The Perversion of the Initiative Process

Can money buy more wealth?

Brian Heywood is a fifty-something year old man with means and motivation. He graduated from Harvard in East Asian Studies in 1991. Before “graduation he spent three years living in Japan as a missionary and as a student. He joined and later served on the board of JD Power and Associates, a data analytics, software, and consumer intelligence company, with offices in California. In 2010 Mr. Heywood moved to Redmond, Washington, where he works as a hedge fund manager, now serving as the CEO of Taiyo Pacific Partners LP. His current level of involvement at Taiyo is slightly uncertain. His employment is variously self-described in Washington State Public Disclosure Commission reports as a horse boarderartist, and as retired

Speaking at a gathering at the Reset Church in Marysville in 2021 (why is it always a Fundamentalist, non-denominational church?) he said, “I came from ‘the people’s republic of California’. I am an economic refugee. I came here to make money and to be free.” 

Clearly, Mr. Heywood knows his way around using money to make money. Now he wishes to use that money and his expertise to change the politics of the State of Washington to suit his own pecuniary and political interests. His donation to the Loren Culp campaign for governor of Washington in 2020 (see page 12) offers a window on his political leanings. In the Facebook videoof his Reset Church talk in 2021 he says, “I and some of my friends have begun to fund” various efforts, including the Washington chapter of the right wing news outlet, The Center Square. He “will be starting” In his speech, Mr. Heywood likens building back the Republican Party in Washington State to the many years of planning and groundwork in re-building a corporation.

Apparently unfettered by monetary constraints, Mr. Heywood has almost singlehandedly funded “Let’s Go Washington (Sponsored by Brian Heywood) – 2023”, a Washington State Political Committee backing six Initiatives to the Legislature. Mr. Heywood is in for donations and loans adding up to nearly $6 million. What is he pushing?

Danny Westneat, columnist for the Seattle Times, provides a rundown:

No income tax, says one. Repeal the new capital gains tax, says another. Make the new long-term care tax optional, says a third. (Like I said, he really doesn’t like taxes.) Repeal the climate change law that’s adding to gas prices, says a fourth.

The one culture war one calls for a “parents’ bill of rights” in public schools, so parents could demand copies of the curriculum and opt their kids out of lessons they don’t like. Bleh. If you want to know what’s going on in your kids’ schools, just get involved. Or ask your kids.

Statewide ballot measures, which include Initiatives to the People, Initiatives to the Legislature, and Referenda, were enshrined in the Article II, Section 1, of the Washington State Constitution during the Progressive Era in 1912 after more than a decade of effort. Initiatives are “the first power reserved by the people”, but that does not mean that getting an initiative to the ballot is easy, to say nothing about the effort necessary to pass the measure. The steps are detailed here. The process starts with a sponsor filing a copy of the proposed wording of the initiative with the Washington State Secretary of State. After several additional steps, the final wording of the ballot title and summary are formulated by the Washington State Attorney General. Only then can the sponsor(s) begin the process of gathering the required number of signatures.

We’re accustomed to the idea that “the people” come up with an important issue to put on the ballot as an initiative or referendum and that the people, that is, volunteers, work to gather the necessary signatures in support. Indeed, it appears that Referendum 20, legalizing abortion in Washington State in 1970, was such a grassroots effort. Referendum 90, opposing a law that mandates sex education in public schools that failed in 2020, is another example. The biggest single contributions to the Referendum 90 campaign were $25,000 and it appears that no money was spent paying signature gatherers.

But at least in more recent years it seems that our ballot measure system is often hijacked by narrow monied interests intent on stirring up a particular part of the electorate for electoral advantage. Tim Eyman’s endless, irritating anti-tax initiatives and the current batch of Heywood initiatives are perfect examples. The use of paid signature gatherers instead of being able to rely on volunteers is a solid indicator of this type manipulative ballot measure. Brian Heywood’s Let’s Go Washington is a particularly glaring example. Tallied to the end of October his Let’s Go Washington reported spending $5.4 million on paid signature gatherers of the total $6.5 million spent by the Committee.

Tellingly, every one of Heywood’s initiatives, I-2081, I-2109, I-2111, I-2113, I-2117, and I-2124, was initially filed with the Secretary of State by Jim Walsh in March and April of this year. (Similar ones were filed by Walsh in 2022 but did not receive official initiative numbers.) Jim Walsh is the incumbent Republican Washington State Representative from Legislative District 19 (Aberdeen) and the current Chairman of the Washington State Republican Party. As part of a series on far-right mainstreaming among Republicans nationally, the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights reports that Mr. Walsh, “wins the award for the most memberships in far-right Facebook groups”. 

