MLK Weekend Events 2020

This is Martin Luther King weekend. Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day. There are gatherings to attend and nice people to meet. The best link I could find to the weekend’s activities is here:  I’ve copied the schedule of events for today and tomorrow below [in an “image box”] for your convenience. I encourage you to attend both days. I have overcome my own winter inertia and gone to all these events in past years. Come on out. Meet a welcoming community.

Keep to the high ground,

Matt Shea’s Support

Representative Matt Shea (Legislative District 4, Spokane Valley north to Mt. Spokane) has enjoyed financial support from business interests and political action committees for many election cycles. In 2018 that support amounted to $80,150, almost three quarters of all Shea’s 2018 campaign fund. The Washington Association of Realtors, Washington Optometric PAC, Avista, and BNSF each contributed the maximum amount of $2000. (Click the blue above for the whole list). One must wonder who in each of these organizations arranged to have these checks written, and how that check-writer was not (or was?) paying attention to the activities of this man (beyond his consistent business-friendly Republican voting record). What were they thinking as Mr. Shea spoke at the Freedom Force Red Pill Expo Conference or as he spoke at the Marble Community’s “God and Country Celebration” shoulder to shoulder with “John Jacob Schmidt” and Pastor Barry Byrd?

So what about the 2020 election cycle? The Spokesman reports (January 13th) that Matt Shea has:

been kicked out of the Republican caucus, meaning he no longer has a vote on legislative committees, can’t rely on caucus staff and can’t take part in GOP strategy meetings. On the House floor, he was moved to a new desk in a row that includes more Democrats than Republicans.

We can get a hint, thanks to Washington State law that established the Public Disclosure Commission. Shea’s current contributions for the 2020 election can be viewed here at MATT SHEA T, 2020. It’s worth a look. There are no PAC or business contributions of over $500 so far. Duane Alton (of Alton Tires) stands out on top with a $1500 contribution. By now, following publication of the Rampart Report (which you can download here), everyone making a contribution to Shea’s campaign must be fully aware of–and therefore must tacitly endorse–Shea’s activities.

By this time in the 2018 election cycle Avista, BNSF, and six other businesses or PACs had already made $1000 contributions. None of these have yet shown up for the 2020 cycle. Is Shea finally toxic? We’ll see. Watch this space: MATT SHEA T, 2020.

Incumbents, regardless of their extremist views, are hard to dislodge, and, meanwhile, they can use campaign money to proselytize. It behooves the electorate to chose carefully.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Shea’s 2020 campaign shows a total greater than the amount his 2018 campaign had gathered by the corresponding date, but that is deceiving. The 2020 campaign has brought back $16,000 (about 40% of the current total) from “Surplus Funds” Shea had banked from prior campaigns, brought forward as “MISCELLANEOUS RECEIPTS.”

Since “Surplus Campaign Funds” can be used for “non-reimbursed public office related expenses” one wonders how much surplus buffer there is. The last report one the “SHEA MATT T SURPLUS ACCT” shows the balance in that account as $33927.89. It’s a nice cushion that could see him through the 2020 election cycle without any renewed corporate or PAC support.

P.P.S. One wonders where Shea gets additional funding. He bragged at the Covenant Church in north Spokane last Friday (January 10th), “I’ve been able to travel 100,000 miles in the last three months. All over the world! Talking to leaders of countries! Praise God for that.”

Trump, Iran, and Myopic History

Iranian history begins in 1979 for most of us. It’s as if the country didn’t exist before the Iranian revolution, the overrunning of the U.S. Embassy and the taking of 52 American hostages. That incident thrust Iran into the consciousness of the American public (and, arguably, led to the electoral defeat of Jimmy Carter by Ronald Reagan in the November, 1979, national election, the first of the Republican minority governments [in terms of popular vote] leading to the ascendency of Mr. Trump).

