Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Why are the billionaires laughing?

It’s easy to laugh when the corporate press treats you as a glorious success instead of the epitome of a broken social order. Billionaires laugh because they know the corporate media prefers to fawn over them rather than hold them to account.

Today, we ask you to support our nonprofit, independent journalism because we are not impressed by billionaires flying into space, their corporations despoiling our health and planet, or their vast fortunes safely concealed in tax havens across the globe. We are not laughing.

We are hard at work producing journalism for the common good. With our Fall Campaign underway, please support this mission today. We cannot do it without you.

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

valve-turner Ken Ward

As part of a multi-state action in 2016, valve-turner Ken Ward temporarily shut down the Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline. (Photo:

Washington Supreme Court Establishes 'Very Important Precedent' for Climate Necessity Defense in Case of Valve-Turner Ken Ward

The court's decision, explained one attorney, "creates a strong legal basis for climate protesters to justify their actions in a court of law."

Jessica Corbett

In a decision that could profoundly impact future litigation involving climate activists, the Washington Supreme Court this week refused to review a lower court's ruling to allow valve-turner Ken Ward to present a "necessity defense" for charges related to a 2016 multi-state action that temporarily shut down tar sands pipelines.

On Wednesday, a three judge panel from the state's highest court unanimously denied (pdf) a petition from the State of Washington to review a state appeals court ruling (pdf) in April that overturned Ward's conviction for disabling the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline as part of the "Shut It Down" action on Oct. 11, 2016. The pipeline transports Canadian tar sands oil to refineries in Washington's Skagit County.

After his first trial ended with a hung jury, Ward was convicted of one count of burglary at his second trial in 2017. Ward's attorneys successfully argued to the appeals court that the second trial violated his constitutional rights because Ward had not been allowed to argue that he believed shutting down the pipeline was necessary because of the threat that fossil fuels pose to the planet and its inhabitants.

In a statement Thursday, Ward's lawyers welcomed the state supreme court's decision and highlighted the broader implications for climate activists.

"This victory upholds the right of a defendant to assert the necessity defense to the charges brought by the state, and also strengthens the essential role that a jury of community members will play in determining whether the accused should be found guilty or not," said Lauren Regan, attorney for Ward and director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center.

Alice Cherry of the Climate Defense Project, who is also an attorney for Ward, called the decision "a victory for free expression and dissent in the State of Washington."

"It creates a strong legal basis for climate protesters to justify their actions in a court of law, and to defend themselves against prosecutorial overreach," said Cherry. "This is significant, given that the fossil fuel industry is increasingly attempting to squelch public opposition to its expansion projects."

Ward also welcomed the court's decision, saying, "This is just great!"

"I've said all along that I relish the chance to put the facts about climate catastrophe before a jury in Skagit County," he added. "I think that any reasonable group of citizens will agree that actions like the 'valve-turners' are necessary if we're to have any hope of avoiding the worst, given the stranglehold that the fossil fuel industry has on politics, and the speed of collapse."

Ward was one of five valve-turners who participated in the 2016 action, which took place on one day across four states. He was joined by Michael Foster in North Dakota, Leonard Higgins in Montana, and Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein in Minnesota.

Johnston—who, along with Klapstein, was acquitted of all charges in October—celebrated the Washington Supreme Court move in a pair of tweets this week:

As Common Dreams reported last year, although Johnston and Klapstein were relieved that their charges were dismissed, they were also disappointed that they did not get to present a necessity defense to a jury. They would have been the first valve-turners to be allowed to do so, enabled by a decision from the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'When We Organize, We Win': Ocasio-Cortez Joins India Walton at Rally in Buffalo

The two progressives joined striking hospital workers on the picket line at Mercy Hospital after the early voting rally.

Julia Conley ·

Fatal Film Set Shooting Followed Outcry by Union Crew Members Over Safety Protocols

"When union members walk off a set about safety concerns, maybe 'hiring scabs' isn’t the solution you think it is."

Julia Conley ·

New Whistleblower Sparks Calls to 'Crack Down on Facebook and All Big Tech Companies'

Hours after another ex-employee filed a formal complaint, reporting broke on internal documents that show the tech giant's failure to address concerns about content related to the 2020 U.S. election.

Jessica Corbett ·

'Catastrophic and Irreparable Harm' to Wolves Averted as Wisconsin Judge Cancels Hunt

"We are heartened by this rare instance of reason and democracy prevailing in state wolf policy," said one conservation expert.

Brett Wilkins ·

West Virginia Constituents Decry 'Immorality' of Joe Manchin

"West Virginia has been locked into an economy that forces workers into low-wage jobs with no hope for advancement, and after decades of this our hope is dwindling," said one West Virginian. "The cuts that Sen. Manchin has negotiated into the agenda hurt our state."

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo