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Posts published in “Carlson”



Dear faithful reader, friends and extended family:

It is with heavy heart I pen this note to let you know my trail ride is rapidly drawing to a close. All the sand in the hour glass of my life is about gone. Some of you may recall earlier mentions by me referencing my extraordinary good fortune in successively holding at bay for 13 years a rare form of an always fatal neuroendocrine cancer.

I was already in stage IV when diagnosed. Doctors estimated I had six months. I decided to seek a second opinion. I packaged up all my tests, my CT’s, my MRI’s, monthly blood tests, etc., and sent them to M.D. Anderson in Houston. This hospital is considered the world’s best for treating my affliction (coupled with an earlier diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease.).

To my stunning surprise they refused to see me. To their credit, they later apologized, but at the time I was pretty disgusted.

The Lord works in mysterious ways though because I ended up at the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Center. A team was assembled and an aggressive counter-attack strategy developed. Whatever we did, it worked for 13 years - a miracle of modern medicine coupled with the power of prayer.

Thus, I was able to see two beautiful grandchildren born who have extraordinary talents, as well as all our children mature and happy with fulfilling employment. I also decided to get back on the stage of Idaho politics by writing a weekly public affairs column carried by five of Idaho’s newspapers. In addition, I wrote four books, two that further amplify appropriately the unmatched legacy of the former four-term Idaho Governor and Secretary of the Interior, Cecil D. Andrus.

It was my honor and privilege to work for and with him directly for nine years and indirectly for another thirty years. He was a one-man graduate school in politics. Because he valued my counsel, through him I was able to play a major behind the scenes role in shaping the strategy that ensured protection of the Alaska lands and, specific to Idaho, shape the strategy and program that ultimately would see Idaho free of all radioactive material.

My great regret is I could not persuade him to run for the presidency in 1988. To my last breath I’ll believe he could have won and would have been terrific.

As I approach the end of the trail ride, I want to focus on the future rather than the past. Though a long-time “business Democrat,” if still around in November, I intend to vote for Brad Little for governor. He is more than qualified, has paid his dues, has criss-crossed the state, knows all the issues and now that he is out from under the shadow of Governor Otter, will be free to adopt his own approach to solving the challenges.

He is especially aware of the need for Idaho to reward its teachers through better pay and to provide more state support. He knows that all Butch and the Legislature have done these last few years is shift their cuts to over-ride levies in most of the state’s school districts.

As I look to the future, I tend to be optimistic. While Idaho will never produce another Cecil Andrus, the state will continue to put forward the Brad Littles, the Len Jordans, the “Doc” Robins, the Phil Batts. All were good conservatives, but all also recognized government had a role to play in helping those who cannot help themelves.

However, it has to be done within our means. No deficit spending and then kicking the can of debt down the road for our children and grandchildren to pay off, which is what our worthless, gutless Congress has been doing.

Besides having faith in the Idaho voter, I also put great stock in the land itself. Idaho is full of scenic wonders that inspire and restore one’s soul. Even ultra-conservatives recognize the need to preserve and protect the special places people have come to cherish.

Rather than focus on my feelings and thoughts about the fading of the light, and you can rest assured I am not going gently into the dark night, I’d rather look to the future. I believe that the sun is still rising, that Idaho’s best days are yet to come and that rising sun shines over a land and its people that I have had the privilege to be part of.

Until we meet again, travel your trail with the Almighty beside you and trust God always and in all ways.


‘Cap the money, limit the time’


Here’s a “fictional” example of how the game starts in D.C. An attorney from a prestigious law firm, like perhaps Akin, Gump, is walking down Pennsylvania Ave. and he or she runs into Washington state 5th District congresswoman, Cathy McMorris-Rodgers. They exchange plesantries and promise to meet for lunch sometime.

That is it. Elapsed time is two or three minutes.

The attorney turns around and rushes back to the office and sends a memo to the managing partner saying he or she had just come from a “meeting” with the congresswoman who by implication (since she gave the lawyer/lobbyist the time of day) reaffirmed her support for many of the firm’s clients.

