Silicon Valley Bank Failure- by William Chittenden

Silicon Valley Bank biggest US lender to fail since 2008 financial crisis – a finance expert explains the impact

SVB encountered a perfect storm of high interest rates and fearful clients. AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

William Chittenden, Texas State University

Silicon Valley Bank, which catered to the tech industry for three decades, collapsed on March 10, 2023, after the Santa Clara, California-based lender suffered from an old-fashioned bank run. State regulators seized the bank and made the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation its receiver.

SVB, as it’s known, was the biggest U.S. lender to fail since the 2008 global financial crisis – and the second-biggest ever.

We asked William Chittenden, associate professor of finance at Texas State University, to explain what happened and whether Americans should be worried about the safety of their financial system.

Why did Silicon Valley Bank collapse so suddenly?

The short answer is that SVB did not have enough cash to pay depositors so the regulators closed the bank.

The longer answer begins during in the pandemic, when SVB and many other banks were raking in more deposits than they could lend out to borrowers. In 2021, deposits at SVB doubled.

But they had to do something with all that money. So, what they could not lend out, they invested in ultra-safe U.S. Treasury securities. The problem is the rapid increase in interest rates in 2022 and 2023 caused the value of these securities to plunge. A characteristic of bonds and similar securities is that when yields or interest rates go up, prices go down, and vice versa.

The bank recently said it took a US$1.8 billion hit on the sale of some of those securities and they were unable to raise capital to offset the loss as their stock began dropping. That prompted prominent venture capital firms to advise the companies they invest in to pull their business from Silicon Valley Bank. This had a snowball effect that led a growing number of SVB depositors to withdraw their money too.

The investment losses, coupled with the withdrawals, were so large that regulators had no choice but to step in to shut the bank down to protect depositors.

Are the deposits now safe?

From a practical perspective, the FDIC is now running the bank.

It is typical for the FDIC to shut a bank down on a Friday and have the bank reopen the following Monday. In this case, the FDIC has already announced that the bank will reopen on March 13 as the Deposit Insurance National Bank of Santa Clara.

At the end of 2022, SVB had $175.4 billion in deposits. It’s not clear how much of those deposits remain with the bank and how much of those are insured and 100% safe.

For depositors with $250,000 or less in cash at SVB, the FDIC said that customers will have access to all of their money when the bank reopens.

For those with uninsured deposits at SVB – basically anything above the FDIC limit of $250,000 – they may or may not receive back the rest of their money. These depositors will be given a “Receiver’s Certificate” by the FDIC for the uninsured amount of their deposits. The FDIC has already said it will pay some of the uninsured deposits by next week, with additional payments possible as the regulator liquidates SVB’s assets. But if SVB’s investments have to be sold at a significant loss, uninsured depositors may not get any additional payment.

men in uniform walk out of a building with glass doors under a sign that reads silicon valley bank
Santa Clara Police officers exit Silicon Valley Bank. AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

What was the last US bank to fail?

Prior to the failure of SVB, the most recent bank failures occurred in October 2020, when both Almena State Bank in Kansas and First City Bank of Florida were taken over by the FDIC.

Both of these banks were relatively small – with about $200 million in deposits combined.

SVB was the biggest bank to fail since September 2008, when Washington Mutual failed with $307 billion in assets. WaMu fell in the wake of investment bank Lehman Brothers’ collapse, which nearly took down the global financial system.

On the whole, U.S. bank failures aren’t all that common. For example, there were none in 2021 and 2022.

Is there any risk that more banks might fail?

At the end of 2022, SVB was the 16th-largest bank in the United States with $209 billion in assets.

That sounds like a lot – and it is – but that’s just 0.91% of all banking assets in the U.S. There is little risk that SVB’s failure will spill over to other banks.

Having said that, SVB’s collapse does highlight the risk that many banks have in their investment portfolios. If interest rates continue to rise, and the Federal Reserve has indicated that they will, the value of the investment portfolios of banks across the U.S. will continue to go down.

While these losses are just on paper – meaning they’re not realized until the assets are sold – they still can increase a bank’s overall risk. How much the risk will go up will vary from bank to bank.

The good news is that most banks currently have enough capital to absorb these losses – however large – in part because of efforts taken by the Fed after the 2008 financial crisis to ensure financial firms can weather any storm.

So rest easy for now, the banking system is sound.

William Chittenden, Associate Professor of Finance, Texas State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


The Value of Money

The value of currency hasn’t been stable recently – or possibly ever. 

