What’s Meidl Up To?

Kids, Cops, and Republican Propaganda

It is no secret that neither City of Spokane Police Chief Meidl nor Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich likes it when legislators at various levels pass laws that members of law enforcement think of as critical of their performance and restrictive of how they do their jobs. No one likes to feel criticized or restrained. It should also be clear, at least from Ozzie’s recent videos (a topic for another day), that law enforcement takes a partisan view of the restrictions, i.e. they consider that Republicans approve of their current work while Democrats are critical and restrictive. Having law enforcement weigh in on politics is not new: the Spokane Police union (self-designated a “Guild”, presumably to pretend it is not a union) routinely endorses candidates for state and local office. Meidl’s post is nominally non-partisan. Ozzie’s post is partisan. He is an active, outspoken Republican. 

Most of us probably would prefer that law enforcement did not engage in partisan politics—especially in the context of current political divisions. So what do we make of recent very public spat between the Chief Meidl and the Spokane Public Schools, a spat made public by Chief Meidl rather than working out differences between the parties? It is hard not to smell a partisan political rat in Meidl’s use of the media. Without presenting hard data—or even specific instances, Meidl publicly plants the idea that crime is rampant in the Spokane Public Schools and the school administration is hiding it. This is right out of the Republican playbook of “Permanent Offense”—always keep your opponent on their back foot trying to explain away vacuous accusations, leaving the sensational accusation to stick in the public mind…

Luke Baumgartner and Valerie Osier of RANGE Media expressed my unease with Chief Meidl’s grandstanding in an article entitled “Custody of the Kids”, copied below. I’ve been reading RANGE for a month or two. This article convinced me to become a paid subscriber. We need more of this sort of in depth analysis of local issues. I urge you to support what RANGE is doing by clicking on the title and signing up. 

Keep to the high ground,


Custody of the Kids

Luke Baumgartner, Valerie Osier

Spokane Public Schools and Spokane Police are fighting about when to put kids in jail. It’s a conflict years in the making. Plus, more PFAS contamination news.

Mar 25, 2022

Adam Driver as Craig Meidl: “You never tell me when the kids are committing crimes!”

It’s time for Additional Context: a weekly look at news that was underreported, misunderstood, or could benefit from a little additional background.

Luke | You know a divorce has gotten messy when it ends up in the press.

Especially when one side says, “let’s meet and talk about this” and the other side runs to a reporter. As with all breakups, there’s a bit of a backstory.

In June 2020, As part of an equity-focused revision of its Safety Model, Spokane Public Schools began a very public separation from law enforcement, announcing its intention to remove the ability of Campus Resource Officers (CROs) to make arrests. CROs were cops in all but name. While they were employed by the District and not the Spokane Police, they had SPD commissions allowing them to investigate crimes, file reports, arrest kids and take them to jail. The changes took effect after a second vote in early September 2020.

None of the reporting from that time includes quotes from the Spokane Police and the only mention of community comment was in favor of the change. Other than a change.org petition opposing the decommissioning of CROs that barely got 800 signatures (there are approximately 30,000 students within the SPS system), the changes didn’t seem to cause much stir, and the relationship between SPS and SPD seemed pretty normal.

That is: until a couple weeks ago.

On Friday, March 11, in a move that seemed to catch a lot of people off-guard, Police Chief Craig Meidl wrote a letter to Spokane Public Schools Superintendent Adam Swinyard accusing the district of ignoring “a pattern of assaults and threats to students and staff” that the District is legally bound to report under Washington State law.

By Monday, the district had sent a response to Meidl saying, actually, they believed they were following that law to the letter.

In an apparent show of solidarity, the district letter was signed by School Board President Mike Wiser, Vice President Nikki Lockwood, and Superintendent Swinyard, along with Paul Gannon and Jeremy Shay, presidents of the Spokane Principals Association and the Spokane Education Association, respectively. They requested a meeting with Meidl, Mayor Woodward, City Council President Beggs, and City Civil Rights Officer (and former school board president) Jerrall Haynes.

It’s unclear when or if that meeting is going to happen, but that same day, Meidl granted an interview to KREM’s Laura Pepetti in which he made grave but vague allegations that educators and administrators were suppressing “the full gamut [of crimes]. It’s assaults. It’s threats. It’s assaults of every magnitude. It’s threats against other students. It’s threats against staff members. So, uh, it’s the full gamut.”

By Tuesday, the local FBI office was looking into the matter, expanding the “full gamut” of crimes to include “assaults, sexual assaults, threats of violence, and drug use.” It’s important to note the reason we know the FBI is involved was a different city official [Michael Cathcart, no surprise here] leaking an email on Facebook, further prosecuting the case through the media – social media this time.

It is hard to overstate how irregular it is for law enforcement to go straight to the media with complaints about another institution like this. And in using scary language without offering real details, Meidl is working from a playbook that both SPD and Sheriff Knezovich have used a lot over the years. Remember the fearmongering about antifa?

It’s absolutely possible that the school district is failing to report serious, specific crimes, but we haven’t seen any evidence of that yet. If Meidl has information to that effect, he has a duty to the people of Spokane and the kids in its schools, to be as specific, precise, and public as possible. But because this is the court of public opinion – the court Meidl chose – he is able to get away with innuendo.

And the press, to this point, has let his narrative drive coverage. With the exception of Rebecca White of Spokane Public Radio – who publicly said she filed a records request and whose coverage we will talk about momentarily – and a tweet from KXLY News Director Melissa Luck, we haven’t seen public questions asking Meidl for specific details of the allegations.

We have seen calls for the school district to respond. Of course we should want to hear more from the school district here, and not just through letters. But we also need to acknowledge that when the police come straight to the media, they know exactly what they’re doing. Fear and uncertainty feed into their power as an institution, and they approach reporters or let letters get leaked to establish a narrative. It’s our job as journalists to clarify it, not follow it.

Haven’t we learned by now to not take police narratives at face value?

Do schools have a legal obligation to report crimes? Certain ones, absolutely. Smoking weed under the bleachers? Probably not. The law Meidl cites, RCW 26.44.030, also known as “Duty to Report,” is pretty specific in its language about when teachers and school officials (and also any for-profit or non-profit with “official supervisory capacity” over kids, such as daycares, for that matter), have an obligation to report crime:

When any practitioner … has reasonable cause to believe that a child has suffered abuse or neglect, he or she shall report such incident, or cause a report to be made, to the proper law enforcement agency.

The law elaborates that yes, this includes suspicions of abuse by teachers and other school officials.

So let’s take a closer look at Meidl’s words. When he says, “It’s threats against other students. It’s threats against staff members,” [emphasis added] he is clearly saying kids are threatening each other and they are threatening staff. Presumably he also means kids are assaulting each other. Getting in fights and whatnot.

He does not insinuate teachers are beating up kids, or staff is letting signs of abuse at home go unreported.

While the law draws a broad definition of who is capable of abusing or neglecting a kid, it does not specifically call out other children. Spokane district policy, however, does. The policy reads, in part: “Children (including other students), family members, and any other adult can engage in child abuse, neglect, or exploitation.”

And fair enough. As a kid who got bullied pretty badly at points in my life, it sure felt like abuse.

But while it’s possible, under the district’s own interpretation of the law, for one student to abuse or neglect another, there’s nothing in state law or district policy that suggests a kid threatening a teacher or staff would trigger Duty to Report, despite Meidl’s claims. The law doesn’t mention anything about drug use.

And while this is digging into the minutiae of the law, a primary intent of the law is to ensure rigorous reporting of suspected domestic violence against children. In an interview with Spokane Public Radio’s Rebecca White, Meidl later clarified that none of his reports alleged that staff ignored possible abuse by a parent or guardian.

In its response, the District goes on the offensive, saying it has information Meidl has had these unspecified reports since the beginning of the school year and he has never brought them up, even when meeting with district leaders recently.

Surely, if the behaviors were serious enough to trigger Duty to Report and staff failed to do so, it would be equally negligent of Chief Meidl to wait to let the district know its staff was asleep on the job.

Beyond their respective interpretations of the law, it’s clear the Chief and the District are at odds over a matter of legal — and really, societal — philosophy: When and for what acts should kids become justice involved?

Perhaps more bluntly: What good is criminal punishment for kids?

In de-commissioning its CROs and adopting policies to limit contact with police, SPS has made its position clear since mid-2020. The Chief still hasn’t clearly stated his. And in not actually providing the reports he claims to have read, we don’t know the severity of any of these crimes, (or indeed whether evidence would support charging), so we can’t even hazard a guess.

