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Posts published in January 2022

Constitutional shirking


Idaho has an historic $1.6 billion revenue surplus, much of which can and should be used to finally satisfy the Legislature's constitutional duty to provide adequate funding for Idaho’s public school system.

Article IX, Section 1 of the Idaho Constitution commands that “it shall be the duty of the legislature of Idaho, to establish and maintain a general, uniform, and thorough system of public, free common schools.” This is one of the most important responsibilities of the State.

The Idaho Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that these are not idle words. Rather, the Legislature must provide sufficient funding to properly operate our public school system. There can be no argument that the Legislature has failed to carry out this solemn obligation for many years. The issue was considered by the Supreme Court in a long-running case, titled Idaho Schools for Equal Educational Opportunity v. State, often referred to as the ISEEO case. The case was filed in 1990 and came before the Court on five occasions, producing five decisions.

In its second decision in 1996, the Court suspected that the State was not adequately funding the instructional side of the education system and sent the case back to the trial court for further consideration of that issue. The Legislature did increase school funding for a while but that did not last long.

In the third round of the litigation, the focus became the proper meaning of a “thorough system” of public schools. The Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that “a safe environment conducive to learning is inherently part of a thorough system of public, free common schools.” The Court said that further litigation was necessary to decide whether school facilities--buildings and fixtures--were being adequately financed by the State. The case was sent back to the trial court to find whether dilapidated school facilities were harming the work of educating our kids.

When the case came back in its fifth iteration in 2005, the Court ruled that the Legislature had not met its constitutional duty to provide a thorough system of education with regard to school facilities. The ruling specified, “it is the duty of the State, and not this Court or the local school districts, to meet this constitutional mandate.” It was made clear that the Legislature could not place the primary funding responsibility for school facilities upon local property tax payers. The Court approvingly quoted an Ohio Supreme Court decision for the proposition that property taxes are not the answer for satisfying the constitutional mandate: “The valuation of local property has no connection whatsoever to the actual education needs of the locality, with the result that a system over reliant on local property taxes is by its very nature an arbitrary system that can never be totally thorough.”

In a special session of the Legislature in 2006, legislation proposed by then-Governor Jim Risch was approved to reduce reliance on property taxes and shift the burden to sales and income taxes. In the last ten years, the burden on property tax payers has substantially increased because the Legislature has failed to carry out its responsibility to provide adequate funding for either school facilities or instructional operations. Supplemental property tax levies amounted to $218.2 million in 2021-2022. Plant facilities levies were about $53 million last year and may well be more this year. These are obligations that the Legislature should pay out of general tax revenues. Local property tax payers should not be saddled with these costs.

The Legislature is clearly shirking its constitutional duty to provide a thorough system of public schools. Ever since the deep recession of 2008, public leaders, including former Governor Otter and any number of legislators, have admitted this to be the case. Instead of falling all over themselves to figure out how many hundreds of millions of the present surplus should be dished out in tax cuts, legislators should finally take the opportunity to meet their constitutional duty of adequately funding public school operations and facilities.

We clearly have the money so let’s require the legislators to carry out their responsibility under the Idaho Constitution. Our kids' education depends on it.

The lone farmer and the ponderosa


This column first appeared in the Oregon Capital Chronicle on January 14..

Here’s a recipe for concentrated depression:

The embattled and seriously troubled Klamath Basin, a center of social and environmental pathologies for two decades and more, facing a future, three decades hence, where climate change could make conditions far worse.

You could spin a dystopian novel from that. Or you could tell a more optimistic story. In a project the Klamath Falls newspaper, the Herald and News, released last week, it did both, in the form of a pair of short stories. (It was funded in part by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Environmental Solutions Initiative.)

It did more than tell stories. It also suggested ways out of the area’s bitter water and environmental conflicts while painting a specific picture of what a climate changed future actually may look like. The report showed that how people respond to the coming changes could make a vast difference.

