Six months ago, 54% of the people of North Dakota voted in support of Measure 3, the tobacco cessation measure. The purpose of the measure was to stop the legislature from misspending money specifically intended to assist in North Dakota's tobacco cessation efforts. The people expressed their disgust with the fact North Dakota's legislature has been spending that dedicated money on water projects and other completely unrelated pork.
Well, many Republicans in North Dakota's legislature don't like being told what to do (by the voters.) They don't like being spanked, and they were. They've decided they know more than the people who put them in office. They are currently -- today -- in the middle of an effort to tell the voters of North Dakota "where to go." They want to gut Measure 3.
Measure 3 backers said the House amendments gutted the bill.
Backers of last year’s successful tobacco control initiated measure say the state House is defying the will of voters by deleting part of the program passed in the November election.
“This is a travesty,” said Dr. Jim Hughes of Bismarck shortly before the House voted.
“This is not what the voters voted for,” said former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp.
The House amendments eliminate a tobacco program governing committee called for in the initiated measure and will end the program in eight years. The program will be managed by the state Health Department instead of the committee.
On a nearly party-line vote, the North Dakota House of Representatives approved the Republican amendment that would be a kick in the teeth to the people of North Dakota. Though the amendment passed yesterday, in order for the full bill to pass, it will need 2/3 of the members of the N.D. House. Today arms are being twisted at the legislature. You can bank on that. Even if the Republicans get enough citizen haters in the House to support the bill, the bill would still need a 2/3 majority in the Senate. Stranger things have happened, but not many.
This effort to give North Dakota voters the finger is being spearheaded by a legislator named Jon Nelson (firstname.lastname@example.org). Feel free to let Mr. Nelson know how you feel about the finger he's showing you.
Stay tuned for next week when North Dakota's Republicans demand Duane Sand be installed as North Dakota's U.S. Congressman. Then they'll insist they want back a corrupt, unregulated, unaccountable WSI. They didn't win in those races either, but elections don't have consequences when you're a Republican.
I can't believe the legislature is wasting its time on offensive, pointless efforts like this when they're already about a week or two behind. When are the legislator-farmers going to get their crops in the field?
I don't know if it's hacked, or if there's just some other technical problem going on, but the Bismarck Tribune's website has been inaccessible for a while this morning for people using secure web browsers.
When I try to look at it using my secure Google Chrome, Chrome tells me traffic is being routed to a web address in Latvia, and that the Latvian website is infected with viruses, trojan horses, etc.
So... my recommendation to you... don't go look at the Bismarck Tribune website today unless you're ready to have your computer infected with viruses, etc.
Months ago, I republished a blog post written by Mark Sumner, a contributing editor over at DailyKos on this site that gave the best description I have yet to hear about why our economy did what it did. A brief explanation is that in 1999 we passed a law that repealed the post-depression regulations that prevented banks, investment banks, and insurance companies from merging together and taking on excessive risk. It also allowed more banks to fall into the catergory of "too big to fail." The original post on DailyKos is here. If you didn't read it then, read it now.
What does any of this have to do with our Junior Senator? Well, when "nobody could have seen this coming," Dorgan did. And he said something about it. In 1999. Here is his speech on the Senate floor in opposition to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act:
I have had not had the opportunity to watch the actual video in its entirety, but I want to lift a couple of paragraphs from the transcript(which I did read from start to finish) that I think are quite prescient and frighteninly predictive:
I begin by reading an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal, November 16, 1998. This is a harbinger of things to come, just as something I will read that happened in 1994 is a harbinger of things to come, especially as we move in this direction of modernization.
It was Aug. 21, a sultry Friday, and nearly half the partners at Long-Term Capital Management LP [that's LTCM, a company] were out of the office. Outside the fund's glass-and-granite headquarters, a fountain languidly streamed over a copper osprey clawing its prey.
Inside, the associates logged on to their computers and saw something deeply disturbing: U.S. Treasurys were skyrocketing, throwing their relationship to other securities out of whack. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was swooning--by noon, down 283 points. The European bond market was in shambles. LTCM's biggest bets were blowing up, and no one could do anything about it.
