Welcome

If you’ve just signed up for the MWF 5AM Indivisible email written by Jerry LeClaire, you’ve arrived at the right place.

This website is a work in progress. It serves as an archive of my writing. I send an email between 4:45 and 5:15AM each MWF. Depend on it. If you’re signed up to receive it and it doesn’t appear in your inbox check your Spam folder and your Promotions folder. If you still cannot find it please let me know at jerry@jxindivisible.com.  I’ve learned that email is not the sure thing I once thought it was.

I hope you find what I write useful.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

Republican Extremist Dilemma

What’s a “moderate” Republican going to do? A number of prominent national Republicans, including George Will, Max Boot, and George Conway (founder of The Lincoln Project–and Kellyanne’s husband) have issued an answer: vote for Democrats, the Republican Party has lost its mind to Trumpian extremists and needs corrective action.

Here in Eastern Washington Republican “moderates” (one might hesitantly call them “traditional” Republicans) are in a bind: do they bow to the conspiracy theorists, the Ammon Bundy/Matt Shea/Heather Scott militia types, the white supremacist hosts of the extremists like James Allsup, the promoters of the theocratic “State of Liberty,” or do they defect, at least for this election, and actually vote for Democrats? 

We have the answer for Eastern Washington in the August 9th Spokesman in an article written by Rebecca White entitled, “Primary shows Rep. Matt Shea remains big influence in GOP politics in Spokane Valley.” 

We need to understand the players in this political drama–the names are confusing. The Republicans of Spokane County are the smaller group in the county. They are centered in Spokane Valley and they are the relative moderates. Their chairwoman (and spokesperson in White’s article) is Beva Miles. 

The other group, Spokane County Republicans,  have the bigger and richer tent under which a few relatively oblivious moderates cuddle with the Matt Shea extremists. Note, for example, that the Spokane County Republicans for a time had the hostess of Greenbluff white supremacy, Cecily Wright, as their chairwoman. Ozzie Knezovich (an outspoken critic of Matt Shea and his extremists) warned them, but no one listened. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, accepted Matt Shea’s endorsement in 2018, and with it, the endorsement of his supporters.

In this year’s August 4 Primary race in LD4 (Spokane Valley north to Mt. Spokane) the drama among local Republicans played out yet again in the contest between Leonard Christian (26%), Rob Chase (32%) and Lance Gurel (35%). The ballot turn-in was a measly 38.8%. Rob Chase, the Matt Shea supported extremist candidate, won out on the Republican side. So what’s a Republican moderate to do?

Beva Miles (chairwoman of the relative moderates) offers a carefully guarded answer in Rebecca White’s Spokesman article: 

Miles said she fears the results from the primary will leave many Republicans in a difficult position: vote for conservative candidates who have allied with the far right, or vote for a Democrat, who also doesn’t reflect their values. She said if far-right candidates continue to win primaries in the district as the demographics in the district shift, it could someday push the seat to a Democrat, like Gurel. [OMG, perish the thought!]

“I don’t agree with him in any way shape or form, or with the Democrat platform,” she said. “But he’s a very reasonable-sounding and lovely man. I believe that the far-right has opened the door to let the independents rule.”

Oh, horrors! she says. A Democrat! No. No. Democrats are anathema! They don’t share “our values.” Gurel can be a “lovely man” but his positions are only “reasonable-sounding.” By inference, Lori Feagan, a respected, intelligent, nurse practitioner, running against Bob McCaslin Jr., another Matt Shea acolyte, cannot possibly deserve a vote from a member of the Republican tribe because, OMG!, she’s a Democrat. Unlike George Conway, it sounds like Beva will swallow hard and vote for the Matt Shea clones because, horrible and scary as those folks are, they are not so horrible and scary as a reasonable Democrat. So the Republicans of Spokane County are instructed to vote for the theocratic militia-types who play footsie with white supremacy.

What are the Republicans selling as their “values” and outlook? Well, let’s look at that. Go to the Spokane GOP website (the big tent folks who court the support of extremists) and check out the Facebook video featuring Caleb Heimlich, the State Republican Party Chair.

Here is Mr. Heimlich’s pitch to Republican Primary voters summarized: 
1) Be fearful! Don’t let your placid Christian communities become a lawless Seattle! (Sound familiar? It’s the same campaign that Nadine Woodward pushed with the “Seattle is Dying” video.)
2) We’ve got to lower taxes. No “radical” budget! The Democrats will chase out good jobs! We’ve got to trim the fat! (Nevermind the huge budget shortfall the state now faces, nor the upside down tax system that puts the burden on those who can least afford it.)
3) Vote Republican to keep your kids safe from sex education! (Referendum 90) (After all, kids need to be kept ignorant. We can’t trust them with age-appropriate medical facts that might equip them to recognize pedophile priests and the risks of out of wedlock pregnancy.)
4) We must elect officials who will listen to their constituents, like Tim Eyman! (Well, we know how that turned out: voters didn’t like Eyman’s pitch. Republicans voted for a belligerent sheriff who says he’s running on “law and order” while he refuses to enforce the will of the people as expressed in Initiative 1639. That was the gun initiative that passed with 59% of the vote in 2018. So much for listening to the people…)
5) We must elect competent people! His example? The unemployment money lost to scammers. (We can agree about the need for competency. We should vote for an accountant [Lance Gurel] and a medical professional [Lori Feagan] in LD4.) 

