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.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — ‘The Hour of Land’

“The Hour of Land: a Personal Topography of America’s National Parks,” Terry Tempest Williams (Sarah Crichton Book, 2016).

The National Park Service observed its centennial in 2016. During this year, writer Terry Tempest Williams published “The Hour of Land,” her personal journey and meditation on the national parks, essays written as she traveled the country visiting some of the iconic sites that so define this country.

“There are few contemporary nonfiction writers who can capture the essence of the American wilderness landscape as eloquently and intimately as Williams. Noted for writing about the American West, her distinctive prose style is capable of conveying a deep spiritual dimension within the physical setting. This is very much in evidence in her latest book, a broadly ambitious and deeply impassioned collection of essays on a select group of settings within the national park system.” — Kirkus Reviews.

Lillian with Terry Tempest Williams at Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit, Summer 2016. (Photo by Jim Fuglie.)
Lillian with Terry Tempest Williams at Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit, Summer 2016. (Photo by Jim Fuglie.)

Williams, the writer of many books and a personal friend of mine, is one of the most eloquent voices writing about American lands in this time. One of the early chapters of this book features the previous Superintendent of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Valerie Naylor, and thus the challenges that are so familiar to readers of Wild Badlands. When Williams was a guest speaker at TRNP during the anniversary celebrations, the house was packed and her warm wisdom kept everyone enthralled.

When I am feeling discouraged about the challenges that the Bad Lands face, I often turn to her writing to ground me and give me courage and fortitude. Hers is an excellent voice to join with those of BCA, and this book is a gem I give my highest recommendation.

This book review was published in “Wild Badlands: Badlands Conservation Alliance Newsletter,” Autumn 2017, No. 42.

RUSS HONS: Photo Gallery — University Of North Dakota Vs. North Dakota State University

Marlon Stewart scored 23 points and Geno Crandall added 20 but it wasn’t enough as North Dakota State University topped the University of North Dakota 88-79 on Saturday in men’s college basketball in Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. NDSU (4-5) was led by Paul Smith, who scored a season high 30 points. A.J. Jacobson added 12 points for the visitors. Kienan Walter came off the bench to scored 11 points for UND (4-5). UND Tuesday when they take on South Dakota State in Brookings. (Check out more photos from Russ Hons here.)

RUSS HONS: Photo Gallery — University Of North Dakota Vs. North Dakota State University

Fallyn Freije and Lexi Klabo led the University of North Dakota women’s basketball team to a 79-68 nonconference win over in-state rival North Dakota State on Saturday afternoon in the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Freije scored a career-high 26 points and added 12 rebounds, while Klabo added 23 points and 10 rebounds. NDSU (5-5) was led by Michelle Gaislerova, who finished with 19 points. The Bison also received 13 points each from Sarah Jacobson and Reilly Jacobson. The Fighting Hawks (5-3) return to action Tuesday at home against Mayville State. (Check out more photos from Russ Hons here.)

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Yellowstone Trail Redux

A few miles west of the ranch where I grew up, in Deep Creek Township in the vastness of North Dakota’s Slope County, stands an ornately fashioned wrought iron signpost. This is the signpost. According to Merle Clark of Marmarth, Slope County’s unofficial county historian, it was made by a blacksmith from Rhame, N.D.

My mother says her earliest memory of the signpost was as a child, when news came ’round that there was a prairie fire in the area. Her mother told her they would go to the sign if need be as a place to rendezvous.

Junette Henke, May 2017.
Junette Henke, May 2017.

I must have gone by this signpost thousands of times in my life, either in a pickup, some other ranch vehicle or on the school bus. It was a landmark more than a directional sign, a relic of a bygone time. I knew my way around these gravel roads, to nearby Rhame or to my Aunt Junette’s ranch, having ridden all of my life with adults who had spent their entire lives in Slope County. When the time came for me to drive these roads solo, I was well-prepared and needed no maps nor signposts.

The tale of this sign is a very interesting one. What it tells the passer-by is that this is the “Town” (township, actually, not a town) of “Deep Creek” and it further denotes the mileage to the nearby Yellowstone Trail. The signpost is not on the Yellowstone Trail, but near to it.

Growing up, I never paid the Yellowstone Trail any attention. What the word “Yellowstone” meant for me was that we were going to load up the camper and drive west to the iconic national park filled with wonders.

