JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Donald Trump, Harold Hamm And Kevin Cramer

Most of my Democratic friends have a hard time understanding why I like Kevin Cramer. I think it’s because they’ve never been a part of a brotherhood. Let me explain.

I’m was thinking about this Wednesday because of Gary Emineth’s announcement Tuesday that Kevin Cramer would run for the U.S. Senate against Heidi Heitkamp. Thanks for that, Gary. I’m sure Kevin is grateful as well. Saved him a whole bunch of time and trouble putting together an announcement statement and lining up a place for a press conference and notifying the media and all the rigamarole that goes with announcing a campaign.

A couple of my Republican friends told me they are disappointed in the way things turned out. I think they wanted Emineth to run and Kevin to stay in the House. Well, me too. More about that in a minute.

I’ll give you a couple of names of people who are not disappointed.

Hey, Kevin …

Donald Trump and Harold Hamm. The two of them were the most instrumental in getting Kevin to change his mind, after he announced he would seek re-election to the House and not make the race for the Senate. Both put some persuasive pressure on Kevin to run against Heidi, but I’m told it was Hamm who closed the deal, after Trump had called Kevin and been turned down.

Harold Hamm, the deal closer.

I don’t know what Hamm promised, but it must have been significant, because Kevin was pretty sure, to the point of a public announcement, he would seek re-election to what most people consider a safe seat, and now he’s giving up a lot of security on a big gamble.

Well, of course, as of today this is all speculation, because there’s no formal announcement yet from Kevin, and likely no one except Harold and Kevin know what the deal was.

Kevin Cramer — an unlikely senator.
Kevin Cramer — an unlikely senator.

I’m disappointed because I’ve considered Kevin a friend for many years, and I don’t like it when my friends lose elections, no matter what party they belong to. And he’s pretty likely going to lose against Heidi. Which is OK, I guess. Even good, in fact, because Heidi’s been my friend longer than Kevin, and we all know the importance of seniority in politics.

I’ve known Heidi since her 1984 campaign for North Dakota State auditor. Anybody else remember that? I got to know Kevin in 1992, when he was chairman and executive director of the North Dakota Republican Party. He was a good one, unlike most of those party hacks who preceded him. But I need to back up a minute.

I had the job of executive director of the other party, the Democratic-NPL Party, in 1984, the year Bud Sinner got elected governor. I’m not boasting when I say I played a pretty significant role in his election.

After the election, as his transition team began filling available jobs in the Capitol, I got a call from Joe Lamb, who was chairing the transition team, asking me if I wanted a job in government. I said I was pretty happy with what I was doing, but if it meant a pay raise, I’d consider it.

I considered it, but I stayed on in my job with the Democratic-NPL Party until summer, meanwhile looking around at what might be the best job in state government that I dared ask for. I found one. I called Chuck Fleming, who had been Sinner’s campaign manager and then became his chief of staff in the governor’s office, and said a really cool job would be the manager of Lake Metigoshe State Park. I loved parks, and I loved camping, and I loved the Turtle Mountains, and I told Chuck that if I could manage a whole state political party, surely I could manage one square mile in the Turtle Mountains. Chuck said he would see what he could do.

A few days later he called me back and said, “Sorry, but you have to be QUALIFIED to get that job.” Turns out it is a civil service position that falls under the state’s personnel system, not subject to patronage. Dang.

But Chuck had another idea. He said I might make a pretty good State Tourism director, and that job might come available. Well, I didn’t know much about tourism, but I knew enough about marketing, which was what the job was all about, and apparently you didn’t have to be QUALIFIED to take THAT job, so I took it.

I wasn’t prepared for the phone call the next day from a reporter from The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead asking me what my qualifications were to be Tourism director. I stammered out something like “Well, I know the state pretty well, and I’ve camped in every state park in North Dakota …”

The answer looked pretty lame in the paper the next day, but somehow I got by that and had a fun seven  years in the Tourism Office.

Fast-forward to November 1992. I resigned from the Tourism Office that fall, and Ed Schafer got elected governor. Not long after the election, I ran into Kevin Cramer at lunch time at the Peacock Alley in downtown Bismarck, and I congratulated him on a great campaign and on getting Ed, who I liked immensely (and who I had voted for), elected governor.

And I said that now precedent had been set — Sinner got elected on my watch, and I became Tourism director — so now it was his turn. And I said, it is the best job in state government (way better than being a state park manager).

Well, it took Kevin a few months to warm to the idea, but eventually he did it, and held that post a few years, joining the Brotherhood of North Dakota Tourism directors. I was only the fourth person to hold that job in the state’s history, and Kevin became the sixth. Ed kept Tracy Potter, who was Deputy Tourism director when I was there, in the job on an interim basis, until Kevin was ready to leave his post with the party and go to work in government, so Tracy was fifth.

The rest is history. Kevin did a fine job, got promoted to Economic Development director, ran for Congress a couple of times and lost (if you went through his bank statements from his 1996 and 1998 campaigns, you’d find a couple of checks from me in there — sorry, Earl), and he finally did get elected to Congress a dozen or so years later.