Much of what we hear about climate change sounds theoretical: A temperature change of a couple of degrees (doesn’t sound like a lot) or an iceberg cleaved off in Antarctica. What about where I live?

The Klamath report got specific about that, about wildfires - of which last summer’s immense Bootleg Fire, just east of the Klamath area, was only a foretaste - major weather swings, frequent severe drought years, and hotter summers.

The Klamath River Basin seems ill-prepared for any of this. The drought year 2001 was a turning point, when the Basin’s water supplies dropped enough that conflicts involving irrigators, environmental interests, nearby tribes and others exploded, and the area has been on edge for years since with little relief in sight. It has attracted outside attention which often has added to the area’s troubles.

So what might happen in the next two to three decades?

The newspaper project outlined the current situation and then, out of many plausible possibilities, sketched out a couple of fictional but fact-infused scenarios.

One was “lone farmer.”

It begins in an upcoming drought year (maybe this one), as water is shut off or severely limited to many users, and anger rises to a flashpoint. Agitators - apparently connected to out-of-area provocateurs like Idahoan Ammon Bundy - seize the Klamath system headgates and open the water to the irrigation canal. But there’s little water, and the incident is the last straw for the feds, who cut off environmental and assistance for the area. Diminished water both on the surface and in local aquifers leaves fish dying, vast acreages of crops unwatered and houses by the hundreds without running water. Many of the endangered species in the area become extinct. Local farmers become endangered too, nearly all selling out to an international corporation which takes over almost all the area’s farm land. Only the local tribes remain, a significant political or legal factor, though after ongoing environmental hardship and the loss of fish runs, many tribal members move out of the area. Wildfires like the massive Bootleg Fire recur. The area's population falls by a third or more, as farm families move out of the area or to a corporate-built residential community.

The second story, “lodgepole and ponderosa,” led with this: “Young people are hard at work restoring and protecting the Klamath Basin’s wetlands, forests and waterways. Despite intensifying climate change impacts, a 30-year effort has put the basin on a path toward resilience."

The climate change assumed in both stories is the same. But in this one, a different trajectory is sketched for the next decade on the local and federal levels. Nationally, “The Interior Department establishes a climate corps program for each watershed in the Western U.S., inspired by the Civilian Conservation Corps created a century earlier." Locally, a new cooperative agreement between the various interests in the area - agricultural, tribal, residential, environmental and others - evolves a series of compromises on water and land use. The local group acquires some water from the federal government under an agreement on how it will be used, and water use in many places changes.

The end result is happier than in “lone farmer”: More local control, more prosperity at least for local businesses, and more local people, albeit with close discipline needed on everyone’s part.

The report suggested that, “The Klamath still has the ingredients of a successful watershed: Land, water, plants, birds, fish and people who care deeply about their homes and communities. But those things must be intricately connected in order to survive.”

The two scenarios seem to suggest as much.

How dare you?


How dare you?

How dare you deface this sacred symbol with your crybaby nonsense? You made a choice to refuse a vaccine that countless health professionals from all over the political spectrum say you should get.

I’m cool with your choice. It’s a free country, after all.

This month, many jurisdictions will see vaccination requirements of some sort kick in. While many people believe this is an entirely new tyranny, I wonder where their kids were when they were required to attend public school. Surely they weren’t all home-schooled?

We’ve had vaccine requirements since before I was born — this is not new. Further, I understand some of the reluctance to get the vaccine; I would’ve preferred to go without, too. But I live in an imperfect world and enough highly-educated health care professionals are telling me to get vaccinated. So I’m vaccinated.

I chose to be vaccinated.

You can choose to remain unvaccinated and you can either accept the consequences or you can complain like there’s no tomorrow.

But how dare you vandalize the holy image of this yellow star?

You chose not to get a vaccine. Yes, you might be refused entrance to a restaurant but there are other restaurants that will welcome you. You might not be able to attend church or a concert but you should know by now that your choices have consequences.

You chose not to get a vaccine.

You were not fired or prevented from working because of who you are — if you did lose your job, you had a choice.

