A Blog by Jameson Parker
The Span of Life
The old dog barks backwards without getting up.
I can remember when he was a pup.
- Robert Frost
The old dog barks backwards without getting up.
I can remember when he was a pup.
- Robert Frost
“Wild Bill” Richardson, former California state senator, once wrote a book entitled, What Makes You Think We Read the Bills, which makes it almost certainly the most honest book ever written by any politician. Most of our elected officials don’t bother to read the bills we pay them to vet and vote on, and part of that is due to the ridiculously excessive length and complexity of many of the laws that get written. The rule of thumb is, the longer and more complex a law is (“sweeping” and “comprehensive” are the code words to watch out for) the less likely it will be read or understood by anyone, including the politicians being paid to pass the damned law, and the less effective it will be in the long run. Obamacare is a good example. Remember Nancy Pelosi’s immortal words? “We have to pass the law so we can find out what’s in it.” (It doesn’t have quite the brilliance or resonance of “…we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” but what can you expect from a woman who seems to have such trouble remembering things, including her oath of office.)
Now it appears that Obamacare was more than simply labyrinthian; it was deliberately written to be obscure because the men and women who created the law knew it would never pass if the American voters actually knew what was in it. Witness the four (I have only seen three, but various news outlets allege there are four or possibly more) video recordings of Jonathan Gruber that have surfaced recently.
Who the hell is Jonathan Gruber? Jonathan Gruber is the MIT economist who was so widely touted and lauded (most famously by Nancy Pelosi, though she now claims not to have any idea who he is) as the “architect” of Obamacare. Mr. Gruber has caused quite a stir in the past year or so by giving lectures and sitting on panels around the country, and boasting about the fact that (this is a direct quote): “…this bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO [Congressional Budget Office] did not score the [individual] mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies…In terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law which said healthy people are gonna pay in—you’ve made explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed. Okay? Just like the…people—transparent—lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, you know, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever.”
And in another video he refers to the need for, “…the exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter…”
Well. I have no idea whether or not there is criminal activity here, but when I watched the footage of Mr. Gruber chortling over the stupidity of the American voter, I was immediately reminded of two things.
The first is a line from one of Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, written back in the 1920s. I forget which book—or possibly short story—it comes from, but in one adventure, Wimsey twigs to the identity of the villain because of his arrogance, and he states (it’s been many a long year, so I’m paraphrasing here) that, “…the defining characteristic of all criminals is arrogance.”
It certainly is the defining characteristic of Jonathan Gruber and so many other denizens of ivy-covered ivory towers. They, the Jonathan Grubers and Paul Krugmans, the Nancy Pelosis and the Harry Reids and Barack Obamas, are all so much smarter than we stupid American voters that they know better than we what is best for us.
The other thing I was reminded of was a line from Meet John Doe, where Gary Cooper’s character, Long John Willoughby, is giving a speech and says, “I know a lot of you are saying, ‘What can I do? I’m just a little punk. I don’t count.’ Well, you’re dead wrong. The little punks have always counted because in the long run, the character of a country is the sum total of the character of its little punks.”
Perhaps the little punks spoke this past November 4th. Perhaps the little punks will speak again.
I posted a blog about Washington State’s Initiative 594 back on September 3rd, entitled Democracy in Action. In it, I expressed the opinion that, no matter how you might feel about guns, it was an extremely dangerous precedent for a handful of billionaires to essentially buy the laws they want passed, even—in the case of Michael Bloomberg and some others—spending their money to influence voting in states where they don’t even live. If billionaires can use their money to curtail the second amendment, why not use it to curtail the first? Or the fourth? Or hell, what about the twenty-second; then we can keep Obama in office forever.
Well, Initiative 594 passed, even though it was eighteen pages of gobbledygook with terms so poorly defined that even the police are uncertain what it means, and even though the majority of law enforcement agencies in Washington State opposed it as both ineffective and a potentially enormous waste of their limited resources if they attempt to enforce it, and even though the initiative’s anti-gun backers admitted it will have no effect whatsoever on crime.
