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Posts published in “Jones”

A jewel among nonprofits

Many Idahoans might not know the name, Jannus, Inc., but they may be familiar with some of the outstanding work this remarkable social service nonprofit has performed during its 50 years of serving in the Gem State. It operates a broad range of programs that serve practically every segment of our society–veterans, pre-schoolers, refugees, seniors, the distressed, K-12 students, you name it.

Jannus’ 24/7 Idaho Crisis & Suicide Hotline has dealt with 23,827 contacts from distressed individuals. Its Agency for New Americans oversees Idaho’s highly-regarded refugee program that welcomed 1,270 refugees to Idaho in fiscal year 2022, including 512 from Afghanistan and 329 from Ukraine. Refugees are anxious to achieve self-sufficiency for themselves and their families, and Idaho’s refugee agencies provide temporary assistance to help them reach that goal.

Global Talent is a popular Jannus program, designed to help refugees obtain credentials to practice their profession in their new country. The program recently featured former Afghan military pilots who seek federal certification to fly commercially in the U.S.

Idaho Voices for Children advocates for a variety of programs to help Idaho’s children. When the Legislature turned down $36 million in federal child care funds in 2023, Voices rallied support of legislators from across the political spectrum to restore funding in the amount of $28 million, helping many childcare centers to stay in business. Voices was instrumental in passage of legislation this year to protect children in the state’s foster care system. Senate Bills 1379 and 1380 were approved by overwhelming votes.

Jannus operates early head start centers in North Idaho, the Idaho Out-of-School Network and a number of other well-regarded programs. In recognition of the outstanding work it has done to improve the lives of the 58,821 people it has served, the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce gave Jannus its 2024 Nonprofit Excellence Award.

Imagine the surprise when the ill-named Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF) came out with a broadside against Jannus last month, claiming it was “funding handouts for illegal immigrants.” The IFF’s only support for that outrageous claim was that “a video surfaced on social media purporting to show migrants getting off a bus in West Boise.” The author of the IFF screed admitted there was no confirmation the people were illegals or that Jannus’ operations “are driving illegal immigration.” That did not stop them from strongly insinuating that Jannus was using “tax dollars to fund welfare for illegals.”

So it looks like the IFF bullies have found yet another target, besides teachers and librarians, to smear with false allegations. Their game is to gain political and financial support by stoking fear and outrage against innocent targets.

The fact is that some Jannus programs are designed to serve immigrants to the United States, but those served are legal immigrants. Refugees are granted entry into the United States only after extensive background checks. They are granted the right to work in the country and are eager to make their own way. They do receive guidance, language instruction, temporary housing assistance and other necessary support to help them adjust to a new country. They don’t get handouts of taxpayer money.

I had the privilege of serving on the Jannus board of directors for a three-year term after retiring from the Idaho Supreme Court. I can attest that the organization works hard to obtain funding for programs beneficial to underserved segments of Idaho society. That’s why I recently contributed to the Jannus drive for endowment funding as the organization embarks upon its next 50 years.

It is disheartening to read IFF’s false claims about an organization that has done so much good for the people of Idaho. Jannus has truly been a sparkling jewel in the Gem State’s nonprofit crown. Nothing the IFF says can distract from that truth.

 

Two remarkable Idahoans

Two native Idahoans were featured in news stories during June–one received plaudits upon his departure from this mortal world, the other demonstrated her legal prowess on the national stage. The sad news was the passing of John Peavey, a former state senator who had a substantial impact on Idaho’s environment, water policy and political campaign transparency. The happier news was the impact that Elizabeth Barchas Prelogar has had on cases affecting the rights of women in Idaho and across the nation.

John Peavey, who passed away on June 16, will be remembered for his many contributions to public policy issues in the Gem State, including voter approval of Idaho’s Sunshine Initiative, requiring the reporting of campaign financing.  But, another of his major accomplishments was lighting the fuse that forced the state to take action to improve the administration of its water resources to meet the demands of the future.

Peavey and others filed legal proceedings against Idaho Power Company in the late 1970s, claiming the company was failing to protect its water rights on the Snake River to the detriment of electric ratepayers. That sparked one of the largest water fights in state history, often referred to as the Swan Falls water fight, which was not fully resolved until the late 1980s and which resulted in the adjudication of Snake River water rights in southern Idaho.

