The Lorax

We were warned

Jerry LeClaireAug 18

Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, died in 1991 at age 87. He left a legacy of more than sixty books, nearly all children’s books, published over more than half a century. 

Doctor Seuss books studded my childhood and the childhoods of more than four generations. They are still a mainstay of the books I read to my granddaughter. None of them stands out quite like The Lorax. Last week marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of this iconic children’s book. Now, as we experience the worst regional drought in human memory, worry about wildfire, and breathe unhealthy, smokey air, the Lorax’s anger at the Once-ler for chopping down the truffula trees and polluting the environment rings clearer than ever, even if few had an inkling of the perils of greenhouse gases and climate change in 1971. 

As Elizabeth Blair of NPR put it in a great four minute listen on Morning Edition on August 12:

Call it fate or an unfortunate coincidence that Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax celebrates its 50th anniversary the same week the United Nations releases an urgent report on the dire consequences of human-induced climate change. The conflict between the industrious, polluting Once-ler and the feisty Lorax, who “speaks for the trees,” feels more prescient than ever.

“Once-ler!” he cried with a cruffulous croak.
“Once-ler! You’re making such smogulous smoke!
My poor Swomee-Swans…why, they can’t sing a note!
No one can sing who has smog in his throat.

“He wanted a book that captured the effects of pollution on ecosystems and I would say it was really ahead of its time,” says anthropologist and evolutionary biologist Nathaniel Dominy, who teaches at Dartmouth. “The different species disappear from the narrative in succession,” he notes. “The Bar-ba-loots leave because they run out of food. The Swomee-Swans leave because the air is polluted. The humming fish leave because the water’s polluted. He’s describing what we would now call a ‘trophic cascade,’ and for me, as a scientist, I just find that genius that he anticipated that concept by a decade or more.”

The temptation to sink into despair over the planet we will leave to our children and grandchildren (to say nothing of what people are already enduring) is real. A recent article in the New York Times, Amid Extreme Weather, a Shift Among Republicans on Climate Changecaptures it:

Many Republicans in Congress no longer deny that Earth is heating because of fossil fuel emissions. But they say abandoning oil, gas and coal will harm the economy.

What part of the term “existential threat” do these Republicans not understand? Let me get this straight. These particular Republicans, most of them beholden to fossil fuel interests, many of them befogged with Dominionist ideologies informing them that fossil fuels were put on earth by God specifically for man to exploit, now are willing to acknowledge in public, in the face of rising seas, burning forests and grasslands, acrid smoke, and melting glaciers, that the burning of fossil fuels over the last two centuries of industrialization is warming the planet. Whoopee! What a realization! But now they argue that any attempt at cutting back on the burning of fossil fuels is wrong because it might harm “the economy”. How is that not denying the existence of the threat that have just said they acknowledge? One cannot have this both ways. Either you believe we are facing an existential threat and act accordingly or, well, you don’t. There is no, “I’m smart, I understand the threat, and in my wisdom I think we should just put the blinders on and move forward with gas and oil exploration, infrastructure, and use—and the future will take care of itself in some miraculous way.” Our home, the earth, is burning and these Republicans are saying we should keep adding fuel to the fire and everything will be alright. This is brain-melting nonsense. The first rule of stopping a fire is to quit feeding it. 

Republicans in national government aren’t the only ones. In the City of Spokane we are facing Proposition 1 on the November general election ballot, a proposal to amend the city charter to preemptively cut off the City Council’s power to even consider rules that would limit the use (and spread of use) of natural gas:

Shall the Spokane City Charter be amended to adopt the Spokane Cleaner Energy Protection Act – preventing the City from adopting any code, ordinance, or regulation that would prohibit the use of hydroelectric power or natural gas?

This is the “Cleaner Energy Protection Act”? We want to prevent the City from “prohibit[ing] the use of hydroelectric power?” This is the nonsense of a marketing lie. Proposition 1 is the fossil fuel and building industry’s green-washed attempt to preempt any discussion of local action to address the cause of our world’s rising fever. Proposition 1 is the product of the clever, but faulty thinking of climate denialists like our very own McMorris Rodgers. 

Bob Dylan put it clearly in an anthem that still rings in my ears:

Come senators, congressman, please heed the call. Don’t stand in the stairway, don’t block up the hall.

It is time to vote these foot dragging, obfuscating, disingenuous, lying, climate-denying Republicans out of office before it is too late. 

The Lorax warned us. 

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

P.S. Jim Camden’s August 14th article in the Spokesman reassured us that there will be zero Washington State-wide initiatives on this November’s ballot—and that none of Tim Eyman’s continued efforts to snow the electorate with disingenuous, Republican-rousing ballot measures gathered enough signatures to quality. (Tim Wyman, one time darling of the extreme right dog and pony show, the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], persists in spite of losing a $2.5 million civil suit over his lining his own pockets with PAC money.) While the lack of state-wide initiatives is a welcome relief from Wyman’s BS, Mr. Camden failed to note the City of Spokane’s Proposition 1, which will now take greater prominence simply by standing alone on the local ballot.

Chase and McCaslin, True Believers

Welcome to the crazy wing of Washington State’s state representatives

Jerry LeClaireAug 16

Reps. Rob Chase and Bob McCaslin both represent Legislative District 4 (Spokane valley north to Mt. Spokane) in the Washington State legislature. Yesterday, Sunday, August 15, they joined three other members of the far right wing of the Republican Party to host “an unofficial public hearing at a Snohomish church, encouraging the public to bring forward evidence of voting fraud or irregularities.” This gang of five is inspired by at least one of the group who just returned from a three day “cyber symposium” put on in South Dakota by the MyPillow Guy, Mike Lindell. Lindell is the leading purveyor of widely debunked conspiracy theories centered on last November’s election (as well as a prominent TV huckster for his pillows). If you have interest and lots of time, you can watch all twenty-nine hours of Lindell and company’s gish gallop about supposed election fraud on YouTube. (The story of this public hearing first appeared in reputable media in an August 13 article in the Seattle Times.) This whole episode is tailor-made to fit an article recently published by Thom Hartmann on “Shared Psychosis.” 

There are two possibilities: 1) McCaslin, Chase, and company are shrewd political operators who believe they can help inflame the false narrative about the election among their militant followers and use this inflammation put Trump back in office and gain electoral advantage or 2) These five are truly so gullible that a) they attended Lindell’s symposium in the first place and b) after listening to twenty-nine hours of haranguing they are so thoroughly convinced that they feel compelled to carry the message to the people themselves. I favor option 2. They are true believers not only in Lindell’s ideas but in a variety of other conspiracy theories as well. 

Chase made news in the Spokesman July 21 on the vaccine front. A post of his was removed from Facebook on the grounds of mis-information. Here it is:

“Why would anyone take a vaccine that is not a vaccine, is not tested, violates the Nuremberg Code, the insert is blank, cannot be sued for damages, was created by Eugenecists (sic) who want a smaller Global population, and there are many natural cures available anyway?”

