TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — From Soup To Nuts

I had a pretty good week. My lawyer, Sly M. Ball didn’t get raided, and his paper shredder is working just fine. It’s powered by a V-8 Cummins, which gets terrible mileage, but thanks to the rollback of fuel efficiency standards, he won’t have to deal with a solar-powered model.

The problem there is twofold. First of all, most of the shredding takes place at night, and then there’s the issue of sun pollution. Solar panels attract way too much sun and are a major cause of global warming. If there is such a thing. And we know there isn’t because we’ve had a long winter in North Dakota. Case closed.

But I digress. This column is headed in more directions than a presidential tweet.

My point is, Sly is a great lawyer — the kind of guy who would reach into his pocket and pull out $130,000 or brass knuckles, whatever’s necessary, while performing the Art of the Deal. He’s a lot like a Boy Scout — always prepared, evolving on gay rights, and loves animals.

Take for instance the time I got a little behind on “insurance” payments. A lot of guys would have gotten rough, but you know what, Sly didn’t even bring it up. He just dropped off a fresh 5-pound carp wrapped in the fake New York Times and scratched Gus The Wonder Pug’s ears. “Nice pug you got here,” Sly said, “It would be a pity if something happened to him.”

Not many guys care that much. Anyway, the debt is settled. Mexico paid for it. And I’d like to say typing is not impossible without thumbs, butIdostrugglewiththespacebar.

Another big break I got last week was that I wasn’t mentioned in James Comey’s new book. He had a whole chapter on hand sizes, and I think I would have measured up if not for the absence of opposable thumbs.

Comey might be the next James Joyce, but because of his disloyalty to President Trump, he deserved to be fired. It’s like that time I got pulled over exhibition driving. “Where’s your sense of loyalty, officer?” I said. And then I fired him on the spot.

But there’s good economic news out of Washington, D.C. EPA Director Scott Pruitt is single-handedly driving down housing costs in the swamp by negotiating a condo rental from a lobbyist for less than the cost of a room at Motel 6. Motto: “We’ll leave the interrogation light on for you.”

Then, budget hawk Paul Ryan retired from Congress after the Congressional Budget Office calculated the nation could celebrate it’s first trillion dollar defecate in 2020, a celebration that could be bigger than the bicentennial. Instead of confetti, we’ll throw soybeans because we’ll have a lot of them. Said Ryan between squats, “My work here is done.”

Meanwhile in North Dakota, the Republican Deep State held an impromptu pillow party for Tom Campbell, who offended Gov. Burgum by trying to buy an election. He and Kevin Cramer were also upset about Campbell attempting to circumvent the sacred GOP convention process. I’m not saying things got swampy, but Campbell had to waterski home.

Campbell won’t be running, but there will be an ethics measure on the ballot, a concept so puzzling to Republicans not even Rob Port could come up with the definition. “It is a precipitous conundrum of the adjudication of the delineated hypotenuse of misanthropy,” he said. “And frankly, I am outraged, something … something … Heidi Heitkamp!”

Al Carlson was equally outraged when he heard about the measure. “And who’s gonna pay for that?” he demanded. Not Harold Hamm, that’s for sure.

© Tony Bender, 2018

RON SCHALOW — Meet The Bastiats

“But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.” ― Frédéric Bastiat, aka “Monsieur le soleil”

OK. He seems nice.

Until recently, the North Dakota Legislature had two major caucuses. The Republican and the Democratic, as far as I know. Caucus watching was never a hobby of mine.

There are a few intramural caucuses, no doubt. Like the “I Just Wanted The Insurance Caucus,” or the “This Title On My Business Card Looks Great Caucus.” I believe there is a “Prayer Caucus.” I imagine it involves quite a bit of praying. The meetings get pretty wild after school shootings.

Now, there is the Bastiat Caucus because, of course there is. It’s not a secret. They have a Facebook page and a website, and a “bring a Bastiat for boilermakers” day at Peacock Alley Grill & Bar. I think it’s Tuesdays, but no one who drinks boilermakers is fussy about the day.

Anyway, I’m sure that most of our citizens couldn’t give a hoot about the B-Boys because nobody knows what the hell I’m talking about, when I say, Bastiat Caucus.

If you jump out of a closet near an unsuspecting soul, and yell, Bastiat Caucus, you’ll need an orthodontist and an eye patch. Just saying.

The “Kill Lib#$!% Cucks Caucus” name was already taken, so the “Bastiat Caucus” was the obvious second choice. Obscure French 19th century thinkers are all the rage, I imagine, somewhere. Not here, I wouldn’t have thought, in “freedom fry” territory. All living thinkers are obscure, except for the  rare stable geniuses.

Bastiat holds the title of “Father of Libertarianismismism” — an ideology with many fathers and mothers (Ludwig von Mises and Ayn Rand are a couple of the celebs). It has never worked in any practical governmental application, but evidently, that fact isn’t a deal breaker, for the true believers.

In 1825, Bastiat inherited his grandfather’s estate and quit working. This made it easier to live selfishly, bitch about taxes, and walk around looking dapper. Frédéric lorded his 6-foot-high stovepipe hat over the other sporty types. Rumor has it, he kept live chickens in the headwear, which put off the expected odor, and angered the chickens. When not tending to head wounds, he did a lot of serious pondering and brooding. Bastiat contracted tuberculosis and died young in 1850, because it was 1850.

Anyway, Frédéric Bastiat, who developed the economic concept of opportunity cost and introduced the parable of the broken window became the namesake of the caucus. I’m not going to explain either of those concepts, and you don’t want me to.

N.D. legislator Rick Becker, R–District 7, formed the Bastiat Caucus a few years ago, during a blood moon. On his Twitter account, the representative says he is a constitutionalist, a classical liberal, a paleoconservative, a laissez faire capitalist and a libertarian.

Luckily for Becker, most people have no idea what those words mean, which ooze superiority, and impresses the rabble. I used to fish, golf, and monkey around with cars, but nothing paleo. And I thought what I thought. Now I feel bad that I never micro-analyzed every rumination and categorized each of them.

Becker performed strongly at the last republican convention, as a candidate for governor, which gave him a ton of street cred. Delegates are more conservative, than humans anywhere, which is their frightening prerogative. It worked to the representative’s advantage.

Becker is, by far, the brains of the outfit. It’s really not that close. I wasn’t able to ascertain the intellectual level of every Bastiat, since most of them never post, or say anything, but I’ll stand by my statement.

The Bastiats are libertarians, and some of them identify with the alt-right (See the article “Dislike” in the High Plains Reader). Torches are optional. The Bastiats hang around tensely with the regulation genre of republicans, since they ran for office as republicans, which makes the old Elks Club republicans a little prickly.

Basically, the legislature is currently infested with libertarians, who have won seats with the (R) by their name on the ballot.

Had these Bastiats been truthful, they would have run as libertarians, like Jack Seaman, Martin Riske and a few others do every cycle, they would lose. Bigly. Instead, these folks appropriated a known brand, and then tinkered with the innards to suit their tribe. This is how we got “new Coke.”

Moving the NDGOP to the right is the goal, as if that’s necessary. It’s like throwing darts at the already intolerant family Tasmanian Devil to really get it irritated. Legislate angry, my friends.

Why have regulation issue republicans allowed this infiltration? Who knows?