This was a private hedge funding.
By 11 a.m., the [hedge] fund had lost $150 million in a wager on the prices of two telecommunications stocks involved in a takeover. Then, a single bet tied to the U.S. bond market lost $100 million [by the same company]. Another $100 million evaporated in a similar trade in Britain. By day's end, LTCM [this hedge fund in New York] had hemorrhaged half a billion dollars. Its equity had sunk to $3.1 billion--down a third for the year.
This company had made bets over $1 trillion.
Now, what happened? They lost their silk shirts. But of course, they were saved because a Federal Reserve Board official decided we can't lose a hedge fund like this; it would be catastrophic to the marketplace. So on Sunday night they convened a meeting with an official of the Federal Reserve Board, and a group of banks came in as a result of that meeting and used bank funds to shore up a private hedge fund that was capitalized in the Caymen Islands for the purpose, I assume, of avoiding taxes. Bets of over $1 trillion in hedges--they could have set up a casino in their lobby, in my judgment, the way they were doing business. But they got bailed out.
This was massive exposure. The exposure on the hedge fund was such that the failure of the hedge fund would have had a significant impact on the market.
And so we modernize our banking system. This is unregulated. This isn't a bank; it is an unregulated hedge fund, except the banks have massive quantities of money in the hedge fund now in order to bail it out.
What does modernization say about this? Nothing, nothing. It says let's pretend this doesn't exist, this isn't a problem, let's not deal with it.
So we will modernize our financial institutions and we will say about this problem--nothing? Don't worry about it?
We have folks outside who have worked on this very hard and who very much want this to happen. We have a lot of folks in here who are very compliant to say: Absolutely, let me be the lead singer. And here we are. We have this bill, which I will bet, in 5, 10, 15 years from now, we will be back thinking of this bill like we thought of the bill passed in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in which this Congress unhitched the savings and loans so some sleepy little Texas institution could gather brokered deposits from all around America and, like a giant rocket, become a huge enterprise. And guess what. With all the speculation in the S&Ls and brokered deposits and all the things that went with it that this Congress allowed, what did it cost the American taxpayer to bail out that bunch of failures? What did it cost? Hundreds of billions of dollars. I will bet one day somebody is going to look back at this and they are going to say: How on Earth could we have thought it made sense to allow the banking industry to concentrate, through merger and acquisition, to become bigger and bigger and bigger; far more firms in the category of too big to fail? How did we think that was going to help this country? Then to decide we shall fuse it with inherently risky enterprises, how did we think that was going to avoid the lessons of the past?
Senator Dorgan was of course, dead on. That is precisely what happened. AIG opened up a derivatives division, which ultimately lead to the company's failure and the Federal Reserve's takeover of the institution. Citgroup invested in derivatives, and is teetering on the edge of collapse. Bear Stearns bought up derivatives, and failed. The list goes on and on. To compound the problems with Gramm-Leach-Bliley, the Bush Administration came to town and told Wall Street, "do whatever you think is best, we will make it a point to not regulate your actions." Amazingly, with no oversight, the institutions made bets that they couldn't cover, and risks they couldn't handle, and the house of cards came crashing down.
Unfortunately, many of the people that are on the President's economic team were the people outside that Senator Dorgan referred to that "worked very har" on Gramm-Leach-Bliley.
Larry Summers, the Secretary of the Treasury at the time, and one of the principal architects of the bill is now the President's principal economic advisor(to name one example).
What needs to be done? That is the prescient question. Here is Dorgan on Rachel Maddow's show last month.
We do need to figure out where the banks sit and begin to unravel them. Most importantly, we need to do two things:
Repeal the Gramm-Leach-Bliley act. This horrid piece of legislation is the principal cause of the problem.
