Author Archives: Chris Byrne

Farming in an Equilibrium Trap

JayG wrote something today about how this summers drought is hitting farmers very hard; which is absolutely true. And it’s already having an impact on food prices, and that impact is just going to grow.

The crop that’s being impacted worst is dent corn, which makes up the majority of livestock feed in this country; particularly beef feed. This is exacerbated by the governments ethanol mandates, which take even more of the feed corn crop out of the feed market.

Over the next couple months, we’re going to see beef prices crash, as ranchers and feedlots come to the end of their stored feedstocks and slaughter more steer than normal (so they don’t have to keep feeding them), and then SOAR to highs we haven’t seen in years over the fall and winter.

Jay points out that some are “blaming subisidies” for the state of things… which I think is silly, you can’t blame subsidies for weather (well… usually… Microclimate and regional climate adjustments due to overplanting can sometimes be blamed on subsidies… but that’s not what we’re talking about here).

But honestly, there’s something that no-one wants to admit, no-one wants to say, and no-one wants to hear in this country….

We have too many damn farmers.

By far.

Probably by more than half, at least for some crops.

In particular we have too many grain farmers. In even greater particular, we have far too many corn and wheat farmers.

We have a natural market for corn and wheat that would support… something like half… of the farmers that we have now.

All of those people who are only making money because of subsidies; we really don’t need them growing corn or wheat.

Either they need to grow something else, or they need to sell their land and stop being farmers.

Even the argument that it “keeps our food prices low” is false; because it actually keeps them higher most years. If there were no subsidies, the market would find its natural level of supply, demand, and price; and the resources inefficiently allocated to subsidized crops would simply be allocated elsewhere (and I’m not even going to get into the second order effects of this regime like obesity, HFCS vs. sugar pricing, ethanol etc…).

But we don’t want to hear it.

We are constantly being presented with images of the “struggling family farmer”… And have been for over 100 years.

Shouldn’t that tell you something?

There are plenty of very profitable and prosperous farmers in this country, and plenty of large farming corporations that do quite well…

And who are they?

They’re farmers that grow crops which don’t get subsidies, who have found ways to be economically efficient; or they are farm corporations who have found ways to extract the maximum amount of government benefits.

Again… shouldn’t that tell you something?

When a business is failing, that doesn’t tell you “we need to subsidize it”, it tells you we need to reduce its regulatory and tax burdens and operational restrictions (stop artificially reducing its competitiveness); or we need to let that business die.

Farming is no different from any other business. If it’s not competitive, we shouldn’t be encouraging people to do it (unless it’s of importance to national security, and thus can’t be outsourced or offshored; and even then that’s an iffy one, and we should still be encouraging competitiveness internally ) and we shouldn’t be rescuing or subsidizing it.

Why on earth have we been subsidizing these non-viable crops for 80 years?

Oh wait… I know… it’s because to get elected president, you need to win the majority of Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio; and to be elected to congress (outside of a major urban constituency anyway) or win those states in the general election, you have to support subsidies for grain farming.

Right now, these farmers are in an equilibrium trap, where because of government subsidies they can just barely get by; but because of inefficiency, actual market conditions etc… they can’t get ahead

The way to deal with equilibrium traps, is to break out of them completely. You can’t do that by keeping on doing what put you in the trap to begin with; and they’ve been doing that for 80 years.

If we stopped subsidizing these crops, people would take huge losses in the first few years; particularly as their land prices fell dramatically. It would hurt. A few hundred thousand people would take a big hit…

An aside about numbers: there are about 2.3 million “farms” in the united states. 65% of all crops are produced by 9% of all farms (which farm 59% of the agricultural land), and 85% of all crops are produced by 15% of all farms.

Of the appx. 2.3 million “farms”, about 2.1 million are considered “family farms”. About 1.9 million of those farms are considered “small family farms”, which have gross revenues of less than $250,000 per year, and produce less than 15% of all crops. Of those, about 35%, produce about 9% of the total crops in this country and are generally considered viable. 40% are essentially “hobby” or “part time” farms that produce less than 3% of all crops per year. It’s the 25% or so of those 2 million farms, which only produce 3-4% of all crops, and which are basically non-viable, that are the biggest issue.

Oh and 10% of all farms receive 75% of all subsidies, for producing about 25% of all crops. Corn, wheat, cotton, rice, soybeans, dairy, peanuts, and sugar, make up 97% of subsidies. Corn and wheat alone make up 52%, cotton about 14%, rice and soybeans another 23%). The VAST majority of those subsidies go to large corporate feed grain farms in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas, and Ohio, and to Cotton farms in Texas (Texas produces 30% of all cotton in the U.S., with Arkansas, California, Mississippi, and Georgia accounting for another 40%); NOT to small family farmers

And then, we would be better off as a nation; and THEY would be better off as individuals. They, and their children, would no longer be trapped into a just barely livable, just barely getting by, dependent on the government economic condition for decades. They would move to more productive more useful employment. They would be better off eventually, as would the country as a whole.

The problem? Many of them don’t want to. They WANT to be farmers, even though they KNOW it’s a bad business. They love being farmers. They’ve been farmers for generations in their family. It’s all they know, it’s what they’re passionate about, it’s part of their culture and they can’t see ever doing anything else.

Well… I want to be an Aerospace Engineer, and design and build airplanes; or even boats (many boat designers are also aerospace engineers. It’s a very similar field of study). It’s what I trained for, and I love it and am very passionate about it.

But it’s not viable for me.

There are more than enough airplane designers out there for the market as it exists today; so I can’t find employment as an airplane designer. The fact is, very few new airplanes are being designed.

Now, I’m the first to say that we should get the excessive regulatory burden out of the way of the aircraft industry, and if we did that it’s likely that more aircraft would be designed and more aerospace engineers could find jobs…

But would you say that just because I can’t find a job in the field I was educated in, that we should subsidize that field just so I could?

…Well… Sadly, some would… Or at least they would, if the field I was in was politically or socially favored… But anyone with any sense or integrity knows better.

We have romanticized the idea of the “family farmer” in this country for far too long.

The fact is, it is no longer economically viable, nor is it necessary, for many of these people to be farmers, and we should stop enabling the equilibrium trap constantly keep them locked into farming, but always on the edge of failing.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

In the Mailbox Today…

Marco Rubios new bio/memoir “An American Son

Full disclosure, his publisher sent me a review copy (as they did to a number of conservative and libertarian bloggers). I’ll be reading it and posting a review shortly. The book will be publicly available starting tomorrow, and can be pre-ordered from Amazon now (links below).

For those who don’t know, Rubio is the junior senator from Florida, and former speaker of the Florida house (a post he held after only 6 years in the statehouse, having been elected at the age of 29, and elected speaker at only 35). One of the youngest senators at only 41, Rubio is the son of cuban immigrants, a devout catholic, and a solid conservative of the tea party persuasion.

For my own tastes… Rubio is great on economics, generally great on business, great on foreign policy, good on guns (not quite great, but a B+ is good enough for a senator), not so great on personal freedom.

My one big issue with Rubio is that he’s VERY socially conservative, and largely religiously based in that regard. As a philosophical libertarian who happens to be a Republican… I’m not thrilled with folks who think the government should be involved in these areas at all, never mind supporting extension of the governments current reach. Also, specifically, he supports constitutional amendments on social and moral issues… something I STRONGLY oppose.

Other than that though… hey, I like the guy.

Rubio was elected by a 20 point margin of victory over his nearest competitor… and that’s a hell of a story…

His nearest competitor was then sitting Republican governor Charlie Crist; who Rubio first beat in the states Republican primary, largely as a result of Tea Party voters.

Rather than drop out however, Crist decided to run as an independent against Rubio in the general election. This was largely taken poorly by both Tea Party oriented voters, and the majority of the states Republican base. Crist’s strategy was to use his popularity among independents, and centrist republicans and democrats, plus his seeming rebellion against the party and particularly “against the radical right and the Tea Party”, to build a “moderate” coalition for victory.

That strategy backfired BADLY.

Rubio earned 48.9% of the vote, to Crist’s 29.7%… with the democratic competitor Kendrick Meek, coming in a distant third with 20.2% (basically he was a sacrificial lamb, and only the hardcore dems voted for him, with about half the democrats voting for Crist).

This made Rubio the poster boy for the “Tea Party Revolution” of 2010 that the media played up so much, and for a time made him the target of speculation about him pulling a Republican version of the Obama play, and running for president in 2012.

Rubio was very clear that he had no intention of seeking either the presidential or vice presidential nomination in 2012… However, Romneys problems with the conservative and libertarian portions of the Republican and independent electorate, have got speculation among the media running high that Rubio will be chosen as Romneys running mate.

My personal opinion, is that Rubio doesn’t want to be vice president in 2012; he wants to be president in 2016 or 2020 (and he’ll be much more “electable” then, simply by getting to look more like what the electorate expects a president to look like… i.e. “Older than 41″)… but it’s a lot easier to get to the big chair from the little chair, than it is from the senate floor, and somehow, I don’t think he’ll say no if he’s asked. \

As to what this book, being released now, might mean?

I stand behind my previous statement.

At any rate, look for a review in this space in the next few days. In the meantime, here’s the links to buy the book, and for Rubios tour events:

Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/American-Son-Senator-Marco-Rubio/dp/1595230947

Barnes & Noble:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/an-american-son-senator-marco-rubio/1108857608

Rubio’s book tour:
http://www.facebook.com/AnAmericanSon/events

Rubios Twitter feed:
http://twitter.com/marcorubio

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

I DESPERATELY need this as a t-shirt

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Don’t Apologize for Your Opinions

One thing that always bothers me, is when intelligent, thoughtful people; feel it is necessary to apologize for their ideas and opinions… or for even having ideas and opinions at all (much less opinions contrary to those around them, or which are unpopular).