He should stay there. He can continue to make as many BAD votes there as he wants to without really doing any harm. Although young Ben Hanson, the Democrat running for that job, would give him a pretty good run for his money. It’s going to be a darn good year for Democrats, and Ben’s a darn good candidate, and you never know …

What I do know is that Ben is the third person, behind Trump and Hamm, who’s really happy to see Kevin make the jump, if that is what happens this week. His job as a candidate just got a whole lot easier, no matter who the Republicans run for that seat.

Questions remain.

  • What of Tom Campbell, the only other serious Republican in the Senate race? He’s rich and could primary Cramer, just like Cramer primaried Brian Kalk six years ago. If not, Campbell could run for the House.
  • But who else might want that House seat? Maybe someone who had it once before, like Rick Berg? That could make for an interesting state convention, and/or primary.
  • And what of Gary Emineth? Well, he’s embarrassed the party by calling the president of the United States (not the current one, but if the shoe fits …) a Piece Of Shit in a Facebook post and might be tempted, but he’s unlikely to get a party endorsement any more. That’s why he pulled out of the Senate race and made Kevin’s announcement for him.

Could I make a prediction? Well, partly. Anticipating this possibility, young Ben Hanson got out there really early and pretty much has a lock on the Democratic-NPL slot. Smart kid. But an open seat for Congress could draw a flood of Republicans to the race. I wouldn’t be surprised to see as many as half a dozen.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves in this Senate race. Let’s wait for Kevin to come home and talk to us.

To paraphrase Priscilla Alden, “Why don’t you speak for yourself, Kevin?”

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — State Of The Union

Well, the groundhog saw his shadow, so six more months of Mueller.

The president might have basked for a while in the glow of his triumphant State of the Union address, of which a whopping 43 percent of Democrats and 109 percent of Republicans approved. Instead, he released The Memo, which instantly changed the tune from Kumbaya at a campfire to something from The Sex Pistols in a mosh pit.

Some had speculated the president would speak in Russian or maybe just plead The Fifth. But if you looked past the Mussolini jaw-jut and his clapping into the microphone, it was a strong “performance” that included numerous complete sentences.

He touted job growth — the most anemic in six years — but growth, nonetheless. He’d followed up on vows to cut regulations, harass immigrants, move the embassy to Jerusalem and restore Americans’ inalienable right to die uninsured.

He’d put someone to the right of Anthonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, with the appointment Mitch McConnell hijacked; the military has ISIS on the run, and the tax break fired up Wall Street. Pretty good stable geniusing.

Conversely, he was too busy golfing to enact sanctions on Russia. Other unfinished business includes firing everyone on the Russian probe.

Let’s go to the score card. So far, the FBI has recorded two guilty pleas, two indictments and a field goal. The president has sacked acting Attorney General Sally Yates, FBI Director James Comey, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and threw incomplete trying to fire Robert Mueller.

The next time you get pulled over, tell the cop he’s fired. See how that works for you.

Meanwhile, the Democrats flunked Body Language 101. They sat and sulked through all the applause lines, thereby proving they hate God, America, cops, soldiers, capitalism, bootstraps, babies, puppies, kittens, sunshine, lollipops, rainbows, country music, assault rifles and Shirley Temple.

The sit-in was the most organized the Democrats have been all year, with the exception of the 15-minute holdout Chuck Schumer staged over the spending bill, which showed more fiscal discipline than we’ve seen in Washington since Andrew Jackson balanced the budget by selling land stolen from the Indians.

Schumer’s insolent slumping was absent only a black leather jacket and a smoldering Marlboro. Nancy Pelosi looked like a Holstein chewing a cud of lemons. Some Democrats even kneeled.

Even Melania threw shade, wearing a liberal white pantsuit and refusing to stand when the thrice-married kitty grabber talked about family values.

Almost as if she believes the fake news about her husband’s tryst with porn star Stormy Daniels, who has been googled more in recent weeks than Butterball at Thanksgiving.

“To put (white pantsuits) on a display like that at a joint session of Congress is undignified to say the least. It violates the common decency of the chamber,” Kevin Cramer said. Back when Democrats wore them.

It couldn’t have gone better for Republicans. Trump looked sane, Democrats like party-poopers. Sean Hannity was feeling so groovy, he loosened his tie at bedtime. Rush Limbaugh attempted a somersault that turned into a bizarre yoga move and a pulled hamstring.

The Democratic response came from either Conan O’Brien or Rep. Joseph Kennedy III. Apparently, Franklin Roosevelt IX was busy. It was a heartfelt speech from a millionaire in support of middle-class Americans, but too much Chapstick made it appear Kennedy was drooling. “Ask not what your country can drool for you, but what you can drool for your country,” someone tweeted.

Then, the president snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and released the Super Top Secret Memo intended to torpedo the FBI. It cited fake news magazine Mother Jones as one source. The theory is the FBI tried to get Hillary elected, a strategy that included announcing her newest email issues a week before the election.

Democrats claimed The Memo omitted contextual material. Republicans argued, “Hey, that’s how Fox News does it.”

Trump and Republicans, “must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows,” John McCain said. “If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”

Paul Ryan said this was about transparency. Thus inspired, Trump immediately released his tax returns. Kidding.

The Memo revealed the FBI was tracking Trump campaign associate and Russianista Carter Page for years. That didn’t exactly restore confidence in All The President’s Men.

