The Official Party of Empty Lots

There’s nothing that says “I have lots of money and no good ideas” quite like a plot of empty land.  No housing, no farming, not so much as a sidewalk or park bench adorns this lonely stretch of 42nd Street near the Alerus Centre.

There are three signs on this land.  One says it’s for sale.

In the next sign, the petty fief behind this ostentatious display would have us know that they feel they should have an immutable right to tax-free real estate transactions, the bogus logic of Measure 2.

Finally, we’re treated to a sign advertising a party slate of legislative candidates.  Which, when standing in an empty field, can only be read as: backers of nothing, backed by nothing.

Then there’s this other lot, located way outside of District 43, mind you, that’s right where a downtown office tower ought to sit.  After being an eyesore for years, it has been improved to “unkempt hedge” status…

private-park-not-43This is land that could be productive, and all it’s being used for is display.  What a waste!

Legislative Council says Bank of North Dakota unconstitutional

Better watch out — there are legal opinions floating around saying that North Dakota can’t issue you your tax refund anymore.  It’s been thrown out with the bathwater now that the idea of cutting an oil rebate check to all North Dakotans is on the agenda.

Whose legal opinion are we talking about here?  Certainly not the opinions of our constitution’s drafters, or the Supreme Court, or even the Attorney General — in this case the Forum News Service provides us with the opinion of John Walstad of the North Dakota Legislative Council — someone whose opinion of the law greatly influences what does and does not get drafted into a bill.

A civil servant who sounds like an activist making this stand:

“The state’s money is to be used for state purposes and not for donations for some private purpose, no matter how worthwhile it might be,”

It sure sounds like tax refunds, tax credits, school scholarships, loan guarantees, and any number of public-private partnerships –all things that that State of North Dakota does– would be banned by that interpretation of the language.  The Bank of North Dakota, whose existence was actively challenged at inception, was never declared unconstitutional…. so what gives?

Then there’s another question:  On what basis does John Walstad allow himself to talk to the media this week? Because the last time I asked the Legislative Council a question, they quoted me their exception to the State’s Open Records Law. So the Legislative Council gets to pick and choose what it deems to be the public interest — and in this case, it’s “you can’t get a rebate check for oil.”

Everything wrong with Forum Communications in one screencap

herald_bias_2014_x

I think from recent events it’s pretty clear that no one should be voting for Ryan Rauschenberger. And I think that a news agency that portends itself as the paper of record for the region that runs a free ad for Rauschenberger on its front page is at best violating ethics, decorum, and public decency, if not the law.

What makes the Grand Forks Herald treat a Republican bake sale as a news event, when several League candidates have held quaint fundraisers of their own over the last month or so, but with no cameras from the Herald?

If you are a pie-eating Republican that can’t bring yourself to vote for Jason Astrup, then at least vote for Libertarian candidate Anthony Mangnall.  If you don’t vote in protest — if you yellow-dog and fill in the circle next to the name Ryan Rauschenberger, you are saying you are willing to put up with literally anyone the Republican Party bosses spackle onto your ballot.  You are saying that there is no accountability in the state of North Dakota.  There definitely isn’t at the Herald.

Scotland vote due soon

scotlandOn the 18th, there’s kind of a big thing going on in Scotland.  If I were voting, I’d be voting “yes” — Yes for Scotland, Yes to Europe, Yes to Social Justice.

From all accounts, it’s clear that Independence is not going down to a yawning defeat as suggested mere weeks ago.

Certainly, Scottish independence is not without pitfalls. The most troublesome problems Scotland faces are economic — forced by British intransigence to choose between sharing a currency and travel area with Britain or with wider Europe.

Scotland must also decide the fate of revenues from its oil production — production that won’t go on forever, but money that perhaps can if properly managed.  Like Alberta and North Dakota, Scotland is a subnational entity buoyed by a valuable but ultimately unlasting resource.

Before the Canadian Alliance put an end to western alienation, Alberta once talked of secession. Heck, there’s been a loon or two promoting independence for North Dakota. What makes Scotland different is that it had, and never lost, a sense of nationality. To be a Scot is to be someone unique and recognizable in the world. The United Kingdom, even after hundreds of years, is still a union of crowns, unlike the vague and impersonal ties that bind other federations.

The values dissonance between England and Scotland was perhaps best expressed in the most recent elections, where the victorious Conservative Party won exactly zero seats. The government interacts with Scotland through the coalition participation of the centre-left-centre Liberal Democrats, who despite breakthrough success in the campaign ended up forced to lackey an agenda they barely tolerate.

