The Matt Shea Show

The Dog and Pony Alternative Universe

Matt Shea, former WA State Representative from LD4 (Spokane Valley north to Mt. Spokane) has been transformed into the pastor of the Covenant Church. In a non-denominational church like Covenant, becoming pastor requires no theological training and no vetting by a wider church organization. It only requires a congregation willing to be led, in this case a congregation groomed by Ken Peters, the former pastor who has moved on to a congregation in Knoxville, Tennessee, with time off to attend the January 6th insurrection in Washington, D.C. Matt Shea’s new post is located at 3506 W. Princeton Ave on the near north side of Spokane. 

The general feel of the Covenant Church website is familiar to anyone who grew up in any form of Protestantism. “In authentic church community, there is true friendship, grace and a full life of learning and growing together in faith, holiness, love, community and a focus on eternity,” (from the “About” webpage) is pretty standard Protestant wording. Photos of large, smiling families abound. 

Matt Shea has interwoven conspiracy theory and religion for years. One glaring clue appeared with his featured speaking engagement with the “Red Pill Expo” held in Spokane in June of 2018 while he was still in office as a state representative. (For the flavor of Red Pill Expo, check out this year’s offerings.) These people never met a conspiracy theory they wouldn’t buy into. 

I imagine most of you know what to expect at a Sunday morning 11AM Protestant church service, right? On March 14, 2021, at Matt Shea’s Covenant Church the 11AM service was, shall we say, unusual by Protestant standards. Dr. Simone Gold, M.D., was the featured guest speaker. The following link to the youtube video of the service covers the entire hour and a half. I recommend that you slide to the 37:00 mark and check out the short video introducing Dr. Gold and the first two or three minutes of her talk. She begins with a political conspiracy theory around the naming of the pandemic. She goes on to address the safety of hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) (it’s pretty safe) while failing to mention there are no reputable studies that support its utility against Covid-19. Then she tries to tie current day scientific consensus to the Nazi’s embrace of eugenics, all of this from a podium adorned with a cross.

Dr. Gold is the founder of America’s Frontline Doctors, composed of a small cadre of M.D.s who gained notoriety for making unsubstantiated claims about the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of Covid-19 in a video taken in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. The video went viral with the help of Trump family promotion. It was later removed from Facebook for promoting misinformation. Dr. Stella Emmanuel, M.D. was briefly made infamous as the featured speaker for the group. (Notably, Dr. Emmanuel now practices in a strip mall in Texas and is the founder of Fire Power Ministries where Dr Stella is self-proclaimed, “God’s Warrior Princess.”)

Dr. Gold is also notable for her participation in the January 6 insurrection. Listen to just the first few minutes of her presentation Covenant and decide for yourself if this is a church service or a far right wing political rally promoting conspiracy theories.

Pastor Matt Shea hasn’t converted to a career of tending his Covenant flock and comforting the ill and dying. With his sidekick at Covenant, Caleb Collier (former City of Spokane Valley councilperson and current field coordinator for the John Birch Society), Shea is still pedaling conspiracy theories to the gullible all over the Inland Northwest. 

Unfortunately, tiny groups of true believers like America’s Frontline Doctors can seem far bigger, more credible, far more authoritative than is reasonable. A person with an M.D. behind their name (no matter their actual expertise and credibility in the medical community), who is possessed of a true believer mentality, a yen for self promotion, a gift for posing as a victim of “cancel culture,” and the basic funds and knowhow to produce a website like AFLDScan appear far more believable than their numbers or claimed expertise can possibly justify. 

The only antidote to this is sunshine and a little research. The conspiracy theories of Matt Shea, Simone Gold, and “America’s Frontline Doctors” are only believable if one is insulated from wider reality and not taken in by a flashy website or a pastor’s endorsement.

Keep to the high ground,


Sen. Murray’s Shift

A filibuster sea-change?

Last week on Friday, March 26, the Spokesman printed an article by Orion Donovan-Smith that brings home to us the controversy over the filibuster in the U.S. Senate: Sen. Patty Murray backs overturning filibuster to pass Democrats’ sweeping voting reform package

This is a big deal. Patty Murray (D-WA) has served in the U.S. Senate for twenty-nine years. She is the sixth-most senior member of the Senate and the third-most senior Democrat. Often when you see a video clip of Senate Majority Leader Charles (Chuck) Schumer speaking on the Senate floor, you see Senator Murray at her desk right behind him. When Patty Murray indicates a shift in her position on legislation, the shift is well-thought-out. 

“The For the People Act is essential to making sure our democracy stays a democracy,” Murray told The Spokesman-Review in a statement, “and I will consider every legislative option, including an exemption to the filibuster, to ensure it can be signed into law.”