Our mental shorthand (mine included) wants to simplify our perception of other countries and groups. We are trained to think of Iranians as rabid Shiite Muslims directed by a Muslim theocratic leader, the Grand Ayatollah, but the reality of the people of Iran is far, far more complex. The history of Iran over the last century has been a struggle between groups that favor a pluralistic, constitutionalist, relatively democratic government and those favoring power concentrated in a monarchy or religious monarchy (theocracy). Meanwhile, the British, the Russians, and the U.S. have intervened–and NOT in support of pluralistic, popular, and constitutional government.  For example, the “Persian Constitutional Revolution” occurring between 1905 and 1909, mostly among the merchant class, briefly established an elected Iranian Parliament under a constitution. That fell apart under Russian and British intervention, the British abandoning the Constitutionalists in favor of a Shah, much like Trump recently abandoned the Kurds to the Russians and the Turks.

Fast forward to 1953. I highly recommend you read the article “64 Years Later, CIA Finally Releases Details of Iranian Coup.” It helped cure me of my U.S.-made historic myopia. The article appeared in June, 2017, edition of Foreign Policy (among the least biased of news sources). In 1953 our Central Intelligence Agency ignited a revolution in Iran that brought down Iranian Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadegh and brought back the Iranian monarchy under Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, the monarch who had gone into exile during the turmoil of the Abadan Crisis, the nationalization of Iranian oil by the post World War II Iranian Parliament (the Majlis).

Prime Minister Mossadegh had served as PM for only two years, elected to that position overwhelmingly (79 to 12) by the Majlis. The nationalization of Iranian oil “was enormously popular and seen [by the Iranians] as a long overdue staunching of the bleeding of its national wealth [to the British[,  which could now be harnessed to fighting poverty in Iran.” Mossadegh was:

An author, administrator, lawyer and prominent parliamentarian, his administration introduced a range of social and political measures such as social security, land reforms and higher taxes including the introduction of taxation of the rent on land. His government’s most significant policy, however, was the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry, which had been built by the British on Persian lands since 1913 through the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC/AIOC) (later British Petroleum and BP).[6]

Essentially, we and the British meddled with a representative government moving in the direction of reforms, but threatening British Petroleum. This CIA intervention is, for many Iranians, conservative and liberal alike, the historic point they revisit when they think of the USA. (Aside: Yes, I know that 1953 was a different era. We were just coming out of WWII. Senator Joseph McCarthy was fueling fear of communism. We were more worried about our oil supply than currently. But none of that changes what Iranians justifiably think of the United States either now or at the time of the Iranian Revolution in 1979.) Our undermining of the relatively democratic 1953 government of Iran is far better remembered in Iran than it is here. For the people of Iran our government is inextricably linked to 1953 and the CIA intervention.

The outcome of a revolution is often not foreseen by its participants. The 1979 Revolution in Iran was made possible by an alliance of disparate elements that opposed the Shah. Some of them longed for the democratic, populist reforms of Mossadegh, some were fanatical Muslim Fundamentalists. (It is impossible to know the percentages. There are no polls of which I’m aware. There are only anecdotes, interviews and impressions.) It is likely many Iranians were somewhere in between in their opinions (rather like today’s disaffected, non-voting “independents” in our country). Some Iranians expected Ayatollah Khomeini to return from exile simply as a spiritual figurehead, ensconced in Qom, something like a Shiite Papacy, rather than a religious/political leader who would consolidate power as a theocratic despot claiming justification in scripture. Instead, Shiite Fundamentalists had superior organization and planning that led to their takeover in the aftermath. (This laying of the groundwork for revolution chillingly reminds me of the groundwork laid by Matt Shea, his “Christian” Nationalists, and the insular preparation of the American Redoubt).