As the story stands, there are more questions like this than concrete answers. Another question: if Meidl had sat on these reports for this long, what made him write the letter on March 11?

He hasn’t said, but just two days prior — in what we are sure is pure coincidence! — SPS approved a new safety policy that urges staff to take every reasonable step to de-escalate without calling the cops, “using law enforcement only as the absolute last resort and only for incidents for which law enforcement is necessary to address a serious threat to school safety.”

That language seemed to be on Meidl’s mind in that interview with Spokane Public Radio, saying, “we need also for the school district to acknowledge that law enforcement does have a role to play. If it’s the last resort, that’s ok, but let’s make sure we’re following the law.”

The irony of that statement is that law enforcement had a primary role in starting the district’s transition away from arresting kids in the first place, during an incident happened at Ferris High School in early 2019, and involved the most public example of reportable child abuse on Spokane Public Schools property in recent memory.

The abuser? A former Spokane Sheriff Deputy: Resource Officer Shawn Audie, who is shown in this video pressing his elbow into a Black teen boy’s neck and restraining him in a way that the child’s parents contended caused trauma. Off-camera, witnesses described Audie also putting his knee to the child’s neck. Later, the Inlander uncovered that Audie had left the Sheriff’s department to avoid termination after multiple accusations of excessive force, including striking an elderly man in the head with a baton and later killing another man with a vascular neck restraint — law enforcement jargon for a choke hold.

Thankfully, the child survived his encounter with Audie. Audie resigned when his past came out and the district eventually settled with the boy’s family for $275,000.

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Spokane GOP

How Far to the Alt-Right has it steered?

Spokane GOP (aka the Spokane County Republican Party) is the official Republican body in our area, the Republican body that deals with precincts and precinct captains, the body that sends representatives to the the Washington State Republican Party. The organization has a problem when the chairman of the Spokane GOP, Brian Steele, feels the need to say, “There are a lot of good, honest, caring folks who are Republicans. They get painted with this brush that’s not accurate.” 

There are “good, honest, caring folks” who are Republicans, and most of them must avoid reading the news, cruising social media, and listening to recent speakers at Lincoln Day dinners, in other words, wearing blinders preventing them from seeing what their Party has become, and the views it harbors.

Daniel Walters writes for The Inlander, the local free newspaper that not enough Republicans read. In an article dated March 11 that is pasted below, Walters hones in on the vile tripe pumped out (7000 posts) on Gab using the official imprimatur “SpokaneGOP” by an unidentified, but officially approved, prolific writer and reminds the reader of multiple other examples of toxicity of a good portion of the local Republican Party. 

Mr. Steele, the current Spokane GOP chairman says he’s steering the local party to its “historic roots”. Given what the local party has accepted into its big tent, wittingly or unwittingly, Mr. Steele had better have a firm grip on that steering wheel—and those “good, honest, caring” Republicans to whom Steele refers need to wake up, understand, and curse the ditch into which the alt-right has steered their party.

Keep to the high ground,



After Inlander inquiry, Spokane GOP deactivates and condemns conspiracy-theory-laden “SpokaneGOP” Gab account

Spokane County Republican Party chair says some of the posts were “in direct opposition” to the party’s values

By Daniel Walters

Spokane County Republican Party Chair Brian Steele says the party has been trying to do a better job of policing its social media presence. - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO

Daniel Walters photo

Spokane County Republican Party Chair Brian Steele says the party has been trying to do a better job of policing its social media presence.

In previous years, the Spokane County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner fundraisers have often featured pundits like Charlie Kirk and Tomi Lahren  — known more for being reflexive own-the-libs types instead of being intellectual luminaries of the conservative movement.

But this time, they went a different direction: They invited Alveda King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Trump-supporting niece. The connection to MLK fit with the local party’s recent “clarification campaign,” featuring billboards noting the party’s history of supporting civil rights. Abraham Lincoln, after all, was a Republican. So was the first Black congressman. Republicans had fought for women’s suffrage.

You can, of course, point to plenty of historical reasons why Republicans stopped being seen as the party of civil rights, ranging from Nixon’s “Southern strategy” to Trump’s “textbook definition of a racist comment” strategy. But just the choice to emphasize this part of the GOP’s legacy was notable. 

“As chair, that’s where I’m steering the party is our historical roots,” Spokane GOP Chair Brian Steele told the Inlander in an interview late Tuesday evening. “We’re just trying to get the truth out about who we are. There are a lot of good, honest, caring folks who are Republicans. They get painted with this brush that’s not accurate.”

But that rebranding effort hasn’t just been complicated by outside critics — it’s been hampered by one of the party’s prolific but little-monitored social media accounts that had been pumping out a slew of incendiary posts, without the knowledge of some party leaders.

In April last year, the Spokane County Republican Party’s Facebook page announced the party was expanding its social media presence:

“Here is the new link to our Gab page!” announced the party’s Facebook page, linking to a Gab account titled simply “SpokaneGOP.” Gab is a social media app intended to ape Facebook and Twitter but with fewer content restrictions.

In less than a year, the account racked up 2,100 followers, a little less than half what the Spokane County Republican Party’s Facebook page has. SpokaneGOP posted to Gab over 7,000 times in less than a year — an average of 22 posts a day, every single day. The individual behind SpokaneGOP wrote that he spent four to seven hours a day posting on the account.

It took the Inlander hours to scroll to the end, but it didn’t take long to find hundreds of posts about wild conspiracy theories, anti-vaccine disinformation, and even attacks on local Republicans. After the Inlander repeatedly reached out to party leadership with questions about the account over the past month, the party deactivated the entire thing and banned the person running it from accessing party channels.

Some of the Gab account’s comments, Steele wrote in a text message Tuesday night, “were not approved and were in direct opposition to the values and principles of the SpokaneGOP.”

Steele declines to say who ran the “SpokaneGOP” Gab, but says he’s willing to shoulder the blame for not doing a better job policing it.

“I’m not in the practice of throwing people under the bus,” Steele says. “As chair, it’s my responsibility.”

The Spokane County Republican Party Facebook page announces their Gab page. - FACEBOOK SCREENSHOT

Facebook screenshot

The Spokane County Republican Party Facebook page announces their Gab page.

The social media company Gab itself is controversial: Founded as a less restrictive alternative to Twitter, it’s quickly established itself as a hive of alt-right scum and villainy, all the way to the top. Andrew Torba, Gab’s founder, declared to an ecstatic crowd at the alt-right “America First Political Action Conference” it sponsored last month that “tolerance is not a Christian virtue” and that Christians were being “demographically replaced.”

On Gab last week, SpokaneGOP applauded Torba’s speech.

“When someone not only gets it, but makes it happen,” SpokaneGOP wrote last week, linking to the speech. “Sit down your butts and watch Andrew’s presentation.”

And when Torba referred to Washington, D.C., as an “isolated globohomo shithole city surrounded by degenerate freaks and literal demons,” Spokane GOP reposted it.

While the account wasn’t nearly as infused with racism and White nationalism as the account of Lesley Haskell, wife of the Spokane County prosecutor, that sort of rhetoric wasn’t entirely absent either.

“I fully believe that European Americans need to start having children again,” declared SpokaneGOP in the comments about a post about abortion. “The minorities seem to be having plenty.”

The SpokaneGOP also shared a post calling Afghan refugees “barbarous” rapists and a post claiming that FEMA camps were going to be used as death camps for “Whites, Christians and Trump Supporters” and “vax-resisters who double as White supremacist Trump supporters.”
“An informed perspective,” SpokaneGOP wrote. “Take what you want from it, but consider carefully what you keep and what you don’t.”

SpokaneGOP fired off countless conspiracy theory posts, declaring 5G cellphones were dangerous, that Bill Gates is involved with a plot to spray “chemtrails” on the public from airplanes, that former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was murdered as part of some elaborate scheme, and illegal immigration is a George Soros plot. The account even dips, briefly, into 9/11 conspiracy talk, sharing a post claiming that “Donald Trump was One of the First to Say Bombs Must Have Been Used on 9/11

Naturally, so are stolen election conspiracy theories, not just about the presidential election (“Dominion erasing election records all over country one machine after another“) but about Loren Culp’s loss to Jay Inslee and the failed California recall against Gavin Newsom.

