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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.

on Mayor Steve Reed

Steve Reed was the long-time Democrat mayor of Harrisburg City, and he died last week. I knew Mayor Reed and I feel compelled to say some things about him.

My uber-Republican grandparents Ed and Jane introduced me to Steve back in the early 1990s, when he was first running for mayor of Harrisburg. When I queried how such ardent partisans as they could support a Democrat, the response they gave was a life-changing truism that is worth everyone remembering:

“Support the best candidate who will do the best for The People, regardless of political party.”

And besides, the Republican Party had long since abandoned Harrisburg City, as the GOPe has chicken-out abandoned all other urban areas across America. So there was no real Republican to challenge Reed.

The truth is that Steve Reed really did have the best interest of The People, the citizens of Harrisburg City, at heart. Like a lot of gay men his age, he felt that his opportunity for personal companionship was self-limited, and so he had nothing else to live for than his citizens, the people he viewed as being under his care. And he did dutifully care for all of us to his best ability.

When a bad vehicle accident would occur in the city in the very dead of night, or a homicide, Steve would show up in coat and tie, maybe fuzzy slippers on his feet, to find out exactly what happened so that he could try to fix the cause. Or at least communicate to the city’s citizens what had happened, so that there was the least mystery possible. He was always on the job. The guy cared about his job in a way that hardly anyone ever cares about public service jobs any more. Reed was truly a public servant in every good sense of the phrase.

Long ago I joked with Mayor Reed that when he died, I was going to embalm his body, dress him up in one of his dowdy suits, put a cigarette in his hand, and prop him up in the window in his old office, so that the citizens below could look up and see Steve, The Mayor, still on the job, still doing his best for us, and that knowing all was well, they would all be consoled of all concerns and go on with their lives, happier and more confident. A perpetually stable Harrisburg.

He always smiled at that joke.

His attempt to build the nation’s premier cowboy / Western museum was a great idea, like his successful idea to build an incredible civil war museum. But that Wild West Museum did not happen only because it lost momentum, despite having a veritable mountain of wonderful bona fide Western frontier artifacts to show. When the museum lost momentum, questions began to arise about how all those wonderful artifacts had been obtained with scarce public funds, and where were they kept, etc. And once those questions were asked, it was the beginning of the end of Steve’s reign. Such was the public’s trust in Mayor Reed that he could really do no wrong, and when he demonstrated that even great people have weaknesses, the public mostly abandoned him.

The last I saw Steve was at a home in Uptown Harrisburg, down the street from where we live. It was a gathering of a political who-is-who in the area that I rudely barged into uninvited, and the hostess, Peggy, cheerfully greeted me with hugs and a hot drink nonetheless. The three of us, Peggy, myself, and Mayor Reed, were all back in a corner chatting while eating fresh fruit. Steve looked happy, and Peggy was her usual 100 MPH self. Until Steve asked me “Josh, you don’t support Trump, right?”

“Of course I do, mayor, I absolutely do support President Trump. He is doing a great job for America, and I think you of all people should appreciate how hard that is to do,” I responded.

Peggy exploded, poor thing. She was standing elbow to elbow with me, and her unhappy response was broadcast in bits and pieces across the side of my sweater and cheek. She was nearly foaming at the mouth with anger, indignation, her eyes were crossed, and a garble of unintelligible words poured forth from her mouth that I did not have to actually understand in their particular to understand in their overall gist.

Peggy disliked (still does) President Trump, and was ummm…frustrated that I would support him.

“Ignore him, Peggy,” said Mayor Reed. “He is just saying that to get a rise out of you.”

Mayor Reed looked at me, smiled, popped a grape in his mouth and walked off into the bigger party. He was politic to the end.

In our hunting camp there hangs a large moose head above the living room. It is named “Stephen” after Mayor Steve Reed, because it was purchased from the eventual auction of the Harrisburg Wild West Museum contents. When I picked up the enormous wooden crate with the moose head inside, I couldn’t wait, and I opened it up right away in the bed of the pick up truck. Inside was all the original documentation going back to the original purchase of the moose by Steve Reed, years before. He had acquired it from an old frontier saloon in southwest Minnesota, and apparently many cowboys had hung their hats on it over the decades. It was a real, bona fide emblem of the wild west; at least as the Western frontier was known in Minnesota.

Steve the Moose now looms over all our comings and goings at camp, provoking small children to squeal with delight and with fright, and grown men to pose all manly-like. No question the moose head is a symbol of the Big Woods and all that is wild in America, a proper companion to other real cabin furnishings like beaver pelts and traps. But to me, Steve the Moose symbolizes Steve Reed the mayor, the all-knowing bull moose, watching over his sanctuary, his people, his charges.

It is comforting to me.

Bye, Steve, you are gone but not forgotten. Here, let me dust off your ears for you. And have a light.

