Will Virginia Slay the Gerrymander?

Gov. Bob McDonnell has just issued Executive Order #31 creating the Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting. The commission is tasked with ensuring bipartisan citizen involvement in the redistricting process for General Assembly and congressional seats. Stated the governor:

As Virginia redraws its legislative districts later this year, the process should take place in a manner that is fair and open. Legislative districts should be drawn in a way that reflects commonsense geographic boundaries and communities of interests as required by law. This Bipartisan Redistricting Commission will contribute to public involvement, openness, and fairness in the redistricting process.

The commission will consists of 11 members, with an equal number of Republicans and Democrats plus Chairman Bob Holsworth, founder of the non-partisan website Virginiatomorrow.com. It will submit a redistricting plan to the General Assembly for approval.

Kudos to McDonnell for eschewing the prospect of short-term political gain in favor of creating districts around natural communities of interest. Assuming the commission’s proposals are adopted, bipartisan redistricting could lead to fewer safe seats, fewer elections being decided in primaries, fewer ideologues and more competitive races all around. In theory, bipartisan redistrict could result in a reduction in polarized politics.

As virtuous as bipartisan redistricting reform is, it is only the first baby step in the road to governance reform. The next step will be to reorganize the powers of state and local governments in recognition of the reality that the metropolitan region (what EMR calls the New Urban Region) is the fundamental economic unit of the 21st century. The municipalities around which Virginia organizes the delivery of government services are an artifact of the agrarian era, they are a barrier to the efficient delivery of government services, and they contribute to the perpetuation of dysfunctional human settlement patterns.

If Gov. McDonnell really wants to leave his mark on the Old Dominion, he needs to initiate a process for restructuring governance in the commonwealth of Virginia.

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61 responses to “Will Virginia Slay the Gerrymander?”

  1. This should be interesting.

    How can I volunteer to be selected?

  2. Good for the Governor in appointing the commission. Hopefully it will actually spend the time to draw it's own districts in time to submit them to the House and Senate.

    Otherwise, the House and Senate will draw their own districts and then this commission will just be a rubber stamp and political tool for McDonnell to stay above the fray.

    I'm betting on the latter.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    How does the Voting Rights Act fit with the reasonable desire to stop Gerrymandering? Not only has the VRA had the impact of creating safe districts for racial minorities, but also safe districts for conservative whites. Do we really want to get rid of Gerrymandering, or do we want to play lip service to the concept and still have many safe districts for a variety of reasons?


  4. Andrea Epps Avatar
    Andrea Epps

    Hey Hydra, Me too on that selection process.

  5. Groveton Avatar

    Bob Holsworth is a good egg. He has a encyclopedic knowledge of Virginia politics.

    It will be interesting to see who Gov. McDonnell appoints to the commission.

    Peter and Barnie Day would be good candidates for the Democratic side. JAB could anchor the Republican team.

    If anyone else wants to be on the commission – call your state delegate or senator. I imagine that Gov. McDonnell will listen to nominations from the General Assembly.

    I don't know Ms. Epps that well. However, Hydra would be an interesting choice. I can just imagine Hydra's search for the unifying equation which would define the political boundaries in a perfect balance of everything.

    A salamander might look pretty tame compared to a political hydra district.

    But seriously Hydra – call your delegate or senator. It would be a hoot to hear how these commission meetings actually work.

  6. given the timeframe involved – I would imagine there is already a staff plan and timeline in existence ….to allow for "input" without any real collaboration but rather the opportunity to offer a previously un-considered "grand" idea or to catch a unrecognized horrendous "gotcha".

    Our BOS met last night and shot down the idea of a citizens committee.

    How many of you – in your own locality had (or will have) a citizens committee created?

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    Fairfax County has and has had a citizens committee with fairly broad representation. Needless to say, it addresses only supervisors' districts.


  8. TMT – off subject but did the Tysons Plan seriously restrict parking as part of the plan?

    sorry for the off topic….

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    There is a county staff proposal to reduce parking in Tysons Corner and all Transit Oriented Development locations in Fairfax County. That was the goal of the landowners when they were arguing for high density at Tysons, but now that the plan has been approved, a number of them are pressing for more parking (more traffic). That would make urban Tysons fail sooner and calls for less density. There is more substantive truth in a political campaign than there is in arguments for intense urban development as a solution for traffic problems.


  10. I can just imagine Hydra's search for the unifying equation which would define the political boundaries in a perfect balance of everything.


    I'm not quite that crazy. I figure you stop throwing in more variables whenn they no longer materially affect the results.

    Of course, when that variable materially affects one person, it's hard to convince them.

    What should be the goal? that everyone is equally represented, or most people get the representation they prefer?

  11. If it was up to me, Id divide the state in equal rectangular grids, or as near as possible, to equald the number of required districts. Then adjust the rectangles as as little as possible to meet the population requirement.

    Strictly mechanical, let the politics be damned.

  12. unfortunately at the local level – you need boundaries.

    But I think 4 years is too long for BOS and I'd like to see citizens have the right to have recall elections (with a significant number of signatures to get the question on the ballot).