It isn’t a lot different from Roman times

“Roman emperor Nero began debasing Roman currency around 60 AD by reducing its silver content from 100% to 90%. Over the next 150 years, the silver content was reduced to 50%. By 265 AD, the silver content was down to 5%. 

When a currency is debased, and therefore loses value, sooner or later the citizenry catches on and begins demanding higher prices for the goods they sell or more wages for their work, resulting in inflation. In the case of the Roman Empire, the debasement produced annual inflation of around 1,000%.” 

Cointalk provides this chart, that shows how in times of old, you could create inflation just by adding lead to the silver when you were making coins: 

“During what is called the ‘Crisis of the Third Century’ some 200 years later, Rome experienced a period of hyperinflation, as the silver content in their currency was lowered even further. This was a time where Roman faced great economic problems, invasions and civil unrest. As a result, trade broke down and landowners could no longer export their crops or import manufactured goods. They became largely self sufficient, and food was grown for subsistence and bartering. 

Government revenue was extremely low, but government spending was not. During this time, governments had additional incentive to wall-in cities, and increase the size and power of their armies to combat the invasions and civil unrest. As a result, the silver content of coins had to be reduced further to accommodate the additional spending, fueling inflation. 

The situation was not helped by the fact that in just a period of 50 years, there were at least twenty-six Soldier-Emperors, who would ruthlessly assassinate the previous emperors in order to seize power, and would then need the budget to meet the demands of buying off loyalty from their soldiers. Before 300 CE, the purity had already dropped to as low as 2% silver.”  

The table below came from the article linked and cited above, and was written in 2015.  You can look at the prices you see today – like coffee and gasoline – and extrapolate the recent years for yourself. 

I’m a demographer, not an economist or a politician.  Still, it seems like printing more money and reducing its buying power doesn’t create a lot of benefit to folks who don’t belong to the kleptocracy. 


Can We Please Have School Board Elections?

I don’t know how long it’s been since we actually had an election for the school board trustees.  The ballots stashed in Trego School’s records date back to the 1900s.  It may be that children have been born, graduated from college, certified to teach, and been granted tenure in the time since Trego’s last election.  If the district doesn’t get two candidates to run, a single candidate will win “by acclamation.”  Eureka already has 4 candidates running for two positions – and the LCHS board has Raymond Flanagan running for the Fortine position unopposed.  Since five of the high school board positions are filled by Eureka Elementary trustees, this election cover three of the seven high school trustees. Fortine has three 3-year terms up this year, and no filings yet.                

Nothing personal – but we need to get back in the habit of having elections . . . and the school district is the place to start.  To run for school board, you need to be a registered voter in the school district and get your form filled out and notarized by March 23.  On the other hand, if you miss getting the form in by the 23rd, you can still file as a write-in candidate until March 30 – and, in districts where we’re not accustomed to an actual election, a write-in candidate probably has as good a chance as a candidate whose name is on the ballot.

My term runs out in a little more than two years.  I’d like to be the last school board member elected by “acclamation.”  The lack of elections does not improve the quality of our schools.

Here are some of the laws governing school elections, the whole list is available at

Regular School Election Day And Special School Elections — Limitation — Exception

20-20-105. Regular school election day and special school elections — limitation — exception. (1) Except as provided in subsection (5), the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May of each year is the regular school election day.

(2) Except as provided in subsections (4) and (5), a proposition requesting additional funding under 20-9-353 may be submitted to the electors only once each calendar year on the regular school election day.

(3) Subject to the provisions of subsection (2), other school elections may be conducted at times determined by the trustees.

(4) In the event of an unforeseen emergency occurring on the date scheduled for the funding election pursuant to subsection (2), the district will be allowed to reschedule the election for a different day of the calendar year. As used in this section, “unforeseen emergency” has the meaning provided in 20-3-322(5).

(5) In years when the legislature meets in regular session or in a special session that affects school funding, the trustees may order an election on a date other than the regular school election day in order for the electors to consider a proposition requesting additional funding under 20-9-353.

Poll Hours

20-20-106. Poll hours. (1) The polls for any school election in any district shall open not later than noon. The trustees may order the polls to open earlier, but no earlier than 7 a.m.

(2) If the school election is held on the same day as an election held by a political subdivision and at the same polling place pursuant to 13-1-305, the polls must be opened and closed at the times required for the school election.

(3) If the school election is held on the same day as a general or primary election, the polls must be opened and closed at the times required for the general or primary election under 13-1-106.

(4) Once opened, the polls must be kept open continuously until 8 p.m., except that whenever all the registered electors at any poll have voted, the poll must be closed immediately.

Election Judges — Qualifications — Training

20-20-109. Election judges — qualifications — training. (1) Election judges must be qualified registered electors of the school district in which they serve.

