Foley Dinner! Friday, March 22

Dear Group,

Just 9 days from now on Friday, March 22nd, The Spokane County Democrats hold their Thomas S. Foley Legacy Dinner at the Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute. On line ticket sales close tomorrow, Wednesday, March 13th. Click here to reserve tickets.

Featured speakers and guests are Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Director of the Washington State Department of Commerce Lisa Brown, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and Chair of the Washington State Democratic Party, Tina Podlodowski. These are people with years of service in government. (Tina is a former member of the Seattle City Council.) Contrast that with the featured speaker at the Spokane GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner, Charlie Kirk, a 24 year old hustler and provocateur who recently declared in a speech at CPAC:

One of the things that Donald Trump has done is he has not changed the left—he has revealed them,  This is who they have always been. They have always hated this country.

The speakers for the Spokane GOP in recent years all fall nicely in line with the likes of Charlie Kirk: Dinesh D’Souza in 2016 (according the Redoubt News) stem-winding conspiracy theorist and provocateur; Tomi Lauren in 2017; and Jason Chaffetz and Deneen Borelli in 2018, both Fox News commentators. Common thread: propaganda, not governance. (To be fair, Chaffetz once served as a Representative from Utah. I know of zero experience with real government among any of the rest of them.) It is no wonder the Spokane GOP found itself briefly in hot water last year when its chairwoman, Cecily Wright, invited James Allsup, infamous white supremacist, to speak at her gathering of Northwest Grassroots. It appears this craziness is endemic to the local party. 

It is time we to assemble some friends, sign up and attend The Spokane County Democrats’ Thomas S. Foley Legacy Dinner. Support those who stand for responsible governance, not propaganda and division. There is too much at stake to sit at the sidelines.

Keep to the high ground,


The Flag as a Symbol

Dear Group,

A european friend visiting in the United States once remarked, “I don’t think I’ve ever been in a country with more national flags. They’re everywhere.” It was an accurate observation. Display of the American flag has markedly changed over my lifetime. Even the flag itself has changed. I’m old enough to remember when Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th States (1959) and two more stars were added to the “Union”. My family and I displayed the flag on national holidays off the front porch…and reverently folded it and stored it until the next holiday according to the code of flag etiquette. A discreet, manageable flag flew over post offices and government buildings every day. Almost no one wore a flag pin, sported a flag decal, or displayed a flag day and night in rain and weather on the front of their home. We were all “Americans,” after all. We all stood for the same thing…or at least we so imagined.

The U.S. Flag Code has been enshrined in federal law with the passage in 1942 of Public Law 77-623. You can read the enshrined details in the United States Code, Title 4, Chapter 1 The Flag.

I still cherish the flag that was draped over my father’s casket in honor of his service in World War I, the “war to end all wars.” That flag for me stands for the sacrifices of Americans who fought against the Nazis, the Fascists, and the Imperial Japanese in World War II, fought for the freedom of the people oppressed by these regimes. Many of those who marched with the flag on commemorative holidays had served in those conflicts, conflicts we understood were fought to make the world a better place, conflicts the wounds from which shaped the lives of many.

Little by little the use and display of the American flag has morphed. In my youth, at least in my mind, the flag stood as a symbol of freedom in the world, a symbol of our willingness to stand against murderous dictatorships. The flag was displayed discreetly and handled with reverence. Now oversize American flags adorn businesses and homes, standing out in all kinds of weather. American flags are found on lapels, shoulders of uniforms of the military and police and flap violently above pickup trucks, sometimes thereon reduced to tatters. 

Why all these flags? When I talk with a policeman in Spokane does the American flag patch on his shoulder offer me useful information? Is there any likelihood he (or she) is a member of the Canadian or Mexican police force? Is there any chance I would mistake Camping World of Spokane or Freedom RV out in the Spokane valley for a Chinese dealership? Does concern of mistaken national identity merit a flag the size the state of Connecticut hanging limply from an enormous flagpole, so large it nearly touches the ground in anything but a 20 knot breeze, so long that half staff display is impossible without its resting on the ground? 

I fear that for many the American flag has been co-opted as a sort of gang symbol, a symbol displayed  internally that says to many who see it “we’re here, we’re proud, we’re exceptional, we’re white, we’re armed, and we will bury you or wall you out…or worse…if you don’t think as we do.” 

Symbols are complicated. Like a word, a symbol can mean very different things to different people. The flag that draped my father’s casket still signifies honor and sacrifice, honor and sacrifice in pursuit of a better world, a world in which we and our children can live in peace, a world in which the United States plays a unifying role, not a divisive one. 