Second, derivatives need to be regulated in a similar manner as any other security. I would actually be interested in banning a large number of derivatives contracts. a derivative is essentially a bet. The most well-known and understood are stock options, which are bets on the future price of a stock. It can be a bet on anything, though. They can be on baseball scores if you want them to be. there should be sensible regulations on what derivatives are based on, and the companies that sell them may not provide other, more secure investments(like savings accounts, bonds, etc.) that way we can keep the massive risks associated with these securities contained to the institutions that sell them, and those that buy them, which will allow the rest of us to operate without the systemic risk that was placed in the financial system.
We need to do a lot more, but I know one person I want to have at the table in those discussions: Senator Dorgan.
Some of you may recall that during the last North Dakota legislative session (in 2007), a few realtor legislators came up with a plan to line their own pockets by having the State sell land currently part of the Missouri River Correctional Center (MRCC) to have it developed into low-lying, flood-plain river-front property. They tried to do it all under the guise of improving the North Dakota state penitentiary facility, even though nobody, ever -- in any of the studies the state had paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to conduct -- had suggested there was a reason to include the moving of the MRCC as part of any immediate plan. I wrote about their scheme back then (click here and click here).
Two years ago, an editorial in the Fargo For'em had this to say about the scheme:
A cynic might conclude the curious push for a prison that prison managers and the governor don’t want has more to do with building contracts and land speculation than upgrading corrections buildings. A lot more is up for grabs in an $85 million project than the governor’s more-than-adequate $42 million cell house replacement.
The cynic at the Forum was right (for once). The plan was halted. It turned into an "interim committee study." It had been studied three or four times before at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they hadn't gotten the answer they wanted so they spent another couple hundred thousand dollars. From the latest study, here's everything you'll ever need to know about the MRCC:
The Missouri River Correctional Center is located eight miles south of Bismarck near the Missouri River. The Missouri River Correctional Center has no barriers to contain the inmates and is located in a wooded setting. The institution houses male inmates whose sentences are not less than 30 days nor more than one year. The inmate housing facilities at MRCC consist of a minimum security, dormitory-style housing unit for male inmates which has a capacity of 150 inmates. Among the education programs offered to the inmates at MRCC are a high school equivalency program, a resident tutoring program, a business education class, an automotive mechanics program, carpentry classes, computer skills training, and prerelease and education release programs.
The site is owned by the state, zoned for public use, and consists of over 985 acres. The site contains 121.4 acres of wetlands and 905 acres in the floodplain. Existing environmental constraints include the Missouri River 100-year and 500-year floodplains, freshwater wetlands, and a potential habitat for endangered species. Existing utilities include a six-inch waterline, an onsite sewer pumping station and three-inch force main to Bismarck's system, three-phase electrical power, and a four-inch natural gas line.
Based upon the recommendations of the interim committee, a bill was proposed in the North Dakota Senate at the beginning of the current legislative session. Senate Bill 2030 (SB2030) was introduced on January 6, 2009. The proposal was pretty much in line with what the Governor had proposed four years or so ago (back when construction costs were much lower). The 2009 Senate bill was assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee and a hearing was held, with a chance for public input, on January 26, 2009. On February 17, 2009, the bill came out of committee with some amendments and a "do pass" recommendation. The full Senate voted on the bill, as amended, on February 19, 2009, it passed and was messaged over to the House. On February 26th the bill had its first reading and was assigned to House Appropriations. A hearing was held on March 2, 2009, the committee took testimony and the public was allowed to comment on the bill.
Up to this point, there was no sign that the legislature would propose that the MRCC be moved and the land sold by realtor-legislators at any time in the near future. There was mention by the interim committee of the possible sale during a "phase 3" of the project, which might have been 20 or 30 years from now.
Last week Friday, April 3, 2009, an amendment to SB2030 mysteriously appeared. Without any public input or hearing, the committee tacked on an amendment to the bill calling for the building of a new MRCC facility to the penitentiary land, calling for the expenditure of $6 million dollars for the project, and suggesting that the MRCC land would be sold two years from now. The current version of SB2030 (as amended) has come out of the House Appropriations Committee with a 15 to 8 "do pass" recommendation. I have no idea how that vote breaks down. For all I know, it could be that all the Democrats supported the amendments, and just 8 Republicans who opposed it. Maybe I'll find that out later. We'll see.