    Does anyone else think there is something weird about 2 year terms for Congress and 4 years terms for BOS?

  13. here's a question for ACSGP and others in terms of governance for New Urban Areas.

    Should there be a hierarchy of representation starting at the lowest level of settlement pattern but it's just one representative vote out of what might be 7 or more votes so if the interests of any one sub-settlement pattern cannot be unique (or else no other reps will vote for it)

    OR should every representative be fully at large so that everyone in a county/equivalent gets to vote for all at-large reps?

    which is the preferred configuration for folks like ACSGP and others?

    If you had all at large – the redistricting "problem" would go away -right?

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    As I recall Dr. Risse has experimented with several alternatives in Planned New Communities he designed and for which he drafted the governance documents and then managed the Cluster / Neighborhood / Village.

    In one the Cluster Chair was the Cluster Rep on the Neibhorhood Board and the Neighborhood chair was the Neighborhood Rep on the Village Board.

    It only works for a couple of level, three max.

    For larger components there needs to be all three types of reps according to what I understand from his discription.


  15. Anonymous Avatar

    Mr. Bacon:

    Important topic and very useful observations!

    Mr. Gross:

    Four year, non staggered BOS terms may be silly but starting the discussion of governance transformation talking about BOS terms is even more silly.

    Start with what Mr. Bacon said:

    “community of interest”

    That means multi-levels of governance because there are many overlapping communities of interest requiring democratic participation. Professor Risse has demonstrated the existence of: Household, Dooryard, Cluster, Neighborhood, Village, Community, SubRegion, New Urban Region, MegaRegion and in some cases nation-states below the continental scale.

    New Urban Region (NUR) is the most important component of human settlement one must, as Mr. Bacon suggests, start there.

    First comes an elected regional executive and a regional legislature.

    Givens: One person / One vote is important and human settlement patterns are organic, not geometrical and NOT rectangular.

    Regional legislature composition:

    At Large districts – 1/3 of the members with staggered four year terms,

    Radial Band districts (similar interests) – 1/3 of the members with staggered four year terms,

    Pie Shaped districts (divergent interests in corridors) – 1/3 of the members with two year terms.

    Next identify existing Beta Communities in the NUR. The Beta’s become the eventual Alpha Communities with a Critical Mass population of from 50,000 to 500,000 depending on the scale of the NUR and the distance the Zentrum of the Alpha Community will be from the Centroid of the NUR. See Prof Risse’s process for identifying Beta Community Zentra with illustrative examples in HANDBOOK in TRILO-G.

    Community is the second most important component of human settlement pattern. Community council composition would have a structure similar to NUR.

    Below the Community scale, apply the system Prof Risse suggests for aggregating Clusters to Neighborhoods, Neighborhoods to Villages in THE SHAPE OF THE FUTURE. It will take about a decade.

    While this is going on, establish a process for evolution of ‘states’ to NURs, MegaRegions and Urban Support Regions.

    NOW, if an Agency structure such as this is the long term objective, one can talk rationally about an interim / transitional structure with City and County legislatures having At Large, Radial Band and Pie Shaped districts with two year terms and two term limits.

    There will be those who suggest that a democratic governance structure (that matches economic, social and physical reality) will “slow things down” and “never get anything done”…

    Excuse me:

    How much has the existing structure “gotten done”?

    It is in 2011 in sync with the economic, social and physical reality of 1790 – 1828 at the latest.

    And what is the hurry?

    There are a couple of billion years until the Sun implodes…

    What will make citizens happy and safe in the meantime?

    Achieving a sustainable trajectory within the finite constraints that are now understood is a place to start.

    Now THERE is a basis for ‘redistricting.’


    (By the way there is nothing wrong with Mr. Hydra’s favorite equation, he just has no idea what the parameters of the variables are and anyone who disagrees with his preconceived notions is called a moron.)

  16. Anonymous Avatar

    ACSGP just called to ask why his post keep appearing and then disappering.

    Larry saw it the first time it went up then it disappeared.

    I just saw it again.

    What occours?


  17. Anonymous Avatar


    This causes a one person, one vote problem right.

    Oh, wait.

    If there are organic components of human settlement patterns and there is a consistant scale, then there are no redistricting problems because the next higher component has a size variation that is less than the next smaller component.



  18. "By the way there is nothing wrong with Mr. Hydra’s favorite equation, he just has no idea what the parameters of the variables are….."


    It is not my equation, but any moron can see that it has no parameters: it is a simple sum.

    The equation is always 100% correct, so it has nothing to do with any preconcieved notions I may have.

    All that is required is to determine the system boundary such that RELEVANT parts of the sum are not excluded. There are simple and well known tests for determining this.

    A favorite tactic for those employing faulty logic to advance an agenda is to consider only part of the problem, as in those who claim we can lower costs by reducing government costs, or external costs, or profit.

  19. It is even worse than that, some places have, or want, four year staggered terms for BOS, so it takes at least 12 years to get a majority change.

  20. or those who think the "sum" only has to include the cost of a life and nothing else…..

  21. ….and the EPA would say that they are fully utilizing your equation – and you'd not agree so where is the truth in your equation is different folks use different inputs?

    who decides which inputs should be included and at what costs?

    your equation is basically simple-minded and totally worthless in anything other than esoteric debates.

    you have your view of the inputs and you disavow others views of inputs.

  22. human settlement patterns are organic, not geometrical and NOT rectangular.


    Yes, but what has that got to do with REPRESENTATION.

    By determining voting districts along lines that support communities of interest, yuu automatically provide some people with more powerful representation than others.

    Consider Oregon, where the liberal urban majority has run roughshod over the more conservative rural areas.

    The advantage of a strictly mechanical approach is that one cannot very well accuse one side or the other of creatng nefarious advantage.

    And there is nothing sacred about rectangles, if you wanted a more organic approach you could use hexagons as in war games and honeycombs or stars or any contiguous polyhedrons which can be arithmetically manipulated in size to contain equal number of voters — for the time being.

    It seems to me simply wrong to start off thinking about redistricting with the assumption that there is some organic center which is and ought to be more important and more powerful than the rest. After all, the whole point of redistricting is to accomodate the changes that occure in population location.

  23. I'm not understanding.

    Are you advocating re-doing the county boundaries across the state and converting each one to a square with sub squares ?

    or are you saying keep the current counties but divide the up into sub-squares?

  24. Andrea Epps Avatar
    Andrea Epps

    I realize this might be a simple-minded question for some, but It's a question anyway:
    This plan calls for equal numbers of "R" and "D". What about the people in the middle?
    I would bet that the general citizenry has far more "I" than "R" or "D", so how does can this commission be truly representative?

  25. or those who think the "sum" only has to include the cost of a life and nothing else…..


    I never said that. However, most laws are based on the police powers which are intended to provide good order and SAFETY.

    It is therefore common practice to evaluate the costs and benefits of legislation or regulation based on the value of the number or days of reduced mortality or morbidity. that has nothing to do with what I think, it is just the way it is done.

    I would argue that if you improve the environment to reduce the mrbidity of humans, you probably reduce the morbidity of crabs, and oysters and wildlife in general. Therefore reduced hman morbidity is a good proxy for the quality of the environment.

    Besides that, cost benefit analysis also includes the harvestable portions of the environment, and this is also a proxy for wildlife in general.

    It is not necessary for the system boundary to include EVERY transaction so long as you have some sensitivity analysis to indicate the amount of error introduced by making trivial simplifications.

    The lift over an airpalne wing is generated at the molecular level, but you can make a very good approximation by summing the estimates over six inch squares.


    As to the cost of life and nothing else, you mistake my argument. I argue that whever the value is, or no matter what we think it is, a lives saved by a seatbelt, or a railraod crossing gate, or reduction in environmental contamination are all equivalent, unless you don't believe all men are created equal.

    And yet we routinely spend far more to save some lives than others, and we routinely ignore the rules we use to make such decisions.

    I don't think that is the only thing we have to solve, but it is a fundamental unit of currency that we haven't an exchange rate for. It is such a fundamental problem that I believe the other costs and values hinge closely on it. As a first approximation we can ignore the rest because they are dependent variables anyway, and once we resolve the first problem, we can determine the other relative values.

  26. " equal numbers of "R" and "D" "

    Well, Andrea you just put your finger on the terrible truth

    Our political system is owned lock, stock and barrel by the Ds an Rs and they are not about to let "outsiders" play.

    This is 1 of 2 most disappointing things about the Tea party.

    1. – First – they say they are about citizens taking back the country but in reality they are a front group for the Republicans apparently

    2. – out of all the things that they could advocate that we pursue in the way of a Constitutional amendment that would garner by far both left, right and middle would be to require the Feds to do what the States do with respect to a balanced budget.

    I note that last year the "small" govt Republicans in Va wanted the state taxpayers to pay for a Republican primary until they got shut down but that just gives you an idea of how the Republicans feel about "owning" the political apparatus.

    The Dems are no better…

    Both parties are blood-sucking parasites of our political system – and the right of Americans to true governance.

  27. re: the "value" …

    you have not responded as to why children's lives on school buses are valued differently than in a car.

    and you have never responded as to how to compute the value of 10 point reduction of IQ or a life with incurable Hepatitis C.

    the "black/white" approach of either you are alive or you are dead is downright DUMB as well as totally incorrect.

    the government engages in cost/benefit calculations for all manner of things including seat belts but included in such analysis is the cost of injuries with and without seat belts – not lives alone.

    The one parameter in your equation balloons out to hundreds/thousands/millions of potential "costs" that themselves are not static by dynamic.

    and the problem with your approach is you treat irreversible damage as an unavoidable "oops" as opposed to a substantial margin of safety required so that irreversible damage does not happen to start with.

    I could go on – suffice to say the Govt already does your equation but you just don't agree with their methods and for the rest of us – that's a good thing!

    If you were in charge, every river in the country would have irreversible toxic damage.. and you would be singing the praises of the "profit" that resulted from it.