Last Thursday the Republican dominated legislature of the State of Georgia passed the most naked act of voter suppression since the Jim Crow laws of late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp took pains to sign the bill into law that evening. Operating under the duplicitous banner of unsubstantiated “voter fraud” pushed by Donald Trump the new law:

…requires voters to submit ID information with both an absentee ballot request and the ballot itself. It limits the use of absentee ballot drop boxes, allows for unlimited challenges to a voter’s qualifications, cuts the runoff election period from nine to four weeks, and significantly shortens the amount of time voters have to request an absentee ballot. (The Guardian)

But the most twisted and petty part of the law, a part that should catch the eye of everyone, is the piece that outlaws giving food or drink to voters, conjuring up an image of long lines of Georgia voters waiting for hours in the hot sun to cast their ballots at a restricted number of polling places. The words of the law are, of course, less obvious, but the anti-democratic effect is clear, when considered in the context of the rest of the restrictions: 

“No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any person distribute or display any campaign material, nor shall any person give, offer to give, or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink, to an elector,” the new law states.
The law applies within 150 feet of a polling place or within 25 feet of any voter at a polling place. Violators are guilty of a misdemeanor. (CNN)

Republican operatives in Georgia were in such a rush to get this law enacted that didn’t pick their words carefully enough to adequately disguise their intent. And, in a final act of anti-democratic transparency, Governor Kemp signed the bill into law attended by six white men standing below an image of a road in a plantation in a state that is nearly a third black. Meanwhile, Black female Georgia State Rep. Park Cannon was arrested, handcuffed, and escorted away by Georgia State troopers for knocking on Governor Kemp’s office door arguing for transparency in the bill signing. (It was an all white closed-door affair.) So much for attempts at political optics.

Surely there will be court challenges to the Georgia law, but the question is whether there will be injunctive relief from the law in time to blunt its effect on the 2022 midterm elections. It should be lost on no one that the election by Georgia’s voters of Raphael Warnock, a Black pastor, and Jon Ossoff, a Jewish investigative journalist, both Democrats, to the U.S. Senate in 2020 is the motivation for Georgia Republicans’ bald-faced anti-democratic power grab. 

As long as the Republican minority in the U.S. Senate under Mitch McConnell can stonewall all House-passed legislation with nothing more than the email threat of a filibuster, state-level Republicans anti-voter legislation (all 253 bills) will strangle the ability of Americans to vote. 

That’s where Patty Murray’s recent endorsement of “consider[ing] every legislative option, including an exemption to the filibuster” to get the For the People Act passed. The For the People Act would cut short much of these state level Republican efforts to suppress voting by populations that are statistically less likely to vote Republican.

Like every Senator and Representative, Patty Murray tries to keep her finger on the pulse of the people that keep her in public office. She senses a tidal change. As the tide turns those Senate Democrats still reluctant to tinker with the filibuster will feel the tidal pressure, especially for this particular bill. 

I used to think one didn’t need to register one’s opinion with an elected official one sensed as being on one’s side. I was wrong. These people do not operate in a vacuum. There has been a concerted effort to encourage Senator Murray to make this announcement. Now is the time to contact her office and register your approval of her stance. Then call Senator Cantwell’s (D-WA) office and urge her to add her voice to the chorus.

Patty Murray (D-WA)
D.C. Office (202) 224-2621
Spokane Office (509) 624-9515
Yakima Office (509) 453-7462
Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
D.C. Office (202) 224-3441
Spokane Office (509) 353-2507
Richland Office (509) 946-8106

Senator Maria Cantwell has served in the U.S. Senate since squeaking past two-term incumbent Republican Senator Slade Gorton in November of 2000. She has roundly trounced three subsequent challengers (including current Spokane County Treasurer, Michael Baumgartner, in 2012, 60% to 40%). 

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Attributed to “@DearAuntCrabby”: “The cargo ship stuck in the Suez Canal is blocking so much important and useful stuff they have decided to rename it ‘The Mitch McConnell.’”

True to form, McConnell is so uncomfortable with the legislation that might be passed if the filibuster thrown out that he threatened a “scorched earth Senate” of partisan gridlock. The best response I’ve read to McConnell’s bluster is:

…the Republican leader’s pitch is burdened by a circular, self-defeating message: McConnell’s core argument is that if Democrats try to pass legislation, he’ll make it more difficult to pass legislation, so they should simply be satisfied doing nothing, or he’ll take steps to make sure they do nothing. (MSNBC)

McConnell himself, in modifying the rules in order to take over the Supreme Court, is the personification of what the Democratic Senate majority must do now. Unless they wish to return to minority status in 2022 the Democrats need to pass the legislation they promised in 2020. First and foremost is the promise to restore voting rights.

Migration of Indivisible

Indivisible–The High Ground has migrated to Substack from Mailchimp. Last Wednesday there were scattered reports (via “Reply” emails) that regular recipients of the Indivisible email did not find the copy sent from Substack anywhere in their email, that is, not in Junk, Spam, or Promo folders either.

Here’s the way Substack suggests to convince the internet system that the Substack-sent email isn’t spam :

Click:, enter your email and follow the directions and suggestions found there. (When I did this with one of my email addresses, the Substack-sent email appeared in my Junk folder.) One other option is to simply re-signup either with the same or a different email address at

Let me know how it goes. I apologize that this process isn’t as smooth as I had hoped. Lesson learned: Email delivery, especially from large mailing lists, is never a sure thing. 

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Today’s email from Substack should appear as from “Jerry LeClaire” with a Subject line “Indivisible-WA Public Disclosure Commission-F” It should arrive in your inbox at around 5AM, Friday, March 26. If you go to you should see it second from the top. 

Epoch’s Epic Bias

In 2017 I thought it was only fitting when Fox News quietly dropped its motto, “Fair and Balanced,” and replaced it with “Most Watched, Most Trusted.” Having captured the eyes and ears of a substantial section of the American public, Fox no longer wished to be judged based on the disgraced Roger Ailes’ pretentious claim. “Fair and Balanced” was hard to justify with commentators like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity spewing opinion from Fox studios. 