Next stop? The House floor.
If the amendment is approved and the bill passes on the House floor, the next step is for a "conference committee" consisting of members of the House and the Senate to meet to work out the differences between the two bills. There will be no opportunity for public testimony or input. The public will NEVER get a chance to provide its input on the proposed expenditure of $6 million t move the MRCC from it's current, perfectly-good location.
This assault on good policy has taken place -- like most of the violence perpetrated by legislators upon the citizens of North Dakota -- behind closed doors. It will have taken place behind closed doors after hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on consultants, with none of them saying we should move the MRCC now and put the land on the auction block.
By using the secretive, behind-closed-door method the realtor-legislators have chosen to use, they have essentially said to us, the citizens, "This is an unfortunate private matter. We are working it out."
But we've seen this before. They've done this to us before. They assault our best interests, they apologize and beg us to take them back, we forgive them and they come back, only to do it to us again. It's the cycle of abusive policy violence.
It is not a private matter.
It's an assault on the citizens of North Dakota by a few money-hungry legislators. This is a violent attack on good policy. Our legislature should not go spending $6 million dollars on one unnecessary project so that they can line the pockets of a few of their realtor-legislator friends and comrades. They should not skulk around behind closed doors making these changes to law. They should have to look us in the eye if they want to try to beat us around like this. They should not turn hundreds of acres of low-lying land into soon-to-be-flood-plain-victim McMansions, teeth kicking the experts who've said it's not necessary to move the MRCC facility at all.
We do not deserve this kind of abuse from the people we elected. We deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
The North Dakota Senate, today, killed the ridiculous bill promoted by the likes of fringe right-wing magazine publisher, Steve Cates. It was the so-called "personhood" bill, House Bill 1572. It would have made it a crime for a doctor to treat an ectopic or molar pregnancy, and would have made it a crime to freeze a fertilized embryo for later use. The bill is gone. Good riddance. (Click here for the BisTrib story .)
I still can't believe anybody voted for this bill on the House side, let alone a majority.
For some reason the word "cavemen" just popped into my mind.
And speaking of cavemen, fifty-two members of the North Dakota House of Representatives voted to put the words "except the gays" at the end of the sentence, "God loves all of his children." The bill was SB 2278, and the cavemen caucus won on a vote of 34 to 54. It looks like it was fairly close to a party line vote. Here's a breakdown of the vote. (Click here)
Opponents said adding sexual orientation to the classes protected in the state Human Rights Act would protect a behavior not a characteristic.
There's a list being circulated around the North Dakota internets that I really had a problem with as I read it. I first saw it in a Facebook note, I've seen it in some e-mails and then later I saw it in someone else's comment here on NorthDecoder.com (click here). Here's the list:
What we dont see with the flooding Just a personal observation...as I watched the news coverage of the massive flooding in the Midwest with the levee's about to break in Fargo, ND, what amazed me is not what we saw, but what we didn't see... 1. We don't see looting. 2. We don't see street violence. 3. We don't see people sitting on their rooftops waiting for thegovernment to come and save them. 4. We don't see people waiting on the government to do anything. 5. We don't see Hollywood organizing benefits to raise money forpeople to rebuild. 6. We don't see people blaming President Obama. (Except for Don Marchant, post #30) 7. We don't see people ignoring evacuation orders. 8. We don't see people blaming a government conspiracy to blow upthe levees as the reason some have not held. 9. We don't see the US Senators or the Governor of North Dakota crying on TV. 10. We don't see the Mayors of any of these cities complaining about the lack of state or federal response. 11. We don't see or hear reports of the police going aroundconfiscating personal firearms so only the criminal will be armed. 12. We don't see gangs of people going around and randomly shooting at the rescue workers. 13. You don't see some leaders in this country blaming the badbehavior of the North Dakota flood victims on "society" (of course there is no wide spread reports! of lawlessness to require excuses).
