Stockton and Simple Courtesy

To Whom Do We Listen?

Lifted from a Facebook post that carried the caption “Where’s Waldo?”

Subscribers to the online version of the Spokesman-Review can signup to receive an early morning email, “Your Morning Review”. I recommend it. Besides highlighting several prominent articles, “Your Morning Review” usually offers a section headlined “Yesterday’s Most Read” that lists in order the ten articles that garnered the most clicks in the prior twenty-four hours. The email offers a digital glimpse of what headlines online S-R readers think are worth looking at. Last Wednesday the first, third, seventh, and eighth of the ten most clicked articles concerned the flap over John Stockton’s refusal to wear a face mask at Gonzaga basketball games. I was encouraged to note Shawn Vestal’s opinion piece (copied and pasted below) was the click-leader, “It’s a failure of simple courtesy, not crackpot beliefs, that cost Stockton his tickets”. In third place was “NBA Hall of Famer John Stockton draws ire for anti-vaccine comments”, featuring a photo of the bronze statue of John Stockton outside the arena in Salt Lake City adorned with a surgical mask. 

In an Spokesman Q&A article the prior Sunday, January 23rd, entitled, “John Stockton talks Gonzaga basketball suspension, COVID-19 vaccine opposition and more” (the eighth most clicked article the following Tuesday), Mr. Stockton is offered a forum to expound on his anti-vaccine, anti-mask views. A lead quote from that Q&A, “Getting back to the masks at Gonzaga, I just want to go and watch the games. I want to mind my own business, watch the games, go home and talk about the Zags.” is disingenuous bullshit. Simply by wearing a mask at the basketball games he could watch the games with zero danger to his own health (as well as a risk reduction to the health of his neighbors in the bleachers). But no, Mr. Stockton has “done his own research”, by which he means this: On account of his personal doubts and suspicions of science and medicine, he seeks out materials that support his preconceived biases and dismisses a vast body of scientific literature on vaccines and masks. He says that in so many words: “It’s very difficult to find information that counters that [the broadly available information in the news] and it takes a little bit more work.” 

If I am suspicious of the motives of the scientists responsible for the consensus that the earth is a sphere it will, indeed, “take a bit more work” to find the contrary opinion that confirms that bias. However, internet confirmation of my bias is available at my fingertips. A google search and a little clicking around will take me to the Flat Earth Society website. There I find lengthy “proofs” that my anti-spherical earth bias is pure truth (along with confirmation of my suspicions that round-earth proponents are conspiring to suppress the truth about the earth’s shape).

It is tempting to dismiss the discourse on the Flat Earth Society website as a spoof. That would be wrong. These people are entirely sincere. Pointing out holes in their arguments is as much a waste of time as trying to discuss geology or the science of global warming with a sincere believer in a seven day creation that happened six thousand years ago.

Similarly, John Stockton is sincere in his anti-vaccination, anti-mask convictions. His sincerity led him, in June 2021, to step out of his sports bubble to appear in a widely panned anti-vaccination documentary. Now he highlights his conviction by making a spectacle out of his refusal to wear a mask at Gonzaga basketball games, the coverage of which refusal he uses to lend his little remaining credibility to patently false statements, e.g. that over 100 professional athletes (“there’s 150 I believe now”) have dropped dead on account of the Covid vaccines while engaged in their sports. 

Shawn Vestal strikes the proper tone on Stockton’s internet “research” to confirm his preconceived notion: Stockton’s refusal to wear a mask at the Gonzaga games is a failure of courtesy to his fellow sports fans—the community. I’ve copied Mr. Vestal’s words below—and once again I note that reading Vestal’s columns is a primary value of a Spokesman subscription.

At the same time, take note that Jonathan Bingle, newly elected to the City of Spokane City Council, is flaunting the mask-wearing rules of City Hall just like Stockton flaunted Gonzaga’s rules. If only the City had the same backbone that Gonzaga demonstrated…

Keep to the high ground,

Shawn Vestal: It’s a failure of simple courtesy, not crackpot beliefs, that cost Stockton his tickets

John Stockton didn’t lose his seats at the McCarthey Athletic Center because he believes a lot of utter balderdash about COVID-19 and vaccines.

He does, as he has now made obvious for the world to see, believe a lot of utter balderdash about COVID-19 and vaccines. A whole lot.

To pick just two of the most embarrassing things: He peddled, in an interview published Sunday in The Spokesman-Review, the unbelievable and oft-debunked notion that lots and lots of professional athletes worldwide are dropping dead in the middle of games due to vaccinations, as well as the wildly incorrect claim that for those younger than age 70, “we’re at literally no risk of dying … if we eat well, live well, drink water, take care of our bodies in a holistic fashion.”

