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Posts published in May 2022

Gun insurance


One reality of the Uvalde, Texas, massacre is that none of us can truly fully feel the personal impact that only the surviving children do.

None of us who’ve never tried to hide from a homicidal gunman or wiped the blood on our face from a dead child lying next to us while playing dead can have the visceral reaction of 10 and 11-year-olds who lived the horror.

It’s just not possible!

In these days following the Uvalde killings, millions of words are being used to ask why it happened, what really happened, who really did what or who did nothing. Who’s to blame. There are some folks who want to arm teachers which, if there ever was a worse idea, I haven’t heard it. Others want to ban certain types of guns, change the age limit of who can buy one (or a dozen), limit the types of weapons they can get and on and on.

No one idea or group can banish the horrors. No legislation will keep some angry, mentally disassociated individual from being a home-grown terrorist. Keeping a loaded .38 in the teacher’s desk can’t. We’ve found out the hard way gun-carrying cops in schools aren’t always effective. Armed guards in schools won’t do it apparently.

We’re facing an intractable societal issue, the solution to which will require work on many levels from many sources. No one has the answer. If there is one eventually, it will be an amalgam of many ideas coming from many concerted efforts.

I’ve heard one possibility, used in passing that I think deserves more attention and possibly pursued: create a requirement for liability insurance for gun ownership.

For the record, I’m a gun owner. We have three in the house. Two pistols and a 12-gage. So, talk of having to have a small liability policy in force is coming from a gun owner. I’m one of ‘em.

The reason I think it’s worth pursuing is that it brings into play the involvement of both society and corporate interests.

Consider: we buy - under penalty of law - liability insurance if we own a car or other vehicle that uses our highways. (In Arizona, you had to buy liability insurance to own a golf cart used on community roads.) We have liability clauses in our home insurance. We have corporate liability insurance. Business owners cover themselves and their employees. It’s a common requirement encompassing nearly all of society.

Require such insurance when a weapon is purchased. Add a few bucks to the cost. Require annual renewal or some entity would be notified to follow up. By law.

I know it sounds stringent and likely smells of gun control to some. But, it’s not. It simply places a responsibility where it belongs: on the user. Just as we commonly do with vehicles on our highways. And with our homes. A responsibility of ownership with a duty to protect others if something goes wrong.

And, there’s this. It brings the insurance industry into the efforts to get a handle on the irresponsible use of guns. Billion dollar corporations. Thousands of agents and corporate leaders. People who now sit on the sidelines would have to get involved. Their sudden participation would have quite an impact.

Requiring liability insurance for guns is not a complete answer to our epidemic of violence against society. There isn’t one. But, it’s a single one that’s a first step on the long journey to finding that answer.

Sure. Some people will bitch and moan. There’ll be an outcry from folks who think having to buy liability insurance is akin to gun control or “un-American.” That’s fine. Just let ‘em hollar.

Bottom line: If you don’t like this idea, come up with your own. Suggest something better - something positive - something helpful to end the terrible violence against the innocent. In churches, theaters, schools, stores, on our streets. Everywhere.

It’s got to stop! We must find answers. We must. Because we could find ourselves like those kids in Uvalde. Hiding. On the floor. Covered in blood. Scared to death.

Memorial Day


Memorial Day is a time set aside for Americans to honor and mourn U.S. military personnel who died in service to their country. There have been many. America suffered 623,468 deaths in its major conflicts since the beginning of World War One. We owe these dedicated men and women our lasting gratitude for putting their lives on the line to protect and preserve our freedoms.

In the days leading up to Memorial Day, Idaho Public Television aired a program titled, Betrayed: Surviving an American Concentration Camp. It told of the Japanese Americans who were rounded up along the West Coast in 1942 and incarcerated in the Minidoka “Relocation” Camp. I was born that same year and grew up just 6 miles from the Camp.