In October, SpokaneGOP reposted a comment from alt-right Arizona Rep. Wendy Rogers that county sheriffs should “start arresting supervisors” of elections.

The account portrayed news of Costco putting limits on toilet paper purchases last year as “pure, unadulterated BS, contrived by the communists to frighten and control us.”
SpokaneGOP declared a Jan. 6 Capitol riot defendant who committed suicide and an anti-vaccine mandate protester who supposedly self-immolated each to be a “martyr.”

Vaccines, the SpokaneGOP account declared falsely, contain a substance called “Luciferase” for “well-planned tracking and depopulation,” were masterminded by the Rothschild family’s “empire of evil,” and caused an “82 percent miscarriage rate” among pregnancy vaccinated women.

“Today’s Satan shots will destroy many of those who remain with any cognitive ability whatsoever,” SpokaneGOP wrote in October. “Fight it till we die. NEVER GIVE IN!”

And he did it all touting the Spokane County Republican Party’s name and endorsement.

“I belong to local GOP committees and am sanctioned for this Gab,” he repeatedly told other Gab users.

The organizers of this campaign were later charged with defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors. - FACEBOOK SCREENSHOT

Facebook screenshot

The organizers of this campaign were later charged with defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors.


Steele, the chair of the party, stresses he had no idea all this stuff was being posted.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know we had that account,” he says. Several other party members the Inlander contacted also said they were unaware of the comments.

The Inlander had attempted to reach Steele on multiple occasions over the last few weeks, including by asking party volunteer Maggie DiMauro — one of the organizers of the Lincoln Day event — to pass along an interview request.

He’d been driving home, Steele says, when DiMauro started sending him screenshots of posts from the account.

“Maggie read a few of them to me,” Steele says. He doesn’t cite specific posts or topics that concerned him, but stressed some of the posts were unacceptable.

In a statement to the Inlander, he writes that “we sincerely regret any offense that may have resulted from these inappropriate posts,” and he encouraged the public to visit the GOP’s website to read up on their values.

“Social media is a nightmare anyway. You’ve got to have a presence, right?” Steele says. “A weakness for me is I don’t pay any attention to it at all.”

Steele does, however, acknowledge that the Spokane County Republican Party has argued that extreme social media posts are relevant, including calling on Spokane Public Schools board member Jenny Slagle to resign for one of her controversial Facebook comments about the Constitution.

He says the party’s communications committee decided the party should launch a Gab account last year. He also says the account itself hadn’t been set up through the proper channels — the party’s technology chair didn’t even have the password to it.

The person behind “SpokaneGOP” had been ousted from the party’s communications committee a long time ago, Steele claims.

“We had some trouble with him; he was removed,” he says.

Steele says the party had rules in place intended to prevent the kinds of posts that SpokaneGOP wrote from being published, including requiring multiple layers of approval for the party’s social media posts, but the policies weren’t followed.
One reason, he says, is some of the Inlander’s previous questions about the party’s social media accounts. Working on a potential story back in 2020 the Inlander asked Steele about a string of dubious Facebook posts promoting conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, including a post directing their audience to the legal fund for Sidney Powell, a Trump-aligned attorney now being sued by the Texas State Bar. 

We also asked about a 2018 post that had promoted a private “We Build the Wall” fundraising effort as trustworthy.

“This is a legitimate campaign,” the Spokane County GOP’s Facebook page declared. When it turned out that the people behind the “We Build the Wall” campaign were indicted for fraud, the Spokane County Republicans deleted the line about the campaign being legitimate, but kept the rest of the post up.

Steele says the party has tried to be much more diligent about what goes out under their name.

“If we’re going to try at least to have dialogue with people,” he says, it’s crucial “that the only thing that goes out is the stuff that reflects our true values.”

The SpokaneGop Gab calls for someone to challenge Cathy McMorris Rodgers in a primary — and misspells her name. - GAB SCREENSHOT

Gab screenshot

The SpokaneGop Gab calls for someone to challenge Cathy McMorris Rodgers in a primary — and misspells her name.


Like the Spokane County Democrats, the Spokane County Republican Party has been wrestling with a fundamental dilemma during the last decade: Who do they allow in their big tent, and who do they kick out?

In attendance at the 2018 Lincoln Day Dinner, was White supremacist James Allsup, who’d been dating a district leader of the Spokane County Republican Party. But after then-Spokane County Republican Party Chair Cecily Wright hosted an event defending Allsup later that year, local Republicans like Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich held a press conference slamming both Allsup and Wright. Wright resigned shortly after.

“Do we have bad players sometimes? Yeah, but everybody does,” Steele says. But the media coverage focusing on these figures has rankled him. The result, he says, is that some people who could be great assets to the party shy away.

“They’re afraid that some of the bad actors get so much of the public image that they would be tainted,” Steele says.

But at the same time, fringe figures within their party have tried to come after their comparatively moderate members. SpokaneGOP used the party’s own Gab account to do it, writing that Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers “definitely needs to be primaried” and that Spokane County Commissioner Mary Kuney calls herself “a moderate Republican, but she is really a Liberal.”

“Fake Republicans must be rooted out and dumped. Every year there are more of them put in place by the One Party communists to totally dismantle the Republican party,” SpokaneGOP wrote. “The GOP has more fake Republicans now than ever before, influenced by blackmail, extortion and bribes.

It’s tricky to stand up against the fringe when many of the same kinds of wild claims that were made in SpokaneGOP’s posts are espoused by former President Trump or Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson. In a lot of places, the dividing line between mainstream Republicans and the fringe has disappeared.

“The fringe has, in some ways, become the rug,” Andy Card, President George W. Bush former chief of staff, told CBS reporter John Dickerson recently.

Yet in Spokane, Allsup’s attempt to infiltrate the Republican mainstream ultimately failed. Being associated with him remains so toxic that, when the Inlander reported he’d changed his middle name and got a job at an insurance company, that insurance company quickly fired him.

By contrast, what happens when the GOP doesn’t stand up against the fringe? Allsup’s former podcast co-host, Nick Fuentes, has turned into the most prominent White nationalist in the country. That alt-right conference that Gab sponsored? It was Fuentes’ conference — drawing in GOP figures from Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene to Idaho Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin — and earning the GOP a stream of negative headlines.

Contrast that with the Sunday brunch that Steele says the party held with Alveda King and members of the community, including several local minority leaders. The goal, he says, was to bridge the divide with people who might not normally be talking to Republicans. He says the conversation was encouraging.

“We’ve opened up some dialogue to take it further,” Steele says. “There’s clearly common ground here that we could work on.”

But the branding challenge the party faces is underscored by the fact that Steele declines to say which local minority community leaders attended. Some of them, he says, were concerned with showing up to a GOP-sponsored event. 

CMR’s Smear Campaign

The Propaganda of Doubt and Distrust

McMorris Rodgers is ideologically and educationally incapable of acknowledging human-caused global warming. Every time climate change comes up she dodges the question by pivoting to her support for the “clean power” produced by the Snake River dams. Even so, she and many of her fellow Republicans don’t dare be transparent about their scorn because a majority of Americans are concerned about climate change and are in favor of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. However, Republicans can opportunistically take a different tack: smear organizations that support renewable energy. That’s exactly what they are doing—with McMorris Rodgers in the lead. 

McMorris Rodgers (R-CD5, Eastern Washington) is the ranking member (the most senior member of the minority party serving on a committee) of the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the U.S. House of Representatives, her only committee assignment. 

The E&C [Energy and Commerce Committee] Republicans maintain a website where they post “News”. On March 10, 2022, they posted “E&C Republicans Question Environmental Groups Over Possible Collusion with Russia—Were They Influenced by Putin’s Dark Money to Shut Down American Energy?” This headline alone is breathless propaganda. The “news” article announces that the E&C Republicans have “sent a letter” to the League of Conservation Voters, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club. The three letters are identical apart from addressees. Each asks a series of leading questions reminiscent of the old classic, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” For example, one question asks, “Does _____ currently or has _____ ever have received funds from the Russian government or anyone connected with the Russian government.” The basis for the question is an allegation posed in the passive voice:

It has been alleged that Putin is using a San Francisco-based eNGO, the Sea Change Foundation (Sea Change), to funnel money into U.S.-based environmental advocacy efforts designed to undermine American energy production. 