Kip Hill, author of the Spokesman article goes on:

As for the “eugenicists,” Chase identified George Soros, the billionaire investor and philanthropist tied in conspiracy theories to the functioning of the global economy and progressive politics, as well as Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

It is appalling to think that the voters who put Chase in office might actually know the extent to which he subscribes to far right wing conspiracy theories. On the other hand, given the low level of attention most voters pay to local and state races, the ideological devotion of many Republicans to the Republican Party, and the systematic demonization of Democrats by right wing media, Chase and McCaslin may be in their elected positions because those who vote for them know very little of the extremism of these men. 

It is ironic that Rep. Chase occupies the former seat of Matt Shea, the anti-mask, anti-vaccination, anti-lockdown, pro-”Liberty State” and now a self styled “pastor” who came under pressure for training paramilitaries in “The Biblical Basis for War”. McCaslin Junior, always a follower of Matt Shea, now has another fringe personality to follow in Rob Chase. 

Rob Chase’s Political/Electoral Background. He is a savvy and persistent political climber. Chase is now in his late 60s. He worked as a real estate agent before sensing opportunity in the 2010 election. He leapt into that year’s August top-two primary race as a write-in candidate, probably realizing that as the only challenger to the Democratic incumbent Spokane County Treasurer, D.E. “Skip” Chilberg, he would have a place on the November ballot. Garnering only 1.2% of the votes (and not necessarily with any vetting by the local Republican Party), he gained a “Prefers Republican” slot against Chilberg in November. Chase squeaked by Chilberg in the 2010 November general election Tea Party swell by a margin of just 2 percent. Just two years later in the middle of his first term as Spokane County Treasurer Chase, tried to vault off his name recognition to a position as a Spokane County Commissioner, but fell short in the primary. In his second four year term as Treasurer, still not content, he vied for appointment to an open Commissioner seat in 2017. Because the two remaining County Commissioners, Al French and Josh Kerns, both Republicans, were unable to choose between the leading contenders, Mary Kuney and Rob Chase (who was put forward by Matt Shea and backed by Josh Kerns), the choice went to Democratic Governor Jay Inslee. Inslee quickly chose Kuney, the less extreme Republican. Kuney handily beat Chase in the following year’s special primary and general elections for the Commission seat in which she was then incumbent. 

Not content to run again for Spokane County Treasurer at the end of two four year terms in 2018, Chase declined to run for re-election. In 2020 he mounted a primary challenge against McMorris Rodgers (R-CD5, eastern WA) for a seat in U.S. House of Representatives. He later criticized McMorris Rodgers for changing course and not voting to challenge the election after the January 6th Capitol insurrection—marking himself as a Republican extremist. Abandoning his challenge to CMR, Chase instead ran for his present position as Matt Shea’s representative to Olympia from LD4 (Spokane valley to Mt. Spokane). 

Chase and McCaslin showed their colors earlier this year when they and most other Republicans in the legislature from eastern Washington voted against a bill to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday. They take cover under the favorite Republican argument about “the cost,” but who really believes that as their real motivation, given Rob Chase’s links to local white supremacists?

Others in the party, though, have supported Wright and even Allsup’s appearance at the event. Newly elected Rep. Rob Chase, a Liberty Stater from the Matt Shea wing of the party, hired Wright as his legislative assistant and said last week that the criticism was “a hit job” and political correctness run amok.

Chase and McCaslin run in the same circles and support the same causes as the disgraced Matt Shea, the former occupant of Chase’s current seat. They are even following his playbook in this August 15 “the election was stolen” event held in Snohomish, far out of the district they are supposed to represent and out of local media scrutiny. Shea made a political career out of traveling to promote his theocratic Liberty State idea and The American Redoubt, associating with Ammon Bundy’s takeover of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, and preaching to and training paramilitaries at the Marble Community Fellowship’s “God and Country” event in far northern Stevens County. All of that marks him as an agitator for the Christian nationalist far right. None of it has to do with the real work of a legislator elected to represent LD4. Shea is more of a visible leader in conspiracy theory than Chase and McCaslin, demonstrated by his speaking spot at the Red Pill Expo, but the propensity for latching onto bizarre, unsubstantiated theories is alive in all three. 

It is time to spotlight Chase and McCaslin. They represent the extremist wing of the Republican Party. Traditional Republicans and independents need to know more about the background of the folks they’re electing to office when they reflexively mark the “Prefers Republican” box.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

P.S. Neither the Spokesman nor the Inlander had, as of late Sunday evening, taken note of Chase, McCaslin and company’s Snohomish church “unofficial public hearing” to preach The MyPillow guy’s election lunacy to Washington State. So far, we on this side of the state have to rely on limited access to The Seattle Times and its article for news about the antics of Spokane valley’s true believing “representatives.”

Vaccine and Pandemic Mis-information

Whom do you trust?

Jerry LeClaireAug 13

There are common themes among the purveyors of vaccine and pandemic mis-information: “Don’t trust them, trust me. I have things interpreted correctly, they don’t. They are members of a cabal solely motivated by money, I’m not. They are badly misguided, I know the truth. It’s us versus them, folks, and in your gut you know that I, solely I, am the real deal.”

Last Tuesday a youtube video of one very fast-talking Dr. Dan Stock confronting members of a school board at a meeting in Mt. Vernon, Indiana, circulated rapidly in anti-vac circles as “proof” of their preconceptions. If you have the stomach for this sort of thing, watch some of the video, but be sure to check out a sampling of the comments to see what actual scientists are up against. 

As this video flashed across people’s screens, an epidemiologist I follow on Substack, Katelyn Jetelina, wrote a rebuttal that pointed me to the writing of a young, extremely bright, Cornell-educated biochemist I had never heard of, Edward Nirenberg. Nirenberg had already written and posted to his blog, Deplatform Disease, a detailed debunking of Dr. Stock’s blather. It is a great read, but quite lengthy. Nirenberg introduced me to a new term that needs to become part of our vocabulary, a “gish gallop,” after the debate technique of Duane Gish, a Young-Earth creationist. (See When People Try to Win Debates by Using Overwhelming Nonsense):

The speech [Dr. Stock’s] is little more than a verbal gish gallop: a tactic used by science denialists wherein they post a bunch of links that they claim to support their points but in reality most of the citations are unsupportive or even unrelated to their claim- but this serves the appearance of evidence. He is doing this but with words- he is making a series of incorrect arguments (that are self-contradictory) and essentially seeking to overwhelm opposition with the volume of arguments he makes. The thing is, as I’ll discuss, he discredits himself very early on, so you don’t have to subject yourself to listening to his vile nonsense because I did it for you. 

If you have any doubt of Nirenberg’s characterization of Dr. Stock’s blather as a gish gallop check out Nirenberg’s detailed point-by-point post. The trouble is that Dr. Stock glibly makes assertions that many in this audience have already encountered and believe—assertions that his audience has neither the desire to check or a clue of how to do so. Besides, Dr. Stock has Dr. in front of his name. Sadly, that should not necessarily inspire confidence. 