Al Carlson, barely awake, shouts, “What the hell is going on down there, with all that racket? Who is there?

B-Boys. “Nobody! It’s just us Bastiats, sir.”

Al. “WHO?”

“BASTIATS!”

“Screw you, too,” hollers Al. “And stay out of the fridge! Try to keep the gunfire to a minimum, you stupid bastages.”

And that was that.

The Bastiats want an unfettered free market, which we have tried, or gotten pretty close to, and it sucked. One guy named Bud did pretty well, but that’s about it. It’s currently getting pretty unfettered around here.

“Oh, you’d like to just dump your clean coal mining trash in the rivers, huh? Well, hell, we can’t see any reason why not. Enjoy.”

They like freedom, liberty, fewer refugees, homeschooling, property rights, and raw milk, just for starters.

They hate government and want it small. Real small. Bite size. Small enough to drown in the bathtub, paraphrasing Grover Norquist, who is going to need a much larger tub.

Common Core really ticks them off. Government shouldn’t be involved in education, at all. Dig this.

“You say: “There are persons who lack education” and you turn to the law. But the law is not, in itself, a torch of learning which shines its light abroad. The law extends over a society where some persons have knowledge and others do not; where some citizens need to learn, and others can teach. In this matter of education, the law has only two alternatives: It can permit this transaction of teaching-and-learning to operate freely and without the use of force, or it can force human wills in this matter by taking from some of them enough to pay the teachers who are appointed by government to instruct others, without charge. But in the second case, the law commits legal plunder by violating liberty and property.” ― Frédéric Bastiat

“What do think, should parents be able to direct their child’s education in a manner that they feel is best? If that choice means private education, should that parent be forced to fund the public school monopoly, essentially being double dipped?” — Rep. Daniel Johnston

“The most urgent necessity is, not that the State should teach, but that it should allow education. All monopolies are detestable, but the worst of all is the monopoly of education.” ― Frédéric Bastiat

Taxes are theft. If you go by the words of the Bastiat Institute, they aren’t crazy about cops, or anyone getting in their business. Also, no food stamps, or any other helping of the poor. God is with them, but the poor aren’t. Did I mention that?

They really love guns. Immensely. No infringement, and all that. They interpret the Second Amendment improperly, but don’t even bother challenging their rendition. Futile would be the word for it. It’s part of their ideology, and there is no room for pragmatism.

I haven’t heard of any plans to build more, or any, bell towers to let the owners of 50-caliber sniper rifles blow off some steam, but Rep. Luke Simons, from Dickinson, almost blew a gasket, when he got wind of our attorney general even thinking about talking about the bump stock.

“North Dakota state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, along with 32 fellow state attorneys general, recently signed a petition urging Congress to outlaw bump stocks for firearms. Even though the NRA is in to direct opposition to this action. Now is the time to let your voice be heard and contact Stenehjem’s office with your concerns.” — Rep. Luke Simons

Of course, the bump stock and other devices utilized to turn a semiautomatic weapon into an automatic have no useful purpose, except to spray bullets in a general direction. Say you want to kill a lot of people, that are packed tightly together, maybe to watch a concert, and you’re not fussy about which people are hit, get yourself a bump stock. Otherwise, as Simons has said, they are fun to use. Not a good enough reason.

Luke also speaks with the accent of a Confederate general, for some reason, wears a cowboy hat, and has a fine looking set of teeth. Luckily, they aren’t ivory.

Dr. Becker succeeded in passing “constitutional carry” — the way the founders intended, the Bastiats said, which isn’t true, but this is North Dakota.

“The legislation means North Dakota will become one of about a dozen so-called “constitutional carry” states Aug. 1. The bill would allow law-abiding people 18 and older to forgo background checks and classes that are now required. The legislation only requires someone carrying a concealed weapon to have a valid ID and notify law enforcement of the weapon during instances such as a traffic stop.

The bill was among a package of gun-rights measures being considered this session, including allowing people with concealed carry permits to have guns in churches, schools and other public places.” — The Associated Press

Simons and Bastiat buddies forwarded House Bill No. 1391 to circumvent federal laws and regulation, to get our neighborhood bullet and gun garage manufacturing some cover. It’s not constitutional, but hey. They ran a lot of pro-gun Bills, through the legislature last session. Some passed. This one didn’t.

House Bill No. 1381

(Sponsors) Reps. Simons, Rick C. Becker, Ertelt, Johnston, Jones, B. Koppelman, McWilliams, Olson, Toman, Sen, Kannianen

“A personal firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition manufactured commercially or privately in the state and which remains within the state is not subject to federal law or federal regulation, including registration as those items are not subject to regulations related to interstate commerce. This section applies to a firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition manufactured in the state from basic materials and which can be manufactured without the inclusion of any significant parts imported from another state.”

It runs afoul of Frédéric, though.

“When goods do not cross borders, soldiers will.” — Frédéric Bastiat

The Bastiats were successful with their Food Freedom Bill, though. No one had ever been arrested for any of the things they got codified. Baked goods from home are the keystone of our healthcare system up here, for crissakes. Food has been exchanged for money, or not, since forever, without any dustups over black market muffins. Eggs for bread. But now, ears perked up at the Health Department, where they hate freedom, which I believe is the opposite of what the B-boys intended.

Frédéric was right, when he said, “There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.”

Whoops. Bitten by an easily foreseen effect. My feelings of freedom are waning.

Simons has cows, but he had to drop raw milk from the Food Freedom Bill. Raw milk is sold at premium, and is trendy, I guess, just to tick off the smartass dead scientists, who conned the lot of us, with their unholy homogenization and pasteurization.

Only the criminals will have raw milk now. Or anyone else who wants it, because no one cares.

“Should duck eggs and ostrich eggs be illegal in North Dakota? We don’t think so. It’s time to pass the ND Food Freedom Act, HB 1433!”

I don’t know for certain who all of the members are, although I’ve asked. Membership seems to be fluid. Becker once suggested 24, or so. Maybe they serve delicious homemade pastries and mason jars of cold raw milk, to either encourage, or discourage, attendance at the genial meetings they hold. No bare knuckle stuff.

These are my guesses. Either Gold card members, or just occasionally in cahoots.

  • Rep. Rick Becker (R-District 7)
  • Rep. Luke Simons (R-District 36)
  • Rep. Chris Olson (R-District 13)
  • Rep. Sebastian Ertelt (R-District 26)
  • Rep. Tom Kading (R-District 45)
  • Rep. Daniel Johnston (R-District 24)
  • Rep. Ben Koppelman (R-District 16)
  • Rep. Robin Weisz (R-District 14)
  • Rep. Nathan Toman (R-District 34)
  • Rep. Dwight Kiefert (R-District 24)
  • Rep. Jeffery J. Magrum (R-District 28)
  • Rep. Todd Porter (R-District 34)
  • Rep. Mike Schatz (R-District 36)
  • Rep. Bill Oliver (R-District 4)
  • Rep. Matthew Ruby (R-District 40)
  • Rep. Gary Paur (R-District 19)
  • Sen. Larry Luick (R-District 25)
  • Sen. Janne Myrdal (R-District 10)
  • Sen. Shawn Vedaa (R-District 6)
  • Sen. Kelly Armstrong (R-District 36)
  • Sen. Oley Larsen (R-District 3)
  • Sen. Dwight Cook (R-District 34)
  • Sen. Jordan Kannianen (R-District 4)
  • Sen. Lonnie J. Laffen (R-District 43)
  • Sen. Ray Holmberg (R-District 17)

Rep. Chris Olson is the current president of the caucus, but he’s chosen not to run in 2018. He tried to run an anti-immigrant Bill through the House, but failed. It was barely obvious what the intent of the legislation was.

