Brian Kalk Says He’s Not Stepping Down From PSC


Since election day I’ve heard a rumor from numerous readers in the Bismarck area suggesting that Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk may be stepping down from his post. The basis for these rumors is the fact that Kalk sold his Bismarck-area home and is currently living in an apartment.

This would be big news as there has already been a significant amount of turnover at the PSC. Earlier this year Commissioner Tony Clark departed for a federal appointment at FERC and was replaced by a place-holder nominee by Governor Dalrymple pending the outcome of the election, which put Randy Christmann in that spot. But the election also sent Commissioner Kevin Cramer to serve in the US House, meaning that his spot will need to be filled by the governor as well and confirmed on the next general election ballot.

If Kalk were to step down in the coming months, that would require the third appointment to the PSC in less than a year. A lot of churn for a department of the state government that, in many ways, is central to the state’s booming energy sector.

Many observers feel that Kalk has always seen his PSC seat as a stepping-stone for higher office, and indeed Kalk did run for and receive the NDGOP’s endorsement to run for the US House (Cramer eventually beat him out in the June primary).

Yesterday I had occasion to speak with Commissioner Kalk, though, and he tells me he has no intention of stepping down. He said he sold his Bismarck home because he’s a “capitalist” and wanted to take advantage of a favorable housing market. He said he and his family are currently looking for a condo or something along those lines in the Bismarck area.

Kalk was first elected to the PSC in 2008, getting into that race after first considering a run against then-Rep. Earl Pomeroy and beating out former Senate Majority Leader Bob Stenehjem for the NDGOP nomination. He would be up for re-election in 2014. If he were to make a decision to step down, one would expect it in the coming months to give Governor Dalrymple plenty of time to find yet another appointee and to give that appointee time to settle into office before needing to be elected to the position in 2014.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • Mike Quinn

    This letter from Richard Dawkins to his daughter has been a proven cure for Republicans. No Republican has ever read what follows and remained in the party. Try it.

    To my dearest daughter,

    Now that you are ten, I want to write to you about something that is
    important to me. Have you ever wondered how we know the things that we
    know? How do we know, for instance, that the stars, which look like
    tiny pinpricks in the sky, are really huge balls of fire like the Sun
    and very far away? And how do we know that the Earth is a smaller ball
    whirling round one of those stars, the Sun?

    The answer to these questions is ‘evidence’.

    Sometimes evidence means actually seeing (or hearing, feeling,
    smelling….) that something is true. Astronauts have traveled far enough
    from the Earth to see with their own eyes that it is round. Sometimes
    our eyes need help. The ‘evening star’ looks like a bright twinkle in
    the sky but with a telescope you can see that it is a beautiful ball –
    the planet we call Venus. Something that you learn by direct seeing (or
    hearing or feeling…) is called an observation.

    Often evidence isn’t just observation on its own, but observation
    always lies at the back of it. If there’s been a murder, often nobody
    (except the murderer and the dead person!) actually observed it. But
    detectives can gather together lots of other observations which may all
    point towards a particular suspect. If a person’s fingerprints match
    those found on a dagger, this is evidence that he touched it. It
    doesn’t prove that he did the murder, but it can help when it’s joined
    up with lots of other evidence. Sometimes a detective can think about a
    whole lot of observations and suddenly realize that they all fall into
    place and make sense if so-and-so did the murder.

    Scientists – the specialists in discovering what is true about the
    world and the universe – often work like detectives. They make a guess
    (called a hypothesis) about what might be true. They then say to
    themselves: if that were really true, we ought to see so-and-so. This
    is called a prediction. For example, if the world is really round, we
    can predict that a traveler, going on and on in the same direction,
    should eventually find himself back where he started. When a doctor
    says that you have measles he doesn’t take one look at you and see
    measles. His first look gives him a hypothesis that you may have
    measles. Then he says to himself: if she really has measles, I ought
    to see… Then he runs through his list of predictions and tests them with
    his eyes (have you got spots?), his hands (is your forehead hot?), and
    his ears (does your chest wheeze in a measly way?). Only then does he
    make his decision and say, ‘I diagnose that the child has measles.’
    Sometimes doctors need to do other tests like blood tests or X-rays,
    which help their eyes, hands and ears to make observations.

