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Posts published in November 2021

Destroying democracy


If those two words are a jolt to you, consider this. If Trump and/or his minions gain national office in the next two elections, those two words are likely to be the eventual outcome.

Never - in my long years - has the future of our Republic been so threatened. You have to look no further than our present Congress to see the antics of those already there.

Boebert, Taylor-Greene, Hawley and their ilk have made the trek to
Mara-Lago to kiss the ring, drink the kool-aid and promise fidelity to the Trump deity.

Across the country, there’s an all-out attack on municipal, county and state elections to get more far-right “patriots” into positions of power to, in some cases, change the outcomes of various races. Cancel the votes cast by the people if the voter outcomes are not to their liking.

Here, in Arizona, we’ve got announced Trumper candidacies up and down the ballot. Several Mara-Lago “faithful” have joined the fray - running for Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State.

In recent elections, this state has gone from “red” to “purple” and seems to be shifting further toward “blue.” Our two U.S. Senators are Democrats. Well, Sinema, sort of.

Idaho has the Trumper Lieutenant Governor trying to unseat the “big guy” in 2022. Already kissed the Trump ring and has hard-copies of the Florida endorsement to pass around.

Speaking of Idaho, the legislature - more specifically the House - has gone off-the-rails, acting like the Idaho Constitution doesn’t apply to Republicans. At least their “brand” of such. Gem State taxpayers are footing a lot of unnecessary per diem and legal bills because of the unwarranted effort to get around the states Constitution.

Many a-year ago, then-Idaho Governor Bob Smylie told me “Every few elections, you’re got to open the closet and sweep everything out - regardless of party. One-party control over a long period can produce a real stench if the people stay too long.” Idaho’s Legislature seems to be living proof

Here in the desert, we had to put up with a Trump-backed, expensive “fraudit” of our last election. Now, other states are copying the failed effort as if “election fraud” is/was a sudden contagion at the polls. It wasn’t. And, likely won’t be if competent candidates prevail.

These aforementioned nutcases - and their actions - are all the proof needed to see where this country is headed if they get control of more elected offices. Imagine Marjorie Taylor-Green as your new governor. Hey, she got to the House of Representatives, thanks to Democrats leaving her an uncontested general election. Governor? Could be. Or, Paul Gosar or Sarah Huckabee-Sanders?

There are a lot of these conspiracy-believing souls out there. They’re being fed daily - hourly - B.S. by their right-wing media. Faux Neus has made possible One America News and other copycats. Radio. TV. Murdock-run newspapers. Nutball rallies. Constant voices drowning out the real world.

Which creates this problem. How can you introduce reality to people who are surrounding themselves with fantasies they believe are real? How do you break the cycles of repeated lies from a mass media that’s constantly feeding them? They’ve effectively sealed themselves off from the rest of us.

Until now, folks on the fringe have pretty-well been left alone to wallow in their little worlds. And, like mold, they’re grown - unchecked and unblocked. Now, with a toe-hold in various levels of government, they’re getting bolder and looking for more.

Unfortunately, that’s what the next two national elections are about. They’ve become so very important. The all-out, right-wing assault on the rest of us is going to manifest itself on the ballot. Oregon. Arizona. Idaho. Virtually every state has the same problem.

The Trump-backed militants are becoming a force to be reckoned with. They’ve got money. They’ve got their own media. They’ve got a larger degree of power. They’re going to show up. Whether as voters or as candidates, they’ll be there on election day. More than ever, an informed electorate is needed to overcome the assault from the far-right.

Without that informed electorate, we could be seeing our democracy destroyed. These next two elections are really that important!


Test drive for full time


Make no mistake about it, the reconvening of the 2021 legislative session is a test to see whether the Idaho Legislature can get away with meeting throughout the year, without having to amend the Idaho Constitution. The idea of a full-time Legislature has been a twinkle in the eye of some legislators for years.

At the beginning of the 2021 session, Republican leadership recognized that the Legislature could not call itself back into session after it had wrapped up its business for the year. It admitted as much on January 21, when the House approved a resolution calling for an amendment to our Constitution permitting the Legislature to call itself into special session. The Constitution presently allows only the Governor to call a special session.

Both houses later passed SJR 102, which, if approved by the voters in next year’s general election, would authorize the Legislature to go into session upon the call of at least 60% of the members of both houses. While a special session called by the Governor can only last for 20 days, the Legislature would put no such limitation upon its own power under SJR 102.

