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.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Who should run for office? You?

Hello, we are Heidi Hill and Christine Brown, co-chairs of the Benton County Democrats Election Committee.
Our current political climate has resulted in renewed interest for citizen involvement.  Have you considered running for an elected office or being an active campaign worker? Given that it is our goal to support candidates in as many offices as possible, we are going to need a lot of volunteers.  We are going to need your time, your talent and your money. It’s how it’s done. The time is now to learn what that involves and to make your plan.
First, what positions are up for election in 2017?   Most are non-partisan, meaning the focus is on the issues of the job and not whether you are Democrat, Republican, etc.  These positions include city council, school board, port district, hospital district and fire districts.  All of these positions are an excellent way to get involved in your local government.  Two exceptions to the nonpartisan races include Benton County Treasurer and Sheriff.
You can find a complete listing of positions up for election in the 2017 cycle here:

The Benton County Auditors website is full of basic election information including filing fees, basic requirements to run for office and links to other important sites.  The auditor is preparing a packet for elections; it is not available at the sending of this email. You will definitely want to be familiar with this information.
Also note that when you file, publicly announce a candidacy or begin raising money, you must file with the PDC. Please see: for more information.

Election cycles are built around dates, and the first important date is the filing period.   This year it is May 15th through 20th, 2017.  You can file online.

A full calendar of election dates can be found at:
Also, it is not too early to think about running for a partisan position coming up in 2018...a state representative position of the 8th or 16th Legislative Districts or for Congress in the 4th Congressional District.
At a future date, all candidates will be invited to appear before Democratic leadership and Precinct Committee Officers to request support by the party.

Ready to Run: Pasco!  Sponsored by Amplify
April 29th 9 AM – 4:30 PM
Location: Local 598, 1328 N. 28th Ave. Pasco, WA
Sign up at:
Cost $20.00 (includes lunch)

Camp Wellstone - Seattle
May 19-21, 2017
Training is provided by some of the nation's leading experts in four different tracks: grassroots organizer, campaign workers, candidates, movement technology. Deadline to apply for this is April 12th.
Cost: $450 plus hotel & transportation

Online Links for Training: (Night School) *video tutorials  (Really rich resource, no charge)

offered by Benton County Democrats
Monday, April 24th, 2017
6:00-8:00 Local Candidates Panel
Location: Local 598, 1328 N. 28th Ave. Pasco, WA

If you are thinking of running, please attend. Please bring your spouse, partners, and potential members of your support team.
The Benton County Democrats organization is committed to recruiting and training candidates and campaign workers.  This 2 hour session will provide discussion on these topics:
1. What are the primary job duties of a city council member, school board member and port district commissioner.
2. What are the basics of running for office - costs, time commitments, fundraising, collecting good volunteers, preparing a campaign plan
3. Hear directly from people who've run for elected office.  How much of their own money did they spend, on what, best way to get your name and message out there and what's it really like to run for office.  You'll have a chance to talk with people who've run for office in the past, to learn from their hindsight and success. 
Confirmed Presenters at time of writing include:
Angie Tyree
Jay Clough
Carol Moser
Doug McKinley
Dori Luzzo Gilmour
Tom Moak
Rebecca Francik

Participation is free.  Campaign workers/volunteers are encouraged to attend this workshop as well.   We need to know how many to expect, please respond back to this email with your name, phone number, and which office you are interested in running for.
Here’s the Facebook link to the Introductory Workshop Event. Click here.
Elected officials should reflect their constituency.  We encourage people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, religious ideologies, sexual orientation, male and female to consider representing Benton County. 
In solidarity,
Heidi Hill
Christine Brown

Thursday, April 6, 2017

How to Write Effective Letters to Congress

Given developments in Congress over the first months of the Trump Presidency, including today's exercise of the "nuclear option" by Senate Republicans in order to ram through Neil Gorsuch's SCOTUS confirmation, I thought letters to our members of congress might be in order. I found this guide by Robert Longley for writing effective letters useful, and thought you might, too.

