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Posts published in September 2020

Don’t forget your Statehouse guns


Roy Eiguren has been involved with the Idaho Legislature in some form for 50 years and has seen his share of political highs and lows. His personal history goes back to 1970 when he was a Senate page and a young man named C.L. “Butch” Otter was assistant secretary in the Senate.

I’ve known Roy for almost that long, meeting him when I wrote sports for Moscow’s daily newspaper and he was the University of Idaho’s student body president. Roy has spent most of his career as an attorney and lobbyist, and he’s one of the best. He’s known for being calm, congenial and impeccably prepared – ingredients that have gained him trust with a long list of governors and legislators.

Yes, my old friend has seen a lot at the Capitol over those years – but nothing like what he saw during the first day of the recent special session. An angry mob led by a group called People’s Rights forced its way past security guards and into the House gallery, breaking a door in the process.

“The noise from the glass door breaking was deafening. I was shocked by the incivility,” said Rep. Melissa Winthrow, D-Boise, in her recent newsletter. Later in the day, she heard a lot of booing and jeering when she tried to remind the crowd about the importance of safety and civility.

Eiguren agreed that it was a scary situation. “I witnessed individuals coming into a hearing room with firearms. Some appeared to be intoxicated, and some were shouting at the legislators. You could tell that legislators were visibly upset.”

I wasn’t there for the special session, but saw news clips of state troopers storming a committee room and making arrests – which is something I didn’t think I’d ever see.

If mob rule becomes the “new normal” in the Idaho Statehouse, and guns become as common as coats and ties, then there is going to be a shooting at some point. Potential targets could be a legislator making the “wrong” vote, a lobbyist representing an unpopular client, or a reporter writing a story that somebody doesn’t like. Or, maybe the shooter will be someone who simply hates government.

“Statistically speaking, you’d have to think that over a period of time that someone will be shot,” Eiguren says. “With the renovation of the Capitol, we have dramatically expanded the space in which the public can participate. There are a lot more people in the building, with a lot more firearms.”

And, not surprisingly, there were a lot of nervous legislators in the building. Rep. Caroline Troy, R-Genesee, is a staunch supporter of Second Amendment, likes the National Rifle Association and has been around guns for most of her life. But she does not like what she saw at the Statehouse.

“I don’t like seeing the long guns in the Capitol building,” she said. “There are legislators who carry guns. I carry a gun, but this time I didn’t have it in my purse. I had it out on my desk, and I’ve never felt that way before. I’m all for gun rights, but there is a time and place for everything and there’s no place for long guns in the people’s house.”

Eiguren, characteristically, has done some research on the subject. Eleven state capitals across the country allow weapons, and eight of those 11 allow concealed weapons. Idaho is one of three states that allow all types of firearms into the Capitol.

“If you contrast that with other public places in our state, as an example the 44 county courthouses, they all ban firearms,” Eiguren said. “The federal courts and airports ban firearms. So I think we’re going to need to take a pause here and reflect whether it’s an appropriate public policy for firearms to be brought into the Capitol.”

And here we have Idaho, where Statehouse visitors seem to be preparing for a gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Ironically, the mob that stormed into the House gallery didn’t get what they wanted – which was the lifting of Gov. Brad Little’s emergency orders initiated during the coronavirus pandemic. If those orders are still with us in the months ahead, and more anger festers, there’s no telling what we might be seeing in January.

Eiguren is absolutely correct – we need to have a conversation about guns in the Capitol. It would be a shame for lawmakers to wait for a mass shooting before taking action.

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at

Following the herd


America’s haphazard pandemic response has produced worse results than almost every other nation on Earth, even the poorest third-world countries. After flailing around for the last 6 months, searching for an easy fix that would ensure his re-election, the President appears now to favor the “herd immunity” concept of socialist Sweden. Who would have thought?

Right from the start, we leapt out ahead of every other country in numbers of infections and deaths and have steadily held that lead ever since. With 4.2% of the Earth’s population, we have 24% of the reported world infections and 22% of the deaths.