The Yellowstone Trail, for those uninitiated readers, is a historic east/west route across the northern United States. And I grew up nearby to the Yellowstone Trail, as this signpost testifies. My husband grew up in Hettinger, N.D.,right smack dab on the Trail and he often talks of it.

Of late, I’ve grown fascinated with the story of the Yellowstone Trail, which stretched 3,700 some miles from sea to sea. And so, I went digging and reading and traveling, visiting museums and the wonderful folks who work there, gaining in return a better understanding of the Yellowstone Trail. I started by reading a couple of the best books on the Trail and by interviewing my always delightful and knowledgeable Aunt Junette.

The Yellowstone Trail was the brainchild of J.W. Parmley of Ipswich, S.D.  Parmley and his wife were pioneers in that area, and he is described as “a man of vision, dedication, determination and abundant energy.” (J.W. Parmley, pg. 1). He served in the South Dakota Legislature, and one of his passions was the construction of a better road that would make it easier to use the newly invented automobile for travel.

Parmley spearheaded an organization, formed on Oct. 9, 1912, for the purpose of building a good road from Minneapolis to Yellowstone National Park. The Yellowstone Trail organization was formed during a meeting in nearby Lemmon, S.D., and Parmley was elected president, thus Ipswich was forever known as “the home of the Trail.”

This photo shows Parmley in his automobile with the Trail decorating the side panels.

The association’s aim was to build better roads, more clearly marked for travelers, and to boost visitation to the towns along its route. Naturally, yellow was the chosen color for the markers, a variety of rock and metal and sometimes wood, painted bright yellow. Museums in many of these small towns display these historic markers with pride. Some can still be found in places along the Trail. “Joe Parmley could claim that he had spent many dollars for chrome yellow paint used to mark rocks and telegraph poles along the way.” (“The Yellowstone Trail,” pg. 9)

“By the end of 1912, 100 miles of a single road that actually went somewhere was ‘paved’ with dirt which had been graded and dragged, three counties had worked in harmony to join roads at county lines, and the march to Yellowstone Park was on.” (“The Yellowstone Trail,” pg. 11). Communities along the trail held “Trail Days” when everyone would come together to work on sections of the trail and picnic. “Most towns on the Trail had declared May 22 a holiday and closed all business houses for the day. Banker and merchant, blacksmith and watchmaker, all worked side by side … At the close of the day, the women and children were given joyrides over the newly made sections of the Trail.” (“First Year Book of the Twin Cities-Aberdeen-Yellowstone Park Trail.”)

O.T. Peterson of Hettinger writes in a letter promoting Trail Day, “Let there be a squad of men on every mile of the entire 1,100 miles of the trail. Let the trail boosters of each town see to it that some one man is responsible for the work to be done on each mile tributary to that town. Let that man get all the help he can. Let him prepare his mile for Trail Day by having it plowed, if need be, graded if need be. Let the men be furnished an abundance of cool fresh water. Let there be an equal amount of good fellowship and rejoicing. Let your photographer be on hand to take pictures of the work. Let all business houses be closed on this day. In the evening, let there be patriotic music by bands or choirs. Let the school children read their essays on good roads. Let the public-spirited men speak to the assembled people.”

“The idea of a ‘citizen work day’ was borrowed from the Good Roads Association, which had been active for decades. Lunch was made by the women, stores closed, men brought shovels, teams of horses and road drags, and the county sometimes provided materials. It was a good excuse to get out, have a picnic, and socialize with neighbors. In 1914 Trail Day was May 22.” (“The Yellowstone Trail,” pg. 17)

The Rhame Review reported on June 26, 1913 that “surveyors were working in the vicinity” and that the Trail would follow section lines, resulting in a jagged route roughly along the route of the Milwaukee Railroad tracks. Neighboring communities were reported to be quarreling over the route of the proposed Trail as each town would want to be certain that the traffic went down their main street. “The Rhame crowd was exasperated at the amount of time spent and the specious arguments made by the Bowmanites regarding the route to be taken, everything being made secondary to the one main point, that the Trail must pass through Bowman on Main street.” (The Rhame Review, May 1, 1913)

A month later, the Rhame Review reported differently: “It is a pleasure to note how the people of Bowman and this part of the country are pulling together in this movement for improving this highway. Keep at it. It is one way to build up our country.” (The Rhame Review, June 5, 1913, pg. 8). By June 29, 1914, the Rhame Review reported that the Trail was now officially recognized by the National Highway Association and “henceforth will be shown on all of their maps.”

