I am sick and damn tired of all these uninformed, misinformed, sanctimonious President Obama-haters who are using the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, as a whipping post to try to get rid of the President and all Democrats now holding elective office.
The elected office holders and candidates, like Romney and McConnell and Boehner and Berg, know better than to spout their venom against the law of the land, but they do it and get away with it because no one in the media challenges them. And it stirs the letter-to-the-editor writers and radio talk show callers who DON’T know any better, and who stretch what those who do know better say even further, to the point of absurdity. At times, you can hear them actually frothing at the mouth as they talk to the Limbaughs of radioland.
Dammit! What’s happening is that we are turning into a mean, angry country. I hate it. We are better than this. We are good people in a great country, and we deserve better from our leaders. I don’t understand the anti-Obama vitriol. I’m almost 65 years old and I have never, ever seen the people of our country sink to the depths of outright hatred that conservative leaders are taking us into now.
Obamacare is their rallying point. Most of these Hate-spouters have no idea of what it really is. So, with the help of some credible sources, I’m going to try to explain it. Not that any of them will read it and believe it. But so you can counter their rhetoric when you get the chance. Here are real facts:
First, the law DOES NOT create a new government-run insurance plan. Period. What DOES it do? The existing Medicaid program will be expanded to cover more low income people, government regulation of the health insurance industry will be increased, and tax credits will be provided to make private health insurance more affordable. Here are the specifics:
Starting in 2014, most U.S. citizens and legal residents will be required to obtain health insurance, or pay a penalty. Here’s why. Presently, people who have no health insurance and cannot afford to go to a doctor, end up in emergency rooms, where they cannot be turned away, instead of in a doctor’s office. The hospitals have to get these services paid for somehow, so we end up paying through higher insurance rates and co-payments. When everyone has health insurance, medical costs should go down. Should. All we have to do is trust the hospitals to do the right thing. I wish I felt a little better about that part.
Individual states and the federal government will set up Insurance Exchanges where people who do not have insurance now can purchase insurance. Low and moderate income people who have to purchase insurance through the new Insurance Exchanges will get tax credits, based on their income, to help them cover the cost of their insurance.
Medicaid will be expanded to cover nearly all low income people, regardless of age. Poor people will be able to get health care under Medicaid. Period.
Starting in 2014, all health insurers will be required to sell coverage to everyone who applies, regardless of pre-existing conditions.
That’s what it DOES. Here‘s what it DOES NOT do:
The new law DOES NOT require employers to provide health benefits. Large employers, those with more than 50 employees who don’t provide coverage will pay a penalty, however. Small businesses with less than 50 employees are not affected. But small businesses who DO provide health insurance for their employees will get tax credits to help them pay for it.
The health reform law does not cut Medicare benefits. Period.
The myth that there will be “death panels” who will make decisions about end-of-life care is just that—a myth. Congress considered some kind of end-of-life panels and rejected them early in the process.
Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for any financial help from the government to buy health insurance. Nor are they eligible for Medicaid if they buy insurance through Exchanges with their own money.
Okay, that’s the truth about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The facts are provided by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, which is “a leader in health policy analysis, health journalism and communications, dedicated to filling the need for trusted, independent information on the health issues facing our nation and its people,” according to its website.
The Foundation also says on its website “The health reform law promises to deliver big changes in the U.S. health care system. But, as with other sweeping pieces of legislation, it can be hard to get the real facts about what it does. And it is all too easy for misinformation about the law to spread. Take our short, 10-question quiz to test your knowledge of the law, and then find out how you compare to the rest of the country, as represented by the findings of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s monthly Health Tracking Poll.”
Okay, so you’ve read the primer. Heard the lecture. Now go here to take the quiz. And then next time your neighborhood right wing Democrat-hating loudmouth nutcase starts ranting about a government takeover of health care, challenge him with the facts. Because if you don’t, he surely won’t get them anywhere else, and he’ll just keep it up, right through Election Day. That’s a long time to listen to this crap.
Some might argue that Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem was trying to sugarcoat a bad situation when he announced crime statistics for 2011.
North Dakota’s crime rate increased 10.9 percent last year, 9 percent when adjusted to the population, but remains lower than a decade ago, when the state had some 50,000 fewer residents.
Stenehjem noted Monday that the state’s population has been increasing. And more people have brought more crime — but not at an alarming rate.
“Crime index” offenses — those reported from states to the Federal Bureau of Investigation — were up statewide from 12,427 in 2010 to 13,778 in 2011. Nearly every crime category was up in 2011, with a 6.8 percent decrease in forcible rapes being a notable exception.
The attorney general went out of his way to show the crime rate was not disproportionate in the oil patch.
