LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Our Comment Letter On The Proposed Little Missouri River Bridge

Jim has written about the proposed new bridge over the Little Missouri State Scenic River north of Medora, N.D., that is being shoved down our throats by a megalomaniac county commissioner who wants to spend up to $20 million of our gas tax dollars on a “Bridge to Nowhere.”

At the insistence of the Federal Highway Administration, the county is deep into an Environmental Impact Statement process — in fact nearing the end stages of that process — and will soon be asking for federal funds to build its bridge. One of the final steps in the process is a public comment period, which is open now and runs through Sept. 4. If you go to this website, you will find the details and a link to another website which contains the actual Draft EIS, for your reading pleasure.

If you have any feelings about running a lot of traffic through the valley of the Little Missouri State Scenic River, or wasting millions of taxpayer dollars, you should send in comments on the project. Below is the letter Jim and I have sent expressing our feelings. This letter and Jim’s earlier blog should give you plenty of information about the project, so you don’t have to read the entire 178-page document. (Although if you really want to spend a summer afternoon reading, here’s the link to the Draft EIS.)

Even easier, if you agree with what we have written, feel free to just copy and paste a link to this blog into an e-mail addressed to and tell Jen Turnbow you agree with the letter in the blog, and your comments will be duly noted.

Jen Turnbow, Project Manager


P.O. Box 1157

Bismarck, N.D. 58502-1157

Aug. 17, 2018

Dear Ms. Turnbow:

Please accept these comments on the Draft EIS for the Little Missouri River Crossing in Billings County, North Dakota. We are writing to recommend Alternative L, the no-build option.

If built, this bridge would be the most colossal waste of taxpayer dollars in memory. If it is built with federal or state matching funds, approved by the North Dakota Department of Transportation, it will be a huge embarrassment for both the North Dakota DOT and the Federal Highway Administration because it is truly a “bridge to nowhere.”

North Dakota has substantial infrastructure needs, as witnessed by several state legislators recently, and the proposed $11.2 million, and likely as much as $20 million, could be much better spent correcting existing problems rather than building a new bridge unlikely to be used by many except possibly the oil industry.

In spite of all being said by the county and KLJ, it appears the only real beneficiary of this bridge would be the oil industry. Federal, and state tax dollars should not be spent to accommodate a single industry, especially at the expense of real and substantial damage to the historic, recreational and scenic properties of the states only designated State Scenic River.

If the bridge is built with Billings County taxpayer dollars, as the commission has indicated it might do if federal or state dollars are not available, it should be subject to a referendum by Billings County voters before it is approved.

Almost no one wants this bridge. It has simply become a cause celebre for Billings County Commission Chairman  Jim Arthaud, who has already spent several million dollars in Billings County tax dollars pursuing it, and despite the fact it is not in his preferred location, has gone too far down the road for him to consider abandoning it without losing face. It is simply now a monument to his persistence, a monument on which he would like his name inscribed.

Almost no one will use this bridge, according to testimony at the public hearings, unless KLJ, the project’s engineers, are misleading us with this statement:

“Traffic volume increase of 3.5 percent for roads associated with the alternative and adjacent roadways. Not expected to generate new traffic; however the redistribution of local trips attracted to the new bridge is anticipated to increase the typical 2.5 percent traffic growth rates by 1 percent for roads associated with the alternative and adjacent roadways.”

If that statement is true, there is no need for the bridge. If that statement is misleading (which is not only possible, but likely), and the volume of heavy truck traffic increases dramatically, it will destroy the sanctity and peacefulness of the state’s only designated State Scenic River, likely in violation of Chapter 61-29 of the North Dakota Century Code, the Little Missouri State Scenic River Act, enacted by the North Dakota Legislature “to preserve the Little Missouri River as nearly as possible in its present state … (and) maintain the scenic, historic and recreational qualities of the Little Missouri River and its tributary streams.” The North Dakota DOT, as a lead agency for this project, should not approve a project which would violate the law.

Today there are ZERO trucks driving through the river valley and across the Little Missouri State Scenic River between Medora and the Long-X Bridge. That is what the residents of the river valley, although there are few, want the case to be. According to testimony at the public hearings, there are fewer than ten families living alongside the river who could possibly benefit from this bridge. But they live in fear of the noise, danger, and massive dust clouds that could be generated by heavy truck traffic through the river valley and on their farm-to-market roads.

The County Commission has leaned heavily on the need for the bridge to accommodate emergency vehicles. That argument doesn’t wash. Almost all of the county’s emergency vehicles are located in Medora, less than a mile from the bridge across the Little Missouri River there, and can go either way — east or west — to respond to an emergency.

For all of these reasons and others, the county should quit wasting taxpayer dollars and select Alternative L, the no-build alternative, and the North Dakota DOT and the Federal Highway Administration should reject the use of state and/or federal funds for this project.


Lillian Crook & Jim Fuglie

PAM COSTAIN: You Wooed Me Back, You Broke My Heart, I Still Love You, North Dakota

After a 40-year hiatus, the stark beauty of North Dakota captured my heart and drew me home. I was awestruck by the vast ineffable horizons, the wheat and sunflowers undulating in the wind and the other-worldly color of the Badlands and buttes. Returning to my roots, I remembered why I loved the landscape, the land itself and the powerful Missouri River coursing through its immense plains.

Missouri River at Bismarck.
Missouri River at Bismarck.

Though I had stayed away for decades, when I did go back, I realized I was still tethered to North Dakota by a sense of place, deep and lasting friendships and a profound connection to my youth.

As a child I had been happy in that simple place  —  walking to and from school with a gaggle of girls, picnics in the local park, ice skating on winter evenings, basketball and football games that drew the whole town, a small and unpretentious church community, great teachers who instilled a love of learning and dear friends who were the first to engage me in conversation about the mysteries of life. I loved my state and the place that raised me.

However, in late adolescence, after a trip across the Atlantic Ocean that revealed a much wider world than I had ever known, I began to grow restless and bored. I wanted more than North Dakota could give me and was even embarrassed at times by her. I wanted to leave her, and I did. I went away to college and made another state my home. I would not return for several decades.

In late middle age, I began to miss the state that had once nurtured me. I was drawn back to her first by the extraordinary sweep of the land and then by the people whose steadfastness, simplicity and familiarity fueled my longing for home.

But like many attempts to return to an old love, disappointment and heartache soon accompanied the joy of my homecoming. I had to finally look honestly at things long hidden or at best ignored in our past. I had to squarely face the cruel, abusive and dishonest relationship between my beloved state and the Native people who for centuries have also called it home. I had to confront my own blindness to realities that had been there all along.

What made me finally see the state I loved in all its beauty and ugliness was the struggle by members of the Standing Rock Tribe to protect their water, their sacred sites and their cultural identity.

As they stood up to the rapaciousness of the oil profiteers building the Dakota Access Pipeline and the government officials who had sold their souls for short-term financial gain, they awakened me from my slumber. Their courageous actions prompted me to look deeply, to listen with an open heart and to confront both historical grievances and contemporary lies, the provocations and dehumanizing greed that characterize much of North Dakota reality today.

No longer able to shield myself from the truth, I saw some of the disturbing realities of my home state, and I was truly heartbroken. I felt betrayed.

At the same time, standing with my Native sisters and brothers at the Sacred Stone and Oceti Sakowin encampments also gave me a profound experience of community, connection to the land and water and the power of solidarity among people. I saw the best of humanity as people gathered to peacefully protest the coming of the Black Snake. They cooked and cared for thousands, attended to the physical, psychological and spiritual needs of one another, shared stories of the past and dreams for the future. I was able to live within an ethic that honored the earth and the water and the unity of all people and that directly challenged the notion that “The only thing that matters is what I personally get today.”

Oceti Sakowin encampment, 2017.
Oceti Sakowin encampment, 2017.

This sacred experience of human community at Standing Rock stands right alongside my disappointment with North Dakota. It is still raw and unresolved. For that reason, I refuse walk away from her.

