Written by Chet
There's a bill working its way through the North Dakota legislature right now relating to "personhood." It's a bill being ushered through the legislature by people (including legislators) who obviously don't understand what the bill says, does and/or doesn't do. Here's the substantive text of the bill:
A BILL for an Act to provide legislative intent as it relates to references to individual, person, or human being.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF NORTH DAKOTA:
SECTION 1. References to individual, person, or human being - Legislative intent. For purposes of interpretation of the constitution and laws of North Dakota, it is the intent of the legislative assembly that an individual, a person, when the context indicates that a reference to an individual is intended, or a human being includes any organism with the genome of homo sapiens.
SECTION 2. STATE TO DEFEND CHALLENGE. The legislative assembly, by concurrent resolution, may appoint one or more of its members, as a matter of right and in the legislative member's official capacity, to intervene to defend this Act in any case in which this Act's constitutionality is challenged.
ND Legislative Website
Where to start?!? How about I start with this: This bill is so ridiculously absurd that the Right to Life organization and the Catholic Bishops recognize it will not survive a constitutional attack if it is passed and challenged. Huh? An abortion law that is NOT supported by the Right to Lifers and the Catholic Church?
No. Seriously. I'm serious.
North Dakota Catholic Bishops Paul Zipfel and Samuel Aquila said they would support Ruby's bill as long as lawmakers amended the language. Otherwise, they will stay neutral on it.
Christopher Dodson, general counsel for the North Dakota Catholic Conference, said the amendments that the bishops are pushing would put an end to some of those "extraneous questions that keep coming up."
The extraneous questions that Dodson mentioned during a Thursday press conference could range from the serious (how would defining an embryo as a person affect abortion and birth control in North Dakota?) to the ridiculous (would the bill make it illegal for a pregnant woman to ride a bike because of state law?).
"We have not felt we have had consistent interpretations as to what it would do," Dodson said. "The bill itself does not indicate what the bill would do. It might not do much at all. But it could do something."
Ruby said he wants his bill to stay untouched, adding he doesn't understand why the bishops are not agreeing with the current language in his bill.
I know, I know. It says the bishops will "stay neutral" on the bill if it's not amended. But that's the same as saying they're against it, as far as I'm concerned. You have to ask yourself, "How bad is an abortion bill if the Catholic Church can't even support it?"
Answer: It has to be pretty bad.
I attended part of the hearing on this bill this morning at the North Dakota Capitol. I listened to all of the proponents' testimony and only about the first 20 minutes of the opponents' testimony. The proponents included the following cast of characters: (1) Rep. Ruby, the bill's sponsor, (2) a guy who held himself out as a "constitutional law expert" (even though he is no more a constitutional expert than I am); (2) a woman from Seattle who adopted a 4 year old fertilized egg and had it implanted in her, with her offspring, (3) a 12 year old boy who read an essay, (4) a young woman who had been born at 24 months gestation [she showed a "dramatic" powerpoint presentation, with a soundtrack, clearly intended to evoke some kind of emotional response], (5) right-wing rag publisher Steve Cates, (6) a lobbyist for a fringe pro-life group, (7) an angry, loud guy who cited a lot of scripture, waved his arms around, and who wore a leather hat and "really cool" dark sunglasses, (8) Sen. George Nodland, who wanted everybody to think really, really, really, really, really, really hard about how important this bill is and (9) maybe another person or two that I can't think of right now. They were all very passionate about the abortion issue, but none seemed qualified to talk about this particular bill, or the problems with the bill. It seemed to me as though all had gotten some really, really bad information about what this bill will and will not do. That's unfortunate.
I was only able to stick around for the testimony of the first opponent to the bill and about 2 minutes of the testimony of the second person. The first was a Dr. Stephanie Dahl, an OB/Gyn doctor specializing in fertility issues at MeritCare in Fargo. Dr. Dahl systematically addressed about 5 or 6 of the problems with the bill, giving specific examples of how it will effect doctors who work with women. She talked about ectopic pregnancies and molar pregnancies. (All you "scientists" out there should look these things up.) Dr. Dahl talked about women who have all kinds of complications with pregnancy and the fact that this bill will make it difficult or impossible for those patients to get proper medical attention in North Dakota. She systematically picked this bill apart. If the proponents of this bill had engaged in 20% of the intellectual analysis Dr. Dahl engaged in, the debate might have been worth listening too, but it wasn't.