“Moderate” Republicans in LD4 (and elsewhere) have a dilemma. They are so brainwashed against anyone not wearing the Republican label they feel they must swallow hard and vote for the worrisome, extremist, theocratic Matt Shea clones or their greatest fears will come to pass. The only thing I give the Republicans of Spokane County credit for is recognizing the “Threats We Face” (Ozzie Knezovich’s lecture) from the Matt Shea wing of their party. Now they need the stomach to actually cast votes that will displace that threat. 

Keep to the high ground,
Jerry

P.S. To see how “moderate” Republicans in eastern Washington are treated by the extremists, and how competent Democratic candidates are vilified check out this web article published in “The Inland Northwest Report” There is a whole electronic media ecosystem out there that keeps up the tribal drumbeat.

Thank You-s

There is an ACTION ITEM today. Please read through and send some email thank yous. Serving on Health District boards and school boards without compensation is selfless enough. Let’s make sure the people who serve get some praise for their efforts instead of just criticism from a loud, organized minority. If we don’t get involved in this way we will have no excuse when a vocal minority takes over.

Background: Imagine the stress of having to make high-profile decisions about school re-opening during the Covid-19 pandemic. There is no perfect answer, especially in a situation where the best science-based advice has been highly politicized. Everyone wants the schools to re-open this fall for social and economic reasons and, still, no one wants to see large numbers of people sicken and some die as a result. Shawn Vestal captured the complexity in his “Pandemic creates paradox – we must open schools but we can’t open schools”  

Still there is a very noisy crowd of local folk protesting and emailing against current science-based recommendations to wear a mask and against the earlier lock-downs. Some (many?) of these folk are convinced, against all evidence, that the pandemic is either a hoax or simply “God’s will” to be endured, some are anti-vaccination and/or simply anti-science. These folks, in their hundreds, are activated through electronic media and some churches. They send emails and letters, make phone calls, and loudly demonstrate in the hope of forcing schools to reopen in person for the sake of their ideology. 

To see what the recommendations are for Spokane County I’ve appended Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz’ letter on school re-opening to the end of this email. Spokane County has a number of school districts. Of them, so far, the Boards of the Spokane Public School District (aka District 81 or SPSD) and Central Valley School District (CVSD) have followed Dr. Lutz’ recommendation to start the fall online only, while the Mead and East Valley School Districts have opted to open in person, bucking the science and endangering the wider community, since the coronavirus pays no attention to school, home, or geographical boundaries as it passes among us.

https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2020/aug/03/central-valley-school-will-start-year-virtually/
https://www.khq.com/back_to_school/spokane-health-officer-disappointed-as-some-districts-plan-to-bring-students-back-to-the-classroom/article_e512c46a-d8f0-11ea-9023-8f73b166c957.html

Here’s the ACTION ITEM assembled by Petra Hoy:

I anticipate that the SRHD (Spokane Regional Health District), School Board members and Superintendents will be hearing from the “Covid is a Hoax” and anti-mask, anti-vaxx crowd. 

I thought it would be nice if we could show our support for them making this difficult decision and following the scientific advice of Dr. Bob Lutz.

If you’d like please:

1.  Write a quick email, something as simple as “Thank you for following the advice of the SRHD and Dr. Lutz.  It’s critical that we follow science during this pandemic” 

2.  It’s okay if you live in another school district or are out of the area.  The virus doesn’t care about those arbitrary lines.

3.  You can copy and paste these email addresses:

SRHD (Spokane Regional Health District):
cweiler@srhd.org

public_comments@srhd.org

Spokane Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Adam Swinyard AdamSw@spokaneschools.org

Spokane Public School Board:
Jerrall Haynes, President JerrallHaynes@spokaneschools.org
Michael Wiser Vice President MikeWiser@spokaneschools.org
Nikki Lockwood NikkiLockwood@spokaneschools.org
Jenny Slagle JennySlagle@spokaneschools.org


Central Valley Schools Superintendent Ben Small  bsmall@cvsd.org

Central Valley School District Board:

Keith Clark,, President kclark@petvet.org
Debra Long, Vice President  debralong@icehouse.net

Cindy McMullen, cmcmullenlaw@gmail.com
Tom Dingus tdingus@cvsd.org
Mysti Reneau mystireneau@gmail.com

Thank you so much for your help!

Sincerely,
Petra (Petie) Hoy 

Keep to the high ground, 
Jerry

P.S. Bob Lutz’s Letter:

TO: Spokane County Public School Superintendents
       Spokane Private School Administrators
 
SUBJ: Education for Fall 2020 
 
Since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in Snohomish County, Washington on January 21, 2020 and the first confirmed cases in Spokane County on March 14, 2020, almost 60,000 cases have been confirmed at this time in Washington State. Governor Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Health order on March 24, 2020 and the closure of K-12 schools March 12, led to a decline in the rate of disease across much of the state.  Eastern Washington never saw the average effective reproductive numbers (Re) fall below 1, however, and since early May, it has continued to rise, as well as across the entire state. With this has come increased rates of infections, especially in younger individuals, such that the rate is now greater than it was during March-April. The Institute of Disease Modeling (IDM) report, Schools are not islands: we must mitigate community transmission to reopen schools, stated  “community-wide mitigation efforts must improve significantly such that the effective reproductive number is below 1 at the end of August for schools to reopen in September without triggering exponential growth in COVID-19 burden.”
 