During House debate on SJR 102, Assistant Majority Leader Jason Monks lamented: “If we're limited to only being able to function within a short period of time throughout the year, I don’t see how you could even argue that we’re equal” to the other branches of government. He should take it up with the drafters of the Idaho Constitution, who specifically designed it that way. In fact, after arguing whether the Legislature should only meet every two or three years, the Constitutional framers decided on every other year, keeping the option open to change it to every third year if two was too often.

However, as the end of this year’s legislative session approached, House Speaker Scott Bedke came up with the clever idea of ignoring the Constitutional framework and setting a precedent for a year-round Legislature. When all of the legislative work had been completed, the House claimed it was taking a “recess'' instead of “adjourning.” Just a slight change of words was intended to accomplish what the Constitutional framers thought would take an amendment to the Constitution. No need to let the people’s voice be heard on this issue, as it had been in 1968 when the voters approved an amendment establishing annual legislative sessions. Based on this year’s session, that was a big mistake.

Despite some non-binding language in the initiative lawsuit that the Legislature decisively lost, the Idaho Supreme Court has never decided whether this self-adoring body can turn itself into a full-time Legislature without the approval of Idaho’s voters. The Legislature has never before in its 130-year history pulled off such a brazen power grab, so there has not been occasion for an authoritative ruling. Basic common sense says that the Legislature cannot seize whatever power it wishes merely by switching the words describing an action, as in the House having “recessed” rather than “adjourned.”

The Committee to Protect and Preserve the Idaho Constitution, which successfully challenged the Legislature's initiative-killing bill, may step in to protect the Constitution against this latest grab for power. If it is merely political theater to posture for votes, legal action may not be necessary. If the result is the passage of actual legislation, it will undoubtedly be on infirm Constitutional ground and subject to court challenge, including the customary award of attorney fees out of legislative coffers.

Legislative leaders seem to be unclear on what the objectives of the fake session are. What gets talked about is taking action in court against federal vaccine mandates. The State is already challenging them in court. There is no indication of urgency to do something that could not wait for the annual session in January. What it ultimately boils down to is the Legislature trying to set a precedent that it can point to as a reason to justify a full-time Legislature into the future. Those of us who revere the Constitution will not allow that to happen.

Rittenhouse IV


“Praise Jesus!”

That’s what the Facebook post said. It wasn’t just one post either — I saw several identical posts in reaction to Kyle Rittenhouse earning no penalty for gunning down two people and wounding a third.

“Praise Jesus,” they said.

From praising the Lord to offerings of Congressional internships via Republicans Madison Cawthorn, Matt Gaetz and Paul Gosar, social media was abuzz with ridiculous words of praise and reward for a guy whose rise to fame came because he shot some unarmed demonstrators. Gosar took the situation seriously enough to challenge Rittenhouse to arm wrestling.

Speaking of Congress, one guy suggested Rittenhouse be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Seriously? First, it’s called a Medal of Honor — adding “Congressional” shows you don’t understand this great and grave honor. Second, stupid kids who shoot people armed with plastic bags and skateboards don’t usually get any awards, let alone the nation’s top military medal.

Cheapening the Medal of Honor in this fashion isn’t as offensive as invoking the name of Christ to celebrate the exoneration of a guy who murdered two people, but Rittenhouse’s supporters seem possessed of a special myopia that allows them to see only the side of the story that fits their worldview. When you can simply ignore the violent and unnecessary deaths of two men, you can elevate false heroes pretty easily, I expect.

“Praise Jesus!”

Some gun nuts will use the little laugh emoji to like this post because they think it’s funny — they think I’m a left-wing pinko who believes rioting is good and bad guys should get off. I don’t support rioting and all I have to do is look a few miles north to see what happens when a city boasts unlimited tolerance with no accountability.

In fact, I support the Second Amendment — I was schooled in firearms before I reached sixth grade. But I believe wielding a tool designed specifically to kill requires a deadly serious respect. I believe some combination of maturity, training and restraint should be expected of those who exercise their right to bear arms, especially in crowded public places. I do not believe immature teenagers who buy guns because “they’re cool” and who have no training are good candidates to mix with angry protesters while bearing semi-automatic weapons.

The gun lobby and many firearms enthusiasts talk a good game when it comes to firearms responsibility. But the Kyle Rittenhouse affair showed their true colors: we learned that maturity, training, responsibility, restraint and common sense are irrelevant when it comes to bearing arms. All that matters is a willingness to respond and an ability to bring a firearm along, nothing else.

