Wednesday, June 30, 2010

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.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Welcome to North Idaho

So today while out and about I noticed a huge fireworks stand had opened in the Wally World parking lot. Chris wanted to pick up some fireworks for the 4th so after his work day was over we made our way to Ponderay.

While walking in to the tent we noticed this sign:

The church uses the money every year to send the men to Promise Keepers, the kids to youth camp, and families to Family Camp. Needless to say we were happy to contribute to their fund raising.

Welcome to North Idaho, y'all.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Relocation Research

Currently up at the Guncounter Forum is a thread about buying rural land: land rights, water rights, searching from afar, etc. etc.

Today this question popped up:
I know I'm jumping on this thread a little late but would like a little info from Chris/Mel if possible.
You had mentioned that Idaho was a "right to farm" state and had other "leave me alone" qualities that pushed it to the top of your list. However you did mention looking at several other states as possibilities. What were any of the other more southern states(these old bones(sad being the same age as Chris and referring to myself as old) can't take the cold much any more) not including deserts that you looked at?
I can do the research of employment rates/income/cost of living, but don't know much about finding laws concerning property rights. I'm hoping to be out of jersey by 35(if my house sells and can find a palatable region). I liked Tennessee and southern Kentucky, the less humid areas of Georgia, the Carolinas(although hurricanes are a big issue in coastal states). And of course any state would need to be "shall issue"(not really a problem south of the mason/dixie).

I wrote up a basic answer at the forum, but we've been getting this question quite a bit lately.

We did look at some of the Southern states, particularly Tennessee and North Carolina because I have family there. However the combination of humidity, heat, and land prices would do us in.

The more important question here is more universal. How do you research important fit issues like property rights and politics?

There's tons of sites where you can compare demographics, climate, taxes, and even gun rights. I've found property rights comparison sites to be thin on the ground and not very comprehensive. If you're a prepper there's James Wesley Rawles' list but the question I think is bigger than that. How do you choose an area to live that fits your needs and politics?

Unfortunately there's no replacement for long, intensive, first-hand research. Months in our case.

If you ask most people, the level of government most capable of making life unbearable is Federal. Bureaucracy, taxes, military movements, "world opinion" all contribute to that outlook.

Let's get this straight right now: the FedGov has absolutely NOTHING on local government. This becomes abundantly clear to anyone thinking of raising livestock, especially dairy cows. The local regulations are numerous and sometimes contradictory.

On the state level are health regulations, minimum housing standards, livestock treatment laws, and even laws concerning how to market the milk.

County level concerns zoning laws and whether or not you can even keep livestock on your back forty.

City and township laws tackle nuisances and neighborhood spats over the smell of the manure.

So determining where you want to live has far more to do with the specific laws concerning that locale that anything the FedGov hands down.

Any serious research into living anywhere therefore requires three different levels of laws.

1. State statutes and the state's constitution.
2. County bylaws and zoning.
3. City codes, if applicable.

To give you an idea we'll start with two of the reasons we moved to Idaho, Right to Farm and water/mineral rights.

22-4503.Agricultural operation not a nuisance -- Exception. No agricultural operation or an appurtenance to it shall be or become a nuisance, private or public, by any changed conditions in or about the surrounding nonagricultural activities after the same has been in operation for more than one (1) year, when the operation was not a nuisance at the time the operation began; provided, that the provisions of this section shall not apply whenever a nuisance results from the improper or negligent operation of any agricultural operation or an appurtenance to it. In the event of an alleged nuisance resulting from agricultural operations pursuant to a federal or state environmental permit or caused by a violation of the permit(s), terms or conditions, the affected party shall seek enforcement of the terms of the permit.

No break law? No nuisance. This was passed in response to a ton of people from out of state moving in and suing the farm next door.


55-101.Real property defined. Real property or real estate consists of:
1. Lands, possessory rights to land, ditch and water rights, and mining claims, both lode and placer.
2. That which is affixed to land.
3. That which is appurtenant to land.

Comprehensive land rights, a necessity for us.

Oh, and there's always this little gem:



Section 11.Right to keep and bear arms.
The people have the right to keep and bear arms, which right shall not be abridged; but this provision shall not prevent the passage of laws to govern the carrying of weapons concealed on the person nor prevent passage of legislation providing minimum sentences for crimes committed while in possession of a firearm, nor prevent the passage of legislation providing penalties for the possession of firearms by a convicted felon, nor prevent the passage of any legislation punishing the use of a firearm. No law shall impose licensure, registration or special taxation on the ownership or possession of firearms or ammunition. Nor shall any law permit the confiscation of firearms, except those actually used in the commission of a felony.

If you can handle a little bit of legalese researching how a state feels about pretty well anything is pretty easy, if time consuming.

If the state passes your criteria, the next level is county.

We live in Bonner County because we want to be near Lake Pend Oreille. However, the tip of the lake is in Kootenai county, so why didn't we consider moving there?


We want to be able to use our land for agricultural purposes and personal purposes. One of these purposes is a personal rifle range.

Rifle ranges are incredibly sticky subjects for many, many counties. Not so for Bonner.

Personal rifle ranges are permitted in Agricultural, Forestry, and Rural zoning areas, provided that "Gun clubs and rifle ranges shall have a minimum area of 5 acres. Target areas shall be at least 600 feet from any existing dwelling, except that of the owner or caretaker."

The kicker is EVERY parcel zoned Agricultural, Forestry, or Rural is 5+ acres. That, and 90% of the private land is zoned for one of those uses. In fact, the state purpose behind Bonner County's land usage designations is to preserve those industries and the "rural character" of the county.

Yeah, we read a major "fuck you Californians" between the lines when we first looked at zoning too.

So yeah, to say that the county has no issue with people setting up a range on their own land is an understatement. In fact, when asking our neighbor for recommendations for areas to test the long-range rifle, he told us to look up so-and-so who lets him shoot on his land all the time. "Just be prepared for them to want to come along and try out your guns."

Did we mention we love the people up here?

This is what Kootenai county has to say about rifle ranges:


A. Zones permitted:

1. Agricultural, agricultural suburban, rural:

a. Minimum area: Ten (10) acres.

b. Target areas shall be six hundred feet (600') from any existing dwelling and three hundred feet (300') from any property line.

c. All facilities shall be designed and located with full consideration to the safety factors involved with such a use.

d. Off street parking for all patrons will be provided.

e. A site plan shall be submitted with the application. (Ord. 393, 12-14-2006)"

Sure, those are all reasonable expectations. But note how Bonner County government assumes you're not an idiot, but Kootenai has to make sure your plans measure up.

This is not an isolated example either. Most of the two counties' codes follow the same form; Bonner County's minimalism vs. Kootenai's desire for extra regulation.

What the county you live in decides to codify tells you a lot about how that government feels about the county's residents.

However, state and county still can't compare with the sheer pettiness of city government. If the area you're looking at passes the state and county sniff test, take a look at the city.

We don't live in an incorporated area. The closest city is Sandpoint, and we did NOT want to live in Sandpoint.

The short of it is the city council. Long version? The controlling, hypocritical, arbitrary and capricious acts of the city council.

