LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Missouri River Reverie

My sister and I slipped away Thursday for a Missouri River kayak trip, on a perfect blue sky, windless day.

We launched at Washburn, N.D., with her son and his girlfriend, their first kayak trip on the big river. The current at the Washburn boat landing seemed a wee bit intimidating, but as soon as we were under way, it was clearly going to be a smooth float.

Because of the high water, there are not as many sandbars as in previous years, however, we did find a nice, little sandy beach for a break.

Although I’ve canoed and kayaked many lakes, including several trips in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, rivers are where my heart is happiest, and we are blessed to live on one of the finest rivers in the world, with clean water that runs in our section of the river mostly through prairie, thus does not suffer the severe effects of agricultural run-off. Right now, the water is very cold and we could only keep our feet in the water for short stretches.

Near the north border of Cross Ranch State Park, on the Nature Conservancy land, we spotted two adult bald eagles with two juveniles, right on the water’s edge, in the big cottonwoods. They just watched us float on by.

My kayak mascot, Baldy (which perches on my desk when I’m not on the water) was happy to see her kin.

Yellow warblers, spotted sandpipers, and swallows were all about. We spied on mama ducks (mallard, wood, and mergansers) with ducklings and a few Canada geese gathered with 14 goslings hugging the bank as we floated by.

We disembarked at the Sanger boat ramp, closed to boats because of the high water, thus all to ourselves (other than an extremely chatty camper at the adjacent campsite), and enjoyed cold libations. All in all, a perfect river day.

RON SCHALOW: Fargo Heat Strokes, Lies And Videotape

Prior to President Trump’s visit to Fargo, I took a shot at guessing what he might say at the rally for Kevin Cramer, who got three minutes of mic time and an awkward bro hug.

My predictions; followed by the real deals.

  • “Heidi? Where’s Heidi. What the hell are we doing here, if she doesn’t even show up! Who?”
  • “Isn’t that Cramer guy a hoot? Nice guy. The way he barges into that Jew’s apartment. I never let black people into my apartments, either. And that steel fence thing he cooked up. Wasn’t that smart to compare the kid cages to the steel fence at ballparks? He’s read the Bible, I’ve been told, by him. Isn’t that Cramer guy a hoot?”
  • “Well, that’s all I can say about Gramer. He’ll do what I tell him. That’s all you need to know.”
  • “Hey, there’s my black guy. See him. Amazing.”
  • “I sting like a butterfly and cry like Eugene. What a loser. Imogen is a type of classy flower. Or, a vegetable. Most people don’t know that.”
  • “Ooooh, so Sparkie is such a big deal, but I’ve slept with hotter porn stars than you, Sparkle, so just shut your trap, or I’ll tax you to Mexico. Those people speak Spanish. A lot of people think it’s Mexican. Rapists.”
  • “Those hats are made in China, Nebraska. Shirts, too. Tremendous deal. They farm something over there, too. They’re great patriots, offering to take a few years of pain.”
  • “Trade wars aren’t as easy to chew, as many people think. We’re getting schlonged, according to Hannity. Nice guy. Sometimes, he reads to me at bed time.”
  • “Ivanka would never wear a stupid-looking wordy jacket. I don’t even think Mel reads American. Somebody should ask her. She might be a Democrat. Sad. I was Democrat when little Bush was president. He was the worst. Low energy.”
  • “I don’t see why people think I’m a moron. Mitt’s one, I think. Great guy. Gawd, those people procreate like crazy, don’t they. One big sand trap. I’m totally happy with two children. Before 30, all they did was cry and bitch. Amirite?”
  • “Who knew that throwing little criminal rapist brats in cages would be so complicated? The Democrats want to send out hand-engraved invitations to all of the world’s worst crime guys, and just roll out the red carpet, and serve them beautiful pieces of chocolate cake. Probably some of the most delicious cake ever, in the history of ever. Nancy Pelosi. Loser.”
  • “Blacks haven’t had so much work since slavery. I’m very proud of that. Fantastic, isn’t it? Huge. Schumer hates black people.”
  • “We’ve just about wiped out crime, like I promised. Unless some other gangs, besides MS-13, pop up. They aren’t classy like that Tony Bonanzoo hoodlum.”

“This is a decent-looking crowd. There are even a few fives. I only date 10s, but two 5s don’t make a 10. I have to leave, anyway. There was a seven once in Toledo. Sarah Palin has lost few digits, which is sad. Does she still live in Russia?”

  • “They play hockey in this place? What for?”
  • “This guy down front here looks too red. Somebody poke him. Alive. That good. He’s a wonderful person. Tough on crime and border. This isn’t global warming. They have a lot of trees in Brazil. Bada bing bing bing.”
  • “I made a great great deal, today. The families, the potential MS-13 members, all of the crying, for crissakes — we’re going to put everyone up at the wonderful hotels in Cozumel, with free room service. It’s wonderful there, have you been? The private shelter contractors are killing me. I called around, and it’s much cheaper going the resort route. I kid you not.”
  • “Don’t come crying to me, Justin, when the eskimos attack. My space cops aren’t interested in beaver pelts. And I’m better looking and taller than the black one. The Canadian is short and ugly. Right, patriots?”

* * *

Some of the Actual Trump Quotes From the Fargo Rally

“This place is packed,” Trump said as he stepped onto the podium. “You know, we had the chance for a 24,000-seat arena, and we should have taken it. The problem is, if we had two empty seats, they will always say, ‘He didn’t fill up the arena.’”

Stupid media. That’s exactly what they would write.

“Maxine — she’s a beauty,” Trump said. “I mean, she practically was telling people the other day to assault! Can you imagine if I said the things she said?

He has, and I can imagine.

“We need Kevin Cramer to replace liberal Democrat Heidi Heitkamp in the Senate,”

Heitkamp isn’t within a mile of being liberal.

“When Heidi ran for office she promised to be an independent vote for people of North Dakota. Instead, she went to Washington and immediately joined Chuck, you know who Chuck is, and Nancy, and now they have a new leader.

That’s not true.

“Democrats want judges who will rewrite the Constitution anyway,” Trump said. “They want to do it and take away your Second Amendment, erase your borders, throw open the jailhouse doors and destroy your freedoms.”

None of that is true.

“You need a senator who doesn’t just talk like they’re from North Dakota, but votes like they’re from North Dakota. That’s what you need, and that’s Kevin Cramer,” Trump said.

I don’t think we do.

“He felt confident in me to make the right choice and carry on his great legacy, that’s why he did it,”

I think he’s just old and tired.

“We will make America loving again, Loving. Loving.”

You first.

“Because space is the new frontier,”

It has been a new frontier for a long time.

“We’re not starting a trade war, but we’ll finish it”

Nope, you started it.

“You need a senator who doesn’t just talk like they’re from North Dakota, but votes like they’re from North Dakota,” said Trump, who added of Cramer: “He loves you, I will tell you that. He loves this state, loves the people. And we need Kevin Cramer to replace liberal Democrat Heidi Heitkamp.”

He doesn’t love gay people. I doubt if he loves me, and I’m OK with that.

“I want to make a plea to my Democrat friends. Please, please, please don’t remove Nancy Pelosi. And please keep Maxine Waters on the air as your face and your mouthpiece,”

He doesn’t have any Democratic friends.

“The era of global freeloading and taking advantage of the United States is over.”

