This is a time to get together and eat and talk , just time for our friends. There is no format, dues, agenda etc., We can meet anytime or place we decide, picnic pot luck, local food, anything we want to, even invite speakers. But for now please show up, eat and talk to like minded friends. No need to RSVP just stop by and eat. email Trana if you like.
It's gotta be tough being the political and/or state government reporter for the Bismarck Tribune. As a Tribune reporter, you probably look at the long list of young, fresh-out-of-college political and government beat reporters that have come before you, and know -- and everybody else knows -- you are probably not going to be in Bismarck long. Most move on to things they think will be "bigger and better" outside of North Dakota. Some get hired on as communications people in state government or elsewhere, but most aren't at the Tribune for very long. That conveniently ensures no political writer will have any meaningful institutional memory or knowledge of state and local government. Every day is Christmas.
But it has to be tough coming into a new city -- a place you've never been -- and be asked to write about political and government news that's really important to the people in the City.
There's a story in this morning's Bismarck Tribune that sort of highlights the problem of being new to Bismarck, and being expected to write about local politics. Here's the first paragraph of today's story:
State Sen. Tracy Potter’s campaign for the U.S. Senate has left a vacant Senate seat for District 35, which covers a portion of central Bismarck just southwest of the Capitol.
That's the lead-in to a story about the candidates running for the state legislature in District 35. Here's a map of District 35. District 35 is the entire area in the map that is not shaded or darkened; it's the brighter, more colorful part of the map, across the middle. I've put an arrow on the map that points to a dot which is the Capitol building.
(click picture for larger version)
Can we all agree that, at best, it's more than just a little inaccurate to say District 35 "covers a portion of central Bismarck just southwest of the Capitol." It does "include" a portion of central Bismarck just southwest of the Capitol, but it also covers just as much of Bismarck northeast of the Capitol, too. By eyeballing it, I'd guess the area of District 35 to the north and east of the Capitol is probably about the same size as the area to the south and west, or it might possibly even be slightly bigger.
District 35 is one of North Dakota's legislative districts that was gerrymandered by the Republican Party almost 9 years go, so that it would include some of Bismarck's most right-wing encampments and help the Republicans retain majorities in as many legislative districts as possible across the state. Because that's the main goal of redistricting, of course: maintaining Republican majorities. It doesn't have anything to do with trying to accomodate the citizens' needs or provide a truly representative form of government.
District 35 starts along the Missouri River on the extreme western edge of Bismarck and zig-zags its way through town, winding its way over to (and including) the Ramada Limited hotel, across the East Bismarck Expressway from the Oasis Truck Stop, not that far from the extreme eastern edge of the City. I think the district boundaries were designed to make the district look like the shape of some kind of machine gun. The Capitol building is pretty much smack dab in the middle of the district.
I don't mean to be hyper-critical of this particular, relatively new Tribune reporter, but I do sort of have an interest in the information being accurate (I live in District 35 and am the Dem-NPL district chair). The opening line of this news story is a little bit too misleading.
You should take a few minutes out of your day to read the third interview of President Obama by Rolling Stone magazine:
When you came into office, you felt you would be able to work with the other side. When did you realize that the Republicans had abandoned any real effort to work with you and create bipartisan policy?
Well, I'll tell you that given the state of the economy during my transition, between my election and being sworn in, our working assumption was that everybody was going to want to pull together, because there was a sizable chance that we could have a financial meltdown and the entire country could plunge into a depression. So we had to work very rapidly to try to create a combination of measures that would stop the free-fall and cauterize the job loss.
The recovery package we shaped was put together on the theory that we shouldn't exclude any ideas on the basis of ideological predispositions, and so a third of the Recovery Act were tax cuts. Now, they happened to be the most progressive tax cuts in history, very much geared toward middle-class families. There was not only a fairness rationale to that, but also an economic rationale — those were the folks who were most likely to spend the money and, hence, prop up demand at a time when the economy was really freezing up.
I still remember going over to the Republican caucus to meet with them and present our ideas, and to solicit ideas from them before we presented the final package. And on the way over, the caucus essentially released a statement that said, "We're going to all vote 'No' as a caucus." And this was before we'd even had the conversation. At that point, we realized that we weren't going to get the kind of cooperation we'd anticipated. The strategy the Republicans were going to pursue was one of sitting on the sidelines, trying to gum up the works, based on the assumption that given the scope and size of the recovery, the economy probably wouldn't be very good, even in 2010, and that they were better off being able to assign the blame to us than work with us to try to solve the problem.
