Portland-On the Ground

When Attorney General William Barr testified before Congress last Wednesday, July 28, he characterized the Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, Oregon, as violent riots. Jim Jordan, U.S. Rep from Ohio, one of the committee mermbers showed edited video depicting incidents to show the protests as riots consuming the city. In the wake of the testimony, The Oregonian and most of mainstream media pushed back at Barr’s statements while the right wing media echoed Barr’s (and Trump’s) “law and order” message. 

Late the same day the Trump administration blinked in the standoff with the Mayor of Portland and the Governor of Oregon, both of whom have been loudly pushing for the feds to leave on grounds that their presence was inciting the unrest. The federal administration announced a carefully worded “phased withdrawal” of Customs and Border Protection and ICE agents, an announcement that sounded to me like an attempt to save face while getting out of a situation that looked bad for them.

So whose characterization of the protests in Portland is the truth, the Trump media or what we used to call the “mainstream” media? Is this a case of blind people examining an elephant, where each gets to feel just one appendage? 

For my part, I found this youtube video informative as an illustration of who was playing the aggressor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQ_moOtDqvk  [The incident that made this gentle giant famous as a non-violent protester is seen around 3:15 in the video if you don’t have the time or patience to watch the whole thing.] As a physician, I was particularly touched by the description of the volunteer medics treating the injured. 

I value eyewitness accounts by respected people. Dr. Alden Roberts is surgeon and retired former Chief Medical Officer of a hospital in Vancouver, Washington, who recently finished his term as the Chairman of the Washington Medical Commission. He went went to Portland to see for himself. I was able to contact Dr. Roberts via LinkedIn and confirm his authorship and willingness to share. This is what he wrote back: “Yes, that was an e-mail I sent to my kids. I’ve now been to four protests, once with other physicians and once with my older brother. Our observations are what I described to my kids.”

“1. The protests are confined to a 2 block radius around the courthouse, and if you’re 4 blocks away, you can’t tell anything has been happening. There is nothing going on outside of that region, and Portland is functioning as normally as the Pandemic will allow. It is not burning, nor is it out of control.

2. The protesters are absolutely peaceful at the Protests that I have been part of, and with the exception of graffiti, are completely within their constitutional rights to protest. The protests involve singing, chanting, and have used “white walls” to block whites who are trying to disrupt or corrupt the protests. Yes, cursing is rather commonplace. More than ½ of the protesters are white. All are protesting for Black Lives Matter, although the entrance of the federal paramilitary force has brought out a lot of people, including myself, who are incensed at the use of unregulated federal force against law abiding citizen and against the will of the state and local governments.

3. ALL of the protesters are wearing masks to minimize transmission of CoV-2. However, as at times there are 1000 or more of us, it is hard (though not impossible) to maintain social distancing. When the federal paramilitary force is deployed, it becomes impossible.

4. The Police responded unprovoked and were brutal, but nothing like the paramilitary force. There is a court order that forbids the police to use teargas. I was not there when it was just the police.

5. At the protests I have attended, I did not witness any unlawfulness on the part of the protesters. Each time, the federal paramilitary personnel launched an apparently unprovoked attack. There have been no “riots.” The federal paramilitary force has had no training in crowd control, has no oversight, was not invited to Portland by local leadership, does not have any form of identification do not wear name badges, and wears military camo. They are heavily armed with flash-bang grenades, less-lethal bullets, pepper bullets, pepper spray and tear gas. They will pull goggles off of protesters and spray pepper spray into their eyes. They used a baton to beat a US Navy vet, broke his hand and sprayed pepper spray in his eyes because he asked why they weren’t honoring their vow to protect the constitution. During the assault, he stood still and did not resist until blinded by the pepper spray, he turned around and walked away. The “line of mothers” on Sunday was gassed and shot with less-lethal bullets for chanting Black Lives Matter. At least one was pregnant. A protester holding a sign up with both hands was shot in the head with a “non-lethal” bullet and will likely have permanent brain damage. While I have not personally seen this, there are videos of people being kidnapped into unmarked vans by the federal paramilitaries as they left the protests, held for a couple of days, interrogated, then released without charges or explanation. At this time, re-read my first two points. The protests are no threat to Portland and only encompass a 2 block area. They have been peaceful, with graffiti as the only illegal activity. They are well controlled and supported by a cross section of Portlanders. There is no reason for the federal government to be involved, and the excessive force being used appears to be nothing more than a political show of force against US Citizens by the Trump administration.

6. About 3000 protesters showed up last night (July 21); all with masks, very well behaved. Certainly no chaos, no violence on the part of the protesters. I left at 10:30, the paramilitary attacked at 12:30. I spent an hour talking to the medics. They say they are being targeted by the paramilitary personnel. They are often the first to be shot at and tear gassed. When they try to help an injured protester, the paramilitary personnel throw flash-bangs and tear gas at them (they carry gas masks). One of them was beaten, dragged away from the injured person they were treating and arrested. They are from OHSU as well as Portland Fire.

7. The Elk statue was taken down by the Police to “protect” it, but the Elk statue was a favorite of the protesters because it was uncontroversial; so they got a blow-up elk and put it where the real statue used to stand. It’s sort of a rallying point.”

This should concern, if not terrify, all of us. This is an unidentified and unaccountable federal police presence attacking American citizens who are not violating any federal laws. This is literally how the “secret police” in other authoritarian regimes began. The comparison to the early stages of Nazi Germany is NOT AN EXAGGERATION anymore.

Silence is complacency. Please share this post. Please spread this information. Please get involved. Do not allow or condone this conduct by our federal government. I don’t care which political party you support, this is an affront to the U.S. Constitution and the founding principals of our nation”.

Sent from my iPhone

For my part I am left with no doubt as to what has been going on in Portland between Dr. Roberts’ email and the youtube interview with the gentle giant veteran referenced above. Keep this incident in mind as you vote in the Primary (next Tuesday is the deadline for the Washington primary election ballot turn-in) and in November. No one who has supported Trump and what has been doing for the last three and a half years is going to get a vote from me. 

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. I wish to acknowledge the assistance of Deborah Greene in recommending I try to contact Dr. Roberts via LinkedIn. Even as a retired physician myself and with all the electronic connections I available to me I found it surprisingly difficult to contact him. Lesson learned.

P.P.S. I took the trouble to confirm to authorship both because it is the right thing to do, but also because I recognize a genre of widely circulated emails among (mostly older) friends, They are emails with a subtle or subliminal political message, a message often tacked on to an engaging story. They circulate without attribution or with questionable attribution. They are constructed by some political operative intending to mold the minds of their readers while never to having to answer for the veracity of the claim or the source of their funding. 