These are both groundless assertions that come from the far, far outer edges of pandemic insanity – farther out, perhaps, than we might have guessed even knowing that Stockton was in the business of retailing anti-vaxxer conspiracies. Understandably, the wave of public backlash to Stockton’s long, error-filled Q-and-A with the S-R, was focused on some of his most ignorant statements.

But it is not those statements that cost him his tickets.

It was two things, and two things only: His selfishness over a matter of common courtesy and Gonzaga’s admirable willingness to take a stand.

Obviously, Stockton doesn’t believe in masking, because that would require knowing and believing in what the ever-expanding body of research demonstrates – masking works to limit viral spread. It helps us do things like enjoy basketball games and keep the schools open. There are large-scale, randomized trials that show this, as well as scores of observational studies; the University of Michigan recently reported that it compared Michigan school districts and found there was 62% less viral transmission in schools that had mask mandates compared to those that did not.

And yet, even that is not the crux of this issue. Gonzaga does not require you to accept the scientific evidence about masks or vaccines or who dies of COVID-19. It does not require you to believe the truth.

It merely requires you to be a considerate guest. It merely requires you to do what you agree to do when you buy a ticket: follow the house rules.

Is that too much to ask? It was for Stockton, obviously.

Wearing a mask is a pain in the neck. Wearing a mask, months and months into this pandemic, has become wearisome. No one likes it, but it’s also just not a very big deal. Only those who have become blinded by conspiratorial lies and negative partisanship are willing to turn mask-wearing into their own personal Waterloos.

The entire matter can be separated completely from what Stockton believes. If you’re invited into a place – a home, a store, a classroom, a gym – and your host asks you to follow certain rules, you should not simply ignore that request and assume you’re the one guy who doesn’t have to follow them.

Even if you’re a big shot.

The truth is, out of anyone watching any GU game, Stockton was most likely to get away with something based only on who he is, and he took advantage of that, refusing the university’s repeated entreaties to wear a mask. And, while he’s surely not the only mask refusenik in the gym, he’s the one likeliest to be shown bare-faced on national TV every single time he’s there.

That put GU in an impossible position, based on the state mask mandate and university rules. People in and around Zag circles have been talking about his bare face for weeks. Those who follow the rules could fairly wonder why the university wasn’t enforcing them with Stockton, and those who wanted to flout the rules could look to GU’s most famous alum as an example.

Here’s how Stockton put it in the interview: “Basically, it came down to they were asking me to wear a mask to the games, and being a public figure, someone a little bit more visible, I stuck out in the crowd a little bit and therefore they received complaints and felt like from whatever the higher-ups – those weren’t discussed but from whatever it was higher up – they were going to have to either ask me to wear a mask or they were going to suspend my tickets.”

Props to GU, which had already sent a clear signal about mask compliance by shutting down concessions, for doing the right thing.

Stockton was a spectacular basketball player. He exhibited a form of genius on the court, which is why it’s such a disappointment that his critical thinking skills off-court are so poor.

At the end of the day, though, his absence at McCarthey represents not what he thinks or says or believes, but how he chose to act.

The most unselfish player in NBA history couldn’t be bothered to show a little common courtesy.

The Real Cathy

What McMorris Writes to Her Followers

If you live in eastern Washington (WA U.S. Congressional District 5), I recommend signing up for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ “newsletters”. Here’s the link for the signup:

Once upon a time, earlier in her life as a career politician, McMorris Rodgers at least pretended to be a unifier, to “reach across the aisle”, to seek “solutions”, she pretended to work for the common good of all her constituents, pretended to represent her constituents best interests in the U.S. Congress. Her demure public demeanor is carefully tailored to allow her constituents to imagine she is actually listening, that her views might be influenced by discussion and presentation of facts. 

Do not be deceived. There is a different Cathy revealed in her newsletters. These newsletters are sent as emails to those who have signed up to receive it, folks who still think a newsletter from the woman who claims to represent them to Congress might be worth reading. They are NOT posted on her official website. Some of the newsletters are meant to be received and read only by the brainwashed, siloed faithful, and not everyone on the list is sent every newsletter, as demonstrated by monitoring a number of signed-up email addresses. The siloing and curating of the recipients is not perfect, but perfection is not required for the desired effect of selectively firing up the base. 

I urge you to click on the following link to see McMorris Rodgers’ January 20 email made into a pdf and posted to Google Drive. It’s subject line reads, “Are you better after 12 months of Biden?” The newsletter may be too large a file, with all its ominously dark photo memes, to be successfully sent for viewing as part of this High Ground email. In addition, viewing it in Google Drive provides live links that go to the cherrypicked and mis-used sources she quotes. Click below:

Apart from the breathless bullshit of its cherrypicked facts this newsletter is particularly remarkable for one thing: there is absolutely no hint in it of an offered solution to anything. The “newsletter” is exclusively dedicated to painting a dire scene, then damning and blaming the opposition using the most emotion-riling language possible. This is conduct unbecoming of a representative, conduct that belies the bland, motherly image to which McMorris Rodgers pretends.

