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Stenehjem Breaks Piggy Bank To Defend Whistleblower Retaliation
Written by Chet   

PigHere's a rundown on what's been spent so far (through the end of last month) by North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and/or WSI to defend what appears to have been whistleblower retaliation against Dr. James Long, who blew the whistle when he realized his boss at Workforce Safety & Insurance was doing illegal stuff. 

2008-09-18        $  4,329

2008-10-17        $  1,884

2008-11-18        $    785

2008-12-18        $  2,003

2009-01-19        $  3,597

2009-02-18        $  1,560

2009-03-18        $  1,193

2009-04-20        $  5,234

2009-05-19        $  1,761

2009-06-17        $    795

2009-07-30        $12,618

2009-08-27        $  5,848

2009-09-30        $  6,266  (Note:  Check out the bill for reading NorthDecoder.com.)

2009-11-02        $  5,967  

2009-12-01        $  2,138   

2009-12-29        $  1,260   

2010-01-29        $  6,048

2010-03-01        $13,549

2010-04-01        $15,221

2010-04-30        $     102

2010-06-01        $     121

2010-07-01        $     104

2010-09-01        $     964

2010-10-01        $  5,139

_____________________

TOTAL                 $98,485  

You'll recall Long's boss at WSI -- Charles "Sandy" Blunt -- was subsequently convicted of a felony for "misapplication of entrusted funds" for his mismanagment of the state workers' compensation agency.   Blunt has appealed that conviction, twice, and is appealing the outcome of one of those appeals to the United States Supreme Court.  The other appeal -- to the North Dakota Supreme Court -- is pending.

You can bet Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has spent another $5,000 to $10,000 in the first 20 days of October.  (The docket sheet shows there have been a few motions filed in an effort to keep damning evidence and information away from the jury.)  Probably more.

Stenehjem's Special Assistant Attorneys General are ramping up for a huge, three-and-a-half week trial.  Most lawyers will tell you that for every hour of trial time, you should expect to pay for at least three or four hours of preparation time.  Some of that prep time might be in the $100,000 already billed, but there's going to be a lot more paid out by the state before the 24 day trial is done.  I imagine the state will pay $270 per hour  (two lawyers) for every hour during those 24 days.  Let's assume they'll be in the courtroom six hours each day, plus another four hours of witness prep, stategy sessions, meetings with risk management, mid-trial research, debriefing, etc.   Let's call it an even 10 hours per day for 24 days at $270 per hour.  That's $270 X 10 hours per day X 24 days.  That's about $65,000 to have a three and a half week trial.  Plus paralegal time (billed at $85 per hour, or $700+ per day), plus any time they work on weekends. 

Ouch.

I wonder whether this case could have been settled for less money than Stenehjem is going to spend on a private law firm.   I honestly don't know, but you really gotta wonder.  

And what if the State loses?  They'll spend $175,000 to $200,000 fighting for the right of state agency heads to terminate employees who try to stop their bosses from committing crimes.  Then they also get tagged with a substantial jury verdict?  My recollection is that WSI was paying Long a six-figure salary.  What if the jury awards Dr. Long a couple two or three years pay?  Or more?  And then another $10,000 to $20,000 for an appeal?  We could be a half million into this before all is said and done. 

Or maybe they'll keep it down to $200,000.  

Thank goodness John Hoeven put all that oil in the ground, or the state might not be able to afford to be held accountable for all of the wrongdoing at WSI.

 
Remember the TARP Program The Teabaggers Are Outraged About?
Written by Chet   

While the Teabaggers are protesting the Troubled Asset Relief Program, complaining without offering any solutions for America's problems, the TARP program has been earning 8.2%, beating U.S. Treasury Bonds.

The U.S. government’s bailout of financial firms through the Troubled Asset Relief Program provided taxpayers with higher returns than yields paid on 30- year Treasury bonds -- enough money to fund the Securities and Exchange Commission for the next two decades.

The government has earned $25.2 billion on its investment of $309 billion in banks and insurance companies, an 8.2 percent return over two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That beat U.S. Treasuries, high-yield savings accounts, money- market funds and certificates of deposit. Investing in the stock market or gold would have paid off better.

When the government first announced its intention to plow funds into the nation’s banks in October 2008 to resuscitate the financial system, many expected it to lose hundreds of billions of dollars. Two years later TARP’s bank and insurance investments have made money, and about two-thirds of the funds have been paid back. Yet Democrats are struggling to turn those gains into political capital, and the indirect costs of propping up banks could have longer-term consequences for the economy.

