Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Zero Sum Fallacy and the CBTE

Unc linked up to K's Cock Block theory of Economics with his own comment here:
Somethings are zero sum games, as in for one person to gain, another has to lose. Futures are a zero sum game, as is poker. A few things aren’t and this is the basis of the cock block theory of economics. I’m not so sure. Despite the fact there is a seemingly limitless amount of money since the feds just keep printing it, there are only so many resources. So, I don’t think the theory works so well with respect to those resources.
This is particular pet peeve of mine because although some resources are limited, the ability to create wealth in particular is not zero-sum. This is what the Cock Block Theory of Economics is all about. This is the comment I left at Unc's:

Resources ARE limited, depending on which resources you're referring to. Physical resources are limited, as is time.

However, humans have one resource that we never seem to run out of: our ability for ingenuity and creativity. The ability to add value to either a produce or a service or prevent value from being lost is what people pay other people to do. This is the very basis of wealth creation and why, even with limited resources, we've gone from being at the mercy of nature to warm water-tight homes and cheap food that we didn't need to grow ourselves.

When someone is attempting to make money by adding value and they are continually hampered in their efforts by a bureaucracy (which adds no value of its own) does anyone win? The bureaucracy feeds itself for a short time off of the labor of others, and some moronic voter gets to feel good because they made the world "more fair". However, who knows what would have happened if that inventor didn't need to spend days each year dealing with insane paperwork and bureaucratic hurdles. Maybe they would have discovered a real alternative to gasoline or a house-cleaning robot if they'd just been able to devote more time to the task.

There are tons of people who spend all day, every day, preventing others from accomplishing any kind of wealth creation. Lawmakers, bureaucrats, lawyers, rivals, competitors using methods other than competition (sweetheart deals, friends in the administration), leeches of all sorts. What good could they accomplish if, instead of focusing on making life harder for the truly productive, they spend their time learning how to add value themselves?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Internet has been spotty here since Monday

Which is why I have not posted what I wanted to the last few days.

As I've mentioned before, I'm on microwave internet service. A small microwave antenna sits high on the side of my house, pointing to the top of a 7,000 foot mountain about 10 miles slant range from me.

It's March. It's windy, and it's still snowing on the mountains, and unfortunately, there was a power outage on the top of the mountain for a day or so; and some intermittent network issues since then.

Unfortunately, I've been having some major internet problems generally for a few months; ever since they "upgraded" to new radio equipment late last year (including a radio "upgrade" for me).

Finally, after a few months of refunding me for service (I have a QOS guarantee) they decided to use the opportunity of the power cut to replace the node on the mountain, which they did yesterday, and this morning; and also my radio.

Analog RF engineering geekitude ahead....

They've upgraded me from a single band radio with a horizontally oriented plate radio, to a dual band, MIMO unity capable radio, with cross oriented poles and a dish instead of a plate.

That has upgraded me from a single 28Mbit wide channel to two 56Mbit wide channels. I also went from 18db above the noise floor to 28db above the noise floor.

My contract says I should get a minimum 1.5Mbit synchronus sustained with burst up to 8Mbit.

On the old radio gear I was MAXING out at 1.4Mbit, and only averaging a couple hundred Kbit.

That's why I've been getting refunded on my service since December.

On the new gear I'm maxing out at 8Mbit with an average of around 2Mbit.

I'm a hell of a lot happier about that. Of course, now I have to start paying them again.

Oh and my latency is spectacular by the way. I'm getting under 20ms to a commercial server in Seattle, under 30ms to Dallas, and under 100ms to London.

That's rather important since my "landline" is VOIP over this internet connection. Anyone who has called me in the last few months knows that my landline was iffy. Near as I can tell now, it's pretty good.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Kinda NSFW - K's Theory of Economics

So I spent a goodly portion of the afternoon on the phone with my best friend back in AZ. As is usual, we were talking about our current issues in life and people that make them worse.