Note that this “newsletter” is composed and sent to signed-up constituents on the taxpayers’ dime by “”. This is not paid for by an “independent” PAC, nor is composed and paid for by the McMorris Rodgers campaign. The effort that went into this was paid for out of her constituents’ pockets as part of her “Member’s Representational Allowance”. She should be ashamed.

The clincher for me came at the foot of her newsletter where she asks, “Which crisis are you most worried about?” Scroll down (or click this link and scroll down) to see the “crises” she offers from which to choose. I searched in vain for the crises of climate change, crumbling infrastructure, the widening income and wealth gap, and Republican voter suppression leading to Orban-style autocracy. 

So much for McMorris Rodgers pretending to represent all her constituents…

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. I’ve tried to append the newsletter below. It may arrive in your inbox truncated by gmail. If so, visit this link to see it in full.


Today marks one year since President Joe Biden was sworn into office. Since then, it feels like the American people have been facing one crisis after another. Prices on everything from gas to groceries are soaring, heating our homes and keeping the lights on is more expensive, dangerous drugs like Fentanyl continue to pour across our southern border, crime is at an all-time high, American lives were put in danger after the disastrous withdrawalfrom Afghanistan, and COVID-19 policies continue to take a tollon communities, small businesses, and our kids.

While President Biden has spent his first year in office trying to pass his irresponsible out-of-touch agenda, it begs the question: are you better off after one year under his leadership?

Let’s take a look at how the last 12 months have gone.

One year of President Biden’s radical spending and reckless money printing has led to the highest inflation our country has seen in 40 years

People in Eastern Washington are struggling and they’re worried about the future. They have bills to pay, and the economic crisis is making it more difficult for them to meet their financial obligations. And they aren’t alone. A recent Gallup poll exposed the truth

  • 45% of Americans are feeling the burden of increased prices.
  • 10% describe the hardship as threatening their current standard of living. 
  • 7 in 10 lower income Americans are experiencing hardship.

Higher costs are plaguing our communities – from the grocery store to the gas pump – and they are making it harder for Eastern Washington families to make ends meet.

President Biden’s approach to dealing with the southern border has been a disaster. His halting of border wall construction and embrace of open border policies have created one of the worst border crises in American history. Right now, thousands of migrants are attempting to pour across our southern border into the United States, and it is creating an unprecedented threat to our national security. The numbers speak for themselves:

  • 21 years since we have seen a surge of this magnitude at our border.
  • More than 170,000 people have been detected trying to cross the border illegally each month since May 2021. 1.7 million in total since President Biden took office. 
  • 13,359 pounds of fentanyl have been seized – more than theprevious two years combined.

The bottom line is that we need to secure our southern border. A country is not a country without a border. It’s time to get serious about strengtheningour border security and protecting our communities in Eastern Washington.

President Biden’s strategy of turning his back on American energy has killed jobs and ended American energy independence. Gas prices havesurged to a 7-year high, surpassing more than $3.31 per gallon. In Washington State, we’re facing even higher prices, where a gallon of gas exceeds the national average by more than 60 cents per gallon

This winter, families in Eastern Washington that rely on natural gas to heat their homes could pay an average $746 – that’s 30% more than a year ago. The U.S. Energy Information Administration predicts that this could be the most expensive winter for natural gas heated homes in more than a decade!

The numbers don’t lie. America is in the midst of an energy crisis.

As President Biden stands idly by as members of his party continue to push communities across the country to defund the police, cities across America are experiencing an alarming surge in violent crime. In other words, demonizing and defunding our police departments has consequences, including: 

To bring an end to our nation’s crime crisis, we must unite in condemnation of violence and give our police departments the resources they need to keep our communities safe.

Closing schools is setting our kids back at a pace that they may never be able to overcome. In Washington State, public school students’ exam scores are plummeting, proving that remote learning clearly isn’t working.

  • 30% of children in grades 4 through 11 met standards in math. 
  • 47% of children in grades 4 through 11 met standards in English. 

Kids have suffered enough throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and they have been the victims of teachers unions who have lost sight of what’s best for students and misguided Democratic policies for too long. 

The fact remains that children are at low risk for COVID-19, and yet closures and mandates are putting them at the highest risk for mental health emergencies and delays in emotional and social development.  

We can no longer ignore the harms that lockdowns and school closures have on our kids, many of whom will face setbacks for years to come. Our kids deserve a better future.

