SCOTUS just guaranteed that thousands of Native Americans can’t vote in November


Only the uniform has changed

The U.S. Supreme Court…rejected a Hail Mary appeal filed by a group of Native American voters in North Dakota late last month in the hopes of preserving their right to vote in the upcoming November elections.

Native American Rights Fund (NARF) originally filed Brakebill v. Jaeger in 2016 on behalf of a group of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa tribe, alleging that North Dakota’s voter identification law discriminates against Native voters in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. U.S. District Court Judge Daniel L. Hovland agreed—twice, once in 2016 and again in 2018—and both times issued injunctions blocking portions of the law.

Late last month, however, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with North Dakota and gave the state the green light to enforce the law in next month’s elections. This could potentially throw the elections into chaos since, according to NARF, early voting has already begun. And on Tuesday, the Supreme Court upheld the Eighth Circuit’s order—thus ensuring, according to court documents, that nearly 2,300 Native Americans won’t be able to cast their ballot in November.

Tidy little Anglo minds don’t comprehend that reservation life isn’t governed by lovely checkerboard street maps with proper names and numbers. It’s not a big deal to find your way around or find someone who needs finding. Legal stuff is usually handled via a Post Office rented mailbox. Also not acceptable to rectilinear minds.

Guys who protect nuclear weapons — can’t find their hand grenades!


Something looking like this

The Air Force is offering $5,000 for leads on the whereabouts of a box of explosive grenade rounds that its personnel accidentally dropped on a road in North Dakota while traveling between two intercontinental ballistic missile sites — the facilities scattered across the U.S. heartland that stand ready to launch nuclear warheads at a moment’s notice.

Airmen from the 91st Missile Wing Security Forces team were traveling on gravel roads May 1 in North Dakota when the back hatch of their vehicle opened and a container filled with the explosive ammunition fell out, according to a statement from Minot Air Force Base.

❝ On May 11, the Air Force sent more than 100 airmen to walk the entire six-mile route where the grenades were probably lost, according to a statement from the local Mountrail County sheriff. But two weeks after it was lost, the box of explosives still hasn’t been found.

I think the appropriate phrase is “they can’t find their butts with both hands”…

North Dakota is first in the US to authorize weaponized drones for local coppers

❝ Armed drones could be used by police in the US state of North Dakota after local lawmakers legalised their use.

While they will be limited to “less than lethal” weapons, tear gas, tasers, rubber bullets and pepper spray could all be used in theory by the remote controlled flying machines.

❝ In a classic case of unintended consequences, the original sponsor, Republican state representative Rick Becker said he was unhappy with the way legislation turned out.

His original intention was to prevent law enforcement officials from using the unmanned aerial vehicles from conducting surveillance on private property without a warrant.

“In my opinion there should be a nice, red line: Drones should not be weaponised,” he said.

The rest of the idjits in charge of lawmaking in North Dakota quickly moved on.

The state’s police union amended the Bill, limiting any ban to only lethal weapons, meaning that sound cannons or rubber bullets could be used on police drones…

Mr Becker said that he didn’t fight the amendments, telling the Ars Technica website that he wanted “the Bill to pass to at least require warrants.”

❝ At least 39 people have been killed by police tasers in 2015, according to The Guardian.

The fact that a suspect could potentially be tasered by an officer sitting hundreds of miles away will likely add to the concerns of those who are worried about the militarisation of US police departments.

First two thing that occur to me:

1. Another fascist growth industry for America. Armed drones rolling out of factories from Alabama to Arizona. Drone wars on television with the winner getting a contract from the DEA. Hammer wars to determine who can rack up the biggest kill ratio with .50 caliber armament included in Nevada militia versions.

2. Who will be first to hack one of these critters and turn it on the coppers? Or an elementary school?

The face of fracking in North Dakota


Click to enlarge

In 2006, Eli Reichman began photographing a ranching community in the fracking fields of western North Dakota. For the last decade, he has documented the cultural and social breakdown of an agricultural community being pressured to compromise in order to stay on land originally homesteaded by their ancestors in the early 1900s.


Click to enlarge

Click through to the slide show/article. It ain’t just fracking of course. This is what oil and gas development looks like everywhere, fracking or not. Arable land dies and so does the lifestyle. Roughnecks and drillers move on.

North Dakota Supreme Court overturns conviction on 20-year-old charge

The North Dakota Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of a man who was tried last year on a 20-year-old drunken driving charge.

Jason Gale was arrested for drunken driving in 1995 in Grand Forks but wasn’t called to court until last July, when a jury found him guilty. Gale’s attorney, Scott Brand, argued to justices in December that the delay violated Gale’s right to a speedy trial.