  28. Anonymous Avatar

    am not sure what Larry G. was asking of ACSGP but the responses from AZA and CJC open a whole new window on the future of democratic processes.

    It also raises serious questions about the wisdom of continual ‘redistricting’ which give great power to the two currently dominant political Clans as Ms. Epps’ question makes very clear.

    One person, one vote was originally conceived and implemented in the US when about one in ten homo sapiens were considered a ‘person’ and even fewer had the right to vote.

    With seven in ten now considered ‘persons’ with the right / responsibility to vote and with over 50 times as many homo sapiens in the US as there were in 1800, perhaps it is time to rethink the whole idea.

    If there was a governance structure that represented the existing economic, social and physical reality then there may be a role for One Dooryard, One Vote on some issues, One Cluster, One Vote on others and so forth.

    TMT and others decry ‘big government’ but Groveton, Prof. Risse and others agree the problem is not JUST BIG, it is that decisions are made far from the scale of the impact and citizens are stuck with biggest Agency has the final say. Those who have the final say are dependent on political contributions to keep them in office. That gives the most wealthy far more clout than the vast majority.

    ACSGP provides an interesting summary of governance Transformation. There is no question he / she is right that there is little reason to applaud the RESULTS of the current governance structure. Mr. Bacon, Mr. Gooze and most others agree on that.

    Fundamental Transformation anyone?

    AntiPartisanism as the first step?


  29. As I understand it we are talking about redistricting for federal representatives, and those district boundaries have nothing to do with counties, except that if a county is divided between two districts then county government may have less sway with either representative.

    Thats OK with me, they should mind their own business. Furthermore, I would argue that it is a mistake, generally speaking, to include lower level delegates as representatives de-facto in hihgher level bodies. We don't, for example select state representatives ONLY from the body of elected supervisors.

    I dont see any good reason for the gerrymandering process we have, and lots of bad ones. At least a mechanical division is preferenceless and without an agenda.

  30. My equation is ALWAYS 100% accurate. It is not a matter of estoeric debate.

    We are free to ignore it, entirely, and use any criteria we choose to make decisisons, set standards, and calculate costs.

    But, that equation will still be there in all its many incarnations, and the true set of costs will be what it is, whether we choose to examine them scientifically and dispassionately, or not.

    Sure, someone or some committe will have to pick the initial values to input. But anyone who discovers a new input tht is within the system boundaries and materially affects the results is free to make that argument. we ought to be willing to adjust results and unwilling to promote stasis, which is what we do now.

    EPA says the cost benefit ratiso for this regulations is 1 to 1.9. And so it is. Forever.

    When in fact we know it changes over time, and we ought to re-examine it periodically, if not continusously. That is why you need a market mechanism to set the value of regulations or standards. Such a mechanism guarantees that anyone with a REAL cost advantage or disadvantage will be able to participate in the market that decides the values which return the lowest total cost.

    The answer to the question of who decides what goes in is everybody. merely asking the question, "Who gets to decide?" implies that soeone will have superior knowledge or superior property rights, which begs the question of why you have the regulation to begin with: to protect everyone and ensure everyone has equal opportunity. Not equal results, but equal opportunity.

  31. "If you were in charge, every river in the country would have irreversible toxic damage.. and you would be singing the praises of the "profit" that resulted from it."


    That is absolutely not true. If i was in charge, everyone who thinks they own the environment would have the same rights and responsibilites with regard to this property as everyone else.

    Same for everyone who thinks they own the highways, the Metro, the school, or anything else.

    We run successful corporations without sucking them dry, and yet the owners are free to buy and sell their shares as a way of expressing their concern as to whether the river of cash flow they represent is about to become polluted.

    I don't know why you would assume that this method would produce bad results, at the same time you claim that the standards and regulations we have now are the result of a fair politico-regulatory process supported by most folks.

    the systems, ideas and procedures I proomeote have been show to work in the real world. it is only that they are not yet unifirmly adopted.

  32. " I don't know why you would assume that this method would produce bad results"

    because that's the method we used to have that resulted in rivers with Kepone, PCBs, mercury and other poisons that never go away.

    That's what your approach would bring back because you pit profits against lives.

  33. you have not responded as to why children's lives on school buses are valued differently than in a car.


    I would ask the same question.
    i would ask why it costs more and is apparently politically preferred by some people to adopt an american child vs a foreign one. Why would you spend more to protect the drinking water for one child than tht breastbone or swmming water of another child, if the dangers are more or less equal?

    I don't offer any answers to these questions. I merely point out that the differences exist and ways to measure the costs exist. Therefore, if we choose to, we can determine the dollar value of our incosistent moral choices.

    That line of thinking raises instant indignancy hackles among some people, who think you cannot put a price on morals.

    That may be true, but you can put a price on the results that obtain.

  34. " I don't know why you would assume that this method would produce bad results"

    because that's the method we used to have that resulted in rivers with Kepone, PCBs, mercury and other poisons that never go away.


    No it isn't. Absolutely not.

    Those people dumbing Kepone would have had to buy a permit (albeit in pieces) from the very (local) people who wish to protect the river the most.

