John McCain and Tom Foley, the Integrity We’ve Lost

Dear Group,

This week I’ve been listening to eulogies in praise of John McCain, a legislator with whom I often disagreed but whose integrity I never doubted. I listen with nostalgia for a better time in our governance when integrity was valued, a time when the man sitting in the White House was capable of joining us in mourning the passage of a war hero and statesman regardless of personal grudges, 

In the same week, last Monday, with only a little fanfare, Highway 395 in Washington State was renamed the “Thomas Stephen “Tom” Foley Memorial Highway” in a sign-unveiling ceremony near where Division St crosses the Spokane River. Tom Foley served his constituents in U.S. Congressional District 5 (eastern Washington) from 1965 to 1995. He was a man of unquestioned decency, fairness, and intelligence, a man respected by all who knew him. We do well to remember him among the great people who have served our country and eastern Washington well.

I can only imagine the moral repugnance Tom Foley would have felt for the current resident of the White House. In his early years in Congress, Tom Foley served through the Nixon administration, the last time we heard the words “unindicted co-conspirator” legitimately applied to a President. 

As the nation mourns a war hero and statesman of integrity, and as eastern Washington names a highway after another statesman, Tom Foley, we contemplate the divisive autocrat who pretends to lead us while tearing at the fabric of our democratic institutions. We consider the Republican/Libertarian lawmakers, McMorris Rodgers among them, who seem incapable of anything but praise for this man.

Keep to that high ground,


P.S. In November 1994 Eastern Washington lost Tom Foley to George Nethercutt by a mere 4000 votes (110,057 to 106074). The election turned on two issues: 1) Tom Foley’s opposition to term limits. Nethercutt campaigned on a promise to serve only three terms…and then had the gall to stay for five. 2) Tom Foley’s reluctant vote for Bill Clinton’s assault weapons ban, an issue over which the NRA allied with the Republican Party to stir up fear over a supposed threat to the Second Amendment. 

P.P.S. The history of Hwy 395 and Tom Foley’s efforts to secure the funding to improve it are nicely covered by an article in the Spokesman by Nicholas Deshais published September 20.


WA State Voter Regs–Civics!

Dear Group,

Washington State is a great place to be a voter. The office of WA Secretary of State, headed by Kim Wyman, is responsible for oversight of the thirty-nine county auditors (Vicky Dalton in Spokane County, Dianna Galvin in Ferry County) who actually manage the local details of voting and voter registration. Even so, a lot of voter registration can be done directly through the Secretary of State’s office: . It provides a wealth of information from which I’ve picked a few key points below.

Rule One: For a given election you can only vote in one place in the United States. Period. It is not actually illegal to be registered to vote in two states. With our mobile population that happens sometimes by accident or inattention, but it is not illegal. However, if you cast a ballot in more than one place in a given election that is voter fraud, and voter fraud is a felony. 

How easy is it to register to vote or change your “voting residence” in Washington State? Very easy. Three options. If you’re already registered in WA State or if you have a valid WA State driver’s license or WA state ID (and know your birthdate 🙂 the quickest and easiest way to register, review, or change your WA State voter registration is to go to In fact, I recommend you visit right now, just to see what’s there and make sure your registration is up-to-date. It is unlikely that anyone reading this email has an “inactive” or “cancelled” voter registration, but it never hurts to check. (To learn how a voter registration could become inactive or cancelled go here.) There’s a lot of other nifty information at, like your “voting history” (actually your ballot casting history). How consistent have you been as a voter? Although there are a lot of safeguards, it is remotely possible someone with access to your birthdate could mess with your registration, so check it out.

[Online voter registration will not be available this Labor Day weekend on account of a licensing system update. Mail-in registration will still work.]

Washington State needs you to “establish a legal residence” 30 days before the election in which you wish to vote. “Voting residence” specifies the content of your ballot. You can specify a  different address as the mailing address to which your ballot will be sent, and you can change all of that easily. (Broadly speaking, your voting residence is where you sleep. If you have a nontraditional address, such as a motor home or transitional housing, your voting residence is the physical location at the time you register to vote. Under some circumstances, like living overseas or being in military you won’t even have to sleep at your voting residence.)

Now let’s take the case of a U.S. citizen who moves to Washington State. If you don’t have a WA State driver’s license or WA State ID yet, then you need to get registered using the last four digits of you Social Security number. That cannot be done online but is done by mail or in person

The deadline for registering or updating voter registration in WA State online or by mail (postmarked by) is October 8 for the General Election this November. You can still register or update your registration in person until October 29, but that’s a bigger effort.

