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,


Extrajudicial Execution

In my youth in the 1950s and early 1960s lawbreakers were apprehended by upright men like Marshal Matt Dillon of the TV series Gunsmoke. The “bad guys” were always warned; they knew who was arresting them; they were only shot if they pulled a gun and shot first. Even then, the accused was usually shot in the hand that held the gun. Then he was trotted off to jail. On 1950s television the accused got a fair jury trial that revealed their actual guilt or innocence. Lynch mobs were lawless and the sheriffs protected people threatened by one. If a wrong were committed it was always put right. The television–and the world it depicted–were presented in sharply focused black and white. Sadly, that doesn’t appear to be the way things work.

On October 13 the New York Times published an article entitled, “‘Straight to Gunshots’: How a U.S. Task Force Killed an Antifa Activist.” In the tumult of pre-election news the article did not get the attention it deserved. The article (and this 3 minute 43 second clip from the article that is found on youtube) presents disturbing evidence that should remind us of a Duterte/Philipines style extrajudicial killing. 

Just as disturbing is this youtube video of Mr. Trump, bragging to his rally crowd that “We sent in the U.S. Marshals. Took fifteen minutes and it was over.” (U.S. Marshals, who work under the direction of Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, could be engaged because Reinoehl had crossed the state line from Oregon into Washington. Otherwise, Trump, Barr, and the federal Marshals would have lacked jurisdiction.)

William Barr in his press release was on the same message as Trump concerning this extrajudicial killing, describing Reinoehl as a “violent agitator.” This wording is prejudicial propaganda to describe a man whose arrest warrant was for “second-degree murder with a weapon and unlawful use of a weapon,” not “violent agitation.” With his words Barr has judged Reinoehl guilty of a crime for which no jury will ever hear the evidence. 

Reinoehl’s killing by U.S. Marshals was worrisome to many in law enforcement.  Quoted in the The Hill, Ken Klippenstein, D.C. correspondent for The Nation said:

“The folks I know in law enforcement are extremely angry about it because whether or not that’s what happened, the message sent to the public is that the marshals and local law enforcement in the FBI that served with them in this operation are just these kind of lawless roving gangs that are going to go out and do the president’s bidding,”

Michael Reinoehl, the man shot to death under Trump’s and Barr’s direction in the incident analyzed by the NYTimes, was accused of killing Aaron J. Danielson on the streets of Portland, Oregon, Saturday evening, August 29th. Danielson was shot on a downtown Portland street in an altercation that involved Danielson allegedly carrying a baton and using pepper spray. The shooting occurred after Danielson participated in the provocative Trump 2020 Cruise Rally. That rally involved cruising pickup trucks containing men shooting paintball guns and spraying pepper spray at Black Lives Matter protesters. (Who was more the “violent agitator” before the shooting?) Danielson, originally from Spokane, was closely associated with Joey Gibson, far right provocateur and founder of Patriot Prayer, a gun-waving group that tends to attract white supremacists. The media at the time, including the Spokesman, told Danielson’s life story in detail and with notable sympathy, a man caught up in the patriotic passions of his time. 

Shortly after Danielson’s death Reinoehl was named as the prime suspect. Five days later, on Thursday, September 3, Reinoehl died in an indiscriminate hail of bullets in a neighborhood in Lacey, Washington, gunned down, according to all but one witness interviewed by the NYTimes, by men who descended abruptly in unmarked vehicles. Bullets whizzed past an eight year out on his bike and through the walls of nearby apartments. No bullhorn announcement like the one you might imagine hearing, “This is the police! Put your hands in plain view or we will shoot!” preceded the gunfire. Reinoehl died on the street with a pistol in his pocket. Did he die thinking he’d been shot by the police or by a rightwing mob?

Reinoehl is presented in most of the media as “self-described antifa,” as if that alone were grounds for execution. Examine that. “Antifa” is short for anti-fascist. As I recall history, anti-fascism was the side to be on for most of the 20th century. Where is the detailed examination of Reinoehl’s life? Where are the interviews of his friends? When will we hear and see the evidence presented to a jury in a court of law in this land that claims to pride itself on justice and “the rule of law?” 

Thanks to the current federal administration under Trump and Barr Michael Reinoehl lies dead, accused, judged, and executed like he might have been in what we used to call a “banana republic.” What have we become?