Mayor Steve Reed looks at one of the Remington bronzes he purchased for his Wild West Museum. The bronze was among the gazillion other real wild west artifacts sold at auction. Denver Post photo credit

Ammin Perry cartoon symbolizing about $7 million city dollars up in smoke, and Mayor Reed did like to smoke

Steve Reed the moose still oversees all

Aggressive timber management necessary in the Northeast

When I tell some people how aggressively we try to manage standing timber (forests), they often recoil.  It sounds so destructive, so environmentally wrong.

It is not environmentally damaging, but I will be the first to admit that the weeks and months after a logging operation often look like hell on the landscape: Tops everywhere, exposed dirt, skid trails, a tangled mess where an open woods had stood for the past sixty to eighty years just weeks before.  No question, it is not the serene scene we all enjoyed beforehand.

This “clearcutting” gets a bad name from poor forestry practices out West and because of urban and suburban lawn aesthetics being misapplied to dynamic natural forests.

However, if we do not aggressively manage the forest, and the tree canopy above it, then we end up with tree species like black birch and red maple as the dominant trees in what should be, what otherwise would be a diverse and food-producing environment. Non-native and fire-sensitive species like ailanthus are quickly becoming a problem, as well.

When natural forest fires swept through our northeastern forests up until 100 years ago, these fire-sensitive species (black birch, red maple) were killed off, and nut trees like oaks, hickories, and chestnuts thrived.  Animals like bears, deer, turkey, Allegheny woodrats, and every other critter under the sun survived on those nut crops every fall.

Without natural fire, which is obviously potentially destructive and scary, we must either set small prescribed fires, or aggressively remove the overhead tree canopy to get sufficient sunlight onto the forest floor to pop, open, and regenerate the next generation of native trees.  Deer enjoy browsing young tree sprouts, so those tasty oaks, hickories, etc that lack sufficient sunlight to grow quickly usually become stunted shrubs, at best, due to constant deer nibbling.  Sunlight is the key here.

And there is no way to get enough sunlight onto the forest floor and its natural seed bed without opening up the tree canopy above it.  And that requires aggressive tree removal.

Northeastern forests typically have deep enough soils, sufficient rainfall, and gentle enough slopes to handle aggressive timber management.  Where my disbelieving eyes have seen aggressive management go awry is out west, in the steep Rockies, where 1980s “regeneration cuts” on ancient forests had produced zero trees 25 years later.  In fact, deep ravines had resulted from the flash-flooding that region is known for, and soil was being eroded into pristine waterways.  So, aggressive timber management is not appropriate for all regions, all topography, or all soils.

But here in the northeast, we go out of our way to leave a huge mess behind after we log.  Why? Because how things appear on their surface has nothing to do with how they perform natural functions.  Those tangled tree tops provide cover for the next generation of trees and wildflowers, turtles and snakes, and help prevent soil erosion by blocking water and making it move slowly across the landscape.

Indeed, a correctly managed northeastern forest is no place for urban or suburban landscape aesthetics, which often dictate bad “select cut” methods that work against the long term health and diversity of the forest, as well as against the tax-paying landowner.

So the next time you see a forest coming down, cheer on the landowner, because they are receiving needed money to pay for the land.  Cheer on the loggers and the timber buyers, the mills and manufacturing plants, and the retailers of furniture, flooring, and kitchen cabinets, because they all are part of a great chain of necessary economic activity that at its core is sustainable, renewable, natural, and quintessentially good.

Junk social science drives bad policies

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

A plea for a small slice of reality

Marketing hype for any and all kinds of products has resulted in any and all kinds of hilarity, humor, bloopers, and ironies.

Hype, by its nature, kind of skirts facts and embellishes upon irrelevancies. Thus does hype almost inevitably lead to unintentional silliness.

For whatever reason, the outdoor sports are loaded with marketing hype.

Trail cameras are notoriously both marked by near-claims of X-Ray vision and simultaneous failures to perform their most basic functions.

Clothing that keeps your funky, unwashed armpits from making deer say “Uncle!” is another proven fraud.

The list goes on. I won’t belabor the list.

What really irks me are the male and female models used to promote outdoor gear, and specifically I mean hunting gear.

Cabelas, Bass Pro, Eddie Bauer, LL Bean, and many advertisers in Field & Stream magazine all use models for hunting gear who look nothing like hunters.

Probably universally, the guys are either effeminate, urban, slender professional model hipsters from NYC with a day-old facial hair growth, or they are occasionally hunting “stars” whose annoying braggadocio, bravado, machismo, and one-dimensional arrogance inspires mostly dismissiveness.

Neither of these model types fit the mold or image of real world hunters. Like me, probably you.

For example, I’m well overweight and struggle to make time to exercise, because being a husband, father, and small business owner all preclude time for developing hour-long fitness routines and pumped biceps.

And neither I nor any of my friends aspire to look effete, lanky, or effeminate. Our problem is probably that we don’t spend enough time cultivating our looks, complexions, or clothing fit, because these are unimportant sideshows in a life of meaning and real substance.