So how does this apply to the quest to obtain better representation in government? Know the rules, check your own status, suggest to others they check theirs, and, finally, help others to sign up.

One group to think about is college students. If a student turns eighteen before November 6th (Election Day), is a U.S. citizen (and not under Department of Corrections supervision for a felony conviction) and lives at school then that student can claim their student residence as their voting residence as a new WA State voter (or change voting residence as an already registered WA State voter). [See eligibility details here.] 

Washington State makes it easy to register and easy to keep up to date as a voter. We have not been gripped by efforts at voter suppression that we read about in the national news. Voting is the one chance we get to have a real voice in our government. 

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. There is a WA State Auditor. Isn’t it curious the Secretary of State and not the State Auditor oversees county auditors’ work with elections? The organization of government is not always superficially logical…

P.P.S. Whenever we get a whiff of a county auditor whose actions look like or are making voting harder it is right to point at it, as Karen Hardy (candidate for State Senator in LD7) did twice with Dianna Galvin, county auditor for Ferry County in the Primary Election this year. See a second article in the same vein here.


Dear Group,

Politics is a social endeavor. Knocking on doors and talking to strangers can be done solo, but it is energizing and fun to go as a small group. Meeting up afterwards to compare notes and stories is a treat. The main path to electoral success lies in overcoming our shyness, meeting up with other like-minded folk, talking with strangers, and motivating voters to vote.

That said, I have a confession to make. Before this election cycle the most political act in which I engaged was sending an occasional letter to the editor of the Spokesman Review. I would labor for days crafting the perfect letter and worry over how others might perceive the clarity and truth of the points I wished to make. If the letter was not published, I felt a pang of personal rejection. If it was published, I felt my words were somehow sufficient, that I could return to my books having discharged my civic duty. 

In the last nearly two years things have come into sharper focus: 1) One letter, no matter how well crafted, is but one drop in the bucket, one toothpick-sized arrow of an idea. 2) The more clever, erudite, ironic and wordy the less likely anyone will read it and even less likely all who need to understand it actually will. 3) The choice of letters to publish is roughly in proportion to the numbers of the letters of a particular slant received by the editor, with some favoritism for letters that concern local issues.

So what is my letter writing advice? Keep if fairly short and pointed. The maximum for the Spokesman is 200 words. You don’t have to use them all. Write often. Don’t fret if a favorite letter is not published. Getting a phone call from the Spokesman staff for permission to publish does not guarantee publication. (Comfort yourself that you are contributing to the effort.) When you do get a letter published mark the date of publication in your calendar. (Letters are ephemera. Once published it is often hard to figure out when it appeared. The Spokesman says it limits publication to one letter per month.) Judging by the letter of some frequent writers, the standards of logic and literacy are not high.

So write! Compose freely. Send frequently. What you write may ring a bell with someone. No one is keeping score or lying in wait with a red pen to grade your work. A week later hardly anyone will remember your name, but a few might remember your idea–and that’s the point.

For reference I’ve copied the Letters Policy for the Spokesman below, but remember there are many other newspapers in CD5 in your local communities. Many of them publish letters and their rules are usually available on line these days. 

Spokane Spokesman Review Letters policy

The Spokesman-Review invites original letters of no more than 200 words on topics of public interest. Unfortunately, we don’t have space to publish all letters received, nor are we able to acknowledge their receipt. We accept no more than one letter a month from the same writer.

Please include your daytime phone number and street address. TheSpokesman-Review retains the nonexclusive right to archive and republish any material submitted for publication.

Send letters to:

Letters to the Editor The Spokesman-Review 999 W. Riverside Ave.

Spokane, WA 99201


Questions: (509) 459-5026

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. If you send you letter in by email (the easiest way) and they publish it, it is likely to go in “as is,” that is, copied and pasted. Proofreading is recommended!

Who’s a “Career Politician?”

Dear Group,

McMorris Rodgers is 49 years old. In each of the 27 years since she graduated from Pensacola Christian College (unaccredited at the time) she has been in politics, either as an aid to a politician (Bob Morton, WA State Rep from LD7 at the time) or as a politician herself (the last 24.5 years). She is the very definition of a “career politician.” (See Who is She Really? for more background.)