In specific, we discussed those lovely people who believe that the good things in life are finite, that they need to bring you down in order to make themselves feel better instead of striving for good things themselves.

K: It's exactly like the cock block theory of economics.
Mel: The what?
K: Oh, I haven't told you about my cock block theory of economics?
Mel: No?

K's Cock Block Theory of Economics: Say money equals sex. There is an infinite possibility for free sex wherever you look, you just have to try to get it. Lots of people, lots of options, lots of ways of getting sex. But some people think that it's limited, and that if someone is getting laid then someone else out in the world isn't getting laid and that's not fair. Or they want to get laid but don't see it happening, so they cock block everyone else.

So there's people cock blocking everyone else from having sex, and the sad part is that if they just let it happen there would be plenty of sex for everyone. But they're so busy cock blocking other people that they're not having sex, and no one else is having sex because they're being prevented from doing so.

Apply that to money, and you can see how people who prevent others from making money really just screw everyone over.

A realtor who knows his local market

Found this while looking at the local freebie classifieds:

DEFENSIBLE 60 acres near
Farragut State Park, bordered
by timberland, recorded
single access easement,
$180,000. Go to
www.(redacted).com to or
call (local well-known real estate agent), 800-xxx-
xxxx or 208-xxx-xxxx

Reality Check: Why, even if Romney is as bad as "they" say (and he isn't) you should still vote for him... or at least against Obama

There's a hell of a lot of folks out there sturming and dranging, with much rending of garments and gnashing of teeth etc... etc... that Romney is no better than Obama; and that we'd be better off with Obama being re-elected, but having the Republicans secure a stronger majority in the house, and a full majority in the senate (preferably veto proof) so there would be a divided government.

The idea here is that gridlock is better than a unified government led by a moderate who isn't dedicated to cutting government expenditures, and government interference in our lives.

These same folks frequently point to the gridlock of the Clinton years as a perfect example; because with a divided government, congress was far less able to screw the country up.

These people are dead wrong.

Oh yes, they're right, in that a divided government restrains congress (unless there are vetoproof majorities of course). Unfortunately it does almost nothing to restrain the powers, roles, influences, and general ability to screw the country up, of the executive branch.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of people really do not understand how our three branch system of government works. For example, they tend to think of the President as having a lot of domestic power and power over the economy, which is entirely false... at least directly. Most people don't understand that as an individual, the president has very little direct power over anything but foreign policy, and short term responses to emergencies.

However, the president (and very importantly his party), has a huge amount of indirect power over our lives, through judicial and administrative appointees, and the administration of the executive branch and the agencies thereof (DOJ, FBI, ATF, IRS, DOE, DOI etc...).

It's through these courts, and executive agencies, that we intersect with the federal government most in our lives by far. When you are interacting with the federal government, it is almost always going to be through an executive agency, or a court. Who runs these institutions, how they are run, and how they exercise executive powers, has a huge impact on our lives, and our nation.

Ironically, not only are the wailing gnashers dead wrong, but the very example they cite to support their contention, provides a fully sufficient argument to prove my thesis.

There are four EXTREMELY important reasons why Obama cannot be allowed to have a second term:

  1. Supreme court justices
  2. Other federal judges
  3. Executive branch appointees (heads of agencies, senior bureaucrats etc...)
  4. Executive orders, signing statements, administrative rule and procedures, and other executive instruments of regulation and policy

The president as an individual has very little direct power over domestic issues as I said; but these four elements give the president, and his party (the party tends to provide or at least strongly influence the candidates and final decisions for each of these posts, as well as for the interpretation of executive powers) ENORMOUS power to screw the country up.

Remember, lots of people said the exact same things they're saying now about Romney, about Bush the Elder back in '92 (and frequently they voted for Perot as a protest), and Bob Dole in '96 (Dole was a deliberate sacrificial lamb in that election anyway); and so we got 8 years of the Clinton adminstration reshaping the federal administrative and judicial regimes.

