From Dominionism to the Pale Blue Dot

Dear Group,

I want to close out this week with a thought along a different vein, sparked by article I read in the New York Times, an article that came to my attention labelled “Most Emailed.” It appeared on November 27 in the Times Magazine, “The Insect Apocalypse Is Here.” It was competing for everyone’s attention from the froth of human social and political concerns, the latest offensive Trump tweet, Nancy Pelosi’s likelihood of keeping her position in the House of Representatives, what Paul Manafort’s lawyers are saying to Trump’s lawyers, the price of oil, and whether the stock market and the economy are going up or down. Yet here it was, an article on the natural world featured as “Most Emailed.” 

We humans are singularly self-absorbed and short-sighted, thoroughly pre-occupied with the activities of other members of our species, the children we try to raise, the stories we tell, the games we play, the wars we wage.

Step back. At the base of it all is the biosphere and the planet on which we depend for food, water, and a place to raise our young. The worldview each of us takes on during our lifetime conditions how we see and understand this ball of rock with its thin layer of life.

As I see it, worldview (at least in U.S.) lays out broadly on a spectrum. Stark Dominionism underpins one end, whereas on the other end is the sense that humanity is a particularly conceited and self-centered manifestation of natural life, thoroughly integrated into the biosphere.

For me, Dominionism is based on [From wikipedia]: “a reference to the King James Bible’s rendering of Genesis 1:28, the passage in which God grants humanity ‘dominion’ over the Earth.”

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Dominionism often includes a sense this human domination over the earth is carefully guided and nurtured by God, that is, that humanity is an instrument of God’s will and, as such, humanity is incapable of despoiling the earth. For some (many?) in this thought pattern, there is also an “end time” that somehow leads to God’s Kingdom, a glorious hereafter. I was brought up with one foot in this tradition. 

At the other end my spectrum of worldview is Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot, the photograph taken in a look back from the Voyager 1 Space Probe in 1990, showing the earth as an tiny speck, a speck containing all of us, a speck nearly vanished in space, a speck which say to some “we are completely on our own and we’d better figure it out fast.” 

These ends of the worldview spectrum have been a source of tension in humanity’s understanding of itself for hundreds of years. Everyone who ever took a class in science in public school remembers or ought to remember the controversy between the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s geocentric view of the solar system and the heliocentrism of Galileo Galilei (and other scientists and astronomers) that came to a head around 1600. The underlying tension has never gone away.

This spectrum of worldview I postulate here, stretching from Dominionism to the Pale Blue Dot is a spectrum of orientation, it is not two well-defined buckets into which people’s mindsets sort simply. For folks who put some thought to it, there are many points along the spectrum where one’s views might lie.

But I digress.

The Insect Apocalypse Is Here” for me was at the end of a string of disquieting articles for anyone on the Pale Blue Dot end of the spectrum.

U.S. Climate Report Warns of Damaged Environment and Shrinking Economy

The World Needs to Quit Coal. Why Is It So Hard?

What’s Happening to the Price of Oil? (which might make some rejoice, but for me heralds greater demand for gas-guzzling vehicles and ever more burning of carbon)

Palm Oil Was Supposed to Help Save the Planet. Instead It Unleashed a Catastrophe. (the sad story of one of the last bipartisan efforts to cut back on the burning of fossil carbon)

I end the week with much to contemplate. Enjoy the weekend. 

Keep to the high ground,


Shea/McCaslin Vote Discrepancy, What Does it Mean?

Dear Group,

Matt Shea is one of two State Representatives sent to Olympia by Legislative District 4, the area east of Havana to the Idaho/Washington state line, north to Mount Spokane, and south to include the City of Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake. (Here’s a map.) Among the places encompassed in LD4 are Greenbluff, home of NWGrassroots, and the official address of the Political Action Committee “We Believe, We Vote,” two groups linked with the Redoubt movement centered in adjacent north Idaho. Besides Matt Shea some others of the local Redoubter faithful are on display here in an ad for a rally in support of the re-election of council members Ed Pace, Caleb Collier, and Mike Munch to the City of Spokane Valley City Council.  I note all three of councilmen were defeated in November 2017 in spite of this rally. 

