Friday, September 25, 2015

Raúl Labrador's tumultuous history with departing House speaker John Boehner

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2015 at 3:51 PM

Raul Labrador, critic, ally and irritant of departing House Majority Leader John Boehner
  • Raul Labrador, critic, ally and irritant of departing House Majority Leader John Boehner

So. Speaker of the House John Boehner is stepping down, not just from his Speaker of the House position, but from Congress entirely.

To understand why, you’ve got to understand Boehner’s relationship with guys like Idaho Rep. Raúl Labrador. Over the past five years, the relationship between Labrador and Boehner has been an uneasy, often adversarial one.

Robert Draper’s Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives, highlights Labrador’s first year in Congress, along with other freshmen congressmen:

Just before the vote was scheduled, Raul Labrador was summoned to the Speaker’s office.

Boehner knew that the Tea Party freshman was never one to mince words. So the Speaker cut to the chase: “Are you with me?” he asked.

”I’m sorry, I’m not,” Labrador replied. “This is not a bill I can support. I actually think this is a terrible bill.”

“Well, I need you with me on this,” Boehner pressed.

“I understand. But I can’t vote for it.”

Labrador saw the Speaker’s strength as his weakness: he was fair and believed others would be, too. Boehner had actually told Labrador one time, “I trust Harry Reid.”

Labrador had nearly come unglued. Are you out of your mind? Labrador was a lawyer. By training he had learned it was wise to assume the worst in people. He didn’t trust Reid. He thought Obama was lying to the American people about the government running out of money on August 2.

Then Labrador added, “But I’ve talked to several folks and I know how we can get out of this mess. If you can amend the bill to make it closer to Cut, Cap, and Balance, I think I can get you some votes. I’ve been talking to people all day—I think I can convince maybe ten people.”

Despite Labrador’s tough stances and his occasional obnoxious outbursts in conferences, the Republican leadership and the whip team admired his willingness to work toward a positive outcome.

Boehner brought in a legislative assistant. “Allen West would tell you, the bill is basically Cut, Cap, and Balance,” the aide said.

“It’s not even close,” Labrador scoffed. He acknowledged there were political considerations. West’s district is like sixty percent Medicare recipients.” By contrast, Labrador’s constituents were hard-core right wingers, the freshman told the Speaker. They made Labrador seem ideologically tame in comparison

In Draper’s book, his clash with leadership comes up multiple times.

Continue reading »

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Celebrate the Spokane Arena's 20th Anniversary with an open house tonight

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2015 at 10:39 AM

A new mural at the Spokane Arena by Todd and Cain Benson. - JEFF FERGUSON PHOTO
  • Jeff Ferguson photo
  • A new mural at the Spokane Arena by Todd and Cain Benson.

As you've probably noticed from the special advertising sections in the Inlander in recent months, the Spokane Arena is celebrating its 20th year as the city's premier indoor sports stadium and largest concert/event venue. The Arena has been celebrating their anniversary all year with big shows from a number of big classic rock and country acts — some of which are still on the horizon — but tonight, they're opening their doors to the public to celebrate their 20th.

Even if you've been to a ton of shows and games at the Arena, tonight's open house offers a totally different look. You can take self-guided tours, get down on the Shock's playing field and toss the ol' pigskin around, check out the Chiefs locker room and also get a rare look at the backstage areas where all your favorite rock stars hang out. There's also cake!

The event will also celebrate the new mural in the arena (pictured above) by artistic duo, brothers Todd and Cain Benson. You might recognize their style from their expansive mural at the Maple Street train overpass near Browne's Addition.

Tonight's event begins at 5 pm and the doors will be open until 8 pm. Here are all the details.
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The stories you need to know to start your day

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2015 at 8:23 AM


- A man convicted of murdering an elderly Spokane woman when he was a juvenile was resentenced and now has a chance to serve less than his original life sentence. 
Did you know Spokane was home to the inventor of the portable baby cage? Oh, you don't know what a baby cage is? Read this
- The first outlet for popular California chain Blaze Pizza opened in Spokane Thursday, and is offering free pizza all day Friday to its social media followers. 

