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.

Downfall!

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.

Inconceivable!

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?

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.

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-3-21-11-pm

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.

Wetterling

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.

Made In ND

Sports are entertainment to me.  They’re something I watch, not something I live.

But watching North Dakota State dominate the FCS in recent series has been – I’m not gonna pussyfoot around – a blast.

And NDSU’s star quarterback (and new Eagle), Carson Wentz, is the nephew of a high school classmate, so I’m gonna give some homer props over this piece.

Pullquote:

You don’t get through winters with an average temperature of 12.8° without being a certain kind of tough — the cracked-skin-dried-blood kind of tough.

That toughness comes in handy in a place like North Dakota. You see, up there, jamming your numb fingers against someone’s ice-cold helmet happens every practice. Getting decked on the cement-like dirt is just how a play ends.

And here’s the thing: I love it.

Because in North Dakota, we don’t care for flash or dazzle. That’s not our game. We don’t do things the fanciest way. We do them the right way.

Going through the draft process, you find yourself answering a lot of the same questions over and over. I get it. This is basically a very long, very public job interview. But the question that seems to come up the most is one that almost makes me laugh at this point:

“Carson, coming from North Dakota, are you worried about playing against tougher competition in the NFL?”

There’s this belief that I’m at some sort of disadvantage coming into the league because of where I’m from. But if you get to know me, you’ll understand that being from North Dakota isn’t a disadvantage. Not even close. In fact, having been raised in North Dakota is probably one of my greatest strengths.

I’m rooting for him in the big show.

 

The Slow Advance Of Progress

Last week, Mississippi became the ninth “Constitutional Carry” state – allowing any citizen who is legally entitled to carry a gun to carry, without need for a state permit (which was the system in Minnesota until 1974, by the way).

And in the wake of that move, North Dakota legislators sound like they’re maneuvering to make the state the tenth state to not require law-abiding citizens to jump through hoops to exercise their Constitutional rights.

Rob Port:

I spoke with Becker about the legislation last night, and he said it’s an important issue for our state.

“A Constitutional Carry law removes the restrictions that are an impediment to ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed’ clearly stated in the Second Amendment,” he told me.

If Constitutional Carry passes, and when – not if – it is a complete success, it will be much harder for Minnesota’s pro-dictatorship groups (ProtectMN, Moms Want Action, Everytown For Big Brother) to yap about it.

 

Trumpeloven

The Republicans of the Upper Midwest have made their distaste for Trump pretty obvious.  The Donald lost Minnesota and Iowa bright and early, and went on to tank in Wisconsin and, over the weekend, North Dakota.

I won’t say I predicted it in as many words – but this bit summarizes what I’d hoped and believed; Trump’s braggadocio doesn’t resonate with quiet, modest, stoic, passive aggressive Minnesotans.

Most of us have heard of “Minnesota Nice” — the friendly, reserved, play-by-the-rules behavior favored by that state’s residents. But Wisconsin has a similar Scandinavian (though more German) culture, as do North and South Dakota. When the Upper Midwest of Europe relocated to the Upper Midwest of the United States, they brought their politeness, understatement, and emotional restraint with them.

All of these characteristics are diametrically opposed to the Trump ethos of baseless braggadocio, histrionic complaint, and conflict as first resort. Critics of Minnesota Nice cast it as barely masked passive-aggressiveness, but active-aggressiveness is considered not only unseemly, but unmanly.

Scandis find virtue in stoicism. When you’re shoveling a sidewalk buried in three feet of snow, your neighbor doesn’t want to hear your complaints — especially since she’s 68, has a bum leg, and cleared her driveway before the sun rose. Just do what needs to be done, and would it kill you to put a smile on your face?

Invoking “Minnesota Nice” is lazy – but it’s not wrong, either.

It’s Satire…

…but only barely.

As of the February before the election, the North Dakota Democrat/Non-Partisan League (the ND name for “Democrat”) Party has no announced candidates for Governor or State Representative.   The party very nearly could hold its convention at “Kroll’s”, a popular Minot diner.

How wonderful must it be, to live in a place where the peekaboo-socialists are virtually extinct?

It’s almost too wonderful to dream about.

A Sort Of Homecoming

Today’s Columbus Day.  Which, to me, is the 30th anniversary of the day I set out to move from my hometown of Jamestown, North Dakota to the Twin Cities…

…and failed.  Long story, which I told here about ten years ago.

It was October of 1985.  I’d graduated from college almost six months earlier – and, as they say, “failed to launch”, at least immediately. I’d worked on a roofing and siding job, and at a bookstore, and put some money away as I’d tried to figure out what I was going to do after college – until I made the decision in a bout of drunken whimsy two weeks earlier.

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Guffaw

So after decades of ignoring the place, Hollywood has apparently set some sort of television show in “North Dakota”.

“Blood and Oil”, starring Don Johnson (who some of you may remember from, ahem, thirty years ago) airs on ABC – which is one of those “TV Networks” your parents used to talk about before even they switched to Netflix.   It gives off the appearance of being a Dallas-style soaper.

How do you think it turned out?

That was the question no doubt going through the minds of many people in the state when ABC’s new drama “Blood & Oil” premiered last week to modest ratings. The show is ostensibly set in North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields, though it’s hard to tell, given the snowcapped peaks of the Rocky Mountains looming in the background of exterior shots.
The Rockies, in case you needed an update on your geography, reside hundreds of miles to the west of North Dakota.
There were other guffaw-worthy moments for North Dakotans in the show’s first episode. A character killed a white moose at one point — moose aren’t at all common on the prairies of North Dakota — and a scene depicting two characters wrestling in jet black oil was downright incongruous.

But it could have been changed – with the help of subsidies, naturally.  North Dakota doesn’t offer them; Utah does:

Turns out it’s all about money. Utah offers filmmakers a 25 percent tax rebate. For filming “Blood & Oil” in that state, the Utah Film Commission gave the show’s creators an $8.34 million tax credit.

North Dakota, on the other hand, offers filmmakers exactly nothing. Which is why some in the state think subsidies could fix “Blood & Oil’s” scenery problem.

It’s the same reason Gran Torino, whose screenplay was set in Saint Paul, was filmed in Detroit; because Michigan has a program to transfer wealth from Detroit to Hollywood.

Which is something North Dakota’s legislature turned down by a 2-1 margin.

Which is roughly the ratio of Republicans to Democrats in the North Dakota legislature.

The Wheel Of Justice Turns Slowly, But It Turns Toward Freedom

North Dakota finally recognizes Minnesota carry permits.

They didn’t, of course, because Minnesota didn’t grant reciprocity to North Dakota permits, because of a decade of pissy DFL and bureaucratic (but I repeat myself) stonewalling on carry permit reciprocity.  The GOP-controlled legislature changed that, finally, in the past session.

This is, of course, of hypothetical importance to people utterly unknown to me, who now have no reason whatsoever to stop in Moorhead anymore.