You were not kept out of restaurants or theaters because of who you are — you had a choice.

You did not have your business ransacked and looted before it was confiscated by the government.

You did not have your place of worship set alight as the fire department watched and laughed, making sure neighboring structures didn’t burn. You did not have to watch while holy objects from within your church were desecrated in the street. You did not see your grandparents’ graves vandalized and violated.

You were not forcibly loaded aboard cattle cars along with your children, denied food and water, one bucket serving as a toilet for dozens of people on a journey to hell. You didn’t arrive, freezing, stinking and terrified at camps where thugs in Hugo Boss uniforms decided you would live or die with the flick of a wrist.

You did not see an S.S. officer hold your infant child by its hind leg and bash its head against the steel of a truck when the child wouldn’t stop crying.

You weren’t forced to hold your infant child up in front of you so the barbarian about to kill you could get you and your child with one bullet.

You didn’t see your family forcibly separated from you, your spouse and children sent to a killing chamber disguised as a shower, where gas caused people to claw atop each other in attempts to find air to breathe that didn’t choke them. Your children weren’t found buried beneath the human mountain of death that remained once the poison had done its job.

You weren’t housed on wooden pallets, no comfort, no heat, in vast dorms of filth, with more than triple the number of human beings for which the space was designed. You weren’t given a scoop of dirty, lukewarm water ­— with hunk of turnip in it if you were lucky ­— for your daily meal. You weren’t forced to stand for hours in freezing rain while monsters obsessed with counting counted you, over and over.

You weren’t infested with lice and disease then denied even rudimentary health care.

You weren’t forced to work in a crematorium feeding body after ghoulish body into the hellish flames, sometimes recognizing a dead friend, neighbor or even child before you burnt them to ashes. You weren’t then forced to feed the funeral pyres when the ovens couldn’t keep up with that Teutonic efficiency.

You weren’t eventually liberated to find everything you once had gone — your home, your business, your family, maybe even your town.

The Judenstern represents a horror beyond what you can imagine. How dare you raise your pathetic “suffering” to the level of the Shoah — the most monstrous atrocity in human history.

You are free to complain, to cry, to declare how terribly unfair it all is. You are free to magnify your vaccine-free suffering as much as you like.

But you are also free to get the vaccine.

What you are not free to do is to hijack the sacred symbol of a people who had no choice, who know what true suffering is — the suffering of unspeakable sorrow, of unimaginable genocide.

How dare you equate your small suffering with the horror of the Shoah? How dare you take this liberty?

If you want to remain vaccine-free, so be it. Buck up and accept the consequences of your choice.

Do not create repugnant false equivalencies by elevating your self-imposed suffering with the Holocaust.

Just don’t.

How dare you?

Matthew Meador is a former food and wine writer, senior editor and a rare moderate Republican who now writes political commentary. Previously, Matt was an award-winning graphic artist who often put his skills to use during election seasons. Matt has served in various capacities on political campaigns, for pollsters and for elected officials. Contact him at

Photocomposite unknown provenance

An obligation of office


Idaho’s senior senator Mike Crapo did something unusual. His constituents should find it unsettling, even arrogant.

The Republican announced that he will seek a fifth term in the Senate by issuing a press release. No questions asked or answered, thank you very much.

Crapo, who calls himself an “unwavering conservative,” did serve up a little political red meat in his release – no substance, but plenty of fear. “The threats to our values, our way of life and our Constitution itself are intense, extremely well-funded and well-organized,” Crapo said.

I’d like to hear more but Crapo’s not taking questions.

There once was a tradition – perhaps more an obligation – that when candidates announced for high public office they would tour the state, making a series of appearances at airports or hotel ballrooms and engage journalists on why they were applying for a job. A big part of the deal was to answer questions, or at least act like you were doing so.

Like so many other things we can be bemoan as lost to a better past is the notion that a politician, particularly one asking to be re-elected, has an obligation to answer questions. Crapo, long ago more at home in Washington than in Weiser, doesn’t stoop to answering questions. I know this because I asked him, or more correctly asked his staff, a few questions via email.