These people were loyal Americans who just happened to be of Japanese ancestry. Many young men in the Camp volunteered to serve their country, despite the fact that their families were in detention. William Nakamura was one of them. His family had been uprooted from their home in Seattle, arriving in the Camp in 1942. He joined the Army the next year.

On July 4, 1944, while serving in Italy with the 442 Regimental Combat Team, Nakamura died after single-handedly attacking and destroying one German machine gun emplacement and then attacking another. His unit, entirely composed of Japanese Americans, was the most highly decorated in the war. He initially received the Distinguished Service Cross, but 56 years later, upon a review of his heroic actions, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

I often think of the tremendous debt we owe to people like William Nakamura, who gave their all for the benefit of their fellow Americans. What would they think if they could return to see what a mess we are making of the legacy they left us? Instead of working together in common purpose to improve the lives of all Americans, we are at each other’s throats.

The just concluded primary elections saw many hundreds of thousands of dollars going into scurrilous political ads attacking candidates with lies and distortions. Very little was said of what anyone proposed to do to make our State better, to improve infrastructure, to combat the greatest threat to the future of our planet–the increasing temperature of our atmosphere–or anything else. I believe the William Nakamuras of the past would sincerely grieve for the state we are in and wonder whether their sacrifice was worth it.

We should not just mourn our fallen on Memorial Day. We should make sure that the time and opportunity they gave us to make a better country is not wasted. Instead of exploiting differences, we should be building bridges with other Americans. We might just find that we have more in common than we thought.

Instead of placing credence on weird conspiracy theories that show up in some corner of social media, we should build on facts that are in front of our faces in our communities. We should not be living our lives just to “own the libs” or put down the “deplorables.” We are all part of one country and should wake up and act like it. Imagine if our service personnel in wartime all wanted to have their own way all of the time. That would create chaos.

Our soldiers worked together to achieve their objectives. Many did not make it home. Let’s mourn and honor them on Memorial Day and pledge that we will not let their sacrifice be for naught–that we will live up to their expectations by working hard to improve the lot of our fellow Americans, regardless of race, creed, economic status or any other type of demographic difference.

Meanings in the split


With 19 distinctive - not to say sometimes colorful - candidates for governor, Oregon Republicans should have told us something about themselves by their choices in the just-ended primary election.

They did: They are split. Many seem driven by abortion or other culture issues, some are powerfully drawn by regional preferences, but a plurality just want to win in November.

No single overriding motivation appeared to apply overwhelmingly to Oregon Republicans.

Former legislator (and House Republican caucus chair) Christine Drazan was the clear winner from early on, and she won a majority of Oregon’s counties. She led (decisively) in the three Portland metro counties, and her four best counties (in order; Wallowa, Curry, Klamath and Benton) were widely scattered across the state. Her win cannot be called narrow.

What drew Republican voters to her? Likely not the media endorsements (her website’s endorsement page didn’t even link to them). But she was endorsed by a slew of Republican elected officials and a number of GOP-leaning organizations. She had an extensive county organization, and it seems fair to say she was the closest thing to an (informal) candidate of the statewide Republican organization. That helps a lot. And she was presentable, articulate, and likable.

She did not emphasize hard-edged messages. Her website’s tag lines called out “lower taxes, safer neighborhoods, brighter future, better schools” - something Democrat Tina Kotek could use as easily (maybe with some tweaking of the first one). She did offer some specific policy proposals, but she was not among the candidates with quotable lines on abortion, stolen elections and similar subjects. Was this a vote for the candidate seen as best equipped to fare well in November? Probably that was part of it.

Remember though that she received just 22.7 percent of the Republican primary vote, a support level that looks better only in the context of her 19-person field. Her nearest competitor, former state Republican Chair Bob Tiernan, was not terribly far behind with 17.8 percent. Seven candidates received more than five percent of the vote.

If there’s another contender who might logically be called a Republican establishment candidate - because of service in elected office and as chair of the state party - that would be Tiernan, who won six counties (Clatsop, Coos, Columbia, Douglas, Lane, and Tillamook). His second-place vote actually may owe to some of the same factors as Drazan’s.

