eight, my dad always told me I had to get close to the animal to shoot it. As I grew into a young Indian or frontiersman out there in the wilds of southern Centre County, I was prohibited by dad from topping my rifles with scopes. Only open sights were allowed. He said using only open sights taught me woodcraft, requiring me to get close to the wild animals I wanted to harvest, before taking their lives.

“It is only fair,” he said. “You can’t just assassinate unsuspecting wild animals from hundreds of yards away. If you hunt, you must be a real hunter. You must get close and take the animal with skill, on its own terms, where it can see, hear and smell you. That is fair.”

And so last deer season, on a steep hillside deep within the Northcentral PA state forest complex, all of those lessons and preparation came together in one quick, fleeting second. I did the Elmer Fudd thing all alone, quietly sidehilling into the wind, trying to live up to Dad’s dictum. One cautious, slow step at a time. Eyes scanning ahead, downhill, and especially uphill. Ears on high alert for any sound other than the wind in the leaves. Big bucks that are bedded down high above where the puny humans might slip, stumble, and walk, are most likely to flee to higher ground when one of us Pleistocene guys shows up too close for comfort. Deer might hear or smell us coming a long way off, or they might see us at the last second because we are being quiet and playing the wind right, but they know that within a hundred yards or so, we can kill them. So they flee uphill, and in stumbling up against gravity and slippery things underfoot they give us shot opportunities we would not otherwise have.

And so when the strange <snap> sounded out ahead of me, just over the slight rise that led into the large bowl filled with mature timber and rock outcroppings, and an odd looking animal bolted down hill almost bouncing like a fisher, I quickly backpedaled.

Anticipating where the deer would emerge about 130 yards below me, I quickly and also carefully walked straight backwards to where a natural slight funnel in the ground provided a clear enough shooting lane down through the forest to a small stream bed. Anything passing between me and the stream would be broadside at moments, providing a clear shot through heart and lungs if I took careful aim.

And sure enough, the big doe filled one of those spaces so briefly that I don’t even recall seeing her. All I do recall is how the rifle butt fit carefully into the space between the backpack strap over my shoulder and the thick wool coat sleeve, and how the open sights briefly aligned with her chest. The thumb safety had been snicked off already without thinking, and the gun cracked. I fired the gun instinctively.

Quickly raising the binoculars to my face, the doe was clearly visible way down below me, lying fully outstretched on the forest floor just above the stream bank, like in mid-leap with her front hooves and rear hooves completely extended ahead and behind, except she was not moving. She was laying still, her neck fully stretched out on her front legs like she was taking a nap. I watched her tail twitch a few times and then knew she was dead.

Sliding on my butt down to her was more challenging than climbing up to where I had been still hunting her. Northcentral PA mountainsides are the most difficult terrain for humans, in my experience. It is topped with a layer of slippery leaves, then wet twigs and branches waiting underneath to act like oil-slicked icicles, ready to throw a boot way ahead of one’s body. If the wet leaves and branches don’t make you fall down, then the rotten talus rock waiting underneath the leaves and twigs will slide, causing you to either do an extra-wide wildly gesticulating split, or fall on your butt, or fall on your back.

So I scooted downhill to the doe, tobogganning on my butt on the slick forest floor, cradling the rifle against my chest, keeping my feet out ahead of me to brake against getting too much speed and hurtling out of control.

Arriving at her body, I marveled at how she resembled a mule. Her long horse face and her huge body were anything but deer-like. Her teeth were worn down, and she must have been at least five years old. The single fawn hanging around watching me indicated an older mother no longer able to bear twins or triplets. This old lady had done her job and had given us many new deer to hunt and watch over many deer years.

Normally, in such remote and rugged conditions I will quickly bone out the deer, removing all of the good meat and putting it in a large trash bag in my backpack, leaving the carcass ungutted and relatively intact for the forest scavengers. But this doe was so big that I just had to show her off to friends, and so after putting the 2G tag on her ear, I ran a pull rope around her neck and put a stick through her slit back legs, and began the long drag out.

This hunt has stayed with me almost every day since that day. I think about it all the time, because it was so rewarding in so many ways, and emblematic of being a good hunter. Not the least of which was the careful woodcraft that led up to the moment where the smart old doe was busted in her bed and then brought to hand with one careful shot as she loped away, far away. Just as easily I could have been a hunter clothed in bucksin, using a stick bow and arrow five thousand years ago.

Thanks, Dad, for all the good lessons, the chores, the hard work, the restrictions and requirements that made me the man I am today. Without your firmly guiding hand back then, I would not be the man I am today. And what kind of man am I? I am a fully developed hu-man; a competent hunter with the skill set only a dad can teach a son, even if it takes a lifetime.

[some will want to know: Rifle is a 1991 full-stock Ruger RSI Mannlicher in .308 Winchester with open sights. Bullets in the magazine were a motley assortment of Hornady, Winchester, and Federal 150-grain soft points, any one of which will kill a deer or a bear with one good shot. Binoculars are Leupold Pro Guide HD 8×32 on a Cabela’s cross-chest harness. Boots are Danner Canadians. Coat is a Filson buffalo check virgin wool cruiser. Pants are Filson wool. Backpack is a now discontinued LL Bean hunting pack, most closely resembling the current Ridge Runner pack. Knife is a custom SREK by John R. Johnson of Perry County]

We people need to just do what we need to do to move forward

America’s economy is now in artificial tatters, an unnecessary result of very poor public policies in reaction to the Wuhan coronavirus.

Politicians are not going to be able to solve this ridiculous virus panic. In fact, politicians are mostly making it much worse than it really is, and probably they are doing that on purpose. A lust for power, a desire to hurt a political opponent at any cost, even at the cost of hurting and inflicting huge personal losses on the citizens, seem to be the main reasons why governors in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kentucky, and elsewhere have thrown down the gauntlet and are acting like dictators.

The “orders” these governors and local governments have issued are laughably confused, full of inexplicable contradictions and clear violations of Americans’ most basic rights and freedoms. Kentucky’s governor warns churchgoers that he ordered the Kentucky State Police to take down license plates of cars parked in church parking lots on Easter Sunday and other days, so that they can be ticketed later. Michigan’s governor says power boats are not allowed, but sail boats and canoes are OK, but Michiganders may not visit their hunting cabins. In Valley County, Montana, the county health department [I originally and incorrectly wrote that it was Missoula, Montana, the ultra liberal city council there shaping the rest of the surrounding county] issued an order that coronavirus-free people wear pink arm bands in public. Another county in another state went so far as to issue an order that anyone with coronoavirus could be, and probably would be, picked up by the police and involuntarily committed to a special quarantine location. Here in Pennsylvania, Governor Wolf vetoed a bill passed by both the PA House and Senate that brought clarity and structure to his own bizarre order. Wolf now demands that everyone in public wear a mask and that people not wearing masks must not be served in the stores they are in. Local PA townships are not permitted to approve land subdivisions, even though the townships can and do meet by teleconference that pose no health risk to anyone. Home construction is stopped cold, not because Wolf has demonstrated that there is an identifiable risk of spreading a contagious disease from building homes, but simply because he says so.

These orders have nothing to do with actually serving the people of America. They are not actually helping people. The risks of the Kung Flu are obviously much higher in congested places like New York City than in flyover country. These orders are self-serving the politicians with more power and discretion over our personal lives than the political process would ever give them.

And this list of crazy, insane, tyrannical orders over the past few weeks goes on and on. Every one of these orders violates the most essential, core aspects of being an American. Again, with no measurable public benefit and yet at enormous cost to our individual finances.

One good thing that has emerged from the Chinese coronavirus panic is that we all get to see in broad daylight that there are many power-hungry Americans amongst us, who will use whatever power they have to get more power, and to crush dissent, strip us of our liberties, and use overwhelming coercive government force to throw us in jail for made-up violations. We used to laugh that such people could ever exist in our political system! Well, here they are, front and center, and they are no laughing matter!

If ever there was a need for an America with our Bill of Rights protecting individual due process rights and freedoms, this past month has demonstrated it.

So if the politicians are hell bent on screwing up our lives, and destroying America’s economy, then the only people who can fix this is us. You and me. The citizens and local officials who live here, pay taxes here, work here in America. We have to clean this mess up.

It is time for We, The People to put our foot down and show the politicians that despite their crazy power grabs and ridiculous demands upon us, we are going to do what is best for us. We can wear masks and stand apart in public, no problem. We would choose to do that anyhow. But we will open up our businesses again, we will go for walks again, we will drive on the roads for pleasure again, we will approve land subdivisions again, and you can call it civil disobedience, but we will live free again. There is no way any governor is going to enforce their nutty and unconstitutional order by rounding up everyone and putting them in jail.

And if any governor tries to do that, then there is the old tried-and-true torches, pitch forks, and a bucket of hot tar at the governor’s residence to get things straightened out again in a hurry. We are Americans, after all, not sheep.

 

Rural & Urban People Experience the Virus Differently

Rural and urban people are experiencing the covid19 CCP virus differently. And this means they each experience the various governors’ approaches to it differently, too. Chinese Flu policies impact rural and urban people differently.

In rural America, like Clinton County and Lycoming County here in Pennsylvania, life is still pretty much going on, not quite like normal, but fairly close to normal. The perceived risk from Wuhan covid19 Flu is low. This is because the rural peoples’ observations are not squaring up with what they are being told from their state capital. Rural people are not seeing up close and personal the disruptive chaos and death that is so pervasive in places like New York City and Philadelphia. So their behavior is different.

For weeks the Lowes in Mill Hall, PA, has been standing-room-only parking on the weekends, as local people shop for gardening supplies. Likewise the other nearby big box stores and small hardware stores are also full of people attending to their needs. Life is going on, albeit with some face masks and people clearly trying to steer clear of one another in shopping aisles. The Wegmans in Williamsport, PA, was full of shoppers the last time I was there, and the shelves were mostly well stocked. Notes about limits per customer are placed in all the usual places – TP, canned tuna, milk, bread. Ladies at the checkout are quite tough and firm about shoppers abiding by these limits, and everyone seems to be getting along just fine.

Elsewhere in rural PA are drive-in church services, food takeout, maybe some bonfires with chairs set apart, but still lots of chairs, nonetheless.

Actual Risk vs. Perceived Risk vs. Government Policy

At the heart of this lifestyle difference between rural and urban people is the difference they have over perceived risk, actual risk, and what the government policy says.

When rural people look around and see none of the catastrophic chaos engulfing New York City, they begin to ask simple and necessary questions about the actual risk of the China Flu to them. The actual risk, not the suggested hype or irrational fear stay-the-f#k-at-home perceived risk that is being breathlessly communicated by the cable outlets every minute. Without bodies stacked high, without lots of people becoming obviously sick from the CCP Chinese Flu, and with local health providers like hospitals and clinics operating as normal, rural people begin to question the value and necessity of the government policy that tells them their Constitutional rights must be suspended.

They then begin to question the value and purpose of their own government.

When we hear about the over-reach in places like Kentucky and Michigan, whose governors are literally demanding that people cower in their homes or else face huge overwhelming coercive force and jail time, it is natural for Americans to ask not just what is the value of these policies, but why can’t we have real policies that are tailored to the realities that each community faces. The potential risks of Wuhan Flu are just not the same everywhere.

Rural areas have more room and space between people, fewer people, less congestion, and a lot lot lot less exposure AND a lot less actual risk. Government policies need to reflect these realities. Blanket one-size-does-not-fit-all policies serve no real health purpose. Instead, no matter how well intentioned the governor may be, these blanket policies that are the same in Philadelphia as they are in Lock Haven, PA, make everyone equally miserable, damage all businesses equally, regardless of the health outcomes.

At the end of the day, government action must both balance risks with costs and benefits, while also safeguarding the citizenry’s sacred Constitutional rights. To date, very few states have done this. Instead, almost every state has treated low-risk rural areas the same as high-risk congested urban areas, and hit them all with the same heavy hammer. This makes the whole covid19 reaction thing seem awfully fishy.

This day a year ago while trapping: Cat up a tree!

Cat Up a Tree!

Text and Photos by Josh First (copyrighted)

A year ago it was a couple days before trapping season opened for bobcats and fishers, which always begins the Saturday before Christmas. Already 2018 was the wettest year on record, and rain, much less constant nonstop rain, not only crushes outdoor work like logging and construction, it also makes trapping nearly impossible.
All 2018 the rain fell, reducing good trapping time to almost zero for most of us who would normally run ourselves ragged during trapping season beginning in mid-November and ending in mid February.

I dislike trapping in rainy conditions, because it is uncomfortable, messy, and technically difficult, due to trap sets needing constant fixing up; and I really dislike processing muddy critters. Mud-covered fur is time consuming, and usually it is not worth it in my tight schedule. So from 2018’s trapping season opening day in late October, I waited six weeks, until a brief rain lull in mid-December, to put out some carefully planned traps.

