This Oughtta Be Good

Caught this on social media over the weekend:

Sort of the opposite of the “Free State Project” – the “idea” would be to export Manbuns from slave states to free states to tip the Senate.

And part of me would love to see 85,000 Manbuns trying to move to North Dakota. To survive in North Dakota.

And who on earth came up with these numbers?

In practical terms, it means 85,000 Manbuns – about 12% of the entire state’s current population – jamming into Fargo, since much as I’d love to imagine these effete hamsters moving to Fort Berthold or Scranton or WIllison or Dunseith, they did specify “work from home” Californians. You want broadband, you gotta go to Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismark or Minot. Which would increase the combined population of those four cities by 30%, pronto, making each of them more expensive than San Francisco. And you can wander any of those cities for the rest of your life looking for Avocado Toast, and find nothing.

It’d be even more pronounced in Alaska, and especially Wyoming, where an influx of 75,000 useless club drones would increase the entire state’s population by nearly 20%, and make its breoadband-enabled metro areas, Cheyenne and Casper, look like Del Rio Texas.

And Montana?

In practice, those 60,000 ofay fops would land in Missoula, the closest thing any of those states have to a San Francisco, blowing that city up.

And then? Winter.

Oh, good Lord. I hope you try, Manbun. I pray for your safety and your sanity in the middle of a North Dakota winter in an electric car. But I hope you try.

Point Of Light

My high school and college classmate Pennie Werth died from Covid a couple weeks ago.

Pennie and me go way back – elementary school, anyway. In high school, we did the various high school plays together. And she played piano in the first band I ever got onstage with. It was in tenth grade, for a talent show, and Brenda Bassett, Troy and Dave Claude, Pennie and me played “Don’t Stop” by Fleetwood Mac, to a panel of judges who had last cared about popular music during the swing era, so we did not win, but it was unforgettable and enough fun to get me hooked on playing in bands – a monkey still on my back today.

She went on to be a special ed teacher, and a great one. She lived in the Houston area for many years, but she called me during the later years of the Pawlenty administration to ask about the then-governor’s “Super Teacher” program, which was going to pay high-achieving teachers six-digit salaries to do what they did well. It would have been great – she’d have been nearer her family – but I warned her, correctly, the MFT would have nothing to do with “merit pay”.

Even as a teenager, she had a sharp wit and a huge heart. And she kept it throughout her life.

I wasn’t the only one that noticed. This AP story came out around the time George HW Bush died, three years back (emphasis added):

Mourners had been lining up since 9 a.m. to attend the viewing. Among the first was Pennie Werth-Bobian, 56, a retired elementary school teacher from the Houston suburbs who first met Bush in the 1990s.

A friend cutting the former president’s hair at the Houstonian Hotel alerted Werth-Bobian, who stopped by and struck up a conversation. Bush asked that she return every month or so when he got his hair trimmed.

The second time they met, Werth-Bobian asked what she should call him, thinking “Mr. President” sounded too formal.

“‘Call me George,’” she recalled him saying.

She did.

“That’s what he liked about me: that I talked to him like I talked to my dad,” she said.

They often shared family stories. Many of his tales involved George W. Bush, who she inferred was his favorite. Once, she said, Bush talked about Robin, his 3-year-old daughter he lost to leukemia in 1953, and his eyes welled with tears.

Werth-Bobian was newly married when they met, and asked Bush for advice.

“He said he and Barbara were best friends,” she recalled.

I’m still young enough to see this sort of thing as terribly unusual.  

When You Think Moonshine…

,,,you most likely think about the deep South or the Appalachians, of stills talked way back into mountain haulers and people driving boxes of plain white whiskey to sell out of the backs of their cars behind bars and in dusty back allways.

I’m just here to say that my rural North Dakota homies, 90 years ago next summer,pretty much showed the world how it was done.


North Dakota has not only become a Second Amendment Sanctuary…

..they’ve caught up with a lot of other solid-red states in some areas where they’d lagged a bit:

“Both the U.S. Constitution and North Dakota Constitution recognize our citizens’ inalienable right to keep and bear arms, and designating North Dakota as a Second Amendment Sanctuary State sends a strong message to Congress and the White House that we will firmly resist any attempts to infringe on those rights,” Burgum said. “We are deeply grateful to all of the legislators who sponsored and supported these bills and worked to strengthen North Dakota’s commitment to the Second Amendment.”