    The way scientists use evidence to learn about the world is much
    cleverer and more complicated than I can say in a short letter. But now
    I want to move on from evidence, which is a good reason for believing
    something, and warn you against three bad reasons for believing
    anything. They are called ‘tradition’, ‘authority’, and ‘revelation’.

    First, tradition. A few months ago, I went on television to have a
    discussion with about 50 children. These children were invited because
    they’d been brought up in lots of different religions. Some had been
    brought up as Christians, others as Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs. The
    man with the microphone went from child to child, asking them what they
    believed. What they said shows up exactly what I mean by ‘tradition’.
    Their beliefs turned out to have no connection with evidence. They just
    trotted out the beliefs of their parents and grandparents, which, in
    turn, were not based upon evidence either. They said things like, ‘We
    Hindus believe so and so.’ ‘We Muslims believe such and such.’ ‘We
    Christians believe something else.’ Of course, since they all believed
    different things, they couldn’t all be right. The man with the
    microphone seemed to think this quite proper, and he didn’t even try to
    get them to argue out their differences with each other. But that isn’t
    the point I want to make. I simply want to ask where their beliefs
    came from. They came from tradition. Tradition means beliefs handed
    down from grandparent to parent to child, and so on. Or from books
    handed down through the centuries. Traditional beliefs often start from
    almost nothing; perhaps somebody just makes them up originally, like
    the stories about Thor and Zeus. But after they’ve been handed down
    over some centuries, the mere fact that they are so old makes them seem
    special. People believe things simply because people have believed the
    same thing over centuries. That’s tradition.

    The trouble with tradition is that, no matter how long ago a story
    was made up, it is still exactly as true or untrue as the original story
    was. If you make up a story that isn’t true, handing it down over any
    number of centuries doesn’t make it any truer!

    Most people in England have been baptized into the Church of England,
    but this is only one of many branches of the Christian religion. There
    are other branches such as the Russian Orthodox, the Roman Catholic and
    the Methodist churches. They all believe different things. The Jewish
    religion and the Muslim religion are a bit more different still; and
    there are different kinds of Jews and of Muslims. People who believe
    even slightly different things from each other often go to war over
    their disagreements. So you might think that they must have some pretty
    good reasons – evidence – for believing what they believe. But
    actually their different beliefs are entirely due to different

    Let’s talk about one particular tradition. Roman Catholics believe
    that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was so special that she didn’t die but
    was lifted bodily into Heaven. Other Christian traditions disagree,
    saying that Mary did die like anybody else. These other religions don’t
    talk about her much and, unlike Roman Catholics, they don’t call her
    the ‘Queen of Heaven’. The tradition that Mary’s body was lifted into
    Heaven is not a very old one. The Bible says nothing about how or when
    she died; in fact the poor woman is scarcely mentioned in the Bible at
    all. The belief that her body was lifted into Heaven wasn’t invented
    until about six centuries after Jesus’s time. At first it was just made
    up, in the same way as any story like Snow White was made up. But,
    over the centuries, it grew into a tradition and people started to take
    it seriously simply because the story had been handed down over so many
    generations. The older the tradition became, the more people took it
    seriously. It finally was written down as an official Roman Catholic
    belief only very recently, in 1950. But the story was no more true in
    1950 than it was when it was first invented 600 years after Mary’s

    I’ll come back to tradition at the end of my letter, and look at it
    in another way. But first I must deal with the two other bad reasons
    for believing in anything: authority and revelation.

    Authority, as a reason for believing something, means believing it
    because you are told to believe it by somebody important. In the Roman
    Catholic Church, the Pope is the most important person, and people
    believe he must be right just because he is the Pope. In one branch of
    the Muslim religion, the important people are old men with beards called
    Ayatollahs. Lots of young Muslims are prepared to commit murder,
    purely because the Ayatollahs in a faraway country tell them to.