I receive “news” feeds from Fox News and from The Epoch Times, and I often read coverage of the same news events presented in other media. The bias evident in the headlines fed to my cell phone by Fox and Epoch is striking. One morning last week first on my feed from Fox was “One of Gov. Cuomo’s accusers claims he once said he would do this to her if he were a dog.” How’s that for National Enquirer style eye-catching and imagination-grabbing tabloid coverage? She said he said. (The title of the article on the Fox News website is toned down a little from the title on the feed.) 

How often do you read a headline, skim a line or two, form a tentative opinion, and then move on? That is certainly the way I read the news most of my life. The details in the body of the article? Why bother? Truth? I already had my truth and reading this article probably wouldn’t add much.

I wrote of the The Epoch Times in “Dr. Seuss, The Epoch Times and Fear” on March 12. The Epoch Times is a rapidly expanding, rabidly conservative, international “news” outlet backed by and guided by the Falun Gong, a Chinese religious cult now based in New York City. Their bent is evident from their consistent labelling of Covid-19 as the “CCP Virus” (Chinese Communist Party Virus). The ET is slickly presented in both electronic and paper form asking for donations to support “Honest Journalism.” Increasing numbers of Trump supporters (including local Spokanites like my former neighbor) have adopted The ET as their primary news source.

The reader who gleans article titles for support of a preconceived anti-Chinese, pro-Trump bias will find much to like in The Epoch Times. Here I cite one glaring example of twisted journalism that caught my eye last week. 

The headline (both in the news feed and the ET’s website) was clear: “Intelligence Officials Believe China Meddled in 2020 Election to Damage Trump: Report” Wow, the FBI or CIA or some major U.S. government agency just confirmed that China slammed Trump before the 2020 election and probably contributed to the fraud that cost Trump the election, right? Right? Wrong. This is the half truth of extremely biased coverage, a title bias that becomes evident even in the body of the article itself when closely read:

The National Intelligence Council (pdf) report from March 10th, ” ‘…that China “did not deploy interference efforts and considered but did not deploy influence efforts intended to change the outcome of the U.S. presidential election,’ adding: ‘We have high confidence in this judgment.’ ” The misleading nature of the title comes out further down in the article where it says, “ ‘The National Intelligence Officer for Cyber assesses that China took at least some steps to undermine former President Trump’s reelection chances, primarily through social media and official public statements and media,’ says the report in its minority view section.” [the bold is mine]. 

The “minority view section” is a short box on the 13th page of the 15 page report. Headlining the minority report of one officer is a gross example of journalistic malfeasance on the part of The Epoch Times. How many readers will leave the newspaper and their morning coffee and walk away with the idea in their heads that the U.S. intelligence community solemnly judged that China messed with the 2020 elections in favor of Biden? Had I placed trust in the “Honest Journalism” of The Epoch Times that deluded idea might have been my own.

That same morning I had just read Heather Cox Richardson’s post from March 18 concerning the gunman in Atlanta who killed eight people, six of them Asian women. I focused on a paragraph that reads, “This week, the intelligence community reported that, in fact, China did not try to influence the election because it did not ‘view either election outcome as being advantageous enough for China to risk getting caught meddling.’ ” The contrast between that quote and The Epoch Times headline led me to the report itself and the truth therein.

Should anyone trust the “Honest Journalism” of The Epoch Times? Familiarize yourself with this outlet so you know what to expect from it.

Keep to the high ground,


Do you wonder why Louis DeJoy, a major Trump donor, is still Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service (USPS) under the Biden administration? DeJoy’s actions under the Trump administration certainly looked like an attempt to undermine mail-in voting, a storyline entirely in keeping with Trump’s Big Lie that his election loss was a fraud. One might imagine DeJoy remains at his post just because the Biden administration has dozens of bigger fish to fry at the moment, like dealing with the pandemic and its economic fallout. The real story is more complicated. Trump didn’t have the direct power to appoint his major donor as Postmaster General, nor does Biden have the direct power to fire him. 

The story of the USPS is itself more complicated than is widely appreciated. I once chatted with my mail carrier about my efforts to tell advertisers to quit wasting paper and energy sending me circulars that I immediately pitch into the recycling bin. Her response took me aback. “Don’t do that!” she said, “If we didn’t have advertisements to deliver I wouldn’t have a job!” It was a vivid reminder for me of how things have changed.

I came upon the following article in the March 16, 2021 Washington Post. I reproduce it here partly as an advertisement for the clarity articles in the Post often bring, and partly because, amid all the other things one might read, this might easily have been missed. (Note: if you have a WaPo subscription or haven’t yet read your free monthly article limit, click on the title below to read. There are some useful illustrations that did not copy well. Better yet, sign up for a subscription.)

Keep to the high ground,

What you should know about USPS — and how it descended into crisis

By Jacob Bogage

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is expected to roll out his plan to reshape the nation’s mail service, making a deeper imprint on a government agency that has weathered a pandemic, a historic election and a crushing holiday season during his brief tenure.