Among the bills approved by the Legislature and signed by Burgum this session:

HB 1498 removes a victim’s requirement to try and escape before defending themselves against an attacker, making North Dakota a “Stand Your Ground” state.
SB 2344 protects North Dakotans’ access to firearm and ammunition businesses.
HB 1293 expands constitutional carry in North Dakota and expands hunting rights for North Dakotans.
HB 1383 prohibits state agencies from enforcing federal gun laws that infringe on the Second Amendment.
HB 1450 allows more North Dakotans to qualify for a Class 1 Concealed Carry license.
HB 1463 gives local fire and EMS entities the ability to have an armed responder for defensive purposes only.
HB 1248 clarifies the role of cities and political subdivisions in making local firearms policy.
HB 1297 clarifies where firearms are and aren’t allowed.
HB 1339 creates a study to evaluate the North Dakota Century Code’s definitions of “public gathering” and “dangerous weapon” to ensure North Dakota’s law is up to date.
HB 1396 protects firearm and ammunition manufacturers from lawsuits for damages caused by a third party.

Congrats, NoDak.

Minnesota can only dream, as long as the “progressive” wing of the DFL has a leash attached to Governor Klink’s delicates.

Been Travelin’

I just got back from North Dakota. I had to take care of some family business. Other than driving on roads made greasier than Kamala Harris’s ethics by a spring snowstorm, it was a lot of fun.

Mostly observing the differences between government in a free state, and Minnesota.

There is no mask mandate. Some businesses will suggest a mask; in those, about half the people comply.

One enduring memory of growing up there: I was 16 before I met a black person. The ethnic mix has changed considerably – at the Walmart in Minot, I ran into pretty much the same assortment of people one runs into in any Twin Cities suburb. But “more ethnic minorities” doesn’t seem to have translated into “crappier politics”, because unlike Twin Cities suburbs, the place seems to have gotten more conservative over time, judging by Presidential and Gubernatorial results.

And yet the place is prosperous – “Help Wanted” signs were all over the place even though the oil boom is long past and I wasn’t in “oil country” anyway. There are some Democrats in Fargo who try to wave the class and race grievance flags, but generally “new” residents seem to be fitting in – including, in one highly unexpected case, a fairly prominent transgendered person who’s moved to a very unlikely place – which I bring up not to post PC points (about which I don’t care) but to point out that this move, along with most of the above, which would be called unthinkable by your CNN clacque, has gone over without any noticable social muss and fuss in this most utterly conservative place.

Why, it’s almost as if conservatism breeds tolerance, and a focus on what matters in life?

I come home to notice I’m not the only one who’s noticed it.

A Little Bit Country

I left North Dakota for a lot of good reasons. Pretty much everything I wanted in life, especially back when only Al Gore had the Internet, was in a major metropolitan area; a place to try to be a songwriter, a musician, a writer, or something just different than I could be back in one of the most rural states in the US.

And that judgment was largely right, then and now. I found opportunity in the big city that would have eluded me back in the rural west, then and, let’s be honest, now. I’d have never fallen out of college into a major market talk radio job; I’d have never tripped into either of the careers I’ve had since then; nothing that is my life today had I stayed in North Dakota, other than faith and family – and my family is mostly here, too.

And for better or worse, that’s the way it’s going to be for at least the next five years. I was working remotely – at least for a while – before it was cool; from 2015 through most of 2017 I worked from home. And it was great. But when the jobs ended – and they did – the immutable fact is, being where the work was, having a network and a presence and a reputation among a critical-enough mass of people in the industry to find the next job was pretty much non-negotiable.

So the ties that bind me to the big city are emotional, financial and personal.

Oh, yeah – and I’m stubborn. I may eventually walk away from the city, to someplace in Minnesota with a functional two-party system, or across the river to solid, competent, red Northwest Wisconsin. But I’ll do it on my own time. I won’t run away from the mob, either on the street or in city hall. Not if I can help it.

So I’ve got my reasons for being here, and I’m fine with that.