Covid, Masks, Evidence and Ideology

The Panhandle Health District board of health serves the five northern counties of Idaho: Boundary, Bonner, Kootenai, Benewah, and Shoshone. The first four of those counties make up about 3/5ths of the Idaho border with eastern Washington. As Covid-19 cases rose precipitously in Coeur d’Alene over the last few weeks, the Panhandle Health District’s six member board of health finally voted for a mask mandate–but only for Kootenai County–by a vote of four to two. The no votes were cast by two men from Bonner County (which includes Sandpoint and the otherwise mostly rural territory represented in the Idaho State legislature by Heather Scott). Here is their reasoning as quoted from the Bonner County Daily Bee on July 24th:

Board member Glen Bailey, a former Bonner County commissioner, one of the two no votes, said masks would not be effective, comparing wearing the masks in preventing the spread of COVID-19 to “trying to stop a mosquito with a chain-link fence.”

“It’s a threat to us as a community,” Bailey said. “I have observed the rise in case numbers. But at the same time, I have not seen a commensurate rise in the death rate.”

Allen Banks, the at-large member of the board and also a Bonner County resident, voted no.

“Masks do not work,” Banks said.

“The latest CDC publication in emerging and infectious disease … (shows) no benefit to the rate of influenza infection from wearing masks.”

Both these men claim university level educations that include the word “science,” that is, education that ought spur them to read more widely than their statements suggest. 

Bailey’s mosquito/chainlink fence analogy is cute and easy to understand–and wrong. Based solely on the size of a single virus particle and the spaces in cloth mesh it makes appealing and superficial sense, but it totally ignores a large body of bench science on droplet spread, electrostatic capture, and the physics of aerosols–as well as a growing body of epidemiological investigations on the spread of Covid-19.

Allen Banks’ “Masks don’t work” is based on a single CDC publication, a meta-analysis, not of studies of Covid-19, but of a series of studies of influenza transmission. Mr. Banks kindly provided a link to the article. It was written by a postgraduate student at the University of Hong Kong, Jingyi Xiao. In the part of her analysis regarding facemask efficacy, Ms. Xiao writes, “Most studies [that she analyzed] were underpowered because of limited sample size, and some studies also reported suboptimal adherence in the face mask group.” Running statistical analysis (meta-analysis) of underpowered and suboptimal studies does not yield a greater truth. Mr. Banks focuses on this publication because it suits his confirmation bias. To accept this meta-analysis as conclusive is to ignore an increasing body of observational evidence in the real world, including two referenced below. (See also The Face Mask Debate Reveals a Scientific Double Standard.) 

Who of us (prior to the Covid-19 pandemic) knew anything about local boards of health? It is time we pay attention. Each of these civic boards has its own bylaws and composition, including volunteer positions increasingly occupied by people with an ideology and an axe to grind. (We have our own eastern Washington example. Jason Kinley, a friend of Matt Shea, was recently appointed to the Spokane Regional Health District board of health.) 

While people like Glen Bailey and Allen Banks speak from their ideological biases and blinkered fact bases, evidence continues to mount that face masks are, indeed, very effective. Here are some real world examples:

In Switzerland where the Covid-19 outbreak is at a point where contact tracing is still practical, a recent report of a Covid-19 cluster among hotel employees not only attests to the utility of face masks, but also contrasts face mask effectiveness to the lack of effectiveness of face shields. An article from July 15 entitled ‘Only those with plastic visors were infected’: Swiss government warns against face shields, suggests that not only have the Swiss gotten beyond Bailey’s and Banks’ misinformation but have moved on the next level of analysis. (Of course, accepting such data as this would require Republicans to acknowledge people other that U.S. citizens are capable of performing credible research.)

This Missouri hair stylist case study, now complete and published by the CDC, stands in direct contraction to Allen Banks’ bald statement that “Masks don’t work.” Not one of 139 people (all wearing various masks) exposed to two Covid-19 positive, mildly symptomatic hair stylists (wearing cloth masks) came down with the disease. 

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. A free article from the Wall Street Journal (not exactly a left wing newspaper ;-), Covid-19 Measures Have All but Wiped Out the Flu in the Southern Hemisphere, strongly suggests that the measures used in southern countries to combat the spread of Covid-19 curb the spread of influenza as well. Obviously, this isn’t just the use of masks, but also a host of other measures that vary from country to country. Both diseases are predominantly spread by respiratory means. It’s just that Covid-19 spreads more efficiently, spreads from asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic people, and is spreading in a population with little resistance and no vaccine. 

P.P.S. The Bonner County Daily Bee on July 28, reports “Push on to replace pro-mask PHD board members.” The headline is deceptive. The most quoted man in the article, Bill Brooks, one of three Kootenai County Commissioners, says, “I got about 125 -130 emails: 70 want a replacement, and the rest of them want to award a medal of honor” in reference to the M.D. and R.N., both from Coeur d’Alene, who serve on the Panhandle Board of Health. It is ironic that the only two members of the six member board who actually have experience in clinical medicine are the ones that “seventy” emailers want to kick off the board. It is editorial sensationalism to characterize this as a “Push on to replace…” It sounds more to me like a well organized vocal minority of ideologues and ignoramuses, the like of which we have in Spokane in the form of the Matt Shea/Covenant Church cluster. 

The article did provide an explanation of how people come to serve on the Panhandle Board of Health: 

“Fillios [another Kootenai County Commissioner] then cited Idaho code 39-411, which requires that one member of the board should be a physician, that there be no more than one member in the same professional or interest group, and that all members should demonstrate either an education or interest in the field of health. He then specified the process for appointing or removing a board member, which requires a vote.

“It takes the majority vote of the 15 county commissioners, three from each county,” he said. “This is state law, folks. We don’t write these. These are the laws as prescribed and voted on and passed by your Legislature.”

Citizens of each county need to pay attention to how all this all works. Observe, for example, the power that the fifteen commissioners (three from each county) wield in determining the composition of such boards. John Roskelley, former Spokane County Commissioner and current candidate for WA State Senator from LD4 (Spokane Valley north to Mt. Spokane) correctly observed that county commissioners wield extraodinary power–and most voters know very little about the commissioners that are supposed to represent them.

Defund and Cripple Government!

Local and state Republican/Libertarians, just like their national version, pursue Grover Norquist‘s goal: “I’m not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” They profess that goal rhetorically by asserting “I’m against taxes!”, regardless of the circumstances and regardless of the tax. 

Every viable “Prefers Republican” candidate running in the primary election for the office of governor of the State of Washington insists there will be no tax increases. [There are 35 challengers on the ballot, but only five are actively campaigning and have raised significant sums. Joshua D. Freed ($1,422,309.99), Loren D. Culp ($961,653.92), Tim D. Eyman ($437,774.67), Dr. Raul Garcia ($255,476.61), and Phillip Fortunato ($218,707.64).]

If one promises no tax increase of any kind, what does that mean? Every state faces a budget shortfall as a result of a drop in tax collections secondary decreased economic activity due to Covid-19. States, unlike the federal government, have to balance their budgets. If there can be no increase in revenue the result is simple: spending must be slashed. None of these “Prefers Republican” candidates is saying where this slashing will occur. Cut funding for the North-South Spokane freeway? Cut spending on education? (Education is roughly half the budget, and schools are already strained in trying to deal with the pandemic.) Cut spending for Medicaid? Nursing homes? Early learning? Foster care? (Raises for 5600 state employees have already been cancelled by Governor Inslee.) 