Candidates who lost past major races, like Bud Pierce and Bill Sizemore, underperformed.

So there’s a good chance electability was heavily on the minds of close to half of the Republican electorate, maybe reflecting both desire to win and a sense that 2022 might not be a good Democratic year.

But that still leaves a majority of the Republican primary voters apparently signaling other concerns.

What powered Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam to a third-place showing with 10.4 percent of the vote? There are a few possibilities, but a good bet might be abortion, high profile during the voting period. Though not endorsed by Oregon Right to Life, Pulliam got attention for the edgiest abortion stance in the campaign, criticizing his competitors as being wimps on the subject and saying without qualification he would as governor sign any “pro-life piece of legislation.” His vote may be a reasonable measure of the abortion-driven segment of the Republican vote.

That seems a little bigger than the climate change and anti-masking approach of Marc Thielman, the Alsea school superintendent who won a straw poll at the Dorchester event. He had backers statewide - he had more than a few signs in eastern Oregon - but still managed just 7.8 percent of the vote.

If you’re looking for a candidate testing the salience of rural and anti-metro appeal, look at Baker City Mayor Kerry McQuisten. She won seven counties, more than anyone but Drazen, carrying most of the land area of eastern Oregon (Baker, Grant, Harney, Malheur, Sherman, Union, and Wheeler). No candidate got a higher percentage in any single county than McQuisten did in Grant (44.6 percent). Of course relatively few voters live in those counties, and McQuisten wound up just sixth in the results - but she left a stronger marker of the east-west and urban-rural gap in the state.

Some messages seemed not to catch on. Nick Hess, who pressed for a traditional conservative style (and was nearly alone in the field to do so), got only 1.1 percent of the vote.

And if there had been more “electable” candidates and fewer “message” candidates? This primary could easily have seen different results. The instability of the parties - Democrats too but especially the Republicans, even in a time of polarization - may be one of the primary lessons of this year’s Oregon primary.

This article originally appeared in the Oregon Capitol Chronicle.

So old it’s new again


Montana’s hard rightwing Republican congressman Matt Rosendale has likely never been compared to a influential progressive politician who figures prominently in his state’s history. At first blush there is precious little about Rosendale, a disciple of Donald Trump and opponent of almost everything, that is remotely like New Deal era Montana senator Burton K. Wheeler.

Wheeler was a pro-union, anti-big business western progressive. He was a driving force behind big Montana public works projects like Fort Peck Dam on the Missouri River. He fought corruption in the Justice Department during the 1920’s and battled Franklin Roosevelt, a president of his own party, over an ill-advised scheme to “pack” the Supreme Court.

Rosendale is known, to the extent he is known, for often being in a tiny minority of House members who vote NO on many things, including infrastructure spending. Rosendale is an outspoken member of the hard right “Freedom Caucus,” traffics in conspiracy theories, and recently observed that he found it ironic that Congress passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973, the same year the Supreme Court issued it decision legalizing abortion.

But in one important respect Rosendale and Wheeler, who left the Senate in 1947 and died in 1975, are similar. They are unapologetic isolationists. Wheeler was the acknowledged leader of isolationist or non-interventionist forces prior to World War II. Wheeler, along with Charles Lindbergh, the famous aviator, became the chief spokesmen for the America First movement, an umbrella group that attracted both passionate pacifists and disgusting anti-Semites.

Idaho’s Mike Crapo, a very conservative Republican senator not known for his foreign policy expertise or even interest, is also displaying isolationist instincts. So, too, Utah Republican Mike Lee and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and a handful of other conservatives. All three senators joined with eight others recently to vote NO in the Senate on a $40 billion aid package to Ukraine. That aid was nevertheless approved and will, like previous assistance, continue to allow Ukraine to hold off, and indeed turn back, a brutal, unnecessary war started by Vladimir Putin.