Still, I brought a little bit of my home here. North Dakotans are famously stoic, and calmly but ruthlessly pragmatic – and it shows in the way the state governs itself. And, to be honest, it did, mostly, even when the state’s governor and its congressional delegation were longtime Democrats – although the likes of George Skinner and Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad would look like Barry Goldwater in the modern Democratic Party; Collin Peterson is as close as you’ll find in the wild today. And I compare the public life of my “new” home of 30-odd years to my old one, and find it grossly wanting. Perhaps the lower population density means that there’s noplace to escape the wrath of an angry populace; perhaps the more modest budget for a permanent political and non-profit class means that politicians of all stripes need to mind their manners, since they are unlikely to wind up in permanent political sinecures. More than a few former governors in the Dakotas and Montana went back into private legal practice after leaving office; perhaps knowing they were going to be back on Main Street one day tempers behavior in a way that looking forward to a “teaching” job at the Humphrey Center and a cushy and largely ceremonial “job” at a law firm or non-profit doesn’t. And I suspect it’ll take a genuine catastrophe – not the twin, training-wheels problems, Covid and the Floyd Riots – to strip away enough of the surplus wealth that enables rot-enabling dross like our non-profit/industrial complex and academic complexes to thrive. And that’s a level of catastrophe that will make Governor Walz’s original models look pollyannaish – a serious epidemic, like aerosol Ebola or a reawakened Bubonic Plague; rioting with guns instead of spray paint.

And let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

I’ve got a fair number of people in my metro social circle who are making active noises about moving to the rural west. South Dakota is a current favorite – Governor Noem has distinguished herself in leading SoDak through the Covid crisis to the point where there’s talk of her being, unthinkably, a national contender. (In a just world, Governor Burgum of North Dakota would be a legitimate contender as well – but being a billionaire and by all indications pretty dang happy where he’s at, he’d have no reason to want to). I ask, mostly in fun, “you have two Dakotas to choose from, and you pick that one?”, but I get it…


My next question is absolutely serious: “Go to South Dakota…and do what?” If you’ve got a career that’s genuinely portable and can exist anywhere – or no career at all, and able to start over from rock bottom – then that makes sense. If you earn your living via the many, many parts of the economy that only occur in metro areas larger than 250,000 (and Fargo makes the cut, more or less, batting well above its weight economically – but it’s also developed its own class of “progressive” useless mouths, and along with Grand Forks the state’s only real collection of institutional Democrats), you may be looking long and hard to find a way to make ends meet. And if you’re counting on your remote job to carry you through – check those connections, both on the Internet and on your LinkedIn. You’d best have a very high profile in your industry to be able to find your next job from your den in Aberdeen.

Still, for all the Metro governments have poured into the bogus, politically-correct, perverted-to-the-point-of-Orwellian definition of “resiliency”, Victor Davis Hanson reminds us in his meditations on Æsop’s fable of the City Mouse and Country Mouse that life in the more rural areas offers the real thing – the ability to provide one’s own “safety net” far more resilient than that of even a well-intentioned social one, a genuine community.

And there are times that sounds attractive.

Blue Fragility, Part VIII: Unequal Risk

If you remember the 1980s, you might recall the early years of the AIDS epidemic. While it was clear fairly early on that the disease particularly targeted gay men and IV drug users (leading to the overnight extinction of what had been a fairly thriving “bathhouse” scene in Minneapolis), government health authorities kept hammering on the line that “anyone could catch it” and “nobody was immune”.

Which was, literally, epidemiologically the truth. Cases of children and suburban housewives coming down with AIDS got wide play in the media, to prove the point.

But eventually the world figured out AIDS was a blood-borne pathogen, spread by behaviors that transferred contaminated blood between people; sharing needles, inadvertent exposure to infected peoples’ blood, and various intimate practices that had a tendency to tear skin.

And so people learned. ER staff masked and goggled and gloved up. Condoms became mainstream. Cities gave out free needles – aggravating to law-and-order types, but it did help slash the infection rate.

Unsaid but unmistakeable? While anyone could get it, the odds moved greatly, almost completely, in one’s favor with a few minor behavioral and prophylactic practices.

So I was in North Dakota over the weekend, taking care of some family business.Here’s a county by county breakdown of the Covid situation in North Dakota as of this past of this past Thursday.

Big Left tells us, in a tone usually reserved for devotional prayers and aspirational mantras, that Red America is going to get it. Covid is going to ravage the square states, they say, like a revival preacher winding stems on the Old Testament lesson. “We’re all in this together”, after all.

So let’s take a look at North Dakota’s numbers:

The red circles with white numbers are death counts.