If a stupid kid who desperately wants to prove his manhood wishes to take his high-powered rifle to a scene of racial unrest, by golly, he should do so. And if he panics and thinks he’s about to be killed by a guy shouting obscenities and wielding a plastic bag or a skateboard, by golly, he has every right to deploy that firearm. Four shots and dead. No more potty-mouthed, plastic-bag-wielding assailant.

“Praise Jesus.”

While a good portion of America was praising Jesus, was there even a shred of concern for the two souls Rittenhouse snuffed? Not a peep. After all, one of them was a mentally ill sex offender — surely he’s hell-bound, right? I mean, it’s not like we believe in redemption or anything. Yep, Joseph Rosenbaum was going to hell and Kyle Rittenhouse was gonna help him dig the hole. Pop, pop, pop, Rittenhouse hit Rosenbaum’s heart, lung and head, among other places. Reportedly, the lethal shot went into Rosenbaum’s back.

The other soon-to-be-dead guy had just witnessed Rittenhouse shoot an unarmed man — in Anthony Huber’s whirling mind, he’d just witnessed a cold-blooded killing, not a Second Amendment hero. Bravely (if inadvisedly) acting to stop the killer, Huber, too, was gunned down as he tried to use his skateboard to disarm the shooter. This time a torso shot, right in the chest — the skateboarder now lay in a pool of blood on the dirty streets of Kenosha.

“Those were clean kills,” someone said.

“He was a good shot,” said another.

“Praise Jesus!”

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why people who commonly find themselves vigorously defending the Second Amendment don’t have a vested interest in the responsible use of firearms. Seriously, we wouldn’t need to constantly debate Second Amendment issues if there weren’t so many instances of morons and maniacs exercising their right to bear arms. I don’t mean just talking responsible use, but living it — like when panicking teenagers who have no business inserting themselves and their high-powered firearms into violent events for which they have no training or experience. I’m sorry, gun nuts, but there are moral absolutes. No property crime — no matter how frustrating — is worth human life. Not legally, not morally. And even if he screams self-defense, sometimes the good guy with the gun is an unqualified and lethal idiot. The standard to earn a good guy label has sunk to an all-time low.

“Praise Jesus.”

I am sickened to see the name of Jesus Christ used to uplift a stupid kid who had no right to insert himself and his semi-automatic rifle into a chaotic and unpredictable situation. I am appalled the name of Jesus Christ is being used to dismiss the violent and unnecessary deaths of two souls who stood little chance against Rittenhouse’s fatal slugs.

“There are no winners in this case,” said one of the comments.

That comment is flat-out wrong.

Yes, there were several losers, especially the two dead people. But there was one big winner. His name is Kyle Rittenhouse and he is a killer.

“Praise Jesus.”

A former food and wine writer, senior editor of two regional food-and-beverage magazines and one of four or five remaining moderate republicans, Matthew Meador switched to writing political commentary because it allows him to be grouchy now that he is no longer paid to eat, drink and be merry. In a previous life, Matt was an award-winning graphic artist who often put his skills to use during election seasons. Matt also was rumored to have lurked around the Oregon state capitol building where he learned the cost of getting bill drafts to the front of the line in Legislative Counsel was no more than a plate of cookies — who says there’s no corruption in state government? Contact Matt at

Many blessings


September marked my 77th birthday and Thursday this week being Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to reminisce a bit on life’s many blessings, twists and turns.

It’s been a chaotic year for everyone, what with the pandemic and all. I’ve had some health issues of my own and lost my brother David and Linda’s brother Randy. For the past eight years, since 2013, I’ve walked with the help of a cane and more recently, a walker or wheelchair, the lingering result of a viral infection which has affected my balance and limited my mobility, but not my mind. I don’t think of myself as disabled or impaired in any way.

If I have “world enough and time,” as the poem says, I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing. I’ve been a college professor, a journalist, a newspaper editor/publisher, a business consultant, an elected state legislator, and now, a blog columnist and community historian in the Magic Valley. It’ a comfortable list.

I’ve lived in Southern Idaho almost forty years now and while not a perfect place, it has nonetheless been mostly a delight. The physical landscape is immense and the people mostly kind, generous and hard-working. It reflects the way America generally was before the country was overrun by near-constant discord of political correctness and identity politics. Here, we’re still a valley of farms, ranches, quiet towns and a shared base of conservative cultural values. How rare and special is that?

Since retiring from the Legislature in 2018 due to health issues, I have two new books out on the various cultural aspects of Southern Idaho life, and another underway. These follow a personal memoir in 2014 and several journalism books on reporting, as well as biographies of both my parents, Vincent Hartgen and Frances Hartgen.