Spokane County’s COVID-19 profile is comparable to other Washington counties. Prior to Memorial Day weekend, there were 432 confirmed cases; since, 3384 cases (an increase of 783%). The incidence rate as of August 1, 2020 is 209.6/100,000/14 days.   
 
Whereas knowledge of preventing COVID-19 has increased since the beginning of the pandemic, to include evidence supporting the use of cloth face coverings, national experience implementing disease prevention efforts for COVID-19 in the K-12 setting is minimal. Internationally, in-person instruction has been most successfully implemented when incidence rates are low, i.e., ≤25/100/14 days, and decreasing. Given the current high level and upward trajectory of COVID-19 rates in Spokane County, cases and outbreaks in schools will likely occur. These could negatively impact community-wide efforts to lower rates, would impose considerable demands and instability on school operations and conceivably outpace our collective efforts to control the pandemic.  
 
Schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being and provide our children and adolescents with academic instruction, social and emotional skills, safety, reliable nutrition, physical/speech and mental health therapy, and opportunities for physical activity, among other benefits. Beyond supporting the educational development of children and adolescents, schools play a critical role in addressing racial and social inequity (AAP). While returning to in-person learning is a shared-goal by SRHD, doing so may come at a significant cost likewise shared by the entire Spokane community, especially our most vulnerable. Based on our rates, the existing science regarding COVID-19, and school reopening, I strongly recommend beginning the year in remote/continuous learning for all students. Consider in-person learning for those who have special health or education needs that cannot be delivered through remote learning.  
 
Sincerely,                           
Bob Lutz, MD, MPH
Health Officer

Miscellany

1) Election Results: For Washington election results there is a neat little smartphone app that shows them with a daily update as counting proceeds. On an iPhone its icon is black. The upper half says “Election Results” in white letters and the lower half shows a bust of George Washington and the letter SOS, for “Secretary of State.” I expect there is a similar app for Android based phones. I recommend it.

I note the Republicans have chosen to challenge Governor Inslee with an extremist, rural, anti-mask sheriff, Loren Culp. In Legislative District 4 (Spokane Valley north to Mt. Spokane) it looks like, Rob Chase, resoundingly endorsed by Matt Shea, will run against Lance Gurel, a reputable and reasonable accountant, for the State Representative seat Mr. Shea left to tend to his extremist flock at Covenant Church. As pastor he can keep organizing for armed rebellion and wield influence over his old district. It will be an interesting couple of months. 

2) Comment on Covid-19 Death Risk: Several readers were startled by the 1 in 20 risk of death for those over age 65 infected with the Covid-19 virus. A study in Geneva, Switzerland, used antibodies as a marker for having been infected and showed a death rate of 5.6% for those over 65. . (https://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/laninf/PIIS1473-3099(20)30584-3.pdf). (1 in 20 is simply a rough restatement of 5.6%) Data like this is constantly being refined, i.e. it is subject to change as more studies are published. Nonetheless, 1 in 20 is probably not wildly inaccurate. 

Frankly, I thought the U.S. whole population IFR (infection fatality ratio) published on the CDC website of 0.0065 (or 1 in 150) was scary enough, but the number from Geneva (the only source I had that broke the IFR down by age group) was quite sobering. 

I think we find it hard to comprehend numbers like 0.0065 or 5.6% until we re-interpret them as a risk of 1 in X number. It is easier to visualizer nineteen people standing and one in a casket than to make sense of “5.6%,” no matter your math skills. 

We strive to distance ourselves from others misfortune. It’s a natural defense mechanism. How often have I heard that “John died of a heart attack” and leapt immediately to thinking, “Oh well, John was a diabetic and drank too much—he wasn’t like me.”?

People did the same thing with the 1 in 20. They want to break it down, make it not apply: “How many of those folks were over 90, over 85, over 80, that is, any number older than my age?” I don’t have a finer breakdown by age. There isn’t enough published data from antibody prevalence studies to know. 

I was a little surprised to find that only 13% of the U.S. population is over 65. Being part of the group and knowing a lot of other people similarly getting on in years distorted my perception.

3) Trump and Testing: It is just like Mr. Trump and Betsy DeVos to exhort teachers, students, and students extended families to risk their lives by re-opening schools in a country where many cannot get the result of a Covid-19 test in less than a week, while for months Mr. Trump and his people have screened contacts with a test that delivers results in fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, he and his administration have accomplished almost nothing in making the rapid tests more available to those understandably reluctant to dive back into the virus cauldron.

