Writings and observations.

carlson CHRIS


In April I listed ten suggested reforms that would assist learning by students from the student perspective. This week I’m offering thoughts on suggested reform actions from the standpoint of teachers and school administrators.

1) Allow teachers to maintain discipline. Teachers are in the classroom to teach, not baby-sit. If a student is being disruptive and a teacher tosses the person from the class the supervisor or principal has to back the teacher up. Zero tolerance for disruptive behavior and no second chances. Teachers should instill in students that public education is a privilege not an entitlement.
2) Significantly decrease the load on teachers that comes from having to fill out too many “process forms.”
3) Provide teachers with more “prep time.”
4) Require teachers to take more pre-teaching college classes in history and the humanities and fewer classes in educational theory or psychology.
5) Since Idaho does not and probably never will pay its teachers a decent salary, mandate that every teacher, including coaches on the teaching faculty take a fully paid sabbatical every fifth year to recharge the batteries. Teaching, done correctly, is very demanding and draining. Burnout can occur frequently. This would at least give Idaho a unique offering with which to attract new teachers. Which leads to the next item;
6) Strengthen teacher recruiting and retention programs.
7) Require teachers to participate with each of their “homeroom” students in a semi-annual review of the student’s Planned Path to the Mastery of Common Core Knowledge.
8) Evaluation of a teacher’s skill and success in teaching should be based on extensive in-class observation and not on test results.
9) Evaluation of teachers should require above the 7th Grade a student evaluation component and allow for but not require parental input.
10) Campuses should be weapon-free environments except for police hired to provide security in their “spare time” or a hired and trained armed security force. Neither teachers nor students should be allowed to carry on a school campus.

Here are my suggestions for public school administrators:

1) Periodic rotation back to the classroom so as to keep abreast of the in-class challenges facing teachers today.
2) Taking the lead in advocating for teachers before school boards, PTA’s and the public, especially in support of enforcing discipline, adopting a performance based system instead of a time-oriented credit system, and supporting flexible learning time.
3) Require all administrators and principals to undergo media training so as to be better at conveying messages to the public through the media, especially if a school is in a crisis mode.
4) Support teacher mentoring programs.
5) Provide more but shorter “CLE” courses for teachers.
6) Integrate the non-teaching workforce into the system in each district and provide opportunities to expand their participation as teacher aides or additional resources for special projects. Some bus drivers, for example, in some districts, are well-educated themselves and represent an untapped resource.
7) Administrators should be required to attend a certain number of school board meetings each year so as to better understand the challenges a district is facing and to minimize the us vs. them atmosphere.
8) Administrators should have as part of their evaluation a “community participation” requirement – they should join and actively participate in at least one local organization, such as a Chamber, Kiwanis Club, Elk’s Club, American Legion, etc.
9) All administrators should support a no extra-curricular trip more than eight hours away from the school. It’s getting ridiculous seeing, for example, high school basketball teams entail the expense as well as discriminate against the students from less financially secure families by scheduling themselves into holiday tournaments in states like California or Texas.
10) Administrators should be required to conduct extensive background checks on any new hires recognizing that it is difficult due to privacy rules to really develop a profile of a new hire without professional assistance.

There you have it: ten rules for students, ten for teachers and ten for administrators. If all were adopted and integrated into each and every school district I guarantee more learning would take place.

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carlson CHRIS


Saw a news item a few weeks ago that could be exhibit A regarding
what educators are calling a Common Core of Knowledge that a student
graduating from any high school in the country should have mastered.

The multi-millionaire superstar of the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant,
was telling a reporter about the entire Lakers team having gone to see
Daniel Day Lewis’ exceptional performance in the movie Lincoln.
Asked to characterize his and the team’s reaction to the film, Bryant
said they all thought it was a pretty good movie but were shocked and
surprised by the ending.

Really? These gazillionaire basketball players, most of whom
supposedly are college graduates, none of them including Kobe, knew
that Lincoln had been the first president to be assassinated? That folks is
what developing a Common Core of Knowledge for students to master is
all about.

