What happens in the courthouse...

Unless explicitly noted otherwise, this blog represents my own opinions, not those of any organization (like the Kittitas County Democratic Party) that I might be involved with.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Another letter to the editor, this one about Matt Manweller

To the editor,

In his latest column Matt Manweller takes issue with various of his critics, including my response to his surly and insulting comments on the blog version of my recent letter to the editor, at whathappensinthecourthouse.blogspot.com .

Virtually all of my past interactions with Matt have been cordial, but he’s really taken the gloves off now that I have begun a new round as a private citizen.1 I was surprised to find him coming after me, since most of his column was about a fight over an obscure economic idea that doesn't even appear to have any value in policy.

Matt unleashes a flurry of blows. As I reread the column, sportscaster Howard Cosell's voice echoes in my mind, as if calling a slow-motion instant replay.

One thing Howard would have been excited about is when, soon after the opening bell, Matt seems to say that the number of guns in the US contributes to our low life expectancy compared to Europe.2 Again, not my fight, but an interesting thing for the Chair of the local Republican Party to draw attention to.

Matt drags me into the ring partly because I wrote that a person who had posted a picture of President Obama with crosshairs on his forehead was a Republican Precinct Committee Officer. It turns out the person was not a PCO, though the incident was certainly real.3 Since I didn’t name the person, I apologize to Matt, as Chair of the party involved. I let my guard down, and I deserved to get tagged on that one.

I shake it off, but in another combination of punches, Matt claims that I blamed local Republicans for the horrible gun violence in Tucson. This time he’s all alone in the ring. No one has blamed violence outside Kittitas County on the combative writing or broadcasting style of any local Republican.4,5

Finally, aiming a low blow at James Maloney, a local small businessman who I do not know, Matt seems to suggest that readers should take their business elsewhere.6

Now, a different, stronger voice replaces Cosell, who is speechless with outrage.

It is Joseph Welch, standing up to Joseph McCarthy, another Republican bully who, like Manweller, thought nothing of using intimidation and character assassination, or of threatening people’s livelihoods: “Until this moment…I never gauged your cruelty, or your recklessness,” Welch said. “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”7

Steve Verhey

1For an example of a cordial, even pleasant, exchange between Dr. Manweller and myself, see this post from early in the past political season.

2There were other problems with Dr. Manweller's column. For example, last week a "real" doctor wrote to point out that Dr. Manweller's understanding of health care issues is flawed, to say the least.

3Without meaning to detract from the sincerity of my apology, it's possible Dr. Manweller and I are talking about two different people, since the person I have in mind didn't run for PCO, as Matt says, in the last election. I hope this doesn't mean there were two Obama-crosshairs posters, and I saw one while Matt saw the other.

4Even a casual reading of my January letter to the editor will show that not once, but twice I said I didn't think the tragedy in Tucson was politically motivated or inspired. Since Dr. Manweller isn't a casual reader, but a highly trained one, I can only conclude that he intentionally misrepresented the contents of my letter.

5There is one example of violence that has been linked to a local Republican leader -- to Dr. Manweller himself. In my January letter I said that he had fabricated the details of his on-air attack on Linda Huber. For whatever reason, he did not choose to disagree with this part of my letter in his recent column. This seems like an admission of guilt for a very serious offense against a citizen and our community. The offense did lead to violence, though Dr. Manweller's exact role in the violence is murky. It is certainly true that he is much younger and more healthy than Mr. Huber, and has studied boxing.

6This is not the first time I have heard of Dr. Manweller threatening a person's job. This kind of behavior is even more unacceptable than making up stories about private citizens on the radio.

7This was before I was born, but it happened during a very difficult time in American history. Joseph Welch is justifiably remembered for bravely standing up to the dangerous Joseph McCarthy. Dr. Manweller's habit of seeking to dismiss me and others as "local liberal activists" echoes McCarthy's charges about communists from those days. The Wikipedia entry for McCarthy is very interesting reading.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor,

I read “Community Members Look Forward to 2011” in Saturday’s Daily Record while following the awful news from Arizona about the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the killing and wounding of 19 others. There appears to be no political motivation, only insanity, behind the attack.

Even so, my thoughts went back to the past couple of years in our own community. I thought about the drawing of President Obama with crosshairs on his forehead that briefly appeared on an Ellensburg business owned by a Republican Precinct Committee Officer.1 Of course I thought about the Manweller-Huber incident at the radio station, which started with Mr. Manweller’s fabricated on-air story about Linda Huber’s behavior at the Rodeo Parade.2

National events affected our community, too. We witnessed Sarah Palin’s unceasing and calculated use of violent verbal and graphical imagery, and Sharron Angle’s “Second Amendment remedy” comment.3

I thought about the three discussions of health care reform that I organized in the fall of 2009, after a summer of frightening town hall meetings that were disrupted by Tea Party members. Jimmie Applegate graciously accepted my invitation to be the speaker at the third meeting. The first meeting drew nearly 100 people, a few of them disruptive Tea Party members, including Kirk Groening.4 I thought about how I had been too naïve to invite the police, but an officer had come anyway. I thought about how someone tried to get library administrators to withdraw permission for more meetings in the Hal Holmes Center.

The “Look Forward” article also included recollections of 2010, and featured comments from Mr. Applegate and Mr. Groening; not one, but two other interviewees mentioned the Manweller-Huber incident.5 Mr. Applegate recalled that people had said mean things about Republicans on Daily Record comment forums, and Mr. Groening remembered the Tea Party candidates’ forum in Kittitas. I remember that forum, too. Mr. Applegate was the timekeeper, and one of the speakers was a Tea Party candidate for the state House who was running against the principled Republican incumbent solely because of his vote in favor of a gay rights bill.

When the unthinkable happens, it’s hard not to remember things like this. The violence in Arizona doesn’t seem to have been political, but it reminds us to behave, at a minimum, in ways we won’t be ashamed to have recalled later.

Steve Verhey

1This person, while a frequent Daily Record letter writer, isn't a public person in the same way as the other people named here, so I won't name him. I don't know how long the poster/drawing had been up when I saw it; it disappeared while I went to get a camera. I should have called the Secret Service immediately.
2I wrote briefly about this incident on this blog.
3Is it fair to bring this up? Yes: I am not suggesting that Palin's or Angle's behavior had anything to do with this tragic incident, but it is factual to say that they did behave in certain ways that are relevant to a discussion of violence.
4Here is the Daily Record's article about the first meeting. And here is a Guest Comment I published in the Daily Record before the third meeting.
5One of the people who mentioned the Manweller-Huber incident directly linked it to the recent rise of incivility.