So what would these “Prefers Republican” gubernatorial candidates face were they to be elected governor? 

According to Jim Camden, writing in the Spokesman about the primary candidates for governor, Washington State “…faces a budget with a yawning gap of about $8 billion between what the state was planning to spend over the next three years and the amount of money it can expect to come in because of economic slowdown.” Eight billion is “a lot of money,” but it is a meaningless number without context. (Note that the eight billion is over “the next three years,” making the number even more incomprehensible.) The annual Washington State budget is around 27 billion, about half of which goes to education. Eight billion, even made annual by dividing by 3 (=2.7 billion), is still a big number, 10% of the annual budget. (For a deeper look at the complexity of the biennial budget see the P.S. below.)
Tim D. Eyman has made his name fielding anti-tax initiatives in Washington state, carrying the Norquist “Shrink Government!” banner by whittling away tax revenues, with nary a mention of how he would reduce spending to balance the cuts. 

Sue Lani Madsen inadvertently alerted us to the best funded of the “Prefers Republican” candidates, Joshua Freed, in her rambling, name-dropping column on Thursday, July 23, promoting signatures for I-1114. I-1114 is the deceptively named “Emergency Powers Act”. It would hamstring the governor’s ability to lead in an emergency by limiting the effect of proclamations to 14 days–unless extended by a vote of the legislature. (Note: The WA legislature that is “in session” only 165 days in each two year period. Grover Norquist, the Republican/Libertarian operative in favor drowning government in the bathtub, would smile.) Freed is promoting “Restore Washington,” the group pushing this slap at Governor Inslee’s leadership in the pandemic crisis. This is the same bunch whose prior effort was I-1648, a tax-overturning initiative that failed to gather enough signatures. Their original intent is memorialized in their web address: http://restorewashington.org/tax-relief-for-all/   

Loren Culp, police chief of Republic, WA, famous for publicly refusing to enforce I-1639, doesn’t even acknowledge there exists a state revenue shortfall that he would have to face as governor. According to his website “Washington DOES NOT have a revenue problem.” So there!

Dr. Raul Garcia, a Yakima-based emergency room physician, simply states “…we cannot raise taxes in an economic crisis,..” He also fails to acknowledge the looming shortfall. To read Dr. Garcia’s statement about the handling of the coronavirus in Washington State on his website is to recognize his medical education did not include a course in epidemiology. 

Not one of these Republican/Libertarian candidates comes equipped with a reality-based understanding of the issues the state government faces. All are wedded to a credo that prevents them from dealing with the issues. All refuse to say where they would cut. Keep them out of government.

And while you’re at it, if you live in LD4, (Spokane Valley north to Mt. Spokane) vote for the accountant, Lance Gurel, for LD4 representative not the real estate agent or the conspiracy theorist. We need people who understand numbers and aren’t constrained by Norquistian “drown-it-in-the-bathtub” ideology.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. The state budget is not easy to get one’s head around. I’ve copied below in yellow the best explanation I could find. Even with this explanation the numbers don’t completely add up, but they’re pretty close. Here’s another look at some of the complexity the governor and the legislators will face when they reassemble in Olympia: State revenue projection for 2019–21 lowered by nearly $4.5 billion.

The total two year budget includes new revenue projections totaling $47.8 billion. From the release:

Total Near General Fund revenues are now projected at about $47.8 billion for the current two-year state budget cycle, which began July 1, 2019. The dramatic decline in projected revenues would leave the state with a net $1.4 billion shortfall — including reserves [3.5 billion–I think this is the “rainy day fund”] — at the end of biennium. [the “biennium,” the two year budget, ends June 30, 2021]

However, the scope of the shortfall may be worse than those numbers state.

For perspective, the legislature adopted a supplemental budget in the 2020 session of about $53.5 billion. The projected two-year revenues of $47.8 billion creates a shortfall of $5.7 billion over adopted expenditures. This does not account for utilization of reserves, as the OFM [Office of Financial Management] statement does. 

Since the two-year shortfall will now need to be made up in one year, since the revenue and expenditures of FY ’20 are now mostly booked, this leaves the estimated $5.7 billion deficit of the two-year budget to be borne mostly in the single year of FY ’21.

That creates a $5.7bn shortfall to be made up from expenditures of about $27 billion, or a single year deficit of around 20% – again, not counting the one-time use of reserves.

CMR vs. Whom?

The Washington State Primary (ballots due August 4) is underway–and there is a curious hitch. It is possible that U.S. Rep. for the 5th Congressional District (CD5–Eastern Washington) Cathy McMorris Rodgers will be running in the General Election in November against a primary challenger who is no longer in the race. On the third day of Spokane County primary election ballot mailing (and long after the paper ballots had been printed), Chris Armitage, the more progressive of CMR’s two Democratic challengers, dropped out the race. (See P.S. below).

The remaining Democratic challenger for CMR’s CD5 seat is Dave Wilson, but, since Armitage is still on the ballot, some have already voted, and others may not be aware that Armitage has dropped out, it is possible that McMorris Rodgers and Armitage could still be the “top two” in the primary. According to Vicky Dalton, our highly respected Spokane County Auditor (who manages elections in the county), in that case election law would put Armitage opposing CMR in the November General Election, even though he is no longer running. 

Bottom line: If you haven’t already turned in your primary ballot, vote for Dave Wilson. The Progressive Voters Guide has been updated to reflect the change.

If you haven’t yet received your ballot (for Washington State voters), something is amiss. First check MyVote.wa.gov to see if your address is correct. Contact the Spokane County Elections Office (or your county’s elections office) by email or phone. Here’s the link to those numbers and emails for Spokane County: https://www.spokanecounty.org/Directory.aspx?did=10

I offered these resources in a prior email, but here they are again:

If you have time to dig more deeply, you can listen to interviews with candidates pertinent to Spokane County by searching candidate names at https://www.spokanepublicradio.org/search/google#stream/0.

The League of Women Voters did Zoom interviews with many area candidates; These videos are available here: https://my.lwv.org/washington/spokane-area/article/view-videos-august-2020-primary-candidate-forums

For candidates at the state level you can determine who is funding there candidacy by visiting the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission website: https://www.pdc.wa.gov/  Navigation on that site takes some learning, but there is a lot of interesting information. For example, one can quickly see that only six of the thirty-six candidates for Washington State governor have significant financial backing: https://www.pdc.wa.gov/browse/campaign-explorer.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Last Friday, July 17th, in a surprise announcement to his supporters and on Facebook, Chris Armitage announced he was dropping out of the race. In an email he said, “Over the last few months my mental health has declined, and that trend continued until I reached a point where I knew that I could no longer be here for myself let alone our community.” He goes on to say, “As this decline continued, I was made aware of an allegation that what I considered at the time to be a consensual relationship was not.” The whole situation reads as unfortunate, but details are scarce. Chris Armitage invested a great deal of time and effort in his campaign since he announced his run in December, 2019. 

