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Briefs on stuff that's pending the next print issue, but important enough that The Chosen want to know about it now:



Contents: (Most of these stories (except .pdfs) are on this same page. You may click on these links, or just scroll down the page)

Newest Updates

•  Update: The Steve Samuelson Story - 12/04/12
    Samuelson Remains Incarcerated at Faribault; 
    Files $10.056 Trillion Federal Lawsuit For Wrongful Imprisonment

ASK THE TAX GUY by Adam Steele, Tax Accountant

•  Year-End Tax Update - 11/28/11
    New Credit for Hiring Vets; Business Tax Breaks on 2011 Returns.

•  Small Businesses Now Subject To High Audit Risk - 11/28/11
     Payments by business to non-employees (contractors, professionals, etc.) targeted,
     subject to tax if without required records. Building industry subject to special rules.

•  Smoking Ban Claims Another Victim Northland Business - 11/08/11
     North Country Junction at Cass Lake closes

WITH A GRAIN OF SAND*
•  Rapturing To Present Flight Hazards - 11/07/11
    *With A Grain of Sand is satire. It should not be confused with our real news, which is less believable, and funnier.

THIS IS BEMIDJI
•  How HOUSING DISCRIMINATION IN BEMIDJI Works - 10/22/11

CONSUMER CORNER - GOOD DEALS
•  White Pines Contracting - 10/05/11
      It's All You Need To Know About Roofing in Bemidji

  (Advertisement - Adam Steele Tax & Accounting Services) - 09/28/11
     How we keep your tax fees down

HOW AUTHORITIES AND "ADVOCATES" WRECK HOMES AND LIVES IN ITASCA COUNTY, MINNESOTA
The Steve Samuelson Files

  Samuelson Remains Incarcerated at Faribault; Files $10.056 Trillion Federal Lawsuit For Wrongful Imprisonment - 12/04/12
Click this link for the .pdf of the Complaint, filed 12/03/12, in the United States District Court at Minneapolis
(Case No. 12-CV-3019)

  Update - The Steve Samuelson Story - 11/02/10, 01/01/11, 01/06/11, 01/09/11, 01/13/11, 02/22/11, 08/14/11, 09/22/12

  Jennifer Bardine's Affidavit - 09/22/12
The sworn testimony that the jury wasn't allowed to hear (.pdf file)
In this document, Bardine, Samuelson's then-fiancee, and the alleged "victim" in a framed charge of domestic assault, details how deputies fabricated statements and how the frame occurred; that she was never assaulted; how she was ejected from the courtroom by Itasca County authorities when she tried to tell Judge Jon Maturi that she wasn't assaulted and did not want a no-contact order; and how she was prevented by Judge Maturi from testifying to the whole truth at Mr. Samuelson's trial.
  The Samuelson Habeas Corpus Draft - 02/06/12
This .pdf document discloses the many violations of the U.S. Constitution suffered by Mr. Steve Samuelson (see The Steve Samuelson Files, below) from his time of arrest, through trial, and now, at the hands of the Minnesota prison system, through his present incarceration. It may be indicative of recurring rights violations endemic in, and running the full gamut of, the Minnesota justice system. Mr. Samuelson was sentenced to 5 years and 5 days for violating a Domestic Abuse No Contact Order, where it has been proven that there was no domestic abuse, and the alleged "victim" didn't want the order in effect. He was charged when he returned her desperate calls (over 100) to him at the Itasca County jail. But his jury wasn't allowed, by the judge, to know that. The document shown here is a draft of a Petition, to the federal court, for a Writ of Habeas Corpus, which Mr. Samuelson asked be prepared and sent to him, so that he would have the necessary information and court documents to file his own Petition, pro se (his attorney will not file it for what he can afford to pay). Accordingly, the document posted here was prepared and was mailed to Mr. Samuelson, at the Faribault prison, on January 26th, 2012. But as of this date, February 6th, the prison authorities there have failed to give him this item of mail; resulting in possibly another due process violation by way of denying him the materials necessary to his seeking relief before the United States District Court. Any attorney interested in helping to correct this severe injustice by assisting with the filing of this, or a similar document seeking relief before the U.S. District Court, is asked to contact Adam Steele, Editor, and Agent for Mr. Samuelson, at 218-759-1162. All of the information presented in this .pdf document may be corroborated from the court files and transcripts (many of the documents and most relevant excerpts of testimony are included as attachments in the .pdf), prison records, and, as regards in-prison violations, the testimony of Steven Samuelson.
The Samuelson Appeal Brief   Case No. A11-0326- 08/31/11
Why domestic abuse no-contact orders are dangerous instruments of tyranny.
An attorney said that he had to read this document twice, because he couldn't believe that
had read it right - that such grave local judicial corruption, and such a grave miscarriage of
justice could occur.
This document illustrates why Judge Christian in Steele County, Minnesota was right
in his broad and sweeping condemnation of domestic abuse no-contact orders.
(The following three links download the respective parts of the actual appeal brief, by attorney John
Remington Graham, Esq., in .pdf format. Due to software issues, page numbers may not appear properly in the "Body" .pdf, and the "preface" .pdf may display with a font other than that used in the filed copy.)
•  1. Appeal Brief preface: cover, caption, table of contents, table of authorities
•  2. Body of the Appeal Brief
•  3. Index to the Appendix of the Appeal Brief and addendum
(The actual appendix documents are not included here, but the referenced
"Kelling" decision, by the Hon. Judge Christian, may be accessed by clicking here.)
•  FUNDING SOUGHT
     The Steve Samuelson Story
     "Third World" Jailing Practices Now in Minnesota - 07/12/10
        "Itasca County - Come on vacation, leave on probation" -- an Itasca Co. jailhouse saying
        For complete initial coverage of this matter, click here to download our entire issue of 07/12/10 in .pdf.
        This story starts on page 1, column 4 of that issue.
        The surrounding items, on this page, are ancillary or updates to that story.
  The Steve Samuelson Papers - 05/25/10
This is a link to actual documents, in .pdf format, referenced in the Steve Samuelson Story. These documents provide a good look into the Itasca County system, and they include Kelli Samuelson's affidavit -- damning evidence which attests to subornation of perjury, committed under the most stringent of duress and coercion, by Grand Rapids' "Advocates for Family Peace".

An Open Letter To President Obama - 05/29/10
Re: The Samuelson Matter and Right To Speedy Trial

American refiners, not OPEC, now gouging public on gas - 08/30/11

A PUBLIC SERVICE MESSAGE OF THIS NEWSPAPER
Now: Cadillac's - Great Live Music, Dancing in Bemidji Area And You Can Smoke - 08/26/11

No-Contact (DANCO) Orders Held Unconstitutional
by Minnesota District Court. This affects DANCO orders issued by a Judge, or requested by the State, where no one actually involved in the alleged offense has requested such an order, or other protection. - 08/14/11

CONSUMER CAVEAT
CAUTION When Buying Steel Roofing From Menards- 08/15/11, 08/30/11

EDITORIALS
Solving The Minnesota Budget Crunch

A $1/3 Billion Budget Solution - 03/26/11

"Education"; What Does It Mean? - 03/26/11


CONSUMER CORNER
Again, For A Limited Time!
Smokes for $1 a pack  -  03/12/11

We Don't Usually Follow Hollywood News, But . . . - 12/31/10, 01/06/11

Killing Cats Is Important To The City of Bemidji - 05/25/10

CONSUMER CORNER
THINGS THAT JUST DON'T WORK - 03/06/10

MAXELL VCR Cassettes
ZINWELL DTV CONVERTER BOX


IRAQ
The New Video Game - 02/07/10

Expand Your Word Power - 02/07/10
Northern Herald's Continuing Dictionary - This installment: Hypochristians

CONSUMER CORNER
Beyer's Auto Center, Inc. - Road Charlatans In Hoffman, Minn. - 02/06/10

Market Update - 02/05/10

Rep. Atkins Comes To Bemidji - 01/31/10
But Bemidjians' Apathy Dominates Legislators' Listening Session

CONSUMER CORNER
YOU FIND IT ALL AT THE MART OF WAL
Wal-Mart Introduces New Cell Phone - 12/17/09
Straight Talk offers more minutes, better coverage, for less.

CONSUMER CORNER
Has Google's Time Come And Gone? - 12/17/09
New MSN Search Engine, "Bing", Appears More Thorough, More Current

Bemidji Criminals At It Again - 12/13/09
Joan Goranson, BSEA Treasurer, Suspected of Embezzlement

Special Notice To Educators re: our 10/26/09 issue - 11/22/09
 

All Updates

ASK THE TAX GUY by Adam Steele, Tax Accountant

•  Year-End Tax Update - 11/28/11
    New Credit for Hiring Vets; Business Tax Breaks on 2011 Returns.

•  Small Businesses Now Subject To High Audit Risk - 11/28/11
     Payments by business to non-employees (contractors, professionals, etc.) targeted,
     subject to tax if without required records. Building industry subject to special rules.

•  Smoking Ban Claims Another Victim Northland Business - 11/08/11
     North Country Junction at Cass Lake closes

WITH A GRAIN OF SAND*
•  Rapturing To Present Flight Hazards - 11/07/11
    *With A Grain of Sand is satire. It should not be confused with our real news, which is less believable, and funnier.

THIS IS BEMIDJI
•  How HOUSING DISCRIMINATION IN BEMIDJI Works - 10/22/11

CONSUMER CORNER - GOOD DEALS
•  White Pines Contracting - 10/05/11
      It's All You Need To Know About Roofing in Bemidji

•  (Advertisement - Adam Steele Tax & Accounting Services) - 09/28/11
     How we keep your tax fees down

HOW AUTHORITIES AND "ADVOCATES" WRECK HOMES AND LIVES IN ITASCA COUNTY, MINNESOTA
The Steve Samuelson Files

  Samuelson Remains Incarcerated at Faribault; Files $10.056 Trillion Federal Lawsuit For Wrongful Imprisonment - 12/04/12
Click this link for the .pdf of the Complaint, filed 12/03/12, in the United States District Court at Minneapolis
(Case No. 12-CV-3019)

  Update - The Steve Samuelson Story - 11/02/10, 01/01/11, 01/06/11, 01/09/11, 01/13/11, 02/22/11, 08/14/11, 09/22/12

  Jennifer Bardine's Affidavit - 09/22/12
The sworn testimony that the jury wasn't allowed to hear (.pdf file)
In this document, Bardine, Samuelson's then-fiancee, and the alleged "victim" in a framed charge of domestic assault, details how deputies fabricated statements and how the frame occurred; that she was never assaulted; how she was ejected from the courtroom by Itasca County authorities when she tried to tell Judge Jon Maturi that she wasn't assaulted and did not want a no-contact order; and how she was prevented by Judge Maturi from testifying to the whole truth at Mr. Samuelson's trial.
  The Samuelson Habeas Corpus Draft - 02/06/12
This .pdf document discloses the many violations of the U.S. Constitution suffered by Mr. Steve Samuelson (see The Steve Samuelson Files, below) from his time of arrest, through trial, and now, at the hands of the Minnesota prison system, through his present incarceration. It may be indicative of recurring rights violations endemic in, and running the full gamut of, the Minnesota justice system. Mr. Samuelson was sentenced to 5 years and 5 days for violating a Domestic Abuse No Contact Order, where it has been proven that there was no domestic abuse, and the alleged "victim" didn't want the order in effect. He was charged when he returned her desperate calls (over 100) to him at the Itasca County jail. But his jury wasn't allowed, by the judge, to know that. The document shown here is a draft of a Petition, to the federal court, for a Writ of Habeas Corpus, which Mr. Samuelson asked be prepared and sent to him, so that he would have the necessary information and court documents to file his own Petition, pro se (his attorney will not file it for what he can afford to pay). Accordingly, the document posted here was prepared and was mailed to Mr. Samuelson, at the Faribault prison, on January 26th, 2012. But as of this date, February 6th, the prison authorities there have failed to give him this item of mail; resulting in possibly another due process violation by way of denying him the materials necessary to his seeking relief before the United States District Court. Any attorney interested in helping to correct this severe injustice by assisting with the filing of this, or a similar document seeking relief before the U.S. District Court, is asked to contact Adam Steele, Editor, and Agent for Mr. Samuelson, at 218-759-1162. All of the information presented in this .pdf document may be corroborated from the court files and transcripts (many of the documents and most relevant excerpts of testimony are included as attachments in the .pdf), prison records, and, as regards in-prison violations, the testimony of Steven Samuelson.

The Samuelson Appeal Brief   Case No. A11-0326 - 08/31/11
Why domestic abuse no-contact orders are dangerous instruments of tyranny.
An attorney said that he had to read this document twice, because he couldn't believe that
had read it right - that such grave local judicial corruption, and such a grave miscarriage of
justice could occur.
This document illustrates why Judge Christian in Steele County, Minnesota was right
in his broad and sweeping condemnation of domestic abuse no-contact orders.
(The following three links download the respective parts of the actual appeal brief, by attorney John
Remington Graham, Esq., in .pdf format. Due to software issues, page numbers may not appear properly in the "Body" .pdf, and the "preface" .pdf may display with a font other than that used in the filed copy.)

•  1. Appeal Brief preface: cover, caption, table of contents, table of authorities
•  2. Body of the Appeal Brief
•  3. Index to the Appendix of the Appeal Brief and addendum
(The actual appendix documents are not included here, but the referenced
"Kelling" decision, by the Hon. Judge Christian, may be accessed by clicking here.)
•  FUNDING SOUGHT

The Steve Samuelson Story
"Third World" Jailing Practices Now in Minnesota - 07/12/10
"Itasca County - Come on vacation, leave on probation" -- an Itasca Co. jailhouse saying
For complete initial coverage of this matter, click here to download our entire issue of 07/12/10 in .pdf. This story starts on page 1, column 4 of that issue. The surrounding items, on this page, are ancillary or updates to that story.

  The Steve Samuelson Papers - 05/25/10
This is a link to actual documents, in .pdf format, referenced in the Steve Samuelson Story. These documents provide a good look into the Itasca County system, and they include Kelli Samuelson's affidavit -- damning evidence which attests to subornation of perjury, committed under the most stringent of duress and coercion, by Grand Rapids' "Advocates for Family Peace".

  An Open Letter To President Obama - 05/29/10
Re: The Samuelson Matter and Right To Speedy Trial


American refiners, not OPEC, now gouging public on gas - 08/30/11

A PUBLIC SERVICE MESSAGE OF THIS NEWSPAPER
Now: Cadillac's - Great Live Music, Dancing in Bemidji Area And You Can Smoke - 08/26/11

No-Contact (DANCO) Orders Held Unconstitutional by Minnesota District Court. This affects DANCO orders issued by a Judge, or requested by the State, where no one actually involved in the alleged offense has requested such an order, or other protection. - 08/14/11

CONSUMER CAVEAT
CAUTION When Buying Steel Roofing From Menards- 08/15/11, 08/30/11

EDITORIALS
Solving The Minnesota Budget Crunch

    A $1/3 Billion Budget Solution - 03/26/11

    "Education"; What Does It Mean? - 03/26/11

CONSUMER CORNER
Again, For A Limited Time!
Smokes for $1 a pack  -  03/12/11

We Don't Usually Follow Hollywood News, But . . . - - 12/31/10, 01/06/11

Killing Cats Is Important To The City of Bemidji - 05/25/10

CONSUMER CORNER
THINGS THAT JUST DON'T WORK - 03/06/10
    MAXELL VCR Cassettes
    ZINWELL DTV CONVERTER BOX

IRAQ
The New Video Game - 02/07/10

Expand Your Word Power - 02/07/10
Northern Herald's Continuing Dictionary - This installment: Hypochristians

CONSUMER CORNER
Beyer's Auto Center, Inc. - Road Charlatans In Hoffman, Minn. - 02/06/10

Market Update - 02/05/10

Rep. Atkins Comes To Bemidji - 01/31/10
But Bemidjians' Apathy Dominates Legislators' Listening Session

CONSUMER CORNER
YOU FIND IT ALL AT THE MART OF WAL
• Wal-Mart Introduces New Cell Phone - 12/17/09
Straight Talk offers more minutes, better coverage, for less.

CONSUMER CORNER
• Has Google's Time Come And Gone? - 12/17/09
New MSN Search Engine, "Bing", Appears More Thorough, More Current

• Bemidji Criminals At It Again - 12/13/09
Joan Goranson, BSEA Treasurer, Suspected of Embezzlement

• Special Notice To Educators re: our 10/26/09 issue - 11/22/09

• An Editorial on the Bailouts - An Open Letter To Collin Peterson, and President Obama - 05/04/09

DON'T LET YOUR MONKEY LEAVE THE HOUSE WITHOUT IT
• U OF M Researchers Find Compound That Resists AIDS Transmission in Monkeys - 03/07/09

• Solving The Budget Crisis - An Open Letter To The Minn. Legislature (Editorial) - 02/23/09

• THE DUMBING DOWN OF AMERICA - 12/07/08
   Including a "must read" report on what's being put in your food, right now.

• THE ECONOMY - Where It's Going And What The Chosen Can
  Do To Recover Recent Losses, And Prosper - 11/18/08

         • LATE TRADING NOTES UPDATE (strictly opinion) - 11/25/08

         • PLAYING TO WIN -How to Trade The Market, and biggest common mistakes - 01/27/09

         • MARKET UPDATE - It's Buying Time - 02/24/09

• Consumer Corner updates

       Localnet.com "Losing" Customers' Email - 04/29/09, 05/03/09
           Problems, also, with "BasicISP" and "Copper.net"

           Where to Go for Dependable Auto Service in Bemidji - 04/02/09

           A GREAT Sunday Brunch for TWO in Bemidji for $11.95 - 03/12/09

           Update On The DTV Mess - 02/12/09
            What Washington has done,
            What seems to be a good VCR-compatible converter box,
           Where to get it before your coupons expire

           YOU FIND IT ALL AT THE MART OF WAL!
           Jimmy Dean's All Natural Sausage - 02/12/09

           Investigation: Did you get a HEADACHE after eating TURKEY? - 11/30/08

• Advertisements & Coupons

          Free Money!  Get a $1,000 IRA for only $350.

          Great Pizza - in Grand Rapids - Madden's
 


Click here to return to CONTENTS section at top of page



ASK THE TAX GUY          by Adam Steele, Tax Accountant
Year-End Tax Update
New Credit for Hiring Vets; Business Tax Breaks on 2011 Returns.

November 28, 2011

Businesses should watch for Congressional passage of the American Jobs Act of 2011, which may bring them additional credits over and above the present credits listed here; and including a possible extension of the "Payroll Tax Holiday" to 2012.
Newly Expanded Federal Credit For Hiring Veterans
Certain other groups also included in Work Opportunity Credit

On November 21st, 2011, President Obama signed the Returning Heroes and Wounded Warriors Work Opportunity Tax Credit bill (Sec. 261 of H.R. 674), extending and expanding the credit for hiring certain veterans. The credits for hiring qualified veterans now apply to employees hired through 12/31/2012. Provisions of the Work Opportunity Credit that apply to other than qualified veterans generally apply only to employees hired on or before 12/31/11.

Qualifying veterans' categories and amounts of credit. The credit generally applies to wages paid in the first year after hiring. The credit is 40% of those wages, up to the following wage amounts:

1) Veteran Receiving Assistance: A veteran who is a member of a family receiving assistance under a supplemental nutrition assistance program under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 for at least a 3-month period ending during the 12-month period ending on the hiring date qualifies the employer for a $6,000 applicable wage limit (credit: $2,400).

2) Unemployed Veterans:
a) A veteran who was unemployed for at least 4 weeks, during the one year prior to hiring, qualifies the employer for a $6,000 applicable wage limit (credit: $2,400); but
b) if the veteran was unemployed for at least 6 months, during the one year prior to hiring, the applicable wage limit is $14,000, resulting in a $5,600 credit.

3) Disabled Veterans entitled to compensation for a service-connected disability:
a) if hired within one year of discharge from the Armed Forces: $12,000 applicable wage limit (credit: $4,800);
or
b) if the veteran was unemployed for at least 6 months, during the one year prior to hiring (regardless of time of discharge from the Armed Forces): $24,000 applicable wage limit (credit: $9,600).


Generally, the veteran employee must be certified by the local agency (such as the Minn. Dept. of Employment & Economic Development) as meeting the criteria; however, a veteran who is receiving unemployment compensation is deemed to meet the unemployment criteria for the period for which compensation is received.

A credit for hiring veterans also applies to organizations which are exempt from income tax. For details, see H.R. 674 (2011-112th Congress) and 26 USC Sec. 52

Other groups included in the Work Opportunity Credit (applies to the first $6,000 of first year wages - credit limit: $2,400 per qualified employee; for non-veteran employees, this presently (and unless Congress subsequently extends it) applies only to employees hired on or before 12/31/11:

(1) a qualified IV-A recipient,
(2) a qualified ex-felon,
(3) a designated community resident,
(4) a vocational rehabilitation referral,
(5) a qualified summer youth employee,
(6) a qualified supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits recipient,
(7) a qualified SSI recipient, or
(8) a long-term family assistance recipient.
Sources: H.R. 674 (2011-112th Congress); 26 USC Sec. 51
------------------------------

OTHER BUSINESS TAX CREDITS
Did You Hire An Employee In 2010?
Check To See If You Can Take This Credit!
Businesses May Claim Tax Credit for Employees Hired In 2010, Kept On In 2011

This federal credit affects businesses who hired an employee between February 4th and December 31st (inclusive), 2010 AND kept the employee for at least 52 consecutive weeks thereafter. The employee must have been unemployed (or must not have worked more than 40 hours) during the 60 days before being hired.

Other criteria: Wages paid to the employee in the second 26 weeks of the employment must not be less that 80% of wages in the first 26 weeks. The new employee must not have replaced another employee unless the other employee separated from employment voluntarily or for cause. Certain related employees do not qualify for the credit.

The credit, per qualified employee, is the lesser of 6.2% of wages paid during the first 52 consecutive weeks of employment, or $1,000. Taking the credit does NOT prevent the business from also deducting the full compensation paid to employee. For calendar-year taxpayers (i.e. most taxpayers) the full credit is claimed on the 2011 return, even if the credit is partially for wages paid in 2010.

To claim the credit, the business should 1) have the employee complete IRS form W-11 (this doesn't get filed - the business must retain it) and file IRS Forms 5884-B and 3800 with its regular 2011 federal Income Tax Return.

For more information, see http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=220747,00.html; and IRS Form 5884B and instructions
------------------------------

Indian Employment Credit
This federal tax credit may apply to business employers of Native Americans, where the work is located within an Indian reservation. Additionally, the qualifying employee(s) must live on, or near, the reservation. This credit expires after 2011. For details, see IRS Form 8045 and instructions.
------------------------------

Small Business Health Care Tax Credit for Small Employers
This credit makes it easier for small businesses to provide subsidized health insurance for their employees. Qualifying are businesses with fewer than the equivalent of 25 full-time employees, and paying average wages (per employee) of less than $50,000. To qualify, the business must pay at least 50% of the cost of health care coverage for some of its workers based on the single rate. Premiums for the business owner, his family members, and household members who are also dependants, do not qualify for the credit.

The credit may be up to 35% of the small business's premium costs. This goes up to 50% in 2014. The credit phases-out for businesses with between 10 and 25 employees; and for those with average wages between $25,000 and $50,000.

This credit is available to both businesses (whether sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs, S corps., or C corporations) and tax-exempt organizations.

The credit is claimed by filing IRS Form 8941 with the tax return.

For more information, readers may see http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=223666,00.html
http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-utl/3_simple_steps.pdf
and the instructions for Form 8941
------------------------------

FOR INVESTORS AND SMALL BUSINESSES
Now Is Time To Apply for 2012 MINNESOTA ANGEL CREDIT

Minnesota now offers a 25% refundable tax credit for investment in startup and emerging Minnesota small businesses focused on certain high technology or new proprietary technology. To receive the credit, both the investors, and the business receiving the investment, must be certified by by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). The minimum qualifying investment is $10,000 (individuals) and $30,000 (funds). The maximum credit per year is $125,000 per person, or $250,000 if married filing jointly. The credit is effective for tax years through 2014.

The credit is designed to promote investment in small businesses involved in

(i) using proprietary technology to add value to a product, process, or service in a qualified high-technology field*;
(ii) researching or developing a proprietary product, process, or service in a qualified high-technology field; or
(iii) researching, developing, or producing a new proprietary technology for use in the fields of agriculture, tourism, forestry, mining, manufacturing, or transportation;
* For these purposes, "qualified high technology field" includes aerospace, agricultural processing, renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation, environmental engineering, food technology, cellulosic ethanol, information technology, materials science technology, nanotechnology, telecommunications, biotechnology, medical device products, pharmaceuticals, diagnostics, biologicals, chemistry, veterinary science, and similar fields; certain types of businesses, however, are excluded. For details, see Minnesota Statutes, Sec. 116J.8737
Obtaining the credit. Potential investors may apply to DEED for certification as a qualified investor for a taxable year, and to receive the credit certificates necessary to claim the credit. Funds for these credits are allocated each year; all credits for 2011 investment have been allocated. On November 1st, 2011, the Application Period for credits for 2012 investment opened.

Interested investors, or businesses, may find more information on this credit, and what businesses, investments and investors may qualify, at www.PositivelyMinnesota.com/angelcredit

Source: Minnesota Statutes, Sec. 116J.8737
------------------------------

S CORP. SHAREHOLDERS
Health Insurance Deduction For Self-Employed
Includes S. Corp (at least) 2% Owners.

Self-employed individuals may generally deduct 100% of health insurance costs on their tax return (26 USC Sec, 162(l)), even if they don't itemize. It's an above-the-line deduction found on the front of Form (1040) under "adjustments to income" (line 29 of the 2010 1040).

IRS has released rules entitling shareholders owning 2% or more of an S Corporation to take this deduction, IF the premiums are either paid, or reimbursed, by the S Corp., AND they are included in the shareholder's gross income.

For further information, see IRS Notice 2008-1 (found on page 251 (p. 9 of the .pdf download) of the Internal Revenue Bulletin at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-irbs/irb08-02.pdf); 26 USC Sec. 1372
------------------------------

FOR TAA & PBGC RECIPIENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES
Personal Health Care Coverage Tax Credit Expanded

Although most eligible Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) recipients know about the Health Care Tax Credit that applies to them, what's new is that, on October 21st, 2011, President Obama signed a bill that extends the credit, and makes more people eligible to receive it.

This may affect family members of TAA and PBGC recipients, as well as the recipients themselves. Because the new legislation affects all of 2011, and is retroactive, those persons should see http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=109960,00.html to find out if they qualify for a special "catch-up" refundable credit on their 2011 federal tax return.

If so, the credit is claimed by filing IRS Form 8885 with the return.


Click here to return to CONTENTS section at top of page



ASK THE TAX GUY          by Adam Steele, Tax Accountant
Small Businesses Now Subject To High Audit Risk
Payments by business to non-employees (contractors, professionals, etc.) targeted, subject to tax if without required records. Building industry subject to special rules.

November 28, 2011

Minnesota Small Businesses: Thought you had all of your taxes paid, and your stuff together so to withstand any audit? Well, think again.

In the wake of the budget crunch, the Minnesota Dept. of Revenue (MN REVENUE) is now actively auditing small businesses to assess "backup withholding" on payments made by the business to independent contractors and other non-employee professionals (this can apply to payments to electricians, plumbers, attorneys, accountants, etc.) where the Social Security Number (SSN), or other Tax Identification Number (TIN), of the payee has not been requested and recorded by the payor,  prior to the payments being made.

This technicality affects any, and, pretty much all, payments made by a business, to a person or entity, other than a corporation, where the payments made during the year, for personal services, are $600 or more. (source: M.S. 290.92 Subd. 26, et al.)

MN REVENUE is enforcing this provision by performing "wage audits" upon small businesses, and assessing (against the audited businesses) a "backup withholding" tax of 7.85% upon their payments to non-employees where the SSN or TIN of the non-employee was not first obtained by the business. The backup withholding applies to any payments (totalling $600 or more, aggregate in the calendar year; but the tax is computed back to dollar One) made before the SSN or TIN was obtained.

Contractor or Employee? Further, if the audit results in the reclassification of a worker, previously considered to be an independent contractor, to employee status, a 3% tax may be assessed against the business, in addition to any withholding taxes that then may become owing.

To determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, see federal Form SS-8 (available from www.irs.gov), and Minnesota Fact Sheet 8 (avail. from http://www.taxes.state.mn.us)

A negligence penalty may also be assessed in any of these cases. This is discretionary with the auditor and MN Revenue.

Building Trades Contractors - Special Rule Applies: Most building trades contractors must withhold Minnesota tax when paying their subcontractors. If payments to a subcontractor exceed $600 in a calendar year, 2% Minnesota tax must be withheld and remitted to the State, usually quarterly, with a quarterly payroll tax return. All building trades contractors should read Minnesota Withholding Tax Fact Sheet 18, (http://taxes.state.mn.us/withholding/Documents/tax_information_factsheets_wfs18_10.pdf), for the confusing way that this is reported, and other details. (source: M.S. 290.92 Subd. 31, et al.)

Following the end of the year, the subcontractor must receive, by Jan. 31st, a 1099-MISC, showing the total compensation paid, and total Minnesota Tax withheld for the year, and the payor must also file copies of the 1099s with Minnesota Revenue by Feb. 28th.

Parallel federal provisions: Federal law (26 USC Sec. 6041) requires that all persons engaged in a trade or business, who pay compensation to another person (includes partnerships) for personal services of $600 or more in a calendar year, are required to report such payments. For non-employees, this is normally done on Form 1099-MISC.

A 2010 Act (part of the health care bill) would have extended this to require, starting with tax year 2012, issuance of Form 1099 to corporate payees as well (this would have been an administrative nightmare); but that measure was repealed by Public Law 112–9, passed on Apr. 14, 2011.

How a small business can protect itself and comply. A business can avoid additional tax liability by following these steps:

Minnesota: to avoid the Minnesota backup withholding tax, businesses should be sure to, before payment, request and record the Social Security Number of any non-employees who are paid $600 or more during the year.
Additionally, if in the building trades, see the Special Rule, ante.

Federal: To be in compliance with federal rules, the business must 1) give the contractor (paid $600 or more) a form W-9 to fill out before payment; 2) retain the W-9 (it doesn't get filed with IRS); and 3) by Jan. 31st of the following year, issue a Form 1099 to each of the non-employees, and file same, along with Form 1096, with IRS by Feb. 28th.

Of course, if the business is in compliance federally, it will also usually meet the Minnesota SSN requirement, as W-9 generally records the SSN.  But Caution: In some cases a contractor is permitted to enter a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) on W-9; but record of his SSN or individual TIN is still required by Minnesota.


Sales Tax Audits. Another type of common State business audit is the sales tax audit. A business owner might think that all of his sales tax returns are in order; but payments of tax on goods sold to customers isn't only what they're looking for. They're looking for things (other than resale items) bought by the business without payment of sales tax.

Typically, the auditor will ask the business for the invoices for everything that it deducted on its income tax return (equipment, supplies, etc.). Any invoice that doesn't itemize sales tax will be suspected of being a taxable purchase on which sales tax wasn't paid, and so subject to the use tax (in the same amount as the sales tax), for which the business being audited is responsible.

Even if there was a good reason that the transaction was exempt from sales tax, it's up to the business under audit to demonstrate (and sometimes prove) that the exemption applies. These audits, very often, result in an assessment, even where the business thought it was "all caught up" on its sales tax.

The key to avoiding liability is to be sure all purchase invoices specifically show the sales tax paid, or, if none was charged, then the reason therefor.


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Smoking Ban Claims Another Victim Northland Business

November 8th, 2011

Nov. 4th, 2011 was the last day for North Country Bar and Grill, operated successfully for ten years at Cass Lake by strong community booster Larry Knop. By Nov. 7th (pic at right) all of the signs were down and trucks were finishing removing the furnishings.

This restaurant and bar, known for it's cuisine, was killed by the Minnesota Smoking Ban. Per Knop, since its passage, diners who came for the good food stopped staying after dinner because they couldn't smoke inside, and didn't want to go out to sub-zero cold to do it. In time, other bar patrons similarly dwindled and entertainment became less frequent. By early November, the establishment could no longer keep up with expenses - principally, its steep property taxes.

This is the latest of many Northland establishments to go out of business due to the smoking ban. In the wake of continuing enormous state budget deficits, sales, property, and income  taxes from these establishments had contributed significantly to the State's revenue stream; and this establishment, which had employed several workers, had also made significant contribution to the struggling Cass Lake economy.

At right, a slightly drenched Larry Knop mans the dunk tank at the 2005 Cass Lake Rib Fest, before the smoking thing started, and the bar was doing well.

Editor's Note: Unlike government, businesses cannot continue to operate at a deficit, even when that deficit is caused by the government. Of course, Obama doesn't have to care about the loss of tax revenues, he'll just keep printing money as he needs it; and you know where that's taking us - straight into the economic toilet - and resulting in scenes like you see at top. Somehow, all of that help that Obama promised for small business never reached this establishment. Ultimately, the very best thing government could do for small business would be to stay the heck out of it; including the repeal of present excessive regulation (particularly in Minnesota) and excessive taxation. -- Ed.


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WITH A GRAIN OF SAND*
Rapturing To Present Flight Hazards

November 7th, 2011

With Christians worldwide anticipating, just before Armageddon, the Rapture, when they expect to be gently lofted up to Heaven, air officials here are wrestling with the navigational problems it will create.

"This will present a major hazard to aircraft taking off or landing," said Stacy Engel, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), "we've always had the problem of a duck being sucked into a jet engine, but this will be much worse."

Engel said that, as hundreds of millions of people expect to be raptured, and so be floating around everywhere, including in airport traffic patterns, Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs), nationwide, have been alerted to be watching for this, and to immediately notify FAA and the other ATCs. "The problem we have is that no one knows exactly when the Rapture will occur," she said, adding, "we hope that the first ATCs to observe it will immediately report the incident to the FAA so we can email it to the other controllers, but with all those people floating around in their landing patterns, they're going to have their hands full."

*With A Grain of Sand is satire. It should not be confused with our real news, which is less believable, and funnier.


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THIS IS BEMIDJI
How HOUSING DISCRIMINATION IN BEMIDJI Works

October 22nd, 2011

BEMIDJI -- Bemidji - it's a Winter Wonderland - with light ice crystals falling, the sky is white, the ground is white, the trees are white - everything is white, and so are the people. But in this age of civil rights, how does Bemidji keep the undesirables - the lower socio-economic classes, and the minorities - out? Or at least relegated to their own areas: project-style housing in certain commercial areas of town where the screaming of kids and the smell of dogs fill the hallways - but there are no dogs; and the air is occasionally punctuated by someone's body hitting a wall, or the wail of police sirens.

This, of course, makes it difficult, or an unattractive prospect, for many who have to rent, to move to or remain in this odd little burgh which is dominated by the college (i.e. your state tax dollars) economy, and its new $90 million college hockey arena (also financed by your "education" tax dollars). And that's the idea.

A combination of the college trade, and restrictive Bemidji city rental ordinances that have caused many good, habitable, rental units (particularly single-family houses that could be afforded by  lower income people) to be torn down, have created a seller's market for rentals. The rates are what the market will bear - sometimes $1,000 or more - and the town can pick and choose which renters it wants to live here.

But with a plethora of houses facing repo now on the rental market, why aren't these more desirable rentals, lawfully, available in Bemidji to anyone who would be a good, quiet, law-abiding, and rent-paying, tenant?

The people that Bemidji doesn't want are kept out by the rental technique of collateral discrimination. While, for instance, one can't outright discriminate on the basis of race, one can find criteria that it would be harder for members of the targeted groups to meet. This is OK, even though those criteria may have nothing to do with renting a house or apartment or the quality of a tenant.

In Bemidji, screening potential renters on the basis of credit score usually fills the bill. And this is so, even though renting is generally a cash transaction where the tenant has to pay the first and last month's rent, as well as a security deposit, up front.

So a working person who normally pays their bills, but got caught up in the mortgage scams of the 2000s, had their house repo'd, and so can't buy a home; probably wouldn't be able to rent here either; unless they like the smell of musty halls. And similarly, a person who, for any reason (including one-time medical emergency, etc.), has had to file bankruptcy in the last seven years, can probably forget about renting here, too.

But how can this work in a town that has, literally, hundreds of property owners wanting to rent? Wouldn't these people want to rent to a tenant of good character regardless of their past credit problems? Well, yes, they might. But a lot of them never meet the potential tenant and don't make the determination of whether or not to rent. Character, credit references, and reliability on most bills (and rent is usually the last thing that one doesn't pay) don't enter into the equation. Just the applicant's number (their credit score). This is so because a large blocks of private rentals in Bemidji aren't actually rented by their owners; they are contracted for rental though a handful of professional property management firms here. It is these firms, who, with their monopoly over the town's rentals, seek to control the Bemidji rental market, and keep out anyone who doesn't meet their liking.

"Property Professionals" located, along with REMax Realty, on Beltrami Avenue in the prestigious and historic old library building across from the courthouse, is an example of one such firm. Interviewed on October 21st, 2011, their manager, Carmen Katula, refused to speak on tape. But she boasted to Northern Herald that Property Professionals controls over 300 rentals in this city of about 3053 total rental units.*  Katula said that some of the criteria Property Professionals uses in turning away renters include:
• credit score below 600
• whether they've ever had to sue someone (like over a defective product), or have been sued, and
• their other financial information.
This excludes a lot of people, regardless of their history of paying their rent or mortgage. Asked how many Native Americans** they rent to, Katula was unable to answer the question. Also, if one is a smoker, they probably won't be renting from Property Professionals; this little nazi-like organization doesn't allow it in any of the units they manage.

Rental assistance is designed to put certain disadvantaged people on a par with others in finding a place to live. But some other Bemidji rental firms, such as Bemidji Management, won't show their more in-demand rentals to people entitled to it. It's back to those musty halls for them.

Of course, this is America; a private firm can discriminate on just about any basis they want. But these rental firms are like the doctors who won't see Medicare patients. Sure, they can do it; but you might not recommend them or condone their practices. Those having properties for rent may want to consider who they want handling them, or possibly just skipping the middleman's cut and doing it themselves. And if the practices of some rental monopolies amount to de facto discrimination on an unlawful basis; or defeat state economic objectives; well, that's something St. Paul or Washington may want to have a look at.

In 1995, Native American Roy Martin, and his wife, had to leave Bemidji because they were unable to obtain a rental here; they, apparently, had been blacklisted by the town's rental monopolies and were being turned down wherever they tried to rent; they had also been denied further medical treatment at Meritcare, the city's principal clinic. The Martins were traditional Native Americans - quiet, law-abiding people who made no trouble for anyone in the short time they were here; but they were, nonetheless, disliked by certain people in the community. This is how Bemidji exfoliates that which it doesn't want here.

* Includes City of Bemidji and surrounding "market area". Data is per Beltrami County Housing Study (2000)

** Native Americans comprise about 21% of the population of Beltrami County, per the 2000 census.


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CONSUMER CORNER - GOOD DEALS
White Pines Contracting
It's All You Need To Know About Roofing in Bemidji

October 5th, 2011

We were going to do a standard services comparison among Bemidji roofers. But if you're a homeowner here, you know that "Surly Joe Contracting" is the name of the game; and the list of the contractors you wouldn't want to use - the ones who fail to show up for estimating or for the job; the ones that don't really want work, etc. - goes on and on and would take up too much space and too much of your time to read. So we'll just tell you about the one you would want to hire for your roofing job: White Pines Contracting - 218-335-2738, owned and operated by Larry G. Liesener Jr., of Cass Lake.

The test conditions: To independently evaluate their services, we took an old house that was built about the 1920's and had up to 5 layers of shingle that would have to be torn off before the new steel roofing could be installed. To make the job a little tougher, we put the house in the midst of an urban wildlife and botanical preserve, with a lot of plants and flowers that mustn't be damaged, just about everywhere around the house. It made ladder access difficult, and particular care would have to be taken at all phases of the project, especially during tear-off. And to make it a test under the most stringent of circumstances, we placed the house only about a foot or two from the property line, and put a nut next door who said that he'd sue if so much as a shingle fell on his property.

White Pines Contracting was then contacted to estimate and do the job. They came through from start to finish with flying colours.

In the course of the job, we determined that White Pines Contracting, and their crew:

1)    were all skilled, experienced, and highly professional;
2)    were honest in their estimating, and the time charged for the work they did;
       the estimate was reasonable for the job; they didn't recommend any unneeded
       repairs, and, in the end, only did those that the homeowner wanted;
3)    have the men and equipment to do the job;
4)    are able to communicate well with building officials,
        thusly avoiding administrative problems and delays;
5)    are respectful of your property, as well as your neighbour's;
6)    show up when they say they will;
7)    do what they say they will;
8)    the foreman is knowledgeable and can give the homeowner advice on materials
       to be used, etc.; the foreman and whole staff have a helpful, consumer-oriented,
       and work-oriented, attitude;
9)    try to save the homeowner money on needed repairs;
10)  the foreman, a genuine professional tradesman, was able to come up with innovative
       solutions to unique problems peculiar to that roof, which save the homeowner money;
11)  offer immediate response (even on a weekend) if unexpected, but urgent, events arise;
12)  were able to work around unplanned and unexpected delays due to the materials supplier,
        and, despite this inconvenience (which was not the fault of White Pines), got the job finished
        at the earliest possible date;
13)  are just plain, old fashioned, straight about everything; and
14)  in the final billing, the job comes in as estimated.

In short, White Pines is everything one looks for (but seldom finds, in Bemidji) in a roofing contractor. We understand that they do other contracting as well, but we can only offer an evaluation of their roofing at this time.
For an honest job at an honest price, consumers may call White Pines Contracting at 218-335-2738.
White Pines Contracting is a Northern Herald Recommended business.


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(ADVERTISEMENT)

Adam Steele Tax & Accounting Services
How we keep your tax fees down

September 28, 2011

Transcript of a recent (9/28/11) call from Main Street Tax Software Co.
to Adam Steele Tax & Accounting Services:

Phone: Ring ... Ring ... Ring

Adam Steele, Tax Accountant: Good morning, how may we be of service?

Lady Caller: Hello, I'm calling from Main Street Tax Software.

AS: Oh, you're the tax software company on Main Street?

LC: No, we're actually in Georgia. Have you been researching tax software for the coming season?

AS: No. We don't research it. We always order it from 2nd Story Software. They make the best professional tax software, and we get the practitioner's edition of federal and all-states for about $225. It saves our clients money, and is the best tax software we've seen.

LC: I wanted to tell you about our Practitioner's package . . . .

AS: Is it $225?

LC: No, it's $698.

AS: That's all good and well, but $698 is a lot more than $225. They taught us that in accounting school.

LC: Does your software offer bank products (Refund Anticipation Loans, also known as "Instant Refunds") ?

AS: Actually, we have that option; but we usually advise our clients against Refund Anticipation Loans because they're not a good deal, so we don't offer them. They cost the client a big chunk of their refund. Clients come here because they want their biggest refund; they don't want to give away a big chunk of it just to get it a little bit sooner. We do offer electronic filing directly with IRS, so clients get their WHOLE refund, directly from IRS, often in just 2 to 3 weeks. And they don't have to give away a big chunk of it for "bank fees". So we're not really interested in "bank products" or other such newfangled stuff that costs the client a big chunk of their refund.

LC: It's only $90 to the client.

AS: To just get their refund a couple of weeks sooner. Annualized, that equates to a ridiculous rate of interest. People come here to save money on tax and get their biggest refund. They don't want to give away $90 of it.

LC: Are you aware of <the bank's> rebate program?

AS: No, I never heard of that.

LC: Well, at the end of the season, they rebate to you <$$$> for every Refund Anticipation Loan you originate.

AS: So, if I overcharged clients for these services, you'd kick back <$$$> to me for each return?

LC: Yes.

AS: Well, we wouldn't be interested, but you might call Bemidji City Hall. They're very corrupt there and they might be interested in something like this.

LC: OK.

AS: Thanks, good day.

ADAM STEELE  TAX & ACCOUNTING SERVICES
Because there's no reason to pay more than you have to.
In Bemidji  •  218-759-1162

(ADVERTISEMENT)


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American refiners, not OPEC, now gouging public on gas

August 30, 2011

Crude oil is way down ($87.27 a barrel yesterday). It now justifies a gas price, at the pump, of just under $3 a gallon. But we're paying way more than that. Why?

We can't tell this story any better than Steve Everly of the Kansas City Star. Click here to read his article.

Editor's note - Something to think about: In the last big gas crunch (1970's) it was ciphered that if we could cut our demand for gas & oil by 10%, that would result in a significant price drop. Since then, we've about doubled the gas efficiency of vehicles - for a lot of them, about 30 mpg, rather than 15. But at the same time, we have also doubled our population, putting twice as many vehicles on the road, and nullifying the effect of our new fuel efficiency. That's why you're paying what you do.

