Community

Back at Tester

Last week I got a few comments telling me how vile the authors figured Jon Tester is.  Now it may just be that I have a soft spot for fat men, or it may be a strong belief that virtue is relevant.  Still, I clipped from Wikipedia (no point in finding a more impressive source for the same data)

Below is the current line of succession for the President of the United States:

No.OfficeIncumbent
1Vice PresidentKamala HarrisDemocrat
2Speaker of the House of RepresentativesNancy PelosiDemocrat
3President pro tempore of the SenatePatrick LeahyDemocrat
4Secretary of StateAntony BlinkenDemocrat
5Secretary of the TreasuryJanet YellenDemocrat
6Secretary of DefenseLloyd AustinDemocrat
7Attorney GeneralMerrick GarlandDemocrat
8Secretary of the InteriorDeb HaalandDemocrat
9Secretary of AgricultureTom VilsackDemocrat
10Secretary of CommerceGina RaimondoDemocrat
11Secretary of LaborMarty WalshDemocrat
12Secretary of Health and Human ServicesXavier BecerraDemocrat
13Secretary of Housing and Urban DevelopmentMarcia FudgeDemocrat
14Secretary of TransportationPete ButtigiegDemocrat
Secretary of EnergyJennifer Granholm[A]Democrat
15Secretary of EducationMiguel CardonaDemocrat
16Secretary of Veterans AffairsDenis McDonoughDemocrat
Secretary of Homeland SecurityAlejandro Mayorkas[B]Democrat  
https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_line_of_succession

Nothing personal folks, but I had to get down to number 9 on the list, Tom Vilsack, before I found anyone who seemed to equal Jon Tester’s morality and ability. 

Community, Plants

American Foods

I listened to a comment about Indian Tacos.  Now the only difference between a regular taco and an Indian taco is that the Indian Taco is wrapped in fry bread.  A regular taco is surrounded by a corn (maize) tortilla of some sort.  Fry bread is wheat based – in other words of European origin.  Corn is a crop that was developed and domesticated by Native Americans – Indians in the vernacular.

I can make an argument that the age of exploration was fueled (at least in part) by the limited food choices in Europe.  Scotland raised oats, and had a national cuisine based on oatmeal.  The Brits specialized in a delicacy called gruel.  French history records 111 famines between 1371 and 1791. 

In my lecture notes from the Indians of North America class, I have the sentence written large: “American Indians cultivated over 300 food crops, often with dozens of varieties.”  I’ve lost the source over the years, but I am certain research could confirm it.  As we harvest the garden, the corn, squash and beans typically raised by American Indians are there.  This year we skipped the potatoes – a crop that transformed Europe . . . and brought Ireland from 3.2 million people to 8.2 in about a century (I should have included more sources in my speaking notes).  60% of the world’s edible crops were developed in the New World, by Native Americans.

We barely dignify grain amaranth with a glance – yet it moved from Peru to the highlands of Pakistan, Tibet and Nepal – my foreign students knew the value of a crop that we don’t touch.  Wild rice is neither wild nor rice – it was developed and dispersed by the Ojibwa.  I’m still trying to find a variety for the pond.  China became the largest producer of sweet potatoes – another American crop.

Today, it’s tomatoes on my plate.  I think of spaghetti sauce, of Pizza, and wonder just how limited Italian cooking would be without the crops domesticated by America’s native crop scientists and producers.  Most of the crops in my garden are native to this hemisphere.

Community, Laws, Ordinances & Regulations

Why Did it Have to be …Guns?

Why Did it Have to be … Guns?

by L. Neil Smith

lneil@lneilsmith.org

Over the past 30 years, I’ve been paid to write almost two million words, every one of which, sooner or later, came back to the issue of guns and gun-ownership. Naturally, I’ve thought about the issue a lot, and it has always determined the way I vote.

People accuse me of being a single-issue writer, a single- issue thinker, and a single- issue voter, but it isn’t true. What I’ve chosen, in a world where there’s never enough time and energy, is to focus on the one political issue which most clearly and unmistakably demonstrates what any politician—or political philosophy—is made of, right down to the creamy liquid center.

Make no mistake: all politicians—even those ostensibly on the side of guns and gun ownership—hate the issue and anyone, like me, who insists on bringing it up. They hate it because it’s an X-ray machine. It’s a Vulcan mind-meld. It’s the ultimate test to which any politician—or political philosophy—can be put.