“Has been alleged” is nothing but a smear. Who made the allegation? What is the evidence? The implication of the “news” is that the organizations questioned exist solely to undermine the fossil fuel industry. Of course, these organizations’ efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and transition to renewable energy are not acknowledged, since the Republican Party is ideologically opposed to even recognizing the threat. To the marginally informed reader who lacks the time and interest to dig into the details, the Committee’s “news” offers support for the decades of Republican framing of anything with the word “environmental” attached as toxic and anti-American.

A close reading of the the letters offers some clues about the origin of the allegations: references to articles in conservative media, mostly from five or six years ago, suggesting that Putin was funneling some money and using cyberspace to support the anti-fracking movement. That should come as no surprise, since it is abundantly clear that Putin has been undermining American society and politics since before (and then during) Trump’s 2016 election. The real question concerns the magnitude of and effects of the funding. The letters focus on the Sea Change Foundation, “a private family foundation currently dedicated to addressing global climate change”, co-founded in 2006 based on a considerable family fortune by U.S. siblings Nat Simons and Laura Baxter-Simons . The E&C Republicans, without specific numbers, imply that somehow a meaningful amount of additional funding has come from Putin, and, furthermore, again without specifying, that somehow that money has funneled to and tainted the work of three environmental organizations. 

The timing of the “news” is also rich. Now that Putin has invaded Ukraine and is on most people’s s-list, the E&C Republicans have suddenly resurrected allegations against Putin’s meddling in U.S. domestic policy. They were anxious to ignore these same allegations when the leader of their party, Donald Trump, was praising Putin, and, again, when, in a widely publicized telephone call, Trump extorted the President of Ukraine for dirt on the Hunter Biden by threatening to withhold already authorized defensive equipment to Ukraine. All but ten House Republicans determined that that egregious act of documented extortion wasn’t grounds for impeachment and voted against it, including McMorris Rodgers. (The other two Republicans from Washington State in the U.S. House, Herrera-Beutler and Newhouse, to their credit, voted to impeach, votes that look much better now to many Republicans.)

The E&C Republicans’ letters are a reach too far. They ought to be met with derision. The allegations and demand for funding details are particularly ironic when one considers the vast web of interlocking non-profits fueled by the Koch Donor Group that produce Republican position papers and talking points (as disclosed in excruciating detail by Jane Mayer in Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right). 

Every House Republican, including McMorris Rodgers, voted against the For the People Act. For the People would have required that any person or entity donating more than $10,000 to a campaign be identified. These same Republicans now demanding to know the details of the funding of (certain) non-profits apparently would rather not make it clear where their own funding comes from. 

The smear of the E&C Republicans’ “news” was taken up almost immediately by parts of the Republican media machine. The very same day as the Republican Committee’s posting, Townhall, an online purveyor of right wing propaganda, published “Lawmakers Demand Answers From Leftist Environmental Groups Over Possible Collusion with Russia”. The allegation fans Republican confirmation bias against environmental groups. To be effective for this purpose such allegations require no basis in fact—only enough plausibility to plant the idea.

McMorris Rodgers and her minority E&C Republicans are shoveling coal for the fossil fuel industry. Being in the minority they are powerless to attempt greater damage by, for instance, holding public hearings, but in the meantime they can stoke their base while they wait on the sidelines for the next election. 

Keep to the high ground,


How Did (Some) “Christianity” Become So Toxic?

This is not my mother’s Christianity

Today I offer last Monday’s (March 14) email from Doug Muder on a topic that has gnawed at me for a long time. I was brought up in the United Methodist Church on the teachings of Jesus Christ. For decades now, if I listen to what emanates from many “Christian” pulpits I recognize the forms, but I am appalled by messaging, messaging I no longer recognize as those of the Christianity I was taught. In “How did Christianity become so toxic” Mr. Muder . (This post may arrive in truncated form in some gmail accounts. Just click on the title below to read Mr. Muder’s post on the website—and sign up for his Weekly Sift if you find his work as intriguing as I do.)

Keep to the high ground,


Everything below is an extended quote from Doug Muder’s “Weekly Sift”—a weekly blog and email (every Monday) for which I highly recommend you sign up. 

How did Christianity become so toxic?

by weeklysift

Six ways conservative theology undercuts the teachings of Jesus.

If you devote much of your time to trying to make the world a better place, you’ve probably noticed a paradox.

On the one hand, some of your most dedicated co-workers are church people. You may not have realized it right away, because they’re not the kind of Christians who say “Praise the Lord” whenever something good happens. Rather than preach at you or try to lead the group in prayer, they just show up and share the work: ladle the soup, stuff the envelopes, hammer the nails, make the phone calls. Only after you spend some down time talking do you start to understand what motivates them: They think some guy named Jesus had some pretty good ideas about healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and welcoming the stranger.

But at the same time, when you look at the bigger picture, it’s hard to escape the idea that Christianity is your enemy. The loudest, best-funded, and best-organized groups working to make the world harsher, crueler, and less forgiving are the ones waving the cross. There’s nothing subtle about it. All their rhetoric is about what God wants, what God hates, and the “Christian values” that the law should impose on Christians and non-Christians alike.

And strangest of all, those “Christian values” seldom have anything to do with healing the sick, feeding the hungry, or welcoming the stranger. These followers of the Prince of Peace aspire to be “spiritual warriors“. They revere a man whose self-sacrifice brought forgiveness to the world, but their focus is on punishment.

The name of Jesus shows up in every paragraph of their rhetoric; his teachings, not so much.

The value of cruelty. Pretty much any time you want, you can pull examples out of the headlines. Recently, the people Christians want to punish have been kids who express the wrong gender identity or sexual orientation, as well as the adults who support them.

Until Friday, when a state judge put a stop to the practice for violating the state constitution, Texas was investigating nine families for “child abuse”because they’d been seeking medically approved treatment for their child’s gender dysphoria. One child’s mother commented:

I know what the law says. And yet it is terrifying to have a [Child Protective Services] worker come into your home and threaten to take your children away for doing nothing more than loving them unconditionally.


Florida’s new Don’t Say Gay law will stop kids who are uncertain about their sexual orientation from confiding in teachers or school counselors: By law, school employees have to break their students’ trust and out them to their parents; otherwise, the school district could be sued. And if you’re a teacher or principal who sees elementary-school kids being bullied because of their gender expression, you can’t start a conversation about that without risking a lawsuit, because such topics are not “age appropriate”.

As soon as you picture either law in practice, the cruelty is obvious, and it’s hard to see who benefits. But if you ask the people behind these efforts what motivates them, one answer almost always comes up: their Christian values. The Tennessee version of Don’t Say Gay includes this in its list of justifications:

WHEREAS, the promotion of LGBT issues and lifestyles in public schools offends a significant portion of students, parents, and Tennessee residents with Christian values” …

Where on Earth did these “Christian values” come from? Not Jesus.

Did Jesus have “Christian values”? If you’ve never read the gospels, but you’ve listened to the people who invoke his name, you might think Jesus talked about sex and gender constantly. But in fact you’d be wrong. Homosexuality never comes up in his sermons and parables, and Jesus never rebukes his followers for getting their gender roles confused.

Sex is on the mind of the Pharisee who faults Jesus for letting a prostitute touch him, and on the minds of the men he stops from stoning an adulteress, but little in the text indicates that Jesus himself made a big deal out of people’s genitals or what they did with them. (Examine, say, the parable of the sheep and the goats. None of the failings that keep people out of Heaven are sexual.)

If you believe that Jesus defines Christianity, then persecuting gay and trans people isn’t a Christian value at all.

Other Christian values. Those are recent headlines, but these last few weeks have been nothing special. If I’d written this article in a different month, I might have talked about the Christians who were doing their damnedest to help a deadly virus spread freely and kill as many people as possible.

Religious liberty” now includes churches’ right to host superspreader events, which many of them have been eager to do. Rather than thank God for the scientists who found and tested a vaccine so quickly, many Christians spread lies and conspiracy theoriesabout the vaccines (“For those of you who say you are Christians, what will your life review look like at the end of your life? Will the Lord say to you: ‘You coerced people into being injected with this gene-modification technology that irreversibly disrupts your chromosomes?’”). Wearing a mask in church became evidence that you didn’t trust God’s protection. (But if you really trusted God, wouldn’t you jump off a tall building?)

In other weeks, the headlines have been about Christian attempts to shut down discussion of systemic racism, or to stop children from learning America’s racist history.

Making women bear their rapist’s child is a Christian value. (“As plain as day, God spoke to me. … And I said yes Lord, I will. It’s coming back. It’s coming back. We are going to file that bill without any exceptions.”) But miscarriage-inducing herbs have been part of women’s folklore since the beginning of time. Isn’t it strange that Jesus never mentioned them?

