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Other Senate Votes From Yesterday You Should Know About
Written by Chet   

gun2As we posted on our Facebook wall yesterday afternoon Senator Heidi Heitkamp (and John Hoeven) voted with the National Riflemanufacturers Association (NRA) and 6% of North Dakotans who think violent felons should be able to purchase weapons at gun shows without suffering through the trauma -- or "undue burden" -- of a five minute background check.  What I did not write about was the other votes that took place in the Senate yesterday.  One vote I think is important is what is called the "Cornyn Race To The Bottom Amendment."  That amendment, proposed by John Cornyn (R-Texas), would have forced every state to recognize and accept concealed carry permits from every other state.  

Right now, different states can have different requirements for concealed carry permits. Some states have affirmatively elected to participate in reciprocity with other states, but they don't have to.  Today, California and New York, for example, might chose to make it harder for people to get permits to carry concealed weapons. They might want, for example, concealed carry permit holders to have some minimum level of intelligence and gun-safety knowledge when it comes to guns. Some other states with radical, right-wing legislatures that are bought-and-paid-for by the big business -- like Mississippi, Alabama or North Dakota -- might want to have laws requiring that every inmate must be handed a concealed carry permit as they are released from prison. They might want laws requiring night clubs to hand out concealed carry permits to every drunk who picks a fight with a bouncer.  The Cornyn Race To The Bottom Amendment would have made it so that every state would have to recognize and accept concealed carry permits from the states that chose to hand out concealed carry permits to violent convicts and drunken bar brawlers.

I was interested to learn that MORE U.S. Senators voted to support the Race To The Bottom Amendment than voted to support the background check amendment that's supported by about 90% of all Americans, including 74% of NRA members.  The Race To The Bottom amendment died with only 58 votes (to 42 against) as compared to the 54 votes the background check amendment had.  Among the Senators voting for the Race To The Bottom Amendment were both of North Dakota's senators: Heidi Heitkamp and John Hoeven.  (Check the roll-call vote by clicking here).  

There were seven (7) votes on weapons-related amendments yesterday (April 17, 2013). Heitkamp and Hoeven voted exactly the same way on 6 out of 7 of those gun amendments.  The one they disagreed on was Amendment 713 -- the Leahy-Collins Amendment -- which would have punished and deterred strawman gun purchases.  Heitkamp voted in favor of that amendment; Hoeven voted against it. I've looked through the amendment and don't see how it addresses the the mental health component Senator Heitkamp referenced in her press release yesterday, but it's possible I'm missing something.

Both Heitkamp and Hoeven will likely preserve their "A" ratings with the Gun Manufacturers' Association.  I'm not sure what else they're accomplishing by voting with the 6% of North Dakotans who think it should be easy for violent felons to buy guns at gun shows. Maybe I'll figure it out another day. Or maybe not.

 
Is Campaign Money For Racist North Dakota Congressman Drying Up?
Written by Chet   

IMG_1077[UPDATED (in red)] North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer has been facing criticism across the State of North Dakota and across the country for racist comments he made at a meeting in Bismarck a few weeks ago.  Many people knew of Cramer's views in this regard long before that rally rant, however.  With the campaign disclosure information recently made available online, you have to wonder if his former supporters are viewing Cramer as more of a liability than anything else.  Let's look at the numbers from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) website:

CramerFinance

(SOURCE)

So Cramer has raised $43,111.00 in the first full quarter after being elected (see line 6.a., above). That's less than $14,500 per month. That's quite a bit less than $500 per day raised by a United States Congressman.  That doesn't seem like much.

How does that compare to former Congressman Rick Berg, the unpopular Fargo slumlord?  Let's take a look at that:

BergFinance

(SOURCE)

So in Berg's first full quarter after being elected, he raised $163,337.38 in campaign contributions (see line 6.a., above).  So Berg raised just over $54,400 per month; more than Cramer raised in the entire three-month period.  

Berg raised 3.8 times as much during the comparable period of time the first quarter of in his one term.  

So I'm wondering why this is. Do you suppose it's because people are quickly figuring out what a racist, radical liability Cramer is?  Or is it something else?

Thoughts?

UPDATE:  Perhaps it's just a national trend.  Perhaps all the deeply unpopular radical racist Republicans are having a hard time raising money.  See The Huffington Post article on this.]

