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Scotland’s Knoydart, you gotta just go see it

After another visit to the spectacular Knoydart Peninsula in northwest Scotland, I feel compelled to write about it.

Normally it is uncomfortable to broadcast publicly where I have been, but this community is worthy of praise.

If you like to hike, walk, hang out, or just relax in a quiet atmosphere far, far away from civilization, but with the things you have come to depend on or enjoy in day to day life, a few days in Inverie is right for you.

The fishing is mostly limited to five miles of the Inverie River, for Atlantic salmon and sea run trout. This is pay-to -play, not the kind of fishing we do in America.

Also, the hunting is totally different than what we do in America, or in Canada. You must be guided by a “stalker” (no, not the guy who just got out of jail for stalking his ex) and ghillie. You must take the shot they tell you to take, at the red deer they tell you to shoot, even if it is not a trophy (and it is unlikely to be a trophy). You will get charged a lot of money just to go out, hit or miss, although hitting costs even more money. Then, if you like the head or cape of the animal you shot, you must pay for those separately, as well as for the meat. This style of hunting works for Europeans, and it is not my thing. It is unlikely to appeal to the vast number of American hunters.

That said, I was very impressed by the fieldcraft and general fitness of Knoydart’s stalker Jim Brown and his ghillie, Louis. Their knowledge of biology, ecology, forestry, and soil science speaks volumes about what it takes to be a hunting guide in Scotland. In contrast, here in America just about anyone can call himself a hunting guide, with the exception of a few key states like Maine, Montana, Idaho and Alaska.

Thanks for the great memories, men.


Why we hunt

Deer rifle season starts Monday (tomorrow) morning, and for about three quarters of a million Pennsylvania hunters, this is an early Christmas. The excitement is palpable at every gas station, outdoor store, and hunting area.

I’m hoping my son will get a deer, either a doe or a buck, because last year he was twelve and slept through the taking of a buck we had planned would be his to harvest. Now that he’s thirteen and feeling more focused, we are both excited about his prospect of becoming a man. The hunting rite of passage is as old as humanity, and is more meaningful than just about all others I can find. This is a big step for my boy, and I’m operating as his guide, spotter, coach, and cheerleader. It’s tough to tell who is more excited, he or I.

I myself hunt because it makes me feel fully human. Asking some newer hunting buddies who hail from big metropolitan areas why they hunt yielded these responses:

“Hunting off the beaten path makes me feel more connected to the food we eat. I enjoy the strategy, teamwork, cooperation and effort that it takes to put together a successful hunt.” -Shai

“I hunt for the chase, the mystery, the outdoors and to outwit.” -Jon

“I hunt because it brings a tremendous sense of honesty to my life. Although I keep kosher and do not eat the animals I harvest, I donate the meat to friends and to the homeless through state programs. Participating in every step of the process, from field to table has given me an appreciation for and honest perspective of the meat I do eat. Furthermore, a hunt that ends without game is still a success because it gives me the opportunity to honestly reflect on everything else in my life.” – Adam

“I hunt to understand what it means to provide for oneself. While living in a major city, it is very easy to exist but no way to understand what it means to provide for oneself. Hunting is a way to force yourself to think about what’s really important and how to refocus our efforts to accomplish it. Plus it allows for a really really great stories knowing I have certain skills that will help me in certain circumstances is a necessary endeavor.” -Max

“I hunt because it’s real. Not some video game or some movie or tv show. Although the ultimate goal of hunting is to kill, hunting makes me appreciate life. It reminds me how rugged and yet precious life can be. It makes me feel alive. It makes friendships more meaningful, time more valuable. Hunting reminds me to live, not just exist.” – Irv

These are men fairly new to hunting, but their answers likely speak for the millions of other more experienced hunters in America.

Bottom line: Hunting is a deep, often spiritual undertaking.

Recently I hosted a hunter from Scotland, where it is actually illegal to bow hunt. He came to America to hunt buck, turkey, and bear at our cabin in the Pennsylvania “Big Woods.”

After nine days he had passed on some nice bucks, because they were not what he wanted. After a lifetime of killing deer with silenced rifles in Scotland, this man came that far distance just to experience a more primitive, more challenging way of hunting.