If you say so.

“Heidi voted no on our massive tax cuts for North Dakota families. She voted no,” President Trump stated. “Not one Democrat voted to cut your taxes and the other day Nancy Pelosi said we have to raise your taxes. What’s that all about? She wants to raise your taxes.”

The tax scam; borrowing money to redistribute to the rich.

“We love the countries of the European Union.”

Do we?

“But the European Union was set up to take advantage of the United States, to attack our piggy bank.”

False.

“We had a trade deficit because they send the Mercedes in, they send the BMWs in, they send their products in, we send things to them and they say, ‘no thank you, we don’t take your product’.

False.

“I said to them, if you treat us that way and you don’t take down your barriers, if you’re not going to treat us fairly then we are going to tax all those beautiful Mercedes Benzes.”

They are beautiful.

“Sometimes our worst enemies are our so-called friends”

The feeling is mutual, I’ve read.

“Republicans want strong borders and no crime. Democrats want open borders and from there, crime, crime, crime happens.”

Not what democrats want on this planet.

“We’re already building the wall and it’s a beautiful thing.”

It’s about 4 feet long.

“Thanks to Republican leadership America is winning again, and America is being respected again all over the world,”

That’s not true.

“He puts a straw in the ground and oil comes out.”

Trump likes billionaire Harold Hamm, an oil baron.

“Great pillows. I actually use them, believe it or not.”

My Pillow brand. I don’t believe Trump uses a normal pillow.

“Maxine Waters is their new leader.”

No. She isn’t. She is a liberal, African-American woman, though.

“Another person campaigned for eight years. ‘Repeal and replace.’ And we were a little surprised when the thumb went down.”

Still kicking John McCain, when he is dying.

“We are coming out with so many health care plans. It is so much better than anything you’ve ever seen before.”

He claimed to have plan, the greatest plan, many months ago, so I doubt it.

“If crooked Hillary would have won this election, and if she came here, which is about a 0 percent chance, after the election she’d have 200 people in a conference room in a small hotel.”

False.

“Because, frankly, they find this more exciting than the NFL and a hell of a lot more dangerous, right?”

Huh?

“And I wish those cameras would circle the room to see how many thousands of people are here because, you know, on the screen I look — and all you see are those few beautiful, wonderful people — I don’t know who the hell I — but you’ve got a nice group over there. I know you have Mike and some others. They’re going to be so famous.”

Stupid cameramen. Won’t do what Trump says.

“I said to my people, ‘How many people are here?’ They said, ‘Six thousand in the arena, but we’re going to be — have to, unfortunately, walk 15,000 or 18,000 people that couldn’t get in.'”

There weren’t 15,000 or 18,000 people that couldn’t get in.

“The late, great, Cecil B. DeMille would not have set it up this way, I will tell you.”

Probably not, but he did movies.

“Everybody comes in, including the vile gang, MS-13, which Nancy Pelosi has gone out and wants to protect, OK?”

She doesn’t want to protect MS-13.

“Do you see what they do? Bing, bing. Right? You see what they’re doing? No, but do you see what they’re doing?”

Huh?

“I have wealthy friends, like Harold Hamm.”

We’re happy for you.

“But the Heritage Foundation came out with a report, and this was as of two months ago. We’ve already implemented 64 percent of our top agenda items.”

That’s not what they said

“They never take those cameras off my face. Look at all the women.”

Yes, we have those.

“I said, ‘Oh, I am so smart. I am the smartest person.’ My uncle was a great professor at MIT for 40 years. Can you believe? Forty years. I said, ‘But I’m smarter than him. I’m smarter than anybody.'”

I don’t think so.

“Oy, when do they get over it? But, you know, it is pretty amazing. Point after point, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty. Oh, she’s OK.”

Clinton has not been found guilty for anything.

“Michigan’s very happy with your president.”

Not many of them.

“Politics is a mean game, isn’t it? It’s a mean — it’s a fleeting game. Six months ago, Republicans passed the biggest tax cuts and reform in American history.”

Yes, fleetingly mean.

“My daughter and my wife, Melania, they love — they love the women. And the women love them. The women love them. And the men love them.”

I would imagine so.

“You know, I was dealt a lot of bad hands.”

He’s had a tough life.

“The fake news was so upset when I said we had a good relationship. We had a good chemistry.”

Kim Jong-un makes a great play date.

“But when people rush it -— you know, it’s like rushing the turkey out of the stove. It’s not going to be as good. The women can tell me, and some of the men. See, today I have to be politically correct. See, in the old days …”

I see.

“And I’ve directed the Pentagon to begin the process of creating a sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces, called the Space Force. The Space Force.”

Whoo hoo!

“Let them send a rocket up to Mars. Let’s be the first. I hope they go fast. Let’s help them. Let’s make it really good for them. And if they do it, we’re going to claim it on behalf of the United States, OK? We’ll give them no credit. Let them spend the money.”

The Mars rover is pretty famous.

“And by the way, our people, they call it the base, they used to say it’s 35. Then they said it’s 40. Then they said it’s 42. Then they have these polls go — we’re driving them crazy. Now they say it’s over 50 percent.”

It’s not.

“They’ve been stone-cold losers, the elite. The elite.”

OK.

Bonus Trump

“First of all they are great patriots, just hang in there a little while we are doing the tariffs, They’re negotiating with us. If you look at Canada, they shut you out and you see what’s happening. You look at the European union you can’t bring your product in there it’s very hard to and they tax you and they bury you. You know they put these nonmonetary barriers up and they are ridiculous. Hang in. We are going to open up the markets like you’ve never seen before. Don’t forget farmers have been flat lining and even going down over 15 years we’re going to get it so they go up. That’s what I want. They have to hang in with me just for a little while. I’ve been very successful at doing this stuff.” — KVLY Fargo

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Who Wants To Invest In A Refinery? Here’s How You Can Do It

I wrote here a couple of weeks go about the beginning of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, created by Congress in 1947, and about the proposed oil refinery that threatens it, a refinery that has now been issued a permit by the state of North Dakota to build the dang thing.

It’s been 70 years since Congress declared that this place in the North Dakota Bad Lands should be protected forever as a national park. Now this California company, Meridian Energy Group Inc., a startup company with no experience building or running a refinery, says it’s going to build a refinery just three miles from the park, alongside the road that runs into Medora.

I want to look at this more carefully. I don’t trust them.

On Jan. 27, 2017, Meridian Energy Group Inc. issued what it called a “Confidential Private Placement Offering” which began:

“Meridian Energy Group, Inc. (‘Meridian’or the ‘Company’) is a closely-held South Dakota corporation that will construct and operate the Davis Refinery, a 55,000 barrel per day high conversion crude oil refinery on a 715-acre site in Billings County, near Belfield, North Dakota, in the heart of the Bakken formation.”

Don’t be fooled by the “South Dakota” in there. They might be incorporated there for tax purposes, but these guys are from Texas and California. And pay special attention to the number 55,000. That’s important. I’ll talk about that in a minute.

And don’t be fooled by the words “Confidential Private Placement Offering” label on the prospectus. I went digging around the Internet and found it for myself, although I bet Meridian is not happy about that, and it may disappear pretty soon, unless the word “confidential” is just another sham put out there by this sleazy company — more about shams in a minute, too.