I’ve been a writer most of my adult life, so I think I’ll stick with it. Ernest Hemingway once said that his goal as a novelist was to write one truly perfect sentence. I doubt I’ll ever make that standard, but I keep trying.
But none of this is as important as family, place and remembrance, living in this magnificent rural valley of Idaho, a land of freedom, energy and progress. Linda and I have five children between us and a passel of grandkids as well, rambunctious, curious, verbal, loving, all out to make something of themselves in this world. They are close, but not on our doorstep; both are part of the continual joy of grand-parenting.

My stream wading days are over, but I love to mentally fish Idaho’s pristine trout waters and to read American history. I particularly favor accounts of the American West, it’s rich legends and vigorous settlement, the courage and determination of its people in this vast and enduring landscape. It is the Magic Valley story, the Idaho story and the American story of this great country.

As I age, life’s more visceral past contests fade in importance; they were only sound and fury, as Shakespeare calls them, signifying nothing. Ecclesiastes tells us that no one knows when we may be summoned to a distant stream, when one’s spirit returns unto God, who gave it. In any case, I have many blessings. Here are a few:

A childhood of delightful memories in a safe and warm place on the edge of a deep, natural forest, a lens through which I have seen the world in most every circumstance;
Loving parents whose own efforts made the world a better place for those around them, a mother who helped others with sympathy and grace and a father who in his own art and teaching, opened people’s eyes to the world of beauty and human ennoblement;

An education at schools better than I had any right to attend and from which I was able to extract some, if not all, of what they had to offer, sometimes in counterpoint;

A life of the mind developed from an early age, nurtured by parents and then by myself in quiet hours and moments, overcoming each day’s hustings;

A long search and then a settling in what seems like “God’s country” of the West, in the presence of daily beauty, the flow of crystalline water, the crisp green of spring farms and range;

The blessing to live in the best region, in the best state, in the best nation on the planet, in freedom and opportunity, where love of country abounds. If freedom is to be found anywhere, surely Southern Idaho is one such place;

A flowering of family warmth and love and a spouse and partner whose dedication to the “us” of our marriage and to our faith has helped my own faith grow as we age;

A renewal in my sixties and seventies of public service and involvement, through both public office and appreciation of my community, giving me a chance to lead through the challenges of public life;

A gift of friendships bound by common purpose to make our community, state and nation a better place for generations ahead;

Reasonable health, despite setbacks and conditions. Yes, I have chronic ailments, but so do many others. So what? It is a blessing indeed to do what I can do. Each of us should be thankful for the inner strength God has given each of us.

Scripture tells us to be constantly ready, as we cannot know the hour of the calling. That’s good advice. But we should all take time here as well to count our blessings. Happy Thanksgiving to all! Now, about that turkey!

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at A version of this column has been published annually since 2014.

Don’t ban books


I own a lot of books.

Some might say an excessive number of volumes. I’m a collector, but also a book advocate. I like books. I live in many ways to be surrounded by books and the ideas, insights, controversies and confusion contained between their covers.

I own books I love and some I hate. I grew up with books. My dad subscribed to the old Readers Digest condensed book program that sent several times a year a hard cover volume of five or so “condensed” books to our living room. My dad would devour those stories and patiently wait for the next volume to arrive. It rubbed off.

Growing up I loved books by Clair Bee, a hugely influential basketball coach at Long Island University from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. Coach Bee invented the one-third-one zone defense, which can still be effective if you have a quick team that can shift, cover and defend.

Most of all, from my perspective, Clair Bee wrote books – the Chip Hilton series, 23 books in all about a humble kid who starred in football, basketball and baseball. These books for would be sports stars had titles like “Buzzer Basket” and “Touchdown Pass.”

I eventually moved on to history and biography and finally discovered novels. My love for books led me to serve on two library boards in two different states. I collect books on presidents and U.S. senators and have books on ones I admire and loath. I have critical books about Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan and books that place both of them among them the greatest political leaders of the 20th Century.

Books are like that. Complicated. Full of controversial ideas. Some are well done. Some aren’t. Some endure, many don’t.

I have a book that was written in 1937, a critical, first-hand account of Franklin Roosevelt’s scheme to “pack” the U.S. Supreme Court that same year. Two well-placed journalists wrote it. It reads like a novel and has stood the test of time as a source on the near Constitutional crisis FDR created. Is that book the total story of that controversial part of the Roosevelt presidency? Of course not, but it is a piece of the story. Dozens of other books have been written about the same subject and I expect many more will be written. They should be written and read.