The Mt. Vernon, Indiana, School Board isn’t alone. As Jim Allen recounts in a Spokesman article, the Spokane Public Schools school board meeting on Wednesday evening was attended by an obstreperous crowd of anti-maskers trying to push their anti-science, anti-government point. Among the agitated parents was a name that sounded familiar, but which Mr. Allen did not identify beyond the name:

Another parent, Marshall Casey, recalled his family’s decision to home-school their children.

“Fortunately, we have resources, but others don’t have the resources” to pull their students, said Casey, who closed with a rebuke of the current board.

“Over this last year, you have shown yourself not to be trustworthy,” Casey said.

Like other anti-mask speakers, Casey received applause. Two speakers weighed in with pro-mask comments, and were received with derisive words from the crowd.

Marshall Casey is the name of Matt Shea’s (disgraced LD-4 state representative) former law partner and recent unsuccessful candidate for a judgeship in the City of Spokane Court of Appeals. He received a “100%” rating with right wing litmus test of WeBelieveWeVote. His presence and speech at the meeting signals that many of the 200 attendees were summoned through the right wing modern version of a telephone tree. I feel sorry for the folks on the School Board who had to endure this torment. I encourage my readers to email a short note of support (and commiseration?) to the Board at  Schoolboard@spokaneschools.org . I am certain that Casey and his followers are a politically motivated, studiously mis-informed, loud minority of the district’s parents. If I were a member of the School Board I would be happy to know that sensible people who did not attend the meeting “have my back.”

I have been reading scientific literature (specifically medical literature) all of my professional life. This literature is full of jargon and abbreviations that is often hard to decipher, but it is not impenetrable. Scientific truth is not established by one study, but by the weight and quality of the evidence presented in the reports of many investigations. Each study report must be read while keeping in mind whether it offers a statistically valid and significant result or simply an interesting scientific anecdote upon which to base further investigation. The gish gallops of Dr. Stock and the anti-maskers are assembled by cherry-picking only those studies that (at a stretch) might support their preconceived notions. That’s not how science works. Shame on the medical school and the state licensing board that graduated and licensed a Dr. Stock. His diatribe discredits his title. 

Email the Spokane Public Schools School Board, and

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

P.S. This morning a physician friend sent me an article out of the science journal Nature that might serve to illustrate my point about the scientific literature. Here’s the link:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03777-9

What’s the take-home? In a nutshell, the study looks at the defenses against a delta variant Covid-19 virus present in one man. It demonstrates that this particular virus sample, analyzed in vitro, that is, in a laboratory setting, is more susceptible to the antibodies the immune system makes in response to two doses of Pfizer vaccine than it is to the antibodies made after one dose of Pfizer vaccine or after a natural infection with a prior Covid-19 variant. Interesting, but put it in context: This is not in vivo, i.e. this is not a test of the immune system acting out in the complex setting of a human body. It is secondary evidence suggesting what might be happen in a human. 

In other words, all this laboratory effort hints, but does not prove, that two doses of Pfizer vaccine might be more effective against the delta variant than one dose of Pfizer vaccine or natural immunity to an earlier strain. 

Always, more studies are needed to confirm this result and its significance in the real world. Welcome to the accrual process of scientific truth—always subject to further study.

Whom do you trust?

Jerry LeClaireAug 13

There are common themes among the purveyors of vaccine and pandemic mis-information: “Don’t trust them, trust me. I have things interpreted correctly, they don’t. They are members of a cabal solely motivated by money, I’m not. They are badly misguided, I know the truth. It’s us versus them, folks, and in your gut you know that I, solely I, am the real deal.”

Last Tuesday a youtube video of one very fast-talking Dr. Dan Stock confronting members of a school board at a meeting in Mt. Vernon, Indiana, circulated rapidly in anti-vac circles as “proof” of their preconceptions. If you have the stomach for this sort of thing, watch some of the video, but be sure to check out a sampling of the comments to see what actual scientists are up against. 

As this video flashed across people’s screens, an epidemiologist I follow on Substack, Katelyn Jetelina, wrote a rebuttal that pointed me to the writing of a young, extremely bright, Cornell-educated biochemist I had never heard of, Edward Nirenberg. Nirenberg had already written and posted to his blog, Deplatform Disease, a detailed debunking of Dr. Stock’s blather. It is a great read, but quite lengthy. Nirenberg introduced me to a new term that needs to become part of our vocabulary, a “gish gallop,” after the debate technique of Duane Gish, a Young-Earth creationist. (See When People Try to Win Debates by Using Overwhelming Nonsense):

The speech [Dr. Stock’s] is little more than a verbal gish gallop: a tactic used by science denialists wherein they post a bunch of links that they claim to support their points but in reality most of the citations are unsupportive or even unrelated to their claim- but this serves the appearance of evidence. He is doing this but with words- he is making a series of incorrect arguments (that are self-contradictory) and essentially seeking to overwhelm opposition with the volume of arguments he makes. The thing is, as I’ll discuss, he discredits himself very early on, so you don’t have to subject yourself to listening to his vile nonsense because I did it for you. 

If you have any doubt of Nirenberg’s characterization of Dr. Stock’s blather as a gish gallop check out Nirenberg’s detailed point-by-point post. The trouble is that Dr. Stock glibly makes assertions that many in this audience have already encountered and believe—assertions that his audience has neither the desire to check or a clue of how to do so. Besides, Dr. Stock has Dr. in front of his name. Sadly, that should not necessarily inspire confidence. 

The Mt. Vernon, Indiana, School Board isn’t alone. As Jim Allen recounts in a Spokesman article, the Spokane Public Schools school board meeting on Wednesday evening was attended by an obstreperous crowd of anti-maskers trying to push their anti-science, anti-government point. Among the agitated parents was a name that sounded familiar, but which Mr. Allen did not identify beyond the name:

Another parent, Marshall Casey, recalled his family’s decision to home-school their children.

“Fortunately, we have resources, but others don’t have the resources” to pull their students, said Casey, who closed with a rebuke of the current board.

“Over this last year, you have shown yourself not to be trustworthy,” Casey said.

Like other anti-mask speakers, Casey received applause. Two speakers weighed in with pro-mask comments, and were received with derisive words from the crowd.

Marshall Casey is the name of Matt Shea’s (disgraced LD-4 state representative) former law partner and recent unsuccessful candidate for a judgeship in the City of Spokane Court of Appeals. He received a “100%” rating with right wing litmus test of WeBelieveWeVote. His presence and speech at the meeting signals that many of the 200 attendees were summoned through the right wing modern version of a telephone tree. I feel sorry for the folks on the School Board who had to endure this torment. I encourage my readers to email a short note of support (and commiseration?) to the Board at  Schoolboard@spokaneschools.org . I am certain that Casey and his followers are a politically motivated, studiously mis-informed, loud minority of the district’s parents. If I were a member of the School Board I would be happy to know that sensible people who did not attend the meeting “have my back.”

