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Tom Davies

Judge Tom Davies wielded the gavel in Fargo's Municipal Court for nearly 40 years, the longest term of any elected official in the city's history, until health problems forced his retirement in 2012. Born in Grand Forks, the UND business and law graduate has lived in Fargo since 1956, when his father, Ronald Davies, was appointed a federal judge. The outspoken, irreverent jurist remains an insatiable consumer of news, sharing his observations in Moorhead's weekly newspaper, The Extra … and now here on the Fish blog. As a child, Davies delivered the Grand Forks Herald and sold them on the street corner.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Help And Believe

Around the country and right here in Fargo-Moorhead, there are victims of abuse, both men and women, who suffer in silence. They are silent because few believe them when they voice their concerns.

The dumbing down of America at the national level does not help. Look at the people who the president has surrounded himself with:

  • Rob Porter, accused of abusing two ex-wives.
  • Steve Bannon, charged with domestic violence.
  • Steve Wynn, resigned after being exposed as a serial abuser.
  • Andy Puzder, accused of domestic violence.
  • Cory Lewandowski, accused of battery domestic assault.
  • And Donald J. Trump himself, accused by 20 women of groping and sexual assault.

Our president supports the men without offering one word of condolence to the female victims. Our congressional majority and most members of the minority generally sit without comment, thereby giving silent approval to the men and disbelief to the women.

To be sure, there are also men who are vilified and beaten by their female partners. But as men, they are ashamed to admit this to anyone because it would reflect badly on their “manhood.”

At both state and national levels, people who spoke so sanctimoniously about their moral superiority are resigning in droves after having been caught in illicit affairs, as well as pedophilia. We get what we elect!

We don’t need to play the blame game. What we need is truth. That means when there is a claim of abuse, we as a people have to listen and act. Yes, there may be an occasional false alarm, but I’d bet the facts show them to be few and far between.

As a people, we have to be concerned with the welfare of our neighbors — men, women and children — and that means we must listen. In schools of all types, every report of abuse must be investigated, not shoved under the rug. That requires people’s participation.

In Fargo-Moorhead and our surrounding communities, if you simply Google “counseling and abuse services,” you will find many professional agencies that provide help to victims of rape and assault as well as domestic abuse, including both physical and (just as important) verbal abuse. Safe houses and medical services are available to help, and we have the best lawyers in the country to provide assistance.

If you have a friend or acquaintance who needs help, don’t just sit and worry about them. Take a chance — get involved! Try to help them help themselves. Lives can be saved and years of abuse stopped by convincing the people who need help to get it.

Once they know they can seek assistance with their privacy insured, they may take that first big step.

The odds are that when you first learn about abuse, it’s not the first time it has happened. We as human beings have to get involved and forget the cute action names that are used. Actual help and guidance are not just a catchphrase. They are an act of kindness towards those who need kindness the most.

I know it’s not easy to get involved. But I’d rather lose a friend by trying to help them than sit by and whine as I watch them suffer.

It’s not a matter of what women must do to be believed. It’s what every one of us needs to do when we hear the sound of pain. If you hear it — act. If you can’t act, call one of the many agencies in the community to find out what to do next. They’ll be a great resource.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. The same is true with humans: You can show them how to get the help they need, but in the end, it is their decision whether or not to accept it.

For too many years, men have been passing laws and telling women what they can and cannot do with their own bodies. Now it’s time for the men to butt out. Concerned people must to take off the gloves and attack this problem.

No one wants to break up families. Nor do we want individual family members to be broken down. Get involved or don’t complain. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Equal Under The Law In The USA?

I think Lady Liberty would be crying right now if she were human. Given the events of recent days, echoing the worst days from our history, I cannot fathom what it would be like to be an immigrant, a nonwhite person or a dreamer.

The executive and legislative branches of government right now are treating humans like cattle in their unending war to gain political advantage. Instead of behaving like adults, too many follow the lead of the childish and dangerous 45 — no way to solve this nation’s problems.

Philadelphia experienced all kinds of misbehavior after the Eagles won the Super Bowl on Sunday. Some called it “rioting,” while others brushed it off as limited bad behavior. In a city that large, “limited bad behavior” would be like torching the whole downtown of a city the size of Fargo.