In unrelated news, there was apparently some kind of "incident" just north of Belfield in Western North Dakota on Tuesday.
A Tuesday incident seven miles north of Belfield is under control, but the Billings County Sheriff’s Department will not release much information about what happened over a 12-hour period.
The incident is under investigation, Chief Deputy Pat Rummel said. The BCSD, Stark County Sheriff’s Office, Dickinson Police Department Southwest Tactical Team, North Dakota Highway Patrol, Billings County Ambulance and Belfield Ambulance responded to the scene.
Every July 3rd, Bismarck-Mandan Democrats get together for a picnic to celebrate Independence Day. I don't usually get to attend, but since the 4th is in the middle of the week this year, I was there.
When I got there, I spent a few minutes looking around to see if Josh Hursa was there. For those of you not familiar with the Joshua Hursa story, Hursa is a tracker who worked for a Koch Brothers Crime Family so-called non-profit based in Denver called "Revealing Politics." He came to North Dakota a couple weeks ago and started showing up at Heidi Heitkamp events and offices, lying about who he was and what he was doing. Long story (which you can read here) short, Hursa's fraudulent actions on behalf of his employer, Revealing Politics, got his name scrubbed from the outfit's website. When asked by SquareState.net blogger Jason Salzman whether Josh was still working at Revealing Politics, his boss, Kelly Maher, refused to comment.
On my way to take my 2 year old to the rest room, I encountered two young men sitting in the grass, sort of hiding behind a gazeebo near the picnic shelter. I stopped and visited with them. They told me they were trackers from Colorado. I asked if they worked with "Josh." They both kind of chuckled and said, "No, Josh doesn't work with us anymore."
At about that point the 2 year old was starting to get away from me, so I didn't get a chance to get their names. But I did grab a couple photos of the Revealing Politics Junior Varsity Squad. Here they are... First, meet Caleb Bonham...
Caleb's claim to fame is that he's one of only three people whose identity can be determined by using the above photo and the Google Goggles app. See, the Google Goggles app will compare a photograph with any other graphic on the interwebs, and show you all the others. Fortunately for us, when Caleb came to the Bismarck-Mandan Dems' picnic, he brought his one and only button-down shirt, his only pair of pants (pink), and his aviator sunglasses.
Caleb's also, he might tell you, a budding comedian. Remember that comedy show Fox News once tried to do back in 2007 -- "The 1/2 Hour News Hour" -- that lasted almost seven (7) whole months before being unceremoniously cancelled? Caleb's humor would have fit right in with the writers and cast of that canceled show. Watch this...
"Heeeeeeeyaaaah!!! Tip your waiters and waitresses. Try the veal. I'll be here all week."
The other guy -- Drew McCullough -- is only easy to find because he's credited in Caleb's 1/2-hour-esque comedy videos as being a co-producer. Here's Drew
That's Drew trying to fit in by vigorously clapping at the end of Senator Kent Conrad's talk. Drew's claim to fame is that he was a server at Buca di Beppo and attended Ham Line University. He felt most comfortable, at the picnic, standing far from Caleb and close to the grill with the other servers.
According to the Revealing Politics website, "Drew has worked with new media, including audio, video, and internet, for over the past ten years." [sic] Drew and Caleb were also in North Dakota on a recruiting trip, looking for a new website copy editor.
If you see these guys following Heidi Heitkamp and/or Pam Gulleson around at parades, picnics or events, stop by and welcome them and all their Koch Brothers Crime Family money to North Dakota.
Oh, and -- if you can -- please get me their names so I can give them a proper welcome, too.
This, from former Dave Catanese, a former KFYR TV reporter who now works for Politico...
6. North Dakota (up 4 spots)
No candidate has overperformed early expectations as greatly as Heidi Heitkamp, the down-home former state attorney general who has fought GOP Rep. Rick Berg to an early tie for a seat that has been in Democratic hands for 52 years. She outraised Berg during the pre-primary period by about $50,000 and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has rewarded her early progress with a $1.2 million October investment. Her ads — including one that touts a law she lobbied for extending prison time for rapists — are some of the most poignant of any Senate candidate of the cycle. Heitkamp has displayed little reluctance to diss her own party and the president, which will increase the pressure on Berg to step up his game and aggressively prosecute her past statements on policies like the health care law.