Our August 30 death toll of 187,194 souls dwarfs that of all other nations, including those in the immediate vicinity of China where the pandemic began. The present reported Japanese death toll is 1,264. In Taiwan it is 7, South Korea 323, Myanmar 6 and Vietnam 32. The combined population of those five countries is 22 million more than the U.S. and they have a combined total of 1,632 deaths to this point in the pandemic. We have experienced an average of 1,189 deaths each day since March 30. Reputable epidemiologists have found that we could have prevented 70% to 99% of those deaths by taking the same actions as almost every other country in the world.

What sets the United States apart from the other nations is indecision and political meddling in the coronavirus response. The President did not take the virus seriously until the mid-March stock market crash. He failed to implement a nationwide strategy, foisting the heavy lifting on our 50 states, each to sink or swim on its own.

Trump has derided masks, disregarding scientific evidence of their critical importance in keeping the virus from spreading. His hot and cold messaging on protective measures has given rise to heated division throughout the country. His refusal to follow the advice of epidemiologists has prolonged any chance of achieving the success other countries have had in minimizing infections and deaths.

Instead of promoting proven ways of fighting the virus--masking, distancing, testing, tracing--Trump hypes miracle cures. The virus will miraculously disappear, injecting disinfectants, shining bright lights in bodily orifices, taking hydroxychloroquine. His latest fake cure is oleandrin, an extract from a poisonous plant, which he hyped at the White House with the My Pillow guy. This type of behavior is dangerous and destructive.

Trump is letting political considerations disrupt efforts to control the virus--”grossly misrepresenting” the effectiveness of convalescent plasma, retweeting a conspiracy theory that the Covid-19 death toll is really only 9,000, forcing the CDC to change testing guidelines for those without symptoms, continually questioning the need for testing, falsely claiming FDA is slow-walking Covid-19 vaccines, belittling and muzzling Dr. Fauci. All of this misconduct is directed toward getting the economy stoked up again to help Trump’s re-election chances, regardless of the cost in American lives.

Trump’s latest gambit is to move toward the “herd immunity” strategy of socialist Sweden. That is, to fully open up schools and businesses and let the virus run its course until a vaccine is available. It has been a disaster in Sweden and would only make our situation much worse. The cost in lives would likely be in the millions, but a reckless reopening of the country might save Trump’s political bacon. The real damage would occur after November 3.

Good cop/bad cop


UP FRONT: I support law enforcement. Period.

In my media years, I spent a lot of time around cops. Even made a few friends. Assigned to hang out at the “cop shop” for several years in different cities, I learned a lot about the professional - and often personal - lives of those who make up city, county and state police agencies.

On the whole, as professionals, most were highly trained, extremely loyal (especially to each other) organized, effective and - most of the time - performing varying assignments with attention to detail.

Some emphasis has to be placed on two words in that description: “professional” and “loyal.”

Cops often have an “us-versus-them” attitude in performance of their work. Spending some years doing “ride-alongs,” getting shooting range practice, sitting in on daily shift-change briefings, being an observer of many arrests and even times of violence, it’s easy to see why a lot of cops feel that way. From their perspective, “us-versus-them” is real.

As for “loyal,” that’s real, too. In performance of day-to-day duties, being “back -ups” when other officers are in dangerous situations, learning to quickly “partner up” when they face violence with another officer they don’t know - loyalty is basic to survival. It’s basic to being a good cop.

Having said all that, there’s this. As a reporter, covering a string of arsons in a small Idaho town for several nights, I got lucky by photographing an off-duty sheriff’s deputy setting a barn on fire. The serial arsonist was a cop.

During a “ride-along,” I saw a cop shoot an unarmed drunk. I watched a detective throw a belligerent teenager up on the hood of his car and pound the kid’s head into the sheet metal until he was unconscious. I watched a cop throw an unarmed woman to the ground and kick her repeatedly until he was pulled off. By me.

There are, I’m sure, many, many other examples of poor thinking - criminal cop conduct - unnecessary violence - going too far. In other words, yes, Virginia, there are bad cops, too. And we’re seeing some of them in our nation’s streets.