The first thing you notice in the prospectus, right there in the third line, is that Merdian is selling stock in a refinery that is going to process 55,000 barrels of oil per day. Somebody at Meridian didn’t do their homework. When North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak and her fellow commissioners heard about this, they said, “Wait a minute. North Dakota state law says if you are going to process more than 50,000 barrels per day, you have to come to us and let us do a comprehensive site review to determine if that is really a good place to put an oil refinery.”

“Oh, dang,” Meridian responded. “That was a mistake. We didn’t mean 55,000. We meant 49,500 barrels per day. That’s our story, and we’re sticking to it.”

Except that the prospectus is still there, online, selling stock in a refinery that Meridian says is going to process 55,000 barrels per day.

So in spite of that, as I pointed out here a week or so ago, there will be no site review (as of now), which if one took place, would probably determine that this is NOT a good place to put a refinery.

Dang!

Our Health Department has decided that the unproven technology planned for this refinery might — just might because there’s no way to know until it is built and operating — meet federal air quality standards (this is North Dakota, after all, and we’ll plant big wet kisses on the ass of any oil company executive who shows up here with a fat checkbook). So I guess there’s nothing left to do but watch a refinery go up beside Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Except there is one other possibility. I said earlier I don’t trust Meridian. And I’m not alone. I’ve had more than one person mention in casual conversations, including some people in pretty high positions, that this whole deal sounds suspicious. The project has a price tag of close to a billion dollars, but the stock offering is for only $30 million. Now that Meridian has the permit, it has to find a bank willing to lend it at least three-quarters of a billion dollars. Again, as I mentioned, on unproven technology. Would a bank really do that? What’s the collateral on that if this falls through? A refinery that doesn’t work?

I asked Gov. Doug Burgum if he wouldn’t mind asking his State Securities commissioner, Karen Tyler, to take a look at the prospectus and see if they think this is all on the up and up. I mean, the state does have some responsibility to help protect investors in big deals like this in our state. Apparently he did that. Here’s what his spokesman Mike Nowatzki told me the other day:

“Commissioner Tyler informs me that Meridian is utilizing a federal securities registration exemption under Regulation D Rule 506(c) of the 33 Act. This federal exemption requires that they only accept investments from Accredited Investor — income of $200,000 to $300,000 or net worth of $1 million excluding primary residence.  The exemption largely pre-empts state securities regulatory authority. The Securities Department can require that Meridian put the department on notice that it is soliciting and selling in the state (Note: Meridian has done that), and Securities’ anti-fraud authority is preserved, but it does not have the authority to opine upon and set requirements for their offering documents.”  (emphasis added)

Well, how convenient. Is there any loophole in the law this sleazy company won’t find?

Would I be surprised if I learned down the road, in a few months, that this company never really intended to build an oil refinery here? No, I would not. In fact, I’d be willing to bet all my shares in the company that there’s at least a 50-50 chance this whole thing is a big stock scam designed to make some quick bucks for a few executives and board members.

On the very first page of the “confidential” prospectus, there’s a line that says the total stock offering is for $30 million, but up to 25 percent — $7.5 million — can be used for “cost of issuance,” including “compensation paid to employees of Meridian.” From what I can tell from its website, that might be about a dozen or so people on the “management team” and a few clerical staff dividing up $7.5 million dollars.

But then it also says, “Management’s Discretionary Control over Proceeds — Although the Company anticipates that it will apply the net proceeds of its financing as described herein, Management will have complete discretionary control over the utilization of the funds and there can be no assurance as to the manner or time in which said funds will be utilized.”

So that management team can pay themselves way more than $7.5 million. It can use it all. Good grief. Who would invest in a company like this? Ummmm, maybe somebody looking for a tax write-off?

Well, if it’s a scam, too bad for the investors, but good for us. Except I’m not willing to take a chance. I’m going to keep talking and writing about it. Because if Meridian is serious, and we fail to stop it, shame on us. It will the most egregious example of failed leadership in the history of our state.

I hope Gov. Burgum doesn’t want that to be his legacy.

P.S. Here’s an “Important Notice” from page 3 of Meridian’s “confidential” offering:

“This memorandum contains certain information of a highly confidential and proprietary nature. The receipt of this memorandum constitutes an agreement on the part of the recipient hereof to maintain the confidentiality of the information contained herein or any additional information subsequently delivered in connection herewith. Prospective investors who accept this memorandum or become aware of the information contained herein must understand and comply with the extensive federal and state securities law restrictions placed upon their ability to disclose information contained herein to others or to participate in or otherwise effect or facilitate any transactions relating to any securities of the company. Prospective investors who cannot comply fully with such restrictions should not review the information contained herein and should immedialtely (sic) return this memorandum to the offeror.”

Yikes! Well, golly, I’m not a prospective investor, so I guess I can share that much with you, but I won’t tell you anything else that’s in it because I don’t want to take a chance on going to the pokey. But if you’re interested, and maybe want to invest a buck or two (and if you make 300 grand a year and have a million bucks in the bank you’d like to gamble), just click here and you can read it yourself. Oh, and if it’s disappeared by the time you read this, don’t worry — I’ve got a PDF. Just send me an e-mail and I’ll send it to you.

This story is an edited version of a story that appears in the July 2018 issue of Dakota Country magazine.  It’s a magazine you should be reading. You can subscribe here.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Republicans Raising Taxes In North Dakota? Yep, They Did That

Wait a minute.

Wait A Minute!

WAIT A MINUTE!

What the heck is going on here?

The North Dakota Legislature raised your taxes, and everybody’s cheering!

The cheerleaders?

Republicans: Gov. Doug Burgum, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger.

Democrats: Sen.. Heidi Heitkamp, Tax Commissioner candidate Kylie Overson.

The chant: “A victory for North Dakota’s retailers!”

Screw that.

OK, I’m going off on a rant here.

I’m talking about last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states (including North Dakota) can collect sales taxes from Internet retailers. So now, states that have a law in place can immediately begin collecting sales tax on the books we purchase from used booksellers, or shoes we buy from Zappo’s, or a CD from Amazon, or printer ink cartridges we buy from Canon, or refrigerator filters we buy from Sears.

North Dakota has such a law. It’s a pretty new one, thanks to the passage of Senate Bill 2298 in the 2017 Legislature, which said that if the Supreme Court should ever rule in favor of allowing states to collect sales taxes on Internet purchases, North Dakota will do it.

In the North Dakota Senate, all 47 senators — 38 Republicans and nine Democrats — voted for it. In the House, 56 Republicans and 12 Democrats voted for it, while 22 Republicans and one Democrat voted against it. Republican Gov. Doug Burgum signed it into law. That’s the law that just raised your taxes.

A major tax increase passed with not so much as a whimper. Of course, the tax increase had a “trigger” (sound familiar?): it only took effect if the Supreme Court justices said it could. They did. Last week.

The decision was hailed nationally as a “victory for brick-and-mortar businesses that have been complaining for years that they are at a disadvantage by having to charge sales taxes while their online competitors don’t.”

And the states complained they were missing out on billions of dollars in revenue. One of the newspaper stories I read about this past week quoted a fellow from something called the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy as saying, “State and local governments have really been dealing with a nightmare scenario for several years now.”

Oh cry me a river. No one is going to change their shopping habits because they have to pay sales tax — an extra 5 percent or so.