I have been reading scientific literature (specifically medical literature) all of my professional life. This literature is full of jargon and abbreviations that is often hard to decipher, but it is not impenetrable. Scientific truth is not established by one study, but by the weight and quality of the evidence presented in the reports of many investigations. Each study report must be read while keeping in mind whether it offers a statistically valid and significant result or simply an interesting scientific anecdote upon which to base further investigation. The gish gallops of Dr. Stock and the anti-maskers are assembled by cherry-picking only those studies that (at a stretch) might support their preconceived notions. That’s not how science works. Shame on the medical school and the state licensing board that graduated and licensed a Dr. Stock. His diatribe discredits his title. 

Email the Spokane Public Schools School Board, and

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

P.S. This morning a physician friend sent me an article out of the science journal Nature that might serve to illustrate my point about the scientific literature. Here’s the link:

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03777-9

What’s the take-home? In a nutshell, the study looks at the defenses against a delta variant Covid-19 virus present in one man. It demonstrates that this particular virus sample, analyzed in vitro, that is, in a laboratory setting, is more susceptible to the antibodies the immune system makes in response to two doses of Pfizer vaccine than it is to the antibodies made after one dose of Pfizer vaccine or after a natural infection with a prior Covid-19 variant. Interesting, but put it in context: This is not in vivo, i.e. this is not a test of the immune system acting out in the complex setting of a human body. It is secondary evidence suggesting what might be happen in a human. 

In other words, all this laboratory effort hints, but does not prove, that two doses of Pfizer vaccine might be more effective against the delta variant than one dose of Pfizer vaccine or natural immunity to an earlier strain. 

Always, more studies are needed to confirm this result and its significance in the real world. Welcome to the accrual process of scientific truth—always subject to further study.

Pandemic Science

What are the numbers and risks?

Jerry LeClaireAug 11

Among humans the only event that is statistically 100% is eventual death (and, as some point out, taxes). Vaccines are not 100%—and the current vaccines against Covid-19 were never advertised that way. Moreover, they were tested and approved (under an EUA, an emergency use authorization) against the original genetic version of SARS-CoV-2. The Pfizer vaccine was found 95% percent effective: In a study population of nearly 22,000 unvaccinated people and 22,000 people 7 days after their second shot, people out in the community, 170 study subjects developed test positive, symptomatic Covid-19, one hundred sixty-two in the unvaccinated group and eight in the vaccinated group. 162/170=0.95 or 95%. That’s where the 95% number came from. It was never advertised as 100%. The study was exhaustive, clear science, not speculation or anecdote. It was a triumph—but it was not 100%—and it was tested only against the original virus. 

People like simple statements, “If you are vaccinated you are totally protected and you can toss caution to the wind,” but nothing in life is 100%. There are always people who, by reason of their genetics, the state of their immune system, or some other factor do not develop immunity to a disease against which they were vaccinated. Protection for those people depends on a sufficiently high rate of vaccination in the community that the target virus cannot gain a foothold and spread. People who got the vaccination but for whom it didn’t “take” or the few who, for one reason or another, were not vaccinated depend on the statistical immunity of the “herd” to protect them from the disease. 

Notice that the Pfizer study, even with the original virus, had eight cases, “breakthrough cases”, if you will. Also notice that the original study did not conclusively tell us whether Covid-19 could be carried and transferred by completely asymptomatic vaccinated individuals. (Although, I believe, subsequent studies suggested that such carriage and transmission was rare, at least with the original virus.)

Now we are dealing with the delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 (aka B.1.617.2), a variant with a naturally selected genetic ability to evade some of the immune defenses even of vaccinated people. “Breakthrough cases” are more common with the delta variant. Carriage and transmission of Covid-19 by asymptomatic vaccinated individuals is also more common with this variant. The original 95% number was not wrong—not then—but if that huge study were repeated today in the U.S. population where the delta variant now makes up around 85% of the Covid-19 cases, the efficacy % of the Pfizer vaccine would be lower.

Is it still worthwhile to be vaccinated? Yes, as illustrated by the following graph:

Fully vaccinated individuals are less likely to develop any symptoms of Covid-19 by a factor of 1 to 8, less likely to wind up in the hospital if they do develop symptoms by 1 to 25, and less likely die if they do wind up in the hospital also by a factor of 1 to 25. 

Furthermore there is some good early evidence from Singapore that although infected vaccinated individuals carry similar loads of virus initially to the viral load of an infected unvaccinated individual, the vaccinated people shed virus on average for a shorter time, nine compared to sixteen days. Presumably this represents the faster ramp up of immunity among the vaccinated as compared to the unvaccinated. 

What we do not know with any certainty is the prevalence of asymptomatic delta variant carriage among vaccinated people, nor do we know how often asymptomatic vaccinated people transmit the delta variant to others. That lack of clarity, combined with the knowledge that some asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic vaccinated people can and have spread the disease to others is the reason for the recommendation to return to mask wear indoors. 

Data on vaccination rates and rate of Covid-19 hospitalization among the states is pretty striking and certainly demonstrates a correlation between higher vaccination rates and a lower the level of spread of the virus, hospitalization, and death.

So what is the outlook for eastern Washington and Idaho? The data I cite here comes from the New York Times database and the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Tracker. Overall, as noted above, 70% of Washingtonians are vaccinated, but eastern Washington is distinct: 49% of Spokane County residents are vaccinated and the percentage drops to 30 and 31% in Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties north of here, some of the lowest numbers in the state. Idaho overall hovers around 40%, but our neighbors in all the northern Idaho counties are closer to 30%. Eastern Washington and northern Idaho have vaccination rates lower than the southern states that are now struggling with the delta variant. 

The test positivity rate (TPR) offers a hint of our future. The higher the percentage of tests for Covid-19 that come back positive the greater the likely reservoir of untested, infected individuals in the community. States with high vaccination rates are showing test positivity rates under 5%. What is Idaho’s overall TPR? It rates third with 35.9% of Covid-19 tests coming back positive. Only Oklahoma and Mississippi are higher. Most of the southern states in which the virus is rampant have TPRs in the teens and twenties.

Viruses don’t respect land borders. We in eastern Washington are more akin to Idaho than Seattle, and Idaho is quite likely to be facing a tsunami of delta variant Covid-19. Anyone who is not vaccinated ought to understand the risk they are taking. Full immunity from vaccination takes five or six weeks from the first shot. A wait-and-see approach is foolhardy. Those of us already vaccinated ought to be taking precautions, first and foremost wearing masks indoors and the unvaccinated need to heed the science.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

P.S. Should you get vaccinated if you have had (or think you have had) Covid? Read this: “‘Natural’ immunity protection and variants”. Also, a recent study published on the CDC website.

What are the numbers and risks?

Jerry LeClaireAug 11

Among humans the only event that is statistically 100% is eventual death (and, as some point out, taxes). Vaccines are not 100%—and the current vaccines against Covid-19 were never advertised that way. Moreover, they were tested and approved (under an EUA, an emergency use authorization) against the original genetic version of SARS-CoV-2. The Pfizer vaccine was found 95% percent effective: In a study population of nearly 22,000 unvaccinated people and 22,000 people 7 days after their second shot, people out in the community, 170 study subjects developed test positive, symptomatic Covid-19, one hundred sixty-two in the unvaccinated group and eight in the vaccinated group. 162/170=0.95 or 95%. That’s where the 95% number came from. It was never advertised as 100%. The study was exhaustive, clear science, not speculation or anecdote. It was a triumph—but it was not 100%—and it was tested only against the original virus. 