Former Governor John Evans and I worked in tandem against the power company forces during that fight to protect the State’s control of Snake River waters. It would take a 376-page book to describe the struggle and that’s why I wrote A Little Dam Problem, which explains it in detail. During the course of the fight, the Governor and I were often critical of Peavey for lighting the match that got it started. In retrospect, it is clear that he did us all a big favor. Several years ago, when speaking about my book at a Hailey Rotary Club meeting, I told John that he deserved great credit for focusing attention on the need for action. It was only because Peavey got the ball rolling, that the State modernized its water law and protected that valuable resource for future generations.

The other distinguished Idahoan in the news was Elizabeth Barchas Prelogar, one of the most important legal figures in the United States. Most Idahoans do not know that the Solicitor General of the United States was born, raised and educated in Boise, Idaho. Nor do they realize that she bested the Idaho Attorney General (AG) in two important abortion-related cases decided by the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in June.

The AG was able to convince the high court in January to temporarily prohibit Idaho doctors from providing care for pregnant women who come to the emergency room with dangerous complications. Under Idaho’s total abortion ban, doctors cannot provide emergency care until the pregnant woman is on death’s doorstep. A federal law required doctors to provide stabilizing care, including abortion, to protect the health of the mother. The AG repeatedly made the false claim that Idaho’s law was exactly the same as the federal law.

When the case was argued before SCOTUS in April, Solicitor General Prelogar was able to convince Justice Amy Coney Barrett and other members of the Court that the AG’s position was a misrepresentation. The Court decided in Prelogar’s favor last month, allowing emergency room care for Idaho’s pregnant women.

Prelogar was also able to convince SCOTUS to dismiss another case that Idaho and other red-state AGs were supporting to ban Mifepristone, a medication used to end an early pregnancy. She pointed out that the doctors who brought the case did not have “standing” (the requisite legal basis) to pursue the case and that studies claiming the medication was dangerous were manipulated and unreliable. Scotus tossed out the case for lack of standing in June, much to the chagrin of the state AGs.

Those who are knowledgeable in legal circles regard Idaho’s Elizabeth Prelogar as one of the best Solicitor Generals ever, a supreme advocate. She certainly has a bright future ahead of her, perhaps as a member of SCOTUS.

Idaho has produced some remarkable leaders. As we bid eternal rest to that influential rancher and politician, John Thomas Peavey, we wish ever greater success to Elizabeth Barchas Prelogar, our Idaho-grown legal star who represents the entire federal government before the nation’s highest court.

 

10 Commandments may be coming

Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry recently signed a bill into law requiring the Ten Commandments to be hung in every public school classroom in his state. He knew the bill violated the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the US Constitution, but did it anyway. Landry is a Christian nationalist who wants to infuse his version of Christianity into practically every aspect of public life in America.

Landry acknowledged that the bill would provoke a legal challenge, but welcomed the prospect. He obviously wants to bring the case before the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in hopes of getting the Court to overturn previous rulings prohibiting the intrusion of religion into public schools. He knows he will have favorable federal judges in Louisiana to get the case before SCOTUS, and who knows what may happen there?

But, what does this have to do with Idaho? The fact is that copycat legislation will surface in Idaho in the near future. Idaho has grappled with any number of culture war issues having strong religious overtones in the last several years, including the criminalization of abortion, terrorizing librarians, LGBTQ discrimination, school vouchers and in vitro fertilization. The extremists understand the power of demagoguing culture war issues and won’t be able to resist trying to scare up votes with this one.

The far-right faction that now controls the Idaho Republican Party has a platform plank calling for school prayer, discussion of religion in the classroom and religious displays in schools, all of which are strictly prohibited by Idaho’s Constitution. The Idaho Freedom Foundation, which has dished up any number of culture war issues to help like-minded individuals win and retain public offices, is all in for religious teaching.

There is another powerful group with a strong interest in infusing religion into practically every aspect of governmental policy that will play a strong role in pushing the Ten Commandments into Idaho public schools. The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a powerful, dark-money-funded Christian nationalist group that provides free legal help to like-minded state attorneys general will be there to help with the indoctrination effort.

