Laws, Ordinances & Regulations

Canadian Libertarian Leader on Mandates

Tim Moen, from up near Edmonton, has led the Canadian Libertarian party for the past 7 years.  His views regarding the unacceptability of pandemic mandates are available at  He doesn’t write like the late L. Neil Smith – and the article I’ve linked to is definitely beyond Biden. 

Moen starts with details on the non-aggression principle – while he describes it as completely as Smith did, it’s a bit harder read:

Libertarians hold that the only morally legitimate use of force is in response to the initiation of force against a person or their property. So when we are determining whether the use of force is ethical (or legal in a libertarian order) we need to know whether the force was initiatory or defensive (in response to initiatory force).”

He adds

The argument being made by radical centrists (ie most politicians and establishment bureaucrats) is that all sorts of force must be used during a pandemic in the name of protecting people or decreasing pandemic spread or death. Libertarians do not judge government force (policy) based on whether it had the desired outcome, we judge it based on whether that force is moral or immoral, defensive or initiatory.”

Moen offers thoughts on essential and non-essential workers:

During the covid pandemic the government divided people into two classes; essential workers and non-essential workers. Ironically the language “essential worker” used to be used by government to force striking employees to go to work and now its being used to force people to not work. If you disobey government orders and open your “non-essential” comic book store, restaurant, or movie theatre you’d get some warnings and eventually men with guns would come and use force to shut you down. Is this force justified?

A business owner is not initiating force against anyone by opening his store and serving customers. The customers are not initiating force against anyone by patronizing that store. So any force used against these peaceful people engaged in consenting activity ought to be considered criminal. It is not defensive force because it is not responding to any initiation of force. On the other hand if a person in that store is covid positive then they are initiating force against others assuming that their exhaled air containing harmful contagious pathogens is being inhaled by those around them. Force would be justified against the force initiator but not the innocent individuals.”

It isn’t an easy read – but he does make his points and reasoning clear – which is a lot different than most of the political rhetoric we read.


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. 


The 2022 Election will pull in Out of State Money

As the data from the 2020 Census comes in, Montana’s likelihood of getting two congresscritters approaches 100%. The 1910 Census showed enough population to justify 2 representatives, and the 1990 Census dropped the state down to a single congressman.  This Census brings us back to a pair – which should be interesting in terms of drawing the line making two districts.  Here are the states where congressional representation changes this year:

This is the sole constitutionally mandated reason for the decennial census – article 1,  section 2 specifies that “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.”  The three fifths rate and untaxed Indians have gone by the wayside, and the constitution uses the term “persons” and not “citizens.”

As I look at the table from Metropolitan and consider the current split in the US House of Representatives (where a five seat loss can change the balance from a democrat majority to a republican majority) a few thoughts come to mind.  One less Rhode Island representative is one less democrat.  One less West Virginia representative is one less republican.  Most of the other states on the table are going to have people figuring out district maps that keep one party or another losing or keeping a congressional seat.  Montana set up its legislative districts in a way that is tough to gerrymander – yet this time, there is an obvious simple way to tilt one of the districts.

The simplest way to get an idea as to which areas Montana’s new congressional district will represent is to look at the map of Montana’s state senate districts – each has about the same population (2010 Census) and the map gives a pretty good visualization of where the lines could be drawn.  Historically, western Montana has more democrat voters than eastern Montana – so returning to an east/west split would likely guarantee a republican on the eastern side, while giving a democrat a chance in the west.  On the other hand, putting senate districts 1 through 25 in one congressional district, and 26 through 50 in the other.  Every District  listed 20 Montana Senate Districts as “Safe” for democrats, so the trick of gerrymandering for the new seat to go democrat is to put as many of those in the new district; if you want to the new seat to go republican, split them as equally as the map allows.

My obvious pro-dem split would be numerical – the first congressional district being from senate districts 1 thru 25, the second from 26 thru 50.  The first district would include 4 “safe democrat districts”, one that leans democrat, one that leans republican, one that favors republican and the remaining 18 “safe republican districts.”  Using state senate districts for calculations leaves the numbers small enough to calculate readily.  The second congressional district would include 16 “safe democratic districts”, one that leans republican, two that favor republicans, and 11 “safe republican districts.  Of course, since I can see this after glancing at a map for five minutes, it is highly probable that there are more than a few republican legislators that see this as gerrymandering and not in their best interest.