The Memo was released Thursday. On Friday, the stock market fell 666 points. Rattled conservative investors checked their 401Ks to see how many rubles they’d lost. Liberals checked their 420Ks. Evangelicals studied Revelations.

If you wanted more proof the universe speaks in metaphors, you need only consider the news the same day The Memo was released.

There was a train wreck involving Republican politicians. The Republican train ran over a garbage truck, killing a blue-collar worker.

There’s a headline that writes itself.

© Tony Bender, 2018

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Espionage, Not Treason

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — The Right To Be Silent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — What The Heck Happened (And What Could)

The year 2017 was the newsiest year on record according to statistics I just made up. Strike that. These are not alternative facts. This is based on actual gut feelings. And anonymous sources.

Seriously, the news lurched from one thing to another so quickly, reporters had to step up their cross-fit routines to keep up, although Rachel Maddow sounded like she was finishing the Boston Marathon when she breathlessly announced in March that she had Donald Trump’s tax returns. From 2005. Yeah, and I have a ticket stub from that Air Supply concert in 1983. (The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame can disrespect Air Supply all they want, but if there was more Air Supply music in our lives, opioid abuse would plummet. Just don’t operate heavy machinery after listening.)

Anyway, you know what’s coming — It’s the Official Tony Bender New Year’s Pop Quiz.

1. According to Chinese Astrology, 2018 will be:
A) The Year of the Dog.
😎 The Year of the Weasel.
C) The Year They Drove Old Dixie Down.
D) Better.

2. When exactly did America become great again?
A) Roy Moore loses in Alabama.
😎 Charles Manson dies, so he can’t be elected to anything in Alabama.
C) The clown from “It” loses narrowly in Alabama primary.
D) Auburn beats Alabama.

3. Things Cabinet members called the president last year:
A) Idiot.
😎  Moron.
C) Putz (golf terminology).
D) Comrade.

4. Conspiracy theorists are increasingly concerned about:
A) The Deep State.
😎 The Dip Stick.
C) Deepak Chopra.
D) Deep Dish Pizza.

5. Things that have changed:
A) Orange is the New Black.
😎 Orange is the New President.
C) Losing is the New Winning.
D) Fox is the New Pravda.

6. Things to be drained in 2018:
A) The Swamp.
😎 The Black Lagoon.
C) Your pocketbook.
D) The color from your face.

7. Top Excuses For Trump:
A) He was just kidding.
😎 He’s not a politician.
C) He’s not a sentient being.
D) Hillary’s e-mails.

8. Reasons the FBI probe should end now:
A) Let bygones be bygones.
😎 Trump bumped into Putin a few times, so collisions, yes. Collusion, no.
C) It’s expensive, and rubles don’t grow on trees.
D) We’re not done talking about Benghazi yet.

9. Changes of geography:
A) Jerusalem is the new capitol of Israel.
😎 Geographic center of North America moved from a Robinson bar back to Rugby, N.D.
C) Half of that ditch is now cropland.
D) Transgender Americans have no place to pee.

10. More likable than Sarah Huckabee Sanders:
A) A rabid skunk.
😎 Evil flying monkeys.
C) Vlad the Impaler.
D) Kidney stones.

BONUS: Proof global warming isn’t real:
A) It snowed.
😎 Dog paddling polar bears are imagining things.
C) Acidic oceans are caused by hippie freaks.
D) The poles can’t be melting because there are no poles because the earth is flat.

Answers: 1. C; 2. B; 3. D; 4. C; 5. D; 6. B; 7. C; 8. C; 9. A; 10. C; Bonus D. OK, let’s see how you did. 11-9 correct: Nice but don’t you have ulcers from keeping up on all of this? 6-8 correct: Fine, but an end zone celebration? Really? 3-5 correct: To take this test in Spanish, please press 2. 0-2 correct: Next time I’ll write slower so you can keep up.

© Tony Bender, 2018

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — ‘Christian Evangelicals’ Have It All Wrong

I’ve been wavering for weeks as to whether to weigh in to the recent #MeToo movement.

On the one hand, as a survivor of rape as well as sexual harassment who has experienced sexual discrimination, I have some pretty strong opinions on the matter.

On the other hand, I am fully aware of subtleties in every case and worry about broad brushes that equate molesting a 14-year-old child with an inappropriate intentional grope, or potentially an inadvertent one. All sexual offenses are not the same. And my fear is a blog opens one up to being attacked on social media over a topic better suited for face to face conversation, which is sorely lacking in our polarized society.

However, I decided to dive in after just hearing David Brody, a reporter for the Christian Broadcast Network, explain why so many evangelical Christians are standing by Roy Moore and Donald Trump. He claimed that the Bible is full of imperfect people that God used to accomplish God’s work and that as Christians they believe in grace and forgiveness.

It is true. The Bible is full of imperfect people. In fact, last time I checked, every single one of them, except for the main character in the New Testament, was an imperfect person. Which is precisely why Jesus came. To bridge the gap between us and God — to offer us the gift of forgiveness.

I believe the reason that Jesus was turned over to Pilate by the religious leaders was precisely because he came to forgive. He had the audacity to suggest that they were not perfect. That they could not follow God’s laws exactly. And that they needed a Savior.

Rather than humble themselves in the sight of the Lord, they lifted Jesus up on a cross to be killed.