Late life love is different than the naiveté of youth. It requires more honesty and humility, the acceptance of ambiguity and nuance, forgiveness and accountability. It also requires listening to pain and suffering, as well as joy and possibility.

Now when I return to North Dakota, it is in full awareness of her faults and strengths. I see her as both broken and whole, simple and complex, intransigent and forgiving, capable of denying the past and desperately trying to heal the present. I will stay in relationship with her because as Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, “If we look deeply it is possible to heal not only the present, but also the past.”

Sacred Fire that burned continuously at Oceti Sakowin.
Sacred Fire that burned continuously at Oceti Sakowin.

Now I can honestly honor the hardscrabble struggles of both Native and non-Native people to survive in such a harsh climate. I appreciate the sense of kinship that has developed over both generations and shared experiences. I admire the strength of people who till the soil, tend the cattle and bison, drill the wells, teach and care for the children and work for the common good. I appreciate how intensely the wind blows, how warmly the sun shines, how completely the snow covers the landscape and how much the rivers, especially the Missouri River, have shaped the destiny of the people. That river has both given abundantly and taken away from those who rely on it.

I am held firm in my belief in redemption, the capacity to change, the healing power of rivers that are the source of life and the rootedness of place. I will not walk away from North Dakota but neither will I ignore her transgressions.

I love and honor you, North Dakota, and I want more from you.

This piece will be published in a collection called “Fierce Lament” in the fall of 2018.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Whither The Measure 6 Coalition?

Word comes this week that the organizing committee for a group of North Dakotans who want to raise North Dakota’s Oil Extraction Tax back to the level it was at before the Legislature cut it in 2015 has decided to postpone its initiated measure campaign. Postpone but not abandon. A wise choice, I’d say.

Although the group already has its petition language approved by the Secretary of State, signature-gathering time is short, and the task becomes even more difficult without the institutional support of organizations that were instrumental in the initial passage of the tax in 1980.

To review: We have an Oil Extraction Tax because of an initiated measure passed by the people of the state by a wide margin nearly 40 years ago. It came during our state’s first short-lived oil boom and was set at 6.5 percent of the price of a barrel of oil, which was added to an existing Oil Production Tax of 5 percent, giving us a total tax on oil of 11.5 percent. One of the highest, if not THE highest in the country.

The measure passed at a time when oil was gushing from the ground in western North Dakota and red ink was gushing from state coffers and agricultural balance sheets after the devastating hard times in agriculture in the 1970s.

The 11.5 percent tax stuck in the craw of the oil industry and Republican politicians for more than 30 years, although Republicans, who generally have governed the state since 1993, enjoyed the fruits of the income from the tax and the budgets it balanced for them.

But finally, in 2015, at the peak of the last oil boom when the state was flush with cash from the oil tax and a humming economy, Republicans mustered the courage to tackle the citizen-initiated tax and cut it from 6.5 percent to 5 percent. It was a devastating miscalculation. Within weeks of the governor signing the bill, oil prices began a death spiral, dropping from more than $60 per barrel to less than $30 (I don’t think there was any relationship between our tax cut and the price of oil, but still … ), and state budgets began bleeding red ink again.

It’s taken until now, more than two years later, for the price of oil to reach above $60 again. That combination of low oil prices and a lower oil tax means legislators have been forced to cut budgets, including some popular programs most North Dakotans like, such as property tax subsidies.

So sponsors of the current proposed initiated measure figured the time was right to go back to the people and ask them to raise the tax back to 6.5 percent. And they’re probably right. But there’s a difference between now and 1980. It’s the players.

Among political observers my age, we speak with reverence and awe of the “Measure 6 Coalition” — and those who organized it. It was probably the most powerful political coalition ever put together in North Dakota. It was the group that passed Measure 6, which created the 6.5 percent Oil Extraction Tax.

It was four organizations, led by four extraordinary men:

  • The North Dakota Farmers Union and its president, Stanley Moore.
  • The North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives and its executive director, Chub Ulmer.
  • The North Dakota Education Association and its executive director, Adrian Dunn.
  • The North Dakota AFL-CIO and its president, Jim Gerl.

Those four organizations probably represented a third of North Dakota’s population. And their members were activists, willing to rally behind their leaders because of the enormous respect for those four men, longtime leaders, giants of their era. I knew each of them personally and treasured any time they would share with me, sitting at their feet, as I was just entering the world of liberal political activism.

The four were brought together by then-Tax Commissioner Byron Dorgan and two of his chief lieutenants, Kent Conrad and Jim Lange. Dorgan, who had led the successful fight in the 1970s for implementation of a severance tax on coal, was the face of the movement. Conrad was the strategist. Lange was the number cruncher who figured out how and where to get the votes to pass it.

Those were halcyon days for populist activism in North Dakota, but they were nearing their end. 1980 was the year of the Reagan landslide. It was a wave election for Republicans, nationwide and in North Dakota. Republicans won every statewide election here but two in 1980, including the governor’s race, which saw the defeat of incumbent Gov. Art Link by Attorney General Allen Olson.

The only two Democrats to survive that election were the two men who went out on the stump and tirelessly, relentlessly, advocated for the passage of Measure 6, the Oil Extraction Tax: Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad. Dorgan was leaving his post to run for the U.S. Congress, a seat vacated by Mark Andrews, who was running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Milton Young. Conrad was running for tax commissioner, to replace Dorgan in that office. Both won by wide margins.

The two were the only Democratic-NPL candidates to campaign on a tax increase in a year when the country was headed inevitably to the right behind Reagan —  the rest of the Democratic-NPL ticket shied away. But Dorgan and Conrad had set the stage earlier, with their successful coal tax effort in the mid-1970s. Dorgan had even held a series of debates around the state with then-Republican House Majority Leader Earl Strinden, the two arguing both sides of a coal severance tax. It was classic North Dakota politics, the kind we don’t see any more. And Conrad was Dorgan’s chief strategist, behind the scenes then.

The pair, Dorgan and Concrad, were classic populists, leading the charge first against Big Coal and then Big Oil — and the people embraced them.

But in the end, it was Gerl, Ulmer, Moore and Dunn, the four coalition leaders, and their members, who swept the new oil tax into state law. And that’s what’s missing today. Those organizations, and their leaders.

To be fair, I can’t say whether the four leaders of those organizations today have the leadership capabilities to undertake such an effort, but what is obvious from the words of today’s organizing committee for the new initiated measure, is they are not yet all on board. Nor is there a Byron Dorgan or a Kent Conrad at the ready to lead them.

In the words of the organizing committee’s leaders, which I received in an e-mail today, “What we lack is endorsement from groups and organizations and their communication channels and infrastructure, all of which we need to get our message out to voters.”

Well. That could not be more clear. So they’ve made a timely, wise decision.

The strategy shifts now to the introduction of a measure in the 2019 Legislature to raise the Oil Extraction Tax back to 6.5 percent — an effort not likely to succeed, given the makeup of the Legislature. That’s what the Measure 6 Coalition understood back in 1980, and why they went directly to the people. Still, a concerted effort in the Legislature could attract a lot of attention and set the stage for an initiated measure in 2020.

But the Measure 6 Coalition does not exist today. A new coalition, with new leaders, must be assembled. Of the four leaders from 1980, only Jim Gerl is still alive. I think he’s approaching 80 and spends much time in Florida. But maybe we could get him back here to consult a bit.

I hope that the organizing committee for this effort can succeed in putting a new-old coalition back together. For in that effort lies success.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie —A Short Message About Our National Park

This might be the shortest blog post I’ve ever written. Or will ever write. But it’s an important one, so if you are concerned about the possibility of an oil refinery being built next to Theodore Roosevelt National Park as I am, please take just one minute to read it.

I had a chance encounter with Gov. Doug Burgum this weekend. We had a lengthy, frank and off-the-record discussion about the Davis refinery.

Off-the-record, but I think I can share a few things with you after the conversation without him objecting.