Then, there’s this.

Have you watched the over-the-shoulder video of the Jacob Blake shooting? I have. Probably two-dozen times. Enough times to shake my trust in policing.

Watch it again. Closely. Blake was jammed between the open driver’s door and the side pillar. Trapped tightly. He was in the grip of two officers - two - one with his gun drawn. Blake could have had a machine gun in his car. But, crunched between the door and the car frame - in the firm grasp of two cops - he couldn’t have reached any further. So, from a distance of less than two feet, a cop put seven bullets in his back! Seven!

Watch it again. Physically trapped and in the grasp of two cops. Stopped! Then the shots. Seven!

No one can accurately guess what was in the shooter’s mind the second(s) he pulled the trigger. Maybe even he can’t remember. Not now, anyway. A subsequent review board will likely take his badge.

One of the problems with firing a bad cop is they usually go to another branch of law enforcement - in their community or somewhere else - and hire on. Two reasons for this. First, training is expensive, especially for smaller communities and that previously trained man or woman can go to work on day one. Second problem, finding men and women who have to be trained has to do with recruiting laws. The one most cited is any drug use, no matter now small. Even some pot 20 years ago. One time. Knocks out some good people.

Even with an extensive background around cops, I’ve got to admit, that Jacob Blake video turned my stomach. In cop lingo, it was not a “good shoot.” It was damned near murder - unjustified murder. A bad cop with a gun who panicked.

Then, our nation’s “chief executive” went to Kenosha, WI, to meet with the principals in the shooting. Really? He ignored the Blake family to meet with city officials and law enforcement. Yes, Virginia, there are bad presidents, too.

Thanks to one Donald J. Trump, other situations around the country that may have resulted in a few disorderly conduct arrests escalated into killings. What might have been peaceful, lawful and quiet marches have been turned into riots. Marches for this-that-or-the-other rightful grievances have attracted unidentified federal “cops” - or mercenaries - courtesy DJT. Also armed Trump supporters. Our right of peaceful assembly has been abridged - wait for it - by our President. And our Attorney General.

Anyone who thinks the hundreds of “Peaceful Prayer” invaders who showed up in downtown Portland without outside “support” isn’t paying attention. Their parade permit was for Clackamas County, not Multnomah. They were supposed to be no closer than 25 miles from downtown Portland. Did you see the foul-mouthed DJT-Pence 2020 flags flying from many of those several hundred vehicles? They didn’t just buy those at Wal-Mart. Semi-automatics, open carry, paintball guns, chemical sprayers. Some planning went into their “invasion.” And some supplying, as well.

Many months ago, Portland marches were peaceful affairs until some grifters and vandals joined in. Vandalism and thievery occurred. Apparently unable to seek out and arrest the miscreants, police presence was doubled and tripled in the faces of subsequent marchers. As the criminal activity continued, “peace-came-to-shove” and arrests of lawful marchers lit a fuse. Things got more militant and Trump - with the able assistance of his “personal” Attorney General - added some gasoline - those armed and unidentified feds - and, sure enough, things got hotter.

The escalating street problems in Portland and Kenosha - and elsewhere - are really political problems. Rather than let locals deal with locals, Trump and his minions have inserted themselves onto the scenes and have fanned smouldering ashes into full-blown fires. Now he - and only he - can be the “law and order” president who brings further federal resources to bear to restore peace. A peace he has deliberately shattered.

Bad politics and a few bad - or panicked - cops share much of the blame for problems we’re seeing in the streets. The thousands of good cops, doing their daily duties, don’t get the recognition or the notoriety. Neither do the politicians who are trying to mediate and solve problems.

But, Trump and the cop who fired the seven bullets into Jacob Blake’s back make the front pages and the 11 o’clock news.

My faith’s shaken a bit. But, the “bad guys” won’t prevail.

The flowers of democracy


When the late Bill Hall was editorial page editor of the Lewiston Tribune, he once called political yard signs "the flowers of democracy.” Someone had complained to Bill that yard signs were a nuisance and “cluttered up the landscape,” In response, Bill penned an opinion piece reminding folks that yard signs represent the right of every citizen to advocate for the candidate of their choice, and – like conventions, debates, rallies and parades – are a venerable part of our civic dialog.

As an impressionable high school student reading the “Trib,” Bill’s colorful phrase “the flowers of democracy,” stayed with me.

This year, in an incredibly tense political environment, many are asking if they dare show their support for Biden-Harris by displaying a yard sign. Some are fearful of vandalism or social ostracization, especially in some rural parts of my state. Several people are even anxious about displaying a bumper sticker on their car.

The fear is understandable. No one wants to have their property damaged, or be the object of road rage. No one wants their children shunned at school because their family does not conform to some perceived prevailing point of view.

The Washington Post recently ran an article about the heightened concerns over yard signs and noted that for many Biden-Harris supporters “ the easiest option . . . is to put the sign inside a window or bring it in at night – or order a flag or banner that can be mounted high off the ground.”

The Post observed, “Others have invested in a motion-activated camera or have placed signs within sight of doorbell cameras. One woman stapled her sign to a porch railing, and another positioned hers in a poison ivy patch.” While I’m not recommending the poison ivy, I admit to finding some wisdom – if not humor – in that approach.

But poison ivy aside, it is a travesty it has come to this; and we must find a way to address the insanity. We must find a way for people to safely exercise their right to political speech without fear of retribution.

There are many views on the wisdom of displaying yard signs and bumper stickers, and I respect each individual’s choice in this matter. People know their own communities, neighborhoods, and personal circumstances, and there are times when taking one’s political views to the ballot box will have to suffice.

But I believe there is strength in numbers. As a Biden-Harris supporter in a red state, I understand that many like-minded people are hesitant to step forward and display a yard sign to show their support for a ticket unlikely to win Idaho’s 4 electoral votes. But Trumpian bullies will be less likely to attack if they know we are not solitary souls, but many.

To its credit, the 2020 session of the Idaho State Legislature enacted a new law that forbids homeowner’s associations from prohibiting the display of political signs. While a homeowners’ association may adopt reasonable rules regarding the time, size, place, number, and manner of display of political signs, it may not forbid them altogether. See Idaho Code Section 55-115(5)(a)-(e).

I’m looking forward to planting my “flowers of democracy” this year. My precinct leans Republicans so some neighbors will no doubt disapprove. But others, who share my views, might see my signs and decide that they, too, will display a Biden-Harris sign. At a minimum, they will know they are not alone.

And the day after the election, I’ll take my signs down. As Bill Hall noted, once the election is over the “flowers of democracy” turn into crabgrass.

Trumpism or democracy


Historians on American political history will spill a lot of ink over the next couple of decades as they try to make sense of how the Republican Party in a virtual wink of the eye became the party of Donald Trump.

That the transformation of the party happened so quickly – a political movement that as recently as 2012 championed free trade, sought to widen its appeal to Americans of color, venerated the free market, embraced quaint concepts like congressional oversight, rejected government by executive order and stood convinced of the evils of a conniving Russian dictator – is an historical curiosity.

Political parties evolve, after all. Republicans once embraced the sunny, “shining city on a hill” rhetoric of Ronald Reagan and the “compassionate conservativism” of George W. Bush. Now the party of deficit hawks controls the White House and the Senate and, as the Wall Street Journal reported this week, also presides over a government debt that “is on track to exceed the size of the economy for the 12 months ended Sept. 30, a milestone not hit since World War II that has been brought into reach by a giant fiscal response to the coronavirus pandemic.”

And to be fair to historic transformations, Democrats were once defined, before they shook off the stain by embracing civil rights, as a party of segregationist southerners. Democrats, profoundly shaken by the failure of their elites to prevent the American tragedy in southeast Asia, for a time swore off military intervention until most in the party supported George W. Bush going into Iraq.