U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner to resign under pressure from GOP conservative wing
Reports today indicate Boehner is ready to resign his Ohio congressional seat at the end of October, a move that could lead to more than the usual chaos in Washington, D.C., as the government faces a shutdown if Congress can't get at least a temporary budget put together to keep the government functioning. For years Boehner has had to juggle the radical Tea Party members of the House with the more moderate wing of the GOP as they tried to kill Obamacare and push through a conservative budget. The latest showdown involved many members refusal to pass a budget that includes any money for Planned Parenthood, and the next speaker selected steps into the same difficult dynamic heading into fall. 

Seattle tour bus and duck boat collide, killing four and injuring 12
Four international students were killed when a duck boat — a vehicle that can travel on land and in water, popular for tourism in cities on waterfronts — collided with a bus on the Aurora Street Bridge. Many of the duck boat passengers were students from North Seattle College on a sightseeing tour before classes start on Monday. 

Rolling out the red carpet
China president Xi Jinping is making his first state visit to the White House, where he is expected to be welcomed with a lot of ceremonial bells and whistles, but a colder shoulder from President Obama behind closed doors, due to a mutual distrust between the two countries' leaders as China attempts to expand its presence across Asia and the U.S. tries to counter the power play. 

Smells like nostalgia
Nirvana's breakthrough Nevermind album turned 24 years old Thursday, and the Internet was aflutter with think pieces and statistical breakdowns, like this one from Billboard that shows just what a phenomenon the album was at the time. 

Here's the song that set it off for the band: 

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Juvenile who killed elderly Spokane woman given new sentence

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 3:37 PM

Vy Thang showing a picture his niece drew for him. - MITCH RYALS
  • Mitch Ryals
  • Vy Thang showing a picture his niece drew for him.

Vy Thang, the man given a mandatory life sentence without possibility of parole for a murder he committed at 17, was given a chance at release Wednesday. 

Thang was originally convicted in 1999 (and again in 2003 after a retrial) of aggravated murder in the first degree when he broke into the home of an 85-year-old woman. Superior Court Judge Gregory Sypolt re-sentenced Thang to 35 years to life. That means Thang is eligible to appear in front of the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board in 2031.

A pre-sentencing investigation from the Department of Corrections conducted in June of this year recommended Thang be released when he is eligible. 

Ten of Mildred Klaus' family and friends packed into the court room Wednesday morning to say something on behalf of their mother and grandmother.

"I'm a person who believes in forgiveness, but let's not confuse forgiveness for giving somebody a third chance to kill," says one of Klaus' grandsons, J.J. Klaus. He is referring to the fact that prior to Klaus' murder, Thang escaped from a juvenile detention facility where he was locked up for burglarizing and kicking another elderly woman, who survived the attack.

"The effect this has had on our family has been really hard. It would be even harder if he were out on the streets," J.J. Klaus says.

When given his chance to speak, Thang first turned toward Mildred Klaus' family: 

"I'm sorry this is the third time you've had to go through this. I was a coward, and I have no excuse for what I did," he told them. "Mrs. Klaus was more than a victim. She was your mother, she was your grandmother, she was a friend to so many people and I took that away."

He then turned to the judge: 

"After hearing the victim's family speak, I don't know if I deserve to get out," he said. "I would like to. Given the chance, I would like to help others, but I just don't know anymore." 

Thang's new sentence came about because of a 2012 United States Supreme Court ruling that mandatory life without parole sentences constitute cruel and unusual punishment, a violation of the Eighth Amendment. The Washington state Legislature subsequently tweaked its laws to reflect the Court's decision in 2014. 

In his argument before the court, prosecuting attorney Larry Steinmetz argued for the judge to maintain Thang's life without parole sentence by drawing distinctions between the defendant in the Supreme Court case and Thang. The defendant, Evan Miller who was 14 at the time he committed the murder, had also been drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana, had been abused, and had attempted suicide multiple times. None of those circumstances applied to Thang, Steinmetz argued. 

