This Photo Says It All

Copy and Send to McMorris Rodgers

There are no words beyond this photo to describe how we should all feel—but if anyone needs to dive into any more details, for those with a subscription or free articles still available to read this month, I recommend the excellent series touching on every detail of America’s half century romance with assault weaponry published recently in the Washington Post. I am an M.D.—and I have been a student of military small arms for most of that half century—and I still learned a few things from the Post articles. None of that will matter, though, while Republicans sold out to the arms industry and hostage to right wing militia types still control Congress.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. The only email I could find to which I could attach a photo and send to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ email is: . Unfortunately, that email goes to her campaign website. I cannot find a way to attach a photo to an electronic communication with her congressional website

P.P.S. I first encountered this photo in a Substack email from Joyce Vance’ Civil Discourse published on March 29th. Joyce Vance is a former U.S. Attorney whose column provides clear insight on legal issues. I recommend signing up.

“George Soros!”

The Construction of an Infectious Propaganda Trope

“George Soros! George Soros!” The name recently cropped up again, this time in Republican propaganda decrying Alvin Bragg’s supposedly impending indictment of Donald Trump. There are a long string of such invocations from right wing figures. George Soros

has been accused by right-wing conspiracists of orchestrating everything from protests against the police killing of George Floyd and the national anthem in the NFL to the funding of Central American migrant caravans in 2018 and demonstrations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination.

The words are no longer the name of a man born in pre-World War II Hungary who made a fortune and spends a significant part of that fortune in support of small “d” democratic values and institutions in countries of the former Soviet bloc. The words “George Soros” are now shorthand for all that can be imagined that is controlling and evil. Like any effective political dog whistle, the accusation of the involvement of George Soros in any endeavor means different things to differently conditioned listeners. For many the mental linkage conjures up images of The New World Order

a secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian one-world government—which will replace sovereign nation-states—and an all-encompassing propaganda whose ideology hails the establishment of the New World Order as the culmination of history’s progress.

For others, the name conjures up images of a secret cabal of Jewish bankers bent on world dominion, an image that harkens back to the Rothschild banking family in Europe and its interactions with the Vatican. 

Somewhat less imaginative (less indoctrinated) listeners might take the “George Soros” epithet simply to suggest a wealthy man of great self interest who funds liberal causes for his own aggrandizement—and to the detriment of Republican causes. 

“George Soros” has become convenient shorthand for evil self promotion to the detriment of society. By 2017, the “George Soros” meme had become so embedded in right wing consciousness that McMorris Rodgers (“our” Representative to the U.S. House from eastern Washington) could look me straight in the face and remind me that “George Soros” was funding migrant caravans—as if this were incontrovertible fact with which I must certainly agree—rather than the spurious trope it surely was. (But then no one ever accused McMorris Rodgers of having an original thought.) To me in that moment it were as if McMorris Rodgers lived on an entirely different planet from the one I inhabit.

The widespread demonization of George Soros’ name for right wing political ends did not happen by accident. It was the brainchild of two originally Stateside Republican political operatives, Arthur Finkelstein and George Birnbaum. Finkelstein and Birnbaum worked on right wing political campaigns in the U.S. for decades before being hired to aid Benjamin Netanyahu in his early rise to power. Following Netanyahu’s original narrow election win, Victor Orban enlisted their political expertise in his efforts to convert Hungary into a rightwing authoritarian state. It was during their efforts to insure Orban’s rise to power that Finkelstein and Birnbaum recognized the utility of demonizing George Soros as the origin of all that plagues Hungary. 

Millions of Americans now summon a negative mental image every time “George Soros” is mentioned—while very few know anything of story of the man himself. Fewer still are acquainted with the two Republican political operatives who hatched the trope and nurtured it, originally for the benefit of Victor Orban. Knowing the story of Finkelstein and Birnbaum, it should be no surprise that the modern day Republican Party in this country looks to Orban’s authoritarianism as a model to be emulated here. 

I commend to you “The Unbelievable Story Of The Plot Against George Soros” that appeared in January 20, 2019. It is a fascinating, highly informative, and chilling read. (no paywall). Arm yourself with an understanding of one of the most chilling and dishonest bits of propaganda still in wide circulation.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. I note that the story of Finkelstein and Birnbaum has some parallels to the local story of Chief Meidl and Chud Wendle that I posted on Monday. Both represent concerted efforts to demonize for political purposes—to construct and plant the seeds of a highly negative impression based on little or no evidence. Understanding the origin of negative ideas is an important step in sorting out truth from fiction.

P.P.S. Another example of a Republican brain worm: In a conversation last weekend an otherwise liberal person asserted to me as a matter of fact that Hawaii suffers from a growing problem of homelessness because of “all those homeless people that Governor Cuomo flew from New York to Hawaii”. LeClaire’s rule is “if it sounds too ‘good’ to be true it probably is.” My friend’s assertion sounded far too convenient a narrative for a certain political party. Asked to verify, my friend pulled up “NYC secretly exports homeless to Hawaii and other states without telling receiving pols”, an inflammatory headline from the New York Post on October 26, 2019. The details don’t support the impression the headline wishes to convey. A tiny bit of further digging completely debunked the claim. See “Is New York really ‘exporting its homeless to Hawaii,’ as a recent article claimed?” 

