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Posts published in April 2023

Simple error, complex reasons

Brent Regan, the Kootenai County Republican chair who has pushed some of the most extreme politics in the state, correctly nailed a key problem with an important bill passed and signed into law during the last legislative session, and very much needs a fix.

House Bill 138 was intended to merge into one date the state’s primary elections. Putting aside the merits of that basic idea, what the bill was not intended to do was to eliminate the state’s presidential primary election. The way it was written, however, that is apparently what it did.

How did this happen?

Regan outlined the situation in a recent comment: “The stated intent was to move the presidential primary to May but what ACTUALLY happened is the March presidential primary was stricken from the law but NOT added to the May primary. Even the definition of what ‘Presidential primary’ means was stricken from the law. Oops.” Oops indeed.

And he added, “This is what happens when you rush legislation (through) the process without first building consensus and support.”

Well, yes on that too, and his comment was effectively seconded and expanded upon by Governor Brad Little (with whom Regan has had more than a few issues). During the legislative session, the governor said, bills for a long time didn’t start appearing in number - “My bill box was empty for the longest period of time” - and when they did show up, they came in a big pile, which didn’t allow as much time for reviewing them as the governor should have had.

Why did this happen?

It’s partly a management issue and partly a resource issue.

Legislative leaders are in charge of making sure work is pushed through the system in an efficient and effective way, and getting that done each year (it’s an age-old leadership challenge) takes specific planning and intent. But blaming what happened this year, with the primary bill and other things,  on the legislative leaders seems narrow and facile: These are the same group of leaders, mostly, that the Idaho Legislature has had for many years.

The situation is not entirely unusual, and it feeds to a degree on human nature. Part of it is structural. Toward the beginning of a session, time for getting things done seems to spread out almost limitlessly: Why rush? Until you get to the (somewhat arbitrary) end line, and some approaching panic starts to kick in.

If enough bills aren’t dealt with - either passed or killed - early on, you wind up with what the legislature encountered and the governor complained about this year: A too-big mountain of bills handled in a rush, allowing for all too many errors to make their way through the process.

But this session that too may have been exacerbated by the number of potentially significant (meaning here, incipient statewide controversies) pieces of legislation bottled up in committee levels, notably in the House Education Committee. You can see angry discussions of House Ed surfacing as some of the more extreme House members recap the session, in terms suggesting that committee may itself be a target for conflict in the next session. During the last session, the splits among members of the House Republican caucus may have led to a variety of unexpected outcomes - not all of them necessarily bad - in the last session.

There’s a tendency to think that when one group has overwhelming control of an organization, things flow smoothly and according to plan. That construct suffers from the unwritten rule that the larger a majority is, the more it tends to split - and the Idaho House Republicans surely have become a great example of that.

Which is a long way of saying that while the errors in the primary election bill, which may be serious enough to result in a special session, are relatively simple, the reasons they happened are anything but simple, or easily resolved.


Our Attorney General is trying for a mulligan from his office in our House of The People down there in Boise. That’s what we get when we elect bullies. They shoot off their mouths, and then expect us to pay for it.

Let me catch you up. An AG’s opinion letter sent to Idaho Representative Brent Crane last month was made public. In it, our new AG, Raul Labrador, stated that a doctor who “referred” a patient across state lines to access abortion care would be guilty of a felony. Further, a doctor who prescribed medication for an abortion for an Idahoan to pick up across state lines would also be felonious.

This “AG analysis” as his signed letter heading indicates, hit the national news and in a few days our AG decides he didn’t really write it. It turns out he, or his staff figured out the analysis was requested by Crane for fundraising, rallying the troops, purposes, so he announced the analysis had never happened. It was “rescinded”.

Still, the alarm bells went off for some folks, mainly the ACLU, and now our AG is spending time defending this letter that he claims was never written in Federal Court. Isn’t that where we want our state’s lawyer spending time? Defending an analysis, he says now he didn’t even write in federal court? I’ll bet some of us do. I doubt AG Labrador serves in the Militia for the Unborn. But I know he wants their votes.