People like simple statements, “If you are vaccinated you are totally protected and you can toss caution to the wind,” but nothing in life is 100%. There are always people who, by reason of their genetics, the state of their immune system, or some other factor do not develop immunity to a disease against which they were vaccinated. Protection for those people depends on a sufficiently high rate of vaccination in the community that the target virus cannot gain a foothold and spread. People who got the vaccination but for whom it didn’t “take” or the few who, for one reason or another, were not vaccinated depend on the statistical immunity of the “herd” to protect them from the disease. 

Notice that the Pfizer study, even with the original virus, had eight cases, “breakthrough cases”, if you will. Also notice that the original study did not conclusively tell us whether Covid-19 could be carried and transferred by completely asymptomatic vaccinated individuals. (Although, I believe, subsequent studies suggested that such carriage and transmission was rare, at least with the original virus.)

Now we are dealing with the delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 (aka B.1.617.2), a variant with a naturally selected genetic ability to evade some of the immune defenses even of vaccinated people. “Breakthrough cases” are more common with the delta variant. Carriage and transmission of Covid-19 by asymptomatic vaccinated individuals is also more common with this variant. The original 95% number was not wrong—not then—but if that huge study were repeated today in the U.S. population where the delta variant now makes up around 85% of the Covid-19 cases, the efficacy % of the Pfizer vaccine would be lower.

Is it still worthwhile to be vaccinated? Yes, as illustrated by the following graph:

Fully vaccinated individuals are less likely to develop any symptoms of Covid-19 by a factor of 1 to 8, less likely to wind up in the hospital if they do develop symptoms by 1 to 25, and less likely die if they do wind up in the hospital also by a factor of 1 to 25. 

Furthermore there is some good early evidence from Singapore that although infected vaccinated individuals carry similar loads of virus initially to the viral load of an infected unvaccinated individual, the vaccinated people shed virus on average for a shorter time, nine compared to sixteen days. Presumably this represents the faster ramp up of immunity among the vaccinated as compared to the unvaccinated. 

What we do not know with any certainty is the prevalence of asymptomatic delta variant carriage among vaccinated people, nor do we know how often asymptomatic vaccinated people transmit the delta variant to others. That lack of clarity, combined with the knowledge that some asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic vaccinated people can and have spread the disease to others is the reason for the recommendation to return to mask wear indoors. 

Data on vaccination rates and rate of Covid-19 hospitalization among the states is pretty striking and certainly demonstrates a correlation between higher vaccination rates and a lower the level of spread of the virus, hospitalization, and death.

So what is the outlook for eastern Washington and Idaho? The data I cite here comes from the New York Times database and the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Tracker. Overall, as noted above, 70% of Washingtonians are vaccinated, but eastern Washington is distinct: 49% of Spokane County residents are vaccinated and the percentage drops to 30 and 31% in Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties north of here, some of the lowest numbers in the state. Idaho overall hovers around 40%, but our neighbors in all the northern Idaho counties are closer to 30%. Eastern Washington and northern Idaho have vaccination rates lower than the southern states that are now struggling with the delta variant. 

The test positivity rate (TPR) offers a hint of our future. The higher the percentage of tests for Covid-19 that come back positive the greater the likely reservoir of untested, infected individuals in the community. States with high vaccination rates are showing test positivity rates under 5%. What is Idaho’s overall TPR? It rates third with 35.9% of Covid-19 tests coming back positive. Only Oklahoma and Mississippi are higher. Most of the southern states in which the virus is rampant have TPRs in the teens and twenties.

Viruses don’t respect land borders. We in eastern Washington are more akin to Idaho than Seattle, and Idaho is quite likely to be facing a tsunami of delta variant Covid-19. Anyone who is not vaccinated ought to understand the risk they are taking. Full immunity from vaccination takes five or six weeks from the first shot. A wait-and-see approach is foolhardy. Those of us already vaccinated ought to be taking precautions, first and foremost wearing masks indoors and the unvaccinated need to heed the science.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

P.S. Should you get vaccinated if you have had (or think you have had) Covid? Read this: “‘Natural’ immunity protection and variants”. Also, a recent study published on the CDC website.

The Price for Being Mentally Ill in Spokane County

What is Wrong with Us?

Jerry LeClaireAug 9

Ethan Murray’s life was ended behind the Mirabeau Apartments in Spokane Valley on Saturday, May 4, 2019, at about 5:30PM. Five rounds fired by Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Wallace’s service pistol snuffed out Ethan’s twenty-five year existence. His crime was being mentally ill with schizophrenia, being shirtless, dirty, and acting strangely around people unfamiliar with him. On May 4th and the day before, five other encounters with the police, two documented with body cameras, had ended peacefully. Each time the officers concluded that Ethan made people uncomfortable but “wasn’t threatening”. Since he “wasn’t threatening”, the officers lacked grounds to take Ethan into custody and commit him to a psych ward for observation and treatment. Ethan’s sixth encounter with law enforcement in those two days ended his life. 

This is close to personal. I have a peripheral connection to Ethan’s mother, Justine Murray. I know Ethan’s sister. I visited the Mirabeau Apartment complex off Pines Road in Spokane Valley shortly after Ethan was killed to absorb the geographic setting. I attended Ethan’s memorial. My partner knew Ethan and his mother before Ethan descended into schizophrenia. She was aware of Justine’s herculean efforts to get help for her son—and of the legal challenges to obtaining help for a mentally ill loved one who lacks a clear grasp of the need for help precisely because of their mental illness.

Sheriff Knezovich, a Republican, and the same man who approved Lt. Col. Grossman’s “Killology” training for his County Sheriff’s department deputies, now says “that the system puts officers in impossible situations and lets people like Ethan Murray down” and adds, “We have starved our statewide system of funding and resources…and the local systems simply do not have the resources to deal with it.” That is a fine statement for a stalwart Republican whose Party is relentlessly opposed to changes in taxes and tax structure and spending money for social (in this case. mental health) programs.

In a humane world Ethan would have gotten the help he needed. Society failed him. We voters are at fault along with the sheriff’s deputy who took Ethan’s life. We are at fault for not assembling a majority that demands changes in the mental health system, the legal constructs, and the funding, and, yes, the tax system, that set Ethan up for this tragic end.

Where were the Trump Republican Evangelical Christians when these verses were read in church? They still ring in my ears a half century later… 

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:37-40

On July 29th Ethan’s story re-surfaced in the news. Ethan’s parents, Justine Murray and Mark Jentsch, filed a lawsuit with the United States Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Washington on behalf of Ethan’s estate against Joseph Wallace (the deputy who shot Ethan) and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Department. 

Emma Epperly, writing for the Spokesman, covered the lawsuit filing in and article dated July 30, “Family of mentally ill man alleges ‘warrior mindset’ training at Spokane sheriff’s office contributed to son’s death”. 