“My original Refugee Capacity Bill (HB 1427) was intended to determine the absorptive capacity of our communities and state for the federal refugee resettlement program.” — Rep. Chris Olson. We’re a barely inhabited large space on the map. Even the moose are confused, by the emptiness, when they inadvertently wander into the flat lands.

“Another huge victory for liberty here in North Dakota. Thank you Gov. Doug Burgum for signing into law Rep. Chris Olson’s Homeschool Testing Freedom Act, HB 1428!” — Bastiat Caucus

“Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.” ― Frédéric Bastiat

I’ve had a number of communications with Senator Oley in the past few years and he’s told me some weird $#it. My favorite  hobnobbing with the SENATOR involved me explaining how plagiarism worked, since that’s what he had done. What he posted was too well written. It didn’t take a word detective to figure it out.

“Just read that Trump Donated all of his Salary to the park service and the funds will go to the veteran’s cemeteries. I don’t care who you are, even High five Heidi, pilosie and whoppi have to respect that.” ― Sen. Oley Larsen. Can you spot anything a little off?

Oley also plans to introduce a Bill in the next session, that would allow Bible study in public schools, so there’s that.

“Life, faculties, production-in other words, individuality, liberty, property-this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it.” ― Frédéric Bastiat

They put forth a bill to eliminate “safe spaces” from our colleges, based on some harrowing anecdote. It’s just a right-wing attempt to tar students with a label, when they don’t comport to some silly standard.

Is there a safe space at a North Dakota college? Nobody seems know. Is the counselor’s office a safe space? It should be. The nursing offices? Personally, anywhere I walk is a safe space, as far as I’m concerned. Home is. My favorite chair is. Another big deal made, where there is no problem.

“When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.” ― Frédéric Bastiat

Rep. Dwight Kiefert, likes to post his disdain for Muslims, and anyone with a different sexual orientation, than whatever he claims to be. The bigotry isn’t even alarming anymore. Otherwise, Kiefert has been trying to get guns into the schools for years. Nothing new there. I asked him about the explosive oil trains passing close to mostly rural schools, and he ignored me. We don’t mess with the oil guys in this state.

Wayne LaPierre speaking at the NRA Convention in 1999, stating the organization’s position on guns in schools. “We believe in absolutely, gun free, zero tolerance, totally safe schools.”

Our congressman, Kevin Cramer, is one of those alt-righters, since his hero in Mar-a-Lago slopes at a sharp angle in that direction, and he votes 98.5 percent with the president. Cramer probably wouldn’t be conservative enough to join the B Caucus, if put to the same test.

“Make North Dakota conservative again! get your hat. I will never apologize for being conservative.” — Rep. Luke Simons. The hat is a replica of the Make America Great Again red hat, worn by Trump and his supporters. Did someone ask Luke to apologize? It wasn’t me.

“We must ensure that Gov. Burgum hears from Second Amendment-loving North Dakotans, and not just the radical, anti-gun fringe.” — Rep. Luke Simons

“The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else.” ― Frédéric Bastiat

They keep score by what The American Conservative Union Foundation rates them at the end of the session, based on their votes on a couple of dozen bills chosen by the ACUF.

Becker and Simons scored 100. Johnston and Ertelt came in at 91. Way out there on the fringe. Oley was the highest rated senator. I don’t know if they had the correct answers beforehand. The people formerly known as Republicans were lucky to get to 50 on this test.

“Legal plunder has two roots: One of them, as I have said before, is in human greed; the other is in false philanthropy.” ― Frédéric Bastiat

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Anybody Want To Have A Fundraiser? Here’s A List

This one is for North Dakotans — and those who follow North Dakota politics.

I received an e-mail this week from some thoughtful person who thought I might be interested in a fundraising event for State Rep. Al Carlson, the Republican legislative leader. Turns out I wasn’t interested in the fundraiser, but I was interested in the e-mail.

The e-mail, which was actually forwarded to me — I wasn’t an original recipient — was sent by Bismarck advertising executive Pat Finken, on behalf of himself and Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council. The invitation was to join about 350 of my best friends at a $200-per-person fundraising event for Carlson, to be hosted by the two of them, Wednesday. I only know that number because Pat had invited 350 of HIS best friends, and had listed them, and all their e-mail addresses, right at the top of the invitation

They must have been his best friends because he had their e-mail addresses. And he showed off the fact he had those e-mail addresses by showing them to all 351 of us, now. Or else he just didn’t know how to hide those addresses, a task even my fifth-grade grandson knows how to do. Me, too, a 70-year-old English major with no technical skills.

Actually, I’m pretty sure he did it on purpose to let all 350 of those people know who else he had invited. And he did it in all capital letters, so it just shouts at you to read through the list. Or not. I mean, who does that? Who types a list of 350 e-mail addresses in all capital letters? Yeah, e-mail addresses, unlike the 100 or so passwords I have in my computer, are not case sensitive, but still . . . And who includes all 350 of them in an e-mail?

And who did he invite? Well, it looks like almost every registered lobbyist in North Dakota, including the Lutheran bishop, three North Dakota Catholics, the FM-YMCA, the Home Birth Freedom people, the director of the Anne Carlson Center (no relation — I’m pretty sure) and the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library (Sorry, but TR hated lobbyists).

I don’t know everyone on the list, but I know a lobbyist when I see one, and there were enough of them I know on this list that I just figured the ones I didn’t know were lobbyists, too.

Finken is president of Odney Advertising and has long been involved in Republican politics in North Dakota. He rose to a pretty high level in the Republican hierarchy here because he was a high school friend of former governor and now U. S. Sen. John Hoeven. Most recently, he directed Wayne Stenehjem’s failed effort to get the Republican nomination for governor last year. He recently added a lobbying division to his agency’s other work.

I suspect he and Ness are moving their political priorities into the legislative arena because they’ve lost their overnight privileges at the governor’s residence since the election of Doug Burgum.

Carlson is now one of two power brokers in the state to be reckoned with (if you ask him, he’s the only one — Burgum doesn’t count), and there are lots of things Finken and Ness need from the Legislature every year. Raising a bunch of money for the majority leader certainly ranks high on their priority list now.

This is a pretty big deal. At $200 a head, if all 350 show up (they better, if they know what is good for them) Al could pocket $70,000 for his campaign. That would be about the richest legislative campaign in North Dakota — ever.

The invitation, and the event itself, raise some legal questions in my mind. North Dakota’s election laws prohibit corporate contributions to political campaigns. But the e-mail invitation was sent from Finken’s Odney.com corporate e-mail address. The rsvp is to be made by phone to the Odney corporate office, where it will be answered by an Odney corporate employee, or by e-mail to an Odney corporate employee.

The event will be held at the Odney corporate office. I’m wondering if Carlson is renting the office for the event?