 
Keynote Speaker At Bismarck Anti-Women Rally Has Sketchy Past
Written by Chet   

PriestsAgainstInVitroFertalization002Frank Pavone, who is being heralded as a leader of the anti-woman movement celebrating this week at the North Dakota State Capitol Building in Bismarck today, has a bit of a troublesome, sketchy past.  Here's a couple snippets.  First:

Frank Pavone, the leader of Priests for Life, has been suspended from engaging in active ministry outside the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, as a result of concerns about financial improprieties.

The local bishop, Patrick J. Zurek, wrote in a letter to all of the bishops in the US, “My decision is the result of deep concerns regarding his stewardship over the finances of the Priests for Life (PFL) organization. The PFL has become a business that is quite lucrative which provides Father Pavone with financial independence from all legitimate ecclesiastical oversight.”

CatholicsForChoice.org (September 13, 2011)

And another...

Indeed, the lesson of Pavone's rehabilitation may be that in today's Catholic Church, it helps to have friends in high places, and to be battling on an issue -- abortion -- that is such a priority for Rome, especially during a critical presidential race. Whatever PFL's financial woes, keeping Pavone in business trumped the usual niceties of ecclesiastical life.

 

HuffingtonPost.com (October 16, 2012)

And this is the guy the anti-women people are celebrating in Bismarck today.

Should we be surprised that they can't hold one of these anti-women rallies without filling the stage with people with sketchy backgrounds like this guy?

Probably not.

 
94% of Likely ND Voters Support Mandatory Background Checks
Written by Chet   

guns1At least that's what Mayors Against Illegal Guns polling data from January/February shows. Ninety-four percent of likely North Dakota voters think there should be background checks before felons can buy guns at gun shows.  

Here's an excerpt from their press release (which you should go read by clicking on the link right after this excerpt):

NEW POLL FINDS 94 PERCENT IN NORTH DAKOTA FAVOR MANDATORY BACKGROUND CHECKS FOR ALL GUN BUYERS

Survey Released [March 5th] By Mayors Against Illegal Guns Finds Overwhelming Majority of North Dakota Residents Favor Background Checks for All Gun Buyers

Polling data released today by Mayors Against Illegal Guns shows that likely voters in North Dakota overwhelmingly support expanding the gun background check system to include all gun buyers. The data is the first to be released from a survey conducted in more than 60 states and congressional districts by Schoen LLC for the bipartisan coalition of more than 850 U.S. mayors.

“That 94 percent of North Dakota residents want every gun buyer to pass a criminal background check speaks volumes about the changing public mood on guns,” said pollster Doug Schoen.“This margin is unlike any I’ve seen on this issue, and it marks a real sea change. Voters want their elected officials to fight gun violence, and after Newtown, they’re demanding it.”

“Newtown broke our hearts. Two months later, it’s time for Washington to hear the call coming from North Dakota, and from every corner of the country, to close the loopholes in the background check system,” said John Feinblatt, chief policy advisor to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who co-chairs the coalition with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino. “Even with major loopholes, the system blocks more than 70,000 felons and other dangerous people from buying guns every year. We can reform the system and save many lives – and Americans are virtually unanimous in demanding that Congress do it now.”

Mayors' Against Illegal Guns (Press Release)

Okay, I gotta say a few things about this poll:  (1) I've never heard of the polling firm that did this poll, Schoen, LLC. I'm not a polling expert, but I know enough about polling to know that polling in North Dakota isn't like polling in other states.  (See, e.g., all the polling on the Heitkamp/Berg race in 2012).  I'd be surprised to learn 94% of North Dakotans could agree on the color of a clear sky (teabaggers would all call it red, I'm sure).  But if Schoen polled us in a generic poll, I think his numbers could be off by quite a bit, but  (2) Not by 45 points, (3) I'd like to see the crosstabs on this poll, and to know more about how the poll was conducted. I am a little skeptical, but not skeptical enough to say I reject its results completely. I just would want to know more; (4) The press release is from March 5th relating to polling data from January and February. I haven't seen anything about this in any local press. I assume that's the case because dead kids from Connecticut don't buy ads in the Fargo Forum, the Bismarck Tribune or on KFGO or KFYR radio. I only learned of it because MotherJones magazine's Facebook wall had a reference to it this week and I Googled it after seeing that to confirm.