Before taking office as Louisiana Governor earlier this year, Landry served eight years as attorney general of that state and worked closely with ADF on litigation to advance the cause of Christian nationalism. This year, ADF supported his successful effort to enact a universal school voucher program. ADF also wants school vouchers in Idaho.

There is an important public office in Idaho where the policy interests of Christian nationalists, the Moon branch of the GOP, the IFF and the ADF intersect on a variety of culture war issues, including religion and education. Idaho’s Attorney General is that point of intersection. Labrador has worked closely with Moon and the IFF on a variety of culural issues since taking over as AG. He has used the “free” legal services of the ADF on a number of cases, mostly related to enforcement of Idaho’s total abortion ban.

The most interesting point of connection is Labrador’s devoted friendship with Governor Landry. They were both members of the far-right Freedom Caucus in the US House of Representatives in 2011-2013. It may be recalled that Labrador breached Statehouse tradition by skipping Governor Little’s State of the State Address in January to attend Landry’s swearing-in ceremony in Louisiana. The two have partnered up in a number of cases dealing with religion and education. Last year, Landry joined Labrador's challenge to a California law prohibiting use of public funds for religious education. They have both strenuously opposed emergency medical care for women with dangerous pregnancies.

Considering all of these factors, it is almost inevitable that Idaho will soon be engaged in a fight over the Ten Commandments. The thing that mystifies me is why folks who claim to be followers of Christ and want a Christian nationalist government, don’t follow or even give fleeting reference to the teachings of Christ. You would think that they would take to heart and share Christ’s message of love, compassion and social justice in the New Testament, Christ’s Testament, rather than seeking political power through Old Testament laws. Jesus does not rate even a bit part in their play for religious power.

(image/public domain)

 

The detoxification campaign

Dorothy Moon held onto her position as boss of the extremist branch of Idaho’s Republican Party at the GOP convention in Coeur d’Alene on June 15. Mary Souza challenged Moon for the chairmanship in hopes of bringing more moderation to the party but failed on a vote of 376-228. A tremendous effort had been made by reasonable Republicans to win a majority of precinct committee positions in this year’s closed GOP primary. The objective was to vote the extremists out and change the direction of the party. Despite creditable success in some areas of the state, the reformers did not get their majority. They will in the next election, if they keep at it.

Moon demonstrated that the official party wants to tighten its minority control over the political life of the state. She proclaimed that her GOP “is a private group. It’s a private association.” She told a reporter that convention proceedings were closed to the press and that transparency was not part of the equation. Moon allowed that one reason for locking out the press was so that she and her cohorts could figure out a strategy to defeat the Open Primaries Initiative, which will be on the November ballot.

Moon is well aware that she and her branch of the GOP will be history if every Idaho voter can have a say in who gets elected to office. Extremists have been able to grab and maintain control of the Legislature by stacking the deck in favor of their candidates in the low-turnout GOP primary. Reasonable Republicans are defeated by scurrilous disinformation campaigns supported by out-of-state dark money interests. Idaho’s 275,000 independent voters, which includes about half of Idaho’s 160,000 military veterans, are effectively denied their right to vote in the primary election, unless they claim to be Republicans.

As if the present bossism of the Moon GOP is not enough, the convention delegates voted to file suit against Secretary of State Phil McGrane to prevent crossover voting. McGrane had correctly informed Moon that state law takes priority over GOP rules, but Moon apparently thinks her rules are the law of Idaho. It will be interesting to see if Moon’s Attorney General will effectively defend the lawsuit.

The delegates then went about the business of gearing up for a variety of culture war battles. Among other things, they opposed “using taxpayer funding for programs beyond high school.” So, Moon’s GOP platform would now withhold state funds for higher education, while making taxpayers cough up for K-12 private and religious schooling. Is there a fear that too much education is bad for our kids?

The delegates resolved that “Idaho has the right and obligation to remove from our state any and all people that are unlawfully present within our borders.” This would devastate the construction business across the state, as well as Idaho’s agricultural industry, particularly our dairies, their feed suppliers and their processors. It’s good that the state does not have the legal authority to enforce this resolution.

The delegates voted to prohibit the destruction of embryos, which would hamper in vitro fertilization. They called for an end to no-excuse absentee voting and for ending all government funding and programs not required by the Constitution. The delegate failed to consider the number of present-day programs that are not even mentioned in the Idaho Constitution. They overlooked the fact that their own extremist legislators have failed to carry out a duty specifically required by the Constitution–to provide adequate funding for “a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.”

Even though the reformers were not able to replace Moon as Chair or eliminate the extremist planks of the Republican platform, Moon and her cohorts have clearly demonstrated that they are incapable of responsible, responsive government. Their continued misbehavior leading up to the November elections will result in the passage of the Open Primaries Initiative. The reformers lost in the convention, but the example set by Moon and her wrecking crew will lead to the detoxification of the GOP.

(image license)

 

Fueling the detoxification

Dorothy Moon held onto her position as boss of the extremist branch of Idaho’s Republican Party at the GOP convention in Coeur d’Alene on June 15. Mary Souza challenged Moon for the chairmanship in hopes of bringing more moderation to the party but failed on a vote of 376-228. A tremendous effort had been made by reasonable Republicans to win a majority of precinct committee positions in this year’s closed GOP primary. The objective was to vote the extremists out and change the direction of the party. Despite creditable success in some areas of the state, the reformers did not get their majority. They will in the next election, if they keep at it.

Moon demonstrated that the official party wants to tighten its minority control over the political life of the state. She proclaimed that her GOP “is a private group. It’s a private association.” She told a reporter that convention proceedings were closed to the press and that transparency was not part of the equation. Moon allowed that one reason for locking out the press was so that she and her cohorts could figure out a strategy to defeat the Open Primaries Initiative, which will be on the November ballot.

Moon is well aware that she and her branch of the GOP will be history if every Idaho voter can have a say in who gets elected to office. Extremists have been able to grab and maintain control of the Legislature by stacking the deck in favor of their candidates in the low-turnout GOP primary. Reasonable Republicans are defeated by scurrilous disinformation campaigns supported by out-of-state dark money interests. Idaho’s 275,000 independent voters, which includes about half of Idaho’s 160,000 military veterans, are effectively denied their right to vote in the primary election, unless they claim to be Republicans.

As if the present bossism of the Moon GOP is not enough, the convention delegates voted to file suit against Secretary of State Phil McGrane to prevent crossover voting. McGrane had correctly informed Moon that state law takes priority over GOP rules, but Moon apparently thinks her rules are the law of Idaho. It will be interesting to see if Moon’s Attorney General will effectively defend the lawsuit.

The delegates then went about the business of gearing up for a variety of culture war battles. Among other things, they opposed “using taxpayer funding for programs beyond high school.” So, Moon’s GOP platform would now withhold state funds for higher education, while making taxpayers cough up for K-12 private and religious schooling. Is there a fear that too much education is bad for our kids?

The delegates resolved that “Idaho has the right and obligation to remove from our state any and all people that are unlawfully present within our borders.” This would devastate the construction business across the state, as well as Idaho’s agricultural industry, particularly our dairies, their feed suppliers and their processors. It’s good that the state does not have the legal authority to enforce this resolution.

The delegates voted to prohibit the destruction of embryos, which would hamper in vitro fertilization. They called for an end to no-excuse absentee voting and for ending all government funding and programs not required by the Constitution. The delegate failed to consider the number of present-day programs that are not even mentioned in the Idaho Constitution. They overlooked the fact that their own extremist legislators have failed to carry out a duty specifically required by the Constitution–to provide adequate funding for “a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.”

Even though the reformers were not able to replace Moon as Chair or eliminate the extremist planks of the Republican platform, Moon and her cohorts have clearly demonstrated that they are incapable of responsible, responsive government. Their continued misbehavior leading up to the November elections will result in the passage of the Open Primaries Initiative. The reformers lost in the convention, but the example set by Moon and her wrecking crew will lead to the detoxification of the GOP.

 

The wrong tormenters

It was a pleasant surprise to find a letter from Governor Brad Little when I opened my mailbox on June 10. But it was unsettling to read his warning against voting for Idaho Democratic candidates who might endanger his “record of success.” Thinking back over the years, Democratic legislators have played a significant role in that success. For instance, the Governor’s letter touted the Idaho Launch program, which provides kids with workforce training grants. That program would not have seen the light of day in 2023 without the essential support of House and Senate Democrats. They gave it strong support again this year. In fact, the Democrats in the Legislature have given the Governor support on numerous issues since he took office in January 2019.