Shawn Vestal recounted the story and the suit in his article in the Spokesman on July 31, “Police were called six times in two days on mentally ill man; the sixth proved fatal.” This article is well worth reading in its entirety. Mr. Vestal notes that:

Justine Murray hopes that the case will bring attention to the issues involved with policing, mental illness and accountability.

Justine Murray struggled from the beginning of Ethan’s illness in 2012 to obtain for him the help he needed, but she was met roadblocks at every turn. In addition to the lawsuit with which she hopes to raise awareness, she and her partner Matt have established the Ethan Murray Fund, a non-profit that hopes to raise $50,000 to offer financial support for mental health, homeless and addiction services in North Idaho. 

For more on Justine’s and Ethan’s struggles see Josh Kelety’s article from May 23, 2019, in The Inlander.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

P.S. I presume the lawsuit is in federal court, rather than a Washington state or county court because Ethan Murray’s Estate and his parents who are bringing the suit reside in the State of Idaho. A few other things worthy of note: 1) “Deputies do not wear body cameras. The lawsuit alleges Wallace didn’t file a statement on the incident until nearly a month later, and only after reviewing dispatch records and audio recording of the incident.” If that is true, then there is something very wrong with this picture. 2) “The prosecutor’s office determined Wallace was justified in shooting Murray because the law takes into account that he could reasonably believe Murray posed a threat of serious bodily harm, according to a news release.” The Spokane County Prosecutor, Larry Haskell, is notorious for his staunch lock-’em-up attitude when it comes to civilians, not so much with law enforcement. The same 2019 Spokesman article notes that “Wallace has since returned to work in the sheriff’s office patrol division.” Sheriff Knezovich must have figured the storm had blown over.

P.P.S. With some regret I note that I do not have the personal contacts with the families of other victims of law enforcement excess, but this is a family I know. What happened to Ethan sheds light on other events that I might at one time have dismissed as “policing is a hard job” or “well, he should have been more cooperative”. I laud the deputies who dealt properly with Ethan in the day before his death (apart from the fact that the system blocked efforts they might have made to connect him with treatment), but I am now also a firm believer that law enforcement culture needs to change. It makes me angry when I read of eastern Washington sheriffs and police chiefs calling a press conference to make a political statement about the laws meant to adjust that culture.

Ethan Murray’s life was ended behind the Mirabeau Apartments in Spokane Valley on Saturday, May 4, 2019, at about 5:30PM. Five rounds fired by Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Wallace’s service pistol snuffed out Ethan’s twenty-five year existence. His crime was being mentally ill with schizophrenia, being shirtless, dirty, and acting strangely around people unfamiliar with him. On May 4th and the day before, five other encounters with the police, two documented with body cameras, had ended peacefully. Each time the officers concluded that Ethan made people uncomfortable but “wasn’t threatening”. Since he “wasn’t threatening”, the officers lacked grounds to take Ethan into custody and commit him to a psych ward for observation and treatment. Ethan’s sixth encounter with law enforcement in those two days ended his life. 

This is close to personal. I have a peripheral connection to Ethan’s mother, Justine Murray. I know Ethan’s sister. I visited the Mirabeau Apartment complex off Pines Road in Spokane Valley shortly after Ethan was killed to absorb the geographic setting. I attended Ethan’s memorial. My partner knew Ethan and his mother before Ethan descended into schizophrenia. She was aware of Justine’s herculean efforts to get help for her son—and of the legal challenges to obtaining help for a mentally ill loved one who lacks a clear grasp of the need for help precisely because of their mental illness.

Sheriff Knezovich, a Republican, and the same man who approved Lt. Col. Grossman’s “Killology” training for his County Sheriff’s department deputies, now says “that the system puts officers in impossible situations and lets people like Ethan Murray down” and adds, “We have starved our statewide system of funding and resources…and the local systems simply do not have the resources to deal with it.” That is a fine statement for a stalwart Republican whose Party is relentlessly opposed to changes in taxes and tax structure and spending money for social (in this case. mental health) programs.

In a humane world Ethan would have gotten the help he needed. Society failed him. We voters are at fault along with the sheriff’s deputy who took Ethan’s life. We are at fault for not assembling a majority that demands changes in the mental health system, the legal constructs, and the funding, and, yes, the tax system, that set Ethan up for this tragic end.

Where were the Trump Republican Evangelical Christians when these verses were read in church? They still ring in my ears a half century later… 

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:37-40

On July 29th Ethan’s story re-surfaced in the news. Ethan’s parents, Justine Murray and Mark Jentsch, filed a lawsuit with the United States Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Washington on behalf of Ethan’s estate against Joseph Wallace (the deputy who shot Ethan) and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Department. 

Emma Epperly, writing for the Spokesman, covered the lawsuit filing in and article dated July 30, “Family of mentally ill man alleges ‘warrior mindset’ training at Spokane sheriff’s office contributed to son’s death”. 

Shawn Vestal recounted the story and the suit in his article in the Spokesman on July 31, “Police were called six times in two days on mentally ill man; the sixth proved fatal.” This article is well worth reading in its entirety. Mr. Vestal notes that:

Justine Murray hopes that the case will bring attention to the issues involved with policing, mental illness and accountability.

Justine Murray struggled from the beginning of Ethan’s illness in 2012 to obtain for him the help he needed, but she was met roadblocks at every turn. In addition to the lawsuit with which she hopes to raise awareness, she and her partner Matt have established the Ethan Murray Fund, a non-profit that hopes to raise $50,000 to offer financial support for mental health, homeless and addiction services in North Idaho. 

For more on Justine’s and Ethan’s struggles see Josh Kelety’s article from May 23, 2019, in The Inlander.

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

P.S. I presume the lawsuit is in federal court, rather than a Washington state or county court because Ethan Murray’s Estate and his parents who are bringing the suit reside in the State of Idaho. A few other things worthy of note: 1) “Deputies do not wear body cameras. The lawsuit alleges Wallace didn’t file a statement on the incident until nearly a month later, and only after reviewing dispatch records and audio recording of the incident.” If that is true, then there is something very wrong with this picture. 2) “The prosecutor’s office determined Wallace was justified in shooting Murray because the law takes into account that he could reasonably believe Murray posed a threat of serious bodily harm, according to a news release.” The Spokane County Prosecutor, Larry Haskell, is notorious for his staunch lock-’em-up attitude when it comes to civilians, not so much with law enforcement. The same 2019 Spokesman article notes that “Wallace has since returned to work in the sheriff’s office patrol division.” Sheriff Knezovich must have figured the storm had blown over.

P.P.S. With some regret I note that I do not have the personal contacts with the families of other victims of law enforcement excess, but this is a family I know. What happened to Ethan sheds light on other events that I might at one time have dismissed as “policing is a hard job” or “well, he should have been more cooperative”. I laud the deputies who dealt properly with Ethan in the day before his death (apart from the fact that the system blocked efforts they might have made to connect him with treatment), but I am now also a firm believer that law enforcement culture needs to change. It makes me angry when I read of eastern Washington sheriffs and police chiefs calling a press conference to make a political statement about the laws meant to adjust that culture.