(2) An election judge may not be:

(a) the candidate;

(b) an ascendant, descendant, brother, or sister of a candidate; or

(c) the spouse of the candidate or of any of the individuals listed in subsection (2)(b).

(3) School election judges must meet the training and certification requirements of 13-4-203.

There are some other laws available, but these are the significant ones.


Montana Election Integrity Meeting

Sam’s kind of slowed down during pregnancy, and asked me to attend the meeting from the Montana Election Integrity folks.  I picked up some material, and had a brief, pleasant conversation with Jane Rectenwald – frankly, I liked the lady, but remember, I find most politicians easy to like. 

I hadn’t been in the Timbers Lodge since the seventies, so it was pleasant going back in the building and seeing the logs supporting the roof, and that the remodeling fits well with my memories.  Attendance was on the light side of fifty, and I suspect that at 73 I was probably close to the median age. 

As a general rule, I’m in favor of election integrity.  I also have the idea that you shouldn’t start by looking at a conspiracy where stupidity, carelessness and laziness combine to provide an adequate explanation.  Yes, we’ve had some bizarre election irregularities in Lincoln County – but I’m not sure that the default position of looking at whichever election administrator is responsible as either stupid, careless, or lazy doesn’t provide an adequate explanation – though I might embrace the power of the word “and”.

Rectenwald pointed out several times that Christi Jacobsen pulled more votes than Donald Trump – and that she had never before been elected to state office.  Well, the problem isn’t that an attractive, relatively unknown woman who ran a good campaign could pull more votes than Donald Trump.  See, I think I voted for both of them – but the choice between Biden and Trump was what the headshrinkers call avoidance-avoidance.  My distaste for Joe Biden pushed me into being a Trump voter . . . but I well understand the folks who went the other way. The ones I don’t understand are the never-trumpers and the only-trumpers.

“More Democrat votes were certified in 2020 for the Supt. of Public Instruction than for Biden for President.”  I’m not a bit surprised – I’m used to having Democrats as the State Soup, and face it- Biden just doesn’t pull well in Montana. 

I found the numbers interesting on Zuckerman contributions to Montana for elections – Rectenwald pointed out spots where that violates state law.  According to the list of “Zuckerbucks Per Capita Used in US 2020 Election, Montana receive $2.26 per head for the counties that received Zuckerbucks.  The best one was the $256,433 total received by Blaine County – which has about the same population as the Lincoln County High School district.  (Yellowstone County (Billings) received $320,593).  If I was trying to buy an election, I sure wouldn’t be donating a quarter of a million to Chinook – and to be fair, I did work there in the early 80’s when I was with SCS, and for some reason I had access to the indoor pistol range in the basement – a nice perk in the winter. 

Now they have data from a guy named Seth Kershel who estimates excess votes for counties – and the map shows them up colored in green (which means historic voting data is consistent with 2020 results) yellow (suspect/likely fraud) and red (rampant, obvious, ugly).  Lincoln County is colored yellow – but my roots go deep here – through the seventies, Lincoln County was a Union Democrat county – Republicans couldn’t win a county-wide election.  Over the years, our county has moved to the Republican column – so far that on the last ballot, the general election was over at the Primary – we had no Democrat candidates.  Zero.  None.  Nada.

As population changes, it is fairly easy to point out how elections can be expected to change.  I haven’t done any detailed analysis, but a lot of our California immigrants came from Bakersfield, not San Francisco.  Bakersfield leans Republican.  Retirees are going to be more so.  I can set up a testable hypothesis that our California immigrants have a tendency to be more to the right side of the political map.  My data handling experience was predominately based around the Census – but data is data. 

Montana Election Integrity has been around for about 20 years.  In that length of time, we’re bound to have had some level of election chicanery.  The problem is, there is nothing that is statistically impossible – merely statistically unlikely.  I played pinochle in a game where I finally learned the deck was marked – one of the horses backing the jack of diamonds and one backing the queen of spades had a white blaze.  The game got a lot fairer after I added about a dozen more blazes.  I’ve drawn two cards and wound up with four of a kind – it’s statistically unlikely, when I was holding 3 jacks, the odds of getting the fourth was 1 out of 47.  Fraud is hard to prove – and if you do have a fraudster, he can be expected to deny it.  I suspect the folks at Montana Election Integrity could stand to have some better stats guy on hand.

And I still believe sub-section 7 does mandate write-in votes for positions where no one has filed are to be counted.  The fact that our Election Administrator doesn’t do show doesn’t show that Paula has a conspiracy going – after all, never look for a conspiracy where stupidity, carelessness and laziness provide an adequate explanation.