The blueprint is sure to cause further delivery slowdowns — DeJoy said as much during a recent hearing on Capitol Hill — at a time when the U.S. Postal Service already is recording some of its worst performance metrics in generations. Cost-cutting measures the postal chief implemented over the summer have been blamed for much of those declines.

But the agency — along with DeJoy’s role — is widely misunderstood. Here’s eight common misconceptions:

FALSE: DeJoy was appointed by Trump

One of DeJoy’s habits in congressional testimony is to remind lawmakers that he was appointed not by then-president Donald Trump, but by the Postal Service’s bipartisan governing board. That’s true, but it’s more complicated than that.First, DeJoy was appointed by the board of governors, whose members are nominated by the president, confirmed by the Senate and are supposed to run the Postal Service as an independent agency. But the Trump administration had an outsize, unprecedented — and as numerous experts claim, improper — role in shaping postal leadership.

Trump has falsely claimed that the Postal Service undercharged express package carriers, namely Amazon, whose founder, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post. Trump assigned his treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, to look at overhauling the Postal Service. Mnuchin then used its deteriorating financial condition to edge out then-Postmaster General Megan Brennan and compel the board of governors to select a Trump loyalist to replace her, The Post has reported.

The board chose DeJoy, a former supply chain logistics executive and major Trump donor. He had not been identified for the role by either of the two executive search firms the governors hired to find candidates. Then-Board Chairman Robert M. Duncan, a former Republican National Committee chair, submitted DeJoy’s name for vetting, Duncan told a House panel in August. DeJoy took office in June.Second, the board is indeed bipartisan, but to some, in name only. The board was empty when Trump took office, and he appointed every sitting governor: four Republicans and three Democrats. When DeJoy was hired, only three Republicans and two Democrats held seats. Before the governors could vote to hire DeJoy, Democratic Vice Chair David C. Williams resigned, upset, according to people familiar with his thinking, over the Trump administration’s meddling and the board’s obsequiousness. The board held the vote and DeJoy was hired.

TRUE: Biden can’t fire DeJoy

Democrats have been howling for DeJoy’s ouster since he started, and those calls have only intensified since President Biden’s inauguration. Many have appealed to Biden to remove DeJoy on his own. But it doesn’t work like that. Just as DeJoy was hired by the governors, he can only be fired by the governors.

Biden inherited a USPS crisis. Here’s how Democrats want to fix it.

Biden can, however, fire governors, but he has to show “cause,” a concept whose meaning in this context is nebulous. Does “cause” mean the governors have to do something wrong? Or does it mean that they have ideological disagreements with Biden about the mail? Regardless, Biden has signaled he’s not likely to go that route. He announced plans last month to nominate two Democrats and a voting rights advocate to fill the remaining three open seats on the board, giving Democrats and Biden appointees a majority with enough votes to remove DeJoy, if desired.

FALSE: The Postal Service bungled the election

Actually, the Postal Service did its job during the November general election and the Georgia Senate runoff in January. The agency delivered 135 million ballots to or from voters in the Novembercontest, according to its post-election report, and 97.9 percent of ballots were delivered on time, or within three days. On average, the Postal Service reported, it took 2.1 days to deliver ballots from election officials to voters, and 1.6 days for completed ballots to reach vote counters.So why, folks often ask, did it take days and days to get the election results in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona?

Two main reasons:

In Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, state election officials raised alarms with legislators months ahead of the November vote about potential problems. Ballot acceptance deadlines in those states didn’t necessarily line up with mail service. In some cases, vote counters were not allowed to start counting ballots until the day of the election, even if mail ballots came in days or weeks ahead of time. Officials asked all three GOP-controlled state houses to pass laws to make things easier. All three state legislatures declined. So theprocess took longer.

In Georgia and Arizona, the answer is more simple: It was a close race! Biden won Arizona by fewer than 10,000 votes, and Georgia by fewer than 12,000 votes. In races that tight, it takes a while to make sure all the counts are accurate.

FALSE: DeJoy removed sorting machines and mailboxes to make it harder to vote

The root of this claim, which took hold over the summer, is linked to Trump’s constant attacks on mail-in voting and DeJoy’s connections to Trump and Republican causes, to which DeJoy has given more than $2 million since 2016, according to the Federal Election Commission. DeJoy has not made any donations reported to the FEC since taking office.So when the agency started dismantling high-speed sorting machines and removing public mail collection boxes shortly after DeJoy took office, many Democrats accused DeJoy of tinkering with postal infrastructure they saw as vital to the election.

Here’s why the Postal Service wanted to remove hundreds of mail-sorting machines

The truth is that the Postal Service had long planned to remove collection boxes and sorting machines, though that program accelerated under DeJoy, according to an inspector general report. Commercial mailers had for years complained about overcapacity in the Postal Service’s network — that the agency had too many machines to maintain, which were jacking up costs. Public mailboxes, according to industry experts, are getting far less use. So the Postal Service removed a bunch of both, causing an uproar from liberal activists.

DeJoy suspended the machine and mailbox removals in August, days before he was grilled about them before House and Senate committees, but he also said the Postal Service would not reconnect any sorting machines or replace any mailboxes.

