Dobbs is just the Beginning

And Eastern Washington is part of the new battleground

Last June the new, manufactured right wing on the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a half century of judicial precedent, rescinding a women’s right to make medical decisions about their own bodies. Justice Thomas threw a few more sticks on the fire with his concurrent opinion suggesting that the Court should go further and reconsider rights to contraception (Griswold), same sex marriage (Obergefell), and sexual privacy (Lawrence). At the time, many Republicans, like our own U.S. Rep. McMorris Rodgers (CD-5, eastern Washington), fearing blowback in the upcoming fall election, responded with, “Who? Not us. But we think that abortion is a States’ Rights issue that state voters ought to decide.” States’ Rights, whether McMorris Rodgers means it or not, is a dog whistle that harkens back to ‘States’ Rights’ to decide to maintain (or not) the ‘right’ to own slaves. The ‘States’ Rights’ trope still plays well among white supremacists.

Following Dobbs and Justice Thomas’ concurrent opinion, McMorris Rodgers and large majorities of Republican U.S. Representatives then twisted themselves into rhetorical knots to vote against legislation that would have federally codified the rights that Justice Thomas said the Court should revisit. 

Dobbs, for the moment, has fallen out of the news, but Republicans are not content to just leave outlawing a woman’s right to regulate her own body to Republican-dominated state legislatures. Now their efforts to meddle with women’s lives have moved back to the federal court system in the hope of using the courts to achieve nationwide restrictions. 

The new battleground is over access to mifepristone, a drug that, unbeknownst to many not in the medical profession, is now used in 50-60% of pregnancy terminations in the U.S. The battle over access to mifepristone is playing out in the courts under the radar of most of the media. Last Thursday, this battle was joined by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a battle announced in the Spokesman with the title, “Washington, Bob Ferguson lead lawsuit against Biden administration demanding increased access to abortion drug”. If you are puzzled as to why Washington State’s Attorney General would sue the Biden administration you would not be alone. The suit is not directed at something the Biden administration did, but rather at a rule established by and followed by the Food and Drug Administration, a part of the Executive Branch of the federal government currently under President Biden, hence, a “lawsuit against the Biden administration”. 

Attorney General Bob Ferguson, along with officials in 10 other states, filed a complaint Thursday against the Biden administration, demanding that it abandon certain restrictions to prescribe one of two drugs taken to cause an abortion. The complaint argues that mifepristone, a drug that blocks a hormone necessary in carrying a pregnancy to term, is treated discriminatorily by the Food and Drug Administration, which continues to require women to have it prescribed by certain medical professionals along with completing forms that could fall into the hands of people targeting abortion providers with violence.

“The federal government has known for years that mifepristone is safe and effective,” Ferguson said in a statement announcing the filing Friday. “In the wake of the Supreme Court’s radical decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the FDA is now exposing doctors, pharmacists and patients to unnecessary risk. The FDA’s excessive restrictions on this important drug have no basis in medical science.”

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington (rather than the Western District of Washington). According to the Spokesman:

The complaint was filed in Eastern Washington because of its location between the West Side, where abortion services are more plentiful, and Idaho, which has a state ban on most abortions that went into place after the Supreme Court ruling.

A hearing in the case is scheduled in March in the District Court in Yakima. 

The Texas Lawsuit

Meanwhile, the radical right is busy using the Federal Court system to outlaw this same drug, mifepristone, from use anywhere in the United States, not just the states that otherwise ban abortion. Mifepristone induced abortion is even safer than surgical abortion (both of which are safer than childbirth). Consequently, outlawing mifepristone would put women at risk in states where abortion is fully legal. 

The lawsuit, deceptively titled Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, will soon be decided by a carefully selected, radical right wing judge in the United States District Court for the Northern District of TexasMatthew J. Kacsmaryk. Given his priors, the likelihood of his ruling in favor of the plaintiff and against mifepristone is extremely high. (Kacsmaryk, along with five other judges in this District, were placed on this District’s bench during the Donald Trump/Mitch McConnell federal judge appointment blitz.) 