I have a dozen books, at least, on Thomas Jefferson. Not one of them is the complete Jefferson. Individual books point the way to begin to understand a subject, and no book is the only “truth” about any subject. That is why I have a dozen books about the third American president. He is a complicated story.

All this by way of saying be wary, be very wary when anyone says they want to ban or remove books. Sadly – and this happens periodically, which is also sad – a bunch of folks across the country right now think banning books is a good idea. But in fact, it is a horrible, dangerous idea.

Search “book banning” and you’ll find some shocking stuff right now. Two school board members in Virginia actually said recently that some books in the school library ought to be burned. They clearly haven’t read any history.

A school board member in Florida actually filed a police report suggesting it was crime to feature one particular book in a high school library. A Texas lawmaker has suggested more than 800 books that he believes ought to be prohibited in the state’s schools, books dealing with race, sex, human rights and a volume that would be laughably ironic on such a list if it wasn’t so sad, a book entitled The Year They Burned the Books.

“We’re seeing an unprecedented volume of challenges,” Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Executive Director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom told Time. “I’ve worked for ALA for 20 years, and I can’t recall a time when we had multiple challenges coming in on a daily basis.”

Here’s something you can learn from reading books. One of the first things that happened in Germany in 1933 after Adolf Hitler came to power was the destruction of thousands of books. This is widely documented, including at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, but also by historian Richarad L. Evans in his brilliant three volume study of The Third Reich.

On a single day – May 10, 1933 – organized and well attended demonstrations took place in 19 different German university towns, as Evans wrote, where “huge numbers of books by Jewish and left-wing authors were piled up and set alight.” But in Germany, of course, more than books were banned. Jewish and leftist professors were pushed out of universities and artists and museum directors were sacked, with many fleeing the country.

It wasn’t just the ideas espoused by these people or the concepts in their books, paintings or films that Hitler and his henchmen sought to eliminate. “What the Nazis were trying to achieve,” Evans says, “was a cultural revolution, in which alien cultural influences – notably Jews but also modernist culture more generally – were eliminated and the German spirit reborn.”

It was a kind of Make Germany Great Again moment.

The cultural war that is flaming on the political right in America has, of course, the same basic aim. The “alien cultural influences” that are under assault today are members of the LGBTQ community, anyone who believes the study of American history must reckon with race and slavery, “elites” of every flavor, university professors, school board members, and always Jews and people of color.

And some conservatives, seeing this cultural war as a means to sow division and frankly scare people, are weaponizing books for political means. A conservative just won the governor’s office in Virginia by these means, and governors from Texas to Idaho will happily fan these flames of resentment and anti-intellectualism if it means placating the fringe actors who want to cancel any culture at odds with their own beliefs.

Put me down as a radical believer in free expression. I favor books and ideas, even especially ones I disagree with. Banning books is abhorrent. Allowing this to happen, or heaven forbid normalizing it, is a big step down a very slippery slope.

We should know better.

We must know better.

Not a gerrymander, actually


Classify this among the expected dogs that didn’t bark in the night-time: You can’t fairly call Idaho’s new legislative and congressional redistricting plans a gerrymander.

A gerrymander is “a practice intended to establish an arguably unfair political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating the boundaries of electoral districts.” It’s been happening in a bunch of states around the country, but it has to be said that Idaho isn’t one of them. Credit the Idaho redistricting commission system, and its current round of commissioners, at least in part for that.

You can complain about the new districts, as some people have and will. But they were not designed for specific, overt political gain by much of anybody.

The complaints come from the people swept up into legislative districts that are different or connect them to people with whom they feel little connection. You can feel some sympathy for people in Idaho’s far southeast, where the small-population counties of Bear Lake, Franklin and Oneida, all bumped up against each other, each now will be linked to (respectively) Driggs, American Falls and Burley, among other places, in each case far removed socially and over many real and metaphorical mountains. And there’s a district meandering through Idaho’s panhandle and north-central areas that is thinly at best connected by roads or communities of interest.

And yet there isn’t much way around it. Rural Idaho’s population is dropping in some places and not gaining in others, and the larger metros are booming, giving them more and geographically smaller districts.

And much as Idaho is Republican-dominated, Democrats actually have little to complain about here.

No set of maps would magically transform the Democratic Party into Idaho’s majority, but these new maps did them little damage.

The new congressional map resembles the old one in splitting Ada County between the two congressional districts, but the new one moves the line west far enough that just about all of Boise will be in the second district. That gives Democrats a better base to operate from in District 2, albeit still in a clear minority position, should that district ever move toward a more purple hue. (No, I’m not holding my breath, but you never know.)