The first was: “Do you believe Joe Biden fairly won the 2020 presidential election?”

I also asked: “Why have you not spoken out against the lies and misinformation that have been spread about that election? For example, on January 6 you made no statement at all about the events of a year ago, even while the former president was continuing to repeat lies about the election.”

I wanted to know how Crapo feels about the investigation underway into the events of January 6, 2021, so I asked: “Do you support the House investigation on the events of January 6, 2021?” And “why did you oppose an independent commission (to investigate the Capitol attack) when it was considered by the Senate?”

Knowing that Donald Trump continues to dominate the Republican Party and shows every inclination to run for president again in 2024, I asked Crapo: “If Donald Trump were to run again for president in 2024 and win the Republican nomination, would you support him?”

Trump endorsed Crapo long before the senator announced his re-election last week, so I thought it would be interesting to know whether Crapo sought that endorsement and how it came about, so I asked.

Just before the Idaho governor proposed to increase funding for Idaho State Police protection of the State Capitol in Boise – 13 new positions at a cost of $2.8 million – presumably in anticipation of more violent stunts like the militant Ammon Bundy pulled off in 2020, I sought Crapo’s views about the danger of politically motivated violence.

Just to jog your memory, a police officer who testified at Bundy’s trial in 2021 said, “It was chaos,” with six State Police officers “pushed, shoved and battered” by a crowd of protesters. The day before Bundy was arrested, an angry mob stormed into the Idaho House gallery. A door was broken down. Bundy is, of course, seeking the Republican nomination for governor of Idaho.

So, I asked Crapo, “There is growing evidence that many Americans on the political right are willing to engage in violence in the interest of their political positions. Do you view this as a danger to democracy?”

And since the senator has been around for a long time, I posed this question: “Given Idaho’s long history of dealing with various hate groups, including the Aryan Nations, why have you not spoken out against this trend or condemned, for example, groups like The Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and the rightwing activist Ammon Bundy? There have been anti-Semitic attacks on, for example, the Anne Frank Memorial in Boise, but you have made no effort to condemn them. Why?”

At one level, I didn’t expect much from Crapo, the thirteenth most senior member of the Senate. He long ago became a get-along, go-along Republican in lock step with his party’s leadership, voting to convict Bill Clinton and let Trump skate, twice. Crapo rarely utters anything beyond the sterile talking points that GOP political consultants crank out for him.

But frankly I did expect an answer to the question about Biden being legitimately elected. South Dakota’s very conservative Senator Mike Rounds, for example, said recently when asked the same question I put to Crapo: “The election was fair, as fair as we have seen. We simply did not win the election, as Republicans, for the presidency. And moving forward — and that’s the way we want to look at this — moving forward, we have to refocus once again on what it’s going to take to win the presidency.”

I thought a question about whether Crapo would support Trump – again – might get a “let’s cross that bridge when we come to it” type response. Or an invitation to zing Bundy or disavow the radical Proud Boys might actually present an opportunity for a career politician to show a bit of leadership, not to mention backbone.

By the way, I told Crapo’s staff I would publish any response in its entirety.

Here’s the totality of what I got in response to my questions:

“Marc, we have known and worked with you a long time in your various roles. But, these questions indicate a blatant partisan bias. Senator Crapo has repeatedly addressed these questions and people know how he feels about these issues. Moreover, to suggest Senator Crapo has not spoken out against acts of violence or hatred – political or otherwise – is categorically false. He won’t participate in such a thinly-veiled partisan effort intended to distract voters’ attention away from the national debacle unfolding at the hands of Biden/Schumer/Pelosi.”

I guess Crapo could have saved time by simply giving me a two-word answer.

In fact, most of his constituents don’t know where Crapo stands on a lot of these questions and many others, because silence on big issues is a political strategy in the modern GOP. Much safer to invoke a “national debacle.”