Keeping refugees and asylum-seekers out of the country is a Christian value. Some prominent pastors defended breaking up immigrant families, while others invented elaborate sophistries to explain why the Bible’s many references to immigrants don’t mean what they say.

The Bible warns us not to bear false witness. But Christian churches have become the prime breeding ground for the most vicious and baseless conspiracy theories.

Jesus told a young man to “sell your possessions and give to the poor“. But now getting rich is a Christian value, and successful Christian preachers live in palaces and travel in personal jets.

Joel Osteen’s house

“Put away your sword,” Jesus said in Gethsemane. But now gun-toting vigilantes are Christian heroes, and the faithful are carrying concealed weapons in church. (What was that about trusting God’s protection?)

You know who’s also a Christian hero these days? Vladimir Putin. A Republican candidate for the Senate praised Russia as a “Christian nationalist nation” and told CPAC

I identify more with Putin’s Christian values than I do with Joe Biden.

As far back as 2014, Franklin Graham was lauding Putin for the even harsherRussian version of Don’t Say Gay:

Isn’t it sad, though, that America’s own morality has fallen so far that on this issue — protecting children from any homosexual agenda or propaganda — Russia’s standard is higher than our own?

And of course I have to mention the righteous politician who in 2020 garnered 80% support from White Evangelicals: a compulsive liar and conman, who has cheated on all three of his wives and traded the first two in for younger models, who can’t name a single Bible verse and admits that he has never sought God’s forgiveness. What a guy!

How did this happen? You might imagine that the teachings of Jesus would be a pole star for Christians, and that any time they started to drift away, the Sermon on the Mount would guide them back.

Clearly that’s not happening. But why not?

The reason is simple: Jesus told stories and gave advice, but he never laid out a systematic theology or worldview. He used imagery that was designed to upend the way his disciples were thinking, but he never told them step-by-step how they should think.

So in Jesus’ stories, mustard seeds — which were the scourge of Mediterranean gardeners because once mustard got into your garden you never got rid of it — were good things. An employer paid everyone the same, no matter how many hours they worked. A priest and a Levite could be bad neighbors compared to some nameless Samaritan. It was all pretty confusing.

Jesus hinted that you’re not really supposed to understand right away. The Kingdom of God, he said, is like yeast; it works on you invisibly. His images and stories are supposed to sit in the back of your mind and ferment, not proceed logically from axioms to theorems.

And while that’s a fine guru-to-disciple teaching technique, it leaves an opening for people who do lay out systematic theologies and worldviews, and do tell people what to think. Over the centuries that’s what’s happened. A conservative worldview has built up around Jesus’ teachings and almost completely sealed them off.

Here’s a simple example: According to John, Jesus once made this enigmatic statement: “The Father and I are one.” But he never explained exactly how that worked. The result has been centuries and centuries of theological battles about the precise nature of the Trinity, arguments that have occasionally erupted into gruesome executions or even warfare.

In short: People got lost in the mystery of that one line, and wound up on the other side of the world from loving their neighbors.

How conservative theology leads people astray. Today, when you come to an Evangelical church, the main thing you are met with is a worldview that contains simple answers about what’s going on in the world and how you should respond to it. Sometimes those answers are proof-texted back to something Jesus said (though more often they point back to Paul or Leviticus or some verse in Revelation that could mean just about anything). But invariably the logic only works one way: After the idea is presented to you, you can squint at one of Jesus’ more puzzling statements and say “Oh, that’s what he meant.” But you can’t walk that path in the opposite direction; what Jesus said would never lead you to the idea if some community-endorsed authority hadn’t already put it in your head.

I’m not claiming this is a complete list, but here are six ways that a conservative theology and worldview tilts Evangelical thinking in directions that eventually put a wall around Jesus and his teachings.

  1. Focusing on the Devil opens a person to conspiracy theories.
  2. Believing that we’re in the End Times justifies suspending normal reasoning.
  3. Traditional religion values tradition more than religion.
  4. A focus on individual souls and individual salvation makes systemic or social reasoning heretical.
  5. Fundamentalism promotes bad-faith reasoning.
  6. Christian imagery and rhetoric tilts towards autocracy.

1. The Devil is the prime conspirator. The conventional wisdom isn’t always right, and occasionally powerful people do conspire for nefarious purposes. But the problem with conspiracy-theory thinking is that it’s too easy: You can always come up with some way to fit current events into whatever story you want to believe. No matter what actually happens, you can make it prove that whoever you like is the hero and whoever you hate is the villain.

So if you want to live in the real world rather than some dramatic fantasy of your own choosing, you need some standards that filter out the crazy conspiracies. The most important standard is to realize that conspiring is hard. People all have their own motives and purposes, so keeping a large number of them on the same page is difficult, especially if you have to do it secretly.

So the first questions a rational person asks about a conspiracy theory are: How many people would have to commit to this, and why would they? What keeps them all pulling in the same direction? Why don’t they rat each other out?

Those questions sink most conspiracy theories. Take the central Q-Anon theory for example: that the world is run by a ring of child-sex traffickers, and has been for a long time. Now picture yourself as a rising star in the world of money and politics. At what point would the conspirators reach out to you? And what if child sex wasn’t your particular kink? It just seems really hard to make this work.

But now imagine you believe in the Devil. (Satan does show up in Jesus’ stories, but those references are easy to misread. Our current picture of the Devil stitches together diverse Biblical characters with different names, and didn’t fully congeal until a century or so after Jesus. Neil Forsyth described the process in The Old Enemy.) The Devil doesn’t need a motive to launch some evil plot, because for the Devil, evil is its own reward. Minions of the Devil, likewise, do things just for the sake of being evil.

If you can imagine a core of people like that, who don’t need the conspiracy to bring them wealth or power or status or any other visible benefit beyond the simple opportunity to do evil, then just about any conspiracy becomes feasible. The door to believing whatever you want is wide open.

2. Strange things happen during the End Times. In the summer of 2013, 77% of Evangelicals told the Barna Group that they agreed with this statement: “The world is currently living in the ‘end times’ as described by prophecies in the Bible.” Evangelicals not only believe this, they seem to enjoy thinking about it: The Left Behind series of novels (based on a literalistic interpretation of the Book of Revelation) has sold more than 80 million books and inspired six movies.

Paradoxically, a belief that the world is ending soon has always been prominent in Christian circles. As far back as the first or second century AD, St. John could close his Book of Revelation with

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

That’s Jesus’ second coming he’s talking about, the one Christians are still waiting for. Nearly two thousand years later, John’s “soon” has still not turned into “now”.

But in spite of this extended delay, the persistence of the end-times belief is not hard to understand. Basically, it’s a form of self-aggrandizement, because it makes our lifetimes special. Nobody, apparently, wants to believe that they live in a humdrum era.

Now think about the everyday significance of that belief: More than three-quarters of conservative Christians approach the evening news the way the rest of us approach the final chapters of a novel. They expect diverse plot threads to start coming together.Connections that would ordinarily be wild coincidences are almost required. (Of course the serving girl with amnesia is the Duke’s long-lost niece! I should have seen that a mile away.)

What’s more, as the final battle of Good versus Evil approaches, the participants should become easier to identify. So of course there’s an international conspiracy of blood-drinking child molesters. How could there not be?

3. Traditional religion is more traditional than religious. Religious teachings are one of the prime ways that a community maintains its institutions and passes down its folk wisdom. The practices in one part of the world may be completely different than those somewhere else, but you can be pretty sure that in both places, some local deity wants things to work that way.

New empires often bring new religions (which usually complete the circle by justifying the new imperial order). But community practices change much more slowly than military or political power structures. So old practices get woven into the new mythology and the new belief system, as if they had been part of the new religion all along. The annual fertility rite of a pagan deity continues, but instead is blessed by a Catholic saint. And no matter how many Islamic scholars say that the Quran does not endorse honor killings, many common people in Muslim countries keep on believing that it does.

In 21st century America, “traditional values” and “Christian values” are often used interchangeably, but they ought to be very different concepts. Countless varieties of bigotry are traditional in America: racism, sexism, antisemitism, anti-gay prejudice, and many others. Like any dominant religion, Christianity has often been co-opted to justify abusing “outsiders” (however that term has been defined at different times in different places). But custom shouldn’t turn prejudices into Christian values.