This is called “maintaining the relationship” and since Ms. McMorris-Rodgers is a member of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s leadership team, this also calls for “time-value billing,” not the usual percentage of the attorney’ hourly rate of $800. The rationale is that if you solve a client’s problem with one 15 minute call that saves the client thousands of dollars, a portion of the value derived from the call is included.

Thus, the monthly bill only reads $1000 for a “meeting with Cathy McMorris-Rodgers.” Most firms today prefer the even more lucrative “retainer agreement” in which the client pays a flat fee for your services whether one uses them or not. The monthly bill then says $5000 “for services provided.”

And then the lawyer bills ALL the firm’s 15 clients because they indirectly derive benefit from the firm’s connections and stature. This is pure greed by any other name. Others may call it fraud.

And of course Ms. McMorris-Rodgers knows her name is being used but looks the other way because the law firm’s Political Action Committee as well as their client’s PAC’s, will all pony up $5000 contributions come election time. It’s called “pay to play.”

To her credit, former State Senator and Majority Leader Lisa Brown, who is running dead even in the polls with Ms. McMorris-Rodgers, refuses to accept corporate PAC money. The incumbent is of course raking in the dollars.

This unholy alliance between the lawyer/lobbyists on K Street and members of Congress is one of many things that have to change if one is serious about “draining the swamp.”

In the all too life-like television series, House of Cards, Congressman on the rise Frank Underwood, in the first episode does an aside. He is talking about his press secretary who is leaving to become a well-paid lobbyist.

Underwood looks into the camera and says his press secretary had a choice between money and power: “He chose money over power - in this town, a mistake nearly everyone makes. Money is the Mc-mansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after 10 years. Power is the old stone building that stands for centuries.”

The key to power in D.C. is a pernicious seniority system which rewards longevity but not necessarily competence. Elected public service was never envisioned by the Founding Fathers (Who favored a system of checks and balances) to be a life-time sinecure.

They understood well the siren song and that absolute power not only would corrupt absolutely but would be the end of the Republic’s embrace of democracy. The answer to this one is term limits, but not just for elected officials, for the top tier career civil service also.

One will know an Administration is serious about true change when they see the following:

1. A “wage and price control board” set up to enforce a ceiling on a lobbyists’ hourly rate and an annual cap on retainer agreements and fees, along with the elimination of success fees;
2. A five-year “no contact” rule adopted whereby a top civil servant cannot lobby their old department or agency;
3. A prohibition for former members of Congress on representing foreign governments;
4. A limit on gifts of $25;
5. No three-martini lunches nor expensive dinners; everyone pays for their own meal.
6. No bundling of charges to all clients.
7. No billing the client for billing time.

As for term limits, the following:

1. Twelve years maximum in any major elected federal office and twelve years max in any statewide office.
2. Same restrictions for elected officials as for lobbyists.
3. On political contributions by individuals as well as corporate PACs a cap of $250 per person per candidate whether given as part of a PAC’s contribution or personally. Personal contribution is credited to person signing the check---no spouse-splitting.
4. For senior civil servants, (up to Senior Executive Service—GS-14 and above) if selected, another twelve years allowed.

These suggestions would indicate a serious effort to drain the swamp because they limit the money and hopefully reduce the greed.

Two universal truths


There are two predictions I can make with some surety (though I’m all too often out in the weeds) surety.

No, it is not the inevitability of death and taxes.

The issues are these: The Catholic church will never change its position on life and will always oppose abortion on demand as well as oppose any and all changes to laws that would allow abortion in cases of rape, incest or life of the mother.

Women, 75% of whom see this as a reproductive rights bedrock issue, will never support turning the clock backwards.

If President Trunp’s next appointment to the Supreme Court is the very conservative Judge Kavanaugh, and he leads a new majority that overturns Roe vs. Wade, all hell will break loose - a clash of the immovable force and the immovable object.

The terrible swift sword of retribution will be aimed primarily at Republicans, especially Republican men. If there is one issue that a solid majority of women from all walks of life agree upon, it is reproductive rights and unfettered access.

Most folks are familiar with the old country admonition “be careful what you wish for.” In this case the question is aimed at those seeking repeal of Roe vs. Wade. Many have forgotten that if repeal occurs state law takes effect. Needless to say some of these state tweaks are far more restrictive than Roe vs. Wade.

Conservative legislators will end up in a trap of their own making. They’ll be hammered by both sides and unable to appease either.

The issue is a tough one. Governor Andrus always said he was pro-life but the proponents of overturning the ruling did not view him that way because he believed there should be exemptions for rape.incest or life of the mother.

I personally adhere to the Catholic church’s view that life begins at conception and is a continuum until natural death. I still believe, however, that the church allows for individual conscience to prevail. That tells me that if a family decides to back a daughter who has been raped or the mother’s life is at stake, the family has an absolute right to assert and select an abortion option. I cannot imagine any father ordering his daughter to carry a child to birth if the daughter has been raped by a thug and she doesn’t want to carry to delivery.

There has to be some flexibility in any beginning of life or end of life issue. The church recognizes in good faith this primacy right of one’s conscience.

The main reason Andrus vetoed the infamous HB 625 was not because he no longer viewed himself as pro-life, for he continued to see himself in that light. He too came to recognize an individual family’s right to privacy on a difficult question with no easy answer. He could care less what the Uhlencutts and the Nuxolls of the world thought.

Andrus did do one thing differently. Usually he signed or vetoed proposed new laws quickly. In this case he took his time---the full ten days--- before zapping it. He did this as a “teaching moment” for Idaho’s citizens .

It will be interesting to see how the Legislature handles this “cow pie” that will be back in their pocket.

Preconceived bias


This past weekend saw a classic example of an otherwise fine reporter filing an Associated Press story about the prospects of former State Representative Paulette Jordan (D-Plummer) to upset Lt. Governor Brad Little (R-Emmett) in this fall’s gubernatorial race.

Rather than state the obvious, that she has a snow-balls chance in hell (Little wins 65% to 35%) the reporter seems to want to throw out a lifeline of a shred of hope that it happens.

Wishing to appear balnaced and objective and to mask their bias the reporter set up a “straw dog” as the model of the typical Idaho governor---you know, one who rides a horse well or at least looks like a cowboy; a fiscal conservative who has signed the pledge not to support any new taxes, and of course a white male.

The reporter added one other wrinkle, pointing out that they should be a Mormon. Then the reporter veered of the tracks big-time by saying in effect this was the mold formed by former four-term Idaho Governor which Rep. Jordan was trying to break.

This line of malarky is a classic false syllogism which reveals the reporter’s bias and a desperate effort to create credulity for a candidate who has none.

There are several facts one sould keep in mind here. First, Andrus did indeed set the standard by which one should measure whether a gubernatorial candidate can do the job of solving problems.

There is nothing in Rep. Jordan’s record that indicates she is a problem-solver. She claims to be a leader, not a politician, but she has not lead any organization or board of directors. And not one of her legislative colleagues has endorsed her candidacy.

The reporter also took identity politics a step further by stating that Cecil D. Andrus was LDS. Wrong. He was a Lutheran. The reporter must feel that if Jordan pulls of an upset, people will appreciate it even more if they know Jordan knocked off a Mormon.

Of Idaho’s thirty-five governors only one Mormon has been elected—John V. Evans in 1978. One other, Arnold Williams, inherited the office in 1946 but was defeated later that year.

All reporters and columnists have pre-conceived biases and often write with their conclusion in mind to which they seek supporting testimony. A goood reporter will acknowledge bias but will strive for objectivity. At the end of the day though they still are subjectively writing.

So, you ask, what are some of your faithful scribe’s biases? I have a bias against:

*politicians who do not write personal thank you notes to those that help them in some way;

*politicians who while running for office claim not to be a politician but rather a leader;

*politicians who lie like Rep. Jordan did when she mislead the press claiming some support for her candidacy from legislative colleagues;

*politicians who campaign only on the internet, twittter and face-book and are afraid to walk into a town’s coffee shop and make a cold call. Instead their public events are known party gatherings;

*politicians who do not do their homework and cannot discuss an issue beyond a one-page briefer;

*politicians who support the expansion of gambling in Idaho;

*politicians who accept contributions from PACS and are ok with so-called dark money;

*politicians who do not understand federal/state relations and blindly accept unconstitutional “solutions;”

*politicians who view the office they seek as a stepping stone to even higher office;

*politicians who run for reasons of ego and hubris, rather than seeing politics as a noble calling;

*politicians who play the identity politics game, and by doing so trivialize the process and demean themselves.

*politicians who cannot even organize and run their own campaign. Why should the voter think they can administer the state?

O Canada


It was my first good laugh of the week. My oldest daughter had circulated an item that our son, an active duty Major in the US Marine Corps, had written to military colleagues in the Canadian Armed Forces. It was indeed worth sharing and she attached a comment of her own in which she stated, “This has more actual knowledge and experience to draw on than all these backroom racist keyboard warriors, mostly non-military, supporting the corrupt, morally repugnant current administration that is cozying up to Russia and North Korea in the name of nationalism”.

She added a postscript: “Our allies were there in our times of need, but how much longer will they be?”

My son wrote “With Canada Day being celebrated this week, I find myself reflecting on the sacrifices our allies have made, and continue to make, along side us during the War on Terror, not just from Canada, but from all member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Australia New Zealand US (ANZUS) accords, and all our other partnerships and alliances that are the foundation of post World War II international order.

With the faith of our allies shaken in recent weeks, it is important for our friends to remember the following:

True Americans honor their sacrifices.

True Americans don’t insult their friends.

True Americans remember we are the only nation to activate the self defense clause of these treaties after 9/11.

True Americans know that our friends to the north have paid the price in blood while answering our call for help.

So, Happy Canada Day, friends. It is an honor to serve with you, and we will see you back in the fight.”

Canada Day, on July 1st, is akin to our Fourth of July, and its essence can be seen in the thousands of family barbecue get-togethers and community pot-lucks just as in the United States.

The Seattle Mariners ace pitcher, Jimmy Paxton, hails from British Columbia, and he and his family enjoy their Canada Day get-together which often includes a family baseball game. He is proud of his Canadian citizenship and Canadians are justifiably proud of his pitching the first no hitter ever on Canadian soil which he did earlier this year against the Toronto Blue Jays..

Many Canadians are still perplexed by President Donald Trump’s ignorance of the balance of trade, which is actually slightly favorable to America. Nor was he aware that Canada is our largest trading partner with their purchases valued at $690 billion annually. Nor will they forget nor forgive Trump’s rude and insulting behavior towards their Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

It is Trump’s mercurial, unpredictable behavior along with his inveterate lying that has the military’s officer corps shaking their heads. These talented, well-educated and superbly trained young men and women know strategies, while having to be flexible, are put together carefully and for the long-term. For years joint exercises with their counter parts have been a crucial component.

Yet in the time it takes to do a tweet Trump dumps 50 years of painstaking history.

Canada of late has been reducing its defense outlays, relying more than ever on the shield provided by the United States. Likewise, the economies of the two nations are becoming more entwined. The degree to which America is starting to look to be an unreliable partner might cause the folks in Ottawa to rethink this reliance.

Canadians are also keenly aware that several times in the past America sent invasion forces to seize Canada. And as late as the 1860 s there were calls from the U.S. Senate to annex Canada. Despite past history and current events, Canada remains a true friend. Lucky for us.

I close with the Canadian national anthem, one of the finest ever penned:

Oh Canada, our home and native land,
True patriot hearts in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see the rise
The true north strong and free.
From far and wide
Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free,
Oh Canada we stand on guard for thee (repeat).

Trust all had a great 4th of July or a great Canada Day.
It’s these traditions and community gatherings that will keep us together.

Carrying a grudge too long


It is always surprising, and a bit sad when one sees another supposedly decent, mature, and thoughtful human being do something out of character beneath his standing. Usually, he or she, ends up besmirching themselves rather than the object of their metaphorical knifing they scorn.

Such is the case with Stu Eizenstat, President Jimmy Carter’s brilliant domestic policy advisor. In the waning days of the Ford Administration
during the transition to the incoming Carterites, Eizenstat was a strong advocate for federal protection of Hells Canyon.

He has just published an excellent book focused primarily on the two years he spent on the Carter campaign and his four years in the White House. To his credit he does not sugar-coat anything — gives credit where credit is due (he could have more generously shared credit), admits both his mistakes and the President’s.

It was disappointing then to see him take an unfair, undeserved shot at the late great Idaho Senator Frank Church. The item came out when Eizenstat was helping Charles Kirbo, a Carter consiglieri, vet potential Carter running mates.

It was common knowledge that Carter’s list was down to three: Church, Maine Senator Edmund Muskie and Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale. According to Eizenstat, Church was standing around with a group of Georgians “bragging” about an extended family connection with a southerner: Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, the man who split Georgia in half and burned Atlanta to the ground. He is still one of the most reviled figures in Georgia history.

The group took Church seriously and that was it. Rather than realize that it was possibly a poor effort at a bit of humor that went awry, they put the worst possible spin on it.

Anyone who knew Frank Church, knows he knew all there is to know about the Civil War. Furthermore, while Verda Barnes was around as the Senator’s chief of staff there were damn few mistakes made.

When asked about the alleged instance, Garry Wenske, executive director of the Frank Church Institute at Boise State, instantly denied it: “Not true, it never happened,” Winske stated.

Another Church staffer disputed several other facts put forth by Eizenstat. According to him the interview took place at the 1976 Democratic Convention in New York, not in Plains, and the interview was a courtesy gesture to the senior Idaho senator which he saw through right away. Given Church’s entry into the Ohio primary, which some pundits candidly viewed as a not so subtle bid to be Carter’s running mate, if true there was obviously no quid pro quo.

Despite his disappointment in being passed over, Church, unlike Eizenstat, held no grudge. At the cost of his own career, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, he guided to a one-vote victory Carter’s Panama Treaty revisions.

For several years after the pre-ordained interview was a bomb, the joke around the Senator’s office was that chief of staff Mike Wetherell blew the Senator’s chances when he stepped on Roslyn Carter’s feet while maneuvering for a photo prior to the interview starting.

So what was Church’s real sin in Stu’s eyes? It was this: Frank Church dared to run against and defeat a couple of times Jimmy Carter during his relentless march to the presidency.

As another Georgian explained to me: Anyone who knew Jimmy Carter knew that anyone on the list who had run against Carter had a snowball’s chance in hell of being selected.

Be honest, Stu, was it really necessary 42 years later to stick it to Frank Church? Even if true what did you or President Carter gain by dredging this one up?

To merge or not?


Don’t look now but a huge fly just landed in the middle of the ointment that has dogged Avista Utilities proposed sale to the Canadian owned and operated HydroOne headquartered in Toronto, Ontario.

The fly with the big stick comes in the form of the newly designated Premier, Doug Ford, the leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party, which won the June 7th election to run Canada’s largest, most populous province. A provential premier is the equivalent of an American state governor and Ontario is to Canada what California is to the U.S.A.

The 53-year old Canadian businessman takes power on June 29th and the future of the proposed merger lies in his hands. He is considered by many to be their version of the mercurial Donald Trump. Part of his pitch in the recent elections was to say, as soon as he takes office he intends to fire the CEO of HydroOne, Mayo Schmidt, and he will also replace the entire board.

He is obviously unhappy with the direction of the corporation, is outraged by the high salaries the top executives receive and believes the “hydro rate” charged consumers is too high. The fact is though the utility has nothing to do with the setting of the charge to the consumer.
Over 60% of the power used annually in Ontario comes from nuclear generation, but that generation is owned by others.

The HydroOne CEO made $6.2 million last year, leading Ford to dub him “the six million dollar man” on the campaign trail and pledge to fire him.

Last week about fifty Idahoans showed up at an Idaho Public Utilities Commission hearing in Sandpoint on the proposed merger. A slight majority appeared opposed to the merger. Unlike Ford, their issue was not Avista’s CEO Scott Morris’ salary and bonus, which on average is considerably less than Schmidt’s, their issue is foreign ownership of the the Spokane-based utility.

Insiders in a position to know say there were preliminary discussions with three other firms but only one proceeded into the due diligence stage. Thus, only one proposal went to Avista’s board.

Opponents, though, just don’t think it is right. Letters and comments are reportedly running 20 to one against the merger, which is hard for the IPUC to ignore as well as political office holders and whomever is elected governor in November.

It also reflects Avista’s failure to have developed and implemented a strategic plan to sell the merger in advance to key audiences. Some, for example, may question Morris’ salary and bonus. What they and Premier Ford should know is for years Morris has donated all his bonus to Gonzaga University, the board of trustees of which he chairs. A couple years back he outright gifted $3 million to Gonzaga.

Someone will have to tell Ford that factoid. Just like Trump, Ford never reads reports or memos. He goes with his gut.

Ford also will find out he cannot fire the CEO, only the board can do that. He can call for a new board election but cannot stack the ballot with just his backers. Others who meet the criteria may ran so Ford doesn’t even control the board. Where he stands on the merger is not known. What is known is that the contracts provide for penalties of up to $103 million for the party that abrogates the agreement.

That should give cause for pause even for Doug Ford.

Everything is supposed to be signed, sealed and delivered by mid-September. Smart bettors and investors (HydroOne is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and reportedly is seeking a listing on the New York Stock Exchange) might just sit this one out for awhile because it may be headed for the courts on both Canada and the U.S. side. You see Doug Ford really is Donald Trump Lite.

Bullying the neighbor


This past week’s clash between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump at the G7 Conference in Quebec has an historical context.

For some reason more than one American president has felt he could conduct himself boorishly towards a Canadian Prime Minister. Donald Trump is not the first nor will he be the last.

Lyndon Baines Johnson (1963-1969, the 36th president) still holds the prize for unpardonable behavior that went far beyond some insulting tweets.

During the mid-60s LBJ invited the then Prime Minister, Lester Pearson (1963-1968, the 19th Prime Minister), to be his weekend guest at Camp David. Just prior to their gathering Pearson had made some comments critical of an escalation in the Vietnam war effort undertaken by Johnson.

Pearson had barely left his helicopter to head to his assigned cabin when there came this loud voice alledgely yelling “Where is that little s.o.b.?” Johnson, who was literally a foot taller than Pearson, then walked up to Pearson and as a stunned staff and aides looked on¸ literally picked up Pearson by the lapel of his jacket, stuck his face into Pearson’s and yelled “How dare you ____ in my nest?

That has to be the nadir of the president/prime minister relationship.

Fast forward to today and Canada is America’s number one trading partner and over the years the two countries have enjoyed mutual prosperity brought on by items like the North American Free Trade Agreement. Despite this economic linkage few Americans can tell you one single fact about Canada except that it produces excellent hockey players.

Idaho shares a border with British Columbia of about 75 miles. You may think that we really don’t have a dog in any trade disputes with our neighbors to the north, but you would be wrong.

When the exchange rate is favorable many Canadians do their shopping in the Sandpoint-Coeur d’Alene-Spokane corridor. Those that grow impatient with waiting for needed surgeries under Canada’s “single-payer” health care sysem, and can afford it, come to the states for needed and timely medical procedures.

Right now there are two processes underway that all Idahoans should be following. One has to do with trade and the other with the renegotiation of the 1964 Columbia River treaty between Canada and the U.S.

After years of watching softwood timber from a subsidized forest industry in British Columbia undercut U.S.companies, the American industry sought a ruling from the Commerce Deparment that slapped a variable import duty of as much as 15% on some Canadian firms.

The Canadians immediately “challenged” the math and so the dispute is in the courts. Should the duty stay in place this willl level the playing field and should benefit firms like Idaho’s Idaho Forest Group.

Of even more importance to Idahoans is the start of renegotiations on the 1964 Coordination Agreement that has BPA working with BC Hydro to coordinate river flows and dam operations in both countries that result in maximized power sales. Of importance here are three reservoirs in Canada that all BPA customers and even private power interests bill their customers in order to pay Canada $250 to $350 million a year for access to the stored water when needed.

Americans think they are paying too much and Canadians think they are not paying enough for the access. Negotiators have many other issues to iron out, such as flow levels that would enhance salmon migration. They have until the current treaty’s expiration date of 2024.

My money is on Canada emerging with an even stronger hand simply because they control the upstream.