Though he returned home with no heads or hides to show for his remarkable diligence, he tells me “I am haunted by whitetail deer, I even dream about them now” because they are so cagey, wary, beautiful, difficult to kill. His sensory experience alone in the woods with one of humanity’s oldest weapons, and his memories of that, were sufficient satisfaction for him.

Good luck tomorrow, hunters. Enjoy our sport, which is safer than cheerleading, basketball, football, soccer, and a host of other recreational pastimes Americans readily accept as part of our culture. Except hunting is not a pastime. It is us, it is human.

Castle Dundas…a Must-See

Nothing competes with an experience so new and profound that it changes your views on a host of subjects. Thus was my recent introduction to Dundas Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland.

On the outskirts of historic Edinburgh (today pronounced “Edinboro,” as if the Vikings and Saxons had not come through previously. Think of pronouncing Pittsburgh as ‘Pittsboro’…), and just barely within view of the mighty Edinburgh Castle, is Castle Dundas, complete with spectacular grounds, English (Scottish) gardens, new and old sculptures (including an old one of Oliver Cromwell) and stone fountains, and a 1400s stone keep designed to withstand the best of catapults in its day.

Parapets ringing the high walls of Dundas date from the 1800s, 1700s, and 1600s, and the keep is centered inside it all.

Were I to be married again, to the same wonderful woman (Vivian), of course, I would do it at Dundas.

The laird there, Sir Jack, has made Dundas an unusual and meaningful destination for couples seeking to be wed, as well as a place for shooting parties, indoor and outdoor family and corporate events, and golfing.

There is a generous helping of tartan drapes hanging from twelve-foot ceilings; but unlike most places, it fits because it belongs there.

It’s the inside of that 1400s stone keep that is the main attraction, and a place the likes of which you will never see again in your life, and I don’t care of you are a Duke somewhere with your own castle, because few of these old keeps remain intact.

Yes, it is a bit dungeon-y, and the only entrance is through a massive iron door turning in on four-inch-thick iron spindles. Now THAT is a door.

The interior of the keep is a series of large and small rooms with arched ceilings, all connected by a single corridor and a gently winding staircase. Occasionally a secret staircase drops off and down out of sight, presumably for easier escapes in times of war and invasion.  Each room has its own decor, but all have the ancient, sombre stone walls that remind us of old tymes in a way that no theme park, no 1800s Rhode Island copycat stone mansion can ever capture.

For example, in the stone steps somewhere between the second and third floors were drill holes, where someone hundreds of years ago had repeatedly spun a distaff or spindle. Perhaps making yarn from sheep’s wool, or breaking down some foodstuff into constituent parts, or mixing some foodstuff, a person had sat in that one lonely spot in the staircase, contributing their share of labor to the household, and by all appearances others had sat there, too.

If those steps could only whisper, much less talk…. I swear I heard the clank of armor, the rustle of silk, and the faint whispers of palace intrigue echoing.

My favorite room was no, not the armory, though that is a neat room, surely. Rather, deep into the heights of the keep lies a large chapel room where weddings are held. Another smaller, distant room is where the couple signs their wedding contract.

May I suggest, Sir Jack, that you have made a copy of the most Celtic Kilchoan Cross, now found at Inverie, with the hole in the middle, where the new couple can extend their betrothal vows and pass through their wedding contract. That would complete the wedding experience at Dundas, and introduce what should be a common and most beautiful practice.

If you live anywhere in England or Scotland, or America and Canada, for that matter, and you are considering unusual and rare places to get married, may I recommend Castle Dundas.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On just that one day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obama & Bill Clinton officially embrace imperialism, then poormouth liberty, independence, and freedom

As anyone paying any attention to politics already knew, neither Barack Hussein Obama nor Bill Clinton are committed to liberty, freedom, or independence, and like the good power-hungry statists they are, they openly embrace imperialism and military occupation.  When it serves their interests.

Today the mainstream media prominently ran two statements, one by each man.

Each statement began with a dissembling lie about how neither Obama nor Clinton really have anything to say about Scotland’s wish for independence from the mis-named “United Kingdom.”

You know, kind of a disarming warmup for the dagger-in-the-chest that is coming right behind it.