Local Climate Fight Coming to Your Ballot

Prop. 1 Wants to Pre-emp Local Action

Jerry LeClaireAug 6

Climate change, global warming, is here. We experience it right here in Spokane with year after year of record heat and choking smoke. If we do not quit adding to the greenhouse gases, including methane (natural gas) and carbon dioxide, that we have pumped into the atmosphere over the last two centuries we will ultimately face a world that is uninhabitable. 

The first thing one needs do when trapped in a hole is to stop digging. Installing more gas lines and equipping more houses and apartments to burn natural gas (methane) at the same time as we try to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels makes no sense. Stop digging. 

This imminently reasonable idea of limiting new installations of natural gas infrastructure was floated among the proposals made in an action plan draft released earlier this year by the City’s volunteer Sustainability Action Subcommittee. The Subcommittee has been working for two years to update the City of Spokane’s 2009 Sustainability Action Plan, something many of us were unaware even existed.

The draft proposal that the city ban “gas hookups from all new commercial and multifamily residential buildings by 2023, and from all new construction by 2028” must have set off alarm bells among climate deniers and doubters, purveyors of fossil fuels, and the building industry. Even though no Spokane legislator is proposing to ban natural gas hookups (yet), these interest groups sense a threat to their bottom line. They gathered their resources and quickly proposed and gathered signatures for Proposition 1, which will appear on the ballot in the November general election. 

Here’s the clever wording:

Shall the Spokane City Charter be amended to adopt the Spokane Cleaner Energy Protection Act – preventing the City from adopting any code, ordinance, or regulation that would prohibit the use of hydroelectric power or natural gas?

The effort is backed by political action committee, “Spokane Citizens for Cleaner Energy,” almost entirely bankrolled by the Spokane Good Government Alliance PAC whose major contributors include hotelier Walt Worthy, Washington Trust Bank and building industry organizations.

Proposition 1 is a pre-emption, an end-run. It proposes not just a city ordinance, but a change in the city charter to head off any passage of a regulation in the City of Spokane that would limit the natural gas infrastructure. 

From a short article by Adam Shanks in the Spokesman on July 31 introduced me to Prop 1, “Natural gas debate heading to Spokane ballots in November”: 

The signature gathering effort and the initiative’s marketing have been handled by Camelback Strategies, a political consulting firm that has worked on behalf of politicians like Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

The marketing is nauseatingly clever: Hide the singular intent to cut off the power of the elected city council to even consider limiting fossil fuels. Hide it by linking the ban to hydroelectric power (this is vintage McMorris Rodgers rhetoric) as if anyone were proposing to ban hydroelectric. (No one is.) Then clothe the whole thing in a twisted lie: “Spokane Citizens for Cleaner Energy” is a deceptive name meant to gather votes of those inclined toward attacking climate change but not paying close attention. This is pure Republican climate-denying propaganda meant to mislead the voting public by preemptively limiting the ability of the City Council to even consider the issue. Prop 1 is the ultimate in deception and self-interest. It is time to rebel. 

What can you do? The five month comment period on the Action Plan ends this month. The forces behind Prop 1 are doing everything they can to undermine the Plan. Show your general support for the Spokane Sustainability Action Plan by filling out this survey today:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/YFNYGB2

You aren’t required to read the whole Action Plan to fill out the survey. Don’t get stalled in filling out the survey by feeling you must understand every detail—but if you have time to dig deeper here are some links:

Executive Summary (9-page listing of vision, goals, and strategies) 

Full Plan Draft (82-page report of the Sustainability Action Subcommittee)

Video Presentation (24-minute presentation by Kara Odegard, SAS manager

1-page flyer for posting 

Recommended:
“Climate Chaos: Our Present, Our Future” – S-R op-ed co-authored by Brian Henning, Amber Lenhart, Dr. Bob Lutz. 8/1/21 (Excellent!)

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

P.S. Below I have copied the email that alerted me to the Survey and to the Action Plan. It caught my attention in part because I had read Adam Shanks’ article on Prop 1. 

I’m casting out to my entire network to ask a question.  Have you completed the survey on the Spokane Sustainability Action Plan? Chances are you haven’t (maybe don’t even know about it).  

If not, please, please do.  This is an urgent call to show your support for a community-based, volunteer-driven, collectively organized plan to address climate chaos.  that will be submitted to the City Council for adoption before the end of the year.  

You don’t have to read the SAP to take the survey.  You don’t really need to know anything about it (although I think it would be worth your while to learn what’s in it).    Submitting it won’t take long.  I did it in under 5 minutes, and it’s mostly multiple choice.  You can offer ideas and comments, but you don’t have to be creative or think about it too much.  Just doing the survey will show that you care.  
Survey link:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/YFNYGB2

Here’s the thing – there is a well-organized resistance to the City adopting any plan that would set our local government on a path to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  Certain business-oriented and special interest groups have focused criticism and negativity on specific aspects of plan strategies and encouraged people to oppose the plan because it represents  “governmental interference.”  The survey will be a major influence for Council members who will decide on adopting the plan before the end of the year, and the results matter.
If you want to do something about wildfire smoke, water conservation, waste, transportation, fossil fuel consumption, climate justice, food safety, the City needs to hear from you!
Here’s another thing: the Plan only addresses high-level goals and strategies. It’s not time to worry about how everything is going to get done.  If adopted, the plan will require more assessment, prioritization, an implementation process, and ongoing monitoring.  Don’t worry, the future will be the hard part. We’re going to get there no matter what we do, but let’s try to make it better.
If you want some suggestions for the survey comment sections, here are some examples of strategy statements from the plan:  
Ensure new construction is as efficient as possible and fully reliant on renewable fuels  (Building & Energy)

Advance land use planning to minimize vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and increase community resiliency  (Transportation & Land Use)

Minimize food waste generated by residents and businesses  (Waste Diversion and Material Conservation)

Establish diverse, “future climate”-adapted landscaping within the built environment (Natural Environment)

Increase household food security regionwide (Health & Wellbeing)

Here’s the link!:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/YFNYGB2

Please forward this email to your own friends and networks. I strongly believe we need to push this effort hard.  Thank you for your effort.  Comments to this email are welcome – I can take it!  I’m happy to talk, too.

In Gratitude and Hope,
Ian
– Ian Cunningham
ian.daddio@gmail.com
509.990.6434


P.S.
More Background:
You’ve probably heard or read something about the Spokane Sustainability Action Plan, the 82-page blueprint authored by a volunteer group of dedicated citizens that could possibly set us on a path toward adapting to climate change.  The plan is a draft containing goals, strategies, and action ideas for meeting three major objectives:

95% reduction of greenhouse gases by 2050 using a step approach, compared to 2016 levels (State mandate)

Build resiliency to ensure our neighborhoods and economy are ready for future challenges

Prioritize those most exposed to health impact and economic downturns related to climate change

Over 40 people participating in drafting the SAS proposal. The SAP was posted on the City website in April, launching a five-month public comment period which ends this month.  The SAS plan proposal will be edited and refined before submitting to the Council in September or October.