Still, the bobs and weaves of Democrats have been subtle compared to the GOP. Despite the preferred Trump rhetoric that nominee Joe Biden is captive to the radical left wing of the party, the reality is that Biden defeated handily the candidate of the “radical” left in the primaries and he’s rejected the most left leaning policy positions, including a Green New Deal and Medicare for All. Biden has succeeded where Republicans who once loathed Trump have failed. He has pushed back against his own extremes.

That the Republican party’s elected officials – almost to a person – countenanced the transformation of their party, indeed embraced it – is the more interesting question and the more difficult to answer.

One explanation holds that the party’s base came to disdain, after Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012, the so called political “elites,” the people who led the country into a disastrous war in Iraq and couldn’t keep Democrats from passing the Affordable Care Act, which almost every Republican officeholder, and of course Trump, said should be repealed and replaced by a vastly better approach.

You might remember that Trump said during a July 19 interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace that he would be signing of a “full and complete” health-care plan within two weeks. Of course, it was just talk in the same category as Mexico building a wall, being tough on Putin, presiding over the greatest economy ever, releasing his tax returns and draining the swamp.

So, the party’s base rejecting traditional Republican positions for fanciful predictions, conspiracy theories and overt appeals to white nationalism goes some way to explaining the Trump takeover. But how to explain the vast wake of condemnation by Republicans of Trump before he finalized the leveraged takeover of the GOP in 2016?

Texas Senator Ted Cruz said of Trump then: he is a ‘pathological liar,” ‘utterly amoral,” “a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen” and “a serial philanderer.”

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham called Trump a “race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot” who should be expelled from the party. For emphasis, Graham added a prophetic prediction. “Any time you ignore what could become an evil force, you wind up regretting it.”

The list goes on and on. Idaho Senator Mike Crapo said Trump was ‘unfit” and rejected his “disrespectful, profane and demeaning” behavior. Colorado Senator Cory Gardner called Trump’s “flaws … beyond mere moral shortcomings.” Utah’s Senator Mike Lee dismissed Trump as “a distraction,” the same word used by Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson. Former Minnesota governor and presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty said Trump was “unsound, uninformed, unhinged and unfit.”

That Trump withstood this intraparty shellacking is simply astounding, but nowhere near as astounding as the willingness of elected Republicans to now embrace what they once so forcefully abhorred. The fullness of the capitulation was in technicolor display at the recent Republican National Convention where for the first time in the party’s long history no party platform was adopted beyond a statement that the party stands for whatever Trump wants to do.

As near as I can tell Republican officeholders essentially ignored Trump’s coronation for a second term, a spectacle conducted on the White House grounds in clear violation of a law on the books since 1939, while giving a quiet pass to his nonsense about having defeated the pandemic and that he will bring the economy back – a second time. The COVID-19 death toll by election day, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics, will likely be close to 250,000 Americans with an unemployment rate in double digits and vast economic transformation underway whose scope and duration are impossible to predict.

Of Idaho’s federal officeholders, only Simpson had a comment about the GOP convention. He praised not Trump’s Castro-length acceptance speech, but the address of South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, one of the least offensive appearances during the entire gruesome spectacle. Otherwise the speeches, the lack of a platform, the future direction of the party of Trump and the policy void brought only silence.

“Like every person, Trump has his flaws,” a top aide to an Idaho Republican told me recently, before adding “however actions speak louder than words.” A true statement that, and the “Trump has his flaws” comment came before the president explicitly refused to condemn – unlike Biden – his supporters including the 17-year-old gun toting urban guerrilla who is charged with two murders in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

If the country survives this election, if the nation survives Trumpism, the Republican Party will be a relic for historians to pick over. As the conservative columnist Mona Charon wrote this week the “true dereliction by Republican elites has come after Trump’s triumph, with their cringing accommodation of his escalating offenses. Only Republicans were in a position to affect Trump’s conduct. Any criticism by Democrats would be dismissed as partisan sniping. Only members of his own party could have upheld crucial standards of democratic governance, and they failed.”

It is increasingly clear: America can have Trumpism or democracy, the two co-existing together is as unbelievable as what has happened to the Republican Party.

It was 40 years ago today, almost


On a warm fall day 40 years ago, I was stranded on a dusty street in Stanley, in the middle of one of the hottest political stories in the nation.

In 1980, in Idaho, the hot political subject without a doubt was the race for the U.S. Senate between Democratic incumbent Frank Church and Republican challenger (and at the time the first district representative) Steve Symms. This contest had been on for a long time, even before either of the candidates had announced. Not only the candidates’ campaigns but many side organizations were deeply involved. And people in Idaho were deeply interested - more, deeply emotional about it, and you had little trouble figuring out who was where.

It was a nationally-watched race, one of the half-dozen or so state contests with widespread import. National news organizations were in and out of Idaho. And several Idaho political reporters spent a lot of time covering it; I spent most of my work hours during that period on it. I thought at the time it was the Idaho campaign of the century; I still think so.

One Monday in October, I drove from my home base in Pocatello to Blackfoot, then caught a ride to St. Anthony, which is where Symms and his rotating campaign entourage of a dozen to two dozen people - campaign volunteers and staff, reporters, a few stray allied politicians - were at the moment. I had arranged to join the campaign bus for a while and report on what I saw.

Symms was a great campaigner, speaking to groups large and small if there were any, or working the grocery stores shaking hands otherwise. The bus made quick stops in small towns, even places like Howe that didn’t quite qualify as towns, and it didn’t linger long. The bus horn hooted when it was time to go, and wheels rolled within a minute.

At Stanley, I tried to phone in a short news story, and had to call from inside a restaurant, there being no outside phones. I missed the horn, and as I dashed out of the place I saw the bus leaving town.

Well, that was a problem: Not a lot of rental cars available in Stanley then (or now).

The problem was soon solved. Symms’ parents, Darwin and Irene, were along on the trip but driving their own vehicle, and their assignment turned out to include picking up stragglers. Someone on the bus had noticed I wasn’t there, so Symms’ parents were dispatched back to Stanley.

I recalled in a report for the Idaho State Journal how they told me “a few days earlier they’d gone back to Glenns Ferry to find a girl dressed in an elephant costume who had missed the bus. She looked forlorn and lost after they located her. But she was easy to identify.”

Such was politics in the superheated year of 1980.

Idaho in 2020 has no such hot races, not at least on the state level.

But our social environment has become poisoned. We hear of baby-eating sex traffickers as definitions of the opposition, meant to be taken seriously. We’re seeing Niagara Falls quantities of lies, some of them from foreign sources, polluting our political discussion. We’re seeing too many politically active people motivated far more by trying to infuriate - or even destroy - the opposition than we are actually in support of someone, or something.

The seeds of this were sown by the time of that campaign in 1980. But they hadn’t really sprouted yet. If the subject of politics came up, you usually could expect the discussion would be civil, and most people would remain friendly. The opposition consisted of human beings, wrong-headed maybe but not demons from hell.

We can still do this. I’ve occasionally attended a Boise coffee group (not so much in this Covid year) including people from all over the spectrum, and we get along just fine.

But we have to make the effort, and sometimes go back, in a friendly way, to pick up those we have left behind, in one fashion or another.

The religious shield


If you haven’t kept up with this tragedy in South East Idaho, I’m sorry to have to relate this tale. You could Google it for yourself.

Lori Vallow and her new husband, Chad Daybell have been arrested. They are in jail in Rexburg, Idaho. The bodies of Lori’s children (JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan) were found on Daybell’s property. The two children had been missing since last September. The couple have lied to authorities about the whereabouts of the children. The deaths of Vallow’s former husband and Daybell’s former wife are also suspicious and being investigated. It is all very tragic and horrific.

Prosecuting this will not be easy. Proving murder will take evidence or testimony. So far, the charges against Vallow and Daybell (husband and wife) include felony conspiracy to alter evidence (hiding the bodies). Vallow had previous charges of child abandonment. There have been no charges of murder.