I particularly love this photo below of the automobiles fording the Little Missouri River in the days before the bridge (still standing) was built. “There were special collections for emergencies such as the need for a bridge over the Little Missouri River at Marmarth, North Dakota.” (“The Yellowstone Trail,” pg. 9). Building the Trail in the Bad Lands of North Dakota and western Montana presented more than the usual challenge due to the rugged terrain, and the route in Slope County was chosen to avoid the deepest of the draws, as described by my aunt in an interview.

Sometimes, area boosters would be promoting a particular route of the trail and go ahead and paint fenceposts yellow in the hopes that the route would go by. Over time, when this route was not chosen, these faded away and have been forgotten as these people have died. By 1925, the state Highway Department reported the traffic density on the Trail at Marmarth at 285 cars.

My greatest interest in the Trail is focused on the southwestern North Dakota region. The route of the original Trail is shown on this map below.

Here is one of my Little Missouri National Grasslands maps with the route marked as per my Aunt Junette. She remembers that there was at one time a marker just north of Bowman on the “Farm to Market Road.” The route was going north of Bowman, then west, to avoid the most rugged portions of the Bad Lands, but the city of Rhame did not want to be left out, so the final route was changed. When Junette was working on “The Slope Saga,” Slope County’s massive history book, she and her husband walked and drove all of the original Trail in Slope County. (I guess you can see where I get this from!)

Turns out, there is still a modern Yellowstone Trail Association, made up of folks who are devoted to the history of this trail. As was true a century ago, people still enjoy traveling the Trail and finding the historic clues here and there. This organization publishes a newsletter, complete with photographs of what remains of the Trail, and stories by people who are traveling the Trail. Call it nostalgia if you like but still . . .

Our explorations of the Yellowstone Trail this year took us to the excellent museums of southwestern North Dakota: The Pioneer Trails Regional Museum in Bowman and the Dakota Buttes Museum in Hettinger. One of the old sandstone trail markers is on the grounds of the museum in Bowman.

The Dakota Buttes Museum in Hettinger is filled with interesting Yellowstone Trail artifacts and exhibits, and the wonderful people who work and volunteer there were very generous with their time and with sharing copies of documents in the archives.

“When stones were not available, telephone or telegraph poles were painted with a band of yellow a foot wide and 5 feet above the ground. Some areas used cement posts for markers. Travelers along the Trail watched for metal bands, bent around posts, on which an ‘L’ or an ‘R’ inside a circle indicated when the Trail turned left or right.”

The photo below shows an elephant that was performing in a one-ring circus in Bucyrus, N.D. The circus did not have the funds to transport the elephant on the trail, so it walked the 11 miles to nearby Reeder. Now that must have been some sight to see!

In the photo below, my husband, Jim Fuglie, and Loren Luckow, of Hettinger, stand next to the massive sandstone that is one of the two in Hettinger. This one was at one time later painted pink and will be restored by the folks at the Dakota Buttes Museum. This photo shows the scale of these markers. About two-thirds of this one was sunk in the ground in its original location.

There is also a marker on the corner in downtown Hettinger, one that shows the additional painted directional insignia. That’s me standing beside it in the photo below.

An original stone still stands in Haynes, N.D., painted neon yellow, lovingly cared for by area residents.

Our last Dakota destination on the Yellowstone Trail for 2017 was Ipswich, the home of the Parmley Museum. “Yellowstone Trail records are fragmentary, when J.W. Parmley’s home in Ipswich, S.D., burned in 1918 many personal documents were probably lost. Furthermore, when the Yellowstone Trail Association ceased to exist in 1928, many official records were apparently discarded. Thus as with other old highways, there are many gaps in our understanding of the history of this old road.” (“On the Road to Yellowstone,” pg. 41).

We drove into Ipswich on a quiet October Monday and went straight downtown. Noticing an elderly couple coming out of the Senior Citizens’ Center, I inquired about the Parmley Museum. They confirmed that it was closed for the season, but the nice lady said if we would follow her home, she would make some calls. So she did. She reached one of the caretakers of the museum, who was on his way to his farm, however, he said he would kindly meet us there. What a delight in every way. Ray Geditz proudly showed us many details within the unheated house and shared his memories of the Trail to boot.