But you might ask why a guy whose been in Congress for 30 years won’t answer even a simple question, knowing his entire answer will see print, about whether the last election was honest. Why is a senator who has Trump’s endorsement unwilling to talk about it? And when given an opportunity to condemn political violence or anti-Semitism attacks the premise of the question.

What is Crapo afraid of? What should you be afraid of?

State of the campaign


Usually something - a new idea, a major policy initiative, an area of interest - jumps out when a governor delivers a state of the state address.
In Idaho Governor Brad Little’s state of the state address last Monday it was this: The most overtly campaign-oriented SOS I’ve ever heard.

Little does have a serious campaign challenge coming up in the next few months, and not only for himself but also for his political allies who will be waging a possibly bitter battle against serious opposition in the Republican primary.

In his speech to the legislature and to the state, Little seemed more than aware of this: That reality seemed to dominate him. He was almost two-thirds of the way through the speech before he began to deliver what sounds like the heart of a normal SOS. And that was in a relatively brief speech, by far his shortest SOS, and only about two-thirds as long as last year’s. (Brevity ordinarily is a virtue, but you do need to get the job done.)

Why do I say this? You can start with the references to the Biden Administration. Throwing a quick hit of shade in the direction of a presidency of the other party isn’t something new; governors of both parties routinely do a bit of it. But ordinarily, it’s just a quick side jaunt. The subject at hand, after all, is supposed to be the state of the state.

But Little went much further than the norm in the first two-thirds of his speech, over and over and over: “While President Biden divides Americans in his attempts to elevate the role of government in citizens’ lives … Biden’s polarizing vaccine mandates … as Bidenflation surges … while President Biden continues to dismiss the catastrophe at the U.S.-Mexico border … President Biden’s flawed border policies … Biden’s inaction as inflation swells under Biden’s watch … With Bidenflation exploding.”

And there were the traditional “DC is awful” remarks, but again more of those than usual: “While D.C. is digging the country into a $29 trillion hole … While D.C. continues to crank out onerous new regulations … While D.C. wants to raise taxes on all citizens.”

All of which would have fit in well enough at a Republican Lincoln Day dinner (which circuit is just getting underway), but a state of the state is supposed to be a report about the condition of the state and recommendations for the future, a slice of governing, not campaigning. Little got to some of that, but at the tail end of the speech.

There was another element to this speech that seemed unusual for its obviousness.

These speeches almost always have an element of self-congratulation, reports of conditions going well and efforts by the speaker that paid off. Usually governors go out of their way to throw some praise at the legislature as well; this speech contained not much of that. (Nor did it get around to a lot of significant problems in Idaho - from housing affordability to the notably high Covid-19 death rate to widespread attacks on education - but many governors ignore such things in their SOS.)

Little’s self-praise included some larger elements (economic and regulatory, mainly) but keyed off a statement in which he cited people he knew who influenced him, and then this:

“Leaders give people confidence and show the way through humble strength. Leaders go through life with a spirit of service. Leaders listen. The voice of a leader is effective, not just loud. Every day I endeavor to live up to the example of my mentors. That is what the people of Idaho deserve from their Governor, and it is what they deserve from all those elected to public office.”

So in putting a label on his legislative proposals, and making the linkage unavoidable, he said, “My plan is called LEADING IDAHO.” (The caps are his.)

It was a speech underwritten and delivered on behalf of Idaho’s taxpayers - who do include non-Republicans as well as party members - suitable for framing at the next Lincoln Day dinner.

The campaign is on.

(photo/Idaho Ed News)



If nothing else, this Covid experience has taught us a lot about how we all deal with uncertainty. I hope you have learned your own limits with the beast.

Medical training teaches us practitioners to pursue certainty. The fact of a diagnosis used to mean the certainty of prognosis was narrowed. We, the white-coated authorities gave the grim prediction to the patient of days, months, or years of life remaining. We could recommend treatments but hedge them with learned uncertainty that wouldn’t (we hoped) harm our position of authority.