Of the states 74 total Covid deaths as of last Thursday, 62 of them were in Cass County – which is Fargo. Four more were in Grand Forks County.

And, significantly, the counties containing North Dakota’s four Indian reservations – which, conventional wisdom here in the Twin Cities tells us, are the most vulnerable populations in the entire state outside of nursing homes – account for a grand total of six cases, and no deaths.

It’s not lack of testing, in this reddest of states; as of last week, North Dakota has the third highest test per million rate in the country, triple that in Minnesota.

Maybe it’s time to just cut the crap and admit that Covid – and most diseases that spread via aerosol transmission – are particularly transmissible by people breathing the same air, jammed into close quarters for extended times?

Nursing homes, of course – but also bars and restaurants, mass transit, open-plan offices, and other artifacts of high-density urban life?

That’d scotch the attractiveness of any “high density” social investments (the ones that aren’t already plummeting in the wake of this month’s rioting), of course…

…which would jeopardize the gravy train for a lot of transit consultants, urban nonprofiteers, insect farmers, public union employees and other big-state hangers-on.

Surprising Nobody (Who’s Been Paying Attention At All)

“Unexpectedly”, Minnesota’s neighbors – well, at least the ones run by people who came up through the world of business, rather than public employment or the non-profit/industrial complex – are kicking Minnesota’s passive-aggressive tush at dealing with Coronavirus.

You could look at it in terms of deaths per million (South Dakota is 1/3 Minnesota’s rate; North Dakota, half). You could look at it in terms of ICU utilization (all are doing all right, but it’s interesting to imagine how much better the lower-density states would be doing but for the ravages of Obamacare on rural healthcare).

Oh, yeah – and testing?

Which Governor Walz, for about the tenth time in six weeks put out there as the dispositive factor in re-opening, notwithstanding the fact that Minnesota’s bureaucracy is no better at un-flattening the curve with tests than it is at managing its budget?

Oh, what do you think? Numbers as of yesterday.

North Dakota 54,330
South Dakota 22,009
Nebraska 21,253
Iowa 21,206
Wisconsin 17,695
Minnesota 17,625

Bear in mind, progs in the audience – this is in terms of tests per million.

The businesspeople – who largely happen to be Republicans, but that’s more an effect than a cause – are doing the job better.

Suppose Minnesota will learn the lesson?

Wake Me Up When December Ends

I hate December. It’s cold. It’s dark. And all my year-end bills come due. Annual attorney recertification, vacation condo maintenance fee, hangar rent, Christmas bills plus all the usual expenses. It’s that wallop at the end of the year that annoys me. I hate to see money going out of the checkbook, it should be coming in. Makes me what to cut back,  spend less, live poor. 
“Darkness was cheap, and Scrooge liked it.”
I know exactly how he felt.
Joe doakes

I make a concerted point of enjoying the whole holiday season – which has made me, oddly enough, enjoy the season.

But I get it. I really do.

Suckin’ On A Chili Dog Outside The Tastee Freeze

OK, so Jamestown never had a Tastee Freeze.

Even better – we had Polar King! The home of all things cool and delicious on hot, dry, windy summer days…

…provided you were willing to work for it. It was north of the college on the way to the airport – a solid mile and a half from home, up the North Hill, beyond the tracks that were pretty much the northern border of my world until I got a bike, a mile and a half away back when that seemed like a long way.

But once I got that bike? They always had a couple of cute high school girls behind the counter (this back when I was in junior high and high school, just to be abundantly clear), and air conditioning, and free water. Polar King was a 50 cent vanilla reward at the end of a long day of pedaling across the dry, windswept plains, warding off boredom and seeing the world outside the little island that Jamestown, like all small towns on the prairie, was back then.

Jamestown had it. No more.

Photo courtesy the Jamestown Sun

The only thing permanent is change.

Change sucks the cool out of a beautiful day.


North Dakota senator Heidi Heitkamp seems to be on the path to political palookaville even before this week; polls were showing her trailing republican Kevin Cramer by two digit margins.

A fiasco over the weekend would seem to have not only put the final nail in her political coffin, but if there is any justice in the world should be tied into the Democrats frothing hypocrisy on #MeToo.