In contrast, Lisa Brown is 61 years old. Twenty years of which were spent in politics, all of it serving in the Washington State legislature. Her life experience includes successfully raising a son as a single mother, earning a Masters degree and then a Ph.D. in Economics, and teaching for two decades (eight years concurrent with her time as a state legislator) as an associate professor. In the last five years she held the position of chancellor of Washington State University Spokane.

This comparison was stimulated by an article by Kip Hill in the Spokesman Review from July 16 entitled “Truth testing: The negative ads from Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Lisa Brown.” The article covers a number of peculiar claims from the McMorris Rodgers camp including the claim Lisa Brown is a “career politician.” I’ve copied part of the article below. I have no idea why Mr. Hill chose to express time as a politician in days rather than years.

Claim: Lisa Brown is a “career politician.”

Source: Cathy McMorris Rodgers TV spot “Liberal Lisa.”

McMorris Rodgers’ ad opens with the assertion that Brown is a “career politician.” Brown was an economics professor for 12 years before she joined the Washington state Legislature in 1993. She continued to teach at Eastern Washington and Gonzaga universities during her time in the Legislature. After leaving the Senate at the end of 2012, she served five years as chancellor of Washington State University.

By contrast, McMorris Rodgers’ job after graduating Pensacola Christian College was as an aide to state Rep. Bob Morton, whom she replaced in 1994. She’s been in politics ever since.

In total, as of Sunday, McMorris Rodgers has served 8,953 days [24.5 years] in office between her time in Olympia and Washington, D.C. Brown has served 7,310 days [20 years].

The take-home message: 1) Lisa Brown has spent less of her time in politics than McMorris Rodgers, but plenty time to understand legislation and compromise, 2) Lisa Brown has had a broader life experience and educational background than the incumbent career politician.

Keep to the high ground,


The Task Before Us

2018 August 7 Primary Ballot Final Turn-In for the ten counties of Congressional District 5  (Source: Secretary of State of the State of Washington.)

(see the P.S. below my writing for one fine point on this data)

Dear Group,

Here is the take-home before dwelling on the details: 205,393 registered voters in Congressional District turned in ballots in the August 7 Primary Election. 232,197 registered voters did not bother to vote. Among those 232,197 non-primary-voting registered voters, there are many Democrats who tend only to vote in presidential election years and many disgusted Republicans who can be convinced over the next seventy-two days to cast a ballot by November 6th.

The obvious practical purpose of the Primary Election, in cases where there are more than two candidates, is to chose who advances to the General Election in November. (Washington and California are the only two states using this “top two” or “jungle” primary.)

The Primary Election serves a second purpose. It is a large (but very non-random) poll that speaks to electoral strategists of possibility. State and federal strategists from both Parties have looked at the Primary numbers in eastern Washington–and they all see possibility in those 232,197 non-primary-voting registered voters. The board is prepared and it is game on. The wild card is the energy of unpaid volunteers.

More votes in the Primary beget organization and money as applied to the General Election. The “wave” analogy is apt. There is a wave building all over the ten counties of Congressional District 5. It has been many years since there has been a Democratic challenger for nearly every seat in every State Legislative District (3,4,6,7, and 13) that overlaps with U.S. Congressional District 5. (District 13, overlapping Lincoln County from the west [part of CD5] is the single exception and only for an unchallenged State Senate seat).

The numbers from the Primaries are attracting attention in places like Legislative District 6 where Jessa Lewis, Kay Murano, and Dave Wilson, all thoughtful, energetic Democrats, look very competitive. (District 6 is a weirdly shaped district drawn to nibble at Spokane from the west, north, and south.) Then there’s District 4, east and Northeast of Spokane, where Matt Shea looks more like a wingnut every day, and Ted Cummings and Mary May, two intelligent, reasonable, upright Democrats are gaining strength. Up in District 7, the vast northeast, Karen Hardy, Randy Michaelis, and Mike Bell are offering good reasons for Democrats to step out the shadows and vote. All of these good people offer possibility, team effort, and boots on the ground that eastern Washington hasn’t seen in years. Here’s the link to a great map to show you all these territories and how they overlap. 

You can slice and dice the Primary Election results until you turn blue (or red), but those results, with 232,197 registered voters sitting out the Primary speak of possibility. Who are these people who didn’t vote? Let’s get out and have a conversation with them.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Ballots are tallied by county in Washington State. Fun fact: Of the ten counties in U.S. Congressional District 5 county borders are shared with CD5 in every case except for the western border of Walla Walla County. That means some few voters captured in my spreadsheet above in Walla Walla county cast there ballot in U.S. Congressional District 4 [between the incumbent Dan Newhouse (R) and Christine Brown (D)]. 