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Trump has a long history of meting out judgment and recommending execution. The most public example of this was directed at five black and hispanic teenagers in the Central Park jogger case in 1989. As a private citizen Trump spent tens of thousands of dollars placing ads and grandstanding over his perception of their obvious guilt, an effort many believe strongly influenced their convictions and incarceration. In shameful disregard for the rule of law, Trump continues to insist on their guilt of these men despite their total exoneration based on DNA evidence and the confession of the actual rapist in 2002. The sordid tale of this initial miscarriage of justice (and Trump’s involvement) is told at length in the recent Netflix short series dramatization, “When They See Us.” This alone should have been grounds to disqualify Trump for elective office. 

P.S.S. I highly recommend a revisit to another piece of history that had faded in my memory by watching the excellent dramatization, “The Trial of The Chicago 7,” also on Netflix. I rather doubt Trump and Barr were thinking this strategically, but one has to wonder if they considered that having Michael Reinoehl murdered was this best way to avoid what might have become a political show trial.

CMR and Minority Rule

Cathy McMorris Rodgers (CMR) and Dave Wilson, candidates for Congressional District 5 (comprising most of the ten easternmost counties of Washington State), participated in a debate on the local public television station, KSPS, last Monday, October 19. The questioners were Kip Hill, reporter for the Spokesman, and Doug Navornick, reporter and community stalwart whose voice I often hear on local public radio, KPBX. It was live-streamed on youtube, where you can still watch it

The exchange reminded me why many of us campaigned so hard for Lisa Brown to unseat McMorris Rodgers in 2018. If we send her back to Washington in 2021 she will once again be in the minority in the U.S. House. There she can continue making well worn and discredited statements like she did in the debate.  According to McMorris Rodgers the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the Republican tax giveaway to corporations and the rich, is still her party’s miracle legislation that provided “well-paying jobs for hard-working Americans.”

The first question in the debate was from Doug Nadvornick, “If you were to draw up a coronavirus relief proposal what would be the essential elements and what would you leave out?” First, McMorris Rodgers highlighted the prompt passage in March, 2020, of the CARES Act. Then she proclaimed: “I DO believe that we need an additional corona relief package…As far as the priorities that I hear I think at the top of the list is the liability protection that businesses and hospitals, ah, schools need because there’s a growing number of lawsuits….” I thought my head would explode.

Cathy, the country is hurting. We are facing the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Many people face eviction and food shortages, and your and your Party’s priority is liability protection for businesses?? Liability protection for businesses is the primary Republican talking point (after blaming Democrats) for holding up another coronavirus relief bill, a bill that even the Trump-appointed head of the Federal Reserve advocates? As Dave Wilson pointed out, the people (and the economy) need financial relief now. Cathy’s priority is protecting businesses (with hospitals and “schools” as an afterthought) from lawsuits that will be filed later, work through the courts over years, and face a business-friendly appellate judiciary her Republican Senate minority (representing a minority of the population) has packed thanks to McConnell’s slimy political maneuvering. Cathy, your priorities are pathologically warped. You and your Party are not the adults in the room.

Let’s examine the legislative history of coronavirus relief. It is true that the House and Senate passed and Mr. Trump signed the CARES Act, H.R. 748 (the “engrossed bill”), into law in March. McMorris Rodgers had no hand in writing it. The bill was written by Mitch McConnell and his minions in the Senate in consultation with the White House. Surprised? I was. The House of Representative, we are taught by McMorris Rodgers and others, holds the “power of the purse”, the House is where spending bills are supposed to originate. The Senate circumvented that Constitutional mandate by “repurposing” a House Bill, H.R. 748, that was introduced long before the pandemic. The original H.R. 748 was a minor spending bill with broad House support. It dealt with a change in excise tax treatment of employer sponsored health insurance.  H.R. 478 passed the House in July 2019 and then lay dormant (while McConnell worked to pack the judiciary) until March 20, 2020. H.R. 748 was then repurposed, i.e. completely rewritten, into the CARES Act by McConnell’s folks in consultation with the White House. 

I cannot say how often this workaround is used so that the Senate (and whoever controls it) can make a mockery of the Constitutional “power of the purse,” but it was an eye-opener to me. Mitch McConnell is a U.S. Senator representing the 4.5 million people of the state of Kentucky (U.S. population is around 320 million). McConnell sits at the head of the “majority” Republicans of a Senate who represent, in aggregate, a minority of the population of the United States. In spite of the tiny electorate to which he answers, McConnell is a man of immense power. He is the actual holder of “the power of the purse.” 

The CARES Act (still labelled as H.R. 748) was passed on a voice vote both in the Senate and later in the House when it returned there for final passage to become the “engrossed bill” signed into law by the president. There was no notable dissent in either party, since it didn’t contain a poison pill like the “liability protection” McMorris Rodgers now offers as the main priority to be considered before any further relief. 