One of Dahl's best points -- particularly poignant in a hearing where one of the proponents had claimed we need this law because she had adopted a fertilized egg that had been frozen for four years -- was that if a fertilized egg has the same legal rights and protections as a person, then it would be torture or false imprisonment to put that person (a/k/a fertilized egg) in a freezer for four years, four months, four days, four hours or even four minutes. The woman from Seattle -- and others in her shoes -- wouldn't be able to adopt a four year old fertilized egg in North Dakota if this bill becomes law. Any intelligent person in the room recognized the amazing irony of this fact, but I'd bet none of the proponents saw it.
The medical issues are all interesting, but the real problems with the bill are legal. I'm not going to go through all of them, but I'll touch on some. I wish I could take credit for thinking all of these up, but I can't. Most of these come from questions senators -- both Democratic and Republic -- asked during the hearing:
1. The bill purports to provide an explanation of the "legislative intent" of the framers of the state constitution. Amendments to the constitution require that legislation goes through special procedural hoops, none of which are being followed here.
2. Courts only look at legislative intent when a statute is ambiguous. (It's true. Look it up.) There's no reason for a court to look at this bill/law unless the statute being applied is ambiguous. A fairly good argument can be made that we have a couple hundred years of jurisprudence on the issue of "personhood" (not to mention a much longer history of dictionary definition), so it's likely nobody would ever have a reason to look at this bill/law, if enacted.
3. According to the sponsor's testimony today, the legislator appointed (under Section 2 of the bill) to defend the state in litigation wherein this bill/law is challenged wouldn't have to be a lawyer. We have a law in North Dakota that says people who defend things in court have to be... wait for it... lawyers. The sponsor -- a non-lawyer -- said he wants to be the legislator appointed to defend the law in court. It's called "practicing law without a license" and it's a class A misdemeanor. Look it up. (And where the hell is the State Bar Association?!? Shouldn't they take a position on this?!?)
4. Section 2 ignores the separation of powers clause. The Attorney General -- an executive branch elected official -- has been assigned the job of defending laws. This bill would give that function to a legislative branch official. This is patently unconstitutional.
5. The bill's sponsor testified today that there are two fringe law firms out East that would be willing to defend this law pro bono. It's his thought that the state could avoid any defense costs by just having one of those firms defend the law. It was his testimony that his intent iis that that should be done. This would be a patently unconsitutional delegation of an executive branch power.
6. The proponents -- and all the North Dakota House of Representatives members that voted for this bill -- obviously haven't thought about any of the other areas this bill would impact. Family law, including child support. Probate. Criminal law. Tax law. Welfare. Child abuse. Drinking age (and any other age-related laws). Education. This law would hit almost every area of law and the proponents haven't considered any of that. They have engaged in legislative malpractice. We should fire all of them, including the Democrats who voted for this bill. Sorry to say that, but it's what I think.
I could go on. These are just a few of the constitutional/legal problems with the bill.
Other problems were raised by senators today. One senator asked the bill's sponsor -- Rep. Ruby -- what would happen if this bill was enacted an it was determined that the life of the woman was at risk if the fertilized egg was allowed to remain in the woman's body for nine months. Ruby's response was... um... crazy. He said that any time the woman's life was at risk, the bill would allow for the termination of the pregnancy. Why is this crazy? The bill says the fertilized egg has the exact same rights as its host. If they have the exact same rights, how can one argue that one's rights are superior to the other's rights? It's an indefensible assertion by Ruby. It's as if he hasn't even read the bill he's sponsored.
Therein lies the real problem with this bill. The people supporting this bill haven't engaged in the kinds of analysis that any intelligent legislator should engage in. The lack of intellectual curiousity was overwhelming.
But I have to confess something: There's a part of me that would like to see this law enacted. It is so incredibly unconsitutional and so illegal that it's the sort of law that is almost certain to be stricken down by every court that looks at it. Why is that a good thing? These proponents want to take it "all the way to the Supreme Court." That's what they said. That's a quote. After every court -- including the Supreme Court (if they even bother to grant cert. on this bill) -- would probably recognize that the State of North Dakota had overstepped its constitutional and legal authority. At the end of the case, the State of North Dakota could very well be required to pay the huge attorney fees of the opponents of an abortion bill. Think about the justice in that. The State of North Dakota could end up funding Planned Parenthood's legal team for three years. That would be frosting. It would almost be worth it to have this bill enacted into law, just to see that happen.
But the people of North Dakota deserve better.
Written by Chet
Michael Steele's days as Chairman of the Republic National Commmittee (RNC) are numbered. Steele spoke candidly about his position on abortion in an interview for GQ (as pointed out on DailyKos):
How much of your pro-life stance, for you, is informed not just by your Catholic faith but by the fact that you were adopted?