Being President of the United States is probably hard enough without having a bunch of tea-bagging, obstructionist, America-hating morons working day and night to gum up your efforts to save the country from the economic collapse they'd set up.
A leader less diplomatic than President Obama would call the actions of the Republican Senators and Congresspersons "treasonous."
If you don't read Rolling Stone regulary (subscribe, already) you're missing some of America's only old-fashioned investigative journalism. Matt Taibbi's regular stories in the Rolling Sone (click here for Taibbi's latest) are the best investigative journalism you'll find in print (or online) these days.
Next time you're driving down the street in your town and you see a yard full of signs for Republican candidates, or you're driving on the highway and see one of those huge, expensive billboards... Or if you don't get out much and you just see all the TV ads they've been buying... and you ask yourself, "Gosh, I wonder how the Republican Party is able to afford all these signs and ads," remember this story:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A potential scandal is brewing around a man who helped fund a lot of GOP campaigns and almost became Tennessee's state treasurer.
Last year, Ira Brody's Republican friends nearly put him in charge of your money. Brody argued that he could do for the state what he had done for his own company.
But, now, Brody's former company is accusing him of engaging in a criminal fraud that cost it hundreds of millions of dollars.
Remember Ira Brody? We've written about him before. He's been a major contributor to North Dakota's Republican Party and to at least one sketchy North Dakota elected official. Here's a snippet from one of the stories we've written that includes his name:
Then, in 2005, the "Agents Insurance Association," (AIA) a New York organization,contributed $5,000 to the NDGOP. AIA shares an address with a "InsCap," the major player in the viatical settlement industry. (Google the AIA and see if you find anything more about them than I did about them. I found next to nothing.)
In 2006 -- a year when Jim Poolman wasn't even running for office -- a "Sara Bachrach"contributed $25,000to Jim Poolman's political campaign. The same year, an "Ira Brody" made a$15,000 contributionto the NDGOP. Bachrach and Brody shared the same street address. Brody is anexecutive at InsCap, the big company that does viatical settlement work of the type most benefitted by Poolman's back-room handywork. That's $40,000 from one New York household.
So now Inscap -- which (for some reason) has changed its name to "Concord Capital Management" -- has sued Brody and a "renegade group of executives," accusing them of "'looting the firm and generating millions of dollars in fraudulent fees." (LifeSettlements Report.com) Brody had sought the position of State Treasurer for the state of Tennessee, and his "creepy" plan was to have the state take out life insurance policies on retired state employees.
So now you know how the NDGOP is able to afford all those signs. If they're not taking money from local North Dakota Republicans who exacerbate the immigration problem by hiring undocumented workers and paying them oppressive wages (see story on that, by clicking here), they are unapologetically taking donations from out-of-state people whose employers have accused them of stealing "hundreds of millions of dollars."
This duo of Fernando (from Brazil) and Cecilia (from Uruguay) played this song at the 2009 Brazilian Music Institute at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida.
If you're a guitar player (and maybe even if you're not) you'll notice that a minute or sofifty-three seconds into the song, her left hand starts fingering the part HIS right hand is picking, and vice versa. (Also, at 1:21 on the ticker, she stops picking with her right hand and he stops fingering with his left, and his right hand picks the part her left hand is fingering.)
It's hard to imagine having that kind of muscle memory.
North Dakota's Blue Cross Blue Shield has to be sitting on a big pile of money because of the recent Democratic Health Care Reforms. Look at what's happening in North CAROLINA:
RALEIGH, N.C. — Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina said Monday that it would refund $155.8 million to 215,000 policyholders because of the national health reform effort.
Brad Wilson, chief executive of Blue Cross, the state's largest insurer, said the refunds would be issued by the end of the year to people who had individual Blue Advantage or Blue Options HSA policies on March 23, the date when President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 into law.
"This is not necessarily in response to any criticism. It's simply the right thing to do," Wilson said. "A new law was enacted, new rules are in force, change is in the air."
Refunds will be equivalent to a little less than two months of premiums, meaning the average policyholder who pays a $380 monthly premium would receive about $690 back, he said.
Like North Carolina's BCBS, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota is a "non-profit." And North Carolina's BCBS likely has the same (or similar) reserve requirements as North Dakota, no? And the North Carolina reduced rate increases and premium refunds are happening because North Carolina's Insurance Commissioner -- Wayne Goodwin, a Democrat -- worked it out with Blue Cross Blue Shield. Read Goodwin's office's press release by clicking here.