    Instead of getting it more or less for free from some faceless bureaucrat 500 miles away. You don;t think that someone who lived on the James would have been a bit more skeptical? Or do you think that because the danger was unknown at that time, it would not have made any difference?

    On one hand the kepone spin off was a diliberate risk avoidance by the parent company, but under my plan the spin off would have had to raise the money to buy permits and compete with anyone else who had legitimate permits for the price. where would this two man spin-off gotten the money?

    I don't know why you presue this would produce a worse result. I'm first an environmental scientist and secone a cost analyst. I promote this because I believ it will produce better results, not worse.

    However, it will do one thing that has largely been avoided until now. It will make the costs of whatever we decide to do very public, and we will not be able to deceive ourselves that environemtnal protection, (or anything else) is free just because we fund it by stealing.

  35. Our political system is owned lock, stock and barrel by the Ds an Rs and they are not about to let "outsiders" play.


    That problem goes away if you use a purely mechanical system to set the areas whaich do the division.

  36. In other words, the local people are held hostage by anyone who wants to extort money by threatening to dump kepone.

    uh huh….

    back to square 1 for you gain.

    no one has a right to pollute.

    it works the other way around.

    you must get permission from the govt that is elected by the people – that would be the people that own the rivers – collectively and not those who would pollute them.

    you keep sliding back on this concept.

    repeat after me.

    There is no right to pollute.

    now put that into your equation.

  37. Andrea Epps Avatar
    Andrea Epps

    I will admit this is the first redistricting process I have actually paid attention to. When I was 20, I was having fun; when i was 30, I was raising the kids that came from the fun. Now I'm almost half way to 80,so it's time to pay attention.
    The local districts change as a result of the state districts and population (I think).
    I'm equally concerned with both. Because of all of my fellow "I"s not being represented, I'm interested in Ray's idea of mechanically drawn districts…I just have no clue how it would work?

  38. Anonymous Avatar

    The General Assembly handles redistricting for congressional and General Assembly seats. Each county redistricts for its supervisors and each city council does the same for its members.

    Virginia having been a slave-holding and very racist state, all changes must approved by the US Department of Justice. The Department of Justice generally does not like at-large seats because it makes it very difficult for any minority (racial, ethnic or political) to win election. But query: How does Arlington County get away with this for its BoS?

    I still maintain that if racial or ethnic Gerrymandering is acceptable, so too is political Gerrymandering.

    Keeping communities of interest together is, IMO, an important goal.

    As far as redoing our current jurisdictions to fit New Urban Regions and the like, I strongly oppose that. The last thing I want to have occur is to be put in a governmental entity or district with people who live in the District or Maryland. When I moved here in the mid-80s, I specifically chose to live in Virginia because it was a more fiscally conservative state and had lower taxes. My taxes are already too high, at least at the local level and too unfair at the state level. I sure as all **** don't want to pay higher taxes to fund the insanity in Maryland or the District. I'd rather things malfunctioned in the Greater D.C. area.


  39. we do have existing community of interest boundaries called MPOs an Planning Districts.

    you could take each Planning Districts and have two Senators and sub-divide it into the requisite amount of Delegate seats.

    I would always keep the number of Senators at 2 in the Planning Districts an allow redistricting to change the number of delegates.

    I'm not clear what logic was used to create the Planning Districts. The MPOs are census-related MSA critters.

  40. In other words, the local people are held hostage by anyone who wants to extort money by threatening to dump kepone.

    uh huh….


    Absolutely not.

    Anyone who wnats to dump ANYTHING would have to buy permits to do it.

    Permits would only be avaialble up to the point where the TMDLs ae met.

    The rights to use the river for ANY purpose would be owned inthe environemtnals sense: we ALL own the environment. That is our right, and consequently we ALL have a right to use the environment, up to the point at which our use harmes someone else.

    That point is defined by the TMDLs.

    TMDL chits would be distributed equally to everyone who has rights to the environment. So, maybe I get 100 TMDL units per year, to use as I please.

    Except I have a septic tank and it gets debited for the TMDL load it causes, and I drive a car, so I have to use some chits to operate it, because it is a non-pont source that contributes deposition TMDL to the river / bay. And I have to use some more if I deide to fertilize my fields this year. I also get credit for the amounts my fields are cleaner and contriute less than the average.

    But, I have a bunch left over, that I don't need, and don't have to use. If I want the environment as clean as possible, I just sit on them.

    On the other hand, my brother works for Verizon, and they need some chits to keep their trucks on the road. He puts me in touch with Verizons purchasing agent, and they make me an offer for my chits.

    I can sell them to someone else for more money, or not sell them, but it might put my brother out of a job. I could careless if I put the kepone folks out of a job, and they can;t offer me as much as verizon, anyway.

    The bottom line is that the river is no dirtier, because that is controlled by the TMDLs. But those have a price on them, and that means that only the highest and best and most valuable uses can pay the highest prices needed to keep them in business.

    The river is a little bit dirtier than pristine. As yo point out the TMDLs are not designed for pistine.
    They are designed to set the limit at which my use does not impose unduly on you.