This militia is well organized. I remember getting called out of a room when I first started to practice long ago in Idaho by my nurse. “There’s somebody on line 4 that wants to talk to you.” It was the old days, and I could recognize a long-distance call by the static on the old land lines.

“Doctor Schmidt, will you be providing abortions?”

She waited for my answer.

This last week in the clinic where I work now there were two people scheduled to see me whom I did not know. The reason for the visit was in the computer as “discuss family planning”. I wondered, were they sent to entrap me? Did they want to get me to mention a clinic across state lines where they could access the care unavailable to them in this state? And then would they share this information with our state Attorney General? And would the state troopers roll up as I’m having a beer with dinner?

When asked to clarify his “analysis” by reporters, our Attorney General refused. He did not say this analysis was wrong, he just said it hadn’t happened.

I guess that’s how my fellow Idahoans want this to play out. Only legislatively approved care can be provided by doctors. Really?

It’s going that way with all the hot button issues. Abortion, transgender care, what is next? What kind of personal care will come under the scrutiny of our legislature and the analysis of our AG?

Could a twenty-year-old man request a vasectomy?

Can a 42-year-old woman request fertility treatment?

Can a 95-year-old man get Viagra?

I understand the passion of the Militia for the Unborn. They see the lives to be saved. And what’s a little arson, or a sniper round to save these fetuses?

And now, we have the full power of the government, the state, the marble-halled Capitol, the Peoples House, coming into this conversation.

I talked with the young women about their choices for family planning. I tried to understand their needs, their situation. I decided not to fear that I might be prosecuted. But I considered this going into the room.


Not backing away from guns

If the National Rifle Association’s annual convention is an indication of where Republicans are in presidential politics, the party’s nomination practically is a foregone conclusion. Former President Trump will win, hands down.

Former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, an NRA board member since 1982, said delegates at the recent convention in Indianapolis made it clear where they stood.

Others made strong impressions, including former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sent a recording that was well received and a smattering of boos greeted former Vice President Mike Pence. But it was Trump’s show, and he continues to thrive in the wake of an indictment filed by the Manhattan prosecutor.

“Trump was Trump,” Craig told me. “He played to the crowd and the crowd played back. They were there to see their president.”

And while the NRA is a non-partisan lobbying group, at least officially, there are good reasons for NRA members to support Trump. Yes, there are some – including Craig – who wish Trump had a more diplomatic style, but there’s no question about his commitment to NRA issues.

“He was the first presidential candidate that we fully endorsed in 2016,” Craig said. “He pledged that he would build a pro Second Amendment court, and he delivered.”

Meanwhile, NRA and Democrat leaders are no closer to resolving the gun debate, or coming up with “common sense” legislation to to curb the wave of gun violence. There have been more than 160 mass shootings in the U.S. this year – and it’s only April. With frustrations and anger at a fever pitch, Craig says he understands the calls for Congress to do something – anything – to stop the bloodshed.

“And politicians, being politicians, want to show they are doing something even if it doesn’t have any consequence,” Craig says. “We have common-sense gun laws … all the laws we have are based on that. There isn’t anyone in the NRA, or any law-abiding citizen, who wants a person to use a gun with the intent to cause harm. But the problem is lack of enforcement of the laws that are on the books. For instance, do all states immediately feed their information to the FBA data base for automatic background checks? No. And there are frustrations of a wide-open southern border and immigration policy, where some criminals are coming into the country.”

Beyond that, he says, “We have a cultural civil war that is going on in our country right now, and it has built a lot of anger and frustration as the left moves further to the left and the right moves further to the right. What people expect from government is to stay out of our private lives, enforce laws and keep us safe. When people don’t think that law enforcement will keep them safe, they take steps on their own to protect themselves and their families.”

So, guns have become the ultimate security blanket. But do people really need weapons, such as an AR-15? Well … try to take them away, Craig says.

“How are you going to collect them? How are you going to take them off the street? In Idaho, are you going to assign the National Guard to go door to door and ask for them? The answer is that the guard won’t allow it and the governor won’t order them to do it. Then we get down to state’s rights … some states will and some won’t. So now it comes to the individual … and some people will start shooting if federal agents come to the door.”

