Dem-NPL Public Service Commission candidate Brad Crabtree is starting to make an issue out of the fact that members of the North Dakota Public Service Commission are violating the spirit of state laws that prevent public officials from taking bribes. He's arguing that commissioners accepting campaign contributions from people associated with organizations that have business before the commission create a conflict of interest for commissioners, or at least the appearance of one. When asked, Crabtree stated that he said he wouldn't necessarily call for an investigation into the matter though. This seems reasonable since the law doesnt speak about campaign contributions per se, and it's also extremely hard to prove a direct link between campaign contributions and corruption, see Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United v. FEC. U.S. House Candidate and Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer thinks otherwise though. When asked to comment about this, Cramer said the following:"
He's asking for the trust of the people, but he's not willing to turn in criminals that he knows are breaking the law? That's pretty pathetic, quite honestly,"
So set aside for a second that he completely mischaracterized what Crabtree was getting at, Kevin Cramer just called himself a criminal. His words, not mine. Not Crabtree's either. Not only did he call himself a criminal, he's a knowncriminal, and he thinks someone should have the guts to arrest him.
Not sure how many of you caught this last week, but Rick Berg's campaign staff showed their true, amateur colors last week. They sent out two letters to the editor from two different people, the letters are nearly identical, and they both got published -- at two different newspapers -- the same day.
First... here's the letter "written by" past Chamber of Communism president, Dale Anderson:
And here's one "written by" a guy named "James Bowman" who claims to be from Minot.
Doh! Yeah, sure, they're not identical. But they're damned close. Too close to be an accident.
I'm not sure who looks like the bigger tool here: Anderson and Bowman, for being Berg's tools; or Berg and his staff, for screwing up something that should be so easy for them considering how many of these they do.
(Cross-posted, with permission, from The Prairie Blog)
Mike Jacobs, publisher of the Grand Forks Herald, wrote one of his political analysis columns this past week. Jacobs has long been the most astute journalist in North Dakota. Two quotes stood out.
Commenting on the closeness of the race between Heidi Heitkamp and Rick Berg for the U.S. Senate, Jacobs made reference to the closeness of the race, the negative ad barrage voters have already begun experiencing, and the seemingly very low percentage of the voters who, nearly 100 days before the election, still haven’t decided who to vote for (the last poll showed Heidi ahead 50-44, with just six per cent undecided). Jacobs quoted an acquaintance of his who said “There might be 1,200 undecided voters in the Senate race,” he said. “Let’s just put them all in one room and make them watch the commercials.”
Commenting on the possible face to face debates Heidi and Rick might be having, Jacobs said Berg would do okay in the debates if he just keeps using “the cue cards that House Speaker John Boehner has evidently supplied.”
Someone told me this week that I should type www.baeslersboobs.com into my browser and then click on it to see what happens.. So I did it. What a disappointment. It took me to the news release page of the North Dakota Republican Party’s website. You can try it yourself to see if you get different (better?) results.
ANOTHER COST OF THE OIL BOOM
A consultant has told the residents of Burleigh and Morton Counties they need a new jail, because the oil boom is putting stress on existing incarceration facilities. The consultant said the counties could save money by building a joint facility for the two counties. According to Thursday’s Bismarck Tribune, “The new jail would need 20 acres of property because the potential to expand the existing jail sites is limited in both Bismarck and Mandan due to their downtown locations.” Anybody want to guess what the next headline is going to be? How about “State Prison Farm Proposed As Location For New Jail.” Perhaps they’ll even name it for former North Dakota Senate Majority Leader Bob Stenehjem, who was killed in a car accident last year. He’s the one who was leading the charge to turn the excess prison farm property into a housing development, instead of a state park, as proposed by a group of local residents headed by Mylo Candee.
