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Fargo Debate Watch Parties
Written by Adam   

Ok, it's been on the left column for some time but nothing has come of it, so I'll ask everyone as a group:

Who wants to watch the debates together?

If someone would be so gracious to lend us their home to watch the debates that would be awesome, BYOB?

If anyone is interested in going to one(or hosting one) in Fargo contact me(adam [dot] blomeke {at} gmail -dot- com).  You can get a hold of Chad(northdecoder {at} gmail  -dot- com) for a Bismarck party.

It'll be a great way to kick off the grassroots movement.  

I'm also up for drinking lines.  Suggestions: "">My friends,"  "">uh uh, uh, " "">Thanks, but no thanks, " and "">ha!"

John Hoeven's Jobs
Written by Chet   
North Dakota Governor John Hoeven's campaign ad (see the Williston Herald website) hints that Hoeven has single-handedly created 30,000 new jobs in North Dakota.  I have a question for Governor Hoeven: 

If there are really 30,000 new jobs in North Dakota, wouldn't that mean there are also 30,000 new people in North Dakota?  

Okay, maybe not 30,000.  But doesn't it mean that a bunch of people -- maybe as many as 25,000 -- have been forced to take a second job just to make ends meet? Or maybe some of those people -- but certainly not all -- had been unemployed.  We all know there aren't 30,000 new people in North Dakota.  North Dakota loses thousands of young people every year with occasional, modest 5-year net gains of about 3,000 to 5,000 (click here for trends).   So let's say there are 20,000 new, second jobs that haven't been filled through our miniscule population growth or through new jobs for unemployed people.  Those are jobs taken as "second jobs" by people who are struggling to make ends meet.  Is that really something to brag about in a campaign ad?

Am I missing something?

Also, with regard to those new jobs -- whatever the number -- might it be true that some of those jobs have been created by the fortuitous fact that there is an oil boom in western North Dakota, and not because of anything Hoeven did?  Or is Hoeven taking credit for putting oil in the ground, too? 

John McSame vs. North Dakotans
Written by Chet   


Retired People

There's a letter to the editor in the Bismarck Tribune that caught my eye.  As you know, organizations send out questionaires to political candidates in order to try to discern what their positions are on the issues.  The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) sent an 11 question questionaire to John McSame and Barack Obama.  As noted by the Tribune letter writer today,

 John McCain refused to answer all 11 questions. Apparently, Sen. McCain isn't quite as brave as we all thought he was.

Bismarck Tribune

I checked into it, and it's true.  McSame didn't answer any of the questions.  You can check it out by clicking here.  

Farming and Rural Issues

North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson pointed his spotlight at McSame's agriculture policies.

Obama supported responsible farm programs and new initiatives to encourage a new generation of biofuels produced from switchgrass and other nonfood materials. He supported the farm bill because he knows how important it is to our rural economy and how much promise it contains for clean, agriculture-based renewable energy. He also knows the farm bill contains critical federal conservation programs to protect the environment while we produce ever more food and energy. On the other hand, John McCain voted against the farm bill and urged President Bush to veto it.

The Republicans’ backward energy policy is displayed in their platform: “The U.S. government should end mandates for ethanol. ...” Should they succeed in eliminating the federal renewable fuels standard, the United States will be forced to import more foreign oil, and the emerging cellulosic biofuels industry will very likely collapse.

Fargo Forum (letter to editor)

Pell Grants - College Financial Aid

Not once since Bush has been president, did McCain vote in favor of financial aid.

Just for the fun of it, I googled ‘Pell Grants’ on Obama and McCain's campaign websites. Obama – 446 hits. McCain – just one! And that one hit was actually a pro-Obama comment.

Then I googled ’Pell Grants’ on Obama and McCain's Senate websites. Obama – 14 hits. The one at the top of the list is about the first bill Obama ever sponsored in the Senate – which was about boosting the amount of the maximum Pell Grant.



Don't have to look far for McSame's plan for Healthcare.  In John McCain's own words...

Opening up he health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.

Contingencies.org [emphasis added by me]

John McSame literally wants to do for the health insurance market what "we have done over the last decade in banking."  

There's a plan to cry about.