Matt Shea and the other Representative from LD4, McCaslin Junior (to distinguish him from his father, a former LD4 legislator, now deceased), both won re-election this November, Mr. Shea with 39,572 (57.74%) and McCaslin Jr. with 42,613 (61.88%) votes. (These are not quite final tallies.) Note the difference: 3000 voters bothered to “split their ticket,” casting a vote for McCaslin Jr. (R) but also for Ted Cummings (D), Shea’s opponent. 

The last midterm elections (2014), an election in which both Shea and McCaslin had Democratic challengers, they received very close to equal numbers of votes, roughly 25,000 (58% in each of their races). That year (2014) it seems among those who bothered to vote, almost no one was making a distinction between McCaslin Jr. and Shea (many fewer voted in LD4 in 2014 than did this year, 43K in 2014 v. 69K in 2018). It’s as if 25,000 voters said to themselves, “I’m Republican. These guys are both Republican, therefore they must represent my values. I’ll vote for both of them.”

Many voters claim to be “Independent,” that is, they claim to vote for the person, not the party. That is a lovely, high-minded sentiment. I know. It is a sentiment I expressed for years–until I noticed I hadn’t voted for a Republican in a decade and realized the Republican Party had wandered off to the far right into the weeds, far away from the principles for which I thought it once stood.

Claiming to be an “Independent,” that is, evaluating each candidate on his or her merits, is a great principle, but it actually requires that one pay close attention, attention that is often lacking, especially at a level less than national politics.

The spread between the votes for Shea and McCaslin in LD4 in the November 2018 election tells us more people are paying attention–but we need more. Is that 3000 vote difference due purely to the national attention blip around Shea’s “Biblical Basis For War” manifesto? Is it because volunteer canvassers and Democratic candidates knocked on doors and talked with people about this man Shea? 

We will never know for sure, but it all helped. People of good will have two years to work at getting the word out about Shea, McCaslin, Maycumber (LD7) and the groups and ideologies they represent. Share Shea’s extremist manifesto widely. They say all politics is local. It’s time to pay attention.

Keep to the high ground,


“The Media isn’t ‘Polarized’, It Has a Right-Wing Cancer”

Dear Group,

Each Monday morning I look forward to reading The Weekly Sift written by Doug Muder. His Monday emails (two of them nearly every Monday) is a marvelously rational roundup of news from the past week. The article from the Weekly Sift from which I lifted the title of the Indivisible email today can be found here. I urge you to click on that link, read his article, and then add your email address in the left hand column under “Subscribe by email.” Then click “Sign me up!”  You will not regret it. [You will likely receive a confirmation email to which you must respond to complete the loop. That’s to prevent someone else from signing up your email address.]

This last Monday’s Weekly Sift’s “featured post” email is a summary of a new book, “Network Propaganda.”  I have not yet read the book, but Mr. Muder’s summary and the quotes he offers strike me as essential to understanding the gravity of our current situation. For me the single most chilling thing about Trump is his denigration and demonization of all media with which he does not agree. Having put all mainstream media and the entire fact base in which the mainstream media work into a box, he proceeds to belittle and demean. “Don’t listen to them. They are fake news. They represent the agenda of the ‘deep state,’ the grand conspiracy against me and against you, MY people.” 

Once he has his chanting followers in thrall, isolated from any and all opposing views, he can take them anywhere. Fox News and others who are part of this far right media ecosystem laid the groundwork before Trump was even part of the picture, but he, in synergy with those media, has assembled a core group worthy of a Jim Jones, people subscribing to an ideology divorced from any reality many of us even recognize. 

There are core crazinesses of this ecosystem, like the conspiracies of Infowars with pedophile operations run out of pizza parlors near D.C., but not so far from that are ideas taken up by McMorris Rodgers and Sue Lani Madsen when they solemnly cite George Soros as the liberal bogeyman, the evil name that lights up a whole construct in the minds of the faithful. 

But enough of my rambling. Click on this link here (or the one above–they go to the same place), read Doug Muder’s article and sign up for his email. I will try to get back to a more local focus.

Keep to the high ground,


Daniel Walters on Brown v. CMR

Dear Group,

The news we consume both nationally and locally is written by someone, and no one writes without some point of view. All news offers a story, a story based at some level on facts, numbers, and quotes, but always facts, numbers, and quotes selected and presented by a writer. I used to read newspaper articles without paying attention to the byline. That was naive. 