FALSE: Republicans used a 2006 law to tank the Postal Service

One of the most controversial provisions in postal policy is the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA), which is broadly misunderstood. The statute did two main things: It created a system for postage rate setting, and it changed the way the Postal Service funds its retirees’ health benefits.It’s the health benefit fund that all these years later gets most of the attention. It’s a hefty burden on the Postal Service, and undoubtedly, the agency’s balance sheet would look a lot better without it. Without the pre-funding mandate, which costs around $5 billion annually, the Postal Service would have more money to invest in vital services.

Even more, left-leaning activists like to accuse Republicans — especially Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who sponsored the bill — of purposefully creating this expensive program to bankrupt the Postal Service and drive it to privatization.

Not true.

The Postal Service needs a bailout. Congress is partly to blame.

PAEA (it’s pronounced “paella,” like the Spanish rice dish, in postal circles) had bipartisan sponsors in both chambers of Congress. It passed on voice votes, meaning there was almost zero dissent among lawmakers.“This bill is critically important to the long-term fiscal health of our Postal Service. It is equally important to the well-being of all our postal workers as well as the needs of all citizens and businesses, large and small, which use our Postal Service,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said on the Senate floor before the bill was passed.

The pre-funding mandate was a compromise between the George W. Bush White House and Democratic bill sponsors. Bush wanted to take those retiree health-care costs off the federal government’s books. Democrats wanted to make sure money for workers who retired from a physical and taxing profession was socked away. They arrived at this deal: The Postal Service, which was making plenty of money at the time, would set aside the cash to take care of retirees.

Then, the agency stopped making money. The iPhone came out in 2007. The Internet matured. The Great Recession hit. As a result, residential and commercial customers sent far less mail, and it cost the Postal Service billions of dollars. By 2011, the agency wasn’t even paying into the retiree health-care fund. And yes, the obligations from that fund look really ugly on the agency’s balance sheet. But that doesn’t have anything to do with privatizing the Postal Service.

FALSE: Eliminating the pre-funding mandate would fix USPS’s problems

Sure, wiping the pre-funding obligation off the books would make the Postal Service’s finances look better, but it wouldn’t solve its biggest monetary crunch. Here’s why:The Postal Service lost $9.2 billion in 2020, it reported to Congress. Of that, $4.6 billion was supposed to go into the pre-funding account. In 2019, it lost $8.8 billion, and $4.5 billion should have gone into the account.

But the Postal Service hasn’t paid into the retiree health-care fund since 2011, without any ramifications. Lawmakers in both the House and Senate, and officials within the Treasury Department, according to numerous current and former aides involved with the mail agency’s finances, say policymakers have largely given up on making the Postal Service pay off its debts to the federal government.

The Postal Service has realized this, too. “The Postal Service has not incurred any penalties or negative financial consequences as a result of not making these payments,” it wrote in its most recently quarterly report.In other words: We know that you know that we’re not good for the money. And we know that you know that this debt isn’t our biggest problem.

The Postal Service’s biggest problem is the mail. Americans are not sending enough of it to keep up with the agency’s growing expenses. We sent nearly 40 billion fewer pieces of first-class mail, the Postal Service’s top profit generator, in 2020 than we did in 2008. The numbers are nearly as bad for marketing mail, coupons from your local tire shop or big-box store and another big profit engine: Thirty-five billion fewer items flowed through the system in 2020 than in 2008.

In fact, 2020 was the first year in which the Postal Service earned more from packages than it did from first-class mail, which says something about the agency’s dire circumstances. By law, each package shipped has to cover its own costs and contribute a percentage to agency overhead. But packages are harder and costlier to transport than small paper envelopes. Ergo, they generate less profit than first-class mail.

Turning around the Postal Service’s finances, experts say, requires reining in costs, creating new or more efficient revenue streams and stabilizing declining first-class mail volumes. Offloading the retiree health-care pre-funding requirement makes sense, they say, because the Postal Service doesn’t make enough money anymore to support that kind of annual expense. But it’s not enough to solve the Postal Service’s deep financial troubles.

TRUE: Democrats want you to bank at the post office

The Postal Service needs new revenue streams, and some Democrats are outspoken about one big idea: postal banking.

Liberals, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), want post offices to offer financial services as a way to serve the roughly 66 million Americans who are unbanked or underbanked, and help raise more money for the agency. The idea would have the post offices provide simple banking features, like check cashing and small savings and checking accounts, so customers wouldn’t have to use risky or high-interest financial vendors, like payday lenders.

Biden appears to support the proposal, including it among recommendations from a “unity task force” between his and the Sanders campaign.

FALSE: Republicans want to privatize USPS

To be clear, most Republicans don’t want to privatize the Postal Service, but some do. The Trump administration in 2018 recommended transitioning the Postal Service “from a government agency into a privately-held corporation.” And the Heritage Foundation, a right-leaning think tank where former vice president Mike Pence now serves as a distinguished visiting fellow, has pushed postal privatization for years.

But the public Postal Service is still the dominant policy position in the GOP, and there are a bunch of complex policy reasons why. You really only need to know two simple ones:

First, Republican-leaning areas need the Postal Service more than Democratic-leaning areas. Conservatives tend to reside in more rural or suburban parts of the country. Because those places are more far-flung and are less populousthan cities, delivery costs more. Think about it: It takes longer to deliver fewer items to people who don’t live near one another.