For their overall health and well-being, kids must have their lives back. A good education – in-person, five days a week – is the key to their success. Anything short of that will only make this crisis worse.

The number one responsibility of the federal government is to keep our country safe, but over the past year President Biden has been weak on the world stage. This couldn’t be more clear than with his disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan that put American lives in danger.

The decision to pull out troops before getting Americans out first was a major miscalculation, and it has created a very real national security and humanitarian crisis. The Taliban are now in possession of American weapons including helicopters, airplanes, tanks, Humvees, and other military-grade weapons

The lack of preparedness by the Biden administration put American lives at risk, and that is unacceptable. Because of President Biden’s failed leadership, we now have 13 more Gold Star Families who are without a loved one. Our troops who served in this war, their families, and every American deserved better than this failed withdrawal.

President Biden promised the American people that he would “shut down” COVID-19 and that all Americans would “have access to regular, reliable, and free testing.” Instead of delivering on these promises, he spent his first year trying to implement an unconstitutional vaccine mandate and created a serious testing shortage across the country. 

In Eastern Washington, we are already feeling the real world consequencesof Governor Inslee’s vaccine mandate. More than 100 Washington State troopers have left the police force. Hospitals across the state are bracing to lose as many as 7,500 front line workers critical to combating COVID-19. This mandate makes our communities less safe, and it is creating a workforce shortage that disproportionately devastates rural America.

President Biden wants to build on the devastation happening in Washington State by extending the workforce fallout across the nation at a time we can least afford it. Americans are tired of being told what to do, and it’s time for the President to listen to what the people are saying. 

After one year under President Biden’s leadership, our country is in the midst of some unprecedented times. Which crisis are you most worried about?

Select one:‌

Cathy McMorris Rodgers | 1035 Longworth HOB, Washington, DC 20515

CMR and the Big Lie

How far was she willing to go?

On the afternoon of January 6, 2021, Cathy McMorris Rodgers denounced the violence of the January 6 insurrection as “unlawful and unacceptable”. Now, a year later, she really wants us to forget her support for the Big Lie that the 2020 election was rife with fraud. It is especially important to McMorris Rodgers that we forget her prior statements and actions now that the details of Trump’s multi-pronged attempted coup are becoming clear, thanks to the House January 6th Committee. It should be no surprise that she, along with a majority of House Republicans, voted against formation of a bi-partisan committee. One must presume she worried over what the investigation might reveal, preferring a largely Democratic committee that could be undermined as a “witch hunt”. 

In December 2020 less than a month before January 6th, 2021, McMorris Rodgers signed on to a “friend of the court” brief in support of a lawsuit brought by Texas’ attorney general Ken Paxton. Paxton brought the suit to challenge the results of the 2020 election in four states, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin. Paxton’s lawsuit was so ill-conceived that even our current uber-conservative Supreme Court refused to hear it. But Paxton’s suit—and McMorris Rodgers’ support of it—served its unvoiced purpose: to bolster suspicion in the public mind that the election was badly flawed, to hint that Trump’s Big Lie that he had won might be true.

On January 5, 2021, McMorris Rodgers declared, “I’m planning to vote to object [to accepting the electoral votes of some states] tomorrow to give voice to millions of Americans that do not have trust and confidence in this election, and to ensure the integrity of our election.” Let’s examine that. That January 5th in Dalton, Georgia, the leader of the Republican Party, Donald Trump, proclaimed once again, falsely, that he had won the election, pushing his Big Lie. In her statement, McMorris Rodgers lent her support, citing claims of election irregularities that were already thoroughly debunked.

On the morning of January 6th, 2021, the Spokesman Review published Shawn Vestal’s scathing assessment of McMorris Rodgers’ plan to vote against accepting the electoral votes of some states. This should have been a pro forma event in the Capitol, an event she proposed to disrupt. Read the whole piece as a reminder of the mindset of that morning, but here’s how it started:

Was there a specific moment that clearly foretold that Cathy McMorris Rodgers would betray her oath of office, the Constitution, and the most basic principle of American democracy in favor of an attempt to lie, cheat and steal an election?

A single moment when we might have foreseen that McMorris Rodgers would burn her boats on the shores of a land ruled by a mad despot, making it impossible to ever credibly return to the ideological ground of democratic values?

Or was this always who she was? A despicable toady. An abject coward. A traitor to her own promises, and an enemy of the American voter.