People shop online because they can get exactly what they want, which is not always the case locally, usually at a substantially lower price than if they bought it locally, and have it delivered to their door, in a matter of days.

Paying an extra 5 percent sales tax, when they’re saving 20 to 30 percent — or more — is not going to deter them.

What all these politicians who are raving about this as being a huge boon to their state’s treasuries fail to mention is that it is not big online retailers who pay these taxes.

IT’S US!

We pay them.

“This is a long overdue victory for our local retailers,” says Gov. Burgum.

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” says Heidi Heitkamp, a former North Dakota tax commissioner and attorney general.

“I’m glad the Supreme Court was able to recognize the unfair advantage online retailers have,” said Rauschenberger.

Well, I call bullshit!

This is nothing more than an increase in the most unfair tax we pay, and it hits lower and middle-income families the hardest. Low-income families spend most of their paychecks, and yes, if they can buy products cheaper online than in local stores they do that. (Note: A lot of us old folks who don’t like driving in traffic or parking at the mall do it, too.)

But they’re not doing it because they don’t get charged taxes. You bought ink for your home printer lately? Eighty dollars at Staples or Best Buy. Twenty dollars online. That’s why people shop online. They’re not disloyal to their hometown merchants. They’re simply trying to make ends meet.

On top of all that, the North Dakota Legislature has been cutting taxes on big corporations and has slashed billions in revenue from oil companies in the past four years. That new sales tax law passed in 2017 means that a family scraping by on $40,000 a year — and there are lots of them in North Dakota — gets a tax increase. Meanwhile, that same North Dakota Legislature gave Harold Hamm’s oil company a multimillion dollar tax cut.

I’ve been arguing for years with my Democratic-NPL friends in the Legislature, to no avail, that with all the oil tax revenue we could collect, they should be introducing bills to CUT sales taxes.

“We need the revenue for schools and Medicaid,” they counter. Well, yeah, but how about getting it from big corporations and oil companies and not from poor families in the checkout line?

C’mon, Democrats. Introduce a bill to cut sales taxes. There are only 22 of you in the whole damn Legislature — and 119 Republicans. Make them vote against cutting taxes. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll be too embarrassed — or even principled — to do that.

We’ve got $7 billion or $8 billion in the bank. We’re not poor. Use oil taxes to pay for schools instead of raising taxes on moms and dads working two jobs to just put shoes on their kids’ feet.

I talked to one of the legislators who voted against SB 2298. He agreed that the sales tax hits the working class families the hardest. And he also pointed out that we have a lot of our own online retailers right here in North Dakota, and this could be a nightmare for them.

Our law says they have to collect sales taxes if they conduct more than 200 transactions a year, or have sales of more than $100,000. Well, that puts our online retailers between a rock and a hard place. First, they’re going to have to spend some money ramping up to collect the taxes and send them to the state. Then, let’s say they figure there’s no way they’re going to exceed $100,000 in sales, so they don’t charge the tax, and then right at the end of the year, they have a Christmas rush in sales and end up with 210 customers, or someone comes along and makes a big purchase, pushing them over $100,000. Now what?

Or let’s say they expect to have a pretty good year, so they charge the tax, and then end up not reaching 200 sales, or $100,000. Now what?

This whole deal just sucks. The Supreme Court decision doesn’t mandate states collect the tax. It just allows them to collect the tax. I think North Dakota shouldn’t do it. We’re already one of the richest states in the country. If we need more money, the only tax we should be raising is the tax on oil. Not a consumer tax.

Rauschenberger says he’ll collect up to $30 million a year under the new law. But not from online companies — from us. We’ll be paying it. Although those retailers are going to have to do a lot more technology and paperwork, which might mean they have to raise the prices on stuff we buy. A double whammy on consumers.

By the way, that $30 million would be 5 percent of online sales. That means North Dakotans must be spending $600 million a year online. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around that. I’m wondering if the tax commissioner didn’t just make something up, pull a number out of his ass. There’s been a lot of that going around lately.

Anyway, if my choice is to pay $20 for ink for my printer online, or $80 here in town, that 5 percent tax doesn’t make a bit of difference to me. I’ll still order it online. So tell me how this ruling helps local retailers. Does that make any sense to anyone?

Well, anyone except greedy government officials, who just can’t see a downside to this?

I read somewhere that the cuts the Republicans made to the oil tax in 2015 are costing the state something like $15 million a month. So we cut taxes for those who can most afford them and increase taxes on those who can least afford them.

A victory for North Dakota retailers? Bullshit. It’s a $30 million loss for North Dakota consumers. And it really pisses me off.

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — And The Winner Is …

There was an election last week and Democracy lost. Just 19.66 percent of eligible North Dakotans voted — 114,340. Meanwhile, the winner, Apathy, recorded 467,301 yawns. The only place with lower turnout was North Korea. Isn’t it obvious now that we need more undocumented immigrants to do the voting Americans just won’t do?

Even more disconcerting was the revelation that there are 54,105 perverts in the state, a.k.a., Republicans, who boldly voted for former GOP secretary of state candidate Will Gardner despite revelations of a past arrest for window peeping at North Dakota State University girls dorms.

On a hunch that Gardner may have carried the college girl demographic, incumbent Al Jaeger, who plans to run in November as an independent (along with many Democrats), immediately began considering ways to impress coeds, so he’s started wearing jorts, has opened a MySpace account and is thinking about a tattoo.

Democratic challenger Josh Boschee, with just 32,865 votes, has a steep hill to climb. For him and fellow Democrats, I have a suggestion — a name change. No, not a change from Democrat to Republican, although there are indications that is what Heidi Heitkamp is trying to do. She’s not running as a Democrat, she’s running as a blonde. It’s a Goldilocks campaign — she’s not too liberal, not too Republican, she’s juuuuuust the right amount of conservative for North Dakota.

Meanwhile, Kevin Cramer got an endorsement from Public Advocate of the United States, which perpetuates more LGBT conspiracy theories than Alex Jones on a three-day coke binge. Apparently, Cramer thought it was a good idea to complete a survey for the group, scoring a 100 percent, thereby winning their undying but strictly platonic heterosexual love.

But back to my name change strategy. All Democratic candidates should change their middle initials to R. Then, they should move the R to the end. For instance, Joshua Boschee R., because as Will Gardener has proven, 68 percent of North Dakotans will vote for anyone with an R behind their name. If a certain company had changed it’s name in North Dakota, Toys Us R would still be in business.

The low voter turnout wasn’t helped by reports of two Black Panthers intimidating people at polling places. Or maybe that was a Fox News rerun. Otherwise, how do we explain the abysmal turnout? It smacks of voter suppression. Almost nowhere was the vote suppressed like it was in Cass County, where all but 13.52 percent of eligible voters were locked up in cages and separated from their parents. Hold it! That’s something else we’re doing in the name of freedom.

Freedom is hard. They’ve set the bar too high. It might take half an hour to vote. On a Tuesday! I don’t know about you, but my Tuesdays are sacred. Don’t even try to make me vote on Hump Day.

Voting is oppression at its worst. First you have to do intense homework on policy issues by watching 30-second ads featuring Heitkamp overhauling a diesel engine with just a crescent wrench, and a nonplussed Cramer looking like he’ll have to eat quiche on Fear Factor. Then, you have to blacken all those little ovals and risk carpel tunnel syndrome. It’s brutal.

We need to modernize. We should run our elections through Facebook like the Russians do or use telepathy like the North Koreans. They know exactly how you want to vote. The way it is now, democracy is a big time-waster. How will we ever find the time to complain about government if we’re too busy exercising our constitutional duty to vote? We’ve got better things to do. Something’s gotta give.

© Tony Bender, 2018

RON SCHALOW: Cramer’s Caging Of The Lambs & Silence Of The Trump Cult

That rumble of keystrokes you hear on horizon is the sound of every North Dakota GOP official pounding out a condemnation of President Trump’s new barbaric policy of taking children from their parents and securing the tykes in cages. You won’t see that use in the chain-link fence catalog.

Wait, nope. It’s just that stupid building climbing raccoon. Gawd. I already gave the big rat a ham sandwich. What now?

Actually the only noise coming from North Dakota Republicans is the faint tinkle of testosterone dripping off their bodies and the hush of calcium evaporating from the spine.

Or they agree with Trump’s evil policy and they’re too bashful, or to flaccid, to mention it.

I think I’ve “liked” the political Facebook page of every legislator in state. Some don’t have pages because they don’t know there is such thing. The rest of them are pretty quiet, although only a handful actually post anything with any regularity.

I don’t like to miss any of the personal videos. “They won’t tell you this in guvm’t schools, but grass creates as much oxygen as trees.” That isn’t close to true, but it’s good to know who we’re dealing with. That’s my excuse.

I’m surprised that Sen. Oley Larsen in Minot hasn’t laid the most obscure Bible verse in the book on us. The one that recommends parents hand their children over to strangers.

“Thouest the evil man stay evil lest he grabbest Lou’s second born.” —Doofusmoronity 11

The senator never really makes much sense. Larsen has claimed that he’ll offer a bill, in the next session, that would require teaching of the Bible in public schools. His Marshmallow rant is still on YouTube. It’s a hoot.

Oley is part of the trio in District 3, which claims to be most religious in the state. They failed this test, but these dudes campaign with real Dilly Bars, so they’re serious.

There are quite a few North Dakota politicians who can’t wait to mention their religiosity. Pat Finken, Kevin Cramer’s campaign manager, wrote in an op-ed that Kevin is deeply religious. Deep. His faith is so deep that Kev was able to find the forgiveness needed to absolve a window peeper. A sex criminal. Cramer took that stance on a radio show, and it needed a little spin.

Then, there is John Hoeven, who quotes us a slice of air:

“No one wants to see children separated from their parents. We must enforce the existing law, but we should do so in as humane a manner as possible.” — Sen. John Hoeven

But the deeply religious Cramer is all in with Trump on the child torture fun. It’s Democrats fault. It’s a lie, but Kevin doesn’t care. The New York dick rates higher than God. Cramer hasn’t a speck of morality. Trump has never been in a church on purpose and is an ethically bereft sociopath. Our POTUS is void of empathy.

“The issue of how to deal with the children of parents trying to come to this country illegally has rightly become a focus of our immigration debate. While we are a nation of laws, we must always show compassion in the enforcement of those laws, especially when dealing with children who are often innocent bystanders. Democrats must set aside their political ambitions and work with Republicans to fix our broken immigration system and secure our borders. Only then will we truly address the problem in a way that prevents separation of children from their families, respects the law of the land and protects the American people.” — Congressman Kevin Cramer

This isn’t part of a debate. It’s a hostage situation.

So, where is the compassion, congressman? You are complicit in this wicked abuse.

Political ambitions? You chose a vile, cruel, sadistic route to avoid annoying the orange spaceman.

Speak up Republicans:

“You could be creating thousands of immigrant orphans in the U.S. that one day could become eligible for citizenship when they are adopted,” John Sandweg (former ICE director) explained.

That scenario could be hard to swallow for immigration hardliners who argue against spending welfare dollars on immigrants and are opposed to a path to citizenship for children brought into the country illegally.

Sandweg says he has seen permanent separation happen when a parent is deported without his or her child.” — NBC

Ponder on that, Oley, and the North Dakota GOP.

RON SCHALOW: American Horror Circus Arrival Imminent

So,  the well endowed Mar-a-Lago mermaid is coming to Fargo to scare the immigrants. That’s just perfect. Personally, I can feel an orange gelatin evil in the Force. And I’m not even one of those little green dudes. I’m just happy to know that Mark Hamill has enough cash to get by.

Anyway, the Mar-a-Lago manatee will be in town to fete the rare accomplishments of the junior congressman of North Dakota, the benign blotch under Trump’s left boob and former sex shop window mannequin, Kevin Cramer. Just kidding! Trump will be at Scheels Arena to flap his KFC gravy injected lips about his favorite person. Himself.

And according to reports, Old Bone Spurs is going to tell the cultists about the many occasions he had intentionally wandered into the women’s dressing rooms and leered at naked females at the beauty pageants he owned. Teens included. Just kidding! It’s true, but I guess he’s going to verbally deliver a hagiography of his new best pal and Rob Port’s long lost twin, Kim Jong-un, and brag about their signing of a Denny’s breakfast menu.

Their beady eyes met, they ran to each other through a field of daffodils, and there was a lot of circular dancing. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Polka, maybe. We get it. Oh, he’s so smart. He’s so funny. K was so handsome at the mixer. Is he going out with anyone? Oh my, he’s in a fraternity?

Just shut up about Poppin’ Fresh. Nobody here cares about the little screwy haired troll. Besides, he had his frat brothers whacked, so they’re not that close. And North Dakota has more firepower than that evil little bastard buried in our dirt. Plus two Air Force bases that are above ground. Don’t tell Donnie, lest he get some warped ideas.

So, DT, please don’t tell us you HAD to kiss KY jelly belly’s ample ass to keep us from getting nuclearated. Just admit you had a love connection because no great deal-making took place in Singapore. That’s right, we were watching. And we don’t care if you were hungry. A regular-sized Snickers bar isn’t enough for our part of your sordid arrangement. Plus, it’s doubtful they have one.

We, and yes, I do speak for all North Dakotans, want to know about soybeans and the metal our manufacturers need to make big-ass machines, grain bins and horseshoes. You know, the asinine tariffs. Hand hold on your own time.

Someone will write a speech for the great pumpkin and put it on the teleprompter. Probably Stephen Miller, the anti-Christ’s little brother. Rumored. Just kidding! Steph is the real deal.

The words will be written for a fourth-grader because that’s the skill level of our POTUS. But as is his custom, Spanky will get bored, or get tired of the effort involved in reading, and go off on a wild sweaty adventure of lying, score-settling, name-calling, ass-covering, excuses, wild stories and self-back patting.

Maybe he’ll take this gem out for a spin.

While regaling a FOX stiff about his great achievements in Singapore, he simply made up an easily verifiable story about the remains of American soldiers still in North Korea, and their really old parents. Very old.

“We have thousands of people who have asked for that — thousands and thousands of people, so many people asked when I was on the campaign. I would say, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t have any relationship.’ But they said, ‘When you can, president, we’d love our son to be brought back home — you know, the remains.’”