We are now, almost twenty years later, STILL dealing with the problems caused by Clinton appointees, and particularly with how the Clinton administration ran the DOD, ATF, FBI, and CIA.

We'll be cleaning out Obama appointees for years as it is; we can't afford to give him the chance to screw things up even more.

Honestly, the last ten lines of this post should be enough of a reason for any conservative or libertarian to vote Obama out...

  • DC v. Heller was decided 5-4
  • McDonald v. Chicago was decided 5-4
  • Supreme court justices are a lifetime appointment
  • Antonin Scalia is almost 76 and will be 80 years old by 2016
  • Anthony Kennedy is almost 76 and will be 80 years old by 2016
  • Stephen Breyer is almost 74 and will be 78 years old by 2016
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg is almost 79 and will be 83 years old by 2016
  • The mean life expectancy for men in the United States is 76 (for women it's 80)
  • All four of the negative votes for those two decisions above were from liberal justices
  • Obama has already appointed two horrifically bad liberal justices, both under 60

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A little health update, and I'm getting some "free" money... sort of...

I'm not sick anymore... WEll of course I still have the cancer and the endocrine problems and the crazy hormones and the edema and... you get the picture; but at least I am finally over my creeping crud...

It's just 3 weeks later, and I'm better, yay!

I actually had a docs appointment today. My regular update for the doc, plus I had to get some bloodwork done. I got drawn for my monthly liver and kidney function (they just do a CMP) and and lipid panel.

I usually get the lipid panel twice a year, and had my last one in December so I wouldn't normally be due 'til June. However, our new health insurance plan gives us $250 (each) into our HSA for filling in a "health assessment", and another $350 (each) for getting an updated "biometric screening", which includes a CMP and lipid panel. Oh and $200 each for a couple of online self paced "health education" classes.

Basically, we get a total of $1600 into our HSA for the two of us having a doctors visit and a blood test each (well, actually it's like 19 blood tests, but it's only one blood draw) and a couple hours of filling out online forms.

Not bad. Better than the $700 total the company used to contribute annually to the HSA, and helping, a little bit anyway, to offset our increased cost of prescription medication.

In other good news, my fasting blood sugar is still normal (114), as is my a1c (5.4%), resting heart rate (72) and blood pressure (128/84 this morning).

We'll see how my cholesterol is in a couple days when the lipid panel gets back. I'm guessing a bit higher than last time just based on my diet and lack of exercise over the past few months, but last time I was around 160 so I'm not too worried.

I also talked to my Oncological surgeons assistant today, and she still wants me stabilized below 360 before she does the surgery.

The really irritating thing has been myweight continuing to yo-yo. Before I got sick I was fluctuating wildly in a range between 349 and 386. Since I've been sick I only took the diuretics a couple times (when my hands or feet or both swelled up enough to be painful) and over the course of three weeks, gained 50 lbs.

So yeah, that's irritating, but it's nothing new; and I'll be back down where I was within two weeks of being back on the diuretics consistently.

Basically, no real change since last time, which is, I suppose, a good thing; but still kinda frustrating.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Definitely still not used to daylight savings time yet...

Mel just IM'd me saying "I'll be home at 6:15, will you be ready"(referring to us having our weekly night out). I looked around thinking "hmmm why is she  saying this now it can't be more than 4:30... oh wait"

My brain and body are still used to the sun position matching up with the actual hour, rather than the semi arbitrary obsolete congressional/railroad prescribed time... and it's 5:40, not 4:40.

I'll still be ready in time of course, it's just one of those moments when you think "and we still do this why exactly?".

By June 21st, as far north as I live, it'll be 2130 local before full dark.

Ok seriously, Janine Turner... What the hell?

When did you go from this:

To some freaky plastic mannequin head?

And could you please, please, please, go back?

Oh and believe me, that second picture is SO much better than she just looked on fox news. Inflated lips, botox everywhere else, and texas beauty queen (which, admitedly she was. She grew up near Dallas and was a model at 15) blonde hair... just hideous.