Oh, a lot. Absolutely. I see the power of life in that—I mean, and the power of choice! The thing to keep in mind about it… Uh, you know, I think as a country we get off on these misguided conversations that throw around terms that really misrepresent truth.
The choice issue cuts two ways. You can choose life, or you can choose abortion. You know, my mother chose life. So, you know, I think the power of the argument of choice boils down to stating a case for one or the other.
Are you saying you think women have the right to choose abortion?
Yeah. I mean, again, I think that’s an individual choice.
Are you saying you don’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade?
I think Roe v. Wade—as a legal matter, Roe v. Wade was a wrongly decided matter.
Okay, but if you overturn Roe v. Wade, how do women have the choice you just said they should have?
The states should make that choice. That’s what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide.men.style.com
So Michael Steele's pro-life-ness is based upon women's individual right to choose, which is not really an individual's right, but a state's right? I hadn't really thought about it that way before. That's a brilliantly ridiculous position/non-position.
Put a fork in him. This guy is toast.
Written by Chet
[UPDATED X 1]
This thing you're looking at (above) is an advertisement from Tuesday's Bismarck Tribune. I've smudged out the e-mail address. There's a reason for that. I think it was irresponsible of the Bismarck Tribune to publish this advertisement without providing more information.
Well, think about it. What do you know about the person behind this advertisment? Is he a "good guy?" Is he a "bad guy?" Will he share your information without your permission? Will he share your name without your permission? Is he a corrupt, unethical or dishonest person? Will he get you fired? Is this someone with a known and/or well-publicized history of obsessive harassment, stalking and/or violence?
Seriously. What if the person behind this advertisement is one of the "corrupt judges, states attorneys, police, probation officers, or any elected officials" the advertiser claims to be seeing to expose? What if the person behind the ad is a of any of those "corrupt" people? What if there is a group of bad guys out there, they think they're about to get caught, and they want to find out who's turning them in? Great way to catch the person who's informing on you, don't you think?
Listen. I'm all for exposing corruption in government. I do it all the time. But you know who I am. (Or if you've read the "about" page, you know who I am.) And you know my track record. People who've come to me with stories about corruption in their workplace know I won't disclose their names without a subpoena or a court order. (And maybe not even then.) But we know nothing about the person who placed the ad above.
It just seems incredibly irresponsible for the Bismarck Tribune to allow an ad like this to be published in the official county newspaper. What if you found out the Bismarck Tribune knows the person behind this advertisement to be an obsessive, harassing and/or violent person? Wouldn't that seem like the Tribune is setting someone up to get hurt? Sure, they're almost certainly going to get fired and won't have any recourse, but what if they get physically injured too? Doesn't the Bismarck Tribune have some responsibility if that happens?
We already know our Government doesn't protect whistle blowers. We already know our Government retaliates against whistleblowers, and that the Government gets away with it. We already know our legislature doesn't care to do anything to give whistleblowers more protection. Now our local newspaper is being used as a tool to identify all the other whistleblowers so they can be appropriately "dealt with?" Is the Bismarck Tribune actively engaging in helping someone victimize -- or re-victimize -- good, honest, hard-working people of North Dakota?
If so, shame on you Bismarck Tribune.
[UPDATE #1: Click here to read my Q&A with the person behind the ad.]
Written by Chet
Video clip of ND Ag Commisioner Roger Johnson
at the DNC Convention in Denver in August 2008
North Dakota's partisan Republicans should be celebrating in the streets today. Soon they'll be handed the only partisan-race office currently held by a Democratic-NPLer in North Dkaota. North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson was elected as the president of the National Farmers Union organization today and will resign his office as ND Ag Commissioner soon.
Gov. John Hoeven will name a successor to fill out the remaining two years on Johnson’s term.
Hoeven is expected to pick a fellow Republican. The appointee would be the first Republican in the office in 20 years. Democrat Sarah Vogel served two terms before Johnson. Another Democrat. Republican Kent Jones served from 1981 to 1988.
Ron Rauschenberger, Hoeven’s chief of staff, said the governor has not set a timeline for deciding on Johnson’s successor. He said half a dozen people have expressed interest in the job, including Lance Gaebe, Hoeven’s deputy chief of staff and agriculture policy adviser, and Doug Goehring, who twice was defeated by Johnson.
I assume it will be Goehring. Gaebe, a nice enough guy, has never run for office (has he?), probably doesn't have the kind of background needed for the job and has never been in charge of a statewide political campaign, to my knowledge. Goehring ran a couple close races against Johnson, despite the controversy surrounding his role in scandals at the Nodak Mutual insurance. (Click here and click here for more on that.) Goehring would likely continue to have the ultra-conservative Farm Bureau behind him. But our lazy, inneffective press barely followed or understood the Goehring-Nodak-Poolman story when it was happening, and nobody in North Dakota's media was smart enough to understand it even after I dumbed it down and spoon-fed it to them.