It is not a plot by the Federal government to usurp local control of
our public schools. It is not a conspiracy to brainwash our students
into becoming liberal leaning robots who will look to Big Brother for
everything. It is not a conspiracy.

It is a long overdue effort by educators at all levels to define a basic
body of knowledge every student should master if they are going to be
awarded a high school degree and proceed out into the labor force to
become a responsible, accountable productive citizen able to function
reasonably well in a society full of those all too ready to exploit the
ignorant and the uninformed.

Put another way, it is just plain common sense for this country to
develop and require the mastery of a common core of knowledge.
Every state’s superintendent of public instruction is participating in
developing some aspect of this effort working with the U.S. Department of Education.

Idaho’s Tom Luna is a practicing member of the LDS Church and is
about as conservative as they come. He is as sensitive and as attuned to
guarding against infringements on “State’s rights” and “local control” as
the most ardent Tea Party type could wish. He has Idaho participating
in a coalition of states developing recommendations in math and the
language arts for what they believe should be the common core.

He still has his common sense about common core. As any reader of my
columns knows, I was highly critical of the proposed Luna Laws and the
top down process he and Governor Otter engaged in to foist their vision
of education reform off on the Idaho electorate.

Both learned from their mistake, however, and adopted the common
sense approach of putting together a task force of the interest groups
to travel the state and listen to the grass roots regarding what reforms
consensus can be built upon.

Capably led by State Board of Education member Richard Westerberg,
the task force has been traveling the state taking testimony. Despite
Westerberg’s thoughtful “scene-setting” presentation, some of the
hearings appear to have been hijacked by the conspiracy theorists of the
world that see a dastardly federal government plot of some sort in the
effort to define a common core of knowledge.

Do these conspiracy types not have a lick of common sense? Do
they not understand that Idaho’s high school and college graduates
are competing for future jobs in an international market place against
Chinese students, Indian students, Swedish students, all of whom have
mastered more knowledge than most American graduates?

Do they want to condemn their children to a new form of indentured
servitude to the worlds better educated? How do they expect employers
to differentiate and hire the best qualified for future jobs based in part
on the mastery of knowledge and the ability to be life-long learners
mastering ever more if not through some kind of national standardized

It is just common sense to require a well defined common core of
required knowledge.

Every time I see one of these conspiracy types stand up and with great
zeal launch into their harangue I’m reminded of something I heard a
former Idaho State Superintendent, Roy Truby, once say: “I have a hard
time understanding these people who say they love their country but hate
their government.”

So do I, Roy. So do I.

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Carlson Idaho

carlson CHRIS


A black-hearted Republican friend called recently and asked “are there any Republican governors in Idaho’s history, or anywhere for that matter, you thought did a good job?”

“Sure,” I responded.

“Then name them. I’m getting bored with your continuous haranguing about how lousy a job Butch is doing. You may be right, but say something positive about any Republican governor once in awhile,” he advised.

After pondering this advice for a bit, I decided my friend had a point.

During my 66 years there have been three exceptionally good, well-qualified, progressive and constructive Republican governors who left the state of Idaho in great shape. They did little harm and much good. C.A. “Doc” Robbins from St. Maries (1947 to 1951); Phil Batt from Wilder (1995-1999); and, Robert E. Smylie from Caldwell, (1955-1967).

Looking across the nation but understandably focusing more on the west, several others come to mind: Washington Governor Daniel J. Evans (1965 to 1977); Oregon’s Tom McCall (1967-1975); Utah’s Jon Huntsman, Jr., (2005 to 2009); Montana’s Marc Racicot (1993 to 2001); Nevada’s Paul Laxalt (1967 to 1971); California’s Pete Wilson (1991 to 1999); and, Alaska’s Jay Hammond (1974 to 1982).

Of that entire distinguished group, Hammond was my favorite. Here’s why.

An incredible ability to see over the horizon, down the road, into the future. From his first elected office as an independent in the House of Representatives in the very first session after Alaskabecame a state in 1959, Hammond recognized the need to conserve some revenue from the development of Alaska’s abundant resources not just for a “rainy day” fund but also to put it into a fund that the Legislature could not touch, a fund designed to give each Alaskan an annual payback for their commitment to the State.