If you're wondering why Rick Berg's corrupt, big-money, out-of-state, thug supporters brought a lying big-city tracker into North Dakota to infiltrate Heitkamp's campaign and to try to get video footage of Heitkamp making some kind of campaign gaffe, stories like the Politico story should make it clear why; slumlord Rick Berg and his scared, and he has reason to be scared. Berg has no legislative accomlishments after being in Washington for nearly two years. He has nothing he can point to from his years in the North Dakota legislature as a proud moment (other than secretly helping his companies draw tens of thousands of public dollars from Workforce Safety & Insurance). He's afraid to debate Heitkamp. Republicans don't even like Rick Berg. He's not a personable candidate.
The Koch Brothers crime family has legitimate reasons to be concerned about North Dakota in 2012. It might be more expensive than they previously thought for them to buy another U.S. Senate seat here.
This front page Headline story on Roll Call's website has not been covered by any mainstream North Dakota news outlet, ever...
The former head of the IRS’ Exempt Organizations division has asked the agency to revoke the tax-exempt status of the conservative nonprofit ALEC.
Marcus Owens, a lawyer at Caplin & Drysdale, who for a decade directed the division responsible for approving organizations’ charity status, accused the American Legislative Exchange Council of illegally lobbying state lawmakers among other violations of tax law in a letter to the IRS earlier this month, Roll Call has learned.
"ALEC has deliberately and repeatedly failed to comply with some of the most fundamental federal tax requirements applicable to public charities,” he wrote. "The information in this submission also suggests, quite strongly, that the conduct of ALEC and certain of its representatives violates other civil and criminal tax laws and may violate other federal and state criminal statutes as well."
The group, which has come under fire for its support of controversial “Stand your Ground” and voter identification laws, is organized under tax code 501(c)(3) and is barred from political activity including lobbying. Although its stated mission is to bring corporations and lawmakers together to craft and promote legislation, the 30-year-old group insists it does not lobby, prompting formal complaints from several government watchdog groups, including Common Cause.
But Owens’ experience with this body of tax law and reputation at the IRS combined with new evidence that ALEC may have deliberately misled the agency on its annual federal filings could deliver yet another blow to an organization already facing a public relations crisis.
The complaint, filed on behalf of Clergy Voice, a group of Christian clergy in Ohio, notes that ALEC denied engaging in lobbying activity in its federal tax filings covering the years 2008 and 2009. At the same time, two of its lawyers were registered to lobby in at least one state, North Dakota. False reporting on these forms has been found to be a criminal offense considered perjury in at least four recent cases, Owens said.
But don't confuse a front page story on Roll Call with something that's worthy of attention from the Fargo Forum or Bismarck Tribune. There's a cat caught in a tree somewhere, and the Minot Daily News has a reporter on scene now!!!
I've written about this no fewer than thrice. The first time was back when ALEC's lobbyists were doing their illegal lobbying in North Dakota, and I called them on it. They promptly registered as lobbyists. But then I sat back and waited to see their 2009 IRS Form 990 -- a public record -- because I know there's a question asked about whether the non-profit has done ANY lobbying. I was shocked to learned ALEC lied on its form 990. When news broke that "Common Cause" had filed an IRS complained against ALEC, I wrote about how surprised I was that no mention was made of ALEC's registered lobbyists in North Dakota. I even tried to contact Common Cause and their attorneys to ask them why they didn't mention ALEC's North Dakota lobbyists, but they didn't respond to my calls or emails. My perception was that it was on the brink of being professional negligence for them to NOT mention ALEC's registered North Dakota lobbyists. (How can someone claim to have NOT known about their registered lobbyists in North Dakota when my post on ALEC's 990 tax return shows up in the Top 5 of Google search results relating to ALEC, the IRS and lobbying?)
Anyway... it's worth it to read the former IRS administrator's letter (click here). His 30 page letter is 100 times better than Common Cause's defective Complaint.
It's about time someone do a semi-decent job outlining what the issue is, and why the IRS needs to do something about it.
And don't forget who North Dakota's top ALEC representatitve is.
My friend Darrell Dorgan dedicated nearly 15 years of his life to the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. I was with him at the Lonesome Dove bar on the Strip in Mandan back in 1994 or 1995 when a guy neither of us knew, Phil Baird, brought a bunch of us together and pitched the idea of a North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, a place to record the history of Cowboys, Indians and Ranches in North Dakota. Eventually Darrell signed on to raise the money and build the place. He retired last winter, and last week, at the annual induction ceremony of Hall of Fame honorees in Medora, he gave the keynote address as his farewell to the several hundred members he had recruited over the years.
Darrell didn’t mince any words. In Medora, the epicenter of the controversy over protection of the Elkhorn Ranch, surrounded by conservative ranchers who don’t much like the city folks who call themselves “environmentalists” and stick their noses into ranchers’ business without being asked, Darrell wove together a message of preservation and cowboy values that left the several hundred attendees quietly thinking about what is really important in North Dakota these days. Nothing but positive reaction, Darrell said afterwards.