Now, Dave Workman writes in The Examiner http://www.examiner.com/article/nevada-anti-gunners-submit-petitions-as-wash-activists-plan-protest that protestors plan to illustrate the idiocy of one of the law’s provisions. That provision states that if you and I are out duck hunting, or plinking at the local sandpit, and I wish to try your shotgun or your handgun, I must first go through a background check and a waiting period before you can hand the gun to me.
On December 13th, protesters plan to gather in front of the state capitol in Olympia and pass guns back and forth to each other in protest. I encourage everyone who possibly can to go to Olympia on the 13th and participate. If enough people show up and peaceably protest, it will surely be one of the more dramatic forms of civil disobedience witnessed since Mahatma Gandhi brought the British Empire to its knees with passive, non-violent resistance. I applaud the pro-gun-rights protesters; laws should not be bought and sold by billionaires who think they know best what’s right for you.
My PC computer doesn’t like Apple computers, or perhaps Apple computers consider themselves too grand to converse with PCs on a regular basis, but whatever the reason, I couldn’t send an email to someone, so Steve Bodio (http://stephenbodio.blogspot.com) was kind enough to forward my message for me.
While looking for something completely unrelated, I happened to stumble across the following verse. I don’t even know who wrote it, but I post it (and a photograph cheerfully stolen from his website) by way of a thank-you to Steve, who is a serious falconer. And because it is a damn fine little poem.
I shall not bate, for you have trained me well
And I can perch now quiet on your wrist,
Wearing my jesses, swivel, leash and bell.
Hoodshy no longer, I do not resist
That covering, for I am coming to.
Ringing above you, I wait on your word.
I reach my pitch, but I shall swoop for you,
Spread sails, then sink my pounces in the bird
You flush. I do not startle at your voice
Now or your touch, for I am fully weathered.
Haggard, your dark-eyed hawk, I wait your choice
To rest upon your glove or go, untethered.
Mantling at ease, I eschew the sky
Until you lift my hood and tell me, “fly.”
The following explanation came with the poem:
Female hawks are always used in falconry, as they are much stronger and faster than the male birds.
A hawk bates when she flutters off from the fist or perch, whether from wildness, or for exercise, or in the attempt to chase.
A hawk is said to come to when she begins to grow tame.
A hawk is weathered when she is placed unhooded in the open air, under the falconer’s eye, as part of the process of taming.
A haggard is a wild-caught hawk in adult plumage.
I have never met Cat Urbigkit, but she contributes to a blog I follow (Stephen Bodio’s Querencia) and she and I have communicated by email from time to time over the years. She knew that I had survived a bear attack and asked me to write a blurb for the book cover of When Man Becomes Prey. Normally, this would mean an advance copy would be sent out that I could read, and then write my blurb accordingly. In this case, however, Cat was pressed for time, so she emailed me a copy of the manuscript. I was duly impressed with her writing, as I have always been over the years, and I wrote that in my blurb. What I didn’t realize was how well and beautifully illustrated the final product would be. Those are her photographs in the book, ladies and gentlemen, and hers alone, and that by itself is reason enough to buy the book. It’s an extraordinary achievement.
Beyond that, however, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. As cities and suburbs metastasize over the American landscape, more and more people live, wittingly or unwittingly, in close proximity to wildlife. Most of the time, this is a benign source of pleasure: deer strolling across your lawn and nibbling on your roses; woodchucks and squirrels making free with your vegetable garden; that sort of thing. But where prey animals go, predators will follow, and the inevitable confrontations between man and large carnivore will occur, with equally inevitable and unhappy results.
What Cat does so well in When Man Becomes Prey, is not only to point out the potential dangers, but to give the reader tools to recognize when things are sliding down from chance encounter to something more sinister and potentially deadly. Most of us are smart enough not to walk up to walk up to a grizzly or a mountain lion and offer it our leftover hamburger, but what most people do not understand is the significance of simply seeing a predator. The rule of thumb, as Cat points out, is that if you do see a predator, and that predator does not immediately take off running, you have a problem in the making, because when a predator becomes habituated to humans and their presence, the next step is to regard those humans as dinner. And sadly, too many otherwise reasonably intelligent people think it is cute and exciting to have wildlife around their home, and they do remarkably stupid things–such as putting out food and water–to encourage said wildlife. Apart from the potential danger to humans, the usual result is death for the animal. Yes, I know the Fish and Game experts are always quoted as saying that the predator in question will be relocated, but relocation would really mean creating a dangerous problem for someone else in some other part of the state, and so “relocated” becomes a code word for “destroyed.” It is not usually discussed, because ignorant animal lovers and so-called animal rights advocates get hysterical when they think of anything being killed, but what choice is there? If that coyote didn’t actually kill your child, it will certainly try—and may succeed—with the next child in the area where it is relocated.