His vision became the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend Program with a percentage of the State’s take in taxes of the oil generated in Prudhoe Bay going into a permanent savings account from which only the interest could be spent, but spent on an annual dividend to every Alaska citizen.

A commitment to protecting Alaska’s priceless environment. As a former backcountry trapper and guide, as well as a Bristol Bay fisherman, Hammond understood the need for balance in cultivating natural resources like fish and wildlife, and doing so without trashing the environment. He easily could have uttered Governor Cecil Andrus’ famous line: First you have to make a living. Then you have to have a living worthwhile.

An ability to articulate the complexity of most issues, to understand each side of an argument, explain the sides to an audience and then walk through sound reasoning as to the position he was taking. He never pandered to the public or special interest groups.

An ability to compromise and a recognition that governors are “hired” by the public to solve problems. His constructive role during the acrimonious debate that tore many Alaskans apart regarding just how much land would be preserved for posterity as national parks, wildernesses, wildlife refuges and wild and scenic rivers as required by section 17-d-2 of the Alaska Land Claims Settlement Act was a true profile in courage.

I will always remember the August morning in 1979 when he quietly flew his single engine Cessna 182 float plane into the fishing resort on Lake Iliamna where Andrus and a large press contingent he was taking on a tour of proposed d-2 lands was staying. The Interior secretary jumped aboard and the two of them flew off for a day of fishing as well as sitting on logs, spreading out the maps and reaching agreement on the boundaries of the various set asides.

A tremendous sense of self-deprecating humor. Hammond was a truly humble person who like Andrus appreciated the humor in situations and could laugh at life’s absurdities.

In fact that’s the bottom line: Jay Hammond was the Republican governor most like Cecil Andrus. Either one of them would have made terrific presidents of the United States.

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carlson CHRIS


Every so often my publisher walks up to me with a challenge to get beyond blanket criticisms and propose constructive alternatives that will help resolve a contested matter. So it was with the so-called Luna Laws, all of which were criticized harshly by many writers as well as me.

As the son of two public school teachers, I have some opinions but by no means am I claiming to be an expert on educational reform.

The following reflects the Ten Carlson Rules for producing better Students:

Rule #1) Instill a writing discipline, starting in the 1st Grade. A student should have to write something each day. First graders have to write a sentence; sixth graders a paragraph; seventh and above a page a day.
a. Write, write, write—-there is no substitute.
b. Keep a daily diary.
c. Write complete sentences—no short cuts!

Rule #2) No cell phones, ipads, etc. should be permitted during the school day. It’s not just that they facilitate distracting behavior; it’s that they encourage the use of texting, which with all its abbreviations is going to be
the death of the English language yet. All parents should examine their kids text messages and odds are they will need an interpretation or a “texting” dictionary. The phones should be surrendered at the door of the school and returned at the end of the day.

Rule #3) From the 7th Grade on students should be part of a teacher’s evaluation. Students have a fair idea which teachers care and which are really teaching. Conversely, the proposed Luna law requirement that parents be part of the evaluation process should be dropped. Far too many parents
either don’t care or simply don’t have the time. To make them a mandatory part of a teacher’s evaluation would be counter-productive in many cases.

Rule #4) Better define the Core Body of Knowledge. As the nation shifts to more and more national standardized testing, in fairness to the student as well as parents wishing to help, the education establishment has to reach a consensus on what constitutes the Core that has to be mastered.

Rule #5) Incentivize extra-curricular reading of newspapers, periodicals and news magazines. Let students know they can boost a grade by extra reading with weekly testing to confirm they’ve done the reading. But read, read, read! College recruiters still will tell you that one of the sure-fired indicators of a high student who will do well at college is whether they read news periodicals as well as good books. Ivy League recruiters especially look for the student that reads the dictionary in their spare time.

Rule #6) Move away from the time-oriented credit system to a performance-based system grounded in the national standards for what constitutes the required Core Body of Knowledge to be mastered before they can graduate.
a. Adopt “flexible” learning time based on the individual student’s progress. This may mean some students have to attend school year round while others can still have the summer months off.
b. Increase the length of the school year but shorten the school day, regardless.

Rule #7) Require students to work with counselors and teachers to develop an annual Planned Path to Mastery of the Core Body of Knowledge and require a semi-annual review of the plan with necessary adaptations to reflect circumstances – adaptive management if you will.

Rule #8) Provide credit for “real world” experiences subject to review and approval by teachers and local school board. If a student travels to Scotland for two weeks during the summer, or is a counselor at a summer camp, or works in a hardware store there ought to be a way to award a few credits to reflect a different but still valuable form of learning.

Rule #9) Allow one on-line learning class for credit per semester, but one that is carefully monitored and has been pre-approved and one that has on-line tests along the way.

Rule #10) Every student regardless of where or how they are schooled will be required to take annually the national standardized test of the Core Body of Knowledge. No exceptions for home schooled, charter schooled or privately schooled.

These are ten simple, easily doable rules—wouldn’t you agree?

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carlson CHRIS


Memo to Zagnation and Zagnauts: Your beloved Bulldogs are once again going for the money. Make no mistake, it’s just a matter of time before they officially accept an invitation from the “new” Big East to join the Catholic Seven non-football playing members of the “old” Big East conference.

Forget about tradition. Forget about rivalries. In the words of motor-mouth basketball commentator, Dick Vitale, “it’s all about the money, baby, it’s all about the money.” Don’t forget, Zag fans, this is the same guy that guaranteed the nation’s basketball watching television audience that Wichita State would defeat Gonzaga in the NCAA Round of 32.

Yes, Gonzaga’s success over the last 16 years has spurred growth in applications and enrollment, and has helped to secure Gonzaga’s financial future. It has also enabled the school to undertake expansion and new buildings. It has become a Harvard business school case study, no doubt, on how to leverage success on the hardwood into success and stature in the competitive world of academia.

Yes, too, Gonzaga has come a long ways from the days in the early 60s when only Board Chairman Harry F. Magnuson’s personal guarantee behind a line of credit kept the doors open and averted bankruptcy. If not for the deep devotion by the late Wallace millionaire and investor no one would even be talking about the Zags today.

So, how much more money are we talking about and is it enough to offset the travel expenses that would come with being so far geographically from the Catholic Seven? The answers are lots more money and yes.

The latest figures available are two years old but they show that the Bulldog basketball program spent $5.3 million and its revenue was $6.1 million. That would put them in the middle of the Catholic Seven——Marquette (which has one national title), Villanova (one national title), Georgetown (one national title), DePaul, Seton Hall, Providence and St. John’s.

Marquette, by contrast had $10.3 million in expenses, but revenue was a nice $15.6 million. Though Gonzaga’s numbers look middling to the new Big East, all these schools see great potential in games with the Zags generating much more revenue because the Zags national following would guarantee more television revenue for all.

Keep in mind that with the possible exception of St. Mary’s, no other school in the West Coast conference spends nearly as much as the Zags. Then there is the factor that coach Mark Few has reportedly wanted to leave the WCC for a number of years in no small part because the lower conference power ranking of the WCC compared to the Big East or the PAC-12 almost always presents a “strength of schedule” barrier that the Zags have to overcome to impress the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.

A tougher conference schedule would mean that Few would not have to schedule quite so many tough non-conference opponents.

One suspects that the additional dollars from television will easily off-set and over-come the travel distance barrier. The Zags already charter a large private jet for all of their away games and most Zagnauts are well aware that in order to become a “mid-major” power the Zags already travel great distances for quality games against premier opponents.

There is also a queue forming of other Catholic schools in the mid-west clamoring to join which, with Few reportedly wanting to leave the WCC, means there is behind-the-scenes courting and lobbying going on for the Zags to be the first new addition and the eighth school to join.

Speculation is already rampant among basketball junkies that before the next season the new Big East will have expanded to ten members with Creighton and Xavier joining and the one non-Catholic university, Butler (which made the national championship game two years in a row just two short seasons back) also joining.

If, the Zags indeed do join it would make the most sense to do so quite soon and the “new” Big East might then invite St. Louis to join also, giving it 12 teams that could be divided into two divisions with another one of those lucrative conference tournaments also adding more dollars.

Someone somewhere though should be asking just how much more “success” can the Zags absorb and will there ever be enough? What are the added costs to the student athletes in more long-distance travel? You can also bet that the price of those already expensive seats in the Zags arena will take another exponential jump.

After all, it really is about all the additional money. And by the way, look for the WCC to quickly tender an offer to Seattle University to take the Zags place.

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carlson CHRIS


Pure unadulterated balderdash. Pure B.S. That’s the only way to describe the baloney Coeur – the Precious Metals Company – is serving up as its excuse for relocating its corporate headquarters from Coeur d’Alene to Chicago later this year.

It’s bad enough that most corporate Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and Presidents are grossly overpaid by compliant boards, even when the CEO has failed miserably but is still given the proverbial golden parachute. When boards though give way and acquiesce to pure CEO vanity, shareholders ought to sue.

Make no mistake, folks, this move is an exercise in personal vanity by Coeur’s president and chief executive officer, Mitchell Krebs. He and his wife both hail from the Chicago area and want to get closer to home.
So let’s just pick up the corporate headquarters and move, ma!

What does it matter that 45 of their 65 employees will not be moving and will lose their jobs? After all, the company offered to relocate any one that wanted to keep their job by moving. Such a deal. So what then if a supportive community loses 45 good-paying jobs? And add 90 more secondary jobs (2 to 1 economic multiplier) for a total of 135 lost jobs.

So let’s examine the proposed rationales. Chicago supposedly provides improved access to key stakeholders. Just what does that mean? Krebs can more frequently have lunch at a downtown club with a shareholder who if he really wanted to talk face-to-face could be in his corporate jet and in Coeur d’Alene within three hours?

More and easier access to your operations? Come again. Presumably he must mean commercial air access since Coeur does not have its own jet. To get to their Kensington Mine outside of Juneau one has to go through Seattle. Last time I checked Coeur d’Alene and Spokane’s airports are closer than Chicago to Seattle.

Or their Chilean property. Best way to go is through Los Angeles. I think Spokane is closer than Chicago to LA’s Airport.

Where the B.S. really starts to get thick is Krebs parroting Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s propaganda about Chicago being a totally pro-business city.

Really? More so than Coeur d’Alene? Extremely doubtful. Chicago has one of the worst public school systems in the country. Chicago is very much a union town and make no mistake the historic patronage system is still alive and well.

Oh, but Coeur will also have access to a larger talent pool? Really? In this age of the internet that is doubtful. Besides, when mining companies go shopping for talent they tend to look where there are still vital schools of mines such as the Colorado School of Mines, or Montana Tech in Butte, or the University of Nevada at Reno or the University of Arizona.

Indeed, if one really did need to move for most of the trumped up reasons Krebs mentioned, most industry observers say that Phoenix or Denver would make much more sense.

What really tells that this is a vanity move is Krebs’ ego being so big as to insist that the Mayor personally announce this bit of community raiding and chicanery and that the Illinois governor’s office also weigh in. Give us a break.

Idaho’s Job Plus, under the capable leadership of Steve Griffitts, did everything it reasonably could to try to get Coeur to stay. To its credit Governor Butch Otter’s office also did what it could. However, they never stood a chance.

This move is not about logic or facts. It’s all about ego, vanity and selfishness. It’s not really rational, it is purely emotional. Longtime Coeur supporters and board members like former four-term Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus have to wonder now about all the times they went to bat to help Coeur overcome bureaucratic problems in Alaska and Nevada.

There was an implied commitment that he, and another board member, the late Senator Jim McClure, were assisting an Idaho, Coeur d’Alene based company, not an Illinois, Chicago based firm. That comes under the category of loyalty, a concept apparently foreign to Mitchell Krebs.

By the way, be sure and tell your shareholders how much this vanity move is going to really cost. One hopes current Idaho related board members Michael Bogart and Jim Curran are at least asking that question.

Chris Carlson is a former journalist who served as press secretary to Gov. Cecil Andrus. He lives in Medimont.