And through his Resurrection, he showed us that not even death will keep God from offering to forgive us. That God’s love is more powerful than human judgment.

But here’s the thing that bothers me about what these “Christian evangelicals” — I use quotation marks because I am a Christian and an evangelical Lutheran who believes in the Good News of God’s grace and forgiveness made real in a personal relationship with Christ and I wish to remove myself from their sphere and reclaim it for those of us who find their defense of the indefensible abhorrent — who support Trump and Moore without reservation because they believe in grace and forgiveness and God using broken people:

In order to be a person of faith used by God in this way, one NEEDS to repent. The Greek word for repentance is “metanoia,” which means “to change direction.” One needs to admit they were wrong and work to make things right.

Brody, echoing the “Christian evangelicals” led by the likes of Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell Jr, used King David as his example of a person who God used in spite of his sinful action.

It is true, God used King David, who committed adultery by forcing Bathsheba to come to his royal palace and raping her. (I don’t think she was in the position to give consent, so let’s call it what it is.) When she became pregnant, he arranged to have her husband killed in battle.

By all accounts, King David was a poster child for men abusing their power and assaulting women.

But here’s the thing. When the prophet Nathan came and confronted David with his sin, David immediately repented. In response to his sinful behavior, he wrote Psalm 51, which is a plea for forgiveness.

David claims his sin and begs God, “Do not cast me away from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore me to the joy of your salvation and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10-11)

In Lutheran tradition, we use this Psalm as an offertory, recognizing in order to be so bold as to make an offering to God, we need to acknowledge that we are not worthy, and approach God with our gifts only through grace.

David gets that he did wrong and from the very essence of his soul pleads with God to put him right again.

In addition to his repentance, there are consequences for David’s action. Most notably, he was not allowed to build the temple, which was his dream, because he had shed blood in war — namely, he killed Uriah. Instead, Solomon, the child born when he married Bathsheba — more power abuse, but I’d have to write another blog to deal with that — built the temple.

When “Christian evangelicals” make this claim about David and God’s use of other imperfect people (read as humans), they miss a key point in the comparison: the essential need for repentance and a plea for mercy and forgiveness to be used by God as a disciple. God uses many different types of people to accomplish God’s will, but to be be one of the redeemed, you need to be, well, redeemed. You need to know you sinned.

Without that, you utterly miss the point. That is, as Bonhoeffer says, “cheap grace.”

Can perpetrators of sexual abuse and any sin be forgiven in a Christian community? Of course they can. Can they be rehabilitated? Yes, of course they can. But in order to do that, they need to repent. They need to change direction.

Al Franken, in his acknowledgement of his action, most particularly the photo, said it was wrong. He privately apologized to Leeann Tweeden, she accepted his apology, and ultimately he paid the consequences by resigning from his seat.

This is a textbook case of how it is done and although Franken’s iniquities were hardly in the category of King David’s, serves as a perfect example of what Brody was describing.

All government leaders who stand accused, especially in the case of multiple accusers whose stories have credibility, either need to face ethics inquiries to deal with the facts or come clean, admit guilt, repent and move forward to the stage of forgiveness with the consequences that accompany them.

For a Christian leader of any stripe to say that you can skip this stage is to forget what it means to repent. It is to defend sin without acknowledging it. Now we can get into a debate about what sin is, and what one needs to repent over, but that again is a whole other blog. I am being specific here about sexual predation.

But there was one more thing that Brody said, echoing the opinion of the “Christian evangelicals,” that left me in a fury. He said that they wanted to be people of grace and forgiveness and so they could forgive Roy Moore of his transgressions, if he committed them, especially if they were long ago.

No one has any business forgiving someone of a sin that was not committed against them.

The only person on Earth who can forgive my rapist was me. (And I did, for my sake, not his. I didn’t want to carry that burden through life with me, so I left it on deposit with God, should he ever repent.)

I have no business forgiving someone for what Roy Moore did to them. Or Donald Trump. Or Matt Lauer. Or Al Franken. Or …

I can chose not to judge someone because of their sin. Because I am also sinful. I can chose to move past it in how I interact with them. I can chose not to hold it against them.

And as an agent of God, when someone makes confession of sin, I can offer God’s forgiveness. Which is always ready for those who turn to God, regardless of the sin. And I can stand with them as they face the consequences.

But I can’t forgive them for what they did to someone else. Only the person who was victimized can do that.

That’s it. Full stop.

I think many of these “Christian evangelicals” who are selling their souls for political power would be better served by focusing their efforts not on defending the indefensible but rather focusing on those who really need defense and who Jesus called us to serve — the last, the lost and least; the downtrodden and the forgotten; the orphan, the widow and the alien (immigrant.)

Because when all is said and done, Jesus came for two reasons. To forgive us our sins and to call us to respond with mercy to all of God’s children as forgiven people armed with love. So focus with humility on your own need for forgiveness and go out and serve and love everyone with radical abandon.

That is the image the world needs of Christian leaders, and the only way we can live out the amazing grace of God.

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Things That Puzzle Me

Admittedly, I’m easily puzzled.

Therefore, I ought to be able to come up with a column on that topic. Even if I’m trying to write next to a guy noshing airport sushi while I’m waiting for a flight back to North Dakota.