The Senator and her campaign placed an ad in the Bismarck Tribune with “signatures” from 127 “sexual assault survivors“. It was in response to a statemenr by Cramer that indicated North Dakota women were too tough to get sexually harassed:

Sen Heitkamp was upset by this and apparently decided to capitalize on it by running a full-page ad in the Bismarck Times [it’s the Bismarck Tribune – Ed.] and several other papers on Sunday. The ad contains a statement about survivors of sexual abuse and is signed by 127 women who, in the context of the ad, are identifying themselves as survivors. But some of the women named in the ad came forward to say they never consented to have their names appear in it.

And some have since come forward to say that they weren’t survivors of any form of sexual abuse at all, and at least one said that she had only told a few people about her episode, and found the whole thing really, really scary.

(One must also wonder if the Democrat party doesn’t expect us to “believe survivors” by dint of the fact that the Democrat party puts them out there as “survivors”, facts be damned.)

In a just world, this will not only take down Heitkamp, but slop over onto Amy Klobuchar.


The Air Force loses a box of automatic grenade launcher rounds in western North Dakota:

The box looks something like this.

A 91st Missile Wing Security Forces team from the Minot Air Force Base lost the ammunition container on May 1 while traveling between missile sites in Mountrail County, according to a news release the Air Force issued late Friday.

A Mark 19 Grenade Launcher – basically a machine gun that shoots grenades.

The team was traveling on rough gravel roads about four miles west of Parshall when the back hatch of the vehicle opened, and an ammunition container fell out, the Air Force said.

The USAF helpfully adds:

The ammunition will not operate in any other launching device.

Since the USAF went nearly two weeks before telling the public about this, I’m gonna suggest that those rounds will turn up, expended, during prairie dog season, fired from some contraption ginned up by some Norwegian bachelor machinist.

Well, the cartridge cases will turn up, anyway.

No, WaPo, By Your Indulgent Leave…

…I’m going to yuk it up like it’s 1999.  

Kudos, by the way, to the ACLU of MInnesota’s response:

Dear Washington Post,

The ACLU of Minnesota politely asserts our constitutional right to boast about our superior ability to withstand the cold.

Low today is -13° but we’re still out here fighting for civil liberties.

Well, the civili liberties that people from Manhattan and Kenwood care about, mostly – but point taken.

Friends In Low Places

You might ask yourself;  how does someone like Heidi Heitkamp – a liberal Democrat Senator, in a party that is almost extinct outside Fargo, Grand Forks and Minot, and whose state legislative caucus doesn’t have enough elected members to fill all the party’s committee assignments – keep getting elected in a state that Trump carried 68-32?

It’s easy:  Lots lots of Democrats on the coast who are desperate to hold a Senate seat that was in Democrat hands for generations, and which, once lost, will likely never be Democrat again (emphasis added):

Heitkamp, currently gearing up to run for reelection in a state President Trump carried by 36 percent, was heavily reliant on sources outside North Dakota during the last fundraising quarter, during which only $21,318 of the $739,218 raised came from North Dakotans.

Nearly twice as much money—$39,600—came from employees of financial giant Goldman Sachs alone, including a maximum contribution from Harvey Schwartz, the firm’s president.

Also outpacing North Dakotans were New Yorkers, who supplied $191,408 to Heitkamp, and Californians, who supplied $124,452.

Overall, the $717,900 Heitkamp received from donors outside the state accounted for more than 97 percent of its fundraising during the quarter.

Heitkamp earlier this year attacked the idea that “billionaires outside North Dakota who don’t know anything about our state” have an impact on its elections.

Perish the thought.


North Dakota Democrats – who haven’t won a statewide office since 2008, and don’t actually have enough legislators to fill their committee assignments in the NoDak state legislature – have the same city mouse/country mouse divide that Minnesota DFLers do; Democrats from Fargo and Grand Forks, bodies scarcely less dogmatically “progressive” than their cousins in Minneapolis, have come to dominate the imploding party.

How much do they dominate it?  According to Rob Port, they heckled North Dakota’s sole significant elected Democrat, Senator Heidi Heidtkamp at a recent “reorganization” meeting.

Best part?  The urban simps are so ungodly (Ungoddessly?) ouy-of-control that the rural wing of the party is thinking about splitting up along lines that go back nearly 100 years:

“[Rural Democrats] were completely ignored,” [Rob Port’s] source said, adding that he wasn’t sure what the message for the party would be in 2018 but added that it “damn sure won’t be rural friendly.”