The pretty flyer in the e-mail advertising the event (see below) was likely designed by an Odney corporate employee. I wonder if Carlson paid to have it designed?

Surely the state’s top legislator and a major lobbying firm wouldn’t think about violating election laws by using corporate funds to raise money for a political campaign, would they?

It’s not like Finken can’t afford to do those things for free — he’s probably got $4 million or $5 million worth of state business coming in the door through his relationships with the GOP and especially Hoeven and former Gov. Jack Dalrymple, although he’s taken a bit of a hit since Burgum took office, especially with the loss of a nearly $2 million a year contract with the state’s tobacco prevention agency, which was abolished by the Legislature earlier this year, a Burgum (and Carlson)-backed initiative.

Well, anyway, I read through the list and the fundraising flyer again while I was writing this, and it struck me that maybe there are friends of mine running for office next year who could use this e-mail list, too, to raise some money. Somebody went to a lot of trouble to put it together (someone at Odney Advertising’s corporate office?), and it seems a shame to just let all that effort go to waste on just one legislative candidate.

And when I look at it, typed in all capital letters like it is, it just shouts at me “USE ME, USE ME!”

So, I’ll just tack Finken’s e-mail onto the end of this blog post, with all 2½ feet of e-mail addresses, and the fundraising flyer, too, so if my friends want an example of good design for raising money, they’ll have that too. Oh, and the donor information form, too. Hey, don’t thank me — thank Pat Finken. He did all the work. I just copied things.

Here you go.

From: Pat Finken [mailto:pfinken@odney.com]

Sent: Wednesday, November 15, 2017 11:20 AM

To:  jaaseth@clearwatercommunications.net7789PHOENIX@GMAIL.COMAARON.BIRST@NDACO.ORGAARON@SHOOTERHOSPITALITY.COMACHRISTIANSON@GRENERGY.COMADJUTANT@NDLEGION.ORGAIMEE.COPAS@NDCEL.ORGALA@PEARCE-DURICK.COMALEXIS.BAXLEY@NDSBA.ORGALEXK@KELSCHLAW.COM;  ALLANPETERSON@NDSU.NODAK.EDUANDY@WAMBSGANSS.COMANITA.THOMAS@NDSBA.ORGARCDIRECTOR@ARCCASSND.ORGARIK@NDMCA.ORGASTODDARD@PRIMETHERAPEUTICS.COMAUHRICH@GAPSINC.ORGbarry@gochamber.comBCAJAN@BIS.MIDCO.NETBERNDT@NORTHERNPULSE.COM;  BERNIE.DARDIS@INDIGOSIGNWORKS.COMBETH@GSCIENCE.ORGBFISCH@MULTISTATE.USBGOLDWATER@GOLDWATERTAPLIN.COMBILL.CADMAN@WHITING.COMBILL@APTND.COMBISHOPNARUM@GMAIL.COMBKUYLEN@NDFU.ORGBLAKE@NDLC.ORGBLUHULSEY@CONTRES.COMBMCMULLEN@ALZ.ORGBONNIE@BIS.MIDCO.NETBRETT.JOCHIM@AE2S.COMBRYCEA@HBAFM.COMCARLEE@USND.ORGCAROL.STECKEL@WELLCARE.COMCGKALANEK@BIS.MIDCO.NETCHAD.OBAN@NDUNITED.ORGCHARLES.VEIN@AE2S.COMCHELSEA@HBAFM.COMCHELSEA@HBAFM.COMCHERYLRILEY02@GMAL.COMCHOFLAND@ZKSLW.COMCHRISB@IEA.COOPCINDYM@MYFIRSTLINK.ORG; CKOEBELE@NDCOURTS.GOVCONNIE@GROWINGJAMESTOWN.COMCORY.FONG@MDURESOURCES.COMCRAIG.MISCHO@BAYER.COMCRAIG@FMCHAMBER.COMCRATHJEN@NEWMANSIGNS.COMCSAMBOR@BISMARCKLAW.COMCVANDEVENTER@BEPC.COMDAN_NELSON@MMI.NETDAND@SRT.COMDANW@NDGGA.COMDANW@NDGGA.COM; 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Subject: Carlson Event – Don’t Forget to RSVP – Disclosure Form Included

(Oh, yeah, to those lobbyists whose names stand out because they are black instead of blue, I apologize–my blog program won’t let me change the color)

Subject: Carlson Event – Don’t Forget to RSVP – Disclosure Form Included

Carlson for House Campaign Donor Information

Please include the following information with your contribution.

Name _________________________________________________________________

Address _________________________________________________________________

City __________________________ State _____________ ZIP _______________

Home Phone _____________________ Office ________________ Cell ________________

Email address _________________________________________________________________

Occupation ________________________________ Donation: ________________________

Personal or PAC contributions only.

Please make checks payable to the Carlson Campaign Box 10014, Fargo, ND 58106

Paid for by Carlson for House Campaign, Sharon Carlson Chair

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Rasslin’ And Reportin’

The next help wanted ad we run will go something like this: “JOURNALIST NEEDED: Must have strong language skills, a willingness to ask hard questions and be able to take a punch.”

After Greg Gianforte, U.S. Rep.-elect from Montana,  body-slammed Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs last week, it became clear the trail blazed by Jesse “The Body” Ventura in 1998 had finally come full circle.

The relationship between politicians and journalists has always been adversarial. Few historians will tell you (in the interest of accuracy, I guess) Richard Nixon once gave Carl Bernstein a wedgie. Technically, Nixon may have invented the thong. He also coined the phrase, “Prime the pump.”

I suppose it had to come to this pro-wrestling approach, which I embrace — not because I’m particularly tough but because I look good in tights. This has me thinking about my dream card, featuring notable politicians and members of the media.

Lloyd Omdahl vs. U.S. Sen. John Hoeven

Let’s start the undercard with columnist and former lieutenant governor “Cool Hand” Lloyd Omdahl taking on Sen. John “Ball-Peen Hammer” Hoeven. Lloyd knows karate, kung fu, yoga, yogurt, tia chi, and feng shui. Hoeven can burp the alphabet after three beers.

Despite Hoeven’s youth advantage and the fact he has the best mustache in the Senate, I pick Omdahl to win because I expect Hoeven to instinctively curl up in a fetal position under his desk like he has since November, waiting for this Trump thing to blow over.

It’s like when your crazy Aunt Jane starts singing the wrong song loudly and badly in church. You smile as if to express to your fellow parishioners, “Isn’t she cute?” Or you move to another pew and pretend she’s not with you.

Rob Port vs. U.S. Rep Kevin Cramer

This match pits Rob “The Thesaurus” Port, against Congressman Kevin “Gump” Cramer. Port is the the man behind “The State’s Most Influential Blog’ — influential in the way mosquitoes are when you’re trying to nap in your hammock.

I know they’re bestest friends forever, but this will be good. For one thing, you know in the interview to promote the match, Port is going to use the word “adjudicate” at least 10 times. He thinks it has something to do with the Palestinian problem. If you take a shot of tequila every time he says it, you will need a designated liver. Meanwhile, Cramer has taken half a page from Muhammad Ali. His technique is best described as Dope-A-Dope.

Will there be a violence? Hardly. They’ll come out in the ring, agree climate change is a hoax and trickle-down economics works, then hug and kiss — tongues even — and that is going to totally freak everyone out.