It was very sobering to recognize that the New York Post’s bit of propaganda from a single article had infected the brain of an otherwise highly intelligent, reasonable person—leaving him with an image of a New York governor clandestinely shipping hordes of homeless people to another, warmer state. How many other memes are planted in voters’ brains based on bald-faced lies and hearsay?

The Chief and Chud

More than a Cozy Alliance

As detailed in the December 2022 report from the Office of Police Ombudsman, there has been a longstanding cozy relationship between Chief Meidle and Chud Wendle. In the latter half of 2021 this relationship crossed the line from collaboration on law enforcement issues into underhanded politics. At the urging of Mr. Wendle, the Chief went to considerable lengths to review and facilitate the release of body worn camera (BWC) footage whose only plausible use to Mr. Wendle was to instigate a political smear of a sitting member of the City Council. 

The story begins with a murder committed in Brown’s Addition in mid August of 2020. Police officers canvassing the neighborhood for relevant information stopped at a nearby mental health group home to inquire about obtaining recordings from a security camera pointed at the street, material that might possibly have captured evidence relevant to the murder. The body worn camera (BWC) footage of one of the officers captures the face-to-face interaction with the manager of the group home, but the officer’s conversation with the business owner was conducted through the manager’s cell phone. As a result, on the BWC footage the business owner’s voice in inaudible. Only the officer’s side of the conversation is captured. The details are available starting at the bottom of page 13 of the Office of Policed Ombudsman’s report

The business owner, entirely within her rights, asked for a warrant before releasing the security camera footage. She wanted time to explore legal issues to be sure to protect the rights of the residents in the group home. According to the OPO report (page 5), “Three days later, the lead detective returned with a search warrant and the Complainant provided the security camera footage without issue.”

Here the plot thickens. The business owner is Spokane City Council Member (CM) Betsy Wilkerson. Apparently based on a tip from a former City Hall staffer (and political aspirant), Chud Wendle first reached out to Chief Meidl about the BWC footage of the encounter at the group home in August of 2021, a whole year after the murder—and three months before the November City Council elections. By that time the murder case was nearing closure—but it appears that Chud’s interest in the footage had nothing to do with the crime—only with the possibility of using it to smear CM Wilkerson. It apparently didn’t matter that CM Wilkerson’s voice was not heard on the recording—only the grumbling of the officers about what they perceived as non-cooperation because she requested an official warrant. 

The whole issue might have ended there, but it seems that’s not what Chud had in mind. 

The footage was released to Wendle [following Meidl’s review, facilitation, and a subsequent second formal Public Records Request by Mr. Wendle] in October 2021, and 10 days later it was the subject of a report on the Jason Rantz conservative radio show in Seattle – where it was spun as the tale of an anti-police African American politician refusing to help solve a murder. Rantz was on Fox News shortly thereafter, telling the same story.

That quote comes from an excellent article by Shawn Vestal published in the Spokesman on March 8 based on the Office of Police Ombudsman’s report published last December

Chud Wendle is a businessman, local Republican firebrand, author of a group email often assailing the City Council, and former husband of City Council President aspirant Cindy Wendle. That Chief Meidl spent time reviewing the body worn camera (BWC) footage at the behest of Mr. Wendle and facilitated its early release is a sordid act of partisan politics that goes far beyond a salutary relationship between a Chief of Police and a representative of the business community.

This evening, March 27, there will be testimony presented at the City Council meeting demanding of the City Council and Mayor Woodward, as a result of this incident (and the pattern it points out), that Chief Meidl be compelled to resign. The Spokane Community Against Racism (SCAR) is spearheading the effort. The demand letter from SCAR is here

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. The Office of Police Ombudsman’s (OPO’s) report is not easy reading, but it is an essential window on these goings on. The investigation of this incident by the OPO was undertaken at the request of CM Betsy Wilkerson (referred to as the “Complainant” in the report) after the appearance of the story on Fox News. Also useful in reading the OPO report:

SPD Employee C is Chief Meidl

The Community Member is Chud Wendle.

It is no secret that the Spokane Police under Chief Meidl oppose independent oversight of the Department. The Office of Police Ombudsman arose in the aftermath of the death of Otto Zehm at the hand of the Spokane Police. This current OPO report clearly demonstrates that independent investigation is still hampered by its lack of authority to compel testimony. 

P.P.S. Another article on this controversy, one that I find somewhat less to the point than Shawn Vestal’s Spokesman piece, appeared in The Inlander on March 10.

P.P.P.S. Council Member Betsy Wilkerson currently represents District 2 (South Hill plus) at the Council. She recently announced as a candidate for City Council President this fall after current Council President Breean Beggs said he would not run for a second four year term. Council President is a city-wide contest, appealing to voters of all three City Districts. Don’t be surprised if Meidl’s and Wendle’s smear campaign based on the body cam footage of the chatter between two police officers appears in attack ads or fundraising literature by those who oppose Wilkerson’s candidacy. Judge the video for yourself on the webpage of Rantz’ right wing Seattle talk radio show. To my viewing, the released BWC footage is a breach of privacy as well as nothing but hearsay.

Woodward Wasting Tax Dollars

Using City Money and the Law for a Political Grandstand

The headline news in the Spokesman last Wednesday, March 22nd, was an article by Emry Dinman entitled “City files lawsuit in aim to clear Camp Hope”. Mayor Woodward, apparently trying to burnish her law-and-order bonafides, is investing our tax dollars in another lawsuit against the State of Washington—a lawsuit similar to the one Spokane County filed last November (and dropped in January after Sheriff Knezovich retired to Wyoming). Camp Hope is steadily shrinking thanks to the steady and painstaking efforts of Jewels Helping Hands, the Empire Health Foundation, and multiple local organizations—but it seems that for a frustrated Mayor Woodward it just isn’t fast enough. Rather than laud the work and steady effort that has produced the shrinkage of the camp, Woodward wants the city police authorized to sweep the remaining 65 residents into Woodward’s Warehouse (the TRAC Shelter) by declaring them a chronic nuisance. After all, if Camp Hope dwindles away without law enforcement drama, Woodward wouldn’t be able to claim the mantle of “tough on crime”. 

The last thing Woodward wants to be accused of is allowing homeless people to be too “comfortable”. After all, she owns the now infamous quote, “I think we need to get to the point where we’re working to make homelessness less comfortable and get people connected to services.” 

During her previous attempts to justify forceable closure of Camp Hope, the Mayor pretended her motivation was compassion, suggesting that her concern was for the poor people living in the snow and the cold—that the houseless people of Camp Hope would be so much better off crammed into a congregate shelter (with the same lack of indoor plumbing as the Camp). As that supposed compassion-based justification melts away with the coming of spring, Woodward cannot resist spending the City’s tax money on another lawsuit trying to justify forcible clearance. With this lawsuit she demonstrates her commitment to keeping the lives of those still in the camp as unsettled as possible—rather than cooperating with and expressing gratitude for all those currently working to place the camp’s residents.

The City accuses the remaining sixty-five residents of Camp Hope of dealing drugs, committing sexual assaults, stealing and trafficking stolen goods. It wants to use these accusations to declare the continued existence of Camp Hope a chronic nuisance—a justification for displacing everyone against their will. Wait a minute. By the same logic the City could declare a whole city block in a poor neighborhood a hotbed of crime, then use that declaration to justify forcible displacement of all the residents in that block as a chronic nuisance affecting the surrounding neighborhood. 

Does anyone actually believe that when Camp Hope closes—as it surely will—that the “dealing drugs, committing sexual assaults, stealing and trafficking stolen goods” will suddenly cease in the surrounding neighborhood and all will be blissful law and order? For Woodward’s purposes it doesn’t matter. The data that could answer that question won’t be assembled until long after the November election when the whole issue has faded from the news. In the meantime the 65 remaining residents of Camp Hope are an easy target.

This Woodward-instigated, taxpayer-funded lawsuit is a political grandstand by an inept City administration that cannot get its act together to even apply for the money available to it (See Passing on the Bucks), an administration that now wants to bite the hand that feeds it rather than cooperatively engage. This is no way run a city.

Keep to the high ground,


Below I’ve pasted an excellent article on this topic by RANGE Media. The article appeared the night before the Spokesman article that I linked in the first paragraph. Both are worth reading, but RANGE provides a bit more thorough account. I encourage you sign up for a paid subscription to RANGE Media. They are doing great work.

Spokane city officials file lawsuit to sweep Camp Hope. Local orgs push back.

Luke BaumgartenCarl Segerstrom &Valerie Osier

Mar 21, 2023•8 min read

It’s the second suit targeting the camp since November: the county filed suit against WSDOT before, but dropped it in January as a show of “good faith” for working together to clear the camp.

The city of Spokane wants a judge to declare the state property that Camp Hope sits on a chronic nuisance and clear the way for the city to clean it up.

In a lawsuit filed Monday against the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), the state, and WSDOT officials, the city alleges that the people who live in Camp Hope are dealing drugs, committing sexual assaults, stealing and trafficking stolen goods, causing reckless fires, and causing nearby businesses and homes to suffer, among other things. The suit references more than 30 sworn affidavits from people who work in and live around the camp attesting to this behavior, in addition to sworn affidavits from police officials. RANGE has not seen the full affidavits, only the portions selected to make the city’s case.

Read the full complaint here.

The suit was filed by interim city attorney Lynden Smithson and contains a “complaint for abatement of a public nuisance” under the state’s drug and chronic nuisance law. The suit does not name Jewels Helping Hands, Empire Health Foundation and other local organizations working in the camp because, per state law, these nuisance complaints are against whoever owns a given property, regardless of who is using it.

The city’s right to sue for public nuisance isn’t in question. The question for months is what is a reasonable timeline for closing Camp Hope, and whether it’s better to keep people in a single location with services and some level of organization and security, or scatter them throughout the city.

Spokane County and the sheriff similarly filed suit against the state and WSDOT in November, but dropped it in January as a show of “good faith” when Sheriff John Nowels replaced Ozzie Knezovich and struck a more collaborative tone than his predecessor.

In a statement released as the suit became public, Mayor Nadine Woodward said in part: “The impact to the neighborhood and the risk of harm to those staying at the camp, the neighbors, businesses, and their customers, and anyone who passes by has become too great. We have been patient and tried to work with the state, but our requests for a transparent plan with a realistic timeline that considers everyone involved have been ignored. We are taking this action before anyone else gets hurt.”

While the Mayor was accusing the state of failing to cooperate, Zeke Smith, executive director of Empire Health Foundation, the Spokane organization that has administered state contracts to provide services to people living on the camp and connect them with housing options, said the lawsuit undermined ongoing cooperation between the state, nonprofits and the city.

“This action by the City accomplishes nothing towards addressing homelessness in our community and obscures our goal of closing Camp Hope quickly,” Smith said. “We will continue to seek the City’s collaborative and coordinated support in this effort and ask for earnest engagement on their part. I am incredibly disappointed.”

Lisa Brown, who, as head of the Washington State Department of Commerce, was responsible for disbursing tens of millions of housing funds to help close Camp Hope, and who is now running to unseat Woodward, took issue with the lawsuit’s assertion that the state and its local partners have not communicated a plan.

“[The city administration] is very aware that the state agencies and the local providers have a plan,” she told RANGE, “and they have been steadily putting more housing options online and the population of Camp Hope has been dropping since [those agencies and providers] got involved.”

From Smith’s perspective, not only is there a clear plan, but the plan is getting results. He noted the camp’s population has shrunk to 65 residents, down from 465 in November when the state first required all camp residents to get badges and sign conduct agreements to stay in the camp.

Both Smith and Jeffry Finer — the lawyer who successfully sued for a restraining order against the Sheriff’s office on behalf of Camp Hope — said most of what the new lawsuit asks for is already happening at Camp Hope.

There is one new wrinkle in the lawsuit, though: a request that the state pay damages to the city of $1 million.

What the city wants

The city and mayor are asking a judge to declare the property a nuisance and issue a temporary restraining order barring anyone — including the state itself or any of its contracted organizations — from selling, manufacturing or “delivering” drugs on the premises.

The language specifically asks for prohibition of “any controlled substance.” It’s unclear if this language would prevent doctors such as the CHAS street clinic from giving residents their prescribed medications, some of which are federally classified as “controlled substances.” Smith doesn’t believe it will impede doctors doing their work. “I don’t think it changes anything.”

The city is also asking for an injunction and warrant of abatement, which would allow them to clear the camp: the complaint says the city would provide notice and an opportunity for everyone to find new shelter before removing them, store their property of “obvious value” for 90 days, secure and maintain vehicles removed from the camp for 30 days, and make good faith efforts to conduct outreach and provide transportation for people removed. They promise “every individual removed from the WSDOT encampment will have a meaningful sheltering option and access to a bed, relocation services and property storage.”

Unlike in the past, when it’s been unclear where the city expects people swept from Camp Hope to go, there are currently enough posted beds available in the shelter system to accommodate the people of Camp Hope. In the past, the capacity at TRAC and throughout the low-barrier shelter program has not matched the population at the encampment, which made it unclear where the city and former Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich expected people to go if there was a law enforcement sweep of the camp. At the last posted count, there were 67 open beds at TRAC, enough to accommodate the people at Camp Hope.

While the numbers match, the needs may not. To stay in a shelter, people generally need to be able to care for and move themselves. Not everyone remaining at Camp Hope is fully ambulatory and therefore may not satisfy the basic requirements to stay at many shelters. At TRAC, for instance, “guests need to be able to transfer themselves from bed to chair to shower themselves,” according to the, the regional homeless shelter dashboard.

This is more than a policy at TRAC that could be changed. It’s a statewide standard called Activities of Daily Living (ADL), which “is used to determine eligibility for Long Term Care but also as a limitation for insuring individuals in shelters,” Smith said.

“The city does not have the capacity to house the remaining guests” at Camp Hope, Jeffry Finer said, “largely due to their debilitated status — these are the folks who could not qualify for TRAC or Catalyst, etc.”

Smith confirmed that assessment. “Yes this is a population with many overlapping and acute challenges and overwhelmingly have been homeless for a considerable amount of time,” he said. “It is also true many would not be eligible to be sheltered at TRAC.”

In Smith’s mind, though, that means the system needs more time to find a suitable solution for these residents, not to kick them out faster under a court order. “​​I don’t want to make it sound like these folks are the problem,” he said. The lack of options is.

“Closing the camp and getting its last residents situated will likely take real cooperation between the City and State,” Finer concluded.

Biting the hand that feeds

The $1 million in damages the city is seeking from the state is based on costs the city says the camp has generated. “The City has been tracking expenses monthly for police overtime, private security, trash disposal, and other costs, so that’s the basis for the expenses figure,” said communications director Brian Coddington.

This ask for money comes on the heels of the city accepting $2 million from the state Department of Commerce for the Trent Resource Resource and Assistance Center (TRAC) and another $800,000 for city administered housing programs through Housing Navigators and United Way.

Overall, Commerce has spent more than $24.5 million on homeless services in Spokane between 2022 and the start of this year. That funding is earmarked to provide 376 beds through a variety of housing options, including vouchers for rentals, supportive housing at the Catalyst project and funding for existing shelter beds in the city. Not all of those beds are currently available as programs and housing options are still in the development phase. The bulk of state funding, more than 70%, went to projects originally put forward by the city. “They were signed by the mayor,” Lisa Brown said. “This narrative that the city is fighting the state is inaccurate, but it’s also, I think, purely political.”

State funds have also been allocated to provide services at the camp. Commerce has a nearly $3.5 million contract with Empire Health Foundation (EHF), which subcontracts with Jewels Helping Hands, Compassionate Addiction Treatment and Revive to provide services at the camp. The funding enabled providers to offer services at the camp, including matching people with housing programs, providing healthcare and legal services and ensuring safety during emergency weather conditions.

A screenshot from December 2022 shows Commerce funding allocations for Camp Hope.

In the suit, the city accuses Commerce of using Camp Hope as a “de-facto low-barrier shelter space” and not creating one low-barrier bed despite its massive investment into Spokane.

Meanwhile, the city is eyeing closing or at least reimagining one of its low-barrier shelters, Cannon Street shelter, at the end of May and “absorbing” the beds into TRAC. In a recent meeting of the Urban Experience Committee, Council President Breean Beggs voiced support for turning Cannon into a shelter for people with more acute medical needs, which could be a solution for those harder-to-shelter people who remain at Camp Hope.

While the city is filing a lawsuit to close Camp Hope, it’s also scrambling to find more funding for rising costs in homeless services. On the same day the city was filing the suit, city council members were scheduled to discuss increased expenses for the city’s homelessness obligations that were not budgeted for during a Finance and Administration Committee meeting. The discussion ended up getting tabled until March 30, but would’ve included talking about “right-sizing services provided.”

Mixed results

While the size of Camp House shrunk significantly over winter, it’s not like everyone from the camp has been housed through state programs. The whereabouts of 225 of the 402 people who have exited from camp are unknown to service providers, and another 10 were “trespassed” or kicked out, with no destination listed, according to numbers provided by the Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium to RANGE. Camp organizers have said that a combination of cold temperatures and police presence at the camp pushed people out of the encampment this winter.

But, there have been significant success stories from the camp too. More than 116 people have been moved from the camp into housing funded by the state’s right-of-way initiative. And, like it has since the summer, the state is pleading for patience as they try to bring more housing options online.

“To remove the last remaining occupants from the site without completing this work would interrupt the state’s substantial progress and result in dispersing those with the greatest needs and challenges around the city,” WSDOT Communications Manager Ryan Overton said in an emailed statement to press.

“Such drastic action would not actually solve or reduce the homelessness crisis facing the City of Spokane; but simply continue the cycle of shuffling homeless individuals from one location to the next without actually addressing its root causes.”

Total Exits from Camp Hope as of 3/10/2023


“Camp Hope Must Close” and the ESBA

Misinformation for Political Gain?

The “Camp Hope Must Close” ad pictured below (or one like it from the same organization) has appeared at the bottom of the front page of the Spokesman Review every few weeks for months. The one below appeared last Sunday, March 19, but a few minutes spent searching the Spokesman’s online archives shows similar ads by the same organization, “ESBA”, all with the same heading, that appeared (at least) on March 15th, February 17th, January 15th, December 16th, and November 15th. Placing an ad like this is not cheap. Such an ad would cost around $450 for each paper placement plus a required “digital ad” run at $600 to cover any two month period during which the ad appears on the front page, that is, four such paper ads over two months would cost $2400 (450*4+600). 

Clearly, these repetitive ads are meant to implant a quick impression in the mind of the casual reader: Camp Hope is evil, inhumane, and it must go. Most of us (including me) have little idea of what the “East Spokane Business Association” consists, unless we take the time to dig for information. A visit to the surprisingly extensive website,, provides some hints. Like most private organizations the ESBA doesn’t advertise the names of its members or the sources or extent of its funding. 

It is a fair bet that the “East Spokane Business Association” (much like the Spokane Realtors) doesn’t hold a vote by all its members in order to approve of spending association money on such ads as these. Decisions to buy ad space for advertisements like “Camp Hope Must Close” are probably left up to those in leadership, while the rank and file pay little attention. (In the Spokane Realtors, Tom Hormel comes to mind). 

You should all remember the YouTube video “Curing Spokane”. It was, arguably, an important piece of political propaganda (disguised as issue advocacy) in the election of Nadine Woodward to the Mayorship of the City of Spokane in 2019. A local businessman, Larry Stone, provided the funding for that video. Larry Stone is also the owner of Woodward’s Warehouse (the TRAC Homeless Shelter) that the City of Spokane now leases from him at a projected cost of $1.6 million over the next five years. I am certainly not party to the inner workings of the decision-making process of ESBA, but it should not escape notice that Larry Stone appears as a “member-at-large” among the eight person leadership of the ESBA. A political operator with an axe to grind can spend their own money, or, better still, they can direct other people’s money toward grinding the same axe.

As one who has closely followed the issue of homelessness I have long been irritated by this injection of misinformation that has regularly appeared on the front of the Spokesman over the last many months, but it was the following Facebook post by Paul Dillon that finally spurred me to dig deeper:

I love my morning newspaper paper but the political front page ads from the East Spokane Business Association (ESBA) are getting old. It’s time for a correction.

Fact: There are currently less than 100 people at Camp Hope thanks to the work of Lisa Brown in her role at Department of Commerce, City Council and the amazing network of local funders, providers and volunteers who had to step up where the Mayor did not.

Fact: There are not “100s(!) of Safe and Clean Indoor Beds.” Just this week, the Mayor indicated she wants to close the Cannon Shelter and send everyone to the Trent Warehouse. As of Thursday, there were 72 people at Cannon and 33 open beds at Trent. You do the math if Cannon closes.

Fact: The attempts to immediately shut down Camp Hope were prevented by Judge Bastian in December with a restraining order. Rightly so. As attorney Jeffrey Finer said this gives time to transition people out of the camp “safely, humanely and legally.”

For what it’s worth, I reached out to the East Sprague Business Association months ago when these advertisements started to correct the misinformation.

Unsurprisingly, I never heard back.

Keep to the high ground,


The Party of Bank Failures

A Short History of Banking Regulation

Strap in. It’s a long one.

Last week’s failure of the Silicon Valley Bank and the news that followed reminded many of us of late 2008. For others, last week re-awakened generational memories of the devastating bank failures of the early 1930s that led to the Great Depression. A sense of unease is in the air. Listening to the radio and reading the news, one thing seems clear: Even the most highly educated economists in responsible positions are not entirely certain which of the adjustments available to them will produce a good outcome. Only the events of the coming weeks and months will tell us whether last week was the beginning of a period of economic instability with real dangers for the average citizen or if the system will settle down.

Most of us see the economy through the lens of our personal finances. Unless you were one of those wiped out in the housing market crash of 2008 the idea of a bank failing somewhere in Silicon Valley seems very far away. 

My parents lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s, an event that left them with more than a rudimentary understanding of bank failures and monetary instability. They understood that the Stock Market Crash of 1929, the event that triggered the bank failures of the Great Depression, was the result of irrationally optimistic buying of stocks with money borrowed from others. Prices of stocks were bid up by investors who leveraged their money using loans based on dubious collateral (like the inflated value of stock they already owned). When some investors realized this was a wobbly house of cards, they began selling their stock positions. As others looked around and realized how financially exposed they were, the contagion spread, they too wanted out, and prices fell as supply (stocks offered for sale) increased. Investors who had been buying stocks with, for example, 90% borrowed money, found themselves “under water” when just a 10% drop in the market wiped out the part of their investment they had made with their own money. They wound up owing more money than they still possessed. Some, realizing their plight, committed spectacular and much-noted suicides. Banks who had loaned the investors the 90% (using other common men’s deposited money), had no prospect of being paid back. Banks found themselves with little or no reserves to pay out to the nervous “little guy” depositors worried if their money was safe. All the “little guys” like my parents (and like the townspeople in “It’s a Wonderful Life”), converged on the local banks to withdraw their money—and the whole house of cards (pyramid scheme?) collapsed. 

The lessons my parents took away from their experience were twofold: 1) with rare exceptions (like a mortgage on a house), don’t buy things with borrowed money and 2) banks and the stock market regulation are necessary to keep this from happening again. (My parents subscribed to the mortgage exception because they shared the general wisdom of the time that houses and property would forever appreciate in value. People who lived in Detroit and in many smaller towns over the last few decades will now point out, if asked, that there is no guarantee of forever appreciation in the housing market.)

Without bank and stock market regulation imposed by government my parents might never have developed the confidence necessary for them to put their savings in a bank account again. However, they were also aware that the value of a dollar varied over time—almost invariably losing value on account of what was to me a mysterious process called inflation. To “keep up with inflation” required finding a secure investment that paid interest that would match or exceed the rate at which prices inflated. 

In my parents’ minds there was a key to establishing confidence in the security of one’s bank deposits. In 1933 Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the newly elected Democratic majority in Congress passed the Banking Act of 1933 (often referred to as Glass-Steagall). The Act established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)—an entity that assures depositors that, up to a certain limit (which has grown over time), deposits in checking and savings accounts were not going to be lost to a bank failure—such deposits are insured. The Banking Act of 1933 (click to learn more) also put numerous curbs on speculation the like of which caused the Crash of the stock market in 1929. The Act established rules by which banks had to operate to shore up their stability. Among the rules was a requirement that banks either as commercial or investment institutions, not both. 

As I was learning these principles from my parents in the 1950s and 60s, banks still paid significant rates of interest even on small deposits. They welcomed small deposit amounts by young people learning something about personal finance. “The bank” was a vintage 1930s building downtown, built with a lot of marble, that my parents and I visited during our weekly shopping visit to the town center. 

Based on dad’s experience with the Depression, he considered purchases made “on time” or on “layaway” as courting financial disaster—a sort of speculation. Dad died in 1974 when most monetary transactions were still done with cash or checks. Had he lived he would be appalled by instant credit at high rates of interest offered as credit cards, the skimming off of a small fee from each credit card transaction. He would shake his head at the scant (far less than inflation) rates of interest and exorbitant transaction fees banks now impose on savings accounts. 

Predictably, over the years Republicans and Libertarians, through papers pumped out by their “think tanks”, railed against the regulations of Glass-Steagall, complaining that the rules unjustifiably hampered investment and innovation. After all, they argued, if you gave the investor class free rein the economy would boom and the results would trickle down to the working class. By the l990s banking regulation was out of sight and out of mind for the average voter. In the 22 years between 1970 and 1992 there were just 25 scattered bank failures on which regulators so quickly closed the gaps that depositors were barely aware. The failures themselves hardly made news. 

In 1999 the Republican majority Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (three Republican Congressmen), aka the “Financial Services Modernization Act” in response to lobbying from the banking industry and aided by the opinion pieces pumped out of Republican “think tanks”. This Act repealed major parts of Glass-Steagall. It removed:

…barriers in the market among banking companies, securities companies, and insurance companies that prohibited any one institution from acting as any combination of an investment bank, a commercial bank, and an insurance company. With the passage of the GrammLeachBliley Act, commercial banks, investment banks, securities firms, and insurance companies were allowed to consolidate. Furthermore, it failed to give to the SEC or any other financial regulatory agency the authority to regulate large investment bank holding companies.

Presciently, another name for this repudiation of New Deal era banking regulation was the “Federal Home Loan Bank System Modernization Act of 1999”. Those mortgage chickens came home to roost in 2008. Rampant speculation in the home mortgage market aided and abetted by arcane financial instruments like “credit default swaps” unleashed by the “Modernization Act” precipitated 61 major bank failures in the period between late 2008 and 2011, two and half times as many as in the previous 38 years. Much worse, unlike the prior failures, these bank failures took down the housing market and rendered many thousands of home mortgage holders “under water” or bankrupt, with the loss of meagre savings invested in “the American dream” of home ownership. 

We are still living the political fallout from 2008 as many live out smoldering anger against “the government’s” bailout of banks “too big to fail” while common people with under water mortgages were mostly left high and dry. How soon we forget that the seeds of the 2008 crash were planted by the Republican Congress’ repeal of the Glass-Steagall in 1999. Perhaps the 66 years reign of Glass-Steagall banking regulations limited the ability of financial manipulators to amass wealth with arcane financial games, but those regulations also protected the investments of the middle class from the reckless speculation and bank failures we saw in 1929.

In response to the Crash of 2008, two Democrats,  Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), proposed the “Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act” commonly referred to as simply “Dodd-Frank”. It passed and was signed by President Obama in late 2009 with nearly all Democrats and (predictably) only a few Republicans voting in favor. Dodd-Frank sought to re-regulate parts of the banking industry in the hoping of preventing another crash like 2008.

To no one’s surprise, in 2018, under Donald Trump, Dodd-Frank was partially repealed on a largely partisan vote with all but one Republican in favor of the repeal and some Democrats joining in. This 2018 Republican-driven repeal of Dodd-Frank set the stage for current events.

Once again bank failures are in the news and concerns are voiced that the failures will spread. Once again decisions are made to rescue wealthy Silicon Valley Bank depositors with bailouts, echoes of 2008’s “too big to fail”. Once again some are angry and, not illogically, question the fairness of bailing out wealthy investors on the theory that not to do so risks an economic domino effect. 

Predictably, “our” vocally anti-regulation, pro-wealthy, committed “trickle-down economics” supporter, U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, voted against Dodd-Frank in 2009 and for its repeal in 2018

As a party, Democrats consistently—since 1933—have backed regulation that, when it is still in place, stabilizes the banking system and protects the investments of those my dad would call “the little guy” (including my dad himself). In the last thirty years Republicans have consistently sought repeal of those regulations with the backing of droning rhetoric about “job creators” from Republican think tanks, talk radio, and Fox “News”. When rules and the enforcement of banking regulations are weakened—as Republicans consistently advocate—financial games transfer more wealth to the already wealthy at the expense of “the little guys”. My parents, were they still alive, would be appalled at the unraveling of the banking regulations of the New Deal. 

Remember which party has your interests in mind. It time to re-regulate.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. The need for regulation is only apparent when things fall apart. Successful regulation doesn’t produce attention-grabbing headlines. Who would read an article entitled “New Deal regulation credited for more than a half century of stable banking!”?—and, yet, that’s what happened.

Dobbs 2.0

A cross post

I ran out of gas. In lieu of my writing to I offer a cross post from Robert Hubbell, a terrific presenter and analyzer of the national legal scene. I subscribe to his Substack blog and look forward to reading his (mostly) every weekday posts. I recommend his writing. It always comes with a dollop of optimism—which I daresay we all can use on most days. What follows is entirely Hubbell’s work.

Keep to the high ground,


Dobbs 2.0

March 16, 2023

Robbert B. Hubbell

The US Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Healthinflicted grievous injury on the rule of law, the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. In ruling that the Constitution does not protect the right of privacy on which reproductive liberty is based, the Court violated judicial doctrines of interpretation and finality that are the bedrock of “ordered liberty” safeguarded by the third branch of government. But the reactionary majority was willing—even eager—to overthrow those foundational doctrines to codify the dogma of the conservative religious groups that engineered the appointment of the Court’s reactionary majority.

          The ruling in Dobbs was wrapped in a lie—that the only issue was where the difficult decisions about reproductive liberty would be made. The reactionary majority claimed that it was returning those decisions to “the people’s representatives.” But that was never the goal of those who plotted the demise of Roe. They want nothing less than the complete, unqualified prohibition of abortion. Indeed, states are beginning to criminalize abortion, putting doctors, hospitals, taxi drivers, families, and friends at risk of charges of homicide and wrongful death for assisting a woman seeking to end a pregnancy.

          No, the opponents of reproductive liberty do not want to return those decisions to the “people’s representatives,” they want their extreme religious views to be imposed on all Americans, irrespective of what the “people’s representatives” say about the issue. The religious extremists who sought to overrule Roe now seek to deny all Americans access to a safe, effective drug (mifepristone) approved by the FDA for therapeutic abortions more than two decades ago.

          The opponents of reproductive liberty are pursuing their goal by the bad-faith expedient of hand-picking a judge with extreme religious views willing to second-guess the scientific expertise of the FDA and twenty years of experience by doctors and patients in prescribing and using mifepristone.

          At the hearing today before the hand-picked federal judge in Texas, it became clear that Judge Kacsmaryk will rely on his religious beliefs to overrule the scientific and medical expertise of the FDA. See NPRU.S. judge in Texas hears case that could force major abortion pill off market.

          During the four-hour hearing on Wednesday, Judge Kacsmaryk revealed his secret agenda in a series of questions directed to the DOJ attorney representing the FDA. In a case that was limited to the issue of whether the FDA followed required regulatory protocols in approving the drug, the following exchange occurred:

Judge Kacsmaryk asked [DOJ attorney] Straus Harris what she made of the fact that Republican attorneys general from more than 20 states — states that have tried to restrict abortion following last summer’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade — filed a brief in the case saying that the wide availability of abortion pills undermines those state restrictions.

Straus Harris responded that this argument is beside the point. She said the FDA approval simply confirmed the drug’s safety and effectiveness and doesn’t require anyone to prescribe it or take it.

“The plaintiffs are the ones who are trying to dictate national policy” with this lawsuit, she said.

          The relationship between the FDA’s approval of mifepristone and the ruling in Dobbs was not before Judge Kacsmaryk. But his question about that relationship betrays the fact that Kacsmaryk (and the plaintiffs) see the challenge to mifepristone as Dobbs 2.0—an attempt to deny reproductive liberty to women in the US without regard to what “the people’s representatives” say about the issue. Instead, an extremist minority claims for itself the right to impose its religious doctrine on all Americans.

          There is a chance that Kacsmaryk will not accept the plaintiffs’ invitation to become the national arbiter of reproductive choice in America, but I doubt it. He is motivated by religious principles, not fealty to the Constitution—despite the oath he took when he was confirmed.

          What do we do in the face of Kacsmaryk’s impending decision? Answer: Everything that we are doing, but with greater urgency, dedication, and commitment. If Kacsmaryk grants this victory to religious extremists, they will be back at his chamber door with new cases carefully crafted to eliminate other constitutional liberties under the guise of religious freedom.

          What’s next on the docket of the religious extremists? I hesitate to outline the issues, but they are no secret. In short, if you or your beliefs or lifestyle do not conform to a biblical mythology of “one man and one woman created in the image and likeness of god,” you have no place in the future that Judge Kacsmaryk envisions for a country reborn into Christian nationalism.

          I remain confident that we will overcome these challenges. But the biggest challenge of all is convincing people that the threat is real, imminent, and far worse than they imagine. When we next control Congress and the presidency, the first bills should be to reform and expand the Supreme Court. The second set of bills should override state laws that discriminate against American citizens based on their gender or sexual orientation or identity.

          And then, finally, at long last, we must guarantee the right of every adult American citizen to vote in every election by mail or in person without artificial impediments imposed by MAGA legislatures. When that happens, we will make great strides toward delivering on the promises of liberty that are explicit and implicit in the Constitution. It cannot happen soon enough.