You don’t have to apologize for your views to anyone, for any reason. They are yours (or at least, they should be… if they aren’t… if you’re just repeating things you’ve been told, or you don’t really understand or believe what you’re saying… well, you’ve got a different problem entirely).

Right or wrong, you have the right to an opinion (I don’t have to listen to you, but I can’t tell you you can’t have them); and unless you are violating others rights in doing so, you have the right to express those views openly, and to act on them appropriately.

The first freedom, is freedom of conscience. Without freedom of conscience, we are not men.

However, having and expressing views, carries an element of responsibility and duty with it.

First you must understand, you have the right to your own opinions, but not your own facts. If facts contradict your opinions, facts win, no matter what you think or what you want; and whether you recognize it or not. Reality is a harsh mistress, and it doesn’t respect your ideas, your opinions, your preferences, or your feelings… Reality respects only fact.

Before you express them publicly, you must always understand your own views as deeply and comprehensively as possible; including both the first principles which are their foundation, and the implications and consequences of them (as well as understanding that there will always be unforseen and unintended effects and consequences, to any action or decision).

You should always be prepared to defend your views; with both this understanding of them, and with examples from reality, when challenged. If you are unable to do this, you risk discrediting your views even if they are entirely and provably correct, simply because you were unable to effectively defend them (this is a very common problem unfortunately).

Finally, you must accept that your views may be wrong; and if proven (by either reasoning or reality) to be incorrect, incomplete, or improperly understood; you must be able to re-examine, and revise, or even replace them.

If you are incapable of this, emotionally or intellectually, you need not apologize for your views… but you certainly should not inflict them on others.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

How far we have fallen…

Reading the point/counterpoint posts on the question of how the supreme court would decide on Obamacares constitutionality, was quite disturbing to me in several ways.

On the one hand I was heartened, because clearly both Brad and Doug are sane and rational folks with a reasonably solid background in both law and politics, and a foundational understanding of the constitution…

Of course, that only highlights how many people in this country are not.

Any reading of the constitution… of the very intent of the founding of this nation… makes it clear that our federal government is meant to be one of of limited and enumerated powers. If the government can mandate this, they can mandate anything. This is the fundamental argument about the necessity for a limiting principle to any government act.

And anyone who doesn’t want unlimited, unconstrained government can see that. Sadly, it seems that the idea of unlimited, unconstrained government is quite popular in some quarters… even with some supreme court justices.

The basic liberal/progressive/leftist argument for socialized medicine is “we should do this even if it IS illegal and unconstitutional, because it’s the right thing to do so the supreme court should uphold it”.

I.E. “It’s good because we want it, and therefore it should be legal because it is good; and we need to get rid of this whole “limited government” thing, because it gets in the way of us doing what is right and good.”

What I also find heartening is that both Brad and Doug both seem to have a good sense of all of this…

But that is also disturbing…

Because both of them seem to share the same actual opinion:

Both believe that Obamacare is ACTUALLY unconstitutional, and should be struck down…

…It’s just that Brad is cynical enough about the supreme court and the political aspects of the decision that he thinks enough justices will be able to argue themselves into ignoring the constitution and doing what they want to do, rather than what is right.

… and Doug believes that there’s a good possibility of that as well; he just has a bit more hope that they won’t.

… and if you look around the commentariat, that’s pretty much the split of positions that every other knowledgable observer has as well.

And if that isn’t disturbing to you, then you really have no idea what is going on, do you?

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

The REAL grass roots of American politics: A report from the first ever Idaho Republican Caucus

Since 1920, the 43rd state has had either a convention, or a presidential primary to select the the Republican party presidential candidate (the Democratic party allowed each county to decide whether to have a caucus or a primary, up ’til 2008, and the counties varied between caucuses and primaries. In 2008 they changed the rules and have caucused statewide since).

Idaho has historically had a late season non-binding primary, held in Mid may (and still does for everything other than president), by which time the presidential nominee is almost always decided.

For 2012, the Idaho Republican party was tired of being irrelevant to the election, and sought some way of moving their participation to earlier in the process. Unfortunately, moving a primary has some negative consequences. Because the early primary states like to protect their position as favored by the presidential candidates, each of the parties has rules that penalize states (by reducing the number of delegates they control) if they make their primaries earlier than they were in the previous election.

For 2012 however, the GOP changed their rules, so that if a state held a binding caucus, on or before April 6th, but not before March 6th (super Tuesday), and changed from a past the post winner take all system to some type of apportionment; they would not be penalized.

There was a very big, and very nasty fight within the party about this plan; with most of rural Idaho, particularly north and north central Idaho opposing it, and the major metropolitan areas Boise, Twin Falls, Idaho Falls, and Pocatello, supporting it.

A Sidebar: For those of you reading this not familiar with the politics or demographics of Idaho, and who primarily think of Idaho as a farm state… potatoes and all… a little background would probably be useful.

Idaho is a pretty BIG state geographically (14th largest at 83.6 thousand square miles), but with one of the smallest populations (11th smallest at 1.6 million), and thus the 7th least dense in population (19.1 per square mile, about 1/5th the national average).

Another important point: although Idaho is only the 14th largest state, because of its very odd shape (big and rectangular-ish at the bottom, long and narrow up top, kinda triangular in the middle) at 480 miles top to bottom, and 560 miles on the long diagonal; only Alaska, California, and Texas are longer north to south, and only those plus Montana and Nevada are longer (only by 60 miles for the latter two) on the long diagonal.

Combine that big state geography, and small state population, with our… unique… landscape, and things are a little weird here.

Let me describe to you what I mean by unique geography.

Idaho isn’t the big flat farm state that most people imagine in their mind, thinking of Idaho potatoes. Idaho is smack in the middle of the Rocky mountains, and is in fact the most mountainous of the lower 48 states by land area classified as “mountains” (Colorado is slightly larger and has a higher mean elevation, but is half mountains, half plains); as well as having the third most land area in National forest service land (20.5 million acres, only 300k acres behind California, and 1.5 million behind Alaska; and thus the highest percentage of land area); and at over 60% the third highest (behind Nevada and Utah) in percentage of land controlled by the federal government (which includes NFS and BLM lands).

There are six population centers in Idaho, and about 75% of the population lives within their catchment areas: Boise (620,000 metro population. 40% of the states population lives within 50 miles of Boise), Twin Falls (99,000), Pocatello (90,000), Idaho falls (130,000), Moscow/Lewiston (87,000), and Coeur D’Alene/Sandpoint (179,000, but only because that counts the entire population of the two counties. The actual “micropolitan” population is more like 100,000 between the cities and large towns within an hours drive); and they are mostly separated by pretty substantial stretches of mountains. Just to top things off, the northern half of the state (north of the Salmon river) is in the pacific time zone, while the southern part of the state is in the Mountain time zone.

The geographic separation is such, that the quickest way to get to Boise from Sandpoint, where we live, is to drive over 100 miles out of our way through Washington and Oregon. It’s only 320 miles in a straight line, but the shortest route by road is an 8 to 9 hour, 420 mile drive on mountain roads (many of which are impassible much of the time in winter), or a 500 mile 8 to 9 hour tri-state drive by interstate.

Those of us in north Idaho have basically no relation to Boise or Pocatello at all; except in that they dominate statewide politics because of their population. We’re far closer connected to eastern Washington (Spokane, Pullman), or to western Montana… or even to Seattle.

From my house, it’s a hell of a lot easier (and faster. It’s 350 miles and about 5-6 hours) to get to Seattle than it is to get to Boise. Hell, we’re only 220 miles from Calgary. Though it’s a 7 hour 350 mile trip by road; it’s still closer to us than Boise.

Check out the topo map below to see what I’m talking about:

You can see, there isn’t very much at all in between the Boise area, and the Lewiston area, except BIG mountains; and a few towns along U.S. 95, and around the lakes and big rivers.

U.S. 95 is one of the old original U.S. highways by the way; and one of the very few left that hasn’t been replaced by interstates. It runs through almost the entire state of Idaho north to South, from the Canadian border, down to southern Oregon at Ontario near Boise; into northern Nevada near Winnemucca and over to Fernley near Reno; from Reno down to Vegas, from Vegas down to Blythe California, then over into Arizona near quartzite; turning south again down into Yuma, and then into Mexico at San Luis Rio Colorado, on the Colorado river. I have driven the entire length of it (unfortunately not all at once, but in pieces), and from top to bottom, it is some of the prettiest, and most geographically varied, road you’ll ever drive.

Because of this geography, and the population differences, Idaho is effectively two VERY VERY different states; north and north central Idaho in the pacific time zone, and southern and eastern Idaho in the mountain time zone (with the dividing line at a little town in the middle of the bitterroot mountains called Riggins).

Both are very conservative overall, but the southern part of the state are very heavily Mormon, and very religious and socially conservative; while the northern part of the state is more catholic and protestant (but not really hardcore baptist, pentecostal, hardcore evangelical etc…), and much more libertarian.

The big problem, as far as north/north central Idaho goes, is that although it represents about 40% of the land area, out of a population of almost 1.6 million, the north only has about 320,000 or about 20%; and that 320,000 is very thinly spread across 10 pretty large counties, vs. the 1.25 million (or about 80%) across 34 generally smaller counties in the southeast and southwest.

Thus, the northern half of the state is generally marginalized as a political constituency, with Boise or Pocatello generally both setting the statewide agenda, and having things decided their way.

Of course, this situation probably sounds pretty familiar to Arizonans, Nevadans, Michiganders, Minnesotans, Floridians, and New Hampsherites (all have a very big north south split); Washingtonians, Oregonians, Coloradans, and Montanans (all have a very big east west split); and of course Texans and Californians (which both have a three or four way split depending on how you count it).