Will we breed ourselves into oblivion? What will it take, gas at $25 a gallon, before people address the root of the problem? The carefree pregnant woman, toting three kids with her, that you see in the supermarket parking lot, will raise what you pay for gas. And as far as $25 a gallon goes - it's not unrealistic. That would call for a sevenfold increase in the current price. Can't happen, you say? Well, consider that in the last 50 years, it's increased thirteenfold. -- A. Steele, Editor


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A PUBLIC SERVICE MESSAGE OF THIS NEWSPAPER
Now: Cadillac's - Great Live Music, Dancing in Bemidji Area And You Can Smoke

August 26th, 2011

Friday is Dance Night in the Bemidji area now that Cadillac's Northstar Grille and dance hall is open in Cass Lake. This is for people who like to dance. It's:
Great Live Dance Music whether your thing is two-step, ballroom, swing, or freestyle.
Huge and Beautiful Hardwood Dance Floor - this club was designed by dance musicians for people who like to dance to great music. It's not, like some places, a small floor adjunct to a bar - here, the purpose of the bar is to serve the Dance Floor.
Drinks and Food The full Grille is open 'til 8; limited food (snacks) afterward. Cocktail service all evening, of course.
Tasteful Seating and Motif - The whole club, from the elegant balcony seating, to the disc music between live sets (also very danceable), to the oversized pool tables (just under regulation size, and you don't need quarters), is all done in tasteful elegance down to the last detail. This is a club, designed by musicians, for the Ladies and Gentlemen of their clientele to enjoy. You gotta see it and dance it.

And You Can Smoke (tobacco only, of course)

Cadillac's is the new home of the Indian Country Band, which plays almost every Friday (other live entertainment Sat.) starting at 9 p.m. This band is eminently danceable. Whatever your step, their repertoire includes lots for everyone, from their great and professional renditions of famous musical standards like Summertime, to the classic country of Amarillo By Morning and Seminole Wind, to classic rock favourites like Mustang Sally and Dancing In The Dark; and many more.

Cadillac's Northstar Grille and dance hall.
It's where people in the know . . . go!
In Cass Lake, at 16305 69th Ave. NW (just before the Palace Casino) - 218-335-6903


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No-Contact (DANCO) Orders Held Unconstitutional by Minnesota District Court. This affects DANCO orders issued by a Judge, or requested by the State, where no one actually involved in the alleged offense has requested such an order, or other protection.

August 14th, 2011

A relatively new Minnesota statute has allowed judges, in domestic abuse cases, to impose a no-contact order between the (usually) man and woman involved, even where neither party has requested such an order.

This has opened the door for the corrupt authorities to persecute certain people, generally men, who have committed no crime. It has also allowed authorities to unconstitutionally interefere with their most personal and intimate relations, a type of harassment which is repugnant to our American way of doing things; and which, most notably, was used by the Stasi - the East German secret police - to make life tough on "undesirables" during the cold war.

In some cases this statute appears to have been used, in Minnesota, as follows:

1. Law Enforcement or a Women's Advocacy organization working with law enforcement targets a man for arrest, even though he's committed no crime.

2. On whatever pretense may be available, Law Enforcement arrests the man for domestic abuse. A detailed complaint, seeming to justify the arrest, is fabricated by the arresting officer and filed. At this point, there has been no actual abuse. The man and woman are on good terms. The man is held in jail; and then charged, based upon the fabricated complaint. If the woman protests, and tells police or deputies that the stuff in the law-enforcement-fabricated complaint never happened, she is ignored.

3. The Court puts a no-contact (DANCO) order in place, prohibiting the man from talking to the woman.

4. The woman, usually confused as to what is happening and what to do, calls the man at the jail (there are outgoing phones, and message lines) or visits him there. If the call from his wife, fiancee, unholy escort, etc. seems urgent, most decent men would, of course, return that call.

5. When the phone call is returned by the man (from the jail), or the visit occurs, the man is then charged with violating the no-contact (DANCO) order.

6. The original false domestic abuse charge is dropped, but the man is tried and sentenced for the DANCO violation.

At this time, Steven Samuelson is serving 5 years and 5 days in the Minnesota prison at Stillwater for violating a DANCO order under these precise circumstances. His fiancee, Jennifer Bardine, has testified in open court that no abuse ever occurred, she never requested such an order and asked to have it removed, and she was trying to contact him, at the jail, about household emergencies and needs. (See The Steve Samuelson Files, below)

On June 23rd, 2011, in the case of State of Minnesota v. Keith Lee Kelling (No. 74-CR-11-254), Steele Co. Dist. Judge Casey J. Christian ruled that the statute allowing the Court to impose these DANCO orders, where no party, other than the State, has requested such an order, is unconstitutional and violates due process.

As a District Court order, the higher courts are not bound by it; but as it fully analyzes the matter and cites good law and cause therefor, hopefully, the higher courts will follow it, and the Minnesota Legislature will see fit to repeal the unconstitutional statute. In the meantime, attorneys with clients charged with such DANCO violations may want to review the grounds upon which the Court found same unconstitutional, for use in their own cases.

The full Court Memorandum (9 pages + cover sheets) for this ruling in the Kelling case can be accessed by clicking here or going to http://northernherald.finalhost.net/kelling1.pdf
Note: Due to scanning error (not ours) this .pdf file contains a blank page. But the Memo is all there - just scroll past the blank page.

Nothing herein should be construed as legal advice, or relied upon for any legal purpose. We are not attorneys, so we cannot give legal advice; we are only permitted to give the illegal kind.


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CONSUMER CAVEAT
CAUTION When Buying Steel Roofing From Menards

August 15th, 2011, August 30th, 2011

To give credit where due, Menards is a great place to shop. Menards does for building materials what Wal-Mart does for everything else, and it's good to now have Menards in Bemidji, so people here can get things for the home, that they couldn't find here before, and at great prices, as well. It's hard to walk through Menards without getting some good project ideas, and seeing how inexpensive it is to live better.

Houston, we have a problem. But in the area of steel roofing, which is fast growing in popularity in our climate region, the Bemidji Menards, and their steel supplier, Midwest Manufacturing, are having some "growing pains" which, if not fixed, could be a real pain in the "S" to the consumer.

Midwest Maufacturing is located in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Menards corporate headquarters are also in Eau Claire.

The following is a homeowner report from trying to buy roofing steel from Menards at Bemidji. We can't add much to this, nor need we:

Mid-June, 2011 - The homeowner spoke with "Kyle" at the Bemidji Menards about steel roofing materials. Kyle recommended their "Pro-Rib", which, he said, had a lifetime warranty, and estimated the materials cost, including trim, at about $2,000.

Mid June, 2011 - For this job, the homeowner was his own general contractor. A subcontractor, a Minnesota licensed contractor in his own right, was hired to produce a parts list and order from Menards; and then have his crew do the job. The sub ran the measurements through Menards's design computer, which produced a parts list costing in excess of $3,400, including tax. As we shall later see (08/23/11, below) Menards' computer had greatly overestimated the amount of steel panels, and accessories (screws, etc.) needed.

Late June, 2011 - The homeowner consulted with "Kyle" about why this computer estimate had come up so much higher. Kyle suggested removing some of the unnecessary items that their computer had put in. Also, a copy of the "lifetime warranty" was requested. This was very difficult to obtain, and the manufacturer of the roofing, spoken to by phone, said that the warranty only covered the finish (paint) on the roofing - not the steel itself, and insinuated that it may not cover "red rust", the primary concern when using steel roofing (even though rusting would, normally, be due to a finish flaw). The manufacturer of the roofing seemed very evasive when discussing the warranty; but a final print copy was finally obtained. In doing the new parts list, it was desirable to have a drawing and measurements of the roof; but the 4 copies of same, prepared by the subcontractor and filed at Menards, had disappeared. In fact, the entire file was gone. The order was reconstructed from the (Menards’s) computer-generated parts list that the homeowner had, and Kyle lined out the unnecessary items.

06/30/11 The homeowner ordered and paid for the roofing. The materials total came to $2,841.66, including tax. Materials were to arrive at Menards about 07/14/11 and be delivered to the site when needed.

08/01/11 - morning - The roofing was requested to be delivered on 08/02/11; also, some preliminary (to the job) supplemental materials (2x4s and OSB board) were ordered for immediate delivery. The homeowner was informed that they would be delivered that morning.

08/01/11 - about noon - The homeowner called Menards and was informed that they didn't have a delivery address, so couldn't send the delivery during a "delivery window" that Menards claimed. Menards said they tried to reach the homeowner at a certain phone number on the order, but got no answer. That number, that Menards had on the paperwork, was not the homeowner’s, nor was it that of anyone else associated with this project. The homeowner gave them the correct delivery address, and the correct phone number that should appear on all paperwork. Menards said that since the "delivery window" had been missed, the materials wouldn't arrive until the entire order was delivered, on 08/02/11. This obviously delayed the workmen's progress.

08/02/11 - approx. 9:00 a.m. - The Menards truck arrived at the site. It unloaded the 2x4s, OSB board, a trim box (sealed with metal strips and the contents of which were not readily visible), and a tarped palette which, presumably, held the steel roofing. The driver of the truck asked the homeowner to sign a paper saying that the homeowner had inspected the order and that it was complete and satisfactory. The homeowner told him that he would have to inspect the delivery to sign that. The driver said that he didn't have time for that. So the homeowner struck out the boilerplate statement on the paper, and correctly wrote in, instead, that the homeowner had received the load, but didn't know what was in it, and signed that.

08/02/11 - Tear-off started. As usual, it would be necessary to apply tar paper ("felt") at the end of the day's work, to seal the roof up for the night. By about noon it was discovered that the morning's delivery was short a page of the materials ordered, including the rolls of felt. The homeowner called Menards and talked to Kyle who said that the missing part of the order would be sent out that afternoon, so the roof could be sealed for the night.

08/02/11 - midafternoon - The homeowner spoke with Kyle again. He said the truck was delayed at Cass Lake. He didn't know when it would deliver the materials.

08/02/11 - midafternoon - With no materials arriving, the homeowner spoke with a manager at Menards - explained the problem and the need for the felt. He said the truck was still delayed at Cass Lake, and dispatched a pickup with the rest of the order.

08/02/11 - approx. 4:30 p.m. - A pickup with two people, a man and a woman, arrived at the site with what was presumed to be the rest of the order. It included the rolls of felt. The materials were unloaded. Due to the late delivery, the roofing subs had to stay overtime to get the felt installed. Shortly following the unloading, the delivered materials were compared to the parts list. Two items - a box of nails and two cans of paint (for the vents - to match the roofing) were missing. The homeowner called a Menards manager (believed to be "Paul") and so informed him. As they were not urgently needed that day, they agreed that these items would be delivered 08/03/11.

08/02/11 - approx. 6:00 pm - A neighbour came by and wanted to see the roofing colour, so lifted a corner of the protective tarp covering it. This is the first time the roofing had been opened. The four 141" panels on that corner were badly scratched, and were dented as though, in warehousing, a fork lift or truck had run into them. The dent ran through the entire 4 panel stack. The homeowner notified Menards, and notified them that there may be further damaged panels, but to avoid unnecessary handling (and possible further damage) the homeowner wouldn't be able to know what was good and what was not until it was time to unstack and install the individual panels. The person the homeowner spoke to said to let them know what else was bad, and they'd "expedite" the replacements.

08/03/11 - approx. 9:00 am - Menards pickup arrived at the site with the nails and paint; but the paint was the wrong colour and was sent back.

08/03/11 - The homeowner spoke with someone at Menards (probably "Paul") about the four damaged 141" panels.

08/03/11 - morning - The subcontractors discovered that while Menards’s computer had rendered a parts list, there was no blueprint or other indication as to which pieces of steel went where. Menards had no record of this. The foreman went back to his office to get the original roof drawing, to input same into Menards’s computer to get a blueprint or other specification; but the computer failed to render one. The foreman had to figure it out on paper.

08/03/11 - Another damaged piece (49") was discovered.

08/04/11 - The homeowner reported the 49" piece to Kyle at Menards, and also ordered a new flashing. One of the subs on the job gave Kyle a detailed description of the type of flashing needed, and the purpose.

08/04/11 - Two more damaged pieces were discovered - (1) 83" and (1) 107"

08/05/11 - The homeowner called Menards to report the new damaged pieces, order some additional ridge cap, and confirm shipping on these pieces and the ones ordered with Kyle on 8/4. Kyle wasn't in, so the homeowner spoke with Paul (a manager). He said that there was NO RECORD of the 8/4 order. Kyle had not ordered it. Nor was there record of exactly what flashing was needed. As it was Friday evening, Kyle could not be contacted by phone to describe the flashing; and the job foreman also couldn't be reached. Paul said he'd order the other materials, and speak with Kyle, re: the flashing, when he came in. He said that the various materials would be on a truck from the manufacturer which had to be full, and was now only about 20% full; and that the homeowner could expect the materials by about the end of the following week (8/12/11). This, apparently, was what Menards considers "expediting" replacement parts for those that they have delivered in damaged condition.

08/08/11 - Three more damaged pieces were found in the stack (1) 73" (which was cut and the good part used anyway) , (1) 107", and (1) 10' piece of ridge cap. These were reported to Paul at Menards, who now said that it might be early in the week of 8/15 before the parts arrive. He said that he’d spoken to Kyle and ordered the flashing.

08/08/11 - The roofing crew had to be temporarily discharged due to lack of the materials from Menards.

approx. 08/11/11 - On inquiry, Paul revised his ETA of the parts to mid-week in the week of 8/15/11.

08/11/11 - The refuse hauling company had to remove their dumpster due to the down time the job was taking; they said they'd bring it back when the materials were on-site and work could be resumed.

08/15/11 - 12:15 p.m. - The homeowner called "Paul" (the manager) at Menards to see when the replacement steel would be arrive. Paul said he’d check and call back.

08/15/11 - 1:00 p.m. "Mark" at Bemidji Menards store called the homeowner and said there was a "computer error" in cutting the steel, so it wouldn't arrive 'til the end of the next week (approx. 08/26/11). The homeowner told him "we need it now". Mark acknowledged that the many errors in Menards' processing of this order never should have happened. At this time, the job remained 1/2 done, with tar paper on 1/2 of the roof, and palettes of materials sitting around awaiting the uncertain delivery of the remaining (replacement) materials.

08/17/11 - Mark came out to the site to inspect the defects in the steel being returned, and in order to, as much as possible, expedite replacement.

08/22/11 - 13 more damaged pieces are discovered. (5) 117", (1) 135", (6) 10' ridge caps (a dent, probably from heavy machinery in the warehouse, ran through the stack), and one 14' rake & corner piece.

08/23/11 - Menards, having received the replacement steel from Midwest Manufacturing (but not for the defective pieces discovered the previous day), delivers it to the job site. Upon inspection, all of it - every panel - was either scratched or dented, and had to be returned. All of the defective steel was returned to the Menards truck.

08/23/11 - Normally, Menards's policy will not allow use of part of a damaged panel which is to be returned (i.e. cutting off the damaged part and using the rest for a smaller piece). If one cuts it, they've bought it (the whole panel). But in this instance, Menards allowed the 141" pieces, with damage near the ends, to be cut down and used, and Menards redelivered the previously returned 141" pieces, to also be cut down and used in this manner. As Menards's "Design Computer" had greatly overestimated the amount of steel required for the job, and even though many panels had been returned and not yet replaced, there was still more than enough steel - although partially damaged - on-site to do this. This enabled the job to be mostly finished that day.

Analysis: Once again, to give credit where due, Menards is generally a great store to shop. They have things that you won't find anywhere else, at prices you never dreamed of being that low, and usually, the quality is very good. This report shows that some of the people that work for them, however, and particularly in the "contractors' area", are swindlers and bums who are used to dealing with the contractors where, perhaps, they can pad the bill; and shortcomings will be overlooked. If a regular person has a complaint, they seem to assume that the customer* is always wrong.

* At Menards, the word "customer" is seldom used. Menards calls their customers "guests". But this is a misuse.
Guests are people who might drop over to the store, sit on their lawn furniture on display, have a Mai Tai, and chat.
Customers, on the other hand, are the most important people in the world. They buy things, and are the people who create Menards' employees' paychecks. If Menards' taught their employees the difference between "guests" and "customers", it might help their attitudes some.

What the consumer can do:

Before making a major purchase at Menard's, a consumer might want to look at the problems a number of other consumers have had. A plethora of consumer complaints can be found at http://www.ripoffreport.com/directory/menards.aspx (this huge summary also specifically includes complaints re: Menards roofing supplier, Midwest Manufacturing, and warranty problems with their materials); http://www.complaintsboard.com/?search=menards; and http://menards.pissedconsumer.com/rip-off-at-menards-20110614243132.html
We particularly recommend the final link, as some Menards employees responded to it, providing keen insight as to the poor customer attitude that appears to now be cultivated at Menards, and what a customer can expect from them if something goes wrong.

If a consumer is ordering a steel roof from Menards, they should (1) plan for delays attributable to the time it takes for Menards to order the material from their supplier, Midwest Manufacturing, and, as much as possible, try to order everything necessary at the outset. If additional trim, etc., is needed during the job, the turnaround will be about two weeks for each interim order. (2) Be sure to order a bottle of "touch-up" paint. This is a special paint that conforms to the warranty, but it isn't automatically included with the roofing order. If not ordered initially, it can take 2 more weeks to get it; if any panels require touch-up, it is much easier to have the paint on hand and do that immediately at the time of  installation, rather than try to find those spots 2 weeks later, when the panels are already on the roof. (3) The consumer should have their roofer carefully go over what the Menards' computer says will be needed, and, if necessary, hand figure the number of panels needed, allowing for things like, that an angle cut from one panel can become a corner piece for the next side of the roof, etc. It's good to have some extra steel handy, but the computer's rendering can be way more steel than the job requires, and, although Menards may take back the excess, there is usually a 25% "restocking" charge. (4) As, if there is a problem, the crooks who work for Menard's will say that things were delivered which weren't, that they never received return merchandise, etc., the customer is advised to carefully record, at the time, all merchandise received and returned, and have the list of returned merchandise signed by a Menard's employee at the time of the return. This documentation should be kept until well after the project is completed (actually, for tax basis purposes, these records should be kept for as long as you own your home). When Menards delivers product, they'll ask for a signature on their boilerplate "received, inspected and satisfactory" slip. The customer should not sign this unless he has actually had time to inspect, and has inspected, each piece.

What Menards could do: An essential part of the damaged sheet problem is, apparently, arising in the warehousing and handling, either at Midwest Manufacturing, Menards, or in transit. In steel roofing, the finish is everything. That's what you're buying. So particular safeguards are warranted. Midwest Manufacturing, apparently, releases the steel orders in stacks of metal-on-metal. Although they sometimes provide a (metal) cover sheet, any jostling, whether in warehouse or in-transit, is going to take a toll. It would probably be highly cost effective if, using perhaps the same machinery that embosses the steel panels, Midwest also embossed some paper card stock in the same ribbed pattern, and placed a sheet between each two sheets of steel panel, before warehousing, handling, and shipping. That would probably solve much of the problem of scratched panels, with minimal extra weight; and a card stock cover sheet (perhaps thicker than the panel separators) would be cheaper than a steel one, as well as having less likelihood of causing damage to the steel sheet below it.


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EDITORIAL
A $1/3 Billion Budget Solution

March 26th, 2011

A Minnesota girl walks into a bank, carrying a bucket, and with four kids in tow.
Heaving the pail, containing $500 in quarters, onto the banker's desk, she says she wants to open an account.
The banker is visibly impressed. "Did you hoard all this yourself?" he asks.
"No," she replied, "my sister hored half of it."

Some legislators look to patch the $5 Billion (two-year) budget deficit with ideas to raise new revenues with things like promoting State-backed gambling at "Racino". We can't help wondering how long it will be before they'll talk about selling little packets of heroin, stamped with "Minnesota" and an outline of the state on them.

Most proposed solutions to the budget crunch are more traditional, though. It usually comes down to two things - either raising taxes, or cutting services* - or a combination of them.

But suppose we could save over $ 1/3 billion in the next two years without cutting any public services.

Each year, Minnesota gives away hundreds of millions of dollars, $179.8 million in fiscal 2010, to people, with incomes up to $43,399, simply for having kids. This giveaway, of up to $1,762 per person, per year, applies whether the person is single or married, and regardless of need; it is simply a state bonus for making kids. A lot of it goes to the single mothers of illegitimate children. It is welfare for the middle class - but only if they've made children** - and it comes at the expense of singles, seniors, and everyone else. Often this annual spring windfall is used for vacations or luxury items.

This Minnesota Bonus for Making Kids, or MBMK, is applied for on the tax return, where it is deceptively named the "Minnesota Working Family Credit". But it has nothing to do with one's taxes. It is what is termed a "refundable credit". That's just the name for a giveaway amount that the person gets whether they have a tax liability or not. Although it is sent on a tax refund check, and many people call it their "tax refund", it is not a refund at all - it applies even if no tax was withheld, so there's nothing to refund. It is simply a State giveaway - a bonus - for having kids; welfare for the middle class wrapped in a tax form. It is the largest State "refundable credit"; again, $179.8 million in fiscal 2010; by comparison, the Military Service Credit was only $2.2 million in the same year.

The recent nuclear catastrophe in Japan was wholly due to overpopulation and the energy demand it creates. So was the Gulf BP oil spill, as was the Exxon Valdez, Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island. Overpopulation is also the cause of global warming, the destruction of rain forests and species, all other environmental concerns, and even the higher cost of gas and groceries. We have outbred our resources, plain and simple. And it is getting to where there are not enough of them to go around; which, if it continues, will create shortages and substantially diminish quality of life in the U.S., as it has already done in other countries.

With world environmental and resource problems what they are, principally due to overpopulation, it is questionable why the State would want to subsidize the making of more people, and using the money of those who don't, to do it. There doesn't seem to be a shortage of people, so there wouldn't seem to be a public purpose in encouraging people to make more of them, particularly illegitimately, where the State (i.e. you and I) may well end up supporting them anyway. And while kids are expensive, particularly in this day when many parents believe in spoiling them rotten, never disciplining, and teaching them that they don't have to work for what they want; the cost of raising those misguided kids belongs squarely on the shoulders of those who make them; not those who haven't. Again, there is no valid public purpose here.

And also, there are similar Federal Bonuses for Having Kids (attractively named the "Earned Income Credit"; as well as the "Child Tax Credit"). Combined, these Federal Bonuses for Having Kids can run as high as $8,666 per year (for 3 kids) and both can apply on incomes of up to $48,361.