The lovely stone fireplace has fossils embedded within, including this turtle shell. The Parmleys lived here for about 20 years until their deaths. In 1980, the home was entered into the National Register of Historic Places.

As we prepared to depart, Ray told us to be certain to go see the old arch, which was built in 1919 as a World War I memorial. He told us about how it used to be over Highway 12, but when the highway was widened, the arch had to be relocated to a nearby park. He remembers all of this very well and even helped with the moving of the arch.

For me, it all started with this signpost.

“Over the years that the Trail kept to the hills north of Rhame, there were several changes in the route, and in places one can see evidences [sic] of very, very old road traces. There are no markings through this area except an ornate, local sign in Deep Creek Township that does indicate that the Yellowstone Trail is not far away. The earliest trail in this area was blazed by Parmley himself in 1913 when he appeared on a wagon with two donkeys and a can of paint, according to local history. In the 1920s the present U.S. 12 route, more direct from Rhame to Marmarth, became the Yellowstone Trail route and the old north dogleg became only a local road, as it is to this day.” (“On the Road to Yellowstone,” pg. 91). According to the local historians, at one time the signpost was painted yellow, but that has now faded away.

Here is a description of the route from “The Slope Saga” (page 1123-1124):

“He [Parmley] came into Slope County from Bowman into Cash Township from the south between Sections 34 and 35 on north between 25 and 26, next turning west on the section line between 27 and 22, between 21 and 28, 20 and 29, across 19 and 30 coming into Deep Creek Township from the east in Section 25, continuing for four miles, coming to the corner where the steel sign post stands today. Then going north two miles and west two miles to Crawford Township, and six miles to Hughes Township. This route was merely a blazing trail completely by-passing Rhame.”

“From Marmarth east to the Bowman county line the trail had been shortened and improved until now it is in excellent condition, being on the best road we have ever had to Rhame …” (Marmarth Mail, date unknown).

Personal interviews and correspondence with T. Junette Henke, Dorothy Pearson, Loren Luckow and Merle Clark, all of North Dakota, and Ray Geditz of Ipswich, S.D., all to whom I extend my deepest gratitude.

Books:

  • Adams County Record. Series of five articles on the Yellowstone Trail. The Record, 2016.
  • Dakota Buttes Historical Society. “Prairie pioneers: a story of Adams County.” Taylor Pub. Co., [1973?].
  • First Year Book of the Twin Cities-Aberdeen-Yellowstone Park Trail: the great highway of the Northwest, commonly known as the ‘Yellowstone Trail.'” The Association, O.T. Peterson, Secretary and Treasurer, 1914.
  • Hettinger Centennial Committee. Hettinger ND Centennial: “100 years of change and challenge.” Ronda Irwin, c2007.
  • J.W. Parmely. J.W. Parmely Historical Society and Edmunds County Museum, 1983.
  • Meeks, Harold A. “On the Road to Yellowstone: the Yellowstone Trail and American highways 1900-1930.” Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., c2000.
  • Peterson, O.T., comp. “First year book of the Twin cities-Aberdeen-Yellowstone Park trail, the great highway of the northwest, commonly known as the ‘Yellowstone Trail’ starting at the Twin Cities and extending to Seattle via Aberdeen and Yellowstone National Park.” Twin Cities-Aberdeen-Yellowstone Park Trail Assoc., [1914?].
  • “Prairie Tales II.” Bowman County Historical Society, c1989.
  • Ridge,Alice A. and John Wm. “The Yellowstone Trail: a good road from Plymouth Rock to Puget Sound 1912-1930.” Yellowstone Trail Publishers, c2000.
  • Slope Saga Committee. Slope Saga. Bowman County Pioneer, c1976.
  • “Yellowstone Trail & Highway 12 Guide.” Mobridge (S.D.) Tribune, 2011, 2016, & 2017-2018 editions.

Maps:

  • USDA, FS. Little Missouri National Grassland, North Dakota. USFS, 1986.
  • Yellowstone Trail Association. Yellowstone Trail. YTA, 1928.