This appears to be a case where Governor Little mistook the identity of the political party that has been making his life miserable. The problem is that there are three political parties in the Gem State. There is the traditional, pragmatic branch of the Republican Party that consists of the Governor and a substantial part of the Legislature. There is the Democratic Party, which presently holds small minorities in both the Senate and House. And, there is the extremist branch of the GOP, which is pretty much controlled by the so-called Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF). Dorothy Moon has headed up that branch since losing her primary election bid for Secretary of State in 2022.

The party that has been giving the Governor grief is the IFF-controlled branch of the party. During the pandemic, IFF legislators tried repeatedly to limit the Governor’s power to protect the public, often claiming he was acting like a dictator. The Democrats gave him their support. When the IFF legislators passed a draconian bill to encourage meritless citizen suits against libraries in 2023, the Democrats opposed it. The Governor vetoed the bill, which was a deeply flawed solution to a non-existent problem. The Democrats prevented a veto override. Moon and the extremist branch of the GOP denounced the Governor for his veto at the Republican State Convention last summer.

When Governor Little outlined his priorities in this year’s State of the State speech, the IFF and Moon predictably slammed him. The former IFF head, Wayne Hoffman, said legislators should “ignore everything Gov. Little said. Every last word.” Moon found the Governor’s priorities “deeply disappointing.” The Democrats were supportive of the priorities that Moon and the IFF found distasteful.

Democrats have often teamed up with the Governor’s branch of the Republican Party to achieve policy objectives strenuously opposed by the IFF branch, including increased funding for public schools, state funding for construction and maintenance of public school buildings and appropriations for the Division of Veterans Services and higher education. There have been areas of disagreement  between the Governor and the Democrats on certain issues, but they don’t result in the kind of hostile rhetoric that the IFF-controlled GOP legislators have often directed at the Governor.

The Governor has also been frequently blindsided by the state’s IFF-supported Attorney General (AG). The AG has surprised Little with legal proceedings against executive agencies, including the Department of Health and Welfare, the State Board of Education and Department of Transportation. Democrats have generally spoken out against those legal potshots.

Perhaps, the Governor should train his ire on the real source of his problem–the IFF-controlled public officials who are continually sniping and trying to undercut him–as opposed to targeting Democrats who have tried to cooperate with him on a variety of policy objectives. They are not wild-eyed extremists, but decent Idahoans who have chosen to advance their policies under a different party label. Little has simply mistaken the identity of the party that wishes to derail his record as Governor.

 

A course in legal ethics

Despite what many people may think about lawyers, the legal profession sets high standards of ethical conduct for licensed lawyers. The Idaho State Bar has set out those standards in its Idaho Rules of Professional Conduct (IRPC). Violation of the rules can result in disciplinary proceedings, including an offender’s loss of his or her license to practice law. Lawyers are required to know the rules and to comply with them.

The courts also set standards for lawyers, the most important of which is to maintain a relationship of trust with his or her clients. The Idaho Supreme Court has described the trust relationship as, “obligating the attorney to discharge that trust with complete fairness, honor, honesty, loyalty, and fidelity.” Among other things, that means an attorney must not sue his or her own clients.

The trust relationship applies to government attorneys. Last August, an Ada County Judge disqualified Attorney General Raul Labrador from pursuing civil investigative demands against one of his client agencies and some of its employees. The Judge wrote that “the attorney general owes those officials and agencies a duty of undivided loyalty and must exercise the utmost good faith to protect their interests.” Labrador was removed from the case for violating his ethical duty. He was also disqualified from suing his own client in another lawsuit that he filed against the Idaho Board of Education. He was ordered to pay the Board’s costs and attorney fees in the amount of $242,726.

Now we have the public spectacle of at least three public agencies warring against one another over dicey legislation that was designed to stop the sale of the old Transportation Department headquarters on State Street. Labrador can take a hefty share of the credit for this sad debacle. He ran for Attorney General with the promise of being “a true partner with conservative lawmakers…as they work to draft and write good laws.” It seems he dropped that ball on this one. Substantial questions were raised about the constitutionality of the transportation budget legislation that was rushed through the Legislature at the end of its session this year. Labrador failed to weigh in publicly about the constitutionality of the bill, resulting in the tangled mess of litigation that has piled up on the steps of the Idaho Supreme Court in the last several weeks.