    When I say that it was only in 1950 that Roman Catholics were finally
    told that they had to believe that Mary’s body shot off to Heaven, what
    I mean is that in 1950 the Pope told people that they had to believe
    it. That was it. The Pope said it was true, so it had to be true!
    Now, probably some of the things that Pope said in his life were true
    and some were not true. There is no good reason why, just because he
    was the Pope, you should believe everything he said, any more than you
    believe everything that lots of other people say. The present Pope has
    ordered his followers not to limit the number of babies they have. If
    people follow his authority as slavishly as he would wish, the results
    could be terrible famines, diseases and wars, caused by overcrowding.

    Of course, even in science, sometimes we haven’t seen the evidence
    ourselves and we have to take somebody else’s word for it. I haven’t
    with my own eyes, seen the evidence that light travels at a speed of
    186,000 miles per second. Instead, I believe books that tell me the
    speed of light. This looks like ‘authority’. But actually it is much
    better than authority because the people who wrote the books have seen
    the evidence and anyone is free to look carefully at the evidence
    whenever they want. That is very comforting. But not even the priests
    claim that there is any evidence for their story about Mary’s body
    zooming off to Heaven.

    The third kind of bad reason for believing anything is called
    ‘revelation’. If you had asked the Pope in 1950 how he knew that Mary’s
    body disappeared into Heaven, he would probably have said that it had
    been ‘revealed’ to him. He shut himself in his room and prayed for
    guidance. He thought and thought, all by himself, and he became more
    and more sure inside himself. When religious people just have a feeling
    inside themselves that something must be true, even though there is no
    evidence that it is true, they call their feeling ‘revelation’. It
    isn’t only popes who claim to have revelations. Lots of religious
    people do. It is one of their main reasons for believing the things
    that they do believe. But is it a good reason?

    Suppose I told you that your dog was dead. You’d be very upset, and
    you’d probably say, ‘Are you sure? How do you know? How did it happen?’
    Now suppose I answered: ‘I don’t actually know that Pepe is dead. I
    have no evidence. I just have this funny feeling deep inside me that he
    is dead.’ You’d be pretty cross with me for scaring you, because you’d
    know that an inside ‘feeling’ on its own is not a good reason for
    believing that a whippet is dead. You need evidence. We all have
    inside feelings from time to time, and sometimes they turn out to be
    right and sometimes they don’t. Anyway, different people have opposite
    feelings, so how are we to decide whose feeling is right? The only way
    to be sure that a dog is dead is to see him dead, or hear that his heart
    has stopped; or be told by somebody who has seen or heard some real
    evidence that he is dead.

    People sometimes say that you must believe in feelings deep inside,
    otherwise you’d never be confident of things like ‘My wife loves me’.

    But this is a bad argument. There can be plenty of evidence that
    somebody loves you. All through the day when you are with somebody who
    loves you, you see and hear lots of little tidbits of evidence, and they
    all add up. It isn’t purely inside feeling, like the feeling that
    priests call revelation. There are outside things to back up the inside
    feeling: looks in the eye, tender notes in the voice, little favors and
    kindnesses; this is all real evidence.

    Sometimes people have a strong inside feeling that somebody loves
    them when it is not based upon any evidence, and then they are likely to
    be completely wrong. There are people with a strong inside feeling
    that a famous film star loves them, when really the film star hasn’t
    even met them. People like that are ill in their minds. Inside
    feelings must be backed up by evidence, otherwise you just can’t trust

    Inside feelings are valuable in science too, but only for giving you
    ideas that you later test by looking for evidence. A scientist can have
    a ‘hunch’ about an idea that just ‘feels’ right. In itself, this is
    not a good reason for believing something. But it can be a good reason
    for spending some time doing a particular experiment, or looking in a
    particular way for evidence. Scientists use inside feelings all the
    time to get ideas. But they are not worth anything until they are
    supported by evidence.