My money is also on Justin Trudeau’s cool and smarts prevailing over Trump’s bluster and ignorance. Trudeau will take a multifaceted team approach commensurate with the complexities of trade tariffs whereas Trump will remain a one man band.

Trudeau and company easily grasp the salient fact that both America’s and Canada’s economies are so closely integrated, and will grow ever more so, that attempts to levy tariffs by either side is tantamount to shooting yourself in your foot.

One other thing for sure: you won’t see Trump trying to pick up Trudeau by the lapel of his jacket. Trump and his boorish conduct probably guaranteed Trudeau’s re-election next year also.

Lame ducks


At its most basic level politics is all about power¸who has it and who doesn’t.

One of politics' sad sights is an elected official who has been defeated at the polls but his term still has six months to go. It also applies to those appointed to a high public service position, such as a university president, or a top executive in a corporation who is asked to stay on the job until a successor is found.

Such individuals are known as lame ducks. They can no longer fly but are still expected to strut.

On May 25th University of Idaho President Chuck Staben penned a note e-mailed to the entire Vandal world making him the lamest of lame ducks. He revealed his change in status but indicated he would be there through the coming academic year. Neither he nor the board would say whether he was fired or resigned.

He went out of his way to say his departure had nothing to do with the on-going investigation by the university into the Athletic department’s handling of two sexual harassment complaints to which they allegedly did not respond. (The Moscow Police some say were the first to fumble the ball.)

A few days later though the University quietly reported the administrative leave of Athletic Director Rob Spear had been extended as the school’s internal investigation was taking longer than expected. There are those who think that regardless of the outcome Spear is toast, a victim of not what did you know and when did you know it but rather shouldn’t you have known sooner.

That question is perhaps better directed at Staben rather than Spear whom I personally believe did nothing wrong and hope the final report exonerates him.

While Staben apologized for breaking his pledge to stick around following his weird bid for the presidency of the University of New Mexico four years into his time as the Vandal leader, many felt the board left him little choice once they refused the standard one year contract extension. UNM appears to be in no better shape than Idaho but why was he that desperate to get out of Moscow unless the board had given signals of unhappiness.
Of course no one wants to work for a lame duck so what little talent that remains has to be dusting off the resume. Why the board signed off on this is a mystery. One would expect they would cut their loss, buy up what remains of his contract and send him packing.

From this vantage point the board appears culpable regarding many of the current problems.

This has to be the nadir of the University of Idaho’s decline, especially from a leadership standpoint. I used to think that day came a few years back when the ethically challenged board chair, Blake Hall of Idaho Falls drove off the talented Tim White who today just happens to be the Chancellor of the entire California State University system.

Maybe Staben faced impossible challenges but his tin ear to the politics of Idaho didn’t help. He is a decent person but no leader and in the wrong job. Declining state support and large increases in student fees have many parents questioning the value of a U of I degree. Staben has seemed helpless before the incoming tide.

Why anyone would want to succeed him is a good question. The U of I has had a few years of stability and solid leadership in the past before it became clear their “flagship” role was being supplanted by a rising Boise State.
From 1965 to 1989 two presidents, Ernie Hartung and Richard Gibb held the fort. No one in Moscow though recognized they were about to be sliced and diced by several well thought out and well executed strategic plans by Boise State capitalizing on its assets.

Today finds Boise State extending its search for a new president not yet finding the right fit. One can bet though they’ll find the right fit and he or she will be very good. In the meantime Idaho State’s board has snagged the best rising in-state talent.

Attracting BSU CEO Kevin Satterlee bodes well for their future and his resume reveals he spent six years as a deputy attorney general assigned to be counsel to the board of education. It’s a good bet he understands both the board’s politics and the state’s. He has ties to southeast Idaho as well.

His law degree is from the University of Idaho but his undergraduate degree is from, you guessed it, Boise State. It used to be the state’s GOP leadership and office-holders were Vandals: Phil Reberger, Dave Leroy, Dirk Kempthorne, Jim Risch, Robie Russell, and Brad Little. All but Little are now in their 70s and are almost off the stage.

There’s no upcoming Vandal coming off the bench. There’s plenty of Bronco’s getting ready. What do you expect though from a leaderless university drifting into mediocrity?

Cry, beloved University of Idaho. Cry.