Prop. 1 Wants to Pre-emp Local Action

Jerry LeClaireAug 6

Climate change, global warming, is here. We experience it right here in Spokane with year after year of record heat and choking smoke. If we do not quit adding to the greenhouse gases, including methane (natural gas) and carbon dioxide, that we have pumped into the atmosphere over the last two centuries we will ultimately face a world that is uninhabitable. 

The first thing one needs do when trapped in a hole is to stop digging. Installing more gas lines and equipping more houses and apartments to burn natural gas (methane) at the same time as we try to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels makes no sense. Stop digging. 

This imminently reasonable idea of limiting new installations of natural gas infrastructure was floated among the proposals made in an action plan draft released earlier this year by the City’s volunteer Sustainability Action Subcommittee. The Subcommittee has been working for two years to update the City of Spokane’s 2009 Sustainability Action Plan, something many of us were unaware even existed.

The draft proposal that the city ban “gas hookups from all new commercial and multifamily residential buildings by 2023, and from all new construction by 2028” must have set off alarm bells among climate deniers and doubters, purveyors of fossil fuels, and the building industry. Even though no Spokane legislator is proposing to ban natural gas hookups (yet), these interest groups sense a threat to their bottom line. They gathered their resources and quickly proposed and gathered signatures for Proposition 1, which will appear on the ballot in the November general election. 

Here’s the clever wording:

Shall the Spokane City Charter be amended to adopt the Spokane Cleaner Energy Protection Act – preventing the City from adopting any code, ordinance, or regulation that would prohibit the use of hydroelectric power or natural gas?

The effort is backed by political action committee, “Spokane Citizens for Cleaner Energy,” almost entirely bankrolled by the Spokane Good Government Alliance PAC whose major contributors include hotelier Walt Worthy, Washington Trust Bank and building industry organizations.

Proposition 1 is a pre-emption, an end-run. It proposes not just a city ordinance, but a change in the city charter to head off any passage of a regulation in the City of Spokane that would limit the natural gas infrastructure. 

From a short article by Adam Shanks in the Spokesman on July 31 introduced me to Prop 1, “Natural gas debate heading to Spokane ballots in November”: 

The signature gathering effort and the initiative’s marketing have been handled by Camelback Strategies, a political consulting firm that has worked on behalf of politicians like Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

The marketing is nauseatingly clever: Hide the singular intent to cut off the power of the elected city council to even consider limiting fossil fuels. Hide it by linking the ban to hydroelectric power (this is vintage McMorris Rodgers rhetoric) as if anyone were proposing to ban hydroelectric. (No one is.) Then clothe the whole thing in a twisted lie: “Spokane Citizens for Cleaner Energy” is a deceptive name meant to gather votes of those inclined toward attacking climate change but not paying close attention. This is pure Republican climate-denying propaganda meant to mislead the voting public by preemptively limiting the ability of the City Council to even consider the issue. Prop 1 is the ultimate in deception and self-interest. It is time to rebel. 

What can you do? The five month comment period on the Action Plan ends this month. The forces behind Prop 1 are doing everything they can to undermine the Plan. Show your general support for the Spokane Sustainability Action Plan by filling out this survey today:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/YFNYGB2

You aren’t required to read the whole Action Plan to fill out the survey. Don’t get stalled in filling out the survey by feeling you must understand every detail—but if you have time to dig deeper here are some links:

Executive Summary (9-page listing of vision, goals, and strategies) 

Full Plan Draft (82-page report of the Sustainability Action Subcommittee)

Video Presentation (24-minute presentation by Kara Odegard, SAS manager

1-page flyer for posting 

Recommended:
“Climate Chaos: Our Present, Our Future” – S-R op-ed co-authored by Brian Henning, Amber Lenhart, Dr. Bob Lutz. 8/1/21 (Excellent!)

Keep to the high ground,

Jerry

P.S. Below I have copied the email that alerted me to the Survey and to the Action Plan. It caught my attention in part because I had read Adam Shanks’ article on Prop 1. 

I’m casting out to my entire network to ask a question.  Have you completed the survey on the Spokane Sustainability Action Plan? Chances are you haven’t (maybe don’t even know about it).  

If not, please, please do.  This is an urgent call to show your support for a community-based, volunteer-driven, collectively organized plan to address climate chaos.  that will be submitted to the City Council for adoption before the end of the year.  

You don’t have to read the SAP to take the survey.  You don’t really need to know anything about it (although I think it would be worth your while to learn what’s in it).    Submitting it won’t take long.  I did it in under 5 minutes, and it’s mostly multiple choice.  You can offer ideas and comments, but you don’t have to be creative or think about it too much.  Just doing the survey will show that you care.  
Survey link:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/YFNYGB2

Here’s the thing – there is a well-organized resistance to the City adopting any plan that would set our local government on a path to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  Certain business-oriented and special interest groups have focused criticism and negativity on specific aspects of plan strategies and encouraged people to oppose the plan because it represents  “governmental interference.”  The survey will be a major influence for Council members who will decide on adopting the plan before the end of the year, and the results matter.
If you want to do something about wildfire smoke, water conservation, waste, transportation, fossil fuel consumption, climate justice, food safety, the City needs to hear from you!
Here’s another thing: the Plan only addresses high-level goals and strategies. It’s not time to worry about how everything is going to get done.  If adopted, the plan will require more assessment, prioritization, an implementation process, and ongoing monitoring.  Don’t worry, the future will be the hard part. We’re going to get there no matter what we do, but let’s try to make it better.
If you want some suggestions for the survey comment sections, here are some examples of strategy statements from the plan:  
Ensure new construction is as efficient as possible and fully reliant on renewable fuels  (Building & Energy)

Advance land use planning to minimize vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and increase community resiliency  (Transportation & Land Use)

Minimize food waste generated by residents and businesses  (Waste Diversion and Material Conservation)

Establish diverse, “future climate”-adapted landscaping within the built environment (Natural Environment)

Increase household food security regionwide (Health & Wellbeing)

Here’s the link!:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/YFNYGB2

Please forward this email to your own friends and networks. I strongly believe we need to push this effort hard.  Thank you for your effort.  Comments to this email are welcome – I can take it!  I’m happy to talk, too.

In Gratitude and Hope,
Ian
– Ian Cunningham
ian.daddio@gmail.com
509.990.6434


P.S.
More Background:
You’ve probably heard or read something about the Spokane Sustainability Action Plan, the 82-page blueprint authored by a volunteer group of dedicated citizens that could possibly set us on a path toward adapting to climate change.  The plan is a draft containing goals, strategies, and action ideas for meeting three major objectives:

95% reduction of greenhouse gases by 2050 using a step approach, compared to 2016 levels (State mandate)

Build resiliency to ensure our neighborhoods and economy are ready for future challenges

Prioritize those most exposed to health impact and economic downturns related to climate change

Over 40 people participating in drafting the SAS proposal. The SAP was posted on the City website in April, launching a five-month public comment period which ends this month.  The SAS plan proposal will be edited and refined before submitting to the Council in September or October.