Stay safe and

Keep to the high ground,
Jerry

Here is last Wednesday’s (August 5) email, Covid-19 Refined, appended for easy reference:

Early in the pandemic our understanding of Covid-19 was necessarily based on analogies to similar diseases. Influenza was the commonest comparison. For months that comparison encouraged us to believe (or at least hope) that people with Covid-19, like flu, didn’t transmit virus until they had at least some early symptoms. Folks like the Rush Limbaugh and Mr. Trump declared, based on wishful thinking, that Covid-19 was no worse than the flu and, like the flu, would just go away with warmer weather. 

Understanding of Covid-19 is gradually building as our experience broadens and information is shared. As is the way with science, no single study is gospel, but many studies, each carefully scrutinized and all considered together, are sharpening our understanding of what we face with this disease. 

Even the sober wing of the Republican Party understands Covid-19 is not the flu. The Wall Street Journal on July 21 published an article (hidden behind a paywall), “How Deadly Is Covid-19? Researchers Are Getting Closer to an Answer.” The authors assembled the results of a number of large studies and came up with some numbers to which we should all pay attention. Much of their information came from the CDC’s Pandemic Planning Scenarios webpage (which is not hidden and was updated July 10)

The current best estimates based on multiple, worldwide studies is that Covid-19 kills one person for every 150 it infects (Infection Fatality Rate [IFR] of 0.0065). The denominator of this IFR is inflated by the estimated 40% of people who are infected (judged by antibody evidence) but never are symptomatic, even though they can transmit the virus. Best estimates of seasonal flu mortality are 1 in 900, one sixth of Covid’s IFR (and would be even smaller if the flu mortality estimate included entirely asymptomatic cases–which it does not). Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Donald Trump were and are ignorant, opinionated fools to declare Covid-19 to be no more worrisome than the flu.

Of course, the risk of death from Covid-19 varies with age, medical condition, available medical care, and other factors. For those of us over the age of 65, the risk of death, once infected, is about one in twenty (5.6%) Is there any activity in which you would willingly take part in which the advertised risk of being killed is one in twenty? [See P.S. below] I’ve taken part in quite a number of physically risky ventures in the course of my life, but none of them carries a one in twenty risk of death,

These Infection Fatality Ratios consider mortality, not morbidity: respiratory compromise, chronic fatigue,  and multiple other long term sequelae of infection, sequelae that weaken but don’t kill. Republicans, even Trump supporters and their families, are not immune to the reality of Covid-19 infection. Herman Cain, age 74, former presidential candidate and recent mask-dissing attendee of Trump’s Tulsa rally has been hospitalized and on oxygen for nearly four weeks with Covid-19.  (The day after I composed this email Herman Cain died.)

Other truths about this virus are also coming into focus. A Spokane teenager of my acquaintance and her friend recently lost their sense of taste and smell on the same day, one week after their only plausible exposure to Covid-19. They and two others had spent time (some of it indoors) in the company of a third friend whose brother came down with symptoms and tested positive after their time together. The friend, the only link and the only plausible carrier with whom they’d had contact, never personally manifested symptoms andtested negative for the virus twice following their contact. Fortunately, my teenage acquaintance suffered only a mild case, regained her sense of taste and smell in about a week and, with careful quarantining, did not infect her family. The other young woman had a rougher course, but recovered without experiencing pneumonia. Both young women tested positive for the virus.

The take-home from this anecdote and published data is that Covid-19 can be caught from symptomatic, pre-symptomatic, and asymptomatic people infected with the disease. One best assume that everyone with whom one comes in contact may be shedding virus. Influenza is far less contagious. Viral shedding with influenza virus mostly does not occur in the absence of early symptoms of the disease. In the current world population Covid-19 is not the flu. Covid-19 is more transmissible, more deadly, and productive of greater morbidity than influenza.

Keep to the high ground,
Jerry

P.S. Unless an effective vaccine becomes widely available, the death toll from Covid-19 is probably just getting started. The following is mathematical conjecture, but, if you take the death rate of 5.6% (1 in 20) in the over age 65 cohort in the U.S. population (these over age 65 are 13% of the whole U.S. population of 330M), an IFR of 0.0065 (1 in 150) in the whole population, and assume herd immunity when 60% of the population has been infected and made antibodies, then in the U.S. alone we would see 1.44M dead overall, nearly ten times what we’ve seen so far. 1.29M of the dead would be from the over 65 yo cohort, but 212,000 of the dead  would be among working age and younger U.S. residents.

Since the greatest viral transmission occurs indoors, I predict the coming winter will be long, dark, cold, and isolated, especially for those over 65. We had better hope for a safe and effective vaccine. The earliest that could happen now appears to be early in 2021. Cross your fingers.

Covid-19 Refined

Early in the pandemic our understanding of Covid-19 was necessarily based on analogies to similar diseases. Influenza was the commonest comparison. For months that comparison encouraged us to believe (or at least hope) that people with Covid-19, like flu, didn’t transmit virus until they had at least some early symptoms. Folks like the Rush Limbaugh and Mr. Trump declared, based on wishful thinking, that Covid-19 was no worse than the flu and, like the flu, would just go away with warmer weather. 