Take some hippies. Transplant them into paradise. Give them power.

The big issue right now is the BID. The BID is a tax on Sandpoint businesses that pays for marketing for all of Sandpoint.

The businesses think the funds are being misspent (over 60% of the revenue goes to "administration') and so ran a petition to get rid of the tax. If they got signatures from 51% of the business owners by square footage the BID would be gone.

Lets clarify that... Not 51% of the business owners, or 51% of the population... The amount of tax paid is assessed on a square footage basis, so they decided the vote would be allocated the same way. They added up all the business zoned square footage in the area the BID applied to, and gave each business owner vote proportional to their share of the square footage. This of course gave huge weight to the larger businesses, like the Safeway, which are not locally owned.

The accusations are still flying as many of the signatures were "disqualified" under dubious criteria. For example, if the business was a partnership or sole proprietorship, then only a single assignee, whose name was listed first on their business license, could certify their vote. If the other partner signed, then they disqualified their vote. They also disqualified local franchisees and business managers of local branches of national chains, because they weren't the ACTUAL business owners.

That ended up disqualifying more than half the vote.

The drama is truly massive for a small town. And yeah, starting a business in Sandpoint, home based or no, is not on the table for us.

Oh and how much does the tax amount to? $104,000 a year. Not a month... per year... for all of the businesses combined.

Pretty trivial amount right? Well not to the people of North Idaho. If it was being spent as it was chartered for; improving parking (parking in Sandpoint is horrible), making local improvements, and business development, they'd be OK with it. But because 60% of the funds are actually being used to (at least in part) pay the salaries of two low level bureaucrats... No Go.

Have I mentioned how much I love these people?

Pay really close attention to the local newspaper for your intended area. What the news can tell you about city government is really important. Read the city codes, see how the regulations and allowable fines stack up. Check out whether your city council is made up of people with lives outside of town hall, or whether they get their rocks off making other people miserable.

If you can wade through all of the information (and it is a lot) then you'll really know if the area you're looking at is a good fit for you, your lifestyle, and your values.


Cross-posted to We Few

I'm not sure how often I can say this...

Or how much I can ephasize it... I've been delivering this message in every privacy and security training class I've delivered for over 10 years....

Never put private information, or send communications over the internet, unless it is in a secure, encrypted, controlled, and verified way; and in all steps of the end to end chain from senders eyeball to receivers eyeball, it stays that way. note: If you actually want email privacy, I recommend PGP for starters. 

Email, is almost exactly the opposite of that. The only way email could be any less private is if it automatically remailed itself out to hundreds of people, who might then forward it on to others.

I must have delivered this line 10,000 times by now... Never put anything in an email you wouldn't want published on the front page of the Washington Post....

First Round Surprises

So, in my pre-world cup predictions post, I got tied down to some pics:

Ok... I said I wasn't going to speculate further, but based on some prodding I'm going to publish my full pool picks here.

I made my picks based on bracketology. Basically I looked at the individual matchups in each bracket, and the apparent probability of each teams victory or defeat in each matchup.

Where my personal knowledge of the teams in question was insufficient to give me a good idea for a single matchup, I used the bookies odds on that particular matchup (if they had what I would consider reliable odds for it... which means round of 32, and round of 16 at best), the bookies overall cup odds, and FIFA rankings on the teams, as weighting factors.

If you only look at the long odds for overall, you're going to miss a lot of important factors; and the round of 32 doesn't involve so many comparators that it is all that hard to call, given that IN GENERAL, the groups have a pretty clear strongest and second strongest competitor.

To me that looks like:
  • Group A: France and Mexico (outside Uruguay)
  • Group B: Argentina and Greece (outside Korea)
  • Group C: England and US
  • Group D: Germany and Australia (I just think they're better than Serbia, though the bookies don't)
  • Group E: Netherlands and Cameroon (outside Denmark)
  • Group F: Italy and Paraguay
  • Group G: Brazil and Portugal
  • Group H: Spain and Chile
Of course, there's always the "any given Sunday" factor you can't account for... and I'm going against the bookies in Picking Mexico over Uruguay, and Australia over Serbia. I also think Denmark has a shot against Cameroon.

My picks bracket out to a round of 16 looking like this:
  • France - Greece (France)
  • England - Australia (England)
  • Netherlands - Paraguay (Netherlands)
  • Brazil - Chile (Brazil)
  • Argentina - Mexico (Argentina)
  • Germany - US (Germany, but I think the US has a better shot than the bookies do)
  • Italy - Cameroon (Italy)
  • Spain - Portugal (Spain)
You'll note, unsurprisingly, none of the picks I thought might be iffy in the first round make it out of these brackets. Nor would the teams I would pick as alternates to the iffy teams. These brackets are just too strong for an iffy team to advance.


and overall, I'm doing OK, but man there have been some surprising turns here and there.

For one thing, we tied England. I really expected to get beat there. Not only that, but we had the same WDL record as England (1-2-0) so it went to the first tie breaker, and we scored more goals, so we won the group.

First time we've done that since 1930.

That also means we face Ghana, instead of Germany (the latter of which teams I was right about).

I'm not going to call Ghana an easy game, because it isn't by any stretch; but it should be an easier game than England is going to have with Germany.

So, I got the order wrong on 1-2, but I got the teams right for group C.

I'm really happy with our chances of advancing to the quarterfinals... and frankly iffy on Englands right now. Germany is a tough match.

Also, I'm really disappointed with Australia... What the hell happened out there? They just collapsed on the pitch against Germany. The other matches were OK, they tied records with Ghana at 1-1-1; but that went to tiebreaker, and because of how badly Germany beat Oz (4 nil), Ghana came out second in the group.

Oh and they WERE better than Serbia... So I'm half right on group D.

Speaking of collapsing on the field (no this isn't a cheap Italy joke... Oh wait, that just was, wasn't it?) France.

They literally went on strike. Seriously. One player was thrown off the pitch. Two more walked off in protest. The rest of them refused to practice for their next match... and then a couple more actually refused to play in their final match.

I mean, you could come up with a more crushingly ironic statement about the condition of French society today... but you'd have to be Sartres to do it.

Though I guess good for me, because I picked Mexico, and then Uruguay as my alternate to France for Group A.

Group B also had a big surprise for me. I had picked (correctly) the winner to be Argentina, but I figured Greece would pull second with Korea as the outside shot. As it happened, Korea played rather better than anyone thought possible, and beat Greece convincingly 2-nil... though the were thrashed (as expected) by Argentina, and only tied Nigeria... it was enough; and they advance to the round of 16 for only the second time.

Group E... Man.. I was really expecting it to be Cameroons year for second, or at least Denmark... I didnt see Japan going 2-0-1, or Cameroon losing 3... At least I got the group half right again, with the Netherlands pulling their expected win.

Group F, another half right. I predicted Italy and Paraguay, and got Paraguay and Slovakia. Italy... what happened... two draws and a loss... hard games, could have gone either way, but... wow. And the group was so close that if Italy had won the Slovakia game, they would have been in first against Paraguay in second as I predicted... instead, the shocker, they lose and end up last, with Slovakia taking second.