Trump, with his threats to pull the United States out of the NATO alliance and his actual withdrawal from trade and other agreements, popularized – again – the notion of America First, perhaps knowing the slogan would become a rallying cry for the far right, as well as serving as a dog whistle for anti-Semitism and pro-authoritarianism.

This neo-isolationism from the far right is not exactly new in American politics. Figures like Ohio Senator Robert Taft in the 1950’s and more recently conservative gadfly Patrick Buchanan embraced the notion that the United States should essentially retreat from world leadership and focus more completely on domestic concerns. Buchanan wrote a book claiming it was Winston Churchill’s blunders rather than Adolf Hitler’s megalomania and desire to dominate Europe that sparked World War II.

This is the kind of revisionist, pro-Putin, anti-democratic, white supremacy nonsense that is being widely embraced in the dark corners of Internet and the increasingly dark corners of American conservatism.

Republican J.D. Vance, the opportunist Ohio Senate candidate who rejected Trump before embracing him, has become a key figure among the neo-isolationists. In one of the greatest political non-sequiturs ever, Vance recently said, “I will be damned if I am going to prioritize Ukraine’s eastern border right now when our own southern border is engulfed by a human tsunami of illegal migrants.”

If Vance wins in November he will, fittingly, occupy Bob Taft’s old Senate seat.

Another would-be leader of the neo-isolationists is Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, who clearly hopes to be president one day and knows just how to push the most powerful alt right buttons. “We don’t need any more globalism, left or right. We need realistic, robust nationalism,” Hawley said recently. Whatever that means it apparently appeals to Trumpers everywhere. Hawley also voted NO on the Ukrainian aid package.

As the online news site Axios reported recently: “Republican lawmakers – following former President Trump’s lead – are working with a wide range of conservative groups to pull back American support for Ukraine, the Middle East and Europe.”

The money and influence behind this neo-isolationist surge is powered by a permanent alt right infrastructure that includes the Koch Brothers, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and others. (This same network funds state-level anti-public school and tax cut advocacy from groups like the Idaho Freedom Foundation.)

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson champions neo-isolationism, while playing to the white nationalist sympathies of his audience.

After acknowledging that Putin’s war against Ukraine is illegal and has been clouded by vast lying from the Kremlin, the Cato Institute dismisses the war for the future of Europe with this: “it is a tragedy that neither the United States, nor NATO, nor Ukraine itself made a serious effort to discover whether there was a diplomatic way to prevent this invasion.”

That single sentence neatly sums why the neo-isolationists are as wrong today as they were in 1941.

Senator Wheeler, in many ways a heroic character, misread completely the state of the world as Hitler sought to dominate Europe, and like the neo-isolationists in the modern Republican Party, Mike Crapo, Mike Lee and the loathsome Rand Paul, he opposed the American aid to England that became known as Lend-Lease.

“We sympathize with the oppressed and persecuted everywhere,” Wheeler said, channeling Montana’s current congressman, “We also realize that we have great problems at home, that one-third of our population is ill-fed, ill-housed and ill-clad, and we have been told repeatedly, upon the highest authority, that unless and until this situation is corrected our democracy is in danger. I fully subscribe to this view.”

Wheeler’s views about Nazi aggression, had they prevailed rather than Franklin Roosevelt’s, might well have allowed Hitler to control Europe for a generation or more. Imagine our world today had that happened.

The same can be said for those turning their backs on Ukraine. What is their alternative: a Europe dominated by Putin? NATO rendered obsolete? Turning the other way as the ex-KGB agent kills and plunders a sovereign nation and U.S. ally?

Mike Crapo worries, apparently, about the country spending too much to defend democracy in a place far away. But he’s never met a tax cut he didn’t love. So, the fiscal responsibility argument is about as specious as justifications coming from the Kremlin for this unjustifiable war. Crapo’s stand, oddly, also puts him at cross purposes with Idaho’s other senator, James Risch who has steadfastly supported Ukrainian aid.

Crapo and the rest should know that Ukraine’s fight is our fight, too. The history of appeasement of dictators with territorial ambitions is not at all promising. We should have learned this in high school.