Apparently, now the word has come down from the business interests that fund the Republican Party: “You will delay any additional coronavirus relief. Your talking point here (after first blaming Democrats) is to highlight the terrible lawyers and the lawsuits they’ll bring against us (for things like our negligence in getting workers infected and killed by coronavirus in our meatpacking plants).”

McMorris Rodgers says with conviction in the debate, “I DO believe that we need an additional corona relief package,” but she, along with her lock-step Republican colleagues, voted against the second relief package, the HEROES Act (H.R. 6800), passed by the House on May 15, 2020. McConnell, arguably the most powerful person in the U.S. government, a man directly representing a tiny minority of Americans, has announced that further stimulus is dead on arrival in the Senate. McConnell, of course, only has to answer to his corporate backers and the Fox News listeners of the State of Kentucky. 

McMorris Rodgers’ only function is to serve as a mouthpiece for Republican select and powerful business interests and a distinct minority of American voters. Dave Wilson would make a far better Representative.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. For many years I tried not to look too hard at politics. I justified not paying much attention by leaning on the old saying, “to retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making.” I was wrong. We are governed by laws. If we look away from the process of making law we will empower a few people with questionable allegiances to control our lives, people like Mitch McConnell. On the other hand, if we each tried to master all the details of legislation none of us would have time to do anything else. That’s why we elect people to represent us in city, county, state, and federal governments. When the people holding office swing too far in one direction, when they get out of step, when they hold up consideration of needed legislation on the grounds that what is really needed is “liability protection” for business, then it is time to vote them out.

P.P.S. One last comment: the sausage that McConnell and his minions wrote into the CARES Act is grossly partisan as well. The 2.2 trillion dollar act is 300 pages long and contains abundant opportunities to “pick winners and losers.” Here’s one “small” example of the partisanship: 274 billion (1/8 of the total) was earmarked for distribution to state and local governments for “Covid-19 response.” Logically, the money would be doled out to the states on a per capita basis. That would work out to roughly $856 per person. But, no, McConnell and company, representing states of small population, inserted a zinger: the minimum amount a state was to be allotted was 1.25 billion. The result? Wyoming (population 600,000) received $2083/person, a major windfall to a state, which, at the time, was barely touched by Covid-19. In contrast, California (population 39,500,000) ravaged by Covid-19 at the time, received $388/person. [The rules under which these funds were distributed were even more complicated, although the net distributions were as I wrote. The rules and actual amounts are detailed here.] My curiosity about these details was first piqued by an article noting that Idaho, with an annual state budge of less than 4 billion was in pretty good fiscal shape after receiving 1.25 billion in covid-19 relief funds (more than a quarter of its annual budget). At the same time I noted that Washington State was struggling with a budget shortfall in spite of receiving $2,952,933,375 in Covid-19 relief. Washington State has 4.2 times the population of Idaho and received only 2.7 times the relief funds. What was wrong with this picture?

We Make National News-Again

In all the media frenzy leading up to the November 3 general election it is easy to miss things happening under our own noses, but when a story about the Inland Northwest appears in the spotlight of national media I sit up and take notice. What have we become?

When a six minute segment entitled “Are Paramilitary Extremists Being Normalized? Look To Idaho For Answers” came on National Public Radio’s (91.1FM) Weekend Edition last Saturday, October 17, I took notice. (Click the title to go to the NPR website and listen or read.)

The Weekend Edition segment is primarily a spinoff of the national media coverage of the right wing militia plot to kidnap the Democratic Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, but the Weekend Edition story also touches on the disinformation that threatens a rational response to the Covid pandemic: 

At Bonner General Health, [in Sandpoint, ID] Dr. Morgan Morton recounts a patient she had the other day who wanted to wait until after November to schedule a needed procedure.

” ‘I don’t want to do a COVID test,’ she said, and I said, ‘What do you mean? Why would you choose after November?’ I was totally oblivious,” Morton said.

Morton, who is head of the medical staff at the small hospital, said the patient told her that after the election, all of this — the worldwide pandemic — is just going to go away.

“And I was just like … mind blown,” Morton says.

The segment goes on to discuss the heavily armed white men that turned out last June in Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene to “protect the community” against the rumored imminent arrival of “antifa” terrorists. Rather than feeling protected, regular citizens and especially the unarmed folks carrying signs for Black Lives Matter, felt intimidated by these men dressed for war and accountable to no one. It felt like a threat, a dress rehearsal for a coming event:

For some longtime locals, there was this sense of “here we go again.”