I read that list and it really made me uncomfortable. It's taken me a day or two to pinpoint what made me uncomfortable about it, but -- with the help from some friends -- I think I've got it figured out.
I sent the list to Athenae, a friend I met at the DNC convention in Denver last summer. Athenae writes for First-Draft.com. I sent it to her because I knew she'd had some involvement in Hurricane Katrina relief. I wanted to know what she thought about it. She forwarded the list on to her co-blogger, Scout Prime, who was a little closer to the issue. Scout has written a blog post about the list. It's on First-Draft.com. I've asked for her permission to cross-post her comments, and I''ve gotten the "go ahead." Here's Scout's thoughts:
With each disaster there inevitably comes an email or blog commentlike this(scroll down) comparing the new terrible event to Katrina and the flood of New Orleans and I doubt it will ever end.
[Editor: I've edited out the list because I've got it, above.]
This was emailed to me for comment by Athenae and a blogger at North Decoder who was disturbed by it. At the end of this post I have posted my email response outlining the falsehoods contained above and if nothing else please read the last paragraph of it.
(St. Rita's/USA Today)
But for now I'm going to focus on another comment (scroll down further at above link) which is completely false:
Points well taken But if there is a flood, and the levees don't hold, and the city gets flooded, I will bet that the staff of the nursing homes all leave the residents to die on their own either. Do you remember that? Everyone that works at the nursing home took off and left all the people there to die! You can make up excuses all day long for that type of behavior, but I am not buying it.
This is a falsehood. The staff stayed and helped. People don't realize when those levees broke the flood waters came in fast and furious. That nursing home was in St. Bernard Parish. A couple I interviewed were from St. B and they said their home was flooded in minutes. They barely escaped with their lives...I mean literally. At one point the guy was almost swept away. He only lived because he grabbed the protruding antenna of an already submerged truck. So imagine those waters sweeping into a nursing home and overwhelming elderly folks and the staff. If you can't imagine it, well here is an account of the horror:
"We were like in a sinking ship," says Gene Alonzo, a retired fisherman who stayed at St. Rita's to be with his disabled brother, Carlos, a resident. "I never did see water come up like that."
Within 20 minutes, the water inside rose almost to the ceiling and nearly three dozen residents were drowning, some in their beds, in one of the signature scenes of horror wrought by Katrina.
Alonzo's account of the ordeal, together with new details from government officials, survivors and the Manganos' attorney, James Cobb, paint the most complete picture so far of what happened at St. Rita's before and after Katrina struck — and shed light on why the Manganos did not evacuate.
Their descriptions also debunk some of the myths that grew out of the chaotic aftermath of the hurricane, including reports that the Manganos abandoned their nursing home during rescue efforts there.
Alonzo, 55, says he put his 52-year-old brother onto a mattress, then grabbed Carlos' roommate, Harold Kurz. Alonzo recounts the frantic effort by nurses and others to save as many as possible:
"You can't get out a door, so they're kicking out windows to float the residents out on mattresses to put them on the roof. In every room, people were hollering. They were screaming like somebody was murdering them (and) ... for God to help them. It was a horror scene."
Alonzo returned to St. Rita's a month after Katrina to get belongings from his ruined car. He calls the place haunted, and says he will never go back.
"Can you imagine being in your wheelchair ... and that water came up over your head? I guess that's why people are so mad."
He tears up, and then says quietly he wasn't strong enough to hold onto both his brother and Kurz. "You can't swim with two people. I had to let Harold go. I still think about that when I fall asleep."
I wish the people who wrote the above comments seen at North Decoder would have to spend one night falling asleep to the horrific screams filling their head and the sight of their hand letting a human life slip away, for I think just one night of that would put an end to their writing comments which perpetuate the falsehoods....at least I hope
This is from an email response I sent regarding the 13 points. Feel free to add to it as it is certainly not a definitive rebuke, just thoughts off the top of my head based on the past 3+ years of research and writing about Katrina and the Federal Flood:
As for the 13 points....
Is 80% of Fargo under water at present? Is it flooded to the rooftops? That was the case for much of NOLA and well you can't do much BUT go to the rooftop and hope help comes.