But let's say -- for discussion's sake -- that these numbers are accurate.  If they are, then how does yesterday's story in the New York Times make any sense.  Here's a snippet from that story:

WASHINGTON — The families of the Newtown, Conn., shooting victims who have converged on Capitol Hill this week made a point of visiting Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a freshman Democrat known for the “North Dakota nice” of her home state, but on the main issue that brought them here — limiting the capacity of gun magazines and universal background checks — she curtly rejected their pleas for support.

“In our part of the country, this isn’t an issue,” Ms. Heitkamp explained in an interview afterward. “This is a way of life. This is how people feel, and it is extraordinarily difficult to explain that, especially to grieving parents.”

Bottom line, she said, “I’m going to represent my state.”

NYTimes.com

I'm having a hard time with this.  Heitkamp "curtly rejected" the pleas of the family members of the dead Sandy Hook kids and teachers. I don't think of her as being heartless and out of touch.  But if this polling data is accurate, these two facts cannot be reconciled.  On the one hand, this poll suggests 94% of North Dakotans support background checks.  On the other hand, Senator Heitkamp says she's going to listen to North Dakotans and NOT going to listen to big city billionaires and is going to oppose background checks. Even if the Schoen LLC poll is off by 30 points, 64% of North Dakotans support background checks to stop violent criminals from buying guns at gun shows. If that's the case, you'd think Heitkamp would support background checks before criminals can buy guns.

I just don't know how to reconcile these two things. Has Heitkamp been the victim of a calling campaign from the NRA? Is she "curtly rejecting" the pleas of the family members of the dead children and teachers at Sandy Hook based upon false assumptions and stereotypes about North Dakota?  That can't be.  

Are these polling numbers really off by 45 percentage points?  Does Heitkamp have internal polling numbers showing North Dakotans think violent felons ought to be able to buy guns without having to go through the overwhelming hassle of a five minute background check? I just don't know.  

But I'd like to.

 
Maybe We Should Support Keystone XL
Written by Chet   

Maybe the Keystone XL -- though it won't create any meaningful jobs and will cause gas prices to go up if you still pick up your fuel the old fashioned way (at gas stations) -- is a better way to deliver fuel to people where they need it most: at home.

I guess I probably should rethink my opposition to Keystone XL. It's obviously a part of a bigger plan to improve our delivery system.

Maybe we deserve the Keystone XL.

 
Comedy From The North Dakota Capitol Building
Written by Chet   

ShrineI hope you caught the section of an AP article making the rounds earlier this week. I missed it, but a link was forwarded to me by a friend who did some worthwhile analysis.  First, the clip, then the analysis:

OIL TAX TRUST FUND

North Dakota's oil tax "Legacy Fund" could hit $1 billion this month and a state board now is recommending that half of the fund's assets be shifted to the stock market and other investments.

North Dakota voters approved the fund in 2010 and it's been rising faster than predicted with booming oil production. None of the money can be spent until 2017, and even then it takes a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to get into it.

March deposits were about $87 million, bringing the fund's total to $927 million, according to Darren Schulz, the interim chief investment officer of North Dakota's Retirement and Investment Office.

Oil revenue began gushing into the fund only since September 2011 and analysts initially estimated it would have a $618 million balance when the state's current two-year budget period ends on June 30.

Revenue from the fund has been invested mostly in short-term, low-risk and low-return U.S bonds, guaranteed by government agencies, Schulz said. But annual earnings from the fund, about 1.6 percent last year, is barely keeping pace with inflation, he said.

The seven-member Legacy Fund advisory board, created by the Legislature, now wants to build on the fund with a broader investment policy by placing 50 percent of the money in stocks and other types of investments.

The new strategy is estimated to bring an annual return of 6.35 percent, but will still be in line with the state's conservative investment policy, North Dakota Treasurer Kelly Schmidt said.

"This allocation will give the fund an opportunity to preserve principle for future generations and maintain purchasing power," she said.

North Dakota's Investment Board, which supervises the Retirement and Investment Office and oversees state and local government employee pension funds, is expected to adopt the Legacy Fund advisory board's recommendation later this month.

NewsOK.com (AP)

First things first: I'm not a math professor; I'm just a caveman lawyer. The math in this might be a little over my head.  But I'm gonna do the best I can with my limited math brain capacity.

First, let's assume Kelly Schmidt is quoted accurately.  If so, she claims the state’s “conservative investment policy” [massive amount of LOL on my end after reading that] would have the Legacy Fund realizing a 6.35% return rate if HALF of it were invested in the stock market. This is coming from Kelly Schmidt, mind you.  She's the person who tripled the investment fees for the veterans post-war trust fund while, in real terms, going from positive to negative rates of return at the same time.