As for the prospect of banning the sale of assault weapons, Craig says, one problem is defining what an assault weapon is. “Any weapon used to kill another human can be viewed as an assault weapon.”

For law-abiding citizens, an AR-15 is a nice addition to a gun collection. But it’s a popular weapon for crazed shooters seeking 15 minutes of fame on the news networks and wanting to go out in a blaze of glory. Gun violence may be part of a cultural war, as Craig suggests, or maybe it’s the end result of what happens during the transition from pandemic lockdown to “normal” living.

Either way, there are no easy answers, culturally or politically. Of course, there’s something already on the books that should cover everything related to gun violence.

Intentionally killing another person, by whatever means, is against the law – punishable by death or life in prison.

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


Love or shoot thy neighbor

We have several guns at our house.

Two - a .38 pistol and a .22 pistol.  I inherited when my father died.  Never have fired either one.  Both are unloaded and the bullets - if we still have them - are someplace in the house.

The third firearm is a 12-gauge I bought when we were traveling in RV's for several years.  Haven't fired it either and am not sure where the shells are.  If we have any.

That's how it is with us.  Firearms just aren't all that important.  If someone broke in and I wanted to "defend-life-and-homestead," that defense would have to start with a search for both weapon and ammunition.  It'd take awhile to get 'em together. An interloper would obviously have to be very patient.

We live in a 55+ community with homes on narrow lots very close to each other.  On one side of our "homestead," there's a family with two boys.  They were "grand-fathered" in when the 55+ was added.

One of the boys is about eight.  He spends a lot of time, kicking a soccer ball around his small yard.  Occasionally, he overdoes it and the ball ends up in our yard.

When he comes to the door to ask if he can retrieve his errant ball, I've never had the urge to shoot him.  Not once.

His older brother - a teen - occasionally walks through our small front yard as he goes from bus stop to home.  I've never been overcome with  a feeling he needs to be killed for stepping on our grass.  Not once.

Besides, by the time I got the weapon and the ammo together in the same place, he'd be halfway through an after-school video.  I'd have to go over to his house, ring the bell and ask him to come back into our yard.  Just too much effort expended on my part.

Guy living on the other side of us is a 55+ neighbor who occasionally has overnight female company.  So, we have a strange car parked in front of our house every so often.  I haven't thought of shooting out the windows or lying-in-wait to kill the owner.   Just never occurred to me I had to "protect" our property because of his love life.

Such stories have been in the news lately.  Involving people for whom firearms have a greater "importance" in life.  People with firearms shooting others for small "violations" of personal space.  Like turning around in a stranger's driveway .  People to whom guns and ammunition have a higher level of importance than their neighbor's lives.  People who have not given much thought to Rodney King's plea "...Can't we all just get along?"

Guns in the hands of apparently unbalanced - or socially impaired - individuals are all over our news these days.  Kids killed.  Old folks killed.  Teens at a "Sweet 16" birthday party where four are shot to death and 34 - THIRTY-FOUR - are wounded!

Scribes and critics say our nation is "scared," "frightened."  Of what?

Of whom?

Violence with firearms, fitting the official description of "mass shootings" now occurs in our country about once a week.  That means at least three or more people died, mostly for no reason other than they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Killed.  Violently.

What the Hell is going on?

No country in the world - countries with people and guns - has the mass-killing numbers of the good ol' US-of-A.  You can stack up the next eight country's statistics for mass-murder against ours and still not be close.  What the Hell is it with us?

And there's this.

One of the things that scares me most about our current trend of guns and violence against our fellow beings is, when there is an unwanted trend in anything, the pendulum always swings back.  And it almost always goes too far in the other direction.

What is "the other direction" when it comes to killing people?  Could it be a judicial crackdown of extreme sentencing of offenders? A government-backed effort to confiscate firearms while ignoring the reach of the Second Amendment?  How will the country "self-correct" to whatever we call "normal?"  When?

Many states now allow "concealed carry" without a license or a whit of firearms training.  How many folks carry a gun in the car when traveling?  Just tuck a pistol under the front seat.   How many folks have a shotgun behind the front door at home?  Which lady at the bar is "carrying?"

We live in a time of having to be careful in our daily outings.  Whether to church, shopping, banking, schools or just being somewhere in a public setting.  We need to be careful at all times.

Now, when at the grocery store, I keep in mind where I would hide if gunfire broke out in the vegetable area.  I actually think about it and look for that safe place.  If there is one.

And, God, I hate myself for doing that!


A risk of discipline

Idaho’s new Attorney General, Raul Labrador, pledged during the election campaign that he was going to represent the people, not the bureaucracy. Voters seemed to assume this was just campaign rhetoric and that he would settle down after the election to do the work required of the Attorney General–to faithfully advise and represent the state government. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. Labrador has shown a decided preference for representing his friends and supporters, regardless of the interests of the state. He has been helping “his people,” rather than “the people.”

The only reason Idaho has an AG is to serve the people as the lawyer for their government, which is sometimes called the bureaucracy. Under our system of representative government, the “people” means the government of Idaho and its officers and agencies. When Idaho’s Constitution was being fashioned in 1889, one delegate said that the Attorney General “has to be the adviser of all state officers.”

Section 67-1401 of the Idaho Code sets out the duties the AG swears, upon oath, to carry out for the state. Chief among them is “to perform all legal services for the state” and its officials and agencies. All of them are his clients and he is obligated under the Idaho State Bar’s ethical rules–the Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct (IRCP)--to act in their best legal interests. The rules require all lawyers, including the AG, to act with undivided loyalty toward their clients and to take no action adverse to client interests without first obtaining written client consent. Any lawyer violating these duties, including the AG, can expect disciplinary action by the Bar, up to and including disbarment.

One of Labrador’s first acts was to dismiss a trespassing charge against one of his prominent supporters. He was supposed to be the people’s prosecutor in that case but he acted in favor of his supporter who was charged with violating the people’s law.

More recently, Labrador has taken action against some of his own clients in apparent violation of his oath and Bar ethical rules. Labrador served long lists of demands for records upon the Director of the Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) and two other employees, without any prior notice or legal justification. The action appeared to have been instigated by the Idaho Freedom Foundation and egged on by a publication called the Idaho Tribune. That publication headlined a March 22 article, “ KINDERGATE: Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Caught Misappropriating $30M Tax Dollars — Insiders Say Scandal May Lead Back To Governor’s Office,” in an apparent attempt to besmirch the Governor. One might wonder if this is a prelude to another Labrador shot at the Governor’s office.

The IDHW director filed an action in district Court to nip Labrador’s aggressive action in the bud—a strange thing to be forced to do because of the misconduct of his own official lawyer. The Director then revealed that Labrador had been hounding him for records about a child protection case involving another Labrador pal, Diego Rodriguez. Mr. Rodriguez, a sidekick of Ammon Bundy, is the grandfather of the child, whose parents have indicated an intent to sue the state for damages. The Director rightly refused to hand over the records because of Labrador’s clear-cut conflict of interest.

It is unknown why Labrador would repeatedly risk disciplinary action for taking the side of his friends and supporters over the interests of his clients, but it is extremely troubling. There may be other concerning situations that have not yet come to public attention. It is hoped that at some point Labrador will acquaint himself with the laws and rules that govern his new position and decide to scrupulously observe them.


The campaign for open primaries

The 2024 campaign has begun for at least one item that may be on next year’s general election ballot: a constitutional amendment that would change the state’s primary election of 2026.

I saw the early shot in this campaign in my email in-box, in a missive from the group All Oregon Votes. The “Big endorsements for All Oregon Votes!” were significant enough to draw attention, including former legislator and gubernatorial candidate Betsy Johnson and the group Veterans for Political Innovation. Johnson’s comment was, “Damn near half the state’s voters are independents. They ought to have an equal voice in our democracy.”

The campaign’s web page leads with an arresting statistic. In last year’s primary election, the top two candidates for governor, Democrat Tina Kotek, now in the office, and Republican Christine Drazan, together won votes from just 12.3% of all the registered voters in the state. Of course, other competitors in the party primary won several percentage points more, but only about 30% of the voters were even involved in selecting those two nominees. Most registered voters were on the outside looking in as either non-aligned or members of other parties.