Campaign Finance - Lobbying

McSame claims to have gone against the Republican grain on a couple of issues, including campaign finance and lobbying.  Yet the truth is he's very much a mainstream Republican when it comes to lobbyists, McCain is as in-their-pockets as any Republican.  This from CNN:

"John McCain says that he is going to tell all those lobbyists in Washington that their days of running Washington are over, which sounds pretty good until you discover that seven of his top campaign managers and officials are -- guess what? -- former corporate lobbyists," Obama said recently in Flint, Michigan.

It's true: Seven top McCain officials were lobbyists, though the campaign stresses that none is currently registered to lobby Congress:

• One: Campaign manager Rick Davis is a major telecommunications lobbyist.

• Two: Senior foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann recently faced scrutiny over his foreign lobbying on behalf of the Republic of Georgia, which has been embroiled in a military conflict with Russia.

• Three: Senior adviser Charlie Black was a foreign lobbyist for dictators in Zaire and Angola in the 1980s, fodder for the liberal group MoveOn.org.


There's some "change" you can't believe in.


McSame is despised by the Christian right.

A prominent Christian leader whose radio and magazine outreaches are solidly in support of biblically-based marriages – and keeps in touch with millions of constituents daily – says he cannot consider Arizona Sen. John McCain a viable candidate for president.

"Speaking as a private individual, I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances," said James Dobson, founder of the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family as well as the Focus Action cultural action organization set up specifically to provide a platform for informing and rallying constituents.


Can someone tell me one thing about John McCain as presidential candidate that appeals to people?  Who are these people who support John McSame?

Your weekly dose of Joe Biden-9-22-08 and a note to you Chicken Littles out there...
Written by Adam   


To put my two cents down on the "Obama should pull out of North Dakota" meme, I have to disagree.


here's the case to stay:

1.)We're looking at two or three polls after a tumultuous week.  It does show a trend, but it's following the national numbers.  Voters need to be fully educated on Palin and reminded about that other guy, McSame.  

2.)Obama has staffers in Texas.  You heard me, Texas. They can pull some from there if they really need it.

3.)Obama raised $65 Million in August.   They have cash.

4.)Media in the state is cheap, so is office space. 

5.)The map. Over the weekend things returned to where they were pos-DNC on fivethirtyeight: New Mexico is solidly Obama,  CO is lean Obama, OH flipped to tilt Obama, VA flipped to tilt, FL is back on the edge of a razor from lean McSame(now tilt McSame), as is NV, and MI and WI are now lean Obama from being toss-ups.  Meaning:by my count, Obama has 265 EVs in the lean or base catergories.  There are 5 swing states now: NH, OH, FL, VA, NV.  All are 5+ EVs.  McSame literally needs to run the table to win. 

ND is now a lean McCain state. It was always considered a lean McCain state.  It doesn't mean we can't win it, and it doesn't mean that Obama needs to put all the eggs in the basket of the swing states and not expand his horizons for future growth of Democratic support. 

Calm down, the sky is not falling.

Now get out there and win this state!

Yes We Can
Written by Chet   

Okay.  Here's the deal.  The Obama campaign had to have had a plan.  You'd have to assume it had a variety of components, and I won't bore all of you with what I think those components were.  I'm not sure whether I'll be a big fan of their plan, but that doesn't really matter, either.  We need to find out what the big plan was.  Surely they'll turn it over to the state party.  I'll check with them. 

Side note/stream of consciousness:  Before getting into "what to do," I want to throw something out there.  If the smarties in the Obama campaign have figured out that North Dakota is a lost cause, are we better off focusing volunteer efforts on down-ticket races?  I tend to think that a lot of the 1,000 Obama volunteers don't have as much interest in helping a statewide candidate win.  I think they want to help Obama win.  I'm fine with that.

We need a "to do" list.  Some things that need to be on the list, early on, include:

(1) Fundraising -- keep in mind that if the Obama campaign is gone from North Dakota, they probably don't want any more of "their" money spent in North Dakota.  Don't expect them to pay for anything from bumper stickers or yard sign all the way up to phone banks, insurance or radio or TV ads.  If they've left, they've taken all of their budget with them.  There's also going to be resistence from some to allow any fundraising to be done for a volunteer Obama side-campaign effort because that effort will (in theory) be competing for the same dollars the Obama campaign wants to spend in the rest of the country, and for the money other people want spent on other races in North Dakota.  I don't care.  We need some yard signs, etc., in North Dakota, and we're going to have to pay for them.