“The government was clearly negligent. It’s 20 years, memories are going to fade and that was obvious at the trial,” Brand told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “The officer just memorized his report. He didn’t have any independent recollection as to what happened on that night…”

The opinion released late Tuesday said justices can’t presume that a 20-year-old case was “diligently prosecuted when there is no evidence of any prosecution at all” and that two decades is an unprecedented amount of time for a DUI case to remain idle.

“I have never seen a case like this in my life or even so much heard of one,” Brand said.

Wonder if we’ll see this show up in an episode of Fargo?

DOE wants to dig 3-mile-deep holes to bury our nation’s nuclear waste

The federal government plans to spend $80 million assessing whether its hottest nuclear waste can be stored in 3-mile-deep holes, a project that could provide an alternative strategy to a Nevada repository plan that was halted in 2010.

The five-year borehole project was tentatively slated to start later this year on state-owned land in rural North Dakota, but it has already been met with opposition from state and local leaders who want more time to review whether the plan poses any public danger.

The Department of Energy wants to conduct its work just south of the Canadian border on 20 acres near Rugby, North Dakota — in part because it’s in a rural area not prone to earthquakes — but is prepared to look elsewhere if a deal can’t be reached…

Project leaders say the research will require months of drilling deep into the earth but will not involve any nuclear waste. Instead, dummy canisters without radioactive material would be used in the project’s third and final phase…

The research team will look at deep rock to check its water permeability, stability, geothermal characteristics and seismic activity — a central concern with burying the hot radioactive waste deep underground…

Rugby site has very little seismic activity, he said…

Currently, high-level radioactive waste — both from government sources and utilities’ nuclear power plants — is without a final burial site. The waste at power plants is stored on site in pools of water or in heavily fortified casks, while the government’s waste remains at its research labs.

So, you understand what a thorough job our government has done all these decades of producing highly-radioactive waste. With no final storage site. Cripes! I was working on some of this crap in 1958.

Shale frackers running out of tricks to survive


Ain’t anything moving here

In 2015, the fracking outfits that dot America’s oil-rich plains threw everything they had at $50-a-barrel crude. To cope with the 50 per cent price plunge, they laid off thousands of roughnecks, focused their rigs on the biggest gushers only and used cutting-edge technology to squeeze all the oil they could out of every well.

Those efforts, to the surprise of many observers, largely succeeded. As of this month, U.S. oil output remained within four per cent of a 43-year high.

The problem? Oil’s no longer at $50. It now trades near $35.

For an industry that already was pushing its cost-cutting efforts to the limits, the new declines are a devastating blow. These drillers are “not set up to survive oil in the $30s,” said R.T. Dukes, a senior upstream analyst for Wood Mackenzie Ltd…

The Energy Information Administration now predicts that companies operating in U.S. shale formations will cut production by a record 570,000 barrels a day in 2016. That’s precisely the kind of capitulation that OPEC is seeking as it floods the world with oil, depressing prices and pressuring the world’s high-cost producers. It’s a high-risk strategy, one whose success will ultimately hinge on whether shale drillers drop out before the financial pain within OPEC nations themselves becomes too great…

❝“You are going to see a pickup in bankruptcy filings, a pickup in distressed asset sales and a pickup in distressed debt exchanges,” said Jeff Jones, managing director at Blackhill Partners, a Dallas-based investment banking firm. “And $35 oil will clearly accelerate the distress…”

Couldn’t happen to a more deserving crowd.

A return to cheaper oil was thought to be disastrous for shale, but companies figured out how to increase productivity and lower costs.

Producers slashed spending, idling more than 60 per cent of the rigs in the U.S. They drilled and fracked faster, meaning fewer rigs and workers could make the same number of wells. They focused on their best areas and used more sand and water in the fracking process so each well gushed with more crude. By April, when the rig count had fallen in half, output was still rising.

All that effort did was push prices lower and expectations for a price recovery further out into the future. Now shale companies face a grim future, having played most of their best cards…

Extractive industries have one supremely disastrous feature. They consider the cost of start-up [or re-starting] “too expensive”. So, tapering, slowing down rates of extraction is considered a sin in the religion of profiteering. Not just oil. Coal, iron ore, copper, aluminum…all the mined commodities are in similar trouble.

And, as is traditional, the executives who acted just like their predecessors are now getting the same result. Starting with losing their jobs.

Couldn’t happen to a more deserving crowd.

North Dakota first to give coppers armed drones

Lucky intern gets to volunteer as test subject for drone taser

It is now legal for law enforcement in North Dakota to fly drones armed with everything from Tasers to tear gas thanks to a last-minute push by a pro-police lobbyist.

With all the concern over the militarization of police in the past year, no one noticed that the state became the first in the union to allow police to equip drones with “less than lethal” weapons. House Bill 1328 wasn’t drafted that way, but then a lobbyist representing law enforcement—tight with a booming drone industry—got his hands on it.