Also, to be fair to Slovakia, way to play that final game. Just damn good play, even if it was against an Italy team not up to their usual standard.

Group G and Group H play their final games today, and they are BIG games, with Brazil meeting Portugal and Chile meeting Spain; both games to decide the order of first and second, for two teams that have already  clinched advancement (even if they lose, Brazil and Chile will advance, just in second place).

Portugal and Spain though, still have hurdles to clear; with Cote D'Ivoire playing North Korea, and Switzerland Playing Honduras.

If Portugal wins or ties tomorrow, they advance, in either first or second place respectively; but if they lose, Cote D'Ivoire can tie them with a win (which is almost a certainty against the Norks, who are probably the worst team to have qualified this year); and it will go to a net points tiebreaker (which will likely favor Portugal. Given Portugals 7-0 destruction of north Korea putting them at +7, and Cote D'Ivoires 3-1 loss to Brazil putting them at -2).

UPDATE: Ivory Coast wins 3-0, Brazil and Portugal draw nil-nil. That puts Brazil as the winner and Portugal as second place in group G. This also makes Cote D'Ivoire the only team in the tournament to neither win, nor lose a single match, all three of theirs ending in draw.

Group H has a major battle for second place. If Spain wins or ties tomorrow, they will advance so long as Switzerland ties or loses to Honduras. If Switzerland wins though, they either take second in the group (if Spain loses or ties) or they go to tiebreaker with Spain.... and the Swiss look a fair bit better than Honduras right now. The tiebreaker is also iffy, with the Swiss at 1(0) and Spain at only 2(+1), so the total score is going to be important to both games.

If Spain does win, that still leaves them in a tiebreaker with Chile for first and second; but Chile is at 2(0), so any win against Chile would also automatically mean a win in the first tiebreaker.

So I'm confident that Portugal will be advancing... and mathematically, Brazil and Chile certainly will; but whether Spain ends up winning the group, or losing to Switzerland... I really can't predict it. My heart says Spain is going to pull it out, but the math favors Switzerland.  Spain vs. Chile going to be a great game no matter what.

UPDATE: Spain beats Chile 2-1, and Switzerland draws with Honduras 0-0, securing group H for Spain, with Chile in second.

So, my revised predictions for the round of 16:

  • Uruguay - South Korea  (Uruguay)
  • Argentina - Mexico (Argentina)
  • United States - Ghana (United States)
  • Germany - England (Germany)
  • Netherlands - Slovakia (Netherlands)
  • Paraguay - Japan (Paraguay)
  • Brazil - Chile (Brazil)
  • Spain - Portugal (Spain)
So, that brackets out to a quarterfinal of:
  • Uruguay - US (Uruguay)
  • Netherlands - Brazil (Brazil)
  • Argentina - Germany (Argentina)
  • Paraguay - Spain (Spain)
Amazingly, even though I only got the group rounds about half right, it didn't change my quarterfinal picks all that much... and frankly, those winner picks on the quarterfinal... I wouldn't give them much better than 50/50. We could end up with an all south America semi and final this year, or a no south America semi and final just as easily. Hell, I'm not even sure if Spain or Switzerland are going to be in the round of 16... though if it is Switzerland, then Portugal should be able to put them down.

The way things are going, and how unsure I am... not even going to try to pick a Semifinal or Final slate.

Onward to the round of 16.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The most famous D chord in history

Yet more belaboring of the obvious...

I just can't help myself... since I have a couple of readers who keep insisting on citing the same discredited and fraudulent sources over and over again as if they were real science, here you go:
"Lawrence Solomon  June 6, 2010 – 10:47 pm
A cross examination of global warming science conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Law and Economics has concluded that virtually every claim advanced by global warming proponents fails to stand up to scrutiny.
The cross-examination, carried out by Jason Scott Johnston, Professor and Director of the Program on Law, Environment and Economy at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, found that “on virtually every major issue in climate change science, the [reports of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] and other summarizing work by leading climate establishment scientists have adopted various rhetorical strategies that seem to systematically conceal or minimize what appear to be fundamental scientific uncertainties or even disagreements.”
Professor Johnson, who expressed surprise that the case for global warming was so weak, systematically examined the claims made in IPCC publications and other similar work by leading climate establishment scientists and compared them with what is found in the peer-edited climate science literature. He found that the climate establishment does not follow the scientific method. Instead, it “seems overall to comprise an effort to marshal evidence in favor of a predetermined policy preference.”
The 79-page document, which effectively eviscerates the case for man-made global warming, can be found here.

Read more:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

So Kellogg's Finally Gave Up the Pretense...

That Pop Tarts are anything other than sugar masquerading as breakfast.

I did a double take when I saw these at Wally World.

What's really funny is these Pop Tarts are 200 calories a piece, 45 from fat, 19g of sugar and 37g total carbs. The Frosted Strawberry Pop Tarts are also 200 calories a piece, 45 from fat, a little less sugar at 17g and 38g total carbs.

Think, "Oh, that's just the frosting?" Hah.

The supposedly healthier option Unfrosted Strawberry comes in at 210 calories, 50 from fat, 16g of sugar and 37g total carbs.

Yeah, no. No Pop Tarts are entering this household.

Eventually, with enough belaboring of the obvious...

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
An Energy-Independent Future
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Maybe some of these people will understand, there is NO way to "get off oil" in the short term. At best we can reduce our INDIVIDUAL oil usage per capita.

Which in fact we have done, dramatically, over the years; primarily through more fuel efficient vehicles, more electrically efficient homes and appliances, more thermally efficient homes, and better coal fired electrical power plants.

Unfortunately, that's all been more offset by increased industrial use, use by the transportation industry in particular, increased use of other petroleum derived chemicals (plastics primarily), and by massive increases in population worldwide.

Oh and by the fact that we haven't been able to build a nuclear power plan in this country in over 30 years.

This is my job, every goddamned day...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Oh Yay, Flooding!

So as y'all know we're currently renting a house on a protected inlet of Lake Pend Oreille.

We've been blessed with an excess of rain, to the point that the yard is completely sodden and squidgy. We've even been blessed with our own fairy ring.

From Waterfront House

This is how the water stands right now:

From Waterfront House

Our dock is completely afloat (yes that's my canoe)...

From Waterfront House

the water is right up to the fence of what we call the lower yard...

From Waterfront House

our path to the dock is in danger of getting swamped...

From Waterfront House

and the lower yard has standing water from all the rain.

So imagine our joy when we read we could expect another 12-24" of lake level (no link because our local newspaper does not get the concept of online readership).

Due to the massive amounts of rain in the area all the local rivers and lakes will reach flood stage within a week. Nothing to be done, other than wait for the levels to go down (well that or flood Washington). Since all structures are required to be built above the flood plain (and most are built well above, including our house) it's not an emergency per se.

However, 12" will flood our lower yard, and 24" will reach the greenhouse.

So much for getting the lower yard mowed (for the billionth time in a row).

That being said, we don't begrudge the rain. For one thing, the plants are adoring the extra rain.