Trump added the following flourish of bullshit. “I said, ‘Will you do me a favor (to Kim)? The remains of these great fallen heroes, can we do something?’ He agreed to it immediately. It was pretty great.” — CBS Los Angeles

Then, they shared a cheesecake and a small 3-gallon pitcher of melted Hershey Kisses. It was magical. We might even get extra bones. The teeny mass murderer has cornered the human remains market in the hellscape he helped create for his people. And how do they thank KJ? By dying of starvation. Ingrates.

Maybe Clownzilla will tell us about his close relationship with the white nationalists who adore him and other whites, mostly men, who feel like they’re being genocided because all shades of people have lived on this turf over the course of the last 10,000 years, and the less reflective ones make their lives suck, for some reason.

Mr. Trump, they won’t leave and let us have a white ethno-state and we’re sad. These ethno-idiots are the ones who don’t see the flaws in wall technology.

It surely would be a crowd-pleaser if the New York asshole would go into a full white grievance rant. I’m sure Pete Tefft, Fargo’s known activist for white people, as if he’s the only racist in town, will be there.

Tefft has a supporting role in the new documentary, “White Right: Meeting the Enemy.” He didn’t impress anyone with his intellect, since it wasn’t discernable. He and his tiki tot buddies are Trump’s superbase. None but 10 percent of Republicans waiver from Trump’s hip, but these maniacs are nuts.

Speaking of weasels, Rob Port spent the last six years, with steam shooting out all orifices and his brain cell fixated on Sen. Heidi Heitkamp. She won an election, and that hurt his feelings. Port permanently resides on Cramer’s lap and has done a 180 on Trump, since flirting with sanity before the 2016 election.

Cramer craves Trump, and Port needs Cramer, so the weasel got in line. Not so long ago, Robbie had strong feelings about dumbo, and the base they share, when he wrote:.

  • “Trump knows exactly how dumb his supporters are, and has manipulated their ignorance to great effect.”
  • “Trump seems content to pander to actual paranoid racists.”
  • “I do not think Trump should win the presidency, however. He’s an embarrassment. He is not fit to lead our country.”

So, Port’s a hypocrite, and if Cramer is a Christian, he’s not a good one. Not if he’s for cruelty to kids, and their families, and not helping people who find themselves as refugees. Neither is a shock. And no, feeding rich people doesn’t count, Kev.

As for Cramer, he’s a secure cowardly vote for anything Trump wishes. That’s all Don sees. Someone to do his bidding. That’s why he’ll waddle onto the stage. He’ll screw Kevin over at some point, just like he has to thousands of others.

Name one thing Kevin has actually done in the past six years besides bitch about pantsuits, and promise to discriminate against anything LGBTQ-related. Fashion tips and bigotry don’t count. I couldn’t think of any accomplishments, so I looked.

Three of Cramer’s bills have become law, and only one of them had any purpose. Rename buildings or make grilled cheese the national sandwich. I sure don’t care, but don’t say you’ve had any impact, Kev.

Cramer once arranged a science committee meeting to prove that Bakken crude doesn’t explode, even though Bakken oil trains were exploding regularly. There are tons of witnesses, photos and video, but the evidence didn’t convince oil boy. Harold Hamm isn’t the finance guy on Kevin’s campaign for the free key rings.

And yes I’m implying exactly what I’m implying.

Cramer didn’t want to run in a tough race for Senate in the first place, and he can’t decide if the people of North Dakota, Harold Hamm or Donald Trump changed his mind. Trump begged him, though. He’s sure of that much.

Scheels Arena is only 2½ miles from my home. It makes me itchy. But surely, the motorcade will come south on Interstate 29 from the airport, so I can extend a finger and take a knee at any point before the botox bomber turns off at 32nd Avenue.

Bonus: Gag reflex tester from the Rolling Stone. You know who said it.

“You know, no men are anywhere. And I’m allowed to go in because I’m the owner of the pageant. And therefore I’m inspecting it … Is everyone OK? You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. And you see these incredible-looking women. And so I sort of get away with things like that.”

NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — In Search Of The Phantom Workforce

The governor and the Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce are spending $4,000 this month to ask 1,000 businesses what they need to grow and prosper. I wish they’d talked to me first. I know they’re awfully keen to pinch those budgetary pennies. I’d have been happy to tell them for the price of a cup of coffee:

People. North Dakota needs people. Lots of people. Without them, the booming growth curve stalls.

Like their neighbors in Minnesota, North Dakota businesses are feeling the squeeze big time … not for lack of ideas, grit or even sometimes money, but the aching shortage of humans to do actual work. North Dakota Job Service lists 14,400 spots that are wide-open. The director estimates the actual number is significantly larger, since many openings don’t ever make it to the statewide employment listings. Not only that: Economic developers expect the need to not only persist but double in just a few years.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Labor Department confirms the whole nation is hurting for help. For the first time in the history of statistics, it reports more job openings nationwide than there are unemployed workers to fill them.

What a shortsighted time to close the doors to eager immigrants!

Gov. Doug Burgum cites North Dakota’s undersized workforce as its single biggest barrier to economic growth. “We need a new way of finding solutions to this critical challenge,” he’s told the media. He touts the employer survey as a “unique approach” based on “priorities derived from detailed data and evidence-based research.”

Don’t expect any stunning revelations. The survey — take it yourself at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/NDWF2018Survey —will undoubtedly turn up the kind of so-called “insights” that have been ridiculously obvious since at least the 1990s. Back then, economic development professionals were already predicting a shortage of the kind of smart, knowledgeable workers who are in short supply today … as well as a drought of workers with lower levels of skills needed to keep the wheels of our daily lives turning.

We desperately need more warm bodies here in the underpopulated heart of America. “Help wanted” pleas ring out from the Bakken to the Minnesota border — and not only in the slightly urban oases out here on the prairie. A good share issue out in the vast lands dismissed just 25 years ago as desolate Buffalo Commons. Census figures celebrate growth in the largest communities, but their explosive growth is offset by the sobering rest of the story — the rest of the state, where the population is draining away or, at best, static. Plenty of ideas have been sparked to bring life back to the withering. What they need now are willing hands to put to work. Ironically, as small towns shrink, their need for solutions grows — right along with the aching demand for living, breathing humans to make them happen.

Bitter but true: There just aren’t enough home-grown humans here to fill the roaring demand. Isn’t it weird, then, that so many on the pro-business, pro-growth side of the aisle are trying so hard to keep willing — no, desperately eager — workers out?

True, we already recognize some partial solutions. We can ramp up vocational and professional training, targeting the industries starving for that talent. Economic developers and educators have been recommending that since at least the early 1990s. Are we there yet?

But in a labor market as tight as today’s — 2.6 percent unemployment in North Dakota, 3 percent in Minnesota — retraining less-skilled workers, at best, pushes the shortage downward, where it’s already acute. Newly trained and promoted employees leave behind the less well-paid slots where we found them. Those empty positions, not as glamorous but equally essential in their way — will need to be filled, too.

We need workers of all skill levels, top to bottom. Service businesses, retail, food service, manufacturing, farming … they need people, too. If we can’t grow enough of our own, transplants are the only alternative.

Growing our own — well, that’s a long-term strategy. The drift of young Dakotans from their rural roots toward brighter lights is a family tradition. Better opportunities and more attractive communities can bring some of them back. Witness the holiday job fairs that economic developers have been sponsoring over the past 20 years: Snag their attention when they come home from the Big City to visit the folks at Christmas. But success comes by the dozens. Employers are hungry for thousands.