Signing the petition for any of these initiatives would be to support far right Republican electoral strategy—and to support the efforts of one very wealthy Mr. Heywood to become even more wealthy. (You need not memorize the numbers of these ballot initiatives. They are the only Washington state-wide ballot measures looking for signatures before the end of December deadline. Just decline to sign any offered.)

If you are approached by a signature gatherer for a statewide initiative consider reporting the encounter on this recorded hotline: (425) 553-2157. The best outcome would be all six of these initiatives fall short of the signature gathering requirements in spite of Mr. Heywood’s multi-million dollar effort. 

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Danny Westneat’s September 23 article, “Dumb money? A Redmond man bets $5 million on resurrecting the state GOP” in the Seattle Times covers the same story with the slightly different slant of a progressive who lives west of the Cascades. If you have the time and can wend your way around the Times’ paywall, I recommend clicking and reading it. The article provided a number of useful leads.

P.P.S. In the course of this research I visited the Washington State Secretary of State’s website, the place where ballot measures are first filed and where the final wording of the ballot title and summary as formulated by the Washington State Attorney General appears. A visit to the Secretary of State’s site is instructive. Click here. First, notice that many ballot measures are filed while very few ever make it to the ballot. Second, many are filed by the same individuals, people like Jim Walsh, and, yes, despite his chapter 7 bankruptcy, still by Tim Eyman. (It only costs $50 to file a ballot initiative.) It seems that this is an example of throwing many things at the wall to see what sticks. If the ballot title and summary come back from the Attorney General written in a way that looks like it might be salable to voters these industrial ballot measure gadflies might convene focus groups and run surveys. If those yield positive results the next step is to test the waters for financial support. Then and only then does one build a signature gathering campaign with any hope of making it to the ballot. Of course, in the case of the initiatives under discussion here, Jim Walsh provided the filings after Brian Heywood was already on board with lots of money and a strategy. (Heywood filed “Let’s Go Washington” with the Public Disclosure Commission on April 14, 2022, nearly a year before Walsh officially filed the 2023 ballot measures that Heywood was gearing up to support.) 

The final message here is that many or most ballot measures these days are brought up, funded, and make it to the ballot as part of a greater strategy by a special interest. Who is funding the measure and whether the signatures are gathered by volunteers or paid signature-collects are strong hints. A true citizens’ ballot measure like the 1970 Referendum 20 (abortion) requires planning, money, an enormous investment, conviction, and commitment of time and effort on the part of many people. Finally, with a citizen’s ballot measure, one had better have a very, very strong belief that when the election finally arrives the majority of the electorate will vote YES.

The Power of Myth in a Picture

Thanksgiving Remembered–Badly

Last week Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, the High Ground forwarded historian Heather Cox Richardson’s 2019 post detailing our modern-day Thanksgiving celebration’s origin in the Civil War—something we’re not taught in school. I recalled the Thanksgiving image presented in my childhood of noble, pristinely dressed Pilgrims and Indians around a table groaning under the weight of a Thanksgiving feast featuring a huge turkey.

The next day Professor Richardson offered more background on how we came to adopt the image of the Pilgrim’s feast:

In 1841 a book that reprinted the early diaries and letters from the Plymouth colony recovered the story of that three-day celebration in which ninety Indigenous Americans and the English settlers shared fowl and deer. This story of peace and goodwill among men who by the 1840s were more often enemies than not inspired Sarah Josepha Hale, who edited the popular women’s magazine Godey’s Lady’s Book, to think that a national celebration could ease similar tensions building between the slave-holding South and the free North. She lobbied for legislation to establish a day of national thanksgiving.

And then, on April 12, 1861, southern soldiers fired on Fort Sumter, a federal fort in Charleston Harbor, and the meaning of a holiday for giving thanks changed.

The national celebration of peace and goodwill imagined by Sarah Josepha Hale based on letters and diaries from more than two hundred years before was certainly well-intentioned—but we as Americans do ourselves a disservice by mythologizing the “first Thanksgiving”, to the exclusion of understanding and appreciating the actual history of the holiday.