A great benefit of studying history is the insight past experiences provide for the present. This is surely such a moment. Why would a Crapo or Rosendale take such a blinkered view of history? Why, indeed, would these folks turn their backs on 80 years of history?

Shifting goal posts


Abortion this year, birth control next year. And the year after that, something else.

That appears to be the agenda for the culture-social warriors in Idaho, after the likely overturning, sometime in the weeks ahead, of Roe v. Wade, which established a legal right to obtain an abortion.

That overturning is something many legislators and other anti-abortion activists in Idaho have been calling for decades: A prime target, one of their key reasons for the political activism they have pursued. In the meantime, awaiting the promised land of a Roe reversal, they’ve been busy drafting one law after another, some attempts to challenge Roe or push the envelope on it, or else take effect if Roe is overturned. But always the finish line was presented as an end to Roe and the illegality of abortion in Idaho.

If the U.S. Supreme Court soon does what almost everyone expects it will do, then, presumably: Mission accomplished, right? The anti-abortion activists have been calling for a return to state-by-state legislating on abortion, and for Idaho to take a hard line against it as soon as that’s possible. The Idaho Legislature has done what it could (and beyond that) to get it done, preparing for a post-Roe Idaho.

Having gotten to that point, you’d think they’d now be happy and, you know, sort of give it a rest. They got what they wanted.

Of course, this assumes that what they actually wanted was what they said they did: A state ban on abortion. (Generally, anti-abortion activists also tended to call for exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother, but those exceptions seem increasingly to be forgotten.)

But far from being the end of the story, the odds are we’re closer to the beginning.

Earlier this month, state Representative Brent Crane, R-Nampa, who chairs the House State Affairs Committee (whose committee rather than Health and Welfare handles abortion and related measures), spoke on Idaho Public Television about what comes next. He said that he plans in the next session to hold hearings on bans of abortion pills and emergency contraception, and possibly more. “IUDs, I’m not for certain yet on where I would be on that particular issue,” he added (which strongly suggests that subject also will make legislative agendas next session).

News reports said that he later also said he supports legalized contraception generally. And that he had safety concerns about some of the drugs, presumably the same concerns addressed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration more than two decades ago. (The whole idea of which is preposterous: Imagine if you can what kind of intensive medical expertise you could expect out of the Idaho Legislature? Would you rely on it for your medical care?)

But come on: The door has now been opened, and given what we know of the Idaho Legislature (and how few Republican elected officials dare to let themselves be outflanked on the right), how long will it be before someone is tempted to walk through it? Explosive battles over contraception almost surely are just around the corner at the Idaho Statehouse, not to mention elsewhere.

There’s more reason than Crane’s interview remarks for thinking so. Consider: A whole large wing of political Idaho has based a large chunk of its activism, organization, fundraising and political candidacies on the back of a subject that soon would appear, in Idaho at least, to be settled. If you’re one of those politicians or activists or hangers-on, are you going to simply declare victory and go home?

Oh, hell no. What you do is find another, related, battle to fight in the culture war a few yards past the presumed finish line.

And they definitely will find it. There’s a lot of pent-up fury and energy that won’t be sated by a simple Supreme Court decision. It needs new material to chew on; the search won't take long.

Next year, look out for contraception regulation in Idaho.

Wonder where they’ll go the year after that …

A state of mind


North Idaho is different.

The vast majority of my years in Idaho have been spent in the state’s Pacific time zone. Why do we operate an hour different? Obviously, because we are north of the earlier Mountain Time folks down south, and time knows latitude, doesn’t it?

I’ve heard our Governor insists we up here be called “Northern Idaho”, not “North Idaho”, lest we start getting ideas of independence. I’m sorry, but that ship has sailed.

The Salmon River is the border for our special craziness. Come on up. But pack your colander or tin foil hat and put it on your head as you cross Time Zone Bridge. You’ll fit right in.