I live on the opposite side of a mountain from a small community where there are, unfortunately, a lot of remarkably silly people who think it is fine to break the law and put out food and water to attract wildlife. The completely predictable result is dogs killed in their yards, human/predator encounters of varying degrees of potential danger, certain canyons closed off to equestrians for long periods of time due to mountain lion sightings, and—more personally—my friend Dan Bronson (one of the most peaceable and kindly men in the world) doing his jogging with a can of bear spray in his hand. I only wish every single person in that community could be compelled to read When Man Becomes Prey.
Beautifully illustrated, and with well-researched and well-described true-life encounters, this a must-read for anyone who lives anywhere near wildlife.
I assume you’re familiar with the old truism: Just when you begin to think things can’t possibly get worse, they do. It’s is also—especially—applicable to the morons who collectively make up what we laughingly refer to as the United States government. Here is the latest, and were it not for Ron Spomer (http://www.ronspomeroutdoors.com/), a very knowledgeable and truly gifted outdoor writer and photographer, this would have been buried by the avalanche of ebola and ISIS (International Society of Islamic Swine) and all the other horrors that occur daily throughout the world:
The Forest Service, a division of the Department of Agriculture, is tasked with managing approximately 193-million acres of national forest and national grassland. Just to make sure you understand, this is NOT, I repeat, NOT government land. This is your land. You, and your ancestors before you, have paid the taxes to set this land aside for public use, which means use by you and me, the owners of this land. You, and I, and your neighbors, pay the taxes that pay the costs of preserving our land. You, and I, and your neighbors, pay the taxes that pay the salaries of the bureaucrats who supposedly manage our land. It is yours. It is mine. It is ours. It is most emphatically NOT the government’s.
But now the Forest Service wants you to have to petition them for the right to photograph or film any activities that you might wish to enjoy in your wilderness areas. Want to film your fishing trip? You will have to apply for a special permit. Want to take a photograph of yourself with a deer you took? Apply for a permit. And it’s not as if you must apply for a permit that must be given out. You must apply for the permit, and the Forest Service may—at their discretion—grant it. If you want to photograph a hunt, it almost certainly will not be granted, because the Forest Service has a dubious record of supporting hunting, even though it was hunters who originally fought to have this land preserved.
The basis for this new over-extension and abuse of governmental authority is a law that states that no one is supposed to make money off the use of public lands. The law’s intent was to keep individuals and corporations from destroying our land while making a profit from it, i.e., slapping up a housing development, say. It was not intended to prevent a camper from writing about and photographing his wilderness experience for sale to a magazine so he can earn the money that will be taxed to pay the salaries of the idiots who come up with this crap. On his blog, Ron Spomer cites a news agency that was quoted a $1500 price tag for the permit to film within a wilderness area. I don’t know about you, but that price tag would effectively keep me out.
Apart from the governmental overreach and abuse, treating the tax-paying citizen like a serf, there is another issue here. Your first amendment right to free speech is also at risk here. The moment the government says, “You must petition us to exercise your right to free speech,” it ain’t a right any more. And it won’t stop there; when has the government ever rescinded a law for being a violation of constitutional right, save when forced to by the Supreme Court?
Until December 3rd, 2014 you can make your voice heard by commenting on this site: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/09/04/2014-21093/proposed-directive-for-commercial-filming-in-wilderness-special-uses-administration#p-21. The comment bar is at the top. Please comment and comment often. Be polite, but let the fools know exactly how you feel about this. Tell your senator and congressman too. Tell the world how our government is nibbling away at our constitutional rights.