(2) Finding workspace and equipment - anything we have will have to be provided by volunteers.  If they're gone, they've taken their equipment with them.  We'll need to find equipment (e.g. computers, copiers, faxes, etc.) and we'll need to have volunteers who bring and use their own cell phones. Bump up your cell phone plan for the next 2 months.

(3) Staffing (volunteer coordinators, project coordinators, writers, walkers, phone callers, sign deliverers, etc.) -- this is going to be hard, but it's doable.

(4) Getting Obama stuff (signs, bumper stickers, etc.) -- Again, the campaign is going to want to focus its resources elsewhere.  We'll need to either (a) convince them that there's a reason to pay for these things for North Dakotans, or (b) find a way to get them paid for.  


It's probably not the best idea for me to write all this stuff here, so I'm gonna quit.  I just started a google group.  It is going to be a restricted access group for volunteer leaders of a North Dakotan's for Obama campaign.  If you're interested in joining, please send me an e-mail.  Because I don't know everybody, please tell me about your involvement so far, or give me a couple references.  It's at http://groups.google.com/group/ndgrassroots4obama

Also, there will be an organizational meeting in Bismarck on Tuesday night.  If you're interested in becoming a movement leader or volunteer, please send me an e-mail.

My e-mail address is northdecoder - at - gmail  - dot - com.

We're gonna do this.

McSame Pulls Ahead In ND
Written by Chet   

Markos Moulitsas of the DailyKos is reporting that John McSame has pulled ahead in the polls in North Dakota.  Here's the breakdown:

Research 2000 for Daily Kos. 9/16-17. Likely voters. MoE 4% (7/21-23 results)

McCain 53 (45)
Obama 40 (42)

McCain has taken a 49-44 lead among women, from trailing 45-39 back in July, while extending his lead among men. Full crosstabs below the fold.


It's frustrating and disappointing that many North Dakotans are exactly the kind of people the cynical McSame lobbyists/campaign managers were going after with the Palin gimmick.  I'm disappointed they've been duped.  I'm optimistic, though, and believe there's a chance they'll come around.

I'm going to say this, and it's not going to be popular, but it's time for Barack Obama to pull his campaign out of North Dakota.   I've been hearing rumblings, this afternoon, that it might happen.  Think about it; Obama NEEDS to win Minnesota and Wisconsin, and he's running neck-and-neck with McSame there right now.  He's 13 points down in North Dakota right now.  Could he make up those 13 points?  Absolutely.  But what's more important?  Turning even states blue?  Or hoping to turn a difficult, 3 electoral vote red state purple with a long-shot attempt to turn it blue?  

My only hope is that -- if he pulls his campaign out of N.D. -- Obama's team gives serious consideration to keeping a small team here to provide logistical support for his huge volunteer base here.  If he doesn't, then I'd hope the campaign would let some volunteers step up and run a couple of his offices here.  Maybe one in Fargo and one in Grand Forks and one in Bismarck.   With 1,000 North Dakota volunteers, there should be no problem keeping the campaign offices' doors open for less than two more months.

I sincerely believe that, even without a 50 strong paid staff in North Dakota, there's still an outside chance North Dakotans could recognize the danger of electing a hot-headed, 72 year old like McCain and his end-timer, secretive, fundamentalist running mate.  Even with the numbers as they are and the possibility that Obama's campaign pulls out, I'm holding on to a small amount of hope that North Dakotans will figure this thing out, prove the pollsters wrong and vote for the better team.

Report on Measure 2 Is Issued
Written by Chet   

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities issued a lengthy, thorough report analyzing the impact of Duane Sand's risky, short-sighted tax measure -- Measure 2 -- this morning.  Here's an excerpt:

Measure 2 would cost the state a very large amount of revenue — some $400 million per biennium, growing indefinitely into the future — that normally goes to K-12 schools, colleges, universities, public safety, health care, and other services. This amount matches or exceeds the entire increase in General Fund revenues that the state is now experiencing as a result of the energy- and commodity-price-induced economic boom. When the current economic boom ends, the loss of such a magnitude of revenue is likely to undermine funding for schools, infrastructure, and public services.