And then the North Dakota State Investment Board dude -- Darren Schulz -- says in the article that last year the Legacy Fund realized a 1.6% rate of return. Now, without drilling down any further into the underlying numbers, consider these two concerns:  

(1) Is there any chance Kelly Schmidt and Darren Schulz are on crack?

(2) If 50% of the Legacy Fund is going to be placed in the casino investments the North Dakota State Investment Board (SIB) is famous for (with 2 to 3 times the fees over industry averages, 100% stock fund turnovers [i.e. gambling not investing], disguising junk bonds and risky alternative investments as normal low risk investments when reporting their investments to the public employees so its consultant, Callan, can charge more fees, etc., etc., etc. -- then that means 50% of the Legacy Fund will stay in the 1.6% rate of return range – basically T-bills and muni-bonds - and the other 50% will go to the market as managed by Kelly's buddies in retail investment houses who send her illegal campaign contributions.

So, for the “new strategy” to get a total fund rate of return average of 6.35% they're claiming the Legacy Fund will get, that would mean that the 50% that will be going into stocks “and other types of investments” will have to get an average rate of return of 10.2% so the average of the 50% in T-bills and the 50% in stocks works out. (10.2%/1.6% = 6.375%)

Now, to get 10.2% return on investment with the nonsensically high fees SIB pays for no reason, the “new strategy” needs a 12-13% gross rate of return on the 50% of the Legacy Fund going into the stock market. Let’s compare that to the S&P 500. From January 1st, 2000, until December 31st, 2012, the S&P 500 grew at .95% annual average (inflation adjusted), and 3.65% (non-inflation adjusted).  [And I gotta tell you I found a variety of different sources for these numbers, and they were all inconsistent with one another. But let's just take these numbers and run with them.]

In a nut shell: The “new strategy” for the Legacy Fund is to beat the market by 3 to 4 fold (3.65% market average and they need 12-13% to get a total Legacy Fund average of 6.35%) Since nobody beats the market over the long term, and all academic reviews of the high fee strategies SIB uses prove they don’t beat the market - we are asking the people of our state to lay our Legacy Fund money into the hands of people that think they can have triple the return of the stock market with half our money.

Makes sense, right?

Which brings us back to question Number One again: ARE THESE PEOPLE ON CRACK???

The retail investment consultants pushing this are already shopping for new yachts.

 
Heitkamp Evolves on Marriage Equality
Written by Chet   

I posted this on Facebook immediately after getting the press release this morning, but I wanted to post it here on the main NorthDecoder.com website, because it's important and because I want those of you who aren't on the Facebook to see it and comment, if you want.

HEITKAMP STATEMENT ON MARRIAGE EQUALITY

Friday, April 5, 2013

FARGO, ND- Today, Senator Heidi Heitkamp released the following statement regarding her position on marriage equality:

“In speaking with North Dakotans from every corner of our great state, and much personal reflection, I have concluded the federal government should no longer discriminate against people who want to make lifelong, loving commitments to each other or interfere in personal, private, and intimate relationships.  I view the ability of anyone to marry as a logical extension of this belief. The makeup of families is changing, but the importance of family is enduring.”

###

If you contacted the senator's office and asked her to support marriage equality, this is yours.  

If you didn't, call your senator and thank her for doing the right thing.

 
Williston, North Dakota: Rape Capital of North America?
Written by Chet   

GPE2I read these two paragraphs from The Examiner yesterday and meant to post them.  They're stunning, really:

For North Dakota women, the booming state is becoming a dystopian nightmare rather than a job seeker's utopian paradise. Rapes and assaults have multiplied in frequency at an alarming rate and Williston has begun to resemble more a 19th century Wild West town than a modern twenty-first century city. With a rate of over one hundred rapes per 100,000 residents, Williston now has a rape rate that is nearly four times the national average. A woman in Williston, North Dakota is four times more likely to report being forcibly raped than a woman living in Los Angeles and over seven times more likely than a woman residing in New York City. Williston’s per capita rape rate is higher than that of any of the 214 US cities with a population of over 100,000 residents, including Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans, cities usually regarded as among the nation’s most dangerous places.