From Waterfront House

From Waterfront House

(I have no idea what these are, other than they're now as tall as me)

From Waterfront House

Plus we'll be planting corn next week and you know what they say about corn and rain.

Cross-posted to We Few

Gun Blogger Rendezvous V

The annual Gun Blogger Rendezvous is gearing up for this year's festivities September 9th-12th in Reno.

This is the 5th year of the Rondy and every year the event has gotten better and better. This get together is geared towards gun bloggers and readers, with the emphasis on getting to know each other, drinking and bullshitting (oops socializing), range time, and good ol' competition.

We've gone every year and its an absolute blast.

Unfortunately due to my father's accident we won't be going this year (he's our only overnight babysitter) but this event promises to be even bigger and better than last year.

So drop Mr. Completely a line and get registered for this year's festivities.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

And so it's another Celtics Lakers game 7...

Damn, it's like the 60s... and 70s... and 80s for that matter... all over again.

'Cept Bird and Magic, they're gone and there aint nobody today who can give you that kind of matchup on the court.

Political Captial, Fundraising, Mission Focus, and Propaganda

So, the GOA has cranked up their idiot propaganda machine, once again proclaiming "The evil NRA has sold us all down the river", regarding the current debate in congress on trying to pass a new campaign finance reform law, now that the supreme court struck down most of McCain Feingold.

The GOA is saying that because the NRA is not explicitly opposing, and shouting from the rooftops their opposition, every provision and the mere existence, of a bill that hasn't even made it out of committee; that somehow they are in an evil pact with the democrats to sell out gun owners etc... etc...

Bullshit, as usual, from the GOA... whose chief concern and activity has for years been, and now seems to be; telling gun owners how awful everyone else is, so they will send more money to the GOA.


The NRA is ALWAYS AND ONLY about guns and hunting.

Any other issue, they don't care about.

They don't give a damn about any other freedom or liberty, unless it helps them advance their mission about guns and hunting.


The NRA is a single issue organization.

There are other organizations to fight for free speech. There are other groups to support conservative values. There are other groups to support conservative candidates.

That is NOT the NRAs job.

The NRA has one job (politically speaking), fighting for gun and hunting rights.

Opposing legislation completely unrelated to gun rights; so long as their mission to protect gun rights is not hurt by said legislation; is not in their interests, or the interests of the gun rights fight.

The NRA does not take a position on things that do not directly effect them, or their fight for gun rights.

That is the ONLY logical way for a political action group to exist.

Here is the official statement from the NRA:

The National Rifle Association believes that any restrictions on the political speech of Americans are unconstitutional.

In the past, through the courts and in Congress, the NRA has opposed any effort to restrict the rights of its four million members to speak and have their voices heard on behalf of gun owners nationwide.

The NRA’s opposition to restrictions on political speech includes its May 26, 2010 letter to Members of Congress expressing strong concerns about H.R. 5175, the DISCLOSE Act. As it stood at the time of that letter, the measure would have undermined or obliterated virtually all of the NRA’s right to free political speech and, therefore, jeopardized the Second Amendment rights of every law-abiding American.

The most potent defense of the Second Amendment requires the most adamant exercise of the First Amendment. The NRA stands absolutely obligated to its members to ensure maximum access to the First Amendment, in order to protect and preserve the freedom of the Second Amendment.

The NRA must preserve its ability to speak. It cannot risk a strategy that would deny its rights, for the Second Amendment cannot be defended without them.

Thus, the NRA’s first obligation must be to its members and to its most ardent defense of firearms freedom for America’s lawful gun owners.

On June 14, 2010, Democratic leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives pledged that H.R. 5175 would be amended to exempt groups like the NRA, that meet certain criteria, from its onerous restrictions on political speech. As a result, and as long as that remains the case, the NRA will not be involved in final consideration of the House bill.

The NRA cannot defend the Second Amendment from the attacks we face in the local, state, federal, international and judicial arenas without the ability to speak. We will not allow ourselves to be silenced while the national news media, politicians and others are allowed to attack us freely.

The NRA will continue to fight for its right to speak out in defense of the Second Amendment. Any efforts to silence the political speech of NRA members will, as has been the case in the past, be met with strong opposition.

If you think there is any other position the NRA should take, you are not only wrong, you are a fool.

Welcome, but insufficient to the needs of the day...

David Cameron today apologized for the  British Armies conduct on Bloody Sunday.

Great... now do something of substance. Either treat the north as a real part of the rest of the damn country, or get the hell out.

The UK is firmly wedded to a lot of government involvement in industry, in finance, in development... fine. Ok. If that's what the people of the UK want, then so be it. But it stifles entrepreneurship. The barriers to entry get so high, that it becomes nearly impossible to do anything without government support.

This is coming from someone who has founded and run businesses in the republic, in the north, and in England. I am an American, but also a dual citizen with Ireland. My father is an Irish immigrant. His father was a member of the IRA from the age of 15; when the IRA was still a legitimate organization. Most of my family still lives in Ireland; and I lived in Ireland, and in the UK, for years.

This is not just an American pontificating from afar, I have lived and worked there... and my position on the troubles is that none of it is justified, ever. Terrorism is terrorism, and is never to be tolerated. Government repression is similarly, not to be tolerated.

This isn't about the troubles anymore. This is about the future of the North... or the lack of future represented in todays situation; because mark me, the north has no future, if the present state of affairs is allowed to continue.

Without government support, it's near impossible to get anything done in the north. It's somewhat easier in England itself, in that there is no less interference, but that the government cares more about business development; so it makes things smoother, and gives approvals, and planning etc... more attention.

What this means is, effectively, there is no economic development in the north without government intervention... but they don't particularly want to intervene, and spend the taxpayers money on PRODUCTIVE projects in the north, when so much is already being funneled into nonproductive drains.

So long as there is no real industrial or technical development support by the government, except in a token way; the north will always be an economic disaster. It is that economic disaster, and the sense of neglect, of second class citizenship, of disrespect, disregard, and disdain... which allows the thugs their safety, and their income.

Either REALLY support economic development, or get the hell out of the way and allow some real entrepreneurship. Get people working, productively. Get the tax base up. Get people motivated to seek higher education, by having something useful for them to do when they get it.

So long as the north is dependent on the government teat, the real government on the street will be the organized crime gangs that masquerade as unionists, or republicans. So long as the thugs are safe, the police are not, and will respond with repression. It's automatic. A + B will always equal C.

Oh and I should be clear, I don't blame this situation on the great mass of the population of the United Kingdom.

I blame it on an incoherent, and uncommitted government position on Northern Ireland since 1921.

There is no real policy, nor any real rationale behind what is promulgated as policy. The only conclusion one can come to is that the government of the UNited Kingdom does not want to govern northern Ireland, but also does not feel they can stop doing so...

So instead, they neglect, and waffle, and make bad and inconsistent decisions. They fight, they withdraw. They take a hardline, then they fold...

It's insane.