Periodicals:  

  • “The Arrow: official publication of the Yellowstone Trail Association,” no. 14, 2007.
  • “Motor news by the motorist.” Dickinson Press, June 30, 1917, pg. ?.
  • Rhame Review. June 26, 1913, pg 8.
  • “Motor news by the motorist.” Dickinson Press, July 7, 1917, pg 3.
  • “New trail blazed from Bowman to Dickinson.” Dickinson Press, Sept. 30, 1916, pg. 1.
  • “North Dakota Highway Bulletin,” vol. 1, no. 1, Aug. 1925.
  • “The state highways of North Dakota.” “North Dakota: it’s resources and opportunities,” vol. 1, no. 1, Nov. 1919, pg. 11.
  • “Trail meeting at Bowman.” Rhame Review, May 1, pg. ?
  • “Trail meeting at Bowman.” Rhame Review, June 5, 1913, pg. 8.
  • “The Yellowstone Trail.” Rhame Review, Jan. 29, 1914, pg. 1.

Websites:

Misc:

  • ND State Historical Society General Information File. “Yellowstone Trail,” 1920-

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Musical Chairs Leaves Land Commissioner Without A Job

I really thought (and kind of hoped) when I read in the paper Friday morning that the State Land Board had said good-bye to its longtime North Dakota State Land Commissioner, Lance Gaebe, that the next story I would read about him would be his appointment as director of the USDA Rural Development office in North Dakota.

But Donald Trump, John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer slipped one by me. That job, one of the plum federal appointments up for grabs in each state when the presidency changes parties, vacated by Democrat Ryan Taylor last January when Trump took office, is already taken. It became official this week.

Clare Carlson, who held the position for eight years under George W. Bush, is back in his old office.

I expect Carlson’s qualified — he did it before. But I thought Gaebe was probably the “most” qualified person in the state. He served as State Land commissioner for more than seven years, and that job gave him one of the largest — if not THE largest — pool of money to be given away in all of state government. Before that he gave away money as director of the state’s Ag Products Utilization Commission. And that’s pretty much what the State Rural Development director does — gives away money.

Although Carlson’s appointment wasn’t officially announced by USDA until Thursday, the same day Gaebe walked out of the State Land Department office for the last time, North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven actually slipped it out in a news release Nov. 6 — the day before this year’s election.

Unfortunately, there was a bit of other news happening that week, and somehow the North Dakota media didn’t pick it up (it still hasn’t). There was one piece of North Dakota news that did make the papers the next day though — that was the day Lance Gaebe lost his job — the day the State Land Board fired him and hired his replacement, Jodi Smith, on a 3-2 vote.

Bad timing. I might’ve thought Hoeven, who along with the rest of the Land Board hired Gaebe back in 2010, would have some loyalty to him and favored him for the Rural Development  job, but I guess he, along with most of the rest of us, never guessed that new Gov. Doug Burgum would side with State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler in voting to let Gaebe go from his Land Department job.

If the timing had been different, maybe Gaebe would be headed to a new job in the federal building. And Carlson would still be the No. 2 guy at North Dakota’s Workforce Safety and Insurance.

I guess it shouldn’t have been that great of a surprise. Burgum started replacing old Jack Dalrymple appointees slowly, but he’s been picking them off one at a time as he nears his one-year anniversary of taking office next week. So far, of the 17 appointed officials he lists as members of his “cabinet,” there are only five holdovers remaining from Dalrymple’s administration.

Gone are department heads at Commerce, Financial Institutions, Parks and Recreation, Health, OMB, Human Services, Information Technology, Job Service, Highway Patrol, Transportation, Labor and Securities. Not bad.

Hanging on are the Adjutant General and the directors of the Game and Fish, Workforce Safety and Insurance, Indian Affairs, and Corrections and Rehabilitation Departments.

There are a few important jobs hired by boards on which the governor serves, like the Land Board, from which Gaebe is departing, the Water Commission and the Industrial Commission. Gaebe’s the first to go. Nobody’s holding their breath waiting for State Engineer Garland Erbele or Oil and Gas Division Director Lynn Helms to depart, although there’d probably be a big party if Helms was dismissed. Erbele probably should have been fired for letting his engineers issue 600 illegal Little Missouri River water permits, though.