The basis for outlawing a drug generally considered safer and more effective than Tylenol is telling of the orientation of today’s Republican Party. The lawsuit is based on a 150 year old law, The Comstock Act, a holdover from an era (1873) when certain “Christian” busybodies used federal law to enforce their narrow view of sexual morality on everyone (rather like their modern day Iranian equivalent, the morality police). The Comstock Act gets around the claim of “States’ Rights!” by using the federal management of the Postal Service to outlawing the carriage of materials deemed “obscene” in the Act. It happens that the “obscene” material defined therein included “contraceptivesabortifacients, personal letters with any sexual content or information, or any information regarding the above items.” 

This may seem quaint to some, but Judge Kacsmaryk’s impending resurrection of the Comstock laws is a grave threat women’s control over their own bodies nationwide, even in states like Washington where abortion remains legal. So much for McMorris Rodgers’ and other Republicans lip service to “States’ Rights”… 

It is time to pay attention to these ongoing threats and vote accordingly. Whatever face any individual Republican like McMorris Rodgers wants to paint on and hide behind, not one of them would dare vote to repeal the still workable parts of the Comstock laws on which this Texas lawsuit depends. 

Support Washington Attorney General Ferguson’s efforts to support women in making their own medical decisions. Discuss the issue with friends and family—and remember what Republicans are willing to do to attack women’s rights when you vote this fall and in 2024. 

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. I was alerted to the Texas lawsuit, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, by Judd Legum’s excellent coverage in Substack column “Popular Information”, specifically, his February 13 entry, “Inside the push for a nationwide ban on abortion medication”. Legum, an independent investigative journalist, is a terrific source of detailed, well-sourced information on corporate hypocrisy and right wing initiatives. I highly recommend adding his column to your reading list.

“Confidential Memorandum–Attack on American Free Enterprise System”

How Powell Got it All Started–as a reaction to consumer advocacy

Republicans rail on about the evils of regulation, how regulation stifles the free enterprise system, how regulation limits our God-given “freedom”. Every time there is a proposal to regulate anything, no matter how reasonable or well-researched the proposal, a chorus of protest rises up in the media. “That’s too expensive! That isn’t really a problem! But look at this anecdote!” Most recently it is Republican media hysteria over “gas stoves”—a thinly veiled effort by fossil fuel companies to frame the burning of natural gas as a freedom issue.

Many of my readers are old enough to remember, as I do, when seatbelts were first offered as optional equipment in new cars. Many might also remember a book, “Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile” written by Ralph Nader and published in 1965. I remember the book as a condemnation of the independent suspension system of General Motors’ Corvair, a car with a propensity to roll over and kill its occupants due to cost-cutting in its design. In fact, the Corvair issue was covered in just one of eight chapters of examples of the automobile industry’s pursuit of profit over safety. The immense popularity of the book contributed much to the establishment of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 1970. 

Nader’s “Unsafe at Any Speed” resulted in government regulation and requirements for safety features that have saved countless lives, features that we now take for granted. Reacting to the book, General Motors executives painted a target on Nader’s back in a shameless effort to destroy Nader’s reputation—an effort so scurrilous that it ultimately cost GM a public apology and an award of $425,000 to settle a civil suit brought by Nader. 

In 1971 Eugene B. Sydnor Jr., education director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, neighbor, and close friend of the tobacco company lawyer Lewis Powell, commissioned Powell to write a confidential memo for the Chamber to address the threats to free enterprise posed by consumer advocacy, communism, socialism, and propose a detailed response. The document written by Powell, “Confidential Memorandum–Attack on American Free Enterprise System” or simply “The Powell Memo”, is an eye-opener. It is available here to read in its original double-spaced, typewritten form. It is worth your time to read Powell’s entire treatise. Often cited, but now rarely read, the Powell Memo is the organizing document for all subsequent Republican efforts to torpedo the New Deal and to push back against any and all regulation that might even marginally threaten the profits of private industry.

Powell opens with this bit of paranoia:

No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack…The American political system of democracy under the rule of law is also under attack, often by the same individuals and organizations who seek to undermine the enterprise system. 

Sound familiar? Anyone who questions unfettered, unregulated capitalism is a dangerous enemy. 