Oh and yes I know, they're a giant welfare suck... But if the people (and the politicians) of England would treat the people of northern Ireland like actual human beings, not just as a national joke, or a drain on social spending, or a potential terrorist, or an electoral distraction... That might help a bit too.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The moon, venus, the lake... Can't get better

If you zoom in on this one (above), I even got the occlusion disk. I was using my 30 plus year old $30 pawn shop special 50mm f1.8. Unfortunately, I couldn't find my remote release, so theres some vibration in all these shots spoling the sharpness.

This was a 2 second exposure over the lake from my 18-135 f3.5.

And that was a six second exposure, same scene, same lens.

Why I love Old Skool Underground

... Nuff Said

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Congratulations Mr. Chairman

I just wanted to take a minute to congratulate Mark Hinkle, for winning his election as the new chairman of the Libertarian Party of the United States.

Mark is the former chair of the California Libertarian Party, with over 30 years experience in local and state politics and activism. Outside of politics, Mark has extensive experience as an engineer and technical manager in large enterprises, and is also a long time entrepreneur and small business owner.

As it happens, Mark is also my friend of over 10 years; ever since we worked together as early employees at an ill fated bay area startup during the dot bomb.

Mark and I have had a number of great discussions about principle vs. pragmatism, finance and economics; and the practical, moral, and philosophical issues around labor, military service, the use of military power, interventionism vs. non interventionism; and of course the non-agression principle.

I know Mark to be a good manager and organizer, a good debater, a good joker (and a bad one), a good father, and a good man.

Oh and on a personal note, I'm glad Mark beat Wayne Allyn Root... but I'm no longer a party member (for many reasons) so I can't really complain about Root being in the leadership (he was elected as committee member at large).

I realize I'm a week late in this missive, but I lost track of the election, and for some reason my normal LP email alerts didnt notify me...

Probably because my spam filter has decided that anything sent that often to that big a list of people using that language has GOT to be Spam...

...hint hint...

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

In celebration of Americas least popular sport for straight white males over 18...

And in case any of you are wondering why your foreign co-workers, colleagues, friends and associated are acting completely insane for the next month; The FIFA World Cup starts this Friday, and runs through for 30 days following.

Like most American men of the last 40 years, I played soccer as a child, but as soon as I got big enough for football  and "too big" for soccer (which was technically two years before they allowed me to play football. I was too big for pop warner PeeWee as 10 year old, at 5'6" and 165lbs, and had to wait til 7th grade), I switched over.

I'm not a big soccer fan as such, but I like to keep an eye out for our national teams in international competitions. Also, I spent some years living abroad, including living in Ireland in 2002, when Ireland, England, and the U.S. all put in some unexpectedly great performances; so I've had an interest in the world cup specifically.

Yes, I'm the guy you hardcore fans love to hate; the one who only watches during the playoffs...

What can I say, American Football is my game. I watch every single New England Patriots game, plus every game that effects their playoff status, plus every game that has a major impact on their division and conference rivals plus... Yeah, I'm a fan....

I just don't have that kind of passion, interest, or involvement in soccer... and frankly neither do most Americans, which is why our professional soccer league is a small shadow of what countries 1/10th our size have.

But I'm interested, and at least somewhat knowledgeable, about FIFA world cup soccer (frankly, you can't live in Europe or South America without being inundated with the stuff whether you want it or not).

For those who don't know, the FIFA world cup is held every four years, and is a truly worldwide tournament for the global championship of Soccer (or football as it is known most places outside the US).

Collectively, it is the most watched, and most attended, sporting even in the world both by total viewership, and total attendance; which both dwarf the superbowl, or any other single American sporting event. The world cup also generates more revenue than any other single sporting event.

Of course the fact that it consists of sixty four games played over the course of a month doesn't exactly hurt.

The tournament consists of the 32 teams out of the 208 recognized national teams; that meet qualifying standards, and placed highest in their various leagues and/or qualifying tournaments and series each of which are allocated a proportional number of positions within the competition.

The team of the host nation is allowed to compete in the 32nd slot without competitive qualification (unless they do not otherwise meet eligibility requirements to play in the tournament, which to my knowledge has never happened); though they GENERALLY qualify anyway, and are rarely seeded last. Historically, the defending champions also qualified automatically, but that rule was changed  some years ago.

The teams are broken up into eight groups of four, who then play each other, each team playing each other team once. The winner and runner up of each group (decided first by win/loss point - 3 points for a win, 1 for a tie, 0 for a loss -, then by the difference between goals scored, and goals allowed, then by total goals scored,) then advance to the round of 16 or "knockout" round; where the tournament becomes a bracketed single elimination contest (multiple tiebreakers are not uncommon).

From there it's not unlike your typical U.S. style bracketed playoff, as in NCAA basketball. The brackets can be very important, due to relative strengths of teams, and the order in which an opponent might be faced.

The U.S. has never won a world cup; though we reached the quarterfinals in 2002, and came in third in 1930.

Historically speaking, we've done quite well, especially as we're one of the few countries that participate but do not have an active and successful professional soccer league (we do have a league.. how active and successful it is, I leave to you to judge). I believe we're the ONLY nation without a large, active, and successful on the world stage soccer league; to have qualified for the tournament 9 times (there have been 19 world cups, including 2010); and we've qualified for all five world cups from 1990 to 2010.

Although international soccer fans, pundits, and the general commentariat are loathe to admit it; this record actually puts us far ahead of the majority of national teams; putting us in the top quartile overall, and the top quintile since 1990.

Those same pundits do point out, correctly, that our regional confederation (CONCACAF) is far less competitive than Europes (UEFA) association, or south Americas confederation (CONMEBOL); and if we had to compete extensively against those teams, we would not have done so well internationally.

Yes, that's true; but CONCACAF is a more difficult competitive confederation than either Africa (CAF) or Oceana (OFC), and goes back and forth with the Asian confederation (AFC) in terms of competitive quality (at least when you consider top ten type rankings. There are a lot of non starter teams in both confederations)

This is also balanced by the fact that currently (the number of slots allocated to each conference is re-evaluated every 4 years) CONCACAF gets the second fewest qualifying slots (only 3 slots for 40 teams, with Oceana only getting 1 slot for 16 teams, only 10 of which competed to qualify... and in fact, that slot isn't automatic, they have to compete for it).

UEFA  and CONMEBOL on the other hand are disproportionately represented with 13 slots (of 53 teams), and 5 slots (of 10 teams) respectively.

This is compared to Africa's 6 slots (55 teams), and Asia's 4 (for 46 teams); a factor that the central Americans, Africans, and Asians vigorously protest continuously;  noting with some justification, that in general, the bottom 3 or 4 European slots, are generally considerably less competitive than the best of their times which miss the qualification slot cutoff in their respective confederations

The fact is, just 1 in 16 teams from Oceana (historically only New Zealand and Australia have qualified; and for 2010, the Aussies moved over to Asia), 1 in 14 teams from north and central America, 1 in 12 from Asia, and 1 in 9 from Africa, are allowed into the tournament; whereas 1 in 4 European teams, and fully half the south American teams get a competitive slot.

The UEFA argument to counter this, is that they are the most competitive conference by far (which is true), and that they typically have at least half of the top 20 teams, and at least 1/3 of the top 32 teams, in any given cup year... Which is rather vigorously disputed by the other confederations, who believe (which is a bit of sour grapes, but also has some justification) that the entirety of FIFA is basically rigged to rank the Europeans higher...