But consider this; the Idaho legislature has taken one charge off the books: Injury to Children (18-1501 Idaho Code). This section of code makes it a felony to cause harm to children either through action or knowingly, through inaction. The law is clear that adults have a duty to protect children from harm.

Except… embedded in this section of code (sub section 4) is Lori Vallow’s and Chad Daybell’s defense:

The practice of a parent or guardian who chooses for his child treatment by prayer or spiritual means alone shall not for that reason alone be construed to have violated the duty of care to such child

This is the “Religious Shield” law in Idaho.

I have discussed this before in reference to the religious sect in South Western Idaho, the Followers of Christ. This faith believes that God will cure and no medical care is needed if one’s faith is strong. Many young children have died in their congregation from treatable illnesses. But the Idaho legislature has determined that protecting this congregation’s religious freedom is more important than protecting children’s lives.

Is this why prosecutors in Rexburg have not filed any child injury or neglect charges against Daybell and Vallow?

Vallow and Daybell had their own religion. They believed these children were “zombies”. They and a group of like-minded believers concocted a belief system whereby they determined that people that didn’t believe as them were “zombies”, possessed by a dark spirit. The only way to rid them of this darkness was to liberate their bodies from it: death. These two could argue their actions were “spiritual means”.

These two have their defense handed to them by the Idaho legislature.

I do not know if such a defense is being planned. I do not know if the local prosecutor is refraining from making these charges due to this statute. But it sure adds complexity to an already complex and tragic case. It shouldn’t and the Idaho legislature is negligent for its inaction.

Removing sub section 4 from Idaho Code should be a very simple thing to do. But the Idaho legislature has failed to do so. There is no need to shield anyone who harms children. The state has a much higher priority to preserve child health, welfare and life.

And removing the “religious shield” does not limit anyone’s religious freedom. One can still use prayer or spiritual means to care for one’s children. But if doing so causes harm, the state should have the authority to say that is wrong.

The legislature has the duty to protect our citizens, just as JJ and Tylee should have been protected by their mother. No one should be shielded from prosecution for harming a child.

Risch on collusion


In the world of toxic partisan politics in Washington, Sen. Jim Risch found an oasis of sorts in the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence – where he is a senior member.

The committee generally has carried on a tradition as a collection of bright minds and deep thinkers who dig into the complexities of national security issues. It’s a group that, for the most part, puts itself above partisan politics. If you walk into a committee room and don’t know the players, chances are you’d never be able to distinguish the Republicans from the Democrats.

That’s the way the committee does its business, and has for as long as Risch has served. But when politics does enter the picture – and it does on rare occasions – then things can get messy. Those high-minded senators who shun partisan politics suddenly turn into your everyday variety of … well … Democrats and Republicans.

Such was the case as the committee wrapped up its investigation of whether President Trump worked with Russia to rig the outcome of the 2016 elections. You’d think that a no-nonsense committee, which spent more than three years investigating and producing a mind-numbing five volumes of information, would come up with some definitive conclusions. The five volumes could have boiled down to this: “We don’t know anything … make up your own minds.” And the politicos have done just that.

Risch voted against final entry, saying the committee should have made a stronger statement. “After more than three years of investigation by this committee, we can now say with no doubt, there was no collusion,” Risch and his Republicans wrote as part of the report. In their view, it should be period – end of story.

“Of course, they couldn’t just say it (no collusion),” he told me. “The language was negotiated between the chairman and the vice chairman, a Republican and a Democrat, and they wanted to come together on something. So, they wrote … and they wrote … and they wrote … but never could say that it (collusion) didn’t happen.”

That’s how Republicans see it. Democrats, from Hilliary Clinton to Joe Biden, presented a different view, saying there is solid proof – with committee Republicans and Democrats signing off with the report -- that Trump and the Russians locked arms to rig the 2016 election.

As committee Democrats wrote, the report “recounts efforts by Trump and his team to obtain dirt on their opponent from operatives acting on behalf of the Russian government.” Democrats claim that Paul Manafort, the former chairman of the Trump campaign, schemed with the Russians and was a high security risk.