The twisting of history through myth and imagery was vividly illustrated for me later in the day when I received this image from the locally-grown “We Believe We Vote Ministries” sent out with its Thanksgiving greeting:

Of all the stock depictions of the “first” Thanksgiving WeBelieveWeVote could not have chosen a more telling one. In the year from the time 102 Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620 until this feast half of these immigrants had died of disease and starvation. They might have all died had it not been for food aid and education provided by members of several groups of local native Americans, groups that had themselves suffered epidemic death from Old World diseases that had coursed through native populations since first contact with Europeans. 

The tale of peace and tranquility that Sarah Josepha Hale sought to popularize—and the one we were taught in school—featured the contribution of native Americans, particularly Tisquantum (Squanto), to the survival of the remnant Pilgrim band. In contrast to actual history, WeBelieveWeVote’s chosen stock photo retells a myth verging on a lie—a lie that all but erases the pivotal native American contribution to the Pilgrim’s survival and the Thanksgiving story. Look carefully. Perhaps the diminutive third person at the table in the right foreground is meant to suggest a native. The only other might arguably be the misty, fading individual depicted in the back row. 

The choice of this particular stock photo, whether intentional or not, fits the Fundamentalist narrative to which the people of WeBelieveWeVote adhere and with which they seek to electorally dominate. “The Holy Bible is the supernatural, full, and inspired Word of God; it is inerrant, supreme, and final.” is listed first among their list of “core values”. There is no room in that core value to acknowledge the wisdom and aid of native Americans. In this mythology, the particular chosen ascendant Christians settled on this barely occupied pristine land God made available. Those pesky native Americans simply fade into the background. 

With this mythic portrait of the first Thanksgiving it is the smallest of wonders that so many Christians of this particular Fundamentalist ilk are happy to legislate against teaching “DEI”, diversity, equity, and inclusion; references to the inhumanity and lasting legacy of slavery, racism, and settler colonialism; and the availability to anyone of any book that doesn’t quite fit with their view of history, geology, biology, and sex.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. For additional appreciation of how we’ve come to celebrate Thanksgiving in the way we do I recommend this article on

P.P.S. The Fundamentalist faith in Biblical inerrancy is circularly based in II Timothy 3:16-17. From the King James version of the Bible: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” This verse comes from a letter written by one missionary to another in which the first conveniently claims divine inspiration for “all scripture”. Considering that at the time of writing of this second epistle to Timothy the collection of books and writings later called “the Bible” was not yet even defined, what does “all scripture” even mean?

Decline to Sign!

Tim Eyman and the CPAC People are at it again

Here’s the take-home: When you’re out and about this holiday season in Washington State from now until January 1st—and a signature gather approaches you—Decline to Sign. The Tim Eyman paid signature gatherers are out there once again, funded by wealthy political activists, and pushing no less than six deceptive initiatives. Not one of them is worthy of your signature. Below is a circular put out by FUSE Washington, a group I trust and respect with the details. Pass this on and tell your friends.

Keep to the high ground,


Dear Friend, 

This is sinister. 

Washington’s wealthiest MAGA donors have teamed up with the state Republican Party and Tim Eyman to launch an insidious slate of regressive initiatives. 

Their initiatives would cut taxes for the ultra wealthy and let our biggest polluters off the hook. They would cut nearly $900 million from public schools and child care, while increasing Big Oil profits and rolling back our investments in clean energy. They would also repeal Washington’s capital gains tax, defund long term care for seniors, and more. 

There’s 3 simple things you can do to help stop these initiatives now:

  • Don’t sign any initiative in the next three months. The bad ones are the only initiatives out there right now
  • Make sure your friends and family members don’t sign them
  • Report any signature gatherers you see for these initiatives to this hotline run by our partners: (425) 553-2157

Don’t get fooled. The petitioners are paid by the signature, and will often lie shamelessly about what the initiatives do to get you to sign. 

These “Backwards Washington” initiatives are an extreme Republican agenda aimed directly at our kids and their schools, working families trying to afford childcare, seniors who benefit from long-term care, and clean energy solutions that tackle the growing climate crisis. 