4. Bias towards individuality. One of Jesus’ most mysterious phrases is “the Kingdom of God”. He said it a lot, and anyone who claims to know exactly what he meant by it is kidding somebody, most likely himself. Sometimes it sounds like a vision of an ideal future. Other times it seems more like a metaphor for the state of consciousness Jesus had achieved and was trying to teach. Once in a while it resembled an afterlife.

Nobody really knows. It’s even possible that Jesus meant different things at different times, or that the gospels occasionally misquote him.

But in the conservative theology I was taught growing up, the Kingdom of Heaven was a literal place that I could hope to reach after death. I’d get there as an individual, because we all have individual souls, which will be judged at the end of time. There’s no such thing as a collective soul (except in Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walter Wink’s creative reimagining of angels).

My teachers never admitted that all this stuff about souls is speculative. It’s not really spelled out anywhere in scripture. (If the sheep and goats story is supposed to be a description of literal events, it’s just about the only parable that is.) Heaven is speculative also, and (like the Devil) has meant different things in different eras.

Once you’ve made that speculative leap, though, any kind of social thinking is going to give you problems. If good and evil are only accounted for in judgments about individuals, then good and evil must only exist in individuals.

Systemic racism, then, can only be a heresy. If racism is evil, then that evil has to be accountable to individuals, not to systems. If stealing is a sin, then the man who steals a loaf of bread is guilty, and not the society that left him no other way to feed his family. If enslaving people is evil, then George Washington, Robert E. Lee, and many other people we might want to admire were evil. Slavery can’t be blamed on society, because society will never stand before St. Peter and be sent to Heaven or Hell. So maybe slavery wasn’t really so bad.

Theologians created these problems by going too far out on a limb. They’ve constructed a semi-logical structure around some hints in scripture, and that structure leads them into absurdities and injustices.

5. From apologetics to bad-faith denial. Apologetics is the art of using rational argument to support positions that originate in faith. It often looks like philosophy, but it isn’t, because practitioners aren’t reasoning in order to find truth. Instead, they believe they’ve already found truth through their faith, and are now just trying to persuade others. So apologists start with their conclusions already established, and try to tie them to convincing first principles via logic.

Apologetics can be an honorable practice if the apologists are open about what they’re doing. (And philosophy can even benefit if the arguments are sharp enough. Aquinas’ Summa Theologicae proudly claims to be apologetic, but philosophers still read it.) The practice goes back at least as far as the Middle Ages, and is still taught in seminaries.

But for most of its history, apologetics was an esoteric field of study. Parishioners in the pews might believe what they were taught or doubt it, but they didn’t really care whether St. Anselm’s proof of the existence of God was sound.

That all changed in the 19th century, when geologists discovered a world far older than Genesis described, and biologists developed a theory of human origins very different from God shaping Adam out of dust. Science was now invading turf that had previously belonged to religion, and many religious people believed they had to fight back.

That was the origin of fundamentalism.

But a problem soon became apparent: If you restrict yourself facts and logic, Genesis is just wrong. If you’re going to argue that it’s right (without invoking faith), you have to cheat. You have to make bad-faith scientific arguments and hope you can sell them. So fundamentalists did that. They’re still doing it.

The result was that fundamentalist churches encouraged their members to reason badly, and to accept any kind of nonsense if it supported a literal interpretation of the Bible. In essence, they built a back door into their members’ reasoning processes. But in the long run, that kind of corner-cutting always has unforeseen consequences. In the subsequent decades, self-induced gullibility has made fundamentalists prey to intellectual hackers and conmen of all sorts.

Today, motivated reasoning is the rule in Evangelical churches, and has spread to topics that have little to do with the Bible. So Evangelical churches have become centers of climate change denial and Covid denial, as well as hotbeds of Q-Anon conspiracy thinking. Rose-colored views of American history — where the Founders are latter-day prophetsslavery wasn’t really so bad, and the Native American genocide shouldn’t be examined too closely — are practically dogma among White Evangelicals.

Evolution denial established the notion that if enough people don’t want to believe some true thing, it’s OK for them to support each other in denying it. That genie is out of its bottle now, and it will work ever-greater mischief in conservative churches until they recognize the problem they have made for themselves.

The Divine Monarchy. When monotheism replaced polytheism, the Universe began to be viewed as a vast autocratic system. You can see the transition happening already in Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, written in the fifth century BC. There are still many gods at this point, but the sky god is sovereign to the point of tyranny. In the opening scene, the personification of Power explains to Hephaistos why he must complete the disagreeable job of chaining Prometheus to the mountain: “Zeus alone is free.”

Jesus often talked about the Kingdom of Heaven, but St. Paul supported worldly kings in Romans 13:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

If we know that Heaven is a kingdom, then maybe Earth should be a kingdom too. Maybe we should find the godliest man we can (of course it has to be a man), and do whatever he says. (And by the way, have I told you about the lying, womanizing, unrepentant, Bible-illiterate conman all the other Christians are voting for? Maybe he’s the guy.)

Today, Christians talk about “Christ the King” and say “Jesus is Lord!” with the enthusiasm of football fans saying “We’re #1!” But again, Jesus never laid out his political theory. If you think you know what kind of theocracy Jesus wants you to establish, or even who Jesus thinks you should vote for, you’re standing at the end of a long chain of speculation.

I can’t tell you what Jesus would think, but I can tell you what I think: If that long chain of speculation has you supporting cruelty, and if it gets in the way of healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and welcoming the stranger, then you probably did it wrong.

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weeklysift | March 14, 2022 at 10:42 am | Tags: religion | Categories: Articles| URL: https://wp.me/p1F9Ho-80k

CMR, Oil, and Climate Change

God-given entitlement vs. Stewardship

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-CD5, Eastern Washington) and, it appears, the entire Republican propaganda machine, are busy using the Ukraine crisis to lobby for the petroleum industry. Simultaneously, in a gross rejection of any understanding of the workings of the free market they claim to favor, they dismiss market forces and cast blame on Biden, environmentalists, and every Democrat for the rise in fossil fuel prices. 

Many have accused McMorris Rodgers and the united Republican propaganda machine of cravenly doing the bidding of the oil industry because the fossil fuel industry has bought them off. That interpretation is not unreasonable given the facts, but it is not the whole story. McMorris Rodgers and many (or most) of her fellow Republicans are doctrinally incapable of acknowledging that climate change is a man-caused existential threat, doctrinally incapable based on a Fundamentalist interpretation of the Christian message.

There are a number of modern day Christians, particularly among Evangelicals, who are led to believe that God gave man dominion of the earth and all it contains at the time of Creation. According to this belief system, fossil fuels stand as an unalloyed good put in the ground by God for the benefit of man. Such a God certainly would not have offered man such a boon as fossil fuels while also making the use of such fuels a threat to life on earth. Such an idea is simply incomprehensible. It must be dismissed. Furthermore, if God put fossil fuels here for our use and if burning them doessomehow wreak havoc on the earth then that would just be part of God’s plan. True Christian believers, after all, can look forward to being raptured into heaven in the coming End Times.

Conversely, another segment of Christian belief quotes the Bible to argue that men must be stewards of Creation, that the science of climate change actually is real and convincing. In this line of thought, although God created all this that we see around us, He also gave us free will to make (or not make) intelligent choices that will help preserve His Creation. In this line of thought stewardship of Creation is one part of the effort for humans to do their best in encouraging the Kingdom of God on earth. 

McMorris Rodgers was educated in private Fundamentalist Christian schools in which dominionist theological principles were articles of faith. Her commitment to fossil fuels as a God-given boon put here on purpose for our exploitation is genuine and heart felt. In a town hall McMorris Rodgers stated her conviction that the Earth was created by God in seven literal days. She sidesteps the question: “Do you believe the earth is more like 6000 years old or four and a half billion years old?”. That orientation renders her doctrinally incapable of comprehending the scientific evidence for climate change. Furthermore, it explains why, every time climate change is mentioned, she can only pivot to “Save the dams” while mumbling something about renewable energy. She knows better than to admit that she believes based on her religious convictions that climate change, if it is happening at all, has nothing to do with fossil fuels. 

I am indebted to Dan Rather’s and Elliot Kirschner’s Substack column “Steady” from March 13 for the stimulus to write today’s post. We are at a crossroads facing an existential threat while “our” smiling Rep. McMorris Rodgers is incapable of seeing it. It is not just simply a matter of being bought by the fossil fuel industry, she is a “True Believer” in a doctrine that blinds her to reality.