First, I don’t think the governor wants an oil refinery next to our national park any more than you and I do, but I believe he is committed to letting the regulatory process play out, without interfering with his agencies.

Second, I think that he believes, as do many of us, that there will be a legal process before construction begins on the refinery and that he is committed to letting that legal process play out as well.

And third, if the refinery gets its permits and survives a legal challenge, I am starting to get the feeling that we might be able to convince the governor to intervene personally with the company and try to get them to move it away from the park.

To convince him, we need to let the governor know that we will support any efforts he undertakes to get the company to move the refinery away from the national park by sending him an e-mail at We can do that now, or we can do that after the legal process is over. But now might be better.

To quote my new online friend and fellow blogger, Judge Tom Davies: Amen.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Refinery Near National Park Gets Preliminary OK

Tuesday’s announcement by the North Dakota Department of Health that it is preparing to issue an Air Quality Permit to Meridian Energy to build the Davis Oil Refinery three miles from Theodore Roosevelt National Park should come as no surprise.

Once again, the state of North Dakota rolls over to the energy industry, but this time it’s threatening more than just North Dakota’s environment. This time it is threatening a national park. This time, maybe, the state has rolled too far.

The Health Department would seem to have a narrow focus — numbers — but the documents it released Tuesday to back up those numbers are rife with judgments. There’s never been a refinery built like this one, the company brags in its public relations efforts, so there’s really nothing to compare it to in arriving at those numbers.

But there are a lot of people concerned about a lot more than just some numbers that purport to show that pollution from the refinery will not cause deterioration of the park’s Class I Air Quality Status.

In its announcement Tuesday, the Health Department said, “A complete review of the proposed project indicates that the facility is expected to comply with the applicable federal and state air pollution rules and regulations.”

Good. That means if the scientists at the Health Department are right, no matter where the refinery is located, in their judgment, it will not pollute North Dakota air.

But this is about more than air pollution. This is about putting a major industrial complex with stacks emitting big white plumes on the entrance road to the gate of a national park named for America’s greatest conservation president.

What are we thinking?

Part of the Health Department’s decision to issue a permit for the plant is based on the fact that Meridian is claiming to be a “minor source” of pollution, rather than a “major source.” I can’t go into a bunch of details about that, but basically it means that because the Department accepts that claim, the refinery is subject to different rules when it comes to determining if it will affect the park’s Class I Air Quality status. Less stringent rules.

That’s the first sham the refinery folks are pulling.

The second is, Meridian are avoiding having to get a siting permit from the Public Service Commission because it says it are going to build a refinery smaller than what it earlier applied for to the Health Department and the State Water Commission.

In North Dakota, a refinery planning to process more than 50,000 barrels of oil per day must go through a stringent siting process to determine the impact of such a facility on the surrounding area, such as a national park. Meridian’s applications to the Health Department, for an Air Quality Permit, and to the North Dakota Water Commission, for a water permit, are for a 55,000 barrels per day refinery. The siting permit process goes beyond just a numbers game. Let me quote from the PSC’s website:

“The purpose of the Siting Act is to ensure that the location, construction and operation of energy conversion facilities and transmission facilities will produce minimal adverse effects on the environment and upon the welfare of the citizens of this state by providing that no energy conversion facility or transmission facility shall be located, constructed and operated within this state without a certificate of site compatibility or a route permit issued by the Commission.

“The Legislature stated that it is the policy of this state to site energy conversion facilities and to route transmission facilities in an orderly manner compatible with environmental preservation and the efficient use of resources. Site and routes should be chosen to minimize adverse human and environmental impact while ensuring continuing system reliability and integrity and ensuring that energy needs are met and fulfilled in an orderly and timely fashion.”

Well, good for the Legislature! I think that law dates back to 1977. It’s a pretty safe bet it wasn’t passed any time in the last 10 years.

Again, the trigger for requiring a siting permit is 50,000 barrels per day. But now, Meridian now has changed its story and says it is only going to process 49,500 barrels per day, sneaking in under the 50,000 barrel limit and avoiding the siting process.

To her credit, Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said Tuesday she wants to meet with Meridian officials to discuss the proposed location. She’s not been happy with the refinery company’s shenanigans. She’s going to meet with Meridian CEO Bill Prentice on Dec. 19. I think I’m going to be there, too.

I’ve asked Fedorchak to get the governor involved in this process as well. Between them maybe they could convince the refinery people to move the plant 10 miles east, maybe even 20. There’s another refinery already located just west of Dickinson, N.D., about 20 miles east of the proposed location of this one. And it sits next to a transload facility with the capacity to move hundreds of tank cars of refined products a day to Eastern markets. I’d think that is a good location for another refinery.

But back to the Health Department. For now, the Health Department says Meridian complies with Chapter 33-15-14 of the North Dakota Administrative Code, which requires the facility to obtain a Permit to Construct and a Permit to Operate. In other words, the Health Department believes the pollution projections given to them by Meridian. Here are their words:

“The facility has met all requirements necessary to obtain a Permit to Construct. Once the Davis Refinery completes construction and meets the permit to construct requirements, a facility inspection will be performed by the Department. Upon a satisfactory inspection and performance testing, the Davis Refinery will be issued a Permit to Operate.”


Here are a couple other excerpts from Tuesday’s announcement by the Health Department:

“Chapter 33-15-15 — Prevention of Significant Deterioration of Air Quality. This chapter adopts the federal provisions of the prevention of significant deterioration of air quality (PSD) program. A facility is subject to PSD review if it is classified as a “major stationary source” under Chapter 33-15-15. The Davis Refinery will be subject to federally enforceable emission limitations via a synthetic minor permit to construct to remain below “major source thresholds” and therefore is not subject to PSD review under this chapter.” (Note there the significance of being classified as a minor source rather than a major source.)

“Chapter 33-15-16 — Restriction of Odorous Air Contaminants. This chapter restricts the discharge of objectionable odorous air contaminants which measures seven odor concentration units or greater outside the property boundary. Based on Department experience with sources having similar emissions, the facility is expected to comply with this chapter.” (Basing this decision on possible sources with similar emissions, this does not pass the smell test, in my humble opinion. They ever been in Mandan when the wind is from the northeast?)

“Chapter 33-15-19 — Visibility Protection. This chapter applies to major stationary sources as defined in section 33-15-15-01. The facility will not be a major stationary source and therefore is not subject to the requirements of this chapter. Given the minor source levels of the visibility impairing air pollutants, such as NOx, SO2, and PM2.5, it is expected that the Davis Refinery will not adversely contribute to visibility impairment within the three units of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park (nearest federal Class I areas).” (Note again the different standards for major and minor sources. And what about the plume rising hundreds of feet high above the park?)

Finally, here’s the summary at the end of today’s announcement:

“Summary: A complete review of the proposed project indicates that the facility is expected to comply with the applicable federal and state air pollution rules and regulations. Therefore, Meridian Energy Group Inc. has met all the requirements for obtaining a Permit to Construct and a draft Permit to Construct will be made available for public comment. Given the level of public interest, a 30-day public comment period (PCP) and concurrent 30-day EPA review period is required prior to permit issuance. In addition, the Department will hold a public meeting followed by a public hearing in Dickinson, N.D., for interested parties. Upon completion of the PCP, the Department will address all comments applicable to the state and federal air quality rules and regulations and make a final determination regarding the issuance of a Permit to Construct for the Davis Refinery.”

The public comment period begins Friday and runs through Jan. 26, 2018. Sharpen your pencils. Written comments should be sent to the North Dakota Department of Health, Division of Air Quality, 918 East Divide Ave, 2nd Floor, Bismarck, ND 58501-1947. Or e-mailed to

Mark your calendars now to attend the public hearing on the refinery at 5:30 p.m. (MST) Jan. 17 in Dorothy Stickney Auditorium in May Hall at Dickinson State University. That’s a big room. Let’s fill it up.

Here’s Tuesday’s announcement, if you want to take a look. It’s a few hundred pages.