I want my symbolism back. Perhaps it is time to display my father’s flag once more, and explain to any who will listen why I fly it.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. The enormous flag that flies over Camping World in the valley was the trigger for this post. I thought it was the hoist (height) to fly (length) proportion that bothered me, but, no, it is the absolute size. Here’s the background: It turns out that the specifications of U.S. Flag were laid out by one of those infamous Executive Orders, this one by Dwight Eisenhower in 1959. The official hoist to fly ratio in that executive order is 1:1.9, probably close to the Camping World flag’s proportions. Lots of commonly sold and displayed U.S. flags are actually 3X5 (1:1.67), the better to fly in a light breeze, especially in the traditional cotton material. My dad’s casket flag is 1:2. Many flags are now made of nylon. Nylon is much lighter than cotton and surely floats better in a lighter breeze. A 30X60 foot nylon flag (Camping World’s?) for a mere $1,139. I speculate whatever the expenditure it is taken off as part of their advertising budget. 

Spokane GOP–What it Stands For

Dear Group,

The lineup of speakers at the last weekend’s CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) is lengthy, but worth your perusal. Trump and Pence, as party leaders, get top billing. (Listen to the music and observe the symbolism of the first few minutes of Trump’s two hour long harangue.) The U.S Senators and U.S. Reps who spoke are all found the the bottom of the page. Among them is McMorris Rodgers. Higher on the page are many cringe-worthy Fox propagandists, Laura Ingraham, Jeanine Pirro, Deneen Borelli, and Dennis Prager among them. If you do not watch Fox or listen to conservative talk radio many of the other names will be unfamiliar. 

One speech stands out. I encourage you to watch this short video of Charlie Kirk last weekend at CPAC. (The full eleven minute version is available here.) This is his sixth year at CPAC. Here are a few highlights gathered by Right Wing Watch. (The context seen in the videos only amplifies his message of hate and division.):

During his speech at CPAC today, Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk declared that conservatives must stop pretending that liberals “mean well” and instead realize that “they have always hated this country.”

“One of the things that Donald Trump has done is he has not changed the left—he has revealed them,” Kirk said. “This is who they have always been. They have always hated this country.”

Kirk fumed that the difference between liberals and conservatives is not that they have shared goals and merely “different ways of getting to the same place,” but are rather going in two entirely different directions.

“I’m so sick and tired of saying, ‘We should give the benefit of the doubt to liberals’ and say, ‘Well, they mean well,’” Kirk said. “If you want to fundamentally transform and destroy this country from within, you do not mean well. You do not have good intentions, whatsoever.”

“I’m so sick and tired of saying that the Democrat Party and liberals mean well,” he bellowed. “They do not mean well.”

The Spokane GOP chose Charlie Kirk as their keynote speaker for their 2019 Lincoln Day Dinner on Saturday, April 13th, at the Grand Davenport Hotel. He is billed as “an excellent ambassador for free markets, free speech and conservative principles.” Listen to his speech at CPAC and decide for yourself if Mr. Kirk is an “ambassador” or simply a purveyor of labelling and hate. That the Spokane GOP spends money to bring Mr. Kirk to Spokane speaks volumes about the values of the Spokane GOP.

McMorris Rodgers routinely speaks at the Lincoln Day Dinner in Spokane. If she disapproves of the drift of Spokane GOP into the territory inhabited by Charlie Kirk she has failed to say so. Does she believe she is dependent on the politics of division and hate? Does she endorse Mr. Kirk and his message?

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. How some of my neighbors can support the Spokane GOP is a mystery to me after the antics of the group in the last several years. Members of the Spokane GOP got in hot water last year for sympathetically hosting the white supremacist James Allsup at a NW Grassroots gathering. They auctioned off an assault rifle last year at the Lincoln Day Dinner. Do they really need to stoke hate, white supremacy, and militancy to gather enough votes to stay in power? 

The “Democrat” Party and CMR

Dear Group,

Words matter. The Republican propaganda machine knows this and orchestrates its word usage. It behooves us to pay attention.

A familiar example is “Obamacare.” Republican wordmeisters offered the term as a naming replacement for The Affordable Care Act. “Obamacare” was taken up by mainstream media within days. The left initially saw the term as clever shorthand. Few realized the label had been extensively tested in focus groups and identified as a way to link a progressive health care program to a black President, a President the right wing propaganda machine worked to demean and denigrate in every way possible. 