The recent arrests of militia members in Michigan are echoing loudly in Idaho, a state that has long been synonymous with violent right-wing extremism. But after the fallout from the 1992 anti-government standoff at Ruby Ridge cooled and a lawsuit broke up the infamous Aryan Nations, some longtime locals thought they had finally moved past the ugly past.

The sobering–and frightening–thing is that, unlike Richard Butler and his Aryan Nations that plagued the region from 1970 to 2000 the current “militia” movement has people both in public office and as candidates for public office in the Inland Northwest. Idaho State Rep Heather Scott on the Idaho side and Washington State Rep. Matt Shea and his acolytes in Legislative District 4  (Spokane Valley north to Mt. Spokane) on the other. LD4 Rep. McCaslin  Jr. and candidate Rob Chase are examples, to name only a few. The ground is so fertile here that the name Ammon Bundy is not only a big draw but the man himself has moved to Emmett, Idaho, from Nevada to live among kindred spirits. (See more on Ammon below.)

As residents of the Inland Northwest it behooves us once again to wake up this movement, learn the names and the stories that tie them together. These people are armed, threatening, and worrisome. We need to pay attention. 

Keep to the high ground,

A fascinating, disturbing–and essential–orientation to parts of this militia movement and the characters in it, including Matt Shea, Cliven and Ammon Bundy, and the Spokane Martin Luther King Day bomber(2011) can be had at Bundyville and Bundyville, The Remnant. Both were researched and written by Leah Sotille, a music reporter for Spokane’s weekly paper, The Inlander, at the time the MLK Day bomb was planted. I greatly admire her work. I urge you to become acquainted.  

Ammon Bundy, and his father Cliven, spring from Fundamentalist LDS stock who, for decades, grazed their cattle on public land while refusing to pay grazing fees. That is breaking the law, a fact that is often lost in the telling of the rest of the story. When federal law enforcement came to collect on the debt in 2014 the Bundys summoned a ragtag army militia groups and created the Bundy standoff that made the Bundys infamous to some and famous to others. Ammon went on to engineer the month long armed occupation  the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge two years later. State Reps Matt Shea and Heather Scott were sympathetic visitors and possible co-conspirators in that outrage. Ammon Bundy inexplicably (to my mind) talked his way out of federal charges related to the Malheur occupation. Leah Sottile, writing in the Washington Post, described it this way:

When Ammon Bundy took the witness stand, he seized it like a pulpit, delivering 10 hours of testimony about his family, his Mormon views and his interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

Ammon is apparently quite the orator, using his oratory and his infamy, to whip up controversy in his new home, the Inland Northwest. We would do well to remember that the Bundys and this movement started by intentionally breaking the law and order that binds the rest of us. What the Bundys and their followers are engaged in is armed rebellion, not First Amendment protest. The death of Lavoy Finicum was just a skirmish in a rebellion they hope in incite.

Vote! It’s Not Over

In my personal news bubble it felt last week as though the tide had turned. That sense was well communicated (with multiple links) in the October 16, 2020 email. from Heather Cox Richardson. I read the comforting note that Nielson reported a higher viewership for the Biden townhall than the Trump circus. I smiled at the comment on twitter, “So it’s Mister Rogers vs Crazy Uncle Moron oh my god how the ___ will I ever decide which one to choose?” I breathed a short sigh of relief. But then…

I did what I often do, I checked the headlines at FoxNews.com. A screenshot of the middle of the Fox webpage the morning after the town halls (Friday, October 16) is posted above. It is just a sample of a slew of articles of the same type that have appeared on Fox since then. Check out the local Inland Northwest “news” outlets, RedoubtNews.com and RadioFreeRedoubt.com, as a thorough cure for complacency. Note that none of these “news” outlets has a paywall or membership fee, while the ones that do have a fee are the outlets that do actual investigative reporting, Ponder how many people have their “news” shaped by free fonts of opinion like Rush Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson, and Sean Hannity. 

My message today is a simple one: Do not relax. This is not over, and, regardless of what happens on November 3 and the weeks that follow, it still won’t be over. Even if voted down, these people and their propaganda won’t just slink away into the night. They didn’t disappear after FDR fought them to establish Social Security in the 1930s. They didn’t go away after LBJ fought them to push through the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, and Medicaid in the 1960s. They didn’t go away after Barrack Obama fought to enact the Affordable Care Act in 2009, and they won’t go away even if Trump is roundly beaten in the upcoming election and Democrats retake the U.S. Senate, governorships, and state houses. 