    I promised that I’d come back to tradition, and look at it in another
    way. I want to try to explain why tradition is so important to us.
    All animals are built (by the process called evolution) to survive in
    the normal place in which their kind live. Lions are built to be good
    at surviving on the plains of Africa. Crayfish are built to be good at
    surviving in fresh water, while lobsters are built to be good at
    surviving in the salt sea. People are animals too, and we are built to
    be good at surviving in a world full of … other people. Most of us
    don’t hunt for our own food like lions or lobsters, we buy it from other
    people who have bought it from yet other people. We ‘swim’ through a
    ‘sea of people’. Just as a fish needs gills to survive in water, people
    need brains that make them able to deal with other people. Just as the
    sea is full of salt water, the sea of people is full of difficult
    things to learn. Like language.

    You speak English but your friend speaks German. You each speak the
    language that fits you to ‘swim about’ in your own separate ‘people
    sea’. Language is passed down by tradition. There is no other way. In
    England, Pepe is a dog. In Germany he is ein Hund. Neither of these
    words is more correct, or more truer than the other. Both are simply
    handed down. In order to be good at ‘swimming about in their people
    sea’, children have to learn the language of their own country, and lots
    of other things about their own people; and this means that they have
    to absorb, like blotting paper, an enormous amount of traditional
    information. (Remember that traditional information just means things
    that are handed down from grandparents to parents to children.) The
    child’s brain has to be a sucker for traditional information. And the
    child can’t be expected to sort out good and useful traditional
    information, like the words of a language, from bad or silly traditional
    information, like believing in witches and devils and ever-living

    It’s a pity, but it can’t help being the case, that because children
    have to be suckers for traditional information, they are likely to
    believe anything the grown-ups tell them, whether true or false, right
    or wrong. Lots of what grown-ups tell them is true and based on
    evidence or at least sensible. But if some of it is false, silly or
    even wicked, there is nothing to stop the children believing that too.
    Now, when the children grow up, what do they do? Well, of course, they
    tell it to the next generation of children. So, once something gets
    itself strongly believed – even if its completely untrue and there never
    was any reason to believe it in the first place – it can go on forever.

    Could this be what happened with religions? Belief that there is a god
    or gods, belief in Heaven, belief that Mary never died, belief that
    Jesus never had a human father, belief that prayers are answered, belief
    that wine turns into blood – not one of these beliefs is backed up by
    any good evidence. Yet millions of people believe them. Perhaps this
    is because they were told to believe them when they were young enough to
    believe anything.

    Millions of other people believe quite different things, because they
    were told different things when they were children. Muslim children
    are told different things from Christian children, and both grow up
    utterly convinced that they are right and the others are wrong. Even
    within Christians, Roman Catholics believe different things from Church
    of England people or Episcopalians, Shakers or Quakers, Mormons or Holy
    Rollers, and all are utterly convinced that they are right and the
    others are wrong. They believe different things for exactly the same
    kind of reason as you speak English and someone speaks German.

    Both languages are, in their own country, the right language to
    speak. But it can’t be true that different religions are right in their
    own countries, because different religions claim that opposite things
    are true. Mary can’t be alive in the Catholic Republic but dead in
    Protestant Northern Ireland.

    What can we do about all this? It is not easy for you to do
    anything, because you are only ten. But you could try this. Next time
    somebody tells you something that sounds important, think to yourself:
    ‘Is this the kind of thing that people probably know because of
    evidence? Or is it the kind of thing that people only believe because of
    tradition, authority or revelation?’ And, next time somebody tells you
    that something is true, why not say to them: ‘What kind of evidence is
    there for that?’ And if they can’t give you a good answer, I hope
    you’ll think very carefully before you believe a word they say.

    Your loving,


    • Tim Heise

      Holy crap do you actually expect people to read all of that? Something about a dad and his child . . . #youlostmeatdearestdaughter

      • Mike Quinn

        People read the Bible and remain stupid. I know you did not read the whole thing. Try it, it is the only way you will get the point.

        • Gern Blanston

          Not sure how this converts Republicans. Look at all the voters who trust Obama on blind faith, despite the evidence that his policies fail. Since this is essentially a bash on Cathoics, are you suggesting all Catholics are Republicans? Maybe you can teach us all where to find the evidence that the government spending excessive amounts of money improves national economies. There seem to be a lot of folks out there that believe this ‘tradition’ that has been passed down.