There are 29 people in Washington state who could get new sentences. As of September 23, two were re-sentenced to life without parole, five were given 25 to life, which means they have a chance of release after a hearing in front of a parole board, and one (Thang) was given 35 to life and one was given 40 years.  
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Spokane: home to the inventor of the "portable baby cage"

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 2:43 PM

When your baby gets fussy, just set up the ol' baby cage...
  • When your baby gets fussy, just set up the ol' baby cage...

Some discoveries stumbled upon inside the labyrinth abyss called the Internet are just so unusual and strange, one is instantly compelled to share. Enter today's weird discovery, courtesy of, but not a new blogopshere topic: the portable baby cage. This find is of the sort that peppers social media feeds on an occasional basis. Some blogger, like myself, chances upon such an oddity, and in marveling at the surprise such a thing exists, fellow denizens of the web are quick to follow with their own investigations. Suddenly, the word "viral" is thrown into the dialogue. Perhaps baby cages are old news — nonetheless, we hope it intrigues and amuses you.

Back in 1922, Spokane resident Emma Read was really worried about city-born babies, stuck inside stale-aired apartment homes and with no grassy yard to roll around in. So, why not build a box resembling a chicken coop, strap it to your window several floors above the street, and nestle your wee babe inside. Rock-a-bye baby, you know?

The concept didn't exactly take off (can you imagine the outcry if some mom decided this was a good idea today?!). No surprise, but there remain many black-and-white images of these baby cages in use in sooty London during the 1930s. Thankfully, we've since moved on from this arcane line of thinking that placing your baby in a rickety wire cage tens of feet over the street, in air that was probably polluted worse than people knew, was good and healthy. 

And yet, quite unfortunately for local historical sleuths, information on Read's life and her patent is quite hard to find. In a 2013 piece musing on baby cages' absurdity, Spokesman-Review writer Shawn Vestal laments the lack of any firsthand information on Read in old newspaper archives. It is noted, however, that the original patent for the contraption is accessible, from which the following text was obtained: 

It is well known that a great many difficulties rise in raising and properly housing babies and small children in crowded cities, that is to say from the health viewpoint. This is especially true with reference to babies and young children, who at present are being raised in large apartments, as a result not obtaining the proper fresh air, as well as being outdoors for such air and exercise. In crowded cities, where the houses and the front yards are small, there is no way for proper ventilation, while those living in apartments have no facilities whatever to permit the children and babies to receive proper fresh air from the outside. With these facts in view it is the purpose of the present invention to provide an article of manufacture for babies and young children to be suspended upon the exterior of a building adjacent to an open window wherein the baby or young child may be placed.

This emphasis on fresh air, as noted by Spokane historian Larry Cebula on a post in response to Vestal's piece on baby cages, was due to the popularly held belief — called miasma theory — of times past that communicable diseases were easily spread through "bad," stale or polluted air. 
And that, dear readers, concludes our local history lesson of the day.

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Pearl Jam was on Colbert last night

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 12:54 PM

Last night, America's Greatest Rock Band™ took to the shiny new stage of CBS's The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and, if you've been a Pearl Jam fan as long as I have and fell asleep before they came on, allow us to get you caught up. Perhaps it will give you some much-needed flashbacks to two years ago when PJ took it to the Spokane Arena.

Here they are rocking the polish off of Colbert's set with "Mind Your Manners," off of 2013's superb Lightning Bolt.

And then, when it looked like the lights were going down, Pearl Jam stuck around to play Neil Young's "Rockin' In the Free World," joined by Colbert on guest vocals.

Before all of this, the band — all of them — were invited to the couch to chat with Stephen about their social and political efforts over the years. This weekend they're headlining the Global Citizen Festival in New York City, and if you are of the school who think Pearl Jam isn't relevant in today's musical landscape, keep in mind the other headliner of that festival is friggin' Beyonce.

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CONCERT REVIEW: Dave and Phil Alvin give Chateau Rive a shot of rootsy blues

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 11:42 AM

Dave Alvin, left, and Phil Alvin led the Guilty Ones through a two-hour set Wednesday at Chateau Rive. - DAN NAILEN
  • Dan Nailen
  • Dave Alvin, left, and Phil Alvin led the Guilty Ones through a two-hour set Wednesday at Chateau Rive.