Though I was aiming mostly for canids like fox and coyote, both bobcat and fisher were a reasonable hope. I have caught bobcats in and out of season in the past, but never a fisher. These are two neat animals worth working hard for, and each of which will quite willingly enter baited cubbies where foot hold traps can get some shelter from rain and snow.

So on the Wednesday afternoon before that Saturday bobcat and fisher opener, a half-dozen footholds (cubbies and flat sets) and a few large cage traps were set in strategic places near where I had seen fisher tracks or bobcats across a 100-acre area of mixed farmland and woods in Dauphin County. Bait is used in the cage traps to pull in the inevitable and limitless possums, skunks, and raccoons, so that, hopefully, only the cool critters find the footholds. And both bobcats and fishers will enter cage traps, so they do serve double duty.

One pass-through pee post set was put in a location where I have previously caught coyotes, foxes, and raccoons. It is at a corner of a dirt farm road, a woods road, a hay field, and brushy-hedged crop field where heavy woods meets an active agricultural area. Just about every local furbearer walks the brushy area, this road, and the field edges leading to it.

Coyote pee and coyote gland lure were put on top of a two-inch-thick dry pine limb sticking up 14 inches, placed at the seam where the goldenrod meets the farm road. A few pieces of goldenrod stem on the other side created the pass-through effect, so the animal’s body would line up with the hidden trap just exactly so. About eight inches away from the post an offset MB 550 attached to an eight-foot heavy chain linked to a heavy two-prong coyote drag was bedded level atop soft goldenrod tops to protect the trap from freezing to the wet dirt underneath, then covered judiciously in waxed dirt, then finished with more soft goldenrod tops and weed tips blended on top. The trap was perfectly “blended in” and hidden from sight.

The chain was stretched out away, into the reverting goldenrod field, and well covered and camouflaged with weeds, and the rusty-brown colored steel drag itself unobtrusively hooked into the dirt. With four heavy swivels well spaced between the trap and the drag, I felt confident that whatever would step on the trap pan while passing between the weeds to smell the pee post would commit its full weight, and be safely held fast, no matter where it went afterwards. I expected the animal to head directly to the nearby brushy hedges, where the grapple and chain would immediately become entangled, thereby holding the animal for the next 24-hour trap check.

Usually predators take a couple days to fully investigate my traps, and when setting this on a late Wednesday, I anticipated catching something in one of the sets on Friday night/ early Saturday morning. Though aiming for a bobcat, fox, coyote, or fisher, the truth is I had put off trapping so long that season that I would have been happy to catch just about anything.

The next day, Thursday, I did a cursory trap circuit check in my truck, looking out the window while driving past set after set. “No…No…No…footprints all around but no step on the pan…no…no…nothing” as I went by each trap location.

Pulling up to the pee post set, my eye was immediately drawn to the pee post itself lying on the ground, though the trap bed itself did not appear disturbed. Usually the post is knocked over by the chain after an animal has stepped on the trap and fled. So I got out to check, and was not surprised to see the drag gone. Following an obvious path of bent weeds and scuffed dirt leading away towards the closest brushy forest edge, my eyes naturally looked along that edge for a hung-up drag and critter.

With my hands on my hips, I stood and kept scanning the brushy woods-field edge. I was unable to locate anything, and felt mystified about how the critter could have escaped beyond such a thick, natural entanglement area. Mystery remained until a hiss to my right reached my ear, steering my eyes in that direction.

“Why is that long-legged grey fox up in that honey locust like that?” was my first thought.

Then another thought followed the first: “Why does that grey fox look like a big cat?”

And then the bobcat came into focus. It was a nice sized young male, probably 25 pounds, about six feet up in a young honey locust, a tree that has plenty of sharp thorns and very hard wood. The drag was just touching the ground, and the chain was wound about the lowest branches.

OK, I thought, I’ll have this resolved in a few minutes. Seemed like no big deal to pull down the cat, use the catch pole to hold it steady while I released the trap from its foot and let it go unharmed.

Fast forward an hour, and each time I had tried different ways to bring it down out of the tree unharmed, the cat had moved farther up. With bobcat season two days away, by law the cat had to be released, but I was unsuccessful with each solution I tried.