In these times of State economic turmoil, it would seem that the feds already give away enough of a bonus for making kids (it is, after all, the largest federal breeding subsidy that is not administered by the USDA). It would seem that Minnesota does not really need to add to it, using strapped State (i.e. yours and mine) funds.

A one-year suspension of the Minnesota Bonus for Making Kids (or Working Family Credit as it's known in St. Paul), would remove almost $180 million from the upcoming budget, without cutting any services, and without raising taxes. A two-year suspension would save over one-third of a billion dollars in the biennium budget. That would go a long way to resolving the deficit.

* "cutting services" usually evokes bothersome thoughts of libraries closing, not having enough policemen, bridges falling down, or seniors not getting their lunches; but, in reality, a lot of the "services" are things like unneeded office staff kept on for political reasons; supporting, through LGA, small cities (like Bemidji and Grand Rapids) of less than 15,000 people but with city managers or administrators that drag down six figures a year; and sending State college students on 3 week spring vacations in Europe; just to name a few.

** There is also a State giveaway amount for people with no children, if they are low-income; but it is minuscule by comparison, and phases out much sooner. For example, for 2010, a single person with income of $12,000 and no kids would get $27; but would get $762 if she had one kid, $1,265 if two. As one can see, the great bulk of this money is designed to, and in fact does, go as a State bonus for having children. This annual "bonus" is regardless of what other support the parent may receive for the kids or herself.

Glossary
LGA: Liberal Graft Allowance; it's also known, in St. Paul, as Local Government Aid.
LGA is State (i.e. your) money that's given to cities so that their councils and administrators can do pet projects, create positions, and pay salaries, that their voters and taxpayers would never approve at a levy vote.



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EDITORIAL
"Education"; What Does It Mean?

March 26, 2011

"Education" is the largest single category in the Minnesota state budget. In the debates, tax-and-spend Republican candidate Richard Lehmann said that, in curing the budget deficit, we couldn't cut "Education" because that affects people's job-readiness, and the workforce.

It's an easy-to-swallow myth -- most people think of the "Education" budget as being what teaches people to read and write. But a lot more than that, or even than academic studies as a whole, goes into this budget item.

The state tax money that sends Bemidji State University students on 3-week vacations in Europe comes from "Education" funds.

So does the BSU lease that pays for a lot of the operating expense of the absurd and costly Bemidji "Regional" Events Center. Those are your "Education" tax dollars; that's where they go.

To stop this waste, the "Education" budget could stand substantial cutting. And that would cure the deficit. When the state's in the hole, we shouldn't be paying for students' trips to Europe, or unneeded buildings.

"Education" has to stop being a sacred cow, if we want to get rid of the bull.



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CONSUMER CORNER
Again, For A Limited Time!
Smokes for $1 a pack

March 12th, 2011

This is the second time we've given a free plug to good deals from this merchant. You'd think they'd want to advertise, so our readers would know about their other good deals, but they don't believe in advertising in the non-metro papers. Regardless, sometimes a deal is good enough that it can't be ignored, and in the readers' interest, it needs to be in our Consumer Corner. This is one of those, so, here it is:

Smoker's Best filtered small cigars (they look like cigarettes with brown paper) - 2 cartons for $19.95,
plus shipping.
(Shipping is normally $4.95 - as a promotion, shipping is being waived on certain orders before 4/15/11 - customers should ask about this when they order. It may be necessary to request catalog KT (Spring 2011) (free) and order from it to get the shipping waiver.)
Cartons are ten packs of 20 small cigars - this figures to about $1 per pack (with shipping, $1.25).
They come in five varieties: full, light, menthol, clove, and sweet.
Interested readers may order from Thompson Cigar Co., Tampa, Florida, 1-800-214-4708.
Customers must be 19 yrs. of age, or over, to order this product.

We have not tried, or independently rated the quality of this product, so make no representations as to same. But it is covered by Thompson's long standing guarantee of satisfaction (ask for details and return conditions when you order).

Due to anti-freedom legislation in those states, this product cannot be shipped to Montana, Pennsylvania, or Vermont. For non-Florida residents, taxes are not charged at time of purchase, but the consumer is generally responsible for declaring and paying "use" taxes, pretty much the same as they would for any other mail order purchase from out-of-state.

Amidst the current economic meltdown, when most everything is coming in smaller packages, or costing about 150% of what it did 2 years ago, and people are having trouble making enough to pay for these things; to placate anti-smoking "do-gooders" who, much against the spirit of America, seek to impose their preferences on everyone else, legislators, including those of Minnesota, have sought to make it harder for the average working person to enjoy the simple pleasure of tobacco, by passing laws making smokes very expensive, so their wealthy friends can still enjoy them, but you can't.

We salute Thompson Cigar for finding a solution to this anti-American approach. If they find the product to be of suitable quality, readers may want to stock up now before the ignoranuses (people who are both ignorant, AND rearholes) in St. Paul make it to where they can no longer do so.

“The anti-smoking movement is driven by an agenda — an agenda that will not allow science, sound policy analysis, the law, or ethics to get in its way.”  --Michael Siegel, MD, Boston University School of Public Health      (see also http://tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com/2006/12/in-my-view-anti-smoking-movement-has.html)



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We Don't Usually Follow Hollywood News, But . . .

December 31st, 2010, January 6, 2011   (AN EDITORIAL)

Super-Christian and Jew-hater Mel Gibson is best known for his passionate production of "The Passion Of The Christ".

Of late, his divorce amidst allegations of infidelity on his part, and new allegations that he beat and pulled a gun on his new girlfriend, Oksana, and in the process endangered their illegitimate child, seem to escalate him to being an unusually fitting representative of his professed Christian faith, and Northern Herald now nominates him for Pope.

As for theology generally, superthinker Sir Isaac Newton said, "This most beautiful system [the universe] could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being." But Newton left the Christian ministry when he arrived at the conclusion that its concept of the Trinity was in direct violation of the Ten Commandments, issued by Providence Himself.

Also violating the Commandments are any graven images, such as crosses, crucifixes, and pictures of Jesus, if used in any way associated with worship, or prompting service to those images, or the forms that they represent or cause one to recollect.

The only true and genuine religion is that of Abraham, of Moses, and oddly, of Jesus himself.

Any person who believes that, by a mere act of faith, he will be forgiven for any transgression, no matter how severe, against Providence or man is, inherently, a person without conscience; and is, potentially, an evil, dishonest, and dangerous person.

As a newspaper, it is not our purpose to delve into theology much. This is America and what people choose to believe is up to them. But when an erroneous belief becomes as widespread as some religious notions have, in our time and in our area; and, more importantly, when those religious beliefs begin to be kineticized into unconscionable acts, such as in the Mel Gibson thing, or, for that matter, 9/11 (different religion, same principle); then they become a matter of both social and public danger and we have to take an interest and try to set the record straight.

Jesus was a Jew who, to the best of our knowledge, taught Jewish Talmudic law, and tried to enlighten, and to help other people who could not help themselves. This is Jewish tradition. He did not proclaim himself as a deity; that would have violated Jewish law.

Those who admire the works of Jesus, and who consider themselves to be followers and true Christians would do better not to worship Jesus, as he never intended that, but to try to fashion their lives, as closely as possible, after his. To learn and follow Jewish law (even though they can't formally be Jewish - participation in the Covenant is passed only through heredity); to know of, and try to understand, by way of the Old Testament, and particularly the First Five Books thereof, the One Providence that Jesus sought to serve; to help others when they can; and to humble themselves in the face of Providence. Jewish law forbids proselytizing (trying to convert other people to one's religion); and a "holier than thou" attitude, taking undue pride, and trying to attain stature by way of making a big deal of one's beliefs and acts (if any) toward what one perceives the divine purpose to be (such as speaking of doing "What Providence Wants", which, actually, no person can know; or saying "Providence Will Forgive Me For This"), are the worst forms of taking His name in vain.

Jewish teachings, handed down by the Rabbis, require that a man treat his wife* "as he would a precious jewel". So, if Mel Gibson had tried to be more like Jesus (again, a Jew), rather than just professing to believe in him (and probably also believing that, thereby, he would be forgiven), things might have worked out better for those concerned.
     *and this would include a wife in the biblical sense, as Oksana would have been to Mel

True believers don't talk about their beliefs much, they just follow them.

Men of wisdom know all others solely by their acts; and not what they say, or profess to be.

-- A. Steele, Editor



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Updates - The Steve Samuelson Story
Attorney secured; pleas withdrawn; trial granted

( For the complete initial coverage, which this updates, click here to download our entire issue of 07/12/10 in .pdf.
See "'Third World' Jailing Practices Now in Minnesota", p. 1 of that issue)

Updates: 09/22/12, 08/14/11, 02/22/11, 01/13/11, 01/09/11, 01/06/11, 01/01/11, 11/02/10
 

November 2nd, 2010

Following Northern Herald's coverage of this case, NH Editor Adam Steele took an interest in the injustices which appeared to have been committed, and agreed, in July, 2010, to provide assistance and services to Mr. Samuelson to correct those injustices. In this, a reputedly renowned attorney, John Remington Graham, Esq. was retained for Mr. Samuelson's defense.

On August 31st, 2010, a hearing was convened by Graham, Esq. to take the testimony of Mr. Samuelson's fiancee, Jennifer Bardine; as well as that of Samuelson's daughter, Sarah Lippincott (who had witnessed her mother, Kelli Samuelson, signing the affidavit referenced in the original coverage); and of Public Defender Anne Marcotte, who had encouraged Samuelson's guilty plea. This hearing was the first time the Court had heard the testimony of Miss Bardine, who testified that, contrary to the State's charges, she was never assaulted or abused in any way by Samuelson.

Anne Marcotte testified that she did not consider her (former) representation of Samuelson, on these charges, to constitute a conflict of interest, notwithstanding that Marcotte is on the Board of Directors of Grand Rapids' "Advocates For Family Peace", a women's advocacy organization. Marcotte was initially appointed to represent him, and Samuelson had earlier requested that Marcotte be removed from his case and a different public defender be appointed, but that request had been refused.

After a series of motions by Graham, Esq., and at a hearing originally convened for Samuelson's sentencing, on November 1st, 2010, the Honourable Judge Jon Maturi announced, in a Grand Rapids courtroom packed with friends (including his still-fiancee, Miss Bardine) and relatives of Samuelson, that Samuelson's rights had been violated, and that Maturi was granting, sua sponte, Samuelson's request to withdraw the guilty pleas heretofore entered. By this ruling, Samuelson won the right to trial that he had requested. Samuelson, who has now been held in the Itasca County jail, without bail set, for almost a year, since November 25th, 2009, will remain in custody pending that trial.

Pre-trial conference is now scheduled for November 29th, 2010 at 4 p.m.; with trial scheduled to commence with jury selection starting at 8:30 a.m., November 30th, 2010.

Samuelson faces 2 charges of Domestic Assault (allegedly upon Miss Bardine), and 34 counts of violation of a Domestic Abuse No-Contact Order (DANCO) while Samuelson was held at the jail. That order, barring contact between Samuelson and Bardine, had been put in place by the Court without the request of either party; and both parties tried to have it removed. It is alleged that while Samuelson was held at the Itasca County jail, Bardine left over 100 messages for him to call her to discuss household maintenance urgencies such as how to have their home's furnace fixed (in December, 2010), septic maintenance, etc.

The charges against Samuelson are being prosecuted by the office of John J. Muhar, Itasca Co. Attorney; by Asst. Co. Atty. Todd Webb.

Further Update

January 1, 2011

The jury trial of Steve Samuelson on 34 counts of violation of a no-contact order was held, before Grand Rapids Judge Jon Maturi, 11/30/10. As the initial charges of domestic assault which gave rise to the no-contact order were unprovable, and had been explicitly denied by the alleged victim (Samuelson's fiancee, Jennifer Bardine), the prosecution elected to prosecute only the no-contact order charges at that trial, and the Judge refused to allow the trials to be combined, or to allow the jury to hear any testimony by Miss Bardine that she was never assaulted or abused.

The Whole Truth? With the jury removed from the courtroom Judge Maturi advised defense attorney John Remington Graham as to what questions he may not ask Miss Bardine when she would take the stand, and also advised Miss Bardine of what she may not say.

The December 2009 phone calls which were the subject of the charges regarding the no-contact order were made by Samuelson, from the jail, to advise Bardine on household necessities such as where to get firewood, how to fix the furnace, and maintain the septic, while he was jailed. Bardine was living in Samuelson's home at the time, and had left over 100 messages for Samuelson, on the jail's inmate message line, including messages requesting calls to discuss these necessities. The jury was not allowed to know of these messages from Bardine; and Attorney Graham's closing argument - what he was allowed to tell the jury - was strictly limited by the Judge, who also refused to allow Graham to tell the jury that the charges were felonies, or the amount of prison time they carried.

At the conclusion of trial, December 1st, the jury took a little over an hour to find Samuelson guilty of 33 counts of violation of the no-contact order. The combined maximum prison time that Samuelson may face, for having tried to return his financee's desperate calls, is 5 years per count, or 165 years in prison.

Sentencing is scheduled for January 4th, at 2 p.m.

Further Update

January 6, 2011

On January 4th, Steven Samuelson was sentenced, by Judge Jon Maturi at Grand Rapids, MN, to a term, to be served, of 5 years and 5 days. The sentence was imposed for the "crime" of Samuelson returning, from the jail, his fiancee's desperate phone calls for help. With good behaviour, he would be eligible for release after 3 years, 4 months. He was transported to the St. Cloud prison on the morning of January 6th, 2011. Normally, before transport, inmates are allowed a final one-hour visit with friends and family; but as a final insult, Itasca Co. jail staff denied Samuelson that final visit; so he was not allowed to see his daughter, Sarah Lippincott, his financee, Jennifer Bardine, and an ex-fiancee, Jamie Boos, who remains a friend of Samuelson's, was present at the sentencing hearing, and who also wanted to visit. When these people called the jail to schedule the final visit, they were told that none would be allowed. Samuelson had requested that they bring, to the final visit, Samuelson's own Bible, from his home; but that could not be done.

Further Update

January 9, 2011

The newest legal travesty in the Samuelson case emerged January 8th, when his attorney, John Remington Graham, Esq. reported that the authorities at Minnesota's St. Cloud prison were refusing to let him contact his client, Mr. Samuelson. Graham reported to Northern Herald that he had called the prison telephone number to contact Samuelson regarding his legal case and the pending appeal, and explained that he was Mr. Samuelson's attorney, but prison staff would not let him speak with Samuelson. This action constitutes a further violation of Constitutionally guaranteed due process in impeding necessary attorney-client communications.

Further Update

January 13, 2011

On January 5th, 2011, in the face of the testimony by Miss Bardine that no domestic assault occurred, the State dropped the Domestic Assault charges pending against Samuelson. Samuelson, however, remains imprisoned, at St. Cloud, for violation of the Domestic Assault No-Contact Order (DANCO), notwithstanding that it is now obvious that there was no domestic assault justifying such an order. As aforementioned, the order was not requested by any party, but was put in place by the Court; both Samuelson, and Bardine, had attempted to have it removed, or, if removal was not possible, then at least modified so to allow communication necessary for maintenance, by Bardine, of Samuelson's home, where Bardine lived (e.g. where to get firewood for heat, how to keep the pipes from freezing, furnace repair, septic maintenance, etc.).

On a more positive note, following the publicizing (partially by Northern Herald) of the corruption attached to his office, Itasca County Sheriff Pat Medure, after a multi-term reign, did not seek re-election and was replaced, January 4th, 2011, by the newly-elected Sheriff Victor J. Williams, who appears to be a very conscientious and competent law enforcement officer. Williams had been the Deer River Police Chief for 14 years. Looking at systemic Itasca County corruption overall, it's a partial step, but it's in the right direction. The malfeasance of deputies of the Itasca County Sheriff's Office were a direct factor in Samuelson's plight and the multiple injustices done here. For more information on Sheriff Williams's background, see his interview in NH of 07/12/10
-- A. Steele, Editor

Further Update

February 22, 2011

Samuelson remains incarcerated at the Minnesota State Prison at St. Cloud.

From the prison, Samuelson reported, on February 22nd, that he had been placed in the "hole" for 20 days, apparently as a result of his being forced, by one of the prison gangs, to hold contraband (a box which contained razor blades) for them, and its being discovered while in his possession. He has further reported problems "getting along" with some of the prison population, and his safety at the prison, at this time, is uncertain.

The Public Offender. Samuelson, now short of funds to further pay counsel, and needing to file his Notice of Appeal and Motion for Release Pending Appeal, has applied for representation by the Minnesota Public (appellate) Defender's (hereinafter "Offender's") office, but has been denied representation by that office because 1) the office is shorthanded and doesn't have enough attorneys to handle the need; and 2) The Public Offender's office decided that Samuelson does not qualify for legal assistance because he has too much in "assets". Samuelson's assets consist of an interest in real estate (his home in Nashwauk), and several older vehicles that he has collected over the years. But, at this time, it appears that it may not be possible to reasonably mortgage or sell the property in time to pay counsel (generally an advance retainer is required) before the time to file Notice of Appeal has elapsed (April 4, 2011). Nor is it reasonably anticipated that he would be able to liquidate his vehicles in time to so obtain counsel, and he does not have ready cash to retain said counsel at this time. Nonetheless, he is being denied the assistance of the Minnesota Public Offender. When the time to appeal lapses, the right of appeal is forever lost. And it is not likely that, without the assistance of counsel, Samuelson will be able to bring, from behind the prison walls and without the opportunity and equipment for typing, form preparation, and legal research (which are not being made available to him), the Notice of Appeal on his own behalf.

This is how lower courts in Minnesota do the unconscionable, and get away with it, rubber-stamping the defendants and simply shipping them away without any regard whatsoever for those rights that all Americans are, supposedly, guaranteed under the Constitution. And given this present system, it is no wonder that the U.S. Military is now having trouble finding men willing to take up arms and put their lives on the line to defend it. (The National Guard are never supposed to leave our shores; but military shortages have caused them to be shipped abroad, and left there, many times in recent years. This tells us something. Recent conflicts have not at all been like WW II, where men rushed out to sign up in droves. Things have changed a lot, here at home, since then.) Nothing herein is intended to belittle the proud, dedicated, and heroic work of the fine men who continue to defend our country both here, and abroad. We simply note that it's getting harder and harder to find them. In the instant case, Mr. Samuelson happens to be a Naval veteran.

A quick laugh. Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to have the assistance of counsel for his defence."

Further Update

April 17, 2011

In late March, the Court of Appeals granted a motion, brought by attorney John Remington Graham, Esq., to extend time, until May 4th, for Samuelson to file Notice of Appeal; and Graham, Esq. agreed to undertake said filing.

Funding sought. During trial, Graham Esq. presented a laudable defense and made a suitable record containing many appealable errors by the trial court. Additionally, there have been many Constitutional violations; and the case is very amenable to a meritorious appeal on grounds including, but not limited to, that the statute authorizing the Court to issue, on its own initiative, a DANCO order which was not requested by any party, violates the First, Fourth, and Ninth (zone of privacy - see Griswold v. Connecticut) Amendments; particularly where, as in the instant case, no domestic abuse has been found to have occurred, and both parties wanted or needed the contact. The case also raises questions of the propriety of the operation of Grand Rapids' misnamed "Advocates For Family Peace" and allegations that they attempted to suborn perjury in an earlier proceeding involving Mr. Samuelson.

But the lengthy appeal process, which may end up in federal court, is expensive; and funding, by way of a mortgage on Samuelson's real property is sought to finance the legal expenses.

Any party willing to lend money to Mr. Samuelson for legal expenses, on an 8% note, secured by Samuelson's property (house and 40 acres which is county-appraised at $117,000) north of Nashwauk, in Itasca County, Minnesota, is encouraged to contact this newspaper. This could be an excellent investment opportunity for the right person, as it is fully secured by property with value well in excess of the note, and is offered at a rate which far exceeds bank interest rates. Interested parties may contact this newspaper at 218-759-1162.

Further Update

August 14, 2011

Steven Samuelson remains imprisoned at the Minnesota Prison at Stillwater for the DANCO (no-contact order) violations. An appeal is being prepared by attorney John Remington Graham, Esq.

Although there is now reason to believe that the DANCO statute under which Samuelson was convicted is unconstitutional (See No-Contact (DANCO) Orders Held Unconstitutional, ante), the appeal process will probably require at least nine additional months, perhaps longer, before the matter is decided by the Minnesota Appellate Court. On July 12, 2011, the Minnesota Appellate Court denied a motion, brought by Graham, Esq., for release pending the appeal. Samuelson has been held in jail, and prison, continuously, since November 25th, 2009. His former fiancee, Jennifer Bardine, continues to maintain, as she testified to in Court before Judge Maturi (but was, by Maturi, not allowed to tell the jury) that no domestic abuse ever occurred.

Further Update

September 22, 2012

His Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus having been denied by the federal courts on technical grounds, and his appeal having been denied by the Minnesota Appellate Court, Mr. Samuelson remains incarcerated at the Minnesota state prison at Faribault (inmate# 234139), with expected release date mid-2014, on a sentence of five years and five days, without credit for time served, for 33 counts of violating a no-contact order (DANCO), which order neither Samuelson, nor his then-fiancee, Jennifer Bardine (the person contacted) wanted, but which order was, nonetheless, put in place by Itasca Co. Judge Jon Maturi. Miss Bardine had, many times, tried unsuccessfully to have the order removed, and had, at times, left over 100 messages a day, at the jail, for Samuelson to call her to discuss household exigencies like food, wood for heat, septic problems, etc. When Mr. Samuelson returned her desperate calls, he was charged with violating the no-contact order. The fabricated charges against Mr. Samuelson of Domestic Assault, which gave rise to the DANCO, were dismissed, following Miss Bardine's testimony, in court, that the alleged assault, for which deputies arrested Mr. Samuelson, never occurred; leading to the conclusion that it was a "frame" - something contrived and fabricated by Itasca Co. deputies to justify their arresting Mr. Samuelson on November 25th, 2009. (See the Affidavit of Jennifer Bardine (a .pdf file)).

Mr. Samuelson's former attorney, John Remington Graham, was fired in 2011 for alleged malpractice as concerns the case, and has been replaced by attorney Jennifer Chaplinski, of St. Cloud. Mr. Graham subsequently filed an action in Itasca County to try to take Mr. Samuelson's home and 40 acres, near Nashwauk. That matter is presently pending, as Mr. Samuelson tries to defend against it, pro se, from the prison.