It will be interesting to see which political hack Hoeven puts into this position. And it'll be interesting to watch the Republicans and their mouthpieces at their official newspaper, the Bismarck Tribune, go after Johnson for leaving in a way they will continue to ignorantly characterize as being "similar" to Jim Poolman's departure. But that's okay. An ineffective, disinformational, lazy media isn't quite so bad once you get used to it.
Written by Adam
To:Robin Weisz, Vonnie Pietsch, Tom Conklin, Kari L. Conrad, Chuck Damschen, Robert Frantsvog, Curt Hofstad, Richard G. Holman, Robert Kilichowski, Michael R. Nathe, Todd Porter, Louise Potter, Gerry Uglem
Subject: S.B. 2278
Dear Human Resources Committee Member,
I am writing to you today to urge your support of SB 2278. As I'm sure you are aware, this bill bans employers from discriminating against their workers based on sexual orientation, and is going to come under your committee's consideration shortly. This legislation is an important step that is necessary to insure that employers are evaluating their employees based on their ability to do their job instead of basing decisions on their own personal prejudices.
We can argue over gay marriage, or civil unions, or any other number of issues affecting gays, lesbians, bisexuals, or transgender individuals, but there should be no question about a person's right to go to work and bring home a paycheck without a person's sexual preference hindering their ability to support themselves.
There is absolutely no evidence that an individual's sexual orientation affects their ability to do a job. Allowing employers to discriminate based on anything that doesn't affect a worker's performance on the job is bad economics, is unfair to workers, unfair to customers, and only helps employers rationalize personal prejudices. The GLBT community is not asking for much, just to be treated fairly, and without prejudice. They(and I in support of them) just want the government to make sure that the market makes rational decisions, not irrational ones that cost us all more in the long run. Please support this important legislation,
Written by Chet
Today Bismarck Tribune editor John Irby bloviates about how similar the move by former North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Jim Poolman into a job as "consultant" for companies in the industry he regulated after receiving tens of thousands of dollars (for himself and North Dakota's Republican Party) is to the possible move by North Dakota's Ag Commissioner Roger Johnson to the position of president of the National Farmer's Union.
North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson announced he would resign from his state post if he is elected to serve as National Farmers Union president. We'll know the outcome in a few days.
I like Johnson. Some time back I met with him at his office and was introduced to several of his staff members, and we snacked on fresh fruit. It seemed like a fun place to work and we had good discussions.
But the political bed he has made might get a bit uncomfortable.
While not the exact situation, Johnson's possible departure is similar to former Insurance Commissioner Jim Poolman, who resigned from his position to become a consultant. A Republican, Poolman took major political heat from Democrats for leaving his office early.
"Not the exact situation," John?!? Seriously?!?
Irby completely misses the point of the criticism of Poolman for leaving his elected position as top regulator of insurance companies in North Dakota. Here's a refresher: Poolman -- in his capacity as North Dakota's Insurance Commissioner -- served [as chairman of] a committee at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). On that committee, he strong armed "model legislation" -- laws to be proposed in every state in the country -- that favored a single company over all other companies in an insurance-related industry, the viatical settlement industry. At the time, Poolman was taking tens of thousands of dollars in non-campaign campaign contributions (i.e. he never ran for office after receiving the money) from an executive at that one company, and his wife. Then he ushered the same law through North Dakota's legislature, without disclosing his improper relationship with the company. Then he announced he was leaving his post as Insurance Commissioner because he had received "an offer he couldn't refuse," but he couldn't tell anybody what that offer was. It was a big secret, but he was going to go do some "consulting" for someone in the insurance industry.
For the whole story, click here, John. It's the story your newspaper never did a meaningful job of covering.
For some follow-up on what Poolman's "butt healing" process has included, click here. It's another Poolman story your newspaper never covered.
Now, only today, months or years after you and your newspaper have ignored these stories about North Dakota's former insurance commissioner, you disclose that Poolman is your neighbor.
Next, we'll find out that the reason your paper hasn't written anything about the junkets Adam Hamm and his staff take many times a year -- though he claims the most they get is an occasional back-yard barbeque -- is that he's also a neighbor.