No matter what they call it in Pennsylvania, if nonwhites had committed those acts, you can bet the farm there would have been large-scale arrests. The last reports I’ve seen reported just three arrests, though there may have been a few more since then.

When the Minnesota Vikings played in Pennsylvania, the local fans’ behavior was both obnoxious and unlawful, as well as completely dangerous. We’ve heard about urinating on people, throwing full cans of beer, head-butting and other physical contact. And no arrests?

While I certainly don’t equate the situations in Pennsylvania and North Dakota, does anyone remember the level of force used to quash the protesters at Standing Rock? Does anyone recall the hundreds of arrests — arrests that subsequently resulted in multiple dismissals?

Recently federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement — ICE — has been arresting people at work, at church and while dropping their children off at school. Physicians, U.S. military veterans and parents have been hauled off and deported, sometimes without a chance even to say goodbye to their families.

What kind of country deports people under these circumstances? How dare they even consider arresting veterans who have earned citizenship through their service, even if present law does not reflect that.

It isn’t the nation that is the problem. It is our totally dysfunctional government. There is no excuse for the DACA situation, with the lives of hundreds of thousands who were brought here as children left hanging in the balance. President Obama provided leadership, but 45 revoked Obama’s executive order with his own. The current president did have the right to revoke the order, but he also had a duty to have a new plan in place before doing so — assuming he knew what he was doing, and I don’t think he did — or at least now, as the deadline he set is looming.

While Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues his investigation, 45 perfects his frustrated-monkey yowl and attacks the investigation that is steadily moving forward. This, of course, is the same 45 who promised to release the flawed GOP intelligence “report” before he had even read it.

Too many people excuse his bad behavior. Too many buy into his obvious lies. They seemingly couldn’t care less.

But the president of these dimwits is about to walk right into a constitutional crisis. In doing so, he lashes out like a … well, I was going to say “child,” but I’m not insulting children. He has no concept about how his words are taken by the rest of the world.

I once again urge those people in government who support him to take away his Twitter and his cellphone and lock him in a room until the Mueller investigation is complete.

If, as the president says, he’s not guilty of collusion or obstruction, why on Earth is he doing everything in his power to block the investigation? If he had a filter of any type and was genuinely innocent, 45 should have sat back, laughed and waited until Mueller was done. He did not.

His actions speak louder than words! They are the actions of a man who has something nefarious to hide. In the meantime, he places our country in danger and the congressional majority does nothing to protect our democracy.

I’ve said this before: It is the third branch of government, the judiciary, that will ultimately restore this country to its greatness. Trump has lost most of the legal battles he has faced, and he is about the lose the biggest one of all. The question is not “if,” but “when.” Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Espionage, Not Treason

With all of the news relating to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, some terms have been loosely thrown around.

A number of talking heads have been referring to the investigation of the Russian matter as “treason.” That is not correct. Treason is defined as “the practice of spying or using spies, typically by governments to obtain political and military information.”

Under Article III, Section 3, of the Constitution of the United States, treason can be committed only during times of war!

Espionage, on the other hand, is defined as “the practice of spying or of using spies, typically by governments to obtain political and or military information.” It consists among other things, of infiltration; eavesdropping; surveillance, reconnaissance, intelligence and undercover work.

Rep. Devon Nunes, R-Calif., who served on the House Committee on the Judiciary, was supposed to be disqualified from anything Russian. Remember him? He’s the man who last year went to the White House in the middle of the night, got materials to slime the Russian investigation, and then — dimwit that he is —returned the materials to the White House … and was caught doing it.

Then we have retired Gen. John F. Kelly, the man with supposedly perfect credentials, who is the chief of staff to 45. Kelly was brought in to potty-train 45 and bring order to the executive office. He has failed miserably.

I initially considered Kelly a good choice to keep the undisciplined president under control, but he hasn’t. In fact by now, 45 seems to have potty-trained Kelly.

The real world understands that the president has no right to tell the FBI, CIA or Justice Department how to do their jobs. He especially has a duty not to interfere with their investigations.