Beware, says Powell, of consumer advocates:

Perhaps the single most effective antagonist of American business is Ralph Nader who – thanks largely to the media – has become a legend in his own time and an idol of millions of Americans.

Powell cites an article titled “Memo to GM: Why Not Fight Back” apparently in answer to Nader’s call for safety features on cars. Powell seems oblivious to the character assassination of Nader that GM had already attempted—and for which it had to settle and expensive civil suit. It seems that for Powell the threat to “free enterprise” of consumers demanding safe products justifies whatever tactics corporate America can summon. 

Twice Powell remarks of “bright young men” corrupted by supposed left wing professors, especially at Yale, his alma mater. In a chilling foreshadowing of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’ censorship of books and takeover of New College in the State of Florida—as well as Chris Cargill’s efforts to censor books using Liberty Lake City Council and the Republican takeover of North Idaho College— Powell advocates for the Chamber of Commerce to fund a “Staff of Scholars” (chosen for their like minded devotion to “free enterprise”), a “Staff of Speakers”, a “Speaker’s Bureau” chosen from among them, and an “Evaluation of Textbooks” by these Scholars. He goes on to specify investment in secondary education, monitoring and broadcasting on television and radio, books, pamphlets, and paid advertisements in favor of industry. 

In Powell’s last chapter he puts the cherry on the top of his prescription for corporate power: the fundamental threat is to “individual freedom”. 

There seems to be little awareness that the only alternatives to free enterprise are varying degrees of bureaucratic regulation of individual freedom— ranging from that under moderate socialism to the iron heel of the leftist or rightist dictatorship.

For Powell, Nader’s efforts to highlight automotive manufacturers’ disregard for the safety of the cars they make and profit from must threaten the individual’s freedom to purchase and be killed by an unsafe product.

From wikipedia:

The Powell Memorandum ultimately came to be a blueprint for the rise of the American conservative movement and the formation of a network of influential right-wing think tanks and lobbying organizations, such as the Business RoundtableThe Heritage Foundation, the Cato InstituteManhattan Institute for Policy Research and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and inspired the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to become far more politically active. CUNY professor David Harvey traces the rise of neoliberalism in the US to this memo.

Just months after Powell submitted his Memo to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Nixon nominated Powell to the U.S. Supreme Court where he served from 1971 to 1987. There Powell put his Memo recommendations for consolidating corporate power into action. In First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti (1978) Powell wrote the majority opinion which defined the free speech right of corporations for the first time. FNB v. Bellotti was the precursor to Citizens United v. FEC (2010) that unleashed mountains of corporate cash as “independent expenditures” in political campaigns as an furtherance of their Supreme Court-manufactured corporate “right to free speech”. 

From wikipedia:

The explicit goal of the [Powell] memo was not to destroy democracy, though its emphasis on political institution-building as a concentration of big business power, particularly updating the Chamber’s efforts to influence federal policy, has had that effect.

The next time you sit down in your car contemplate the safety features for which you can thank Ralph Nader: seat belts, air bags, and the collapsible steering column to note only a few, all products of regulation. Then consider that it was overreaction to Nader’s efforts on the part of Lewis Powell that set the United States on the anti-democratic path on which we now find ourselves.

Once against I recommend clicking The Powell Memorandum and reading the Memo in its original form. It is a remarkable document that set us on our current course.

Keep to the high ground,


“Pastor” Peters’ Hollow Defiance

Putting on the best face

On February 7, Emma Epperly’s Spokesman article, “Church at Planned Parenthood [TCAPP] says insurance covered $850k in attorneys fees, plans future protests” added one more twist to a Spokane story that has dragged on for five years. TCAPP is the politico-religious product of self-appointed “Pastor” Ken Peters. The “Church’s”purpose is keep the cult’s followers whipped up and making news by harassing patients and staff of Planned Parenthood of Eastern Washington and North Idaho. Of course, the protests and harassment are all conducted under the camouflage of “Christian” worship and speech protected under the First Amendment. TCAPP is run by Covenant Church and Covenant Christian School, “Pastor” Ken Peters, former State Representative Matt Shea, Clay Roy, Gabriel Blomgren, and Seth Haberman. 

The gist of Ms. Epperly’s Spokesman article is Peters’ posturing to cast, in the best light possible, the recent nearly million dollar civil judgement rendered against him and the other defendants listed above. The legal details were covered in “What Happened to TCAPP?”, but a few points beg for further emphasis after reading Ms. Epperly’s article.

First, to their discredit, City of Spokane Mayor Woodward, Chief of Police Meidl, and the County Prosecutor’s Office under Larry Haskell failed to enforce state law (and municipal ordinance) against “Interference with health care facilities or providers” (referenced in the above post). The criminal provisions of the state law allow for prosecution of the crime as a misdemeanor with potential jail sentences and fines. By declining to enforce the criminal provisions of the law Woodward, Meidl, and Haskell were, in effect, siding with the protestors. Their refusal left the plaintiff to mount an expensive and time consuming civil suit as their only defense against the harassment. Remember that when you vote. Regardless of one’s personal opinion, not enforcing a clearly written law is a dereliction of duty in a country supposedly governed by the rule of law.

Second, in Ms. Epperly’s article “Pastor” Peters is allowed to whine and posture:

“It’s like I have no chance against this bazillion dollar organization [the law firm representing the plaintiff],” Peters said. “I got crushed by the steamroller, but that’s what they do to babies, so.”

On Facebook, Peters has continued to call Fennessy a “leftist judge” who misinterpreted the law.

“They just hated our righteous stand, pure and simple,” Peters wrote.

This is bull manure, and shame on the Spokesman for printing it without comment. The plain fact is that hours of depositions and testimony demonstrated that Peters’ TCAPP repeatedly broke state law by harassing patients and staff at Planned Parenthood. There was no actual question of “misinterpretation” of the law—Peters and company gave up that point by not pursuing an appeal of the ruling. For him to pretend to “misinterpretation” is to depend on ignorance of legal process of his Facebook followers. Furthermore, Peters’ claim of being crushed by a wealthy law firm is pure nonsense. The Pacific Justice Institute, the “non-profit” law firm that defended TCAPP, is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. PJI is hardly a pushover to be “steamrolled” in the manner Peters suggests. Public filings in California reveal $4.3M in donations to the Pacific Justice Institute in 2020 (the most recent year for which data is available). Peters’ statement is an insult to his own legal representation. (One must also wonder if PJI conducted TCAPP’s defense pro bono or if Covenant’s insurance carrier noted below is covering defense costs.)

Finally, Peters struts and thumbs his nose at the civil suit judgment of $110,000 plus legal fees of $850,000, claiming that legal fees will be covered by Covenant Church’s insurance carrier, Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Co., and the remaining $110,000 judgment, if not covered, won’t bankrupt Covenant (Peters has changed Covenant’s name to “Patriot Church”). For all his bluster, Peters omits what should be obvious to anyone who has filed a large insurance claim: Brotherhood Mutual, for all that it supports right wing causes, is still an insurance company that retains the right to raise its premium, withdraw coverage, or adjust its policy terms so as not to cover legal fees or judgments resulting from further infractions.

The article goes on:

The Church at Planned Parenthood and Peters have planned five events this year called “Not Backing Down” with the first set for March 14.

The events will start at 7:15 p.m., more than an hour after Planned Parenthood closes, and will be held across the street from the clinic, Peters said.

So for all his bluster and posturing about “Not Backing Down”, with this announcement Peters acknowledges that TCAPP will abide by terms of the now permanent injunction prohibiting protests for an hour after Planned Parenthood’s 6PM closing time. The injunction also stipulates that the protests must be at least 35 feet from the building, essentially mandating that they be held on the block across Indiana Avenue from the Planned Parenthood Clinic. That entire block is owned by the Salvation Army, the same folks the City contracts with to run Woodward’s Warehouse, i.e. the Trent Shelter or TRAC. The Salvation Army’s Food Distribution Center on that block across from Planned Parenthood closes at 7PM. Even if the Salvation Army were inclined to object to the noise (and possible trespass), the protests will be after their business hours.

Planned Parenthood plans to closely monitor the protests, implying additional civil suits if TCAPP resumes the proscribed harassment. One might be permitted to hope that with changes in City of Spokane government this fall enforcement of criminal law will become possible.

Keep to the high ground,


Tom Foley Legacy Dinner and the County Dems

Time to pitch in

The Spokane County Democrats are rebuilding the party under the able leadership of Carmela Conroy. The need for a strong local Democratic Party is made glaringly obvious as the local and national Republican parties have shifted further and further toward ownership by its extreme right wing. It is a right wing characterized by Christian nationalism, white supremacy, and disdain for, anger over, and desire to control all other points of view; a right wing that shouts “Freedom!” even as it makes a mockery of the word by banning books, curtailing voting rights, banning medical care, restricting the right of women to control their own bodies, and destroying public education.

This March 11th, just three weeks from now, for the first time since 2019 (thanks to Covid), the Spokane County Democrats are holding their signature fundraising Tom Foley Legacy Dinner. The Dinner is an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of Democrats in the State of Washington and reassert freedom from the tyranny of the extreme right wing’s dreams of theocratic leadership.

The Tom Foley Legacy Dinner list of featured speakers has expanded (click the names for extended bios):

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, a brilliant man quietly responsible for much good that happens on the legal front in the State of Washington;

Washington State Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti, the only Democratic candidate for any statewide executive office in the United States to defeat a Republican incumbent in 2020, a man since responsible for saving the State of Washington $370 million dollars by refinancing state debt.

Shasti Conrad (she/her), the up-and-coming, newly-elected chair of the Washington State Democrats. She brings impressive skill to the chair and she is the youngest and first woman of color to be elected chair of the WA Dems. 

And underpinning it all, Heather Foley, Tom Foley’s wife and support for many decades. 

The Foley Dinner is a major fundraising event for the Spokane Dems. This fall we face municipal elections that will determine the makeup of the City of Spokane City Council, the Council Presidency, and the Mayorship. (And similar positions in many other municipalities.) Buying a ticket and attending the Foley Dinner is an opportunity to support the Dems in getting the word out about these important elections while helping to rebuild the local party.

Click here for more details and tickets. (Clicking in the ad below doesn’t work on account of the method I had to use to copy it.)

To close, a word from Carmela Conroy, chairperson of the Spokane County Dems:

This year is an “off year election,” but it’s an incredibly important year for the elections that most directly affect our daily lives.  Will our mayors be people who cruelly sweep from the public eye our neighbors who’ve been overwhelmed by overlapping pandemics and the housing shortage, or people who work across boundaries and disciplines to address suffering in our communities?  Will school boards be dominated by White Christian Nationalists, or people who believe that public education should include science, critical thinking, and history that accurately describes how our nation came to be, warts and all?  Will fire and water districts operate as though what we’ve always known will always be, or take into account the latest understanding of the climate crisis?

Keep to the high ground,

“They’re Coming for Your Gas Stove!”

Another Republican Preemptive–and Dangerous–Culture War Topic

Conservative media recently injected a new cause for fear and anger into the mix of culture war themes to rile their followers. Those evil Democrats are preparing jack-booted enforcers to stomp into your kitchen and remove your gas stove! Be angry. Stand up for your personal freedom in the face of this grave threat!

This flare-up of Republican culture war hysteria started with a January 9th headline in Bloomberg News, “US Safety Agency to Consider Ban on Gas Stoves Amid Health Fears”. All the Republican propaganda machine needed to see was the word “Ban”—and they leapt on it as the newest, shiniest outrage. Even pseudo-Democrat Joe Manchin got on board, issuing this tweet:

Does Manchin’s tweet remind you of the NRA’s “You can have my gun when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands”? It should. It’s the same framing—and for the same rhetorical purpose: be angry over something no one is proposing.

Fox News, on January 17, published “First, Biden came for your gas stove. Next, Democrats will come for your gas heater”. Look! It’s Joe Biden invading your kitchen! The first link in the Fox article (purporting to reference the origin of the outrage of the “ban”) takes the reader to an ever-growing list of articles on a Fox News web page with the heading “REGULATION”, a page clearly dedicated to the Republican mantra that all good things arise from a totally unfettered “free market”. The day I clicked on the link the article at the top of the REGULATION page was a Fox News video featuring Tucker Carlson, a video that offers the real source of the gas stove hysteria: fossil fuel company worries that regulation will restrict the market for natural gas. Tucker smirks his way through a misinformation-packed monologue in which he asserts that “Climate is now our state religion”. 

Despite the headline of the Bloomberg News article that triggered this latest frenzy, the article itself, more carefully read, is nuanced (in contrast to the Fox article). Even the subtitle of the Bloomberg article belies the word “Ban”: “The US Consumer Product Safety Commission will move to regulate gas stoves as new research links them to childhood asthma.” 

All this exaggeration and misrepresentation by Republican media and talking heads is meant to get out ahead of the narrative. Make an outrageous statement right out of the gate and force those with the truth to play catchup with refutations—negative statements that repeat the original accusation and thereby reinforce the original outrage. Remember the old saw, “A Lie Is Halfway Round the World Before the Truth Has Got Its Boots On”?

This lie of the gas stove Gestapo coming to get your appliances is ideal to feed the siege mentality of people trained to believe that the government under Democrats is out to get them, that they are about to have their autonomy and freedom taken away. And it’s a twofer: Importantly, the lie frames the continued burning of natural gas, a carbon-based fossil fuel, as a sacred right not to be violated. 

The broader narrative is the Republican sell-out to the fossil fuel companies defending profits those companies don’t want to lose. Remember the disinformation pumped out by the tobacco companies trying to counter incontrovertible evidence that tobacco causes a lot of cancer, lung and heart disease, and a myriad of other ailments? Sadly, it worked on some of us. I didn’t quit smoking for twenty years after the evidence was out. I won’t be fooled a second time by an industry trying to protect its profits. Incidentally, smirking Tucker is still busy framing pollution of other people’s air with cigar smoke as a freedom issue. (Ah, the good ‘ole days of smoke-filled rooms!) 

Libertarian/Republican framing of smoking as a “freedom” issue delayed adoption of rules that ultimately freed us from second hand smoke and reduced the societal temptation to use tobacco. Millions of people suffered and died thanks to the tobacco industry’s delaying propaganda. Today far fewer people smoke than in my youth and far fewer people suffer the consequences of smoking—thanks to regulation—and yet tobacco is still legally available and tobacco companies still exist. Was the engineering of the tobacco companies’ economic “soft landing” worth the death and disability the delay produced?

Future generations will look back on Republican, Fox News, and fossil fuel industry gas-stove hysteria through the same lens as most of us now see the delaying tactics of tobacco companies. How many will suffer dislocation, starvation, disability, and death as a result of this fossil fuel industry rear-guard battle for the minds of citizens and voters?

It’s not just words. It’s legislative action at the behest of fossil fuel companies—twenty states have enacted Republican sponsored legislation that preempts municipalities from prohibiting gas infrastructure piped to new construction. No municipality is proposing to come rip out existing infrastructure or remove your gas stove—but many have tried to take the logical step of NOT setting up new buildings to burn fossil fuels. When you realize you’re digging yourself into a hole, the first rule is to quit digging. Gas infrastructure is costly to install, costly to safely maintain, and, once installed, encourages continued use—the burning of ever more carbon fuels that exacerbate world weather events.

These battles over building codes, though fundamentally important, are “under the radar” for most of us—but not for the most ardent of climate deniers. In October, 2021, a proposal to limit new natural gas hookups in the City of Spokane was floated by the City’s volunteer Sustainability Action Subcommittee as part of their draft Sustainability Action Plan. The natural gas new hookup prohibition was stripped out before the rest of the plan came to a vote in the City Council, thanks to the concerted effort of a vocal few.

Fortunately, the prohibition of new gas hookups (under certain circumstances) is now, at least in Washington State, part of the state building code. One can nearly guarantee that if this were a state with a Republican trifecta (House, Senate, and Governor) this change wouldn’t have happened—or if it did it would have been legislated away by Republicans. 

Scratch the surface of any of the people dedicated to waging this new “save your appliances” culture war and you’ll find someone with a vested interest in keeping fossil fuels on the menu—or a person who, often based in Fundamentalist Christian doctrine, believes that burning carbon fuels is a non-problem—or both. For example, right on cue, the Spokesman, on January 23rd, published a “Guest Opinion” entitled “Federal gas stove ban fails, but appliances under threat in state,” penned by two men, Larry Andrews and Garth Selden, both with a vested interest in carbon fuels. Andrews is the owner of Andrews Mechanical Inc., a company of excellence in the installation and maintenance of natural gas powered heating equipment. Mr. Selden is the “third-generation owner/president of Country Homes Power.” Whether it was Andrews and Selden or the Spokesman editor who picked the title, that title frames the “they’re coming for your appliances” lie at the local level.

We need to understand this fossil fuel company tactic and call it out for the lie that it is. 

Keep to the high ground,


SpaceX, Starlink, and Ukraine

Musk, in his conceit, wants to dictate foreign policy

Yesterday I accidentally got ahead of my schedule again by publishing a post entitled “Hijacking Democracy Symposium”, a promotion of a regional event in response to the appearance of Marge Greene in Coeur d’Alene last Saturday. She was the keynote speaker at the Kootenai County Republicans Lincoln Day Dinner. Lincoln would be appalled, embarrassed, and angry. If that post slipped by your notice, click the title to read it.

Today I depart from my usual local and regional focus to point out something of national and international import, Elon Musk’s intrusion into the Russia/Ukraine conflict

I am strongly in favor of U.S. support of Ukraine in its defense against Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion. Putin’s expansionist invasion of Ukraine is directly parallel to Hitler’s invasion of the Sudetenland, the event that, seen in retrospect, heralded the beginning of World War II. If the rest of the world’s countries today capitulate to Putin in the way that the Europeans capitulated to Hitler’s invasion of the Sudetenland, we are inviting Putin to proceed exactly as Hitler did. Putin has laid the rhetorical groundwork for continued Russian imperial conquest.

High tech in the form of satellite communications has been used extensively by the Ukrainian armed forces in their efforts to stave off Russian aggression. In particular, satellite communications are innovatively and effectively used by Ukraine to guide drone attacks on Russian tanks

Last year it was briefly noted in the media that the satellites that Ukraine was using are those put in space and regulated by a private, California-based company, Starlink, a company owned and operated by SpaceX. The CEO and founder of privately owned SpaceX is none other that the private citizen, Twitter king, and (until recently) the richest man in the world, Elon Musk.

The private ownership of Starlink only came to public notice because last fall Mr. Musk threatened to cut off Ukrainian access to Starlink unless the United States subsidized Starlink in providing service to the Ukrainian military. Then he backed off on his threat. It certainly appeared that in October 2022 that Musk’s threat was motivated purely by monetary, not diplomatic consideration. 

Then, on Thursday, February 9th, CNN reported “SpaceX admits blocking Ukrainian troops from using satellite technology” [the bold in the quote below is mine]:

Last October, Musk angered Ukrainians, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, for proposing a peace plan on Twitter that argued Ukraine just give up efforts to reclaim Crimea and cede control of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

That same month, there were reports that the Starlink signal had been restricted and was not available past the front line as Ukrainian troops tried to advance, essentially hamstringing their efforts to retake territory from the Russians. Those reports of the outages fueled accusations that Musk was kowtowing to Russia.

SpaceX, Starlink, and all the rest of the Musk-owned companies may be based in the U.S., but they have multinational reach and, obviously, multinational effects. Selective withdrawal of satellite communicates to Ukraine by Starlink seems a clear example of a multinational company in the form of a single, highly opinionated autocratic CEO essentially dictating foreign policy to the coalition of countries led by the United States in supporting Ukraine. It seems clear that Musk has unilaterally decided that Putin’s Russia should be appeased by allowing it to keep the territories of Ukraine that it invaded in 2014—Crimea and the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. Musk, a bloated private citizen, is playing the role of Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister instrumental in ceding the Sudetenland to Hitler’s expansionist Nazi Germany in 1938—appeasement that led directly to World War II. 

Musk got ahead of himself in buying and taking over management of Twitter. Now he is doing the same by meddling in foreign policy. Republican sympathizers with Putin, of whom there are many, would likely scream bloody murder if the Biden administration went ahead—but there is precedent for nationalizing companies in time of war…

I take note that Henry Ford continued to do profitable business with the Third Reich right up to WWII. He was also a prominent member of the Nazi-sympathizing America First Committee, so ably and ominously documented in Rachel Maddow’s Ultra podcast series. I will close with a question: What is it about plutocratic car company entrepreneurs that leads them to sympathizing with megalomaniacs like Hitler and Putin?

Keep to the high ground,


Hijacking Democracy Symposium

An Answer to Ms. Greene’s Appearance in the Neighborhood

Last Saturday Marge Greene, the Republican Representative from the northwest corner of the State of Georgia to the U.S. House of Representatives spoke at the Kootenai County Republicans’ Lincoln Day fundraising dinner at the Coeur d’Alene Resort. Greene’s place on the podium in our neighboring county was secured months before her juvenile heckling Joe Biden (unsuccessfully) at the State of the Union speech, but, surely, her antics only burnished her image for the right wing faithful who attended the event. Judging by the posted video clips, her speech was peppered with nonsense about the threat of immigrants taking over Kootenai County and how the good, God-fearing Republicans of Kootenai County need to stand up and repel them. 

Apparently, the organizers of the Kootenai Republican event wanted to keep at least some of what was said at the event on the quiet: the dominant news outlet in the area, The Spokesman-Review, was not allowed to attend on the hopelessly lame excuse that “press passes had already been allocated”. As a result Garrett Cabeza’s Spokesman article that appeared the next day wasn’t complimentary, but it lacked illustrative quotes from Greene’s speech. Spreading Greene’s themes beyond the dinner audience was left to clips that appeared on social media sites like Rumble, conveniently outside the consciousness of those not habitually sipping at those cesspools.

Greene is a far-right conspiracy theorist who has shown support for QAnon and says the 2020 election was stolen. That her vile rhetoric was featured by Kootenai County Republican Party should be a wakeup call—which brings me to serious efforts to defend democracy, the Hijacking Democracy Symposium a week from this Saturday put on by the Kootenai County Democrats (also mark your calendar for the Spokane County Democrats’ Tom Foley Legacy Dinner upcoming on March 11 in the evening—more later).

I am a great fan of Luke Mayville, one of the panelists at the Democracy Symposium. Luke led the huge—and successful—grassroots effort to bring the Medicaid expansion to Idaho using an Idaho State ballot initiative. He and countless volunteers succeeded over the howls of Republican legislators in the very red state of Idaho. Their success stimulated subsequent disingenuous efforts by Idaho State Republican legislators to make an already challenging ballot initiative process nearly impossible for the citizens for whom it was designed—another Republican power play.

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February 25 11 AM – 3 PM at the Red Lion Hotel, Templin’s on the River in Post Falls, Idaho. (Just a half hour east from downtown City of Spokane.)

“This symposium features top local and national speakers addressing the issue of combating extremist ideology.  It is another response to Marjorie Taylor Greene’s planned visit to our area.” 

Panelists Include:
* Dr. David Adler — prize-winning professor, author, Constitutional scholar,
and international expert on economics.

* Luke Mayville from Reclaim Idaho.

* Dr. Sarah Lynch from North Idaho Pride Alliance.

*Representative Ilana Rubel from United Against Hate.

The afternoon panel session addresses the controversy swirling around North Idaho College and its impending loss of accreditation—another project linked to the Kootenai County Republican Party. Dr. Adler will also appear on that panel.

Check out the details and purchase tickets by visiting the Facebook event page:

Or by visiting the Act Blue tickets page

For those interested in attending who find the price tag for the event a deal breaker [$40 (including lunch), $15 for students (also including lunch]) I am told there are funds available. Inquire through the Contacts Page at

I plan to attend.

Keep to the high ground,