I have not met Daniel Walters personally, but I have read a lot of his writing…and I like it. Daniel Walters is a staff writer with The Inlander, the Spokane weekly free newspaper. Mr. Walters is in his early thirties. He is Spokane through and through, North Central High School, Whitworth University, to staff writer with the Inlander starting in 2009 (all that comes from Facebook). Pay attention to his byline. He is worth reading. 

I offer an extended quote below Daniel Walters’ November 9 Inlander article, McMorris Rodgers wins the battle, but her House Republicans lose the war. Was it worth it? . The first part of the article was a little jarring as it pointed out the result of the CMR/Brown contest “wasn’t even close.” You might be forgiven if, in the election aftermath, you had quit reading there–but it got a lot better. I like the way Daniel Walters thinks. I will pay more attention to the Inlander and a bit less to the Spokesman:

But in McMorris Rodgers’ speech, at least, there’s no trace of regret over the night’s events. Instead, she reminisces about the time she was called to give the State of the Union response in 2014, the one where she promised that Republicans were the ones with the solutions to “affordable health care.” 

“No, we shouldn’t go back to the way things were, but this law is not working,” McMorris Rodgers said back then. “Republicans believe health care choices should be yours, not the government’s.” 

But that just underscores McMorris Rodgers’ mixed legacy in leadership: Today, Obamacare remains the law of the land. In fact, McMorris Rodgers spent the last phase of the campaign arguing, dubiously, that she had been a champion of the defense of one Obamacare’s crucial tenets — the pre-existing condition guarantee. 

McMorris Rodgers’ House Republicans spent eight years in power — the last two with control of every branch. But they haven’t funded the wall. They didn’t pass comprehensive immigration reform. They didn’t successfully pass a bill to protect DACA recipients. This year, in fact, they haven’t even been able to successfully pass a Farm Bill.

Instead, I wait patiently as a scrum of TV reporters lob mostly softballs at McMorris Rodgers for a few minutes. Then, as the small press conference looks to be ending, I jump in:

“Would you rather have lost and the Republicans keep the House—” 

But then, like a Secret Service agent leaping in front of a bullet, McMorris Rodgers’ campaign manager, Patrick Bell, shuts me down. 

“Sorry that was the last question,” Bell says, maneuvering in front of me. “Thanks, Daniel. Thanks, everybody.” 

At the encouragement of another McMorris Rodgers campaign staffer, I spend the rest of the party trying to catch McMorris Rodgers as she shakes hands and takes selfies with her supporters. 

“Do you have a moment for print?” I ask as she walks out of the party. “All the TV guys got to ask questions? Print doesn’t get anything?” 

Again, Bell shuts me down. 

“We did it! We did it! We did it!” McMorris Rodgers cheers as she readies to leave. “56 percent and counting.” 

I try one last time as McMorris Rodgers stands in the door to the Davenport Grand Hotel, and get the closest thing to an answer. 

“We won right here tonight in Eastern Washington,” she says. “Focus on tonight, Daniel.”

And then, like that, she’s gone. 

To be sure, during the Obama years, the House Republicans made for fearsome opposition: They shut down the government in 2014. They successfully pushed back against federal government spending. Yet the House’s biggest legislative legacy from the past two years of Republican control is the major tax cut bill — a bill that is anticipated to keep sending the deficit soaring. Few, if any, vulnerable House Republicans based their campaigns on the effectiveness of the tax cuts.

And for all that? Democrats look like they’re going to be picking up about 37-40 House seats, despite the booming economy. It’s the best Democratic performance since Watergate. In the end, it wasn’t even close. 

Asked by a TV reporter about the changing landscape in the House, McMorris Rodgers stresses her ability to be bipartisan: “I have great relationships. I can work across the aisle,” she says, talking about her successes in areas like hydropower and forestry. 

But by Thursday, CNN reports that Cathy McMorris Rodgers will not run again for House conference chair. Rep. Liz Cheney is running for that spot instead. 

So here’s my final question: If you were Lisa or Cathy, which would you rather have: A personal victory? Or control of the House for your party? 