Joel Heitkamp vs. State Sen. Janne Myrdal

This one will be a doozy. KFGO Radio talker Joel “Fake Knees” Heitkamp will have the weight advantage, no matter what the program says. There are more fibs on his driver’s license than in a presidential tweet. I mean, who lies about eye color?

Then there’s Sen. Janne “The Gay Nazi Hunter” Myrdal, who has the distinct height and reach advantage. She can touch heaven from the top rope. I feel bad saying this, as Joel is a friend of mine. But I’m betting Myrdal will smite him in two out of three falls because God is on her side. Joel is such a bad Catholic, he’s almost Lutheran.

The reality is Joel is, at best, only the fourth-toughest Heitkamp in his family, and that’s not even counting cousins. He’s is the only talk show host who should have a full-time cut man. At Thanksgiving, they still make him sit at the card table, and there’s not a darn thing he can do about it. When his sister, Heidi, calls in from the U.S. Senate, his corner doesn’t technically throw in the towel, but they do mercifully cut to a commercial.

One recent interview went something like this:

Joel: “Sen. Heitkamp can you explain your vote on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch?”

Heidi: “When I see you next, I’m going to pin you down and make you eat bugs.”

Tony “Poison Pen” Bender vs. State Rep. “Raging Bull” Carlson

I’m gonna come clean here. There is no way this match comes off. A lot of that has to do with my cowardice. Carlson, the North Dakota House Majority Leader, is so mean, he’d hit his grandma with a folding chair. And me? I just look good in tights. I want no part of this.

I am doing my very best to get injured in training, so I can save face. I’ve already burned my hand on a cigar and dropped a six-pack on my big toe. It’s probably broken. That imperils my strategy which, in boxing parlance, is to dance. Or if it is in a dark alley, run like hell. The good news is, Al probably ain’t gonna rassle me in any casino he didn’t build.

© Tony Bender, 2017

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Make America Great Again Quiz

Just four short months after trading in Kenyan Socialism for Russian Communism with a dollop of South American Style Authoritarianism thrown in for good measure — more bananas, please — it’s time to assess just how super- duper great America has become again.

And you slackers thought you were going to make it to Memorial Day without a test? Dream on.

1. Former N.Y. Congressman Anthony Weiner recently was convicted of texting pictures of:

a. His Anthony.

b. The Washington Monument.

c. The Leaning Tower of Pisa.

d. French Bread.

2. President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey because:

a. Of what he did to Trump’s BFF Hillary.

b. Failed to bring in Bonnie and Clyde.

c. He’s pretty sure Gary Busey can do a better job.

d. Comey doesn’t accept rubles.

3. Former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes died last week  …

a. So a moment of respectful silence please. Long enough.

b. So skirts at Fox News were lowered to half-staff.

c. When his prodigal conscience unexpectedly turned up.

d. Because Rupurt Murdoch won’t stand for a drop in ratings.

4. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was recently spotted behind the bushes:

a. Retrieving Trump’s errant tee shot.

b. Looking for Waldo.

c. Searching for the rest of the inaugural crowd.

d. Watering the begonias.

5. Accomplishments of the North Dakota Republican Legislative Supermajority:

a. Saved the Senate from denim.

b. Heroically raised your property taxes to save out of state billionaires.

c. Took candy from babies.

d. Roasted the last unicorn for a fundraiser.

6. An irate citizen did this to Congressman Kevin Cramer at a recent town hall meeting:

a. Stuffed money in his collar.

b. Stuffed money in his G-String.

c. Tried to feed him lime Jell-O with grated carrots.

d. Spoke very slowly in short declarative sentences, so he could follow along.

7. Under the proposed Republican health care overhaul:

a. Nursing home residents will spin the bottle to see who gets the oxygen mask.

b. Insurance companies won’t have to use a condom.

c. More leeches.

d. Meet your new surgeon general, Dr. Zhivago.

8. Donald Trump’s favorite president:

a. Himself.

b. Andrew Jackson.

c. Frederick Douglass.

d. Putin.

9. I’m proud to be an American because:

a. At least I know I’m free.

b. At least I know The Rapture will solve everything.

c. At least I ain’t no Muslim.

d. Guns.

10. What N.D. House Majority Leader Al Carlson does when he’s not in the Legislature:

a. Prank calls the governor and asks if his refrigerator is running.

b. Naked goat sacrifices under a full moon.

c. Crochets.

d. He’s Batman.

BONUS. An actual tweet from the president:

a. “Since I’ve been president, not a peep out of West Korea.”

b. “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

c. “Why don’t we prime the pump? Sad!”

d. “Has anyone seen my armada?”

Answers: 1. a; 2. b; 3. b; 4. c; 5. a; 6. d; 7. a; 8. c; 9. b; 10. d; BONUS: b.

Grading: 11-10 correct: Fine. Like the world needed another pointy-headed liberal. 9-8 correct: Salutatorian ain’t a bad thing. 6-7 correct: No problem. We’re grading on a curve. 4-5 correct: Blame it on Fake News. 0-3 correct: Rest easy. You’re still a shoo-in for Trump University.

© Tony Bender, 2017

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — The Sanctity Of Life And Tax Cuts

I’m exhausted from winning so much. America is so great again. Stop it already. My trophy case is full.

Sure, a lot of people think the House of Representatives didn’t have the votes to pass health care reform last week, but when you factor in the Electoral Collage, it was a huge win. Yuuuge.

You should have seen everyone coming out to celebrate. It was biggly bigger than the inauguration, which had more people there than actually exist — if you factor in visitors from other planets. Most of them from Uranus. We should deport them.

Check the satellite imagery we got from the Klingons. There are bodies everywhere. Hold it, they’re not moving! We must have time-traveled to the near future to a time after the Republicans fixed health care. If the Rev. Jim Jones was alive and in Congress, he’d be heading up health care reform. (Insert your own Kool-Aid reference. Must I do everything around here?)

The point is, trillions of people showed up to celebrate health care reform. Trillions. That’s even after you deduct 10 Russians — and counting. That Vlad — doing his part for population control.

“It is a missed opportunity to save the American people from the death spiral of this very flawed law,” said North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer, deeply regretting he was unable to save 24 million Americans from being insured. Everyone knows health insurance is a death sentence, and freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.

The Republicans have been offering up swing-bed foreplay for seven years: “When we get back in power, we’re going to be so good to you. It’s gonna be the best ever. Gonna rock your world, baby. Anthony Weiner’s got nothing on us.” Now, after seven years of steamy talk about co-pays, here comes the booty call and … pfffffffft! Ironically, under their plan, Viagra isn’t covered. But then again, neither is Planned Parenthood, so it’s a wash. After strutting around all this time like Mick Jagger in Spandex, it turns out the bulge was a handgun.

Meanwhile, in Bismarck, you can’t wear jeans on the Senate floor, but I think a heater is OK. Conservative priorities. They’re only temporarily pro-life. If it involves life expectancy or gun control, all bets are off — unless Al Carlson gets his casinos built. For the first time at the Capitol, being Sergeant at Arms really means something. Jesus once said, “Blessed are the marksmen.” And everyone knows God wrote the Second Commandment to the Constitution.

Janne Myrdal keeps a Glock in her chastity belt. And a Ruger. And curiously, some guy named Jake. He’s either from NRA or State Farm. I’m not sure if he does health insurance, though.

SIDEBAR: I once knew a girl from Zap, N.D., whose Mossberg got the clap. (If you’re still feeling Irish, insert limerick here.) Don’t worry, it was covered under Obamacare.  Her over-and-under was cured with antibiotics. In the future, you’ll have to rely on leeches and a prayer chain.

The point is, Sen. Myrdal is a great American. She’s got an entire arsenal in there. It’s a yuuuge chastity belt. It’s like the Grand Canyon. When you yodel, it echoes forever. There’s so much chastity in there. Don’t confuse it with the sanctimony. I think I see Jesus in the corner. He’s holding a Beretta.

I’m going to drop some 9mm cartridges in the collection plate on Easter Sunday. I think there should be a service the night before, too. A Saturday Night Special.

I’m puzzled the family-values folks couldn’t rally people around the idea of raising the cost of premiums and deductibles, cutting coverage and giving tax breaks to oppressed millionaires. Is this even America anymore? It’s sad when the Russians are more effective in our political process than Congress. Soon we’ll have a borscht stand at every casino.

Now, that we’ve won at health care reform, we’re moving on to tax reform to save the Koch Brothers from having to eat the cheap caviar. You can see millionaires on every street corner holding signs in their tattered tuxedos: “Will contribute to your campaign for tax breaks.”

Who knew health insurance could be so complicated? Oh, and being president is hard. It really messes with your golf swing. Though it’s not being reported by the lame stream, drive by, irrelevant, fake news media, it wrecks havoc on your basketball game, too. President Trump is throwing up so many bricks, he may have to join a union. The International Brotherhood of Tweeters?

Unlike the guy he subbed in for, he can’t go to his left worth a damn, and he keeps arguing with the referees. To be fair, he is a prolific dribbler, which is why Melania is sleeping alone. Who wants to sleep on the drool spot? Anyway, the president is busy spooning with Putin.

Fear not. You’re in good hands. (Does Allstate still do do health insurance?) Small hands, but good hands. The best. Believe me. Winning. We haven’t won like this since, like, ever. It’s like Charlie Sheen is president.

© Tony Bender, 2017

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — My Appliances Are Against Me

I just realized my microwave popcorn is actually popping out Morse code — in Russian.

If I’m translating correctly and, admittedly, my decoding skills are rusty, Pootie wants me to drop some d-CON into someone’s latte. Or maybe the word is DEFCON. I may have missed a dot or a dash. Probably no big deal. Po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe.

I’ve become suspicious of all my appliances — even the small ones. For instance, why does my can opener rotate cans only to the right? Is it a political statement?

I suppose otherwise the people at Sunbeam would be accused of being Leftists. But, at least, we would all get our can openers for free.

Shouldn’t that be part of the social contract in America? A secure food supply … education … health care …. a dignified retirement … free can openers … and an invigorating, unnecessary war every few years, to keep poor starving, defenseless defense contractors in business?

Maybe I’m reading too much into this.

Still, when the president of the United States accuses the president of Kenya of wiretapping and Kellyanne Conway reveals that my microwave is a spy, you have to take notice.

This explains why, no matter how I set the timer, the microwave cooks everything for 19 minutes and 84 seconds. It’s killing my pot pies. As is Al Carlson.

For a long time, I thought it was me, that I was just paranoid. But the other night, I sneezed and my television said, “Gesundheit.” Which, as you know, is Russian.

I rest my case. Actually, I can’t rest my case. I’m barely 250 words into this morass and my “editor” won’t cut me any slack until I hit 600. (“It rubs the lotion on its skin.”)

And what about cell phones. Talk about a racket. We pay nosebleed fees, just so our phones can track our location. When they’re not spontaneously combusting. You know what that thing in your pocket is? (No, the other pocket. But I’m glad you’re having safe sex.) It’s evidence.

You might as well stick a microchip into my butt cheek, slap a spiked collar on my neck and call me Fido. Not that after a few beers I wouldn’t be open to that, anyway, baby.

Seriously, they should have stopped me at 250 words. I see nothing good coming out of this freedom of the press thing. Thank god, Betsy DeVos is stamping out education. In 50 years, this column will be as accessible as Morse code. Soon, I’ll need an illustrator.

Fifty years. Who am I kidding? The nuclear football is at Mar-a-Lago, in the hands of the hat-check girl. We’re doomed. I rarely hand out financial advice, but I’m solid on this one. If I were you, I’d max out the credit cards and drink like you’re Irish every day to see which lasts longer, the country or your liver.

Some people call me a cynic. A fatalist. You would be, too. Yesterday, my Roomba pulled a knife on me, and I suffered a near fatal-ankle stabbing. My car auto-started and tried to run over me. That’s still not legal, even in North Dakota. Give us time. Rome wasn’t burned in a day.

Then there’s my friend, David Rosenblum. “That ain’t nothing,” he said. ”I ate a bagel last week and today the CIA sent me the results of my colonoscopy.”

I’m not sure all this government surveillance is really necessary. After all, we already voluntarily confess everything on Facebook. In that regard, we’re all Cyber-Catholics and Mark Zuckerberg is the pope. Habemus papam! (More Russian.)

Waterboarding is so passe. All we have to do is plop the prisoner down in front of Facebook with a case of Red Bull. We’ll know everything by Thursday.

I’ll post a close up of my taco salad later. And my third selfie of the day. I am so hot. Blistering hot. My lips look like that because I just licked a lemon.

Look at my puppy. And if I had grandchildren, they would be adorable.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — An Innocent Man Would Want To Clear the Air

I’m wondering if there is something in the air, or if it’s only me.

A demand is made for an investigation into communications between the Russians and members of the Trump administration. In the world I live in, I wouldn’t object at all if there was nothing to the matter. I’d tell the complainers, “Have at it!” I would know that they’d find nothing.

That is not, however, what is happening. The chairs of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, both Republicans, of course, privately contacted members of the news media at the administration’s request. They were asked to do what they can to kill the story … because “the claims aren’t true.”

I ask you, now: If someone claims you’ve done something wrong — and you know you are innocent — wouldn’t you let that investigation continue?

I would! I’d want to prove the accusation was false, and thereby expose those false accusers for what they are.

Or would you do everything you could to kill the investigation … thereby drawing attention to it?

The Senate and House intelligence committee chairs have admitted that they, in fact, did try to convince the media to kill the story. Can their committees reasonably be expected now to conduct fair and impartial hearings on the charges they’ve tried to defend the president against?

Some of that polluted water the Republicans — with the help of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D. — have recently allowed to pour into our waterways must have reached Washington by now. It must have affected their brains if they think the American public is so stupid as to not want — in fact, demand — a special counsel and independent committee to investigate the Russian connection as well as other hints of scandals that are putting our country at risk.

The ghost of Sen. Joe McCarthy must be haunting the halls of Congress. It seems that anyone who doesn’t agree with the administration’s take on events is accused of being either un-American or involved in some nefarious plot to take down our illustrious president.

The national media aren’t perfect. No one is. But they are fulfilling their job to investigate and report the news just as it is … not to make it themselves. It’s hard for me, as an avid news junkie, to stomach the administration’s wild-eyed claims that anything he doesn’t like is “fake news.” But I’m even more shocked, surprised and saddened to see that so many individuals buy into those lies.