“A number of districts wanted an economic message coming out of the party,” my source continued, adding that there was also a desire to communicate to voters that “not all Democrats are against oil.”
“They were completely ignored,” my source said.
Saying that some are calling the party the “Democrats of the Red River Valley,” my source added that “some people are talking seriously about splitting from the party and reforming the NPL.”

That would be the Nonpartisan League part of the Democratic-NPL, the history of which you can brush up on here.

My sources pointed to a Facebook event created for a “New NPL Caucus Meeting” scheduled for July. One of my sources described that as a “organization meeting” for the NPL, though the event page itself seems to describe the effort as a caucus within the Democratic party itself.

The event page does say this new caucus was created on April 8, the same day as the Democratic party’s reorganization in Bismarck.

This, as North Dakota closes in on an decade of Republican hegemony that has left it, even with the lull in wildcatting, in excellent economic shape.

The message to Minnesota voters is clear:  try conservative governance for a generation or so.


After a year of slowed activity due to Obama’s caving in to the Saudis, the rig count in North Dakota is up 40 percent since the approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Analysts predict the count will rise another ten percent.

Not every oil company operating in the state is going to use the Dakota Access Pipeline, but they will benefit from the pipeline’s capacity anyway. It will create more capacity on existing pipelines, not to mention rail, and drive down the cost of getting Bakken oil to market overall.

The article notes that both Whiting Petroleum and Continental Resources are projecting a 20 percent increase in output this year. Neither are contracted to use DAPL, but both will benefit from it none the less.

Isn’t it amazing what the free market can do?

North Dakota’s unemployment rate, even after the “crash” caused by the slowdown in exploration (but not production), hovered a solid point below that of Minnesota’s.  That discrepancy will broaden in coming months.

Grassfire War

I was born in Rugby, North Dakota – which since the 1920s has called itself “the Geographic Center of North America”.

It’s kind of a chamber of commerce flim-flam – how to you calculate the geographic center of an irregular shape, like a continent?

But what matters is that Rugby trademarked the phrase waaaay back when.  As in “decades before I was born there”.

And that designation – fanciful or real or somewhere in between – has been Rugby’s sole claim to fame (that and being my birthplace, natch) for as long as anyone can remember.

And that may be in jeopardy:

“We thought, we could make an equal case just as much as Rugby can,” he said. So the friends “sort of offhandedly” declared their bar to be the geographical center.

A few weeks later, after another late night at the bar, Mr. Bender checked to see if Rugby still owned the trademark. Turns out, it had lapsed in 2009. So Mr. Bender paid $375 to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, filled out some forms and snatched it up.

Now Hanson’s—a one-room bar decorated with Johnny Cash posters and a deer head on the wall, and which was previously best known for a contest that concludes with participants blowing pumpkins to smithereens with explosives—claims it is the real geographical center of North America. It has its own logo, its own T-shirt, and soon will have its own fair, Center Fest, trumpeting its new status. Mr. Bender has begun work on a monument.

I can imagine someone from the city’s chamber of commerce staring at the poor sap from City Hall who’d dropped the ball (that he or she had likely not known about) and saying “You had one job…”

To Dream

In Minnesota, the DFL lost its majority in the Senate, and were reduced in the House.   It’s a wonderful thing.

To look at what is possible, though?

In North Dakota, the Democrat-NPL party was reduced on election night from “minority” to “barely there”.

And it’s a very very wonderful thing:

The shellacking North Dakota’s Democrats got on election day is absolutely the fault of [state DFL chair Kylie] Oversen and the candidates Democrats put on the ballot this cycle. They saw not a single statewide candidate get over 30 percent of the vote while in the Legislature they lost their House and Senate leaders, their party chairwoman, and now have just nine seats in the state Senate and just 13 in the House.

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s not enough elected members of the Legislature for Democrats to cover all of their committee assignments.

Now, MInnesota liberals have been taking it on faith that, since wildcat drilling has stalled, the state must be in freefall.  If that were true, the opposite would have likely happened on election night.  Right?


Well, no – North Dakota’s 3% unemployment rate remains a solid point below Minnesota’s low rate of 4%.

By the way, congratulations to North Dakota’s governor-elect, Doug Burgum, the former CEO of “Great Plains Software”, the little software shop that could; it was purchased by Microsoft in the 2000s, and has become Redmond’s biggest campus outside of Washington State.