Fretting and scratched by the locust thorns, I left, did some work, and returned a few hours later, hoping the cat had climbed down and was entangled in the ground brush nearby. On the ground it would be easy to release using a catch pole. Easier than up that tree!

But when I got back, the bobcat was still up the tree, and climbed yet higher as I approached it.

Time for Plan B, which is where I admit that I need help. Usually takes me a long, long time to implement Plan B, and so I called the Pennsylvania Game Commission southeastern regional office. At first the dispatcher congratulated me on catching the bobcat, but then moments later expressed his sympathy for me having to release such a fine trophy, as the season was yet to begin. He forwarded my message to a local Game Warden, who then fairly quickly met me right at the honey locust. In fact, he arrived so quickly that I could not help but wonder if he had been watching me the whole time, either chuckling at my clumsy efforts, or waiting to see what else I might do, or both.

“Thank you for coming. When my kids were little, their favorite book was Cat Up a Tree! And here it is in real life. Should we call the fire department?” I said to Game Warden Scott Frederick, half-jokingly. In that colorful book, the fire department saves the day by saving the cat stuck up in the tree, and we (and how I so liked the ‘we’ part) did indeed have a daggone cat way up in a tree. But unlike the book, we had no long ladders, or hero firemen, by the honey locust tree that day.

I asked my wife to film our escapade, but under questioning I revealed that pretty much anything could happen to anybody around this, so she said something like “No, I’m not recording two idiot men playing with matches.” I think her imagination had the warden and I emerging from the dense, high brush scratched head to toe, our clothes in ragged tatters, like some cartoon involving the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil. She wanted no part of it. This is why women live longer than men.

Warden Frederick tried to the untangle the chain and reach the animal, but with each new inch of loose chain, the bobcat sensed freedom and used the slack to climb ever higher. Upon reaching a tight chain again, he would stop his ascent, alternating between hissing at us and letting fly with whatever he could rustle up in his bowels. I came to learn that bobcats have an impressive amount and array of bad smells stored inside them. Neither Warden Frederick nor I smelled peachy at that point, but I gave in and laughed at him when he really got it good from the cat.

Eventually we had tried and tried every which way to get the cat down unharmed, the day waxed late, and so we decided that if the cat would not come down, then the tree had to come down.

A honey locust is a hard, tough tree, a pioneer species with twisting grain and sharp hooked thorns. Oftimes while being sawed, they don’t fall the way you think they will. In addition to its loud scary noise, a chain saw would remove too much wood too quickly to allow us to fully control which way the tree would fall, and a hand saw was too slow. So we used an axe to drop the tree, one carefully placed chop at a time. This gave us the best control over the tree’s slow descent, but it was sweaty work, and directly beneath the bobcat. So I let Warden Frederick do it.

Meanwhile, the bobcat climbed to the very top of the tree, clinging like a lookout in a ship’s crow’s nest, and swayed to the rhythm of the chop-chop-chop below.

As the tree gave way to the axe and slowly sank to the ground, the bobcat sensed its getaway approaching. But Warden Frederick was waiting with a catch pole. While I wish I had some humorous Game News Field Note material here to describe what happened next, the truth is Warden Frederick properly and quickly looped the bobcat’s shoulder and neck, under the armpit, thereby safely pinning the animal to the ground without risk to its esophagus (cats have really weak throat areas and they must be handled carefully). I got some last quick photos, threw a blanket over the bobcat to calm him down (the bobcat, not Warden Frederick), and then easily pulled the trap off of its foot.

Both of us inspected its foot and leg for damage, and seeing none, I stepped back, pulled the blanket, and the catch pole loop came off the bobcat. As many other trappers have experienced when releasing a trapped bobcat, this one sat on its haunches and hissed at us. He thought he was still stuck. Eventually he turned and fast- walked into the brush.

“Well, that’s it, I’m now officially jinxed, or ‘lynxed’,” I said to Warden Frederick. “From here on out I will catch only possums and skunks for the rest of the season.”

And in fact, for the rest of that epic rainy trapping season, such as it was, I caught a grand total of just five possums, one skunk, and one raccoon. It was my worst trapping season, numbers-wise, in many years. But in hindsight, it was also pretty rewarding to watch the Game Warden work like that. Both hard and smart, I mean. Citizens don’t get to see our public servants perform these kinds of feats very often, and with a good nature to boot. So in that sense, I had a uniquely good season. Thank you, Warden Frederick. Now I can’t wait for mountain lions to move into Pennsylvania!