4-H Congress and Memories

I went into Trego School to see a poster where the Trego Trailblazers 4-H club was welcoming us to County Congress.  It brought back memories.  I was there when a group of kids started the club and came up with the name “Trailblazers”.  Was it Kenny Peters who coined the name?  Freddie Osler? The only thing I know for sure is that I was there 60 years ago, when the Trailblazers came to life, and that I wasn’t the one who came up with the alliterative name.  At the end of that meeting, I was no longer a Fortine Pioneer . . . I was a Trego Trailblazer.  It was kind of a rush to see that something done so casually by a bunch of kids 60 years ago still has a bunch of kids.

I was going to write about this particular County Congress – but I have a story of County Congress, State 4-H Congress, the County Fair, a cattle workshop, and an outstanding, wonderful 4-H kid.  It’s a story that I can tell because I’m typing it, not trying to talk as memories bring tears.

I was the County Extension Agent, and County Congress was due to start in a couple hours.  Sam must have been pushing 5, and was visiting with her big kid friend, Kit Kinsella . . . and Sam explained that we had to give Kit a ride home to get the gear for her demonstration.  I liked Kit.  Sam liked Kit – and she had forgotten her gear, and the parental idea was that she would learn to be more responsible in the future by losing the opportunity.  Sam had a different idea – we needed to take the Yugo, drive Kit out to McGinnis Meadows, bring back her stash and get her the chance to compete.

Sam, not yet 5, had what proved to be the right idea – one of the best things I did as an Extension agent.  Kit rushed in for the competition, won it, and qualified for State 4-H Congress.  A couple months later, we were carpooling with Flathead County to State Congress . . . it was a good partnership.  Cheryl Weatherell would be in the girls dorm with my Lincoln County girls, and I inherited the Flathead boys to check in on in Langford Hall.  It worked.

Kit lived 40 miles out of town, off-grid.  The week in a college dorm was her week – unlimited showers, indoor plumbing, and a whole crew of girls fascinated by Kit’s off-grid, home-schooled life.  The third day of State Congress, Cheryl was telling how much the Flathead girls learned and enjoyed Kit.  That evening one of the boys I was supervising crawled out through a window, so I had a bit of a discipline problem . . .  in the girls’ dorm, Kit explained to Cheryl that her upper arm hurt, and that there was a lump on the bone. 

In those days, when the internet was young, and phone lines followed powerlines, there wasn’t much to do.  I shared the scars on my left shoulder, where it had taken a surgery at 7, then a second at 12, to get rid of the tumor.  It was calming – Kit was sure that she could handle it, even if her scars turned out ugly like mine.  That Friday, I dropped Kit off with her mother, and drove home.  A couple weeks later, we learned that Kit’s tumor was the iron crab – mine had been benign.  I got the call as John Patterson and I were teaching a livestock class – John wound up teaching my part as well as his own – my eyes teared up too much at the words “stage 4”.

Kit made it to the county fair – she greeted me with a smile, and insisted that I roll up my sleeve – that if I would just sit on the hay bail she could show me that her surgeons left as big a scar as mine.  Several times I’ve heard of the little teen-ager enjoying sitting with me comparing scars.  I still tear up when the tale is repeated.  Long story made short, the physicians did the best they could, but as an early Spring came in, Kit went out.

I wasn’t a 4-H agent – 4-H was just one of my duties.  On one hand, I could look at how great that single trip to MSU for State Congress was for Kit.  On the other hand, I wasn’t tough enough to lose one of my 4-H kids, take it in stride, and return to 4-H activities unimpaired.  All of a sudden, all my 4-H kids looked vulnerable.

From that experience, moving admin, supervising 38 agents and 20 counties in South Dakota was a bit easier – the county staff has the fun of working with young learners, and administrators are removed from the realities that there are times when young people die, and that neither doctors nor extension agents can change that. 

And as I think back, Sam was right.  Nothing I ever did as an Extension Agent was as good an act as driving 80 miles so that Kit could qualify for a week at MSU in a college dorm.  I couldn’t stay through this year’s County Congress – good, but pained memories returned. 


Normal Narcissism-by April Ilkmen

A little bit of narcissism is normal and healthy – here’s how to tell when it becomes pathological

There is a major distinction between healthy and pathological narcissism. Joos Mind/The Image Bank via Getty Images

April Nisan Ilkmen, Adler University

During former President Donald Trump’s campaign and presidency, the word narcissism became something of a buzzword. And in recent years the word has been popularized on social media and in the press.