At a time when Williston North Dakota is fighting for the dubious title of “rape capital” of North America, the state’s Republican dominated legislature and Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple have teamed up to pass the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the country, which would ban abortions even in the case of rape or incest after just six weeks of pregnancy (a standard that is set so early that many women are not yet aware they are pregnant). Both the state house and state senate have also passed a resolution calling for a fetal personhood amendment that if approved by voters, would ban all abortions and possibly even most forms of contraception in the state altogether in 2014. Again, no exceptions are allowed for cases involving rape, incest or if the life of the woman is endangered by carrying the pregnancy to term. In a state where rape is on the rise, lawmakers have essentially decided that rape victims must be compelled to carry their pregnancy to term and to give birth to the rapist's baby.

Examiner.com (emphasis added)

Speaking of rapists and the pregnancies they cause, I picked up a copy of the latest issue of the Great Plains Examiner yesterday, just to see if it's still got its radical right-wing slant.  (Spoiler:  It does.) The former ND Republican Party chairman who owns and operates that paper now has obviously decided he doesn't care whether his right-wing rag has any women readers, and might even want women to boycott all of the paper's advertisers, has clearly thrown in with the women-oppressing radicals. His anti-choice editorial wouldn't be quite so offensive if there weren't also -- in the same issue -- a column by a Bismarck church leader who takes the position that -- and this is the title of the column -- "Life Begins Before Conception."  Swear to God.  And no time like a discussion about Choice in the context of rape and incest to bring in a car analogy:

Consider an example. My grandfather owned a 1978 Chevy Malibu. If I was to ask him when his car was made he might say in the summer of 1977 when production began at the Oshawa Car Assembly. Or, if he really thought about it, he might say that his car was made in 1976 at the GM Tech Center in the minds of the engineers who designed it.

GreatPlainsExaminer.com (don't take my word for it; go read it)

See... for the folks at the Great Plains Examiner life starts in the "design" phase. As is true with the manufacturing of a car, human life begins as soon as the rapist starts thinking about raping someone. That's a great car analogy. Makes perfect sense, right?

It's no wonder North Dakota's radical Republicans don't even believe in having exceptions to their anti-choice Personhood laws, even for victims of rape and incest. According to them, apparently, if you become pregnant as a result of a rape or incest, the rape or incest was all just a part of God's big plan.

I just don't know what to think about a God whose grand plan includes rape.

I do know that when I predicted the Great Plains Examiner was going to turn into a radical, right-wing rag, I nailed it. I don't care how many Democrats get duped into allowing their writings to be the "token Democrat perspective," that paper is a right-wing rag, 

 
Is Western North Dakota Tap Water Potable?
Written by Chet   

DalrympleWomenA small-town newspaper story was making the rounds on the internet over the weekend about a presentation in Dunn Center -- a/k/a "God's Country" -- about dangerous, poisoned tap water in the Minot area.  The story is about a presentation by Lance Loken, an environmental and natural resources consultant, to a group of farmers and landowners in Dunn County.  Loken had tested startlingly high levels of sulfates and chlorides in water ponds near an area in Billings County where nine dead cows had been found. It is "probable," according to the story, that the poisonous pond water resulted when truck drivers were illegally dumping fracking byproducts -- "salt water" (which is more than just salt and water) -- in "inappropriate locations" in the area.  Here's a snippet from the story:

“ND has unique geology. This isn’t West Texas. This is a unique ecosystem,”  [Loken] said.

In Minot, Loken made another surprising discovery – one that left him concerned.

Loken conducted an environmental test at an abandoned salvage yard located at an undisclosed location in Minot. The adjacent property was known to take waste from the Minot Air Force Base. As Loken investigated the area, he found a letter from the North Dakota Department of Health that basically recommended the tap water should not be consumed.

His tests discovered the water was radioactive.

North Dakota and Iowa are the top two states for radioactive materials. Radiation results in about 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year, but there are different radioactive isotopes that result in different contamination.

DunnCountyExtra.com (emphasis added)

So ground water in Billings County is poisonous.  Tap water in the Minot area is "radioactive."  What could possibly go wrong?

Meanwhile... Jack Dalrymple says he wouldn't have voted to approve of the well site for a company for which he is part owner next to the Elkhorn Ranch.  Here's what he said, apparently:

“A lot of people were shocked, but so was the governor,” Dalrymple said. “We would never have sited a well there. It would have never happened.”

Fargo Forum

Suuuuuuuure he wouldn't have sited the well there.  

Sorry, but the blogger doesn't believe him.

 
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