Yet Kelly contacted the Justice Department and FBI and made it clear that the president wanted certain individuals removed. The president also said he wanted that infamous memo prepared by Nunes’ staff released — after the legal divisions of the agencies said that such a release could jeopardize security and endanger sources of information.

I’m watching the destruction of our values on a scale I could never have imagined. Those who are interfering with a lawful investigation that is in the best interests of this country are, in my opinion, guilty of espionage. Putin loves them. Because he does, we should not.

There is no one who can control this lying, name-calling, childish president. But I can tell you one thing, as I’ve been saying ever since 45 lost the popular vote in 2016: The investigation will continue. The president will be required to testify. Though the Trey Gowdys and Nuneses will, with their gang of scofflaws, continue to block the truth … and the final arbiter will be the courts.

In case you haven’t noticed, 45’s record with the courts since becoming president is dismal. It’s just about as bad as his record in business.

Remember, the original investigation was to determine whether there was Russian interference in our election. That has been determined to be fact beyond the shadow of a doubt. Counsel is simply following the trail.

You can take this to the bank: Special Counsel Mueller will complete his investigation. Either the president will suffer, or he will not. A lot of folks who should never have been brought into government have already been exposed, and there will be more to come. Hold onto your seats. The battle is just starting. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Oh, Say, Can You See? Not!

I wonder how many people are aware of the unseen heroics among our fellow neighbors. The extreme cold, accompanied by recent blizzard-like conditions often blocking visibility, placed too many of our fellow humans in unnecessary situations.

City, county and state police officers are on duty 24/7, 365 days a year. When unsafe driving conditions develop but drivers throw caution to the wind and drive as if it was warm and sunny — and then hit the ditch or another vehicle — it is the law and emergency personnel who must face the elements to save their lives.

I can’t imagine how our firefighters and ambulance crews can do their jobs in the extreme wind and cold we’ve experienced lately. But they do, and do them very well.

I also watched during that period of extreme cold while the postal workers walked their mail routes. They delivered on time and without complaint. During most of the worst weather, they were not only out on deliveries … they got them out on time. So much work with so little public thanks and notice!

The people who walk or drive their paper routes get the job done regardless of weather, too, which always amazes me. When I was young, I had a weekend paper route of my own. I can’t say I ever adjusted to lousy weather.

City, county and state workers charged with keeping our roadways clear have done a wonderful job. If only those who use the roads in miserable conditions had the good sense to drive at safe intervals and at safe speeds, especially when approaching the plows.

And there are other unseen workers, too. City staffers are charged with dealing with the winter water main breaks. In spite of the weather, they give it all they have. Yet few of us recognize their hard work and dedication.

Consider how time-sensitive our broadcast meteorologists operate. When lousy weather approaches, they are at their best. They save lives in doing so without taking credit due them. It’s always easy to yowl like a castrated monkey when the weather predictors are wrong. But somehow it seems to be much more difficult to give them a heads-up when they are (usually) right.

Our local radio and TV stations also must be commended for keeping us abreast of dangerous conditions. Behind those voices on the radio or TV are real people. (Oh, there might be an exception or two.) They truly display dedication and concern for their communities

I do a fast boil when I read about auto accidents in which someone dies and they aren’t wearing their seat belts. Some say it should be a matter of choice. To that, I say, “It is my choice not to have you body-slam into my car and die because of it.” Once you die, I have to live with that, even though I had no legal fault. So don’t tell me it should be a matter of choice. Wearing seat belts should be the law. If you can’t see that, you shouldn’t have the privilege of driving.

Last but not least — since my subject is what I see around me — distracted driving should carry a primary and serious penalty. When you’re driving and turn around or look down or to the right or left to tap out your message, you place everyone around you at risk. The same applies to those hands-free phones. Some people keep their eyes on the road while their hands are free and they’re talking — the phone’s intended purpose. Far too many seem to actually look at the phone on their dash while they’re talking. That, my friends, is like driving blind.

To all of our outdoor workers of all types — I salute you! Keep up the good work. And to everyone who drives around with a loud muffler disturbing the peace: May you meet your friendly police officer, and soon, and be glad you’re not going to appear in my court. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — The Right To Be Silent

In this country, we have the right to remain silent. But there are times where we also have the duty to speak out. We now live in a time when to remain silent is an act of cowardice, racism and bigotry.