Bloomberg.com

 So you teabaggers just keep on complaining about the TARP program.  You keep blaming things on President Obama that either (a) happened before he became president, or (b) turn out to be helping reduce our national debt and fixing the economy.  

It's like a Democratic construction crew shows up for work every day, trying to build a house.  Every evening they go home and every night the neighborhood vandals and other criminals come on the job sight and steal all the tools and building materials and wreck stuff.  Every morning Democrats show up again, send someone off to buy new tools and a better way to lock them up, and start fixing the stuff the Republicans broke overnight.  And we fix it all and continue building.  And they sit in their houses, next door, complaining about what we're doing.  And then we leave at night and the Republicans and teabaggers show up with their cans of spray paint and pry bars and sledge hammers to destroy and steal everything we've been working on.  

Imagine what Democrats could have gotten done in the last two years if the Republicans hadn't been throwing up roadblocks every step of the way.

Thanks Republicans.  Keep protesting.  We wouldn't want you to offer up any solutions, of course.  Oh wait; I know what your solutions are: "tax breaks for the rich, no health insurance for the poor, outsourcing jobs to China, no minimum wage, no unions, unfair advantage for big business, lots of polution, child labor, no accountability for harm done by big corporations, blah, blah, blah.  We've heard it all before.  Save it.)

And when you North Dakota Republicans vote for John Hoeven and Rick Berg, remember you're voting to put more people on the side of the vandals.

 
More on Benson County's Disenfranchisement of Native American Voters
Written by Chet   

A hearing was held yesterday on the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe's request for a preliminary injunction against Benson County, North Dakota, to stop the county from closing all of its polling places on the reservation.  Here's a snippet from the Grand Forks Herald on the hearing:

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson likely will decide this week whether to issue a temporary injunction to stop Benson County from closing polling places on the Spirit Lake Reservation for the Nov. 2 election.

Erickson, who heard arguments Tuesday in federal court in Grand Forks, said the case should be decided on whether the Benson County decision restricts anybody’s right to vote.

“This is not a case of overt racism,” Erickson said. “This is a disparate impact case. Is there a possibility that this action could deprive people the right to vote? … Ultimately, that’s what this case is all about.”\

Grand Forks Herald

On Monday I posted a story that included Spirit Lake's memorandum in support of its request for injunctive relief.  (Click here for that.)  I figure today I can post Benson County's response:

Benson County's Response to Motion for Preliminary Injunction

Because I always try to be fair and balanced -- and because I worry you guys don't have enough to do without me assigning more reading to you -- I'll also post the amicus brief filed by the ACLU:

Amicus Curiae Brief of the ACLU

I think this is a really interesting case.  I think it's fairly clear that the closing of the polling places on the reservation will have a disparate impact on Native American voters in Benson County.  As is noted in the GF Herald story, a decision should be coming out from the judge very soon.  We'll try to keep you posted.

Here's another assignment for y'all:  Can someone show me where the story is in the Bismarck Tribune about this important case?  I'm not finding it online.  Was it in the print version?

 
WSI's Former Director Sandy Blunt: Another day, another appeal
Written by Chet   

Remember when you were a punk kid and nobody knew what they were talking about?  Remember all the stupid stuff kids would say?  "I'm telling on your mom!" was one of my favorites.  "My dad could beat up your dad," always got a lot of traction.  Then there was "I'll take you all the way to the United States Supreme Court!!!" 

Yeah.  Sure you will, Charlie.

That was before we knew about all the idiosyncrasies of getting our fathers to fight.   And that was before we knew how hard it was to get the U.S. Supreme Court to take a case. 

The United States Supreme Court gets 7,000 requests to hear cases each year.  They accept between 100 and 150, roughly.  In other words, they accept roughly 2% of all the cases that come before them.  It takes four justices to accept the case, or it is rejected.   Eighty-sixed.  Round-filed.

The odds of them accepting your case, pal, just ain't what you'd like them to be.

Last week, Charles "Sandy" Blunt petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the Court to hear an appeal of the most recent decision of the North Dakota Supreme Court rejecting Blunt's challenge to his conviction.  It is an interesting appeal tactic, considering he's also, simultaneously, appealing (to the North Dakota Supreme Court, again) a trial court's ruling denying his request for a new trial.  It gets kind of confusing. 