The bill’s stated intent was to require police to obtain a search warrant from a judge in order to use a drone to search for criminal evidence. In fact, the original draft of Representative Rick Becker’s bill would have banned all weapons on police drones.

Then Bruce Burkett of the North Dakota Peace Officer’s Association was allowed by the state house committee to amend HB 1328 and limit the prohibition only to lethal weapons. “Less than lethal” weapons like rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas, sound cannons, and Tasers are therefore permitted on police drones…

And as we all know…

Even “less than lethal” weapons can kill though. At least 39 people have been killed by police Tasers in 2015 so far, according to The Guardian. Bean bags, rubber bullets, and flying tear gas canisters have also maimed, if not killed, in the U.S. and abroad.

RTFA for a great deal of pro-and-con discussion. Not all of it very bright. But, when today’s class of state legislators in involved with corporate lobbyists, I’m surprised when any mention of civil liberties is allowed to creep into a question.

One more “anti-gay conservative” forced out of the closet

anti-gay hupocrite

A conservative North Dakota lawmaker has come out of the closet after lewd texts he sent on a gay dating site were made public this week.

The randy red-state Republican, Rep. Randy Boehning, was outed Monday, more than a month after the Roughrider State legislator sent an unsolicited picture of his penis and several other messages to 21-year-old Bismarck resident Dustin Smith back on March 12 on the gay dating site Grindr…

Boehning, a 12-year veteran of North Dakota’s state assembly who has routinely voted against gay rights legislation, charged that the leaked messages were sent to media outlets in retaliation for his vote against Senate Bill 2279, which would have added sexual orientation to the state’s anti-discrimination law. For the third time since 2009, the bill was voted down by conservative North Dakota lawmakers, including Boehning.

But Smith, who first leaked the Grindr messages to The Forum, claims he simply wanted to reveal Boehning’s hypocrisy.

“How can you discriminate against the person you’re trying to pick up?” Smith told the local Bismark-area newspaper…

Boehning, 52 and unmarried, has been an active member of the site and conducted his affairs under the profile name “Top Man!,” Smith said.

“Seems I haven’t found mister right yet, so need to keep looking for and having fun on the way! Hit me up boys,” Boehning’s Grindr bio reads.

Another conservative who’s never going to make it into a Republican rewrite of Profiles in Courage. I wonder if he’ll have the ingterity – now – to change the way he votes on civil rights for LGBT folks.

Farming can be more productive without a plow


Click to enlargeNo-tillage cotton field in California

Gabe Brown is in such demand as a speaker that for every invitation he accepts, he turns down 10 more. At conferences, like the one held here at a Best Western hotel recently, people line up to seek his advice…

Mr. Brown, a balding North Dakota farmer who favors baseball caps and red-striped polo shirts, is not talking about disruptive technology start-ups, political causes, or the latest self-help fad.

He is talking about farming, specifically soil-conservation farming, a movement that promotes leaving fields untilled, “green manures” and other soil-enhancing methods with an almost evangelistic fervor.

Such farming methods, which mimic the biology of virgin land, can revive degenerated earth, minimize erosion, encourage plant growth and increase farmers’ profits, their proponents say. And by using them, Mr. Brown told more than 250 farmers and ranchers who gathered at the hotel for the first Southern Soil Health Conference, he has produced crops that thrive on his 5,000-acre farm outside of Bismarck, N.D., even during droughts or flooding.

He no longer needs to use nitrogen fertilizer or fungicide, he said, and he produces yields that are above the county average with less labor and lower costs. “Nature can heal if we give her the chance,” Mr. Brown said.

Neatly tilled fields have long been a hallmark of American agriculture and its farmers, by and large traditionalists who often distrust practices that diverge from time-honored methods.

But soil-conservation farming is gaining converts as growers increasingly face extreme weather, high production costs, a shortage of labor and the threat of government regulation of agricultural pollution…

Soil health proponents say that by leaving fields unplowed and using cover crops, which act as sinks for nitrogen and other nutrients, growers can increase the amount of organic matter in their soil, making it better able to absorb and retain water.

RTFA for lots of detail, information that might benefit more farmers – but, not corporations producing chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides.

Understand that vested interests opposing no-till farming are so strong, own so many state and local politicians that when Terry McAlister makes mention of growing cotton like a West Texas farmer I know exactly what he means. Because if you drive through West Texas in March and April you will run into localized dust storms as dense as any Arizona haboob. Only these are the product of disc harrows on cotton fields – required by Texas law.

That law had a place decades ago as the only way to stop boll weevils; but, that hasn’t been necessary in decades. The law isn’t about to change because farmland ruined by this kind of abuse can be kept to some level of productivity by the addition of everything healthy farms don’t need.

And, by the way, if you visit some of the reservoirs, say, around Lubbock – make certain you practice catch-and-release if you go fishing. The fish are so poisoned by chemical runoff from the cotton fields they’re considered unfit for human consumption.