    It does impose a little bit, as you correctly point out. However you also claim there is no pollution if there is no damage done. But now, anyone and everyone gets to decide how much they want to get psid for the damage they allow or sustain.

    Now your stupid and ridiculous argument that there is no right to pollute goes out the window. If the TMDLs are set low enough to be near pristine, then there is no pollution, by your definition.

    If it is set a little bit higher than that, then everyone acquires the right to a mostly clean environment, but it comes with the countervailing obligation that you are permitted only so much pollution.

    And you can use that pollution by proxy, any way you think is best. If you need soap,or chicken, then youbetter plan on selling some of your chits to the manufacturors of soap or chicken.

    It is a lot harder to make the laughable claim that there is no right to pollute, when you have to ration all the pollution you cause others to create on your behalf.

    One thing is certain, if there is some pollting concern, and you think youcan do without its products, you are not giving them any chits. They will go under unless they make their case successfully to some other people.

    Now, we ahave already agreed to distribute the river use chits equally. We have already agreed to put up with a certain amount of bad use, as long as everyone else puts up with an equal amount of bad use by us. that'w why the chits are equal.

    Lets call themn golden rule chits.

    If someone else decides to support an activity with their chits that I don't like or have no need of: too bad. I have no more right to tellthem what to do with their chits than they have to tell me what to do with mine.

  41. There is no right to pollute.

    now put that into your equation.


    It is already in there. Zero polution, if it was possible, would require massive government intervention and high government osts, and cause higher production costs and higher prices for goods.

    There is nothing in the equation that says you cannot do that.

    It is only that you will not get the lowest total cost.

    Some governments are trying to stamp out cigarette pollution by charging high cigarette taxes. This has resulted in some people quitting and some people smuggling, both of which cost the government money. The onely queston is whether it is yet costing the government more than the cigarette pollution costs.

  42. your "plan" Ray is 10 times more complicated than the comprehensive monitoring plan that you dissed.

    how would it be decided what your TMDL chits would me for your "clean" fields or your "dirty" septic tank without measuring?

    If you got penalized for a dirty septic tank would you save money by shutting it down and just pooping in an outhouse?

    how would they verify this?

  43. " Zero polution, if it was possible, "

    no one said that.

    what they said was that you do not have a right to pollute and that others will decide what you can and cannot pollute and to what degree and not you.

    You approach this like people have a right to pollute because they have to and the government has no choice but to allow them and that the best way to do it is for everyone to make money at it.

    That's how we got kepone and PCBs in our rivers and your approach would return us to those days.

    your equation does not address the permanent damage done to rivers or the fact that people can no longer safely eat fish or if they do unwittingly that they then poison themselves with mercury, pcbs, and dioxin.

    We have thousands of miles of rivers in this country right now that not only are the fish not safe to eat but they have tumors and open sores on their bodies.

    Does your equation address the realities of fish and other critters that live wretched and shortened lives from sores and tumors?

    Do you think we should end up with all fish in all rivers with tumors and sores?

    Is that an "acceptable" cost?

  44. Ray – there are hog and poultry farmers right now that have millions of pounds of animal poop in lagoons with no treatment plants – and no plans to treat unless the Feds swoop down on them.

    They just dump into the lagoons until a big storm comes along and flushes the contents into the nearby creek or river.

    How do you factor this into your equation?

  45. No right to pollute has got to be the single most stupid idea I ever heard of.

    We now believe that raising animals is a significant contriutor to greenhouse gasses.

    Cows and cars both emit gasses, and we let people own cars and cows so we must tolerate some pollution. We give your car a certificate that allows youto drive it so long as it passes the test. Anyone who passes the test has permission to pollute. Anyone has a right to take the test.

    Really, I don't see the difference between permission which MUST be universlly and equally given (for something that cannot be prevented anyway), and simply admitting that we have some rights.

    Really, suppose we happened to have available some truly haeinous mass murderer that everyone truly hated. we decide we are going to execute him by seriously taking away his right to pollute. we put himn in a sealed can and leave him there until he pollutes himself to death.

    Do you think any government on the planet could get away with that?

    Shoot, if there is no right to pollute, we don't even need a mass murderer, we could do it to anybody, at will.

    Except a democratic society woudl have to treat eeryone equally, and therefore kill everyone.

    But we don't do that. Instead we all agree to pollute each other a little bit and to ignore others when they do it to us.

    To me that looks like an accepted right, that comes, like every other right, with a countervailing obligation.

  46. you don't have a "right" to pollute.

    you can pollute if you receive permission and the permission requires you to only pollute what you are approved to pollute.

    That's not a stupid idea.

    It's a necessary idea because there are too many folks for too many years that essentially promised money and jobs for pollution before we realized that that is letting the polluters decide the circumstances and not those who suffer from the pollution.

    That's where the Clean Air, Clean Water Acts and the EPA came from.

    one too many love canals, or times beach or kepone in the James or PCBs in the Hudson and I could go on for a hundred more rivers…and places that essentially have permanent damage and cannot be returned to a safe condition.