Predictably, Boise won; and Idaho became a caucus state, at least for presidential purposes. Idaho also, for the first time, became… at least somewhat… relevant to the selection of a presidential candidate. So much so that in the weeks before Super Tuesday, Idaho had visits from all the major candidates.

And believe me, there was plenty of interest and participation in this process; both by the people, and from the campaigns.

Our candidate visits included Ron Paul up here in Sandpoint, just this past Monday. On Sunday, the organizers of the event emailed me saying that I shouldn’t worry about parking or seating, there should be plenty. Unfortunately, the event was so packed, by the time I got there I wasn’t able to get in. They expected 400 or 500 people, and the hall at the county fairgrounds filled to capacity (at 1300).

Also the telephone banks were operating in force (I got two calls in the last two weeks from the Ron Paul folks, both actual human beings; and over a dozen from Romney and Santorums campaign, all robocalls).

And finally, last night, the Idaho GOP held their first ever presidential caucus.

It was a resounding success… so much so that it almost ended up a total disaster.

Based on Democratic caucus participation (in 2008, their most attended caucus ever, only 20,000 Idaho Democrats caucused), and participation in caucuses in other states, the state central committee planned for between and 3% and 6% of total registered voters to attend the caucuses; expecting as little as 1% in some counties, and as much as 10% at most in others.

This year there were about 750,000 total registered voters in Idaho (a bit less than 50% of the population); and while something between 55% and 60% of registered voters vote Republican in general elections, Idaho has been an open primary state up till now, and in any given year only around 10% of voters are actually registered Republicans (this year, based on previous participation, Idaho has “official” party affiliation recorded for “Democratic”, “Republican”, “Libertarian”, “Constitution” and “Unaffiliated”. The large majority of Idaho voters are registered “unaffiliated”).

I spoke to several Idaho state Republican party staff members, and given the low Democratic caucus turnout, and that in most caucus states the turnouts are 3% or less (even Iowa on a good year gets 6%) they expected something like 10,000 people state wide, and 20,000 at the very outside, would attend this years Republican caucuses (remember, the most Democrats to ever caucus in Idaho was 20,000 in 2008).

Not only that, but just about all the “smart folks” were predicting a low turnout due to “lack of energy” and “lack of enthusiasm” etc… etc…

They were wrong.

VERY wrong.

Nearly 10,000 people showed up to caucus in just one county alone (in Ada county, population 300,000, which contains Boise, more than 10,000 people went through the doors at caucus locations, and 9,050 cast first round ballots).

All told, about 45,000 people statewide cast a final round ballot, in whatever round their county went to. If the numbers in other counties are at all similar to those in Bonner county (the only county I have direct numbers for), at least 60,000 and maybe as many as 80,000 people actually showed up at caucus sites.

And of course, that doesn’t include the people who showed up, saw how busy it was, and left; or the people who, never having attended a caucus before, were confused about the process and gave up earlier.

In Sandpoint, there were so many people wanting to caucus, that many people simply left; either angry or frustrated at the long lines and waiting in the cold (it was 36 degrees and full dark before we got through the doors).

I spoke with several staff members at Sandpoint High school (our local caucus site), and Priest River Jr. High school (the caucus site in Priest River), and with several county Republican committee members and volunteers; who told me that hundreds of people didn’t understand the process, and had showed up at the caucus sites during the day, wondering about how to vote. After finding out they had to come back at 6pm and stay for several hours, most of these people left (often angrily) saying they wouldn’t come back.

I arrived at our caucus site, our local high school, at about 5:30pm; 30 minutes before the designated “door opening” time and 90 minutes before the caucus was supposed to begin at 7pm. When I arrived, the 438 space main parking lot was already full, with the remaining 200 spaces in the side lots filling up rapidly.

By 6pm, the parking lot was completely full, and the line to get into the caucus site was wrapped halfway around the school. I, having arrived at 5:30, didn’t get in to the registration table until 6:45pm (in the end, they continued processing people through until around 8pm).

Bonner county, where my family and I live, has a population of just about 40,000, with 22,794 registered voters as of 9am yesterday morning; however, over 80% of all the registered voters in our county are unaffiliated (though the county generally votes over 60% republican). Prior to yesterdays caucuses (Idaho allows same day registration and affiliation), the total number of registered Republicans in Bonner county was just 1,662.

The county party committee, following the central committees guidance, were told to prepare for something like 600 to 1200 people to show up for the whole county; and had intended to use the 300 seat high school auditorium for the caucus site in Sandpoint (half the registered voters in the county live within 10 miles of Sandpoint).

That auditorium was filled in the first ten or fifteen minutes.

By the time my wife and I got through sign-in and ID check at 6:45, we had already filled up the cafeteria; and were well over 500 strong. In fact, by the time we hit 700, we hit the fire code maximum for the auditorium, AND the cafeteria and the overflow room.

Finally, at around 7pm (when the first round of voting was supposed to start), they pulled the bleachers out in the school gym. By the time they finished letting people in, there were over 1100 of us in the building (including a lot of kids, there with their parents; which my wife and I found heartening).

Because of the huge turnout, there obviously weren’t enough staff volunteers. The staff ended up asking for some additional help from the attendees, and the high school kids who wanted additional community service (which was gladly given); and everything was delayed by over an hour.

There were four caucus sites for the county. By the time we started the first round of balloting it was after 8pm; and 856 of us cast a first round ballot in that building alone. All said and done, there were 1411 first round ballots cast for Bonner county; when less than 12 hours before, there were only 1662 total registered Republicans.

Before I continue I should note the rules and process for the Idaho Republican caucuses, as conducted last night.

There were five candidates that qualified to be listed for the caucuses: Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Buddy Roemer.

Voting would proceed county wide, in rounds, eliminating lower performing candidates in each round, until a “50% plus one vote” winner could be declared for each county (NOT for each caucus site). In the first round, any candidate that failed to achieve 15% support would be eliminated. In any subsequent round the lowest performing candidate would be eliminated.

Also, I should be clear that the county Republican party commissioners and volunteers conducted themselves in as professional and courteous a manner as they could given the difficulties; and they conducted the primary in an entirely open and transparent way. I would like to particularly thank our county commissioner (and party chair) Cornel Rasor and county party treasurer Alan Banks, for working so hard to make things work given the difficult circumstances; and for being so open and encouraging to people who wanted to witness, film, photograph, record, and report on the process (at one point Cornel said “Please, everyone, tweet this, post it on facebook, blog about it… we want everyone to see that we’re conducting the most open caucus in the country).

23 of Idahos 44 counties had a 50%+1 vote winner in the first round (including most of the top ten population counties). Every county that finished in the first round went for Romney except one; Latah county, which voted for Ron Paul. Most of those counties went for Romney by 60% or more, with two (Madison county and Bear Lake county), hitting 90% for Romney (notably both counties are almost entirely Mormon, as were most of the counties that went for Mitt more than 60%).

One should note, Latah county, with a population of just 35,000, and less than 2000 registered Republicans prior to their caucus, had 982 votes cast yesterday. 52% voted for Ron Paul, and only 20% voted for Romney.

… and that rather nicely illustrates the political divide between north and north central Idaho, and southern Idaho.

In the first round, Bonner county cast 1411 votes, including 558 for Ron Paul (39.55%), 291 for Romney (20.77%), 290 for Rick Santorum (20.43%) 173 for Newt Gingrich (12.26%) and 4 for Buddy Roemer. This meant Newt and Roemer would be eliminated after the first round.

Six of the remaining 21 counties went through two rounds of voting, including Boundary county just to our north (they are the county bordering Canada) who went for Ron Paul at 54% (Romney at 18%, Santorum at 28%… they really don’t like the government very much in Boundary county). The other five counties that finished in two rounds also went for Mitt Romney.

In the second round, even though we didn’t cast our ballots ’til around 9:30pm, our polling place only lost 28 voters, and Bonner county as a whole only lost 138 voters, dropping from 1411 to 1293; 564 for Ron Paul, 277 for Mitt Romney, and surprisingly, 452 for Rick Santorum, causing Romney to be eliminated.

Unfortunately, a lot of folks were pretty sure the caucus would only go two rounds; and left immediately after casting their ballots, not waiting around for the vote count.

The one real black mark on last night caucus, at least in Bonner county; wasn’t from the party, it was from the left… Unfortunately, many of us recognized a number people we know to be hardcore Democrats, far left liberals, or otherwise very anti-republican (and definitely NOT libertarians or Ron Paul supporters), in the caucus crowd last night. I have spoken to people who were at the other three caucus sites in the county, as well as some people in other counties; who have told me the same thing.

There are not a lot of Santorum supporters up here; and there ARE a large number of Romney supporters (it’s still at least 20% mormon up here, plus the pragmatists who think that Romney is the only one who can actually beat Obama).

A number of the folks who were there, are pretty sure that those people we recognized as leftists made up a lot of the Gingrich and Santorum voters in the Bonner county caucus last night.

When Gingrich was eliminated in the first round, as everyone knew he would be; we all expected the Gingrich vote to MOSTLY split between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. When basically ALL the Gingrich vote went for Santorum, eliminating Romney and forcing us into a third round… Let’s just say that everyone was more than a little surprised…

… Actually extreme shock and more than a little disgust might be a better description.

Like 15 other counties, the caucuses in Bonner county last night went to three rounds, but the difference between the second and third round was much greater than between the first and second. Bonner county only lost 138 voters between the first and second round. Between the second and third round we lost 341. Notably, that included a lot of the folks who we recognized as leftists; and almost none of the Ron Paul supporters.

When we finally cast our third round ballots, well around 10pm (the count came back around 10:30), 555 Bonner county republicans cast their ballot for Ron Paul, and 487 cast their ballot for Rick Santorum; Paul winning the county at 53.28%.