VOTE!! And take this opportunity to pay attention to our voting systems. The national media beat us each day this or that legislative or judicial outrage around the details of voting. It’s a confusing and overwhelming mess from a national perspective for the casual reader because each state (thanks to the U.S. Constitution) sets its own fussy and confusing rules around requirements for absentee ballots, drop boxes, ballot harvesting, and ballot handling–rules sometimes meant to enhance security and sometimes set for electoral advantage. Never before in my lifetime has the spotlight shown so brightly on the variation in the varied voting systems of our country. 

Fortunately, Washington State’s voting system is among the very best. By now most of my readers should have received their ballot in the mail. Your contact as a voter with the voting system in Washington State is MyVote.wa.gov or VoteWA.gov (entering either in your browser window will take you to the same place). Commit one of those web addresses to memory. There you can check 1) what address your ballot is/was mailed to, 2) when your ballot was mailed, 3) whether and when it was received by the county auditor and 4) much more. Check it out. 

A lot of candidate information and voting recommendations are available at your fingertips. My favorites:

The ProgressiveVotersGuide.com has expanded to cover eight states. Beware: I just figured out that if you want recommendations down to local candidates (at least for WA) you need to enter your voting address instead of simply clicking on your state symbol. The Guide offers commentary and links.

The League of Women Voters is a great source of videoed candidate forums. The League of Women Voters Spokane Area candidate forums for many local races and links to forums for statewide candidates. 

Over the last four years I have commented on many issues and candidates that appear on the November ballot. Visit jxindivisible.org and enter key word or names in the Search box to retrieve them. I hope you find them helpful. 

As well as seeing what’s on Fox and Redoubt News, I occasionally visit WeBelieveWeVote.orgI’ve written of the origins of this group that melds the articles of faith of Fundamentalist Christianity with Republican politics. They have quietly moved away from presenting the Second Amendment as an article of Christian faith, but their yes/no evaluation criteria (now characterized as “agreement”–or not) remain otherwise much the same. For my part, I am uncomfortable with any candidate who submits to this Yes/No questionnaire with no opportunity to express nuance. Hence, I use a high rating by WeBelieveWeVote as relative negative indicator. 

Finally, an article in the Spokesman on Sunday, October 18th, did a nice job of orienting Washington State voters to the controversies they hear about in the national media: As nation sees flood of voting-related lawsuits, here’s how Washington has handled the issues being litigated.

Keep to the high ground,

Leaders in Covid Death

In the vice-presidential “debate” one question asked of Mike Pence by the moderator, Susan Page, stood out in bold relief:

Vice President Pence, more than 210,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 since February. The US death toll as a percentage of our population is higher than that of almost every other wealthy nation on Earth. For instance, our death rate is two and a half times that of Canada, next door. You head the administration’s Coronavirus Task Force. Why is the U.S. death toll, as a percentage of our population, higher than that of almost every other wealthy country?

Pence had his approved talking-points ready. Rather than allow listeners to consider any international comparison of per capita death rates, Pence dove into Republican/Fox News diversion. This is the gist: Don’t compare us to other countries. No, no, no. Instead, focus on how much worse it could have been if we hadn’t taken all the marvelous and timely actions we took! Don’t look at the evidence and, if you must look, you must conclude it is flawed and untrustworthy because it conflicts with our narrative. (Read his full response, if you have the stomach for it, at 05:55 in the transcript.) 

The question posed to Mike Pence is accurate. The U.S. per capita death rate from Covid is 2.5 times Canada’s rate. Canadians live next door. They speak a language we understand. We are not taught to be suspicious of their government systems. For all those reasons it is hard explain away a factor of 2.5 by claiming the statistics are flawed. (Explore more Covid per capita death statistics by country at https://www.statista.com/statistics/1104709/coronavirus-deaths-worldwide-per-million-inhabitants/. Be sure to read the notes.) 

Precisely because Canada’s numbers are pretty much unassailable, Pence deliberately sidestepped the question. He knows that the 648 Covid deaths per 1,000,000 in the U.S. is a glaring condemnation of Republican “leadership.” He also knows that Americans are trained to look inward, not outward, trained to dismiss foreign data as manufactured, trained to think of the rest of the world as backward and undeveloped. Moreover, he trusts our news media (even those outlets he and his boss label Fake News), to highlight stories of new outbreaks of coronavirus and new lockdowns while offering little if any context.