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Carlson Idaho

carlson CHRIS


Shame on State Senator Bob Nonini. It was bad enough that the ethically-challenged state senator from District 3 went unpunished by the Senate Leadership for his role in helping to secure contributions and contributing himself to Tea Party challengers to Republican incumbent state senators like Shawn Keough from Sandpoint and Dean Cameron from Rupert.

The latter two are two of the hardest working members of the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee and are veteran, reasonable, caring listening legislators. Nonini last year, in an apparent effort to curry favor with the then House Speaker Lawrence Denny, and the Tea Party types conspired with among others Avista lobbyist Neil Colwell to secure and send some substantial contributions to challengers to incumbents in his party.

Nonini had to know he was putting at risk his ability work with his future colleagues should he fail, but apparently didn’t care. Colwell at least received a dressing down from his superiors at Avista and CEO Scott Morris drove to Sandpoint to meet personally with and apologize to Senator Keough and Representatives Erik Anderson and George Eskridge for the perfidy and stupidity of their lobbyist.

Rumors circulated before the session that the GOP Senate Leadership, capably led by Senate Pro Tempore Brent Hill and Majority Leader Bart Davis, planned to deny Nonini any committee assignments and ban him from the Republican caucus. Nothing of the sort happened, however.

Unlike Nonini, Senators Hill and Davis are honorable men. Shame on them, though, for letting Nonini’s stupidity go unpunished.

Now Nonini is pushing a bill that would divert $10 million from the already underfunded budget for education. The funds instead would be directed to parents and others as a tax credit for scholarship monies they may have paid to send a child to a private school.

Nonini says taking a kid out of the public classroom and incentivizing parents to send to a private school would save money. Come again? The operations and maintenance cost for the school remain the same whether there are 25 students in the class or 24.

Nonini should find a copy of Idaho ’s State Constitution and carefully read (I started to write “reread” and realized I was making a heck ‘uv an assumption) Article 9, section 1 and 5.

Section 1 says the State Legislature is obligated to establish and “maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.” Nothing in there about private schools is there?

Section 5 says no public dollars shall be allocated “in aid of any church or sectarian or religious society, or for any sectarian or religious purpose to help support or sustain any school, academy, seminary, college, university
or other literary or scientific institution controlled by any church, sectarian or religious denomination whatsoever.” Sounds pretty clear to me?

One wonders just who Nonini is carrying water for on this kind of thing. Such cynicism is not warranted, you say? You might be correct.

I don’t use the phrase “ethically challenged” lightly. Look for yourself at the record contained in the Idaho Supreme Court Data Repository. Here are the case numbers: CV 1996-0006260, Bonner Properties vs. Robert P. Nonini; CV 1992-0089158, Coeur d’Alene Adjustment Bureau vs. Robert Nonini; CV 1992-0088598, Met Mortgage Finance, Inc. vs. Robert Nonini. Go yourself to the Courthouse, look them up and peruse the contents, then draw your own conclusions.

Too bad the Senate Leadership did not see fit to punish him for his perfidy. A good starting point would have been to let him know that no bill he sponsored was going to go anywhere this session. Then we wouldn’t have to worry about his diverting $10 million from public education for private education, would we?

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Carlson Idaho

carlson CHRIS


(Editors note: The following is condensed from remarks delivered at the retirement of the author’s cousin, Colonel F. Paul Briggs, from the U.S. Marine Corps, ten years ago.)

Thirty years ago the Briggs family turned over to the Corps a young boy. Today the Corps is handing back to us the man, and what a fine man he is. All too often in this too-fixated-on-political-correctness society we’ve become there is a tendency to denigrate the whole notion of manhood, to disparage the idea that one of life’s noblest goals is to become a real man, or a real woman, responsible and accountable for one’s actions, able to meet life’s challenges with bravery not fear, able to chart a course in a life that is worth living because it is lived for others, not just self.

Thank God the Corps understands still that one of its missions is to mold young boys, and young girls, into men and women, proud of who they are, proud of what they accomplish, proud of their country; people who know it is better to serve than be served, people who recognize that the freedoms we have are worth fighting, and yes, dying for; people who cherish notions that should never become old-fashioned, like duty and honor.