The same day as Armitage’s Twitter announcement  Kip Hill covered the story in the Spokesman, but was able to offer nothing more than what was in the original announcement, leaving many questions unanswered.    Jim Camden, in a Spokesman article on Tuesday, July 21, covered the implications of Armitage leaving the race.

Covid v. the Economy

During most of the pandemic Mr. Trump, Fox News, and Republican followers have preached that stay-at-home orders to “flatten the curve” would wreck the economy. Against almost all reputable medical and epidemiological advice, they argued in favor of loosening recommendations, laws, and mandates that were aimed at quelling the spread of disease. Many in this camp argued that Covid-19 was no worse than the flu, that those most susceptible to dying from the disease should simply isolate themselves from society and let the rest get on working and spending, fueling the economy: Go forth with abandon! The sooner you get Covid-19 and get over it, the sooner we can get back to business as usual! Think of all those people who will lose their jobs if everyone stays home, all those people gone crazy from staying home! The common thread of all this is the idea that we just needed to quickly plow through to herd immunity, get it over with, and get back to normal life.

Elsewhere in the world there were several examples of governments that followed some version of Trumpian “save the economy” principles nearly from the outset of the pandemic. The two most cited examples are Sweden and Brazil.

Sweden did modest social distancing recommendations but kept the economy open, while trying to isolate and protect the elderly, hoping to quickly acquire herd immunity sufficient to protect the vulnerable. It proved impossible to keep the virus out of the older population while society remained mostly open. Sweden experienced a higher death rate (54/100,000 population) than any other European country in spite of universal health coverage and advanced medical care. The Swedes are now self-examining their failure through investigation by a coronavirus commission–and they are nowhere the herd immunity they sought. 

One of the would-be autocrats for whom Trump expresses affection, Jair Bolsonaro, has been blusteringly anti-science from the beginning, consistently downplaying the effects of the disease, refusing to socially distance or wear a mask, promoting hydroxychloroquine enthusiastically despite credible contrary evidence, and finally catching Covid-19 himself. Unfortunately, his case so far is mild enough that it is unlikely to reduce his bluster. The death toll in Brazil as of July 13 was 72,000 already reported dead of Covid-19 (a number second only to the U.S.), a number in Brazil that is still rapidly growing. The Brazilian health care system is overwhelmed.

With these two save-the-economy-let’s-just-plow-through-this models as examples, have the Swedish and Brazilian economies remained resilient? After all, that was the point of this headlong rush into the Dance of Death, wasn’t it? Brazil is experiencing widespread unemploymentl and its deepest depression since the country began keeping track of economic numbers,

Sweden’s economic result is harder to assess. In every country there is some lag in reporting both health and economic data. Available statistics at the end of April suggested the Swedish economy was headed for a deep dive despite the “soft lockdown.”

The detailed history of the economic effects of different approaches to battling the spread of Covid-19 won’t be written for some time, but it strikes me that among three examples of varying degrees of rebellion against conventional control efforts (Sweden, the United States, and Brazil), all demonstrate degrees of economic suffering not much different from countries with stricter controls. That seems small benefit for the price paid of overtaxed health infrastructure, higher death rates and suffering, and the specter of refrigerated trucks storing the bodies of the dead. Choosing the economy over science-based efforts to control the spread of the virus so far seems only to heighten the misery.

As the virus spreads through the population more and more people know someone who contracted the disease and many know of someone who died from it. Covid-19 is not the flu, Donald Trump, Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh, and Tucker Carlson to the contrary. The more areas for the United States that experience a surge of Covid-19 infections and death the more caution people will take. The folks demonstrating against mandated mask wear as “unconstitutional,” for instance, miss the point. Mandating mask wear was always mostly a moral argument, not a legal one, an argument to be followed by education, cajoling, and leaders setting an example by wearing one. There isn’t and never was enough law enforcement or jail space to enforce a mask law against an unwilling populace. These people shouting about their “constitutional” rights clearly lack the native intelligence and common sense to understand to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do. 

Wear a mask. We’ll get back to a functioning economy sooner if we work together. Do you homework on the Washington State Primary election ballot you should soon receive and especially avoid those who make inane arguments about the coronavirus.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. For candidate examples of science denial, unreality-based thinking listen to the Spokane Public Radio interviews of two State Rep candidates in LD4, Spokane Valley north to Mount Spokane, both Republicans: Rob Chase is a glaring example. Leonard Christian is not far behind. Lance Gurel is the reasonable candidate in this race–and, as an accountant, he offers experience in dealing with budget deficits. There multiple examples of among Republicans running for county, legislative, and statewide offices with anti-science views on the pandemic. Do your homework. Keep them out of government.

Extra–Portland as Prelude?

I’ve copied below Doug Muder’s post from yesterday entitled  “Who Are These Guys”  It deserves close attention. Portland is only a few hours from here. These event have frightening national implications. Coverage is scant apart from Fox touting Trump’s law and order message. (A search for “Portland” in the Spokesman yielded only an article from Saturday entitled, “Oregon officials decry federal agents after protest clashes“)

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Even if you don’t read the whole thing be sure to scroll down to the striking photo near the end and consider the courage required. Is this our Tianenmen Sqare moment?

Who Are Those Guys?