What’s the alternative? Transplants. The governor suggests looking beyond our borders. Perhaps North Dakota can seduce talent from other corners of the U.S. Artisan breweries, hip boutiques and downtown lofts may appeal to some for whom we’re competing. Two challenges make their large-scale recruitment a long shot. The rest of America is on the hunt for those same promising imports. And the good life on the prairie, no matter how chill, is never going to fully mask the bitter pill in the booming banquet of semi-urban goodies: Winter.

But, nevertheless, there’s hope in sight. Let’s look to history, for we’ve been in this spot before.

Hopeful humans follow the scent of opportunity from distant, less blessed shores. They’re the very folks whom the current regime is working so ferociously to drive away.

Immigrants are the heroes of our nation’s past. Each emerging labor gap — the factories, the fields, the intercontinental railroads – has been filled by waves of newcomers in search of better lives. Seldom greeted with open arms, often reviled by those who got here first, we’ve persisted to build the world’s greatest economy.

Yes, “we.” You and I are here today thanks to an endless supply of forebears who left home in search of nothing more than an opportunity to work hard and raise their kids in safety. But talk about shooting yourself in the foot! On the one hand, ICE agents round up, detain and deport undocumented workers right out of the fields and off the packing plant floor. They deport longtime productive citizens and strive to deny the DREAMers, prime young adults who were brought here as children. They’re trying to shrink the numbers of legal immigrants. They’re whipping up blind nationalistic fervor that blames outsiders for all of America’s largely imagined ills.

And then our leaders claim to be shocked — shocked! — by the desperate shortage of labor that’s crippling sectors of our economy.

Immigrants now, as ever, are willing to start at the bottom. Historically, they’ve labored in sweatshops, cleaned houses, worked the line in canneries, hoed beets, slaughtered hogs and built the great railroads. When old Americans didn’t want the work, new Americans did — and do.

America has always counted on the people whom the Statue of Liberty beckons to do the hard work of building a successful nation. Those tired, those poor, those huddled masses yearning to breathe free have bent to the task to earn their keep and support their families. Let’s not kid ourselves: Virtually all of us come from that same tradition. All of my own great-grandparents, less one, crossed borders to get here. Most of them did it freely, since passports and border control were rare before World War I.

All of my great-greats came from elsewhere — Norway, Germany and Canada — with one exception. My maternal grandfather boarded a Norwegian freighter alone at 14 and disembarked in Canada, then walked south along the Red River. In today’s heated parlance, Grandpa was an undocumented, unaccompanied minor.

Talk to some of the new Americans around us now … and listen closely. You’ll hear gratitude for the land of the free, where they can live in peace, educate their kids and labor as hard as humanly possible to build new, safe, productive lives. As immigrants have always been, they’re willing to start with the kinds of lowly tasks that homegrown incumbents often view with disdain.

The governor’s workforce survey will undoubtedly come up with laser-sharp needs and result in erudite recommendations. Yes, let’s empower today’s underemployed North Dakotans and Minnesotans. Let’s get them the education and training they need. (Sorry to ruin the suspense. That’s guaranteed to be the big takeaway.)

But, at the same time, let’s open our doors wide to ambitious, eager transplants who are actually anxious to join us. Let’s welcome them. Let’s offer them a productive path to citizenship, just as our own families achieved not all that long ago.

They’re longing for a fresh start on the ground floor. The jobs are waiting. Why not let them?

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — ‘I So Declare It!’

My day started out OK this morning. My pillbox told me it was Thursday — it’s always nice to know what day of the week it is right away in the morning. I had a pretty good bowel movement — for you young readers, that‘s pretty important for someone my age. I got my belt through every belt loop but one and got my shoes on without untying them.

And then it all went to hell, when I opened the paper to see the headline screaming from the front page: “Davis Refinery permit approved.”

Yikes!

I turned the paper face down on the kitchen counter so it wouldn’t be the first thing Lillian saw before she even had a sip of coffee. And then I went and sat down on the patio and sipped my coffee and looked at the beautiful, clear blue sky over North Dakota and thought to myself, “What kind of monsters would want to do this — put an oil refinery right next to Theodore Roosevelt National Park? And what kind of state regulators would permit that to happen?”

And who, at the highest level of North Dakota state government, will step in and say, “No. We’re not going to let you do that.”

Surely, Doug Burgum, you have a soul. Surely you won’t let this happen on your watch. Surely, you don’t want this to be your legacy.

Let me ask you this, Gov. Burgum:

  • Would the state of Wyoming allow an oil refinery to be built three miles from Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park?
  • Would Montana put a refinery three miles from the Going To The Sun Highway in Glacier National Park?
  • Would Alaska permit a refinery at the base of Mount Denali? Well, maybe, Alaska is an even bigger whore to the oil industry than North Dakota. But let’s not give them any ideas.

These places — Yellowstone, Glacier, Denali, and yes, Theodore Roosevelt — these national parks are our national treasures. There are only 59 of them. The federal government — our elected Congress members and senators — agreed to protect these most spectacular places in our states, passing laws that said, “We’ll take care of what’s inside these park boundaries. Now you, people of these states, you take care to not let anything mess them up from the outside.”

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is the only national park in America named for a president of the United States — in fact the only national park named for a person. That’s how revered Theodore Roosevelt is. He was afforded this honor because of his great conservation record, which includes setting aside more than 230 million acres of public land during his presidency from 1901 to 1909.

He didn’t set aside the land where Theodore Roosevelt National Park is today. That was done by Congress in 1947, to honor him. But he lived and ranched there and developed his strong conservation ethic there and said if it was not for the time he spent in the North Dakota Badlands, he never would have been president of the United States.

The National Parks Conservation Association, a national parks watchdog group, has suggested that the Health Department attach a condition to the permit — perfectly allowable in the law — requiring the refinery to undergo a PSC site review. Here’s a story with some background on that.

I asked an official with the Health Department a couple of weeks ago if they were considering attaching such a condition. He responded, “We will address the PSC siting review issue in our response to comments, which will be made available upon completion of the document.”

They did that. In response to comments requesting them to attach the condition of a site review by the PSC (you can take a look at the Health Department’s response here–look at Comment 3), the Health Department said:

“Imposing a condition in the permit to construct requiring PSC siting would not be reasonable because a permit to construct is intended to address air pollution-related issues, not siting issues. See N.D.A.C. § 33-15-14-02(9) (authorizing the Department to impose “reasonable conditions” in a permit to construct). Concerns regarding the PSC’s requirements must be addressed to the PSC.”

Well, that’s complete and total bullshit.

I did go “see N.D.A.C. § 33-15-14-02(9).” It says:

“The department may impose any reasonable conditions upon a permit to construct, including …” and then it goes on to list various things, like

  • 1. Sampling, testing, and monitoring of the facilities or the ambient air or both.
  • 2. Trial operation and performance testing.
  • 3. Prevention and abatement of nuisance conditions caused by operation of the facility.
  • 4. Recordkeeping and reporting.
  • 5. Compliance with applicable rules and regulations in accordance with a compliance schedule.
  • 6. Limitation on hours of operation, production rate, processing rate, or fuel usage when necessary to assure compliance with this article.