In many ways, Oregon,  with its almost automatic voter registration and its vote by mail system,  has some of the most open voting processes in the country. It is in the minority of states, however, that allow only Democrats to vote in Democratic primary elections and Republicans to vote in Republican primaries.

The proposed Petition 2024-16 would apply to all state and federal offices except president and vice president, and would allow all candidates to appear on the ballot “regardless of whether the candidate is or is not affiliated with a political party.” It would also and allow all voters – whether or not members of a party – to choose any single candidate for each office. That could mean, for example, voting in the primary for a Republican nominee for the U.S. House, for a Democratic nominee for governor and a non-aligned candidate for the Legislature.

It’s not an unprecedented approach. Washington state operated under a somewhat similar system that allowed for each major party (with a candidate appearing in the primary) to be represented on the November ballot by its top primary vote-getter. That system was ended by a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

This cycle isn’t the first time the idea of changing this has come up. A similar proposal was offered in 2021 for the next election, but it came up short and never reached the ballot. Oregon for decades has had closed primaries, and neither major party has made any move toward changing that.

Might voters approve the idea next year?

The Betsy Johnson endorsement, along with some significant group endorsements early on – the deadline for submitting enough petition signatures isn’t until next summer – gives it a decent chance. Neither major party has expressed any interest in opening their primaries.

If they did, they might see some improvement with what has become a persistent problem for both: the need to appeal to the philosophical edges of their parties and away from the centers. Johnson’s gubenatorial campaign last year directly addressed that point, and although she wound up in a distant third place, the point about a lack of appeals to the center did hit home for quite a few voters.

Oregon also is one of the states with the largest portion of voters not a member of either party, and that portion is growing. All Oregon Votes points out that while just over a third of voters register as Democrats, and just under a quarter as Republicans, 41.7% register as something else – and so have no involvement in the critical phase of selecting party nominees. And that percentage has been growing.

Several states have seen significant debates over this. Idaho for decades allowed all voters in a primary election to choose any party’s ballot (but just one) for voting. In 2010 the state Republican Party decided to limit voting in its primary to people registered as Republican, and a federal court decision the next year held the party could impose the requirement. That rule has been the subject of contention since, even as a number of Republican activists have loudly complained about Democrats and non-aligned voters registering as Republicans to influence its primary results. (Analyses of votes have suggested those crossovers exist but their numbers are small.)

Those debates implicate the question of what a major political party is, whether simply private aggregations of voters or semi-public, though technically private, organizations that effectively control the channels of representative democracy. It may also raise the issue of how well the two major parties are representing the mass of Oregon voters.

If All Oregon Votes and its allies push their case more firmly this election cycle than in the last, the opportunity could align for a decision on that.


The law doesn’t reach me

In May last year, St. Luke’s Health System filed a lawsuit against then-candidate for governor Ammon Bundy and several of his organizations, alleging harassment and defamation.

The cross-accusations need no recounting here, but the progress of the lawsuit - or the lack of progress - does.

The point of complying with the terms of a lawsuit was set out clearly enough last year, when St. Luke’s CEO, Chris Roth, said, “It is important for us to stand up to the bullying, intimidation and disruption, and the self-serving and menacing actions of these individuals, for the protection of our employees and patients, and to ensure our ability to serve our community. St. Luke’s has not been the only target of these individuals and believes that no one should be subject to such abuse. Inaction would signal this type of behavior is acceptable in our community. It is not.”

A lawsuit like the one his organization pursued would be the legally appropriate way to right the balance.

Not much forward motion has been made on that case in the near-year since, though, since Bundy hasn’t shown up in court or apparently even responded to the lawsuit at all.

Law requires that county deputies serve legal papers like those filed in this case, but Bundy would have none of it. One news report gave this account of an encounter from a sheriff’s deputy from the viewpoint of Bundy himself: “I came out the door near him and chased him out of the storage area demanding that he get in his vehicle and leave. He did, but the second deputy wanted to confront me. Nose to nose I demanded that he leave my property immediately and never come back.” Private companies that handle process serving which were engaged by St. Luke’s apparently haven’t gotten through either.