Seriously, she's only 49, she really doesn't need to look like Zsa-Zsa.


Adultery, Prostitution, Rape, and Islam

This post is a consolidation and recapitulation of a couple of comments made across a couple of posts from the week or so, on the subject of rape in the islamic world.

Last week, Clayton Cramer posted a piece about the Beslan terrorist attack, in which he noted that the personal testimonies of the victims that some of the hostages were raped, seemed to have been scrubbed from official records, and regional reportage of the incident; and that Wikipedia had a pretty transparent apologia over the incident (go read the linked piece for the full context, I'd have to excerpt the whole thing to make sense here) quoted here:
The lack of food and water took its toll on the young children, many of whom were forced to stand for long periods in the hot, tightly-packed gym. Many children took off their clothing because of the sweltering heat within the gymnasium, which led to rumors of sexual impropriety, though the hostages later explained it was merely due to the stifling heat and being denied any water.
In his last paragraph he wrote:
The two sources that this paragraph gives for this claim says nothing that indicates that the claims of rape were incorrect. I find myself troubled by how many books and articles refer to this claim, which seems unfortunately quite plausible--and yet I can't find any immediate newspaper accounts that refer to it. Can you help me?
As someone who is familiar with the region, I responded:
You almost certainly won't; and you can guarantee any Chechnyans will edit out any mention of it in wikipedia.

Cultural rape shame in the region is EXTREME (both islamic, and christian), and it will almost certainly never be acknowledged in local sources, or by Ossetians.
This is a cultural pathology very familiar to those who know islamic culture, and balkan and transcaucasian culture; but is really not well understood here in the United States (not that rape shame isn't a huge problem here as well, it's simply an entirely different order of magnitude).

Apparently my comment (and those of the other commenters) triggered some further interest on Claytons part about rape in the muslim world; particularly in the context of Surah 23:1-11
The believers must (eventually) win through,-
Those who humble themselves in their prayers;
Who avoid vain talk;
Who are active in deeds of charity;
Who abstain from sex,
Except with those joined to them in the marriage bond, or (the captives) whom their right hands possess,- for (in their case) they are free from blame,
But those whose desires exceed those limits are transgressors;-
Those who faithfully observe their trusts and their covenants;
And who (strictly) guard their prayers;-
These will be the heirs,
Who will inherit Paradise: they will dwell therein (for ever).
This passage is taken by many muslims, as a commandment to be chaste except in marriage OR with slaves and captives. It has been used as justification by muslims to rape slaves, prisoners, hostages etc...

A few days later, Clayton posted a further missive on Sharia law and Rape:
I spent some time this evening researching the claim that sharia law requires four male, Islamic, adult eyewitnesses to get a rape conviction. This turns out to be true, but slightly misleading, or at least, incomplete. Sharia law, with its very severe punishments, does apparently require four male, Islamic adult eyewitnesses for the crime of zina (which includes rape, adultery, and premarital sex, and does not distinguish them clearly). In some countries, eight adult females can provide the testimony, or some combination of men and women.

It turns out that the standard, which may have been intended primarily to prevent a person accused of adultery from being executed without extraordinary evidence, is so demanding that a non-sharia based-law is used to punish rape, with much less severe punishments, in many Muslim countries. The reported rape rates in Muslim countries are so astonishingly low that I am inclined to think that these crimes are just not being reported.
I felt I needed to expand greatly on my previous comment about rape and shame in the islamic world:
Unfortunately, yes.

Actual rape is shockingly common in the islamic world, particularly in Africa and the Arabic portions; particularly among the lower economic classes, and among what are effectively lower caste populations of indians, pakistanis, afghanis, indonesians, africans, and other darker skinned or mixed race muslims; who are imported into the arabic and other lighter skinned muslim countries as cheap labor (because many of them speak arabic, and have no resources or education to help them protect themselves).

These people are effectively made into indentured servants, or even slaves; and their masters take the "masters privilege".