If a politician isn’t perfectly comfortable with the idea of his average constituent, any man, woman, or responsible child, walking into a hardware store and paying cash—for any rifle, shotgun, handgun, machinegun, anything—without producing ID or signing one scrap of paper, he isn’t your friend no matter what he tells you.

If he isn’t genuinely enthusiastic about his average constituent stuffing that weapon into a purse or pocket or tucking it under a coat and walking home without asking anybody’s permission, he’s a four-flusher, no matter what he claims.

What his attitude—toward your ownership and use of weapons—conveys is his real attitude about you. And if he doesn’t trust you, then why in the name of John Moses Browning should you trust him?

If he doesn’t want you to have the means of defending your life, do you want him in a position to control it?

If he makes excuses about obeying a law he’s sworn to uphold and defend—the highest law of the land, the Bill of Rights—do you want to entrust him with anything?

If he ignores you, sneers at you, complains about you, or defames you, if he calls you names only he thinks are evil—like “Constitutionalist”—when you insist that he account for himself, hasn’t he betrayed his oath, isn’t he unfit to hold office, and doesn’t he really belong in jail?

Sure, these are all leading questions. They’re the questions that led me to the issue of guns and gun ownership as the clearest and most unmistakable demonstration of what any given politician—or political philosophy—is really made of.

He may lecture you about the dangerous weirdos out there who shouldn’t have a gun—but what does that have to do with you? Why in the name of John Moses Browning should you be made to suffer for the misdeeds of others? Didn’t you lay aside the infantile notion of group punishment when you left public school—or the military? Isn’t it an essentially European notion, anyway—Prussian, maybe—and certainly not what America was supposed to be all about?

And if there are dangerous weirdos out there, does it make sense to deprive you of the means of protecting yourself from them? Forget about those other people, those dangerous weirdos, this is about you, and it has been, all along.

Try it yourself: if a politician won’t trust you, why should you trust him? If he’s a man—and you’re not—what does his lack of trust tell you about his real attitude toward women? If “he” happens to be a woman, what makes her so perverse that she’s eager to render her fellow women helpless on the mean and seedy streets her policies helped create? Should you believe her when she says she wants to help you by imposing some infantile group health care program on you at the point of the kind of gun she doesn’t want you to have?

On the other hand—or the other party—should you believe anything politicians say who claim they stand for freedom, but drag their feet and make excuses about repealing limits on your right to own and carry weapons? What does this tell you about their real motives for ignoring voters and ramming through one infantile group trade agreement after another with other countries?

Makes voting simpler, doesn’t it? You don’t have to study every issue—health care, international trade—all you have to do is use this X-ray machine, this Vulcan mind-meld, to get beyond their empty words and find out how politicians really feel. About you. And that, of course, is why they hate it.

And that’s why I’m accused of being a single-issue writer, thinker, and voter.

But it isn’t true, is it?

“Permission to redistribute this article is herewith granted by the author—provided that it is reproduced unedited, in its entirety, and appropriate credit given.”

L. Neil Smith passed away recently – for folks who are unfamiliar with his writings, many are available at https://lneilsmith.org/   It’s worth checking out.  I’ve learned that few of these blogs live longer than a year past the author, and Neil Smith was worth reading.

Community

Tester for VP

Politics is a numbers game.  The quality of data has gone down as folks have learned to avoid or even lie to pollsters.  This time, I am looking at a different set of numbers – basically a thought experiment.  Since my skills set is demography, not political science, the assumptions may be in error and the conclusion not connected with the real world.  That said, here’s the idea. 

It seems inevitable that Biden is on his way out as  president.  Whether he just owns up to his declining mental facilities and resigns, is removed on 25th amendment grounds,  just physically collapses, or is impeached he is well past his “best used by” date.  That means President Kamala Harris and no vice-president.  Anything takes Kamala out and we have President Pelosi. 

Normally there would be a raft full of contenders – but these are not normal times.  The Dem majority in the Senate depends on VP Harris being able to cast a tie breaking vote.  President Harris will not have that ability.  She will have to nominate a vice-president who can be approved by a majority vote in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. 

Nancy Pelosi can whip the House Dems in line to approve just about anything as our new VP.  Right now, the house has 212 repugnants, 220 dims, and 3 vacancies.  The House of Representatives will pretty much approve anyone appointed by Harris – but the Senate is a different story.  Balanced 50-50, with President Harris you won’t have a majority leader and a minority leader any more.  Mitch McConnell’s power increases tremendously in this situation.  That changes the universe of potential vice-presidents.  Someone close to McConnell should share this with him – he’s not on my speed dial, and I am surely not on his.

McConnell could probably arrange 100% support for our next VP if he’s a democrat senator from a state with a republican governor.  Only 7 states have republican governors and democrat senators.  Massachusetts ain’t gonna happen.  Montana can.

That coarse calculation makes Tester’s chance one in six.  Financially, it would be a good deal – a senator’s salary is $174,000 and becoming VP would raise that to $235,100.  What Big Sandy farmer wouldn’t accept a promotion that brought a $60,000 raise?  A 35% raise for the last 3 years before retirement would jack the pension.  My bet is he’d take the gig if it were offered.

I’m not sure what advantages that Vice-President Tester would bring to Montana – but he would have to be better for us than the last four or five VPs have been.  I do believe that a Montana farmer could do more for the nation as Vice-President.  We’re in a spot where it just might happen.  In 2016 the choice was Hillary or Trump.  In 2020 the choice was Trump or Biden.  At least I kind of like Tester – and Bob Brown assures me that he shoots gophers, and is a good shot from prone.  Let’s get ready to lobby – it might just happen. 

Community

You Need to Check the Experts’ Math

This offers a perspective on covid survival rates, but screws up some simple statistics:

0-1920-4950-6970+
100.000%100.000%100.000%100.000%
-99.997%-99.98%-99.5%-94.6%
0.003%0.02%0.5%5.4%
100% – Survival Rate= Infection Fatality Rate.

It’s official data.  It purports to be from CDC.  The author implies possession of a MD.

The math is screwed up.  By a factor of 100.  I learned the difference between decimals and percentages in the fifth or sixth grade – this isn’t a mistake at a graduate stats level, or even freshman stats. It appears someone releasing official data screwed up.  We need to check the math even on official data.

This site https://lincolnmtcovid.com/ has local numbers – and you can contrast them against the CDC statistics:

The local numbers show some anomalies when we compare and contrast them with CDC statistics.  The Libby area shows a cumulative 1,190 cases (in a population of 9,772  that’s 12.2%).  North County shows 467 cases (in a population of 6,470 that’s 7.2%) and Troy shows 258 cases (in a population of 3,435 that’s 7.5%). 

Lincoln County death rates can’t be contrasted with the CDC percentages – the tyranny of small numbers makes it impossible.  That said, in the 70+ age range that the CDC figures identify as a (corrected) 5.4% infection fatality rate, Lincoln County’s charts show 24 deaths in 311 cases – 7.8% – 44% more fatalities than national statistics.  The 3 deaths in the 50-69 age range, with 557 total cases work out amazingly close to the national 0.5% infection fatality rate.

There’s not enough data for me to infer causality.  It is good to have local data available – and I do wonder why the infection rate is higher in Libby.  Checking the math when you can is a good idea.

Community

War is a Racket

War is a Racket is a short book (and also a speech) by Smedley Butler that discusses who profits from war.

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”

War Is a Racket - Wikipedia
Community, Meteorology

Blessed Rain

It isn’t perfect, but it is improving.  My alfalfa seedlings are recovering from the long dry spell – on the other hand the deer are discovering them and trying to graze them down.  NOAA shows this map for soil moisture:

This next map shows precipitation during August – again, it isn’t perfect, but coming out of a drought it shows us on the fringe of recovery – far ahead of southeast Washington down through most of Oregon and California.

It may be too early to say that we dodged the bullet for another month or so – but at least the recent precipitation has moved us to a place where we can dodge. At least the long-term predictions are pretty much back to normal probabilities of precipitation:

Community, Recipes

Using your Zucchini

As I visit our garden, I remember a time when my driver’s door closed, latched, and didn’t lock.  I went to drive home and found close to a hundred pounds of zucchinis in my back seat.  I kind of sniveled about this experience, and another county agent sent me this recipe:

Zucchini Jam

5 ½ C grated Zucchini 
1 (20 ounce) can crushed Pineapple|
6 C sugar                                            
2 (3 ounce) packages Jello (any flavor)
1 C water          
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Boil zucchini, sugar and water for 6 minutes.  Add lemon juice and pineapple.  Boil for 6 more minutes.  Add 2 packages of Jello, and boil for 6 more minutes.  Pour hot mixture into jars, put on lid and screw band.  Jars will seal without processing if you put the lids on immediately as you pour in the boiling mixture.

Community, Laws, Ordinances & Regulations

Beyond Ghost Guns

I ran across an article called “Beyond State Control” published by   SmallArmsSurvey.org.

The report takes up 128 pages, and does a pretty good job of showing spots where gun control legislation has failed.  Page 80 shows production of submachine guns in Canada:

Canadian authorities have also seized significant numbers of craft-produced submachine guns from criminals. In December 2015, Toronto police found what was described as a ‘Tec9’ sub-machine gun in an abandoned vehicle (CityNews, 2015). The gun, actually a craft-produced copy of the Intratec TEC-9, was one of many produced at a plant in Montreal, Quebec. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have since traced more than two dozen of these to 18 locations across Canada (Berthiaume, 2018). The sub-machine guns in question were produced at a metal-working factory and feature two CNC-machined polymer halves used to form the frame of the gun, a distinguishing feature of other TEC-9/DC-10 copies (see Image 38). The barrels were threaded to accept craft-produced suppressors, also made in the factory. Two factory directors were charged with firearms offences; they had reportedly told factory employees that they were manufacturing parts for paintball guns (Berthiaume, 2018).”

Their illicit product looked something like this:

Earlier, the authors explain why the submachine guns are so common as what they term “craft-produced small arms: “Sub-machine guns are perhaps the most widely documented craft-produced small arms in circulation (ARES, 2018; ImproGuns, n.d.). Their high rate of fire and low cost make them attractive to organized criminal groups. Often chambered for the common 9 × 19 mm cartridge, they are frequently based on Second World War or cold war designs, such as the British Sten and the US M3 ‘grease gun’. As such, they almost always operate on the simple blowback69 principle, firing from an open bolt (ARES, 2018; Jenzen-Jones, 2017a). Pulling the trigger releases not the firing pin but the entire bolt, which picks up a cartridge from the magazine, chambers it, and fires it by means of a fixed firing pin. The bolt is then ‘blown’ backward by the fired cartridge, such that the empty case is extracted and ejected, while the bolt is returned to the rear, where it is ready for the next shot. These weapons require none of the complex machining and engineering needed to create a reliably functioning locked-breech firearm, and they can be relatively safe to operate.”

The photographic quality is probably lower than the machining quality – while these examples were taken from a protestant group in Northern Ireland, I suspect the Provisional IRA has equally skilled folks in their workshops.

Another article, from the same folks in Switzerland is “Craft Production”, found here.

It begins with “Craft production of small arms refers principally to weapons and ammunition that are fabricated largely by hand in relatively small quantities. Government authorities may tightly regulate and oversee these artisans’ activities and outputs (expensive replica antique firearms legally produced in the United States are a good example). Often, however, this material is produced outside of, or under limited, state controls. These weapons are often used in crimes and against government targets.” 

The problem with legislating gun control is that some folks out in the real world are better at making guns than the folks trying to stop them.  If they’ve been making submachine guns in Quebec, I suspect the idea of shutting down ghost guns by legislation is closing the barn  door after the horse is in the garden.

Community, Demography

4% Growth for County 57

The 2020 Census numbers have been released, and we’re looking at data we can begin to use.  I’m hoping to get the data at a school district level later on – but for now, we have county level data, CCD level data, and Census tract level data.

First – Lincoln County’s population dropped by a tenth of a percent.  Second, the population in the Libby CCD dropped by 1.2% (now 9,772), population in the Troy CCD dropped by 3.9% now 3,435), and population in the Eureka CCD increased by 4.0% (now 6,470).   North County is now officially 89 residents less than a third of the county’s population.  3,435 of the people represented by the Troy Commissioner reside in the Troy CCD, while 3,124 reside in the Libby CCD.  This is a trend worth watching.

Housing data is available at the county level – and it may give us some insight on rentals in the area.  Housing units in Lincoln County decreased by 4.0% – occupied housing units increased by 0.5%, and unoccupied housing units decreased by 19.6%. 

In County 57 – the Eureka CCD – housing unit numbers are:

 2020 #2020 %2010 #2010 %Change
Total Housing Units3,716 3,771 -1.5%
Occupied2,79675.2%2,69271.4%3.9%
Vacant92024.8%1,07928.6%-14.7%

All these statistics are in comparison with the 2010 Census. 

It’s going to be fun as future releases will show even more usable data.