One of my first newspaper jobs, at the Dickinson Press back in the 1960’s, was writing obituaries. In those days, unlike now, families filled out a form with information on the deceased, the funeral home brought it to the newspaper, and a cub reporter wrote up an obituary. It ran free as a community service—and often it was pretty big news, at least on the occasion of a prominent community member dying. It didn’t take us obituary writers long to get into a routine with these things—they were pretty formulaic, unlike the ones today, which are mostly written by family members. There were a few rules, which we generally learned from a friendly editor who would look over the first hundred or so obits we wrote and offer advice and corrections. Here’s a hard and fast rule that got broken this week:
Don Perry, head spokesman for Chick-fil-A, has died. The Atlanta-based company said Perry died “suddenly” Friday morning. Perry, who most recently was vice president of public relations, had worked with the chain for nearly 29 years, according to Chick-fil-A.
That came from the L.A. Times. Notice the quote marks around the word “suddenly.” Obviously the Times was quoting the company press release directly. Perry, the spokesman for the company, apparently didn’t train his assistant, who had to step up to announce his boss’s death, very well. The reporter, or her editor, knows that everyone dies suddenly, and so they used the quote marks to let us know they were not responsible for the use of the word suddenly. “One second you’re alive, the next you are dead. That is about as sudden as it gets.” That’s a direct quote from my first editor, who said that to me the first time I used “suddenly” in an obit. Right after he said “Fix it, Fuglie.”
We have a recent college graduate in our house these days, who is picking through career opportunities right now, so often the most-read section of the daily newspaper is the “Help Wanted” section. That’s how I came across this ad last Sunday:
Library Assistant ND State Library, Bismarck. Assists in circulation dept. preparing & sending mail, shelving & pulling books, & organizing material on shelves. Drive state vehicle daily to deliver books in Bismarck/Mandan area. Must have basic computer skills and able to lift 30 pounds, bend, stoop, stretch, and climb stairs. Salary: $8 per hour, full time, no benefits.
Yep, you read that right. $8 per hour, full time, no benefits.
Doesn’t it seem a bit outrageous that state government in the richest state in America is hiring help at near-minimum wage, with no benefits. What kind of message does that send about how we treat public employees? Sheesh. They oughta be ashamed.
CLEAN WATER, LANDS AND OUTDOOR HERITAGE AMENDMENT
Look for petitions to be filed soon to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to dedicate 5 per cent of oil tax revenues to land and water conservation. Word is the petition drive was a big success, with 10,000 more actual signatures than are required, and that the backers have some really good poll numbers—the people in North Dakota think it is a good idea to set aside some of the billions in oil tax revenues to protect fragile wildlife habitat and improve and protect water quality.
Men's Journal recently provided an interesting mosaic of what life in parts of North Dakota has become, now that it's become Jack Dalrymple's paradise. Here's an exerpt, but you should read the entire article:
The prairie wind rattles through the walls of the boardinghouse. It can't be morning already, can it? Please God, no. But it is. I head downstairs into a human warren, five beds carved and partitioned in a dark basement. The place smells of dead beers and putrefied sheets. An elderly Maine truck driver sits dazed in his not-so-tidy whities watching a Western after the night shift. Sausage links are unmanned in the microwave. I say hello. No response. He keeps staring, unblinking, at John Wayne. Maybe he's dead? Then, a fart. Nope, definitely alive. God bless.
I tiptoe through the piss on the bathroom floor and into the shower I share with five truckers and a possible drifter. I feel the fungus and filth eating through my toes. Is cholera still a thing? I splash on a stranger's Axe body wash, a liberty that is strictly against house rules, but my serotonin levels are crashing, and I'm hoping the aroma of youth will fire me up.
It's Day 18 in Williston, North Dakota, and like 10,000 other men, I'm stuck in a boomtown scrounging for a paycheck. I step outside and open the door to my Mobile Dirt Carrier. It was once an SUV but is now coated in insect corpses, mud, and petroleum. I put it in gear and jam it down a gutted dirt road, my organs restacking themselves as I rattle past a cement factory that was an empty field two weeks ago. I peel onto Highway 2 and head into town.