Many things have eroded this authority, this modified Corona virus common cold is just the most recent. Many people suffered with ill-defined pain and fatigue and since we, the medical profession had found some cures here and there, we felt the pressure to continue to cure. Alas, the refrain of learning to “live with” the chronic condition is not a cure most seek.

Make no mistake, many things are very curable. Pneumonia still kills, but we have many drugs that can and do cure. When diagnosing cancer, it used to be we were like poker players, understanding the odds of when and where the disease was discovered, the ameliorating odds of our treatments, and then we, but really, the patient, played the hand dealt. Nowadays we have some incredibly curative treatments for the “Big C”. That game has changed for some.

But when COVID popped up, nobody knew the cards in the deck, or even the rules of the game. We had to discover them as the disease unfolded around us, taking some in the first wave, maybe less in the second, and now even less as it mutates and changes, as we so slowly modify, not our genetics, but our behavior in the face of it.

I took my granddaughter to the hardware store this weekend. She’s only three and unimmunized. Her mom, my daughter, an ICU nurse, has taught her to wear a mask in settings like this. Her mom has cared for many ventilated, critical, even dying patients. I’ve been to that store a dozen times in the past few weeks and didn’t wear a mask. I’m immunized and boosted. I keep my distance but feel pretty safe amongst those people I don’t see too often. But she wore a mask last Saturday, so I did too. I realized I was doing it to support my granddaughter. I didn’t feel like a sheep, though I had to take my glasses off as they kept fogging up.

This virus is evolving faster than we can calculate the odds. In the early wave of infections one out of a thousand infected would die from it. Those odds are now much lower, but the odds of getting the virus have gone up significantly. How do you want to play your hand? Maybe more important, how do you see this game as won or lost?

If you, unmasked and unimmunized surviving and your neighbor with the mask and shots dying means you win, then we might be a doomed species. I just don’t see life as a poker game with the pile of chips giving a sense of satisfaction, even glee. We humans have not easily grasped the concept that we are all in this together.

This uncertainty, this disease spreading silently among us, should be giving us an opportunity to show our character, our natures to our neighbors.

Medical training did not teach me to deny death. In fact, I had to come to accept suffering as a part of the human condition. But I found I needed to work daily to ease the pain, ease the suffering of my patients and myself if I was to have any peace in this world. I wish that for all of you too.

An ‘activist’ AG?


One thing about Republicans is that they detest “activist” judges from the left who make laws rather than interpret them.

So, how about “activist” attorneys general? It depends on who is sitting in the AG’s office. If it’s a Democrat who challenged Trump-era policies, then it’s not good in the eyes of the GOP faithful. But it may be another story when it’s a Republican butting heads with a Democratic administration.

At least, that’s what Raul Labrador, a former Idaho Republican congressman, is hoping for in his campaign for attorney general. He wants to be a hard-charging activist.

Hard-charging is the only game Labrador knows. He served four terms in Congress and was one of the founders of the “Freedom Caucus,” which drove some of the more moderate Republican leaders nuts. As a 38-year-old state representative from Eagle, Labrador established himself as a leader for conservative causes. As a candidate for governor in 2018, a race he didn’t win, Labrador talked much about how he would shake up things in Idaho’s Capitol.

Now, he’s taking aim at Biden and the Democrats, with an army of Republican attorneys general backing him.

“If you look nationally, there needs to be a pushback on the Biden administration and its unlawful agenda – where he thinks he can use OSHA rules to tell businesses what they have to mandate what their employees do,” Labrador said. “Over my career, I have always been about protecting the individual rights of Idahoans and making sure that government is not encroaching on our critical ability to prosper.”

It won’t be an easy race, for sure. Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, who has held the office for 20 years, is running again, with lesser-known GOP challengers in the fray.

It will be an interesting race to watch. Some legislators, especially from the conservative side, don’t like Wasden, but it’s a similar situation with Labrador. Some folks like him and some don’t. The styles are different, with Wasden being more of a referee. Labrador would like to work with legislators in crafting bills, opposed to issuing opinions that legislators might not like.
With him as attorney general, Labrador says, legislators won’t need to hire a private attorney. “It will be, because they will trust that they are able to work with me and that I will have their best interests in mind.”