Suffice it to say that he's trying to have the conviction reversed in two different courts at the same time.  That's kind of interesting/unusual.  One reason it's interesting is that a party is usually supposed to only have a case being heard in front of one court at a time.  Blunt apparently thinks his case deserves consideration by two different courts at the same time.  Again, that's interesting.  We'll have to see how it plays out.

As perhaps alluded to yesterday, Blunt -- who, as of today's writing, is a convicted felon with his case on appeal (twice) -- is also a likely scheduled to be a trial witness in the jury trial scheduled for November 1st, in the case of  Dr. James Long vs. The State of North Dakota, WSI, Charles Blunt, et al.

And the North Dakota Supreme Court hears arguments in the RECALLND vs. Al Jaeger original jurisdiction case.  

It's a busy week for Court news at NorthDecoder.com. 

Too bad you won't find any of this stuff in your local newspaper.

 
North Dakota's Disenfranchised Native American Voters
Written by Chet   

Some follow-up on the federal lawsuit filed by the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe against Benson County, North Dakota.  If you're interested in some light reading, here are copies of the "Complaint"...

Spirit Lake Complaint

 ... and the "Memorandum in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction." 

Spirit Lake's Memorandum in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction

I'm told there will be a hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Erickson in Fargo tomorrow (Tuesday) morning on the Tribe's request for a preliminary injunction.  The ACLU requested permission to file an amicus curiae brief, Benson County resisted that request, but Judge Erickson is apparently letting the ACLU participate.  

It's interesting that this isn't Benson County's first Native American disenfranchisement rodeo.   Benson County was pursued by the Justice Department in 2000 over the county's establishment of a single, at-large county commission, and the Justice Department won.  (See "Native Vote" at pp. 63 and 80.)

Stay tuned.

*************

In other North Dakota Court news, the lawsuit brought by former North Dakota Workforce Safety & Insurance executive Dr. James Long against WSI for wrongfully terminating him is scheduled to go to trial in Bismarck starting on November 1st.  It is scheduled to take about three-and-a-half weeks.  (I'll be amazed if it takes that long.)

You'll recall Long was terminated for blowing the whistle for what he perceived to be illegal conduct in a state government agency, Workforce Safety & Insurance.  You'll also recall his boss was ultimately convicted of a felony for engaging in illegal conduct (though that case is on its way to the North Dakota Supreme Court for the third time). 

Governor John Hoeven could have stepped in and fixed this case a year ago, but never had the stones to do so.  Typical John Hoeven move.

Stay tuned.

 
Why Are People Leaving Organized Religions?
Written by Chet   

The L.A. Times had a story, yesterday, about a recent poll that seems to answer this question:

The most rapidly growing religious category today is composed of those Americans who say they have no religious affiliation. While middle-aged and older Americans continue to embrace organized religion, rapidly increasing numbers of young people are rejecting it.

As recently as 1990, all but 7% of Americans claimed a religious affiliation, a figure that had held constant for decades. Today, 17% of Americans say they have no religion, and these new “nones” are very heavily concentrated among Americans who have come of age since 1990. Between 25% and 30% of twentysomethings today say they have no religious affiliation — roughly four times higher than in any previous generation.

So, why this sudden jump in youthful disaffection from organized religion? The surprising answer, according to a mounting body of evidence, is politics. Very few of these new “nones” actually call themselves atheists, and many have rather conventional beliefs about God and theology. But they have been alienated from organized religion by its increasingly conservative politics.

LA Times

Maybe you should send a copy of this LA Times story, or the link, to your church's clergy.

I see the potential for a huge opening here.  Not for political parties, not for politicians, but for Christian churches.  You've got right-wing crack-pot leaders at at least one ultra-conservative "church" in Minnesota willing to jeopardize his church's tax exempt status by endorsing a candidate yesterday/Sunday.  (You gotta wonder if this guy has his church's best interests at heart when he does that.)  We also have plenty of fundamentalist, right-wing churches in North Dakota.  I've heard of churches in the state quietly (and, in at least one instance, loudly) endorsing Republican candidates here in North Dakota. 

Maybe there's an opening for church leaders in some (or all) churches to start advocating for progressive Christian values; things like, treating everyone like they were made in God's image and helping the least of these.  