No private shipping company delivers to every American address, and many enter into “negotiated service agreements,” volume-discount contracts, with the Postal Service for last-mile delivery from a post office to a consumer’s home or business. They give those items to the Postal Service to deliver instead, because the agency must deliver to those addresses under its universal service obligation (which means just what it sounds like: You live in America, so we have to deliver your mail). If the Postal Service privatized and had to turn a profit, it would also avoid going to less profitable rural and suburban areas, and folks — many of whom vote Republican — wouldn’t get their mail.

Second, private companies do not want to compete with the Postal Service on mail delivery. For all of its warts, the Postal Service is actually really good at delivering the mail, and private express carriers do not want to try to crack that market. The carriers also need the Postal Service, through its vast network and skilled workers, to handle less lucrative deliveries. Carriers also would need to retrain their workforces, buy new machinery, reconfigure their logistics and transportation operations and so much more. Could you really expect a UPS driver to go to every home and business on your street six days a week? Of course not, and neither could the Postal Service’s private-sector contemporaries.


There may be fuel in this last paragraph for a subsequent post on private enterprise v. government.


The Anti-Christ, 666, The Beast, Armageddon, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are all terms and concepts woven into the western imagination. They all arise from one source, the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Christian Holy Bible. Deciphering the meaning of the terms and images of the Book of Revelation has occupied religious thinkers for untold hours over nearly two millennia. (Check out the wikipedia entry for “666” as an example. The roots of conspiracy theories around The New World Order and vaccine implanted nano chips lie in fevered, modern-day interpretations of Revelation that have spread in secular society well beyond the the religious communities in which these originated.) 

In my early teenage years in the 1960s as member of the United Methodist Church I was fascinated by the idea that the Book of Revelation offered a prediction of the future. I felt powerless on my own to decipher the meaning the intriguing text of the book, which, to the modern reader, presents images akin to a nightmare or a drug trip gone bad. I turned to my parents, my greatest influencers at that age, with my puzzlement. They weren’t much help, They offered various interpretations they had absorbed over the years that only increased my curiosity and embedded confused references to 666, The Beast, The Anti-Christ and related terms in the back of my mind. (There is nothing like the mysterious to captivate a teenager.) When I approached the youth minister at church with my questions he offered me some relief. His understanding of the Book of Revelation was that it was written in code (understood among Christians at the time it was written) referring to their persecution by the Roman Empire. Still, the shadowy, unsettling, vivid imagery of Revelation stuck with me, renewed periodically by cultural references. 

In the 1960s, the United States was pushing hard for science and math education in an effort to catch up with the lead the Russians had demonstrated with the launch of Sputnik in 1957. My parents did what good Americans were supposed to do: they fostered my interest in math and science, buying subscriptions to the “All About” books, a simple chemistry set, a basic microscope and telescope. I devoured age-appropriate material on geology, cave paintings, and Neanderthals. I wrapped my head around the concept of geologic time. I reveled in the original Star Trek TV series (1966). I thought the world was struggling towards peace. To me the United Nations was a major force for good. Meanwhile, as I read the Bible, I tried to reconcile the Bible’s literal words with everything else I was learning. I was fascinated by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (late 1940s onward) and tried to understand how they might fit into an historical understanding the Bible. My patient mother, fond of quoting from the Bible, explained that parts of the Bible should be understood as allegory and not literally. Further proof to me that society was moving toward a common understanding of the world and mankind’s place in it came in 1968 when the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren congregations merged to form the United Methodist Church.  

I tucked away Revelation’s Beast, the Anti-Christ, and 666 as literary references of historical import only. I did not understand that efforts to popularize the eschatological (End Times) interpretation of the Book of Revelation were alive and well. They were nurtured by at least a century’s worth of Fundamentalist backlash against two perceived threats: Darwinian evolution and academic efforts to understand the Bible in the context of history rather than as literal truth to be deciphered. The Fundamentals, a series of ninety essays published in the early 1910s by Lyman Stewart, an oil magnate, crystallized Fundamentalist pushback against scientific understanding while it lauded dispensationalism, an elaborate End Times construct based largely on an obscure interpretation of Biblical text by John Nelson Darby, an Anglo-Irish clergyman writing and preaching in the early 1800s. Darby’s End Times story was further popularized with the publication of the Scofield Reference Bible in 1909. The Scofield Bible supported dispensationalism in Fundamentalist congregations but also lent some credence to Darby’s dispensationalist interpretation of Revelation among a wider, more mainstream Christian audience. That audience included my mother’s family, who tended to read Scofield’s annotations of the King James version of the Bible as authoritative. (After all, trying to understand the plain words of the Bible in its multiple translations without help from trusted clergy is a daunting task.)

Predicting the future of humanity based on the Book of Revelation and other Biblical clues burst into mainstream American culture during the decade following my period of fascination with the Book. 

Then, in 1970, Hal Lindsey, an American evangelistChristian Zionist and dispensationalist author and television host wrote The Late, Great Planet Earth. It was the most popular of fifteen books Lindsey wrote on his apocalyptic End Times predictions. The Late, Great Planet Earth was declared the best-selling work of “non-fiction”of the 1970s by the New York Times (selling 28 million copies by 1990). In 1976 the book was made into a movie of the same name narrated by Orson Welles. In both works Lindsey fancifully links his Biblical interpretations to current events and personalities as “fulfilled prophecy” and predicts these events might culminate with End Times in the 1980s. Lindsey’s work stands as a major contributor to the dis-ease of still current End Times thinking.

