Thursday, April 27, 2017

Climate Festival at John Dam Plaza on Saturday

Citizens’ Climate Education is hosting the Peoples’ Climate Festival at John Dam Plaza in Richland on Saturday, April 29th, beginning at 2:00 p.m. The family friendly festival will help people of all ages understand climate change, how it affects us, and what actions we can take. Attendees may also wear nature-based costumes and create signs to carry along George Washington Way during a “Species Climate March or Procession” to conclude the festival. 

The event will include a variety of speakers, music, and educational and hands-on activities.  The notable speakers will share scientific, public health, and faith-based perspectives about climate change and climate action. Children’s activities include sign and mask making, rope labyrinth, play parachute, puppet show. There will also be food vendors and face painting.

Speakers Include: 
2:00 Opening Words and Blessing (Shannon Truex and Doak Mansfield, CUUC)
2:15 Jessie Dye,  Program and Outreach Director for Earth Ministry, Seattle, will discuss climate change from a faith perspective. 
2:30  Music by Mary Hartman
2:45 Dr. Rick Smith, Associate Professor of Environmental Science at Columbia Basin College, will discuss responding to climate change in the Tri-Cities. 
3:00 Music (CUUC choir?)
3:15 Dr. Noel Hubbs, Naturopathic Doctor with Stellar You Wellness Center will present the connections between human health and the health of the planet. 
3:30 Music (Mike and Shannon?)
3:45 Dr. James Conca, Senior Scientist, UFA Ventures, Inc., Richland,  will talk about the role of nuclear power in the mitigation of climate change. 
4:00 Music (Reg Unterseher and others)
4:15 Dr. Amy Persons, District Health Officer for the Benton-Franklin Health District, will focus on climate change as a public health concern. 
4:30 Dr. Richard Badalamente, will touch on policy approaches to addressing climate change.
4:45 Closing Words and prep for March  (Shannon)
5:00 Species Climate Procession/March – dress up, bring signs and join others!

Faith Action Network and Earth Ministries
Friends of Mid-Columbia Wildlife Refuges
Go Green Tri-Cities and SEENet (Sustainable Energy and Environmental Network)
Tri-Cities Citizen’s Climate Lobby
Solar WA
Stellar You Wellness Center
WA Environmental Council (WEC)
WA Native Plant Society
Electric Vehicle show

John Dam Plaza is located at 815 George Washington Way in Richland. Parking is available at the Federal Building, City Hall and around the downtown area. 

For more information, visit Tri-Cities Citizens’ Climate Lobby on Facebook or

Monday, April 24, 2017

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Dylan Thomas's life affirming poem, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, speaks powerfully to us about living life to its fullest, never surrendering to affliction, and in old age to "Rage, rage, against the dying of the light."

The poem is thought to have been inspired by Thomas's father going blind in his old age, and Thomas's own battles against depression and alcoholism. Yet despite his own failures and infirmities, Thomas urges us to burn with passion until we draw our last breath -- never, ever give up.

For me, the poem has always been an inspiration to fight passionately for the things about which I feel passionately, no matter how hopeless the cause may seem at the time. And at this time, things do feel hopeless.

We felt passionately about our nation, our republic, our democracy -- an America of which, despite its blemishes, we could be proud. Donald Tump's election was a body blow to that pride. It left us disillusioned, wounded.

How could we overcome the onslaught of xenophobia, racism, bigotry, and divisiveness that followed Trump into the White House?

How could we overcome the onslaught by Trump and his cabinet picks on those government policies and institutions that we value; health care, women's rights, caring for the underprivileged, appreciating the arts, valuing science, valuing the truth, being good stewards of our fragile Earth?

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 I am heartened by the self-affirming things I see happening in our community of believers in truth and social justice, and beauty, and love. Whether its an older couple walking hand-in-hand in the March for Science, or a 14 year-old boy speaking openly about his sexuality in order to make life a little easier for others struggling with the issue, or a 50+ year-old man wearing a pink knit "pussyhat" and standing for hours at a table asking for people to sign a pledge to support TRUTH (I saw you, Carl).

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
So, we must keep marching, writing, talking railing, raging, running, loving, burning with passion for all that we believe in. Never, ever give up.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Barack Obama's First Public Speech Since 2016 Election

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Celebration and March for Science

The Celebration and March for Science Saturday, April 22, 2017, was by all measures, a terrific success. Upwards of a thousand people, from all ages and stages participated in one way or another. The event took place at John Dam Plaza in Richland, Washington, and lasted for several hours, culminating with a march that seemed to last forever.

The event was organized by a group whose principal objective was to show appreciation for all that science has given us. Organizers promoted no political ideology, but the mood reflected a feeling that the Trump Administration and some Republican members of Congress, were immune to scientific facts.

There were a variety of demonstration/information booths at the event, on everything from body armor to bees.
You can ask Dennis McQuerry (pictured above) about biofuels as well as bees.

The Celebration and March serve to raise awareness about the role of science in our everyday lives, and to question how politics impacts the practice and application of science. Railing against the "politicization of science" is futile, because, for better or for worse, science and politics go hand in hand, as this article in The Verge explains.

The scientific method and the way real science is practiced insulates us from fakery, but not politics. As we've seen, "a president who clearly picks and chooses facts to suit his own version of the world changes the relationship between science and culture, in potentially destructive ways" (Lopatto, 4/21/17).