The first thing that puzzles me is why I’m leaving Los Angeles this soon, knowing full well I’m flying back into the teeth of a northern Plains autumn —  which in the perspective of Californians is Antartica in the dead of winter. They think we raise penguins. We should consider it. The pheasant count is down.

Had the Dodgers actually won Game 7 of the World Serious, I might have been tempted to stick around, so I could help tip over cop cars on Rodeo Drive.

After my visit, I’m also thinking about investing in Dow Chemical. Facts I made up show that a full 20 percent of your average Californian’s body mass is silicone. The balance is a combination of botox, Perrier and arugula. The only other place that has bigger boobs and more fake smiles is Washington, D.C.

I kid. As eclectic as California is, it’s a sane asylum compared to the rest of the world. I did check the news while I was gone and that led to a good deal of confusion.

Like why Donald Trump Jr. had to drag his daughter, Chloe, into a discussion about economics. All the kid really wanted to do was to go trick-or-treating on Halloween in her Marie Antoinette costume.

When you’re a Trump kid, it’s complicated enough. You end up with things like Krugerrands, Faberge eggs, caviar, covfefe and truffles in your Gucci bag — a serious bummer when you’re 3.

On the bright side, at least she isn’t saddled with having some weird name ending in “-vana” or “-vanka.” Unless her full name is Chlovanka, which sounds like a trendy social disease. Or the perfect place for a nuclear accident. Or a country bordering Nambia.

Inexplicably, her father used Halloween as an opportunity to disparage liberal kids who aren’t working hard enough. “I’m going to take half of Chloe’s candy tonight and give it to some kid who sat at home,” he tweeted. “It’s never to [sic] early to teach her about socialism.”

Uhh, I’m not an economist, but isn’t socialism like when you knock on doors and ask for a handout? Some people call it Halloween, others call it tax reform.

Speaking of which, I’m puzzled by the almost patriotic fervor among paycheck-to-paycheck Republicans in the Heartland who support the desperate need to eliminate the estate tax.

It affects just 5,000 millionaires and billionaires a year. I guess this is a minority outreach program. Well, you gotta start somewhere.

I’m puzzled, too, by the contradiction that some economic philosophers in Washington want a new tax “reform” plan that would offer an increased child tax credit, while simultaneously cutting safety net funding that feeds and insures children. How did they decide which one is welfare and which one is not?

The sales pitch on this tax plan is that it’s about job creation. But isn’t unemployment already at a 17-year low, at 4.1 percent? The only people not working are liberal children who are too lazy to even ask for a mini-Snickers bar at the neighbor’s house.

If we create any more jobs, everyone will have to start working two jobs. Hold it. I think that’s already a thing. Anyway, as a liberal slacker, I don’t want another job. My plan if things get tough? Go Fund Me.

Ultimately, I just don’t think I’m ready for America to be too great too soon. Maybe we ought to just ease into it — you know, do a little economic foreplay. I’ll leave it to you to continue the analogy.

Every tax cut from Kennedy to Reagan to Bush II has added to the deficit, but this time they say it’s going to work. Absolutely. No doubt. Pinky promise.

Even though Wall Street is roaring, I guess we need even more stimulus.

Personally, I’m worried. What’s this much stimulus going to do to Mike Pence? He may start calling his wife “Baby” instead of “Mother.” The good news is he probably won’t have to arrange conjugal visits through Bob Mueller.

Equally puzzling to me about this rush to tax “reform” are the Tea Party congressmen who were against deficits under Obama. Most have apparently signed on for $1.5 trillion added to the national debt. We could rename it the T.P. Party because that’s what you need when you’re so full of … of … tax reform, I guess.

My guess is the tax cut for the rich will just add to the debt. In a few years, Republicans will start wringing their hands and blaming the working poor on food stamps, who just aren’t Halloweening hard enough.

Maybe I’m too skeptical. Perhaps a few days in California has addled my once sound judgment.

I bet someone put something in my wine spritzer.

© Tony Bender, 2017

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Hurricane Donald

A big wind made landfall last Wednesday in North Dakota, and when I woke up the next morning, North Dakota was great again.

A KX News morning show anchor giddily recounted her excitement about President Trump’s visit and how she and her family had gone out to “show our love for the president.” I was a little surprised her objective report didn’t include the phrase “glorious leader.”

Perhaps I woke up in North Korea. I missed it, did anyone kiss his ring?

Not everyone was happy about the president’s invitation-only visit to a refinery in Mandan. I know I’m part of the Fake News and Liberal Agenda that Rush Limbaugh blames for overhyping Hurricane Irma just to make a point about climate change, but it is a statistical fact 41 percent of North Dakotans don’t support the president.

Eleven percent of them have actually been groped by him. The other 30 percent have been goosed by Limbaugh.

This may explain why folks are increasingly desperate for medical marijuana to get here. “Please help us forget.” Anyway, don’t tell me the president’s not on something. He must be smoking covfefe during those 3 a.m. tweet sessions from the bathroom.

We should legalize covfefe, too, once we figure out what it is. The downside of building The Wall is we’ll no longer have easy access to covfefe pouring across our borders from Mexico. But we’ll have jobs picking tomatoes, if we’re not too busy mining coal, the energy of the future.