Would McMorris Rodgers have rather lost on Tuesday night if the House Republicans won? Would Lisa Brown prefer to have been elected if it meant Republicans had maintained control of the House? 

When I asked Lisa Brown that question, she doesn’t hesitate: She’d rather Democrats have control of the House than for her to be elected personally.  

“That’s really what motivated me to get into it,” Brown says about her race. In fact, Brown believes that she played a small role in the Democrats’ victory. 

In years past, McMorris Rodgers has been flying all around the country, working to fundraise and stump for her fellow House Republicans. 

“I believe she would have been doing the same thing during the campaign if she hadn’t had a competitive race,” Brown says. 

Instead, she was spending money and holding events in her district, fighting Lisa Brown. I intended to ask McMorris Rodgers the same question. I assumed I’d have a chance. During the campaign, McMorris Rodgers has spoken with the Inlander for lengthy, challenging in-depth interviews on multiple occasions. 

But on election night, neither the Inlander nor the Spokesman-Review get their questions answered by McMorris Rodgers.

Keep to the high ground,


“Biblical Basis for War”–Shea

Biblical Basis For War Matt Shea

(click to see the pdf of the document)

Dear Group,

The belief systems, the worldview, of the people who claim to represent us at all levels of government deserve close examination. These belief systems reflect on their constituents. Check this out: on November 14, the Spokesman published a letter to the editor by Stevan Alburty of Liberty Lake:

Now that Matt Shea and his Biblical babble have enabled him to be re-elected, I am even more encouraged to proceed with my imaginary plan to hire about 100 bulldozers and raze the entire Spokane Valley from Freya to Barker in one cold swoop.

Start over, I say. It’s physically and intellectually a wasteland, a strip mall of gargantuan proportions. Its allegiance to a fanatic such as Mattt Shea is justification enough for my fantasy of its demolition.

Matt should spend less time trying to fulfill his prophecy about “killing all males,” and spend a little more time on urban planning.

Hmmm. That might be a little overblown. I did quite a lot of canvassing in the City of Spokane Valley in the two weeks leading up to the November election. I followed the national and local coverage of Matt Shea and his worrisome manifesto, “Biblical Basis for War,” a tract I first encountered in a Spokesman article on October 31st, just six days before the election. Regardless of the national news coverage of Mr. Shea’s extremism, many I spoke with in the City of Spokane Valley barely recognized the name, Matt Shea, much less any detail of his ideology.

I smiled reading Mr. Alburty’s letter to the editor, but his way of thinking is a trap. The re-election of an incumbent is more a matter of name recognition and party affiliation than a test of the incumbent’s belief system. We tend to imagine everyone is paying as much attention to these things as we are. We need to get over that. 

When Matt Shea was confronted with his manifesto (reproduced above) his response was: 

“First of all, it was a summary of a series of sermons on biblical war in the Old Testament as part of a larger discussion on the history of warfare,” Shea said in a Facebook Live video on Wednesday. “This document, in and of itself, was not a secret. I’ve actually talked about portions of this document publicly.”

Well, today I bring you the document itself. If you haven’t already read it where it is posted above, I urge you to do so. There is no question of it’s authenticity. I downloaded it from the link in the October 31st article in the Spokesman. Here is the direct link to the online pdf. Read it for the full effect. Shea’s defense of his outline as an academic exercise, one part of a series of sermons, is absurd. Sections “10 Rules of War” and “11 Organizational Structure for War” are not academic or sermonic, they are a modern day prescription with modern day issues and terminology,

The controversy over this document broke only in the last days of the election. It had a modest effect on the voting I will address in a later post, but the document did not have enough time or promotion to sink into the consciousness of the average voter. That will take time…and it will only happen if we absorb its contents and spread them. 

Mr. Alburty’s letter to the editor is premature. His bulldozer fantasy neglects the nearly 30,000 LD4 voters who cast ballots for Ted Cummings, and others who voted for Shea only because he “Prefers Republican Party,” voters blissfully ignorant of Shea’s extremism. Even some staunch local Republicans have denounced the man, notably Sheriff Knezovich and Bob McCaslin Sr. (McCaslin Jr.’s father and a former Senator from LD4, now deceased.) Others have accepted Shea’s endorsement (McMorris Rodgers, for example) or even defended Shea’s document (Rob Chase). One hopes McMorris Rodgers’ lack of discrimination will eventually catch up with her, but for now she is too much a chicken to repudiate Shea risk losing the votes of his extremist followers. (Or does she agree with Shea while she remains careful not to be too open about it?) 