Here’s his speech, along with a bit of cowboy poetry.
I see many great friends and it’s a wonderful day; a great day to look across the Badlands, a land of beauty, dreams, and eternal hope.
But lest we forget, it was just 150 years ago, men fought to the death to lay claim to this untamed landscape of grass, buttes and buffalo
The Native Americans claimed it; the Army, following the policy of Manifest Destiny, took it; the buffalo were slaughtered; the Texas Trail Drivers came North with Longhorns, and a ranching industry was born.
Homesteaders came from across the world seeking their chance for a piece of the Great American Dream. A chance to live in a democratic society, a chance to vote, a chance to own 160 acres, raise a family, worship as they wanted and become part of a growing and free society. And, despite drought, hoppers, and blizzards they, and you, survived.
Today this land is again in transition. It’s not a question if there will be large-scale energy development, it’s a question of how fast, and on whose terms. You will have to decide if roads through roadless areas, truck after truck, power lines and strip mines, are progress. Or, if we can coexist by limiting the pace of development; saying no to intrusions like hundreds of flares that light the night sky and can be seen from space.
Because of the energy boom, our economy is the envy of the nation, and something cataclysmic happened earlier this month. The incredible pace of development meant that sales tax receipts in Williston outpaced Fargo.
The economic pendulum is now swinging this way and unfortunately, money doesn’t always translate into good decision making.
Unfortunately, decisions on the pace, impact and wealth being taken from western North Dakota are still being made by people in other parts of the country and state, not by those who live where the impact is dramatically changing lifestyles and daily economic realities.
The negative aspects of energy development are not all the fault of the industry. There are good oil companies and good people who have come here looking for a new life, a new start. There are also bad oil companies and thoughtless, long-time residents who seem to have lost sight of the fact that Prairie provides, when it is taken care of.
Dan Kalil of Williston is a friend of mine; a Cowboy Hall of Fame Trustee. He’s also a County Commissioner. Dan was recently quoted as saying, “We need to stop. Take a break. We can’t keep up. We need to figure out where we’re going.”
Think for a moment with me and wonder, might now be the time to slow the fast pace of change until we decide what the future will hold? How many people, roads and homes do we want? How many flares are too many, how many salt water and brine spills are too much? Who pays the price, and will the unmitigated lightning pace of development, without adequate planning, forever change our lifestyle, permanently damage the land we live on and proudly call our home, our heritage?
The Hall of Fame is about preserving culture, heritage, history and yes, celebrating responsible leadership. Today’s new inductees will join the nearly 150 who have gone before, and grace the walls of the Hall of Honorees here in Medora. It is where the heritage of the great caretakers reside.
The people and animals we honor are all leaders; pioneers. We want their exploits to live on because if the last Resistol becomes a hard-hat, if the last wind mill becomes a drilling rig, we want a heritage preserved.
Ours is a way of life that fascinates the world. And, we should strive mightily to preserve parts of the Badlands and Grasslands without a road, and a former President’s ranch without a gravel pit of greed, or bridge running through it
If we were to stand in Trafalgar square in the heart of London this afternoon, or stand by the Arc De Triumph in Paris we will see billboards just like we have here. But the billboards in Europe do not feature drilling rigs or roads across the prairie, they have on them, pictures of the Marlboro Man, scenes of our western heritage.
Willie Nelson, you were simply wrong. Mamas should let their babies grow up to be cowboys. Cowboys know you’ve got to plan a ride. They know, sometimes you have to slow down to get where you’re going so you’ll enjoy it when you arrive, and afford to stay.
People across the world want to be a cowboy. I have traveled the world and have never met anyone who really wanted to be a Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, Bernie Madoff or Donald Trump. But, I’ve met hundreds of people who would like to ride a horse, be a cowboy. They know about Lonesome Dove, Sitting Bull, Sakakwea, Teddy Roosevelt, trail drives and people like you…..
A lot of you have thanked me for my role in building the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame. Thanks, but I didn’t do it. We did it together because we believe in preserving the heritage and history of what is right and what needs to be remembered. Most of us believe in preserving a land and a life style. So do many in the energy industry, and if good people, with a common goal, sit and talk rationally, I’ll bet a compromise can be reached . . . but someone has to reach out . . .
All of us have faults and I’m sure you would agree, mine are many. It always helps my perspective when I remember the words of Wally McCrea, who wrote one of the country’s iconic pieces of cowboy poetry, and called it
“What does Reincarnation mean?” A cowpoke asked his friend.
His pal replied, “It happens when Yer life has reached its end. They comb yer hair, and warsh yer neck, And clean yer fingernails, And lay you in a padded box Away from life’s travails.”
“The box and you goes in a hole, That’s been dug into the ground. Reincarnation starts in when Yore planted ‘neath a mound. Them clods melt down, just like yer box, And you who is inside. And then yore just beginnin’ on Yer transformation ride.”
“In a while, the grass’ll grow Upon yer rendered mound. Till some day on yer moldered grave A lonely flower is found. And say a hoss should wander by And graze upon this flower That once wuz you, but now’s become Yer vegetative bower.”
“The posy that the hoss done ate Up, with his other feed, Makes bone, and fat, and muscle Essential to the steed, But some is left that he can’t use And so it passes through, And finally lays upon the ground This thing, that once wuz you.”
“Then say, by chance, I wanders by And sees this upon the ground, And I ponders, and I wonders at, This object that I found.
I thinks of reincarnation, Of life and death, and such, And come away concludin’: ‘Slim, You ain’t changed, all that much.’”
I think Wally was talking about me . . . Thanks for having me today. Thanks for your friendship and your trust. Someone once asked me what I’d gotten out of the past 14 years. It’s pretty basic. I think I can go across the state and never have to buy a cup of coffee . . . Doesn’t get much better than that.
Now then, that might be one of the best speeches given in North Dakota. If you’re interested in learning more about or supporting the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, take a look at their website. There’s membership information there. And next time you see Darrell, say “Thanks.”
Earlier this week we reported about a Colorado blogger working for slumlord Rick Berg supporters who showed up in North Dakota, pretended to be a supporter of former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp's U.S. Senate campaign. We told you this new father and Republican Party operative from Denver Colorado -- Josh Hursa -- had come in to North Dakota, traveled to three different venues (Linton, Mandan and Beulah) misrepresenting who he was, trespassed into Heitkamp's parade entry and started video-recording her and asking obnoxious questions of her as she tried to greet friends and supporters watching the Beulah, North Dakota, parade. Hursa identified himself only as "Josh" and said he was with something called "Revealing Politics." We posted photos of Josh Hursa wearing a "Heidi for U.S. Senate" shirt he had gotten by pretending, before the parade, to be a supporter. And we figured out what "Revealing Politics" is and told you all about it and him. (Read that here.)
Apparently there has been some more fall-out from NorthDecoder's exclusive story. We'll let Jason Salzman of SquareState.net relay to you what Josh's boss, Kelly Maher, said when she was told one of her trackers had done this.
"Our job is to tell the story, not be the story," [Maher] told me. "I want to tell the story. I will never instruct or suggest that anyone misrepresent themselves affirmatively. That's never acceptable from my perspective."
By "affirmatively," Maher means actively misrepresenting yourself (e.g., telling a public figure that you're something you're not), as opposed to simply observing (videotaping a progressive candidate even if you oppose that candidate) or asking questions.
Progressives and conservatives and anyone else would agree with Maher, right?
I sent Maher the NorthDecoder blog post, and asked what she thought of it, and what she'd do about Hursa, assuming the allegation was true. She replied:
Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I am very concerned to see this post.
Due to the nature of this piece what I can say is two-fold:
1) This author clearly is playing fast and loose with "facts" asserted. He clearly confuses my previous project and an entirely different one. He makes conjecture about funding and structure without proper evidence or clarity. Based on what I read here about myself, it brings all assertions elsewhere about others in to question. (Editor's note: This is in response to a portion of Nodland's blog post about Maher's current and previous work.)
2) Due to our organizational policies I cannot comment on personnel issues.
I love Maher's responses to Salzman's question. In response to my assertion her organization is taking Koch Brothers Crime Family money, her response is [and I'm translating this for you], "Sure, he's right. But he can't prove it because we're really sneaky about how we do this." I also like the part where she doesn't tell us Josh got fired.
As Salzman notes, if you check the "Revealing Politics" staff page, you'll see Hursa's biographical information has now been completely removed. There is no longer any reference to him on their website. As I noted in a comment after the earlier story, Hursa also -- after we posted our story here at NorthDecoder -- locked down his Facebook page. He has also changed his Facebook profile picture. I almost feel sorry for the guy. Poor guy turned himself into a news story by doing something that's probably unprecedented, thereby causing himself to -- possibly -- get in trouble with his employer. If he lost his job, I'm sure he'll land and solidly on both feet. There are plenty of jobs in North Dakota's oil field. I'll bet he has connections out there. Maybe even the guy who's funding Maher's non-profit attack machine.
And hopefully there's a lesson Rick Berg's supporters should take away from this.
Not sure what that lesson is, but maybe it's out there.