I’m not going to dignify this POTUS by quoting his recent disgusting statement referencing the entire African continent. He was, of course, talking about banning folks from those countries whose people just happen to be black! It’s not unlike his constant attacks on Mexico, whose people happen to be brown. Of course, he also has little positive to say about China, which has the largest population on Earth, which happen to be yellow.

Have you noticed that the only time the president takes on someone face to face, it’s when he has a microphone in his tiny hands … and it’s either a female reporter or a female member of Congress. Since he moved into the Oval Office, have you seen him say one critical thing to a male, mano a mano? Perhaps in the case of men, I might have missed a moment or two of bravery. But I doubt it.

The next time you see POTUS speaking to the press, watch his posture. When he is seated and on the defensive, he crosses his arms, literally hugging himself. When he’s in that posture while being questioned, he really lashes out. In this defensive position, he even can summon up the guts to insult some media males.

When he is standing at a podium and controls the mic, he doesn’t hug himself. Instead, he gestures from right to left, left to right, until you can predict which direction he’ll opt. He learned that on “The Apprentice”! Actually, his behavior suggests he didn’t really learn much of anything from his hit TV show— but you can bet the farm that the participants on that show recognized his dictatorial style long before the public did.

We don’t get to make any more excuses for the state of our country. Before we voted for him, we were told what this man had done to the small businesses that contracted to do work for him. We were told that, as a landlord, the court stepped in to rescind his ban on renting to blacks. We were told all about his sexual improprieties. We knew fidelity was not his strong point, as evidenced by his multiple marriages. We knew all this and more … but still elected him.

I am always amused by those who claim they voted for POTUS rather than Hillary Clinton, referring to her as a “crook” and every demeaning comment imaginable. When you ask them for a concrete example of her sins, they either go silent or refer to a phony scandal like Benghazi. Sen. Tom Cotton led a panel that cost our country millions of dollars “investigating” the charges. He and his attack dogs came up with absolutely nothing because there was nothing there.

Previously I referred to some of POTUS’ shortcomings. Here are some more: his attack on the United States Supreme Court; his attacks on federal district and appellate courts; and his attack on one judge in particular who he stated should be disqualified because he was of Mexican heritage. (That judge was born and raised right here in the U.S. Even if he had not been, I’d say, “So what!”)

If our veterans, teachers, child-care centers and middle-income people are going to be hurt as much by his tax bill as experts have estimated, the term “absolute liar” will stick to him forever.

* * *

OK, I’ve just been reminded of something completely different — how lucky I am to be alive. When I worked in my law firm, my wife was my bookkeeper. When I occasionally left before she did, I’m told I always asked her on my way out the door, “What’s for dinner?” The staff — many of whom are still our friends today — would have a good laugh, asking her why she put up with me.

I wonder to this day how she did it. I’m a lucky man. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — In My Day, Kids Were (Fill In The Blank)

Last week, I described some of my youthful contemporaries as “daring.” Now I’ll return to my youthful adventures … but this time, leave it to you, the reader, to fill in the blank.

I’ve been describing youthful fun on the Grand Forks skating rink. Now let’s recall a much more dangerous pursuit — the American Flexible Flyer and the Champion Sno-Line downhill sleds.

They were the fastest and the best-steering sleds on the market. They turned, cut and jumped (if you aimed) down any hill, provided you had the proper drivers.

In Riverside Park just down the street from Seward Avenue was what is known as the DeMers estate. A large lot surrounded by a high brick wall, it was an attraction to visitors. Right beside it and outside its walls were a series of hills that ran down to the Red River. It was there that youthful lives were endangered … all because our parents trusted us to have good fun when we went sledding.

Our neighborhood gang of boys loved those hills. Some were steep, some were gradual, and all were fun. We always groomed the hills by first sliding down on cardboard after a fresh snow to flatten it and create a track.

Sometimes those cardboard pieces would drive you right into bushes or trees. But that is a story for another day.