The Colonel personifies all that a Marine is and should be. He exemplifies each day the three “D’s”: Dedication, discipline and devotion.

He dedicated himself when young to becoming a Marine. I can still see him running seven to ten miles a day wherever he had to go in Pocatello, while attending Idaho State University, eschewing the notion of driving a car because he had decided he was going to be a Marine and he knew Marines are incredibly fit. And even today rather than drive to work he still eschews a car and bikes the ten miles from his home to the Pentagon. That’s dedication.

He’s always been incredibly disciplined. When backpacking in Idaho’s rugged Sawtooths, or the White Clouds, or the Bighorn Crags, each morning the routine was the same: rise early, wash up, brush and floss the teeth, shave, do your calisthenics, maintain the right appearance—no matter how far back in the wilderness we were, no matter how hot and dusty the trails had been. That’s discipline.

Most of all, though, what has stood out over the years has been his deep devotion to what he holds dear: his devotion to the Corps—a constant walking, talking apostle who quietly proselytized by example; his devotion to his family, always keeping in touch, always sensitive to their needs; his devotion to his wife whose steadfast support has always been invaluable as he performed his duties; his devotion to his country, his ability to articulate why we are a great nation, what separates us from the rest of the world, what makes us the great democracy we are, what the Federalist Papers were about, what is so sacred about our Constitution; and, his devotion to the Almighty, to whom he has always given thanks for his blessings. That’s devotion personified.

He is truly one of the few and the proud.

We all know we live in especially dangerous and difficult times. The Colonel, however, is a part of that thin but great wall that stands between our society, with all its flaws, and the anarchy and insanity that dogs so much of the rest of the world. To all Marines the notion that there is honor in life, both personal and that of a nation, and that both are absolutely worth defending at all costs, is one of those divinely inspired notions that make all Marines so truly special.

All who serve know in their hearts what our forefathers wrought is worth standing up for against all enemies in all forms, internal as well as external, so-called friend as well as avowed foe. Each person wearing a uniform knows he or she is part of that last line of defense literally of Western Civilization itself. Those in uniform know they are the men and women who defend and champion the sanctity of life, who defend a country that rather than obscure the difference between combatants and non-combatants goes to extraordinary lengths to maintain and respect that distinction.

All those in uniform are truly the ones who defend free speech and free inquiry, defend government of, by and for the people. Those in uniform are the individuals, singularly and collectively, who proudly defend a tradition so steeped in the presence of the Almighty it never needs to force others in His name.

And all who wear a uniform know the greatest prize they carry is their sense of honor, that each to varying degrees has sacrificed to obtain something that is earned, not given. This is their collective gift of combined strength to a nation that sorely needs it.

Today, we welcome back into our arms the man hundreds of others in the Corps, and in other uniforms, helped to forge. He is a true person of honor, and we say from the bottom of our grateful hearts: Thank you.

Chris Carlson is a writer at Medimont, Idaho.

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carlson CHRIS


Former Idaho Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor David Leroy is garnering deserved accolades for his efforts to educate Idahoans regarding the state’s historical role under the guidance of President Abraham Lincoln in thwarting southern efforts to bring slavery into the territories west of the Mississippi.

A successful attorney and a dedicated Abraham Lincoln historical buff, he has traveled Idaho with a refined presentation on Lincoln’s role in the formation of the Idaho territory 150 years ago. He and his wife, Nancy, have also collected numerous Lincoln memorabilia which they intend to donate to the State‘s historical museum.

He also fills in the background against which one can measure a mistaken view promulgated by his party’s Tea Party types regarding “nullification.” Leroy’s presentation reminds audiences this nation fought a Civil War led by a beloved President who was saying to hell with this nonsense about a state being able to nullify laws passed by Congress they don’t like.

For Lincoln and Leroy, the operative phrase is “one nation, under God, INDIVISIBLE, with liberty and justice for all,” as we all recite in the Pledge of Allegiance. The Civil War settled the issue of nullification.