But back to matters at hand. Carlson and Gaebe have kind of parallel career paths, changing jobs as administrations change, always dependent on political connections. Both were mentioned on a short list to succeed Roger Johnson as State Agriculture commissioner when Johnson left for Washington, D.C., eight years ago, a job that went to Doug Goehring. Both Goehring and Carlson had run against and lost to Johnson, but Goehring had run twice and Carlson only once, so I guess that counts for something. Gov. Hoeven appointed Goehring.

Carlson gets the last financial laugh though. In his new job, he’ll probably be making about $135,000 a year, about $30,000 more a year than Goehring, whose salary is set by law at $105,000.

Goehring’s been agriculture commissioner a little more than eight years now. Maybe he can find a place for Gaebe. But probably not at the $120,000-plus salary he was making at the Land Department. For now, Gaebe’s out of work. But I bet — and hope — he lands somewhere pretty soon.

Carlson is in, continuing a career of more than 35 years in government, including service to Former Govs. Hoeven, Dalrymple and Ed Schafer and former U. S. Sen. Mark Andrews. He’s been a good Republican foot soldier, serving a couple of years in the North Dakota Legislature and running for North Dakota agriculture commissioner. His most recent job was deputy director of Workforce Safety and Insurance (he tried really hard to get the head job at WSI, which was open at the same time as Johnson’s job in 2009, but Hoeven hired former Highway Patrol Commander Bryan Klipfel, I’m guessing with instructions to make Carlson his deputy — Carlson was out of work after losing his Rural Development job when President Obama took office). Carlson’s job at WSI actually paid around $125,000 a year, also more than the Ag Commissioners job.

Carlson’s paid his dues (he contributed more than $3,500 to North Dakota Republican candidates in the last election cycle), but at the same time, every job he’s held since about 1985 has been a Republican patronage job. And I’m sure he’ll do fine in this one. It’s not too hard to give away money, and his predecessors, Jasper Schneider and Ryan Taylor, built a good professional staff to carry out the real work of the office.

I feel bad for Gaebe, though. He’s also been a good soldier for the Republicans. And as a friend of mine who knows him well said, “He didn’t f**k up that bad” as land commissioner. I’m a little more charitable — I thought he actually grew in the job and became a pretty good protector of the public’s interest in all the land the state owns. We have a lot of land and minerals in the Bakken, in environmentally fragile Bad Lands areas, and he’s become more sensitive to looking out for that land. I hope Jodi Smith continues that path.

Footnote: Carlson likely needed a lot of help from Hoeven and Cramer to convince the Trump administration to give him the job. At last year’s Republican state convention, Carlson’s name was on the Republican National Convention delegate slate for Ted Cruz for President (although he later denied he ever supported Cruz, after the state convention, just before the cock crowed). You’d think someone in the Trump circle kept those kinds of lists for referring to later. But Hoeven and Cramer have curried favor with Trump with their votes on health care and tax reform and can generally get what they want from him.

RUSS HONS: Photo Gallery — University Of North Dakota Vs. St. Cloud State University

The University of North Dakota men’s hockey team gained a tie for first place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference after a shootout win over St. Cloud State University on Friday night in Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, but the Huskies came back to take the series finale 3-1 on Saturday night. In Friday shootout, UND’s Christian Wolanin scored. In regulation, Cole Smith and Rhett Gardner scored for the Fighting Hawks (10-5-5 overall, 5-3-2 NCHC). Easton Brodzinski and Ryan Poehling scored for the Huskies (1221 overall, 7-2-1 NCHC). In Saturday night’s game, Mikey Eyssimont scored twice and Robby Jackson once for SCSU, while Smith collected UND’s only goal. UND goalie Cam Johnson stopped 31 shots Friday and 15 Satuday. Jeff Smith had 30 saves Friday, while David Hrenak had 34 Saturday for the Huskies. (Check out more photos from Russ Hons here.)

TONY J BENDER: That’s Life — Can’t Touch This

A legislative committee will examine North Dakota’s sexual harassment policy “to make sure it’s up to date,” said Rep. Al Carlson.

“I’m hoping for visual aids,” added a committeeman, panting slightly.

Existing codes are located between weights and measures, buggy whips and the zoning of sod houses.