I drive past the Raymond Family Community Center, soon to be closed to oil workers because some of them have been crapping in the showers. A little further and there's the airport. Another Gulfstream glides into town, packed with execs visiting the most important oil field in modern American history. See the Wal-Mart on the left? The cops swear rumors of man-rape among the parking-lot transients is just filthy gossip, but the boardinghouse truck drivers say it happened – the victims just didn't want their names published; might hurt their job prospects. On the right, rows and rows of Quonset huts make up "man camps" housing thousands of workers, the lucky ones who don't have to sleep in their cars. Sixty bucks a day gets you three squares a day and a four-by-eight room.
Nice, right? Here's a quick inventory of some of what we get from the pretty Men's Journal snapshot of North Dakota:
Piss covered bathroom floors
Fungus and filth covered shower floors.
People crapping in community center showers
Oil execs, flying in in company jets
$60/day for a 4' X 8' room.
Drug use on oil rigs (presumably meth, but cocaine and heroin, too)
"Trucker bombs" -- "two-liter pop bottles filled with piss. Yuck."
Commercial truckers driving 80 hours a week. (That's legal, right?)
"Giant shit grenades" of toxic sludge
Oil field workers lying about educational backgrounds / "reinvention"
... lying about skipping work
Did I mention lying?
Did I mention drug use?
It's a special story about Williston, North Dakota. The writer calls Williston a "lucrative hell, but hell nonetheless." Nice, huh? Gives a guy a warm fuzzy feeling about what's happening out west, right?
I especially like the part where the bunk-house operator tries to convince the author Williston really isn't that bad, while also venting about the "handsy" guy who ruins her "Williston-as-utopia worldview."
Meanwhile, Jack Dalrymple's owner, Harold Hamm, keeps tellin the North Dakota sheeple everything is "rock steady" in the Bakken while Dalrymple hands out Christmas trinkets via press release every three or four days, with no clear plan. One day the people of North Dakota will wake up and recognize our state has been sold off as garbage, and transformed into a soon-to-be-vacated industrial park.
North Dakota Senator John Hoeven recently got punk'd. Someone called his U.S. Senate office, pretending to be President Obama. I'm gonna warn you up front... There's some offensive language in this. Some is in the middle (at about 1:45 on the ticker), and some more -- and LOUD -- right at the end. The clip is 2 minutes and 55 seconds long. There's no point listening to what's after about 2:48. It's LOUD, dumb and offensive. (Some of you may think the whole thing is offensive.) I'd urge you to not do as I did and have the volume cranked up so you could hear it as you sit in your office. You might even want to listen to this at home.
Some thoughts: (1) I'm not a big advocate for having people out there impersonating the President of the United States. I don't care who's president, or what party they are in; it just seems like a bad idea. (Maybe even criminal idea?); and (2) Isn't there some protocol members of congress follow to verify that the person they're talking to is, in fact, the President? This can't possibly be the first time someone got punk'd by someone pretending to be the President. Can it?; and (3) Is it just me, or does Hoeven laugh just a little bit too hard at the offensive comment at 1:45 on the ticker?
Anyway... thought I'd share, since it's out there.
So Goldmark's slum shark Rick Berg's (R) (ND-Sen) ad has been running during NBC's broadcast of the 2012 Olympic games from London. I've heard from people as far away as Duluth, Minnesota, who've seen the ad on their local television station. (I'm not sure why Berg would buy ad time in the Iron Range, but... okay.) The ad seems to be an "opposite effect" ad. In other words, Berg's numbers with women and elderly people are so bad that he put together an ad targetted directly at them, and his numbers with women and elderly people are getting worse.
If you check out the ad's YouTube page, here's what you'll see right now:
You see that? Of the people who've watched Berg's dishonest attack ad on YouTube, 67 clicked the "dislike" button, while a whole 4 -- yes "four" -- clicked the "like" button. Berg couldn't even get his whole campaign staff to "like" the ad on YouTube. He couldn't even get all the North Dakota Republican Party activists in the ad to click the "like" button for the ad. That really says something.