There is considerably less griping about the south Americans, because although their proportion of slots to teams is by far the highest, they still only get 4 or 5 slots (5 this year), and basically all of their slots are always filled with a highly competitive team (pretty much always Brazil and Argentina in 1 and 2, and a hot contest between Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay for slots 3 and 4; and Ecuador and Columbia for slot 5 of they get it that year); something which can't be said by UEFA.

What it really comes down to, is that the U.S. (and for that matter Mexico, who basically always qualifies... in fact has qualified more than any team other than Brazil and Argentina) is still generally better than the bottom third of qualifying teams from UEFA; so the claim that we wouldn't make the tournament if we had to compete with Europe or South America doesn't hold water. Yeah, we'd be seeded 25th or below most of the time, but we'd still be there.

Frankly, the reason UEFA and CONMEBOL have 18 out of the 32 slots, is financial. By far, the majority of FIFAs revenue, governmental and institutional financial support, and fan base; come out of those two confederations... Something like three quarters of the television revenue, nearly all the advertising revenue, and essentially all their licensing revenue;  come out of Europe and South America as well.

Given all those factors, it just makes economic sense to ensure that more teams from those two regions compete. While I agree, the slot allocation should be refactored a bit... maybe giving Europe two or three less slots, and South America one less (2 to Asia, 1 or 2 to North/Central America maybe)... Calls to make the slot allocation directly proportional are a bad idea.

A world cup with competitive slots allocated to each confederation on a proportional basis simply would not work. Frankly, it would be a boring and unbalanced world cup.

Not only would the European and South American fan base be alienated (there would only be one competitive slot for South America, and only 8 for Europe); but with nine slots reallocated around the other four confederations (1 to Oceana for a total of 2, 2 to Africa for 8, 3 to Asia for 7, and 3 to North/Central America for 6), a number of less competitive teams would get in (Africa struggles to fill their 6 with competitive teams already never mind 8, and there probably aren't 7 competitive teams each in either Asia or North/Central America).

This would result in the utter domination of the tournament by the top 8 European teams (usually Spain, France, Italy, Germany around the top, the Netherlands, England, Portugal, and Greece somewhere in the middle; and Russia, Denmark, and the former eastern bloc states competing hard to knock one of the middle teams out of 7th or 8th), and Brazil (as if they didn't do so enough already).

The tournament is already unbalanced enough as it is; with only 8 teams having ever won (Brazil 5, Italy 4, Germany 3, Argentina 3, Uruguay 2, France 1, and England 1); and only 18 teams ever making it into the top 3 or 24 into the top 4 (and almost all of those teams are STILL in the top ranks most years). We don't need to make it any more unbalanced.

A boring, and unbalanced (some would say, even more unbalanced) world cup, would be a world cup that lost money... A LOT of money.

As you can see, soccer is a much more political sport than Americans are used to... though this may sound familiar to followers of  NCAA athletics. 

In terms non-soccer fan Americans are more familiar with, we're a playoff team who hasn't been in the championship yet, because we keep getting eliminated in the wildcard round, or the division game (though we made it to the conference game once).

The analogy doesn't map directly of course, because the world cup has an extra round, compared to the US playoff system; as there are 32 teams in the cup, whereas in most US professional sports, there are more like 32 teams in the league... but I think the concept should be clear.

So, what about this year?  What are my world cup predictions?

Well, I expect we'll (being an American, I'll say we) do OK this year but not great.

We're  in group C. I figure we can clear Algeria and Slovenia, but England is going to slaughter us.

The bookies agree; giving England a 1/2 and the US 6/1 on the match; whereas we've got good odds on Algeria and Slovenia (and England has great odds, giving 1/4 and 2/5 respectively).

I think we have a pretty good shot at clearing knockout given Group D however. We've got a solid shot against Germany, Australia, Serbia, or Ghana... though no walkover matchups there, and Germany is obviously the tough play.

Sorry Aussies, I don't like your chances this year, and the bookies are with me. I think you'll probably pull runner up in group D, but then you're going to face England, and barring a miracle, they're going at least to the quarterfinals.

If we can clear Germany (or, to give them the benefit of the doubt, Australia) in the round of 16 (and I recognize, that's a very big if), we're probably going up against either Argentina or Mexico in the quarterfinals... Mexico I'm not too worried about given our recent past, but Argentina... I doubt we can do it.

So, as it is, I expect us to make runner up in group; I'll be very happy if we clear knockout on the round of 16; and I think there isn't a chance in hell of us making it past the quarterfinals.

I'm still irritated about the Ireland-France qualifier... Though fairplay to Thierry Henry for admitting it.... Unlike Torsten Frings handball in the 2002 USA Germany quarterfinals; with what should have drawn the match, and given how we were playing could have boosted us to victory.

No, I'm not bitter... not at all...

Actually, given the bracketing, I think England has a pretty solid shot at the semis... I wont speculate any further than that. Spain, Brazil, Argentina, all pretty strong... It wouldn't surprise me to see any of that list in the semis.

Argentina and the Netherlands may have some bracketing trouble in the round of 16 and quarterfinals. Spain and Brazil should be walkover winners in their groups, and because of bracketing wouldn't have to face each other until the final. Portugal has probably the toughest bracketing in the tournament. I don't doubt they'll take runner up of group G (I'd call that 100%)... but I rate their chances of getting past knockout against Spain as basically zero.

My call on the semifinal... Spain, Brazil, Argentina, England. I'm not going to try to call the final, but it would VERY much surprise me if it weren't two of the four teams above.

On the outside, Italy, Germany, France, Australia, the Netherlands, and Portugal, are all looking pretty good as well; but not top tier semifinal or final territory.

I don't think there will be any small country or host country surprises this year.

I think this years tourney is really all about the bracketing... even more so than usual. If you look at the group composition, and the likely bracket matchups... The bracketing is going to be the biggest factor into the semifinals. Some otherwise good teams aren't going to make it as far as they might, because they're going to go up against a dominant team early on... 

Of course, those are also the circumstances under which "stunning upsets" occur... 

And of course, I could be wrong in general about my picks, but the bookies seem to agree with me for the most part. Anything can (and frequently does) happen at game time, but in the long run, the bookies almost always win.


Ok... I said I wasn't going to speculate further, but based on some prodding I'm going to publish my full pool picks here.

I made my picks based on bracketology. Basically I looked at the individual matchups in each bracket, and the apparent probability of each teams victory or defeat in each matchup.

Where my personal knowledge of the teams in question was insufficient to give me a good idea for a single matchup, I used the bookies odds on that particular matchup (if they had what I would consider reliable odds for it... which means round of 32, and round of 16 at best), the bookies overall cup odds, and FIFA rankings on the teams, as weighting factors.

If you only look at the long odds for overall, you're going to miss a lot of important factors; and the round of 32 doesn't involve so many comparators that it is all that hard to call, given that IN GENERAL, the groups have a pretty clear strongest and second strongest competitor.