Once the various trails had been created, we created some sled jumps. For those who haven’t had this experience, that means at certain points on the downhill trail we’d create jumps for the sleds to fly off of. They were real jumps, and we really flew.

One day someone got extra creative. We created parallel downhill runs on both sides of the main run. Then we added a cut from one side to the other, right in front of each of the other.

Now imagine yourself on the main hill on your sled, with one of your friends on the run right next to you. Your friend starts slightly ahead of you. Then you cut loose on your sled. If you time everything just right, your friend will get to a jump slightly ahead of you, and — if everything was timed right, you’d fly over the top of your friend, and both of you would continue down the hill.

Now, the first time we tried the jump, we should have learned our lesson. The first time, the jump wasn’t packed right. As the sled on the main run hit the jump, it went through it, not over. That meant crunch time for your friend, who had assumed you would go over, not through him.

But we were young and daring. The experience didn’t deter us. After a few tries and crashes, we succeeded in getting it right without any injuries more serious than scratches and broken sleds.

Once we had conquered the hills and run them for a few weekends, we decided (just once) to get more creative. One of the guys had a big toboggan. Those things came in three sizes — short, medium and too damned long. We opted for the long one, since it was our only option.

Now visualize six young boys on that toboggan, hanging onto the rope handles that were the only means to keep you on it. Now watch as those kids moved it to the center sled run, the one with the jump, yelled like paratroopers jumping out of a plane, and launched.

Hanging on for dear life, they hit the first of the jumps. By golly, that unit launched like an airplane taking off.

The landing, however, was not so good. The toboggan, with no one able to control it, veered to the side, off the jump, and into some brush and small trees — coming to a stop against a tree that was definitely not small.

There is no way to describe that stop, nor the cries of fear when the unit went airborne. Nor was there any way to describe the emotions of the friend whose parents owned the toboggan.

The unit did not have seat belts, so when it stopped, we all went flying into each other, into branches and into small trees. Thank God no one (but the toboggan) hit that big tree. It did, in fact, scare us senseless.

Even more fearful was what we thought would happen when the father who owned the machine came down to view the pieces. The unit was splintered and useless. What did that father do? Since we were not hurt, he just laughed his butt off.

Such were the good times in the early 1950s. And yet, we survived. We were young and sometimes foolish, but we made it the best of times for young men creating their own entertainment. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — In My Day, Kids Were Daring

We all have memories of the good old days. The older one gets, the more unusual they seem.

When I was a young lad growing up in Grand Forks, N.D., the only inside rink in the city was the University of North Dakota arena. It was a glorified farm shed with no heating, and when it was cold outside, it was butt-busting freezing cold inside.

The seating was plain hard wooden benches, but when the Fighting Sioux played hockey, that place was always full. It didn’t have near the seating of the new arena, but it sure was a sociable place to be.

I learned even as a kid that when each period ended, there would be a stampede to the concessions counter for coffee, cocoa, hot dogs and anything that was hot and cheap. I learned early on that when you wanted to get through the crowd in the eatery fast, all you had to do was hold a cup over your head — full or empty — and yell “hot coffee.” The crowd would part like the Red Sea.

Grand Forks had outdoor skating rinks all over town, each with its own warming house. Back in the day, people had just one car if they were lucky. You walked to those rinks or took a bus.

It’s a good thing they didn’t have wind chill charts in those days, or there would have been no hockey games at all. But there would be games every weekend. We’d put on coats, hoods, scarves and big gloves over our Park Board hockey equipment. It was usually so cold that there were no spectators … only the teams playing and those waiting to play.

When we weren’t playing hockey, we’d just go down in the evening and speed skate, jump barrels, barrel into snowbanks and basically show off for the girls. If the wind was low, the temperature didn’t really make any difference because everyone was constantly moving.

The warming houses were always manned by Park Board employees. They kept the furnaces or stoves red hot so the houses were toasty warm. They had no gas-operated stoves back in the 1950s. Instead, they relied on good old hand-chopped logs.