Did 90% of Fargo evacuate? Because 90% of So LA did so. It was the largest and most successful evacuation in US history. Over 1 million people evacuated...most in just 24-48 hours. My God the whole population of the state of North Dakota (640,000) would have to evacuate TWICE to make that argument meaningful.
Very few people believed the levees were purposely blown up...and once the Army Corps of Engineers admitted it was their design failure that caused the levees to break it was even less. That admission occurred 6 months after Katrina struck....not one media outlet or newspaper reported it at that time other than those in New Orleans. NOT. ONE. But for understanding those very few who still thought they were blown...there is a history of the levees having been blown in the 1927 flooding. Did the business folks of Fargo ever blow the levees in poor areas in order to save downtown businesses and wealthy neighborhoods anytime in the past century? I assume no but if they had I suspect Fargo too would have a few folks questioning if it hadn't happened again.
As for politicians crying.....Are their hundreds of dead bodies floating in the flood waters of Fargo? Have over 1500 residents died? The majority of whom were elderly or disabled? Because shit like that makes people cry and that is what was seen in NOLA. I remember a CNN reporter on Day 1 of Katrina describing the horrors in the streets and she cried ...that was Jeane Meserve, a seasoned veteran. She spoke of much including the screams of dogs caught in the power lines being fried to death. People don't realize how horrible it was. I interviewed a couple who had stayed and they talked of hearing God awful screams...they didn't know if it was human or animal or both. I spoke with another man who had been in NO who was haunted by those same kind of screams. And well that is sad and horrible and evokes tears...to people who have empathy at least
It is an ABSOLUTE falsehood that anyone ever shot at rescue workers or helicopters...It did not happen. Repeat---that is false. Media reported it and it was wrong and the National Guard has said so.
As for the federal governments involvement ....Are these folks familiar with the Stafford Act that calls for fed intervention when states are overwhelmed by a disaster. Orleans, Plaquemines and St Bernard Parish as well as a few others on the South LA coast were devastated or under water. I think this would be the equivalent of about 4 or 5 counties in North Dakota. Do you have that many counties under water? In St Bernard parish there were only 6 houses inhabitable after Katrina...just 6. The fishing communities of that parish had been literally wiped off the map. All of which is to say that disaster was massive in its scope and devastation...and no state could have handled it on their own...federal help was needed and accorded by law.
The local Fish and Wildlife folks were out rescuing people immediately. The Coast Guard as well and they were local folks who were flying over their own flooded homes. In St. Bernard Parish anyone with a boat got out there and plucked people off rooftops.There is a quote from Gov Blanco ...."When all the stories are told, the story is going to be that Louisianans were saved by Louisianans."
A final point...and believe me on this...the people of NOLA are right now incredibly sympathetic to your plight...they Know and they'd never judge given what they know
It's important to address this "list of 13" nonsense. As noted above, it's everywhere. E-mails. Facebook. A comment here. If you google some of the sentences, you'll find the list all over the internet. It's #37 in the 900-some comments posted under some great photos on the Boston Globe's website (click here), with many good and some bad comments afterwards.
I could go through and challenge the accuracy of the points in the list, too. I could point out that there has been some looting in Fargo/Moorhead. I heard a news report a couple days ago about some guy stealing sandbags. (Classy.) If you go to YouTube and do a search for "coast guard fargo rescue" you'll find dozens of videos of people being rescued from their homes in the F/M area. I could go on, but that's not a productive use of time.
Natural disasters suck. It's inspirational when communities pull together, neighbors helping neighbors. Kudos to my friends, family and neighbors all over North Dakota; people who've busted their butts for the good of all. North Dakotans and Louisianans are tough Americans who've been through a lot, like New Yorkers, Iowans, Californians and lots and lots of other hearty Americans. 'Nuff said.
The list of 13 is offensive, it's mean, it's inaccurate and it's not the kind of thing I'd expect to see from North Dakotans. It's been around too long. It deserves a swift death and a quiet funeral.