As a result, social media and other online platforms are now rife with insights, tips, stories and theories from life coaches, therapists, psychologists and self-proclaimed narcissists about navigating relationships with narcissists or managing one’s own symptoms.

The term “narcissism” is commonly used to describe anyone who is egotistical and self-absorbed. Someone who exhibits narcissistic traits may have a personality disorder known as narcissistic personality disorder.

Over the past decade, the rapid development of social networking sites has caused profound changes in the way people communicate and interact. Social media websites such as Facebook, TikTok and Instagram can feel like a narcissistic field day. In seconds, one can share self-enhancing content – flattering pictures, boastful statuses and enviable vacations – with a vast audience and receive immediate feedback in the form of “likes” and reinforcing comments from followers.

As a licensed couple and family therapist who specializes in relationship issues related to attachment, I have worked with many couples with one partner who is on the narcissistic personality disorder spectrum. One reason the narcissistic partner is challenging to treat is that they’re adept at persuading their partner that they are the dysfunctional one. The “malignant narcissist” may be the most worrisome type of all.

Defining narcissism

Dr. Otto Kernberg, a psychiatrist who specializes in personality disorders, differentiates between normal and pathological narcissism using a framework that assesses a person’s capacity to participate in satisfactory romantic relationships.

Normal narcissism refers to a well-integrated sense of self that is generally for the greater good, such as a healthy sense of pride in oneself and one’s accomplishments. Pathological narcissism describes extreme fluctuations between feelings of inferiority and failure with a sense of superiority and grandiosity.

Each person has a bit of normal narcissism within them. This can take the form of having self-confidence and even a modicum of entitlement while still displaying empathy and emotion. Research shows the role of healthy narcissism occurs at subclinical levels in everyday populations and can help motivate people to enhance themselves and to progress in life.

But when striving for achievement or gain involves an excessive desire for attention and approval and an outsize, grandiose sense of self, it is no longer in the realm of healthy narcissism.

A pathological narcissist sees everyone else as an extension of self. Those in a narcissist’s life, especially in their inner circle, must always demonstrate perfection because they contribute to the narcissist’s own self-image. Like many personality disorders, narcissism manifests itself in intimate relationships through the cycle of idealization and devaluation, creating the concept of the so-called toxic relationship.

Finding a victim

A narcissist chooses their partners based on whether the partner affirms their grandiose sense of self. And since having that affirmation is the key driver for a narcissist’s relationship, they are generally not interested in learning a lot about the other person.

The things that attract narcissists are not the personal characteristics of the other person or even the connection that comes from the relationship. If the person has a reputable status in their eyes and they find the person appealing, they are usually willing to move forward quickly in the relationship. Unfortunately, as a narcissist’s genuine interest in the other person is typically superficial, the narcissist often loses interest in the relationship just as suddenly as they began it.

Narcissistic abuse is a form of extreme psychological and emotional abuse marked by manipulative communication and intentional deception for exploitation by a person who meets the criteria for pathological narcissism. Some key traits of narcissism include a sense of entitlement, a lack of boundaries and a need for attention.

Forms of narcissism

Narcissistic abuse can be insidious and hard to recognize. Since the signs of narcissistic abuse aren’t always obvious, it’s important to name and recognize them.

  • Gaslighting: The narcissist uses a manipulation strategy known as gaslighting to make the victim doubt his or her own ability to make a decision or take an action. People use this technique to maintain control over the other person’s sense of reality. When gaslighting occurs, victims are left feeling doubtful and insecure and some even have difficulty recognizing that they are being gaslighted. In some relationships, a co-dependency develops between the narcissist and the victim in which the victim accepts the narcissist’s position of authority.
  • Victim mentality: This mindset, which is common for those with narcissistic personality disorder, implies that everybody owes the narcissist something. In my clinical experience, I have often witnessed the narcissist creating a false narrative about how they did not get what they were supposed to get in life because they were wronged by others. This story allows them to feel entitled to have anger and resentment toward anyone, especially toward people they perceive as successful.
  • Cycle of idealization and devaluation: Narcissists form polarized beliefs about themselves and others, meaning that their opinions of themselves and others can be exceptionally positive or unrealistically negative.

During the idealization stage, the narcissist creates a sense of unbreakable connection with the victim. No matter what type of relationship it is – whether romantic, professional or familial – it moves fast and has an intense quality to it.

At some point, the narcissist’s partner will disappoint them in some way, usually not on purpose. As a response, the narcissist will criticize every move, jump to conclusions and react dramatically to these perceived disappointments. The narcissist will begin to see their partner as flawed and accuse them of not being the perfect partner they were supposed to be. This phase is characterized by verbal and physical abuse, humiliation, bullying and smearing.

