Rest Day

Are We Rejoicing or Picking up the Pieces and Carrying On?

I’m trying not to waste energy on dissecting the current results of yesterday’s midterm elections. I didn’t stay up late enough to hear who conceded and who did not. Some (many?) races may remain too close to call until more of the votes are counted. Maybe by this Friday. Maybe even longer. Unless there is a major push to “cure” submitted local ballots, ballots judged to require further verification by voters who have not yet responded to inquiry, there is nothing more I can do. So I’m taking the day off and trying not to pay much attention. Back on Friday.

Keep to the high ground,


Campaign Finance Power Plays

The Path We’re Tredding


If you have not yet voted—DO SO. Contact like-minded people, urge them to vote, and discuss the choices. Check if you ballot has been accepted by visiting In Washington State today and tomorrow (Election Day) you can still correct your registration, register to vote, and cast a ballot by visiting a Voter Service Center (click here for locations and hours). Our elections in Washington State are some of the easiest to navigate of all the states. Make use of what we have!

Money and Politics

Last Saturday evening we streamed the 2018 documentary “Dark Money”. It was fascinating—and thoroughly disturbing—like so much else lately in our politics. The documentary shares its name with Jane Mayer’s 2016 book, “Dark Money”, but rather than offering the big picture of Mayer’s book, the movie details a specific example (and likely just the tip of the iceberg). The movie hones in on a case of corruption of local politics by a national power brokers wielding vast amounts of cash in Montana in 2010. Montana State Senator Art Wittich was convicted in 2016 of receiving illegal campaign contributions. The National Right to Work Committee (a vehemently anti-union Republican non-profit) funded attack ads against Wittich’s opponent in 2010 (a practice made legal by the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court case). An independent investigative reporter, by dint of vast effort, assembled damning evidence of coordination between Wittich and National Right to Work representatives. It wasn’t the expenditure, but rather the coordination that was illegal. The documentary leaves one with the disturbing feeling that dark money groups like National Right to Work found the Wittich case a learning experience, a lesson to guide them in being more careful in the future. Proving coordination is extraordinarily difficult. For an organization with vast amounts of cash from obscure Republican donors, the sacrifice of one Montana state legislator and the cost of slap-on-the-wrist fine is little more than an irritation on the way toward controlling one state’s government.

Sunday, November 6, the Spokesman Review carried an opinion piece by Marc Thiessen (of the American Enterprise Institute, one of the original dark money non-profits), entitled McConnell’s PACs Put Money Where Trump’s Mouth Is(Read it for free on AEI’s website by clicking the title.) For me Thiessen’s article highlighted something he did not intend: Mitch McConnell sits atop a vast pile of money that he strategically deploys (at least theoretically without “coordinating” with the candidate campaigns) gobs of cash fueling attack ads to shore up the chances of Republicans taking back the U.S. Senate by promoting such marginal candidates as J.D. Vance and Herschel Walker, candidates of whom McConnell himself has questioned the “quality”. Thiessen’s point, of course, isn’t to decry the fact that McConnell controls and is spending nearly a quarter of billion dollars in his effort, but to criticize Trump for withholding his campaign funds from the effort. Does Thiessen lacks awareness of how sick this is? He gleefully points out how huge cash infusions by McConnell-controlled superPACs fuel volumes of TV attack ads that can tip the balance in favor of marginal candidates. Candidate campaigns are legally limited in the amounts of money they can accept from various sources. SuperPACs, like those controlled by McConnell, have no contribution limits to speak of (thanks to Citizens United) as long as they don’t get caught “coordinating” with the candidate campaigns. Uber wealthy businesses, for example, can (and do) contribute vast sums in the hope of electing legislators who they think will make it even easier to amass more wealth.

All of this brings me around to a Thom Hartmann column I read entitled “This Is the Election You Get for 9 Billion Bucks” published on October 27. (The Bold is mine.):

Meanwhile, both Republicans and the media will point out that, “Democrats are getting dark money, too!” as if that means everything is equal. But what the rightwing billionaires know is:

  1. If they flood the zone with too much money it’ll get noticed, so they’re careful to just match — and then only slightly surpass — the money Democrats can raise.
  2. This prevents widespread political outrage and lets Republicans win “close elections” as if everything was still “normal” and our democracy was working as it should. (Thus, the “closing gap” stories we’re reading right now.)
  3. But they know in a pinch they can always just dump another few million or billion dollars when a race is essential to their interests. Plus, having a few Democrats like Manchin and Sinema in their pockets is their ultimate ace-in-the-hole.

When I think of Thiessen’s article and the amounts of money that Thiessen describes McConnell as pouring on Senate campaigns in the late stages of the election run-up it strikes me as a confirmation of #3 above. (Note that the cleverly named SuperPAC, the “Senate Leadership Fund”, just one of the streams of cash McConnell controls, took in a quarter of a billion dollars by itself during this election cycle, making McConnell’s total investment in the current election as detailed by Thiessen completely plausible.)

Thanks to Citizens United v. FEC and the Republican Supreme Court majority that used it to trash campaign finance law, American elections are becoming a playground of the uber-wealthy. If either the U.S. House or U.S. Senate winds up in the hands of Republicans for the next two years you should expect things to get even worse. If we don’t eventually turn this around we will slip further into a corrupt oligarchy.

Keep to the high ground,


Election Details

And More about Republicans and Guns


First Some Election Housekeeping details:

  1. If you sent in your ballot or dropped it in Ballot Drop Box more than a day ago visit, enter your information and check under the tab “Ballot Status” to see that your ballot has been accepted. If it has not, plan to check again Monday before checking further at
  2. If you have not yet filled out your ballot, get it done and turned in this weekend and avoid the rush. I recommend the I independently came to the same conclusions with minor exceptions: I am a strong supporter of Julie Anderson (non-partisan) for Secretary of State. I believe she is better equipped to manage that office than the recently appointed incumbent Democrat, Steve Hobbs. 
  3. Once you’ve filled out your ballot you can either put it in the mail at the County’s expense (and worry a little about whether it will be postmarked in time to be counted) OR you can put it in one of the Spokane County elections Drop Boxes. Click here for a list—there are some new ones and the South Hill Library and Indian Trail Drop Boxes are currently closed due to construction. 
  4. Then check with any faintly like-minded friends and family and make sure they have voted. If they haven’t urge them to do so. This is a key election.
  5. If you have any oomph left sign up with one of the campaigns to urge voters to participate either on the phone or in person.

Finally, I copied an article below that was brought to my attention by one of my readers. It was published in the National Catholic Reporter. As a gun owner, a lifelong shooting competitor, and a grandfather, this story left a deep impression. It is an article of faith among all Republicans at all levels of government to vote against legislation that offers reasonable restrictions on firearms designed to kill people. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, in particular, routinely offers thoughts and prayers and then turns around and sponsors federal legislation that would make school shootings even more lethal than they already are. (See the “Hearing Protection Act”). She has no excuse. Vote for Natasha Hill if you want common sense gun regulation that might begin to tackle the nightmare this father describes. 

A parent’s worst nightmare: An active shooter at my daughter’s school


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November 2, 2022

“There is a lockdown right now. It’s not a drill, I don’t think. I hear yelling. I love you all so much.” My wife and I received this text message from our 17-year-old daughter at 9:12 a.m. (CST) on Monday, the 24th of October. She is a senior at Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience, which shares a building and facilities with Central Visual and Performing Arts, in St. Louis, Missouri. However, it was 3:12 p.m. for us, because in August we moved to Ireland, in part because of our increasing concerns about gun violence in St. Louis and elsewhere in the United States.

We had finally purchased a car and were having a late lunch when a former neighbor who lives a block away from our daughter’s school called my wife and told her that something dire was happening. That’s when we noticed our daughter’s text message. It was now 3:25. My wife texted our daughter: “I love you!!! … Text me asap. Where are you???”

Our daughter immediately replied, “We’re in AP Lit. In the basement. The door is barricaded.” She added, “Lots of yelling and screaming but no gunfire.” We told her how much we love her. The staff in the restaurant noticed that there was something wrong, so I told them what was happening. They took us to a private room, sat with us and were obviously stunned that something like this was transpiring in real time.

Over the last two months, whenever my wife, our 12-year-old daughter who moved with us, and I described to our Irish friends how we regularly heard gunfire when we lived in downtown St. Louis (I sometimes videoed gunfights on the streets several floors below our apartment, and I would photograph bullet casings I would happen upon during my daily runs), they could not fathom it.

There are more guns than there are people in the United States. In contrast, in Ireland, which has a population of just over 5 million people, there are only around 200,000 licensed gun owners, and most of these firearms are shotguns rather than rifles or handguns. Even the Irish police, the An Garda Síochána, are mostly unarmed, with only 20-25% of them trained and qualified to use firearms.

It’s been refreshing not to hear gunfire here or to worry about armed robbers and violent road rage here. As a former law enforcement officer myself, it has been pleasant to not feel the need to sit in a restaurant or another public venue in a spot where I could see any possible threat and know where the exits are. We are so happy that our 12-year-old daughter can safely ride her bicycle around town with her friends or alone, without our supervision.

Our 17-year-old daughter stayed in St. Louis to finish high school in December, a semester early, rather than move right away with us to Ireland where she would have had to do two more years of secondary school. She is an advanced student, and she’s ready to go to university. She is staying with the family of a classmate, one of her best friends over the years.

Her high school is one of the most secure in St. Louis. There are metal detectors, the doors are locked, and there are several security officers. We believed that she would be all right for these few months, although of course we have missed her dearly and have been worried about her. It was homecoming just the week prior, and the photos of her smiling with her friends reassured us.

We continued texting over the next three minutes. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. The worst fears swept through my wife’s and my minds. At 3:29, our daughter wrote, “I can see police through the window. Four shots just went off.” She said she hears more sirens. I asked if she is behind a desk and has anything to throw at the shooter. I wondered if she could escape through a window, but she replied that there are bars on the windows. She then heard the police yelling at the shooter. It was now 9:33 there, 3:33 in Ireland. The six-hour difference in time, and the 3,897 miles separating us, intensified our sense of helplessness.

A minute later, our daughter updated us, “The police are coming door to door to evacuate kids.” Three long and uncomfortably silent minutes later, we read, “We’re out.” Our daughter reported that she saw a dead student, 15-year-old Alexandria Bell, in the hall. My daughter will never forget it.

I have seen gunshot victims. My wife has seen too many herself as an ICU nurse at SSM St. Louis University Hospital, where the military would send medical personnel to get experience treating gunshot injuries and trauma. They would call St. Louis “little Fallujah.” Nobody should see what we have seen, least of all our 17-year-old daughter.

In addition to the two persons — student Alexandria Bell and 61-year-old teacher Jean Kuczka — whom the 19-year-old shooter murdered and the seven others who were injured that day, our daughter, her classmates, the teachers, administrators and staff were forever scarred. Their families were traumatized, too.

This was the 40th school shooting in the United States of 2022. That’s basically one per week, and it doesn’t include the many lockdowns that happen even when it turns out to be a false alarm. Indeed, since the Columbine school shooting in 1999, over 311,000 children have been exposed to gun violence in their schools.

Our 12-year-old daughter’s school here in Ireland doesn’t do active shooter drills. There are no metal detectors at its entrance. The doors aren’t locked. It’s a strange but welcome experience when my wife and I visit her school. Although no place is perfect, and dangerous threats can arise anywhere, we now feel more freedom from the likelihood of violence, as well as for human flourishing, for family and for community.

Yes, we have wonderful friends back in St. Louis and the United States, many who have generously offered their love and support for us these past several days. I wish, though, that they too could experience the sense of safety and security we have living in a place without so damned many guns, especially ones that were meant for war, not sport or self-defense.

The shooter in St. Louis used an AR-15 style rifle and had several high-capacity magazines with over 600 rounds. He planned to kill many more persons on that day. Nearly 98% of mass shootings are committed by males, many who are experiencing mental health crises and, for this shooter, loneliness and alienation from others.

They do so with legally purchased AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles, commonly referred to as “assault rifles” even though the “AR” originally referred to its first manufacturer ArmaLite (Colt now owns and uses the AR-15 trademark while other manufacturers make AR-15 style rifles). In fact, Eugene Stoner intentionally designed the AR-15 to replace the M14 rifle during the Vietnam War.

Although I have been critical of cases of excessive force by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department over the past several years, I am relieved that its police officers, unlike those in Uvalde, Texas, earlier this year, promptly responded and bravely engaged the shooter, stopping him from killing others. Of course, one death is too many, and I am sad that the shooter, too, died. As the U.S. bishops stated in their 1983 pastoral, “The Challenge of Peace,” regarding the justified killing of an attacker, “the possibility of taking even one human life is a prospect we should consider in fear and trembling.”

Politicians, such as Missouri’s Gov. Mike Parson and Sen. Josh Hawley, instead of simply repeating again and again their thoughts and prayers for the victims and their families, seriously need to consider reasonable gun control proposals. There absolutely is no reason why a military grade rifle and ammunition should be as easy to purchase by a 19-year-old as a car or case of beer. I am not trying to politicize this issue. It is a moral issue, indeed a pro-life one at that.

As a Catholic theologian, while I would prefer that there were no guns at all, as a former law enforcement officer, I have owned guns over the years and have known friends and neighbors who were responsible and careful with their firearms. An Irish police officer recently told me how she, like most Garda here, is not comfortable with firearms, and that is how I used to feel about having and carrying one.

Still, too many Americans own guns, and too many of them misinterpret the Second Amendment as an absolute right. Any attempt to ban all guns will only confirm their fearful assertions about liberal government overreach.

I must believe, though, that most Americans find themselves somewhere between the extremes of gun libertarianism and gun abolitionism. For now, we need to find some common ground upon which we construct some consequential policies to safeguard our children and their schools.

Protection is the top reason given by Americans for owning guns. Yet there are almost 40,000 intentional and unintentional gun deaths annually, with roughly 90 daily and 10 of them being children, and around two-thirds of these gun deaths are suicides. If protection is the reason for having a gun, and if firearms are instead doing more harm than good, then we need to reconsider them.

As I noted in a previous article in these pages just over a year ago, in his treatise “On Evil,” St. Thomas Aquinas considered a scenario in which a branch falls and kills someone as a consequence of a woodcutter’s chopping a tree in a forest. If the forest is not regularly traversed by persons, no moral blame is attributed to the lumberjack. The victim’s death is unintended, even if it is a foreseen as a remote possibility. However, if the forest is regularly traveled by people, the woodcutter is morally culpable. We are morally responsible for unintentional effects if these are foreseen as probable or certain.

Our failure to address and reduce the number of gun deaths, even more so in the wake of one school shooting after another, in which our children are injured, killed and traumatized, reveals a cultural, callous disregard for life. We foresee that these incidents will probably happen. If we do not take reasonable measures to minimize them, we as a nation are morally culpable.

When our 17-year-old daughter wrote “We’re out,” my wife and I felt so relieved. But since then she has shared with us more details of what she heard and saw, most of it not reported in the media. It’s horrifying. We’re not OK with that. I hope that my fellow American citizens, including those who are Catholics like me, will find a way to break out of this collective death wish and nightmare.

Keep to the high ground,


More of Prosecutor Haskell?

Haven’t we heard and seen enough?


Larry Haskell has been the subject of controversy since shortly after he was first elected Spokane County Prosecutor in 2014. In 2015 and again more recently his wife Lesley’s racist comments on the Christian nationalist social media site Gab made national news. Even so, by 2018 the 2015 incident was largely forgotten. Haskell ran unopposed in 2018. That makes the current election (Nov. 8, 2022—next Tuesday) the first opportunity for voters to replace him. In this August’s primary the vote was split four ways with Mr. Haskell garnering only 28.03%, Deb Conklin coming in a close second with 27.14%, and two other challengers (both identifying as Republicans) splitting the remainder with 20 and 24%. (It’s worth noting that a single election using Ranked Choice Voting might well have simply elected one of Haskell’s challengers instead of producing a narrow vote split—given the controversy that swirls around Mr. Haskell.) 

As long as Mr. Haskell remains Spokane County Prosecutor and Lesley’s social media posts make national news, his presence in office will only boost the Inland Northwest’s reputation for racism first brought to national attention by Richard Butler, his Aryan Nations compound and his “Church of Jesus Christ–Christian” north of Hayden, Idaho, starting in the 1970s.

Do Lesley Haskell’s vile social media posts shade into her husband’s actions as Prosecutor? Of course, Mr. Haskell denies that they do, but there is ample reason to distrust claims of intellectual independence when his positions on local issues and prosecutorial decisions are analyzed in detail. 

Anyone still pondering the choice of voting for Deb Conklin (Non-partisan) or for Larry Haskell (R) for Spokane County Prosecutor should first read the piece copied below from an October 30, 2022, RANGEmedia article entitled “A Fish Rots from the Head Down” by Kurtis Robinson:

We have to stop denying the connections and embrace the realities.

We are not making progress on ending racism and racial disproportion in our criminal legal system in Spokane County. We continue to have incredibly harmful, damaging, oppressive and dehumanizing practices running rampant through both our legal and political system.

Disproportionate arrest rates, bail amounts and sentence terms for people of color are just as bad as they were in 2019, when the Spokane-County-funded JFA report detailed not just that indigenous and Black people were 6.5 and 13 times more likely to be locked up than white people, respectively, but they also tend to stay in jail longer. Three years later, those statistics still hold.

Several individuals in critical positions of power are responsible for maintaining this status quo of oppression and harm, especially to our communities of color. Among them, no individual has more power to maintain — or dismantle — the rate at which we push our fellow Spokanites through these oppressive systems than Prosecutor Larry Haskell.

Haskell (and many others who have been protecting the status quo) has perpetuated the oppression and radical damage to marginalized communities during his tenure, all the while denying that is his intent.

Haskell’s standard operating procedures demonstrate that racial disproportionalities under his tough-on-crime policies have continued, yet right alongside that has also been his continued denial of implementing or reinforcing racist practices.

The reality, though, is that he has actively opposed reforms that would make the system more just and equitable.

He even opposed adding the word “equity” to missional language for the Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council, a council he then worked to downsize and undermine. I served with Haskell on the Justice Task Force for Spokane County and witnessed him continually deny the realities of racial disproportionality, which I spoke out about at the time. That’s before even talking about his office charging more drug cases than any other prosecutor’s office in Washington State and his historic resistance to alternatives to sentencing such as coordinated reentry.

All the while, his response is I’m just doing my job. I’m just following the law. Haskell says he has no racism in his heart, but we know his wife does. She has openly called herself a “white nationalist” and makes openly racist statements on social media.

We know Haskell’s actions as prosecutor are aligned with his wife’s views because she applauds him, going so far as to say he’s one of the last true conservatives in Spokane:

Politicians can say anything they want about their intentions. What we as voters must ask ourselves is whether those words match up with their actions, and the consequences of those actions.

At the end of September, three retired local judges took Haskell — and Sheriff Knezovich — to task in the Spokesman-Review for attacking judges who release the accused on their own recognizance and for spreading falsehoods about release leading to higher crime rates.

The actual data, the judges write, is that less than 1.5% of people reoffend in Spokane while awaiting trial, concluding:

“Knezovich and Haskell show contempt for the courts. They criticize without facts. They fail to get evidence to courts. They fail to appeal but instead make public announcements, free from fact checking and accountability.

In their world, an arrested person should be kept in jail on their say so. Woe to a judge who applies the law. In their world, there is no presumption of innocence, only a presumption of guilt. Good luck to the citizen who is caught in their clutches.”

In Spokane, Black, Indigenous and other people of color are disproportionately caught in those clutches, but every year thousands of white people are ensnared, too. These policies affect everyone who is too poor to post bail, and in throwing as many charges as they can at most defendants, the prosecutor’s office seeks the highest allowable bail in almost every case.

We exacerbate poverty in our region by criminalizing it.

Knezovich is not running again, but Haskell is. It’s time for Spokane, as a community, to stand up and say we will not continue to allow an individual demonstrating such massive cognitive dissonance and disingenuous behavior to be re-elected. It’s time to hold him accountable.

We must ask ourselves as an Eastern Washington community, and as a Spokane human family: “Is this who we are?”

Are we a people that will continually believe buckets of misinformation, tacit undermining of human dignity, and complete lack of accountability for himself, his office and its organizational affiliates. The Bible says “you strain out a gnat but you swallow a camel.”

Is that who we are? A community that goes through the motions of attending DEI trainings, celebrating the memory of civil rights leaders without committing to real change, and talking a good game about racial justice while giving systems of oppression and the politicians who prop them up term after term in office?

I know my answer. Do you?

Kurtis Robinson works to dismantle systemic racism and injustice and to mitigate the harm done while those systems persist.

Robinson is executive director of Revive Center for Returning Citizens and I Did the Time. He is a commissioner for the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, a member of the Governor’s Hate Crimes Advisory Work Group, the Spokane County Criminal Justice Advisory Group, Smart Justice Spokane. He is NAACP State Area Conference Political Action Chair and is the past-president and current 1st Vice President of NAACP Spokane.

Robinson does equity-focused work and mentorship of young leaders as a board member of Better Health TogetherThe Native American Alliance for Policy & Action, and Just Lead Washington.

Keep to the high ground,