You know; Democratic values.

 
Teabagger Rally A Flop
Written by Chet   

teabaggersWednesday night I attended a whistlestop endorsement tour stop in Bismarck that the Democratic-NPL Party threw together in about two days.  Somewhere between 150 and 200 people attended.  (The building manager told me he thought there were 150 or so people there, but the AP estimated 200). 

For roughly a month, North Dakota Teabaggers have been promoting what they were calling "one of the biggest TEA[bag] Parties in the midwest."  They've been advertising on both of North Dakota's right-wing blogs, on their SpaceBook page, and on the airwaves.  Blast emails have repeatedly gone out over the last month.  (I know because I get them.)  They've been doing everything they can to promote the mother of all midwestern Teabagger events.

So... what happened?

The last big rally of the election drew about 400, according to a count done by the rally’s organizer, the North Dakota Taxpayers Association. As the rally wore on, the crowd became sparser...

[ ]

Rick Berg, a state representative from Fargo who is challenging Pomeroy, was in attendance at the rally...

Bismarck Tribune

Corporate slumlord American Taliban Rick Berg and all of the 399 people who'll vote for him showed up at the biggest midwestern teabagger rally, ever?  They've gotta be disappointed.

If you're following along, North Dakota Democrats can put together a crowd of 150 to 200 in 48 hours (and the Bismarck Tribune doesn't even send a reporter to the event), and teabaggers spend 4 weeks organizing the "largest teabagger rally in the midwest" and they can't get more than 400 people there?  

Watch the shamelessly right-wing Bismarck Tribune make this lightly-attended teabagger event a front page story on Sunday.  Watch the fact-challenged right-wing blogosphere and their wide-angle lens-shooting, photo-shop expert photographer pump the numbers up, too.  I'm predicting they'll say there were 2,000 people there.  What the hey; maybe 3,000.  

Maybe North Dakota's teabaggers peaked a little too early.

 
Rick Berg: The American Taliban
Written by Chet   

ATalibanOne of the biggest differences between the United States of America and Taliban-controlled parts of Afghanistan was (or is) the treatment of women and the way the government handles women's issues.  The Taliban obviously were an oppressive regime, doing all it could to control women, limit their rights and treat them as something less than men or humans, generally. 

Here in America we have something very similar to the Taliban:  fundamentalist, conservative, right-wing Republicans.  I'm joining the roster of people who's comfortable calling them the "American Taliban."  They surely won't like the association.

The American Taliban is always quick to point out they don’t stone people.  This is hardly an accolade.  Stoning — murder — is illegal in America, unless you are issued a uniform making it legal.  So, the American Taliban has to resort to keeping women as second class citizens by legal means.  Pay them less. Promote them less. Hire them less. No abortion for you.  Love the fetus hate the child.  No healthcare. Take away whatever rights by subtle and legal means. The result is still a second class citizen.

AmericaDoomed.com

It's important to keep your eyes peeled for the American Taliban here in North Dakota.  If we don't figure out ways to identify them, the American Taliban could take over our entire system of government, putting their collective boot on the neck of every woman in America.  

The North Dakota Women's Network and American Association of University Women likely did not set out to publish an American Taliban spotting Field Guide when they issued their recent report entitled "Voting Record of North Dakota's 61st Legislative Assembly: Issues of Importance to the Women of North Dakota."  But that is, in effect, what they have done.  The two organizations picked 10 major bills-of-importance to women, and put together a scorecard for every North Dakota legislator.

Legislators are rated on a scale from 0% to 100%.  Folks at 0% are more closely associating with the Taliban's oppression of women, and the folks at 100% more closely associating with American freedoms, liberty and fair treatment of women.

Here's the document I call "The North Dakota American Taliban Spotting Guide":

AAUW NDWN 61st Assembly Voting Record Report(L)

If you flip to page 4 of the report, you'll find Fargo's corporate slumlord Rick Berg -- a candidate for the United States House of Representative -- has been ranked at a 20%.  

I quickly scanned the House score-sheet on womens' issues, and (if my count is right) there are seven (7) Republican-Taliban who scored 0%, sixteen (16) Republican-Taliban who scored 10%, and seven Republican-Taliban (7), including Berg, who scored 20%.  I think the ones who scored 30% could reasonably be included in the "Republican-Taliban" caucus, but I'll cut them some slack today.   Some might even include the ones who scored 40%. 