Just as some of the hype from the The Late, Great Planet Earth was starting to quiet down, End Times theology got a huge boost from the Left Behind book series and the films, video games, and other spin-offs that started in 1995 and echo to the present day. The Left Behindseries popularized the rapture, an event in which all righteous Christians suddenly rise into heaven, a concept based on John Nelson Darby‘s early 1800s out-of-context interpretation of a single Bible verse. The Rev. Jerry Falwell told Time Magazine in 2005 that the influence of Left Behind was “probably greater than that of any other book in modern times, outside the Bible.” He is almost certainly correct. The Left Behind franchise injected Darby’s End Times narrative into the minds of a far wider audience than tent revival preaching and guided Bible study had achieved over nearly two centuries. 

Church concepts in both Protestant denominations and non-denominational Christian churches evolve organically, buffeted in some measure by the ideas current in the minds of their congregants. The prevalence and focus on End Times thinking among many today, particularly many Evangelicals, can be traced to the popularization of these ideas injected into the mainstream by The Late, Great Planet Earth, Left Behind, and all their spin-offs. The clergy have to reckon with ideas current in the minds of their parishioners. Part of the pickle in which we find ourselves in this country is traceable to relatively recent fanciful interpretation of Revelation.

I grew up in a church that was reconciling itself with scientific understanding, a church which had concentrated on bringing God’s kingdom to earth in anticipation of Christ’s Second Coming, an event that would unfold on earth and could happen at any moment. The emphasis was on making the world a better place, with aspirations of peace, tolerance, equality, ecumenism and uniting humanity to a common purpose. It was a church that pushed for all citizens’ right to vote, racial equity, workers rights and civil rights. It was a church focused on improving the lot of humanity on earth both now and into the future guided by Christ’s teachings. 

The fanciful interpretation of the Book of Revelation, popularized by modern authors, is the antithesis of the Christianity in which I was brought up. Under this version of Revelation, the United Nations becomes an instrument of the New World Order, the evil “globalists”, uniting under the banner of Revelation’s Anti-Christ. Revelation becomes a road map for Christian nationalism, and, beyond that, it fosters suspicion of the motives of all levels of government. (Based on End Times theology it should be no surprise that Christian imagery and prayer were part of the January 6th insurrection.) Worse, for those captured by the paranoia of Revelation-based eschatology, all of geopolitics is viewed as a means to reach the End Times supposedly predicted by the Book. Rather than working to reduce conflict, attention is turned to encouraging strife that might lead to the glorious End. 

The eschatological interpretation of the Book of Revelation is certainly not at the center of consciousness of every Christian. After all, Christianity, like all religions and human endeavors, is a slow, ever-changing mosaic of belief interwoven with popular culture. 

Stimulus for this post came from my own boyhood fascination with the Book of Revelation and an excellent article, “Revelation Decoded: The Secrets Behind the Most Misunderstood Book in the Bible” posted February 23rd by Joe Forrest, a Christian blogger. It is richly referenced and well worth the time to read. You will come away with a clearer understanding of words and concepts you have seen before and glossed over. They permeate our culture.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. I first grasped the growing strength of the eschatological interpretation of Revelation among Christians and its seepage into popular culture thanks to a glossy brochure my Evangelical former neighbor sent to me that laid out in great detail the stages of the End Times, starting with the rapture. I wrote of it in “CMR’s Worldview“. 

What Happened to RCV?

Ranked Choice Voting has gained traction around the country. Maine has adopted Ranked Choice Voting as its election method of choice and Alaska plans to use it in 2022. The election methods by which we select people to represent us in government are fundamental–and current methods are neither perfect nor are they set in stone. Ranked Choice Voting offers several advantages over our current “first past the post” system, including a diminished likelihood of extremist candidates gaining a foothold and decreased motivation for nasty, negative campaigning. I, and most of us, I suspect, tend to think of whatever voting method being used where we vote as “just the way it is,” but, in fact, voting methods are malleable and contentious. For example, just in my lifetime, Washington State’s primary election system (now known as the “Top Two” primary, a primary in which the voter does not declare a party affiliation and can vote for the person they deem the best candidate for each position regardless of the candidate’s party) has evolved through a complex series of court cases, laws, and initiatives to arrive at its current form. You can read that history here. I see that history as a struggle between voters’ desire to vote for whomever they choose and the two main political parties’ wish to require party fealty. 

So what does it take for Ranked Choice Voting to gain a foothold in the State of Washington? It started with an idea, a recognition that there might be a better way to elect our representatives. Some people take an interest in the subject, study it, and talk up the idea with other people. People who come to feel strongly about the idea associate with each other, form groups, and make efforts to inform other citizens how such the idea might improve our voting methods. At some point a formal group might be formed, solicit donations, and hire staff to push the idea with fellow citizens and with potential legislative sponsors. 

I don’t remember exactly when or how I first became interested in Ranked Choice Voting. Like so many ideas, it feels like it gradually seeped into my consciousness, the same way, looking back, that Iabsorbed the “one person, one vote” credo in the Voting Rights movement of the 1960s–a credo that I now realize was quite new at the time–and far more contentious at the time than I knew. Similarly, I do not remember when or how I first encountered local people who spend a consider amount of their volunteer time talking with voters and with representatives at various levels levels of government about Ranked Choice Voting. 