And, I should add, congrats to North Dakota’s new First Lady, my high school classmate Kathy.

“Big And Blue And Full Of The Mind Of God”

The quote is from “Dakota:  A Spiritual Geography” by Kathleen Norris.  It’s from a young Afro-American girl at a base school in Minot, ND, commenting about the sky in her adopted (likely temporary) home.

As James Lileks once put it, the sky is the big attraction when you drive across North Dakota; it’s a “painting that changes every fifteen minutes”.

Joshua Eckl is a photographer from back there, and he’s done a wonderful set of time-lapses of the North Dakota twilight and night sky:

It’s one of the things I miss about living up there.


Danny Heinrichs’ allocution on Tuesday puts a horrific, dismal, banally evil period on the Jacob Wetterling story.

US Attorney Andy Lugar’s plea deal – Heinrich confessed to a  child porn charge in exchange for no charge for Wetternling’s murder – is both absurd and utterly understandable; better to close the case and put the monster away for 20 years than leave the Wetterlings, and much of the state, in suspended animation forever.

I’m not happy – but then it’s not about me.  And there’s always the hope that he’ll accidentally swerve into General Population and get torn into long, thin strips.

One can hope.

For The Kids – I was driving to North Dakota with my fiance and soon-to-be stepson in October of 1990.    There was a muffled “boom”, and one of the tires on my 1984 Honda Accord flew apart like a Walmart end table in a gorilla cage.  I put on my donut spare and limped to the next freeway exit – Saint Joseph.

And as the town approached the first anniversary of the kidnapping, the place seemed to be plastered with posters, looking for any information anyone could find about Wetterling.

And it occurred to me – it was a terrible time to have children in Minnesota.

The late eighties and early nineties saw a slew of horrific kidnappings in the upper midwest;  Jeana North in Fargo; another young girl murdered by a revolting fat pig at a second-hand store in Northeast Minneapolis, another girl in Inver Grove Heights killed by a mom who was in the process of losing her boyfriend, a few more here and there.  Unlike Wetterling, most of the cases were solved fairly quickly.   Most involved relatives, or people known to the family.

And if we’d have found Danny Heinrich that day, I’d have happily peeled his skin off with a buck knife while he screamed vainly for mercy that’d never come.  Because while the phrase “we lost our innocence” is one of the most hackneyed-unto-meaninglessness phrases in the language these days, it certainly applied.

Because as I embarked on raising a stepson, and sooner than later a daughter and son of my own, we all got the pleasure of trying to teach kids, right in the middle of their innocent, wonderful early years, some ineluctible tactical calculus that is hard for adults to absorb.

If a stranger asks you to come with them, don’t.  Especially if they tell you we sent them.  We’ll never do that.

If a stranger pulls a knife or a gun and tells you to get in the car?  Run.   Don’t even think; run.  They probably won’t shoot – it’ll alert people.  And even if they do?  Moving targets are much harder to hit – and your odds, even as a kid, of surviving a knife or gunshot wound are much better than of coming home from a “secondary crime scene” alive.

If you hear gunfire at school, get away; do not get cooped up in a “locked down” classroom, like a pen full of sheep waiting for the abattoir to come to them.  Get out.  Go over the teacher, go out the window, do what it takes.  A moving target is harder to hit than one on its knees begging for mercy.

Oh, yeah – make lots of noise.  Make an ungodly racket – yell “Rape” and “Kidnapping”; even the most cynical urban adults should response to that – right?  We’ll come back to that.

Having to bring that into my kids’ lives?  Here’s hoping Satan spends all eternity ass-raping Danny Heinrich.  God may forgive.  I’m not there yet.

If It Saves One Life – Minnesota in 1989 was a much more pervert-friendly place than it is today.

Three boys biking on a dead-end road after dark, far from any adults, were a tragically easy target for a motivated pervert, of course.  Everything that could go wrong for those boys, pretty much did.

But a scream reaching an adult in 1989 had an almost zero percent chance of bringing an adult who could do anything more than hope to get a license plate, and shake their fists in misplaced comic fury.