Understanding of Covid-19 is gradually building as our experience broadens and information is shared. As is the way with science, no single study is gospel, but many studies, each carefully scrutinized and all considered together, are sharpening our understanding of what we face with this disease. 

Even the sober wing of the Republican Party understands Covid-19 is not the flu. The Wall Street Journal on July 21 published an article (hidden behind a paywall), “How Deadly Is Covid-19? Researchers Are Getting Closer to an Answer.” The authors assembled the results of a number of large studies and came up with some numbers to which we should all pay attention. Much of their information came from the CDC’s Pandemic Planning Scenarios webpage (which is not hidden and was updated July 10)

The current best estimates based on multiple, worldwide studies is that Covid-19 kills one person for every 150 it infects (Infection Fatality Rate [IFR] of 0.0065). The denominator of this IFR is inflated by the estimated 40% of people who are infected (judged by antibody evidence) but never are symptomatic, even though they can transmit the virus. Best estimates of seasonal flu mortality are 1 in 900, one sixth of Covid’s IFR (and would be even smaller if the flu mortality estimate included entirely asymptomatic cases–which it does not). Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Donald Trump were and are ignorant, opinionated fools to declare Covid-19 to be no more worrisome than the flu.

Of course, the risk of death from Covid-19 varies with age, medical condition, available medical care, and other factors. For those of us over the age of 65, the risk of death, once infected, is about one in twenty (5.6%) Is there any activity in which you would willingly take part in which the advertised risk of being killed is one in twenty? [See P.S. below] I’ve taken part in quite a number of physically risky ventures in the course of my life, but none of them carries a one in twenty risk of death,

These Infection Fatality Ratios consider mortality, not morbidity: respiratory compromise, chronic fatigue,  and multiple other long term sequelae of infection, sequelae that weaken but don’t kill. Republicans, even Trump supporters and their families, are not immune to the reality of Covid-19 infection. Herman Cain, age 74, former presidential candidate and recent mask-dissing attendee of Trump’s Tulsa rally has been hospitalized and on oxygen for nearly four weeks with Covid-19.  (The day after I composed this email Herman Cain died.)

Other truths about this virus are also coming into focus. A Spokane teenager of my acquaintance and her friend recently lost their sense of taste and smell on the same day, one week after their only plausible exposure to Covid-19. They and two others had spent time (some of it indoors) in the company of a third friend whose brother came down with symptoms and tested positive after their time together. The friend, the only link and the only plausible carrier with whom they’d had contact, never personally manifested symptoms andtested negative for the virus twice following their contact. Fortunately, my teenage acquaintance suffered only a mild case, regained her sense of taste and smell in about a week and, with careful quarantining, did not infect her family. The other young woman had a rougher course, but recovered without experiencing pneumonia. Both young women tested positive for the virus.

The take-home from this anecdote and published data is that Covid-19 can be caught from symptomatic, pre-symptomatic, and asymptomatic people infected with the disease. One best assume that everyone with whom one comes in contact may be shedding virus. Influenza is far less contagious. Viral shedding with influenza virus mostly does not occur in the absence of early symptoms of the disease. In the current world population Covid-19 is not the flu. Covid-19 is more transmissible, more deadly, and productive of greater morbidity than influenza.

Keep to the high ground,
Jerry

P.S. Unless an effective vaccine becomes widely available, the death toll from Covid-19 is probably just getting started. The following is mathematical conjecture, but, if you take the death rate of 5.6% (1 in 20) in the over age 65 cohort in the U.S. population (these over age 65 are 13% of the whole U.S. population of 330M), an IFR of 0.0065 (1 in 150) in the whole population, and assume herd immunity when 60% of the population has been infected and made antibodies, then in the U.S. alone we would see 1.44M dead overall, nearly ten times what we’ve seen so far. 1.29M of the dead would be from the over 65 yo cohort, but 212,000 of the dead  would be among working age and younger U.S. residents.

Since the greatest viral transmission occurs indoors, I predict the coming winter will be long, dark, cold, and isolated, especially for those over 65. We had better hope for a safe and effective vaccine. The earliest that could happen now appears to be early in 2021. Cross your fingers.

The Primaries Plus

At least once or twice surely every one of us has been guilty of procrastination. Don’t let procrastination keep you from filling out your primary ballot (State of Washington) and mailing it in today (to be sure it is postmarked before the 8PM Tuesday deadline) or (perhaps better) driving by and dropping it in one of the Drop Boxes. Click here for a listing of Spokane County Drop Boxes. If you’ve already sent yours in check at MyVote.wa.gov to confirm that your ballot has been accepted. That website also features an electronic “Voters Guide”–there is no paper guide for the Primary.

DO NOT vote for Chris Armitage for U.S. Representative from Congressional District 5 (currently held by Cathy McMorris Rodgers). Mr. Armitage has dropped out of the race. 

I’ve published the next four paragraphs twice before, but, just in case you missed:

If you, like I, find the candidate statements in the Voters’ Guide rather bland and nonspecific, check out FUSE Washington’s progressivevotersguide.org. I find their endorsements detailed, rational, and convincing.

If you have time to dig more deeply, you can listen to interviews with candidates pertinent to Spokane County by searching candidate names at https://www.spokanepublicradio.org/search/google#stream/0.

The League of Women Voters did Zoom interviews with many area candidates; These videos are available here: https://my.lwv.org/washington/spokane-area/article/view-videos-august-2020-primary-candidate-forums

For candidates at the state level you can determine who is funding there candidacy by visiting the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission website: https://www.pdc.wa.gov/  Navigation on that site takes some learning, but there is a lot of interesting information. For example, one can quickly see that only six of the thirty-six candidates for Washington State governor have significant financial backing: https://www.pdc.wa.gov/browse/campaign-explorer.

Every candidate for whom I would consider casting a vote in this Primary is listed as “Prefers Democratic Party.” That has not always been true for me, but it is certainly true this year. 

I believe we need a very broad re-set, an electoral pummeling, for Republicans to realize what they have become and what they have decided to condone. 

The local Republican Parties set the table for right wing extremists, people they cannot renounce for fear of losing the support that keeps them in office. Many on the far right have connections to Matt Shea, the soon-to-be-former State Representative from Legislative District 4 (Spokane Valley north to Mt. Spokane). Matt Shea has morphed into a preacher of radical far right political “Christianity” at the Covenant Church in north Spokane. These are the same folks, intertwined with Shea, who present themselves as The Church at Planned Parenthood–Spokane, a Republican political interest group masquerading as a church (and carrying guns). Caleb Collier, former City of Spokane Valley city council member, frequent flier and associate of Shea at Covenant, and executive field coordinator for the extremist John Birch Society, recently made front page news in the Spokesman for his work in placing local billboards in opposition to mask wear. Anyone who gives these people the nod should be voted out of office.

Vote!

Keep to the high ground,
Jerry

P.S. Some specifics for LD4 voters: Currently on the ballot in LD4 we have the Matt Shea mini-me, McCaslin Junior, whose father, Bob McCaslin Sr., before he died wrote in a letter to the Spokane County commissioners, “I wish to state that under no circumstances would I support Matthew Shea for any public office.” Bob McCaslin Junior rode into office on his father’s good name–and followed Shea’s lead on everything he has done in the legislature. So much for listening to one’s parents. Like Matt Shea, who consistently refused to be interviewed by Spokane Public Radio and the Spokesman, McCaslin rarely consents to an interview. You can see him, however, at the League of Women Voters in a Zoom Q and A for the three candidates. Lori Feagan is my clear choice. She is clearly the best prepared. 

Portland-On the Ground

When Attorney General William Barr testified before Congress last Wednesday, July 28, he characterized the Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, Oregon, as violent riots. Jim Jordan, U.S. Rep from Ohio, one of the committee mermbers showed edited video depicting incidents to show the protests as riots consuming the city. In the wake of the testimony, The Oregonian and most of mainstream media pushed back at Barr’s statements while the right wing media echoed Barr’s (and Trump’s) “law and order” message. 

Late the same day the Trump administration blinked in the standoff with the Mayor of Portland and the Governor of Oregon, both of whom have been loudly pushing for the feds to leave on grounds that their presence was inciting the unrest. The federal administration announced a carefully worded “phased withdrawal” of Customs and Border Protection and ICE agents, an announcement that sounded to me like an attempt to save face while getting out of a situation that looked bad for them.

So whose characterization of the protests in Portland is the truth, the Trump media or what we used to call the “mainstream” media? Is this a case of blind people examining an elephant, where each gets to feel just one appendage? 

For my part, I found this youtube video informative as an illustration of who was playing the aggressor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQ_moOtDqvk  [The incident that made this gentle giant famous as a non-violent protester is seen around 3:15 in the video if you don’t have the time or patience to watch the whole thing.] As a physician, I was particularly touched by the description of the volunteer medics treating the injured. 

I value eyewitness accounts by respected people. Dr. Alden Roberts is surgeon and retired former Chief Medical Officer of a hospital in Vancouver, Washington, who recently finished his term as the Chairman of the Washington Medical Commission. He went went to Portland to see for himself. I was able to contact Dr. Roberts via LinkedIn and confirm his authorship and willingness to share. This is what he wrote back: “Yes, that was an e-mail I sent to my kids. I’ve now been to four protests, once with other physicians and once with my older brother. Our observations are what I described to my kids.”

“1. The protests are confined to a 2 block radius around the courthouse, and if you’re 4 blocks away, you can’t tell anything has been happening. There is nothing going on outside of that region, and Portland is functioning as normally as the Pandemic will allow. It is not burning, nor is it out of control.

2. The protesters are absolutely peaceful at the Protests that I have been part of, and with the exception of graffiti, are completely within their constitutional rights to protest. The protests involve singing, chanting, and have used “white walls” to block whites who are trying to disrupt or corrupt the protests. Yes, cursing is rather commonplace. More than ½ of the protesters are white. All are protesting for Black Lives Matter, although the entrance of the federal paramilitary force has brought out a lot of people, including myself, who are incensed at the use of unregulated federal force against law abiding citizen and against the will of the state and local governments.

3. ALL of the protesters are wearing masks to minimize transmission of CoV-2. However, as at times there are 1000 or more of us, it is hard (though not impossible) to maintain social distancing. When the federal paramilitary force is deployed, it becomes impossible.

4. The Police responded unprovoked and were brutal, but nothing like the paramilitary force. There is a court order that forbids the police to use teargas. I was not there when it was just the police.

5. At the protests I have attended, I did not witness any unlawfulness on the part of the protesters. Each time, the federal paramilitary personnel launched an apparently unprovoked attack. There have been no “riots.” The federal paramilitary force has had no training in crowd control, has no oversight, was not invited to Portland by local leadership, does not have any form of identification do not wear name badges, and wears military camo. They are heavily armed with flash-bang grenades, less-lethal bullets, pepper bullets, pepper spray and tear gas. They will pull goggles off of protesters and spray pepper spray into their eyes. They used a baton to beat a US Navy vet, broke his hand and sprayed pepper spray in his eyes because he asked why they weren’t honoring their vow to protect the constitution. During the assault, he stood still and did not resist until blinded by the pepper spray, he turned around and walked away. The “line of mothers” on Sunday was gassed and shot with less-lethal bullets for chanting Black Lives Matter. At least one was pregnant. A protester holding a sign up with both hands was shot in the head with a “non-lethal” bullet and will likely have permanent brain damage. While I have not personally seen this, there are videos of people being kidnapped into unmarked vans by the federal paramilitaries as they left the protests, held for a couple of days, interrogated, then released without charges or explanation. At this time, re-read my first two points. The protests are no threat to Portland and only encompass a 2 block area. They have been peaceful, with graffiti as the only illegal activity. They are well controlled and supported by a cross section of Portlanders. There is no reason for the federal government to be involved, and the excessive force being used appears to be nothing more than a political show of force against US Citizens by the Trump administration.

6. About 3000 protesters showed up last night (July 21); all with masks, very well behaved. Certainly no chaos, no violence on the part of the protesters. I left at 10:30, the paramilitary attacked at 12:30. I spent an hour talking to the medics. They say they are being targeted by the paramilitary personnel. They are often the first to be shot at and tear gassed. When they try to help an injured protester, the paramilitary personnel throw flash-bangs and tear gas at them (they carry gas masks). One of them was beaten, dragged away from the injured person they were treating and arrested. They are from OHSU as well as Portland Fire.

7. The Elk statue was taken down by the Police to “protect” it, but the Elk statue was a favorite of the protesters because it was uncontroversial; so they got a blow-up elk and put it where the real statue used to stand. It’s sort of a rallying point.”

This should concern, if not terrify, all of us. This is an unidentified and unaccountable federal police presence attacking American citizens who are not violating any federal laws. This is literally how the “secret police” in other authoritarian regimes began. The comparison to the early stages of Nazi Germany is NOT AN EXAGGERATION anymore.

Silence is complacency. Please share this post. Please spread this information. Please get involved. Do not allow or condone this conduct by our federal government. I don’t care which political party you support, this is an affront to the U.S. Constitution and the founding principals of our nation”.

Sent from my iPhone

For my part I am left with no doubt as to what has been going on in Portland between Dr. Roberts’ email and the youtube interview with the gentle giant veteran referenced above. Keep this incident in mind as you vote in the Primary (next Tuesday is the deadline for the Washington primary election ballot turn-in) and in November. No one who has supported Trump and what has been doing for the last three and a half years is going to get a vote from me. 

Keep to the high ground,
Jerry

P.S. I wish to acknowledge the assistance of Deborah Greene in recommending I try to contact Dr. Roberts via LinkedIn. Even as a retired physician myself and with all the electronic connections I available to me I found it surprisingly difficult to contact him. Lesson learned.

P.P.S. I took the trouble to confirm to authorship both because it is the right thing to do, but also because I recognize a genre of widely circulated emails among (mostly older) friends, They are emails with a subtle or subliminal political message, a message often tacked on to an engaging story. They circulate without attribution or with questionable attribution. They are constructed by some political operative intending to mold the minds of their readers while never to having to answer for the veracity of the claim or the source of their funding. 

Covid, Masks, Evidence and Ideology

The Panhandle Health District board of health serves the five northern counties of Idaho: Boundary, Bonner, Kootenai, Benewah, and Shoshone. The first four of those counties make up about 3/5ths of the Idaho border with eastern Washington. As Covid-19 cases rose precipitously in Coeur d’Alene over the last few weeks, the Panhandle Health District’s six member board of health finally voted for a mask mandate–but only for Kootenai County–by a vote of four to two. The no votes were cast by two men from Bonner County (which includes Sandpoint and the otherwise mostly rural territory represented in the Idaho State legislature by Heather Scott). Here is their reasoning as quoted from the Bonner County Daily Bee on July 24th:

Board member Glen Bailey, a former Bonner County commissioner, one of the two no votes, said masks would not be effective, comparing wearing the masks in preventing the spread of COVID-19 to “trying to stop a mosquito with a chain-link fence.”

“It’s a threat to us as a community,” Bailey said. “I have observed the rise in case numbers. But at the same time, I have not seen a commensurate rise in the death rate.”

Allen Banks, the at-large member of the board and also a Bonner County resident, voted no.