We report nearly 220,000 dead from Covid-19 to date. China reports nearly 5000. That’s 648 Covid deaths per 1,000,000 in the U.S. to 3.4 Covid deaths per 1,000,000 in China. (China has roughly four times our population.) That is a rate of death 191 times lower than ours (not just 2.5). That seems an impossible number. The Chinese must be lying, right? We Americans have been trained by a lifetime of nationalist pride and subtle propaganda, so we might be excused for making that the Chinese are lying–but we might better take off the nationalist blinders and have a critical look. After all, to equal our total dead from Covid-19, China (at four times our population) would have to be hiding 880,000 dead bodies, funerals and grieving families. In our world of electronic communication that would be no mean feat even for a country with government controlled media.

Our attention is flooded with antics Trump, his Republican sycophants, and parading militias, so flooded many of us have zero bandwidth left to look outward–and many of us have simply tuned out–just what our would-be autocratic would like. To look outward is to see what a laughingstock Trump’s failed leadership has made of us in the eyes of the world. 

For a broadening of perspective take the time to read Nine Days in Wuhan, The Ground Zero of the Coronavirus Pandemic. It appears in the October 12, 2020 issue of The New Yorker. The author, Peter Kessler, is an American writer fluent in Chinese with extensive experience and a multitude of personal connections in China. He paints a personal picture of people struggling, a lot like the rest of us, through a pandemic that knocked them sideways, a pandemic which the Chinese government, with the help of its people, fought to a vigilant standstill using technology and techniques we were unable to muster. I strongly encourage reading the article, which I hope is not hidden behind a paywall (a lot of coronavirus coverage is not). The account is breathtakingly straightforward–in marked contrast to the blustery bullshit of Trump and the loudest members of his following, people who, by contrast, are clearly intent on letting Covid-19 rampage through the American population while lying and blaming their way out of any responsibility.

The Trump administration is impervious to verifiable fact. We have 220,000 dead already with no more than ten or twenty million of us carrying antibodies to the disease (a generous estimate) out of a population of 330 million. Under Republican pandemic negligence hundreds of thousands more will die than need to before we have a trusted, widely accepted, widely available, safe and effective vaccine. Vote them out.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. We are a long way from being done with Covid-19. There are about 7.8 billion people on our planet. Of those, the best data suggest that so far only 37 million have been infected with Covid-19. Since nearly 40% of people with Covid-19 never exhibit symptoms and would not be detected without a truly robust testing regimen, it is likely there are a lot of uncounted folks who have been infected. In a generous attempt to account for those cases let’s more than double the worldwide number of total infected to 100 million. That still leaves 7.7 billion more Covid virgins for the virus to infect. (Sure, if “herd immunity” is achieved at, say, 60% of the population having effective antibodies, then the virus has “only” 4.5 billion potential hosts to go on a worldwide basis.)

P.P.S. Check out the trajectory of cumulative cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. and China from the beginning of the pandemic.

Elections and WA Judges

Ballots for the November 3rd general election ask us to chose between three pairs of Washington State judges. Electoral contests for judges in our state always seem to take me by surprise. Who are these people? What are these positions? On what basis am I supposed to chose between them? What follows is my attempt to put these three races in the context of our state judicial system.

For the Washington State Court of Appeals (District III, i.e. eastern Washington, based in Spokane):
Tracy Arlene Staab v. Marshall Casey

I encourage you to visit the campaign websites of Tracy Staab and Marshall Casey. I admit to some pre-judgement of Mr. Casey based on his 7 year partnership in the practice of law with Matt Shea, State Representative to Olympia the LD4 (Spokane Valley north to Mount Spokane). Matt Shea is credibly accused of involvement with domestic terrorism. You will not find any mention of the partnership with Shea on Casey’s campaign website. In this Spokesman article from February 18th Casey studiously avoids criticizing Shea, suggesting that Casey doesn’t want to alienate any of the militant, far right wing of the local Republican Party. While Casey’s campaign emphasis, “Protecting and Maintaining Individual Rights,” seems bland enough, his rather scant endorsements by exclusively right wing legislators suggest his leanings. Contrast that to Tracy Staub’s extremely broad based endorsements, her experience as a judge, her endorsement by seven different Bar Associations (which Casey did seek) and the choice is crystal clear: vote Staab for the Court of Appeals, District III. The tab on Staab’s website, “About Court of Appeals,” contains two short articles that I found very useful general information.