At the very least, McMorris Rodgers knew long before the morning of January 6 that Trump’s claims of election fraud were false. Either she knew—or she had not done her civic homework. And yet, that morning she was prepared cast her vote to challenge the legitimacy of selected Electoral College votes that had been duly certified by state legislatures. In what more egregious way could she violate the principle of the Constitutional “States’ Rights” she otherwise claims to defend? Even McMorris Rodgers’ two fellow Congressional Republicans, her former mentee Jaime Herrera Beutler (R, SW Washington) and Dan Newhouse (R, Central WA) declined to support this challenge to our Constitutional procedures.

Here is the assessment of Kim Wyman (R, WA Secretary of State at the time) of McMorris Rodgers’ and her fellow insurgents’ plan:

“I think that we are starting to get on really dangerous ground when members of Congress are going to try to thwart the will of the American people and millions of votes that are cast and basically disregard the Electoral College. It’s a state’s right to determine which electors go and represent their voters in the Electoral College, and I would really caution members of our delegation to be thoughtful about the long-term implications of trying to undermine the Electoral College process.”

Later that same day, January 6, 2020, Trump’s mob descended on the Capitol, killing and injuring its defenders and threatening to kill members of Congress and Vice President Pence (who we now know had declined to go along with the plot of Trump’s coup). McMorris Rodgers, apparently shaken by reality, backpedalled, declaring the violence “unlawful and unacceptable” and withdrawing her promise to vote against acceptance of certain states’ electors. 

In keeping with her bland, motherly facade, she sought to backpedal further: “I have been consistent in my belief that Americans should utilize the Constitutional tools and legal processes available to seek answers to their questions about the 2020 election.” Those words sound warm and fuzzy, but the “Constitution tool” she planned to employ against the electoral votes on January 6 and the “legal process” she pursued in the Paxton lawsuit were part of Trump’s plan to breathe life into his Big Lie, divide the country, subvert the will of the voters and seize the presidency, if necessary, by force. She knew—and, if not, she should have known—that both of her actions were anti-democratic aids to an attempted coup. They were in no way an attempt to answer legitimate question about the conduct of the election.

McMorris Rodgers will not lose the support of the rabid wing of the local Republican Party for dancing carefully around this issue, but no one who wishes to uphold our democratic values should be blind to her support of Trump’s Big Lie, a Lie devoted to overturning the result of an election that was clean and fair by any factual measure. 

Keep to the high ground,

Big Lie–Origin of a Label

Inspired by the master?

The Republican Party’s entire platform is Donald Trump’s Big Lie, the false assertion that because of massive election fraud the presidency was stolen from him in the 2020 election. Trump’s Big Lie (and his entire method of leading) sucks the air out of the room. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, more than a year—and more than sixty lost legal contests later—he continues to claim the election was stolen him. He trots out on stage his ministers of propaganda dedicated to keeping the Big Lie alive in the minds of his followers, as he recently did at a rally in Florence, Arizona.

The success of Trump’s Big Lie that seven million votes were stolen from him need not be swallowed whole. Success depends only on instilling doubt: “maybe there’s some truth in what he says; people keep telling me the issue is unsettled; maybe the election procedures in some states really are faulty and need to be fixed.” The Big Lie’s purpose is to keep alive enough worry about election integrity to provide cover for Republican legislators while they consolidate their control over the conduct of elections at the state and local level. Importantly, and currently, the Big Lie also provides cover for the fifty Republican U.S. Senators united in opposition to voting rights, determined to keep the U.S. Congress from using its legitimate Constitutional power to insure voting access in the states. In keeping with Trump’s Big Lie, the Republican Party mantra around voting rights is simple: Any legislation by the Congress to re-instate the Voting Rights Act of 1965, an Act that seventeen of the current Republican Senators previously voted to reauthorize, is now smeared as a “Democrat partisan power grab.”

A “Big Lie” is a falsehood so extreme that it takes over the mind of the believer and, with repetition, makes the believer impervious to facts. The Lie must be so grand, so pervasive, and so often repeated that it becomes the center of thought for a group of people, a group that vehemently rejects dissent and ostracizes all who challenge the Lie. Believers see anyone who does not believe as delusional, their objections worthy only of disregard and derision.

Adolph Hitler described the technique of the Big Lie in his book Mein Kampf. Hitler dictated Mein Kampf while he was in prison for leading an insurrection against the Bavarian government. Four police officers were killed in the fighting, a death toll reminiscent of January 6. In Mein Kampf Hitler described a lie so colossal that it had to be true. It would be taken as true because no one “could [possibly] have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” Hitler claimed that a cabal of Jews were using a Big Lie to blame Germany’s loss in World War I on a German general who was a prominent ally of Hitler’s.

Of course, Hitler and his infamous Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, spoke and wrote of Big Lies put forward by Jews and Englishmen, not of their own Big Lie, the biggest lie of the 20th Century, that a cabal of international Jewry was out to destroy the pure Aryan Race, the Big Lie used to justify the Holocaust. 