I don’t think there is any question, given the numbers I’ve seen and talking with people in the other polling places and other counties; that some democrat/leftists manipulation was going on in Idaho last night, trying to undermine Romney and Paul by artificially boosting support for Santorum.

Overall, Ron Paul won six counties and 18% of the vote, Rick Santorum won seven counties and 18% of the vote, and Mitt Romney won thirty-one counties and 62 percent of the vote.

Officially, Santorum received 29 more votes state wide than Ron Paul, so he came in second; though as I said, I believe that result was the result of deliberate manipulation. Romney should have received even more votes than he did, as should Ron Paul, and Paul should have been in a very clear second place.

Although Idaho’s Republican caucus for 2012 was technically an apportioned caucus, not a winner take all; the rules that the Idaho Republican committee decided on, were that the counties would be winner take all, and if more than one candidate won more than 50% of the counties delegates, than that candidate would have all the states delegates committed to them.

Since Mitt won 31 counties, he got all 32 of Idahos delegates. Given the results overall for Super Tuesday; although Romney is not a mathematical certainty for the nomination, he is almost certainly the nominee.

Of course… he’s BEEN “almost certainly the nominee” since shortly after November 4th 2008; when the RNC decided that was who they were going to line up behind for fundraising and groundwork for the next four years to beat Obama….

but that’s another rant for another day.

From a personal standpoint, other than the manipulation issue, and the party VASTLY underestimating the level of interest, passion, and participation of the people of Idaho… I found my first caucus experience to be very interesting and personally far more rewarding and engaging than a primary. There were certainly a lot of folks who were irritated by the process, or who feel that a caucus is simply improper or an inferior way to vote for a candidate; but I can certainly see the advantages of it.

As to which I think is better?

Neither.

I believe that the primary/convention system used in this country is essentially a sideshow for the benefit of the media, the fundraising arms of the party, and the fundraising efforts of the candidates themselves. It is a detriment to political discourse and serves to perpetuate an inherently corrupt process of candidate selection by party insiders and political money brokers.

…but, as I said above, that’s a rant for another day.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Impossible Ideology, False Dichotomy, and Unacceptable Conclusions

This post is a clarification of an ongoing theme I’ve addressed before… and which has been addressed many times before by myself, by other bloggers, and by scholars like Victor Davis Hanson, and Thomas Sowell.

I’m talking about the “Stupid or Evil” false dichotomy.

Those of us with a libertarian, or economic conservative bent (social conservatives seem to suffer from this tendency as much as liberals, just in a different area), frequently have a huge problem understanding why “Progressives”, liberals, socialists etc… keep advocating and even implementing clearly nonviable ideas, against all past results or evidence.

How anyone can still, not slightly, but whole heartedly, and with the entire force of a government behind them; implement socialist ideas? The entire 20th century stands as incontrovertible evidence that socialism, in any form, in any way, for any reason; is not just a failed political system, but a horrible idea in general.

And yet, millions of people around the world still advocate for it passionately… even kill or die for it.

When we oppose these people, or these ideas, they declare us to be “stupid” or “ignorant”, “delusional”, “defrauded and manipulated by evil/greedy masters” or simply “evil” ourselves.

The question here is not one of fact, it is one of ideology; in a belief structure where the political is the personal, and political ideology substitutes for tribal identity, or religious faith.

For these people evidence, and reality, are irrelevant. Something is true not because of evidence, reality, or history; but because their ideology says it must be true. Something is false not because evidence says so, or because it doesn’t work; it is false because it differs from the ideology.

This behavior is maddeningly baffling to those of us who attempt to use reality, history, logic, and a healthy appreciation for the law of unintended consequences; as a guide for our ideas and our actions.

Warren Meyer over at Coyote Blog, put up a post this morning, that put me in mind of this particular topic again (emphasis mine):

“I am perfectly capable of believing Drum honestly thinks that further deficit spending will improve the economy this year. I think he’s nuts, and working against all historic evidence, but never-the-less I believe he is sincere, and not merely pushing the idea as part of some dark donkey-team conspiracy. Why is it that he and his ilk, from both sides of the aisle, find it impossible to believe that their opponents have similarly honest intentions?

I mean, is it really so hard to believe — after spending a trillion dollars to no visible effect, after seeing Europe bankrupt itself, and after seeing the American economy begin to recover only after crazy stimulus programs have mostly stopped — that some folks have an honest desire to see economic improvement and think further stimulus programs are a bad idea”

Yes, it is impossible.

It is impossible, because they are arguing from ideology not from reality. They believe in what HAS to be true, because their ideology says so; not what reality, or experience, proves to be true.

Their ideology is core to their perception of their identity, and their sense both of self worth, and the worth of others. Their judgement and reason are based on it. Everything is filtered through this ideological prism, because it HAS to be, for the health of their own psyche.

For someone whose entire perception of self worth depends on their adherence to an ideological precept (“I am a good/better person because I believe this morally better thing”), then anyone who disagrees with this precept must be stupid, ignorant, defrauded, deluded, or evil.

There is no room for honest disagreement in this. To preserve their self worth, and sense of identity, there can be no doubt, and no acceptance of any possibility of error. There is one true path, which they follow, and anyone who deviates from it is apostate.

If therefore, one cannot dismiss opponents of their ideological precept as stupid, ignorant, defrauded, or deluded (and in the case of clearly intelligent, well informed people, presenting reasoned arguments against your precepts, you obviously cannot); the only thing you can challenge is their motives.

Your opponents MUST KNOW that you are right, that your ideology is right; since they are intelligent and well informed, and of course any intelligent and well informed person (such as yourself) can see your ideology is clearly morally superior (just as you did).

Therefore your opponents must be evil, or at best venal and self-interested.

It simply must be that way, because any other conclusion is unacceptable.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

An explanation for… Almost everything really…

“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm-but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”

— T.S. Eliot

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

We don’t go black… We try to turn on lights

We’re not going black today, over SOPA or PIPA.

In case you by some miracle hadn’t noticed it yet, tens of thousands of web sites around the country and around the world, are “going black” or putting up banners explaining that they are not available or there is no content today etc… In protest against the “Stop Online Privacy Act” and the “ProtectIP act”, which are currently (or were recently), being promulgated in congress.

We don’t have a problem with anyone who does. It’s important that people understand what SOPA and PIPA are (or were), and most folks are sadly unaware of the kind of stupid and harmful things that our government does.

Google and Wikipedia are two of the most important and most used sites on the net; and by participating in this protest, they will very certainly make a lot more people aware of this issue.

But “going black” isn’t what we do here.

We talk about political and social issues here; in particular about liberty and freedom. We try to inform people about the important issues, events, and principles of liberty and freedom; and then talk about them in as free and open a way as we can.

I personally think that going black would be entirely against what we are about here; and while it might help to draw more attention to the problem, it wouldn’t help us inform you, or help us begin the conversation about the issue.

… and of course, you can’t go to wikipedia day to find out about it…

So, I personally, would like to do something that is in the spirit of protesting the idiotic and harmful nature of these pieces of industry lobbying masquerading as legislation…

…And share a few things:

That’s the best explanation of why the freedom to share (within fair use of course, copyrights ARE important) is important; and why legislation like PIPA and SOPA are not only stupid and harmful, but entirely antithetical to the American system of ordered liberty.

And then there’s this piece by my friend (and bestselling author, buy his excellent books please) Larry Correia:

“for all of the people out there on the internet having a massive freak out about the government potentially damaging something they love… WELCOME TO THE PARTY.

You think this is something new or unusual? Nope. This is just about a topic that you happen to be familiar with. If you fall into that camp, I want you to take a deep breath, step back, and examine all of the other issues in the past that you didn’t know jack squat about, but your knee jerk reaction was to say “there’s a problem, the governement has to do something!” Well guess what? The crap the federal government usually comes up with to fix these problems is similar to SOPA. In other words, the legislation addresses a perceived problem by instituting a bunch of stupid overregulation and taking away someone’s freedom.

You think people need access to affordable medical care and shouldn’t be denied coverage? Well, you got used and we got the bloated ridiculous mess that is Obamacare. You saw a news report about how big business defrauded people and said congress should do something? Well, everyone in the business world got screwed because of Enron by completely useless new arbitrary crap laws, and a few years later we got into an even bigger financial crisis which the arbitrary crap laws we spent billions conforming to did nothing to prevent. No, because that financial crisis was caused by people saying that there was this huge problem that needed to be fixed, so more people who couldn’t afford to pay mortgages could still buy houses, and the government simply had to do something to fix this problem!

Any crisis… Any problem… You ask the feds to fix it, you get this kind of answer. Almost never do the laws fix the actual problem. Instead the government gets bigger and gains a few more powers and it doesn’t fix the issue. When the problem gets bigger, then the government gets bigger and gains a few more powers that actually make the problem worse. Oh look! Despite all of these laws the problem has gotten even bigger? Whatever should we do? Why, I know! Let’s pass an even bigger law that takes away more individual freedom and gives the government more control!
Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Any topic, any situation, any problem.

They address it, you lose freedom and they gain more control. Some of you are only offended today because this particular law hurts something you enjoy. The rest of the time? Screw it. You can’t be bothered to pay attention. Or worse, people like me who are up in arms over an issue are just cranks or anti-government crackpots.”

I was going to write something roughly similar to this, but Larry beat me to it… and I’d rather share what he wrote, because it’s good, and because I can.

At least for now…

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

It’s not about “Elites” or “Idiots”…

Over the past few years, there has been a constant drumbeat from “progressives” (and even some non-lefties) that conservative anti-elitism is effectively “anti-science”, “anti-education”, “pro-stupidity” etc…

This is partially in response to the fact that many conservatives use the terms “elitist” or “the elite” (in the political and social context, not in the context of achievement… though that distinction is lost on leftists) as a pejorative.