Democrats also did about as well as they could reasonably have expected in the legislative districts.

The overall structure of the Boise districts, the largest base they have in the Idaho Legislature, isn’t enormously changed, and should result in a local delegation not too different from the last decade’s. It could have been otherwise; a really aggressive Republican gerrymander could have wiped out all but a couple of those now-blue districts.

Central-city districts remain in Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, which haven’t produced many Democratic winners in recent elections, but have the potential. And it’s a close call, but I’d say the Moscow-centered district, swapping Benewah County for Lewis and part of Nez Perce counties, could benefit Democrats there slightly.

The new map will likely make life harder for the Wood River Valley Democrats, who have relied on Blaine County’s population being large enough to swing district elections in a region otherwise strongly Republican. But the basic growth patterns in the area were catching up with the area anyway; Democratic win percentages have been dropping there in recent elections.

A number of individual legislators will be complaining because of the way their districts were stretched or reconfigured, or because they were thrown in with other incumbents and someone will have to lose their seat as a result. (Happens every ten years.)

Taken as a whole, though, this imperfect map (as they all are) works. It’s roughly realistic and fair. Good enough.


Governing or grandstanding


I remember my high school football days fondly. I remember that first freshman football touchdown I made and as I circled across the endzone I flipped the ball to the back judge who had both hands in the air and the whistle in his mouth. He had to interrupt what he was doing to catch it. I apologized, then lined up for the extra point.

Nobody spiked the ball back then. We didn’t have dancing in the endzone or sack celebrations or first down jubilations. Any such demonstration would have been considered unseemly if not unsportsmanlike. It was about moving the football down the field with force and humility. I assure you we wore helmets, but it was 50 years ago.

But football and politics have changed over the years. We indeed did have a movie star as our governor in California then. And he went on to be a US President. Reagan really could deliver a line. I thought the Republican party brilliant for embracing his skills.

But politics and governing, though hopelessly entwined are separate skills. The brash word or offensive remark can harm one’s credibility in negotiations that are based on trust.

So, you just have to wonder whether our Idaho elected leaders are trying to govern or grandstand this week in Boise.

The legislature has its own style for endzone celebration. First, they made sure the game wasn’t over last spring, at the end of the longest session in their history when the House refused to adjourn and instead “recessed”. The Senate did adjourn, but they are taking the lead from the House, I guess since they are returning to Boise this week too. Whether any of this conforms with the Idaho Constitution is questionable but spiking the ball in the endzone wasn’t illegal until it was.

For what purpose do these prima donnas gather to spend our money at Boise watering holes? Er, I mean, convene at our Capitol?

The Senate says they want to make sure they are putting money into a legal fund to fight President Biden’s dubious vaccine mandates. It doesn’t matter I guess that the Idaho Attorney General has already joined many other states in such a lawsuit and that a federal judge has placed a stay on Biden’s executive order. They want to put taxpayer money into a fund to pay private attorneys. They must feel some sense of urgency since they actually could be doing this in January.

But the House (who never adjourned) are the ones calling the Senate back to do their bidding. Usually, the Idaho Senate doesn’t take orders from the House, but I guess times have changed. The even conservative and reserved Idaho House has teed up some thirty bills. And they could be about anything. We’ll find out as the week goes on.

If they chose to vote on anything, pass anything, and if our governor chooses to sign it, they will all be on shaky ground. As I said, they aren’t following the rules for their conduct laid out in the Idaho Constitution.

But grandstanding on the taxpayer dime is not the sole province of the legislative branch. Our executives, both the Governor and his Lieutenant, have reached into public coffers to fund trips where they hoped they could spike the ball. Both went to Mar A Lago to kiss the ring of our former President, hoping for his endorsement. Only the Lieutenant got the ball; Brad came up empty. And we get to pay for this.

I vote for people to represent me and work to make our state healthy. We got no real property tax relief last session, just a last-minute casserole that has crippled rapidly growing cities and not eased the annual tax bill from the county.

Next time you go to the polls, consider voting for an offensive lineman. They do the work and don’t dance in the endzone.

A message botched


Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin catches an endorsement from former President Trump – the biggest fish in the ocean -- and she makes that bombshell announcement through a press release. Take it from here, John McEnroe.

“You cannot be serious!”

Trump, until further notice, owns the Republican Party and there doesn’t seem to be much in his way for getting the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2024. He remains wildly popular with Republicans in Idaho – easily the most popular president since Ronald Reagan. And there are a lot of folks in Idaho who think that the last election was rigged and he should be in office today.