[Why do I trap? I trap to save ducklings, goslings, baby songbirds, nesting grouse, woodcock, and turkeys from an endless number of ground predators like skunks, possums, raccoons, foxes and coyotes, all of which continue to pulse out from suburban sprawl habitats in artificially high numbers. These artificially high numbers of predators do tremendous damage to ground nesting birds, and basically cars and trappers are their sole adversaries. So if you are against trapping, you must hate cute little ducklings. Foothold traps do not crush bones or kill animals, they simply hold them, and as we can and did here, animals can be released from footholds totally unhurt]

using the catch pole in the tree did not work

Look at that perfect high catch, his foot still on the pan. This is the correct way to use a foothold trap, as it results in no physical damage to the animal

If you ever want to feel like you are getting your tax money’s worth, look closely at this photo of PA Game Warden Frederick chopping at that honey locust. Except that the PA Game Commission operates on hunting license fees, timber sales, and natural gas leases! No tax money goes to the PGC, and yet they provide so many taxpayer services.

The four swivels and the long chain are visible here. The swivels prevent the chain from binding as the animal moves around, which gives the animal complete 360 degree movement. This is important so the animal does not torque its leg or hurt itself trying to get free. The long chain is needed to get hung up quickly in brush

The unharmed bobcat can be seen hissing at Scott, who has the catch pole loop around its upper body, pinning it to the ground. After taking this picture, I threw a blanket (Scott’s, not mine) over it to calm it down, inspected its leg for any damage, and when we each determined the animal was not hurt, Scott then released it. Using a catch pole on a bobcat requires getting the loop under its armpit and around the neck, so the esophagus is not damaged.

PA senate floor scrap is microcosm of GOP vs Dems nationwide

If you pay attention to politics, and why else would you be one of the three readers here on this blog than you are a political junkie, then you know that one hoax after another has been trotted out against the president since he took office, in an effort to blunt his presidency.

If one hoax doesn’t work, like the “Russia collusion” thing that the chief “investigator” himself (Mueller) torpedoed in public, then another one is tried. Latest and greatest hoax is this Ukraine thing where one political party tries to cover up their corruption in the Ukraine by accusing the president of doing something wrong when he literally calls for an investigation into the corruption.

As ridiculous as this is, there is an arrangement that has taken shape in Washington, DC, and across America. Basically one political party is at war and uses anything available to them to advance that war, at any cost, and the other political party is kind of dumbfounded like a deer in the headlights.

One political party is throwing dust up in the air and running around screaming, or allowing ANTIFA Brownshirts to attack peaceful protesters while the city police are illegally told to not protect the peaceful protesters, while the other political party stands there slack-jawed, incredulous that anyone would abuse our governmental system so badly. That the DOJ is AWOL on ANTIFA and anti-civil rights mayors who enable their violence does not help.

If you want to watch all of what is happening in Washington, DC, and Seattle and Portland and Minneapolis and Charlotte, in a nutshell, then watch a fascinating fight on the Pennsylvania senate floor (below) where the Democrats throw the law and senate rules right out the window, and in response the Republicans mill around like a bunch of confused and rattled little school girls while one of them barks repetitively for a very long time about how the Democrats WILL follow the rules and hand over that microphone right now.

Which the Democrats do not do, of course. Instead, they do exactly what they want to do, which is to take control of the senate through lawless chaos and anarchy. They have zero respect or use for the law, or the rules, because at the moment neither suits their purpose. Wait until the rules and the law finally DO suit their purpose, and then watch out! They will bring a hammer and a sickle down on anyone standing up to them.

So, like what happens in DC, the Pennsylvania senate Republicans here are basically standing there flat-footed, dazed, confused, addled, with Jake Corman barking “Point of order! Point of order!”  like a worn out old dog whose angry bark is all it has. He has no bite.

Sad thing to me is that Jake is not a small guy, physically. He should have some confidence to stand up to his political opponents. I wanted to fist fight him a few years ago, but he wouldn’t stoop to it, and now here he is facing off with a real live Democrat insurrection, and he can’t even muster the courage to storm the podium and wrestle back the microphone and control of the senate floor. What a loser!