So what I expect is the historic east-west state division.  The east basically stays “safe republican” – but the challenge is to put as many “safe democrat” districts in that congressional district as possible.  Following the lines on the map, the potential game changers are in Great Falls (senate districts 11 and 12) and in Bozeman (where the county is split 3D-2R).  It is difficult to draw a line that would leave a non-competitive west district without some fairly obvious chicanery – but if Great Falls’ two D’s are shifted west and Gallatin County gets split and three “safe democrat districts” can be shifted into the east district while maintaining a fairly straight north-south line separating the districts.  Nine “safe democratic districts” would not offset 18 other districts in the hypothetical “Eastern Montana Congressional District”, while 11 “safe democratic districts” would join 14 reddish districts to make a pink or purple “Western Montana Congressional District.”

This is, of course, hypothetical.  Some district boundaries probably will change.  I’m using partisan data, and assuming that population growth won’t slip a new Senate district into Gallatin or Missoula county.  I could use representative districts to gain a little precision.  But I’ll bet a six-pack that we wind up with west and east congressional districts, and I’ll bet another six-pack that we see bunches of out-of-state money buying ads for that first western Montana congressional race in 30 years. 


Why call a doctor, “Doctor”

If you look up Merriam-Webster online, you find “The word doctor comes from the Latin word for “teacher,” itself from docēre, meaning “to teach.” Using that definition, it isn’t much of a logic stretch to figure that Jill Biden’s Ed.D. earned the title “Doctor” – her dissertation is on student retention, she has been a teacher. Admitted, the Ed.D. isn’t granted the same respect as the PhD.

The Ph.D. is the highest academic degree in our US system. At Oxford, a Doctor of Divinity outranks a Ph.D. Academic degree ranks are displayed subtly – at a University graduation, the newly- minted Ph.D’s are usually hooded as individuals, while law (Juris Doctorate) and medicine (MD and DO) are hooded in a college ceremony. Still, I don’t go to a MD/PhD holder because of the Ph.D. The Juris Doctorate replaced the bachelor of laws in my lifetime, so is the new kid on the block. The Russians have a degree beyond the Ph.D. A lot of foreign graduates with a Master’s transfer into the US as equivalent to a Bachelors. Rating degrees is a tricky business. I have a couple of MD friends who avoid the conflict by continuing to introduce me as “professor” to avoid the confusion. It might be a solution for Dr. Biden. Just think of the problems for someone with a doctorate in nursing.

Some folks have hammered the quality of Dr. Biden’s dissertation. I’ve scanned it. I have no problem saying I’ve seen better documents, dissertations that better expanded the scope of human knowledge. I have only served on graduate committees for agriculture, engineering and various sciences. On the other hand, I once worked with a history Ph.D. holder whose dissertation had come exclusively from an Illinois high school graduate’s hobby (obsession?) of collecting poetry written by Abraham Lincoln. In mine, I wound up rejecting my own hypothesis. I kind of figure the quality of the dissertation is the committee’s responsibility.

If you want your own disrespected doctorate, probably the most irrelevant degrees come from General Delivery University You can click on the website, spend a couple minutes looking at the curriculum, and print your diploma, signed by General Delivery himself. At least I think it’s himself – I don’t know the preferred pronoun for General Delivery.

Even “Mister” can be an earned title – the Navy’s Warrant Officers are referred to as Mister, recognizing their status. (Ensign, Lieutenant JG and Lieutenant are also addressed as Mister. Dad earned that common title. To the rest of us, it’s an unearned courtesy.

In England, physicians graduate with the MB degree – Bachelor of Medicine. The BCH is an additional bachelor’s degree in surgery. The Brit MD requires a thesis. Given our proximity to the 49th parallel, it’s worth mentioning these differences. From the pair of Brit physicians I’ve met, the BM holder is called doctor, while the MD is called mister. Keeping the players straight is a bit of a challenge.

I’ve spent quite a few years in the academy, at several colleges and universities, while holding at first a BS, later a Master’s, and eventually a Ph.D. I’m the same person, regardless of the educational title. If you sign your name with your educational title behind it, call me doctor. If you sign your name without educational references, call me Mike.


Defund the Police and Legalize Marijuana

I never liked teaching criminology.  Usually, sociology departments get a former or off-duty cop to teach Crim.  It works pretty much OK – he or she teaches the science of criminology to a room full of undergraduates.  The problem is getting a scientist to teach criminology.