Mr. Samuelson has indicated that he intends to file an action for Declaratory Judgement, before the United States District Court, finding the Minnesota no-contact order (DANCO) statute, under which he was convicted, to be an unconstitutional invasion of First and Ninth (freedom of intimate association) Amendment rights, where no one involved ever asked for the no contact order. That federal action, expected to be filed this fall, may win Samuelson his freedom.

Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice. We are reporters, and not attorneys, so we are only allowed to give the illegal kind. -- Ed.



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An Open Letter To President Obama
Re: The Samuelson Matter and Right To Speedy Trial

May 29, 2010

Greetings, Mr. President:

It has been a while since we've corresponded. It has been really busy here. I understand that you've been doing a few things there in Washington, too. Kudos on the credit card thing - that really needed to be done so people would stop getting ripped off that much. And the health plan shows promise too; we'll have to see how it works out, but it's a good first step.

In the course of news reporting, something has come to light here that should be of federal executive interest. In short, the right, of accused persons, to a speedy trial, as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, simply isn't being observed by Minnesota state courts, and it is even contradicted by Minnesota state judicial policy.

This is an important right, because ANYONE CAN, by an unscrupulous district attorney, BE CHARGED WITH MOST ANYTHING, whether or not the evidence supports the charge. When the right to speedy trial, together with the right to reasonable bail, is maintained, the false charges can be quickly disposed of, with minimal inconvenience to the accused. It is reasonable to presume that the Founding Fathers anticipated the ease of false charging and the damage that it can bring, when they wrote the Sixth Amendment into the Constitution as a safeguard against malevolent government officials, and those sometimes harbouring ulterior motives.

The injustices of a representative case, when the right to speedy trial is NOT honoured, can be seen, entitled "The Steve Samuelson Files", at http://northernherald.finalhost.net/chosen.html

This case, where a man has been held by authorities for almost eight months, for an alleged "domestic assault" where the alleged VICTIM HAS SAID from the start that NO CRIME OCCURRED (and will testify to same at trial) is not unique in Minnesota, it is routine. This is particularly so here in Northern Minnesota, where government tends to be a bit more "clannish" and a great deal of power is vested in the local sheriff or county attorney who may be highly corrupt (see "Volcano of Corruption Erupts in Itasca Co. Sheriff's Office", Northern Herald of 10/26/09, at northernherald.com)

If the local authorities have a bone to pick with someone, a charge can be fabricated, and the person may be held at length, without bail, until he is either 1) exonerated at trial after many months in jail, or (often) he is coerced by the lengthy, continued, and indefinite incarceration, "pending trial", to plead guilty to a crime that he did not commit. Extracting a false confession by these means is tantamount to what we saw at Guantanamo. It may (or may not) be appropriate when we are dealing with foreign terrorists; but it is definitely inappropriate when we are dealing with domestic U.S. citizens.

The Samuelson case also is of note, because, as the above-referenced article ("The Steve Samuelson Files", ante) explains, during Samuelson's incarceration, the court has also cut him off from contact with his closest contact "on the outside". This has resulted in his inability to have effective counsel, and damage to his real and personal property. Again, this case is not unique. It is common with those who have fallen out of favour with certain local authorities, and causes them to lose substantial portions of their lives for no good reason.

HOW THIS HAPPENS: As far as the right to a speedy trial goes, Minnesota is an "opt-in", rather than an "opt-out" state. In other words, in some states, the right to a speedy trial is presumed, unless it is waived. In Minnesota, conversely, by the rules of practice and actual administration of the courts, a defendant is not entitled to a speedy trial unless he overtly demands one, either in writing, or in open court. Needless to say, most defendants don't know that they have to do this. And if they are represented by a public defender, they're usually not told this.

Once the demand is made, the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure (Sec. 11.10) provide that the accused must, generally, be tried within 120 days (on felony accusations) or be released on nonmonetary conditions. But there is another catch:

Under Minnesota legal procedure, the demand for a speedy trial (even if the defendant knows to make it) cannot be made until after a plea is entered. A plea cannot, generally, be entered until an hearing known as "omnibus" (this is the time that certain constitutional rights may be asserted) is held. Omnibus may not be held for many months after the arrest (about 4 months is common), pending which the accused remains jailed. A defendant, wanting a speedy trial, may waive omnibus, but if he does that, he also waives the issues (civil rights) that would be raised at omnibus. In other words, he gives up certain constitutional rights in order to assert his right to a speedy trial. I don't think this is what the framers of our U.S. Constitution had in mind.

The end result is that, here in Minnesota, a person whom certain corrupt authorities simply want to take out of circulation for awhile, can easily be framed and held in jail for many months, sometimes over a year, before the trial, where the charges are shown to be groundless, occurs. During this time while he is in jail, his property is often plundered, looted, and laid to waste (again, see "Samuelson", ante).

Now, in the old days, where the state court system did not uphold the 6th Amendment right, one had recourse directly to the federal courts, which would. The federal District Court would, on application, require that the person be released, on reasonable bail, pending trial by the state court. This procedure was known as federal "Habeas Corpus". But a few years ago (1996, if memory serves), this recourse to the federal courts was gutted by an amendment requiring that before one could approach the federal courts on Habeas Corpus, they had to, first, exhaust all state remedies. This was so, even where the defendant knows that attempting state relief will be futile (such as, in Minnesota, where the state rules are written to "go around" the 6th Amendment right). And the procedure of bringing habeas corpus through the local (i.e. state) district court, and then if denied (which it would be), appealing to the (state) court of appeals, and then taking certiorari on that denial to the state Supreme Court; before being able to go to the federal District Court, is a lengthy and expensive one. In dealing with such things as a speedy trial, the time required for this procedure defeats the purpose of the Writ of Habeas Corpus sought, and defeats the 6th Amendment right to a speedy trial. Further, the cost of these interim procedures is high enough that if a defendant could afford them, he probably wouldn't be in jail in the first place (see post).

So, if you have a moment, it would be great if the U.S. Dept. of Justice could look into the possibility of enforcement of the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial, here in Minnesota. Certainly, any further federal funding of the Minnesota state judicial systems, and its courts, should be predicated upon compliance with this fundamental civil right; and further investigation, and acts, by the U.S. Executive Branch, to ensure compliance, may be indicated. Also, it might not be a bad idea to see if an Executive Act can restore the right of Habeas Corpus, in a practically exercisable manner, before the federal courts.

I realize that, politically, this is a hard-sell. People, generally, don't really care too much about the rights of people behind bars, because we don't really see ourselves as ever being those people. Politically, we just don't think we have a dog in that fight. But here at the Northern Herald, we have seen, in reporting, that this can happen, without warning, to ordinary people who are not, and never thought of themselves as, "criminals". It really can happen to anyone, so it should be important to everyone. Unfortunately, up here, it usually happens to people of lower socio-economic means - people who don't have any way of fighting it in the courts. As you know, from American history, it is precisely these people that, more than any other, the Bill of Rights was meant to protect. These are the people, like Steve Samuelson, who are sitting in jail in defiance of their rights as Americans.

Nothing herein should be regarded as legal advice or relied upon for any legal purpose. I am not an attorney; I make an honest living.

Onward!
A. Steele, Editor
Northern Herald newspaper
Bemidji, Minnesota



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Killing Cats Is Important To The City of Bemidji

May 25th, 2010

BEMIDJI -- Notwithstanding overwhelming opposition to a new dog and cat ordinance, expressed by residents in public hearings at the second reading of the proposed ordinance, during April and early May; the Bemidji City Council, on May 17th, 2010, passed the new law on a 4-2 vote with one councilman absent.

Among other things, the ordinance prohibits cats from being let outside, except on leash or otherwise restrained; and although they must now be kept inside, all cats must be licensed, with an annual license fee. Cats found "at large" (outside, unrestrained) are subject to impoundment, impoundment fees, and execution.

Also, under the new ordinance, all "neighbourhood cats", even if they are being fed and cared for by someone, will be rounded up and executed.

Further, the ordinance establishes a limit of not more than three cats, and not more than three dogs (but not to exceed an overall limit of four animals, total) per household.

Voting for the cat-killer ordinance were:
Councilmen Ron Johnson (now a candidate for Bemidji Mayor),
Jerry Downs (also an agent for Farmer's Insurance Group, Bemidji), and
Greg Negard; and
Mayor Richard Lehmann (now a Republican candidate for State Rep.).

Voting against this increased regulation were: Councilwoman Barbara Meuers, and Councilman Kevin Waldhausen. Councilman Roger Hellquist was absent.

The ordinance is scheduled to take effect June 20th, 2010.

A petition is already being circulated by a group of Bemidji residents known as Going To Bat for Dogs and Cats!  to, under the referendum provision of the Bemidji Charter, suspend the new pet ordinance before it takes effect and call for a citywide referendum vote on it. Persons interested in signing the petition may contact Going To Bat for Dogs and Cats! at 218-759-1162.



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CONSUMER CORNER
THINGS THAT JUST DON'T WORK

March 6, 2010

MAXELL VCR Cassettes
The 8-hour blank video cassette (T-160, UPC# 25125 21301) released under the Maxell brand, when used in a standard VCR, "skips" frequently (as much as every 15-30 seconds) greatly reducing the fidelity and intelligibility of the recording. The fact that Maxell has released this magnetic media product without necessary quality control warrants particular caution when buying any Maxell product, and if any other brand is available, it may be preferable. Given that Maxell doesn't mind dumping inferior and defective product on the consumer market, if one is considering using the Maxell brand, it may be just as well to simply buy a bag of steer manure, and push that into your electronic device. The results may be comparable, as that is the quality that Maxell seems to be selling these days.

ZINWELL DTV CONVERTER BOX
Most of these were sold during the Great DTV Farce of 2008 and 2009, which was a design by Congress and the President to take a little more money from average working people and give it to the multi-millionaires of the electronics, TV manufacturing and sales, and cable and dish industries; and, for many, bring an end to one of America's last traditionally free entertainments. They say you can steal a little from a lot of people as long as you don't steal too much from any one.

What a joke. Next thing, they'll be taking your money to give to bankers and insurance companies.
Why we keep electing these politicians is beyond us. What is needed is an executive order from the President declining to enforce the DTV Act, and allowing stations to return to analog if they so choose. If it's not broke, don't fix it.

Anyway, one of the products that made a lot of money as people got ripped-off for it in this Farce was the Zinwell ZAT-950A converter box. This was one of very few boxes that had a timer (albeit a female canine to try to use) for VCR recording. True to form, Washington approved this box for coupon use (and thus opened the cash flood gates for its manufacturer) even though it was only warranted to work for 90 days. Did the FCC think we'd only have digital TV for 90 days? In our testing, the sample box failed after a little more than one year. It developed a condition where, when it was turned off (necessary, for some daily, in order to use the analog pass-through function), and then on again, it lost the audio on one of the digital stations. To get the audio back, it is necessary to have the Box fully rescan all channels. Of course, when one does this, all timer settings are lost. You have to reenter them, if you remember them. And you have to do this drill every time the Box is turned off, and on again.

What a piece of junk (our opinion), from ZINWELL aka ZINNETusa, and brought to you by the FCC, Congress, and the President.

A QUICK FIX.

This problem with the Zinwell converter box manifests itself in losing the audio in the last channel in its channel list.

To fix it,

1) rescan; then
2) access the channel list (from the on-screen "menu") and, using the remote, move a channel that you don't watch much to that bottom of list position. Now, when the box is turned off, then on, only the audio of that least used channel will be lost.
3) Remember to reset your timer settings.
4) Curiously, after a period of time - usually several weeks or months - the Zinwell box will, on its own, rearrange the channels back to their original position, so this process must be repeated then.



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Expand Your Word Power
Northern Herald's Continuing Dictionary

February 7, 2010

Hypochristians: A funny and odd cult of humans who believe that it's perfectly fine to [make love] over people, if done for the sake of their religion, which, primarily, attempts to teach them not to [make love] over other people.



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CONSUMER CORNER
Beyer's Auto Center, Inc. - Road Charlatans In Hoffman, Minn.

February 6, 2010

Motorists traveling through the West Central Minnesota area near U.S. 59 at I-94, and near the towns of Barrett, Elbow Lake, Alexandria, and Ashby, are cautioned to avoid the fraudsters and/or inept mechanics (our opinion) who operate under the name of Beyer's Auto Center at Hoffman, Minn., and, having one of very few tow services in the area, apparently prey on motorists disabled on U.S. 59 and other roads in the region.

Beyer's Auto Center, Inc. is operated by the Beyerses - a father and son - and is a NAPA Auto Service facility and NAPA parts dealer..

In the reported incident, on Oct. 26th, 2009, a car lost it's brakes, due to a burst front brake hose, at a stop near the junction of U.S. 59 at I-94. Beyer's was called for a tow to their shop for repairs. Beyer's towed the car to their facility, and in the yard outside the shop, Mr. Beyer, Sr. performed a precursory "inspection", walking around the car (on the ground) and looking under it, without bothering to put the car on a hoist and light the lines and hoses, as normally would be done by a competent mechanic. Had this been done, the burst hose would have been very obvious. Beyers told the driver to pump the brakes, and when there was no "pedal", told him that he needed a new master cylinder. Beyers had not bothered to bleed the master cylinder, another routine procedure; a competent mechanic would have known that the master cylinder would have gotten air in it from the broken hose, and would have to be bled in order to function.

The driver told Beyers, Sr. that, on the road, the brakes did pump back up right after the failure, but then went to the floor (as they would have done as fluid oozed out of the broken hose), but Beyers simply replied that that's the way the master cylinder goes out.

The customer authorized the recommended repairs. The new master cylinder could be ordered, to be received and installed the next day. The motorist, who lived about 150 miles distant, made arrangements to pick up the car the following day when repairs were completed.

The following afternoon, the customer called Beyer's to ascertain that the car was ready to go, and was told that the master cylinder was installed, but the car also needed a brake hose, and that would take another day to get. The customer, now suspecting that something was amiss, told Beyer's that he was taking the car that day, and asked if the broken hose could be clamped off, so there would be, at least, some brakes for the return trip. At first, Beyer's refused to do this, but later, called back and said that they'd applied a small Vise-Grips to the hose and bled the system and there was some brake. Beyer's said that there would be an extra $40 charge for that. All in all, the charges were $70 for the tow, $127.64 as parts, labor, & misc., for the master cylinder, and $40 for the temporary hose clamping, totaling $237.64

When the driver got in the car, however, he found the brakes almost to the floor - about the same condition as before the repairs. He also observed that the radiator, which had held water before the incident, was now leaking and empty. He bought a can of stop-leak from the Beyer's NAPA store, installed it, and took the car.

Back home, the motorist brought the car to his regular mechanic there, who ascertained that the reason there were no brakes was that although Beyer's had claimed to have bled the system along with the emergency hose clamping (and charged for same), they had not done so. There was again air in the master cylinder. In about 15 minutes, the mechanic bled the new master cylinder, and the brakes returned to about 50% of functionality. He also properly diagnosed the problem as being a burst brake hose and replaced it, which returned the brakes to full function.

Following this, the customer asked his mechanic to bench test the old master cylinder that Beyer's had removed. The mechanic reported that it was holding pressure and was fully functional - there was nothing wrong with it. In fact, due to an interval before picking it up from the mechanic, it had held pressure, on the mechanic's bench, for about a month.

When the consumer contacted Beyer's, reported these findings, and demanded a refund, Mr. Beyer (Sr.), initially, negotiated a compromise settlement for $130; but then failed to send it. Recontacted regarding this, Beyer (Jr.) then told the customer that they were still deciding whether to pay it. The consumer has indicated that he will file a conciliation court suit for a full refund, as well as court costs and punitive damages for fraud (by way of Beyer's saying that, in making the temporary clamping repairs, they'd bled the system, and charging for same, when, in fact, that had not been done).

In instances such as these, although compensation is sometimes available (see HOW TO SUE THE BASTARDS, in The Library, Vol. 7 at northernherald.com) a lot of time and trouble can be saved by simply not dealing with disreputable merchants, and Northern Herald will continue to let readers know who they are, right here, and in Consumer Corner in our print edition.

If one breaks down in the area of U.S. 59 at I-94, they should be aware that there are other nearby auto service facilities at Barrett, Ashby (the CENEX), and Elbow Lake. A different towing service is available at Elbow Lake, and the CENEX auto repair shop, at Ashby, though not having a tow truck, can pull a car in off the road using a truck and chain.



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Market Update
All financial information presented herein is solely the opinion of the author, Adam Steele, Editor of Northern Herald, who is not a Registered Financial Advisor.

February 5th, 2010

Although there may be some minor short-term upward fluctuations as the Dow jostles with support at the 10,000 line, The Chosen should anticipate further strong setbacks in the Dow. Should it decline into the low 9000s, or farther, the resultant strengthening of the dollar may be expected to bring down the price of gold, once again making it a good buy. In an again crippled market, gold may then be the investment of choice, as well as being a hedge against inflation, and another weakening of the dollar. But it's important to wait for the right price, to buy gold. Look for 800s or lower.



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Rep. Atkins Comes To Bemidji
But Bemidjians' Apathy Dominates Legislators' Listening Session

January 31st, 2010

BEMIDJI -- If a hard-working legislator arises in a sleepy Northern Minnesota town, and no one bothers to come and hear him, does he make a sound?

Well, in the case of State Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL-So. St. Paul), he certainly did. Atkins is Chairman of the House Commerce and Labor Committee, and also sits on the Energy Finance and Policy Division, and Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division, committees.

As part of a legislative outreach to take public input to guide the new legislative session, Atkins came the 225 miles to Bemidji, January 28th, 2010, to convene the public session, co-hosted by Rep. John Persell (DFL-4A), at the Bemidji Public Library conference room. Regarding this legislative outreach to Greater Minnesota, Persell, in the meeting notice, explained, "We are a long way from St. Paul, which makes it difficult for my constituents [to] travel to the Capitol for meetings."

But, although amidst a lot of public talk and criticism over state budget and business issues, and although the listening session was well publicized a few days before the event, only 5 Bemidjians bothered to show up for it. Of those 5, two were with organizations which had interests in possible funding this session, and one was a lead figure in the local Republican Party; the average Bemidjian just didn't bother to be there at this opportunity to have direct input to one of the key legislative figures, just before the 2010 session.

The selective attendance though, didn't slow down the well-organized and enthusiastic Rep. Atkins. He immediately launched into an informative hour-and-a-half session, telling those there, as well as the press, the key issues that will come before the legislature this session; and taking whatever public opinion was offered.

Although initially slated primarily for business issues, Atkins used the extra time to tell of many diverse topics facing the legislature and asked the attendees for their thoughts, if any, about a wide spectrum of issues ranging from bonding (capital projects - land acquisition and building) and taxes, to health insurance, how the economy has affected Northern Minnesota, the nuclear power ban, the Headwaters Science Center, state park funding, what to do about the Vikings stadium, and whether cell phone use in cars should be restricted.

Always a complaint. John Carlson, a sometimes spokesman for the local Republican Party and head of their candidate search committee, opened the meeting by complaining that area Republicans had not been adequately notified of the session. This, despite that the session was well-publicized in the Bemidji Pioneer of Jan. 24th; that Carlson obviously knew of it, so to be there, and that he could have asked the other Republicans to come if he had wanted to.



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CONSUMER CORNER
YOU FIND IT ALL AT THE MART OF WAL
Wal-Mart Introduces New Cell Phone
Straight Talk® offers more minutes, better coverage, for less.

December 17th, 2009

In a little-advertised move, and in collaboration with Tracfone Wireless, Inc., Wal-Mart has now substantially lowered the cost of quality, broad-range, cell phone service. Entering a market previously dominated by higher priced, or lesser-range carriers, as they have done in so many other product lines and services, Wal-Mart's expansion into this line is expected to bring high quality service to the average person for a reasonable cost, and it's available at Wal-Mart Stores now.

The product is the Straight Talk® cell phone and prepaid cell service. Straight Talk® is operated by Tracfone, using the broad-coverage Verizon network; and is marketed exclusively thorough Wal-Mart. A map of the coverage area is generally available at the Wal-Mart store.

Straight Talk® offers two monthly plans: Up to 1000 minutes for $30, or unlimited minutes for $45. Both plans also include texting and data transfer, and free directory assistance.

As with so much else that they have done, this move is representative of how Wal-Mart has empowered the average shopper, giving him or her a voice in the previously closed manufacturers' marketplace; and resulting in better products at more reasonable prices.
It's American as Apple Pie!



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CONSUMER CORNER
Has Google's Time Come And Gone?
New MSN Search Engine, "Bing", Appears More Thorough, More Current

December 17th, 2009

Can't find it on Google™? You might want to try Bing™ (http://www.bing.com) - for that matter, you may want to try Bing first. Bing is MSN's new search engine which looks a lot like Google, but in Northern Herald's testing, seemed more effective in finding what was being sought. In one test, using the same, very specific, search criteria, Google returned only one result; Bing returned three. In another search, for new, recently posted info, on a recently updated page, Google didn't appear to have it; Bing did.

And besides, it brings to mind the fine old days of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. Google doesn't do that.



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Bemidji Criminals At It Again
Joan Goranson, BSEA Treasurer, Suspected of Embezzlement

December 13th, 2009

Bemidji has been known as the Crime and Corruption Capital of the Midwest. Saloon shootings are becoming rarer (though, still, not unheard of) here, and the trend, now, has been toward more sophisticated governmental and white-collar crime. So when someone puts a Bemidjian in a position of trust and responsibility, well, they sometimes get what one would expect.

A letter, dated November 11, 2009, which purports to be from the Minnesota School Employees Association (MSEA - the labour union comprised of paraprofessionals, secretaries, food service workers, bus drivers, custodians, and technicians who work in the schools), and specifically from their Executive Director, Christina Clark; and directed to members of the Bemidji School Employees Association (BSEA), discloses:

" . . . MSEA became aware . . . that BSEA treasurer Joan Goranson might have been withdrawing money for her own personal expenses . . . . When she realized that MSEA was looking into this possibility, [on Sept. 24th, 2009] Ms. [sic] Goranson came forward and informed me that she had in fact used BSEA funds for her own personal expenses. Ms. [sic] Goranson submitted her resignation as BSEA treasurer."

The letter continues, " . . . on September 28, 2009, Ms. [sic] Goranson appeared before the BSEA board and again stated that she had used BSEA funds for her own personal expenses. She apologized and said she was fully responsible for her actions. She also promised to repay the funds."

The letter continues that, "the next day", Goranson submitted a check in the amount of $5,000 and has promised to repay the rest of the money, which has been agreed to amount to $1,000.