It took just a verse or two of "All By Myself" for brothers Dave and Phil Alvin to lock in with their backing band the Guilty Ones at Chateau Rive Wednesday night, kicking off a night of killer rock and blues from two legends in American roots music. 

That tune is an old one by Big Bill Broonzy, a prolific bluesman who the brothers got into as high school kids, back before they took their band The Blasters to some fame and little fortune in the early '80s, and way before professionally and personally splitting and going their separate ways. A health scare for Phil a couple years ago helped bring the Alvins back together to record for the first time since the Blasters' years, and the resulting 2014 album Common Ground was an homage packed with nothing but Big Bill Broonzy tunes. 

It was fitting, then, that "All By Myself" and another Broonzy tune, "I Feel So Good," launched the boys' Spokane visit just days after the release of another new collaboration, Lost Time, on which they delve into a few more old blues, soul and rock acts to create an album that is both history lesson and a shockingly lively reminder of both Phil Alvin's distinct voice and Dave Alvin's incredible guitar playing. 

That voice and that guitar were on full display Wednesday, as Phil's voice filled the cavernous-but-warm Flour Mill basement and Dave's chiming guitar solos got random members of the mostly seated crowd to jump up and cheer at various points throughout the night, and between nearly every song. Some folks were moved enough to ditch their seats and fill the surrounding areas to dance as the band worked through nearly 20 songs over the course of two hours. 

"Mr. Kicks" and "World's In a Bad Condition" introduced the crowd to the first two songs on Lost Time, and they were both highlights among a night full of excellent performances. "Southern Flood Blues," another Broonzy cut, inspired Phil to break out his harmonica for the first time, for some furious blasts as little brother Dave took over lead vocals for the first time. 

Dave did most of the talking between tunes, allowing Phil to rest his voice as Dave regaled the crowd with information about the artists the band was covering, or the inspiration for some of the original tunes they recorded with The Blasters or Dave has done during his solo career. At one point, Dave halted the start of "Cherry Red Blues" to get the song just right. "I only play Spokane about once every decade, and I'm not going to bed tonight knowing I botched the intro to this song!" he said, and the crowd cheered his new-and-improved second effort. 

Many of the older folks in the crowd were clearly Blasters fans, offering their most audible cheers when the band launched into "Border Radio" and "American Music." Another major highlight was Dave's take on "Rattlesnakin Daddy" that included guitar asides into Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon" and "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music. And the show-closing monster jam of the Blasters' "Marie, Marie" was unforgettable, complete with a mid-song segue into the Bobby Bland tune made famous by the Grateful Dead, "Turn On Your Lovelight." 

There was a lot of energy on the Chateau Rive stage, with the 59-year-old Dave and 62-year-old Phil leading the way, and even the sitters in the audience were clearly engaged and stoked at the proceedings. If shows like the one Spokane got Wednesday is the Alvins' way of making up for lost time, I'll take it. 
Dave Alvin, left, and his brother Phil just released Lost Time, their second album in two years after a 30-year split. - DAN NAILEN
  • Dan Nailen
  • Dave Alvin, left, and his brother Phil just released Lost Time, their second album in two years after a 30-year split.

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Blaze Pizza opens first Washington location in Spokane, offers free pizza Friday

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 10:46 AM

The new location of Blaze Pizza opens Friday with a free pizza promotion. - MAX CARTER
  • Max Carter
  • The new location of Blaze Pizza opens Friday with a free pizza promotion.

Today the California-based restaurant Blaze Pizza will open its first location in Washington state on 926 North Division Street. Founded by Elise and Rick Wetzel (co-founder of Wetzel's Pretzels), Blaze Pizza features a menu including a variety of signature pizzas, salads, blood orange lemonade and s'more pie.

To kick things off, on Friday, Sept. 25 from 10 am to 1 am, Blaze will be offering a free build-your-own pizza to any customer that follows them on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Located near Gonzaga University, the restaurant will be accepting Bulldog Bucks, allowing Gonzaga students to swipe their Zag Cards as payment for their meal. Zag Card or not, Blaze Pizza is known for affordable prices, offering pizzas for only $8. 