We had a strong antigovernment streak before statehood. Florence (north of the Salmon River) was a booming mining town in 1862. A Federal judge ventured over from Walla Walla to offer justice. He convened a grand jury and asked for indictments. The miners obliged, calling President Lincoln, cabinet members, Union generals and the judge up for trial. The judge rode his horse back to Walla Walla post haste and resigned. We can discourage authority.

We proudly know our history. I’m not sure the 1890’s miners insurrection in the Silver Valley was crazy. The wealthy mine bosses lived in lavish Spokane mansions while miners starved and slaved. But the strikers crossed the government line when they blew up a mill. The means of production cannot be damaged. That got US government troops called in from Denver.

Some have argued lily white North Idaho’s racism was founded on the fact that it was black US Army “Buffalo Soldiers” who rounded up strikers and stood guard with rifles over them in open pens.

The coda to this episode didn’t end with the former governor’s assassination or the famous trial of the Union mine bosses who might have ordered the hit, nor with their acquittal. Our special crazy up here might have grown out of that convoluted spectacle of injustice.

I have no idea if Richard Butler and the Aryan Nations knew this history when they came to Hayden, Idaho near Coeur d Alene. But they added to the aura we exude. We are still known for their wacko ideas, even though they are long gone. We’ve moved on to prepping for the apocalypse and wrapping ourselves in Confederate flags.

The 1990’s Ruby Ridge standoff put us back on the crazy map. Randy Weaver died this month. He survived the siege of federal gunmen on his isolated North Idaho compound, though his wife and son were killed. He too was acquitted of all charges except “failing to appear in court”. Government hasn’t learned how to handle us. Maybe we just don’t like authority.

My home, Moscow, Idaho has its own crazy streak. Indeed, one State Senator we elected to represent us called us a “cesspool of liberalism”. It wasn’t me.

I like the crazy creative twist some of our residents can exhibit.
One day over coffee at the Co-op, one of these artistic types told me of an old State Patrol car he had purchased at auction back in the day. It still had the spotlights and the black and white paint, but all the fun sirens and bubble gum lights had been stripped and it wouldn’t do 120 mph anymore.

But it sure looked official. He sported a bushy head of hair and a big scruffy beard. He appreciated the odd looks he got pulling up next to a fellow citizen at an intersection.

But apparently, he went too far when he designed and installed insignia badges on the front doors. They looked too official. A real state trooper pulled him over and told him to take them off.

They were a gold shield with black lettering: “North Idaho” on top; underneath “A State of Mind”.

No help for Souza


When Sen. Mary Souza of Coeur d’Alene decided to leave her seat and run for secretary of state, she assumed she’d have generous support from North Idaho – and especially her longtime friends on Kootenai County’s Republican Central Committee.

And why not? Former Lt. Gov. Jack Riggs was the last person from North Idaho to hold a seat in a state constitutional office, and that was 20 years ago. No one from North Idaho has held a seat on the state Land Board.

Souza was hoping to change that, and she seemed to have all the credentials that her hometown folks would want. She served eight terms in the Idaho Senate and probably would have been a lock to win a ninth term if she had run. Before that, she made her mark by aggressively challenging the spending practices and decisions by local government entities. She also backed conservative candidates in local elections.

There was nothing “liberal” about what Souza was doing back in those days, and she’s hardly viewed as a liberal in the Legislature. Except for the Idaho Freedom Foundation, that is. That organization has given Souza failing marks on its “Freedom Index,” aimed at defining conservatism.

Suddenly, Souza was not “Republican enough” for Kootenai County’s central committee. That group endorsed Rep. Dorothy Moon of Stanley, who has based her legislative career on getting near-perfect marks on the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s scorecard.

“Overnight, when my name was not chosen for endorsement, they went from being my friends and biggest supporters to not speaking to me,” Souza said.

The Coeur d’Alene senator finished a distant third in a race won by Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane.

Kootenai County wasn’t the only place where Souza received the cold shoulder. Central committees in Bonner, Boundary, Nez Perce and Shoshone counties also backed Moon and other right-wing candidates. She said the Bonneville County central committee invited Souza for a “personal” interview – after endorsing Moon and giving her $5,000.