The letter states that BSEA Secretary Karen Tank will serve as Secretary/Treasurer for the remainder of Goranson's term; and discloses more stringent cash management policies upon which the BSEA Executive Board has agreed to put into effect.

The (Bemidji) Pioneer of Dec. 9th, 2009 reported that, as of that writing, no criminal charges had been filed in the case.

Northern Herald attempted to contact Mrs. Goranson for her statement, but she has not yet returned the call.



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Special Notice To Educators re: our 10/26/09 issue

November 22, 2009

With the current (10/26/09) issue, this notice is made available to all teachers and other educators participating in the Northern Herald Schools Program in order to avoid potentially awkward situations. Whenever an issue of Northern Herald contains some material that might not be suitable for school students, this type of notice is provided when we deliver the school copies, so the teacher can remove the inappropriate parts of the issue before allowing students to see it:

SPECIAL NOTICE TO EDUCATORS
using Northern Herald in their classes

The current issue (10/26/09) of Northern Herald contains certain Biblical references and a mention of “Providence”; so that portion of the paper may be unsuitable for use in the public schools. These references may be easily found on page 6 at the end of the “Batchelder Charges” piece. Accordingly, to avoid conflict with the way certain judges interpret our Constitution, and keep our schools god-free as the courts say we must, educators may wish to strike out these offending Bible references, with a bold Sharpie® or similar marker, before exposing students to the paper.

Also, as it involves common decency and wholesome ways to live, the entire editorial part of that article may meet with some parental criticism, particularly by certain single parents who happen to be women of ill repute trying to raise the next generation of women of ill repute; so, to avoid catching some flak, some educators may want to simply tear out that portion, which is italicized on the page.

Conversely, the lead stories (pg. 1, cols. 1 and 2), which describe abhorrent and perverse acts committed by the Itasca Co. Sheriff’s staff and former staff upon various minor boys (in one instance the deputy’s 13-year old stepson) contain no such offending references. God and The Bible have no part in these stories; and so they are perfectly wholesome and OK for consumption by public school students. Some might even find the conduct reported to broach upon “diversity”, which, these days, is very politically correct to promote in the schools.



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An Editorial on the Bailouts - An Open Letter To Collin Peterson, and President Obama
Collin Peterson is the U.S. Congressman from Minnesota's 7th District - http://collinpeterson.house.gov/zipauth.htm

May 4th, 2009

This addresses President Obama's statement, in February, that the bailouts are ultimately for the benefit of consumers, not the corrupt bank execs, and not the fattened up auto execs, dropping from their private jets wafted by golden parachutes; and the following could be important steps in the President's continuing de-Bushification (which is going very well, from what we've seen so far) of U.S. domestic policy and economics:

1. Any further bank support should be advanced only on the conditions that:

a) the institution (bank) receiving said support:

i) reduce all customers' credit card balances to what would be owed applying to all charges thereon the interest rate which was agreed to and in effect at the time the purchases (charged on the card) were made.

Rationale: The notion of buying something, on a card, at one interest rate, and then having the credit card company arbitrarily raise the rate that will be charged on the resultant balance is absurd. Technically, the term, in the small print, may have been agreed to (if the customer read and understood it), but it is what attorneys call an "unconscionable" term. It is as if I stood outside a bordello, and offered to loan working guys passing by a $20 bill, with an agreement that next payday, they'd pay me back $80 (mind you that, in Bemidji, the amount loaned could be somewhat less);

and

ii) In all instances of foreclosure on residential owner-occupied housing, the institution provide the homeowner (i.e. the bank's borrower) the right of first-refusal to repurchase the home at its present market value (this is the most the bank could get for it at foreclosure auction anyway), on a 30 year standard fixed rate mortgage at present market interest rates.

Rationale: This would stop a lot of foreclosures, and keep people in their homes, without any greater loss to the banks than they would otherwise sustain; and this would also tend to prevent acceleration of the current housing market slump, by preventing augmentation of the glut of foreclosed homes now on the market.

As you no doubt know, there is presently a major public outcry over the bank bailouts. If bank aid were conditioned on these things that benefit the distressed American taxpayers, and not just the distressed banks, the public view of it might be a little more positive.

and

B. The passage of a national usury rate for interstate commerce.

Rationale: This may go back before your time, but for many years banks and credit companies were governed by state usury rates. Still, they did OK. A few years ago, it was decided that those state laws didn't apply to interstate commerce. That's when rates skyrocketed, and the institutions were given lassiz-faire to increase those rates at will. So now, a national usury rate is needed to protect the consumer in those transactions that fall through the "interstate commerce" crack in the state laws designed to protect those consumers.

2. Any further support for any automaker should be conditioned on that automaker's immediate introduction of the plug-in hybrid car that the industry has been promising for years but just can't seem to do. The Chinese (BYD Motors) were able to do it last January; U.S. auto makers should be able to do it too. Otherwise, if they can't produce a car, at a
reasonable cost, that Americans want to buy, then it's just as well that GM and the others went by the wayside.

The American firm of Tesla Motors has produced an electric car, and, despite its high cost, they are backordered for some time - selling more than Tesla can make. IF GM, Ford, and Chrysler can't make the grade, it's time they moved over and let a firm that stays in business without subsidy by producing cars that people want to buy, like Tesla, take the forefront.
                  -- Adam Steele, C. P. A., and Editor, Northern Herald

To this letter, we add that there would be wisdom in permanent consumer protection legislation establishing that, proactively, consumer interest rates be limited to the rate agreed to at the time the debt was incurred (when the goods were purchased, money was advanced, or balance was transferred); and that "fees" be limited to a reasonable percentage of any delinquency on which they are charged. The assessment of a $29 fee on a $20 late payment amounts to usurious interest.  -- A. Steele



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DON'T LET YOUR MONKEY LEAVE THE HOUSE WITHOUT IT
U OF M Researchers Find Compound That Resists
AIDS Transmission in Monkeys

March 7th, 2009

A team of researchers at the University of Minnesota (U of M), led by Dr. Pat Schlievert and Dr. Ashley Haase, has reported that their testing has shown that a common food product* has impeded the transmission of the AIDS virus in monkeys.

These new findings come as a boon to people, worldwide, who own pet monkeys, particularly outdoor ones which tend to be promiscuous; and may be good news for other pet owners, as it may later be found to also work on dogs, cats, and other animals.

Certain other experimental topical preparations have also recently claimed to block the virus, but to a lesser degree.

The Schlievert-Hasse study used the compound, glycerol monolaurate (which is already approved by the FDA, commercially available, and is a common ingredient in foods and cosmetics), mixed with KY®Warming Gel.

The U of M has filed for a patent, and a preparation (a gel, which is applied in the female area) containing glycerol monolaurate is expected to soon become available to the public.

It is not known whether the researchers will eventually come to Bemidji to see if it works on humans; but if they do, any Bemidji bar would make a good test site, and the Bemidji State University campus, with its co-ed dorms, would also serve.

* Ladies: The food product involved is NOT a cucumber, carrot, or any such thing. Do not try these, they will not work.

Editor's Note: Contrary to secular thinking, and what is taught in the schools, we did not come from monkeys; although, looking around at people here in Northern Minnesota, it's easy to see how that notion got started.



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Solving The Budget Crisis - An Open Letter To The Minn. Legislature

The following was provided to Minn State Reps Howes and Persell, Rory Koch (House Republican Caucus), and the Governor.

Greetings, sirs:

It is my pleasure to now solve the budget crisis.

The following solutions are provided as a public service, without charge, and are worth every penny of it.

It was a pleasure speaking with you all yesterday [Feb 20th, 2009 at BSU], on the budget matter.

There were some suggestions, dealing with the budget crisis, that time did not permit to be brought up. For what good it might do, those are addressed here.

It must be considered that we are in a depression. A depression is fun, because prices come down. For a depression to best be enjoyed, we must be very thrifty. So let's save some money, make the most of this depression, and Party Like It's 1999!

Areas:

1. Specific oversight of agency grants - get more bang for the buck.
2. Put a hold on the Bemidji Events Center and similar unneeded projects.
3. Fair taxation for all - Cut back the Working Family Credit.
4. Reduce court expense by reducing or eliminating grants and loans to agencies that produce baseless cases.
5. LGA

1. Specific oversight of agency grants - get more bang for the buck.

Les Duly, former BSU President, used to speak of "Doing more with Les"

And that's what we're talking about - what we need to be talking about - here.

Some people in this community have been doing so much for so long with so little, that they're now qualified to do the impossible - with nothing.

But that's not where our state money is going - to back those very cost conscientious, and efficient public organizations that give people more bang for the buck. A lot of state money is being, instead, wasted on what should be small organizations that have mired themselves in bureaucracy and needless spending.

A picture of Bemidji's "Ours to Serve House of Hospitality" can be seen [in NH of 10/26/09, available at northernherald.com]. [The picture is in] . . . an article there about the House of Hospitality, which recently received an earmarked $1 million grant from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. The article also discusses Bemidji's People's Church, which actually houses most of the homeless here. Although they do the job much more efficiently, they receive no state help.

The House of Hospitality used to be a homeless shelter - still claims to be, but it actually turns away most of the homeless that come there, regardless of space. Director Rebecca Hoffman has turned it into a "family-only" shelter. That excludes most of the itinerant homeless that it was created, years ago, to house.

There was a picture in the Bemidji Pioneer, August 9th, 2008, of the homeless awareness volunteers who came through here last August. The picture was taken in front of the People's Church, which is where they stayed in Bemidji. What The Pioneer didn't tell you was that they first tried to stay at the House of Hospitality, as Bemidji's official homeless shelter; but were turned away, like so many others are. Fortunately, they found their way to the People's Church, which actually does the job of housing most of the homeless in Bemidji. They never turn anyone away.

In [NH of 10/26/09, available at northernherald.com; in the article "A Facade of Hospitality"], there is a picture of the People's Church. You can see that the bunks are crowding the pew area. This is because while the House of Hospitality was recently awarded a $1 million state grant, the City of Bemidji is doing everything it can to shut down the People's Church; and the City forced them to move the bunks from a sensible bedroom dorm area, to the chapel where people come to pray.

And the People's Church was going to put in a free parish health services facility. Redid a room for it, had medical professionals - doctors and nurses, lined up to volunteer; so people who needed medical services could get them without cost to the State, or anyone else. But the City and STATE HEALTH DEPT. put the keebosh on that real quick. I guess we'd rather they went to the emergency room where we'd have to pay medical assistance for it.

Have we lost our minds?

Finances: Per their 990, in 2007, the House of Hospitality raised about $187,000; much of it by public money. Their 2007 expenses were $147,663; of which $102,526 was employee expense  (including the Director, Mrs. Hoffman). Hoffman has eight employees, to run this little 2-family shelter house.

The People's Church houses more, and is staffed primarily by volunteers.

Where would our State support go farther to serve more people? The People's Church or "Ours To Serve" House of Hospitality? "Ours to Serve"? What a joke!

As mentioned, House of Hospitality (HOH) received a $1 million grant for a new building (total cost is expected to be $1.75 million). People's Church also wants to build, but they are fund-raising to do it for $150,000 - a far cry from the $1.75 million HOH wants to spend.

Who reviews these state grants that are awarded all over the state? Do they ever look into what applicants are actually doing, in the flesh, and not just award millions of dollars to organizations with bloated payrolls and little to offer, that just put a nice song and dance on paper?

It's just a million dollars here in Bemidji, but these types of grants are made all over the state. To paraphrase the late Sen. Everett Dirksen, you take a few million here, a few million there, before long, you're talking about real money.

So, particularly in these money crunching times, this is an area that deserves the legislature's attention: Is this public grant money really being put to the most worthwhile causes that efficiently serve the public? And if not, what can be done to better the review and granting process?

Are we getting the most bang for the State buck?

2. Put a hold on the Bemidji Events Center and similar unneeded projects.

This is a depression - money is tight. So why are we spending $90 million to build an events center that about half of Bemidjians, at least, don't want?

$90 million - for an events center for a city of 12,000 people. That's $7,500 per person. Not per household - but $7,500 for every man, woman, and child in Bemidji.

Have we lost our minds?

That's what, with the state legislature's blessing, and funding assistance, the City of Bemidji is doing. The City could not do this without the legislative OK.

This, and similar unneeded projects should be stopped for now; maybe until such time as the State of Minnesota wins the Powerball lottery.

3. Fair taxation for all - Cut back the Working Family Credit.

At the public hearing . . . [2/20/09], . . . a lot of people spoke in favour of raising taxes. If this is going to be done, it should be done not on the high tax rate that most Minnesotans already pay, but where a lot of people, inequitably, now pay no tax - many even get money back where none was withheld. This is welfare for the middle class, wrapped in a tax return. It is known (misnamed) as the "Working Family Credit". It has little to do with families - it benefits many single mothers with incomes up to $38,600. For people who actually are families (married, filing joint return), they can qualify with income up to $41,600. The determining factor to get this refundable credit is whether they have kids. Again, welfare for the middle class. There is no reason that people with kids shouldn't pay their fair share of tax like anyone else. Tax is a zero-sum game. Any subsidy comes at a greater expense of the taxpayers who fall outside of the subsidized group. There is no reason why the State should be subsidizing having kids - it is not in the State's interest. Kids are expensive; those expenses are the sole responsibility of the people who made those children. There is no reason other people, including singles and seniors, should be forced to pay other people's child rearing expenses.

So if taxes are to be increased (actually, just equalized a little) this a good place to start. People with kids already get up to $5,000, or more, benefit on their federal returns (Earned Income Credit, Child Tax Credit, Exemptions, Child Care Credit); reduction or elimination of the misnamed Working Family Credit would provide substantial budget savings. People with kids need to pay their fair share too.

4. Reduce court expense by reducing or eliminating grants and loans to agencies that produce baseless cases.

Also at the public hearing, there were many people from the court system [including Judge Benshoof] who stressed the high cost of running the courts. This cost is not generated, primarily, by people with little problems that the courts are there (and should be) to solve. Conciliation courts, for example, are necessary (although a Plaintiff with a consumer matter who brings a case before Judge Benshoof, against an established Bemidji merchant, is likely to be screwed, anyway).

A lot of the expense is generated by "public" agencies and organizations who bring very expensive baseless actions, often on perjured documents. Tax money shouldn't be used to suborn perjury. Some of the organizations involved include the Beltrami County women's advocacy organizations, and Itasca County's "Advocates for Family Peace" (also a grant recipient), as well as various county social services agencies.

A good example of how much expense these agencies can generate is an Itasca County CHIPS case we reported a few years ago. It involved a Mr. Graber, his estranged (very strange, really) ex-fiancee, and their two kids. The . . . [three] . . . reports of the bringing of this case, and it's eventual dismissal, can be found in our Library, Vol. 10, at http://northernherald.finalhost.net/libv10.txt They're under the headlines DEER RIVER COUPLE BATTLES FOR PARENTAL RIGHTS (issue of 10/25/04), GRABER HEARING GAINS LITTLE GROUND (issue of 12/20/04), and GRABER CASE DISMISSED (issue of 03/07/05).

The case should be of interest to the State, because, though (like so many others, statewide) a baseless attempt by the woman to gain leverage in visitation and custody matters, which was eventually dismissed; it resulted in phenomenal public cost. The costs included at least two attorneys (each CHILD required appointment of a separate attorney, to avoid "conflict of interest"), as well as guardians ad litem, a psychologist, publicly paid county social services agencies, counselors and social workers, and, of course, the judge, court reporter and other court staff. We're talking cost here; never mind that the State system denied the man (Graber) visitation with his kids, without cause, for many months while this was pending. Neither child had ever complained of their father.

In the end [see http://northernherald.finalhost.net/libv10.txt "Graber Case Dismissed" in issue of 03/07/05], the . . . attorney [for one of the children] told the court that . . . [the child] . . . had said that . . . [she was] . . . never afraid of their father, and . . .  [that she] . . . wanted unsupervised visitation with him resumed.

[Case worker Amy Bestland also submitted a report that "Neither child expressed discomfort or fear in the company of either parent," and recommended that the case be closed, as did the psychologist.]

After all that money.

Again, have we lost our minds?

Hopefully, the power of these agencies to bring baseless claims, and their funding to do so, can be fixed legislatively. With these expensive, needless, and wasteful things removed from the court system, court personnel might be able to get by on the appropriations given them.

5. LGA

Finally, it must be remembered that Local Government Aid is money that city councils use for their pet projects that the voters would never approve. Accordingly, LGA should be cut to the bone. If a project is worthwhile, the City can (and should) put it up to the taxpaying public at referendum.

Here in Bemidji, one of the council's most recent projects was to ruin our best city park (Diamond Point), and spend lots of money doing it. A city's main function is to provide sewer, water and essential services. If city councils would concentrate on this, and otherwise, here in Bemidji, devote their remaining time to simply assuring that we have the right proportion of "po" to "dunk", we'd all be better off.

Enjoy the Depression;

Party like it's 1999!

-- Onward!
Adam Steele,
An Official Minnesota Taxpayer,
also C.P.A., and Editor, Northern Herald newspaper


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THE DUMBING DOWN OF AMERICA

December 7th 2008

Would it be possible for food manufacturers to quietly slip something into food that seems to make it taste better, so as to cause people to buy and eat a lot of it; and which at the same time kills neural (as well as retinal (eye)) cells? If that happened, we would expect to see, within a course of years, an increase in the incidence of neural disorders such as Bi-Polar,  A. D. D., and Alzheimer's which would exceed the rates of population growth and aging. And as has happened.

Now, A.D.D. and Bi-Polar1 are stylish these days, which may account for some of their recent popularity, but probably not all of it.

For The Chosen, and other people concerned about poison being legally put into their food, the largely ignored report, by Dr. George E. Shambaugh, Jr., MD, regarding the effects of MSG in food is a must read.

The report, entitled "DANGER! NOT JUST TASTE ENHANCERS"can be found at
http://projectavalon.net/forum/showthread.php?t=7274
or
http://eriksahusilawane.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/bahaya-msg-monosodium-glutamate/

Now, there are a lot of quacks out there that would get people all riled up over nothing. So it is good to know that Dr. Shambaugh is a well-established and well-respected doctor, researcher, and Professor (Emeritus), among his colleagues and his students at Northwestern University, where he taught for many years. No wacko here. But his well-documented findings went against the interests of the big-moneyed corporate food processing industry, so you may not have heard of them before now.

Reading Dr. Shambaugh's paper, one arrives at the inevitable conclusion that America has been duped into, for two generations, eating chemicals that have resulted in mass neural and retinal degeneration. This would tend to explain the results of the last few elections.

And to think that the tobacco companies had to pay billions for selling something the risks of which people knew full well about.

On the Fifth Day, Providence created just about everything necessary, both nutritionally and medicinally, to sustain and healthily nourish that which He would create on the Sixth Day. People were so designed to eat (and smoke, if they want to) what Providence thusly provided. These days, we can create things that we can eat too, but we weren't designed to eat those things. And then, you take a guy that can create the heavens and the earth in six days, well, He probably wouldn't have left out anything important; and it is hard to imagine that we can improve on His work. 5700 or so years have shown that He gave us all of the things that are good and healthy for us to eat. The Chosen will do themselves well by ensuring, as much as possible, that the foods they eat and feed their families contain only those things given by Providence.

MSG2 is only one of many food additives which are known to have significant detrimental side effects, but are nonetheless allowed in food in this country. And, even if one reads the ingredients label, it may not tell all, as these things are often called by other names, such as "natural flavourings", hydrolyzed vegetable protein, mono and diglycerides, "spices", etc. A good rule of thumb is that if one doesn't understand exactly what something in the ingredients list is, the product should not be trusted. It would be well if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and USDA rendered a better assurance of consumer protection, but really, these days, they provide almost none, particularly against additives, and genetically-altered foods. Those agencies, after all, are run by people appointed by officials who were elected by people who had eaten a lot of MSG; so it is up to the consumers to protect themselves and their families by making sure that what they put on the table is wholesome.

Hopefully, at some time, instruction on food additives will become a part of the high schools' domestic arts (i.e. cooking and sewing) programs which, importantly, prepare young ladies to become good and capable wives and homemakers, and hence, make for a better and stronger America. It's certainly more important, and appropriate, than the classes now in the schools that teach them how to make love, which they'd find out at the appropriate time, on their honeymoon night, anyway. But don't look for this any time soon. The school administrators have, mostly, eaten a lot of MSG.

Could MSG have anything to do with the kids' low test scores?

FOOTNOTES:
1 This disorder used to be known as "manic-depressive schizophrenia" but has become much more in vogue since they renamed it "Bi-Polar". It just sounds like something you'd want to have now. People who have it should, to avoid aggravating the condition, avoid flying around with Arctic Terns, and other bi-polar species.

2 Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, actually, is a naturally-occurring vegetable substance. That is why it can be disguised on food labels as "natural flavourings" or "hydrolyzed vegetable protein". But it is found in nature (like, in seaweed, where it was first discovered) in minute quantities, not the concentrations sometimes found in today's processed foods; also, as its use is very prevalent in the processed foods (including snack foods) industry, the consumer may eat a number of different products containing it in a day, resulting in a relatively large aggregate intake.



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THE ECONOMY - Where It's Going And What The Chosen Can Do To Recover Recent Losses, And Prosper


Author's note: If you're reading this at all, you're probably one of The Chosen (for these purposes you don't even have to be Jewish, but it wouldn't hurt if you are);

but if you happen to, instead, be a Nazi, or a "friend of Dick Morton", or other non-chosen who know who they are, well, you can still read it, but this won't work for you; and if you try to use it, what's left of your wealth will turn to ashes and dust, and you will be visited upon by warts.

So, if you're not sure if this is meant for you, you might try it, and if you find that you lose everything and your body becomes covered with warts, well, then you'll know.            -- A. Steele



November 18th, 2008

All right, the economy is going through a correction, and your 401(k) or personal portfolio isn't looking as good as it was a few months ago. Here are some things you can do to speed recovery.

Understanding What Is Happening. The news analysts (like on TV) are great at coming up with detailed explanations, after the fact, for what has happened. Hindsight is 20-20. But actually, their explanations have only comic value. The impending recession could have been seen two years ago. It was foreseen and mentioned, including the stock market effect, in your Editor's campaign material in both 2006 and 2008.

A good example of the funny news analysis is when the broadcasters told us that crude oil was down because after the September market crash people were using less.