Rush Limbaugh and Mitch McConnell always say “Democrat” Party. They never use the proper term, Democratic Party. Did you notice? You will now. It seems a subtle difference, but it has an insidious effect. 

From a 2006 article in the New Yorker entitled ‘The “Ic” Factor‘ (the bold is mine):

…among those of the Republican persuasion “Democrat Party” is now nearly universal. This is partly the work of Newt Gingrich, the nominal author of the notorious 1990 memo “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,” and his Contract with America pollster, Frank Luntz, the Johnny Appleseed of such linguistic innovations as “death tax” for estate tax and “personal accounts” for Social Security privatization. Luntz, who road-tested the adjectival use of “Democrat” with a focus group in 2001, has concluded that the only people who really dislike it are highly partisan adherents of the—how you say?—Democratic Party. “Those two letters actually do matter,” Luntz said the other day. He added that he recently finished writing a book—it’s entitled “Words That Work”—and has been diligently going through the galley proofs taking out the hundreds of “ic”s that his copy editor, one of those partisan Dems, had stuck in.

From the same article:

There’s no great mystery about the motives behind this deliberate misnaming. ‘Democrat Party’ is a slur, or intended to be—a handy way to express contempt. Aesthetic judgments are subjective, of course, but ‘Democrat Party’ is jarring verging on ugly. It fairly screams ‘rat’.

“Democrat Party” as an epithet has been around since at least the early 20th century, but its use has spread into common Republican parlance pushed by Gingrich (The Man Who Broke Politics) and Luntz. William Safire (a less well known conservative/libertarian wordmeister) noted that “Democrat” rhymes with bureaucrat, technocrat, and plutocrat. 

Of course, “Democrat” Party has a much longer history than “Obamacare.” It has its origin in Republican resentment that the Democratic Party’s name seems to imply Democrats are the rightful defenders of democracy. “Democrat” Party clearly takes that away and adds a distasteful twist. 

McMorris Rodgers, who often talks on stage about the need for bipartisan cooperation, usually doesn’t utter “Democrat” Party when there might be a Democrat in earshot, but she adheres to Republican divisive messaging when she thinks she’s communicating with supporters. In a recent convoluted email she (or her staff) sent to supporters trying to explain her vote to disapprove of Trump’s national emergency declaration, she wrote:

Democrat policies have pushed for zero wall money, open borders, and abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These policies make our nation vulnerable and threaten our security, and it’s a tragedy. So, I don’t blame President Trump from proposing extreme measures to respond to their extreme policies and tactics. 

So much for bipartisanship…. (The statement on her website conveniently and conspicuously omits this material.)

We need to take back the language. We need to pay attention, understand their intent, and call them on it.

Keep to the high ground,


Spokane GOP Shows Its Colors–Again

Dear Group,

Charlie Kirk is the smiling young man pictured above in the ad for this year’s Lincoln Day Dinner on Saturday April 13th. He is a 24 year old conservative hustler, founder and president of “Turning Point USA,” a non-profit organization, a 501(c)(3), with a 9 million dollar budget and 130 employees. In 2012 Mr. Kirk was fresh out of high school and angered that someone of “a different ethnicity and gender” took the position at West Point he thought was his. He founded Turning Point USA that year and gained non-profit status two years later. In 2014 he talked wealthy conservatives into donating 2 million dollars, in 2016, 8.2 million. The list of donors to Turning Point USA (sleuthed by The International Business Times) reads like an advertisement for Jane Mayer’s book and exposé Dark Money: DeVos, Bradley, Uihlein, and Home Depot co-founder, Bernie Marcus. (click the link for more.)

The mission of Turning Point USA? To “to identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government.” The motto: “Big Government Sucks.” The methods?  First, establish and maintain The Professor Watchlist to expose professors “who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” The website offers a method to “Submit a Tip,” a tactic reminiscent of the McCarthy Era and blacklisting. Second, use non-profit money (tax free) to influence student government elections, elections not governed by campaign finance law, elections never before in need of transparency or subject to political partisan influence. Jane Mayer in The New Yorker and  Joseph Guinto in Trump’s Man on Campus (Politico) point out Mr. Kirk consistently overstates his accomplishments in his pitch to donors. He frequently drifts out of non-profit territory, away from advocacy and into electioneering. (But with Trump at the helm and the agency underfunded and understaffed, is the IRS likely to investigate?)

There was a time when one could argue the Republican Party was a party of high-minded ideas led by thought leaders like William F. Buckley, a party dedicated to fiscal conservatism, limiting the national debt, personal freedom (including the freedom of a woman to control her own body), and even racial equality (before Nixon, Goldwater, and the “Southern Strategy” of appealing to racism in pursuit of votes). Based on the invited speakers to Republican events in Spokane County over the last few years you should no longer mistake the Republican Party for a party of ideas: Jason Chaffetz and Deneen Borelli, Tomi Lahren, (all Fox News commentators), Nigel Farage (Mr. Brexit), and now a new and rising star, Mr. Charlie Kirk, a young man whose claim to fame isn’t ideas, but raising money to support blacklisting professors and injecting money into campus politics. 

Keep to the high ground,


Fox’s Hearing Coverage

Dear Group,

If you are old enough, and if you watched any of the Michael Cohen hearing in the House of Representatives yesterday you might recall similar dramatic testimony aired on all three networks of the Watergate hearings, testimony that helped induce Richard Nixon to resign. 

If you listened you also noted that each Republican Committee Member in turn hammered on the same points: Michael Cohen cannot be trusted. Michael Cohen is a convicted felon. Michael Cohen is taking revenge on Donald Trump because he did not get what he, Mr. Cohen, wanted from Trump. This is a politically motivated, “Democrat”-organized witch hunt.

There was a remarkable sameness to the protestations and accusations of each Republican in turn, very little questioning of the substance of Mr. Cohen’s testimony, only an attack on the credibility of the witness. Before you conclude everyone you speak with must on the same page with you, though, I invite you to visit the Fox News website and sample some of the articles. I copied and pasted these titles at 11:21AM PST:

Remember, this is the network to which Trump listens, this is the propaganda wing of the Republican Party (whose motto, laughably, was “Fair and Balanced”), this is one of few news and opinion sources Trump, in his autocratic meanderings, has not labelled “fake.”

Remember this is all your Republican neighbor may have listened to or read about the hearings. There is nothing more chilling to me since the very beginning of Trump’s rise than his incessant denigration of all dissent as “fake” and all dissenters as members of or tools of the “deep state.” Those are the words of a dictator, and in Fox News he has found his propaganda outlet. 

Keep to the high ground,


Have You Voted Yet?

Dear Group,

Have I voted? Election? What? Huh? Didn’t we just have an election? Check out your junk mail pile. As a Spokane County voter you have a roughly 75% chance of finding a ballot due next Tuesday, February 12.

Do you feel a little blindsided? Here’s a tool I found that might help with that:  On that webpage, enter your email address or cell number (per the directions), then scroll down to “News Flash” and “Elections” (or anything else you might want to notified of from County government), click and, voila! you’ll get notification of upcoming events. Welcome to the digital age.

According to the Spokesman only 3/4 of registered voters in Spokane County received ballots for this election. That’s because all the issues on these ballots pertain to tax levies in various School and Fire Districts. “Orchard Prairie School District 123, Spokane County Fire Protection District 8, Spokane County Fire Protection District 13 (which is Newman Lake Fire and Rescue) and Spokane Valley Fire Department are replacing existing property tax levies.”

Then there’s the “CITY OF SPOKANE Proposition No. 1 Levy for Hiring of Police and Fire Personnel and Funding Crime Reduction Programs” Click this link for a good description of what this levy would pay for. 

As a City of Spokane resident and property tax payer I’m voted for it and I encourage you to do the same. It seems to me that $60 more per year paid in property tax on a home valued at $200,000 is well worth what it buys. 

So who would think otherwise? No surprises here. Stacey Cowles and David Condon both offer the opinion that the City Council did not do its homework, that the Council is just throwing money around [click the names for their opinions]. Stacey Cowles uses his bully pulpit as the sole member of the editorial board of his family owned newspaper [see Daniel Walters’ commentary on that] to say the City of Spokane is paying its police and firefighters too much. He and Condon think the City Council needs to go back to the drawing board and cost cut. His source of information? Ah, yes, the Washington Policy Center, the local Koch-donor-group funded “think tank” that never met a tax of which it approved. Where were Cowles and Condon when the Spokane City Council was working to respond to citizens’ concerns about property crime and emergency services? 

We elect City Council members, a City Council President, and a Mayor to take a hard look at the details of making Spokane a safe and comfortable city in which to live. I like programs this levy will support and I don’t need to listen to grousing and second guessing from one of the biggest property owning families in the area telling me my Council Members aren’t doing their job…

Keep to the high ground,