Written by Adam
Sean Quinn is a smart commentator He's Nate Silver's counterpart over at FiveThirtyEight. He just wrote a good article regarding contuinued use of the term "Democrat" as an adjective, which is a.) bad grammar, b.) annoying to Democrats, and c.) disrespectful. Its a very well-written article. Here's an excerpt:
On the flip side of the coin, denying another person or group basic respect means that once the epithet escapes a Republican’s lips, he or she can’t complain when no respect is returned. Some Democrats aren’t bothered. Their perspective is that the very nature of such a tiny, repetitive jab, like a sibling flicking you on the shoulder, is that it pales in comparison with the constellation of behaviors that create actual wounds.
However, some Democrats find it to be a threshold issue in a conversation. It's irrelevant whether it wounds; it's a communication signal. If your behavior choice is a playground tactic, why should my behavior choice be to listen to what you say in whatever else is coming out of your mouth? You won’t agree to my name. I am supposed to take anything you say seriously? Couples therapists know a thing or two about this one. Respect is a threshold condition for listening.
If Republicans genuinely want Democrats to listen to their policy ideas, they shouldn't use the term because it's counterproductive. For example, when I hear the term, nothing else matters that comes out of that person's mouth. That Republican has failed the threshold bad faith test, and who cares what they say?
Read the whole thing. It's worth your while.
Written by Adam
I am incredulous. (Bold is mine)
March 2, 2009
President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We look forward to working with you as you consider nominees for the federal judiciary. Unfortunately, the judicial appointments process has become needlessly acrimonious. We would very much like to improve this process, and we know you would as well. It is in that spirit that we write early on to suggest two steps your Administration can take to achieve that shared goal.
First, in the beginning of his Administration, your predecessor demonstrated his desire to improve the judicial confirmation process by nominating to the circuit courts two of President Clinton’s previous judicial nominees, Judge Barrington Parker to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and Judge Roger Gregory to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. It would help change the tone in Washington if your Administration would take the same bipartisan step. Because the last Congress sadly set the modern record for the fewest circuit court confirmations in a President’s final Congress, there are plenty of well-qualified nominees with bipartisan support from whom to choose. For example, Peter Keisler has been praised repeatedly by colleagues in both the public and private sector, Democrats and Republicans, and has earned accolades from major media observers, like The Washington Post. And Judges Glen Conrad and Paul Diamond both enjoyed bipartisan support and have outstanding records on the federal trial bench.
Second, as our Democratic colleagues have emphasized for the last several years, the process of federal appointments is a shared constitutional responsibility. We respect your responsibility to nominate suitable candidates for the federal bench. And as a former colleague, we know you appreciate the Senate’s unique constitutional responsibility to provide or withhold its Advice and Consent on nominations. The principle of senatorial consultation (or senatorial courtesy) is rooted in this special responsibility, and its application dates to the Administration of George Washington. Democrats and Republicans have acknowledged the importance of maintaining this principle, which allows individual senators to provide valuable insights into their constituents’ qualifications for federal service.
We hope your Administration will consult with us as it considers possible nominations to the federal courts from our states. Regretfully, if we are not consulted on, and approve of, a nominee from our states, the Republican Conference will be unable to support moving forward on that nominee. Despite press reports that the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee now may be considering changing the Committee’s practice of observing senatorial courtesy, we, as a Conference, expect it to be observed, even-handedly and regardless of party affiliation. And we will act to preserve this principle and the rights of our colleagues if it is not.
Because of the profound impact that life-tenured federal judges can have in our society, the Founders made their appointment a shared constitutional responsibility. We look forward to working with you to discharge this important duty in the best interest of our country.
All Republican Senators
Cc: The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy
SENATE REPUBLICAN COMMUNICATIONS CENTER
I have not seen so much hipocrisy since the Republicans changed the rules they created in '95 to get rid of Dan Rostenkowski(D-IL) so that Tom DeLay could remain the Majority Leader while he was indicted.
These Republicans have either no memory or no conscience. They either don't remember just four years ago when they threatened to declare the filibuster unconstitutional for this exact purpose. I hate to sound so angry but this is the height of hipocrisy. Republicans are threatening to eliminate a maneuver that just four years ago they wanted to break the rules and defy precedent to eliminate. I have cataloged their efforts here.
This truly is the height of hipocrisy. Republicans campaigned on Democratic obstructionism of judicial nominations for four years. I suggest that republicans look at the statements of their former majority leader:
This Senate must do what’s right. We must do what’s fair. We must do the job we were elected to do and took an oath to do. We must give judicial nominees the up-or-down votes they deserve.
Now don't get me wrong, I do not at all disagree that it is the right of Senate Republicans to filibuster judicial nominations, but four years ago they were saying that filibusters on judicial nominations were unconstitutional. It is completely hypocritical to now say that they will use a maneuver that they argued to be unconstitutional four years ago.
We deserve better.