Feelings of emptiness: According to Kernberg, the psychiatrist mentioned above, the inability of narcissists to develop fulfilling and lasting relationships results in a chronically empty internal world.

Narcissistic personality disorder patients will often find themselves “waking up” at age 40, 50 or 60 with a desperate sense of loss. The narcissist often struggles with feelings of emptiness that stem from relying on a false grandiose sense of self that prevents them from being vulnerable. In turn, they project their feelings of emptiness onto the partner in a relationship. Many of these patients suffer from a loss of identity and sense of helplessness and feel alienated from the world.

Navigating relationships with a narcissist

Since the narcissist often develops controlling and manipulative relationships with the partner’s friends and family, the victim may feel reluctant to rely on their intimate circle for support. Finding a therapist who specializes in narcissistic abuse recovery is the first step to start the healing process.

I have had a lot of patients tell me that their therapists aren’t familiar with the term “pathological narcissism.” If they’re not, I suggest that, if possible, these patients find therapists who specialize in emotionally focused therapy or transference focused therapy. These therapies help identify destructive patterns of communication as they arise during a therapy session, rather than focusing only on interactions that arise outside of therapy.

From my perspective, relationships with a narcissistic partner are some of the hardest to treat. The narcissistic partners are often unwilling to participate in therapy because they will not admit that they need help and find it challenging to collaborate with the therapist. Effective couples therapy is rare but not impossible and can occur only when the narcissistic partner acknowledges that their expectations are unreasonable and destructive.

April Nisan Ilkmen, PhD Candidate in Couple and Family Therapy, Adler University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Experiments in Democracy

Years ago, probably in civics class, I was taught that the old Greeks (actually the old Athenians) developed democracy.  As I grew older, and read more, I realized that the Athenians didn’t so much develop democracy as they looked for a better form of government than the empires around them – Egypt, the Hittites, Mesopotamia, Babylon, Persia, etc. had.  Since those neighbors seemed to be ruled by god-kings, plunging into democracy seemed like a good idea.

Now the Athenians didn’t just look at elections – around 508 BC, they decided to turn over all of their governmental functions to one man – a guy by the name of Cleisthenes.  Cleisthenes set up what seems to be experiments in democracy.  He established the council of 500 – a group which became the main legislative body of the state.  Here’s the kick – the members of the council of 500 weren’t elected to the office.  Instead, they were selected, kind of like back when we had the draft lottery, or like we get with jury duty, but back then they hadn’t developed many ways to dodge the draft, or to get out of jury duty.

Instead of an elective, representative democracy, Cleisthenes set up an actual democracy – the random selection process gave every citizen an equal chance to serve on the council.  The way it worked out, every Athenian was likely to serve twice on the council of 500 in his lifetime (remember, women weren’t citizens in Athens – the pronoun is correct).

Still Cleisthenes did include an election – it was just a bit of a different sort of an election.  Once a year, Athenians voted for the man they wanted out of the city.  If more than 6,000 votes were cast, the “winner” would be exiled from Athens for the next 10 years – if he came back to town before ten years, he was to be executed.

This election, called an ostracism, had each vote cast on a broken piece of pottery called an ostrakon.   Since, at the end of the election, all of the ostrakons were gathered up and dumped in a hole, we have pretty good evidence that the ballots were stuffed and the elections were rigged, even in those early days of democracy.

So I got to thinking – our technology allows us to handle this without even needing to break any pots.  Real Clear Politics has worked it all out for us – though this only lists eight politicians, we can easily see that Nancy Pelosi and Mitt Romney still merit inclusion on the list.

Favorability Ratings: U.S. Political Leaders

Joe Biden41.551.7-10.2
Donald Trump38.055.1-17.1
Ron DeSantis43.838.6+5.2
Kamala Harris39.051.0-12.0
Kevin McCarthy24.738.7-14.0
Hakeem Jeffries25.524.8+0.7
Chuck Schumer26.839.2-12.4
Mitch McConnell20.252.0-31.8

So, just glancing at the unfavorable column, on the first year, Donald Trump would win ten years of ostracism.  The second year, Mitch McConnell.  On year 3, Joe Biden would get his ten years of ostracism.  Then Kamala Harris would get her ten years out of the country. 

I can see how the founding fathers missed putting this into the constitution – getting the data together took a lot of time back then.  But I suspect politics was every bit as divisive – I’ve read about Adams and Jefferson. 