Real Letters Are Still the Best Way to Be Heard by Lawmakers
by Robert Longley
Updated March 02, 2017

People who think members of the U.S. Congress pay little or no attention to constituent mail are just plain wrong. Concise, well thought out personal letters are one of the most effective ways Americans have of influencing law-makers. But members of Congress get hundreds of letters and emails every day. Whether you choose to use the Postal Service or email, here are some tips that will help you write a letter to Congress that has impact.

Think Locally
It's usually best to send letters to the representative from your local Congressional District or the senators from your state. Your vote helps elect them—or not—and that fact alone carries a lot of weight. It also helps personalize your letter. Sending the same "cookie-cutter" message to every member of Congress may grab attention but rarely much consideration.

Keep it Simple
Your letter should address a single topic or issue. Typed, one-page letters are best. Many PACs (Political Action Committees) recommend a three-paragraph letter structured like this:
    1.    Say why you are writing and who you are. List your "credentials." (If you want a response, you must include your name and address, even when using email.)
    2.    Provide more detail. Be factual not emotional. Provide specific rather than general information about how the topic affects you and others. If a certain bill is involved, cite the correct title or number whenever possible.
    3.    Close by requesting the action you want taken: a vote for or against a bill, or change in general policy.

The best letters are courteous, to the point, and include specific supporting examples.

Addressing Members of Congress
To Your Senator:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room #) (Name) Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator:

To Your Representative:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room #) (Name) House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative:

The above addresses should be used in email messages, as well as those sent through the Postal Service.

Finding Their Addresses
Senate and House of Representatives
U.S. Senators (web sites and mailing addresses)
Write Your U.S. Representative (A service of the House that will assist you by identifying your Congressperson in the U.S. House of Representatives and providing contact information.
U.S. Supreme Court
Contact Information - US Supreme Court
The Justices do not have email addresses, but they do read letters from citizens.

To Conclude
Here are some key things you should always and never do in writing to your elected representatives.
    1.    Be courteous and respectful without "gushing."
    2.    Clearly and simply state the purpose of your letter. If it's about a certain bill, identify it correctly. If you need help in finding the number of a bill, use the Thomas Legislative Information System.
    3.    Say who you are. Anonymous letters go nowhere. Even in email, include your correct name, address, phone number and email address. If you don't include at least your name and address, you will not get a response.
    4.    State any professional credentials or personal experience you may have, especially those pertaining to the subject of your letter.
    5.    Keep your letter short—one page is best.
    6.    Use specific examples or evidence to support your position.
    7.    State what it is you want done or recommend a course of action.
    8.    Thank the member for taking the time to read your letter.

    1.    Use vulgarity, profanity, or threats. The first two are just plain rude and the third one can get you a visit from the Secret Service. Simply stated, don't let your passion get in the way of making your point,
    2.    Fail to include your name and address, even in email letters.
    3.    Demand a response.

Identifying Legislation
Cite these legislation identifiers when writing to members of Congress:
House Bills: "H.R._____"
House Resolutions: "H.RES._____"
House Joint Resolutions: "H.J.RES._____"
Senate Bills: "S._____"
Senate Resolutions: "S.RES._____"
Senate Joint Resolutions: "S.J.RES._____"

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tech Day for Socially [Media] Challenged

Tech Day at the Richland Library
Last Sunday dawned bright and sunny and instead of taking a walk in the park, I headed over to the Richland Library for a “Tech Day” designed to help bring the IT-challenged into the age of social media mania. The BCDCC Communications Committee organized the event; DeNomy Dage, Kendall Miller, Micki McKinley, Bonnie, Andy, Jenni, Jessica, Heidi, plus assorted volunteers. We are gratful to them all.