We’d go after supper and not return until the warming house closed between 8 and 9 p.m. All of the ice was cleaned by a pickup truck with a plow, if it happened to be available. Otherwise, we had wide plow-like shovels. We’d push them from one end of the rink to the other until all was cleared. Sometimes by the time we finished cleaning, it was time to walk home. And no matter what the temperature was when we finally got to skate, that night walk home was always colder than a well driller’s behind (as my father liked to put it).

While I was in the first eight grades, my friends and I played hockey all winter on a daily basis. By the time I was in seventh grade, I was lucky enough to make the citywide all-star team that was selected to play the Winnipeg all-stars. The first game was in Grand Forks, the second in Manitoba (Canada). There was not much of a crowd in Grand Forks, but the game drew thousands in Winnipeg. It was both fun and exciting. I thought that hockey was definitely going to be my sport of choice.

Such was not to be. When I started high school at St. James Academy, they dropped hockey. It was restarted when I was in my junior year, but then we moved to Fargo. That year, Shanley dropped hockey. By the time I graduated, both schools had reinstated their programs. For me, though, the four years off denied me my hope of playing college hockey.

In my grade-school years, we liked to go for rides by hooking our sticks on a bumper. A real trick was to sling your hockey stick and skates over your back and then grab onto the bumper and slide to the rink … without killing your buddies who were doing the same thing on the same bumper at the same time.

We got a few nicks and bumps, but we did get there on time. Hitting the old streetcar tracks, though, could be a problem. If you got caught in a rut, your ankles would take a hit. Then you’d usually let go, sliding around with either your stick or the skates that swung from it creasing the heads or other parts of your buddies.

I’m still not sure if it was our parents going nuts trying to figure out why our boots were wearing out so fast or the bus company putting spotters on the back of the bus. Either way, by seventh grade, that had stopped.

Nowadays, if you did what we did, you’d be in juvenile court in a nanosecond. Back then, though, there were very few cop cars to cover a pretty large area. I wouldn’t give up my youthful memories for anything, but it’s probably best. Had I been born in this generation with the same playful tendencies, I’d be writing of my experiences not as a retired judge, but as a reformed juvenile.

I’m entering this year in good health and I wish everyone a happy — and, more importantly, a healthy — new year. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — 2018 … Ready or Not, Here We Come

It’s odd how people will read this column or one of my posts on Facebook and conclude I don’t like folks at the local and state level. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

On an individual basis, I like everyone on the Fargo City Commission. I have not met a state or county official I don’t personally like. At the federal level, I guess they’re right, at least about two out of three. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is my favorite. I have no difficulty separating friendship from political ideology. Surprise! While I have Democratic leanings, I also have many Republican friends. That won’t change.

Now we learn that POTUS 45 has directed the Centers for Disease Control to ban the use of the words “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender” and “fetus,” along with “evidence-based” and “science-based.” Reports indicate that the entire Health Department may follow suit.

It’s odd how those words describe groups most in need of protection. First, he attacks the media! Then he attacks the courts! Then he praises hate groups like the KKK! Then he limits freedom of speech! Then he proposes that opponents and reporters should be jailed! Then he relies on Fox News and Sean Hannity for his world view! Then he blows his cork each and every time someone says or does something he doesn’t like — like the recently revealed story from last June, when he considered dumping his Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch for telling a senator he found 45’s attacks on the court system “disheartening and demoralizing.” I could fill up the rest of this paper with a list of his attacks on countless targets. You get the idea.

This man apparently wants to be a dictator, emperor or king. He has no idea what it takes to actually govern a democracy.

The dumbest lawyers in the world seem to be those who are trying to provide advice to this president. He takes no advice. His legal counsel are apparently too stupid to tell him that he must either take their learned advice … or they will walk.

Any good lawyer controls his client, and any good lawyer kicks that client’s butt right out the door if he doesn’t take sound legal advice.

Lawyers should have told 45 that some of his federal district and appellate court nominees were totally unfit for the positions offered. In fact, they tried. The American Bar Association, which is nonpartisan, rates candidates for lifetime appointment to the bench. Its committee recently found some of the current crop are not just “unqualified,” but “totally unqualified.” Yet these nominees’ names still made it out of the Senate committee. (Several were subsequently withdrawn because of public outrage.)

That begs the real question: What is the IQ of those who submitted these misfits for approval in the first place?