Here’s the initiatives and what they do:

  • I-2109: Repeals Washington’s capital gains tax on top 0.2%, defunding early learning and education
  • I-2117: Ends Washington’s program to fund clean energy and fight climate change by making polluters pay and repeals the Climate Commitment Act
  • I-2124: Repeals long-term care coverage for working Washingtonians
  • I-2113: Repeals best practice safety standards for dangerous high speed chases
  • I-2081: A confusing mishmash of existing law designed to entice parents into signing the other initiatives while doing nothing for kids and schools
  • I-2111: Ensures that Washington’s wealthiest 1% won’t contribute to our communities by banning progressive income taxes at the city, county, and state levels

Right-wing multi-millionaire Brian Heywood is bankrolling these initiatives in a cynical effort to dodge the taxes he owes to our communities. Heywood is joined in this effort by his co-sponsors: Washington’s MAGA Republican Party Chair Jim Walsh, and serial initiative con artist Tim Eyman. These are initiatives to the Legislature, and signatures are due at the end of the year.1 

We’re joining our partners across the progressive community to fight back against these harmful initiatives. The first step is to decline to sign any of them and encourage your friends to do the same! And please call the hotline if you see signature gatherers – (425) 553-2157. 

They are counting on holiday shoppers to sign their petitions. Let’s make sure they don’t succeed!

Thanks for all that you do, 
Aaron and the entire team at Fuse

P.S. We need to ramp up our campaign right away to stop this initiative from ever reaching the ballot. Will you chip in $5 to help us stop these initiatives?

Yes! I’ll chip in!

  1. Initiatives to the Legislature go before lawmakers before they appear on the ballot. The Legislature has three options. They can 1) approve them as is, 2) do nothing and let them go to the ballot, or 3) pass an alternative that would appear on the ballot alongside it.

Want to support FUSE’s work? Become a monthly donor!

Why We Celebrate Thanksgiving

It’s probably not exactly what you think

If you’re like me you were brought up on a myth of Thanksgiving. The myth comes to life as a painting that depicts noble Pilgrims and equally noble Indians near a table creaking under the weight of a fantastic feast featuring a huge turkey. This bucolic Thanksgiving scene infused my young mind probably in grade school. Having only the sketchiest understanding of historical events back then, this bucolic portrait of Thanksgiving populated every fourth Thursday in November all the way back to the sixteen hundreds in an imagined unbroken continuum. Like so many mythic concepts of my youth, reality is far more interesting—and more consistent with the complexities of history and humanity as I’ve come to know them. 

Heather Cox Richardson, professor of history at Boston College, is a widely known for her column, Letters from an American, published on Substack (the same forum from which you receive The High Ground, this publication, three times each week). Professor Richardson’s publishes a column (occasionally just a photo) seven days a week. The is the most widely read author on the entire Substack. Many, perhaps most, of my readers are already signed up to receive Dr. Richardson’s email. If you are not signed up, I recommend it highly. Click here to sign up by entering your email address. 

Today, as a thought provoking essay I copied below Dr. Richardson’s post on the origin of our particular formal harvest festival we call Thanksgiving, first published in 2019. I found it enlightening then—and is, perhaps, even more so now.

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. For clearer-eyed view of the Pilgrim’s 1621 harvest celebration, a mythologized version of which we’re told as children, I recommend the subsection of Wikipedia’s article under Thanksgiving (United States). The recommended subsection is entitled “Harvest festival observed by the Pilgrims at Plymouth”.

November 28, 2019


NOV 27, 2019

Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday… but not for the reasons we remember.

Everyone generally knows that the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags shared a feast in fall 1621, and that early colonial leaders periodically declared days of thanksgiving when settlers were supposed to give their thanks for continued life and– with luck– prosperity.

But this is not why we celebrate Thanksgiving.

We celebrate thanks to President Abraham Lincoln and his defense of American democracy during the Civil War.

Northerners elected Lincoln to the presidency in 1860 to stop rich southern slaveholders from taking over the government and using it to cement their own wealth and power. When voters elected Lincoln, those same southern leaders pulled their states out of the Union and set out to create their own nation, the Confederate States of America, based in slavery and codifying the idea that some men were better than others and that this small elite group should rule the country. Under Lincoln, the United States government set out to end this slaveholders’ rebellion and bring the South back into a Union in which the government worked for people at the bottom, not just those at the top.

The early years of the war did not go well for the Union. By the end of 1862, the armies still held, but people on the home front were losing faith. Leaders recognized the need both to acknowledge the suffering, and yet to keep Americans loyal to the cause. In November and December, seventeen state governors declared state thanksgiving holidays. New York governor Edwin Morgan’s widely reprinted proclamation about the holiday reflected that the previous year “is numbered among the dark periods of history, and its sorrowful records are graven on many hearthstones.” But this was nonetheless a time for giving thanks, he wrote, because “the precious blood shed in the cause of our country will hallow and strengthen our love and our reverence for it and its institutions…. Our Government and institutions placed in jeopardy have brought us to a more just appreciation of their value.”