Their basic comment comes down to “Well, if you don’t want intelligent, well educated people running things who would you rather run them, idiots?”

Thus, completely missing the point.

Conservatives and libertarians aren’t against smart well educated people; in fact many of us ARE smart, well educated people.

…We’re against people who want to run things.

This idea is so utterly foreign to the leftist mind, that they literally cannot conceive it, or believe it.

You see, to a conservative or libertarian, it’s inherently obvious… axiomatic even:

The world runs better, when everyone runs their own lives, and their own business, with as little interference as possible; save that which is absolutely necessary for the common good, or to prevent harm to others.

No government official or lawmaker can know more about your life, or your business, than you do; therefore, they cannot run your life or you business as well as you can.

No matter how smart, or well educated they may be, and no matter how many of them there are; they will always be working with less information then you have. Their information will always be less current. They will always have less experience in dealing with the conditions unique to your life and your business.

Since no-one can run your life as well as you can; no-one should.


Note: Economists call the idea that if you’re just “smart enough” “well educated enough” etc… you can make everything run right, the “perfect information fallacy”. If you could have perfect information (that is all information about all conditions and factors that could possibly effect the outcome of a decision) and perfect reason (that is, the ability to analyze all factors correctly at all times), then you could make perfect decisions. However, it is impossible to have perfect information in a complex system (never mind perfect reason) thus all decisions will necessarily be imperfect. This is the primary reason why communism or socialism… or in fact any kind of “managed economy” could never possibly work on a large scale; even if every person participating in that economy were a perfect communist, acting only for the benefit of the collective.

To a leftist, that is simply ridiculous… Impossible even. Someone has to be running things. It simply cannot be any other way.

You have to understand, leftists fundamentally and fully believe, that nothing (or at least nothing good) can possibly happen, without “someone running things”. No matter how “free” or “unregulated” something may appear to be, in reality, there is always someone behind it, really in control, and making sure it goes the way they want it to; favoring some parties and punishing others; exploiting some for the benefit of others.

Note: Conversely, this also means that whenever anything happens, it’s because of the person in charge. Everything good that happens is to their credit, and everything bad that happpens is their fault.

It’s called the “daddy” philosophy of government.

As with all leftist ideas, the basic principle of the daddy government is based on what children learn during kindergarten. All money, power, control, and guidance comes from “the people in charge”, like your daddy, or your teachers.

Daddy has authority, and money. From that money, he gives you your food, housing, education, medical care etc… With that authority, he sets rules, rewards you with things when you do well at what he says you should do well at; and punishes you for doing badly, for doing things he doesn’t want you to do, or for not doing the things he thinks you should do.

When you need something, daddy makes sure you get it. When you want something, you ask daddy, and if he thinks you should have it, he gives it to you.

Daddy enforces “fairness”. Daddy makes sure you share, and play well with others. Daddy protects you from the bad people hurting you, or taking advantage of you. When things are bad, daddy will make them all better.

I should note, some people prefer to call this the “mommy” philosophy of government… which may be closer to appropriate, given most leftists have no idea what a father is , or what they are good for anyway.

When you’re five years old, daddy controls the entire world; and there’s nothing daddy can’t do.

Leftists have never really advanced in economic, social, or moral maturity beyond that point. They believe that the world continues to work that way as you grow up; only instead of daddy, the one in charge is “government”.

In fact, they not only believe it’s the way it should work, they believe it simply IS the way it works, and there can be no other possible way.

Since there is no other possible way, and someone has to be controlling things; it’s absolutely critical that we get the smartest, best educated, most “elite” people to be in charge. If you’re against that, it must be because you want someone in charge who is going to favor you.

Or rather, because they have such a low opinion of the “common man”, they believe that “the people” themselves are idiots, being deceived by the people who secretly want to control everything. The people who want to control everything have convinced the “common man” of the lie of the “free market”, and of “equal opportunity” and “the American dream”. They’re all just lies the secret controllers tell the “common man”, so that the controllers can rig things to favor themselves, and their cronies. Those people are anti-elitist, anti education, pro-stupidity, and want idiots to run things, because they can then secretly control the idiots for their own benefit.

Note the assumption there that anyone who is smart and well educated MUST know that the leftists are right; therefore anyone who disagrees with them is either stupid, or evil.

This isn’t some far out conspiracy theory by the way; this is exactly what leftists think was behind the Bush presidency. Not only do they freely and publicly admit it, they write books and make movies about it.

They completely miss the point.

They don’t understand that conservatives and libertarians have a completely different idea about what government is, and what it should do.

They don’t understand…

We don’t want idiots running things….

We don’t want ANYONE running things.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Exactly what you’d expect…

“The state is broke. Unemployments about to tank. Public Health insurance has no funds. All other agencies as well. Its a mess. What in Gods name is happening?” — A question from a friend

It’s rather simple really…

The government spent everything they could squeeze from us when the economy was good. Then, when the economy went bad, instead of cutting back like all of us real people had to; they convinced a bunch of people that the way to make the economy better was to spend MORE.

It’s basically the same thing that always happens. Governments don’t ever really help economically (when they do, it’s tempered by the opportunity cost they impose on others); and they usually hurt. They (in the person of politicians) take credit for when private businesses do well, tax us all as much as they can get away with (thus reducing productivity, efficiency, and future growth) and they “spread the wealth around” a bit to buy votes, planting the idea in the heads of people who don’t understand economics (that would be most people), that it was the government making everybody better off; so they can convince you to let them spend even more the NEXT time they do this to us.

Exactly as you would expect…

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

A Brief Constitutional Lesson for Congresscritters… Particularly those from Kentucky…

United States Constitution
Article 1, Section 7


All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

The issuance of debt is a revenue raising measure. The “debt ceiling” is, in fact, legislation initiated in the House of Representatives, which authorizes the executive branch to issue debt through the treasury (and by extension the federal reserve), up to a specific limit.

This “debt ceiling” and authorization of debt issuance; allows the executive branch to raise revenue in a constitutionally legitimate way; because the revenue is raised under the auspices of specific authorization by the house or representatives.

Neither the Senate, nor the House, acting separately or together; has the authority or ability to delegate this exclusive power of the house, to any other entity, including the president. In fact, it would be a clear violation of the principle of separation of powers to do so.

That is all.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

It really does get better…

And now it’s time for another post in which I irritate my socially conservative readers…

Watch all the way to the end please, and listen… unless rather serious vulgarity and profanity offend you in which case don’t watch the video, or just skip to the end spoken word bit (yes, this is VERY VERY NSFW):

I’m not gay, and I wasn’t bullied in high school even though I am the worlds biggest geek… But it wasn’t out of the inherent kindness of teenagers. I wasn’t bullied, because I was the biggest and strongest, and sometimes the meanest kid out there. I was the one who taught bullies a lesson… and believe me, I taught a LOT of lessons.

I’m not big on the “anti-bullying” bandwagon currently gathering steam in America. As it is, it seems to be a politically correct hysterical reaction, combined with an unhealthy dose of overprotective parents, liability obsessed administrators, and fame seeking psychobabblers.

But, I still think forcing someone to pay a price for non-conformity, is wrong.

I don’t care whether you disapprove of homosexuality or not; this isn’t really about being gay, it’s about being different. About not conforming to the social conventions and constructs enforced by the institutions we laughingly call educational in this country.

I wont say there isn’t some value to those social conventions and constructs; society operates smoother with them, and when they are generally followed. A society without a commonly agreed upon set of social conventions is a society that quickly collapses in on itself.

The problem becomes when those who choose not to follow those conventions, in essentially harmless ways, are FORCED into doing so; or are actively persecuted, or actively hurt, physically, financially, spiritually, and emotionally, for not doing so.

That, is the very definition of coercive restraint of human liberty; and it is flatly wrong.

You don’t have to support someones choices; but you have no right to enforce your choices upon them.

As people who love liberty, we would not tolerate such behavior from the state; but what is the state but a collection of individuals acting in concert… We should not accept this behavior from individuals, any more than we would from the government.

The message of this video is, if you choose another way, and you are being hurt because of it, it get’s better. And unfortunately, until we can destroy those so called educational institutions and rebuild them into something that supports liberty and freedom and individual rights, giving kids that message is the best we can do.

Remember folks, in our fine institutions, it’s those who love liberty who are the minority. The ones who don’t fit in. We are the threat to the social order.

I don’t see how anyone who says they’re for freedom, liberty, and individual rights can not support this; because supporting freedom, liberty, and individual rights, means doing so for everyone, even if their choices are completely abhorrent to you (so long as their choice is not infringing on your rights).

It’s not about gay or straight, it’s about free or not.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Yaknow, I was going to write something about this, now I don’t have to

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Correcting the so called “Corrections” system

As of today, it should be clear to everyone in this country, that our system for dealing with criminals (I won’t call it a “criminal justice” system since justice has so little to do with it), is utterly broken, beyond any conventional concept of repair.

At this point, again I say, it should be clear we can’t just “fix it”, we need to start over again, with a different concept.

I have a radical idea…. how about this time we start with an HONEST concept… because right now we are anything but honest about what the real function of the “criminal justice” system is; and that dishonesty is what has made all our efforts to date fail miserably.

Today, although we will never admit this to ourselves publicly, there are three things keeping the “Corrections” system going:

1. It’s a jobs program for law enforcement and “corrections” officers, and administrators

2. Non-offending people ARE actually safer when offenders are imprisoned (the problem is, what happens when they get out).

3. We like lots of cops (or at least the IDEA of lots of cops), we want to be “safe”, and we feel that people who do bad should be PUNISHED.

That’s really what it comes down to though, is punishment.