Criminology is a moving target.  Last November the people of Montana voted to legalize marijuana.  Harry Anslinger was appointed to head the Bureau of Narcotics in 1930, responsible for cocaine and heroin, and it just wasn’t enough to keep a bureau busy.  In what we now term “mission creep” Anslinger managed to outlaw marijuana by 1937.  Nobody cared before that.

In 1636, the Plymouth Colony made five crimes punishable by death:
1) willful murder, 2) making a compact with the devil by witchcraft, 3) arson (ships and houses), 4) sodomy, rape, and buggery, and 5) adultery.  Well, Massachusetts still frowns on murder, rape and arson – but the rest are pretty much mainstream.  It’s difficult to call it science when things change so much – in 1637, John Alexander was branded and banned from the colony for homosexual conduct.  From 1981 to 2013, Barney Frank represented his part of Massachusetts in the US Congress.  Nothing personal, but it’s hard to do science when the definitions keep changing.

Teaching Criminology did convince me that the whole concept of deviance is socially constructed.  I could have probably got into teaching the social construction of deviance – but we had a good, reliable deviance guy in the department.  He was still married to his high school girlfriend when he retired.  About the only thing I could see deviant about Bob would have been what the texts call positive deviance.

When faced with losing federal highway funds, Montana’s legislature made the 55 mph speed limit state law, then fixed the fine at $5.  It was a time when breaking the law wasn’t considered particularly deviant. 

I can’t see where criminology is good science. That’s OK.  Defunding the police seems even less scientific.  In either case, politicians define crime and politicians determine police funding.  Both change with the political winds.


Party Affiliation over Time

It seems, especially in the midst of an election year that the political parties are long established and permanent. While we don’t have an especially high rate of turnover in major political parties we do have one.

The Republicans became the Democratic Republicans, which eventually become the Democrats (an extremely brief summary of a rather lengthy chunk of American History). The Republican party, as we know it today, actually came out of the Whig party (well, a splinter faction, sort of. No one said politics was straight forward).

At any rate, political parties are not constant and neither is their membership. Gallup has a nice collection of data on party affiliation that we referenced last week in things that make surveys hard. Since they’ve provided it as a table, here is the graph:

Party Affiliation over time; data from Gallup

Looking at Gallup’s data, we can make several observations. Since 2004, the general trend has been an increase in people identifying as Independents, and a decrease in both Republicans and Democrats. We also notice that declines in either major party tend to coincide with increases in Independents.

The top of the graph is 50%, and while none of our three categories make it that high, Independents come the closest (highest percent independents was 47%, which occurred both in October of 2013 and October of 2014).

A “Zoomed in” version of the previous graph, from 2012 on

Taking a closer look at things (note that I’ve changed the vertical scale as well, the bottom is now 15%) from 2012 on, we can see a large drop in both Republicans and Democrats in 2013 that has a corresponding rise in independents. 2018 had a decline in Independents that mirrors a rise in Democrats.

The difficulty with examining trends is “How far do we have to zoom out?” Over a large amount of time, it’s difficult to see the impacts of smaller events but easier to examine long term trends. Another consideration is that what looks like a clear trend on the small scale may not reflect the trend in the long term.

Political polling doesn’t give us all that much long term data. Do we have enough to make predictions from? Well, the people making predictions certainly seem to think so!

Community, Demography

Political Junk Mail

I took 19 pieces of political ads out of the mailbox, and one piece of mail from the American Association of Retired People offering me the opportunity to become one of them.  It was 11:15 am, and there was no room left in the post office trash can, so I reluctantly took them all home.

Now if I take them all as valid, we have the most rotten group of candidates ever fielded in Montana.  The descriptions of their character flaws would make the devil himself wonder if these despicable characters could be safely stored in his operation.  I share this observation merely because most people put the advertisements in the post office trash before I was unable to do so.

I examined the return addresses, etc.  I’m pretty sure that they’re funded by folks from outside Montana who are looking to keep their side in the majority.  OK – an “F” rating from the NRA is usually earned and I can check that.  Most of the other accusations seemed a bit less solid.  Well, I could probably check on the attorney general candidate who never prosecuted a case – but at least he is no less qualified than I am.

I don’t have a problem with non-Montanans trying to influence our elections.  I can live with it.  But I would like to see them have to provide larger garbage receptacles for our post offices.