Keep to the high ground,

Oil Shocks

Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner

Mar 13

What will it take?

Here we are again. We’ve been here before — trapped in what seems like an endless circle of petro-imprisonment. The United States economy is being threatened by high gasoline prices, exacerbated by the Russian assault on Ukraine and the resulting suite of economic sanctions. And we aren’t alone. Oil is a global commodity, and price spikes reverberate everywhere. 

Vladimir Putin’s power to threaten the safety and stability of the world lies in two main areas: fossil fuels and nuclear weapons. Both can be considered remnants of the last century, left to fester and menace our present age. Of the two, arms control is the trickier to resolve, because it requires agreement between two hostile powers. But oil and gas? We have no one to blame but ourselves. 

The dangers of running the world on a non-renewable resource that just so happens to be pooled in some of the globe’s most repressive and dictatorial countries have long been evident. From a geo-strategic and economic viewpoint, we have put the wellbeing of our nation at risk. We have invested trillions in our national defense but remain addicted to a product whose price and global supply can be in large part determined by our enemies, or at least by less-than-ideal “allies” like Saudi Arabia. 

We, of course, are not alone. Western Europe has long been tethered to Russia for its oil and gas needs, to an extent that has shaped the strategic decision-making on the continent for decades. And every country that belongs to the world economy, in ways big and small, is vulnerable to shocks around oil. 

It would be bad enough if this were purely about energy needs and the economics around them. But there is a much bigger element to this story — the ominous immediate and long-term harm fossil fuels are inflicting upon our climate. The more we burn, the more the ticking time bomb grows bigger and the fuse shorter. We can already see escalating damage, disruptions, and displacement. For example, while the world has been preoccupied with Ukraine, another natural disaster has been unfolding in Australia, almost assuredly exacerbated by climate change: The New York Times @nytimesAs flooding from record rainfall inundates Australia’s eastern coast, at least 20 people have died and tens of thousands have been ordered to evacuate. The prime minister declared a national emergency. nyti.ms/3HUBb1n


March 10th 2022117 Retweets316 Likes

We need to move beyond fossil fuels, as fast as possible. And I say this as a proud son of Texas, a state that has built its reputation and wealth in large part through the extraction of black gold. My father worked in the oil fields, and so did I, during summers growing up. I have nothing but respect for those who toiled in difficult and dangerous conditions helping make America go. We never would have defeated Nazi Germany if it weren’t for the roughnecks and coal miners. 

But times change, and we must change with them. We have decades of data — from the fields of economics, geopolitics, public health, and environmental science — that point to one conclusion: The only future that makes sense is one fueled by alternative and renewable energy. 

It is to be expected that Republicans looking to attack the Biden administration would hone in on current gas prices. But their goal is much bigger than merely scoring political points. They want to do the bidding of their deep-pocket backers in the oil industry, who are eager to leverage this crisis to push long-cherished objectives of more drilling, more pipelines, and a whole lot less environmental regulation. 

So you end up hearing a lot about the Keystone XL pipeline, oil and gas leases on federal lands, and all sorts of other buzzwords that might as well be (and probably are) pulled directly from an ExxonMobil lobbyist cheat sheet. Some of these are so outrageous that The New York Times felt the need to fact check them: The New York Times @nytimesThe primary reason for rising gas prices over the past year is the coronavirus pandemic and its disruptions to global supply and demand. It’s not because of the Biden administration’s policies on the Keystone XL pipeline, as some Republicans claim. Republicans Wrongly Blame Biden for Rising Gas PricesThey have pointed to the Biden administration’s policies on the Keystone XL pipeline and certain oil and gas leases, which have had little impact on prices.nyti.msMarch 10th 2022255 Retweets692 Likes

(The Times called these claims “incorrect assertions;” I would prefer a blunter characterization.)

What is actually causing the jump in gas prices? It is often difficult to pinpoint exact cause and effect behind the movements of the oil markets. Certainly the pandemic has played a role. But according to Austan Goolsbee, an economic adviser for the Obama administration, and others, even before the invasion of Ukraine, the pain at the pump might have been partly attributable to Putin. Austan Goolsbee @Austan_GoolsbeeRussia began massing troops on the Ukraine border the first week of December and oil prices soared. On Dec 3, oil was $66/barrel. Prices rose 40% to $95/barrel before the invasion began.March 11th 2022135 Retweets429 Likes

We are now mired, once again, in an energy crisis, and we must look at both short-term and long-term solutions. It is impossible to pivot from fossil fuels overnight; they are far too ingrained in our world’s basic functions. In the short run, we need to find ways to counter the shocks from Russia. And the Biden administration has noted that domestic production of oil has been constrained in recent years, as oil companies have focused more on stock buybacks and burnishing their financial health than in investing in greater supply. With oil company profits soaring alongside the rising price for crude, President Biden warned, “Russia’s aggression is costing us all, and it’s no time for profiteering or price gouging.” Democrats in Congress are stepping in with their own response: Sheldon Whitehouse @SenWhitehouseOil companies never let a good crisis go to waste. My windfall profits tax will make them share the excess billions they are charging American drivers, and put that money back into Americans’ pockets.March 11th 20223,943 Retweets14,630 Likes

While the immediate focus should be on ensuring that high oil prices don’t wreck the U.S. economy, we must also end this destructive cycle once and for all. There is a reason why President Jimmy Carter’s name often trends on Twitter at times like these. More than 40 years ago, he famously installed solar panels on the White House to demonstrate his commitment to renewable energy. Imagine where we would be if the United States, and the world, had built on that instinct. All the innovation that would have taken place — and potentially an alternate history. Would there have been war with Iraq? Would Putin have been able to solidify his grip on power? What would be the health of the climate?

Tragically, we are where we are. But that can’t become an excuse for inaction. We are better prepared than ever for a post-carbon future. Technologies around solar panels are light years away (no pun intended) from the ones Carter installed. We have also seen breakthroughs in wind power, geothermal, and other renewable energies. And the electric vehicle market is surging, with new options in many categories, including pickup trucks. 

These shifts must be global. Perhaps the threat posed by Putin can encourage other countries to act. And, encouragingly, there is already a sense that this is happening: Mark Johnston @mark_johnstonFinnish PM @MarinSanna: “We are … financing Russia’s war by purchasing gas and oil.” #versailles #euco March 11th 202213,972 Retweets47,299 Likes

Those who are beholden to the dirty energy of the past would want to convince us all that we can’t have a healthy economy powered by new energy. They point to the short-term struggles and use them as rationale for shackling our future. We do need to solve the immediate challenges. We also need to recognize that any shift to new energy will be most disruptive to those who can least afford it. Many Americans are barely hanging on financially and have an old, gas-guzzling car as their only means of transportation and an uninsulated home as their residence. The change to a green future must work for them, too. 

But how many times will we need to ride this merry-go-round of oil dependency, bouncing up and down on the rig pumps, before we realize that we need to get off? Let us absorb the shocks of the present as best we can. And let us also do the transformational work that will put us on the path of their never recurring.

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Parents for Inequity and Exclusion

A Belligerent Minority Seeks Power by Intimidation

Boards matter—a lot than we are aware. Sadly, we tend to pay them little mind and offer the people who serve on them little encouragement or credit—even as a board is taken over by a group pushing a narrow agenda. Consider the Board of Trustees of North Idaho College, where a far right wing takeover has damaged NIC’s administration and that damage now threatens the college’s accreditation

As a local part of a national effort, a small group of religious conservatives pushing an anti-mask, anti-vaccine, anti-accurate history, anti-sex education agenda strove during the 2021 election cycle to accomplish a majority takeover of the Central Valley School District Board of Directors (i.e. the “School Board” of CVSD). They succeeded in electing one of their own, Pam Orebaugh, to one of the five Board positions, but failed (at least until 2023) in their attempt to take a second position with a write-in candidate and tried (unsuccessfully) to mount recall elections against the other sitting Directors, Keith Clark, Debbie Long, and Cynthia McMullen. These Directors are people who have donated their time to serve on the Board of this very successful district for 15, 19, and 24 years, respectively. For now, Ms. Orebaugh is claiming distance from the extreme ideologies of those with whom she closely worked in her campaign, but one can expect her tune will change if she becomes part of a majority in 2023. 