Translation: If conservative principles clash with the Constitution, Labrador is more apt to take issues to court. Labrador, an avid Trump supporter, would have signed onto the Texas lawsuit challenging the presidential election results in other states.

“The basis of that lawsuit was that some states had not followed the Constitution broadly,” Labrador said.

For now, his focus is on the Biden administration.

“At each and every turn, Joe Biden is sending our nation down the wrong path. Unconstitutional mandates, extreme job-killing regulations and actions pushing inflation, open borders fueling illegal immigration and attacks on our pro-life values and constitutional Second Amendment rights – that’s the Biden agenda,” Labrador said in a fund-raising letter.

“One of the only ways to stop Biden is through the federal courts. And too many times Idaho is on the sidelines as other state attorneys general sue to fight back,” he said. “I won’t sit on the sidelines as our freedoms and values are under attack.”

Labrador is a controversial figure, loved by hardline conservatives and loathed by liberals – but with a likable personality. As a legislator and member of Congress, he often worked on a number of bipartisan causes. Some of his favorite letters in Congress came from grateful constituents who didn’t vote for him.

“I have no problem working with people who disagree with me. I was raised by a mom who was a Democrat and she disagreed with me on many issues – and she was a person I loved most in the world,” Labrador said.

“Everyone knows that I am a strong conservative and I will always lean toward what comes from the conservative end of the Republican Party. But because of my style, and the way I work with people, I have support from all factions of the party. And that’s the only way you can win elections. If you speak only to people who agree with you most of the time, you will not win.”

Labrador easily poses the toughest challenge Wasden has faced in his career.

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

The 6th


O.K. We’ve had our January 6th remembrance. CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC et al drenched us with overkill in fine, journalistic abandon. We were forced to relive nearly the whole 525,600 seconds between the original attack and the first annual observance all over again.

So, what now?

Well, for starters, our deeply valued U.S. Capitol structure and grounds have been “hardened.” That’s a military term for reinforcing doors, windows and all access points. Erecting yet more barriers to public entry. More surveillance cameras. More guards.
D.C. area law enforcement and the National Guard are receiving new training in crowd control. Much of it hand-to-hand practice.

Great. The horse is gone, the barn door is new with a big, strong lock.

In other words, when those vile people return for a second attack, everything is in ship-shape order and they won’t get far.

That’s all well and good if you think they’ll be back. I don’t.

Trump’s coalition army of rag-tags, thugs and paramilitary folk have made their point. The point Donald was trying to make. A “surprise” assault on our democratic process with a sidebar of trying to overturn the 2020 election results which were not to his liking. Point made.

No, the next “assault,” I believe, is likely going to be at the state level or in several states simultaneously. Or, even at county or municipal locales. But, there will be a “next time.”

The several thousand who responded to Trump’s dog whistle have gone back into their local nests. You’re not seeing any public displays or incidents of flag waving. No parades. But, (un)social media is full of their activity. Sites nearly all of us know nothing about are very, very busy, according to “techies” who live on the old I-Net.

Proud Boys with their tattoos, the make-believe, but well-armed militias with their hangers-ons, the disassociated, violent street thugs are “talking” to each other constantly.

But, they’re doing so while the FBI, CIA, NSA and hundreds of other law enforcement “techies” listen in. They’ve “got their ears on” and they’re taking notes. While we can most certainly expect more violence in our national future, it likely won’t come as such a surprise. And, the targets will most certainly be forewarned and better prepared.

While all of that is going on, we’re seeing the first signs of another frontal attack. The far-right is making an assault on the ballot box. Here in the desert, we’ve got at least four in the race for governor and another dozen or so signed up to run as Republicans in contests for Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State. That last race is so very important because the occupant of that coveted office is responsible for state elections.