Punishment isn’t SUPPOSED to “help” them. Punishment isn’t supposed to “rehabilitate” them.

The very term “department of corrections” is a hypocritical misnomer.

Americans (and to a large extent most other cultures), put people in prison to punish them, not to “fix” them.

“Correctional system”, “penitentiary”… All high minded hypocritical myths.

The reason “Sheriff Joe” “Americas Toughest Sherrif” is so popular (despite being the worst sort of self aggrandizing, corrupt, civil rights abusing scum) is because he reassures people that he is “punishing the bad guys”; and THAT is honestly what people want.

Eastern State Penitentiary, the first “modern” penitentiary style prison, was deliberately fashioned to resemble monks cells (which is where we got the name for inmate housing units), in the belief that isolation, contemplation, prayer, and penitence (thus the name), would reform criminals into decent men. It was held up as the new “humane” model. In reality it drove prisoners mad and they killed themselves, and each other, in droves.

So long as we refuse to acknowledge the true purpose behind “custodial sentencing” and pretend it has anything to do with the offender coming out better on the other side, we are stuck with what we’ve got (And rapidly getting worse).

We have to stop pretending that punishment does anything but feed our base emotions.

We have to stop pretending that the negative prospect of prison is sufficient to deter criminals from committing crimes. Most criminals by nature have a poor appreciation for consequences, poor impulse control, and an inability to make valid risk/reward calculations.

When you put a criminal away, all you are doing is warehousing him where he can’t commit that crime anymore. That does serve a valid purpose, but it costs a huge amount of money, and doesn’t fix the problem.

The so called “criminal justice” system can no longer serve as a jobs program for law enforcement, lawyers, administrators, and corrections personnel; nor can it simply be warehousing of offenders until we release them to commit their next offense.

So, here it is, really simple; my pie in the sky ideal for how to deal with crime and punishment.

Step 1: drug addiction, possession, use, and sale, must be decriminalized

This has to happen for ANYTHING to have any hope of working. That would eliminate something like 80% of the offenses in higher criminal courts, and drastically reduce prison populations (at least 40%, most likely something more like 80%).

Step 2: We must not only stop, but revert the proliferation of felonies

Right now, you can be convicted of a felony in some states, for as little as selling the wrong kind of fish at the wrong time. We have established a ridiculous number of offenses as “high crimes” (what felonies are intended to be); without any real justification or social purpose, except to inflate those whom the state can claim as convictions, claim higher punitive penalties from, or incarcerate for longer periods of time.

Accordingly, all crimes currently classified as felonies must be reclassified as misdemeanors unless they meet one or more of the following conditions:

1. Physical violence sufficient to cause grievous bodily harm, grievous trauma (such as rape and molestation), or substantial risk of loss of life (or more).

2. Physical or monetary damages equal to or greater than two years income at minimum wage, presuming a 1940 hour work year.

3. Crimes against basic human rights, including terrorism, tampering with courts, deprivation of rights etc…

4. Grave harm to the national security of the united states, including espionage and treason.

5. Criminal negligence, gross indifference, coercion, conspiracy, or fraud sufficient to cause the above.

Step 3: We must completely overhaul our punishment and societal protection model

We must eliminate custodial sentences for non-violent crimes, including felonies, unless those crimes involve:

1. Gross negligence or indifference leading to violent consequences or the loss of life (anything from drunk driving to greater liability issues)

2. Coercion, force or fraud causing damages in excess of five years of minimum wage (because this is effectively slavery for the victim)

3. Special circumstances which are considered “heinous” (more on that later).

We must restore the element of criminal intent into how crimes are charged and sentenced. If there is no intent, then there can be no intentional crime; only crimes of negligence or indifference, which are generally considered far less severe.

In this regard, any action taken while intoxicated or impaired should be considered qualifying, HOWEVER only if criminal damage or injury to others results.

I believe that people should be allowed to drink, swallow or smoke whatever they want, but if their choices cause impairment which then causes damage or injury to others, they should be punished SEVERELY; and crimes involving impairment should be considered intentional for purposes of determining severity.

Also for purposes of determining the severity of an offense, coercion or fraud shall be considered equivalent to force (force being defined as violence, or the threat of violence).

All other criminal offenses should be punished by restitution and compensatory and punitive damages to the victim, compensatory and punitive fines to the state, labor for public benefit, public humiliation, and two years of convict status (which can be reduced by order of a judge only after discharge of all obligations).

Further, on discharge of all other obligations, convicts shall be given a term, of “probation” equal to the length of their existing sentence.

The crimes, sentences, and photographs of all those convicted of criminal offenses should be published in all local newspapers, as well as on local and national web sites; and announced on local television.

All convicts should be required to wear a distinctive article (bracelet, necklace, ankle bracelet etc…) which lists their crime and sentence, and which cannot be covered up while in public.

Convicts must wear this article, until such time as their sentence and obligations have been discharged. At any time, the convict should be legally required to disclose their crime and sentence to anyone who asks; unless doing so would cause danger or disruption.

If a convict is able to earn more than a state mandated minimum wage in their private pursuits, they may continue performing them, and pay restitution and fines directly. If not, then they are directed to work for the state, at a competitive wage for such jobs as they perform, while meeting prevailing employment standards for such a position (i.e. if the only job they qualify for is ditch digger, it’s the only job they can get; and they still have to compete for it with non-convicts).

If the convict is unable to meet basic standards of work, or is unwilling to work, then they will be reduced to menial forced labor at minimum wage. If they refuse this, they will be incarcerated, as a regular inmate, for the term of their sentence.

Restitution, damages, and fines should of course be directly garnished from the convicts wages; but should be considered pre-tax income deductions for tax purposes.

All custodial sentences shall have terms of two, five, ten, twenty five years, or life (or death in states that allow it).

Different charged offenses can be combined consecutively to “stack” sentences; but only if those offenses make up separate criminal acts (if one crime involved 8 different chargeable elements with a 2 year sentence for each, then the convict would receive 8 two year sentences to run concurrently. If he committed the same crime on 8 different occasions, he could receive consecutive sentences, for a total of 16 years incarceration)

There is no parole, however sentences can be reduced (more on that later).

Forcible rape, aggravated sexual assault, sexual molestation, aggravated kidnapping, intentional premeditated or depraved homicide (what would be first degree murder in most jurisdictions), felony murder if the homicide is heinous by itself, any intentional negligent or depraved indifference crime resulting in mass death or mass grievous injury (mass being defined as multiple victims who were not individually targeted, or multiple victims who were unknown to the criminal and whom they had no individual an personal motive to harm), any crime involving tampering with a court or an election, any crime involving the intentional deprivation of an individuals basic human and civil rights (as enumerated in the declaration of independence, and the constitution), torture, espionage, treason; or any attempt to commit those crimes, or conspiracy to commit those crimes; shall all be considered “heinous crimes”.

Heinous crimes should all carry the maximum length of incarceration, and should be eligible for the death penalty in jurisdictions that allow it.

It is important however, that all state and federal laws about the definitions of these crimes must be clarified and harmonized to meet the highest standard of criminal act, and criminal intent (for example, a potentially but not explicitly sexual element to a simple assault – such as public nudity or forced nudity -, would not make it sexual assault. The intent and act must be sexual in nature, and involve sexual contact or acts, or attempted sexual contact or acts. Forcible rape must be limited to actual acts of physical violence, or coercion by threat of violence, resulting in a sexual act).

Oh and yes, I really do believe that voter fraud and election fraud should be punishable by life in prison. So should criminally preventing someone from voting who has the lawful franchise. Any criminal deprivation of rights should be considered as serious as rape or murder.

In addition to their custodial sentence, of course, all penalties that apply to non-custodial sentences would also apply. Restitution, damages, fines and fees, as well as all other conditions of convicts.

Sentences can be reduced, by a judge, on review of the case, and circumstances. A review will be automatically initiated at the time the convict discharges their restitution, damages, and fines, should they do so before the term of their incarceration is completed. Criminals convicted of heinous crimes however, would not be eligible for early release except for humanitarian reasons.

While serving a custodial sentence and incarcerated, unless disabled and unable to do so, the convict will be required to perform productive labor for at least 8 hours a day, five days a week; for which they will be paid at minimum, a base sum equal to the cost of their incarceration (for which they will be charged). They will also accumulate sick leave benefit, and paid vacation days, equivalent to a government employee of the same grade as whatever productive labor they perform.

If the convict is disabled and unable to perform any work, they will be given the same disability status as any disabled individual; and will receive the equivalent of all federal and state disability payments and benefits, to offset the cost of their incarceration.

The convict is to be given the opportunity to voluntarily learn useful job skills, and perform at a useful job at market rates, which can earn them money to pay their fines and restitution.

If the convict has useful skills which can be applied to work that can be performed within the terms of their incarceration without undue risk, this is to be allowed.

The convict is also to be offered the opportunity to work overtime, and earn more money; to be used to pay the cost of their incarceration, their fines and restitution; the balance of which should be the inmates to control as they see fit.

This should not imply the inmate has a right to any job other than basic labor paid at a rate sufficient to cover the cost of their incarceration. Only that the opportunity to seek and perform other employment must be allowed.

If a convict refuses to work, or does not meet minimum standards of work, they are to be restricted to solitary confinement without public exercise, visitation, or communication privileges (excepting legal and spiritual council), and reduced to subsistence ration. Additionally, any work day the convict refuses to work, the cost of their incarceration for that day will be added to their obligations.

Some of this may seem ridiculous (vacation days for convicts?) but it serves an important purpose. The convict should understand, they are performing a job, for pay. They benefit from their own labor, and they have to pay for their own upkeep. If they work harder or more or at a better job, they get ahead; just like everyone else.

This kind of normalization is really the only way to produce people who won’t reoffend when they get out. Get them useful job and life skills they can transfer to the outside world; and get them in the habit of meeting standards of behavior; you’ll see a huge difference.