Ms. Orebaugh nodded along during in a video of a meeting her group heldimmediately after forcing closure of a CVSD Board meeting with their belligerence on August 23, 2021. (For a transcript of the video click here.) Comments (mostly by Ms. Orebaugh’s ally, Rob Linebarger) included:

“We are under attack from globalist, Marxist forces, which include politicians!” 

“We are in what’s called the 5th Generation War.” 

“This is a direct attack on our morality, our hope, and our faith!” 

“The masks, the shots. These are all part of the grand plan. They want to destroy our civilization by destroying the family!” 

“No one can serve two masters…you cannot serve both God and money!” 

Another angry parent added, “Why are we allowing the tyrant to win? David went up against Goliath with five stones and it took just one!”

Ostensibly, this effort was a protest against mask mandates, but, as you can see from the quotes, video, and the transcript, mask mandate opposition was only one of a litany of right wing cultural grievances of a type spurred on by extremist national Republican operatives including Steve Bannon, Tucker Carlson, and Christopher Rufo

The far right crowd that propelled Ms. Orebaugh’s campaign has made CVSD School Board meetings so toxic that some parents who are very satisfied with their children’s education are afraid to attend for fear of harassment.

The following letter was read at the Central Valley School District School Board meeting on February 28 by a woman who introduced it, saying, “I am reading this statement for a friend of ours who is also from a minority group (my family and I are practicing Muslim) and who is understandably scared to be here in person. She is intimidated by one of the electeds and her groups and followers [everyone in the room understood this was a reference to Pam Orebaugh and the deceptively named organizations “Washington Citizens for Liberty” and “Citizens for CVSD Transparency”]. Sadly, my friend is one of many voices who are being marginalized.” 

To the Board:

I am a special education teacher, business owner, and parent in the Central Valley District. We moved here from Arizona 7 years ago. I must say that having my children in the district has been and still is an amazing experience. Having worked in both states it was refreshing to see a distinct and state put small class sizes, student needs, and educator value first.

Our district has proven its worth, potential, and character over and over again especially in the face of a deadly pandemic. Which is why it is so disappointing and frustrating to see a radicalized, fringe, minority group, targeting, threatening, and trying to manipulate our school board and it’s constituents. Many of us rational, ethical, and logic driven parents are often referred to as “the silent majority”. Well we are silent no longer. We want to encourage the board to continue to follow expert, scientific guidance when it comes to following rules, regulations, and standards set forth by its elected governing powers; OSPI and the Governor. Do not pander to or be manipulated by extremist groups who are funded by outside money and use politically motivated buzz words they don’t understand in the name of civil liberty. As a taxpayer and constituent I implore the board to continue to show strength of character and integrity in the face of those who choose to undermine and defund the public institutions our country was built upon.

We received a well funded mailer over the weekend from a local PAC group Citizens for CVSD Transparency. This messaging is so radical and divisive, and in a time when we are close to seeing an end to our pandemic. We should be modeling the great leaders of our collective history, not trying to break down the long standing foundations they created. Trying to break down or defund our public schools only hurts the children who need free public education.

Many of you do not have your children in public education but as an elected public servant to CVSD taxpayers it is important for you to remember that our schools are a safe haven for children from many different economic and cultural backgrounds. For many it is the only place they may hear a kind word, engage with same age peers, or even be provided with a meal. Those children, our children, are your stakeholders. Not a PAC driven minority group. Continue to fight the good fight for our children and know that you have our support. We are better than this. 

It is time to show support—and keep showing support for local school boards. The Central Valley School Board is but one of many such boards harassed by this nationwide religio-political movement. Show up at meetings. Pay attention. Get involved—or we will soon lose the people who have held our schools together for years—and find them replaced by far right ideologues pushing a narrow agenda. Whether or not you live in the Central Valley School District consider attending one of their twice a month meetings (See P.S. below)

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Next CVSD School Board meeting  3/14 6:30 PM every 2nd and 4th Monday


SIGN UP LINK https://www.cvsd.org/apps/form/AddressBoard
2218 N Molter Rd, Liberty Lake, WA  

You may like to ask about this Harassment by document, the Paper Terrorism being used to harrass school districts or Public funding for private-schools?

Here are some additional ideas for talking points: CVSD Talking Points

Submit Written Comments to board@cvsd356.org  Very important to use this email address so comments will be public record.
If you’d like you can also copy: 







Neo-Nazi Gathering Tomorrow??

What does this mean for our region?

Neo-Nazi doctrine is not a new to our region. The “Church of Jesus Christ–Christian” at the Aryan Nations compound north of Hayden Lake, Idaho, spread the ideology from the Inland Northwest throughout the nation for more than three decades, spurring a number of incidents of domestic terrorism. 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 Aryan Nations Compound was bulldozed and the local group disbanded in 2001 after a civil suit bankrupted the organization, but its supporters did not just evaporate. Richard Butler himself lived on in Hayden Lake another three years in a home provided by a Sandpoint millionaire. He died peacefully in his sleep of congestive heart failure at the age of 86. 

Neo-Nazi doctrine never goes away, it hides until the conditions once again turn favorable. It is no secret that former President Trump in part owed his office to his racist dog whistles to the extreme racist right. (the Charlottesville chant, “Jews will not replace us” responded to by Trump with “good people on both sides”). 

Apparently, conditions in the wake of the Trump regime are now favorable:

This planned Hayden Lake white-power gathering has caused a stir in the Hayden Lake City Council. During the comment period at the February 22 meeting, Jeanette Laster, representing the Human Rights Education Institute, cited the white-power gathering and proposed that the Hayden Lake City Council pass a resolution condemning the doctrine of white supremacy. Apparently insulted by the proposal, a three and half year resident of Hayden Lake, Linda Putz, arose spontaneously to object to a condemnation of white supremacy, “The term nowadays, white supremist [sic] means you’re a Patriot. So I have a sign that I do carry sometimes and I say ‘Proud White Supremist’ because a white supremist [sic] is a Patriot.” Ms. Putz’ revealing commentary made the rounds on Twitter and on Reddit. The full context can be reviewed on Youtube. (That link opens to Ms. Putz, the proposal she was protesting starts at 22:16.) Laughably, Ms. Putz claims to be “probably the only minority in the room”. I recommend you click on any of the links and judge that for yourself.

White supremacy has a long history in the Inland Northwest. The area continues to beckon to those seeking a white homeland, sometimes thinly disguised behind appeals to survivalists and far right wing conservatives to move to the area and take over local politics. 

The website, https://white-power.org/, of the group advertising the meeting tomorrow, the Aryan Freedom Network, is worth a look. Visit the Newspapers and Magazines tab where they offer links to “…newspapers and magazines that are Pro-White, Pro-Christian and Anti-Communist” or the Books tab, where you can read a breathtakingly twisted introduction to The Bible as seen through the eyes of white supremacy—or link with the famous Neo-Nazi screeds, Mein KampfThe Turner Diaries, and White Power. Of course, all this exists in cyberspace. The shopping is online. The signups go to email addresses, no physical addresses given. However, with persistence, some brick and mortar connections can be found. Among the “White Power Stores” is “America’s Promise Ministries” featuring the works of Pastor Dave Barley(among others). America’s Promise Ministries has its physical outpost at 3000 GN Rd in Sandpoint, where “America’s Promise” has been festering since 1990.

Tomorrow in Hayden promises to top 54 degrees with partly sunny skies. Bring the family for an outing. Here’s the plan quoted from the Spokesman:

Love Lives Here CDA, a program under [the Human Rights] [E]ducation [I]nstitute, is holding a “Kindness Toss” from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at McIntire Family Park in Hayden in response to the white supremacist meeting, according to the group’s Facebook page. The event is intended to spread messages of kindness.

It asks attendees to meet at the park, 8930 N. Government Way, around 11:15 a.m. to split into two teams. One team will hold “LLH” and “kindness” signs on Government Way and the other team will hand out LLH Frisbees and stickers.

At 1:30 p.m., people are invited to the human right institute, 414 W. Fort Grounds Dr., Coeur d’Alene, for a discussion about how the community can address the threat of hate groups. A former white supremacist, a law enforcement officer and three students of color and different religious backgrounds will be part of the discussion.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Ms. Putz’ commentary came shortly before events in the Hayden Lake City Council meeting that led Mayor Steve Griffitts to resign from Council, a body plagued with controversy not unlike that of North Idaho College’s Board of Trustees. In an unsigned opinion piece in the Coeur d’Alene Press on February 25 Ms. Putz’ commentary and Mayor Griffits’ resignation are linked on a “slippery slope”.