Rich arabs, particularly "royalty" (though the arabic definition of royalty is... expansive. There are thousands of Saudi princes for example) tend to view the lower class staff as fair game, or even as their due, or just reward.

Often rape is used as a means of control, or shaming, of either a woman or her family (which may "force" the family to kill the woman to "restore their honor"). It can even be used to gain business advantage.

Also, gang rape, by roving bands of young men, is sadly not uncommon. Usually, they excuse their behavior as "punishing the wicked temptress" for "tempting" them with their wicked bodies, uncovered ankles and wrists etc...

You will find, if you look closer into it, that most muslim women who are punished for "adultery", are in fact rape victims.

Sadder still, the rape gangs have moved into europe with large scale lower class muslim immigration; particularly in Germany, Sweden, and France. The city of Malmo in sweden has essentially been declared a no-go zone for white women. They have even seen some rape gang activity in Canada and the UK.

I can't even get into Africa without getting angrier than hell... In the sudan, tanzania, djibouti, eritrea, somalia, ethiopia, the congo, sexual violence is so commonplace as to be beneath notice. Again, you'll find that most women in Muslim africa punished for "adultery" or "prostitution" are in fact rape victims.

The final major factor is the cultural rape shame. It's so severe in the islamic world that there is a near 80% death rate from it; either by suicide, murder, stoning and other "punishment", and honor killings.
Frankly, I haven't even begun to touch on this subject. I personally could write a short book on it, never mind a real expert on this subject. I know there are several books on the subject of sexual violence in Islam, and sexual violence in africa; generally first person accounts by refugees, or serious scholarly/governmental report type things. I don't know of any books that seek to be serious reportage, commentary, and analysis on the subject.

For some reason, Americans in general know very little about this.

The false statistics of sexual abuse in the United States (and believe me, if you've seen a statistic on sexual violence in the American media, it's almost certainly false. This topic is so politicized as to be completely unreliable at this point) are ridiculously well publicized; but the actual genocidal horror (and yes, it is very much a part of the African and eastern European genocides, and for genocidal reasons) of sexual violence in Islam and particularly in Africa is basically unknown.

That idea simply dumbfounds me, never mind making me angry.

A Well Deserved Whuppin

A couple weeks back, Og posted a little throwaway "#7 of my top ten worst beatings":

Og’s Mom: “Don’t you get smart with me!”
Og:”How would you know?”

--sound of furniture being destroyed and repeated impact with blunt instruments
As it happened, when Og posted this, I had just returned from Massachusetts, where I had gone to memorialize my mother with my family. That put me in mind of my past, and I decided to post a little anecdote of one of my "formative experiences":

The worst beating I ever received from my mother, was due to similar smartass stupidity.

Now, my mother was 5′3 and 105lbs. By the time I was 9 I was bigger than her. When I stopped growing at 13, I was 6′2″ and 265lbs of mostly muscle and smartass.

Around 10 or 11 she pretty much stopped trying to hit me, just because it would have been a waste of time and effort.

So, one day in the summer of my 14th year, my mother (who would have been 34 or 35 at the time) and I were having a fight in the kitchen. The fight turned kinda nasty, and I said, with a great big shiteatin grin on my face “what are you going to do, hit me?”

So she did.

An open handed slap across the face, about as hard as she could hit… which, for a 5′3″ tall 105lb woman was pretty hard… but I had 11″ and 160lbs on her, and by then 8 years of Jiu Jitsu, and football, and wrestling.

Me, being composed as I said, mostly of muscle and smartass; did exactly the thing you would expect… I laughed at her.

So she tried to hit me again, and I caught her wrist; and she jerked it away so hard she sprained it… me, all the while, laughing at her.

At this point my mother got as angry as I’ve ever seen another human being get… I mean bright PURPLE with throbbing forehead veins and all and I was just falling all over myself laughing at her because I KNEW she couldn’t hurt me…

Oh boy, was I wrong.

See, the open handed slap of a 105lb woman may not hurt all that much… but my mother understood things like leverage, and mechanical advantage, and using the tools to hand…

While I was busy congratulating myself at how clever I was, my mother held her wrist in her other hand, turned slightly, and then spun back around the damn quick…

With a 12 inch frying pan, across the side of my head, with the entire force of her hopping mad body behind it (it turned out to have been hard enough to fracture her wrist)

I staggered back and fell flat on my ass, too stunned to swear.

My mother… all 5′3″ of her stood over me with the frying pan in her hand and said…

“Well… that wiped the smile off your face didn’t it. Don’t you EVER forget, I brought you into this world… I can take you out of it”.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Good news bad news on the job front

I talked to the hiring manager today for the job I've been waiting for an offer from. The good news is that they have the offer in process. They really need me to start... well, actually they needed me last month.

The bad news is "the process".

The company had a hiring freeze just as they were starting the hiring process for me. So now, they've had to come up with an "exception process", and then put prospective hires through it.

I'm the first one in the process, and I've already cleared the justification hurdles etc... Now it needs to go up to "executive approval".

Because of the freeze, and because of the level of employee I'll be, my hiring has to actually be approved by the damn CEO (of a 350,000 person company by the way); which is why it's taking so long.

However, when I spoke to the hiring manager he said that I had the stamp of approval and strong recommendation etc... etc... of all levels. So it's unlikely the CEO will not approve extending me the offer.

I had to go through this at my last long term job as well, and it also took about the same amount of time.

I applied for this job in the first week of January, had my first interview in mid January, my second interview in early February,  I got my tentative verbal offer the 29th of February, and will get my written offer, likely some time around March 30th.

So typical big company hiring speed.

Yaknow... maybe it's just me but...

Does it even count as a "Behind the music" if, at some point there isn't some dramatic music with the voiceover guy saying something like "and then it all came crashing down".

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I'm not dead, I'm just still frikken sick

So the last two and a half weeks I've managed like 3 posts. I'm not dead, or lazy... or at least any lazier than usual anyway... I'm just STILL FRIKKEN SICK FROM THREE WEEKS AGO.

Unfortunately, this is what happens when you have cancer. Your immune system is so screwed up by the cancer, and so busy with other things, that you just sorta stay sick for weeks at a time; or you get opportunistic secondary infections etc... etc... etc...

This time around I have been hovering around the edges of bronchitis and bronchial pneumonia. I either had a very bad case of acute bronchitis, or a very mild case of bronchial pneumonia... or rather, if the latter, both (because I definitely had bronchitis).


The bronchitis is mostly gone now, but I'm still having all the fun of being "low level sick". Fever, coughing, mucus, headeaches, joint pain etc...

I thought I was better for a day or so last week, as usual... and as usual I was SADLY mistaken, and paid for my presumption tenfold.

And of course I'm still only able to take my medications when the symptoms get so bad that I have to; because, as I have said, you really don't want to be taking these things when you are sick (their side effects when you AREN'T sick include dehydration, and reduced kidney and liver function).

Oh and without my medications, and made worse by the being sick; I'm on what I like to call the "sleep rollercoaster". I spend 24-48 hours not being able to sleep at all, then I sleep for 16 or so hours, three or four days in a row; then back to 24-48 hours of not being able to sleep.

Aint we got fun?

So yeah... I'm not very productive at the moment obviously. I'm not particularly happy about it, but until this crap clears up, there's not much I can do about it.

Cancer aint for sissys boys and girls. As always, I strongly recommend against it.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The REAL Grassroots of American Politics: A report from Idahos first 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. higways 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?


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.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Life Gets in the Way

Combined, Chris and I probably have at least 30, if not 40, posts that we have yet to write.

To say that we're dealing with multiple balls in the air would be a bit of an understatement. More like we're juggling some double-edged swords and a couple of flaming torches.

However Spring is definitely coming in more ways than one. Life is definitely turning the corner.