I used to imagine (without really thinking much about it at all) that representatives to government come up with ideas like Ranked Choice Voting on their own. Now I realize that is mostly wrong. Promoters of Ranked Choice voting capture the attention of legislators, cajole them into offering support for the idea, and then demonstrate that the idea presented has broad support. Even that isn’t enough unless the idea captures the strong support of a legislator who knows their way around the law-making process, from crafting a bill to cajoling other legislators, to making use of the all the technical roadblocks to moving a bill forward.

So how does this apply to Ranked Choice Voting (RCV)? Existing Washington state law (the Revised Code of Washington, RCW) requires a bunch of fussy adjustments in order to allow RCV even to be considered for use by local jurisdictions, I do not know exactly who crafted of the legal language of HB1056, but a quick look at that link will convince you that it was someone with considerable understanding of the details of election law in Washington State. Well over 30 sections of the RCW require modification to enable the possible use of RCW within the State. 

This year RCV has a very knowledgeable and energetic legislative sponsor, Rep. Kirsten Harris-Talley, a  state representative from District 37 (part of Seattle) first elected in 2020. She clearly knows her way around the legislative process to a degree that belies her newness to the job. 

A major obstacle to the passage of any bill in the Washington State state house is the fiscal impact attached to it. Initially, HB 1156, the RCV Bill, was saddled with an estimated cost of around 3 million dollars. Rep. Harris-Talley, as an energetic prime sponsor of the bill, was able to demonstrate the likely fiscal impact is far lower, around $600K, by presenting cost data from other states that have implements Ranked Choice Voting. (State governments have to balance their budgets, so a high cost can sink a bill in a hurry.)

A dramatically lower fiscal impact and strong community support (including many who read this blog and registered support for the bill) gave HB 1156 the momentum to pass through several House committees with a “do pass” recommendation. The bill reached the Rules Committee, the last step before a floor vote, the furthest an RCV enablement bill had ever gotten. Unfortunately, on March 10, the day after the March 9 cutoff date for bills to pass out of their chamber of origin, HB 1156 was referred back to the Rules Committee without a House floor vote. 

What happened? I am told that in order for a bill to come to a vote on the House floor the majority party caucus (in this case, the House Democratic Caucus) won’t bring the bill to the floor unless they have among them enough assured votes (50, one more than half) within their caucus to pass the bill–regardless of whether members of the other caucus have pledged to vote for the bill. I suspect, but I cannot say that I actually know, that this rule is to avoid the embarrassment of the majority party of having a bill voted down on the floor by pledged members of the other party voting no when they said they would vote yea. In any case, at the critical moment the House majority caucus didn’t have the assured 50 votes within it to pass the bill. Many suspect that what happened was this: the Secretary of State and some county auditors (the folks who administer elections) were taken by surprise by the groundswell of support for HB 1156. Jerked to attention by the bill’s near arrival on the House floor they put on the brakes by contacting Democratic legislators and expressing their concerns. Change is hard and time-consuming. Passage of HB 1156, they suddenly realized, might put them in a position of having to change procedures–and they, caught a little off guard, didn’t feel prepared.

What happens now? New concept for me: HB 1156 is not dead, it just goes dormant until the House meets in 2022. HB 1156 is still in the Rules Committee and poised to go to the House floor in the 2022 session. (The legislature proceeds in the two-year intervals between the elections, elections that will likely make some changes in its composition. With the convening of the new legislature in 2023 [following the November 2022 elections], all bills that did not become law in the previous two years go back to square one and need to be re-filed.)

Before the legislature re-convenes for the other half of its biennium in 2022 the job for supporters of HB 1156 is to talk with their county auditors and legislators and make it clear to them the level of support for the change in state law that would allow jurisdictions within the state to adopt RCV. With sufficient demonstration of support HB 1156 might pass in 2022.

Following a bill this closely is a new and highly educational experience for me. Among the lessons:

1) Community engagement over a long time is hugely important. 
2) Nothing worthwhile is made law without long term commitment of volunteers (or, I suppose, fewer volunteers and lots and lots of money).
3) A smart, committed prime sponsor for a bill, a person who understands the levers and rules of government, is essential to getting a bill passed.
4) The laws that govern us (the RCW, the Revised Code of Washington) are complex. They require people with considerable legal understanding to craft legislation that works.
5) It pays to understand the rules under which legislation happens. Otherwise, the occasional news article mentioning things like “legislative cutoff dates” are opaque and leave the impression that government just might be evil and underhanded. 

Dive in, get involved, pay attention. This should be our government, the people’s government. That won’t happen without the people learning how it all works. Become acquainted with Ranked Choice Voting. Register support with your County Auditor and your legislators. 

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. One tidbit I picked up in researching this post I find particularly instructive. In the course of Washington State’s legislative and legal convulsions over its open system for voting in primary elections the people of Washington spoke clearly. Initiative 872, passed in 2004, passed with 60 percent of the vote. With it the people chose the top two primary we use today. (Since 1935 Washington had a “blanket primary,” a system to which both the Republican and Democratic Parties legally objected and tried to change through the courts.) The top two primary system we now use was the Washington State people’s answer to Party attempts to gain the upper hand. I guess Washingtonians have been a pretty independent lot for a long time.