by weeklysift

Customs and Border Protection has finally claimed the anonymous federal law enforcement agents who have been abducting people off the streets in Portland. But it still won’t say who they are or exactly what they’re doing.Often, when the Trump administration is described in totalitarian terms, it’s hyperbole, or at least debatable.So, for example, describing ICE as a “Gestapo” is hyperbole. They violate civil rights and are out of control in a lot of ways, but comparisons to the Gestapo are overblown. Similarly, there has been debate (yes and no) about whether the detention facilities that hold legal asylum seekers and unauthorized border-crossers qualify as “concentration camps”. (My opinion: Yes, as long as we remember that concentration camps are not always death camps. Concentration camps isolate unpopular and dehumanized groups in harsh conditions outside of public view; death camps target them for extermination. Dachau was a concentration camp when it opened in 1933, but it didn’t become a death camp until much later.)However, the federal law enforcement agents who have been roaming around Portland this last week are literally “secret police” — no hyperbole, no exaggeration. Their uniforms say POLICE, but do not identify what federal agency they are from or who the individual officers are. They cover their faces, drive unmarked vehicles, and grab people off the street without identifying themselves, their unit, the reason for the arrest, or where they are taking their victims. If right-wing militia groups start putting POLICE patches on their camo uniforms and kidnapping protest leaders, no one will know the difference; neither their appearance nor their behavior will give them away.So that’s where we are: We’ve crossed one more bridge on the road to fascism, and it’s arguable that we’ve already arrived. Let’s think about how we got here.Lafayette Square. On June 1, after the peaceful protests of George Floyd’s murder had also spawned looting and property damage in cities across the nation, President Trump called for law enforcement to “dominate the streets“. He urged governors to call in the National Guard, and made the following threat:”If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,” Trump said, referring to himself as “your president of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters.”He said he was already dispatching “thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel and law enforcement officers” to Washington to stop the violence that has been a feature of the protests here.While he was speaking, federal law enforcement agents of various stripes attacked peaceful protesters near the White House, pushing them out of Lafayette Square so that Trump could have his infamous hold-up-the-Bible photo op at historic St. John’s Episcopal Church.Meanwhile, active-duty troops were being deployed to the DC area. Unnamed sources claimed Trump wanted to deploy 10,000 troops. Fortunately, generals and Pentagon civilians all the way up to Defense Secretary Esper pushed back, arguing that suppressing domestic dissent is not the military’s role. (I’m guessing the 10,000-troop story was leaked by a military person who wanted the plan stopped.) In the end, active-duty troops were never used against protesters and were withdrawn, but not before the incident “badly strained relations between Mr. Trump and the military”.From Trump’s point of view, though, the week had one bright spot. The regular military might be reluctant to take the field against American protesters, but he did identify a force he could use: a motley assortment of armed federal law enforcement agentstemporarily commanded by Attorney General Bill Barr.Few sights from the nation’s protests in recent days have seemed more dystopian than the appearance of rows of heavily-armed riot police around Washington in drab military-style uniforms with no insignia, identifying emblems or name badges. Many of the apparently federal agents have refused to identify which agency they work for. In the words of Butch Cassidy: “Who are those guys?” It turns out that the federal government has something like 132,000 law enforcement officers spread out over dozens of agencies in multiple departments. Yahoo News called the roll:The show of force outside the White House is a task force operation that includes U.S. Secret Service, National Guard, Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Park Police, … Federal Protective Service, … elite SWAT teams from the Border Patrol and sniper-trained units from ICE have also descended upon Washington. TSA’s air marshals arrived too, and three of the agency’s “VIPR teams,” which have previously faced criticism for not coordinating well with local law enforcement. Eight Coast Guard investigators were deputized by the Department of Justice upon arrival in Washington, though it remains unclear how they are being deployed.Which raises an obvious question: What kind of rules apply to people from one agency deputized by another? The rules of their home agency? Their temporary commander’s? None? There are all kinds of restrictions, both legal and institutional, on what the President can or can’t do with the military inside our borders. But these guys, apparently, not so much. Through the years, whenever Congress increased the budgets of the Bureau of Prisons or ATF or one of the dozens of other armed law enforcement agencies, who realized they were helping build a 132,000-man Praetorian Guard?As democracy-threatening as this seemed in June, though, comforting speculation held that DC’s special relationship with the federal government made it unique. (That even became an argument for DC statehood.) Surely these little green men could never be deployed in a state over the objection of its governor.After all, this is America.The Portland protests. The George Floyd protests have had remarkable longevity, challenging the conventional wisdom that the Powers That Be can always wait these things out. But nothing lasts forever, and by July 1, even Seattle’s famous CHOP autonomous zone had been reclaimed by local authorities.In Portland, however, the spirit of resistance is still very much alive. Friday marked the 50th day of protest. OregonLive describes the situation like this:Portland has experienced weeks of daily protests since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police. The largest of them, involving thousands of people chanting and marching for racial justice and police non-violence, have been peaceful.But almost like clockwork, tensions flare late at night between law enforcement officers stationed at the Justice Center and courthouse and a crowd of 20- and 30-something demonstrators, a small number of whom toss projectiles at police, shine lasers in their eyes or otherwise poke and prod officers to engage…. Although the Justice Center and federal courthouse are covered with angry graffiti decrying police, evidence of other demonstrations in the city are scarce.But you get a different sense from local journalist Robert Evans, who has been covering the nightly clashes, which he describes as “as close up to the line as you can get to actual war without live rounds”.The craziest night so far was July 4, where kids stockpiled thousands of dollars in illegal fireworks. They were in the center of downtown where the bulk of the protests happened around the Justice Center.It started as drunken party, more or less. At random, cops began shooting into the crowd. Protesters coalesced around the idea of firing commercial-grade fireworks into the Justice Center and Federal Courthouse. You had law enforcement firing rubber bullets, foam bullets, pepper balls and tear gas as crowds circled in around the courthouse firing rockets into the side of the building. That went on for a shocking length of time — there was this running three-hour street battle. I couldn’t tell whose explosions were whose.Trumpist media and administration spokespeople have been desperate for something to talk about other than Trump’s failure to control the coronavirus pandemic, and so they have seized on “mob rule” as a theme, with Portland as a prime example of a city “under siege”. But OregonLive pushes back against that narrative: “A tour of the town shows otherwise.”The images that populate national media feeds, however, come almost exclusively from a tiny point of the city: a 12-block area surrounding the Justice Center and federal courthouse. And they occur exclusively during late-night hours in which only a couple hundred or fewer protesters and scores of police officers are out in the city’s coronavirus-hollowed downtown.Daily life in Portland is greatly restricted by the virus, but is barely affected by the demonstrations. Evans agrees:One of the things I think people get wrong about this place, though, is that they see the protests and the right-wing coverage and the city is depicted as convulsed and collapsing. It’s just not true. You go three blocks from the center of downtown and life goes on as normal. Where I live, you could go every day and see no real signs of the protests.Having totally given up on doing anything to combat the virus, though, Trump had to be seen doing something about something. And so he intervened in Portland.DHS’ little green men. If you get your view of the world through Fox News, you understand that the biggest current threat to the United States and the American way of life is not the virus that has killed nearly 140,000 of us with no end in sight. No, it is the wanton destruction of our historical statues and monuments. Any time I have channel-scanned through the Fox News evening line-up in the last month, that’s what they’ve been talking about.To combat this scourge, on June 26 President Trump heroically signed the “Executive Order on Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Violence“. If you read past the polemics all the way to the end, you’ll find this authorization:Upon the request of the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Homeland Security, or the Administrator of General Services, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security shall provide, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, personnel to assist with the protection of Federal monuments, memorials, statues, or property.He’s talking about the 132,000 federal law enforcement agents, the Little Green Men. And unlike in a riot or a natural disaster where a governor might ask for the help of the National Guard, here one part of