The next year Lincoln got ahead of the state proclamations. On July 15, he declared a national day of Thanksgiving, and the relief in his proclamation was almost palpable. After two years of disasters, the Union army was finally winning. Bloody, yes; battered, yes; but winning. At Gettysburg in early July, Union troops had sent Confederates reeling back southward. Then, on July 4, Vicksburg had finally fallen to U. S. Grant’s army. The military tide was turning.

President Lincoln set Thursday, August 6, 1863, for the national day of thanksgiving. On that day, ministers across the country listed the signal victories of the U.S. Army and Navy in the past year, and reassured their congregations that it was only a matter of time until the United States government put down the southern rebellion. Their predictions acknowledged the dead and reinforced the idea that their sacrifice had not been in vain, as Lincoln himself did just three months later in the Gettysburg Address.

But this is not why we celebrate a national Thanksgiving.

In October 1863, President Lincoln declared the second national day of Thanksgiving. In the past year, he declared, the nation had been blessed.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, he wrote, Americans had maintained their laws and their institutions, and kept foreign countries from meddling with their nation. They had paid for the war as they went, refusing to permit the destruction to cripple the economy. Instead, as they funded the war, they had also advanced farming, industry, mining, and shipping. Immigrants had poured in to replace the men lost on the battlefield, and the economy was booming. And Lincoln had recently promised that the government would end slavery once and for all. The country, he predicted, “with a large increase of freedom,” would survive, stronger and more prosperous, than ever. The President invited Americans “in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands” to observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving.

THIS is why we celebrate a national Thanksgiving.

Americans went to war to keep a cabal of slave owners from taking control of the government and turning it into an oligarchy. The fight against that rebellion seemed at first to be too much for the nation to survive. But Americans rallied and threw their hearts into the cause on the battlefields even as they continued to work on the home front for a government that promoted the common good.

And they won.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Liberty Lake Council Poised to Give Itself Veto Power Over the Library

A Lesson in Civics, Procedure, and Power–A Resurrection of an Ordinance Assumed Dead

It all started in Liberty Lake in early 2022 over an award-winning book in the Liberty Lake Municipal Library called “Gender Queer”. One Erin Zasada, who admitted that she hadn’t read the entire book, requested of the library in late 2021 that “Gender Queer” be pulled from the shelves of the library. (Note: even before that request the book was housed in the “adult” section.) When her request was denied, Zasada appealed to the library board, an appeal the board rejected. (The Liberty Lake Library Board is appointed by the City Council, but, once appointed, makes its decisions independently of the City Council.)

On Tuesday, May 3, 2022, the City of Liberty Lake City Council voted to uphold the library board’s decision to keep the book after a fiery meeting with a great deal of public input against the idea of the council banning books. The vote was 4-2 to uphold. (The Liberty Lake City Council is composed of seven members. The Spokesman article covering the controversy and the vote does not mention why there were only six votes.) At the time council members expressed discomfort with the content of the book but greater discomfort with the idea of the council banning a book and overruling the judgement of the library board. Notably, one of the two votes to overrule the library board came from Council Member (CM) Chris Cargill. Cargill was formerly employed by the Washington Policy Center in Spokane and is now the president and organizer of the Mountain States Policy Center, a new right wing think tank based in North Idaho. Cargill is a frequent writer of “Guest Opinions” for the Spokesman. In short, he is employed to express right wing opinion. The other vote in favor of banning “Gender Queer” came from CM Wendy Van Orman. 

The book banners, led by CM Chris Cargill, were not done. Rather than openly voting on whether to ban individual books, in early 2023 they proposed an ordinance that would codify the council’s power to “approve or reject” Liberty Lake Library Board policies with a majority vote. The Spokesman covered a Liberty Lake City Council meeting in April that was consumed by tensions around this proposed ordinance. While the ordinance was discussed as a technical shift in Liberty Lake’s governing structure, given the prior controversy about “Gender Queer” and book banning, it was clear to those paying attention that this was a power grab by the council. No one seemed able to adequately explain why this power grab by the council was necessary or why it had come up at this time. This was the dodging and weaving offered in the Spokesman by proponents of the ordinance:

“I’m not aware of anything in this proposed ordinance that allows the City Council to restrict or ban books, so it seems like a moot point to me,” [CM Jed] Spencer said.

[CM Phil] Folyer expressed concern that if the board were to ban a book, the council could not do anything about it.

“If it stops at the board of trustees, what if they’re making the wrong decision on a book ban?” Folyer said.

On May 16, after many hours of council controversy and public input, the vote was 4-3 in favor of this disingenuous power grab. CMs Chris Cargill, Wendy Van Orman, and Phil Folyer cast three of the four Yea votes. (Is there anything that riles up humans more than sex, religion, and who gets to tell whom what to read, think, and do?) Then on Monday, May 22, 2023, Liberty Lake Mayor Cris Kaminskas vetoed the ordinance

She argued that the library board has much more collective experience and expertise than the City Council to write library policy.

“The board is made up of educated and trained professionals,” she wrote. “Let them do what they were appointed to do.”

Chris Cargill and company were not happy, and Cargill reached into the national right wing Republican playbook for some threats:

Cargill said it seemed the only recourse was to dismiss some of the library board members.

Until there is more oversight, Cargill said he will not vote to approve any mayoral appointments nor any budget requests from the library. He said he will be “very skeptical” of proposals that come from the executive branch. [Is Cargill the local version of U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL)?]

“I wish I didn’t have to take these steps, but I think a major trust has been broken,” Cargill said.

Cargill and company weren’t happy—and, it turns out, they weren’t done. They knew they couldn’t come up with a fifth vote to override the mayor’s veto (5 of 7 would be the required 2/3 supermajority), so they waited.

Incumbency and name recognition, especially in non-partisan municipal elections, is a powerful force. Six of the seven seats of the City of Liberty Lake City Council were on the general election ballot on November 7th. As the Spokesman article put it, “For the most part, voters appear to have preferred incumbents, regardless of whether they support an autonomous library board.” Only two of the six seats changed hands. (Note that, unlike Spokane, all the council members in Liberty Lake are elected “at large”, i.e. there are no districts or district residency requirements.) So did the balance of power on the board on the issue of the library change? CM Phil Foyer, a proponent of the power grab lost to Linda Ball, an opponent of the ordinance, while CM Mike Hamblet, an opponent of the ordinance, lost to Mike Kennedy, a man with the name recognition advantage of a former council member. Mr. Kennedy’s is, very likely, a vote for the council’s power-grabbing ordinance, but, like a good politician, he was a bit cagey about saying so prior to the November election.

So that balances—and nothing changes on this power-grabbing, potentially book-banning ordinance, right? There is no supermajority to override—and Mayor Kaminskas’ veto would still stand if the ordinance came up again, right? Well, not so fast. Chris Cargill’s college degree in political science comes in handy.

The swearing-in details and the window they offer

Thanks to a quirk in Washington State law the two new City of Liberty Lake City Council members, Mike Kennedy and Linda Ball, will be sworn into office in staggered fashion. Because Mike Kennedy in Position 6 will take a seat currently held by an appointed rather than an elected CM, Tom Sahlberg, Kennedy will be sworn in and have a vote as soon as the Spokane County Auditor’s office certifies the election on November 28th. Linda Ball, on the other hand, because she will take a seat that is currently still filled by elected CM Phil Folyer, won’t be sworn in until January. As a result, for the month of December (plus three days) there will be a potential veto proof supermajority (5 of 7) serving on the Liberty Lake City Council likely in favor of Cargill’s power-grabbing ordinance.

Given Cargill’s political “science” background (an education in civics and tactics, but, perhaps, not in ethics?), it should surprise no one that the offending ordinance is already on the agenda (Item 15C) for tomorrow, Tuesday, November 21, for a “1st Read” at the council meeting. (The text of the ordinance, Ordinance NO. 119-D, starts on pdf page 209 of the 217 page agenda. The proposed changes are featured in red.) It reappearance signals intent is to use the quirk in the timing of seating council members to ram through Cargill’s ordinance. Unfortunately, while resurrecting an ordinance that many presumed dead might seem really sleazy and undemocratic, it is, nonetheless, technically legal under the existing quirks of state laws that govern the timing of seating of elected officials. 

This ordinance will not have a vote tomorrow. (They won’t have the possibility of the needed supermajority of votes until November 28.) An outpouring of interest and outrage might still sway one or more of those votes. Civically-minded citizens might still have some influence. Petra Hoy has put together details for those who have the time to attend the meeting in person or on Zoom or to write. Petra’s work is copied below with permission. 

Keep to the high ground,



7:00 PM

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Why I write–and what I hope you’ll do with it

Why I Write

This month marks the end of the seventh year of writing these posts. I began in something of a panic over the election of Donald Trump in the fall of 2016. I could not and still cannot conceive of a man less suited to competently lead us as president. Jolted, I read the original twenty-three page organizational document of the Indivisible movement. I took to heart the message that I needed to learn how our government works on all levels. I understood that we have a representative government that operates on something called the “rule of law”, but my level of civic engagement consisted only in voting in each election. At the time my voting decisions were based on little more than the sketchy information about the candidates available in the voters’ pamphlets and the Spokesman Review. 

I’ve long understood that the surest way to learn something is to compel oneself to learn it well enough to explain it to someone else. That notion and the need to ventilate got me started writing about civics and politics with an emphasis on eastern Washington. It has been quite a journey—greatly aided by the fact that today the primary documents of our governance are available at our fingertips: federal and state constitutions, legal codes, videos and links to online meetings, and the abundant basic orientation, resources, and links available through Wikipedia. 

I firmly believe that most of us passively absorb whatever we are exposed to most frequently in reading, TV, movies, sermons, and conversation. These influences form our worldview. I can see this in my own life. For years I subscribed to the Wall Street Journal. Looking back, it is now clear to me that during those years I was passively lulled into a generally Milton Friedman-esque view of economics—a view that I now believe is terribly flawed.

If you have even a tiny doubt of the insidiousness and power of passive absorption of opinion, I urge you to look up and spend an hour and a half watching:

The Brainwashing of My Dad” a 2015 documentary by Jen Senko available on YouTube.

What to do with it

The readership of The High Ground has slowly expanded. Currently, it is emailed out by Substack to a few more than 1100 subscribers of whom, on any given Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, somewhere between fifty and sixty percent get around to “clicking” on the email. Some of the “High Ground” posts are extensively forwarded and receive clicks on the forwards. The current record is 2,420 clicks for “The Heat Will Kill You First” (and I don’t believe that counts those who might have read copies posted elsewhere). Somewhere around 1500 clicks is more typical.

A number of my readers have copied and pasted posts to various forms of social media, including Facebook, Nextdoor, and “X” (formerly known as Twitter). I am personally inept in the use of social media, but I am happy that any of my writing that rings a bell with my readers is shared. 

Anything that is underlined in what I write is an embedded link that one can click on to inspect the source material. Sometimes those linkages are broken with copying and pasting of the text. One way to avoid that is to copy and paste a link to the online Substack article. (Clicking the title of any of the emailed posts will take you to the internet page on Substack for that article. Once there you can highlight, copy, and paste the internet address line from your browser to wherever you wish to share.)

Please feel free to use the ideas and links I offer as the basis for a letter to an editor or to inform conversation. I claim no intellectual property rights, feel free to quote me with or without attribution. 

I view what I research, write, and publish online in these “The High Ground” posts as much like pitching pebbles in the pond of human experience: the ripples from all these pebbles may reach well beyond parts of the pond that I can see—at least that is my hope. 

I hope to continue writing through the 2024 elections and beyond, but I am not young. I encourage you to sign up with and, if you’re able, to financially support the online publication of The writers of RANGE are young, vibrant, and focus on local events in the Inland Northwest. They offer details, links, and perspective not found elsewhere. They deserve our support. I hope they will persist long after I have fallen silent.

Have a great weekend and

Keep to the high ground,


Fundamentalism, David Barton, and the Alternative Narrative

It is time to wake up to this

I have always been leery of people who claim divine justification for their worldview, and even more leery of those who claim divine justification for their politics. 

I was brought up and confirmed in the United Methodist Church in the 1950s and 60s. In this religious upbringing, looking back, there was a glaring absence of historical context. Early on I wanted to understand how the Bible came to be written, how the books were assembled, and the historical context. At the same time as my mother was reading Egermeier’s Bible Stories to me before I walked to school in the third grade I was reading “All About Prehistoric Cave Men” and “All About Dinosaurs” in a series of books my parents had purchased. Eventually, the cognitive dissonance between Biblical stories and the broader view of history was deafening. I found that the only way I could understand, for example, the Creation stories of Genesis (there are two) was to consider them as allegorical, two narratives constructed, told, and passed down by one group of humans in a relatively isolated culture who were trying to make sense of how they had come to be.