Report on N.D. Measure 2

It's a very long, detailed report.  The section that STILL interests me most is on page 8 in a section that says this:

Measure 2 would prevent needed improvements to bridges and roads: As North Dakota has experienced an oil boom and increased construction of wind turbines, use of state roads by heavy vehicles has increased, accelerating the need to repair, improve, and build new roads. The North Dakota Department of Transportation says it needs some $256 million per year just to maintain North Dakota roadways in light of these new burdens on roads and rising road construction costs. Major repairs are also needed to the nearly 1,000 bridges in North Dakota that are considered structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, at a potential additional cost of several hundred million dollars.12 By investing in these improvements now instead of spreading repairs and maintenance over decades, North Dakota could be better poised to deal with the increase in demand on the roads that the oil boom and strong agricultural growth are spurring. Measure 2 would take such investments off the table.

Report on ND Measure 2 (at page 8)

This is what I have been talking and writing about for a long, long time.  But it's actually worse than this.  As I have repeatedly pointed out -- here and elsewhere -- it isn't just the $1.4 BILLION North Dakota has in deferred maintenance bills for roads and bridges; it's also $119 million (as of about a year ago) on bills to patch our crumbling university infrastructure.  I know this isn't as sexy as talking about who Lindsey Lohan is supporting for president, but still...  What continues to frustrate me is that nobody has taken the time to put together a comprehensive report on what all of the State's deferred maintenance and other bills -- and I'm talking about debt incurred while this so-called "surplus" has been amassed -- amount to.  

What we, as citizens, need to be concerned about is the Enron-esque (or AIG-esqe) (or Bear Stearns-esque) bookkeeping that Governor Hoeven and other Republican politicians are engaging in.  Someone should ask Hoeven, "Why did the state take on millions of dollars in new debt over the past 2 years if the state has hundreds of millions in "surplus"?  And "Why aren't you paying to maintain the collapsing infrastructure -- roads, bridges, state-owned buildings -- if we've got the cash to do it?"  In order to intelligently analyze whether the state can afford these risky, short-sighted "tax cuts" and "oil trust funds," we need to know what the debt is, right?  (You'd never sock all your money away in a long-term investment or volunteer for a pay cut at work if you knew you needed the money yesterday or today to replace the flat tires on your car and knew you needed to put a new roof on your house because it was leaking, would you?)

Why isn't anybody doing anything to educate the voters?  Why is Hoeven hiding this information?  One phone call and he could have it within a few days or a week.  The legislators -- in both parties -- should be demanding an accounting.  This isn't a partisan issue.  I don't care who's calling for tax cuts or trust funds; the citizens should reject all of it until we get the information we need.

ND State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt: The Imprudent Investor
Written by Chet   

Shrine[UPDATE X 2, bolded, below]

As State Treasurer, Kelly Schmidt is entrusted with millions of dollars which she is statutorily authorized to invest on behalf of certain groups.  In a recent letter to the editor she even gloated about that authority:

Just one of the ways we are doing that is through the implementation of BidND. BidND places custodial funds from the treasurer's office such as the Veterans Postwar Trust Fund, Wheat Commission and the Soybean Council in the form of certificates of deposit in local communities through a bid process. 

Bismarck Tribune

It's interesting that she's so proud of how she's investing the Veterans Postwar Trust Fund.  There's a back story there.  

The Veterans Postwar Trust Fund was created, originally, back in 1943.  It's been through a number of incarnations at different times of war, but it's current incarnation is written into the North Dakota Constitution:

Section 25. The veterans' postwar trust fund shall be a permanent trust fund of the state of North Dakota and shall consist of moneys transferred or credited to the fund as authorized by legislative enactment. Investment of the fund shall be the responsibility of the state treasurer who shall have full authority to invest the fund only in the same manner as the state investment board is authorized to make investments. All income received from investments is to be utilized for programs which must be of benefit and service to veterans, who are defined by legislative enactment, or their dependents, and such income is hereby appropriated to the administrative committee on veterans' affairs on a continuing basis for expenditure upon those programs selected at the discretion of the administrative committee on veterans' affairs.

Art X, sec. 25, ND Const

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem's office has advised that the funds in the Veterans Postwar Trust Fund need to be invested following the "prudent investor rule."  (See A.G. Letter)  There are limits on how the fund can be invested.  According to the A.G., "A trustee who invests with proper care and skill is not liable for a loss of trust funds in an investment," so you might reasonably extrapolate that a trustee who does not invest with proper care and skill is liable for the loss of trust funds.  

State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt took the veterans' money -- millions of dollars -- placed it with a retail broker and told her broker that she's willing to accept a 20% risk of loss on the veterans' money and that she's willing to spend three times as much as the State Investment Board pays in administrative/management fees.  That's not me talking; that's Republican State Auditor Bob Peterson's Office's finding.  See, North Dakota State Auditor Bob Peterson's office has taken a look at Schmidt's investment of our veterans' trust fund and here's what his office has said:

Our interpretation of the prudent investor rule in NDCC 21-10-07 does not include investing in securities that could lose 20% in a year.  It appears [Kelly Schmidt] has taken on more risk than a prudent investor would be willing to take.

State Auditor's Office Working Papers

The Auditor's Office also apparently computed that Schmidt was wasting $23,400 in excess fund management fees -- per year -- given to the broker she chose to manage the money, rather than having the fund managed by the State Investment Board at 1/3 the cost.  I don't know for how many years Kelly Schmidt paid the $23,400 in excess annual fees to the retail broker (maybe I can get an answer to that question for you).  Anyway, when the SAO called her on this, it seems obvious that she frantically moved the money out of the risky investment and into this BidND thing she now gloats about. I don't know how much -- if anything -- she had to pay the retail broker to get out of the contract, either.  Maybe nothing.  Maybe a lot.  That'd be interesting to know.

This probably wouldn't be such a big deal except that we're talking about millions of dollars that Schmidt is supposed to be prudently managing for the benefit of veterans returning from war.  We've watched the Bush Administration neglecting our veterans' needs, but I never thought there was a reason to consider our State Treasurer's neglectful conduct.  As it turns out, instead of managing the veterans' money wisely, Schmidt turned the money over to one of the retail members of her "partner" organization, the Bond Market Foundation, and paid them tens of thousands of dollars so they could lose something like 7% or 8% of the veterans' money [on the market].  [Update #2: I should note, too, that it's hard to blame the retail broker for this; they got Schmidt to sign a contract in which she acknowledged her willingness to lose 20% of the money they invested, and she agreed to the fees.  Those are contract terms she agreed to.  She's actually lucky to have not lost 20%.  It's not the retail broker's conduct that needs to be looked at here; it's Schmidt's.]   She only moved the money -- recently, mind you -- into this new BidND thing after the State Auditor's Office pretty much told her she had to.

Now she gloats about what an awesome job she's doing managing this money. 


Reminds me of Bush's "Heckuva job, Brownie" comment to the FEMA manager who botched the management of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.  Same thing here, only it's Schmidt talking to herself about managing the veterans' postwar trust fund.  "Heckuva job, Schmidty." 

In part one of this discussion I had mentioned there might be another connection between Schmidt and the Bond Market Foundation.  As noted above, the broker through whom Schmidt invested the veterans' trust money was Edward Jones, a member of the Bond Market Foundation, Kelly Schmidt's "partner." Someone ought to ask Schmidt whether Ed Jones or the Bond Market Foundation (or Association) has wined or dined her at all.

Some might say what Schmidt did with the veterans' money was a breach of the State Treasurer's Office's code of ethics, but they'd be wrong.  Know why?  

[That's a trick question, by the way.]

[UPDATE #1:  Kelly Schmidt is debating her opponent, Mitch Vance, on Bismarck's community access TV tonight from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. (CST).  If you aren't in Bismarck, I think you'll be able to watch the live stream of the debate on the internet at freetv.org.  I sure hope someone brings up this issue during the debate.  I'm also considering opening up a chatroom, here, during the debate.  Is there any interest?  Again, I'm not 100% sure I could even make it.  If anyone is interested, let me know.]

(For a follow-up to this story, click here.)

Classic SNL: Fey as Palin
Written by Chet   

If you didn't see this on Saturday, you gotta watch it.  You might even want to watch it again if you DID see it.




Spot on.
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