Bull Corn! People are driving about as much as they did before, and they're still driving pickups and SUVs to take two kids to the grocery store; if anything, with gas prices temporarily down, they're driving a little more - taking those weekend trips that they'd put off. And they're still heating their homes this fall to about the same temperature. Don't those broadcasters even think about what they're saying ?!!?

The reason oil is down is plain and simple. The oil barons, whether in Saudi Arabia or our own domestic oil companies, didn't want people worrying about gas prices when they went to the polls. So, just as they did in 2006, they flooded the market so to start dropping the oil price just before the September primaries, bringing the price at the pumps to about the lowest level on election day (at Bemidji, on Election Day 2006: $2.09 a gallon; Election Day 2008: $2.16). That's why oil is down. Now the elections are over, so OPEC is having meetings on "stabilizing" the price. And, as in 2006, they may be expected to string it out a bit (yes, it is still going down a little) to avoid being too obvious.

If gas & oil follows the 2006 pattern, it won't rise all at once; it will ease upward a little through the winter, then much more in the spring (about March - May), reaching high prices by Memorial Day when people start their summer driving. The price may even exceed the prices of the previous summer. OPEC and the oil companies have to recoup, in the summer driving frenzy, the profit reduction they sustained by keeping prices down over the election season.

The Market - It's All About Oil. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is comprised of many (30) companies. Some are garden-variety manufacturing, retail, technology, financial and similar issues, and some are in energy (i.e. the oil companies). When the non-oil "industrials" are flat, or their daily fluctuations offset each other (a lot of time), the oil companies drive the Dow. To see an example of this, look at a one year chart of Conoco Phillips, next to a one year chart of the Dow. (Conoco is not part of the Dow average, but is exemplary because the energy issues move together, so the same things that affect Exxon Mobil and Chevron, which are part of the Dow, also affect Conoco Phillips.) As you can see, the two charts are almost like a mirror image, with all of the peaks and valleys, and even small detail, replicated. Except that the Conoco chart is more bumpy. That's because, percentagewise, the swings in the oil company stocks, when gas went up, and when it went down, are much larger than the overall swings in the Dow, which is diluted by the other "industrials" which comprise the Dow average. As an example, on November 13, 2008, Conoco went up 5.01 points, or 11.25%, the Dow closed up 552.59 points, or 6.67% Again, the day trading charts are almost mirror images. One might mistakenly guess that Conoco is moving with the Dow. But the larger magnitude of Conoco's moves tells otherwise. Right now, the energy issues, due to their inherent volatility (BIG daily moves, compared to other stocks), are driving the Dow.

In short, in the current market, when Crude Oil is up, the energy stocks, and the Dow, will usually be up, and vice versa. On November 13th, 2008, for instance (market figures above), Dec. Crude Oil settled up by $2.08 a barrel. The percentage change in the oil stocks may magnify that of the oil commodity itself. That's because the change in the price of oil has two effects on the oil company. It, of course, increases profits in the refining chain leading from the well to the gas pump; but mostly, because oil companies' foundation assets are their ownership rights to proven reserves of oil in the ground, a small increase in oil, by the barrel, significantly raises the net asset value of the oil company, upon which the stock value is based. Additionally, there are psychological factors, unrelated to earnings and profitability, that move stocks and move the Market.

In summary, Although there are 30 components of the Dow, the oil issues (i.e. Exxon Mobil, and Chevron) are presently the most volatile members (and highly so), so when the other issues, in the aggregate, are flat and/or offsetting, the oil issues, with their sharp swings, and which move together on the price of oil, move the Dow; though to a lesser degree, percentagewise, than the oil stocks themselves move. This movement of the Dow, which many regard as a “barometer” of the market’s health, can then have a (generally) lesser psychological effect that, for a time, continues and magnifies the market effect, which extends to the oil companies. A chart of the recent Dow, thusly, looks like a dampened version of the charts of the oil companies themselves, over the same period.

Understanding The Crash. The media told you it was the sub-prime mortgages; but again, really, it's all about oil.

Oils and Non-Oils. To better understand what happened, let's then, think of the Dow not as a single average, but as two separate components: 1) the oil-based issues (including not necessarily just Exxon and Chevron, but also other companies that are either linked to, or invested in, oil interests), we'll collectively call these the "Oils"; and 2) all of the other Dow stocks, including retail sector (e.g. Home Depot and Wal-Mart*), manufacturing & technology (e.g. Microsoft and Merck), entertainment (e.g. Walt Disney), banking, and others. We'll collectively call these the "Non-Oils".

* Wal-Mart, by the way, held it's own pretty well in the recent market foray. Although down a little since Oct. 1st, over the past year, it has performed far better than the market, generally, and is one of relatively few stocks that is trading substantially higher (about 17%) now, than at this time last year.

In fall, 2007, the economy was booming. The Non-Oils were doing well, and, following the high gas prices of summer 2007, the Oils were reporting record profits, sending their stocks to record highs. Given this combined effect of both sectors, the Dow hit it's all time high, a little over 14,000.

But the high oil prices, while initially accelerating the Dow, have a secondary effect that, in the end, would be more profound. Like when oil went up in the late 70s, producing the recession of the early 80s; over time, the higher energy prices, and uncertainty as to future increases, caused business to delay investment and expansion. Many, in fact, downsized and laid off workers. American business was between a rock and a hard place. Due to the price of heating oil, diesel fuel, and gasoline, it had higher operating and transportation costs. But, at the same time, businesses were faced with a consuming public that had less disposable income to spend on their products. The results were reductions, layoffs, business failures, and unemployment. Even major manufacturers like General Motors (a Dow component) were in trouble.

For the consumer, with less disposable income, now, anyway, it meant inflation - having to pay more at the grocery store and everywhere else. Less (if any) was left for discretionary spending, so for many, their standard of living dropped. And it was becoming harder to make the mortgage payment, which, due to ARMs, was, for many, going up.

By July, 2008, the business effect on the Non-Oils was becoming profound. The Dow sank to 11,000; actually, the market crash would have happened right there and then, were it not for the Oils. They were having record earnings on record crude (up to $143 a barrel) and record gasoline prices (over $4 a gallon, in places). The oil stocks were soaring. That's what kept the Dow buoyed up, last summer, in the face of the Non-Oils' losses. This buoyed-up Dow, for many people looking at the economy, masked what was actually happening in the Non-Oil business sector.

Then September came, and the decision, as two years before, to start reducing gas prices for the election. OPEC began flooding the market with crude and the oil companies reduced prices at the pump. That's all it took. With the value of their reserves diminished, plus the secondary, psychological, effect; the Oils plummeted, and by early October, with crude oil still falling fast, removed all support from the Dow, prompting the sell-off that swept the market. The Dow quickly sank below 9000, and then, in late October, close to the election, with oil and gasoline prices near their bottom, hit its year's low (as of then) of 7882.51

The September banking & investment firm failures were a sideshow. They induced a temporary panic and momentary sell off, but were a symptom of the depressed economy, not the cause. The market continued to drop well after they were resolved. September’s major banking, insurance, and investment company failures were brought about, in part, perhaps, by having made bad loans (some of which may have been gone bad due to the effect, upon households, of a year and a half of high gasoline and heating oil prices, as well as the layoffs and inflation, also resultant of energy prices, discussed earlier); but were largely brought about by the effects (ante) of higher energy prices upon the Non-Oils, the diminished market for their products, their having less need for the services of the financial sector, and the resultant lower value of their shares, many of which were likely held by the institutions that went under. Additionally, some of the insurance companies and banks that went under may have been invested in oil-based securities, which, sinking now, would have exacerbated (not a dirty word) the effect. Once again, it’s all about oil.

So, What Is One To Do?
The election is over. What do think oil and gas prices are going to do now?

Do you think you'll pay less at the pump next Memorial Day than now?

Well, history says no. If this mirrors the 2006 election effect, crude oil, and gasoline, prices will begin to rise very gradually over the winter, and then hike big-time between March and the end of May, 2009. But we don't know exactly when the hike will happen, so if one is going to make some money on this, it is well to be positioned as early as possible. As you recall, when oil prices are down, the oil stocks will have reacted (dropped) more than the market generally. This has produced some real bargains in oil company stocks that may not last. Investment now will result in one's being well-poised for the (probable) coming oil hikes. This is something to tell your 401(k) plan administrator, so to maybe make back the money you lost, and then some, by next fall. Although the Dow will likely be up some next year, the oil stocks may be anticipated to recover much faster than the market generally. More details on one of the best (our opinion) investments, post, after the next section.

Where the market is going. The market generally, is still very unstable. Maybe more so now than in October. And it is moving wildly on relatively low volume. Investors are being cautious and watchful, and are generally reluctant to change their position (whether it’s presently in, or out of, the market). This results in a relatively quiet trading floor where a momentary small surge (either buying or selling), based upon the day’s news, (or, for that matter, the weather) can produce major price changes. The single-day range of the Dow, on November 13th, 2008 was 911 points, one of the biggest one-day price swings in history. As long as the Dow is swinging over 400 points on an almost daily basis, the market, generally, is something to be stayed away from by most prudent investors. (Some day-traders can play, and even wait for and favour, these periods of volatility; but they are prohibitively speculative for most, and are not advised - we like almost sure things, that don’t have to be micro-managed, better; no stock investment is totally “for sure”, mind you, but if you play the table only where and when the odds are on your side, in the long-run, you’ll probably win.)

Also, the Non-Oils (and most U.S. businesses generally) are still in trouble from the effects of a year and a half of high energy prices, poor sales, and uncertainty as to where the energy price is going. This is going to keep most of the Non-Oil sector of the Dow (and the broader Market) down for some time. We look for the Dow to settle into the mid 7000s, before it is buoyed up again by the rising Oils. Needless to say, the Non-Oils, right now, generally, shouldn't be looked to as a profit-making investment, for the short to moderate term (like, maybe for a year or two, or until the energy price shows long-term stability), although a few of them, such as Wal-Mart, have shown noteworthy stability and overall good performance, even when confronted by a very adverse market.

Particularly, Citigroup (Citibank) should be absolutely avoided (our opinion). A look at their last quarter earnings (negative) and long-term stock performance curve shows that they could be a very likely candidate for the next major bank failure. If Citigroup went under, we're not sure that the FDIC could bail their depositors out. And that could be a major economic calamity.

In the Oils, however, although the possibility of small further downside movements should be anticipated in the very short-term, they will probably move up significantly over the next year as crude oil rises, producing substantial potential for capital gains over the current prices.

We like cheap gas, but if it's going to go up anyway, you may as well have a piece of the action to offset your losses, and more than cover future energy costs. One could, of course, invest directly in the Crude Oil commodity; but, unless you happen to be Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, the wild swings, whipsaws, and margin calls of the futures (commodities) market would wipe out the average investor before they made a profit. For most, that’s not the way to go. Because the oil company stocks react to the oil commodity, and the stock trading is more versatile (more volume, which makes for easier limit order fills and greater liquidity - particularly on very long-term options; a position can be taken and maintained without risk of margin call, etc.), and more comfortable and familiar for most investors; this is a safer, more conservative way to go that, properly managed, offers about the same potential for gain. No, we don’t like the oil companies, but we also don’t cut off our nose to spite our face. Investing in oil stock for a little while (when it goes up, you’ll probably sell it, anyway) isn’t really siding with the enemy, it’s just making a little money off of them, maybe to recoup previous losses.

So, of the various oil stocks (which tend to move together), which, then, offers the best profit potential? Well, Standard & Poor's recently rated Conoco Phillips a five-star "strong buy". This may be why: Among the major U.S. oil companies, the smaller Conoco Phillips has, dollar for dollar, the strongest oil asset reserve. According to Bloomberg (10/21/08), Conoco owns more oil in the ground (proven reserves), per dollar of share value, than any other major U.S. oil company. The ratio is about $8 of stock value per barrel of oil (or, put differently, a currently priced $50 share represents about 6 barrels of oil) (for comparison, Chevron came in second, at about $12.84 of stock value per barrel). This gives the Conoco stock a very sound underlayment. Not at all a candidate for bankruptcy. Conoco Phillips, though, was affected more (possibly because of it's large oil holdings) by the recent oil downturn than some of the other oil stocks. In short, right now, it's a bargain. Conoco's severe downturn, on the price of crude, gives it, also, one of the greatest upward potentials for gain (percentagewise) when oil again rises. Conoco traded last summer (when gas was up) as high as 95.96, but, despite having just turned in a record Third Quarter 2008 earnings report (up 41% over last year), and due to market and, particularly, crude oil market conditions, hit its year's low of 42.15 on November 13th, 2008, and closed that day at 49.55 - still quite the bargain.

To illustrate, think of the various oil stocks as a line of helium-filled balloons. Now, they’re all presently held to the earth by the same sandbags (the low crude oil price). But, due to it’s underlying asset security, and earnings and profitability, Conoco can be said to have a somewhat larger volume of helium (in a bigger balloon, of course) than the others. When the bags are released, they’ll all go up. But (again, in our opinion) Conoco will go a little faster and a little higher.

What The Smart Money Is Doing. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway recently increased its investment in Conoco Phillips by 24.3 million shares to bring its total Conoco holdings to almost 84 million shares. According to StreetInsider.com, Conoco is now among Buffett’s eight largest stock investments, and the only oil company among them. Now, we’re not saying that Mr. Buffett’s lead is infallible, but he doesn’t usually do real stupid things in the market. We'd guess that he’s planning to make some money here.

The ratio of Conoco's stock price movement to that of gas at the pump is roughly about $1 of stock movement to 4 cents at the pump. Conservatively, we look for it to be trading, at least, in the 70s (equates to gas at about $2.90 a gallon) by summer 2009.

Long positions. Buying Conoco Phillips shares outright has an income advantage. In addition to the potential for capital gain, it should not be overlooked that it pays a dividend which amounts to, at the Nov. 13th, 2008 closing price, 3.79% annually; somewhat more than the bank, or a lot of stocks, will pay, these days. Again, for 401(k)s or other retirement plans, this is not too bad a rate of return, given the current money market.

Additionally, an old rule of thumb, when evaluating stocks, was to look for those that had a price/earnings (P/E) ratio of 6 or less. In the recent market, with P/Es as high as 150 or more, this rule has been, of course, mostly discarded as impossible. But due to it's low price, Conoco Phillips now has a P/E that has been, appropriately, called "ridiculous" (in a very good way). It's P/E is presently 4.06, well below the old 6.00 benchmark, on earnings of $12.22 per share!

Other options - the options market. People familiar with, and comfortable with, trading stock options may find some real opportunity here for moderate-term capital gain. (For newcomers to this game, we may discuss options basics and strategies in a future print issue of Northern Herald, if we can find someone to sponsor the column.) As most know, the leveraging effect of options often produces a better percentage gain, with limited risk. However, with options, depending upon how they are positioned and managed, and market movement, the investor runs a greater risk of losing his entire investment than if he just bought the stock long. For this reason, options are only for those who fully understand them and know exactly what they are doing.

If one chooses to go this route, because the major oil move may not come 'til late spring, one would want to select  long-term calls far enough out (like, for instance, calls expiring January, 2010) so as to have substantial time value remaining (exit strategy) by early summer 2009, should the desired move not occur by then.

For the sophisticated investor, a vertical bull spread on the calls over a short range near the money, further limits the risk, allows maximum leveraging, and maximum profit potential, even on a relatively small move of the underlying security. Additionally, because one is actually on both sides of the market, for the moderate-term capital gain potential, this strategy cushions any short-term move and saves hair follicles when the market goes against you on day-fluctuations (which can, now, be large - 10% or more in a day - particularly in oil stocks). But if you don’t know what the first sentence of this paragraph means, or have to have your broker explain it, you shouldn’t do this - just buy the long shares, then, and you’ll probably (our opinion) do OK, and get dividends, besides!

All financial information presented herein is solely the opinion of the author, Adam Steele, Editor of Northern Herald, who is a Certified Public Accountant, but is not a Certified Financial Planner nor a Certified Financial Advisor.



Late Trading Notes Update (strictly opinion)

The following  is solely the opinion of the author, Adam Steele, Editor of Northern Herald, who is a Certified Public Accountant, but is not a Certified Financial Planner nor a Certified Financial Advisor. Opinions are like coffeemakers; everybody has one.

November 25th, 2008

The Dow has now reached lows well within the 7000s, as anticipated, and Citigroup has sent up its "white flag"; and like other banking concerns, appears to looking toward government support, maybe the largest measure of same so far.

The recent lows prompted the high volume two-day bargain-hunting rally that we've seen Friday and Monday, bringing it to 8,443.39 at close Monday, and said by some to be the largest 2-day gain since 1987 (this has not been independently corroborated). On Monday, Nov. 24th, however, although there was high upward volume at the start of the day, by the end of trading the rally appeared to be losing steam. As a result, the Market is likely to be very uncertain and erratic now and for the next day or two; caution is advised. Those who plan on selling may want to do it early in the Nov. 25th trading day; those buying may well see better prices later in the day. The Market is still highly volatile, and it is very likely that the Dow will return to the 7000s and trade in and about that range for an extended time, so, for buyers, they may well get another shot at bargain-basement prices.



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PLAYING TO WIN -How to Trade The Market,
and avoid the biggest common mistakes regular people make

All financial information presented herein is solely the opinion of the author, Adam Steele, Editor of Northern Herald, who is a Certified Public Accountant, but is not a Certified Financial Planner nor a Certified Financial Advisor.

January 28, 2009

Buy stocks like you buy tomatoes. Most people are conscientious shoppers when they're at the grocery store. But when they call their broker, it's something else again. If they apply the same common sense to buying stock as buying tomatoes, they usually come out OK.

Mistake 1: Thinking that a stock bought will go up. Don't think that just because you buy the stock, for some reason, it will go up from there. Yes, it's a silly notion, but a lot of people unconsciously do this. For every investment, have sound reasons why it should move in your direction (whether up or down), and how far you expect it to go (your "target") and when you expect it to get there. And in evaluating the investment, don't ignore factors that would tend to push it the other way. Make an informed decision to invest after weighing the pros and cons of any issue. And, very importantly, analyze the chart of the last 3 months of trading in that stock (and it also helps to look at the charts over shorter and longer terms - some of the Internet search engines' finance sections (e.g. Yahoo, Google) have those charts readily available with a click), establish what the current trading range is, and buy near the bottom of that range, preferably when it's still moving down (to avoid time crunches & pressure, and the possibility of missing the market; also, on calls (we'll maybe discuss these in a future print issue of NH), the premiums will be depressed at that point). In selling, or taking short positions, sell on an upslope near the top of the then current trading range.

Mistake 2: Sailing by the wind. In sailing, novices sometimes try to sail relative to the wind. If the wind stays behind them, they think they're on course. This is wholly wrong. The wind changes. So does the market. In lake sailing, one sights a fixed location, and keeps it in line with the bow, to get there. The bow may bob around a little in gusts, but the pilot ensures that it stays, basically, on course, relative to the target - not the momentary wind. Similarly, in the market, before entering, the investment should be assessed, and a "fixed location" - that is, where the price may be reasonably expected to be at a certain future time (the term of your investment - that is, when you expect to sell), determined. No investment should be made until this has been done, and, as the daily gusts of the market blow the price this way and that, it is this target that should be kept in sight. It should be reasonably determined, periodically, whether the investment is still basically on course for that target. If not, the fundamental reason for the investment no longer exists, and a non-panic strategy of exiting should be considered. Regardless of where the issue is, it will have a trading range - some daily up and down fluctuation.  Preferably an exit should be formulated to occur when the issue is high in its (then) trading range, even though that trading range may be well below the target, or where you bought the stock.

Although some stocks may sometimes go up, and up, and up without retracement, this is not common and one should resist the temptation to buy into a stock that has just had a strong up move, even on high volume. It will probably be near the top of its trading range, then, and the likelihood is that it will go down from there. If the stock has potential, determine the current trading range and wait 'til it's near the bottom of it to enter. If tomatoes spiked to $4 a pound, even if you thought they were going to go higher, would you be buying a lot of them then? Or would you be looking for some other veggie to put in your salad for awhile?

• Mistake 3: Putting all of one's eggs in one basket. We're not talking here about diversification. We're talking about being fully invested one one side of the market - either long or short. If tomatoes were $2 a pound, and you thought that was a good price, would you spend all of your grocery money on them right there and then, or would you keep a few bucks in your wallet, in case there's another good buy around, or in case tomatoes were even lower the next day. Your portfolio is like your grocery cart and your wallet. If your grocery cart is full, and after checkout, there's nothing in your wallet, you can't take advantage of another deal that comes along, no matter how good it is. And if your milk goes sour, well, that's it. You are only on the long (buy) side of the market.

Still many people keep all of their investment cash invested most of the time. A better, safer, strategy that will better adapt to the market winds that blow, particularly in today's volatile market, is to usually maintain a cash position for part of your portfolio. In other words, if one has $50,000 to invest, no matter how good the deal seems, only use $25,000 for the buy-in. Why? Well, here's the strategy: having 1/2 of your portfolio in cash (which is usually earning interest) puts you on both sides of the market, rather than just on one (the long) side. If, after your buy-in, in short-term day-to-day fluctuation, your stock goes up, you can take your profit on it, and your other $25,000 is safe (cash doesn't change value - much - in the short-term). However, if it goes down, but you still think it's a good buy in the moderate to long term, you are in a position, now, to get a better deal on it using the $25,000, or part thereof, that you kept in cash to buy more shares at the lower price. This gives you a lower average cost on your shares, and, mathematically, increases your probability of gain if the stock goes back up. The strategy is known as "averaging down". Although this strategy (halfing-in; keeping 1/2 your cash in reserve) wouldn't make as much if the stock went straight up right after you first bought it, this happens rarely - one seldom gets in at the absolute bottom; so this strategy often will maximize the probability of overall profit, and minimal losses, in usual markets.

Similarly, if an investment seems to be going sour, is near the bottom of its trading range, and one is worried that it may tank, but is uncertain about whether it's really a good time to get out; consider liquidating only half of the stock, converting it to portfolio cash. Again, this puts you on both sides of the market. If it continues down, and so, becomes a good deal (like when the truck had a few too many tomatoes on it for today's demand, and those veggies won't keep - the price goes down, but not for long), you can average down - buy back in there, and then, on a short-term uptick, maybe sell then and reduce your loss; conversely, if the stock goes up after your half-sale, you can then liquidate the other half; taking your profit (or minimizing your loss). Either way, by being on both sides of the market, you're prepared to better your position whichever way it goes. This is especially good strategy in volatile markets.