The best gift for all of the people of this country, for this holiday season and far beyond, would be a positive, simple but far-reaching realization by all of our government leaders, from the top to the local level, to remember that we live in a democracy where the will of the people counts.

We live in a country where we should (but in too many cases do not) judge people by who they are, not by their color, sex or religion.

* * *

Now that the tax bill has passed, the wealthy have every reason to be happy with the law that Congress did not even read before passing. We who are not so financially comfortable — we who need affordable health care, the average citizen — will take it in the shorts. Remember, the tax cuts they’ve legislated for individual citizens all expire in 2025 and go back to where they are today. But the tax cuts for corporations and businesses are permanent, ad infinitum!

Because my pancreas was infected and almost totally destroyed several years ago, I am now a Type 1 diabetic, with all the extreme medical expenses that carries. The United States already pays the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. The last thing we need is to put a pharmaceutical executive in charge of the Department of Health and Human Services, which regulates prescription drugs.

Nowhere in the world are drug prices as high as they are in this country. That in and of itself is unacceptable. Yet 45 has appointed Alex Azar, the head of Eli Lily, to head the powerful agency. Azar is a man who values drug prices and profits over people’s lives. That’s a demonstrable fact.

You can take this to the bank: The judicial system will be called upon at both state and federal levels to address many problems of concern to the average citizen. There is no shortage of groups willing to take the abuse to task and into the courts. It may take time, but I am sure of one thing — we will take back our country at every level, and it’s going to happen in my lifetime. (And I’m 78, so that means it damn well better happen fast.)

At his private Christmas dinner at Mar-a-Lago with his wealthy friends, 45 announced his recent tax bill has made them all even wealthier. For once, he was telling the truth. He played the Senate like a fiddle to get the votes to pass it; lies just don’t bother the man. What is worse is that others who are in power know he’s lying, but support him anyway. Do you remember how he claimed the changes in the bill would mean he himself would suffer financially? Clearly, that’s another lie … but until he reveals his tax returns, which he refuses to do, we will not know the rest of the story.

I’m an optimist. I believe good will always prevails over evil. While this country is taking a big hit both here at home and overseas, our democratic system of government will eventually regain its balance, its prominence and its leadership role in the world. This is my wish for the new year. Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Pull Your Head Out Of Your Grass!

North Dakota has some unusual situations involving marijuana. On the one hand, the people voted to legalize it for medicinal purposes. After more than a year, the Legislature (that didn’t support the legislation) is still studying the issue.

What legislators and the Health Department tasked with implementing the law are using for brains is beyond me. Men, women and children of all ages suffer debilitating pain and other horrible symptoms from a host of terrible diseases and conditions that may be eased by medical marijuana products. There is no lack of studies that show the positive effects of medical use. Yet North Dakota is still taking its time in carrying out the people’s wishes.

Perhaps if those in charge of implementing the law had to care for someone in need of that relief for just a day or two, that law — passed by 64 percent of voters in 2016 — would already be in effect. In reality, a spokesman has estimated it could be in place by the end of 2018.

As the politicians are frozen in place in implementing an actual need, others with dollar bills ringing in their heads are petitioning North Dakota to legalize the social use of marijuana. In my humble opinion, that is one bad idea.

We already have legal sales of alcohol killing enough people. Legal alcohol condemns many to the disease of alcoholism. In a perfect world, those statistics would lead to totally banning its sale. But this is not a perfect world.

If people could not abuse alcohol, that would be good. At least, you do have to be 21 to purchase it — notwithstanding that the use starts in the early teens in far too many people.

But I digress. If marijuana (hereinafter referred to as MJ) is legalized, you can look for a lot more problems involving abuse and impairment. Yes, some states have legalized it, but no one is publicizing any adverse effects.

The adult world sets the standard for what is acceptable in mood-altering substances. So far, they simply suck at what they do.

If ever there was a time when we need positive role models for both children and adults, it is now. Standards for what is acceptable have dropped to an absolute minimum, as evidenced by the happenings in our federal government. (By the way, I face difficulty in finding material to criticize on the Minnesota side, but sure have no problem in North Dakota and at the federal level.)