I cannot imagine this country at the national, state or local levels without an active, investigating press. Today, it can access so many records using so many techniques that prominent individuals may actually be more prone to tell the truth for fear how easily they can be exposed. If the truth is revealed, they’re anxious to bury it.

Nixon had his problems. By many measures, he was a good president and represented this country well. His well-deserved international image was ultimately destroyed, though, by his personality and his own actions trying to bury the truth of Watergate.

President Trump? Well, you can draw your own conclusions.

Remember the recent military raid that resulted in the death of one young Navy SEAL and a dozen civilians (including children), as well as the loss of an aircraft? While the president should have been in the Ready Room watching the operation he had ordered in real time, instead he opted to stay at dinner with his family and compose tweets.

Military experts have said the mission was not sufficiently planned (not that our disengaged president would have known). The parents of the fallen hero shared this conclusion. They refused to meet with POTUS and his daughter at the airport when their son’s body was returned.

The SEAL’s father is demanding an inquiry into what went wrong. Early word from Washington was that the president would not object. Do not bet the farm, though, on his support of investigating that or any other subject.

● ● ●

Back home in North Dakota, the Public Employee Retirement System, run by an appointed board, has done an outstanding job of representing those it serves and the state. God’s gift to himself, Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, now wants that job to be dropped into the governor’s already-full lap. In Carlson’s world, the board’s not being elected somehow disqualifies them from being good managers.

To Rep. Carlson, I say: Let well enough alone. They do a good job and don’t need your meddling attempt to burden the new governor with more of your personal prejudices.

Speaking of Gov. Burgum, I commend him for his forthright and decisive conclusion of the DAPL situation. Governor, you did what your predecessor did not do. You recognized the Native Americans. You and your representatives went to Native land to discuss issues with Native representatives. You recognized the sovereignty of the tribes. You recognized the work and dedication of law enforcement. You recognized the tribal concerns. You recognized that agitators behind unlawful acts were not reservation residents, and you did everything in your power to assist in the orderly restoration of order, once the courts had ruled.

Had your predecessor acted as you did much, much sooner in the course of events, many of the ugly incidents that occurred could have been avoided. I applaud you for the actions you took.

I see much hope in this governor’s future, and I wish him well.

● ● ●

Speaking of “well,” in the long, long ago, I used to watch roller derby on the tube. It was like a combination of football, track, hockey and wrestling rolled into one.

My wife came home last week from an event at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, where the Fargo-Moorhead Derby Girls were handing out cards for recruiting. They’re looking for skaters, referees, coaches, support staff, volunteers, announcers and many more.

It strikes my fancy! The debut of men’s and women’s roller derby takes place at 6 p.m. March 25 at the Fargo Civic Center. If you’re interested in joining, email them at fmdginquiry@live.com. You can find more information at www.fmderbygirls.com.

I am not affiliated with this group in any way, and they won’t know of my interest until they read it here.

Finally, I was excited to read about the study to restore downtown Moorhead to its former glory. I spent many date nights at the Moorhead Theater, followed by the FM Hotel’s Top of the Mart. Great memories from my high school days! Amen.

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Mr. Bender Goes to Bismarck

It’s almost halftime at the North Dakota Legislature, so last week I went to the state Capitol to monitor progress.

I represented The Ashley Tribune and The Wishek Star as Newspapers of the Day, a program sponsored by the North Dakota Newspaper Association to foster better relations between the press and legislators. I guess I was an ambassador of good will. Because you know how lawmakers love to talk to someone who is always abusing free speech.

The Legislature is doing its very best to get a handle on all this transparency nonsense. For instance, there’s a bill supported by former Gov. Ed Schafer that would conceal the identity of applicants for government jobs until finalists are selected. Schafer said “no one” reads newspapers anymore because they are always presenting this kind of scandalous news. Knowledge upsets people. And here you are reading the newspaper. Loser.

You could conclude that since 85 percent of state voters in the last election wanted to have their local minutes published, taxpayers are interested in seeing how their government operates. I guess those are alternative facts. We should check with Landslide Donald.

I stopped by the governor’s office, but Doug Burgum wasn’t in. They were still trying to raise bail money after Gov. Burgum was dragged off the Senate floor for wearing blue jeans. The sergeant-at-arms is originally from Wishek, but he has been in Bismarck for 50 years. When you go that long without Wishek Sausage, it makes you a little cranky.

I also stopped in to see House Majority Leader Al Carlson, a frequent guest star of these columns. But he was out, too. I did get a peek at his throne — red velvet and gold encrusted with jewels. North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness was sitting in it, reading the Oil Illustrated swimsuit edition. You can’t unsee Harold Hamm in a thong. If they ever put him in the Rough Rider Hall of Fame, though, that’s the picture they should use.

There have been some remarkable achievements in the Legislature. I would be remiss if I didn’t give credit where credit is due — to the Republicans, who have a superduper majority. There are so many Republicans in Bismarck, they almost outnumber oil lobbyists.

Meanwhile, there are old-fashioned phone booths adjacent to the Senate Chambers, which is where the Democrats caucus. These meetings are open to the public. You can even wear jeans. And Birkenstocks.

Republican caucuses are held in a top-secret location off the Capitol grounds and are closed to the public. You need a password, a secret handshake and a hotdish for the potluck. Once a month, they sacrifice a virgin. Ironically, it’s always a Republican because they are the only women of virtue.

I got to hear the virtuous Sen. Janne Myrdal speak. She was wearing a chastity belt and a halo. You’ll remember Myrdal for her heroic struggle against Gay Nazis on Facebook. If you don’t fight them on Facebook, pretty soon you’ll have to fight them on Snapchat.

I also watched the Senate vote to support a bill banning masks. But what are oil executives going to wear when they are robbing North Dakotans? While Texas and Oklahoma billionaires got a 23 percent tax break last session, citizens here are facing austerity measures.

Eight rural highway maintenance shops are slated to be closed, meaning snowplows will have to travel 120 miles to clear roads in some instances. Which is reasonable, I guess, if you don’t live there. They also plan to close nine drivers license sites. You may have to drive 200 miles to get your license, but it’s not like those are “tax dollars” you pay at the pump. It should work out fine if the roads are clear.

The party that wants smaller government also voted in the Senate to grow government with the creation of  the Orwellian-sounding “Department of Environmental Quality,” which will allow a political appointee to more easily nonregulate the oil industry. A 153-page bill was approved, unread, in a 90-minute committee meeting, with no estimate of the cost of this new department. I guess they had to pass it to know what’s in it.

Republicans are defending us (and the fossil fuel industry) against wind energy. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is endorsing a two-year moratorium on wind energy development. The theory being that the free market works best without competition. Another bill would shift wind tax revenue from the counties to the state. So, the governor can afford some decent pants.

Thank goodness they’re standing up for the environment. Have you ever seen a wind spill? It’s ugly. They should ban solar energy, too. Because the sun is a leading cause of global warming.

Finally, thanks to GOP opposition to the overreach of the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s still legal to discriminate against “the gays” in North Dakota. However, you can’t just run them down in the street. Even if they are wearing a swastika. Because they could be a Trump supporter.

Compromise and moderation prevails, once again.