Hunting is, after all, about woodcraft, a conservation ethic, stealth, mastering one’s emotions, mastering firearms and bows, teaching our kids these skill sets with patience and love, and so on. Studly macho guys would be quickly drummed out of every group I hunt with. Hunting has zero to do with being macho.

So a simple plea here for reality: Use models who look like us Average Joes. We are much more likely to be interested in your products when you use people who actually look like us. Sinewy urban guys struggling to look male don’t interest us, and selfish guys who wear tinted contact lenses and who spend time on their biceps instead of their community don’t interest us, either.

The word “tactical” – overused, kind of

By Josh First

Have you seen the word “tactical” used lately?

The word appears everywhere, and is growing in prominence across the retail world.

Although “tactical” is a word that denotes, or really connotes military tactics, and was once reserved to the sole use of the United States Military combat units or the dangerously armed forces they faced, this word now imputes some special meaning, martial ability, and toughness to anything that wears it on the label.

There are tactical knives, vests, rifles, pistols, and the many accoutrements that go with these items.  There seem to be tactical diapers, tactical coffee mugs, and tactical pens.  OK, there are to my knowledge no tactical diapers or coffee mugs, but it is true that someone will or already is onto these items.  Actually, there are tactical pens meant for self defense, but whether or not they have actual value for military tactics is a questionable claim.

For another true example of the oddly named, there are tactical shirts.  No lie, there are “tactical shirts” dedicated to more easily accessing one’s concealed pistol.

Is it really so difficult to just wear a regular old LL Bean button down short sleeve Pima cotton Oxford?  Is a shirt with confusing numbers of magnum zipper pulls in sensitive places really, truly a better shirt than the LL Bean?  Does it really make you a tougher guy or gal?  Do our combat forces wear these shirts? No?

As if it isn’t odd enough to call a shirt or a vest “tactical,” we now have tactical airguns, I kid you not.  The Crosman TR77 looks like a Star Trek photon shooter that makes bad guys vaporize painlessly, but it is claimed by its maker to have some sort of tactical application.

As if!

Air guns pack all the wallop of a good slap to the head, albeit with more concentrated force.  Certainly some shoot pellets that can penetrate your flesh, and perhaps even your temple.  But if I were a law enforcement officer engaged in a really deadly standoff with a violent, dangerous bad guy, a freakin airgun is the last thing I’d want in my hands.  My tactic in that situation would be to run away, fast.

So obviously the word “tactical” is being, ummm, stretched in meaning a bit these days.

But for whatever reason, this word increasingly resonates with the American public, and it may be a result of the hyper-militarization of our local police forces.  Plenty has been written in recent months about how the legendary bumbling Officer Barney Fife became the sinister looking, crewcut-and-armor-wearing badass kicking down grandma’s door in East Succotash, America. SWAT teams in East Succotash, America, are not necessary, and it is a serious issue, because Americans have a natural aversion to government force applied to them.

No doubt about it, America’s local police are in an arms race with…hmmmm… either themselves, far-off international military forces, or possibly, probably, you.

That’s right, there is plenty of evidence indicating that the massive investment in military grade hardware and hard attitude at the local police level is translating into a natural citizen reaction, apparently in preparation for inevitable urban combat with the very people once sworn to protect us.  And so we have an increasing “if-they-have-it, we-need-it, too,” civilian reach for all things tactical.  Tactical now seems to mean “I am ready for combat,” an American attitude that is both refreshing and alarming.

Alarming indeed.  Why are we afraid of our own local police forces?  When did that happen? And, come to think of it, why did the local Harrisburg cop try to stare me down last year, on my own street, when I cheerfully said hello to him while walking on our sidewalk with my small son in hand?  Was he employing some anti-citizen ‘tactic’?  Sure felt that way to me, the law-abiding taxpayer underwriting that guy’s paycheck and tough guy attitude.

However, instead of meeting fire with fire, and buying a black bulletproof vest with webbing and the ubiquitous variation of a skull-and-crossbones trademark label, I think I will for now reach for my ‘tactical pen’ and write about my uncomfortable encounter, thereby defeating that officer’s ungainly attempt to bring implied force into what should have been a friendly exchange between equals.

Want to add beauty to the world?

If you want to add some beauty to the world, and who doesn’t, then do this simple thing: Let milkweed grow on your property.

Monarch butterflies follow the world’s most incredible migration, but they are increasingly challenged by unnecessary weed control and manicured lawns that eliminate milkweed.

Why milkweed became Public Enemy Weed #1 is probably lost to early 1900s history. But the negative association in most Americans’ minds keeps it suppressed far and wide.

In an urban and suburban environment, milkweed is no worse than the ailanthus (“tree of heaven”) growing everywhere, and it provides a home for beautiful butterflies that make our summers happier and more fulfilling.

So if you see a patch of milkweed growing on your back corner, please leave it. Beauty on wings will thank you, and that miraculous journey will continue for another year.