Any convict caught committing any felony while incarcerated will be subject to immediate extension of their sentence to life in the case of non-violent felonies, or death in the case of violent felonies. Self defense (against ANY crime or attempted crime against them, not just murder) is considered a valid defense against such charges however.

On their release from custody, convicts will be liable to the same penalties and strictures as those who have received non-custodial sentences.

Any further felony committed by any felony convict, whether incarcerated or not, prior to the discharge of any and all obligations (fines, restitution, service or labor), or in the convicts “probation” period will result in an automatic custodial sentence of at least five years; even for offenses that would not normally carry a custodial penalty.

Any violent felony committed prior to the discharge of any and all obligations shall result in an automatic custodial sentence of life in prison, or death.

On the discharge of their fines and restitution, and completion of any service or labor requirements, and any probation period; all convicts shall have all their civil rights restored, including the right to vote, and the right to keep and bear arms.

Private employers may discriminate against convicts, even after their obligations have been discharged, should they choose to do so. The federal, state, and local governments however may NOT discriminate against convicts whose sentences have been discharged however, except for those convicted of Heinous crimes (who should, in general, not be released anyway) or in the case of employment in law enforcement, criminal justice, corrections, national security, or the military.

Any repeat offense of the same felony, or any violent felony by a convicted felon who has discharged their sentence, shall cause a convict to be considered an incorrigible offender, and subject to an automatic sentence of 25 years, life, or death at a judges discretion (25 years for any crime that would normally rate a sentence less than 25 years. Life for any crime that would normally rate 25 years. Death for any heinous crime, or crime that would normally rate life). As always, this is subject to review and reduction by a judge after the convict has discharged their obligations (excepting heinous crimes).

I call this the “one chance, don’t blow it” rule. I believe it is fully justified, because the nature and scope of felonies is being dramatically reduced; the standards for offense are much higher, and the ability of someone to reintegrate into society without re-offending should be much better under this regime.

That’s it. Not exactly simple, but a lot less complicated than our current system… and if anything can work, it ought to be this.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Every argument for the right to keep and bear arms, in just 8 minutes

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

High Stakes Handicapping

I’mna keep this relatively simple, since I’ve done detailed breakdowns on this subject (as to why I think these are the numbers) a couple times over the last few months.

So here’s my line on tomorrow (revised at 2200, because I was working off old numbers):

+8 Republican, -0/+4 to the senate

+63 Republican, -0/+16 to the house

I predict zero Republican senate seats lost, and the following as gains, or *strong maybes:

Arkansas – Boozman
*California – Fiorina
Colorado – Buck
*Connecticut – McMahon
Illinois – Kirk
Indiana – Coats
*Nevada – Angle
North Dakota – Hoeven
Penn – Toomey
* Washington – Rossi
West VA – Raese
Wisconsin – Johnson

I’m not really sure about CA, CT, NV or WA. I’m predicting Republican pickup of West VA, even though polls are a tossup to a slight Dem hold. I don’t trust that poll data, and I don’t think it’s a tossup. I’m leaning strong towards Rossi picking up. I’m leaning strong against Fiorina picking up. Right now, I’m completely split on Angle and McMahon.

The house picture is a lot fuzzier of course, since there’s so many close races.

First thing, there will probably be two losses of Rep seats:

Delaware AL – Carney
Louisiana 2nd – Richmond

I don’t see either as iffy right now; but I’m pretty sure those are the only losses.

Now, the iffys…

* Alabama 2 – Roby
* Arizona 7 – McLung
* California 47 – Tran
* Colorado 7 – Frazier
* Conn 5 – Caligiuri
* Idaho 1 – Labrador
* Indiana 1 – Walorski
* Kentucky 6 – Barr
* Minnesota 8 – Cravaack
* Missouri 4 – Hartzler
* North Carolina 2 – Ellmers
* North Carolina 7 – Pantano
* Penn 12 – Burns
* Rhode Island 1 – Loughlin
* Virginia 11 – Fimian
* Washington 2 – Koster

And the likely pickups

Arizona 1 – Gosar
Arizona 5 – Schweikert
Arizona 8 – Kelly
Arkansas 1 – Crawford
Arkansas 2 – Griffin
California 11 – Harmer
California 20 – Vidak
Colorado 3 – Tipton
Colorado 4 – Gardner
Connecticut 4 – Debicella
Florida 2 – Southerland
Florida 8 – Webster
Florida 22 – West
Florida 24 – Adams
Georgia 2 – Keown
Georgia 8 – Scott
Illinois 11 – Kinzinger
Illinois 14 – Hultgren
Illinois 17 – Schilling
Indiana 8 – Buchson
Indiana 9 – Young
Kansas 3 – Yoder
Louisiana 3 – Landry
Maryland 1 – Harris
Mass 10 – Perry
Michigan 1 – Benishek
Michigan 7 – Walberg
Mississippi 1 – Nunnelee
Mississippi 4 – Palazzo
Nevada 3 – Heck
New Hampshire 1 – Guinta
New Hampshire 2 – Bass
New Jersey 3 – Runyan
New Mexico 1 – Barela
New Mexico 2 – Pearce
New York 19 – Hayworth
New York 20 – Gibson
New York 23 – Doheny
North Carolina 8 – Johnson
North Dakota AL – Berg
Ohio 1 – Chabot
Ohio 6 – Johnson
Ohio 15 – Stivers
Ohio 16 – Renacci
Ohio 18 – Gibbs
Oregon 5 – Bruun
Penn 3 – Kelly
Penn 7 – Meehan
Penn 8 – Fitzpatrick
Penn 10 – Marino
Penn 11 – Barletta
S. Carolina 5 – Mulvaney
S. Dakota AL – Noem
Tenn 4 – DesJarlais
Tenn 6 – Black
Tenn 8 – Fincher
Texas 17 – Flores
Texas 23 – Canseco
Virginia 2 – Rigel
Virginia 5 – Hurt
Virginia 9 – Griffith
Washington 3 – Herrero
W. Virginia 1 – McKinley
Wisconsin 7 – Duffy
Wisconsin 8 – Ribble

I’m very iffy on CA 47, CT 5, and RI 1. I’m pretty solid on Labrador taking over Minnicks seat in Idaho (my congressman); as Minnick has been desperately robocalling my house every few hours, AND I got a personal phone call from a staffer. I’m pretty solid on Grijalva losing Arizona 7. The rest… who knows.

UPDATED with new data at 2200.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

A little inisight as to why the Democrats are losing so badly this election

It’s because they don’t realize that the elements of their “turnaround plan”, are what is causing them to lose in the first place:

From Mark Halperin, writing in Time:

“What has kept the easily panicked denizens of Capitol Hill from open revolt until now was a shared confidence that there was still plenty of time to turn things around, and that the White House had a strategy to do just that. (Comment on this story.)

The two-part scheme was pretty straightforward. First, Democrats planned a number of steps to head off, or at least soften, the anti-Washington, anti-incumbent, anti-Obama sentiment that cost them the Massachusetts seat. Pass health care, and other measures to demonstrate that Democrats could get things done for the middle class; continue to foster those fabled green shoots on the economy, harvesting the positive impact of the massive economic stimulus bill passed early in the Administration; heighten the contrast between the two parties by delivering on Wall Street reform and a campaign-funding law to counteract January’s controversial Supreme Court decision.

Use all of those elements to contrast the Democrats’ policies under Obama with the Republicans’ policies under Bush, rather than allow the midterms to be a referendum on the incumbent party. “

…. Soooo their plan is basically “Wow, it didn’t work, let’s do it again only HARDER”.

What a work of utter fantasy and self delusion…

We call this “believing your own bullshit”.

See, the Democrats really honestly think that “the middle class” is all for their program, and they just aren’t executing well enough etc… That the mass of voters frustration is about their inability to get things done.

In reality, the mass of voters are CHEERING because they caren’t getting things done. They don’t WANT this healthcare boondoggle. They don’t want more restrictions on free speech. They don’t want more government control and interference in their lives and their businesses.

The far left, and the idiot youth (and yes, they are useful idiots as far as the Democractic political machine is concerned) are disappointed (At best) and riled up (at worst) by the Democrats failures, but they make up a small minority of the voting electorate (no more than 20 percent, and most years a lot less). Most of them are reporting to pollsters that they won’t be voting this time around.

The Democrats don’t realize, it’s not their lack of execution, it’s their program itself that’s killing them; because “the middle class” recognizes that said program is really going to hurt them, to benefit the non-taxpaying class, and the Democratic political establishment.

“The Middle Class” recognize when someone is trying to steal from them, they don’t like it, and when it comes down to protecting their wallets, THEY VOTE.

It’s why whenever the left wants to pass some big social legislation, they have to lie to the people and tell them that it won’t increase THEIR taxes, just those rich fat cats up the hill, and those evil corporations…

Only they’ve beaten that horse to death now, and the truth is obvious for anyone who wants to look. The lefts agenda will directly hurt the wallet of everyone who actually pays taxes.

The people may be apathetic about most things, and they may be uninformed and unobservant about politics… but they aren’t stupid. Hit’em in the wallet, and they will hit back.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Majority Math

Ok, so I’m hearing a lot of noise from people on the right and libertarian side of the aisles that “the dems are going to lose everything this election and we can undo everything Obama has destroyed yaaaay!!!!”

Yeah… No. Not Gonna Happen.

Oh, I agree the dems will lose huge, but I doubt they’ll lose enough to lose control completely.

In fact, realistically it’s a mathematical impossibility in the senate for them to lose too badly; as there aren’t enough seats up for reelection that have a serious challenge mounted against them.

note: I’mna highlight the magic numbers for this post so you don’t need to wade through the text if you just feel like skimming. 