Curiously, both Staab and Casey have amassed substantial campaign contributions, $74,000 and $66,000, respectively. Staab has spent $69,000 of hers while Casey has only spent $26,000 of his (as of October 12). No other Court of Appeals candidate in this election cycle has raised more than $12,000 (pdc.wa.gov). Staab and Casey each raised more than five times that amount. Clearly, there are a lot of contributors to the Staab and Casey campaigns who think this contest is more important than most eastern Washington voters understand or appreciate. Casey filed to run almost 4 months later than Staab, in a what he must have understood would be an uphill fight. Is he hoping to capitalize on the support of Matt Shea’s followers?  And another thing: Casey’s low level of spending may be a timing/reporting issue, but it also might be his acknowledgment of his underdog status. If he leaves a substantial portion of his war chest unspent, it will be worthwhile to pay attention to where it finally goes.

For the two contested seats on the Washington State Supreme Court:
Raquel Montoya-Lewis vs. Dave Larson
G. Helen Whitener vs. Richard S. Serns

My choices are Montoya-Lewis and Whitener. Both sit on the court by recent appointment by the governor. Both bring welcome diversity to the court. Both are experienced and highly qualified. Their challengers both appear as long shots, having raised less than half the campaign contributions of the incumbents. Perhaps they are hoping the election will play out like the 1990 election contest I detail in “#3” near the end of this post.

My process of orientation to our state’s judicial system and judicial elections is laid out below:

We are concerned here only with the Washington State Court system, a system rooted in and governed by Article IV of the Washington State Constitution and the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). See P.S. below for a short contrast to federal courts and judges.

Washington State courts are divided into appellate courts and trial courts. Appellate courts, consisting of the Supreme Court and the three Divisions of the Courts of Appeals, hear cases on appeal from the trial courts. The appellate courts do not conduct trials. All three judicial races on the November ballot are for judges to serve at the appellate level. All Washington State appellate judges serve for a six year term.

Washington State Supreme Court: 9 judges, staggered 6 year terms, age limit 75

Washington State Courts of Appeals: 22 judges divided among three Divisions: Seattle, Tacoma, and Spokane (see map) and elected by voters in the Division in which they serve. Division III, Eastern Washington, is based in Spokane. Division III has five of the 22 judgeships. Like Supreme Court judges, State Appellate Court judges serve 6 year terms with an age limit of 75.

The trial courts consist of the Superior and District Courts of the counties and Municipal Courts, i.e. courts established within municipalities that chose to establish a municipal court system (like the City of Spokane). These county and municipal court systems often have explanatory webpages. See Spokane County Superior Court, Spokane County District Court, and the City of Spokane Municipal Court. (Note that each “Court” is really a whole court system with many judges, court rooms, and staff.) The judges that sit on the trial courts of the county and city serve four year terms. 

All the judges in the Washington State court system from municipal courts to the Supreme Court are elected. If you are a voter in the City of Spokane you will eventually see on successive ballots candidates for a total of 32 judgeships in five different parts of the court system: 3 City of Spokane Municipal, 8 Spokane County District, 12 Spokane County Superior, 5 Court of Appeals (Division III), and 9 Supreme Court. No wonder I was puzzled! 

Since these are all “non-partisan” positions, choosing among these judgeship candidates is (at least officially) neither aided by nor made complicated by party politics and affiliations. Once elected, a Washington State judge often remains in office without opposition, their names appearing on the ballot alone. When two judges vie for an elected seat it usually means one of three things: 1) A judge has just retired from that seat (the Staub/Marshall contest for the seat on the District III Court of Appeals from which Kevin Korsmo is retiring), 2) A judge that was recently appointed to a seat from which a judge has retired/died/aged-out in mid-term, a replacement judge has been appointed, and this is the first time they actually stand for election (the Whitener/Serns and the Montoya-Lewis/Larson races for a Supreme Court seat), or 3) A candidate files and wins in something that looks like a complete fluke.

The number 3 option, the fluke, happened at least once in a Washington State Supreme Court judicial  election (in 1990). A then mostly unknown attorney, Charles Johnson, apparently got a wild hair to declare candidacy, didn’t campaign, and still unseated Justice Keith M. Callow, a highly respected judge who had risen to the Supreme Court from the Court of Appeals six years earlier. That Johnson won was a complete surprise, so much so that the event resulted in a panelto study the state’s system for filling judgeships. Nothing changed. However, today voters can better inform themselves about the candidates for judgeships using information on the internet. (It turns out that Justice Charles Johnson did well after his surprise victory in 1990. He is now the longest serving member of the Washington State Supreme Court.)

In Washington State we elect our judges. It behooves us to pay close attention to whom we elect. I hope this post shines some light on that system.