How we tend to think about present day Iran depends on our mental picture of Iranians. The section titled Aftermath in the wikipedia article “Iranian Revolution” offers some idea of the social complexity at the time of the revolution. The insights from that period also shed some light on the reports of Iranians taking to the streets recently, first against the government, then to condemn th U.S. and mourn Qassim Suleimani, and then to protest against the government after 176 civilians were mistakenly killed by a missile attack on a Ukrainian airliner in the wake of the Suleimani assassination. (Lest we feel too smug over the latter protests, we would do well to remember the 290 civilians who died in 1988 on Iran Air Flight 655, shot down in error by a missile from the USS Vincennes. When people armed to the teeth stand with fingers on triggers and feeling nervous, bad things happen.)

Iran and its people have a complicated history with the United States, a history we would do well to remember. As in the U.S., the Iranian government does not speak for all of its people. Both countries are subject to some degree of nationalistic fervor when aroused by a perceived threat. Both countries are subject to political and religious polarization. The governments of both countries engage in propaganda and repression of dissent. The difference is a matter of method and degree.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. “Iran” tends to pop up a mental image for most of us (including me) of a monarchical Shiite Muslim Fundamentalist Ayatollah wearing a turban and a robe, as if that were the proper portrait of the average Iranian. The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Iranian leader at the time of the hostage taking, the Ayatollah who returned from exile to theocratic power with the Iranian Revolution, died ten years later, in 1989. Khomeini was succeeded by “Supreme Leader” Khamenei, the man who remains as the head of the Iranian Shiite Muslim Fundamentalist theocracy. Khamenei’s hegemony is challenged by robust and recurring protests–by people who mostly don’t wear turbans and robes.

P.P.S. Trump focused on our (and his?) myopic perception of Iranian history as beginning in 1979 with his war crimes tweet: “We targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran &  the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD.” With that tweet Trump was guaranteed to fire up Iranian nationalism even among those critical of the current theocracy–and certainly among the many who remember 1953.

The Democracy Rebellion

Our systems and rules for choosing our representatives at all levels of government are not sacred, not universal, and not unique in the world. We’ve tended to consider our methods superior to and fairer than the voting systems and rules elsewhere. For me that smug confidence started to change in 2016. The winner of the 2016 U.S. presidential election (thanks to the Electoral College and decades of Republican strategy, but not to the popular vote), the winner made accusations of widespread voter fraud. (Remember Kris Kobach’s assertions and the media coverage he generated?) Trump, his party, and his media embarked on a campaign to undermine confidence in our electoral system.

[See below for information of the documentary “The Democracy Rebellion” on KSPS tomorrow night or watch it online at]

The claim of “democratically elected” representation becomes a cruel joke when we lose faith that the rules and systems of elections are fair. Almost weekly we hear of an election in a country somewhere else that is contested, a country where people have taken to the streets to protest the electoral result. I used to think, “Oh, another corrupt, illegitimate government that doesn’t actually represent its people.” I had thought our system was above that, somehow more legitimate and dignified. As recently as the 2000 election I remember thinking that Al Gore was acting as a statesman in acquiescing to, rather than protesting, the decision of the Supreme Court, a decision that gave George W. Bush an Electoral College victory based on Florida (and despite an overall minority of popular vote). Such was my faith in our system.

When a president like Trump, even though he is the acknowledged technical winner, claims voter fraud, then there’s “something up” and we need to pay attention. It turns out that for decades Republican strategists in search of power have been scoping out every angle they can to gain electoral advantage. Aware that Republican/Libertarians have, on average, greater support among the wealthy, they mounted a systemic campaign of Republican judicial activism to bring Citizens United to the Supreme Court and weaponize their monetary advantage. Computer-guided gerrymandering was adopted by the Republican REDMAP project to assure Republican majority legislatures that represent a minority of the voters.

Jaded Republicans will dismiss me as naive. “Don’t you understand that governance is all about power? It’s not actually about rights or values, it’s really about power to control money and society for the betterment of us few.” I’m not ready to concede that. “The arc of history bends toward justice” only if we are watchful and patiently strive to bend it.