A new law has been passed and signed here in California. In a distorted example of synchronicity, a very parallel law has been signed into being in Great Britain, and no matter which side of the pond you live on, or which side of the “gun control” debate you take comfort in, you should be very, very afraid.
California’s law allows a mental health professional, or a law enforcement officer, or a family member, or (possibly; there is some ambiguous information out there) even someone sharing a residence with you—a roommate, if you will—to get a “gun violence restraining order” against you. On a single individual’s statement, you will be adjudicated a danger to yourself or others and any firearms you own will be confiscated until you can prove you are fit to own them.
In Great Britain, the new law allows the police to search the home of any gun owner (and in Great Britain all firearms must be registered) at any time, without any prior notification or justification.
Let’s assume you fear and hate firearms, and that you would like to live in a world where such things did not exist in any hands except those of law enforcement and the military, so let’s assume you would like to see the second amendment eradicated. How do you feel about the fourth amendment? Just to remind you, that’s the one that reads:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
If you like that amendment and feel protected by it, too bad Honeychild; you can kiss it goodbye both in Great Britain and in California.
Also, if you should happen to be fond of the American judicial system’s “presumption of innocence,” that too you can kiss goodbye, at least here in merry old California, because under the new law, you now have to prove you are not a danger to yourself or anyone else before your firearms will be returned to you.
And just in case you really are naïve enough to believe that California’s new law will save even a single life, I would point out that even legitimately crazy people can be very cunning and lie about their actions or intentions—the man who shot me did—so it could come down to a he-said-she-said where the only winner will be the best liar. Not exactly the kind of legal system our Founding Fathers had in mind.
For a moment forget about guns and your hatred or fear of them, and think only about laws. Think about the following exchange from A Man For All Seasons, between Sir Thomas More, his wife, and his would-be son-in-law, William Roper, arguing about whether one of More’s most dangerous and subtle enemies should be arrested, something More has the right to do. The man in question leaves, and More’s wife says bitterly: While you talk, he’s gone!
More: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law.
Roper: So now you’d give the Devil the benefit of the law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I’d cut down every law in England to that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you—where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast—man’s laws, not God’s—and if you cut them down—and you’re just the man to do it—do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?
Taking Sir Thomas More’s analogy of laws as protective trees, when laws are passed that undermine or negate fundamental rights, they may be considered as evil and insidious alien species. The two laws that have been passed in these two countries count as invasive alien species, and they will infect and destroy many of our good native laws, and not only those laws pertaining to guns. When that happens, no one, gun owner or rabid anti-gunner, absolutely no one will benefit.
I received some comments and emails from people who tried unsuccessfully to read the “Wet Dogs” post. Let me explain: I have been having technological problems posting to my website, so I enlisted the aid of my resident computer/IT/internet/social media/brave-new-world expert, and the only way I could show him what was going on was to post something. He assured me there was a way to simulate a post without it going out into the ethers. I had my doubts, and it turned out I was sort of partially right. I picked a photograph (of wet dogs) a friend had sent me, wrote a quick post, hit the publish button, and as soon as the expert had witnessed the problem (indescribable and–worse–something he had never even seen before) I tried to delete said experimental post. You all witnessed the result: some of it went out. Never trust the internet.
However, since it is a great photograph, I will now post it here:
I will now post this, run into the same (expletive deleted) problem, and muddle my way through to a correction, and pray that my expert can figure out a solution.
One of the more interesting things about this rapidly evolving internet age is the corresponding evolution of the English language. With almost every email I get from my agent, for example, I learn something new. (In the interests of honesty, let me say that in the preceding sentence I am using the word “learn” in its loosest and most casual sense.) Here is what she wrote me yesterday:
Here is the splash page link and the promo code for the Kobo sale that begins tomorrow, but keep in mind the link and code cannot be posted or shared before the sale begins tomorrow morning. http://www.kobo.com/OctoberOffer Code: SAVE50.