Once we get rid of people who are different from us, things will be grand. I think a raid at Norsk Hostfest would be a good start. And, yes, Jethro, we’ll call you for that Google programming gig once we send Ravi back to New Delhi.

And did you hear? A Dickinson company is in the running to build a prototype for The Wall. I hope they’re better at it than the folks in my neck of the woods. Every time I drive to Lehr, there are cows on the road. We need better fences. Or more-obedient cattle.

Naturally, there were protesters and counter-protesters in Mandan. You could tell them apart based on the spelling errors. I don’t think racists should be against “Muslins.” What would they do without sheets?

Noted white supremacist Craig Cobb was there to show his support for the president. David Duke couldn’t make it because he was rallying support to defend statues of Colonel Sanders, Ashley Wilkes, The Dukes of Hazzard and Foghorn Leghorn.

Some of the president’s supporters yelled at Trump protesters to get a job. Silly. Everyone knows liberal protesters work for George Soros. I personally feel he should get more credit as a job creator.

Meanwhile, the Trump supporters were apparently multitasking, working, while supporting the president. That’s the sort of gumption that made America great before Obama made it un-great. To be fair, he did make Kenya great again.

Pretty much everyone was mad about Sen. Heidi Heitkamp riding on Air Force One with President Trump. Liberals already think she’s too far right. Republicans don’t think she has enough deferments to even qualify for high office. Kevin Cramer was especially displeased. Not only did Heidi get the window seat, she made him go to the galley three times for salted almonds. You know how Leftists are when it comes to free stuff. They’re always pulling themselves up by other people’s bootstraps. Then, to top it off, the president actually said nice things about Heidi when he spoke because he wants her to vote for tax breaks for the rich, to help out the poor.

North Dakota is a shining example of giving tax breaks to rich guys. That has taken the pressure from North Dakota property owners, who are more than happy to absorb the cost of tax breaks for Big Oil. Because having too much disposable income can get downright confusing.

I mean where do you invest — Wall Street or Russia? The easy answer is always invest in tax breaks for billionaires.

This time, it’s sure to trickle down. I’ll bet oil typhoon Harold Hamm, who thanks to North Dakota Republicans, could finally afford to fly in from Oklahoma to greet the president, threw dollar bills out the window of his Lear Jet.

Technically, that could result in a $500 fine under stiff new littering penalties passed by Republicans to protect the environment. However, if you spill a few thousand barrels of oil in North Dakota, all you have to do is write, “I was a bad boy,” a 100 times on the blackboard. You have to ease into these things.

I’m not saying we’re easy, but all the light bulbs in Bismarck are being swapped out with red ones. It’ll be purdy at Christmas.

© Tony Bender, 2017

RON SCHALOW: The Men In The High Tower

The North Dakota Republican Party put all of their gold coins on the Camarillo White Horse in the 5th race on the 7th fairway.

“North Dakotans elected President Trump because he promised to enact policies that would improve our economy, make our country safer, and improve the lives of folks here at home,” said North Dakota GOP Chairman Kelly Armstrong. — Dunn County Extra

I see. A series of Trump promises clinched the three electoral votes.
“Chairman Armstrong and local GOP leaders highlighted the importance of electing North Dakota officials willing to implement President Trump’s agenda.” — Dunn County Extra

Does anyone know what Trump’s agenda is?

“Armstrong argued the strengthening national economy and job growth since President Donald Trump took office demonstrates his “agenda of making American great again is working, and it’s working in North Dakota.” — Bismarck Tribune

Well, that’s not true, but it is the Trump era.

State Sen. Kelly Armstrong of Dickinson, chairman of the state Republican Party, said North Dakota is a conservative state and we deserve elected officials who represent our values.” — Bismarck Tribune

We do.

So, the North Dakota Republican Party bends their knee to the mad king and pledges fealty to the 71 year old child.

Bold move, on the part of the North Dakota Republicans, to latch unabashedly to the 16 foot “Made in Bangladesh” red silk necktie of Donnie John. Because he exemplifies North Dakota “values.” Does he?

It’s especially gutsy, considering Trump’s first few months of tweeting and yelling at the wind and passing cars. I can’t even imagine how many more lies, and failures, 45 will rack up in the next 14 months.

Of course, there are pluses to marrying your party to a sociopathic narcissist. If you’re selling your soul to the Prince of Darkness’s half wit brother-in-law, there better be.

The statute of limitations has solved Trump’s p**** grabbing assaults, and his walking through the dressing rooms of teen girls was just creepy, although it should be a felony. So, the grabber isn’t technically a sex offender. Whew! The grabber isn’t technically a sex offender, would look great on a bumper sticker or t-shirt. Maybe a hat.

It will be cheap to repair Texas and Louisiana, after the hurricane Harvey disaster, since Trump has this silly habit of not paying contractors. One less thing to worry about. Hopefully, nobody catches on before Florida needs remodeling. And Oregon, Idaho, and Montana burn to the ground. Trump likes states that don’t burn to the ground, or get 5 feet of rain on his vacation. Losers.

And, even though storms are becoming more frequent and violent, due to warmer oceans and air temperatures, it doesn’t matter, because Donnie John doesn’t believe in global warming, which matches up nicely with the science denial of the North Dakota Republican Party, and their shills. He actually seems to be taking pride in the record breaking scale of the storms.