Other states - Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, Idaho and dozens more - have their own dangerous candidates who - if elected - will change our political landscape for the foreseeable future. And, that landscape will endanger the basic structure of our Republic and could end democracy as we know it.

No, another law-breaking assault on the nation’s Capitol isn’t as likely as the scenario described here. What Trump wants now amounts to a tin-hat, semi-dictatorship. He wants control. Whether as President or some other title known only to him, he wants to be “in charge.” And the 2021 action was his first shot.

The most dangerous things Trump did was (1) show his rabid followers they can go to Washington D.C. and make a ruckus and (2) they have “support” at home in almost every state. They’re no longer isolated. They’ve got strength. How much strength is yet to be determined. So, too, it’s likely even their dangerous leaders don’t know just how much strength they actually have and how to use it.

But, there are former military folks among the “ranks” with knowledge of how to organize, how to communicate, how to operate against chosen targets. They have weapons experience and mission planning knowledge. If they’re in leadership roles in any way, we - and they - will see how much strength is there.

We don’t know when. We don’t know where. But, we’ll hear from them again. Bet the farm.

A force of nature


Stephen Hartgen, former editor, publisher, legislator, columnist and bona fide force of nature, passed away just hours short of the New Year. He was churning out opinion columns right to the very end of his remarkable career. He took his leave when the ink was barely dry on his latest piece, which expressed support for Governor Little's budget. Even though I sometimes disagreed with the way he looked at issues, I had a great deal of respect for Steve and considered him a friend. He will be missed.

Steve and I got acquainted in 1983, when I was Attorney General and he was Editor of the Times-News. We found ourselves on the same side of one of the most important issues in the history of Idaho–the Swan Falls water rights fight between the State and Idaho Power Company. Steve understood the implications of the dispute for the future of Idaho and he supplied editorial support for the State’s position.

When Bruce Newcomb and I launched an effort in 1984 to defeat legislators who sided with Idaho Power, Steve was there to help with his pithy editorials. An editorial on May 22, 1984, criticized a power company ad campaign designed to help its candidates, saying the campaign “smells so bad” that it is “backfiring on Idaho Power.” Several legislators who opposed the State’s position were defeated, which helped to bring about a favorable resolution of the dispute. Steve’s editorials helped a bunch.

As I mentioned, there were issues that Steve and I disagreed about over the years, but we always treated each other with respect. I last saw him in Twin Falls in September and we had an enjoyable conversation.

Another important matter we agreed upon, was our shared concern about the malign control that the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF) has gained over a significant number of Idaho legislators. In a May 24, 2020 column he spoke about legislators who were afraid to “buck the Idaho Freedom Foundation” on a particular vote. He opined that the IFF and other groups funded by out-of-state money wanted to “defund public education” and “promote hare-brained anti-medicine ‘cures.’” He has called the IFF the “Idaho Slavery Foundation” as it “would put Idaho under the thumb of out of state, shadowy groups who want to…slash and burn down state government entities.”

Indeed, the IFF appears to own and operate quite a number of legislators, as shown on the organization’s “Freedom Index.” That has caused a group of concerned citizens to form for the purpose of defeating disruptive IFF legislators and replacing them with ones, in Steve’s words, who “see government as an entity to tackle real problems and find real solutions.” The Take Back Idaho (TBI) Committee aims to amplify Steve’s words and bring back the kind of governing that Idaho has been used to since statehood–reasonable, pragmatic and dedicated to serving the best interests of the people.

Steve can’t be here for this important venture but TBI plans to work with responsible incumbents and other candidates who fit the criteria Steve laid out–to responsibly deal with real, not imagined, problems. TBI will support good people like Representative Linda Hartgen, who has done a fine job in the Idaho House and now seeks a seat in the Senate.

As a member of the Supreme Court, I had the privilege of working with Linda Hartgen when she was Trial Court Administrator of the Fifth Judicial District. I convey my sincere condolences for the loss of her husband, a person who was dedicated to her, and to this great State–a fellow columnist who was truly a force of nature.