I grew up naively imagining that everyone else was taking the same courses and reading the same books as I was, courses in comparative religion, genetics, biology, and geology; books like “The Origin of the Species” and “The Voyage of the Beagle”; and magazines and documentaries produced by, for example, National Geographic. I was (and am) fascinated by history, the history of science, the scientific method, and the general concept that knowledge expands and evolves.

Meanwhile, I was aware of parallel currents of people who profess that all the words written in their particular Bible are to be taken literally, not allegorically—a religious conviction with political and societal consequences for everyone when people with these Fundamentalist convictions rise to positions in government. Fundamentalism broadly overlaps with self-described, modern-day Evangelicalism—even while many Evangelicals consider “Fundamentalist” a pejorative term.

For example, U.S. Representative McMorris Rodgers (R-CD5, Eastern Washington) was educated in Christian Fundamentalist institutions. She is a professed young-earth creationist: “The account that I believe is the one in the Bible that God created the world in seven days.” 

It has recently and ominously become clear to me that modern-day Evangelicals have been painstakingly constructing an alternative narrative to support their narrow worldview. The beginning of my awareness was a statement made by the wife of a former high school classmate, himself an Evangelical pastor, who declared to me that “Wikipedia is not a reliable source.” I have since learned that she may have been thinking of, established as a fundamentalist wikipedia alternative in 2006 by Andrew Schlafly (a homeschool advocate and son of paleo-conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly), to be a better source. Conservapedia is worth a visit, if only to marvel at the religious bias of this pale alternative. I recommend the entry on Dinosaurs as a cardinal example of fundamentalist, geologic-time-denying, doubt-sewing that characterizes Schlafly’s alternative wiki. One would certainly not want one’s homeschoolers to understand that the age of the earth were a settled scientific question. That would not leave room for a 6000 year old “young earth”, a tenet of faith among many Evangelicals. (Check out the Wikipedia article on Conservapedia for more orientation.)

It is funny how once one has heard a name, that name seems to pop up again and again. Such is the case with the pseudo-historian David Barton, a man who has dedicated his life to popularizing among Evangelicals (and anyone else who would come to his lectures or buy his books) that the United States was founded as an exclusively Christian nation. I first heard the name David Barton when his “Founders Bible” was quoted in a guest opinion in the Spokesman written by Rob Linebarger (discussion just below the first green-lined paragraph quote at that link). Rob Linebarger is no less that the chair of the Spokane County GOP Candidates Committee—the guy whose committee is in charge of vetting Republican candidates. 

David Barton’s name next popped up in coverage of the new Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson:

Johnson follows the “teachings” of Christian evangelist activist David Barton of Texas, who has been arguing for the past four decades that the so-called “separation” clause in the First Amendment is a myth and that the founders wanted this country to be run as a Christian nation, a Christian Theocracy. Though discredited by most constitutional historians and scholars, Barton’s historical revisionism has been influential in the views of many far-right Christian nationalists, including Mike Johnson.

Speaking recently at an event hosted by Barton’s nonprofit, WallBuilders [link], Johnson praised Barton and his “profound influence on me, and my work, and my life and everything I do.” Prior to his election for public office, Johnson worked for the Alliance Defending Freedom — an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group that has acted to implant more Christianity into public schools and government, one of Barton’s movement’s primary goals.  

Who knew? It turns out that David Barton and his pseudo-history are influential among many prominent Republicans of apparently like mind, including Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and Newt Gingrich.

David Barton has been a squeaky wheel and major self-promoter for years. Here’s a chilling quote from an excellent article worth your reading. It appeared on NPR in 2012 entitled The Most Influential Evangelist You’ve Never Heard Of:

Nowhere is that more visible than in the Texas textbook controversy. In 2010, the Texas Board of Education voted to rewrite the history textbooks to make them more conservative and Christian-friendly. One of the advisers was David Barton.

Now that I’m a little familiar with the name David Barton it is starting to take on the ubiquity of a Forrest Gump. I encourage you to click on and explore some or all of the links in this post in order to expand your understanding of where, increasingly, Republicans are coming from—and why you should notice. 

Keep to the high ground,