You know, they support the “united Kingdom” that was only united through Britain’s imperialism, deceptive diplomacy, military conquests, occupation, land theft, genocide and ethnic cleansing, and religious totalitarianism.

After the blase disclaimer, each man then goes on to say that Scotland should not become independent from its longtime foe, occupier, and vampire-like neighbor, England aka Britain, home of the Britons (not the Scots).

Both Clinton and Obama provide generic and vague sentimentalist goo as their supporting argument.  Both rely on some version of “We know you don’t like it, but it really is best for you, the little people.”

See, Scotland owns a lot of oil and gas fields that will instantly give it financial independence from Britain, which in turn may become the weak sister, not the domineering exporter of bad TV and cute Cockney accents it is now.

I vote for freedom for Scotland.  I vote for independence from Britain, like we Americans have. I vote for liberty from Britain’s insane laws that have turned justice upside down.

If anyone from Scotland reads this, please know that we Americans love our independence from the damned British, and we hope you do, too.

Some Westerners still adore Imperialism despite their protestations

If there is one hotbed of kooky political extremism in Western Civilization, it’s England.

As it was in the 1920s and 1930s, England is full of self-proclaimed “peace” activists and anti-imperialism yellers and screamers.

Their weak righteousness brought on World War II, and paved the way for massive treasonous infiltration of English government at all levels.

Many Soviet Russian spies were warmly welcomed by these activists to set up shop and undermine the individual rights and liberties that mark the strongest European democracy.

Anti-British sentiment ran and still runs quite deep in Wales, Ireland, Scotland, the Falklands, and many other far-flung places unassociated with England proper.

Yet where were those activists then, when those nations next to England yearned for their own self-determination? Sure, the activists accused everyone else (America, Israel, the actual anchors of Western freedom and tolerance) of vicious imperialism, but they themselves loved the unfair, artificial, imperialistic, forced notion of a UK. Scotland, Ireland, Wales were independent places with unique languages, cultures, and religions. They were hardly “united” with England by choice.

The Falklands? WTH?!

Why now that Scottish citizens are finally waking up to their own freedom are the British trade unions, left wing activists, and self-appointed bosses of equality silent on Scotland’s chance for true opportunity?

I’m not Scottish, Welsh, nor Irish, I am an American, but I do know that my country fought British imperialism many times, and that Americans greatly benefited from their Constitutional republic’s individual liberties.

It is time for Britons to act in a consistent, civilized way, and set aside their imperial self-interests.

As a former Scottish freedom fighter once said on film, FREEDOM!

Something Is Rotten in Scotland

Scotland: Western Civilization’s Poster Child for Politically Correct Rot
© Josh First
August 30, 2011

Western Civilization is crumbling from within, rotting from decades of increasingly demanding sentimentalism that pushes out laws based on equal justice before the law, and replaces them with laws based on redistribution of wealth and the rewarding of purported victims, whose sole claim to victim status is that some people feel badly for them. Of all possible places, the remote, scenic, and otherwise pretty much unimportant Scotland is the ugly poster child for this rot.

Political correctness has long been antagonistic towards America’s essential institutions, core beliefs, and justice system. It has made increasing headway here, but its roots run deep in Europe, where it has removed former greatness and replaced it with enforced apathy. Recall that England was nearly destroyed by Nazi Germany because English pacifism ran so deep. Pacifism is a core element of political correctness. Pained by World War I, “The War to End All Wars,” the English were blinded by a messianic belief that all wars were wrong, and that evil must be appeased, instead of confronted. By the 1930s, England had emasculated its Imperial self beyond recognition right when Hitler’s un-emasculated and newly imperialistic Germans nearly stormed its gates.

Decades later, pacifist England rejected the lesson of World War II, and Her Majesty’s subjects in its furthest occupied territories, including Scotland, casually absorbed Britain’s forced gentility. As one of those people opposed to the forced notion of a “United Kingdom,” as the English blithely claim to be, it’s always been difficult for me to admit that England truly influenced its once-great and long independent neighbors, including Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. Based on their best qualities, they should be above it.

All three nations have long histories of unique cultures and languages, inspired and fierce warriors, and proud identities. All three nations represent the high-water mark and stone wall rejection of Roman conquest, with London ironically the site of Rome’s regional capital, a kind of Quisling-English monument. England’s long, cruel tyranny over the three nations, still alive with the English occupation of Northern Ireland, eroded to bare nubbins those great characteristics of yore. One must now admit that enforced imperial unity has caused these three nations to learn the very worst that England has to offer. One nation stands above the rest in its willingness to prove it: Scotland. Sadly, “Make the world England” worked in Scotland.

True it is that peat-flavored whisky, bright Tartan cloth, Nessie, wool sweaters, and ubiquitous sheep upon scenic vales distinguish Scotland. And Scotland still provides mirth in Irish pubs enthralled by players of the Uilleann pipes, who gave the bagpipes to the Scots, who never got the joke. But fast forward six hundred and seventy five years after the Battle of Bannockburn, and Scotland became the location of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, where Pan Am flight 103 was remotely blown up in flight by Libyan Mohamed al-Megrahi, who was subsequently convicted and imprisoned in Scotland. Lockerbie is the place in Scotland where most of the bombed plane’s parts and 270 people fell to earth. It should be hallowed ground, an inspiring symbol.

Although 270 innocents were killed, in 2009 Scotland released Megrahi from a Scottish prison cell on “humanitarian grounds.” All levels of the Scots government participated in the decision to release Megrahi, who was subsequently received and feted as a hero in Libya. Megrahi remains quite alive today, and Scottish politicians remain defiant about their decision.

Despite evidence that Megrahi’s release was a decision based on falsified medical advice and appears calculated to gain favor with Libya and access for British Petroleum to Libya’s oil and gas fields, Scottish officials refuse to admit that it was un-just to release a mass-murderer from prison because he did not feel well. They were, after all, appealing to the highest of politically correct causes, “humanitarianism.”

Humanitarianism is the sentimental basis for much of the politically correct thinking now permeating western nations. It is responsible for the false notions of fairness that result in injustices like Megrahi’s release, the calls to dismantle America’s borders, the blocking and then banning of the death penalty, and the release of recidivist violent criminals from U.S. jails. Under humanitarianism, the rule of law is being up-ended.

On August 20th, 2011, Susan Cohen, mother of 20-year-old Lockerbie victim Theo, was quoted in The Scotsman News as saying “The Scottish legal system is an absolute joke. In the US, we would not be able to have one man come out with the foolish line of ‘compassionate release’ and then let him go. I want there to be more trials over this – I hope there will be – but I wouldn’t trust them to be held in Scotland after what has happened. This is going to go down in history as a terrible black mark against Scotland. You are given your new-found freedom, and these are the kinds of decisions that are made.”

CNN reported that Frank Duggan, president of the Victims of Pan Am 103 support group, wrote an email to CNN on August 29th, 2011, that “blasted the report that al Megrahi was near death, saying he didn’t believe it or that the convicted felon merited any reprieve.” ‘His family is trying to make a sympathetic character out of an unrepentant, murderous monster,’ Duggan wrote.

Said English politician Iain Gray, “The sight of Megrahi last month acting as a cheerleader for a dictator indicted for war crimes [Moamar Gadafi] turned the stomach.” And yet, the Scots remain defiant. They believe that their decision making is unassailable, because they were making nice. Under it all simmers the other politically correct notion that all Muslims are automatically victims in western nations, and despite being a murderer, Megrahi is a member of that untouchable victim group. Free he must be.

Scotland’s official behavior is important because, as a former bastion of the Protestant ethic that gave us western civilization and the foundation of American democracy, what happens in Scotland indicates what might be happening elsewhere in the broader body politic of western civilization. If rotten politics are happening there, then rotten politics might be happening here. Official injustices carried out in Scotland can form the foundation for un-just decisions in America. Former U.S. senator Arlen Specter quoted Scottish law when he acquitted impeached president Bill Clinton during his trial in the Senate, so it’s not that far away.

Megrahi’s release is a painful example of how western civilization is under assault, from deep within. Greatness once infused Scotland, a greatness that created the two-handed Claymore sword, once swung by tough men defending their liberty and culture. That greatness has been frittered away, lost in its misty isles and replaced by misty thinking. If Scotland’s decision to release Megrahi is not repudiated, then the politically correct assault advances on western culture and institutions, and justice retreats.