David Cameron’s government has had the distinct privilege of making its own coalition partner irrelevant, and soon, perhaps, of breaking up the country itself. Getting the UK into yet another messy war is probably exactly the excuse Scotland needs to say “No thanks” to the status quo.

You might ask, why do I support Scottish Independence when I would hardly be euphoric about, say, independence for Québec?  The simple answer is Europe.  The European Union is a place where nations can pursue individual identity and still participate in economic federalism.  One need only look at the slow breakup of Belgium to see that the EU has made small unions of dissimilar peoples in Europe obsolete.  Yeah, Europe has problems too.  Bigger problems.  Bigger solutions.

By contrast, une République Québecoise would look almost exactly like the province of Québec looks today, but tangibly worse for individual freedom and welfare.  In a best case scenario, Québec would lose its equalization payments and freedom of movement, to say nothing of the effect on the rest of Canada (say, losing French-language radio in cities like Regina).  Plus you can’t wear poutine like a kilt.

Campaign season officially here

You can see it in the way advertising is starting to saturate the airwaves, the fresh scent of ink and toner at the newly-rented campaign offices…  the season of voter outreach is here once again.

Many other countries limit campaigns to 30, 45, or 60 days before the polls open, but America is the land of 24/7 everything, and even a 100 day marathon before the election can be seen as getting out of the gate a bit late.

Ryan Taylor’s run for North Dakota’s Agriculture Commission seems to be attracting genuine attention in the wider world, while Minnesota’s Senate race has become a bit of a sideshow.

An All-Star lineup for PSC

Tyler Axness and Todd Reisenauer in Grand Forks this afternoon

Tyler Axness and Todd Reisenauer in Grand Forks this afternoon

Tyler Axness and Todd Reisenauer stumped in Grand Forks today, with a crowd of dozens of Dem-NPLers at hand to hear the urgent need for change and new ideas in Bismarck. Also along were the entire District 43 legislative slate, plus Kiara Kraus-Parr for Attorney General. Ryan Taylor, candidate for Agriculture Commissioner, sauntered into the saloon fashionably late, hot off the trail from a long day of campaigning.

All of these wonderful people have great ideas, like, for example, actually governing the state instead of allowing anarchy to reign in the west. They’ve got my vote!

Arbitrary corporate policies now entrenched as ‘religious belief’

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Hobby Lobby is a major coup against the the rule of law — superficially handing down a ‘win’ for the cultural right, while opening a door to untold market manipulation in the name of whatever Ferengi gods our businessmen now choose to believe in.

I mean, before Hobby Lobby, there was no way in the world you could break the law and say that the devil made you do it, and still get away with it.  Now?  I guess anything goes.  Is it going to be medieval Europe or just the Wild West?

Wynne’s Liberals quiet push to majority

Kathleen Wynne will remain premier of Ontario; the Liberal Party cashed out well north of polling predictions — holding 59 of 107 seats will be good enough for the Liberal Party to fly solo for the next few years.  308 had predicted a Liberal minority government, but the reality had the Liberals picking up 10 seats, almost entirely out of the hands of the Tories.

When polls are thrown for that big of a loop, it can indicate a scenario where voters have shaken confidence in the government — suppressing poll numbers — but are yet more skeptical of the opposition.  For his part, PC leader Tim Hudak accepted responsibility for a promising but failed campaign.

Nearby Kenora-Rainy River re-elected the NDP’s Sarah Campbell as MPP; the NDP neither gained nor lost seats, but have lost the balance of power in Canada’s largest province.

No July for you!

NorthDakotaStateFluffMeasure 1 is likely to pass, which may kill off some current petition drives, and end the North Dakota State Fair as a political meeting space.

In the city races, Jeannie Schultz-Mock and Crystal Schneider won council seats in Grand Forks, while Mara Brust and John Strand appear to have lost in Fargo.

In the primaries, there appear to have been no major challengers.  Republicans outnumbered Democrats 1.5 to 1 (22% gap).  Libertarian support is at 1% and the Constitution Party did not contest this election.

KFGO reported people being turned away at the polls, including individuals carrying passports — which is proof of citizenship, as I recall.  According to election officials in Grand Forks County, there was no organized effort to count voters who were turned away, despite the significant changes in election rules.

The Secretary of State’s website was inaccessible for periods during the night, as the same system appeared to be hammered by election officers submitting tallies, reporters, and the general public, all at the same time.  The poor system design appears to have no low-bandwidth or low-overhead mode for times like this — or any separation between use types.  Forum Communications sites posted copious direct links to the SOS pages, exacerbating the service outage.