Leroy is quintessentially political to his core. He has disarming charm, an ability to tell good stories and to laugh at himself. He also is one of the most calculating, Machiavellian, shrewd, insightful and instinctive politicians to move across the Idaho stage in years.

A rising GOP star in his youth, there seemed no limit to his potential. A Republican version of Minnesota Senator and Vice President Hubert Humphrey, he was the “happy warrior” exuding energy and joy as he went about fulfilling expectations as a competent attorney general and then lieutenant governor.

When I returned in 1981 to Idaho from four years of exile serving with former Governor Cecil Andrus at the Department of the Interior, Leroy and I became good friends. We often jogged daily and talked politics as we ran.

Then the attorney general, it was clear he aimed to be governor and then a senator someday. A fan of former Governor and Senator Len Jordan, and his wife, Grace, Leroy and his first spouse, Helen, named their daughter Jordan after his hero. He delivered an eloquent and moving eulogy on the occasion of Grace’s passing.

Candidly, I told Leroy if he wanted to be governor he had best contest Phil Batt for the 1982 Republican nomination to challenge Andrus successor John Evans. I thought he could defeat Batt and would have a 50/50 shot at beating Evans who one had to concede was doing a solid job in the governor’s chair.

Leroy felt he should defer to Batt and that 1986 would be a better year for him as he expected Evans to go after Senator Steve Symms. I told him if he waited until 1986 there was a better than even chance he would be up against the heavy-weight champ, that Andrus would reclaim the office he had left to be Interior secretary.

Leroy did not seem deterred by that prospect. Indeed, he seemed to relish the thought that his credential could only be burnished by defeating Andrus. The rest is history. He lost by 3357 votes, one of the closest governor races in Idaho history.

To his credit he did not contest the outcome and drag the process out.

He then entered into his period in the wilderness going through both personal and political changes that saw a divorce and a half hearted race for Congress.

Now in his early 60’s, with a distinguished head of white hair, success in the private sector that has brought rewards like a summer place in France, and a wife that shares his interests, Leroy is basking in the justifiable thanks of his fellow citizens for his Lincoln bequest.

He may also be a modern day version of the mythical phoenix. If Raul Labrador decides to run for governor, David Leroy will be a candidate to succeed him as Idaho’s First District congressman. And if he does, this time he will win. There are indeed successful second and third acts in politics.

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carlson CHRIS


University of Idaho President Duane Nellis left a parting gift for Governor Otter, his State Board of Education and all those Republican legislators who have consistently underfunded higher education as well as public education during his four years at the helm of the State’s major research university.

The message was contained in one word in Nellis’ terse statement that he would be leaving to take the helm of Texas Tech University , a school three times the size of the University of Idaho. The dunderheads who robotic-like sign off on the Republican’s slow strangulation of state support for higher and public education will undoubtedly miss the word. It was too subtle for them.

Boise State University President Bob Kustra and his government affairs aide, former House Speaker Bruce Newcomb, won’t miss the word, however, since it was aimed directly at them.

So what’s the word that symbolizes the entire message of Nellis’ disgust?


As in Idaho’s “flagship” university, a modifier stripped from the University of Idaho ’s mission statement last year with malice aforethought by Bob Kustra who wanted to drive home the message that Boise State was now the true flagship university in Idaho. A gullible, naïve, asleep at the switch, compliant, lazy board of education bought Kustra’s orchestration of this symbolic demotion of the University of Idaho hook, line and sinker.

Notice how Nellis’ farewell statement (Don’t hold your breath waiting for a longer statement when it is official in three weeks) referred to Idaho ’s “flagship” research university?

Read between the lines, folks. That one word said it all. Bob Kustra will get the message that his hubris and vanity contributed to a solid if not spectacular colleague leaving the state. University of Idaho boosters, both on campus and off campus, will get it. Current University of Idaho students, paying an ever higher percentage of their college costs, will understand it.

Whether Governor Otter and his hand-picked set of pawns that has been rubber-stamping declining state support for all of public education and pretends to be a Board of Education gets it is highly debatable.

One can hardly blame Nellis for leaving and I have to doff my hat for the clever way he sent the message as to why.

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