“Masks do not work,” Banks said.

“The latest CDC publication in emerging and infectious disease … (shows) no benefit to the rate of influenza infection from wearing masks.”

Both these men claim university level educations that include the word “science,” that is, education that ought spur them to read more widely than their statements suggest. 

Bailey’s mosquito/chainlink fence analogy is cute and easy to understand–and wrong. Based solely on the size of a single virus particle and the spaces in cloth mesh it makes appealing and superficial sense, but it totally ignores a large body of bench science on droplet spread, electrostatic capture, and the physics of aerosols–as well as a growing body of epidemiological investigations on the spread of Covid-19.

Allen Banks’ “Masks don’t work” is based on a single CDC publication, a meta-analysis, not of studies of Covid-19, but of a series of studies of influenza transmission. Mr. Banks kindly provided a link to the article. It was written by a postgraduate student at the University of Hong Kong, Jingyi Xiao. In the part of her analysis regarding facemask efficacy, Ms. Xiao writes, “Most studies [that she analyzed] were underpowered because of limited sample size, and some studies also reported suboptimal adherence in the face mask group.” Running statistical analysis (meta-analysis) of underpowered and suboptimal studies does not yield a greater truth. Mr. Banks focuses on this publication because it suits his confirmation bias. To accept this meta-analysis as conclusive is to ignore an increasing body of observational evidence in the real world, including two referenced below. (See also The Face Mask Debate Reveals a Scientific Double Standard.) 

Who of us (prior to the Covid-19 pandemic) knew anything about local boards of health? It is time we pay attention. Each of these civic boards has its own bylaws and composition, including volunteer positions increasingly occupied by people with an ideology and an axe to grind. (We have our own eastern Washington example. Jason Kinley, a friend of Matt Shea, was recently appointed to the Spokane Regional Health District board of health.) 

While people like Glen Bailey and Allen Banks speak from their ideological biases and blinkered fact bases, evidence continues to mount that face masks are, indeed, very effective. Here are some real world examples:

In Switzerland where the Covid-19 outbreak is at a point where contact tracing is still practical, a recent report of a Covid-19 cluster among hotel employees not only attests to the utility of face masks, but also contrasts face mask effectiveness to the lack of effectiveness of face shields. An article from July 15 entitled ‘Only those with plastic visors were infected’: Swiss government warns against face shields, suggests that not only have the Swiss gotten beyond Bailey’s and Banks’ misinformation but have moved on the next level of analysis. (Of course, accepting such data as this would require Republicans to acknowledge people other that U.S. citizens are capable of performing credible research.)

This Missouri hair stylist case study, now complete and published by the CDC, stands in direct contraction to Allen Banks’ bald statement that “Masks don’t work.” Not one of 139 people (all wearing various masks) exposed to two Covid-19 positive, mildly symptomatic hair stylists (wearing cloth masks) came down with the disease. 

Keep to the high ground,
Jerry

P.S. A free article from the Wall Street Journal (not exactly a left wing newspaper ;-), Covid-19 Measures Have All but Wiped Out the Flu in the Southern Hemisphere, strongly suggests that the measures used in southern countries to combat the spread of Covid-19 curb the spread of influenza as well. Obviously, this isn’t just the use of masks, but also a host of other measures that vary from country to country. Both diseases are predominantly spread by respiratory means. It’s just that Covid-19 spreads more efficiently, spreads from asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic people, and is spreading in a population with little resistance and no vaccine. 

P.P.S. The Bonner County Daily Bee on July 28, reports “Push on to replace pro-mask PHD board members.” The headline is deceptive. The most quoted man in the article, Bill Brooks, one of three Kootenai County Commissioners, says, “I got about 125 -130 emails: 70 want a replacement, and the rest of them want to award a medal of honor” in reference to the M.D. and R.N., both from Coeur d’Alene, who serve on the Panhandle Board of Health. It is ironic that the only two members of the six member board who actually have experience in clinical medicine are the ones that “seventy” emailers want to kick off the board. It is editorial sensationalism to characterize this as a “Push on to replace…” It sounds more to me like a well organized vocal minority of ideologues and ignoramuses, the like of which we have in Spokane in the form of the Matt Shea/Covenant Church cluster. 

The article did provide an explanation of how people come to serve on the Panhandle Board of Health: 

“Fillios [another Kootenai County Commissioner] then cited Idaho code 39-411, which requires that one member of the board should be a physician, that there be no more than one member in the same professional or interest group, and that all members should demonstrate either an education or interest in the field of health. He then specified the process for appointing or removing a board member, which requires a vote.

“It takes the majority vote of the 15 county commissioners, three from each county,” he said. “This is state law, folks. We don’t write these. These are the laws as prescribed and voted on and passed by your Legislature.”

Citizens of each county need to pay attention to how all this all works. Observe, for example, the power that the fifteen commissioners (three from each county) wield in determining the composition of such boards. John Roskelley, former Spokane County Commissioner and current candidate for WA State Senator from LD4 (Spokane Valley north to Mt. Spokane) correctly observed that county commissioners wield extraodinary power–and most voters know very little about the commissioners that are supposed to represent them.