So how do we do that? We pay attention. We take part in civic-minded institutions like the League of Women Voters. We take seriously long term efforts to change, or work around, the anti-democratic Electoral College, something I will address in a later post. (After all, we managed in the nineteen teens to change the election of U.S. Senators from state legislative to popular voting.) We struggle against Republican efforts to disenfranchise voters, be they students, minorities, or former prisoners. We push for fairer, non-partisan re-districting. We invest in long term efforts to overturn Citizens United and take back our country from the rule of the uber-wealthy few.

None of this happens without our awareness, involvement, and long term effort. Trump’s and the current Republican/Libertarian Party’s meanness and cynicism must activate a massive re-awakening of our democratic values.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, January 14th at 8PM on Channel 7 Spokane’s KSPS TV Hedrick Smith’s “The Democracy Rebellion” will air. Click here for a summary and other airing times. Click here to watch the trailer on Vimeo. Movements for change start locally and with lots of effort. Washington State’s Initiative 735, calling for the overturn of Citizens United, started here in Washington State is featured in “The Democracy Rebellion.” Watch, think, talk, engage.

Keep to the high ground,

Matt Shea and Heather Scott

Matt Shea (R-WA Legislative District 4 Representative, Spokane Valley north to Mt. Spokane) and Heather Scott (R-ID Legislative District 1A, ID panhandle north and southwest of Sandpoint) have much in common. The activities of both were covered in “Report of Investigation Regarding Representative Matt Shea Washington House of Representatives December 1, 2019.” You can (and should) read that report here. Shea and Scott are state representatives in adjacent states in districts that share a border. Both were involved in planning several events legitimately described as “domestic terrorism.” During the armed takeover and standoff at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016, both Shea and Scott hid their deeper involvement behind claims that they were only engaged in “fact finding” and “negotiations.” That armed takeover and standoff resulted in the death of LaVoy Finicum (now revered by Shea’s and Scott’s followers as a martyr, with Finicum’s widow promoting the martyrdom.)

Shea and Scott share another attribute: neither will grant an interview or in any way directly and publicly respond to questions. Instead, like Trump, they communicate only through their own ecosystem of right wing media from which they rail at “godless liberals,” impugn the values of lot of people they are supposed to represent, while inflame their own tight group of ideological followers. They pose as “patriots” while painstakingly plotting an armed rebellion with which they dream of establishing a theocratically governed “Redoubt” or a “51st State” or the “State of Liberty.” (They would claim their meticulous planning is defensive, even as they plot incendiary events like the armed takeover of the Malheur Federal Wildlife Refuge.)

On both sides of the Idaho-Washington border (and nationally), the Washington House investigation of Shea, Scott, and the extremists they represent has stirred up media coverage. I offer a sampling of that relative mainstream coverage at the bottom of this email. (You might hit some paywalls.)

Those articles are all from sources most of my readers would consider fairly mainstream. This is NOT, however, what a lot of people in this region read and listen to. I urge you to explore the media ecosystem that is inexpensively (but slickly) presented and maintained by this domestic terrorist movement with representatives in our state governments. (This is doable thanks to the internet and lack of need for actual reporting or a paper newspaper). Start here: Exclusive: Idaho Rep. Scott on Liberal Media Attacks at Redoubt News, December 22, 2019. A quotation:

Reminding all “free thinking” Idahoans that the following facts and unanswered questions really do matter when drawing your own conclusions, Scott says that the unbiased integrity of the Rampart Group’s reporting is in serious question when their top four information sources relied upon include the biased Wikipedia, The Southern Poverty Law Center, Portland uber-left journalist writer Leah Sottile and The Inlander reporter Dan Walters.

Savor that language: “biased” Wikipedia, “uber-left” Leah Sottile. Further on in the article Scott accuses (without irony) the “biased media” of a “label lynch” of Matt Shea. I guess for Heather Scott “uber-left” and “liberal” must not be labels. (I was first introduced the right wing construct of “label lynching” in a youtube video of James Allsup, the local white supremacist who infamously marched at Charlottesville, speaking at Northwest Grassroots in Greenbluff.)

Heather Scott’s defense in the Redoubt News gets even richer:

Why haven’t the Washington Democrats, the Washington Republican leadership and west coast liberal media mouth pieces like Dan Walters and Leah Sottile condemned the 2019 bombing and attempted armed violent takeover of a Washington federal facility by extreme left-wing terrorist Willem Van Spronsen?

Willem Van Spronsen? Huh? Do you not recall Mr. Van Spronsen? Perhaps that’s because the isolated Van Spronsen incident didn’t involve officials holding elected office. This is classic whataboutism, false-equivalence, a tactic much favored on the right. It is of-a-piece with McMorris Rodgers asking, “What about George Soros?”

After you scan the report of the Matt Shea investigation (again, here’s the link) I urge you to click around on articles in the Redoubt News echo chamber. Make note of the bias and the advertisers. Consider what you might be thinking about local and world events if this were your major source of news. Share your findings with friends and acquaintances.

Keep to the high ground,

Rep. Matt Shea expelled from GOP caucus after investigation finds he engaged in domestic terrorism  Spokesman, December 20, 2019.

A GOP state legislator helped plan an armed occupation in Oregon, investigators say, calling it ‘domestic terrorism’  Washington Post, December 20, 2019.

Shawn Vestal: Scathing House report should mark rapid end of Matt Shea’s legislative career Spokesman, December 19, 2019

Statesman Editorial: Is Scott a domestic terrorist? Let’s find out  The Lewiston Tribune, December 29, 2019

Religious components of Northwest political extremism Idaho State Journal, December 29, 2019

Ranked Choice Voting

Sick of the stranglehold the Republican and Democratic Parties have on our government? Ever wish you could express yourself by voting for an independent without throwing away your vote? Tired of second-guessing other voters (based on what the pundits are telling you) and voting for a primary candidate because you think they have the better chance of prevailing over a candidate you think is really odious? (Confession: That’s why I supported Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in 2016. I now think I was wrong.)

If that all sounds familiar you should be interested in hearing more about Ranked Choice Voting. Tomorrow afternoon, Thursday, January 9th at 3:30P a presentation of Ranked Choice Voting will be made to members of the Spokane City Council. From Breean Beggs: “Yes, the public is welcome, 3:30pm in the Council Briefing Center, which is in the basement of City Hall. People should check in with security in the first floor lobby and then take the elevator down to the basement.”

Ranked Choice Voting was recently adopted by popular referendum in the State of Maine. The idea has been around for a while. Cambridge, Massachusetts, for example, has used Ranked Choice Voting for the City Council and School Board elections since 1940.

Click and watch an excellent series of very short, animated youtube videos on the concept of Ranked-Choice Voting v. “First Past the Post” voting (our current method). They’re  fun, thoughtful, and explanatory. Produced by CGP Grey, they’re entitled “Politics in the Animal Kingdom.”

Ideas like Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) are tossed around for years before, all of a sudden, understanding of its value spreads widely enough to drive its adoption. With hyper-polarization of our two party system producing a logjam in our governance, now might be the time to take a serious look at what Ranked Choice Voting offers.

In the State of Washington RCV is a pertinent topic. There are two bills in the current WA State legislature session (2019-20), “Local Options for Ranked-Choice Voting” HB 1722 & SB 5708. Each has bipartisan support. If these bills became law the door would open to consider Ranked-Choice Voting in Washington State both at the state level and locally.

Have a look at “Politics in the Animal Kingdom.” For more background visit Check out the bills. Come to the meeting tomorrow. I’ve been assured the meeting room is plenty large, and it might be a chance to actually meet your City Council member.