“They thought I should go all the way to Idaho Falls to interview with them after they had already chosen their candidate,” Souza said. “That was not happening.”

Central Committees shouldn’t be the ones endorsing candidates, she said. “The voters in a Republican primary are supposed to be the vetting process. That’s why we have a primary. Some of the central committees have been taken over by libertarian/anarchists.”

Says Souza, “The Republican Party is the party of Ronald Reagan, where there are differences. But if we agree about 80 percent of the time, then we can work together. Libertarians say we have to agree 100 percent of the time, and you are a terrible person if you don’t.”

And those who don’t agree with the IFF almost down the line are viewed as a RINO (Republican in Name Only). Souza has been called that many times in the last year.

As Souza sees it, the Idaho Freedom Foundation has done much to influence people moving to Idaho to escape the liberal policies of other states. “They’re saying that ‘if you don’t vote down this line, then Idaho will end up like California, Oregon.’”

In her conversations with voters and constituents, Souza explains the diversity in Idaho. The citizen’s Legislature is a mix of people representing different cultures, geographic areas and industries. And laws passed affect parts of the state in different ways.

“The Idaho Freedom Foundation doesn’t take any of this into consideration,” Souza says. “Idaho doesn’t work that way.”

Idaho’s GOP will suffer if central committees continue to be taken over by libertarians, or the John Birch Society, she says. “They operate with intimidation and ridicule. They are mean and really dishonest, and yet they call themselves Christians. They are not Christians, I can tell you that.”

Although Souza lost her bid for secretary of state, don’t expect her to disappear from politics. She won’t say what’s next in her immediate future, but she’s not one to sit on the sidelines. As folks from Coeur d’Alene can attest, Souza is a relentless fighter. Knowing her, don’t be surprised to see her making life at least a bit uncomfortable for the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

Stay tuned.

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

Disorder and chaos


The national Republican Party in our country is dangerously close to being an actual threat to our republic.

As such, the primary elections taking place across the country are so damned important. Damned important!

It isn’t that the GOP doesn’t have some worthwhile, legitimate candidates. It does. But, the problem is having to ferret them out in a field littered by philosophical nut cases, doctrinaire-spouting weirdos, racists, jingoistic simpletons and others just plain unqualified for the offices they’re seeking.

Case in point: Idaho. Three people were in the running to be the next Secretary of State. The current one is retiring. Of the three candidates, only Phil McGrane seems to have figured out what a SoS does. The other two were exemplified by the fact that they didn’t believe Joe Biden was legitimately elected President in 2000. And they wanted to run future Gem state elections? Enough said.

In the Idaho Governor’s contest, at least three of the contenders exhibited rhetoric and used nutcase materials to show they had no idea what the duties were of the office they’re seeking. And, that included the current Lieutenant Governor who’s failed to responsibly run the Constitutional office to which she was elected two years ago. Luckily, she - and they - failed.

The various races for Secretary of State across the country may be the single most important elections to watch this year. In some states - Arizona, Georgia and several others - there is a fear that some candidates - should they be successful - would actually undermine our election process. Jiggle the numbers in future elections, as it were. Undermine legitimate outcomes not to their liking.

In Pennsylvania, a little covered but very important note. The Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board chose not to endorse candidates in several important statewide races. First time since the paper was founded in 1829. Based on face-to-face interviews and campaign appearances by a number of those running, The Inquirer said the candidates were simply not qualified for offices being sought. And that included races for governor and the U.S. Senate. In a state that is the fourth largest in the country.

Some candidates - Rep. Elise Stefanik, number three in the House GOP hierarchy - are endorsing the “great replacement” conspiracy. That nutcase, right-wing fallacy holds the White majority is slowly being diminished and replaced by Blacks, Latinos, Asians and other foreign nationals. Stefanik is far from being alone in such other worldly beliefs.