the federal government asks another part to send the Little Green Men. The Secretary of Homeland Security, you might notice, is authorized to ask himself for assistance.As it happens, we don’t have a Secretary of Homeland Security, and haven’t since Trump forced Kirstjen Nielsen to resign in April, 2019 because she “pushed back on his demands to break the law“. Since then we’ve had acting DHS secretaries, because Trump says “I like acting. It gives me more flexibility.” (In fact, Josh Marshall observes that every DHS official who figures in this story is acting: “acting secretary, acting deputy secretary and acting head of CBP. Not one of these men has been confirmed by the Senate to act in this role.” Having avoided confirmation hearings where senators might demand promises or commitments, all three get their authority from and owe their allegiance to no one but Trump.)So Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf responded to Trump’s executive order by creating the Protecting American Communities Task Force (PACT) “a special task force to coordinate Departmental law enforcement agency assets in protecting our nation’s historic monuments, memorials, statues, and federal facilities”. The PACT announcement quotes Wolf: “We won’t stand idly by while violent anarchists and rioters seek not only to vandalize and destroy the symbols of our nation, but to disrupt law and order and sow chaos in our communities.” (“Violent anarchist” is a phrase you’ll hear again. It is to the Trump administration what “terrorist” was to the Bush administration: a term stripped of all its original meanings until it is simply an insult, i.e., “someone we don’t like”.)Notice the subtle shift: We’re not talking about statues of Andrew Jackson any more, as Trump was when he signed the executive order. We’re talking about “federal facilities” like the Mark Hatfield Courthouse in Portland, the courthouse mentioned above. PACT’s mission also extends beyond “protecting” those facilities to the much more nebulous goal of maintaining “law and order” and fighting “chaos in our communities”. But the Hatfield Courthouse is more than just a center of “chaos”, it is also the scene of a heinous crime: graffiti.Maybe the Trump administration will stand idly by while American coronavirus deaths once again approach a thousand a day, and maybe it will do nothing when Putin puts bounties on the lives of our soldiers in Afghanistan, but graffiti on a federal courthouse is an affront up with which it will not put.Send in the Little Green Men.The federal invasion of Portland. Sometime after the Fourth of July — no one seems to know exactly when, because there wasn’t an announcement — unidentified federal law enforcement agents from no particular agency began battling protesters alongside the Portland police. And they did not just support the local officials, they significantly escalated the violence. Here’s Robert Evans again:Since the feds got involved with police it’s gotten really brutal. I’d argue we’ve seen more police brutality in the last 50 days from Portland Police Department than anywhere else in the country. It’s brutal but it’s also predictable. There are rhythms to the way police work. It’s become an orchestrated dance with both sides.There are warnings and kicking people out of the demonstration area. But the feds have deliberately defied the rhythms. Last Saturday [July 11], the crowd was 100 or so. It was very chill — nothing going on beyond the now-normal occupation of the Justice Center. And feds came out grabbing people seemingly at random and beating people with sticks. There was the kid who got shot in the head and his skull was fractured. The federal law enforcement violence is unpredictable violence.The “kid shot in the head” was Donovan LaBella, and we have the shooting on video. The Oregonian summarized in a tweet:Video shows nothing suggesting that La Bella, 26, who was standing across the street from the federal courthouse holding a speaker over his head, was a threat to anyone.What appears to be a tear gas canister bounces in front of him. He kicks at it, bends down to toss it underhanded into the street, and lifts up his speaker again. Then he goes down, apparently struck by a sponge grenade or some other “less lethal” projectile that is never supposed to be aimed at someone’s head. (LaBella’s sister says he’s making a “remarkable recovery“, but the photo of his stitched-up forehead looks pretty gruesome.)Who shot LaBella? Hard to say. Some unmarked federal agent in camo with a mask on, from some unnamed federal law enforcement agency.How actions like this protect federal facilities is hard to figure. And then the abductions started.Unmarked vans. NPR reports:Federal law enforcement officers have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland and detain protesters since at least Tuesday. Personal accounts and multiple videos posted online show the officers driving up to people, detaining individuals with no explanation about why they are being arrested, and driving off.To the people being kidnapped arrested, it’s not obvious that their abductors the officers are police at all.”I see guys in camo,” O’Shea said. “Four or five of them pop out, open the door and it was just like, ‘Oh s**t. I don’t know who you are or what you want with us.'” See any identifying marks? And again the question: Who are these guys? As this widely shared video shows, two agents in camo with no label other than POLICE grab somebody off an empty street and throw him into a van. They are repeatedly asked who they are and what they’re doing, but they do not respond.For hours no one knew who the masked kidnappers were working for. But eventually, Customs and Border Protection took responsibility for that particular “arrest”. (In an interview, though, Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli identified Federal Protective Services as the lead agency; CBP is assisting them.) Their statement is a series of lies wildly inconsistent with the video, or with numerous accounts of similar abductions.CBP agents had information indicating the person in the video was suspected of assaults against federal agents or destruction of federal property.  Once CBP agents approached the suspect, a large and violent mob moved towards their location.  For everyone’s safety, CBP agents quickly moved the suspect to a safer location for further questioning.  The CBP agents identified themselves and were wearing CBP insignia during the encounter. The names of the agents were not displayed due to recent doxing incidents against law enforcement personnel who serve and protect our country.In fact, the street is virtually empty. The officers do not identify themselves, and if you can spot any insignia other than POLICE on their uniforms, you’re sharper than I am. I’m also struck by the “suspected of assaults against federal agents OR destruction of federal property”. The “or” suggests that this is a generic explanation rather than the specific reason for this particular arrest. Whoever wrote the statement probably has no more idea why the suspect was arrested than we do.Robert Evans reports:I’ve seen them rolling around in the vans and tackling people. My partner has watched them do a few snatch and grabs. The difference is they’re not cops. They go after people like soldiers, where the goal is to be unpredictable.Acting Secretary Wolf’s justification of the entire operation, which didn’t appear until Thursday, is ridiculous. The phrase “violent anarchists” appears 72 times, along with a list of their “violent” crimes, which mostly consist of tagging the Hatfield Courthouse with graffiti. One “violent anarchist” was caught with a loaded weapon, but there is no report of the weapon being brandished or fired. (Compare to the AR-15 toting conservative protesters at the Michigan State House in May, whom Trump supported by tweeting “LIBERATE MICHIGAN”.)OregonLive responded:It’s telling that in Wolf’s extensive listing of incidents over the past several weeks, he neglects to mention the most violent act of these protests – a deputy U.S. marshal’s shooting of Donavan La Bella in the face with an impact munition. … That Wolf would fail to even acknowledge such a severe injury exposes how suspect his definition of “violence” is.(OL appears to just be guessing who the shooter works for; I don’t believe the Marshals have claimed responsibility.) To repeat: “violent anarchist” has no meaning. It’s just an insult; it tags someone as an enemy.Remember federalism? One hallmark of the Trump Era is that any principles conservatives used to claim — free trade, standing by allies, fiscal responsibility, the importance of character — have been exposed as hollow. One such relic of the age of principled conservatism is federalism: the doctrine that states share sovereignty with the federal government, and are not just subjects of federal rule.Under federalism, policing is a state responsibility. In this case, it’s important to bear in mind that no local official asked for the federal government’s help in dealing with the protests. Acting Secretary Wolf did not even make a courtesy call to tell Oregon Governor Kate Brown or Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler what he was planning to do. This whole episode began not with an offer of help, but with Trump’s threat: “If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.