Current statutes read:

  • A chaste woman shan’t ride alone in a closed carriage with a man who is not a relative.
  • She may, however, signal her status with a fan. Fanning slowly means, “I am engaged.” Fanning whilst disrobed suggests, “I am hotith to trotith.”
  • Gentlemen must remove spurs at the parlor door whilst courting.
  • And something about transgender outhouses.

The committee will watch a video, “U Can’t Touch This,” from noted ethicist M.C. Hammer. Later, there’ll be a debate — “Do’s and Don’ts” — between Roy Moore and R. Kelly. Mostly they’ll be discussing the do’s. Kelly got invited because there’s an R in his name. And finally, a slide show on Gadsden Mall hot spots and Moore’s plan to bring integrity back to the U.S. Senate.

Rules to be considered:

  • Don’t handle the hooters.
  • Don’t goose the caboose.
  • Don’t make a colleague walk on your back. Even if she’s a babe from your harem.
  • Don’t involve a houseplant in any of this.

Automatic door locks are verboten. Matt Lauer once trapped Willard Scott in his office and subjected him to hours of double-entendres about Smucker’s. If Lauer and Charlie Rose ever get together, some crap’s gonna go down.

Add Bill O’ Reilly, and, oh my … Seriously, what do you have to do that ends in a $32 million settlement? Does it even involve the same species?

North Dakota Republicans have so far resisted the formation of an ethics commission. First, they have to check with Petroleum Council President Ron Ness to see if it’s OK.

A puzzling Catch-22. If you have the ethics to form an ethics commission, you probably don’t need it. A chicken-and-egg thing. What comes first, the ethics or the commission? It’s right up there with quandaries like how in quantum mechanics, electrons can be in two places at the same time, and how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. The world may never know.

The Capitol is eagerly awaiting sexual harassment training. Some will be disappointed to learn it doesn’t involve an instruction manual.

Pop quiz questions:

  • Is she winking, or does she have something in her eye?
  • What was she wearing?

The state’s already facing a gender discrimination case against Higher Ed Chancellor Mark Hagerott, who is accused by fired vice chancellor Lisa Feldner of treating women like pets.

Hagerott is not accused of making any booty calls, though. Quite the contrary. He’s from the Mike Pence puritanical wing of politics. In these times, Pence may be on to something.

According to Feldner, Hagerott wouldn’t ride alone with single moms on his staff. She also claims Hagerott thought a drone flying outside the Capitol was operated by Russians and that the Chinese were hacking his emails. (Did recreational marijuana get approved in Bismarck while I wasn’t looking?)

Ed Schafer, who was interim president at the University of North Dakota, did try to influence the 2016 gubernatorial election. But, so far, no connections to Moscow. Fortunately, if Hagerott gets canned, Alex Jones is available and would be a welcome voice of reason. In Bismarck, he’ll be branded as a moderate.

Meanwhile, with Russiagate, we could see a Mike Pence presidency. He’d be the anti-Justin Timberlake. He’d bring chastity back. No skirts above the ankles.

Pence wouldn’t meet alone with Angela Merkel, or Theresa May, but a meeting with Kim Jong Un isn’t out of the question.

I’m glad tax “reform” passed before Russiagate explodes. Even if they had to pass it to see what’s in it. Which is how one might approach a bowel movement.

Call me when the swamp is drained.

© Tony Bender, 2017

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — ‘Geography of the Great Plains’

Jim and I took ourselves Wednesday on over to the United Tribes Technical College for a lunchtime program by a member of the faculty there, Dakota Goodhouse. The topic was “The Geography of the Great Plains,” and we knew it would be a worthwhile use of our retired time, not to mention the huge, delicious sloppy Joes we were fed.

The Lakota words for “Great Plains” is shown in the photograph below.

Which translates to “the beautiful country.”

The indigenous names for various geographical features were very beautiful. One I remember is that the Loup River in what is now Nebraska was called the Belted Kingfisher River. My view is that the original name should have been kept.

Here are three books that Dakota recommends.

Dakota has an excellent blog that I give my highest recommendation, “The First Scout: Mystic Warriors of the Great Plains.” Citizens, do seek enlightenment.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — How Low Can We Go?

You have to ask yourself how low the national GOP will go to obtain its goals.

Roy Moore of Alabama has been removed from his state’s Supreme Court twice by the U,S. Supreme Court for violating its order and the law of this country.

He met his wife when she was a minor. He was in his 30s when he spotted her during a school event. Years later, he married her.