A psychological profile of Adolph Hitler written in 1943 by Walter Langer reminds one of a recent one term U.S. President:

“His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.”

Did Donald Trump learn the Big Lie strategy from Hitler? There have been rumors that Trump expressed admiration of Hitler’s tactics. David Emery, writing for Snopes in April 2019 and addressing this question concluded:

Questions about what he read or didn’t read aside, we have yet to stumble upon a verifiable instance of Trump expressing respect or admiration for Adolf Hitler. What we did find is that people (including some close to him) have been insinuating that Trump has an affinity for Hitler for the better part of 30 years, which in and of itself is interesting.

Keep to the high ground,


Christian Nationalism–A Local Export

Our Export Makes National News

Christian Nationalism is not a new export from our region. The “Church of Jesus Christ–Christian” at the Aryan Nations compound north of Hayden Lake, Idaho, spread related doctrine from the Inland Northwest throughout the nation for more than three decades. Founded in the 1970s and run by Richard Girnt Butler, the Aryan Nations drew followers from all over the country to the annual “Aryan Nations World Congress”. 

The “World Congress” spun off several members of “The Order,” a group founded in Metalline, Washington, whose members planned and carried out the assassination of Colorado talk show host Alan Berg in 1984. Randy Weaver of the Ruby Ridge standoff attended meetings at the Aryan Nations. Weaver was identified as an inspiration by Timothy McVeigh, the best known of the two plotters of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history. The tendrils of the biblically inspired Phineas Priesthood, followers of which bombed The Spokesman-Review and the Spokane Valley Planned Parenthood in 1996, are toxically entwined with the Aryan Nations. 

The Aryan Nations compound was bulldozed in 2001, the same year the FBI designated the Aryan Nations as “a terrorist threat”. Richard Butler died peacefully in his sleep of congestive heart failure in 2004. At the time Butler was living in a new home in Hayden Lake funded by Sandpoint millionaire and white supremacist Vincent Bertollini

The “Church of Jesus Christ–Christian” and the Phineas Priesthood both claimed Bible-based, Christian justification for their ideologies and for the acts of terror and violence carried out by their adherents. 

Surely modern-day Christian Nationalists would disavow Nazism and Aryan Nations-style white supremacy, but the seeds planted over decades by Richard Butler and his Aryan Nations did not fall on barren ground in the northwest or across the nation. The American Redoubt movement that thrives in North Idaho and Matt Shea’s allied and long-nurtured Liberty State are rooted in this same ground. Both movements exude overtones of a religious/ethic enclave free of control by godless government, that is, anyone not devoted their particular brand of nationalistic Christianity. After Matt Shea’s withdrawal from the Washington State legislature on account of exposure of his “Biblical Basis for War” document, Shea became Pastor of the Covenant Church on Spokane’s near north side at 3506 W Princeton Avenue. Covenant’s founder, Ken Peters, “received the call” and went to off to Knoxville to found a “Patriot Church”, leaving Shea in charge. In Peters’ absence Shea decamped from Covenant to a large building at a new location in downtown Spokane at 115 E Pacific Avenue, taking many of Covenant’s parishioners with him. 

Both Shea and Peters are leaders in the local Republican anti-vaccination, anti-mask-mandate, anti-science, pro-gun, anti-abortion, anti-CRT wing. Both are convinced that the United States was founded and the Constitution written by their brand of Christian men and that the U.S. must return to being a totally Christian state. Any suggestion of tolerance for differing views of Christianity, to say nothing of non-Christian believers, is anathema. 

Recently, Pastor Ken Peters, now identified as the pastor of the “Patriot Church” in Knoxville, got national air time on All Things Considered on National Public Radio in an 8 minute segment on Christian Nationalism. I urge you to click this link where you can either listen to the segment online or read the transcript. My ears perked up when I heard Peters’ name on the radio. John Burnett, the NPR interviewer, listens to Peters’ sermon and writes:

…what makes this church different is its embrace of the contemporary agenda of the far right – masks and vaccinations violate religious freedom, the participants in the January 6 riot were proud patriots, the Biden administration is evil and illegitimate.

Peters attended January 6, but said (elsewhere than this interview) that he didn’t enter the Capitol. 

Spokane was never mentioned in the NPR segment, but it mentions that there is a “Patriot Church” in Washington State. I checked and, sure enough, Covenant Church, Peters’ mother church has been re-named “Patriot Church”:

The Covenant Church outpost in Moses Lake, Washington, has also been re-named. 

These are the people who demonstrate outside Planned Parenthood as “The Church at Planned Parenthood,” people who joke about the prevalence of concealed weapons among them, people with ties to Matt Shea, his paramilitary activities, and his breakaway congregation in downtown Spokane. 