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Here in Fargo, a task force has been appointed to consider changing the way we vote on city commissioners, as well as adding more members to the board. Its recommendations included increasing the size of the commission, a suggestion with which I totally agree, and changing the way we vote, which I’m not sure about.

One commissioner suggested the proposal to increase the number is a solution looking for a problem. He hasn’t heard any complaints. That’s a fair assessment, except but for one thing! After the task force came to its conclusions, the city — instead of conducting a citywide poll to get a read on public opinion — simply told the supporters to do it by petition if they felt that strongly about it.

Perhaps we might study the issue of open minds in city government. The commission and Civil Service Commission both seem to rubber-stamp whatever complaints that the city departments submit to them — i.e., the case of David Boelke, who finally got his name cleared this week by the North Dakota Police Officer Standards and Training Board with no assistance from either group, as well as the case of a former chief of police. (There are other examples, but this is not a research article.)

Every once in a while, I think there should be a city oversight group that might monitor board activities. When they find a potential problem, they should submit a report and hope it is acted upon.

Fargo is a great city, a wonderful place to live with wonderful resources — but politically at the both the local and state levels, they ought to be listening and acting. When someone tells us they “haven’t heard of any problems,” it begs the question: Did you ask? Amen.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Our Heroes Fight All Kinds Of Threats

With recent weather disasters, fires and other events of a historical nature ravaging this country, I hope all of us remember who the true heroes really are.

The firefighters on the ground and in the air risk their lives every day, but particularly in the California fires, as well as those areas ravaged by the rash of hurricanes, floods and other unusual weather. With the winds and lack of rain, their situation can only get worse.

The news makes me wonder why those who control our federal resources aren’t making use of the U.S. military, including the Air Force with its countless helicopters, to fly in supplies. They could also act as flying extinguishers to aid to the firefighters and transport them to areas of greatest need. A disaster declaration can help, assuming there’s any money left in the budget. But more personnel and supplies are needed right now.

Firefighters serve our communities every day. They aid in many situations that go unseen in addition to their regular duty of extinguishing fires. My hat is off to all of them in our Fargo-Moorhead area, as well as across the country.

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Today, I also commend the heroes of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the domestic intelligence and security service of the United States and the principal federal law enforcement agency. Operating under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Justice, it works closely with the Central Intelligence Agency, which gathers and  focuses on information overseas; but the CIA, unlike the FBI, has no law enforcement authority.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is a combat veteran of the 3rdMarine Division in Vietnam, wounded in action in 1969. He is also a former FBI director appointed by President George W. Bush and a Republican and a friend and working associate of Director James Comey, who was fired by 45 for his investigation of Russian matters. His appointment as special counsel to investigate those questions was greeted with widespread support by both Republican and Democratic legislators. All agreed he is a man of integrity, intelligence and honor. He was given authority to investigate just about anything he thought was important.

But if you can hear, see or read, you know all about the can of worms that has been opened by his diligence.

After doing exactly what he was sworn to do, Mueller and his staff are now being vilified by 45, along with his media arm — Fox News — and some GOP folks who all of a sudden have decided that since the investigation is tilting towards the White House, Mueller isn’t such a good man after all.

Let’s get one thing straight. Mueller, the FBI, the CIA and other governmental individuals and agencies represent we the people — not the White House and not any political party. They are our protection from adversaries both foreign and domestic.

When the president of the United States vomits Russian propaganda as a fact and attacks and demeans our own federal agencies, he puts the nation’s credibility on the line. He exposes our best to exposure, ridicule and even death. Despite all the information our agencies have developed, the president refuses to accept the reality of the Russian disinformation attacks. To this day, he has refused to accept our intelligence findings.

That 45 and his crew of whiners are attacking Mueller makes this writer wonder: What the hell are they so worried about? What do you think? Treason? Collusion? Money laundering? Or, as 45 insists, nothing at all. An innocent man doesn’t act guilty unless he’s hiding something. (You know … like his tax returns.)

I wish the national GOP at the national level would just shut up and let the investigation proceed. Let’s see where it goes. The man who’s leading it is someone they initially said might qualify for sainthood. So let him lead. Amen.