I am reminded that President John F. Kennedy kept a small wooden plaque on his desk in the Oval Office for days like this. It read, “Oh, God, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.”

Indeed, Big Oil and North Dakota government rule a mighty sea.

RON SCHALOW: Port Whine, Part 1

I’m not sure how many days since Rob Port, famed columnist, political pundit and radio personality was featured on the Forum’s front page, but I’m still blind in my left eye.

Seriously, I was a little startled to see Port’s mug on the front page of the Fargo Forum, for more reasons than one. Port’s visage always makes me jump, especially the screen-filled face shot they use on the Forum webpage. His pupils are the size of half-dollars and not evenly spaced, which is disconcerting.

I also wasn’t prepared to read a minihagiography of an employee of less than two years. The professional lying scold has hit the big time now. We’ll skip my third thought.

“Now I say that when I write something that’s a fact, it’s a fact, because I check them out and am convinced that it’s fact. I also put in some opinion and people may disagree with the conclusions that I draw but I think that the one thing even most of my critics and maybe detractors will agree upon is that if I say something is a fact, it’s a fact.” Lots of baloney in that paragraph.
My father spent 25 years as a real journalist and never became the story until he retired. It never occurred to him that he should be. They also have real journalists, real columnists, real writers and real editors — many of them fond of punctuation and spelling — at Forum Communications, but I don’t know any of their life stories. I know that most of them like commas, though.

Port referred to Bismarck attorney and former agriculture commissioner Sarah Vogel as a retread and doddering. Both assertions were LIES. I wrote in an letter-to-the-editor, that Vogel could probably tip Port over with one hand.

So, what’s my real problem? Port gored my ox, and he just laughed it off. I found that annoying. I never become unannoyed. I didn’t even know this clown until he poked me in both eyes. Then, Port bravely blocked me from commenting on his blog, his blog’s Facebook page and his Twitter account. I’m not sure if my emails get through. I don’t think he liked being called a liar, and he had no response that wasn’t another lie, so he stuck a couple of sausage-sized finger in his ears. The BS front-page article was the last straw.

“While I have no doubt that marijuana does have some medicinal uses, those uses are pretty narrow and would only benefit a sliver of the population.” What a crock.

So I started reading his archive of gems and began following Port’s blog. Was this how the young lad operated on a regular basis? The answer was yes. He starts with a premise and then uses every deceitful rhetorical device in the book, including lying, to prove his point, or whatever he was indoctrinated to believe. Some days, I can pretty much guess who/what topic the hack is going to choose on a given day, and his take. Smearing individuals, or groups, is a noxious specialty of the weasel.

“What proponents of indiscriminate enrollment growth  people like Bresciani (NDSU President) want is a race to the bottom.” There are two lies in that statement.

Then, I alerted the other lib#$%@ Marxist commie snowflake cucks that I knew at the time and got scolded for reading Port’s Sayanythingblog at all. I thought he should be called out for his lies. Nope, they said. He makes money with every click, I was told. And if we don’t go to the blog, he’ll go away. How did that work out? He failed up. Plus, he wasn’t surviving on click-through Amazon ads. Now, he has been normalized by the largest media organization in the state.

“So why then should we have a law forcing a graphic designer to create a pro-gay logo for a homosexual congregation in Fargo?” LIE. St. Mark’s is not a homosexual congregation; it is a Lutheran Church.
I’m not going to rehash Port’s history of professional propagandizing. Real journalists, like Jim Fuglie And C.S. Hagen already did it .

A Short (Well, Sort Of) Introduction To The Koch Brothers Influence In North Dakota


It’s hard to be humble

“I think the folks at FCC brought me on because they recognize that I am a talented and well-connected opinion reporter with a lengthy track record of producing solid analysis and breaking news.”

“I even get them, even though I would argue that in my 13th year of writing about North Dakota politics I’m probably one of the most consequential reporters/commentators in the state.”

“(I’m) not just any blogger. (I’m) One who is widely respected around the state, and writes for a large audience”
“Who is Ron Schalow? He’s a 9/11 truther for one.” FALSE.

Did Forum Communications not vet this joker before taking him on? Does the veracity of their writers not matter? Or is it a feature that Port has no ethical boundaries? So why? I sure don’t know. Why do grown men dive over rows of bleachers for a $4 baseball? Why does Kevin Cramer hate white pantsuits?
Port won Native American Stereotype of the Month honors for this bull$#!*

Anyway, the Forum decided to do a puff piece on Port. I’m going to guess that Port’s numbers need some boosting, which were never as big as Port likes to boast, anyway. Either he doesn’t know the difference between a visitor and a unique visitor, or he’s hoping that none of his readers do. The Forum knows. Advertisers know, and they know which demographics are consumers. Complaints about having an amatuer on staff must be piling up, too. I’ve never claimed to be Hemingway, but Port never gets better as a writer.

Port has such a lengthy history of deceit that only a fraction can be noted here, and I doubt a book would be a big seller. A few specks will have to do.

The Big Smear

In one of the most despicable, sleazy, twisted, Portlike smears I’ve ever seen, Port took offense, for some reason, at an effing letter-to-the-editor in the Grand Forks Herald by Heidi Czerwiec. I use her name because she has personally written on the mob maelstrom Port set upon her. She was the perfect target. A liberal arts college academic and a woman. Port is not unaware of the hatred the alt-right has for education, higher-ed, pointy headed professor’s, poetry, females and anyone who might use less than glowing language about guns.

“On March 21, the story was written up on the Say Anything Blog, a local right-wing outlet, which condemned Dr. Czerwiec’s “overall paranoid attitude.” At 12:47 p.m. the next day, the story — linking to the Say Anything Blog — was reported by Campus Reform, a project of the conservative Leadership Institute that counts Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed and Karl Rove among its alums. By the end of the day, Fox News had republished Campus Reform’s piece, and Tucker Carlson’s The Daily Caller had published an article, also linking to the Say Anything Blog.

At 8:50 the next morning, Glenn Beck’s The Blaze had a piece up about the controversy, as did the conservative Washington Times (which linked to Campus Reform) as well as Alex Jones’ Infowars with “Paranoid Anti-Gun Professors Calls 9-1-1 Terrified By ROTC Exercises,” where a commenter added Czerwiec’s campus email and office phone.” — Attack on Academia

Port went to the well four times, on, I repeat, an effing letter-to-the-editor, because it was a ratings winner, misleading all the way. And all of the losers circled in like vultures to enter crude comments below each post. Forum Communications has a code of conduct for commenters on their Facebook pages, but anything goes on the FCC owned Sayanythingblog. And Port has an Algonquin Roundtable of howler monkeys to guard SAB’s comment section from sanity, and try run off anyone that might disagree with the mob.
“Maybe a better strategy for UND would be to hire professors who function as adults.” The smarm oozes from Port’s fingers. The joke is on him, though. Dr. Czerwiec’s family had already chosen to follow other opportunities before the school year even started. She still has a doctorate, and a good job, while Port will always be a moron, renting from his parents.

The state led Port around by nose during the DAPL protest. He claims that the government can’t do anything right, but he played the stenographer for the state of North Dakota and law enforcement, without fact checking what he was publishing for months. Nonwhites get the clicks. He detests Native Americans and loves oil tycoons, more than he hates government, it appears.

When a young lady nearly had her arm blown off, during spray the crowd with cold water night on the bridge, alarm bells sounded, the spin was written, and it was, “Oh my, who is the most gullible typist in North Dakota?”
“How can we get this story out? Rob Port?” Maj. Amber Balken, a public information officer with the North Dakota National Guard, said. “This is a must report.”

Cecily Fong, a public information officer with the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, replied saying she would “get with” the blogger for wider dissemination.” — HPR
Port didn’t even know that TigerSwan was in charge, so he doesn’t know if half of what he wrote was true. The paramilitary mercenaries spied, infiltrated, instigated, screwed with the signals of electronics, concocted falsehoods and fed the truffles to Rob.

His excuse; “Was there anyone operating under the impression that this “wasn’t” happening?”
Evidently Port was operating cluelessly because he kept on buying whatever was slipped into his burrow. Or maybe he knew. Either way, no reputable newspaper operation would put up with such shenanigans.

“Communication between the various agencies attempts to paint the activists known as water protectors as criminals, out of state troublemakers, and sexual deviants, a theme widely reported by the state’s media, particularly on the Forum Communication Company’s right-wing editorialist Say Anything Blog, managed by Port.” — HPR
If anything remotely criminal happened within a hundred miles of Cannon Ball, the Portweasel let innuendo do the talking. He does love his innuendo. OMG! Thirty cattle are missing! Oops, never mind. They were hiding behind that elm tree.

Now, we find out that “the firms Delve and Off the Record Strategies, apparently working on contract with the National Sheriffs’ Association, worked in secret on talking points, media outreach and communications training for law enforcement dealing with Dakota Access opponents mobilized at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota.”

“Pfeifle (Mark. Off the Record Strategies) agreed in his email and suggested following the press conference with outreach to friendly media outlets to amplify the message.”

“One of those outlets was the Say Anything Blog, run by Rob Port, who the next day, Oct. 6, ran a blog post featuring many of the themes found in the talking points:Over 85 Percent of Arrested #NoDAPL Protesters Are From Outside of North Dakota.”

In his email, Pfeifle had suggested reaching out to Port, who also hosts a radio show on WDAY AM-970 and regularly wrote blog posts in support of Dakota Access during the Standing Rock standoff. When Port’s piece went online, Pfeifle wrote an email that same day to the Delve team, sheriffs’ association staff, Hushka, and others asking an association staffer to share the piece on social media.”

These are the same characters who helped G.W. Bush rationalize the Iraq war. Was Port once again clueless, or was he in cahoots?


Big oil loves Rob, and Rob loves them back. He just so happens to have the same opinions as the North Dakota Petroleum Council, which simplifies things, I imagine. There isn’t anything the oil industry can do, in or to, North Dakota that Port cannot — or is unwilling — to justify, including the death of people. There is no spill, no exploding train, no employee death, or human misery, that the Portweasel can’t excuse.

“Currently the North Dakota Industrial Commission is considering a draft field order for conditioning Bakken oil before shipment. The rules would not only set a target for stabilization (measured by vapor pressure) but would also dictate how the industry would go about hitting that target.” Conditioning isn’t stabilization. Port never understood that, but he just types away.

The Republicans cut taxes for oil barons in 2015, and Port has been lying about it ever since. “You cannot call it a tax cut when the net result is an increase in tax burdens.”

“Remember over the last few years when the enemies of oil development were hyping oil train derailments?” Nope. Because nobody was hyping anything. News outlets were reporting on the explosions, which seemed normal, since they were danger to public safety. Another thing Port doesn’t understand, so he made it up.

In 2015, the fatality rates in the Bakken were nearly seven times as high as other oil fields in the rest of America, but Port wasn’t having anything to do with those facts. “Yes, worker deaths have increased over those years, but so has oil activity.” He didn’t mention the comparison to other oil plays. Lying by omission and a lame excuse. Poor hiring, poor training, poor management, ignoring the rules, lack of proper equipment, hurry, and asking workers do dangerous things past normal procedures, are the usual culprits, when there is an excess of injuries and deaths. The workers aren’t Port’s concern.

“Left-wing activists have taken to using the term “bomb trains” and are now blaming public officials for not seeking regulatory retribution for the derailments from the oil industry.” The term “bomb trains” was coined by those in the industry, who knew what was getting poured into Bakken tanker cars, and public officials are there, supposedly, to protect the public. They’ve decided not to.

Time to call them Obama trains,” blared Port’s headline. He links to an article that says that Obama dropped the ball on stabilization, which he did, deciding to trust North Dakota to do the right thing, which was stupid.

The Obama administration weighed national standards to control explosive gas in oil trains last year but rejected the move, deciding instead to leave new rules to North Dakota alone. — Reuters

What Port was likely too dense to figure out, or remember, was mocking me for demanding that the state do exactly what he was now faulting Obama for not doing. (The comment section below this post looks odd because I was blocked, and my gentle polite remarks were deleted)

“Schalow has accomplished is really nothing other than organizing a few of his fellow conspiracy mongers and cranks.” We’re so unorganized, I can’t even find the others.

“NGL’s make the oil more volatile, which makes it much easier to ignite. The NGL vapor will expand away from the toppled cars along the ground, which causes a much larger burning area. Stabilized oil does burn, but it DOESN’T “EXPLODE”. We as a country have been transporting stabilized oil by train every day since 1960, how many of these type of accidents do you remember? Without the NGL’s there is no reason to rebuild all the rail transport cars or change what we are doing.” — Myron Goforth; president of Dew Point Control LLC., Sugar Land, Texas

Port doesn’t like to mention it’s only Bakken oil trains that have exploded, (because Bakken crude is not stabilized) how many have blown up, or how many people have died. He doesn’t get upset because they detonate, but because news media notices the 300 foot fireballs and tells everyone.

“… activists have taken to mapping the “blast zones” around railroad tracks, and claim that 25 million Americans live in them.” Because it’s true, and you would think the government would show such concern. We have signs for everything else.

And Rob is just so darn proud of anything flaring. “And when (Amy) Dalrymlpe(sp) does get around to mentioning declines in gas flaring, she puts it in the context of an industry spokesman exaggerating a bit.

Isn’t a 24 percent reduction in the volume of gas flared over the last two years news? It seems like news to me.”


Doug Burgum played Port like a jukebox throughout his campaign for governor. Burgum would invite him into his office, and Port glowed. He asked Port for advice, and Port’s ego grew even larger. Then, Burgum would do something that Port didn’t like, such as wearing a cowboy hat (beats me), and there would be three days of debate on whether the future governor was an actual cowboy. It was fun to watch the Minot High trained Port give advice to a guy that knows Bill Gates, and thousands of actual smart people.

It’s the Wind Dude

“Over the last couple of weeks, we North Dakotans, forced to celebrate the anniversary of our nation’s independence through a smoky haze blown down from Canadian wildfires, were left appreciating our state’s normally pristine air quality. That’s because it disappeared on us, at least temporarily.

After decades of coal development and a more recent uptick in oil-related industrial activity in western North Dakota — including more flaring of natural gas than anybody is happy about — it took the tragic wildfires our northern neighbors are grappling with to foul our air.”

Identity politics Port-style

According to Port, unless the political candidate is snow white, male and straight, identity politics are at play.

“And while I detest identity politics, there’s no questioning that it is a factor in how people cast their ballots. Having a woman on the ticket is going to increase Burgum’s appeal among a pretty large demographic of voters. People should vote based on things like gender or skin color, but they do.”

“Per Nowtazki’s(sp) article, Democrats acknowledge having put at least some effort into recruiting Native American candidates, and we’ll in November how that works for them politically. Identity politics are an ugly reality in American politics, but a reality none-the-less.”

“Finally, identity politics do matter. Many on the right are convinced that Rep. Oversen only got her appointment because she is young and female. “

“Particularly hilarious is state Rep. Kyle(sp) Oversen — titular chairwoman for the North Dakota Democrats and a not-yet-graduated law student — lecturing Senator John Hoeven over his call for Obama to refrain from nominating a candidate to replace Scalia.”

He has a particular animus for Kylie Oversen, second only to his hostility towards Senator Heitkamp.

He doesn’t like college students

This is standard language for the alt-right, and Port is probably extra angry because he couldn’t hack the college thing. He often cherry picks an anecdote that fits his narrative, then ascribes whatever irks him to a whole group.

“If this generation of college-aged toddlers want to shirk their responsibilities to pay for their debts and tolerate diverse opinions, then perhaps we should acknowledge that they are, in fact, children and treat them as such..”

“This is the social media generation, after all, which gets its news from smirking comedians and internet memes.”

“Millions upon millions of American students attend university as a way to prolong the high school experience and postpone adulthood.”

Coming in Port Whine, Part 2

Pipelines, science denial, hate crime denial, discrimination denial, Kevin Cramer, Heidi Heitkamp, Trump, e-cigarettes, Trumpcare, Bresciani, NDSU football, Michelle Obama, and more …

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — An Open Letter To Governor Doug Burgum, On The Occasion Of The Greatest Threat Ever To The Little Missouri State Scenic River

Dear Gov. Burgum,

Let me quote from the conservation easement you signed for some ranchland you and your friends own in southwest North Dakota’s Bad Lands six years ago:

“The Protected Property possesses agricultural, scenic, and historic, and cultural values. The Protected Property is located in the heart of the only Ponderosa pine forest in North Dakota, south of Teddy Roosevelt’s historic Maltese Cross Ranch. This area is rich in history and is deep in the North Dakota Badlands. The scenic Little Missouri River runs directly through the Protected Property and is the only state-designated scenic river in North Dakota. (emphasis added)

“The Little Missouri National Grasslands … offer significant open space and scenic values to local residents and the general public. In addition, the integrity of the Little Missouri River corridor is significant to the entire state, region and nation in the context of its historic and cultural role in the Native American history of the Upper Great Plains …” (emphasis added)

“Preservation of the Protected Property as an undeveloped area will provide significant public benefit via the tremendous scenic qualities and visual access the Protected Property possesses.” (emphasis added)

“These Conservation Values are of great importance to the Grantor, Grantee, and the people of the state of North Dakota. In addition, these values are vitally important to the people of the nation due to the significant relationship to the river corridor and the need to preserve the view along the Little Missouri River in this specific area.” (emphasis added)

That was YOU, Gov. Burgum six years ago, writing about YOUR ranch in the southern Bad Lands. A document filed in the Slope County Court House in Amidon, N.D.

Well, Governor, that was when you were just a ranch owner and only concerned about protecting your little piece of the Little Missouri River. Concerned enough to try to put a perpetual conservation easement on that land so it could never be developed. So that there could never, ever, be anything more than a gravel road leading to the river bottom. So that commercial and industrial development, like water depots and truck refueling stations, would be forbidden on that piece of the Little Missouri River. FOREVER.

Again, from your document:

“The purpose of these Covenants is to preserve and protect in perpetuity the Conservation Values of the Protected Property … in accordance with (Section) 170(h) of the Internal Revenue Code.”

I don’t know if you were successful, since perpetual easements are illegal in North Dakota. I don’t know if you were seeking, or received, federal tax breaks for putting this easement on your property because Section 170(h) of the Internal Revenue Code, which your refer to several more times in your easement document, specifically says, “A contribution shall not be treated as exclusively for conservation purposes unless the conservation purpose is protected in perpetuity.” And easements of this sort in North Dakota are limited to 99 years. Which is certainly not “perpetuity.”

Well, anyway. That was then, when you were responsible and concerned for just your little chunk of the Little Missouri River, and no one doubts that your motives were anything less that sincere about protecting the Little Missouri State Scenic River valley.

But now, Gov. Burgum, you’re governor of the whole state and responsible for protecting the entire Little Missouri River, “the only state-designated scenic river in North Dakota,” as you so ably pointed out in your easement papers.

That State Scenic River designation is part of our state’s laws, in Chapter 61-29 of the North Dakota Century Code, which says:

“Channelization, reservoir construction, or diversion other than for agricultural or recreational purposes and the dredging of waters within the confines of the Little Missouri scenic river and all Little Missouri River tributary streams are expressly prohibited. “ (emphasis added)

The only water that can come out of that river is water to be used for “agricultural or recreational purposes.” Because the North Dakota Legislature said, in writing this law in 1975, that the Little Missouri State Scenic River is too valuable to the state to allow industrialization of the river to take place.

At least, that is what it says today. But now there’s a new law in front of you, Governor, awaiting your signature (or your veto?) passed by the 2017 Legislature, which changes all that. For the past 10 years or so, your State Water Commission, of which you, now, as governor, are the chairman of, has been violating that law and issuing permits for industrial use of Little Missouri State Scenic River water. This year, your staff over there at the Water Commission has decided to come clean and ask that those permits be made legal. Mind you, they didn’t cancel the permits when we found out they were issuing them illegally. They just decided to change the law to make them legal. With the help of oil industry lobbyists and friendly Republican legislators. No doubt those oil industry lobbyists are perched outside your office right now, waiting to encourage you to sign the bill into law and give them, legally, million of gallons of Little Missouri State Scenic River water.

And that’s what the bill in front of you, HB1020 passed this week by the 65th North Dakota Legislative Assembly, does. And those legislators are asking you to sign it into law. So that their friends (and more and more, it’s starting to look like your friends, too) in the oil industry can continue to get that water.

And if you and the Legislature make it legal, the oil industry will probably want way more than they’ve been getting so far, from those 600 illegal water permits they were issued by your Water Commission staff over the past 10 years. They won’t have to worry about any penalties for breaking the law any more.

So are you going to sign it, Gov. Burgum? Are you going to legalize the industrialization of the Little Missouri State Scenic River valley? Or are you going to remember what you wrote six years ago about your little piece of the Little Missouri State Scenic River valley:

“The integrity of the Little Missouri River corridor is significant to the entire state, region and nation in the context of its historic and cultural role in the Native American history of the Upper Great Plains …” and an “undeveloped area will provide significant public benefit via the tremendous scenic qualities …”

Water tanker trucks and dry riverbeds don’t contribute much to the “integrity” or “scenic qualities” of the Little Missouri State Scenic River Valley. Are you going to let that happen? Or are you going to accept your responsibility as governor of the WHOLE state, and the WHOLE Little Missouri State Scenic River, and veto the section of HB1020 that opens up the river valley to industrialization by the oil industry? The Little Missouri State Scenic River is counting on you, Gov. Burgum. You decide.

Gov. Burgum, please read, and contemplate a little bit, this poem from my dear friend, Debra Marquart, written before the bust. Debra is a native North Dakotan who, like you, cares deeply about her state, Gov. Burgum. Read this and maybe you’ll give that veto power just a little more consideration.


By Debra Marquart

(c) 2015

north dakota,   I’m worried about you

the company you keep   all these new friends   north dakota

beyond the boom, beyond the extraction  of precious resources

do you think they care what becomes of you


north dakota, you used to be the shy one

enchanted secret land only by a few   north dakota


when I traveled away and told people I  belonged to you   north dakota

your name rolled awkwardly from their tongues

a mouth full of rocks, the name of a foreign country


north dakota   you were the blushing wallflower

the natural beauty, nearly invisible, always on the periphery

north dakota   the least visited state in the union


now everyone knows your name   north dakota

the blogs and all the papers are talking about you   even 60 minutes


I’m collecting your clippings   north dakota

the pictures of you from space

the flare ups in your northern corner

like an exploding super nova

a massive city where no city exists

a giant red blight upon the land


and those puncture wounds   north dakota   take care of yourself

the injection sites   i see them on the maps

eleven thousand active wells    one every two miles


all your indicators are up   north dakota

four hundred billion barrels, some estimates say

more oil than we have water to extract

more oil than we have air to burn


north dakota   you could run the table right now   you could write your own ticket

so, how can I tell you this?   north dakota, your politicians


are co-opted (or cowards or bought-out or honest and thwarted)

they’re lowering the tax rate for oil companies

they’re greasing the wheels that need no greasing

they’re practically giving the water away

they’ve opened you up and said, take everything


north dakota   dear sleeping beauty   please, wake up


what will become of your sacred places,

what will become of the prairie dog

the wolf, the wild horses, the eagle

the meadowlark, the fox, the elk

the pronghorn antelope, the rare mountain lion

the roads, the air, the topsoil

your people, your people,

what will become of the water?


north dakota   who will ever be able to live with you

once this is all over   I’m speaking to you now

as one wildcat girl   to another   be careful    north Dakota

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Taking The State Back

You are being rescued. Republican state legislators are taking North Dakota back.

From themselves.

In the immortal words of Stevie Wonder, who used to be a legislator from District 28, “Don’t you worry ’bout a thing, Pretty Mama.” And let me tell you, Al Carlson, another blind legislator, hates being called Pretty Mama. The mama part, anyway.

There’s a lot of stuff to straighten out. Like getting those lazy, no-good, slothful elderly in their palatial nursing homes to pick up the tab for the tax break Republicans gave struggling oil billionaires the last go-around.

Because, really, even though those old coots helped build North Dakota, what have they done for you lately? Play Bingo and take sponge baths, that’s what. And watch soap operas on television. Like oil sands through a pipeline, so are the Days of Our Legislature.

Rep. Roscoe Streyle is doing his best to protect you from knowledge, which everyone knows has been the ruination of this country. Streyle’s bill would save oppressed oil companies from having to report contained spills less than 420 gallons. Do you know how much paper that would save? Enough to put Dunder Mifflin out of business.

Don’t you care about the environment? Save a tree, relieve some stress and pretend we don’t have any oil spills in North Dakota. And, frankly, to heck with Dunder Mifflin.

What about those lost jobs? Fear not. Pharmaceutical companies, who make a killing with blood pressure meds in North Dakota every two years, will pick up the slack.

One bill proposed by Pretty Mama would make it illegal for adults to wear masks in North Dakota. The idea is that anonymity should only be granted to law enforcement policing pipeline protests. Snowmobilers are so screwed.

What about Batman and other good guys? I would like to point out, Tonto is not the one in the mask. Somebody needs to stand up for our superheroes.

Sidebar: Has anyone ever seen the Green Hornet and Gov. Doug Burgum in the same room? I rest my case.

Make no mistake, I’d like to blame the Democrats for this mess, but they haven’t actually made it to any sessions yet because parking assignments dictated by the majority have forced them to park in Wilton and walk from there.

I know Marvin Nelson, who is getting in incredible shape — I mean, Boston Marathon condition — tried to FaceTime a vote in, only to discover Rep. Lawrence Klemin wanted him to pay $20 under proposed legislation that would require every internet device to be considered a pornographic vending machine.

That’s right, $20 per internet device if you want the racy stuff. Like news reports about the president-elect from Russia. Apparently, Klemin isn’t really against smut, he just thinks you should pay a cover charge. I think when people visit the Legislature this session, they should tuck dollar bills in Klemin’s belt for his re-election.

Although Klemin’s bill was withdrawn, until mental health cuts in North Dakota allow complete insanity to prevail, I would like clarification regarding my new web-based thermostat. While 70 degrees is OK, and 68 degrees is OK, would any number in between subject me to arrest?

As far as cutting mental health goes, feeling good is overrated. And, as any good Victorian knows, novel reading is the leading cause of mental health issues. We should burn books. Especially now, in January, when it makes the most sense.

I think medical marijuana, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters, will help the afflicted, despite the fact marijuana is a well-know gateway drug to liberalism. The next thing you know, you’re wearing jeans to work.

Thank God, Al Carlson is doing his level best to study the heck out of the medical marijuana issue for the 64 percent of people who didn’t know what they were voting for. He and some other legislators have set up a lab in the fourth stall in the unisex bathroom with a damp towel under the door. It’s a bipartisan effort because none of the Republicans knew how to work a bong. Send more Oreos and Pink Floyd albums. They want to get this right. Don’t look for that to happen anytime soon.

On the bright side, I think we’ll gain an hour after they tackle the pressing issue of Daylight Saving Time, which Sen. Dave Oehlke wants to dispense with in North Dakota. Great. And, when they’re done with that, maybe they can move the calendar out of the 1950s.

Until then, we’re keeping “the gays” in their place. The Senate last week voted down legislation to update state law with gender-neutral language to reflect same-sex couples’ constitutional rights. Sen. Janne Myrdal said the whole silly notion would serve to diminish the honor and sacredness of marriage. Everyone knows that for every same sex union, four out of five straight couples divorce. No, hold it. That’s the number of dentists who approve of Crest.

There is no reason to complicate things with humanity. Status quo is perfect for North Dakota. As I’m sure Sen. Myrdal would agree, the Dark Ages weren’t all that bad.

© Tony Bender, 2017

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Ambush At Standing Rock

It’s hard to articulate what has happened and is still happening to the Native American population.

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, his scout, Drew Wrigley, and his alter-ego, Kevin Cramer, are either disconnected from the reality of what is happening at Standing Rock or are simply too uninformed or too cowardly to act in a responsible leadership role.

Philip Strobel is program director of National Environmental Protection Act in the Region 8 Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Ecosystems Protection. In March, he asked for an updating of the draft environmental assessment — that it be revised to assess potential impacts to drinking water and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, as well as additional concerns over environmental justice and the emergency response actions in case of oil spills and leaks. Based on the importance of these concerns, he recommended a revised draft.

The Native Americans of Standing Rock prepared a list and filed it. It showed where graves, sacred sites and artifacts were located on the land in question.

On Saturday (Sept. 3), a group of men, women and children walked on foot to the original protest site. And guess what!

The Dakota Access Pipeline people had seen their list of sacred sites … and sent out a work crew, with no notice to anyone and on a holiday weekend, to bulldoze the earth. Their crew destroyed the graves and sacred sites that had been identified in the tribe’s report to create the path for the pipe to be laid right across them!

The tribe had no notice this was going to happen or that, in fact, the destruction was under way. When they came upon the scene, with trucks and bulldozers in motion, you can imagine their hurt, anger and outrage at what was happening to their sacred lands.

You can bet the farm they walked up to the fence — over, under and around it — to protest the destruction. Men, women and children demanded that they stop.

What did the agents of the Three Mouseketeers (Dalrymple, Wrigley and Cramer) do? I saw the video shot by witnesses: What they did was mace or pepper spray the Natives and bring out attack dogs without warning. The dogs bit everything in sight (including their handlers). One bit a horse and was rewarded with a kick to its body that sent said dog to the vet hospital.

The handlers couldn’t control those dogs. Unlike well-trained police with their equally trained K-9s, these boneheads created a panic with their uncontrolled shepherds and pit bulls. Unlike other breeds, when a pit bull bites, it doesn’t release, which is why you don’t see law enforcement use them.

In the hands of rogue, untrained security people, these animals are weapons. The security staff were not authorized to use weapons. If I’d scan the laws carefully, I think I could come up with authority to charge them.

There are legal cases across this country where dogs have been held to be deadly weapons and the owners held responsible. Police dogs are an exception; otherwise, I’ve seen no authority that would allow these rent-a-cops to turn their animals loose on the Native Americans.

Since North Dakota’s cowardly mainstream media, including the state’s largest newspaper, have not reported on these events in any meaningful way, I have searched national newspapers, TV media, the Native American news outlets and witnesses who were there Saturday to obtain the information we need to understand.

Once again, I note, the governor, lieutenant governor and our lone U.S. congressman have done nothing but throw more gasoline on the flames of bigotry and injustice. In statements and interviews, they are calling the protectors “lawbreakers, thugs and criminals,” turning a blind eye (or one that’s simply uninformed) to the plight the tribes are in.

The courts will rule on some parts of this standoff this week. In the meantime, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed an emergency motion Sunday (Sept. 4) to block further construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The oil companies know exactly what they are doing. They’ve taken a page out of the Trump “Bully’s Playbook” and are trying to run roughshod over our Original Americans. The state’s three top government individuals to whom I’ve referred, being supporters of the world’s most dangerous man, are happy to let them do it.

Word went out during the protest that a government helicopter was in the air. If that’s correct, why wasn’t local law enforcement called in to maintain the peace and corral the nut jobs with the vicious dogs? On the other hand, if local law enforcement didn’t know what the oil company was doing, perhaps they should bring in someone with the brains god gave a goat to monitor the situation — and to serve and protect “everyone”?

Of course, U.S. Sen. John Hoeven was also an outspoken supporter of TransCanada and its now-failed Keystone XL pipeline, as well as this comparable line by Energy Transfer Partners of Texas. I suppose the fact that he has a personal investment in 68 different oil-producing wells under the auspices of Mainstream Investors LLC has something to do with it.

According to his most recent congressional personal financial disclosure form — one-fourth of them within 18 miles of the terminal of the Dakota Access Pipeline near Watford City.

Do you suppose that might influence his position? (Go ahead — at this point, either choke or gasp, as you wish.)

Hoeven is also a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. It is supposed to ensure tribal concerns are heard and adequately addressed. Sen. Hoeven’s representative says he makes his decisions based solely on merit! Native lands vs. Big Oil? Hmm, it would appear that he should get off Indian Affairs and go directly to the Committee on Shills for the Oil Industry.

This is all about Standing Rock and Native American issues:  protecting their rights, their traditions, their religious beliefs from encroachment and — in far too many cases — destruction of their way of life.

Ask yourself: What would you do if it were your home, farmstead, the burial site of your ancestors’ remains, your sacred relics, your only water supply, and everything you deemed as essential to your life … and a foreign power came in to destroy it?

Now ask yourself what you would do if you were Native American. That very scenario exists.

The Native Americans have had much more patience than I would, considering what they’ve had to endure and put up with. The fact that Indian Nations from all across this country are backing our North Dakota and South Dakota tribes ought to send a message to our leaders (if, in fact, you can find any here) that they must put the brakes on this pipeline until a route can be found to avoid Native lands.

I am so proud of the self-control the tribes have maintained while these political ambushes continue. The God I honor, and the Spirits and God they honor, too, know their cause is right. The non-natives pushing this misguided plan would do well to consult their own God, instead of their bank accounts. Then this patriotic action by the Water Protectors will succeed. Amen.


CLAY JENKINSON: Standing Rock — A Time to Listen, Not to Spout

Events of historic importance are slowly unfolding south of Mandan, N.D., near the boundary of another nation state, the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

The Dakota Access Pipeline protest has grown into something much larger and more important for the future of white-Indian relations. It is no longer just about the pipeline. We may be witnessing the beginning of a continent-wide pan-Indian movement. It involves a firm insistence that the larger American culture show much greater respect to Indian lives, Indian concerns, Indian culture, Indian grievances, and Indian sovereignty. But it also represents a renewal of confidence and solidarity in the Native American world.

A new generation of young Indians is observing the protests in North Dakota. They are learning essential lessons about how to live with pride and dignity as Native Americans on a continent overwhelmingly dominated by a more powerful culture that does not understand or admire Native American ways of seeing and making public decisions.

Portrait of Sitting Bull by Catherine Weldon. When he was assassinated in December 1890, Sitting Bull’s portrait was slashed by one of his assailants.
Portrait of Sitting Bull by Catherine Weldon. When he was assassinated in December 1890, Sitting Bull’s portrait was slashed by one of his assailants.

As we in the non-Indian community look on, it is essential that we try to shut up and just listen for a change. The truth is that white people don’t know very much about Indian lives and Indian ways of seeing. What little we know comes through two unreliable lenses: first, the tenacious popular culture stereotype of Indians as whooping savages on horseback; second, the idea that Indians are a merely dysfunctional people living in a morass of poverty, alcoholism, and failed tribal governance.

Time to clear our minds and look at things with fresh eyes.

I know of almost no white people who can really explain how tribal sovereignty works, why it is that the Standing Rock Lakota are a separate nation within the states of North Dakota and South Dakota; just how their land was confiscated by the citizens and the government of the United States; how the reservation system was born, and for what historical purposes; how reservations were shattered by the Dawes Act of 1887, which allowed non-Indians to homestead on tribal lands that were deemed — by white policy makers — as “surplus.” Most white people know nothing about reserved hunting and fishing rights, about Native American spiritual dynamics, or about the ways in which legal systems (county, state, federal, reservation) overlap and interplay in Indian country.

So we should shut up and listen. This is an opportunity for non-Indians to listen to Chairman David Archambault of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation — and many others — who are attempting to explain why this protest movement began and what it means for Indians and non-Indians alike. As the humanist Everett Albers used to say, “judgment is easy, understanding is hard.” You cannot learn when you are talking, and you have nothing much to say if you are basing your talking points on ignorance.

We non-Indians may not always agree with what we are hearing in these intense moments in the autumn of 2016. We may not always even understand what we are hearing and reading. But the important thing is that we try to listen hard and with generosity of spirit and open minds. The protests are no threat to non-Indians. We do not lose something if we listen respectfully. We do not lose something if the petroleum-industrial-government complex finds it possible to accommodate the requests of the Standing Rock nation.

It is time for a new spirit of reconciliation between the two cultures. In 1890 “the non-Indian” Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Thomas J. Morgan, said: “The Indians must conform to the white man’s ways, peaceably if they will, forcibly if they must.”

Morgan lived during the high-water mark of forced assimilation policies. But if you stop to think about it, as events unfold around Labor Day 2016 in southern North Dakota, we are not so far from Morgan’s threat. It is not at all impossible that “forcibly if they must” is one of the options that state and federal authorities are contemplating as they try to manage this crisis and clear the path for the pipeline to move across the Missouri River.

What we know from Wounded Knee 1890 or for that matter Wounded Knee 1973 is that when two cultures that cannot negotiate in mutual good faith and mutual respect find themselves in a highly tense landscape with the threat of violence not very far from the surface, terrible things can happen suddenly and without either side really wanting those things to happen. We need to ratchet this situation down, not up, and both sides need to explicitly renounce the use of violence. And both sides need to police their hotheads to make sure those vows are kept.

The whole world is watching.

Instead of exchanging uninformed platitudes and bravado at coffee shops around the state of North Dakota, we non-Indians should use this opportunity to inform ourselves about the Lakota world. Here are a few suggestions of books that would allow us to understand more and discuss this situation with knowledge rather than hunches and talking points:

  1. Robert M. Utley. “The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull.” You cannot understand the Standing Rock world if you don’t know the life and struggles of Sitting Bull. Besides, North Dakota tourism promotes Sitting Bull as one of the “legendary” figures in North Dakota history. He’s part of our official tourism package!
  2. Thomas Powers. “The Killing of Crazy Horse.” Hint: it’s not really just about Crazy Horse, but rather about the overwhelming thrust of white civilization that he was trying to resist on behalf of the sovereignty of his people.
  3. Edward Lazarus. “Black Hills, White Justice.” The “Sioux” (Lakota) world was centered on the Black Hills. The Sioux reservations as we now see them on maps are the result of land cessions and confiscations that were never agreed to by the Lakota people. In Lakota discontentment, the Black Hills are always a central factor.
  4. Evan S. Connell. “Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Bighorn.” Vastly entertaining, a kind of breezy, sweeping exploration of the ways in which the two cultures could not prevent the Custer debacle.
  5. Paul Van Develder. “Coyote Warrior: One Man, Three Tribes, and the Trial that Forged a Nation.” Why is water so important to the Lakota? One of the principal “myths” white people hold about Indians is that the “Indians wars have been over for a century.” Not so. The damming of the Missouri river in the 1950s and 1960s had a catastrophic impact on Native American culture on the Upper Missouri River. You cannot really understand the passion behind the Dakota pipeline controversy if you don’t know about this episode.
  6. Michael L. Lawson. “Damned Indians: The Continuing History of the Pick-Sloan Plan and the Missouri River Sioux.”

Read any of these books. Read all of them. They are fascinating. They are historical, not polemical. If you only have time for one, read “Coyote Warrior.”  Every North Dakotan should know this story.

We are blessed to live among the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Ojibwe, Assiniboine, Dakota, and Lakota. North Dakota would be a much less interesting place without its Native American cultures. If we want the 21st century to be great for North Dakota, it is essential that we (all of us) pass this first 21st century test with grace and intelligence.

The whole world is watching, North Dakota.