Jake, you are a weak kneed little girl, because all your career you have had everything handed to you. When you are needed most, you don’t have the strength of character to stand up and fight.

Lawless Democrats, confused, spineless Republicans, just like across America and in DC.

By the way, this lawlessness is exactly how the Communists took control of eastern Europe, because the good guys/better guys were too proper, followed ‘the rules’ even when there were no rules, and thereby failed to assert themselves when their leadership was most needed. The good guys lost.

Here is the amazing video.

[Screen grab] Pathetic and weak career politician Jake Corman barking like an annoying little lap dog at the mean Democrats who have stolen control of his precious senate floor process. Corman is surrounded by a bunch of little school girls dressed like men, who mill about confusedly. This is a snapshot of what is happening Across America as lawless Democrats take control while mystified Republicans stand around and ineffectively say “Hey, you can’t do that, you’re not allowed to do that.”

Somebody Primary RINO US Sen. Pat Toomey

Few personality types bother guys more than weak, weasely, whiny men, and US Senator Pat Toomey is all that in spades, and much more, or less. It stinks to have an elected “leader” like Toomey demonstrate so little leadership quality, and even worse, to publicly flout his less-than-manly characteristics. Always appearing in public with some kind of fakey senatorial bearing, Toomey’s speech is similarly a fake serious tone, a kind of deeply thoughtful grasshopper. What a show. He reminds us very much of another phony RINO, congressman Charlie Dent, now thankfully gone from public life where he also did so much damage to the American people.

Pat Toomey is one of the great RINOs of today’s Republican Party. For the uninitiated, RINO means “Republican In Name Only,” which really translates into a liberal. Not a conservative. In it for the money. Not committed to freedom or liberty or the US Constitution.

Toomey exhibits weak-kneed indecision and back-stabbing liberalism traits pretty much every day on the job. He does not have the president’s back, but much like another RINO senator, Mittens Romney, Toomey seeks to falsely burnish his credentials by actually blocking, damaging, or criticizing the one person who is trying to right the American ship, President Trump. As if Toomey is so, so thoughtful and carefully considerate.

Toomey has been a real go-getter on disarming law abiding citizens, hatching one gun-grabbing scheme after another, always punishing the law-abiding and never, ever being tough on actual crime and real criminals. The other day he was one of a few US Senate RINOs to vote with the anti-America Democrats against the president’s border emergency wall, as if there is no border crisis, no illegal invasion crisis.  Toomey might as well join AOC down at the border handing out taxpayer-funded sombreros and bottled water to illegals on their way into the taxpayer funded haven of America.

And on this new Trump-Ukraine phone call fake scandal, where a rogue spy within the American defense system filed a fake “whistleblower complaint,” Toomey says the President’s phone call may have been “inappropriate,” but not impeachable. Since when was the effort by the US President to bring to justice a treasonous and corrupt American, Joe Biden, inappropriate? America and Ukraine have an anti-corruption treaty that the president was implementing, as is his job. Toomey should have pointed to admittedly corrupt Joe Biden as the subject of this scandal. Biden used his previous Vice President position to blackmail Ukraine and to enrich his family.

Is Toomey against bringing Biden to justice?

Even worse, several US senators from the Democrat Party actually visited the Ukraine and wrote a letter, directly threatening Ukraine leaders, saying they would vote to withhold promised US defense funds if the Ukraine actually DID investigate Joe Biden’s son. How is that for hypocritical and bald-faced lying irony?

And yet, where is Pat Toomey on all of this? He says nothing about his senate colleagues blackmailing Ukraine and is ho-hum about the US President just doing his duty as president.

Like just about every other Washington, DC political hack, spineless career politician Pat Toomey remains purposefully and deeply insulated from reality, and yet he has so much negative impact on the real lives the rest of us lead. If there is one solid RINO candidate for a strong primary opponent, it is Pat Toomey. The guy has no fight in him, not for us, and it would be easy for a good primary opponent to simply tick off the laundry list of assaults Toomey has led against citizen rights and needs over the years he has inhabited this seat. Someone please primary this bad guy. You will get a lot of support from real Republicans. That is, patriots and conservatives.

Chief Weasel and RINO king, Pat Toomey, begging for a primary opponent

Pennsylvanians deserve an open primary

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

Pennsylvania has a closed primary election.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open up and let us in!

Awesome fist courtesy of Lee Vanden Brink