© Tony Bender, 2017

RON SCHALOW: The Scream

I’m sad. I’m tired. I’m an angry lib!@$#. And I’m hardly the only one. A serial liar is President Trump, which I find disconcerting, but it doesn’t bother smarmy Congressman Kevin Cramer, the whole of the North Dakota GOP, and 39 percent of Americans. Maybe some haven’t heard the news, and maybe some think all news is fake because the president said it was so. That’s only one reason he’s so dangerous.

They are the basket of gullibles. His marks.

Trump has worked to discredit our judicial system, our intelligence services, our election system and now our free press. Make of that what makes sense to you. Perhaps, his antics don’t need repeating, but the overweight child is still there. Let me know when he has left the building that was erected for good honest humans, patriots, and he’s tracking sleaze throughout the house.

Besides the Superfund site known as the Thursday Trump press conference, or a terrible standup routine, we learned that some Scott Pruitt guy was named the head of the EPA. He doesn’t believe in climate change, regulations or Pluto. Our Democratic senator voted for him. That was a kick in the nether regions. Luckily, I continue to be forever past my child-bearing years, which is a waste of my birth friendly hips.

Then, I see a picture of Trump signing a law, one that enables coal companies to chuck coal leavings, coal extract or dogs named Coal into the nearest creek, stream or river. Because I think we can all agree that our waterways aren’t chewy enough, most likely because they don’t have enough bituminous to thicken the soup.

And who is standing next to Trump’s desk but Heidi Heitkamp. She jumps right off the page in a color picture. Her proximity to the goo was sickening enough, but then it’s obvious that she actually voted to use our streams as coal toilets. Horseshoe to the head, with the horse still attached. A big mean horse.

Something else popped up in print about that time, suggesting that the North Dakota Legislature was going to stick a lead pipe into the spokes of the wind energy business because it was going so good, we might have too many wind jobs and not enough workers left to dump the coal crap into the Missouri, which would be tragic. Fish love coal water. Who and what doesn’t? Except for school attacking bears. They’re fussy.

Then, Trump did his schtick. It was like having an irritable lap dog barking at you at random high octaves, through the neighbor’s chain-link fence for 7,000 minutes straight, while you sit 2 inches away, duct taped to a lawn chair.

The press is dishonest, and he inherited a mess. That was the gist of the opening tirade. Well, pretty much all of it. There was a definite theme.

Grievances and more grievances, all aired with fervor. All the guy in the clown makeup needed was Frank Costanza’s Festivus aluminum pole, some feats of strength and a few Festivus miracles to make it a holiday for the ages.

At one point, Trump seemed to channel Maxwell Smart (Don Adams), Agent 86, on the 1960s TV show “Get Smart.” Some dialogue fictionalized.

Trump: “We got 306 (electoral college votes) because people came out and voted like they’ve never seen before so that’s the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.” And they have surrounded the building — ready to attack, and free me from you stupid poor people, at any moment. Would you believe it?

His captor: (Usually Bernie Kopell, as Siegfried; made up with a facial scar, eyepatch, and using a German accent) “I find that very hard to believe.”

Trump, getting a little nervous: “Not buying that one, huh? How about the biggest win of Republican presidents since Reagan, which is what I meant to say? Would you believe that?”

Captor: “Also, very hard to believe. George Bush is a Republican, is he NOT?!”

Trump, near tears: “OK, how about this? Would you believe Chris Christie is out there with 700 Arby’s roast beef sandwiches, just for you, and is ready to shut down the bridge of your choice? And, I’m pretty sure that I had the most electoral college votes since 2016 — that’s a year, right?”

Captor: “I believe the Chris Christie part — since he’s such a butt-kissing tool, but you’re a lying weasel about to be deported to the motherland.”

It’s about this time that Max would use some spy thing and get rescued by Agent 99 and the Chief.

So, while he’s chewing out the press for lying, he tells a lie and blows it off as something he just heard around the water cooler.

Then it got weird (Trump’s words in quotes)

“We have made incredible progress. I don’t think there’s ever been a president elected who in this short period …” Nope can’t do it. I thought I could comment on all of the stupid, nonsensical and false comments made by ol’ pelt-head,  one by one, but I wasn’t counting on writing a book.

If the video of a crazy man screaming at a fire plug didn’t render a full picture of Edvard Munch’s masterpieces, then try reading the transcript. Dozens of doors. Not one with hinges.

Remember the college professor who might ask the most obscure test question, from the book, or your notes? Maybe the walls. Memorize everything is the idea. So, every word in the textbook and the notebook gets the green highlighter, including the copyright and a few of the spots that start to appear in front of your eyes.

You may as well take a roller brush of orange paint to the whole friggin’ transcript to match the raving lunatic who thought this was a good idea. Besides, he’s already taken the act on the road, evidently to kick off his 2020 reelection campaign. Totally normal.

Luckily, things are less moronic in North Dakota.

I didn’t know it, but my freedom was being impeded because I couldn’t buy raw milk. Legally anyway (wink). That situation may have changed, or may still be tied up in milk committee. I don’t really care, but the sponsors got me worried, when they inferred that it was illegal to buy fresh vegetables from the grower without those jack-booted thugs from the Food and Drug Administration demanding that my sweet corn be confiscated and held at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D., until I could raise bail or said to hell with it and went to Hornbachers — or home.

It wasn’t like that. Somebody just wants to sell raw milk.

Gun laws have gotten looser, cuz freedom, just in case a milk dispute breaks out. Schools may be allowed to have the music teacher packing, too. “You’re FLAT, Chad!” Hopefully, deranged rifle-wielding spree killers won’t discover the transparent thin glass windows.

Legislators aren’t worried about the explosive Bakken oil trains that pass close to schools, though. I asked. They aren’t. Such a carefree bunch. Incineration of an entire school, and the guns, not an issue.

The penalty for selling alcohol to minors stays the same, unless you’re wearing a mask while doing it or get pulled into a passing riot because the sentence could be making you drink raw milk. I used to know what a riot was. Now, I have no clue. I think you can have one by yourself, if you want. Stand out on the boulevard and see what transpires, I guess. It helps if you’re Native.

In fact, the First People have really got the likes of Al Carlson all worked up. Jack up the penalties for everything Rob Port says anyone did anywhere in southern North Dakota. He can actually see Cannon Ball from his perch in Minot. Several times, the Port wrote that some of the water protectors had taken to walking on the frozen water to get here and there. Ice to novices. I found his observation insightful. He also noticed that everything bad that happened within 150 miles, happened near “Cannon Ball.” It really makes you wonder.

Port is fanning the flames  — or something  — with his fanny in the Sunday paper of the Fargo Forum, Grand Forks Herald and Dickinson Tribune. He wants Shailene Woodley to come back and clean up the mess at the protest camp. Except there is no mess, and his readership doesn’t extend to wherever this Woodley woman hangs out. He pulled that information out of his butt. It’s been cleaned. Photos and video make him a liar. Those aren’t the only things, but the ledger isn’t in pork pie’s favor.

Port has been having the vapors, along with state propagandists, about the 200 to 300 abandoned cars and environmental disaster at hand for months, but he pulled a Trump. All we have are oil-related environmental disasters, but those are for our own good.

I’m going to go sit outside, wearing a mask, unarmed and protest something. So many choices.