The challenge for scientists and those who support science is to remain objective, while rejecting "alternative facts," and promoting, ACTIVELY (not universally accepted), the application of scientific findings to policy making. One place to start is with the coming budget debate. Write your members of congress and tell them not to cut or hamstring the National Science Foundation (NSF), the EPA, NIH, and other science agencies. Our lives and the lives of future generations will depend on how vigorously and effectively we defend science today.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Observations on the GOP's Health Care "Plan"

by our Facebook Friend, 'Roberto' Macdonald

Caught an interview with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. He was questioned by CNN's Sanjay Gupta. Both men are surgeons.

Price was touting the latest version of a Republican "health care plan" (an essential component of which is "no plan"). The Republican plan does not include a "mandate". Price says that people should not be forced to buy health insurance if they do not want it. To do otherwise, Price argues, is unbecoming a free society.

Gupta asked if an uninsured person would be taken care of in case of an accident. Price's response was (in paraphrase), "Of course. We are a compassionate society." In a different context (food stamps, welfare), people who received the benefits of a "compassionate society" might be called "freeloaders", but not in the context of health insurance opt-outs!

Price wrapped up by proclaiming "everyone should have health insurance."

Price's "should", of course, speaks volumes: everyone "should" do what they ought to do, and "ought" to do what they should do, but no one "should" or "ought" to be compelled to do what they don't want to do. 

This is more than mere hypocrisy, which is an easy game to play. It's easy to find a reason to label someone a "hypocrite" for one reason or another. But the use of arguments like Price's essentially enshrine and codify hypocrisy. Price's arguments are not just slick, they're sick, which is a good metaphor in the context of the healthcare debate.

It is not possible to provide health care for everyone without a "mandate" in some form, either through taxes in a single-payer system, or through compulsory participation in an insurance-based system (which, Chief Justice Roberts tells us, amounts to a tax). 

It should be obvious to everyone that anything the Republicans come up with will not include a mandate and, thus, will not cover pre-existing conditions. Essentially, the country will revert to the previous "market-based" system which provided the best health care one could afford. 

Of course, they will claim to provide for pre-existing conditions through state-operated "high-risk pools". These pools work like this: those denied conventional coverage will go on a waiting list, because the high-risk funding is inadequate to cover everyone. Eventually, a small percentage of those on the waiting list will get coverage. For the rest, they'll get a handy little map with directions to the nearest emergency room.
Tom Price is an uncompromising conservative, is a strong foe of abortion and Planned Parenthood, an Obamacare opponent and a supporter of efforts to privatize Medicare. Read more here.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Reflections on Rep Dan Newhouse Sunnyside Town Hall (Revised)

According to the Yakima Herald, nearly 150 people turned out Thursday evening, April 13, to hear from U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA4) on issues ranging from immigration to dairy regulations to President Donald Trump's taxes.

A number of people representing progressive interests in the 8th LD and Benton County carpooled to the town hall in Sunnyside to pose questions on issues of concern to the community. The reaction to Mr. Newhouse's town hall was mixed, with some grateful just to see him make an appearance, and others less than satisfied with the format for the town hall (questions presubmitted and drawn by a moderator), or the congressman's less than forthright responses to questions from the audience.

Rep Dan Newhouse at Sunnyside Town Hall, April 13, 2017

Congressman Newhouse began the town hall with a request for a prayer. The reaction to that request -- heckling --was a preview of things to come. An attendee wondered what the reactions would have been had someone asked to follow-up with a Muslim prayer. The heckling about the prayer made some uncomfortable.

There were comments to the effect that the town hall was so raucous it made for an unpleasant experience. Plus, it was difficult to maintain a reasonable give and take with Newhouse, since he kept being interrupted, and people in the audience were talking at the same time.

That lack of courtesy and respect bothered some people, especially those who went to the town hall with an open mind to hear Newhouse's point of view. Others felt differently.
Faces in the audience reflect variety of responses to Rep Newhouse during town hall
Many pointed out that it was important for Newhouse to understand that people were frustrated and angry about what was happening in Washington. People felt disenfranchised. The accusations about the Trump Campaign colluding with the Russians to sway the 2016 Election to Trump was on a lot of people's minds, and Trump's refusal to release his tax returns exacerbates suspicions.

In response to a question on Trump's tax returns, Newhouse said he'd help write a bill making it mandatory for ‘a president’ to release his tax returns. Not exactly responsive to the Trump tax returns question, but perhaps better than nothing.

There was a great deal of dissatisfaction voiced about Newhouse's tendency to waffle-word his responses -- not an unusual tendency among politicians. For example, Newhouse sponsored H.R. 848, a bill that exempts animal and crop waste and fertilizer from the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. He was challenged on this by residents of Outlook who say their drinking water is being polluted. He responded by saying the RCRA rules were never meant to apply to dairies, but he would "research" the problem. Some may have wondered why he didn't do this prior to introducing the bill.

Newhouse said that he initially supported the GOP American Health Care Act (AHCA), but changes in the bill concerned him, and he said he wants to take the time to get it right.
Hold up your card, red or green, disagree or agree.
On the issue of net neutrality, Newhouse said he will look into the issue to see what agencies are doing with residents' browsing history and, if needed, look into legislation. He seemed less than well-informed about the issue. The House of Representatives has already approved a repeal of protections put in place under the Obama administration. On a 215-205 vote, largely along party lines, the House voted to undo these Obama-era broadband privacy rules that govern the behavior of Internet service providers. Newhouse voted with the majority.
Newhouse will host a final listening session from 6 to 7 p.m. in Okanogan County on April 20 before Congress is back in session April 25.