Period, end of story, right?

Not so, says Risch. “He was convicted of stuff, but he has not been convicted of this (collusion),” the senator said. “As for him being a security risk, that’s an easy allegation to hurl.”

So, what we have is what Risch described as an “exhaustive investigation” by the Senate Committee – along with special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s equally “exhaustive” investigation, lengthy impeachment proceedings in the House and a trial in the U.S. Senate in which Trump was acquitted. And the only answers we’re getting is from the politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Here’s Risch’s bottom line: “They can’t prove there was collusion, and the reason they can’t prove it is because there is no evidence of it.”

But there is clarity that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his soldiers did some funny things four years ago.

“That’s another issue entirely, and you can write pages about that,” Risch says. “Make no mistake, Putin and his henchmen conducted a calculated and despicable campaign to undermine the 2016 election. There’s concrete evidence of that, and they will try to do it again. They have been doing this for decades, and not just in the United States.”

As for Trump, Risch says, he had nothing to do with it. “If you want to criticize Donald Trump, there’s all kinds of stuff you can talk about. But not this.”
We’ll see on Nov. 3 if voters agree.

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at

The 19th Amendment to the rescue


Who could have guessed that the Nineteenth Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote, would come to the rescue of the American republic 100 years after its ratification? Could Benjamin Franklin have had an inkling that women would eventually gain the vote when he spoke with Mrs. Elizabeth Powel upon the close of the Constitutional Convention in 1787?

As Franklin was leaving Independence Hall, Mrs. Powel asked him, “What have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” His reply was perhaps prophetic. He said, “A republic, if you can keep it.” The learned gentlemen who wrote the Constitution had failed to provide women the franchise, apparently assuming it was reserved for male property owners. For Franklin to tell a woman that it was her job to keep the republic, even though she could not vote, was rather odd. But perhaps Franklin believed the country would correct that failure at some time in the future.

That time came 133 years later on August 18, 1920, when Harry Burn, the youngest member of the Tennessee House, heeded his mother’s plea to be “a good boy” and cast the deciding vote to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. It then became the law of the land, although it must be mentioned that Idaho women had obtained the right to vote in 1896.

Burn could not have known in 1920 how critical his vote would be to the preservation of the republic 100 years later in 2020. In an historic turnout, fueled in large part by female voters, Donald Trump will be swept from office.

First, women have voted in larger numbers than men in recent years. In the 2016 presidential election, women outvoted men by 10 million votes. The 2018 election produced slightly more than 8 million more votes by women than men.

Second, women have increasingly favored Democrat candidates as the Republican Party has continued to drift to the right. Women favored Obama over Romney by 11 percentage points in 2012 (55% to 44%) and Clinton over Trump by 13 points in 2016 (54% to 41%). In the 2018 midterm elections, they favored Democrat Congressional candidates by 19 points (59% to 40%).

Trump prevailed in the 2016 election because of the geographic distribution of the female vote under the Electoral College setup and an 11-point advantage in the male vote. However, that will likely change in the 2020 election because of a decrease in Trump support by both sexes, according to recent polling. For instance, an early June NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed Trump down 21 points among female voters (56% to 35%), with an 8-point advantage among males (50% to 42%).

There are likely a variety of issues that have caused the erosion of support for Trump by women voters but it is likely that public health concerns play a major part. An interesting article by Nick Kristof notes that female-led counties have suffered one-fifth as many coronavirus-related deaths as male-led countries, including the U.S. It is attributed to “low-key, inclusive and evidence-based leadership” by women, as opposed to “a lot of male ego and bluster” where things have gone wrong under male leaders in the U.S., Brazil, Russia and the U.K.

These female leaders reflect the approach of women voters. A Stanford health expert cited by Kristof “found that as states, one by one, granted the vote to women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, those states also invested more in sanitation and public health.” Beating back the pandemic will save lives, allow kids to safely return to school, reduce unemployment and restore the economy to health. Women understand that and, thanks to the Nineteenth Amendment, will save our republic in November.