Well, I guess I could make a pretty good case that any refinery operating beside a national park could create “nuisance conditions,” for the park, but that should not be necessary. There’s nothing in 33-15-02(9) that says they cannot require a PSC review. They could certainly attach that condition and let Meridian challenge it in court, if they want to.

I am reminded of a story about Theodore Roosevelt. When he heard that yachtsmen in Palm Beach, Fla., were shooting brown pelicans for sport as the ponderous birds flew to their nests on a small island not far away, Roosevelt asked an aide, “Is there any law that will prevent me from declaring Pelican Island a federal bird reservation?”

“No,” the aide replied. “The island is federal property.”

“Very well, then, I so declare it.”

And that was the birth of our National Wildlife Refuge system.

If there’s nothing in state law preventing the Health Department from attaching specific conditions to a construction permit, then it should “so declare it.”

Or, if Meridian wants to be a good North Dakota corporate citizen (yeah right) they could simply comply and go through a site review, like every other major energy conversion facility in our state has done, and using the best legal and scientific methods, find out if this is really a good place for a refinery.

That’s what should happen, Gov. Burgum. Those folks over at the Health Department work for you. Call them up and insist that they attach a condition for building that refinery next to our national park requiring Meridian to go through a PSC site review. As I have written here before, there is precedent for that.

Way back in 1974, in the face of a massive development of coal gasification facilities and coal-fired electricity generating plants, with the state lacking laws to regulate things like pollution and mined-land reclamation, Gov. Art Link and his state Water Commission attached a set of conditions to water permits granted to Michigan Wisconsin Pipeline Co. and a pair of Minnesota electric cooperatives, United Power Association (UPA) and Cooperative Power Association requiring them to take substantive measures to guard against pollution and land destruction. Those conditions, later adopted by the Legislature, became what are still today, I think, the strictest land reclamation laws in the country.

The companies, of course, challenged the Water Commission’s right to attach the conditions. On behalf of the Link administration, then-State Tax Commissioner Byron Dorgan asked Attorney General Allen Olson for an attorney general’s opinion on whether such conditions were legal. Dorgan wrote:

“I know that the Water Commission and the Governor are attaching these conditions in order to provide the best possible protection for North Dakotans as a result of the approval of these projects.

“The conditions are designed to make certain that developments of the type that were approved are subject to very stringent regulations in order to protect North Dakota’s quality of life.

“However, if these conditions should not be able to stand the test of a court challenge, then we are all living with a false sense of security about these conditions.

“For this reason, I believe that the Water Commission and more importantly, the people of North Dakota, should have the opinion of the Attorney General whether the imposition of conditions attached to water permits is legally binding action that the Water Commission has the authority to take.”

Olson wrote in his opinion:

“It is our opinion that the conditions on the Michigan-Wisconsin Pipeline Company and United Power Association/Cooperative Power Association Conditional Water Permits granted by the State Engineer and approved by the State Water Commission are basically valid.”

Olson then went on to say “However, as in all such cases, the courts would make the final dispositive determination as a validity.” You can look at the full exchange here.

In the end, the courts did that. Link won his battle “to protect North Dakota’s quality of life.”

North Dakota’s leaders had balls in those days. It took a special kind of courage for Art Link and Byron Dorgan and Allen Olson to stand up to the industrial giants of their day and say “Not so fast. Let’s take a good look at this and make sure we’re doing it right.”

In the end, we got a coal gasification plant, and some power plants, built under specific conditions that protected the environment. That’s the model Gov. Burgum needs to take a good hard look at.

We can have a refinery here if we want one. And I think we do. But we can put it somewhere else, down the road, not beside the national park named for the greatest conservation politician in the history of our country.

Let’s do that.

One more thing: Shortly before 7 a.m. this morning .I sent an e-mail to Mike Nowatzki, the governor’s press person, asking for 10 minutes with the governor today to talk about this. Here’s his response:

“The Governor is completely booked today with things that can’t be changed and is not available for an interview. Below is a quote you can attribute to him.

“The North Dakota Department of Health has determined that this project is expected to comply with all applicable federal and state air pollution rules and regulations and meets the requirements for a permit to construct. The project is going through the proper regulatory authorities as prescribed in North Dakota state law, and the Governor’s Office will continue to stay apprised of its progress.”

I wonder how Art Link,  Byron Dorgan and Allen Olson would feel about a response like that.

Finally, the entire document allowing Meridian Energy Group to build a refinery next to Theodore Roosevelt National Park is available online. You can go here to look at it.

You can also take a look at Meridian’s response to the public comments received by the Health Department in this document. Pay particular attention to its response to comment 4(e). The company has the nerve to say that there is more pollution from the cars visiting Theodore Roosevelt National Park each year than there will be from the refinery. They even built a fancy chart purportedly showing how much tailpipe emissions are coming from the cars visiting the park.

Great! There’s a way to protect the park. Keep everyone out.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Hold On A Minute There, Al, The Peeping Tom Just Got 54,000 Votes

Just 24 days ago, Will Gardner, the Republican Party’s nominee for North Dakota secretary of state, announced he was dropping out of the race after news stories surfaced about him being arrested (and convicted) for peeking in windows at women’s dormitories at North Dakota State University.

You might have been a bit hasty there, Will. Republicans apparently don’t care about things like that. Because Tuesday, 54,000 of them voted to make you the next secretary of state anyway. In fact, you got 17,000 more votes than your party’s congressional nominee, Kelly Armstrong.

So, now what?

Al Jaeger, who holds the office now and has pledged to run for re-election as an independent this fall, is sitting in his office this morning, waiting for a letter from you. Because, ironically, in order to fulfill your pledge to drop out of the race, you have to send Al a letter telling him that.

So, Will, assuming you have time today to write that short letter saying you decline the Republican Party’s nomination for secretary of state, as given to you by 54,000 eager Republican voters Tuesday, put a stamp on an envelope and take it to the post office. It should arrive in Al’s mailbox Thursday.

Unless you’re busy today, and don’t get around to it for a few days, and then you start thinking “Well, gee, 54,000 Republicans want me to be their candidate …”

So what’s Al Jaeger to do? Call up Will Gardner and say, “Hey, Will, I’ve got to get out there and get a thousand signatures on my petitions. You gonna send me that letter pretty soon?”

We’ll see. If I were Al Jaeger, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

In other election news, weird shit happened in Bismarck on Tuesday. I don’t remember the last time an incumbent Bismarck mayor got defeated for re-election — it may have happened in my lifetime here, but I don’t recall — but it happened Tuesday.

Bismarck voters chose a rompin’, stompin’ cowboy over a mayor I think they perceived as a bit of a weenie, ignoring the fact that their new mayor, Steve Bakken, has a rap sheet that includes bankruptcies, drunk driving arrests, judgments for unpaid bills and state taxes and getting fired from at least two jobs for “inappropriate behavior.” That’s the new mayor of North Dakota’s Capitol City.  Yikes!

But then, these are the same voters who chose a girls bicycle seat-sniffing window peeper as their candidate for secretary of state, so what’s the surprise? Voters in Bismarck gave the rebel Bakken 6,300 votes for mayor, roughly the same number they gave Will Gardner for secretary of state. I’m guessing they were pretty much the same people voting for the two of them.

So, as far as the Republicans being the party of “values,” forget about that. I mean, they elected a pussy-grabbing president. Not much surprises me anymore. I’d say the Democrats better get their shit together one of these days. We get the government we deserve.