The developers who sought to buy the bedraggled old hulk of a building filed suit to have the legislation preventing the sale struck down as violative of the Idaho Constitution. Labrador rushed forward with a brief purporting to represent his client executive agencies–the Transportation and Administrative Departments and the State Board of Examiners. It turns out his brief did not represent the positions of any of them. They all claimed he had failed to consult them, which appears to be the case. The brief he filed on their behalf mirrored the talking points of House Speaker Mike Moyle, the main architect of the suspect legislation. Moyle’s position is completely counter to that of the executive agencies. It certainly seems that Labrador breached the trust relationship with his client agencies and ignored the conflict-of-interest provisions of the IRPC.

Labrador claims that he was unaware of the Governor’s concerns about the legislation. Those of us who read the newspapers could have told him about the Governor’s concerns, which were widely publicized. It’s pretty much of a no-no for lawyers to file court papers without authorization from their clients and, particularly, to assert positions contrary to their interests.

After learning that the court papers Labrador filed for the executive agencies were dead wrong, the Transportation and Administration Departments hired their own lawyers to properly represent them in court. The Board of Examiners is apparently trying to figure out how its interests will be represented in the lawsuit. Speaker Moyle has also hired private counsel to assert his position in the food fight. In the good old days, the Attorney General would have tried to avert such a tangled mess of litigation. That is no longer the case. Now, political chaos trumps the provision of good legal counsel to state agencies. The public is the loser in this charade of justice.

Labrador promised he would not be a “yes man” for Governor Little. He should have told us he did not intend to be a “yes man” for the rules of ethical conduct that all Idaho lawyers are required to follow. Since Rule 8.3 of the IRPC requires Idaho lawyers to report professional misconduct on the part of a licensed attorney, we may not have heard the last of this.

 

The urgent need for election reform

Once again, the results of the Republican primary election graphically demonstrate how the closed primary, together with massive amounts of out-of-state dark money, ensures minority-controlled government in Idaho. It is no wonder that Dorothy Moon’s extremist branch of the GOP is doing everything possible to stop election reform. If Idaho voters approve the Open Primaries Initiative on November 5, the stranglehold she and her extremist allies have over the Republican Party will be forever broken. The Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF) will lose its grip on the Legislature. Reasonable, pragmatic Republicans will oust the divisive GOP culture warriors from positions of power. Every Idahoan will have an equal voice in choosing their leaders.

Ever since far-right extremists closed the Republican primary in 2011, they have been able to tighten their grip on seats in the Legislature. That’s why we see librarians, teachers, doctors, pregnant women needing emergency care, LGBTQ folks and others disliked by the extremists under nearly constant attack. Using hard-edged tactics and tainted campaign cash, they have been able to defeat traditional Republicans in the low-turnout primary, virtually ensuring success in the general election.

The culture warriors who won their primary with just a small percentage of the registered voters in their district foretell another 2 years of frightening legislation. Dan Foreman, who supports private armed militias parading in public and who wants to deny abortions to rape and incest victims, won his race for the District 6 Senate seat with just 11.5% of the registered voters. In 2022 he won his seat with only 8.8%.

Christy Zito took the District 8 Senate seat from Geoff Schroeder, a remarkable Senator, with just 16.8% of registered voters. Zito is a Christian nationalist who supports library bans and guns in schools..

Scott Syme, who had a distinguished 32-year military career, was beaten by Brandon Shippy for the District 9 Senate seat with 15.8% of the registered voters. Shippy, who had the support of the IFF and other far-right groups would deny abortions to rape and incest victims. He supports subordination of wives to their husbands.

Julie Yamamoto, who stood tall for public education and against using taxpayer money for private and religious schooling, lost her House 11A seat to Kent Marmon after a brutal election campaign. Marmon did it with just 9.5% of the registered vote. Marmon is a favorite of the IFF and its fellow-traveling extremist groups. He supports tax money being used to pay for private and parochial schooling.