So... you may be asking yourself... "Where's my Insurance Commissioner?"
"Where is North Dakota's Insurance Commissioner?"
"Where's my reduced premium increase?"
"Where's my refund?"
A refund like the folks in North Carolina are getting makes Health Care Reform look pretty good. Record low premium increases make Healthcare Reform look pretty good. A Republican Insurance Commissioner -- like Adam Hamm of North Dakota -- would never promote these things right now.
It's too close to the November election. It would conflict with the Republican narrative.
We're paying for the Republican narrative.
This is yet another example that proves North Dakota's single-party rule is bad for all of us.
The Bismarck Tribune is reporting today that the North Dakota Public Service Commission imposed an enormous $1,000 (one thousand dollar) fine on Coteau Properties for pumping water out of one of its ponds and causing soil erosion:
Commission Chairman Kevin Cramer said the pond collects runoff and allows sediment in the water to settle. The pipe outlet extended about 60 feet outside the boundaries of the mine's permit area.
Coteau appears to be a wholly owned subsidiary of North American Coal Company. Coteau's annual revenues are estimated to be in the range of $100 million to $500 million per year, according to Manta.com, while North American Coal is a much larger company with annual revenue last year in the neighborhood of $2.3 billion, according to Reuters.
An anonymous source at Coteau was contacted to see whether he felt this devastating $1,000 fine would be the final nail in the coffin for Coteau Properties. The anonymous source said, "I think we'll probably be able to pull through this."
Yesterday the Supreme Court set the calendar for its October term. You can see that arguments will be held on RecallND v. Jaeger will be held on October 20th. You can read all of the briefs here. The Attorney General actually has a pretty well-written brief. It pretty cleanly knocks off the arguments that Schlafly and Sheets make on behalf of RecallND. The one thing I find interesting is that they do not address the question of standing. As I've mentioned before, RecallND did not submit a petition to recall Kent Conrad, making it hard to show a justiciable interest in the case, which you have to do in order to achieve standing to sue. For whatever reason they decided not to pursue it. Listen to oral arguments live on October 20th at 1:30 PM CDT here. That's right, your state Supreme Court posts oral arguments faster than the U.S. Supreme Court. Take that Roberts!
And now a step back for a moment to allow me to compliment a Republican. Al Jaeger is a really nice guy, and I mean that quite seriously. He sent me a note this morning about the fact that arguments were scheduled regarding this case (which I had learned from an email that Justice Sandstrom's office sends out with news from the court (something worth subscribing to)). Jaeger has been nothing if not professional in my dealings with him, which I have had a lot of. I'm sure he cannot be happy seeing my email address show up in his inbox as often as it has in the last few months. Obviously I have issues with the way he's managed the office of Secretary of State, how he has run elections, his poor management of employees, the lackluster website he has cobbled together, and a number of other issues with his ability to carry out his constitutional responsibilities(not the least of which include Corey Mock's most recent revelations about his bungling of IT projects that have cost the state $2 million dollars but have produced nothing material as of yet. I am working on some of that. Stay tuned), but let it not be said that Al Jaeger isn't professional, good natured, and even good humored. He is, and I appreciate that from any public servant, regardless of his or her politics.
I will now return to being a partisan hack in 5...4...3...
Meanwhile, Republicans announced, today, that if they take majorities in the House and/or Senate, they'll fight to eliminate these changes that kicked in today:
Ban on discriminating against children with preexisting conditions: as of tomorrow, insurance companies can't deny coverage to children under age 19 for a pre-existing condition. The ban will go into effect for adults in 2014.
Ban on rescission: insurers will be prohibited from dropping a customer when they get sick or to search for errors in customers' applications to use as a basis for rescinding coverage or denying payment for services.
Ban on limiting coverage, lifetime caps: Insurers will no longer be able to impose lifetime dollar limits on benefits--particularly hospital stays or expensive treatments for chronic diseases, cancer, etc. By 2014, they will phase out annual caps.
Ban on limiting doctor choice in new plans: insurers will have to allow primary care physician status for OB/GYNs and pediatricians so that patients don't have to get pre-authorization or referrals to see these providers.
Ban on restrictions on emergency services: insurers will have to cover all emergency care, in or out of network.
Guaranteed right to appeal insurer decisions to independent third party in new plans;
Young adults can stay on their parents' plans til 26 unless they have access to coverage in their workplace;
New plans will cover preventive care with no customer costs--well-baby, mammograms, colonoscopies, etc. will be covered with no co-pays or deductibles.