We can easily afford another $500 billion, or a trillion dollars, more in disaster expenses per year. Coal jobs have been saved, though, by golly. I think five. Maybe six. The market for skinny chickens still hasn’t recovered.

It turns out that kicking 800,000 young people out of America, and deporting them to a country where they have never lived is “compassionate,” which a saleable word, as opposed to “cruel,” which makes Republican values seem mean. Trump has the best words. Lucky that.

Donnie can get the best deals on foreign made Tiki torches. Great deals. And when the midnight parade has finished, and the town is officially terrorized, the bamboo novelty items can be repurposed to light up the next synagogue on the list. They are reusable and make great gifts for your more paranoid and bigoted constituents.

Trump came. He saw. He proclaimed North Dakota to have 5,634,000 citizens, which breaks a record and will put strain on all government services, which calls for another tax cut for the oil companies, which the ND GOP denies doing, but we wrote it down. On good quality paper. They did it, at the expense of the people who actually live here. Sad.

Teleprompters are great again. Trump chooses to watch TV on them, though, which lowers their effectiveness.
The president comes pre-tinted, ready for any occasion, where looks aren’t an issue. And should you get trapped in an elevator with the loco hombre, his hair can be weaved into a 60 foot ladder.

Don John has been keeping our sole congressman pleased. For perverse political reasons, Kevin Cramer latched onto the juicy rear end of the lumpen KFC fed beast like a leech several years ago, and suctions in the rich plasma by the quart. It keeps him off the streets at night.
Birds nests have made a comeback as headwear. The loser birds aren’t happy. Sad.

Alternate facts are the in thing because of 45, and he’ll sell you a dozen Trump brand facts for the low low price of $1,995. Tell a lie, over and over, and there is no downside, as long as it is Trump authorized.

It’s hard to be humble when you’re Trumpian in every way. Boasting about your wealth and your great stuff, or your sweet parking spot, used to be frowned upon in this state. No more. Brag away. You may get punched out quite often, until everyone learns the new rules, and then by people who don’t care for the new rules, but keep it up…

Intellect is out, so no worries if some N.D. lawmakers haven’t had much book lernin’. “We’re doing everything we can, but you have a very serious drought,” continued Trump, who also noted that he did not know that droughts could happen in areas “this far north” in the United States. (Vibe) He learned that on a statue. And where the hell are the penguins? Daddy, I came to see the penguins, moans Ivanka.

Don is cutting way back on refugees allowed into the U.S., and established the Muslim ban. Only 7 people in the world qualify, under Trump rules, to simply immigrate to the United States, including the folks who were born here.

Plus, the 800,000 mostly brown younglings he’s chucking out. It adds up. This leaves very little for our own bigots to do. Scapegoats will be needed. Never mind. White nationalists still have the Natives to kick around.

“The Wall” will solve nothing, except provide a little shade for tired Border Patrol agents. A few trees would have resolved that issue. It’s still a good deceitful (nobody cares) talking point for Aryan legislators, though. Mexico isn’t paying for it, but keep repeating it.
Lies. Pshaw. The Washington Post calculated that Trump made 492 false or misleading statements in his first 100 days. Doesn’t matter. Fake news. “Straight talk,” is what it really is, according to N.D. Governor Doug Burgum, who is well known to be a smart human. Can it be possible that he is actually falling for Trump’s bull$#!*? I doubt it.

It isn’t politically correct for a North Dakota Republican to suggest that the big spongy dope tells lies. The mob believes Fox and Friends as translated by Wonderbread, his handle on Stormfront.

Russia. Russia. Russia. She get’s everything. We love Putin, and who cares if they screwed around with our election system? Get over it. Republicans found a way to get past piddly things, like tampering. It’s Obama who is the enemy. He climbed Trump Tower and installed bugs, among other things, like being black. Remember that. Blame Americans first.

Shame. What shame? It no longer exists, and a lot of emotional stress is washed away. Some in the North Dakota GOP already had no shame, so they’re good with Trump, but now the rest can carry on accordingly.

Voter fraud is a thing. DJ said so. Millions falsely voted for that pantsuited Clinton woman. And all of the criminals are poor and brown. If anyone knows about fraud, it’s the Donald. Everybody who ponied up the $30,000 to enroll in Trump University is now wealthy. Honest. Believe me.

And 45 already screwed over the LGBT community, so denying the group rights and protections at the state level will be much easier.
Trump’s trillion dollar infrastructure plan (cough) involves selling off publicly owned assets and expecting corporations to upgrade and maintain the road, bridge, or park. It’s not funny, so quit smirking.

Taboo for right-wingers, who think everything is a meritocracy, when hardly anything is, nepotism is back in vogue. If only TJ had a bigger family, so more unqualified people could wander through Oval office meetings.

We’re also going to lower corporate taxes, without increasing the deficit. Some trickling, they say will happen in some circles. It’s not funny, so quit smirking.

North Dakota Republicans need to keep fighting, along with clueless, to take health coverage away from millions of low-income workers. What is this anyway? A developed country?

Hang in there, ND GOP. Doughboy might not be insane, and a billionaire from New York is not one of the east coast elites.
Good-bye Mar-a-Lago. I hope hurricane Irma misses everything else.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — The FPD ‘Ambush Railroad’ Is Back In Business

It seems like it’s been a lifetime since Chief Keith Ternes of the Fargo Police Department was ambushed by FPD brass, resulting in his retirement. My own view was that he was treated unfairly and railroaded by those who could have assisted him in improving the operation of the department. But such is not what happened, and history cannot be changed.