Okay. What the hell is a “splash page?” Then she goes on with the following:
And here is the link right to AMERICAN RIFF if you want to share that with the code on your Facebook, Twitter, etc.: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/american-riff-1 Please do spread the word about the sale on your Facebook, Twitter, etc. after the sale begins tomorrow! Remember friends/fans can buy the book on Kobo.com then download the free Kobo app for their phone, tablet, etc., if they don’t have a Kobo e-reader.
In this sentence, the only word that leaped out at me was “etc.,” as in, “Please do spread the word about the sale on your Facebook, Twitter, etc…” What etc.? What else is there? I do know there is–or at least I think there is– some web site devoted to sharing photographs only, but I don’t know what it’s called, let alone how to use it, and what would I do if I did? Take a photograph of myself (excuse me; I meant to say a “selfie”) with news about the Kobo sale tattooed on my chest?
However, to give myself an attaboy (would that be an attaboy selfie?) I am making progess. I mean to say, I’m on Facebook. That means I’m a hip and happening dude. And now you have the news about the Kobo promo, which is its own new language right there.
As soon as the Packers built up a solid, safe lead over the Vikings, I took Pete the Boxer out for a last ramble around the place, to stroll down the road a bit, close the gate, make sure our little corner of the world was safe and secure for the night. It was that magic moment of last glow, a dark night held briefly at bay by a dying sun, and across the valley, high up on one of the mountains to the south I could see the lights of an ATV, first in one area and then another moving light several miles away in a separate area. Those lights, momentarily appearing, then vanishing almost like shooting stars or satellites, gave me great pleasure to see, because I used to be one of those lights a long time ago.
There are no houses on that mountain, nor even roads; just rough two-tracks used by occasional cowboys, Forest Service and BLM employees, and—in season—hunters.
I used to hunt that mountain many years ago. Much of it is private ranch land, but at the top, and over on the far side, are several parcels of landlocked public land, a section or two of BLM here, another section there, that sort of thing. If you have permission to pass through the private property, there is surprisingly good hunting on those various chunks of public land, and back in those long ago days my friend Dave had permission from one of the largest landowners to drive through.
My friend was a dentist, and the landowner was his patient, so perhaps Dave had threatened him with a root canal without painkiller, but for whatever reason, Dave had full run of the place, and he and I would ride up the precarious two-tracks in the pre-dawn dark, and then ride back down again in the same last faint glow of day.
There were—and still are, in spite of the mountain lions’ best efforts—many deer up there, but the remoteness and steepness of the terrain makes the hunter, or at least this hunter, very, very selective. The sheer amount of labor involved after the shot is enough to make you think about just how badly you really need or want that venison.
The first year Dave and I hunted up there, he shot a very nice buck on a broad ledge just below the top on the far side. It was mid-morning, in an ideal spot, only four or five hundred yards from where we had parked the ATVs several hours earlier, and an easy drive down to where the deer was. It was perfect. And so was Dave’s shot.
Unfortunately, if there is one thing you learn in half a century of hunting, it’s that nothing, man or beast, reacts predictably when shot. This buck was dead the instant the bullet hit it, but it jumped forward, stumbled, took two steps, and went down. Unfortunately, those two steps had taken it right to the edge of the slope, so when it went down, it went down and kept on going down and down and down completely out of sight, perhaps a thousand feet ultimately, while Dave and I stood there with our mouths open and our hearts sinking.
We were both young and tough, but no matter how tough you like to think you are, these mountains can be very humbling. When we finally got down to the buck, it was apparent there was no way we could possibly get him up that slope intact, minus a helicopter, so we did a complete butchering job right on the spot, loins, chops, hams, backstraps, everything, boning the meat out on the grass. I had the better pack, so I took all the meat, while Dave took the rack, and we started back up. The slope was so steep that every time I slipped, instead of putting my hand down to catch myself, I would simply reach straight out in front of my face.
I forget now how long it actually took us to get back up, but I know it was dark by the time we got off that mountain. And probably, somewhere down in the valley, a man walking his dog saw our lights and smiled to think someone was having a great adventure up there. Dave sold his practice to his son-in-law and moved north years ago, and I don’t have an ATV, nor do I have permission to pass through the private land there, but I remember that time fondly, and it made me smile the other evening to see the hunters up there, and to wish them well.