McGeachin’s release read something like an endorsement from the mayor of Midvale, opposed to the undisputed king of the Republican Party.

Trump: “… Janice McGeachin has been a true supporter of MAGA since the very beginning. She is brave and not afraid to stand up for the issues that matter most to the people of Idaho, a beautiful state that I won by 30.8 percent. … I am giving Janice McGeachin my complete and total endorsement to be the next governor of Idaho. She will make a fantastic governor, and will never let you down.”

McGeachin: “I am delighted and honored to receive President Trump’s endorsement. President Trump continues to represent the energy and enthusiasm of conservative Republican politics and his emphatic acknowledgment of our diligent efforts to advance the conservative agenda in Idaho will only help us to expand and grow our campaign based on individual liberty, state sovereignty and traditional conservative values.”

The news release moved around 6 p.m. on a Tuesday, after Boise’s Associated Press bureau had closed and after some of the state’s political reporters statewide had gone home. So, the “big news” didn’t make all the papers in the state. The Idaho Press, and a few others, carried a story about the endorsement – along with a much larger story about the ongoing controversy between Gov. Brad Little and McGeachin and their competing trips to the king’s castle at Mar-a-Lago. Little was invited to a black-tie gala celebrating Trump’s “America First” policies. McGeachin was there for a personal visit with the former president and grabbed his endorsement along the way.

Hopefully, the king got around to draining the moat and locking up the alligators in honor of their visits.

For McGeachin’s sputtering campaign, an endorsement from Trump – in any form – is a good thing. But it could have been much more.

Plan A would be organizing a Trump rally at, say Bronco stadium, where he’d be sure to fill the place to capacity. Trump would make his typical rousing speech to the cheering crowd, then announce that he was endorsing McGeachin as our next governor. McGeachin would take a couple of minutes to say how humbled she was to earn the support from the great one.

The “fake news” media that McGeachin likes to talk about would have no choice but to put that story on the front pages. And there would be none of this stuff about Gov. Little flying to Florida at taxpayer expense to kiss the king’s ring.

Plan B would be for McGeachin to have a remote news conference from Florida, with Trump at her side, talking about what a wonderful governor she would be for the Gem State. Trump could spice up the conference by taking a few swipes at Little, with McGeachin telling reporters that she continues to stand behind Trump. It would be smiles and thumbs up all over the place, and a sure lead story in your favorite daily newspaper.

But McGeachin didn’t do any of those things. She went with issuing a press release after the stat’s AP bureau closed for the day, which reflects zero understanding about the media. Lately, she has been talking a lot about not getting the governor’s pay grade when Little is out of the state – taking away whatever glitter is left from the endorsement. To be clear, serving as “acting governor” basically is a do-nothing job.

Support from Trump, a real-life political miracle worker, might move the needle a bit for McGeachin in terms of fund-raising and poll numbers. But not even the magic of Donald Trump can drag a weak candidate to the winner’s circle.

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

Rittenhouse III


NBC News ran an editorial today stating that Kyle Rittenhouse will become a right-wing martyr if he’s convicted. NBC News is wrong: Rittenhouse is already a conservative martyr.

I learned this today when I held a long conversation with a conservative friend who, on the surface, holds views on Kyle Rittenhouse that are the polar opposites of my own. After we talked, it was clear our views on Rittenhouse, himself, were nearly identical but much deeper, long-standing issues — many of them — caused my friend to frame the Rittenhouse affair differently than I did.

This dissonance speaks to systemic issues that cannot be addressed in a single 1,200-word essay. Hence, I will focus on Rittenhouse and the events of August 25, 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin alone.

Rittenhouse is already a right-side martyr because, as my friend correctly pointed out, he was irreparably vilified as a vigilante in the world’s media long before all the facts were known. To be sure, the mixed bag of facts that did emerge did not change my position at all — I still believe Rittenhouse was a stupid, over-eager kid who inserted himself into a situation way over his head. Nevertheless, in the post-Trump era, the media is quick to condemn anything with a conservative stain.

My friend also pointed out that Rittenhouse is, by nature, a helper. Thus, keeping someone like Rittenhouse away from the scene of turmoil would’ve been an impossible task. I agree on this point, too — Rittenhouse has a fairly lengthy record of efforts to serve. He is a lifeguard, he has fairly extensive training in first aid and he was enrolled in a cadet program which serves as a feeder to his local firefighting academy. On the night of the riot, Rittenhouse falsely and repeatedly identified himself as an EMT, a boy trying his damnedest to be a man.

I have learned that if I question the appropriateness of Rittenhouse’s armed presence at a race riot, I am immediately accused of attacking the Second Amendment.

I am not attacking the Second Amendment — in fact, I support it. My beef lies elsewhere.

Apparently, in the minds of many 2A supporters, a person’s right to bear the arms of his or her choice into the chaos of civil unrest is a right with no restriction — I’m not talking about legal restriction. But constraints suggested by common sense or morality should never be ignored when human life is at stake. In other words, any person considering “helping” while armed with a high-powered weapon in the chaos of racial unrest should very seriously consider several questions first: Will my presence serve to increase the chance of lethal violence? Do I possess training or experience operating in riot situations? Do I have the maturity to offer my help with careful restraint? If I find myself in an unexpected situation, will my youth or inexperience lend itself to panic?

If a helper cannot answer such questions in ways that ensure his presence will, in fact, help calm a chaotic situation, he should strongly consider not participating. If a helper lacks maturity, training or experience in handling riot or violent protest scenarios, his presence with a high-powered weapon will almost certainly make a bad situation worse.

I am not questioning the Second Amendment — an American’s right to bear arms isn’t the issue. Indeed, a number of the men who responded to the Kenosha Guard’s call to arms did possess training and experience in policing violent crowds. However, the people elevating Rittenhouse to hero status only seem to care about two aspects of Rittenhouse’s service: his willingness to go and his ability to bring a firearm with him. No consideration is given to whether Rittenhouse was qualified or mature enough to mingle in an angry crowd carrying his high-powered weapon.

Rittenhouse’s supporters can argue with me, call me names, insult my credibility but there’s one point no one can question: if Rittenhouse had stayed back in Antioch, two men would be alive, one man would be unwounded and Rittenhouse, himself, would not be facing grave charges.

There are two ways to view the series of actions that resulted in Rittenhouse shooting three people, killing two of them.

Rittenhouse’s first target, by all accounts, was acting in an extremely aggressive manner toward Rittenhouse. A sex offender suffering from bipolar disorder and depression, Rosenbaum had just been released from a Milwaukee hospital after his second suicide attempt in two months. Rosenbaum was unarmed but carried the plastic bag in which the hospital had placed his personal effects. Rosenbaum repeatedly threatened Rittenhouse with harsh words, but his only weapon besides those words was his plastic hospital bag.

As Rosenbaum lunges at Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old panics, shooting Rosenbaum four times, at least once in the head. Rosenbaum drops, dead.

Second Amendment purists see the situation simply: a guy with a gun shoots people he thinks want to kill him.

Others see the situation quite differently.

Onlookers are horrified that this teenager just slaughtered an unarmed man. As Rittenhouse flees the scene of the first killing, several bystanders pursue him, viewing him as a straightforward killer, not some kind of mythical Second Amendment hero. They follow, Rittenhouse, catching up to him as the teen falls. Intending to corral and possibly disarm this guy who just killed an unarmed man, they approach Rittenhouse. One of them draws his sidearm to defend himself. Another rushes at Rittenhouse, wielding his skateboard. Rittenhouse fires at least four shots, dropping 26-year-old Anthony Huber as he hit the teenager’s shoulder with the skateboard. As Huber dies on the pavement, field medic Gaige Grosskreutz, 26, takes a slug in his right arm. He never fires his sidearm at Rittenhouse.

I have great difficulty seeing Rittenhouse as a righteous defender when the lethal fire from his semi-automatic rifle was directed against two unarmed men. And I return to my original premise: Rittenhouse had no business being there in the first place. At 17, he was violating curfew, he was carrying a semi-automatic rifle he was not permitted to own, he was an inexperienced kid in a situation way over his head.

The NBC News editorial went on to suggest if Rittenhouse is acquitted — or convicted with no meaningful sanction — it’ll send a clear message to others like him that risk of a prison sentence is negligible.

The most alarming part of this is the tens of thousands of people who will cheer future Rittenhouses on.

A former food and wine writer, senior editor of two regional food-and-beverage magazines and one of four or five remaining moderate republicans, Matthew Meador switched to writing political commentary because it allows him to be grouchy now that he is no longer paid to eat, drink and be merry. In a previous life, Matt was an award-winning graphic artist who often put his skills to use during election seasons. Matt also was rumored to have lurked around the Oregon state capitol building where he learned the cost of getting bill drafts to the front of the line in Legislative Counsel was no more than a plate of cookies — who says there’s no corruption in state government?