The exercise was meant to help the “resistance” use the power of social media to concentrate forces, and aid in focusing issue activism. Of particular importance was teaching trainees how to set up a Facebook account and follow event planning on sites such as:
Democrats of the Mid-Columbia
Democrats of the 8th Legislative District Washington
Indivisible Washington State 4th Congressional District
Love Not Hate Tri-Cities
March for Science Tri-Cities
Tri-Cities Citizens Climate Lobby

There was also a discussion of how to use Facebook and Twitter to “share” meaningful articles and dialogue, whether in our local Tri-City Herald, in the New York Times, or on the Daily Kos, etc. Any digital site worth reading will provide sharing logos for Facebook and Twitter, as well as Google+ and email. Click on the logo and the article is shared. Check the very bottom of this post and you’ll find those symbols and a few others.
Jessica Gonzales showing how to use Google Docs, with an assist from Kennedy
Jessica did a presentation on Goggle Docs, showing how to create and share documents, as well as how to create Goggle forms, which is useful for a number of things, including collecting information for volunteer organizations and/or events.

Bonnie Kendall, a recent devotee, did a presentation on Twitter and discussed how simple and straightforward it is to craft a quick, but meaningful 140-character message using hashtags (#) and the ‘at’ [@] symbol to share and direct a ‘tweet.’ She suggested “following” at least 20 people/sites, and “lurking” a bit once a Twitter account is set up in order to learn the ropes. You can start by following Bonnie (@BonnieKendall6).

After the presentations and general discussion, help stations were set up, with Mickey McKinley pushing tables all over the room, and one-on-one help was provided to those seeking additional instruction.

It was a great occasion. We should do it again.
Ann Fraser trying to talk her dad, Steve into actually using the Facebook account he set up.

I Called Rep Dan Newhouse & Urged Him to Support an Independent Investigation

This is his response. What do you think of it?

Dear Dr. Badalamente,

          Thank you for contacting my office with concerns about Russia’s influence over the Trump Administration.  It is important to hear from constituents as I work in Congress representing the people of Washington’s 4th District.  I sincerely appreciate you reaching out and sharing your views on this important issue.          

As you may be aware, prior to leaving office, the Obama Administration cited evidence that during the election Russia was involved with cyber-attacks on the Democratic National Committee, Republican National Committee, and other individuals and entities.  Some information that was obtained in these hacks was made public.  There is no evidence that voting machines were tampered with, but it is unacceptable to have any foreign government involved in our elections.  I believe we must do all we can to get to address these cyberattacks, and continue to investigate.       

You may be pleased to know that the FBI is investigating Russia’s potential role in last year’s elections and any potential ties between Trump officials and Russia.  Additionally, the Senate and House Intelligence Committee have promised to thoroughly investigate any contacts between Trump aides and the Kremlin.  In fact, the House Intelligence Committee has been conducting a long ongoing investigation into Russian activities since last year. It started before the election with concerns about Russia’s cyber activities and since the election the committee has broadened the scope of the investigation to include any involvement by Russia into our election, and any ties of Russian officials to any U.S. government official at any level.

In fact, the Intelligence Committee wants to know about any American citizens coordinating with the Russians.  Chairman Nunes and Ranking Member Schiff have, in a bipartisan manner, announced the parameters of their investigation, which you may learn more about by going to  Despite the leaks, we must be careful to ensure this classified investigation can continue.

While it is premature to prejudge the investigation, if our intelligence professionals uncover serious crimes, we must consider the appointment of a special prosecutor.  I believe that Congress has an obligation to protect our country from any foreign threats, and I will be sure to monitor these investigations as they are conducted.
 I hope you will continue to be in contact as Congress debates the many issues of importance to the country. I also encourage you to connect with me on Facebook and Twitter and to sign up for my e-newsletter for the latest updates on my work to represent Central Washington’s views in our nation’s capital. 

Thank you again for taking the time to share your concerns with me—I am always glad to hear from constituents of the 4th District. It is an honor and privilege to serve you in Congress.

Dan Newhouse
Member of Congress