To me that looks like:
  • Group A: France and Mexico (outside Uruguay)
  • Group B: Argentina and Greece (outside Korea)
  • Group C: England and US
  • Group D: Germany and Australia (I just think they're better than Serbia, though the bookies don't)
  • Group E: Netherlands and Cameroon (outside Denmark)
  • Group F: Italy and Paraguay
  • Group G: Brazil and Portugal
  • Group H: Spain and Chile
Of course, there's always the "any given Sunday" factor you can't account for... and I'm going against the bookies in Picking Mexico over Uruguay, and Australia over Serbia. I also think Denmark has a shot against Cameroon.

My picks bracket out to a round of 16 looking like this:
  • France - Greece (France)
  • England - Australia (England)
  • Netherlands - Paraguay (Netherlands)
  • Brazil - Chile (Brazil)
  • Argentina - Mexico (Argentina)
  • Germany - US (Germany, but I think the US has a better shot than the bookies do)
  • Italy - Cameroon (Italy)
  • Spain - Portugal (Spain)
You'll note, unsurprisingly, none of the picks I thought might be iffy in the first round make it out of these brackets. Nor would the teams I would pick as alternates to the iffy teams. These brackets are just too strong for an iffy team to advance.

So, that brackets out to a quarterfinal of:

  • France - England (England)
  • Netherlands - Brazil (Brazil)
  • Argentina - Germany (Argentina)
  • Italy - Spain (Spain)

And that brackets to a semifinal of:

  • England - Brazil (Brazil)
  • Argentina - Spain (Spain)

Which of course leads to a final of:

  • Brazil - Spain

And god help me if I can pick there. I normally wouldn't bet against Brazil, but Spain looks really good right now.... maybe just a tick better than Brazil.

No joke, of any kind, in any way...

But this is actually a big part of my job:

And it's actually a lot more difficult, a lot more important, and a lot less gobeldegooky than it sounds... but just as bullshitty.

I can tell he's been reading some books on "Strategic Architecture".

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Not sure which quote I liked better...

... as quote of the day yesterday, so I just decided to post them both today:

First, from Travis Corcoran:
Let’s call it “phase 1″…
Democrats Skip Town Halls to Avoid Voter Rage
In a better world, the headline would read “Democrats Hide in Secret Bunkers to Avoid Voter Bullets”, but I’ll take what I can get.

Can't find a single thing to disagree with there...

And next from my man Borepatch:
Welcome to the alternative energy future: unreliable, intermittent power at more than twice the price of traditional generation. 
When you dress the "Progressive" agenda up in the white lab coats of the scientists, it's still agenda. Badly designed, poorly thought out, unreliable and expensive, and which generates more pollution than how things are done today. But it advances the control of the Progressives over society. It's about power all right, just not the sort that comes out of the outlet.

Can all the lefties please just shut up about the "Republican War on Science" now?

Is it just me...

Or do they ALL look like heroin addicts?

Monday, June 07, 2010

The Self-Determination Project

So what brings a family of four 1400 miles, 15 degrees latitude and 3 degrees longitude to suffer culture and climate shock?

The REAL question is why we left.

Friends and family remain in AZ. Only our immediate family and income source made the move, and the income source is portable. So why leave (almost) everything behind?

Independence, self-determination, over-reliance, terrorists, and the horrible death trap that is Metro Phoenix.

Let's start with terrorists and the horrible death trap.

Imagine a bustling metropolis with 5 million people. These people live on mostly infertile, unforgiving ground. Fresh water is almost non-existent locally, and is brought in via a canal from a river on the state border. A river whose water rights are bitterly disputed by no less than 7! states.

Now imagine summers so hot that temps regularly reach and exceed 120 Fahrenheit, and people often die during the summer when their ac goes out. Imagine the electrical load needed for 5 million people to run their ac at the same time, and the inability of those with solar panels to keep up with their usage.

Imagine the lack of farmland, and the need to truck in almost every bit of food from neighboring states.

Now imagine the water grid, electrical grid, or transportation grid failing. 5 million people either trying to make do, or desperately trying to get out of town.

If someone wanted to make a REALLY big statement against the U.S., Phoenix makes a damn good choice. God forbid a natural disaster, or Palo Verde going down, or, or, or...

Like I said, death trap.

This came home to me about a year and a half ago while taking Chris's mom grocery shopping.

She bought only enough food to last a week, all of it processed. That's not particularly surprising for her. Then I started paying attention to everyone else in the store and what they were buying. Boxed meals. Prepackaged meals. Convenience foods. Not in large quantity either.

I never particularly paid attention before. We could easily eat for a month off of our pantry from the basic staples I keep on hand. But these people... what would happen if the grocery store just didn't get stocked? What would happen if no trucks came? How long could they live out of their kitchen cabinets? Do they even know how to cook from scratch if need be?

What if the water stopped flowing? How much did they have on hand? Could they even survive a full day if the faucet didn't work?

What if all 5 million of us got stuck in such a situation? Mass rioting is far too mild a term...

So we decided we needed to leave the death trap.

But where would we move?

It would make no sense just to move to another metropolis. All big cities have the same problem; lots of people dependent on lots of infrastructure in order to function. Over-reliance on systems they don't understand and no concept of what to do when systems fail. Also, city-dwellers deal with huge portions of their lives and livelihoods being controlled by city officials through public utilities, codes, property taxes, and police.

When there's a police officer on every corner, people forget that they need to defend themselves, and settle their own differences. When there's a police officer on every corner, sometimes the officers forget that people CAN be trusted to defend themselves, and settle their own differences.

Speaking of settling differences... that job has been taken over by the compliance police.

Code enforcers. HOAs. Byzantine zoning restrictions. All there to make sure you fit in and *gasp* don't cause home values to drop.

Scottsdale has the weed nazis. Code enforcers who come around after every rain checking for weeds in "desert landscaping". Code enforcers with the authority to fine.

Other cities want complete control over what type of buildings go up, to the point of dictating historical districts and to what level a homeowner can restore their own building. Some cities have ridiculous parking statutes.

Many, many people use these mechanisms in order to "encourage" their neighbors to fit in.

"Independent" becomes a very bad word... an insult in fact.

We didn't want to live in that environment anymore. We didn't need to live in the city anymore, so why were we still there?

But if not the cities, where? There's 50 states to choose from, how do you make a choice?

Now was the time for research, and some basic exclusionary analysis.

We started with the basics: gun rights. If a state didn't have shall-issue, or Vermont-style carry they got dropped off the list.

Then analyzed based on climate. We wanted a climate where the summer wouldn't be too humid. Pretty much everywhere east of the Mississippi, except New Hampshire, got taken off the list. We also wanted a climate that wasn't too Fridgid. Wyoming and Montana went into the iffy list.

We wanted mountains, with varied scenery. No Plains states. Besides, the weather on the plains leaves something to be desired.

Politics. Anywhere run by a hugely liberal capital got taken off the list. This killed otherwise suitable states, like Washington and Oregon, and made once strong like New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Nevada iffy.

Ideally, we wanted a low tax, no income tax state; but we didn't exclude based on it... Just not enough choices without income tax.