Brian Lenney, an IFF-supported culture warrior, retained his Senate seat in District 13 with just 10.8% of the registered vote. This was the second time he bested Jeff Agenbroad, who served as a well-regarded and effective Senator from 2016 to 2022. Lenney won the seat in 2022 with 12.7% of the vote. Lenney is a supporter of using taxpayer money for private and religious schooling and seems to believe that women should be kept in their place.

Josh Keyser beat Senate leader Chuck Winder with 10.2% of the registered vote. Keyser had the support of the IFF and a number of other far-right groups. Winder, who has been unwilling to put up with the IFF’s antics, was heavily targeted by out-of-state dark money and underhanded negative campaigning.

Unless and until Idaho is able to get rid of the closed Republican primary, we will see a repeat of this election pattern long into the future. GOP extremists cleverly engineered a hostile takeover of the GOP in 2011 by closing their primary election. Since then, they have pushed the party farther to the right with every passing year. They will not stop, but the voters can call them up short in November by voting to approve the Open Primaries Initiative. That will allow traditional Republicans and independents to have a real say in who represents them in important public offices.

(image/U.S. Air Force image)

Memorial Day

The last Monday in May has been established by Congress as Memorial Day, the day to remember, honor and mourn the Americans who have died in the country’s wars. We should all put aside our differences on May 27 to thank those who gave their last full measure to protect America’s “government of the people, by the people and for the people” as President Abraham Lincoln described it.

Memorial Day encompasses the almost 1.4 million Americans who have died in the country’s wars and conflicts, beginning with the Revolutionary War. That figure does not tell the full story of our war dead because each conflict leaves a broad wake of destruction, including future deaths of service personnel from war-related physical and psychological wounds, substance abuse, suicide and exposure to harmful substances like Agent Orange and burn pit emissions.

Our recent conflicts, starting with the Korean war, had disappointing outcomes, which left a bitter taste in the mouths of many, including some veterans who fought in them. I remember going overseas in 1968 with a country generally in support of  the Vietnam War and returning in 1969 to a fiercely divided country. Even though the 58,220 Americans who died in the Vietnam War served honorably, they did not get the measure of respect owed to them by a broad spectrum of their countrymen. It took years for many Americans to separate their anger against the war from their feelings toward those who served in it. The dead, and the survivors, were doing just what was asked of them. The politicians, not the soldiers, were responsible for the unfortunate outcomes.

When I returned from Vietnam, I was proud of my service and felt like we had kept South Vietnam from being taken over by the Communists. When Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese on April 30, 1975, it was like a knife to the heart for me and many other Vietnam veterans. All of those lives had been wasted with nothing to show for it, not to mention the many thousands of South Vietnamese soldiers and civilians who died, the American troops who returned home with serious health problems that would plague them for years to come and the lingering hard feelings of Americans on both sides of the war issue. Was it all for naught?

There was nothing to do for it those years later, but Americans could step forward to remember and memorialize the brave Americans who lost their lives in service to the country. An Idaho Falls group, the Freedom Bird, named after the flights that took the troops home from Vietnam, decided to do just that. Freedom Bird announced plans in 1984 to construct a state memorial to recognize and honor those who died in the war. The funds were raised, the state designation was obtained and the Idaho Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated on August 4, 1990.

Freedom Bird members followed up with a book recognizing the 251 Idahoans who were listed as dead or missing. The book, “Reasons to Remember: A tribute to the unsung heroes of the Vietnam War” was written by Marilyn Whyte of Blackfoot and published in 2002. It included biographies of the fallen, as well as stories based on input furnished by their survivors. It provided an insight into the character of many of these individuals who died in service to their country.

The book is, unfortunately, out of print, but used copies are available on Amazon. More can be found about the Freedom Bird project in my book, “Vietnam…Can’t Get You Out of My Mind,” which is also available on Amazon or from Ridenbaugh Press.

The point is that we all have the ability, just like the Freedom Bird members, to take the time and effort to honor those who have died in the United States’ wars and conflicts. Dislike for the conflict itself is beside the point. May 27 will soon be upon us and it is incumbent upon Idahoans and other Americans, regardless of political leanings, to pay respects to the men and women who have given their all for the Land of the free and home of the brave.

(image/Creative Commons)