And if you look at the comments below the ad, the single most popular comment under the ad says "Good grief. I bet there's a bounce in the polls for one North Dakota Senate candidate after this ad gets widely circulated... and it won't be Rick Berg."
(For the record, I haven't clicked "unlike" or "like" on that YouTube page. Yet.)
I have it from a completely unreliable source (a blog commenter here) that the waitress in the ad is Natascha Bach, the Assistant Director of the choir program at Century High School in Bismarck. Her husband is running for the legislature in Bismarck's new District 7, along with a couple other teabaggers. You'd think they could have found a "regular joe" or "regular jane" for the commercial, instead of just a bunch of right-wing activists or their spouses. Guess not.
The comments I've heard most about this ad so far have related to things like (a) the poor production quality, and that you'd think Berg and 99 percenters who support him could afford better, (b) the semi-comical, regional "Fargo"-esque dialect, (c) the fake-ness of the Fox-News-like dialogue, (d) how inappropriate it is to be running a dishonest attack ad during an international sports event that's supposed to bring people together, not divide them, and (e) "... attacking Rick Berg?"
The main question I have regarding this ad is "How much did Berg waste on it?"
“I’m not coming from San Francisco. I am not a Beverly Hills person,” he said. “Most of my board members never (wear) ties … and they drive pickup trucks,—and in fact, I will be driving a truck too.”
That was the new North Dakota University System Chancellor Hamid Shirvani, quoted inThe Bismarck Tribune, shortly after being hired last spring. So what kind of truck did Shirvani show up in when he started work here this month? Um, well, it wasn’t exactly a pickup. It was a new Porsche with the dealer’s registration sticker still in the window. Says he bought it July 6. I haven’t been over to the Capitol lately, but friends tell me tongues are wagging every morning when he wheels the Porsche into the Capitol parking lot. There just aren’t a lot of those parked there most days.
AND THE BOOM GOES ON. OR NOT. YOU DECIDE.
Well, things are just hopping along in the Bakken. North Dakota’s doors are wide open. Here’s part of a story from The Bismarck Tribune this week.
North Dakota’s oil production could be more than 2 million barrels a day by 2025 — about three times the current rate — according to a state-funded study released Wednesday. Bentek Energy LLC, an analysis firm based in Evergreen, Colo., also predicts in its study that natural gas production could quintuple to some 3 billion cubic feet by 2025 in the Williston Basin, which includes the Dakotas and Montana.
North Dakota Pipeline Authority Director Justin Kringstad, North Dakota Petroleum Council Director Ron Ness and Alison Ritter, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Mineral Resources, said North Dakota’s natural gas potential could be parlayed into value-added industries from fertilizer to petroleum products in the state and beyond.
“This is an invitation for industry to come in and invest in North Dakota, if they haven’t already,” Ritter said.
Or not. Here’s part of a story from the Oil and Gas Journal this week.
The pace of oil drilling could slow in the Bakken formation in North Dakota and also in the Eagle Ford shale in South Texas if US prices were to drop below $80/bbl for a sustained period, said Baker Hughes Inc.’s president and chief executive officer.
“I think the shoe’s dropping in South Texas, no doubt about it,” Martin S. Craighead said during a July 20 second-quarter Baker Hughes earnings conference call. “I’m a little bit more concerned about the Bakken than I am (about) the Permian [basin],” he said.
Separately, Barclays Capital analyst Amrita Sen wrote in a July 10 research note thatNorth Dakota might be experiencing a slowdown after the state has repeatedly reported record drilling. “The largest drillers in the Bakken are all reducing their rig counts this month, although none acknowledge a change in drilling plans,” Sen said, citing a sharp drop in oil prices during June. That oil price drop cast doubts about the viability of shale production at prices below $80/bbl.
Well, Gee, I suppose we better all be hoping for the price of oil to stay above $80 a barrel. And that will keep our gas prices hanging in there close to $4.00 a gallon too.