In another account posted online, Bundy said he, “did tell deputies to get off my property and not come back,” but didn’t threaten violence. But local law enforcement seems to have gotten a clear contrary message. Gem County Sheriff Donnie Wunder apparently was spooked by the ferocity, and initially declined to send out another deputy: “My concern is with the safety of process servers and my deputies. I do not want to risk harm over a civil issue.”

Finally, on Tuesday, Ada County Judge Lynn Norton apparently had enough, declaring probable cause that Bundy had committed contempt and ordered him held in custody under bond. The sheriff evidently has agreed to return to Bundy and get the job done.

The case is scheduled for trial on July 10.

And here we have the candidate for governor who, had he been elected, would have been responsible for upholding the laws of the state. Can you imagine how that might have gone?

True, he didn’t come close to winning. But Bundy has become a significant cultural figure. In last November’s election he received 101,835 votes - far shy of the number needed to win but enough to show that, in Idaho at least, he has a significant following. If he could get away with defying the law as he has, how many more cases of direct defiance will Idaho have to cope with in the months and years ahead?

An attorney representing St. Luke’s remarked at a recent court proceeding, reflecting on Bundy’s no-shows at court, “I think it’s impossible not to conclude that, absent Mr. Bundy having some consequences for his actions, it will just continue.”

He was right.

No one wants another Randy Weaver incident - the memory of that 1993 standoff doubtless has some people concerned - but if we want to live in a safe society, one governed by law rather than by waving guns (or the threat of same) in each others’ faces - then this kind of behavior has to be brought to an end.



The wind out of the west was chill and biting on Dale’s face. He pulled the collar on his camo coat up. Patrol could be boring, but they’d gotten an alert about a grey van possibly heading their way.

Dale looked back west at the roadblock, manned by his fellow militiamen. This two-lane highway didn’t have a lot of traffic. But it headed west to a heathen state, so the Militia for the Unborn patrolled it. He was here to save lives.

He regretted missing his son’s basketball game that night. But when he’d joined the Militia, and the legislature gave them the marching orders, he knew this cause was righteous. He accepted the sacrifice. He’d known this cause was worthy all along, but now they could act.

That time they’d crossed the border and set fire to that abortion clinic had been an unofficial act. He knew they were breaking a law in that neighboring heathen state, but Dale believed there were higher laws than the laws of man. Still, when the laws of man sanctioned their actions, he did feel a warm comfort. It felt good to be in a righteous state where he could serve the unborn.

His alert gaze swept back east as he saw a grain truck approach. He radioed down to his comrades. They got up and stood by their barricades in a semblance of attention as the semi barreled past.

Nothing for a while. The property taxes coming due filtered into his mind. How was he going to pay them? Maybe sell that old snowmobile. Might get enough if Craigslist panned out.

He couldn’t get anybody to help with the plumbing business, so that money had been getting short. Doug, his old helper was doing a rider for meth, and he couldn’t get anybody to do the crawlspace work. Dale looked down at his girth and sadly smiled. That belly ain’t getting under a house. He patted it fondly. Hell, it even made kitchen sink repairs tough.

Still nothing coming.

Jenny had said she’d take the three little ones and go to Hiram’s game. He needed the support. The other parents would accept Dale’s sacrifice. Maybe not all of them. He got a sense some thought he was not doing God’s work out here on patrol. Their weakness didn’t trouble him too much.

A red sedan came into view, and he radioed to his comrades. They put up the barricade and shouldered their arms. The sedan slowed. Dale watched from the hill, ready to provide back up. He hoped to be on the barricade next tour. They were due to be relieved tomorrow by the Freedom Militia.

He watched the commander approach the driver’s side as the other two brought their weapons to ready. He couldn’t hear anything from this distance and the wind was just enough to whistle in his ears. Nobody got out. The barricades moved back with the commander’s signal, and the sedan moved on slowly. I guess no one of childbearing age was inside.

That was the protocol. Look for the women who could be bearing. They had the pee sticks in their pockets. And they had the bottled water. Sometimes it took twenty minutes for the lady to get the stick wet. Then you read the lines and make your determination. One lady tried spitting on the stick, but now we make them squat in front of the car so we can be sure.