He has been accused by a number of women of sexual impropriety, much like the president who supports him. In the case of the president, the women were of legal age; but in the case of Moore, they were minors ranging from 14 to 17 years of age.

On Sunday, another of Moore’s victims came forward … but for an entirely different reason than the rest. The lady in question had not planned to get involved until the disgraced judge called all of his accusers liars. Unluckily for him, that included this woman. She knew who and what he was.

The latest accuser said that, while she met and dated him as a minor, he did nothing inappropriate while they dated. What prompted her to speak up was Moore’s assertion that all people who said he dated minors were liars. Then she came forward. In that moment, she knew he was a liar.

Mitch McConnell, the GOP Senate majority leader, originally said he believed the women who accused Moore. He said Moore should withdraw and, if he didn’t and won, he should be removed from office.

But the Senate GOP places winning above their country and their agenda above people. Both McConnell and the GOP have flip-flopped and now support Moore. The Republican Party, which initially withdrew its support, is now funding his Senate campaign. Now McConnell shrugs it off, saying that “it is up to the people of Alabama.”

I would normally agree that the results from any state election should be honored. But these are not normal times. While several members of the Democratic Party have also been accused of sexual harassment, it appears that the GOP position is to give the Republican bad boys a pass — while going after the Democrat bad boys.

In a normal world, we should not be discriminating about which party members did the wrongful deed. Sexual harassment of both men and women should be condemned. There should be zero tolerance for all.

But do not confuse sexual harassment of adults by adults with pedophilia, “a psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children,” as defined by Wikipedia.

I believe the women accusing Moore. I have no doubt that the president’s accusers are worthy of being believed as well.

As a father of two daughters and grandfather of three granddaughters, what I find nearly unbelievable is how — in the United States of America, with our diverse religions and the Constitution in place — politicians and voters can have sunk so low as to support perverts for elective office.

What do parents tell their children? How can they justify support for these people?

To say that a Republican or Democrat should be elected regardless of his morals is insane. We are now paying the price.

When I see more than 50 ministers come out in support of Moore in Alabama, it tells me one thing: Theirs aren’t religions. They are cults and ought to be treated as such.

Note that this is not meant to be an anti-Republican rant or support for the Democratic candidate. It is a call to Americans, all Americans, to stand tall and do what is right for the people, not the party.

Given what is happening in Alabama, I find it frightening that 45, with a stroke of his pen, wants to allow church leaders to support political candidates from the pulpit. Separation of church and state is part of our heritage for good reason.

When our local, state and federal officials are sworn into office, they may place their hand on the Bible, but they are swearing to uphold the Constitution, not the Bible.

* * *

The current tax bill makes it obvious the average citizen does not count. Horrible statements have emerged from the debate.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa — with all of the class of a bull in a china shop — supports eliminating the estate tax (which benefits only the super-wealthy) because, in his words, “it recognizes the people who are investing as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

What this dimwit from Iowa doesn’t understand is that lower- and middle-income citizens (I hate to use the term “class”) who have families have to spend every dime on housing, food and living expenses. Too long in the Senate with its lavish perks, Grassley doesn’t understand what our fellow citizens face economically.

I used to respect Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, but he too is showing his age. He’s disconnected from the real world. He helped push a $l trillion tax bill through the Senate while at the same time allowing funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program to expire. He said he’s sorry that this program that pays for health care for 9 million children and costs about $14 billion a year hasn’t been funded. In fact, he helped create the CHIP program but at a time when he focused on people, not party. Now he says — after slashing taxes on corporations and the top 1 percent — that we just can’t afford it.

If the Democrats were doing to the budget what the Republicans are doing, I’d be on their case as well.

Here’s a question for you: Should Congress be required, as a matter of law, to vote on legislation only after they can certify they read and understand it?

The Republicans didn’t read or understand this convoluted, mixed up bill. They claim the Democrats did the same thing with the Affordable Care Act. That’s a damned lie. There were almost 80 public hearings on the ACA, and many Republican amendments were incorporated into the final measure. Yes, after the hearings, the Democrats did pass it without GOP support, but that’s just politics.

It’s long past the time where men must acknowledge women as their equals. Given the support for Moore, this is just a giant slap in the face to all women. The continual degrading of women must stop. Amen.