Right now the senate is 59-41 dem counting the two “independents”.

There are 36 seats up this year. Twelve are widely considered dead locks for the incumbents, leaving 24 “competitive” seats.

Six republicans and five democrats are retiring and one each were defeated in primary challenges, putting eleven seats in play without an incumbent.

The Republicans are going to lose at least one of those six seats because popular republicans are retiring from otherwise democratic states and their potential replacements are not doing particularly well, maybe two or three because of split voting in Florida, problems in Missouri and Kentucky with the Republican candidates, primary problems in Ohio and Kansas etc…

At this point, Ohio looks like it’s going Democrat, and Missouri is an absolute tossup, and they really shouldn’t be.

Florida has the Republican support split two ways, with the popular republican governor (who would almost certainly win the election in a walkaway if he were the Republican candidate but wasn’t sure he could win the Republican primary against a hard right opponent) running as an independent. These are real problems for the Republicans electorally.

Basically in every one of the states where the Republican senator is retiring, the Republican candidates are killing each other in the primaries, or in the media (or are killing themselves in the media).

It seems likely, at least one and maybe as many of three of those are going to end up a loss.

On the retiring dem seats, they’ll likely hold Connecticut because the Republicans (including Linda McMahon of WWE wrestling fame) are killing each other in the primaries. The dems are likely to hold Illinois with Giannoulas, though just barely and probably only by playing Chicago ball. At this point Delaware looks like a win for the Republicans. Indiana is almost certainly going Republican, as is North Dakota.

So let’s call that a net pickup of 2 for the Republicans.

There was one primary defeat on the dem side, Arlen Specter. Pat Toomey is almost certainly going to win that one for the Republicans, but not by much.

There was one primary defeat on the Republican side, but it’s in Utah. That seat is going to a Republican. Even though there are some major issues with the candidates at this point, the dem candidate barely registers on the polls.


Net pickup of 3.

That leaves eleven incumbent races as “competitive”, five dem and six republican:

Boozman is going to CRUSH Lincoln in Arkansas for a Republican switch.

Right now, Colorado is hard to call, but it’s looking like a switch to republican.

Reid is in deep trouble in Nevada, but he has a TON more money, and he’s only behind by 2-3 points… I think he keeps his seat.

Washington state is a total tossup between Rossi and Murray… It could stay or it could switch, but for now favor the incumbent.

Wisconsin also a dead heat, but Feingold is likely to keep his seat as he’s one of the DNCs most important defensive moves.

On the Republican side, I don’t see any of the so called “competitive seats” losing right now.


Call that a net pickup of 2.

 So that’s a likely net pickup of 5 total for a 54-46 Senate. I think that’s the most likely scenario, and that it’s highly unlikely it will be any worse for the Republicans.

In order to get a majority, they need a net pickup of 10.

Even if the Republicans don’t lose a single seat that’s a net of  6.

If they don’t lose a single seat and pick up all the tossups, that would be a net pickup of 11 (for a 52 to 48 senate), but that’s NOT going to happen. I think a best case scenario is a net pickup of 9.

Of course, a net of 9 gives us a deadlocked senate.

On the house side, it’s a different story. Right now, it’s 256 to 179 dem, needing a swing of 39 seats to swap hands.

That’s definitely going to happen. There is no sane person, currently paying attention, who reasonably believes the dems are going to lose less than 39 net seats. Nancy Pelosi is almost literally screaming from the rooftops that no, they are going to keep control, but it’s just noise.

The dems are going down hard in the house. They’re going to pick up maybe 2 or 3 races from Republicans, and lose as many as 106.

They’re definitely losing at least 50; even the DNC thinks that’s the minimum (and are already allocating money based on that conception). They are internally estimating a more realistic number at around 70-80 net lost seats. The white house press secretary just said they thought it could be as many as 100 net lost.

There are currently about 150 “safe” dem seats, and 165 “safe” republican seats; and it looks like the dems will lose most if not all their 106 seats in serious contention.

If the dems are LUCKY, under the most optimistic projections right now, they’ll hold on to 200 seats, giving the Republicans a 35 seat majority.

Oh and of course, as usual, there isn’t a single realistic chance that anyone other than a Democrat, Republican or “Independent” who is really one or the other but for some reason couldn’t win under their proper label (unless you count Rand Paul… I don’t. Bernie Sanders isn’t up for election this year. He’s really a socialist, but runs as independent).

What that means however, is that  under no realistic scenario, will the Republicans get a 2/3 majority in either house, which is what it would take to undo at least some of the Obama damage.

You’ve got to get veto proof, and filibuster proof, in both houses; to start repealing and fixing the damage, and that’s just not going to happen.

Believe me, while there are dissenter Democrats tolerated right now, the Democratic party leadership will expel people from the party before it lets them side with the Republicans against Obama when they end up in the minority.

Oh and of course, the whole premise rests on the idea that if they get in with a big enough majority, the Republicans will actually FIX anything; rather than just finding new and different ways to break everything EVEN MORE.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Yes, the Second Amendment really means what it says… and that means you too Chicago

This past Monday, Samuel Alito, writing for the majority (with separate concurring opinions from Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia) in the case McDonald vs. City of Chicago and Village of Morton Grove; handed down what in 30 years will I believe, be held as one of (or perhaps half of a pair of, or the second in a series of) the most significant rulings in the courts history, not just for the right to keep and bear arms, but for the rights of all people in this nation.

I had meant to get this post out yesterday, but I had to take the time to read the entire opinion… all 214 pages of it… and think about it for a bit.

This judgment is notable, both for what it does, and for what it does not do; and I want to go into that in some depth… and I want to go into some of the background and issues surrounding the decision that aren’t necessarily about the right to keep and bear arms

However, that is going to get long…. and if you aren’t interested in constitutional law and the nature and exercise of the rights and powers of the states, it’s going to be boring. There’s only so much you can do to make enumeration and separation of powers issues over more than two hundred years, all that interesting.


Note: Also, for those of you who DO closely follow con law, this is going to be a gross simplification in some ways. I don’t have time to write a book here, and a book is what it would take to cover this comprehensively (actually several… there are a few out there already, and Heller and its progeny are sure to generate more).

At any rate, I’m going to break it out into another posts, and I’ll update this post with a link when I finish the other one.

… I should warn you, I’m already 5,000 words in, and I’m probably less than half done…

McDonald vs. Chicago is the first major gun rights case brought before the supreme court under the clarified Heller doctrine, to wit:

The right to keep and bear arms for all lawful purposes is an individual right, possessed by all citizens and lawful residents of this country (provided this right has not been statutorily stripped from them, with due process of law); and the core of that right, is the fundamental right to defense of self, and others.

Actually, McDonald is a bit more than just “first”… In fact, the case was prepared in advance, and filed immediately on the handing down of the Heller ruling; by the lead counsel on the Heller case, Alan Gura.

The issue at hand in Heller was to affirm and clarify the basic right; something which those on the left in general, and in the gun control lobby in particular, had been trying to deny for something like the last 40 years

Note: The modern gun control movement as currently constituted really began in the late 60s; roughly coinciding with accelerating decay of civil order and rise in civil unrest, the rise of the drug and counterculture, and dramatically rising crime rates.

More than anything else, it was the assassination of Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King that kick-started the gun control movement as it exists today.

The gun control movement in the U.S. as a whole has its roots in racial discrimination against immigrants in the pre-civil war northern cites, and blacks in the post civil war south.

Up until the late 1950s, the left as a whole actually advocated gun ownership, as a bulwark against the state… a position generally ascribed these days to the “far right”; but as the left post 1932 increasingly BECAME the state, their position on civilian non-police gun ownership changed.

The issue at hand in McDonald is substantially identical to Heller, with a crucial difference we’ll discuss in a moment; that of incorporation of the second amendment against state and local governments, as other rights enumerated in the bill of rights have been.

In Heller, the substance and nature of the right were affirmed. However, though the assertion of the right is very clear; it’s application is potentially limited.

Because the Heller case pertained to a federal enclave (Washington D.C. is not a part of any state. It is a federal enclave. Precedent in DC cases applies federally, but not necessarily to issues in the several states), the ruling only explicitly applied to the federal government.

In principle the right could be asserted against the states, or it could not be… depending on judicial interpretation. Either way a judge decided, it would almost be certain to be appealed… as indeed it was (in at least four cases so far, all of which were delayed pending the McDonald ruling).

Also, Heller left various questions open to interpretation, such as the standard of review for laws pertaining to the right to keep and bear arms, and whether interest balancing tests could be made.. or for that matter just what types of laws would be acceptable short of outright bans on firearms in the home (which were explicitly forbidden).

In Mondays decision on McDonald, it was affirmed (quite strongly), that the rights protected by the second amendment are equal in stature to the rights protected by the first amendment, and all the others.

In both the majority opinion, and the concurrences, the court made it explicit that the protections afforded by the second amendment applied against the state. Further, they made it clear that a strict standard of review was to be applied to any law regarding the right to keep and bear arms (though they do not by any means disallow all regulation. In both Heller and McDonald, it is acknowledged that some regulation of any right can be acceptable, but must be strictly scrutinized).

There is still one set of questions to be resolved, what exact restrictions against keeping and bearing arms will be acceptable under this standard of review. Just as there are many limitations against speech permitted by current jurisprudence, including many which probably should not be allowed under the constitution (such as most of what is called “campaign finance reform”); there will likely still be substantial restrictions allowed by the court. In any case, it will be years… likely decades… before the whole issue is settled law, and in the mean time, there will be a lot of contradiction and chaos.

The fight is certainly not over… in fact it’s really just getting started.

This is where we get into the theoretical discussion about the constitution, so I think I’m going to end here and pick it up in the next, much longer, post.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

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