You can't control which way the market will go. That's always a gamble. But if you maintain some liquidity (cash)  in your portfolio, what you control is how much you bet, and when. This is enough to put the odds in your favour. Consider a card-counter in Vegas (these guys do so well, the casinos throw them out). He can't control which cards will come up, all he controls is how much he bets, and when. And that's enough to put the odds in his favour. If he bets his whole roll, though, he can't then "double-down". Being unable to do that reduces his odds of winning, so he doesn't do that. And if he were to bet it all and lose, he can't recover - he'd have to walk away from the table. That's how people lose money at blackjack, and in the stock market. In the market, keeping some chips in your pile (i.e. off the table play area) betters your probability of eventual gain.

Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. Remember that history is the most sound indicator of what will happen under reasonably similar market conditions. Although it is not wholly an inferential measure, and somewhat new market conditions do evolve (although many are actually old conditions, with the details changed a little) what has happened to stocks (and sometimes, the whole market) in times of volatility; or when interest rates have gone up, or down; or taxes have gone up, or down; or at times of little change; are usually a pretty good indicator of what will happen in the future.

We have recently seen a major downturn of the entire market; there was one of those in '87, too (that, like the current phenomenon, was actually a "correction"); but the then market stabilized and went on to new heights in a strong, steady, uptrend. Within a relatively short time, about 3 years, investors had fully regained their lost ground; and their investments then saw new highs far surpassing their pre-'87 peaks. There was also a recession in the late 70s and early 80s. But that too, turned around. And when it did, the people who wisely and prudently invested then, when the market was down, made good money.

Don't forget your IRA or other retirement plan. When the market stabilizes (not quite yet - and it may be well to wait for the Fed's next interest rate announcement, under the new Obama administration - that could sharply affect the Dow, as well as bonds and bond funds) there will be some deals to be had. And at depressed prices, some stocks are paying dividend yields that are much better than one usually gets as interest. But a lot of people are short of the cash, to get these deals, right now. They may want to consider a self-directed IRA that lets the owner invest retirement assets in the market. Most stock brokers offer self-directed IRA accounts to which money in regular IRAs can be moved. For more info on setting up one, and what investments are allowable (most), a stock broker should be insulted.



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MARKET UPDATE - It's Buying Time

All financial information presented herein is solely the opinion of the author, Adam Steele, Editor of Northern Herald, who is a Certified Public Accountant, but is not a Certified Financial Planner nor a Certified Financial Advisor, nor a Registered Investment Advisor, nor a stock broker. This is not a solicitation to buy or sell any shares or securities.

February 24, 2009

People, particularly investors, often wring their hands when the market is down sharply. But prudent investors know that's not how to look at it. Now, if Macy's had, the night before, hung out a big sign that said CLEARANCE - 50% OFF and then, this morning, opened its doors, one wouldn't wring their hands - they'd more likely be ecstatic and run to be among the first in line for the bargains. Monday's market close was that big sign. Tuesday morning's opening bell was like Macy's opening it's doors with that big sign up. And the sale, we expect, may last for a few days; still, The Chosen who want the best bargains won't tarry too much. The market has reached a low point in the trading range where it will likely settle (we forecasted settlement in the 7000s four months ago - see THE ECONOMY, above). It probably won't get any better than this. Although there will be other, later, buying opportunities, they may not be quite as sweet. For the best and richest deal, The Chosen will do well to position themselves right now (in keeping with prudent trading rules - see PLAYING TO WIN, above) for the market upturn and recovery. The full recovery will likely take three years, but that doesn't matter if one is making money hand over fist all along the way. Some roller-coastering of the Dow should also be expected, particularly in the short-term, and particularly if Bank of America has problems. But if one is in now, at what we perceive to be the ground floor, that won't matter that much either.

There are many bargains on the market now. We continue to expect great things from ConocoPhillips, as an investment. As of Monday, Feb. 23rd, Deutsche Bank joined other analysts in upgrading it's rating of Conoco (source: forbes.com), acknowledging that the company (ConocoPhillips) was well-leveraged to benefit from the (expected, per Deutsche Bank) coming summer upturn in oil prices. (In English: It has to do with Conoco's vast proven reserves, also as stated here, last November, in THE ECONOMY, above). And for those who get in at the current low stock price, they can lock in a generous current dividend (with the stock at $39.25, at close 2/24/09, it amounts to an annual yield of about 4.79%); much better than what most banks are paying. Of course, there is no guarantee that that dividend will continue; but even with their shares way down, Conoco officials recently expressed disfavour with the prospect of reducing (as many other firms have) the dividends paid to shareholders, and instead cut expenses in order to keep paying the same dividend. In our opinion, this reflects a sound management perspective. On paper, Conoco also shows what might be perceived as a red flag by their not having a P/E ratio, due to negative earnings on their last quarterly. But this must be taken in light of the fact that they just did a one-time write off of about $34 billion in noncash balance sheet assets, mostly goodwill that was being carried on the books. Obviously, this accounting adjustment, which, technically, produced a negative bottom line, did not affect cash flow and earnings from operations (i.e. real money things), which were otherwise positive. The company had turned in a record setting profit on their immediately previous (3rd quarter '08) quarterly, with earnings per share (EPS) at a whopping $11 and change (about 25% of the then share price); and with refinery revenues what they are now, we expect ConocoPhillips to turn in a very respectable 1st quarter '09 report, with positive EPS. This, combined with the likely upturn in crude prices this summer (which would appreciate Conoco's oil reserves), the underlying company security and assets, and the high dividend yield, make the current bargain-basement price of ConocoPhillips shares, in our opinion, a prime investment opportunity for both current income (i.e. the dividends) and moderate-term capital gain, with likely profitability in a much shorter time and greater magnitude than the overall market recovery, generally, would provide. It may be expected that the price of the ConocoPhillips shares could well languish, for a time, in its current low trading range (though probably not as low as it is now), beginning its substantial upward move by early to mid summer, following release of its 1st quarter '09 reports, and the anticipated rise in crude oil prices.

For those who are comfortable with options, there are some opportunities there too.

Be healthy, prosperous, and happy.    -- A. Steele, Editor



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Consumer Corner updates
 

Localnet.com "Losing" Customers' Email
Problems, also, with "BasicISP" and "Copper.net"

April 29th, 2009
updated May 3rd, 2009

Once an up and coming ISP, Northern Herald now recommends that localnet.com be avoided if possible. This ISP has recently had two server jam episodes within two months, where customers' emails have been severely delayed. In the first instance, customers' incoming emails (the ones they were receiving) were delayed up to several days. In the second, outgoing emails that have been sent (by Localnet customers) were delayed, and not reaching recipients. On inquiry during that jam, Localnet techs would not estimate when the sent emails would actually be processed by their server.

Additionally, previous research has disclosed that the Localnet technical staff have a tendency to be less than fully honest on inquiries about the severity of their server problems, have claimed that the same problems were being experienced by other ISPs when, in fact, an ISP cited by the Localnet tech (as also being down) was tested and found to be working fine; and generally try to "pass the buck", at times adamantly insisting that connection/transmission problems were caused by the customer's equipment (so not requiring action by Localnet) when, in fact, they were later proved to be on Localnet's end.

Further, Localnet uses a defective email filter, "uceprotect.net" to screen their customers' email. This is not a customer option that the customer can turn off; it is apparently done with all mail coming in to Localnet customer email accounts. Uceprotect is supposed to prevent spam outbreaks, but in fact it blocks a lot of ordinary non-spam email as well. Uceprotect operates by blacklisting entire ISP servers*, where some of that ISP's clients are suspected of sending spam. In plain English, even though an individual end user is not a spammer, if he is a Localnet customer, Uceprotect will block the legitimate email that he receives, if at some point it went through a server that Uceprotect has blacklisted. Legitimate email sent to the customer but blocked by Uceprotect is simply "lost". The customer cannot retrieve it. The sender gets a nondelivery message, but if they try to send it again, or send any inquiry to the Localnet customer, it will similarly be blocked by Uceprotect. The sender will then generally assume that your email address is non-working.

* The ISP (Internet Service Provider) is the dial-up or broadband service that you connect to, to send or receive email.
   Typically, an ISP has thousands of other customers whose emails go through the same server.

Spam is a nuisance for everyone. But other ISPs have found ways to deal with it that don't involve the wholesale blocking (including of legitimate email) that Uceprotect and Localnet do.

All in all, in our opinion, Localnet has shown itself to be undependable, and worse, not fully honest with its customers about it's technical problems; and, in short, with the plethora of Internet providers, Localnet is a headache most users don't need, and is not recommended.

A number of purported customer reviews of Localnet may be found at http://www.freedomlist.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=14924&start=20
Northern Herald, however, has not corroborated those reviews and makes no statement as to their veracity or authenticity.

Also, the ISPs known as "BasicISP" and "Copper.net" (both are Ohio firms which list the same postal address and appear, for all practical purposes, to be the same firm) are not suitable alternatives. In testing, 1) BasicISP and Copper.net also blocked legitimate (non-spam) email from reaching the recipients, 2) they suspend accounts if, in their opinion, you send "too much" legitimate email (this can be as little as 10-20 pieces in a day), and 3) if your account is suspended erroneously shortly after opening it, and you terminate it for that reason or for other unsatisfactory service, they refuse to refund the "activation" fees paid.



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Where to Go for Dependable Auto Service in Bemidji

April 2, 2009

For years, Northern Herald recommended The Auto Clinic as the place to get one's car fixed, honestly and dependably, in Bemidji. The quality of service there was due to their owner and lead mechanic, Doug Rudduck, a real, old-style mechanic who actually knows your engine, does all of the stuff that it needs (including the small stuff like checking vacuum lines, connections, etc., that otherwise might go unnoticed), and none of the expensive stuff that it doesn't need.

Then The Auto Clinic closed. There are other shops in town who are highly recommended for specialized parts of the car: for radiators, it's Scott's Radiator; for trannies, it's National Transmission; for exhaust, Kilde's Auto & Exhaust Center is absolutely the place. But for general repair - tune-ups, engine work, electrical, brakes, etc. - a motorist in Bemidji didn't really know where to go.

Now, Mr. Rudduck is back! Motorists will find him at Dondelinger's Service Dept. still doing the same good auto and truck service as before, but with more space and a better-equipped facility to better serve customers' auto service needs. And the rates are about the same as at many other, non-dealership, shops.

Doug Rudduck remains an NH recommended auto serviceman. People wanting quality, honest, auto service that fixes the problem without making new ones, can make an appointment by calling Dondelinger's (when making the appointment, one has to ask specifically to have Mr. Rudduck work on the car) at 218-751-1220



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DEPRESSION PRICING - AIN'T IT GREAT ?!!?
A GREAT Sunday Brunch for TWO in Bemidji for $11.99

March 12, 2009

***** Green Mill, Bemidji, Sunday Buffet Brunch every Sunday 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., at the Green Mill Restaurant located at the Hampton Inn, 1025 Paul Bunyan Dr. S., Bemidji.

Great food, great motif, great price. Can't ask for more.

This is a real deal on a great five-star AYCE brunch buffet. Very excellent food and lots of it. Excellent eggs & links, potatoes, biscuits & gravy, a long line of all the other breakfast stuff, outstanding bread pudding, made-to-order crepes; then go back for great lunch stuff including Caesar salad, hand-carved roast beef & ham, many other entrees, decadent desserts and, really, way more than we can list here - you just gotta see this line! It's a set up that, in The Cities, we'd have expected to pay $15.99 apiece for. But for a limited time, you can get this buffet in Bemidji for two for $11.99 total (plus tax) or less.

Great ambiance, too. Dine at lakeside either indoors, by their big waterfront windows, or outdoors, weather permitting.

The regular price of $11.99-adults, $9.99-seniors, and $7.99-kids 3-12 (under 3 are free) includes your choice of non-alcoholic beverage. That can save a couple of dollars right there.

But, better still, until the end of April, you can use a 2-for-1 coupon and get 2 brunches for $11.99 (plus tax) or less. This is a deal.

The coupon, good 'til 4/30/09, is in the current Best of Bemidji mailer (it's that one, with the coupons in it, that always has the kid on the front - you'd think that in all of the Northland they'd find something more aesthetic than a kid to put on the front cover).

For those who don't have the Best of Bemidji mailer, a downloadable coupon is available.
The coupon says "No photocopies please.", but Green Mill management said that one coupon that you print out on your home computer is OK and will be honoured.

So try it, and let's make this depression all that it can be!

Remember your waitress. When any coupon is used, anywhere, tipping should be based on what the regular (i.e. without coupon) cost of the meal would have been.



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Update On The DTV Mess
            What Washington has done,
           What seems to be a good VCR-compatible converter box,
            Where to get it before your coupons expire

February 12, 2009

Owing to a President and Congress that listened to America, for a change, the Digital Television conversion mandate has been pushed back to June. It's a fortunate thing. Here in the Northland, if one is going to be fuddling with antenna on his roof, June is a better time to do it than February. But some stations have already converted to digital, and some plan to do it well before the June deadline, so for those who don't use cable or satellite TV, converter boxes are needed to keep all of one's channels.

Last summer, (issue of 6/16/08) Northern Herald alerted readers that the DTV conversion could render VCR recording obsolete. That's because timed VCR recording often requires changing the channel to the one the user wishes to record, something the DTV converter boxes just didn't do. Since release of that article, however, 4 new products have come on to the market that do that. They are the Echostar TR-40CRA, DTVPal Plus, Zinwell ZAT-970A, and Zinwell ZAT-950A. Curiously, the Zinwell ZAT-950A is the later model of the two Zinwells, and Internet reviews indicate that its only major difference from the 970A is that the 950A has better tuning capabilities to better "lock in" the channel. Likewise, the primary difference between the TR-40 and the DTVPal Plus (both marketed by Dish Network) is enhanced tuning in the DTVPal Plus.

The TR-40CRA sells for about $40 ($0 after coupon) plus shipping; the other 3 sell for about $60 ($20 after coupon) plus shipping (about $10).

Comparison (from our independent testing; and also from published manufacturer's claims, and consumer reviews):

Timers: All four products have "event timers", to change the channel for VCR recording. The TR-40 and DTVPal Plus have only 5 timer settings. The Zinwells have 8 timer settings, which is compatible with the number of timed recording slots most VCRs allow. This would tend to make the Zinwells the items of choice for people who like to automatically record a lot of their TV programs for viewing at their convenience. (Note: to watch one program while recording another, you need two converter boxes, but only one of them needs to have an events timer.) But the Zinwell timer design has a few rough areas - see "Ease of use and functionality", below.

Program Guide: The Zinwells, however, have only a basic (what's on now, and on next) program guide; the TR-40 and DTVPal Plus have up to a 7-day guide, which has been said to be the best in the business.

Picture & Sound Quality: In other reviews, all four units are said to have acceptable (better than analog) picture and sound quality. In short-term independent testing, Northern Herald  found the Zinwell ZAT-950A to offer excellent audio and video quality for viewing; and excellent video and very acceptable audio for recording. When installing the Zinwell, if coaxial (antenna-type, also known as "RF") cables are used to connect to the antenna and TV or VCR, it is very important to, using the "menu" function of the remote control, enter the Zinwell's Setupmenu, and change the audio setting from "Line" (the default setting) to "RF". When recording, the Zinwell may produce a low-level hiss (even when recording shows that don't have snakes in them) in the sound portion of the recording, but if the audio is properly set to "RF", it is not generally bothersome. At our test site in Bemidji, use of the Zinwell did not require an outdoor antenna for any of the present digital channels - the usual Ears of a Rabbit worked fine to produce a clear and sharp picture. We noticed that the Zinwell is susceptible to interference (which produces video "noise" on the TV screen) either from other electronic devices, wiring, etc., depending on the location of the converter box. Moving it a few inches corrected this. If one has diagonal lines on their TV, or other video noise, the first fix that should be tried is just to move the converter box.

Ease of use and functionality: With the overall digital conversion postponed to June, 2009, and even then, because lower-power "translator" stations are not required to convert, timed VCR recording generally will require access to both digital stations, and those which remain analog (non-digital). It is therefore important that the converter box offer "analog pass-through"; all four of the products reviewed here offer this. We have not independently tested the ease of timed (VCR) analog access in the TR-40 and DTVPal Plus, and persons thinking of buying these units may want inquire on this detail, as it is important to efficient timed recording of programs. In the Zinwell ZAT-950A, pre-setting the change from digital to analog reception, for timed VCR recording of the analog channel, can usually be achieved; but it is clumsy and not at all user-friendly.

Specifically, the Zinwell allows analog reception only when the converter box is turned off. So timed analog recording involves configuring the Zinwell's "sleep timer" in conjunction with one's VCR timer settings for that day, so that the Zinwell turns itself off (goes into "sleep mode") at the appropriate time, allowing analog reception to flow to the VCR. But the sleep timer doesn't accept a time certain to turn the unit off. It only allows settings, to enter sleep mode, either never, or 1, 2, 4, or 8 hours from when the unit was turned on (either manually, or by a timer setting), or from the last time a remote control button was pressed, if later. Although there may be up to eight program timer settings, there is only one sleep timer setting, which will be in effect until it is manually reset. Again, although for many VCR-recording situations, the proper configuration can be done to achieve the desired result, it is prone to error or accident (like using the remote, which would change the "sleep" time - i.e. the time when reception would change from digital to analog), and we would guess that many users will be unable to figure out how to use this function in all instances. A user who has trouble just programming their VCR would be totally befuddled by this configuration which involves coordinating 3 different timers, (1) the VCR's timer, (2) the Zinwell's "program timer", and (3) the Zinwell's "sleep timer". Of course, this is only necessary when using the Zinwell unit with a VCR, recording both digital and analog channels.

Another VCR functionality issue with the Zinwell is that the Zinwell's program timer (the timer that sets the converter box to the proper channel to record) selections are once, daily, weekly, or monthly. Unlike most VCRs, it doesn't allow a weekday or "daily M-F" setting. Most programs that people record daily, are, in fact, M-F; by not having this option available, the daily (i.e. 7-day) timer settings may conflict with the different settings for Sat. & Sun. The workaround to this involves disabling the daily settings each Friday night or Saturday morning, and reenabling them each Sunday night or Monday morning. Not too hard, but certainly more hassle than just programming a weekly routine into a VCR and leaving it there. Again, this feature, as it exists on the TR-40 and DTVPal Plus, has not been evaluated, and may be a proper subject for consumer inquiry before purchasing.

Sources and availability: The rush to use coupons before the short expiration period (thank the Bush Administration, his FCC, and the last Congress) has created sort of a haven and captive market for vendors of the DTV boxes, and it shows in the lack of customer service they offer. The current logjam to order boxes, before coupons expire and with some stations already digital, is also a factor and may cause ordering delays and difficulties.

Although a few "brick and mortar" retail stores across the country sometimes have a few (not nearly enough, and they're soon gone) units, for most people, it will be necessary to buy them on the Internet. The Echostar and DTVPal products are sold by Dish Network. And Internet blog and review sites are loaded with complaints from people who have had problems with the units (including the original DTV Pal, which they no longer offer) and dealings with Dish Network on them. To get an Echostar TR-40 ($40 as of this writing) or DTVPal Plus ($69.99) from Dish Network, go to http://www.dtvpal.com

The Zinwells are available from an Internet presence doing business as Solid Signal who give their address as being in Novi, Michigan, although they don't appear to have a walk-in location. They also sell the TR-40 for $44.99, and the DTVPal Plus for $59.99 (about $10 less than Dish Network). Solid Signal also offers a site where the products can be compared, http://www.solidsignal.com/dtv200 9/compare/digital/converter/boxes/ and from which the desired box can be purchased on the net. Their ordering site does not always work exactly right though. Their site has a phone number, which gives the illusion that one can place their order with a person, but it turns out to just be an answering system which puts the customer on hold for about 10 minutes and then takes a message. Although their recording says that they return calls within an hour, this is pretty much a joke, and certainly is a lie. They seem to return calls by the next day though. To their credit, in our test scenario, where a unit was ordered from the net and their site did not operate properly to get the correct order info, a representative of Solid Signal did call the next day to clear it up; and their shipping was very prompt. The unit, ordered on Monday, with shipping info clarified by Tuesday, was delivered by FedEx ground service that Friday. Faster shipping is offered at a premium. People who want to order, but don't have Internet can call Solid Signal at 1-866-374-4625; be prepared to leave a message.

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Post Publication Note: See the consumer alert on the Zinwell in "Things That Just Don't Work" of 03/06/10, elsewhere on this page.
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At this point, a person might not really want to deal with any of the vendors, but with the digital conversion approaching, and coupons expiring, they may not have much of a choice, so we list these two. Caveat Emptor. The "brick and mortar" retailers, if they have boxes at all, offer little selection and probably won't have the one you want. (Again, thank Bush, his FCC, and the previous Congress for creating this mess by fasttracking a change that was poorly thought out, mismanaged, and would require far more time in order to avoid shafting the consumers and taxpayers; and thank Obama and the current Congress for trying to straighten it out and giving us a little more time to adapt to it).



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YOU FIND IT ALL AT THE MART OF WAL!
Jimmy Dean's All Natural Sausage

February 12th, 2009

Yep, the jury's still out on his singing, but most agree that Jimmy Dean found his niche when he began making sausage. Over the years, Jimmy Dean has become recognized as the premium sausage - the benchmark. Everyone likes sausage, but sometimes it contains flavourings and additives that a lot of people don't want in what they eat. Now, Jimmy has introduced his new All Natural product which claims to be minimally processed, and without artificial additives.

Mr. Dean is now part of Miss Lee's (Sara) corporation. He must have serenaded her on guitar or something. Contacted at their headquarters, one of Miss Lee's representatives has confirmed that Jimmy's new All Natural Sausage contains no MSG.

Jimmy Dean's new All Natural Sausage may sometimes be found at Bemidji's Wal-Mart - about $2.99, sometimes less, for a full 16 oz. pound roll.



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A NORTHERN HERALD INVESTIGATION
Did you get a HEADACHE after eating TURKEY?

November 30, 2008

The big holiday turkey is always a big part of the festive day. But if it makes you sick, it's no fun, and can ruin the occasion for all.

If you developed a headache, sickly feeling, or other malaise, after (i.e. within a few hours, or the next day) eating any brand of turkey containing a "solution" (this is in most commercially sold turkeys, and is generally shown on the label in smaller print), please note the brand of the turkey, and where you bought it, if known; and contact this newspaper immediately at 218-759-1162, or email: editor@nothernherald.com

Identities of persons responding will be kept confidential. Investigation results, if definitive, will be reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.



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This concludes today's For The Chosen. Go forth, be prosperous, and always remember Bemidji's Golden Rule:

"Do It To Others As They Have Done It To You"

-- A. Steele, Editor

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