          • Mike Quinn

            The American Publican has given the clear message they want the rich to pay their share of taxes. Republicans will fight Obama every inch of the way. Obama has only failed because of greedy Republicans who refuse to pay taxes. If you have followed the news lately you have read about the independent study the Republicans are suppressing. The study shows tax breaks for the rich don’t work. If you puncture the tires on someones car and then claim they fail to move forward, you have a serious problem. That is Republicans in a nutshell, they stab Obama every chance they get then blame him for dying.

          • Carl

            “Obama has only failed because of greedy Republicans who refuse to pay taxes.”

            Thanks for agreeing that obama is a FAILURE. On your other point, ask dem/lib/communist willie bonilla about not paying taxes:


            Bureau of Conveyances -Official Public

            Number R2007203358

            Recording Date
            Recording Date:

            Date instrument recorded.


            Document Category:

            Commercial Code


            NOTICE OF LIEN

            Grantor Grantor:

            Party transferring

            L II

            Grantee Grantee:

            Party acquiring interest.


          • tony_o2

            Where is your evidence that higher taxes will improve the economy?

          • Mike Quinn

            It appears you read the article, which I commend you for. The whole point is that as long as we have people willing to believe in an invisible friend in the sky, that also means we have people willing to believe in Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and Rob Port. Once we grow up and embrace reality, the world will be a better place. You might note the article pointed out that just because a lot of people are fooled by something that does not make it so. A lot of people have been fooled by Republicans touting tax breaks for the rich, however it simply defies reality. If people would just test their beliefs with data and common sense we could end the foolishness brought on by religion.

    • Angie Faut

      I read the WHOLE thing. I was enlightened before I read this and I still am now. I am still a conservative and I still feel this world needs all the help it can get. Even in the bible it says to not trust in those who preach on tradition and authority. (They were called pharisees.) No news here…
      This following quote from this letter is interesting to me. It shows a sign of desperation to explain something we all feel but yet the author is trying to prove it can be summed up in hard visible facts.
      “All through the day when you are with somebody who
      loves you, you see and hear lots of little tidbits of evidence, and they
      all add up. It isn’t purely inside feeling, like the feeling that
      priests call revelation. There are outside things to back up the inside
      feeling: looks in the eye, tender notes in the voice, little favors and

      kindnesses; this is all real evidence.”
      When you have a relationship with God you do receive “real evidence” and they do add up. Some one with faith knows that it is anything but a “purely inside feeling”. I am not just talking about miracles. I am talking about stacking the odds up and then life can still happen anyway. Here are just a few examples I recently witnessed just this week… When a mother is told scientifically she will not be able to conceive and she is able to give birth to a completely healthy baby. Another mother who by ultra sound was confirmed to have no living body in her womb, no heart beat, not even a body. When a week later going into have her DNC finds out there is a baby a live and aging 7 weeks along! That baby is now several months old and is completely healthy!
      If you open your eyes and heart you will see God’s evidence in EVERYTHING in this world.
      Whether you are capable of accepting it or not there are scientific studies and scientists who have proven the existence of a intelligent creator. Blindness and the lack of faith does in no way show you are of supporter intelligence or that you are in complete control of your life. I mourn for those who refuse to see the evidence and only look on what can be explained blatantly. Life will be a path traveled pretty negatively and lonely if you go on with out even glancing at what can be accomplished by allowing your heart AND mind to be open.
      …and I still stand with a strong favor of republican and libertarian!

    • RCND

      Dude.. did the Bismarck Tribune cut you off your daily letter to the editor diet, so now you gotta dump here? Jeez keep it succinct

  • Mike Quinn

    Randy Christmann has a proven record as a scoundrel and a cheat. Hopefully there will be enough decent people on the PSC to overcome this deficit of honesty.

  • Yogibare

    It is increasingly rare these days to find a young conservative; and it is even rarer to find an old liberal (progressive) with brains.
    I didn’t make that up, but it certainly was borne out on November 6.

    • Roy_Bean

      “A young man who is not a liberal, has no heart…
      …but an old man who is not a conservative, has no mind!”

      ­ Winston Churchill (courtesy of Wallace Mann)