Cleisthenes’ Council of 500 just might be applicable to the US – draw 435 names at random to serve in the house, 101 in the senate (the vice-president chairs it) and send 536 unwilling draftees to Washington DC to run the government for the next year.  Since the statistical likelihood of even one serving 2 years back to back approaches zero, we just build a dormitory for each drafted legislator, and pay each at the median US salary.

After all – democracy is an attempt at achieving better government – and shear randomness may work a lot better than raising funds for elections . . . and then, if we’re going to have election chicanery anyway, we might just as well save our elections for ostracizing unpopular politicians.


In Case You Missed It: Election Administrator Ignoring State Law

With the recent meeting and posting about election integrity, I’ve been reminded that while I don’t personally have any evidence of mail fraud, we do have some evidence of… malpractice? malfeasance? Willful avoidance of compliance with state election law? You decide.

(The short version: Section 7 suggests that write-in candidates, even undeclared, should be able to win the primary provided there isn’t a declared candidate. Lincoln County Election Administrator Paula Buff disagreed, and was rather sluggish in response to a freedom of information act request. Writing to the Montana Secretary of State about the issue has thus far only resulted in what appears to be “the bedbug letter”. We’re open to suggestions on where to go next)

Can Paula Omit Section 7?

I’ve inadvertently ran across a spot where Montana Counties – at least Lincoln County,  and I believe others – are systematically violating election law. When Lincoln County mailed out primary ballots, the Democrat ballot had no one running within Lincoln county, showing only 3 candidates for US House – the closest Dem candidate was in Polson.  The Republican ballot had a single race for Libby commissioner, a candidate for county school superintendent who had bailed out too late to get off the ballot, and no candidate for county administrator. My daughter meets all the requirements for superintendent, so she and…

To Paula on Independence Day

Greetings Paula – On June 10th, three days after our most recent election, you sent me these words: “We likely won’t have the write-in name information available for a few days.I will send you the info once we have it available.” As I type this, it is the Fourth of July – a day with some significance to our republic, as well as 27 days past the election, and 24 days past your commitment to send “the info once we have it available.”  I understand the word “few” to mean not many, but more than  one.  We have moved into…

Still no Parties in the Primary

Well, on July 7, I received another reply from Paula Buff on my Freedom of Information Act request.  It included part of a spreadsheet on the write-in votes, and these words: Here is the info you requested.Candidate information can be found on the COPP website.” Since the spreadsheet didn’t include all the information I requested, I replied: Greetings PaulaThanks for including the COPP website – when I include websites, I normally attempt to have them interactive, so the recipient doesn’t have to google to figure out what the abbreviation means, but that’s merely a courtesy to which I am accustomed. …

Election Administrator continues to stonewall

Greetings Paula:Two long weeks ago, I reminded you that you have not shared information I requested, specifically: “Please send me the names and numbers of all write-in votes on Lincoln County ballots, by party and position, as well as the date those write-in votes were counted,  and the name or names of anyone who has filed as a write-in candidate, from the recent primary election last June, at your earliest opportunity. (emphasis added)”You have provided names, numbers and positions.  I can determine the date they were counted from the spreadsheet.  You did not include “the name or names of anyone…

Writing to the Montana Secretary of State

Since the county election administrator informed us that she considers the matter “closed”, the question becomes who is the next level up the bureaucratic ladder. Greetings Secretary of State Jacobsen;I believe (strongly) that I have found a single word in the Montana Election Judge Handbook 2020 that allows appointed local election administrators to ignore a portion of state election law.  Since you ran with the slogan “Establishment Politicians Won’t Stop Me  You’ve seen it over and over  Entrenched politicians trying to limit your choices and control elections  Not on my watch” I am optimistic that you will view my take…

To the Secretary of State (Again)

Greetings Secretary of State Jacobsen; You have my apologies for sending this letter by registered mail – but I have received no acknowledgement of my email two months earlier. Governmental unresponsiveness can have many causes, and some are benign – so this is my second attempt to bring the issue before you. I believe that a single word in the Montana Election Judge Handbook 2020 allows appointed local election administrators to ignore a portion of state election law (subsection 7 – see below). Since you ran with the promise “Establishment Politicians Won’t Stop Me, You’ve seen it over and over…

I Think I Got the Bedbug Letter

I first heard of the bedbug letter about 50 years ago – from Bob Brown, when we were undergrads at MSU.  In Bob’s story, the protagonist was P.J. Hill of the Great Northern . . . the Hill that Hill county is named after.  The Hill who was known as the “Empire Builder.”  Since the legend of the bedbug letter has made it into Snopes, here’s their version of the story Bob told: Did a real event spark off this legend? Possibly. Folklore Jan Harold Brunvand reported on a 1992 letter from the corresponding secretary of the George Mortimer Pullman…