P.P.S. If you like numbers I recommend a smartphone app “WA State Election Results” you can search for and download for free. , the WA Secretary of State website offers the current Primary numbers. Under the “Research” dropdown menu on that page are data for years of past elections.

The Republican “Final Solution”

Dear Group,

Last Monday I experienced a wave of recognition, then nausea, as I read the “1600 Daily,” an  email I receive from “The White House” every day and sometimes twice a day. I’ve copied the relevant piece for you to read at the end of this section. 

Many months ago I read an opinion piece in which the author asserted that deporting 11 million “illegal” aliens living among us just wasn’t practical; it could never happen; it was logistically impossible. At the time I concurred. I couldn’t imagine it: people taken into custody and summarily deported when they dropped off their citizen children at school, young children removed from their mother’s arms at the U.S. border, horror stories of youths who discover they’re not U.S. citizens only when they sign up at college, students who then face potential deportation. All that and more I couldn’t imagine. 11 million deportations? No way, thought I. Not practical. Couldn’t happen. Inhumane. Un-American. Unthinkable.

I have news. It is happening right now, it is creeping up on us. If we don’t pay attention now some of us will only recognize Trump’s and his Republican Party’s “Final Solution” too late and to our belated national shame. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Representative likely to win a seat from the Bronx in November is vilified by some as an extremist for calling to abolish ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). At first I thought Ocasio-Cortz’ stance against ICE was a politically bad move at best, but increasingly shrill emails defending ICE from the White House like the one I copied below have convinced me otherwise.

That “impossible” goal of deporting 11 million people living peacefully among us is exactly what is happening, and ICE is at the center. My thinking turned on reading How Trump Radicalized ICE in The Atlantic magazine. I strongly recommend you read it, too.

The Trump, Sessions, Miller, Bannon, Identity Evropa strategy is clear: First, demonize all immigrants as rapists, murderers, subhuman lowlife–exactly the same strategy used by Hitler against the Jews in the 1930s. Once dehumanized it is easy to justify inhumane treatment, easier for we citizens to look the other way, to believe it is “not our problem.” The vomit coming out the White House is clear: ICE’s “life-saving mission,” “saving victims,” “the heroes” who “save” us. Save us from what? The neighbors we’ve known for twenty years, people whose children are U.S. citizens, people who pay taxes, people with whom we break bread?

Surely most ICE agents are not monsters, neither was every member of the Gestapo in Nazi Germany. Trump, der Lider, tells us and the ICE agent theirs is an honorable job, a sometimes distasteful job, but a job that must be done, a job necessary to safeguard our wives and children from the threat of the illegals. 

That McMorris Rodgers wanly tries to carve out a narrow non-citizen safe place, a “renewable legal status,” for the Dreamers (the few who remind her of herself) in her failed compromise immigration bill is small comfort. That the Trump, Sessions, Miller policy of family separation at the border was stopped is small comfort. The overall strategy is clear: Instill terror in the immigrant community, get the citizens of U.S. to turn away from them, frighten immigrant and mixed immigrant families into self deportation. Praise ICE agents for doing “the hard work.” It’s hard and distasteful but someone has to tear parents from their citizen children. It’s the right thing to do! Use ICE to deport as many of the 11 million as possible who haven’t already succumbed to fear of the Trump government. Do it all before the voters understand they have become complicit in an inhumane policy worthy of Hitler himself.

This is Trump’s, his Republican Party’s, and by default McMorris Rodgers’ “Final Solution” to the immigrant “problem.” It doesn’t matter the motivation, whether it is racism or curbing the potential electoral power of immigrants become citizens. It doesn’t matter that McMorris Rodgers believes she’s sincerely not a racist. The inhumanity of this policy, the manifest parallels of this policy with those of 1930s Germany is there for all to see. I don’t know whether to weep or vomit–but I do know I will vote.

Keep to the high ground,


From the “1600 Daily” received from the White House August 20, 2018:

The Day Ahead

President Donald J. Trump hosts a Salute to the Heroes of ICE and CBP, recognizing the dangerous, important work of America’s border officers. Watch live at 3 p.m. ET.