    Ray – you are so completely wrong on this.

    The policies you advocate are the previous policies that ended up with the damaged environment that we have now.

  47. Well, so are all of my professors in environmental economics and my professor of philosophy and ethics.

    How can you possibly claim that there is no right to do what is fundamentally necessary to do in order to live, and which absolutely cannot be prevented in any case?

    What you are suggesting is physically and economically impossible.

    There is not a single example anywhere of your ethic being enforced other than selectively.

  48. The policies I advocate are not the previous policies. The history of major environmental disasters was first a result of no policy, and then a result of command and control policies which failed.

    We have now entered into a period of pseudo-participatory politico-economic policy which is characterized by utter disregard for private property and as your comments reveal, even a disregard for the basic necessities of life.

    However, we see more and more examples of market modulated policies, such as auctions of bandwidth, sulfur emissions, fishing rights, and even congestion charges.

    That kind of thing is the future, not the past. Think of the new stars chosen by experts AND the public on American idol. Or new bands discovered because they circumvented the traditional radio and record label cabals.

    The policies you are suggesting are dead and dying. Even China is undergoing a new revolution in property rights.

    You and I have the same rights to use and enjoy the environment, and that necessarily means that neither of us can claim the other has no right to pollute.

    It is impossible to claim both positions and claim equality.

    Which is fundamentally the problem with staking out voter territory. There is no way to equate any particular area with voter rights that ate fungible, so we should not try.

  49. You can only pollute if you have permission to and up to the amount permitted.

    How is that any different from what I have said?

    The only thing I suugest different is that you be allowed to sell your permit, just as you can a liquor license, or a lot with a well and septic permit.

    All I'm suggesting is that having passed the tests and paid for those permits they become valuable property which the government is bound to protect.

    Doubly bound because governments job is to protect people and property anyway, and especially because this class of property was CREATED by the government.

    But, having put your blood and sweat and your investment into getting the permits, government has now LOST the right to cancel the permits without compensation, same as any other property.

    If you buy land in Oklahoma, it was originally granted by the government according to some rules. Once granted the government cannot take that property back without paying compensation.

    So, the government grants Monsanto a permit to pollute. Pollute what? Government property? No. It is my property and yours. We should be the ones to decide how much damage and how much benefit. And we should collect accordingly.

    Government establishes the market by determining the scarcity of the product: the amount of pollution permitted.

    But government has no business setting the resulting prices.

    Same as government can auction off the leases to its liquor stores. It controls the scarcity, but not the price.

    And if a liquor store lessee discovers he can make more money selling Bollywood tapes, more power to him.

  50. I say there is no "right" because that is our policy and more fundamentally when you pollute you are using something that does not belong to you as a property right.

    Whether or not you believe you can exist or make a living without polluting does not give you the right to decide what to pollute and how much.

    That decision lies with all property owners and that's why we have govt that represents all property owners in such matters.

    It's up to all property owners through elective govt and environmental agencies to decide what is "impossible" to do or not

    …and not you….

    you do not have that "right".

    it is NOT in YOUR bundle of sticks.

    re: " There is not a single example anywhere of your ethic being enforced other than selectively."

    it's not my ethic guy – it's the policy of the country.

    You need permission to pollute.

    You need permits.

    if you operate a business that emits pollution without a permit – you will be shut down no matter how much you claim you "have no choice".

    We've been over this many times and at the end of each discussion – you finally admit that there is no "right" but then a few weeks or months go by and you go right back to your original easily-demonstrated as wrong thinking.

  51. "property rights" do not include the right to pollute.

    " pseudo-participatory politico-economic policy which is characterized by utter disregard for private property and as your comments reveal, even a disregard for the basic necessities of life."

    ha ha ha.. off the deep end here are we?

    disregard for life is characterized by those who would harm others in the name of personal profit… all the while plaintively asserting that you have "no choice" but to… dump kepone on others property not yours…

  52. " that neither of us can claim the other has no right to pollute"

    we can indeed.

    we do it with the other persons permission.

    if you don't have permission, then you are stealing property rights from others by polluting others properties that you do not own – without permission.

    you do not have the right to pollute other people's property.

  53. " The only thing I suugest different is that you be allowed to sell your permit"

    you cannot.

    NPDES permits are not bought and sold.

    You can buy the company and have the permit reassigned to you but you cannot buy an existing NPDES permit and move it to a different pipe as far as I know.

  54. " But government has no business setting the resulting prices. "

    and they do not…

    the govt sells rights to broadcast spectrum guy…

    are you claiming they can't do that because it has the effect of establishing a price?

    ha ha ha

    come on Ray.. do you actually try to understand the way the real world actually works when you cook up these idiotic statements – and you have the nerve to use the "moron" word on others?

  55. the govt sells rights to broadcast spectrum guy…

    are you claiming they can't do that because it has the effect of establishing a price?


    The government does not sell spectrum at a fixed price, nor T-bills either.

    They Auction them off and the MARKET sets the price, not government. All government does is determine the availability.

    And once Iridium owns that spectrum, if they go broke they can sell the spectrum for whatever they can get for it. It is not the governments to sell. Government has to approve the sale, but they don't set the price, and if they want it back, they have to buy it.

    Same with the Oklahoma land. At the time, that land was much like the environment is today: it belonged to all of us. All government did was arrange the transfer from all of us to someone who wanted it enought to take care of it. And everyone was better off as a result.

    Government arranged the transfer through a land race, but they could just as well issued certificates to everyone in the US, which could be bought sold and redeemed for land, and the use thereof.

    You could do the same thing with PDR chits, or Development chits or any other valuable property that government controls the availability of.

  56. NPDES permits are not bought and sold.

    You can buy the company and have the permit reassigned to you but you cannot buy an existing NPDES permit and move it to a different pipe as far as I know.


    Actually, you might be able to move it to another pipe in the same watershed. You would have to negotiate same as airlines negotiate maintenance schedules with the FAA, but it can be done as long as minimum standards are not violated.

    Suppose you wante to move the effluent to a different pipe down stream and combine it with another existing pipe. The company could argue that this move leaves a larger stretch of the river unspoiled, and, since there is more flow near the mouth, even the larger combined flow is more diluted and less dangerous.

    But even if you scenario is right, the right to pollute signified by the permit can be bought and sold.

    And once you bought the company, you could produce some other product, as ,ong as you didn't violate the terms of the permit and produce a DIFFERENT waste.

    But, practically speaking,the government would not know if you are releasing dimethyl sulfate or dimethyl sulfoxide. If the permit only specifies sulfur and acidity releases you would still be in compliance.

  57. you cannot.

    NPDES permits are not bought and sold.


    And what I'm trying to explain is that this is a stupid, stupid policy. They should be bought and sold.

    Same as cars or guns are bought and sold. You have to notify the government, and you cannot use them illegally, but we buy and sell them all the time.

  58. "property rights" do not include the right to pollute.


    No, living includes the right to pollute.

    That right is valuable property, that can be, and is, bought and sold.

    There is no point in claiming there is no right to pollute when government cannot prevent pollution. It can limit pollution, and redirect it, but it MUST issue permits to pollute or else the world stops.

    All the government does is set the limits for allowable pollution in certain markets, but it can no more prevent pollution than it can prevent breathing.

    You are splitting hairs. Whether by right or by permit which cannot be refused, the ability to pollute has value, which is property which can be bought and sold.

    Now, the environment belongs to all of us and therefore so does its ability to absorb and use pollution. The government has no business licensing other people to use OUR property.

    If they want to do that, they can first buy the property back from us. Obviously, since we are the government, it would be stupid to buy from ourselves and then have government license the property out for less.

    So, if the environment belongs to us, let us own it, and protect it, and let us own all of it including its value as a fishery and a sewer. We can make choices as to how much of each we want.

    You are afraid that if we ran the environment like a company on shares, we would run it into the ground. Thats ridiculous, no shareholder wants to see his company ruined.

  59. At some point – the TMDLs are going to become entangled with NPDES in areas that have issues.

    Right now – the "theory" that drives NPDES is called "mixing zones" where, in theory, a higher concentration effluent is expected to get diluted enough so be considered not in excess of run-of-the-river standards.

    In reality – NPDES permits allow for the same amount of discharge no matter what flow is in the river and in times of low water/drought, the volume of the effluent assumes a much higher percentage relative to the receiving waters – and this is exactly what happens to the Rivers and the Chesapeake Bay in the summer when BOD turns vast stretchs of river/bay into dead zones.

    It's the same amount of effluent approved for discharge but the low flow of the river cannot assimilate it.

    The TMDLs for low flows are going to be much lower than for typical or high flows in they are going to be truly effective in reducing the dead zones in the summer.

    This is why you have to measure.

    If you do't measure – you're not going to know under what conditions the dead zones form – and what has to be done in terms of reductions overall so that come summer – the allowed loads are still low enough so as to not cause dead zones.

  60. " No, living includes the right to pollute"


    you have the "right" to get permission but you are in violation of the law if you pollute without a permit.

    "… but it can no more prevent pollution than it can prevent breathing."

    tell that to the people whose companies have been shut down an their assets seized for damages.

    " Now, the environment belongs to all of us and therefore so does its ability to absorb and use pollution."

    you don't have the right to pollute other people's property.

    you have to get permission to do it.

    " The government has no business licensing other people to use OUR property.

    If they want to do that, they can first buy the property back from us."

    you're not using YOUR property when you pollute property that does not belong to you.

    " So, if the environment belongs to us, let us own it, and protect it, and let us own all of it including its value as a fishery and a sewer. We can make choices as to how much of each we want."

    you're only a part owner guy.

    You cannot unilaterally decide what you can do. You need permission from the other property owners.

    You cast yourself as a property rights guy but in reality you want other people's property …. for the taking….

    that's not "property rights", that outlaw stealing….

    from others..things that do not belong to you.

  61. I just hope they make the legislative districts conform to voting precinct boundaries, in order to save local registrars and voters the confusion and expensive of trying to keep track of who should be voting for what.

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