Listen to the interview, and, as you do, remember that Peters’ base is right here in Spokane.

Keep to the high ground,


Don’t Look Up

Fiction and Mindset

Over the last two weeks on no less than five occasions people I was talking with spontaneously spontaneously recommended that I watch the recently released science fiction satire “Don’t Look Up”. That is highly unusual, so I did. It did not disappoint. My five friends and acquaintances were a good clue, but that fact that this movie struck a chord far beyond my acquaintanceship came out in a commentary in the New York Times

According to Netflix, which self reports its own figures and was the studio behind the film and its distributor, the movie is one of its most popular films ever, amassing an unprecedented 152 million hours viewed in one week.¹

“Don’t Look Up” casts Leonard DeCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence as a pair of frustrated astrophysicists trying to communicate an important discovery. Meryl Streep is cast as the President of the United States. The movie is an insightful, satirical commentary on the interrelation of science, politics, propaganda, and belief systems—but it is worth watching just for the acting. (Note: The movie contains language and implied sex that might not be suitable for children. Besides, the youngest would be bored and older children, unaware of satire, might have nightmares.)

The movie is free to stream on Netflix. If you’re not a subscriber it is worth the $8.99 plus tax for one month of a Basic subscription just to see this one movie. (What would you pay in a theater?)²

Do not discount the influence of fiction on the mindset and value systems of the viewer or reader. The New York Times article reminded me of that:

Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted that it seemed like a documentary. Several admirers likened the film to “A Modest Proposal,” the 18th-century satirical essay by Jonathan Swift.

Indeed, works of fiction and story-telling non-fiction like Uncle Tom’s CabinTo Kill a MockingbirdCatch 22HiroshimaDr. Stranglove, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, to name just a few, have all had profound effects on attitudes toward slavery, war, atomic weapons, and psychiatric confinement—and those attitudes seep into politics and voting. Fiction or true story, we humans tend to internalize and often adopt that to which we are exposed in print and on our many screens. (Watch “The Brain Washing of My Dad” free on YouTube for a clear illustration.)³

Satire, when properly deployed, can be a great stimulant to thought. “Don’t Look Up” is terrific example such satire. Watch it and spread the word. (Be sure to watch through the credits. There is a short, entertaining bonus at the very end.)

Keep to the high ground,


For perspective, those 152 million hours of viewing imply that “Don’t Look Up” appeared on a screen in front of one or more Netflix watchers more than 67 million times (divide by 2.25 hours, the duration of the movie). If there were an average of just 1.6 people watching each of those screens that would imply that a third of the population of the United States watched this movie—in one week! This movie is cultural phenomenon and reference thought ought not be missed.2

There might be a freebie month offered if you’re new to Netflix. Of course, the trick with all this is to remind yourself to cancel if you’re not going to use the subscription later. Ignored subscriptions are financial death by a thousand cuts. 3

It should come as no surprise that many conservatives demonize most of the Hollywood movie industry as “out of touch liberal elites” or that Republicans in a number of states are passing laws under the guise of “anti-CRT”, laws that can be used to keep books like “To Kill a Mockingbird” out of public school classrooms. Nor should it come as a surprise that extreme Christian Fundamentalists decry the Harry Potter books and movies as paganism and the work of the Devil.

Beyond Politics

A local Panel on our political divisions–and homelessness

This coming Wednesday, January 19th, between 5 and 7PM, EWU and “Spokane Talks” will present a livestreamed panel discussion entitled “Beyond Politics: Starting the Discussion”. I expect an interesting presentationn. Two topics will be addressed: The polluted information environment that contributes to our political division—and the issue of homelessness. 

Jim Wavada, a friend of mine and one of the two panel hosts, presents all the background detail for how this panel came about in the quote at the foot of this email. I find the background very interesting—but it is probably not essential to getting something out of the panel. Seeing a variety of local political figures having a civilized bi-partisan discussion about two topics of local and national interest and importance ought to be educational.

As Jim explains below, if you want to want to submit a question to the panel you will need to connect with the livestream. That livestream should be available on the Facebook page of KHQ or the Facebook page of Spokane Talks (recommended—the lead-in is already posted there). If you find Facebook as frustrating as I do (or if you don’t have an account and don’t want one at Facebook) and you don’t need to ask a question, I think will work just as well. I did not need to sign in to an account at to search for “Spokane Talks”. There I believe the “Beyond Politics will appear on January 19 at 5PM. If you go there now you can watch the recording of a livestream entitled “A Conversation with Breean Beggs”, the President of the City of Spokane City Council, discussing city government and homelessness. The first five or ten minutes offers a civics lesson and background you might find useful preparatory to Wednesday’s livestream of Beyond Politics. 

Set up a reminder in your calendar for Wednesday, January 19, at 5PM.

Keep to the high ground,


From Jim Wavada:

I want to encourage you all to tune into a community forum/panel discussion this coming Wednesday, Jan. 19th being live streamed on the KHQ facebook page, at’s facebook page and on YouTube from 5:00 – 7:00 PM.

I’m Jim Wavada, local Democrat, frequent “corrector of Sue Lani Madsen’s missives” in the Spokesman-Review, and author of the yet to be adopted Spokane County Democratic 2021 platform update. 

I will be co-hosting “Beyond Politics: Starting the Discussion” with Spokane’s beloved conservative voice, Spokesman-Review weekly columnist, author, architect, EMT, and goat rancher Sue Lani Madsen. One wonders how she finds the time!

This was not Sue Lani’s nor my idea. The panel is the inspiration of Spokane businessman and Iranian immigrant Mike Gahvarehchee, who told us his mantra is that we can tackle any big problems if we just unite around solving them long enough to get it done.  But Mike took this idea to J. Kent Adams, who took it to Sue Lani Madsen, and she reached out to me to co-host it with her because of our frequent civilized jousts over just about everything. I liked this concept right away when she emailed me about it with the invitation to co-host.

Per Sue Lani’s suggestion, we have each recruited a panel of a half dozen people each whom we believe can speak to the conservative or liberal points of view in Spokane County. The format is a little like the old McLaughlin Group program we loved to watch back in the day. Ms. Madsen and I will open the discussion with a question to the panelists assembled with us at EWU-Spokane’s Catalyst Building.   We will then mediate a discussion of their respective answers with an eye toward identifying signs of shared values and interests, not just positions. Both of us swear we will NOT adopt McLaughlin’s rude trademark interruptions of “Wrong!” We promise. But you get the idea.

This is a forum where it will be okay to disagree agreeably. We don’t anticipate any hallelujah moments or miracle conversions; but we do hope to demonstrate that we can still discuss how we can possibly work together to solve real problems. We hope this will be the first of several such community discussion we moderate.

In this inaugural forum, we will first address the polluted information environment that seems to have led to our increasingly conflicting understandings of our shared history and working realities today. As we have seen from the pandemic, some realities don’t care about which narrative we have decided to believe. The virus doesn’t care about your political leanings. It will make you sick or kill you either way. Homelessness isn’t an exclusively Republican or Democratic tragedy. It’s everyone’s problem. We all own it. We’ll talk about how we can break through these manufactured narratives that constrain our thinking and perception that for the first hour.

In the second hour, we will talk about one of those immutable realities in Spokane, homelessness. We will attempt to apply what we learn in the first session to an open discussion of homelessness as a real problem that will require us to tear down the political battlements at least long enough to take a serious look at how we can apply our humanity and compassion to such a tragic and stubborn challenge.

We don’t expect to solve the problem, no way; but maybe we can reach some agreement that there is no single, best solution and that we need to work together to address this issue.

To give you an idea what to expect, I have recruited the following panelists: State Senator Andy Billig, State Rep. Marcus Riccelli both video-calling in from Olympia to participate in the second session on homelessness; along with those from the first session, including Spokane City Council President Breean Beggs; Pastor Andy Castro Lang of Westminster Congregationalist Church; Yvette Joseph, Colville Confederated Tribes and State Committeewoman, Spokane County Democrats; and retired legislator and local lawyer Dennis Dellwo.

I’m not sure who Madsen has actually confirmed to this point; but I believe she will have State Sen. Jeff Holy; Chris Cargill, Washington Policy Center; Pam Haley, mayor of City of Spokane Valley; Phillip Tyler, former Spokane County NAACP president; and Craig Meidl, Spokane Police Chief.

As you can see, it’s an interesting contrast of political leanings, and a whole lot of bright and articulate people, so it should be an interesting dicussion.

Mr. Gahvarehchee is paying the bills for this production, for the technicians who put this together onsite at the net zero energy Catalyst Building, to the equipment rental or purchases needed to the appetizers and coffee that will keep us going.   EWU is our host at the Catalyst Building. Somewhat infamous local conservative J. Kent Adams, owner of Spokane Talks Media, an open, for-rent streaming service, is providing the technology that will live stream this session. 

Oh, I almost forgot. If you tune in through one of the two Facebook sites, you will be able to submit questions and comments. With such a large panel of “articulate” leaders on set, I can’t promise your questions will actually be addressed during the session; but we will try to get to as many of them as we can.

So please come join us, Wednesday night, 5:00 PM streaming on or KHQ’s Facebook page. If you just want to watch and don’t want to comment, I understand it is available on YouTube’s live stream as well. [see above]