The 2,600-square-foot Spokane location has seating for 52 inside, with an outdoor patio as well. Blaze Pizza's new location is constructed of recycled and sustainable materials, uses eco-friendly packaging and features energy-efficient LED lighting.

Speaking for Owner Patrick Vollmer (who also owns the Sonic on Division Street), Account Manager Martina Schmidt says that Blaze Pizza is aimed to appeal towards a different audience than your typical pizza joint. 

"Blaze Pizza is very high energy, and we are looking to appeal to a younger audience. We are faster than your typical pizza restaurant, more casual, and everything is under 8 bucks," said Schmidt. 

Since the opening of the first Blaze Pizza in Irvine, California, in August of 2012, the chain has grown to 85 locations in 20 different states, including the District of Columbia, and the company is backed by investors such as LeBron James, Maria Shriver and Boston Red Sox co-owner Tom Werner. 

Blaze's signature pizzas include the "Redvine," featuring red sauce, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, parmesan, basil and an olive oil drizzle. The "White Top" features white cream sauce and is topped with mozzarella, bacon, garlic, arugula and oregano. If you are balling on a budget, you can get a customized one-topping pizza for $5.

So if you need some food on Friday and your wallet is feeling a bit light, head on down to Spokane's newest eatery for a free custom-built artisanal pizza. Simply show that you follow Blaze Pizza on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, design your pizza and enjoy.
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The stories you need to know to start the day

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 7:47 AM

• An upcoming season of the Serial podcast will focus on Idaho soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who famously either deserted his unit, or was kidnapped while serving, depending on who you listen to about the case.
• Spokane UFC fighter Julianna Pena could be next in line to fight champ Ronda Rousey if she wins her next bout. A Q&A as she trains for the Oct. 3 fight.

Pope addresses Congress Thursday morning

The pontiff's magical mystery tour of North America continues with the hotly anticipated speech to U.S. politicians who might not be too excited to hear his thoughts on greed, income inequality and the environment. 

Fallout from Spokane police chief resignation
Assistant Chief Rick Dobrow is now officially the man leading the Spokane Police Department, and there doesn't appear to be any rapid movement to start a search for a permanent replacement of departed Chief Frank Straub. The Center for Justice, which as worked with the department to improve transparency in police work, has some questions about how the Straub departure went down

Hundreds killed in stampede at Islamic holy ceremony in Saudi Arabia
Less than two weeks after more than 100 people died when a crane collapsed at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia is the scene of another tragedy as more than 700 people (and counting as of this morning) were killed during a ceremony for Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, when the masses pushed forward suddenly, trampling people in the city of Mina during a ceremony called "stoning the devil." 

May the hype be with you
There's a really cool new 360-degree interactive Star Wars video that lets users steer a ship through a set from the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It's an exclusive to Facebook so we can't show you the video ourselves, but you can check it out right here

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Popular podcast Serial to recap the story of Idaho Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl

Posted By on Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 3:28 PM


The word has been all over the Internet today that the popular podcast Serial is set to tell the story of Idaho Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who went missing from his Afghanistan base back in 2009 and was subsequently held prisoner by a Taliban-tied insurgent group for nearly 5 years.

Bergdahl, a native of the small, central Idaho town of Hailey, was famously freed in a prisoner exchange last year, after which he was charged with desertion and the endangerment of fellow troops who went searching for him. The facts surrounding Bergdahl's disappearance from the base remain fuzzy — he claims he was kidnapped while fellow soldiers assert he intentionally deserted his position. The military case to charge him with desertion is currently in the pre-trial stages.  

While it's not been entirely confirmed by Serial — an offshoot of This American Life — that Bergdahl's story is indeed to be featured in either of the show's upcoming second or third seasons, screenwriter Mark Boal, who's worked on modern military story films The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, is set to co-produce Serial's Bergdahl series. Boal is also said to be working on a movie about Bergdahl's experiences.

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