Keep to the high ground,

Law, Norms, Mandates, and Masks

There is a big difference in mask wear between Idaho and Washington. Just visit a town on the other side of the border. (Of course, with the recent object lesson provided by the spread of Covid-19 among the national Republican leadership, mask wear is becoming more common everywhere–for good reason.)

Back in July the sensible majority on the Panhandle Health District Board voted 4-2 to mandate mask wear in Kootenai County (the Idaho County directly east of Spokane County). The Panhandle Health District (PHD) is authorized by law to protect the health of the citizens of all five north Idaho counties. The mask mandate applies only to Kootenai County, the most densely populated of the five counties. To attend the meetings or read the news coverage of this vote you would think that mandating mask wear were a terrible, grave endangerment to life, not the straightforward public health measure it clearly is. 

If the openly armed (why?) protesters outside the meeting in July weren’t enough, the far right Idaho State legislators from the northern counties recently waded in with a doozy of a letter, part of which was quoted in the Bonner County Daily Bee on October 1.

“We, the majority of state legislators from the five northern counties, are concerned about the continuing mask mandate in Kootenai County,” the letter dated Sept. 29 reads. “This order, first passed by your board in July, carries the force of law and is highly upsetting to many of the citizens we represent.”

God knows, you’d better not “upset” a far right Republican with an AR-15 and a bandolier. The eleven state legislators who signed wrote: “Idahoans value their freedom to make decisions for themselves…Treating adults like children results in defiance of the orders and diminishes the credibility of the health board in future concerns.” It strikes me that these legislators, apparently thinking they have nothing better with which to occupy their time, are acting the part of children, not adults. No, no, no, nobody can tell me I have to wear a mask! …Even if I know it is the right thing to do!

At least one of these legislators doesn’t object to mask wear when it is “required by an institution,” except when that institution is an arm of government. [Idaho State Senator [(R) Coeur d’Alene] Mary Souza: “I personally wear a mask when I’m in an institution that requires it, but I think it’s an individual choice. The situation we have here is: Where is the line between government telling people what they have to do for their health and people making their own choice?” 

This is asinine, but not so asinine as this argument: 

 [Idaho State Rep (R) Coeur d’Alene] Jim Addis said he signed the letter because local law officials say the size and scope of the [mask] mandate is impossible to enforce.

Think about that. A mandate or a law ought to be rescinded because it “is impossible to enforce.” The dictionary defines “enforce” as “compel observance of or compliance with.” I have a “No Trespassing” sign on my property. There are laws against trespass. Since there isn’t a law enforcement officer immediately available to arrest each person who sets foot on my property in clear violation of my sign and trespass law, by Addis’ logic we need to toss out such laws. While we’re at it, we’d best rescind laws against rape and murder, since law enforcement is clearly incapable of “compelling observance” of these laws as well.

A mask mandate or a mask requirement is more an expression of decency, a societal norm, a recognition that we’re all in this together; we need to wear masks for now in order protect each other; mask wear is a sign of mutual respect. Most citizens of Washington aren’t chaffing against the state’s mask requirement. The mask requirement is a public health tool. The fact of its enactment commands attention. That is the purpose of the requirement. No one expects law officers to arrest every person who forgets their mask any more than we expect law officers to cite every person who exceeds the speed limit or walks across a lawn in violation of a No Trespassing sign. On the other hand, those who flout the mandate, by grandstanding their refusal, those people are asking to be cited–and they can spend their time dealing with the consequences in court, just like others who flout regulations.

I cannot believe that the general attitudes toward public health on the two sides of the Idaho/Washington border explain the difference in mask wear in the two areas. The difference is the mandated recognition of the public health importance of wearing masks. The mandate is an educational tool, not a cudgel.

Large segments of the Republican Party–from Trump right on down–display their adolescent disdain for common sense regulation by wasting the time of the rest of us as they parade their belligerence. They don’t deserve the dignity of public office. Keep the Ammon Bundys, Loren Culps and Rob Chases out of public office and vote out the McCaslin Juniors and Jenny Grahams currently wasting our time there. Let’s get on with addressing real problems.

Keep to the high ground,

P.S. Doug Muder: Many political movements fail by believing their own rhetoric, and Trump has been saying for a long time that the virus isn’t a big deal; we should all just get back to normal as fast as possible. Among Trumpists, mask-wearing and other good public-health practices are looked on as wimpy, as “living in fear“. (Packing heat at the supermarket, on the other hand, is just a reasonable precaution.)