Fresh water, preferably with large lakes and lots of rivers; and a good, accessible water table. New Mexico got taken off the list entirely, and most of the rest of the west got iffy (leaving only small pockets of suitable territory in most of the Rocky mountain west states).

That left us with parts of Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Montana, and Idaho.... Eastern Oregon or eastern Washington would have been good, but for the government in either state.

That is, until we decided we wanted to farm and ranch on a small scale.

Fertile land became very important to us, as well as a suitable growing season. Climate became more important, and so we decided we wanted a certain temperature range, and erred on the side of heating in the winter rather than cooling in the summer.

One factor remained; Chris needed to be within 2 hours of a major regional airport.

This became a huge issue. Lakes, affordable land, and proximity to an airport? Good bloody luck...

Then one day while looking at maps, I saw it. Tucked in the northern portion of Idaho, one of the deepest lakes in the U.S., and the biggest lake in the Northwest. Lake Pend Oreille. 75% of the shoreline Federal land, and the land prices made us drool. National forest all over the place and some of the most fertile ground in the Northwest. Plus, the mountain ranges funnel warmer air through the area so the climate is more mild than we expected.

Oh, and an hour and a half from Spokanes airport.

And no one else seemed to notice it was there. And if they did, they dismissed it out of hand.

"Idaho? All those redneck nutjobs? Why the hell would you want to move there?"

"Aren't there all those white supremacists there?"

"Isn't that WAY in the boondocks?"

(some of these are direct quotes from Chris's family).

Well, we knew better than to believe the stereotypes, so we started asking around and researching.

Redneck nutjobs? Some, but a very small minority. Plus redneck isn't necessarily an insult in our minds.

White supremacists? Yeah, there's still a few around, universally hated and scorned.

Boondocks? Well, that is kind of the point.

We wanted independence. We wanted to be able to take care of our own needs. We wanted as much self-determination as we could manage without ending up on a terrorist watch list.

Oddly enough, most of north Idaho feels the same way. The county north of us is where Ruby Ridge happened, and most residents rallied behind Randy Weaver not because they agreed with him, but because they were so pissed the Feds crossed that line...

People here like to be left alone. People here like to do what they wish. People here also like the stereotypes, because it means fewer of those damn Californians moving in and trying to take over...

...They REALLY hate Californians...

Moreover, while everyone we talked to is more than happy to live here; they'd rather keep the area a secret, so it doesn't get ruined. In fact, I'm pretty sure I'm going to get flak for posting this, and letting the rest of you know what you're missing.

So we looked at local ordinances, distances, travel times... We weighed all of the data and decided on Bonner, or the southern portion of Boundary counties (just because of distance and travel time. The northern part of Boundary county doesn't have much in the way of improved roads.)

Bonner county has figured out that if they zoned just right, the Californians would stay away. Thus, the vast majority of Bonner County is zoned some variant of rural, with various minimum lot sizes (outside of an incorporated area, certain zones NEAR incorporated areas that allow .5 acre per dwelling, or specially permitted "high density" housing... mostly trailer parks... it's a minimum of five acres per dwelling unit), very few restrictions on land usage, and most importantly, the "right to farm" (oh and Idaho is right to hunt, fish, and trap state too). Their idea of water, mineral, and timber rights? If it's on your property, it's yours. If you can drill it, catch it, cut it... you can drink it, use it, sell it, whatever

As for government interference, here's a snippet from the "Buying Land" page from the OFFICIAL web page of Boundary County, the county to the north of us:
Another consideration is the economy of Boundary County, which is based predominantly on timber and agriculture production. Idaho is a "right to farm" state, meaning anyone who owns property has the right to use or lease that land for agricultural production; there is nothing the county can do to prevent a neighbor from going into the hog business should they so choose, even if the breeze blows your way. Much of the county is timbered, with over 75 percent of the total land base of Boundary County owned and managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the Idaho Department of Lands and the Bureau of Land Management. If you purchase a parcel because the trees on the hillside across the road make for a beautiful view, you shouldn't be disappointed should loggers move in later to harvest that timber.
Life in Boundary County is wonderful; the people here retain a strong pioneer spirit of hard work and of helping their neighbors ... most who call this community home would agree that you'll not find a more neighborly place anywhere else. But the rugged beauty and often harsh conditions mean that many of the amenities you may be used to are not available, and if you're used to relying on strict ordinances and regulations to help you resolve neighborly disputes, you'll be disappointed. It is the belief of the county that people who buy and build here have the right to build the home that best suits them; if the roof collapses under the weight of the snow, they'll know better next time. Conversely, you may build a beautiful home that meets the most stringent building codes while your neighbor may not; the county will not intercede on your behalf to make that neighbor live up to your standards.
I will admit that little snippet played a role in getting us to move here.

So now we live in unincorporated Bonner County on Lake Pend Oreille. We're surrounded by wildlife, farmland, and good neighbors (though, frankly, the neighbors are too close... But it's a rental. We can live with 1.6 acres and neighbors 100 feet away, in exchange for the lake and the dock... at least for now, until we can find a good piece of property)

But our plan wasn't simply to "get away from it all" and change locales. We're making a major life change in almost every way possible. We are going to push the envelope to see just how much of our own needs we can manage ourselves.

What does that mean? Simply, we're taking over our own electric, our own heat, our own water, our own defense, and as much of our own food as we can manage. We're taking over almost everything we need to live from the ground up. No more being at the end of the fragile "production to shipping to store to consumer" chain; we are going to BE the chain.

Our ultimate plan, is to be as independent as a family can be, and as self-reliant as a family can be. This is an exercise in seeing if one modern family can pull themselves out of modern dependence, stop being cogs in a really huge wheel, and make a go at (mostly) sustainable living.

This is not survivalism, or disaster preparation (though it doesn't hurt). We just got really bloody tired of not having enough control over our own lives, or responsibility for our own lives.

Renting in the area is just step one. The next major phase in our plan will be buying land; a large parcel with good soil, reasonable access, and a good water table (wells here average 40 to 80 ft, with a good rate of flow).

We'll be drilling a well, developing a spring (if we have one, we have 3 on our rental property), and setting up a water catchment system. The goal is to use the well as little as possible, as 34 inches annual rainfall (and 72 inches of snowfall) is more than enough for our uses.

We're going to be setting up off grid power (and hopefully getting grid tie with sellback), most likely a combination of solar, microhydro (if possible), wind, and backup generator. If small biodiesel converters become more suitable for farm use, we WILL be making our own diesel.

We'll be planting some crops, tending a garden, growing an orchard, and planting various berries and brambles. We may not be able to supply all of our own food (salt not being a crop) but we'll see how much we can manage.

Livestock will be entering the equation eventually. We have no qualms about raising our own meat (they are not pets) and we're pretty damn sure we can raise some good beef on the incredible pasture around here. We're also thinking of running domestic elk, both as meat for ourselves and meat to sell.

We want to know everything we use and ingest, and where exactly it came from. We want control of our water, food, and utilities.

We want to take care of ourselves... We want INDEPENDENCE.

This is the beginning of the Self-Determination Project.

Cross-posted at We Few