“That’s how this all came about: Trump and/or Wolf came to the conclusion that Portland was not treating protesters harshly enough, so Wolf asked himself to intervene.Now that they have had a chance to see what DHS is doing, local officials at all levels have asked the federal agents to leave. Governor Brown tweeted:This political theater from President Trump has nothing to do with public safety. The President is failing to lead this nation. Now he is deploying federal officers to patrol the streets of Portland in a blatant abuse of power by the federal government. I told Acting Secretary Wolf that the federal government should remove all federal officers from our streets. His response showed me he is on a mission to provoke confrontation for political purposes. He is putting both Oregonians and local law enforcement officers in harm’s way.And Mayor Wheeler acknowledged the government’s right to protect its buildings, but called for it to pull its agents off the streets:I have no problem with the federal government and federal officers inside their facilities protecting their facilities. That’s what they do. That’s what they always do. What I have a problem with is them leaving the facilities and going out onto the streets of this community and then escalating an already tense situation like they did the other night.Subsequently he made a stronger plea:Their presence is neither wanted nor is it helpful and we’re asking them to leave. In fact, we’re demanding that they leave.To which Acting Deputy Secretary Cuccinelli responded:We don’t have any plans to do that. When the violence recedes, then that is when we would look at that. This isn’t intended to be a permanent arrangement, but it will last as long as the violence demands additional support to contend with.Also:Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filed a federal lawsuit against Homeland Security and its subagencies Friday alleging the federal government had violated Oregonians’ civil rights by seizing and detaining them without probable cause during protests against police brutality in the past week.Oregon’s senior Senator Ron Wyden:The Trump administration’s claim that DHS police are needed to enforce the president’s executive order to protect statues is laughable. Terrorizing peaceful protesters and arresting people for graffiti and other nonviolent offenses has nothing to do with securing federal property. My colleagues and I in the Oregon delegation have demanded that these occupying troops leave Portland, demanded answers from the administration and called for an independent investigation. And this week, my fellow senator from Oregon, Jeff Merkley, and I will introduce a measure to require Trump to remove these unwanted forces from our city.Senator Merkley made his own comment:Authoritarian governments, not democratic republics, send unmarked authorities after protesters. These Trump/Barr tactics designed to eliminate any accountability are absolutely unacceptable in America, and must end.As Governor Brown’s tweet indicates, Acting Secretary Wolf has refused to withdraw his Little Green Men. Acting Deputy Secretary Cuccinelli also refused to pull the LGM back to the federal facilities whose protection is the pretext for their presence.And I fully expect that as long as people continue to be violent and to destroy property that we will attempt to identify those folks. We will pick them up in front of the courthouse. If we spot them elsewhere, we will pick them up elsewhere. And if we have a question about somebody’s identity – like the first example I noted to you – after questioning determine it isn’t someone of interest, then they get released. And that’s standard law enforcement procedure, and it’s going to continue as long as the violence continues.Results 1. Sometimes when you break the rules, the results will give you an after-the-fact justification: The problem is solved now, so who’s going to complain? But that’s not the case in Portland. Instead, DHS’ authoritarian overreach has drawn increased local attention to the protests and raised local sympathy for the protesters.While President Trump on Sunday described the unrest in Portland as a national threat involving “anarchists and agitators,” the protests have featured a wide array of demonstrators, many now galvanized by federal officers exemplifying the militarized enforcement that protesters have long denounced. Gatherings over the weekend grew to upward of 1,000 people — the largest crowds in weeks.Saturday, mothers (some wearing bicycle helmets in case federal agents would decide to club them) formed a human chain between police and demonstrators and chanted: “Feds stay clear. Moms are here.” Sunday night, a similar group of mothers was in fact dispersed with clubs and gas. In the wee hours of Saturday morning, one woman had a creative response to the threat of police violence.In one extraordinary moment, a woman, completely naked except for a face mask and a hat, strode through the protests and squared up to federal agents and did a series of ballet and yoga moves. The striking moment was captured on social media and the unidentified woman has been dubbed “Naked Athena.”Police apparently didn’t know what to do next. OregonLive reported:About 10 minutes after she arrived, the officers left. The woman left soon after without any additional fanfare. “She was incredibly vulnerable,” [Oregonian/OregonLive photographer Dave] Killen said. “It would have been incredibly painful to be shot with any of those munitions with no clothes on.”One good place to get a play-by-play of the weekend demonstrations is the Twitter feed of journalist Donovan Farley.On the whole, it’s hard to argue with Governor Brown’s assessment:It’s simply like adding gasoline to a fire. What’s needed is de-escalation and dialogue. That’s how we solve problems here in the state of Oregon.Results 2. How you judge results depends on what your goal is. If the goal is to end the nightly conflicts between police and protesters, and to restore “law and order”, then the federal intervention has been an abject failure.But when has Trump ever tried to end conflict? Trump thrives on conflict. Arguably, it’s in his political interest to make things worse. The violent federal escalation and abuse of civil rights may annoy Oregonians, but Trump was never going to carry Oregon in November anyway. The more interesting question to him is: How is this playing in swing states? Governor Brown has it right:Trump is looking for a confrontation in Oregon in the hopes of winning political points in Ohio or Iowa.If Fox News can spin this as the President taking strong action to preserve law and order in a city where Democratic officials are unwilling to get tough with the violent anarchists, that’s all he wants. Even better if his “toughness” takes headlines away from his Covid-19 failure. And the more violence, the more headlines.In short, he’s doing on the ground what he often does on Twitter: provoking a conflict with somebody his base doesn’t like in order to change the narrative from a story where he’s failing. Violent anarchists and feckless Democratic officials are playing the role usually reserved for black athletes like Colin Kaepernick or LeBron James, or charismatic women of color like AOC or Ilhan Omar.Judged by that standard, Trump may think his intervention in Portland is going quite well.Where it goes from here. PACT was not created to be a one-off, so Portland can be thought of as a test, a “dress rehearsal” (as Esquire’s Charles Pierce puts it) for a show that might be taken on the road all over the country. The groundwork is being laid to intervene in Chicago, whose black lesbian mayor has already been tagged a “derelict” by press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. A famously liberal city like San Francisco would also make a good target for Trumpist media. A Reichstag fire won’t be necessary; a few lines of graffiti on some federal building will suffice.Three things are being tested in Portland:Will the PACT agents do whatever they’re told, heedless of the rights of American citizens?Will Trump get away with this legally, or will federal courts put his secret police under injunction? Will Congress intervene in some way?Will Trump pay a political price, either in the media or by losing the support of the congressional Republicans who kept him in office in spite of the crimes he was impeached for?The first test is clearly a success: Federal agents are acting like secret police in a classic banana republic, and there have been no signs of defections. No leaks, no scandalous stories attributed to anonymous sources.Remarkably, Portland is a second-layer headline in both the New York Times and Washington Post this morning. You’ll find a Portland story if you scroll down, but they’re not calling your attention to it. I’ve also looked for a biting editorial cartoon on the subject and haven’t found one yet. So at the moment Trump is not paying a price in the mainstream media.Elected Republicans are also ignoring the story, in spite of the traditional conservative principles being violated. (A satire article published after the first appearance of the Little Green Men in DC is being recirculated: “NRA Accidentally Forgets to Rise Up Against Tyrannical Government“.) It remains to be seen whether Democrats in Congress will insert some anti-LGM language into some must-pass appropriations bill, and whether Mitch McConnell will allow it.Our best hope at the moment is the courts, where I don’t know what to expect. Neither do the folks at the LawFare blog, which is where I’m hoping to find insight before long. LF’s Steve Vladeck closes that article by wondering which would be worse: that the PACT agents are abusing their authority, or that all this is actually legal somehow?The ultimate threat. As Trump continues to sink in the polls, more and more pundits raise the question: How will he try to cheat in the election? (The question “Will he try to cheat?” has already been answered. That’s what he was impeached for.) Various voter suppression schemes are brewing, and some are already working. Many of us are hard at work imagining scenarios where some combination of Covid-19 and voting by mail create new vote-stealing or vote-suppressing opportunities.The true nightmare scenario is if he loses the election but refuses to leave office. Or perhaps he constructs some elaborate conspiracy theory in which the outcome of the election is doubtful, and decides to hang on until the doubt can be resolved to his satisfaction, which it never will be. Obviously, he can’t succeed in that plan entirely on his own, and different scenarios require different accomplices: Republicans in Congress, the Supreme Court, and so on.If any of those play out (and I’m far from convinced they would) we could find ourselves in a true third-world-country situation, where the last line of defense is that the People refuse to accept a stolen election and take to the streets. In a typical third-world situation, the next question is: What does the Army do? An election-stealing President can often survive if the Army is willing to sweep into the major cities and put down protests.One reason I have not worried too much about these scenarios is that I don’t think our Army would do that. The traditions of non-interference in the political process go all the way back to George Washington, and are very strong.But Portland raises an additional question: What do the Little Green Men do? Could Trump really call his Praetorian Guard into the streets against the American people?That too is being tested in Portland.