The red sedan was going really slow, not gunning off to make up for lost time. Dale thought that odd. He stared at it too long and didn’t catch sight of the gray van until it was on the straight heading toward the roadblock. The folks from the sedan had gotten out and were going back to the trunk.

Weapons came out.


Institutionalized forgetfulness

One of the best things about the aging process is it brings a much improved perspective about life and other things we lacked when we were younger.

At our house, over the last several years, we've been dealing with some health issues not uncommon when you grow more rings on your trunk. So far, we've won more battles than we've lost.

At eight decades plus six, having dealt with issues that could've ended life, it's not uncommon to reflect on where you are and how you got there. Long memory can make small things that happened many years ago seem more important than you realized back then. Conversely, it can make things that happened 70 years ago, which seemed life-ending at the time, hard to remember. Ah, teenage angst.

Recently, long memory and tradition combined to cause me some of that angst with what passes for "informed media" these days. We live in the Portland "metro area." Half a dozen TV stations, 14+ radio and several newspapers online.

But news? NEWS?

A year ago last December 7th, we were living in the Phoenix area with many more media outlets. Not a word about the 81st year commemoration of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Not one word! And, in that media market, there's a very large military base and many thousands of retired military.

Before that disappointing ignorance of our national history, there was another. November 23, 1963. The day John Kennedy was assassinated. Not a word. Not one word!

Now, I admit, to the child practitioners of what passes for media these days, both events were likely "ancient history." Things learned about in their teens along with the Civil War and Viet Nam. Just something "back there."

Well, the difference is there are still a lot of us old folk around who lived through Pearl Harbor and the Kennedy assassination. We remember where we were, who we were with and how shocked we were at those times. The killing of nearly three-thousand military and civilians on a single Hawaiian Sunday morning and the murder of a president are indelibly preserved in the minds of millions of us. They're not "back there." Their details are not "ancient history." Each incident still evokes sadness and anger. Neither has been relegated to remote, dusty files. Not for us.

One of the failures of today's simplistic journalism is the rabid desire for the new, the different, the "first-with-what's-next" syndrome - the surface treatment of stories. Hard news - whether today's details or those of significant national history - need more attention than it gets. Thanks to the hiring of media "consultants," who are short on hard news knowledge and long on fancy "likeability" polling, news value is often replaced by news fluff.

I've long criticized university journalism schools as the wrong place to develop a good reporter. Any damned fool can be taught to write. What's missing in most "J" school grads is something that can't be taught. A trait ALL really successful media folks share. Curiosity. You show me a curious person and I'll show you someone that can learn to write. Curiosity first. Writing second.

As our nation skews to a preponderance of other cultures, other religions, other national histories, it will be even more important for news people to be grounded in those new realities. Our country is becoming more than just the ancestors of the Caucasian Pilgrims. We're becoming a human "Joseph's coat" of many colors, languages and ethnic backgrounds. We'll no longer be a majority of any particular race but rather a mix of many. And that's what this country is about.

For a top notch, professional journalist/reporter in the future, this new reality will present some challenges. One will be the need to really KNOW these new Americans. Their social and political histories. Their important cultural and religious traditions. What issues and needs are - or were - important. Whatever is important to them will need to be important to the people who report on their lives. And to the rest of us.

These new realities - these new demands - won't be served by a media that can't remember JFK's murder and acknowledge it appropriately. They won't be served by ignoring the Japanese attacks that started a world war in which hundreds of thousands died and millions more were involved and let the date go by unnoticed. Or September 11, 2001. Viet Nam. Desert Storm. Sandy Hook. Nashville.

The new reality will be the media will have to know each of the different strains that'll make up this demographically changed America. That'll require more knowledge of the dates, names and places important to their audience. All will have to deal with a broader scope of viewer/reader interests if the media itself is to remain relevant.

As long as a great many people are still alive who were living when these major events happened, those moments won't be "ancient history." They'll be remembered - personally felt - like the national and life changing events they were.

It is - and will be - the media's job to remember, too.