Stranger kidnappings have always been rare – and while I don’t have the stats handy, they seem like they’ve gotten rarer, if only because the media hammers on them so hard when they do happen, and I’ve seen fewer stories.  It’s not scientific…

…but in places like Saint Joseph today, one adult in twenty has the means to respond to a screaming child and an armed adult in in the middle of the act in a more-than-symbolic way.  And you have to figure at least some of the perverts know it.

Believe it or don’t – I don’t care.  Although at least one life has been saved.

I, Stick – I read Patty Wetterling’s injunction to the media and her well-wishers – go forth, hug your kids, feel joy.  It was inspiring and beautiful in its way.

But to every useful, meaningful carrot there must be a stick.   Kids who are on guard for the unthinkable, even during a time of their lives when it should be and stay unthinkable; adults who shake off the ennui of modern life and stay aware of the situation around them; the wisdom to ski the moral slalom between vigilance, judgmentalism, and concern when seeing the signs in their fellow adults that might be nothing, or might be warnings.

And we have to do all that without destroying our childrens’ childhoods – among the most important things this world offers anyone.

[Note:  I debated closing comments for this post.  I will in fact leave them open – but any comment I deem moronic and flatulently self-entitled will be either deleted without ceremony or held up for especial mockery, depending on my mood. And my mood is not good.  Be warned]

Disparately Delicious

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

The President calling on cops to admit they’re racist and the Pioneer Press article on racial disparity in regional park use gave me an inspiration: I plan to spend the weekend observing the customers at Big Daddy’s BBQ at Dale and University.  I strongly suspect that although the percentage of Black people in the United States is only 15%, the percentage of Black customers at a BBQ joint in the heart of a predominantly Black neighborhood will be significantly higher.

In the past, I would have said “Well, duh, it’s the local joint and they have award-winning food so why wouldn’t locals go there” but now that I’ve been educated about disparate impact, I can see it’s a clear case of institutional racism against White people.  I intend to protest this hateful practice until I get my order free.

 I’m having the half-rack of Beef ribs with collard greens and cornbread.  Wanna join me?

 Joe Doakes

I’m in.  See you there.

It reminds me of a story – quite possibly apocryphal – from North Dakota.  Back in the eighties, the Pentagon noted that roughly half of one percent of the population in North Dakota was black.   They sent a letter fo the North Dakota National Guard tellling them to take care that at least 1/2 of one percent of the NDNG were African-American – including officers and NCOs.

As the story goes, the state’s adjutant general wrote back, telling the Pentagon that the overwhelming majority of African-Americans in North Dakota were either college students, and thus only temporary residents, or already members of the United States Air Force and stationed in Minot or Grand Forks, and there really weren’t any eligible blacks to recruit.

Not out of institutional racism – but because at the time no black people lived there.

The Extreme

While I left North Dakota for a lot of reasons, I feel a certain fondness for my homestate; a certain homer pride at its economic success (and not just the oil boom, mind you – the state rode out the recession in pretty good shape before the oil boom really started)…

…and doing it all the conservative way.  Not as conservative, perhaps, as Utah or Wyoming or even South Dakota – there’s a certain Scandinavian communitarianism in NoDak that makes it a little more Minnesota-ish than some of its fellow red states – but for all that, its government is tiny and unobtrusive.  And it works – but not too much.

As a result, the North Dakota Democrat/Non-Partisan League (Dem/NPL), the local term for Democrat Party, has gone from contending for power two decades ago, to nearly extinct today;  their 2016 State Convention was held at the Kroll’s Diner in Minot1.   They had to twist arms to put a warm body on the ballot for Governor.

And as happens when party units hit their death spirals – like American Communists, or Klansmen – the North Dakota Dem/NPL has become dominated by its hard-core lunatic fringe.

How fringe-y?   They’re too far left for Senator Heidi Heidtkamp:

[13 of the 22 National] North Dakota elected delegates crafted a harsh resolution criticizing Sen. Heidi Heitkamp for endorsing Hillary Clinton.
The resolution claims Heitkamp is being “disrespectful to the people of our great state … (and) the political process” by not endorsing the Vermont senator as a superdelegate at the upcoming Democratic National Convention. Sanders carried North Dakota in the state’s primary election in June, earning more than 64 percent of the vote.

Sending 22 people to Philly, as well as Heidtkamp to DC, may have left the ND/DNPL with nobody left in the state2.

[1] Not really, but it’s fun to say.

[2] No, not that either, really.  But again, fun to say, and not as inaccurate as you might think.