I've got more to say about this report, on specific bills and issues, but I don't want to get too deep in this one blog post.  It's really amazing that these old, white Republican men in the legislature (and, as it turns out, in the Governor's office) want to move America closer to the oppression of Taliban law for North Dakota women, and further from the "liberty" they chant about, ad nauseam, at their teabagger events.

Corporate slumlord Rick Berg voted against women 80% of the time.  That's not a very good record.

I recognize there are women in Afghanistan who support the Taliban, too.  Similarly, there are women in America who support the American Taliban.  But for those of us who think America's freedoms and liberties should be made available to everybody -- not just white, male CEOs like Berg -- most of us agree corporate slumlord American Taliban Rick Berg really has no business getting any votes from North Dakota women.

North Dakota women deserve better.

 
Wednesday's Bus Tour Rally
Written by Chet   

I attended last night's Team North Dakota bus tour rally in Bismarck.  I watched the Republican Party's operative move around the room and take lots of photos with his wide-angle lens, shooting photos away from the crowd so it looked like nobody was there.  Or snapping off wide-angle photos before the crowd had all come through the door.  I see North Dakota's trusty right-wing crack-pot blogger is estimating the crowd size -- based upon those photos -- at "two dozen" even though if you do a count from the photos he's posted, there are at least 65 people visible in the grainy photo.  I suppose technically a thousand or a million would be "dozens," so let them call it "dozens," but whatever.

I asked the Elks Lodge building manager what he thought the crowd size was, and he said "a hundred fifty or so."  It's his room and his building, so I'll take him at his word.  That's not a great crowd size, but we're also talking about an event that only had about a couple days of planning and notice.

I just have a few things I want to say about the rally.  First, right after the rally I had to go to a different room in the building (yes, it was the bar) for a meeting.  The meeting probably lasted a half hour or 45 minutes.  After the meeting, I went back into the ball room.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that Congressman Pomeroy was still in the room, working his way around to every table and was spending time talking to every person there.  I had heard some grumbling from some teabaggers that showed up that there wouldn't be a "question and answer" time.  This was a public rally; not a press conference.  But, having said that, if those clowns had wanted face time with Congressman Pomeroy, they could have done so during that extra hour or 90 minutes he spent after the rally, just talking to North Dakotans. 

Second, Congressman Pomeroy said something that really surprised me:  Fargo's corporate slumlord state legislator Rick Berg has skipped most of the Red River flood control meetings.  He's only attended one (1) flood control meeting and skipped all the rest.  Berg obviously doesn't care much about Fargo or dealing with the flooding problems.  He probably thinks government funded flood control just moves us one step closer to socialism.  "Send the taxpayer-funded National Guard home; it's every man for himself," the corporate slumlord would say.

Third, and speaking of teabaggers (above), there was this guy:

Ron

I don't know his full name, but I think he's "Ron."  Early in the rally the emcee asked that everyone please rise to respectfully listen as a Native American drum circle did a song.  Everyone in the room stood except this guy.  Here's what he did while everyone else respectfully stood:

Ron

I'm not sure what message he was trying to send.  I had watched him walk in and mill about for a while.  With his pro-corporate slumlord Rick Berg shirt, he kind of stood out in the crowd.  He had no outwardly obvious disabilities (aside from the intellectual disabilities apparent from his fashion sense).  I can only guess that he sat through the song because he is a racist and wanted to make sure everyone knew he was being disrespectful to the Native American drum circle.  Maybe this Ron guy has some other explanation.  I don't know.  To me his conduct just seemed racist and disrespectful.

And I don't say that lightly.  I've seen this guy before.  For example, I was at one of the many health care town hall meetings members of the delegation did last summer during the August recess and I snapped this photo.

Ron

Why did he have tape over his mouth?!?  I don't know.  What was written on the tape?  I don't know.

I just recall that he seemed to me to be trying to be disruptive and disrespectful there too.  Maybe that's just the modus operandi of a typical corporate slumlord Rick Berg supporter: disrespectful, disruptive and racist.  Or maybe it's much less nefarious.  Maybe Berg's supporters are at the developmental level of an attention-starved 8-year old.  I don't know.

Anyway, I thought the rally was just fine, as rallies go.  And I'm not a big rally person.

But the Elks Lodge's chili was good.  And I like chili.

 
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