Last month, Fargo Police Chief David Todd announced the firing of officer David Boelke, a 15-year veteran of FPD. Todd “carefully reviewed the facts,” according to news accounts, and concluded that the claims of Boelke’s not filing reports; lacking empathy; being disrespectful toward the department; and GPS data that showed he did not go to locations he said he did on the dates indicated, all were confirmed.

I have known David Boelke professionally and seen and observed him as an officer for 10 of his 15 years of service. Because of illness, I resigned as Fargo municipal judge five years ago, so I have had no personal experience with him during that time.

I do know that if I had a dollar for each officer who missed a court date on a traffic matter during my years as a judge, I’d have a great savings account today.

I have not spoken personally to Boelke or his lawyer, Mark Fraase, about his firing from the police department and his appeal, but my 45 years on the bench —  if nothing else —  taught me how to gauge and judge people.

As to honesty, I cite Boelke’s self-reporting of a failed court appearance. That was not the act of someone who is not truthful … but it put the Ambush Train right back on the tracks.

A 15-year veteran of the police force, past president of the Fraternal Order of Police and four-time winner of lifesaving awards, he garnered and still has the support of the North Dakota Fraternal Order of Police. He is also married with children.

The GPS systems that the FPD Ambush Train relied upon in making its case have been shown to be inaccurate and not trustworthy. While Officer Boelke acknowledged he failed to file some proper reports (an act of truthfulness), the general charges brought against him by the Brass Hat Railroad would not hold up in a court of law. He passed a stringent lie detector test; while not admissible as evidence in court, that sure as hell says something to John Q. Public, whom the Brass-Hat Railroad is supposed to serve.

Boelke and his lawyer have appealed his firing to the Fargo Civil Service Commission. I can only hope and pray that they do not rubber-stamp this unholy action by the police department. Remember, this whole mess was triggered by an act of self-reporting a missed court appearance. The message the Ambush Railroad brass are sending is, “Don’t be honest. It can get you fired.” That’s just not right.

One of the Ambush Railroad folks, presented with evidence that the GPS system in FPD cars was not accurate, had no response! In Mark Friese, Boelke has one of the finest attorneys anywhere. Friese is a lawyer, husband and father, a military man and a former police officer himself. He knows what he’s talking about. In this case, he is outraged. But sometimes when city politics are involved, it’s like tilting at windmills or urinating into the wind.

I’ve observed this attorney since he started his practice in Fargo. When Judge Ralph Erickson is confirmed as a judge of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, it is my fervent hope that Friese will be appointed to the federal district court bench to replace Judge Erickson.

Lest there be any misunderstanding, I know that most FPD employees are outstanding people who do their jobs, and do them very well. But when one person who admits to disliking Boelke is put in charge of investigating him, and also happens to be the one who recommends his firing, you have to wonder about the integrity of the investigation and those who order and do it.

I’m old-fashioned, I guess, but my years of dealing with people of all types tells me this man is not a liar. He does tell the truth. Even if the Civil Service rubber-stamps the Ambush Railroad, they must in good conscience strike the allegations as to the officer’s truthfulness and honor. To fail to do that at a minimum prevents him from obtaining law jobs in the future.

I find it odd that only a few months earlier, when Boelke was applying for another position (that might now be in jeopardy as well), the Fargo Police Department gave him a glowing report —  no problems. Then it pulls this dead fish out of their hat and drop it on an honorable man. Shame on those who did this to him!

* * *

Speaking of lying and mistrust, I have to mention our Idiot in Chief, POTUS 45.

After telling the DACA subjects they would not have to worry, he —  like every promise he’s made before —  turns it into one damned lie. He says one thing to get elected. Once in office, he does the reverse. His core followers are so damned stupid they just don’t care.

Integrity is important in the office and the one who occupies it. We cannot have one standard for white people and another standard for everyone else. Yet our elected leader lies. He cannot tell the truth.

Now 45’s minions have announced an end to DACA … his most evil act up to now. While he performed his photo op in Texas, where so many people have been harmed, he bragged about the size of his crowds as though he doesn’t fathom the pain and hardship the people are enduring. Meanwhile, his wife struts around in spike heels.

All of the video coming out of Texas rescues is absent any racial problems. People of all ages, colors and creeds are helping each other. Aid is pouring in from people from all over the. And yes, many of those needing help —  and many who are helping —  are the very same childhood arrivals whose presence is guaranteed by DACA.

Our racist-in-chief cannot seem to insult enough people; now he’s adding whole countries to his list. He idly threatens North Korea and at the same time chides our ally, South Korea. He has angered Great Britain, France and Mexico as well. He likes turmoil and can’t understand the personal harm he does to our country, its inhabitants (both legal and otherwise) and to nations abroad.

But the Robert Mueller investigative train has been overhauled and is rolling down the tracks with new employees and instruments of political war. Soon 45 may be writing a letter to his successor, not like the measured, professional one he received from President Obama as his term began.

The letter from 45 will read: “These federal prisons aren’t all they are cracked up to be.” Amen.