The life-saving missions of ICE

From saving victims from human smugglers, drug cartels, and criminal gangs to protecting American citizens from crime spilling across our border, President Trump understands the dangerous conditions our border officers face each day. To show his appreciation for their service, the President will highlight the life-saving missions of these heroes today in an event at the White House.  

Even with widespread public support for ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), many Democrats have embraced the previously fringe position that the agency should be abolished. A recent POLITICO/Morning Consult poll revealed that even with the left’s recent push, only a quarter of Americans want ICE eliminated. 

The heroes who protect our borders are a vital piece of our national security. Getting rid of ICE would be devastating to the safety of American families, particularly those living in communities across the Southwestern United States. Our border officers are the first line of defense for these vulnerable Americans: During the 2017 fiscal year, ICE arrested more than 127,000 aliens with criminal convictions or charges. 

President Trump promised that he would secure our borders and keep our communities safe. Today, he is honoring the public servants who risk it all to help achieve that. 

Watch a Salute to the Heroes of ICE and CBP live at 3 p.m. ET.

The storiesPresident Trump stands with the victims of illegal alien crime

Immigration and Consolidation of Power

Dear Group,

Fundamentally, the immigration issue is about money and power. All Republican rhetoric to the contrary, there is no immigration emergency. While we can argue about the state of representative democracy in the USA, there is still power (economic and political) in voting, and power in controlling who gets to vote. The Republican Party has its hands on most of the levers of power and is busy grasping for more, but by raw votes it is still the minority party–and with the rise of Trump the Republican Party has sold its soul to nazis and white supremacists in order to build the minority it has. The purpose of all the breathless Republican rhetoric on immigration is retain the minority votes on which it governs.

This insight comes to me courtesy of analyzing the two immigration bills McMorris Rodgers and the Republicans constructed and then could not garner enough votes even to pass the House, H.R. 4760 and H.R. 6136. The bubbling, distracted media mostly failed to highlight two basic things about these bills:

1) Neither of these bills actually offers the Dreamers more than some limited form of legal status. McMorris Rodgers will tear up over the Dreamers stories, but then she returns to Congress, maneuvers to avoid a vote on a bill that would actually offer them citizenship, and “works hard” to craft alternative Republican bills that offer the Dreamers contingent, renewable legal status but no path to citizenship. She stood right in front of me at Green Bluff on May 29th and (in answer to a pointed question) admitted the Republican bill she was working on did not offer a path to citizenship. She wants it both ways. She wants credit for being sympathetic to the Dreamers, but her sympathy only extends to a select few…and keeps citizenship out of reach even for them. She knows she could have the votes of Democrats for a clean Dream Act at any time, but she will do anything to avoid such a vote. Her legislative actions betray her real values. 

2) The vast majority of the words in these two bills are about curtailing legal immigration. Have a look. These bills toss some money at border security (Trump’s wall, etc) and make a tiny nod toward doing something for the Dreamers. All that is to distract attention and inflame passion in the Republican base. The real intent is to further limit the already dwindling legal influx of brown people. All of Trump’s yelling about rapists, murderers, and MS-13 is aimed at imprinting fear and loathing of all immigrants in the minds of his listeners. Focus on this, not that.

Fundamental Fact: The Republican Party already represents only a minority of Americans, and a minority of American votes. I highly recommend you click and read Doug Muder’s “Minority Rule Snowballs.”

Do any of you remember the soul-searching the Republican Party was doing about ten years ago, the attempts of George W. Bush to speak Spanish and appeal to hispanic voters, the media articles noting America was destined to become less white, more brown and Asian, the hand-wringing over the demographic fate of the Republican Party if they didn’t find a way to attract votes from people of color?

The Republican/Libertarians faced a tough choice: either find a way to attract the votes of this growing electorate or fire up the flapping fringe of the Republican Party, the fringe that has always been there, the John Birchers, the Nazis, and the Klan, the fringe that William F. Buckley, Jr. (before his death in 2008) successfully fended off from respectable Republican mainstream involvement for decades. 

With Trump, aided by the evil genius of Steve Bannon, they chose to welcome and energize the flapping fringe. Trump gathered enough votes to become a minority president in part based on this strategy. 

Now Representatives in electoral jeopardy like McMorris Rodgers are busy disguising their sympathies with the flapping fringe that helped elect her “positive disruptor.” She may be a sympathetic mom with a tear in her eye for the Dreamers but she legislatively maneuvers to rob them of a chance at citizenship. Don’t let her get away with it. We are better than that.

Keep to the high ground,