Read “Biblical Basis for War.” Talk it up. Spread it around. [Download from here.] This document is no dry exercise in Biblical interpretation or academic discussion of the history of armed conflict. It is a prescription for modern day religious warfare. No denial from Shea should change that plain fact.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. On a picky note, Mr Alburty’s bulldozers had better start at Havana St, not Freya. If they start pushing east from Freya they will plow up part of the City of Spokane and part of Legislative District 3 before entering LD4 and the City of Spokane Valley, the territory he says he wants to level. Review the LD boundaries using this interactive map. Orient yourself!

Happy Thanksgiving…with your Angry Uncle

Dear Group,

Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy friends and family and all the things for which we can still be thankful. 

If you’re concerned how conversation around the Thanksgiving meal might go, there’s a great article in the New York Times entitled “How to Have a Conversation With Your Angry Uncle Over Thanksgiving” It is part humor and part just good advice. If you have a few minutes you can spare from Thanksgiving preparations it might be interesting to check it out. It might save you some discomfort… (may be hidden behind a paywall).

Keep to the high ground,



Dear Group,

Today I offer a story without a lot of commentary. It is the story of Steve Berch, a Democrat, who just won a seat in the Idaho legislature, winning 54.5% of the vote against a five term entrenched Republican in what had been considered a deeply red legislative district, LD15, just west of Boise. Here’s the link: The article is entitled “Persistence.” It appeared on November 9 in the Daily Kos. For a better presentation of Mr Berch than the photo in the Daily Kos article visit here.

I offer this story hoping all the Democratic candidates for offices in eastern Washington whom I’ve met in the last two years will have a chance to read it. All of them I’ve gotten to know a little are decent, honest folk, people with expertise and life experience with which I can identify and resonate. None is a career politician. Each of them put an enormous amount of time, energy, and personal funds into their election effort. Nearly all faced a disappointing result…at so far. 

I hope all of them take heart in this story of Steve Berch (as well as the story I told of Georgia’s Congressional District 6 that I told a few days ago). There is a crying need to take back our country. There is a lot of new found energy in eastern Washington to do just that, energy fueled by these candidates who stepped up and ran for office in a region of Washington State where Democrats were beginning to feel abandoned, overtaken by the din from the Washington Policy Center, some “Christian” preachers, Rush Limbaugh, and the incumbency of the McMorris Rodgers regime. 

I thank all the intrepid citizens who stepped up and ran. They and we have learned a lot…a lot we can build on in the next go-round. 

Talking with voters on their doorsteps I heard, “You send them to ____, and over years they become part of the corrupt system that is no longer working. I’m not going to vote at all. It’s hopeless.” They spoke of term limits. There are few specifics with which I agree with McMorris Rodgers. but we share partial agreement on this: standing for election every two years can and should be an effective term limit. The problem with that is several fold: 1) Incumbents have many inherent advantages, including money, established connections, and influence, 2) Voters bias toward incumbents based on name recognition and reluctance to change, 3) when an incumbent stumbles there has to be an attractive replacement at the ready in the next election. 

Steve Berch’s story of persistence is a study in all of that: Over several elections, thousands of doors knocked and people talked with he developed name recognition, gathered monetary support, and came ever closer to a majority of the votes. I have not studied his campaign in detail, but I suspect Mr. Berch benefited from voter anger over the incumbent’s persistent and vocal disapproval of Medicaid expansion–an issue front and center in the form of an Idaho ballot initiative, Prop. 2. Mr. Berch was on the ballot, armed with name recognition and an opinion when the incumbency shield of his five term opponent cracked over the Medicaid expansion issue. 

No one can win an election if they are not on the ballot. An incumbent running effectively unopposed is an incumbent empowered to follow his or her worst instincts. 

Thanks to all those Democrats, especially those first timers, who ran in eastern Washington this election. May it be that many of them are willing to try again. Many of us, knowing them better than we did, will still be here and ready to support them. 

Keep to the high ground,