NOW THAT’S A REALLY BOLD CHARGE
The Fargo Forum reported Monday that Joseph Etelt of Fargo was arrested for walking down a Fargo street wearing nothing but shoes and socks early Sunday morning. The charge, according to the Forum story: Suspicion of indecent exposure. Suspicion? Ya think? When police asked why he was naked, he replied “Why not?” Drunk, too. Really drunk. Well, at least he was walking, not driving.
HONEST, HONEY, IT’S JUST TEMPORARY
There’s a funny story going around political circles these days about Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate Kirsten Baesler’s breast implants (no, she didn’t do it just for the campaign—she did it a couple years ago—although she may have had a long-term plan and this was the beginning of her implementation). Seems Kirsten didn’t bother to tell her then-husband (they have since divorced—he claims infidelity, she claims he was a drunk) that she was going to do it, and so to explain it to him when she came home, she told him a story about having a biopsy or lump removed or something like that, and, and claimed her doctor said there would be some “swelling” for a while. Except that the “swelling” didn’t seem to go down. Still, her husband remained convinced (love really IS blind sometimes) that it was just a matter of time, until his sister finally took him aside and said something like “Dude. She got a boob job.” Turns out he was about the only one who bought the “swelling” story. Friends of the couple say she caused quite a stir in church when she walked down the aisle wearing a tight blouse shortly after the procedure.
Last week you read about a company named Halek Operating ND, LLC (LLC, incidentally, means Limited Liability Corporation, which, if history is any teacher, could prove to be prophetic, at least in this case) getting slapped with a $1.5 million fine by the North Dakota Industrial Commission for oilfield waste violations—specifically, for dumping 800,000 gallons of saltwater down a well. Yes, you read that right. Eight hundred thousand gallons. The Industrial Commission is North Dakota Republicans Governor Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.
“There will not be any exceptions or leniency when these things happen,” Dalrymple said during the discussion.
No sooner had Dalrymple made that statement and voted “aye” on the motion, than industry lackey Lynn Helms, who’s supposed to be the state’s top oil “regulator” jumped in quickly with a caveat: The company has the right to challenge the fine and ask for a hearing. Which meant “Hey, guys, now that my bosses have had their front page headline for acting tough here, don’t worry, we’ll set up a hearing and see what we can do about that outrageous amount.”
What? You say, you’re finding it hard to believe a state official would think like that? Well, don’t believe me. Read this story. Last year, the very same company received an Industrial Commission fine of almost $600,000 for not cleaning up an oil spill. The result of that case: A hearing, and the company ended up paying only about $60,000, about ten per cent of the original fine. Helms managed to save the company about half a million dollars. Oh, and the company had to post a $20,000 bond, in case it happened again.
Well, it’s happened again. No exceptions or leniency, Governor? Uh huh. Do you think maybe if they had actually had to pay that $600,000 fine last year, they’d have been a little more careful about dumping 800,000 gallons of saltwater down a well this year? We’ll see if that $20,000 bond is enough to cover their $1.5 million fine. Wanna bet? I think I’m gonna find out when that hearing is and sit in. Anyone want to join me?
The Dickinson Press (owned by Forum Communications of Fargo) Publisher and Editor, Harvey Brock and Jenifer McBride, wrote a great editorial about this the other day. You can read it here.
A couple of humorous side notes to this story:
If you go to the Halek Operating ND LLC website, the company that dumped 800,000 gallons of salt water down a well, you’ll find this statement—one of the great Freudian slips I’ve seen lately—on their home page: Our goal is to discover oil and gas reserves in North Dakota with the potential of brining steady returns to our clients.