In Lincoln County I May be Allowed to

I’ve noticed a meme – pick the subject (your liberties are, the earth is) not dying, they’re being killed by people with names and addresses.    My ability to vote against a candidate in this next election has been taken from me – by well meaning, well-regarded people. Taking my vote away (and yours) has not been accomplished in a single act – but over time, my vote has been made meaningless . . . and if my vote is meaningless, I’ve been left with the activity of voting, but my vote has no influence.  Maybe it’s wrong to say I…

To the Secretary of State, Regarding Section Seven (Again)

November 21st, 2022 Dear Secretary of State Jacobsen; I received your letter of October 19, and was pleased to be commended for being a responsible, educated and committed voter, etc.  It’s nice to have you say these nice things about me. Still, the only commitment in your letter was “Our office will carefully review your information and observations.”  Consequently, I am describing my observations in detail in this letter to be certain your office has them and hopefully nothing is missed. This started before the 2022 Primary, and I wrote the following to describe the experience: I’ve inadvertently ran across…


Learning of Hazards

I spotted this photo, from 1962 – in Lincoln County, as in Wittenoom, Australia, the sixties were happy days, when the hazards of asbestos exposure weren’t particularly understood. 

“Wittenoom was officially removed from the Western Australian maps in 2007 and legislation was introduced to forcibly remove the last three residents in 2015. This ghost town located at the mouth of the Wittenoom Gorge is the home of Australia’s greatest industrial disaster. However, being in the Hamersley Range, it can lay claim to being located in one of the most beautiful areas of the Pilbara.”

This article tells of the mesothelioma connected with the asbestos contamination of the vermiculite mined near Libby.  When Gayla Benefield started bringing up the evidence that W.R. Grace knew of the health hazards, my first response was that the company officials could not have been so evil.  I was wrong.  Gayla’s evidence was solid.

“Prosecutors sought to prove that W.R. Grace knew they were killing miners and poisoning their families and those in the community. But in 2009, shockingly, the company received an acquittal of charges that it knowingly harmed people.”

Read the article – it quickly covers how things occurred.  I knew too many people who died unable to get a lungful of oxygen in their last days to write about it.  Still, it’s a story that broke nearly 25 years ago that we need to remember.


I Misjudged the Gun Control Trend

After GCA68 passed, the gun banners seemed ascendant, unstoppable.  I heard increasing arguments that the Second Amendment was a collective right, that it was written to allow the National Guard to be armed – and while the logic was missing from the arguments, it was pretty obvious to me that they were passing laws that bloody well infringed on the ‘right to keep and bear arms’.  I didn’t expect to be able to own handguns for the rest of my life.

I expected that, as a nation, we would go through increasingly restrictive legislation.  Remember, the National Rifle Association was first and foremost an organization that organized shooting competitions – not a particularly politically active bunch.  NRA moved into political activism, and others followed . . . but by 1994, under Clinton, they passed what was called the Assault Weapons Ban.  The only glimmer of hope was that it had a ten-year expiration date.

In the Seventies, I looked at what was left unregulated, and saw that I could still get replicas of percussion revolvers developed about the time of the war between the states.  A bit of calculation showed that the Remington New Model Army had about the same muzzle energy as a 38 special, and, with a cylinder that was easy to change, could be reloaded fairly quickly.

A repeating rifle, using percussion technology, was a bit more challenging.  The Colt Dragoon revolver offered a heavier cylinder, roughly equivalent to the 45 Colt or 44/40 cartridge energy levels, and Val Forgett at Navy Arms was offering one with an 18 inch barrel and a detachable stock.

So I bought one of each, with a spare cylinder for the short gun – recognizing that the Dragoon was nearly equivalent to a model 1873 Winchester carbine, and that the Remington pattern revolver, with a spare cylinder, was nearly equivalent to a cartridge revolver. 

There has been a couple of significant improvements for caplock revolver reliability in the past few years – wonder wads have the original purpose of reducing the possibility of multiple discharges, but can also be used to load the revolver with the equivalent of a .410 shotgun load of birdshot.  The other new development is percussion cap keepers – small vinyl tubes that surround the percussion cap, keeping it from falling off due to impacts and recoil.  They are a bit easier to use than in Wild Bill Hickock’s day.

Yet despite having more efforts at gun bans, the Supreme Court has reached the conclusion that “shall not be infringed” means what it says.  The gun banners seem to realize that their desired legislation is not constitutional.  Now, we just have to see how the court cases on pistol braces come out.  The issue of gun control in my lifetime has turned out far better than I had expected.