Nothing good happens unless someone is doing the groundwork and planning ahead. Learning about these efforts in their early phase is important work.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Currently most voting in Washington State is governed by state law that mandates the top two primary with a runoff general election, the system with which we are all familiar. Top two has been in place since it was ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008–four years after 60% of the voters voted for a top two primary in 2004. Both the Republican and Democratic Parties sued to block it. You can read the timeline of Washington States voting changes here. We tend to forget that the manner in which we choose our representatives is subject to change–by us, the voters.

Impeachment Trial by Secret Ballot?

The rules and precedent for impeachment trials are scant. There have only been two impeachments of Presidents that have gone to trial in the Senate–and the rules were an issue both times. Here’s all the Constitution says about the impeachment trial of a President:

Article I (concerning Congress), Section 3: “The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

The House, under Nancy Pelosi, is holding on to the articles of impeachment to force agreement on the Senate the rules for the trial. More evidence accumulates each day. Now Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) offers a thin crack in Senate Republican stonewalling and a threat to McConnell’s vow of a speedy trial with no witnesses. Despite all the Republican partisan condemnation of the impeachment process (and total avoidance of the facts), the American people actually want to hear the evidence and the witnesses, not just experience a sham trial pushed through on some power trip by Mitch McConnell colluding with the President.

Few Republicans in the Senate or the House of Representatives dare offer a peep of criticism of Donald Trump for fear of ending their political career. After all, where does an establishment Republican go, a Republican disgusted with the energized white nationalist base but with little hope of votes from Democrats or middle of the road independents? (See Fear and Loyalty: How Donald Trump Took Over the Republican Party)

So what if just three Senate Republicans, listening to their constituents, demand a real trial with witness testimony? What’s to keep them from offering a secret ballot to the Senators voting as the jury? Farfetched you say? Rule making for this trial only requires the rebellion of few Republican Senators looking for a place of respect in history to scotch McConnell and reach 51 votes. (McConnell understands he cannot dodge having a trial in the same manner that he simply declines to take up all other House legislation.)

Secret ballot? The idea was floated on November 12 by Juleanna Glover, a former advisor to a number of Republican politicians. The very same day Jim Geraghty wrote a rebuttal in the National Review, “A Secret Ballot for Impeachment Would Be a Terrible Idea.” Remember that the National Review is the mouthpiece for the Republican/Libertarian establishment. The swiftness of the response is testimony to the nervousness Glover’s column produced among some Republicans.

The idea is far from dead. “The case for letting senators vote secretly on Trump’s fate” popped up on CNN on New Year’s Eve, written by Robert M. Alexander. It’s a compelling read.

Precedent for a secret ballot? There’s quite a lot of it. After all, juries typically make their decisions in secret. Mr. Alexander:

Anonymous juries are sometimes used in high-profile cases when retribution toward jurors is a possibility or past efforts to obstruct justice have occurred. They have been used, for example, in the cases of crime bosses such as John Gotti and Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. At the outset of the impeachment inquiry, California Rep. Adam Schiff likened Trump’s behavior to that of a “classic mafia-like shakedown.”

Secret ballots have occurred in Congress before. In 1800 and in 1824 the House voted by secret ballot (within each state delegation) to elect Presidents. The Electoral College had failed to produce a winner of an absolute majority of the Electoral College voting, so the election was thrown to the House. In such a case the Constitution says each state gets a single vote. The votes cast by the individual Congressmen within each state delegation were not made known.

We are, as a country, in a crisis of governance a point at which the rules we thought were so solid are failing us. In crises we re-examine the rules previously agreed to, the Bylaws, the Rules of Order, precedent, or The Constitution. We find the rules are here are pretty skinny–and certainly open to debate. It is time to pay attention. This is not a time to simply back down in the face of a looming strong man autocracy.

Share the idea of a secret ballot. If there are Senate Republicans who have not swallowed Trumpism hook, line, and sinker perhaps they’d vote according to their moral convictions and their oath of office if Trump and McConnell couldn’t know the color of the ballot they cast.

Keep to the high ground,