I put a note about this story on my Facebook page last week, and speculated that the criminal charges against the guy charged with doing this would probably eventually be dropped. One of my Facebook (and personal) friends, Monte Rogneby, who has a great sense of humor, happens to be the guy’s attorney. He commented: “Can I hope the criminal charges go away? ”
A WILD GOOSE CHASE
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department this week sent out a press release announcing they were going to request a 15-goose daily limit for the early Canada Goose hunting season which begins in about 3 weeks. There’s a lot of geese around, the boys at Game and Fish say, so let’s open up on them. Yeah, right. Y’know, I really long for the days of Dale Henager and Lloyd Jones, who were both good biologists, but weren’t grandstanders like the current Game and Fish Commissioner and his staff. That’s right. These guys are just grandstanding—gee, we’re sorry, the oil industry has really taken over the deer habitat, we’re cutting deer licenses in half, but hey, we’re going to let you shoot 15 geese a day.
Here’s what’s wrong with this. The season runs from August 15 into September. The Canada geese are sitting around on small lakes in family groups of 5 or 10, not in the big flocks of hundreds you need to find to have a big goose shoot. So you can’t go out in the evening and scout big flocks, then set out decoys in the morning, and shoot lots of geese. Realistically, no one is going to get the opportunity to shoot 15 geese in a day. Second, no one is going to want to take home 15 giant Canada geese. Sheesh, the freezer would be full the first day of a season that lasts until late December. Most of us don’t shoot 15 geese in a season, much less in a day.
I really hope we elect a new governor in November so we can clean house at Game and Fish.
Have you been watching Aaron Sorkin's new series on HBO, "The Newsroom"? If not, you should. It's an interesting program. Sorkin -- who was the creator of "The West Wing" show that ran from 1999 to 2006 on NBC years ago -- has put together another show with great acting, fantastic camera work, great writing, fast action and a truckload of made-for-TV sexual tension. Sounds like an all-around great show, right? It is, but there is one basic, fundamental flaw with the program: It is completely unbelievable.
To understand, let's take a look at part of the opening scene of the very first episode of the show:
Again, that's the beginning of the first show. Or much of the beginning. You missed a little bit before this clip starts, but you get the drift of what it's about.
So what is so unbelieveable about that monologue?
You have to watch the entire first show -- and maybe the second show in the series -- to eventually figure out that the character talking -- played by actor Jeff Daniels -- is a conservative, Republican news program anchor. The character's name is "Will McAvoy." McAvoy is supposed to be like a nationally recognized Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity-type guy. In the series (so far), Daniels' character has become fed up with the crazyness of the Republican Party and its teabagger majority. He can't believe that his once great party has given up on science and given in to greedy billionaires and deer-in-headlights-eyed fundamentalist theocrats. He's brilliant, he's outraged and he's not afraid to take on the right-wing nutjobs and corporatists.
That, my friends, will never, ever, ever happen. Not in my lifetime. Not in a hundred years or more.
There will always be unlimited money backing the Bill O'Reillys of the world who DON'T question the greedy corporatists, teabaggers and theocrats, and there will always be right-wing sheeple who eat up their every word. And there will never be room for a real-life Will McAvoy character in real-world America.
So... the entire premise of Sorkin's show is not credible. There are no Republicans with that kind of integrity anymore. And if there were, they would never -- not in a million years -- be allowed to anchor a conservative news program.
That's why reasonable conservatives are walking away from the Teapublican Party. They don't feel welcome there anymore.
The Dem-NPL commissioned another ND-Sen poll from DFM Research out of Minnesota. They polled 400 likely voters in North Dakota, and things are looking good for Heidi Heitkamp and aren't looking bleak for Rick Berg.
These poll results (and Berg's unreleased internals) probably explains why the slumshark is using unwitting surrogates to go on the offensive in his campaign ads. He's in trouble, and he knows it. But he has to do something, so he's spending lots of money on his smarmy ads. Gotta wonder what women voters think of his brand of smarm.
The next question people should be asking is this: Will Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers Crime Family recognize North Dakota's senate seat is going to cost them too much money and go buy up some other state's airwaves, or are they going to really ramp up their dishonest, hypocritical and occasionally illegal ads?