This Republic has seen thousands and thousands of campaigns for every office in the land for 250 years. Many have been filled with unqualified candidates, over-the-top rhetoric, screwball thinking and outlandish acts. Through it all, we’ve somehow survived and prospered.

But, this time it’s different. We’ve got right-wing zealots openly telling us, if elected, they’ll work to change our system of governance. They’ll use their elected authority to fundamentally alter future elections. In some cases, they’ll attack the very foundations which are the basis for our individual freedoms.

In our new Oregon home, we’ve voted. Did so by mail a couple of weeks ago. Having been out of state for several years, we had some catching up to do to get familiar with candidates in all races. The Oregon Voter’s Guide - an excellent publication - made the job easier. Every state should adopt their own versions of the well-proven Oregon system. It just plain works.

However you vote - in-person, by mail or online - this may be the most important election in our lives. Our government - our Republic - is being attacked by unqualified, conspiracy-driven and outright ignorant people, hellbent to impose their will on the rest of us. In most cases, they aren’t hard to identify. All you have to do is just listen to their unfounded screeds and check their qualifications in whatever official publications you can find. Like our Oregon Voter’s Guide.

If there ever was a time for a thoroughly informed electorate, this is it. Our freedoms are riding on the results.

Bark vs. bite


The outcome of the primary election had to be a serious blow to the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF). Many of the politicians who have danced to its tune in recent years went down to defeat, including Janice McGeachin, Priscilla Giddings, Marjorie Moon, Branden Durst, Ron Nate, Karey Hanks and Chad Christensen.

The IFF has stoked and thrived upon divisive, confrontational politics in Idaho ever since the Republican Party closed its primary in 2012. Using a suspicious rating system, the organization has sought to establish a reputation as a kingmaker amongst Idaho legislative candidates–score high on IFF’s “Freedom Index” and win, score low and lose. The more extremist IFF legislation a candidate will support, the better the rating. Many legislators were afraid to vote on a bill until learning how IFF scored it.

This election had to be an eye opener for those legislators who believed that IFF’s disapproval was the kiss of death. Several other organizations worked hard during this election cycle to show that candidates could think for themselves and overcome IFF’s scorn at the polls. The one I’m affiliated with, Take Back Idaho (TBI), endorsed a slate of candidates, including most of the statewide offices and 40 legislative positions.

Only one IFF-supported candidate, Raul Labrador, won a statewide office. Its preferred candidates lost for Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State and Superintendent of Public Instruction. IFF board member Bryan Smith lost his second bid for Congress.

The candidates endorsed by TBI were just the opposite of those who would blindly follow IFF’s lead. They demonstrated a commitment to responsible, pragmatic representation, rather than inciting and profiting from hateful conflict. Of the 40 candidates TBI endorsed, 27 won and 13 lost. Some of the races were extremely close–Scott Syme, a stellar person, lost to IFF friend Judy Boyle by just 6 votes.

Some of our losses were quite painful. Sen. Jim Woodward, a Navy veteran and excellent legislator, lost in a hate-filled, truth-deprived onslaught from his opponent.

The loss of Lawrence Wasden as Attorney General will be felt by the State for years.

It is likely that IFF’s opposition to Wasden played a part in the outcome, but a number of other dark-money groups targeted him. The Club for Growth spent almost $300,000 on a scurrilous ad campaign against Wasden, falsely claiming he was a RINO (Republican in name only). Wasden’s problem was that he took his oath of office seriously–to support the Idaho and U.S. Constitutions. When he was confronted with a situation where he could either serve his personal political interests by shading his legal opinions or honestly state the law as he was required by his oath to do, the rule of law always won. That takes true courage and dedication to his sacred duty. His detractors distorted his honest stands. In truth, Wasden was among the best AGs this State has had.

TBI intends to take an active part in each and every future primary election until the malevolent grip of extremist groups like IFF and Club for Growth is removed from our great State. Now that legislators and prospective candidates know that IFF’s bark is much worse than its bite, that time may be closer than some think.