Belligerent, Whiny Adolescents

I won’t! I won’t! I won’t wear a mask! You can’t make me! Why? Well, most of the argument boils down to this quote from the Spokesman article from Friday, July 17,  ‘Masking is a satanic ritual’: Group protests outside Spokane health officer’s house over state mask mandate:

“Nobody has the authority over anybody else,” Whalen said.

Whalen said he couldn’t answer how mandates to wear a mask differ from mandates to wear a seat belt, but repeated that “nobody has authority.” He said whether it’s driving without a license, driving without a seat belt or shopping without a mask, people should have a personal choice.

These are the arguments of a belligerent, naysaying child, but they come from the mouth of a full-size person, part of group of about thirty sign-carriers and bullhorn wielders demonstrating outside the private home of Dr. Bob Lutz, chief medical officer of the Spokane Regional Health District, last Friday. 

According to the Spokesman, “The group was organized by Casey Whalen of People’s Rights, a newly emerging organization based in Boise.” It was Mr. Whalen quoted above. Visit Mr. Whalen’s Facebook page . There you’ll find a post from July 19 at 1:30PM where he is “with Joey Gibson and 2 others.” The “2 others” are Matt Shea and Ammon Bundy. Birds of a feather. 

Another protester pictured and named in Spokesman article was tattooed, bullhorn-wielding Joey Gibson, founder of “Patriot Prayer” a Portland-based group of maybe fifteen members that has instigated protests, some of which turned violent, as far south as San Francisco. This isn’t Joey Gibson’s first appearance as an agitator in Spokane, either. He was among those featured with Matt Shea at the May 1st Spokane demonstration against Governor Inslee’s stay-at-home order instigated by Shea. 

Why are radical right Christian Casey Whalen from Boise Idaho and Joey Gibson, Portland provocateur, gathering protesters in front of a private residence in Spokane? They have no business here. No State of Washington government mandates or regulations affect them. Whalen, Joey Gibson and his “Patriot Prayer” are in Spokane for two reasons: They have some like-minded prominent associates in our area, including Matt Shea, Caleb Collier, former City of Spokane Valley city councilman, and rest of the crew at the Covenant Church, the same folks who periodically raise their rabble for their “Church” at Planned Parenthood. Perhaps more importantly, and something the Spokesman article missed, Gibson is involved in a legal row in Oregon over an incident in 2019 in which he and his “Patriot Prayer” are accused of “inciting riot.” Gibson and company descended on a Portland pub, donned weaponry and protective gear, and, among other things, beat a woman senseless. It seems that “Patriot Prayer” is more like “Brownshirts for Trump” than what their pious name is supposed to suggest. 

These are all birds of a feather. They were parading around making noise and shouting inanities in front of the home of Dr. Lutz because that was the place they could get the most media attention. Thirty sign-carrying yahoos parading in a park would hardly attract attention. Moreover, with their small numbers, apparently they feel the need to travel to adjacent states to be inane and belligerent.

Let’s give them attention. Study these overgrown adolescents. Learn with whom on the local scene these folk are associated. Pay attention to local candidates for office associated with these folk through Matt Shea (still the Representative from LD4, Spokane Valley north to Mt. Spokane), people like McCaslin Junior and Rob Chase currently running for office in LD4. 

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Casey Whalen’s “Nobody has the authority over anybody else” is worthy of ridicule. I guarantee he and his ilk don’t get the irony of 1) their support for the state overriding women’s decision making around their own personal reproductive rights and 2) their support for Trump in his violent suppression of peaceful protesters. 

P.P.S. Another favorite of mine from the Spokesman article: “Palmer, with her sign about satanic masking, said she and her friends at the protest believe the virus is serious but that mask-wearing puts healthy people at risk. She also said mask-wearing prevents human connection, spiritual connection to others and free speech, making it satanic.” Does this mean she thinks surgeons and nurses are engaging in risky behavior wearing masks for hours in operating rooms all over the world. Perhaps she would prefer her medical practitioner not wear a mask for her surgery? Inane. And, where, pray tell, does she learn that mask wearing is “satanic”? Not from any Bible with which I’m acquainted. 

P.P.P.S. As a researched this first I found a female Casey Whelan in Boise. Are all the Casey Whalens in Boise, male or female right wing extremists? Perhaps. You can see Ms. Whalen in action on the steps of the Boise Capital Building on June 23rd, egging on the far right Idaho legislators who had gathered there for what they wanted to call a “special session,” but which was merely an official-looking opportunity to grandstand. In the video, easily recognizable standing to Ms. Whalen’s right, is Heather Scott, acolyte of Matt Shea and radical Christian right Redoubter representing North Idaho in Boise. 

P.P.P.P.S.  It is hard to miss the irony of Gibson’s Portland, Oregon, origins in view of Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich’s concern over far left “antifa agitators” supposedly coming to Spokane from Portland to stir up trouble during the mostly peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrations.